~*~ 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.



Days passed and they both knew it was still too early to carry out any kind of plan of revenge against Kenmin. Everything was still fresh and Alvarez had not spoken to him over the past few days. O'Reily was avoiding him—they only spoke in passing, and it was only making jokes on one another so that no one would be the wiser to anything that had been going on. Julie also kept him busy and he knew O'Reily was busy with Cyril and everything, but they had made time to strategize in the past.

After the cafeteria was cleared of breakfast, he had a lesson with Hinden. He was going to give O'Reily the time he needed to work out his own problems—the time to figure out their partnership. Alvarez decided to concentrate on himself and leave the other man be. He missed talking to him, though---missed their lips together. No matter what, O'Reily was dealing with real issues when it came to them and he was not going to push it any further. If anything came up that was important, they would have a meeting.

Both he and Penders waited for Hinden to show up in the cafeteria. She had a meeting with McManus and was running late. Alvarez saw what looked like an obstacle course and had an idea of what today's training session was going to be about. Penders was treating his dog more like a pet than what he was supposed to be---the fool. The Latino thought about what he wanted to accomplish with this program and the amends he wanted to try to make. The buzzer sounded and Hinden came in.

"Morning, gentleman," she said.

"Check this out. Fetch," Penders said as he threw a toothbrush on the floor and his dog ran after it. "Come here. He fetches."

"That's one thing he'll have to unlearn," she disapproved. "I told you; don't teach the dog recreational activities."

"You brush your teeth with that?" Alvarez asked him.

"Today's focus is on control. Start walking around this area," she pointed to the small course and told them.

Both men took control of their dogs and began walking around the course. Hinden looked like she was taking notes on their posture and movement. Julie had come far from their first training session and he was proud of the progress they had made together. Both men and their dogs walked along the path with neither noticing when Hinden gave the signal. The hack standing nearby fired a starter pistol into the air and both dogs and trainers alike jumped and were startled at the loud burst of sound.

"What the fuck was that?" Penders looked around and asked.

"Scared the shit out of me," Alvarez said as one of his hands was resting on his chest.

"I'm sorry, but your reaction's not important---the dogs' is. They have to maintain focus, even in the event of loud or startling noises," she explained.

"So, what are you going to do, make them deaf?" Penders laughed.

"Oh, yeah, that's a great idea---deaf dog, blind people. You're a fucking genius," Alvarez said sarcastically.

"You teach the dog by standing on his leash and saying `chill'."

"Chill?" Penders said.

"Chill," she responded.

They walked the course again and waited for the loud pop once again. The gun fired and Pender's dog went frantic and lost control. He yelled the command at his dog and was reprimanded by Hinden. He was not properly following her instructions. Julie was startled and became curious, but Alvarez stroked on her leash and told her to chill a few times and she started to regain her focus. It was only a few moments before she was back in full control and they were walking the course again as if nothing had ever happened.

"Good girl, Julie."

He walked with Julie and Hinden back to Em City and to McManus's office because they had to talk. O'Reily was watching TV when he returned but their eyes did meet for a few moments. It was nothing, though. Alvarez and Hinden headed up the stairs to McManus's office. He must have been lonely without Cyril. The unit managed welcomed them both in and they started talking. He had to talk to O'Reily somehow.

"Remember when we first started, I told you about officer Rivera, you know, what I'd done to him, you know, blinded him, and how I just wanted to do right?" the Latino said.

"Yeah---you're doing that."

"Yeah, but I just want to do right by him direct. I want Rivera to have Julie."

"Well, what's the man's status?" Hinden asked.

"I don't know. I haven't heard from Eugene in a long time," McManus said to them both.

"Call him," she said. "Have him come in---we can talk, assess his want and need of a guide dog."

"Well, I'll try, but knowing how he feels about this place, it's a long shot," McManus said.

Alvarez felt like he had accomplished something as he and Julie left McManus's office behind. O'Reily had moved from the TV area to his pod and he wanted to go talk to him but still he stayed away. Even though they had not really spoken in days, everything felt awkward and forced between them recently. Upon entering their cell, Julie went and curled up in her favorite corner. Alvarez made sure she had water and food before he closed the pod door behind him and went for an ask from Murphy.

