~*~ The events of this story will incorporate external added elements from the author's imagination into the already rich and exhilarating canon narrative of the HBO original series, Oz. For the most part, the canon of the series will remain intact to preserve a sense of realism to the plot, while also being sensitive of the time flow of events occurring within Oz.

~*~ Although the characters to be featured are prominently factual in their given genre, they are the sole property of Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, and are copyrighted to Rysher Entertainment and HBO. All original characters are of the author's creation and belong to him alone and, as with the rest of the story, may not be replicated or redistributed in any way without formal consent from said author.

~*~ Underage reading or any other illegalities is neither encouraged nor condoned in any way by the author. He also will not tolerate any form of plagiarism towards any of the words to come, as they are his and his alone. The principal objective is that of enjoyment and entertainment to you, the reader.

~*~ Address any type of question and/or feedback to jc71883@hotmail.com, making sure to add a relation to the story on the subject line of the e-mail to guarantee its reception.

 

 

Unit J closet. Tomorrow, after lunch.

Julie was comfortably napping on his bed as he got ready to go. They had not been able to talk to one another since O'Reily had gotten out of the cage yesterday, but Alvarez had gotten his note during dinner last night. The dog was comfortable being by herself and he had a session in about an hour so she was safe. He wondered how Cyril was holding up in Solitary. He had to have been confused and lost without his big brother there to protect and guide him.

Alvarez made up the lie about going to the gym and was let out of Em City to start heading towards Unit J. The closet was fucking small, but he was going to take whatever privacy came his way to hear what O'Reily had planned against Kenmin. The Latino watched his back and walked quicker when he saw the door in sight. He wiggled the doorknob open and slipped inside and out of view. He had barely finished locking the door when he felt his body being turned around and a pair of lips crashing onto his own. Alvarez kissed back hard and with the passion that was naturally inside him---flowing through his bloodstream.

"What---what was that for?" he said when breath was back in his body.

"I hear you had something to do with me getting out of the cage early," Ryan O'Reily said and their lips almost touched as he spoke.

"How'd you hear that?"

"I had Meaney watching McManus's office---he was watching who entered. You were the only one I had ties with," he said and they kissed again. "Thanks, loco."

"Does he know anything?"

"Meaney knows what I tell him to know. He's no threat to anyone---just a good gofer."

"I tried to get Cyril out of Solitary, but McManus is a fucking idiot."

"Yeah. Cyril's not going to do good in there. I'm fucking worried about him."

"Come on---let's figure out some moves."

The two of them got away from the door and sat on the floor behind a large shelf to strategize on their next moves. O'Reily's green eyes flared with resentment and worry as they tried to come up with the next move. Kenmin had placed him in a dangerous situation and a quick retaliation was obviously going to be expected by the Asian and by McManus as well. Alvarez thought about ways to bring Kenmin down but he took a more hands-on approach when dealing with people he wanted out of the way. O'Reily preferred to keep his hands clean and he knew that.

"First thing---I got to get Cyril out of there. Chen's murder could put him on death row," he said.

"You can't play the self defense card?"

"McManus won't buy it. He wants Cyril out of here and in the loony bin. Fuck him!"

"How did it start? Shupe came over to you, didn't he?" Alvarez said and tried to figure out their options.

"Yeah. He told me that he heard Chen say he was going to rape my mom."

"Then he's the key. Convince him to go to McManus and tell him what he told you."

"Fuck---why didn't I think of that? Fucking Jia didn't want to say shit and I knew it was a setup," O'Reily said and the words processed in his brain.

"If Shupe can back you up, then Cyril could come out of Solitary. He was just trying to protect his mom, too."

"He really does think of her as his mom. Hell---I think he even loves her more than he ever did his real mom."

It was true. Suzanne Fitzgerald made Cyril laugh and smile and treated him as if he were her son. She knew he was handicapped but never treated him as such. And, when O'Reily had finally told her about some of the things he had been responsible for in Oz, she did not stop loving him. She did not stop loving either of them. It was hard to tell her the truth, but she had to know who her son really was and what he was capable of doing.

