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Written for slashy_4 at oz magi (2010).
Wish #9
Request 1:
Pairing/Character(s): Tim McManus/Kenny Wangler
Keyword/Prompt Phrase: This is harassment
Canon/AU/Either: Either
Special Requests: I just want McManus at his best, simply when he loses his temper and acts a bit crazy.
I always thought that a scene between them was missing after Wangler accused him of fondling him. It's after all a big deal. :)
Story/Art/Either: Story

The Man Who Would Be King

by levitatethis

"Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall." -Measure For Measure (Act II, Scene I)

His life is a series of strides and setbacks, summits and missteps, accomplishments and hand-wringing.

But this, this is his to eventually, finally, ultimately get right. Despite assertions to the contrary (by those who believe themselves to hold actual power over the peon masses), Emerald City is his baby, it's his house and keeper of his heart.

In quiet times--driving home after a long day, taking a few extra minutes to himself in bed first thing in the morning--Tim waxes poetic. This is his Kingdom to make or break and he'll be damned if he lets some ignorant interlopers (bureaucratic assholes who feast on budgets with no taste for what makes it all worth doing) take it from him; highlighting the failures as an example of liberal bleeding heart policies gone awry while egotistically claiming the successes as a result of their own grandstanding politics.

Em city bears his name in bold letters and he feels pride while crossing the quad and heading up to the guards' station. Taking his standard position (standing at the railing, hands wrapped around it) as the looming head of a motley crew, he nods to Diane.


Today's the first day of the rest of your life, gentlemen.

Good morning.

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

Possibility (in the metaphorical form of the universe patting him on the back) comes in the most unexpected (and therefore all the more rewarding) of ways.

Tim would be a liar if he said it never occurred to him that a job well done with regards to Em City would look good on his resume, professionally speaking. But that selfish understanding is not what drives him to care. He genuinely believes he can turn lives around, so when he hears through the grapevine that Kenny Wangler is illiterate--after the record player scratches abruptly in his mind--a rush of intent floods over him. Kenny is young enough that his tough guy persona is more posturing than bred in the bone fact. Tim latches on and searches for the loophole to pull the young man in under his wing.

He's always had a thing for causes.

Glynn expresses doubt in silent resignation, but if invisible battle lines are being drawn, Tim looks at Sister Pete and Father Mukada's support (as well as Gloria's reticent surprise) as a sign he has both God and science on his side.

He should know better. No good deed goes unpunished and when it rains it fucking pours.

There are people watching all the time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to usurp the sanctioned hierarchy, the one he's had to learn to wield properly.

Power struggles are a tug-of-war. Kenny turns out to be just as much a casualty, a played pawn in someone else's master scheme. Unfortunately, by the time Tim realizes Kenny is the rope and Adebisi is the grinning adversary with far too much leverage, they're all up shits creek without a paddle.

And once that stink sets in it's a bitch to get out.

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

Adebisi, Schillinger, fucking Claire Howell, they're the albatross around his neck squeezing tighter and tighter until a gasp for breath only comes from desperately clawing at the noose. There are others, so many piled on top of each other into an intimidating mountain daring him to climb that it's like a game of Jenga threatening to crash.

Stubbornness, a quality his ex came to immensely dislike when the going got tough, settles on him like tailored armor. The explosion still manages to reel him off balance.

"What? Are you crazy?"

Glynn sighs and Tim fights to swallow back the anger threatening to spew forth unforgivably. He's tempted to make an obvious observation about his past history with women, but the barely veiled look of amusement couched in the crinkled corners of Glynn's otherwise tired eyes tell him the collective thought amongst the staff of Oz is, If you'd just kept your dick in your pants we wouldn't be here.

"Kenny Wangler's allegation on its own would be one thing, but given the situation with Howell--,"

"She's a manipulative bitch!"

"Who you slept with!" Glynn raises his arms in a placating gesture. "I can't sweep this under the rug, Tim. You know that."

"So you're going to take the word of a prisoner over me?" Tim is incredulous.