He left Em City and headed over to Sister Pete's office. He needed someone to talk to for his plan to work. The Sister was going to understand his need to do something good and she was going to help him, especially since he was genuine in his actions. Alvarez needed her to fight for him---needed her to be her convincing self. She opened the door and smiled as she invited him inside her office.

"Hello, Miguel," she greeted as she ushered him in.

"Can I have a moment?"

"Of course. Officer, can you step outside please," Sister Pete instructed him.

"I'll be right out here," the officer said and left.

"Come on---sit. Tell me what's on your mind."

"I---I have a favor to ask, Sister," Alvarez said as he took a seat inside the office.

"Okay. Are you in some kind of trouble, Miguel?"

"No---no. Nothing like that."

"Okay. Tell me."

So, you know, I've been doing the guide dog training program," he said.

"Yes. I hear you are doing a wonderful job with Julie."

"I need you to convince Eugene Rivera to take Julie, Sister," he told her the favor he wanted.

"I don't understand."

"I want him to have Julie. I---I trained her especially for him. He has to have her."

Sister Peter Marie gave him a look as if she wanted an explanation of his words. There was no harder place to earn redemption than in Oz. Even the people that were supposed to believe in them had their doubts. The nun had doubts. Maybe it was questions as to why this was so important to him. Alvarez was tired of having to explain it. He fucking blinded another man as some kind of pathetic initiation attempt into a gang that wanted him dead anyway. Alvarez came to regret what he had done tremendously. Because of him, a man was never going to be able to see again.

"What do you mean `especially'?" Sister Pete asked him. "Miguel, is there something going on here?"

"I want redemption, you know, because I live with that fucking fact every day. Every day I see what I did to him---I know what I did to him. It's stuck inside my head. I have to do this. I have to make something right," Alvarez said and tried to make his words fit together to say what he wanted them to say.

"You mean blinding Rivera?"

"His face haunts me---it's no one fault but me. I don't expect his forgiveness, you know, but I have to give him something that will help him through his life now. I trained her just for him."

"You keep saying you trained Julie especially for him. What did you do, Miguel?" the nun's concern grew each time he said that.

"I---I can't tell you. I want him to be the first one to know."

"Is it something dangerous? Are you planning to hurt Eugene Rivera?"

"No, Sister. I promise---promise it isn't anything dangerous. I never had anything against Rivera," the Latino was ashamed of the stupid reason he gouged the man's eyes out.

"So, why did you blind him, Miguel? If there was no bad blood between you two, why did you do it?"

"I---I can't. That's not important now. I want you to convince Rivera to take her---please. You have to do it."

"Miguel---you know, Father Ray and I have had many conversations over the years about you," she said as she seriously looked at him. "Even when you had turned your back on him during the riot, he still believed you had a good soul---that you were a man of character and a strange sense of nobility. He still believes those things today."

"But, you don't believe that---believe me?" Alvarez said and it stung. "You think---you think I trained Julie to attack Rivera."

Sister Peter Marie smiled and rested her hand on his before she said, "No, Miguel. No---I don't think that at all. I believe Father Ray has always been right about you. And, I believe you."

"You do?"

"Yes. I can see how much this program has meant to you so, I will try to convince Eugene and Tina that they need Julie in their lives."

"Thank you, Sister. This means a lot to me, you know?" he said.

"I know. I'll do what I can."


He had received the news from Officer Murphy earlier in the day and was not happy about it. Someone else was going to occupy his cell---someone that was not Cyril. O'Reily had been in a foul mood over the news as he waited for the new inmate to be processed into Em City. And, what was worst of all---he was a fucking priest. His podmate was going to be a priest. The Irishman saw the hack escorting the man to their pod and went up to introduce himself before they went in.

"I'm on the bottom?" Meehan asked as he looked around the pod.

"You got that right."

"There was an O'Reily family in my last parish. St. Patrick's---"

"Well, it wasn't mine. We only went to church for funerals," O'Reily said curtly.

"Oh---I see," he responded and went to start making his bed.

"No, you don't see dick. Just because I was baptized a Catholic doesn't meant I got any use for a fucking priest."