"What about Kenmin? What are you going to do about him?" the Latino asked.

"I'm not going to retaliate yet."

"Good. Both he and McManus would expect the hit."

"Yeah---and the viper doesn't strike when it's expected of him to," O'Reily laughed. "He'll end up the same way Chen did---eventually."

"I don't call you venomous for nothing."

"Where's the mutt?"

"In my pod. She was sleeping when I left," Alvarez said and he got closer. "I told you before---you don't have to be jealous."

"And I told you I'm not fucking jealous!"

Alvarez kissed him and immediately ran a hand under his shirt to feel his body. O'Reily did not have the same muscle tone to his body as he did, but he was lean and slender. He had a broad chest and shoulders and his white skin was practically flawless aside from some stray scars. It also did not hurt that he had a nice piece of meat between his legs. Their kisses morphed into the more passionate ones Alvarez had become synonymous with. O'Reily's hands touched his muscled arms that were exposed because the Latino mainly wore sleeveless t-shirts---always had to show off those arms.

"Uh-uh. It's your turn to be against that fucking cold floor," O'Reily stopped and said when he felt his body being led down to the ground.

"Okay---this time, papa," he smiled.

"We'll see about that."

He took off his shirt and flipped his body so that his back was to the floor. He swore his spine felt the freezing temperature of the ground itself, and was waiting for O'Reily to come and warm him up again. The Irishman seemed a bit less resistant to them being together like this, unlike their initial encounter. Some hesitation was still there---for them both, but it felt too good to touch and kiss and be so close to someone else. Especially in a place where those things were banned and were never supposed to happen. Alvarez arched his back up because the floor had become too cold for his skin.

"Uh-huh---told you. It's no fucking picnic being down there," he laughed at him as he slipped his own shirt over his head and off his body.

"Hey, O'Reily, shut the fuck up and come warm me up!"

"What do you want me to do, huh? Do I look like a goddamn fireplace?" the vÝbora slyly smirked.

"Oh---I don't know. Touch me. Kiss me. Or maybe both."

O'Reily slipped off the other man's shoes and then got to work on his pants. The last time they had done this, it was fun but uncomfortable because both their pants had been around their knees so movement had been mainly restricted. That was not going to be the case this time, though. Alvarez groaned at the touch when he felt a hand rest on his still clothed crotch. O'Reily got the pants undone and pulled everything off. Miguel Alvarez was completely naked on the floor in front of him with the exception of white socks covering his feet.

The man was a fucking god. The very light tan to his skin was so sexy and his body was toned in all the right places. Powerful breaths brought his masculine chest to life and cascaded down his ripped abs that protected his stomach so well. The scar from where Guerra had stabbed him was still fresh but had completely healed. O'Reily only looked and was already turned on by the man lying naked in front of him. Alvarez had smooth lips and a pair of big, expressive eyes. He was easily one of the most handsome motherfuckers in the entire prison.

"You enjoying the view or what? I'm still waiting to be warmed up over here," Alvarez asked as he noticed him.

"So impatient," he gently scolded when he was knocked out of his thoughts.

"You were checking me out. I saw you, vÝbora."

"Listen," O'Reily nervously said as his warm hand touched and stroked against Alvarez's beautiful abs. "I never said this, or ever fucking thought this about another man before, but you're one fucking handsome bastard, Miguel. I guess that means I'm a fucking fag, huh---if I think you're handsome?"

"We don't have to label shit, Ryan," Alvarez propped up from the floor, inched closer to him, and said.

"I was just fucking rubbing your stomach. I want to kiss you---I fucking want to bring you pleasure. You're a goddamn man I think is handsome and I want to touch more and more. What the hell is that shit, then?"