"We're going to investigate the allegation. We're under increased scrutiny. Devlin's looking for any excuse to stick his nose in and pull rank. Your..." Glynn takes a moment to consider the right words. "Uncanny ability to find trouble is only adding fuel to his fire."

"Aw shucks, Masta Devlin sho' is riled up."

Glynn narrows his eyes and raises a finger in warning. "Watch it."

"Why? A little too on the nose?"

"You know, you're a real jackass sometimes. Don't test me. I'm one of the few people who has your back."

"This is you having my back? For Christ's sake." Dejected, Tim drops his shoulders and lets out an exasperated huff. He eyes the floor then lifts his eyes to meet Glynn's watchful gaze. "What am I supposed to do?"

Glynn purses his lips. Tim waits for the other shoe to drop.

"Maybe a break from Em City is in order."


"No fucking way. No! You're not going to reward that little prick by taking Em City away from me!"

"Calm down. It's not a permanent solution. This is just until we can sort everything out."

"Unbelievable. This is what I get for showing the slightest bit of interest in his future."

"Well, I hate to say I told you so, but..." Glynn lies and shrugs.

I told you so.

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

He lets Sister Pete talk him into an interaction session with Kenny.

It gets off to a bad start when he arrives just as Tobias Beecher is leaving. Beecher, looking tired and inquisitive, actually has the gall to smirk and says, "It's funny--and I mean that in the most unfunny way--all those nights Schillinger raped me everyone turned a blind eye. You basically told me to man up. And now your name is getting dragged through the mud, for something you presumably didn't do, and everyone's at attention to make sure some semblance of justice is served."

His words claim squatters rights in the back of Tim's mind. Beecher was the over-privileged rarity baptized by fire into the criminal underbelly of the penal system and somehow learned to straddle both worlds. Tim knows he should have done better by him and now that shortcoming flashes bright red. Kenny, the kind of problematic prisoner Tim always had idealistic notions about saving, is the flipside of the coin--but the mistakes, the failures, all feel the same.

He chances a glance at Kenny who is currently caught in Sister Pete's crosshairs. He looks put out and irritated while she's stern and focused.

"The name is Bricks," Kenny states emphatically for what must be the sixth time since the session started.

Without missing a beat, Sister Pete stares him down. "Well in this office you'll go by the name on your birth certificate. I have to say, considering the nature of your allegation, I would think you would want to be taken as seriously as possible."

"Whatever," Kenny mumbles and, not for the first time, Tim wonders how the hell his life turned into this; all his hard work now at the mercy of a half ass convict with devastating consequences. The fact that Kenny seems indifferent to the big picture is the straw currently threatening to break the camel's back.

"Whatever," Tim repeats mockingly ignoring the chastising look Sister Pete casts his way. He's sick of playing nice.

Sister Pete takes a deep breath. "Tim."

"This is bullshit and he knows it." Tim leans forward and looks between Kenny and her.

Kenny keeps his eyes lowered, but fidgets around in his seat. "Man, you were all up in my face, always watching me, showing up in my pod with gifts and shit, touching me."

"Putting a hand on your shoulder isn't sexual harassment," Tim explodes. "And that `gift' was a book to help you read way back when I thought you might care about your future. God forbid I showed an interest in you improving yourself. No, you'd prefer to be running drugs and getting high. There's no future in that."

"What do you know about my future?" Kenny demands with a disbelieving look. "I got to worry about who's got my back and who wants to stick a shank in it. And then you've got me in with Adebisi..."

Tim grips the ends of the armrests so hard the edges dig into his skin. "You're so concerned with playing with the big boys and then when you do..." A thought occurs. It's a drastic turn of face from what he normally prides himself on standing for, but right now with his world teetering on the edge of oblivion the taste of comeuppance is not so much bitter as sweet.

"Until this whole thing is sorted out, maybe a move to Gen Pop makes the most sense for you. You know, getting us both out of Em City until everything gets sorted out. And in Gen Pop, well, there you'll be surrounded by real men."

"That's bullshit!" Kenny is on his feet lightening quick, staring him down.

Tim revels in the kernel of satisfaction at Kenny's tantrum. He sees Sean looking in with concern from the doorway, ready to pounce if needed, one hand itching to pull the baton from his hip.