"Duly noted."

O'Reily just gave him a look before he left out of the pod because he had somewhere else to be. He and Alvarez had not met in days and it was slowly getting to him. He was never going to admit it to himself, though. It was weakness to do so and he was not fucking weak. He saw that the Latino was busy training Julie in his pod when he looked up from the quad---their eyes did not connect. The Irishman left to see his brother off on the first day of his trial. He walked over to receiving and discharging, where his mother was waiting.

"I've cleared my schedule so I can attend Cyril's trial every day," Fitzgerald said. "So, I'll be sitting right behind him in the courtroom."

"Mm-hmm," was all he managed to get out.

"Ryan, he is not going to get convicted. He's not going to get the death penalty."

"Hi-ho---hi-ho. Hey, how you feeling, kid?" O'Reily asked and hugged Cyril as he appeared with McClain.


"Don't be, okay? Ma's going to be with you all the way, all right?"

"Look---brought you a brand new suit," Fitzgerald said as she held it up. "Hope it fits because I wasn't sure about the sizes."

"Cyril, we're not allowed to travel with you on the bus, okay? So, I'm going to take Suzanne down in my car. We'll see you just before the trial begins, okay?" McClain spoke to him.


"You're going to be okay," Fitzgerald said.

"I wish you were coming," Cyril turned to his brother and said.

"No, you don't need me---you'll be fine. Now look, if you start to panic, all right, I just want you to think of me, okay? Doing this."

O'Reily pressed his thumbs against his temples and waved his fingers in the air as he stuck his tongue out and made crude noises with the air. Cyril smiled and laughed when he saw his brother acting goofy. Fitzgerald smiled too when she saw the love between her two boys. No matter what anyone said, they were a family---the three of them. McClain got them prepared for the day, as they all got ready to go. O'Reily gave him one last hug.

"Let's go---let's go," Officer Mineo said.

He had to blow off some steam before lunch duties so he went to the gym. Cyril's trial had probably been under way already and he wanted to know what was happening. He wanted to talk to someone about his frustrations but was too freaked out by what Alvarez was doing to him to talk to him. It was all in his head---his body definitely said different. O'Reily walked into the gym to see both Morales and Kenmin there.

"Hey, toss the ball. Now---toss the fucking ball," Morales said as Kenmin had the basketball in his hand.

"This is about the size of your head, Morales," the Asian said before he slammed the ball back to him.

"You got style, Jia---I'll give you that," the Irishman approached him and said. "You know, you had me fooled thinking that you were worried about Li Chen hurting my mom. You set me and Cyril up. Only, you thought your boy would waste us, not the other way around."

"Zou kai," he said as he took a martial arts stance in a provoking manner.

"I got moves too, brother-man."

An apparent fight seemed to be inevitable until the hacks came by and broke it up before anything was done. O'Reily was out of his mind with rage and had to deal with the source of it all. But, he could not be blinded by himself. The process of getting Kenmin out of the way needed some more time and thought, so he waited for the golden moment to strike. He went to a bench and started lifting weights as Kenmin was escorted out. He and Morales looked at each other for a moment.

Redding's control over the cafeteria was the same as Pancamo's had been---tits were flowing freely with the hacks none the wiser. O'Reily started laying out trays of food in preparation for lunch. The homeboys did their job, but the cafeteria ran its best when Adebisi and Nino Schibetta had been in charge. Those days were long gone though. They were prepared when inmates started entering and got in line. He had no interest in dealing with Redding or the homeboys unless he had to, so they generally stayed out of each other's way.

"Hey, Shupe," the Irishman said as the liar approached him with his tray in hand. "I see they let you out of protective custody."

"Don't start anything, O'Reily," the man said defensively.

"I ain't starting shit. I'm just wondering how much money Jia Kenmin paid you to lie about Cyril to the warden. Look at me," O'Reily roughly said with that intensity in his eyes. "I'm going to give you one chance to switch your story to the truth."

"I told the truth."

"Okay. Hey, I made something special for you. Eat up," he backed off and concocted a lie of his own to get inside the bottom feeder's head.

"I'm not hungry."

"I didn't think so."