It had obviously been eating him up inside for a while now. He felt the things he said, but felt as if his body had betrayed him for feeling such things in the first place---things that had been against his core beliefs from the beginning. O'Reily had tried so hard over the years to prove to everyone in Oz that he was no faggot, so it had to have rocked him to the very core when he had started to feel closeness to Alvarez. It had to rock the foundation of his manhood when he realized that the sensations were not going away and that he only wanted more and more.

Alvarez sympathized because he felt many of the same things O'Reily felt. It was fucking death to be gay in Spanish culture. The men were supposed to be macho womanizers that went after every pussy they could find. And, while it was true that Alvarez had never experience any of these sensations before Ryan O'Reily, he had never regretted them because his body always knew right. He honestly was not sure if he was a fag or not, but he knew he did not want to stop being with the Irishman. He had not felt this level of touch and affection since his days with Maritza.

"Look at me," he said and their eyes locked. "Hey---don't worry about that stuff. Let's just be here---and now."

"Alvarez, you don't understand. I feel---I feel less of a fucking man being here like this. That shit's not going away. This isn't me. Here," O'Reily said as he reached over and tossed him his clothes. "Get dressed. I can't do this."

"Hey, it's cool. No pressure," the Latino smiled and got up to put his pants back on.

O'Reily got up and threw his shirt back over his head. His mind was all over the place and he had just told Alvarez something deep and personal---a fear of his. It had only grown stronger since their first encounter and he had felt himself slipping under for the longest time. But now, he had to clear his mind of Miguel Alvarez and take care of his brother and mother. They were both depending on him to fix the broken situation they were all caught up in. O'Reily walked over to the door and was ready to leave.

"I got to get back to my pod," the Irishman said in an unreadable way. "Redding rode me hard today. He got control of the cafeteria this morning. I---I need some rest."

"Yeah---I have a lesson soon," Alvarez said and was fully dressed.

"I'll let you know when and where the next meeting will be."

"Hey," he pulled O'Reily's arm to stop him from going and moved their bodies against the door. "You're never going to be less of a man."

"That's easy to say," the Irishman said and was uncomfortable by their sudden closeness again.

"No---no, it isn't. If my father ever knew I kissed another man, he'd slit my throat without thinking about it. If my grandfather knew, he'd come back from the grave and kill me without blinking twice. Spanish cultures see shit like this as being less than human---and most of the men think fags aren't even worth living. But, I know my manhood isn't threatened, Ryan. Someone could chop my fucking balls off and my manhood still wouldn't be threatened."

"You're fucking crazy! If someone chopped off your balls, of course your manhood would be gone."

"No," Alvarez said firmly. "Sleeping with a woman or making a kid doesn't make you a man. It doesn't make you any more or less of a man."

"How the hell are you so sure about all this? You told me you weren't a fag."

"I'm not---and I'm not sure about anything, anymore," he said honestly. "I just know I like your touch---and, in this fuckhole, any kind of pleasure I can get, I'm taking it."

"I have to go," O'Reily said.

"You're never fucking going to be less of a man, Ryan," the Latino repeated as he moved in and kissed him. "I don't want to stop, but I'll give you time---time to sort everything out. We'll be partners if that's all you want us to be."

Alvarez watched him leave and waited for his turn while his hand rubbed the back of his neck. What just happened was one of the deepest and most intense conversations he had ever had inside these walls and he was worried about O'Reily. There was already so much on his mind with Cyril and his mother---now all this was in there too. Alvarez was truly as confused as he was when it came to them, but touch overrode all his senses and cleared his mind whenever they were together. His body craved sensual contact and it was complicated what he felt for Ryan O'Reily. If he even felt anything beyond the touching.

He returned to his pod to get Julie because it was almost time for the training session. She was patiently waiting for him when he entered and petted her. Alvarez remembered that Hill was in the hospital ward because of a drug overdose and he wondered what was going to happen with his dog. He grabbed her by her leash and left Em City to go to the cafeteria. Penders was already there and Hinden was taking notes. He entered and walked over to the other man.