"Kenny, sit down," Sister Pete says.

"You can't fucking do this," Kenny whines. "Why do I have to move? Kick Adebisi out."

"You're the one who lodged the false complaint!"

"Kenny," Sister Pete says sternly, sparing an irritated glance in Tim's direction, and shakes her head at Sean to stay where he is.

With a huff, Kenny sits down and kicks the edge of her desk. After a few seconds the tension in the room settles into stifling discomfort.

Sister Pete breaks the silence. "You and Adebisi have a rather tumultuous--troubling--relationship."

Kenny raises an eyebrow.

She sighs and clears her throat. "He has a certain reputation. One that has caused me to express serious doubts about his inclusion in Em City." She pulls her lips into a thin line and looks at Tim. "If there's anything specific you want to talk about..."

After a pause Kenny says, "You know what Adebisi's like."

"Adebisi doesn't run his place!" Tim booms.

"Keep telling yourself that." Kenny folds his arms across his chest.

"He deals in the worst aspects of human nature and as hard as I try to counteract him, you all take his lead." Reigning in his anger, Tim calmly continues. "You think I do this for fun or a pat on the back? When the world out there has already given up on you I still see a glimmer of hope, the chance for you to still change. I do this because you deserve the opportunity to right your life, see what you're worth. But you decided this is as good as it gets. Maybe you're right."

Kenny grimaces, upset. "You know how Adebisi handles things. He says jump and until you can figure out how not to do it, you might as well ask how high."

"Are you saying Adebisi told you to lie?" Sister Pete posits.

"I'm saying I do what I have to and I'd like to make it through the night without his ugly, crazy ass mug being the last thing I ever see."

It seems a useless cause. But the foolish idealism others joke about, that has half constructed a world of his own to rule over, refuses to accept a tragic fate.

Getting up from his seat, Tim bends down and sticks his face in Kenny's. "Come clean about the allegation and I'll deal with Adebisi."

Kenny snorts. "How?" His tone is clipped as if already knowing the futility of the situation. "What exactly can you do? `Cause from where I'm sitting the patients are running the asylum."

Tim clenches his teeth at the emphasis on `you' as a personal stab at his perceived ineffectualness as a leader. It's one thing to deal with that judgmental condescension from fellow administrators. It's another to get the derision from the prisoners. Add them together, however, and it's a volcanic mix clashing with his pride.

He considers how many times he can extend a helping hand and get shut down before enough is enough. When is it time to put the kid gloves away? History has taught him, if at first you don't succeed--

"Adebisi or the Aryans," Tim says with exaggerated consideration. "Since I'm so useless I could probably get away with ignoring the goings on of both. I could leave instructions for the night shift or throw you to Gen Pop. I've been meaning to suggest they start mixing up the cellmates as well. For your own good, of course."

He rests unblinking eyes on Kenny. "You should be more worried about what I can--and will--do."

"You can't do that," Kenny says with little confidence.

"Watch me," is Tim's unwavering reply.

"Tim," Sister Peter interrupts, suspicion and disapproval in her tone.

He makes a `take it easy' gesture and stands tall, never breaking eye contact with an increasingly agitated Kenny.

"It's okay, Sister. Kenny's just getting a little perspective, weighing his options. Isn't that right?"

Kenny rolls his eyes.

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

He makes lists in his head detailing all the ways he can get some sort of justice. It's not about staying on the right side of the moral line--Tim passed that touchstone long ago--it's about saving face.

Sean tries to convince him to turn the other cheek and let the guards worry about cracking down on Adebisi and his gang of merry men without going too far that it could land them all in hot water. As one of Tim's oldest friends, Sean's words carry weight, but the prisoners don't just throw insults like "pussy bitch" at each other. As long as Tim rules Em City he needs them to know and respect (begrudgingly so) the order of things. He appreciates Sean's logic. It's simply not enough.

