Part 9

Standing there, motionless, Micheal wasn't sure what to say. Putting aside the gold watch and whatever questions Clyde might ask about it, this was one meeting that he had hoped never to have. Micheal's dealings with Clyde and Boss Webb had been his secret, his dark shame that he had hoped to lock up and never be found. Jason and his mom should never know, could never know, about him getting mixed up with people like them, not if Micheal could help it.

But here they were, his friend and his enemy facing each other and Michael couldn't even think about a way to defuse the situation. All he could think about was sheer panic at the thought of Clyde and Jason being so close to one another.

Clyde stepped closer, eyes fixed on the watch even when Jason tried to hide it away. "Pretty." He grinned and shifted his gaze back to Michael, eyes still menacing. "If it's real, then it's also pretty expensive. Is it your friend's, Mikey?" Before Michael could respond, Jason shook his head. It was a small movement and quickly stopped, more of a reflex from Jason than a response, but Clyde caught it. "No? Then it must be yours, Mikey." He took another step closer. "Let me take a look at it, will you Mikey?"

Jason stepped back, scowling at the large man. "Look, we don't want any trouble..."

"Yeah." Clyde stepped closer. "Me neither. It's okay, Mikey and I are real close, ain't that right?" Clyde looked at Michael for a moment until Michael nodded, a sharp jerking movement rather than a heartfelt response. "Yeah, you see? Mikey doesn't have a problem with it. Let me see it, will you?"

Hesitating slightly, Jason finally held out the watch, letting Clyde take it from his hand. As the big man looked it over, Jason shifted his eyes to Michael, letting his eyebrows rise in confusion. Michael could almost hear his friend's voice asking him what was happening. Michael could only look away, feeling shame that he couldn't quite explain, but that cut into him nonetheless.

After a moment of silence, Clyde let out a soft whistle. "It's nice, I'll give you that." He looked up and fixed Michael with a cold eye. "How'd you get it? Word on the grapevine was that your income just got cut, so where'd this beauty come from?"

"I..." Michael cleared his throat, refusing to meet Jason's gaze as he responded. "I still got a way, I'll pay you back in time, no problem."

Clyde looked at him for a moment before he nodded. "Boss Webb's always telling me to 'motivate' people when they need it, but it looks like you're pretty motivated to me." He grinned a bit, but then pocketed the watch. "Make sure you have all the money on time."

"Yeah."

Clyde turned to leave, but Jason spoke up. "Give it back."

The big man paused and looked back, a look of genuine surprise on his face. "What?" Michael felt like repeating the same thing, confused by his friend's sudden insistence. Couldn't Jason just let Clyde go and leave it at that? The sooner this was over, the better...

"The watch, give it back. You're not here for a watch, you're here for money, aren't you?"

"Yeah." Clyde's face was still as stone as he considered the scrawny kid in front of him.

"We'll sell the watch and give you the money when the time's up."

Michael swallowed. "Look, Jason, just let him..."

Clyde quickly cut in. "Yeah, what Mikey there says. The watch will do for now..."

"Yeah right." Jason's voice practically dripped with sarcasm. Michael silently prayed that Jason would shut up and just let Clyde leave, but his friend was notorious for not being very good at reading people. He was smarter than most kids when it came to schooling, but in a situation like this, chances were that he wouldn't be able to read the mood and just leave well enough alone. Jason plowed on. "You take that now and I guarantee that whoever you're collecting for will never get the watch or the money you get off of it. Give it back, you have no right to it."

Michael froze for a moment, stunned at the thought, and began to mentally berate himself for slipping like that. What was stopping Clyde from ever turning that watch in? Nothing. Clyde couldn't be trusted, and Boss Webb would be little better. One has to be on your toes when you deal with these kinds of people and Michael had been caught off guard by Jason meeting Clyde. However...

"Jason, let him have it. We can always get some more..."

Jason whipped his hand out, stopping Michael in mid-sentence without looking away from Clyde. "Give it back."

Nobody moved for a moment. Michael stood there, mouth hanging open while Jason merely watched Clyde with unblinking fervor. Clyde stared back with an expression that was part disbelief and part wonder. "You say that like you think I'll do it." He turned and looked directly at Jason, considering him for a moment before shaking his head. "You've got guts, I'll give you that."

Michael felt himself relax, hoping that Clyde would leave before exposing more of his shame, but before he could blink Clyde lunging forward and pounded Jason in the face and gut, dropping him onto the pavement. "Yeah, you got guts."

Something snapped in Michael, something he hadn't felt there until he saw Jason slump to the ground, eyes glossed over and blood beginning to pour from his nose. Jason had only been looking out for him, for his friend, and he got beat just as badly as Michael was yesterday.

Some friend he was.

Clyde was flexing his hand as he shook his head again. His leg arched back as he prepared to kick Jason's still form, but he didn't get the chance. Clyde had remarked that Michael was built like a football player and Michael found it fitting to show him how true that was. Michael lunged and tackled Clyde, sending the big man sprawling on the ground. Before he could figure out what had happened, Michael was on him, fists pounding down with a fury. Fury for his friend.

This fury felt good.