O'Reily glared at the lying piece of shit as he dropped his tray in the garbage and sat somewhere without any food. He continued his work on the line---thinking of a way to handle him. There were no real ties between him and Shupe in the eyes of the warden so an accident could very well work. And the Irishman had just the plan---he loved it when things just fell into place. A thought occurred to him, though and it was not coming out of his head.

All the inmates had finished passing through the line and O'Reily grabbed himself a tray of food so he could eat. He was hungry and wondered how Cyril's trial was going. The homeboys were eating in the kitchen, but he decided to go to a table---one table in particular. Alvarez always sat by himself, since he was not a part of El Norte anymore. Nobody else was at the table in the corner with him, but Julie was on the floor next to him eating from a bowl. O'Reily rested his tray down across from the other man and took a seat.

"This seat taken?" he tried to be smart.

"Does it look taken? Do any of them look taken?" Alvarez replied and was in no mood for the game he was now forced to play.

"Must be the VIP section then," O'Reily said and started to eat.

"Must be."

Their eyes never held one another's because it was too dangerous out here. No one was going to think anything of them sitting together but, if the conversation became too long, it would be suspicious. Both men knew this and that was why nothing else was said between them throughout the rest of lunchtime. Alvarez was busy playing with the dog most of the time anyway. He had barely touched the food on his tray. O'Reily felt strange being there like that, but he could not forget the reason he had come. The homeboys were starting to clean up the kitchen so he leaned over from the table and petted Julie---it was the first time he had ever touched the dog.

"Same spot after this," the Irishman whispered as he stroked the dog's head.

It was a brief moment before he scooped up his tray and headed back to the kitchen to finish his work. Alvarez knew better than to follow him with his eyes so he remained there as if nothing ever happened--- and to the rest of the inmates, nothing had. He picked up his tray and held Julie by her leash as they walked over to dump it. The prisoners were ushered out of the cafeteria soon after. Alvarez had Julie walk him back to Em City with his eyes closed to see if he would run into anything.

Redding ordered him on the dishes so he grabbed a pair of gloves and got to work. He had to be out of there quickly to make his appointment because Alvarez had to know what he was planning. Regardless of what was going on with them, they were still partners and still had each other's back. O'Reily finished the dishes and rushed out of the cafeteria and over to Unit J. The door creaked open and when he entered, he found himself alone. He looked around the small space and stood against a wall to wait. A small rumbling caught his ears about fifteen minutes later.

"What kept you?" O'Reily said before the other man even had a chance to face him.

"I had to drop Julie off in my pod."

"When is that damn mutt going to be gone? We have business to take care of," he snapped but had not meant for it to happen.

Alvarez looked at him and said, "What the hell is wrong with you? She has nothing to do with our business."

"Yeah, well, I can't wait until she's gone."

"Fuck you! You don't know shit. Is this what you called me here for---to argue like some bitch?" the Latino said as he tried to control his anger.

O'Reily remained silent when he realized he was taking out his frustrations on the other man for no reason at all. He had no problem with Julie and understood that Alvarez was doing what he believed was right. He had the courage in this shithole and among all these other scumfucks to stand up and do something right. It was commendable and respectable. Alvarez had so many facets to him---so many deep layers that made him who he was. A small part of O'Reily had come to be jealous of the dog. He was easily and freely able to shower her with so much attention, touch, and emotion.

"Sorry---sorry. Hey---hey, I'm sorry, okay?" he stepped closer and said.

"What do you want, O'Reily?"

"I got an update on the plans."

"Okay, talk. I'm listening," Alvarez said as he leaned his shoulder against the wall and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

"Cyril's trial started today. He's there now."

"I heard. You think McClain will get something done?"

"I fucking hope so. I can't lose my brother," O'Reily said with a tinge of sadness at the thought.

"You'll figure something out to keep him off death row I'm sure."

"It might be more trouble now. That fuck Shupe---the bastard lied to the warden."

"He didn't tell Glynn what he told you?"

"Kenmin paid him off---paid him to lie to me. Chen was never planning to rape my mom. That cocksucker played me," the Irishman bitterly said.


"Don't worry about Shupe---he'll have an accident soon enough. That's why I needed to talk to you."