"You heard the news?" the Latino said to him.

"Yeah---too bad," Hinden replied. "Augustus was doing a great job with Layla."

"Well, what are the steaks for?" Penders asked.

"They're for today's training."

"We're going to teach the dogs to cook?" he laughed.

She shot him a look and then explained, "You're going to teach the dogs self-control. Now, it's of primary importance that your dog's attention at all times remains focused on you, even when tempted with those things that, as a dog, they love."

"Like raw fucking meat," Alvarez said and understood.

"Or cats, or other dogs---anything. So, the two of you head over there," Hinden directed them.

"This is fucking unbelievable. You know, I haven't seen a steak in six years, and now you're going to put it on the floor, so a dog won't eat it?" Penders said.

"Miguel, you go first," she told him. "Have Julie lead you along, but towards the steak."

"Yeah---but what do I do if she goes for it?" the Latino asked.

"You give her leash a firm tug and say, `no'."

Alvarez walked along with Julie and her nose immediately went to the raw steak so he pulled her leash and said, "No! Julie, no! Good girl---good girl. Come on, Julie---no! Julie! No! Shit---this is going to take a while."

Julie kept sniffing the piece of meat on the floor as he kept gently tugging and scolding her to forget it and move on. The dog's instincts were overpowering and Alvarez had to break that chain of thought if this was going to be successful. He tugged at the leash until she stopped sniffing the meat and walked on with him. Hinden gave a clap and they both walked to the side as Penders went up to do the trial. Alvarez scratched Julie behind her ear as a reward.

The rest of the session went on and both dogs had become more focused on their masters than the piece of meat on the floor. They were dismissed and both men headed back to Em City with their dogs. Alvarez felt as if his thoughts were going to crush him---what had happened in the storage room weighed heavily on him. He knew O'Reily's eyes had been all over his naked body, but he was scared of whatever was inside him---they both were. He passed the quad to head back up to the pod when Julie approached and sniffed Kenmin.

"Cute pooch," the Asian said as he touched Julie. "You know, when I was nine, my parents gave me a dog---this beautiful Chesapeake Bay retriever. One day, I decided to dock the dog's tail."

"Dock---what's that?" Alvarez looked at him and already disliked him.

"Amputate."

"Why?"

"I just thought he'd look better. I grabbed the butcher knife from the kitchen and just cut his tail off, cropped his ears---kept on going. By the time the folks got home, they were pissed---dead puppy everywhere," the sick fuck said.

"Get your hands off the dog," he said firmly.

"I'm kidding."

"I don't care. Get your hands off my fucking dog," Alvarez slightly raised his voice.

"Do what he says, Jia," Morales approached them from behind and said.

"Someday, Morales. Someday," Kenmin said and walked away.

"Are you protecting me now?" the Latino said.

"No---I just hate that yellow scum fuck. And, I've got a question to ask. You've been tight with Mukada, right?" he asked.

"Yeah---on and off," Alvarez said and wondered what he was up to.

"I was wondering something."

"What?"

"Where the fuck is his office?"

He looked at the leader of El Norte with a look of surprise on his face. Something was definitely going on in that mind of his, but Alvarez did not care nor did he want to be a part of it. Those days were behind him. He gave Morales what he had asked for and they both went their separate ways. O'Reily was not in his pod when he took a quick glance over in that direction before he headed over to his own pod. Julie immediately went for her dish with water.

He wondered what O'Reily was up to and what kind of fate was going to befall that bastard Kenmin. He had to admit he was a little hurt from before, though. Alvarez was naked against the floor and had been waiting for him to make his move---a move that never came. He literally saw O'Reily trying to push himself forward to do what they both wanted, but it was too much for him. Alvarez was not going to push him more, though. There was something there between them and he was going to remain patient and wait to explore it fully. He watched Julie as she was playing with and licking her front paws.

