Farewell from the Bookshelf!
Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.
All Gay Romance will remain online till the end of 2016 in order to give contributors every opportunity to recover materials uploaded here.
Many thanks to all who contributed over the years, and good luck to everyone in your future works!
"I'd heard of guards like this; they existed in prisoners' tales like beautiful princesses exist in the tales of ugly boys. I supposed that I ought to be grateful to have been assigned such a guard. . . . I didn't feel grateful."
In the unmerciful world of Mercy Prison, there is no rule but unending pain. For Merrick, the arrival of his new guard provides hope that he may break beyond the boundaries of his life prison. But appearances can be deceptive, and Merrick does not yet recognize the danger this guard poses to his future.
Merrick's guard is bound in his own special imprisonment. The meeting of these two troubled men will determine their destinies, and the destiny of their nation's life prisons.
This novella can be read on its own or as the first story in the "Mercy's Prisoner" volume of Life Prison. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is based on late Victorian prison life.
This is a reissue of an older story.
He paused at the doorway. "Good evening," he said.
I didn't reply; I've never seen the point of passing pleasantries with one's rapist. He apparently agreed with me that extended conversation would be a waste of time, for after a moment he said, "Will you take off your shirt, please?"
I took everything off. The only reason my clothes were in as good a shape as they were was that I had done my best to keep my guards from tearing at the fabric. I folded my uniform neatly upon the blankets – I always kept the blankets in a corner when not using them, so as to avoid getting the guards' stains upon them – and then, without waiting for orders, went over to the bed-shelf and placed myself in the position I found least painful, on my stomach.
To my relief, he didn't try to shift me. He walked forward, fully clothed, his hand resting lightly upon his dagger. I wasn't sure whether he meant that as a threat or whether this was simply his natural mode of walking. I kept a careful eye on the dagger in any case. When he reached me, he sat down next to me on the bed-ledge and pulled from his pocket a tiny jar.
I stared, fascinated, as he unscrewed it to reveal the ointment within. Under normal circumstances I would have been delighted – even Avery had only used spit – but my mind was still bitter with the disappointment of the morning. I heard myself say, "Did your daddy give you that as a coming-of-age present?"
His gaze flicked toward my face, then away. He dipped a finger into the ointment and then reached over and touched one of the welts on my back.
I jerked and bellowed, more from the shock than from the feel of the fiery ointment. I just managed to keep myself from hitting him. He raised his hand from my back and said, "Did that hurt?"
"Yes, it bloody well hurt!" I said, annoyed at the man's continued penchant for stating the obvious. "What is that, a salt solution?" I was trembling all through now, and was using every curse I knew against myself. I ought to have expected this, yet I hadn't guessed that he was the type of guard who would rub salt in prisoners' wounds.
He shook his head, dipping his finger into the ointment once more. "It's aloe. Lie still; it will sting for a moment before it begins to work."
I narrowed my eyes, trying to read his face, but the proof of his words' truth could be felt on my back; where the ointment touched one of my welts, the pain was beginning to ease. I closed my eyes and let him apply the rest of the ointment in silence.
He had firm hands, like that of a doctor who applies pain in an impassive manner, knowing that the pain will lead to healing. I'd heard of guards like this; they existed in prisoners' tales like beautiful princesses exist in the tales of ugly boys. I supposed that I ought to be grateful to have been assigned such a guard.
I didn't feel grateful. As I heard the sound of Thomas screwing shut the ointment jar, I said, "You were transferred from Compassion because you showed too much mercy to a prisoner, weren't you?"
I opened my eyes in time to see him turn as white as though I'd just kicked his balls. It was a gratifying sight, and I didn't bother to hide my grin.
He said stiffly, "My transfer is none of your business."
"Only your daddy's business, it seems. You'd have been ejected from the guards if it hadn't been for him protecting you, wouldn't you? What do you suppose he would think of you if he could see you acting as nurse to a prisoner who insulted you—?"
He stood up abruptly, and I tensed, waiting. But he simply said, again stiffly, "Do you have any other needs that require being tended to?"
"Only one," I said, rolling onto my side and enjoying the delicious amusement that came from seeing him shift his gaze away from my body. "It's quite simple. It should be simplest of all for you."
His eyes flicked toward my body briefly, then away again. His face said clearly that he expected to regret this question, but he asked it in a dutiful fashion: "And that need is?"
I let the lightness fall from my voice as I propped myself onto one elbow. "Help me to escape," I said quietly.
¶ Available as an e-book (HTML, PDF, Kindle, ePub): Life Prison. A shorter version of the novella is available as online fiction.