The Latino looked at him and said, "What---you want me to take him out?"

"No. I'm keeping both out hands clean as much as possible from now on."

Alvarez felt uncomfortable and awkward being there. He had went into this knowing it was going to be a business meeting, but his own words seemed forced and distant. It felt like something was strained between them and he missed O'Reily's touch---those lips pressed against his own. Maybe it was his brain racing in every direction with a million thoughts going every which way possible. But, forced words or not, the conversation was not making much sense to him.

"I don't understand," Alvarez said. "Why did you need to talk to me?"

"I'm going---going to ask Morales for his help," he said slowly. "I think we have a common interest right now."

"You're going to Morales---to ask that bastard for help?"

"Hey, I know how you feel about him, but---"

"Fuck it! I don't feel shit for the motherfucker. Do what you want, man. You don't need my permission to ally with Morales," Alvarez said in a neutral and almost uncaring tone. "You've kept yourself alive all these years in Oz, so you know what you're doing."

"It's not allying, loco. We have a common goal right now," O'Reily was confused by his reaction. "I don't give a rat's ass about Morales, but I'm bringing him an offer."

"What makes you think he'll accept?"

"He will. He hates that chink just as much as I do."

"That's the deal---for him to whack Kenmin?"

"A trade. He makes an accident happen to Shupe, and I take out Kenmin."

"I thought you wanted to keep your hands clean," the Latino said.

"I will. I just haven't figured out all the details yet."

Quietness filled the air and the uneasiness settled on the floor. It had never been this hard to talk to Alvarez before. Their thoughts seemed to be a million miles apart from one another's and the entire conversation so far had felt weird or staged. O'Reily remained quiet as well when he saw that there was no response coming. He had never been this involved or caught up with any of his past partnerships. He had told Alvarez intricacies and core details of his plans and had actually wanted to tell him those things. There were no ulterior motives. It was apparent that they were both deeply invested in the partnership.

"What's wrong with you, Alvarez?" the Irishman asked when he could no longer stand the deafening silence.

"Shit, man. I'm cool," was the monotonous reply. "Go ahead with Morales. Just hope you can trust him."

"I don't trust the cocksucker as far as I can piss but, the deal will be too sweet for him to go back on."

"If you say so," he said and wanted to leave already.

"Hey---talk to me," O'Reily said when he got in front and closer to Alvarez. "You think I'm making a mistake if I go to him?"

"No---no. No," the Latino put aside himself and said. "He wants Kenmin dead. What you're offering will be too good for him to back out on. I---I just got a lot on my mind."

"Join the fucking club! Listen, Miguel, I know things have been weird---" he said and felt a sting tug somewhere inside his body.

"Nah---nah, its cool. Don't worry about it. I got the answer, anyway."

"The answer for what? What answer?"

"We'll be partners, O'Reily. You watch my back, I watch yours. I'll keep an eye out---in case things go south with Morales," Alvarez said and got ready to leave because Julie was by herself in his pod for too long now.

"Hey, wait. Miguel---we got to talk about it."

"Talk about what---you avoiding me? You had this meeting because you knew I'd see it as a betrayal if I found out you partnered with Morales from someone else," he said in the same neutral tone, but was burning inside. "Hey, congrats, man---you read me like a fucking book. Once again, Ryan fucking O'Reily thinks of no one but his own goddamn self."

"That's not true. Well, not all of it. I wanted to see you, too---to tell you about Cyril. I'm not avoiding you," he was on the defensive because everything Alvarez just said was true.

"I already heard about him. You're not the only one who gets info around here, Irish. And, like I said, don't worry about it. We're still going to be partners. I got to get back to watch Julie."

"Miguel---Miguel. Alvarez---wait! Fuck!" the Irishman fumbled out but it was already too late.

He had kept calling but the Latino had already closed the door behind him and left. The conversation had been so confusing and he wondered what the hell was going on. Something was wrong with Alvarez---maybe everything was wrong with him instead. O'Reily did not have to tell Alvarez anything about his partnership with Morales---he wanted to, though. He remained there to recollect himself before leaving the storage room behind and heading back to Em City.