 

They were in the infirmary office discussing his brother. So many things of the past weeks had distracted Ryan O'Reily that he was starting to make mistakes. He was supposed to see through Kenmin's warnings about Chen---it was a fucking amateur move and he fell for it. Now, Cyril was in Solitary and death row was probably next. And, what happened with Alvarez earlier in the closet made him feel angry, but mainly disappointed in himself. Cyril had acted out in Solitary and the guards had beaten him to get him under control. It was all so fucking much from every fucking side.

"His violent episodes are increasing," Sister Pete was saying. "Every day now, he's getting into some kind of brawl. We can't just keep sedating him."

"Well, then, get him out of Solitary. It's making him go crazy---send him back to me," he told them.

"Ryan, I've tried. The warden refuses," Dr. Nathan said.

"Why?"

"Ryan---you brother killed Li Chen," the nun said.

"In self-defense. He was going to rape my ma."

"But, unfortunately, you have no proof of that. And Jia denies ever having said that to you."

"Fucking chink bastard," he said angrily. "Because of that cocksucker, Cyril's facing the death penalty now."

"If only we could find someone else to corroborate your story," Dr. Nathan said.

O'Reily remembered Alvarez's words and said, "Oh, wait---fuck, there is. I've been so distracted I forgot. Glen Shupe. He overheard Li threatening my mom."

"I'll go tell Leo," Sister Pete said and left to the warden's office.

"You got to handle it so careful. You know, you got to treat it like a piece of fine glass. It's that fragile."

"What is?" she asked.

"Happiness."

The words had flown out of him without him thinking about it first. He was shocked when he did not know whether it was his brother that he was referring to or Miguel Alvarez. A hack came with orders to escort him to Sister Pete's office so he left Dr. Nathan behind and followed quietly. His mind was deep in thought about Cyril but also about Alvarez. Maybe ending the partnership was the best thing---but O'Reily could not leave him by himself in here. He wanted to watch his back, and having Alvarez as an ally was perfect because of how dangerous he was.

In the office, Sister Pete was there with Katherine McClain. She was the lawyer that had tried to get Beecher paroled and had been helping Keller with his case. They shook hands and all sat as Sister Pete explained Cyril's case and condition to her. O'Reily was focused and determined to get his brother as far away from death row as possible. Time was ticking away and something needed to be done soon.

"Yeah, that's going to be a tough one," the defense attorney was saying to the room. "The history of Cyril's violent behavior, the death of Hamid Khan, putting Jia Kenmin in a coma---various other altercations. That'll play right the prosecutors hands. And, Sister, according to your analysis, he knows right from wrong."

"Yes."

"Right. Like I said, this is going to be tough. I'll take the case."

"You will?" O'Reily happily said.

"But, Mr. O'Reily, if I were in your shoes, I'd go with a name brand," McClain said.

"Wait---what do you mean a name brand?"

"A lawyer who can razzle-dazzle," she explained. "Someone who will turn Cyril's mental state into a cause---headlines, op-ed pieces, segments on the nightly news."

"You can't do that?" the Irishman asked.

"Not as well as others. You need Barnum F. Lee Bailey, Johnnie Cochran, Ken Starr."

"Come on---get real. Those guys are expensive."

"Yes. So, I guess the question for you and your family is---how much is your brother's life worth?"

The question she posed did not sit well with him, but he had no choice but to listen to her. Cyril was invaluable to him, but it was clear that he was going to have to come up with a lot of cash to turn his case into a cause. O'Reily was running out of options and he had to make decisions quickly because time was going as well. As much as he wanted to retaliate against Kenmin right now, he stuck to his own thoughts, as well as Alvarez's words, and just continued to play the game. His time would come.

On his way back to Em City, he bribed the hack to take him to the cafeteria to talk to his mom. She had to know what was going on and he needed someone to talk to. The only other person he would have considered was the Latino---things between them were too weird right now, though. He fucking stripped the man bare and then had a panic attack and told him to put his clothes back on. It was so damn childish and O'Reily hated that. He hated his uncertainty when it came to Alvarez. They sat on the piano bench and he filled her in on what was happening.

