by 'dalia

Tim McManus leaned back in his swivel chair, staring out of the window overlooking Em City. Emerald City of the "Wizard of Oz", it was surely not. He grimaced, wondering what the hell kind of problems could be brewing down there. And he would have to take the blame for, as he always did. Then again, he didn't really want to know.

"McManus," Kareem Said's voice washed over him, and he moved his eyes upward to look at the black Muslim leader. Said looked over at the seat across from him, as if asking if he could sit. McManus nodded nonchalantly.

"What do you want now, Said? Filing another lawsuit? Organizing another hunger strike? No, let me guess, a sexual harassment charge."

"Not exactly," Said replied as he lowered himself into the chair, then glared over at the CO standing in the doorway. McManus followed his glance and waved the CO away. As the CO walked out, closing the door behind him, Said lifted himself out of the chair.

"You don't look good, Tim," he said, standing in front of him, holding his fist to his chin in an unusually noble pose for a prison inmate.

"Nice observation, *Kareem*." McManus looked dully up at him. "I don't know if you've noticed, but things aren't exactly going my way these days. Not that they ever have, really."

"You've brought it upon yourself, McManus." Said returned, turning his back on him, and closing the blinds of the window.

"Save your sanctimonious bullshit for Beecher, Said. What the hell do you want anyway?" Said spun around and stared at him. McManus smiled suddenly, watching as Said walked over to his desk and stood there looking at him silently. McManus got out of his seat and approached Said, leaning on his desk he folded his arms.

"One would presume you're not happy to see me..." Said replied, meeting McManus's glance as he walked away from him backwards.

"Then they would have presumed, right."

Said let out a laugh and grinned at him. "Look at what you've created, McManus. Look at those men down there, killing themselves, killing each other." Said said, and began walking towards McManus instead of away from him. He stopped in front of him, searching his eyes for answers. "How does it feel..." he said, his breath against his ear, "to be a failure."

"I don't know." McManus replied, turning to look straight in Said's face. "Why don't *you* tell me." McManus let the last words sink in, watching them appear on Said's face, before letting Said grab him by the waist and pull him against his chest. He could feel the rhythm of his heart beat against him and he ran a hand up his chest and over the side of his face, and stopped when he reached his head. He removed Said's kofi and threw it across the room.

Said grabbed McManus by his arms and shoved him against his desk, undoing his over shirt. McManus watched Said as he carefully placed his prayer beads behind him, and leaned into him and kissed him fully on the lips. It was almost horrifying to McManus the way he kissed him back, the way he did'nt want him to stop. It all seemed like it had never happened before, but it also seemed like it was a regular occurrence.

McManus worked his way down his neck, roughly nipping at his skin as he began to undo Said's belt. He unbuttoned the faded grey prison pants and slipped his hand down his pants. Said closed his eyes. And McManus lifted his head to his ear.

"Allah isn't gonna help you now..." he whispered. Said closed his eyes, leaning his head down to McManus's mouth.

"I was praying for you, McManus." Said replied and briefly opened his eyes to look at McManus. McManus looked away from Said quickly and returned to undoing his pants, and slipped them down around his ankles. He grabbed Said through his underwear and stroked him, watching as Said closed his eyes and his breathing quickened, an almost pained look on his face. All that built up sexual frustration. Fasting, like that could actually make up for kissing, touching, fucking.

McManus couldn't shake the feeling that this was the first time he had done anything remotely close to this, but at the same time it didn't seem out of the ordinary. Things began to get hazy and Said's hands were on McManus shoulders still, but now, he stood behind him, and they both stared at the door. The sexual incident had disappeared, as though nothing at all had even happened.

The door opened moments later and Kenny Wangler, with his arms stretched out, blood dripping off his hands, blood and gore oozing down his shirt like water, staggered inside. He drew one last raspy breath before collasping, and the floor became drenched in his blood. McManus rushed to his side.

He looked desperatly at Said. "Get some fucking help!!!"

"You can't save him, he's already dead," Said replied. "You can't save anyone."

McManus turned over Wangler's lifeless body, "No..."

"You might as well have pulled the trigger." Said replied, watching McManus look down on Kenny Wangler.

"No, I tried to help him." McManus said, leaving Wangler and staring at Said, "I did more for him than you ever did."

"You helped him into a body bag." Said replied. McManus rushed at Said and grabbed him by the neck, pushing his face away from him.

"Fuck you. You're no better then me!" McManus yelled, squeezing Said's throat. As he squeezed it tighter, he himself began to choke. McManus loosened his grip on Said's neck, and he could breath again.

"When will you ever understand, you *can't* help these men? Why do you keep trying after all the carnage has happened around you? Are you blind to it, McManus?" Said said loudly, almost as though he was pleading.

"Because, Said, if I don't try, who will?"

"No one. And maybe that's the way it should be. Have you ever given that thought?"

McManus clenched his teeth, and felt a sharp pain in his head, he walked to the door of his office. Kenny Wangler's body had disappeared, but the floor was still stained with his blood.

"What the fuck is happening to me?" He spun around and glared at Said."What the fuck is going on...tell me, Said, what the fuck is going on?!"

Said smiled, and when he opened his mouth, a blaring sound came out.

McManus jolted awake, his heart rapidly pounding in his chest. He turned and looked at his alarm clock, hitting the snooze button and staring at the red numbers that said 5:00am. What the fuck was all of *that*?!!! He rubbed his eyes with his palms, trying to flush away the nightmarish images from his mind. But everything was so fresh in his mind, everything was vivid --like past memories that would never be erased from his brain.

"Fuck me," he whispered, reaching for a bottle of scotch on his nightstand. He took a quick sip, wondering why he had still set his alarm. He was out of a job, there was no reason to be up at this time. Leo fired him. Kenny Wangler *was* dead. Several others as well. And he had taken the blame for that, so Glynn fired him. He had given him enough chances to turn things around, he had said. He told him his disrespectful behavior at Officer Howard's memorial service had been the straw that broke the camel's back, and he had no choice but to let him go.

Diane left him too. It was as though she had become a different person completely. Diane would never marry someone after knowing him for two fucking weeks. And yet, there she was in England *engaged* to a fucking Brit who guards the Queen of England. McManus shut his eyes tightly.

All he had left was Em City. Glynn couldn't take that away from him. Maybe there was still a chance he could get it back, he had to know, he had to ask Leo. But first things first...

McManus got out of his bed and rummaged through his closet in the hallway, scratching what little hair he had left. He found his phone book and flipped to Psychologists. He scanned the three pages before he came to a small, colored ad.

Free Referral Service: A Referral Service to Experienced, Licensed Therapists, Psychologists, and Clinical Social Workers. WE HELP YOU FIND THE RIGHT THERAPIST

McManus scrawled the number on his hand with a pen lying on the floor of his apartment hallway.

"When will you ever understand, you can't help these men?" Said's words rang in his head once more. He knew it wasn't just Said who was saying it. It was everyone else saying it to him in his real life. And maybe it was true.

"I can't help them, until I help myself." McManus said to himself. He took a heavy breath.

Because if I don't, who will?