It's not enough to move Adebisi out of Em City. It's not enough to accept Kenny's harassment retraction with no further recourse. No, an example needs to be set, carved in stone. Walking down the halls of Oz, over breakfast early in the morning, during the drive home after work, he ruminates on a firm-fist solution. After all, it's not only the prisoners that need the lesson but his co-workers and those up above his pay grade.

Spanish Inquisition inspired punishments amuse him, but more out of fantastical wish fulfillment than legit state sanctioned retribution.

He recalls the use of a cage at another prison, one set up in a common area to house an unruly inmate in full view of his adoring (and ridiculing) public. At the time he considered it a lowbrow form of discipline and counterproductive. But the image of Adebisi in there, naked, subject to the humiliating whims of others, brings a smile to his face. Talk about a no holds barred lesson in harassment.

He could make Kenny write an English essay--a poem--and force him to read it out loud in front of all the inmates either in the cafeteria or during an assembly tribute to the Governor. Tim can imagine Kenny's eyes popping wide as his cred sinks to lower depths in the eyes of his peers.

There are many ways to right the wrongs promising to bring down Em city or turn it into something unrecognizable. Tim didn't come this far, didn't sweat blood and tears, just to let it all slip through his fingers. If the riot couldn't take him out, if Em City could survive that brutal descent into Hell, it could be saved and fixed. It could live to see a brand new day.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

He repeats the adage until he believes it.

********** ********** ********** ********** **********


Tim has faced obstacles before (too many to name) and has always managed to talk his way through them, sometimes barely squeaking by. But this is without precedence.

Sitting at his desk, his head in his hands, he hears the muted din of Em City beyond the closed office. There's little he can do now but wait for the executioner's song in the form of a phone call requesting (no, demanding) his presence in Glynn's office. There's no avoiding this.

He can't help but think he's being punished--punished for trying to reject the status quo regarding prisoner rehabilitation, punished for letting his pride get the best of him, punished for not learning his lessons.

All the time focused on the main troublemakers, giving them his nearly undivided attention, and he (once again) was blind to the poison churning just as dangerously below the surface, preying on the quiet and the weak. How else to explain the fucking Frenchman, Guilliaume Tarrant, not only getting his hand on a CO's firearm, but causing a sea of carnage in Em City; inflicting not just wounds, but death, staining all their hands crimson red.

In his mind's eye he sees a beat up, whimpering man begging for help and tries to reconcile it with the one who finally took matters into his own hands--doing what Tim couldn't for him. He can't help drawing a line from Tarrant to Beecher. Yet where Beecher survived by learning the system and turning it in on itself, bending it thoughtfully and almost expertly, Tarrant simply burned the fucker to the ground. And took them all down with it.

What makes the whole nightmare more bitter (though he would never admit out loud) is that Tim didn't get the chance to get the final word.

A tiny smile playing along Adebisi's lips replays in his mind, telling the tale of a setup to get him removed. Adebisi will be King while Tim is reduced to Joker in his own court.

Kenny. Kenny now lies with the dead, a random bullet taking his life, delivered as revenge by the man he bullied. In the end, Kenny went down, not in a gangland battle over turf, but as payback for stealing a relative nobody's shoes. Maybe there is such a thing as karma.


How did Tarrant manage to get out of Kenny the things Tim had only fantasized about--fear, surprise, forced respect (even if only for a split second), physical pain, and a lasting fucking legacy. The only heads or tails Tim can make of it is that this is what comes from following the rules. Tarrant went off the rails and got what he needed. All Tim's gotten is a strong sense of jealousy, a guaranteed new work assignment (which might as well be a demotion) and the uninvited judgment of his co-workers and the prisoners.

For everything he has given, this is the universe telling him a new path is in order, that living and breathing this place is unappreciated and bad for his health, that no one will see or ever truly grasp that his heart bled to make this a place of change and hope, or never ending possibility. Where the world and justice system saw the end, he saw the beginning. And for that he's been cast aside and cut down to size.

It's fucking unfair.

He snaps out of his reverie at the shrill ring of the phone. He lets out a sigh and takes his time reaching for the receiver. If they think he's going to walk away from Em City with his tail between his legs and not look back, they've got another thing coming.

This is his house to build up or burn down.

He'll go down swinging.

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