All the things Alvarez had said were right. He had been avoiding him---had avoided talking to him since that low point in the storage room. O'Reily hated himself because he had still felt the warmth and softness of Alvarez's skin and hardness of his abs when he had touched him there---at that time when both had thought that something intimate was determined to happen. O'Reily had screwed that up and now, he was screwing up the only partnership in Oz that he wanted to protect.

The gate pulled back and he entered Em City with his game face on. He had suspected Alvarez of doing the same thing because the man knew the games of Oz---and how to play them. O'Reily was in business mode and had to worry about Shupe and Kenmin. He wanted to go to his pod but Meehan was there so he decided against it. He hung out in the quad to give himself a few minutes before he walked over to Morales's pod and entered. The lapdog Guerra was there---the little cumstain had no fucking respect in Oz. He was Morales's bitch just as much as that mutt was Alvarez's bitch.

"Glen Shupe," O'Reily got right to the point because he did not want to be in the same room with the bastard any longer than he had to be.

"What about him?" Morales looked up and asked.

"I need that cocksucker to have an accident."

"How severe?" Guerra said.

"Not dead, just diminished. And it can't be traced back to me," he made that point clear.

"What do I get in return?" the El Norte leader said with a glint in his eyes.

"Jia Kenmin dies, and it can't be traced back to you."


It was almost too easy and he had to smile as he turned away and left Morales's pod. He quickly stepped into his pod to retrieve his earphones to watch some TV. The day was winding down and Cyril would be back from court soon. O'Reily wanted to know what happened, but he doubt even he could push his luck for more asks for today. Murphy was already getting sick of him and a few of the newer hacks just were not discreet enough.

His eyes wanted to look up at Alvarez's pod but his brain advised against it. He seemed like he was hurt more than he was angry when they were in the storage room earlier. A few hours had passed with him sitting in quad when Murphy had came and told him that Sister Pete requested to see him. She had to have news about Cyril's trial so O'Reily jumped up and was on his way out of Em City. Both his mother and McClain were there when he entered the nun's office.

"The first day of the trial did not go well," McClain filled him in. "Judge Moore was in a foul mood, and the prosecutor, he's tough, and smart."

"So, you're saying we're going to lose?" O'Reily said.

"I just don't want to give any false hopes."

"During the jury selection, Cyril got very agitated, and he kept talking out loud, and the judge kept warning him to be silent," Fitzgerald told her son.

"If Cyril keeps it up, Moore might eject him from the courtroom," McClain said.

"Is the judge aware of his mental state?" Sister Pete asked.

"Yeah, he's aware---he just, doesn't care," she said.

"I'll talk to Cyril," the nun said.

It was only a few minutes before lights out and O'Reily was still outside in the quad sitting at a table by himself. Word had gotten around later in the day that Shupe had gotten his arm cut off---Kenmin's demise was going to take more planning. Morales got the job done fast and he was happy about that, but the conversation with Alvarez weighed heavily on him. It had casted some kind of shadow on the rest of the day and he was worried. A hack yelled lights out in the distance and the Irishman hurried back to his pod for the night.

"Jesus, you pray a lot," he said to Meehan as he got ready for bed.

"Well, I need a lot from my God---strength, guidance, forgiveness," the man said back.

"While you're at it, ask him to bring back conjugal visits."

"Don't you ever pray?" the disgraced priest asked.

"No---not since grade school," O'Reily said after he got up to his bunk and got comfortable.

"What happened? Why'd you stop?"

"A priest tried to grope me in the confessional."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Meehan said sadly. "Some priests get lost spiritually and---"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa---Father, give it a rest. I was just kidding."

"Look, I have a meeting with Father Mukada tomorrow, and I was thinking that---"

"Lights out means shut the fuck up," O'Reily snapped and turned his body to face the wall as he tried to get some sleep.

His head was throbbing with a massive headache and the jackass only wanted to talk. O'Reily wanted the pod back to himself---he wanted Cyril back with him. A part of his plan had been completed today---Shupe was missing a fucking limb. But, he had not been able to celebrate properly the liar's severance package because Alvarez's words had been torturing his insides. Their whole conversation had seemed so surreal and out of bounds. The Latino had only spoken the truth and had gotten nothing in return from him. And now, they were just going to be partners. O'Reily was not sure if that was what he wanted, though. He was unsure of it all.