"So, I'm the cause of all this?" Fitzgerald said in a saddened voice.

"Ah, no---you're not," her son reassured.

"Yeah---because you tried to warn me that something could happen and I didn't listen."

"Look, don't blame yourself, okay? The truth is, having you around has been great for me and Cyril. Now, we just have to figure out some way to get him off of death row."

"Let's do what that woman said," she suggested. "Let's hire a big-time attorney."

"You got money?"

"Well, I've got some savings."

O'Reily told her, "Well, whatever you have, it's not going to be enough."

"Well, have you talked to your father---to your Aunt Brenda?"

"Why? What good would that do?"

"Well, I'm not sure," his mother said honestly. "But they deserve to know what's going on. We need a family meeting."

"You, and dad---in the same room?" O'Reily said and could only imagine what that was going to be like.

"Yes."

"Have you seen him lately?"

Fitzgerald had an unreadable expression on her face when she said, "No---I haven't seen Seamus O'Reily in over thirty years. But, I can't think of a better reason to stare the old bastard down."

"I don't know."

It was late in the afternoon when he finally got off the phone with his father and aunt. He had spent a long time convincing them to have a family meeting today before visiting hours were over. His father had been such a bastard but he had agreed to come so O'Reily kept his anger at bay. It was a step in the right direction. A direction he hadn't been on in what seemed like weeks. His mother had to convince him to do this and he was glad she did because something was getting done.

The hack led him into the interaction room and his mom hugged him as they waited for his father and aunt. It was late in the afternoon so the visiting room was abandoned. They were the only two in there, aside from the officer that was waiting at the door. O'Reily did not know what was going to happen here but he had to fight for Cyril. They had to become a family and fight for him. The guard entered with his father and aunt behind him.

"Hey, dad. Aunt Brenda---hi," he said as he got up. "How are you?"

"I brought chocolate peanut clusters---Cyril's favorite kind," Brenda said as she came further into the room.

"Oh, I'll make sure he gets them---thanks. Have a seat."

She sat across from Fitzgerald and said, "Suzanne."

"Brenda."

"For God's sake, Seamus, we came all this way," his aunt looked back and scolded the man. "Take another two steps."

"I won't bite. I promise," Fitzgerald said.

"Like you ever kept a promise," Seamus O'Reily stepped into the room and said. "Let's get down to business."

"Okay---so I explained the particulars to both of you over the phone. And I just---I need to know if we can afford to hire the best lawyer to defend Cyril," the Irishman said.

"How much are we talking here?" Brenda asked.

"Upwards of twenty thousand," Fitzgerald replied.

"Oh, sweet Jesus," she said.

"Well, neither of us have that kind of money---not even if we stacked together our nickels and dimes," his father said to them.

"Aunt Brenda, I remember when you got hurt on the job, and the company, they cut you a big fat compensation check."

"That's the money I live on, Ryan. I mean, that's all I have for my old age," Brenda replied.

"Don't you be asking Brenda to risk her future because of Cyril," Seamus O'Reily snapped at him.

"She says she loves him," O'Reily answered back.

"I do."

"But not enough."

"Wait a minute---wait a minute. How come your mother hasn't asked her family to step up?" Seamus O'Reily glared at her and said.

"You know as well as I that my family disowned me," Fitzgerald replied.

"Oh, that's right, they disowned you. But, not for walking away from your husband---your children, no. For blowing up that cop---for bringing shame on your father, the lace curtain fuck!" he continued on his rant.

"I have accepted responsibility for my actions, Seamus. Maybe it's time you do the same."

"Hey, I took fucking responsibility thirty-two years ago by putting food in their mouth, paying the rent, wiping their dirty asses! And where were you---where the fuck were you?"

"Let me ask you something, Seamus, and tell me the truth for the first time in your life," his mother said. "You and Tessie got together real quick after I left, and, you had Cyril a year after we had Ryan."