Julie had walked him all over Em City and had not even fidgeted when a fight broke out between two inmates just mere feet away from them. She kept her concentration and continued on walking. Alvarez had worked hard over the past week because he knew their time was coming to an end. He knew he could not keep Julie forever but, in some way, she had made Oz feel like home to him. And, she had managed to keep him out of trouble---for the most part. Alvarez loved her, but he knew he had to let her go soon and he wanted to make sure she was properly trained.

He did not care to think of the last conversation he had with Ryan O'Reily yesterday in the storage room. If he wanted to take his chances with Morales, then so be it. He knew what he was doing and could take care of himself. Alvarez kept walking with Julie until they got back to the pod. She immediately hopped up on the bed and rested there. He smiled and turned around to go to the gym for some rec time. He needed to pump some iron or do some sit-ups to get his mind away from giving her up as well as the Irishman.

The Latino changed his shirt to a sleeveless one and headed over to the gym. There were inmates playing basketball or just talking---passing information mostly. He secured a bench and some free weights and began to lift them. Alvarez did not care to talk to anyone---he just wanted a good workout and then to go back and take a shower and relax with Julie. The fucks could rot in here for all he cared. His instincts flared when he felt someone approaching behind him.

"You've been quiet lately, Miguel," Morales said with a stupid half smile on his face.

"Been busy and shit," Alvarez replied as he switched arms and began lifting again.

"I see. That bitch keeping you company at night?"

"What the hell do you want, chica? Don't have time for your bullshit," he said and never bothered to look at the other man.

"Guerra still wants you dead, you know?" Morales said to him. "I know I guaranteed no harm would come to you from El Norte, but, Chico's determined. You know how he gets when he's determined."

"You can't control your lapdog? Maybe you should take some classes with me."

"Don't say I didn't warn you, Miguel."

"It would be better if you didn't. Then, it would be just like old times, you know?"

Alvarez said that and got up to put the weights back because he wanted to do some crunches before he left. The conversation was already over to him and Morales knew that---the latter turned away and went onto the basketball court. The Latino hit the mat and began doing sit-ups. Morales had been going out of his way the past days to talk to him. It was always about bullshit, though. He and Guerra had exchanged few words since Morales had promised that El Norte would leave him be. Maybe the fuck was trying to play a game and, if so, he was sucking at it.

Julie looked up when he entered the pod to grab a towel and supplies to hit the shower. His skin was sticky and his heart rate was still elevated. The natural high his body was on was no comparison to the mind-blowing drug-induced ones of his past, but this type was safe and natural so he took it. Alvarez rustled her hair quickly before he left and headed down to the shower. He stripped his clothes off and wrapped a towel around his waist before he went over to the sink applied shaving cream to his slightly prickly face and neck.

"Careful you don't cut yourself there, Miguelito," Guerra entered the showered shortly after and said. "Don't want you to have an accident."

"You want that, huh---my blood on my own hands? Suicide's no fun," Alvarez replied as he looked at the reflection of the man from the mirror in front of him. "You planning to come at me?"

"I got my options open."

"Me too, motherfucker. Me too. You won't come at me right now though."

"Why the fuck you say that?" the lapdog inched closer.

"You're here by yourself, aren't you? Those other wannabe El Norte members aren't behind you---backing you up. You'd never make a move on me by yourself---scared ass piece of shit."


"Guerra, you starting up trouble here again?" Murphy said when he entered the showers. "Come on---let's go."

"Hah---it's cool, Officer Murphy. Chico here was just telling me how much they miss me in El Norte," Alvarez smiled and said.

"Touching---I'm sure," the officer said. "Get on, Guerra."

"Later, Miguel," Guerra said with hatred sewn into his voice.

He contoured his face with the razor until it was smooth enough to his liking and stripped the towel away to take a shower. The nozzle sprayed cool water on him and he gargled some in his mouth before he spat it out onto the floor. The bar of soap worked itself in his hand to create a creamy lather and then it went all over his body in an attempt to get him clean. Alvarez's hands touched his lower abs and his brain remembered how O'Reily had touched him there. It was not the time to be thinking such thoughts because the Irishman got him both aroused and angry at the same time.

The Latino roamed the bar of soap in his hand to every part of his body until he felt he was clean enough to change. His fresh clothes were on top of the tiled half-wall that was supposed to grant the showering area of the room some sort of privacy. There was no such thing as privacy in Oz. Alvarez dried his skin and ran the towel over his short hair to get it to stop dripping water. He thoroughly dried his skin and put his clothes on before he picked up and left the shower. Guerra was an idiot he was going to spend no more of his time thinking about.

Back in the pod, Julie had moved from the bed to her favorite corner and was lapping up water when he came in. She did not know the hell of a place she was in---that was good for her. Alvarez put his things away and sat on the floor to play with her. She had forced him to come such a long way from where he was. She was one of the only positive influences in his live. The Latino knew it was going to be had to give her up, but it was the best thing for them both. He did not need her for the capacity she had been trained for.

Later, he was downstairs in the quad watching TV mainly by himself. Rebadow and Busmalis were there, but he was in no mood to speak to anyone. O'Reily was probably off trying to woo Dr. Nathan or scheming some plan to get rid of Kenmin. Morales had worked quickly to disable Shupe---he had to have really hated the Asian. Alvarez wanted no part in the deal with Morales. O'Reily had assured him that it was a one-time plan and he had to believe that. A newscaster interrupted the local programming.

"Our Lady of Fatima church and its rectory next door burned to the ground this evening, killing two priests," the anchor said and Alvarez immediately took notice of it. "The two priests, Father Jack Downing and Father Jack Hurlbert, were trapped on an upper floor of the rectory. Also injured was Father Raymond Mukada---"

"Holy shit!" he said when he heard the man's name.

"Who suffered from smoke inhalation and is in serious condition at Benchley Memorial," the newscaster went on. "Arson is the suspected cause."

Alvarez sprung up and asked to see Sister Pete from one of the hacks. Murphy gave a nod and they were out and heading to the nun's office. His insides twisted a bit because the priest had been hurt. The man who still believed there was some good inside him had been hurt and he wanted to find out everything he could. They were the closest thing to friends he had in this place. Alvarez had to know he was all right. He hurried over to the nun's office and entered without even bothering to knock first.

"Miguel---what's going on?" Sister Peter Marie looked flustered when he barged in.

"Sister---something's happened to Father Mukada. I need to talk," he said with desperation in his voice.

"Okay---okay. Sit here," she said as she ushered the officer out and closed the door. "What is this about? What happened to Father Mukada?"

"There---there was a fire. And, he's in the hospital."

"What are you talking about, Miguel? There was a fire?"

"Someone burned down his church---I just saw it on TV. You got to tell me if he's all right."

"Miguel, I had no idea this happened," she said as she got up and went over to the phone. "I'd like to speak to Leo please---tell him it's urgent."

"Sister---" he started to say.

"One second," the nun raised her finger to him. "Leo---did you hear about Our Lady of Fatima burning down? Oh, really? He's at Benchley? Okay, I can find out. I'm on my way out now."

"What did Glynn say?" Alvarez asked.

"It's true. He's in Benchley Memorial, but he doesn't know much else. I have to go find out what happened---see if he's all right. The police suspect arson," Sister Pete said as she grabbed her coat.

"Yeah---they said that in the news."

"I'll let you know anything as soon as I find out. Don't worry, Miguel---he'll be fine," she said as she opened the door. "Officer, can you take him back."

"Let's go," the hack called out.

"Please---tell him to get better, Sister," the Latino said and was worried.

"I will when I see him."

They went their separate ways and Alvarez felt a little better now that he had spoken to the nun. He was still worried about Father Mukada, though. The officer left him inside Em City and he immediately felt O'Reily's eyes on him from one of the tables in the quad. He did not bother to look back, though, and instead headed up to his pod. Julie greeted him and he went over to play with her. Maybe it was going to get his mind off the fire. Alvarez did not bother to look downstairs, but he knew a pair of eyes looked up in his direction from time to time. He did not want to deal with that right now.