"So?"

"So, were you fucking her behind my back?"

"Yeah," the man nonchalantly said. "In fact, I fucked her the day Ryan was born."

"Okay, enough! Please," Ryan O'Reily slammed his hands against the table because everything was getting out of control. "We're talking about Cyril here, okay? You know, I mean, shit. We're talking about saving his life. I mean, this shit don't matter. I mean---"

"You're wrong, Ryan," his aunt Brenda said. "This shit is all there is. You say we have to save him. For what? A lifetime in Oz? You know, with his mind all a muddle. Maybe the only generous thing we can all do for the boy is to let him die."

"What?" he said.

"Come on, Seamus. Give me a ride home."

"No---no, Brenda, please don't go," O'Reily tried to keep her. "Please? There's more."

"See you in another three decades, you cunt," Seamus O'Reily said to Fitzgerald and they both left.

"I'm so sorry for that. I---" she said to him.

"No, it's okay. Actually, it went better than I expected."

"Oh, Ryan---you know she's wrong," his mother told him. "She's wrong, because you and me and Cyril, we are a family. I mean, we're tattered and torn, but we're going to get through this."

"Yeah. Aunt Brenda's right about one thing, though. The best thing we can do for Cyril is to let him die," O'Reily did not want to say the words but it was all getting to him.

"Oh, shit."

The pressure was eating him alive and even a hug from his mom did nothing to calm him down. The hack took him from the visitor's room to the infirmary ward, per Sister Peter Marie's request, to see his brother. Cyril had acted out in Solitary and the hacks had to subdue him. Dr. Nathan had sedated him when O'Reily had come in and his wrists and ankles were strapped to the bed as if he was an animal. It pained him to see his brother restrained that way. O'Reily was staring off and thinking of what his next move was going to be.

"Hiya, Ryan," Cyril said when his eyes fluttered open and he saw his big brother by his side.

"Hey, kid," he smiled but stopped when Cyril started to struggle against the restraints. "Oh, wait. Shh. Hey---hey. It's okay."

"What happened? Was I bad again?"

"Yeah."

"Sorry," he said in his childlike way.

"It's okay."

"Can we go back to Em City now?"

"No, Cyril. I'm afraid you have to go back to Solitary," the Irishman told him and his emotions were all over the place.

"I don't like Solitary."

"Oh, I know."

"It's scary. It's lonely," Cyril said quietly.

"Believe me, if I could change places with you, I'd do it in a fucking second," O'Reily said lowly as his voice broke and he knew water was forming behind his eyes.

"Ryan, are you crying?" his little brother looked at him and asked.

He cleared his throat and said, "No. Boys don't cry."

"That's right. Daddy always said, `Boys don't cry.'"

"And Daddy knows best," O'Reily fought hard for the water to be evaporated.

"Out of the way, O'Reily," Officer Lopresti pushed him to the side and said. "Are you going to behave yourself, hmm?"

"Yes, sir," Cyril answered the officer back.

O'Reily let go of his brother's hand as the hack loosened the restraints to take him back to Solitary. He was crying---his whole body was hurting for his baby brother. But, it was true that boys don't cry---boys were never supposed to cry. Officer Lopresti and Cyril left and O'Reily was escorted back to Em City because it was almost time for lights out. The family meeting had managed to do nothing but hash up old dirt that only deserved to stay buried in the ground.

The buzzer sounded for the final time that night and all the lights of Em City went out. He stripped out of his pants and shirt and went up to his bunk to get the sleep he knew was not easily going to come to him. O'Reily rested his head on the pillow and looked out at the darkened quad. His body felt like it was numb as he was crawled deep inside his own head to try to comfort himself. The pod felt dead without Cyril there. O'Reily did not realize---maybe he did not even care when a tear escaped its confines and slid all the way down his cheek as he continued to look out at the quad. His body did not feel anything.