~*~ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, making sure to add a relation to the story on the subject line of the e-mail to guarantee its reception.
News of Cutler's demise had travelled around the prison quickly and it had forced Alvarez to think about their first and only real significant conversation with one another. The few other times they had spoken to each other were during rehearsals, but when the Nazi had approached him during dinner a few nights ago, it was strange. Alvarez had replayed the conversation over in his mind but nothing of importance stood out. Omar White did not kill him. His death was ruled as a suicide, but everyone in Oz knew that it was not the case.
El Norte was floundering under the leadership of the mixed mutt Urbano. Pancamo and the Italians were silently growing stronger under unaware eyes and Redding was losing control of his homeboys. Alvarez was glad he was solo because when all that bullshit hit the fan, blood and bodies were going to be flying everywhere. O'Reily still had his game face on, like the true viper he was, and played every angle he could to keep himself safe inside these walls.
"Alvarez, infirmary---let' go," Officer Murphy said when he abruptly entered his pod.
"What---why?" the Latino asked and got up from his bed.
"Morales wants to have a heart to heart. Come on."
He wondered what the hell that meant as he followed the hack out of Em City and to the hospital ward. His eyes crossed with the Irishman's on their way out and he disappeared from view a short while later. Alvarez could not imagine what the fallen leader of El Norte wanted with him. He had spent so much of his time distancing himself from the Latino gang that this was an ironic turn. Inside the ward, he walked over to the bedside to see what the purpose of the request was.
"Miguel, thanks for coming," Morales said. "Grab a chair and sit. We have to talk."
"I can't imagine about what," the Latino said as he pulled up a plastic chair and sat next to the bed.
"Lots, Miguel. Lots---"
"Who sliced up your ankles?"
"That's not important."
"The hacks, huh?" Alvarez said lowly. "Nobody else is taking responsibility for it."
"That's not important," Morales said again but his eyes already gave the answer. "That's not why I asked you to come."
"What do you want, Enrique?"
"I want you to lead El Norte---until I come back."
"You fucking kidding me?" he said.
"You and I haven't always seen eye to eye," Morales said.
"I was disposable to you---less than gum stuck underneath your shoe. You want me to head El Norte now?"
The man was playing some kind of game and Alvarez was not going to be moved as if he was some fucking chess piece around the board that is Oz. This was the last thing he expected coming here and he was getting angry at the misconception that he was still in some way associated with El Norte. His partnership with the víbora had been far more productive within the first few months of its existence than his entire time with the Latino gang. There was no way he was going back now.
"I know you have reservations. I know you think I'm up to some scheme but that's not true," Morales said.
"Urbano has the reigns. I have no plans to go back to El Norte. Let him lead."
"Urbano is loyal, but he is too headstrong and quick to react. And he is relying too much on Pancamo's words to be a real leader. He doesn't have the sensibility and leadership qualities you do. He doesn't handle himself in here as well as you do."
"Don't say this shit to me," the Latino almost angrily spat. "Where was all this when I came back to Oz after escaping and was looking to rejoin the gang? I had to fucking prove myself over and over again, you know. Now---you're saying all this shit?"
"He's not full-blooded Latino. Pancamo uses his half Italian side to keep him under his control."
"El Norte is suffering, Miguel. It needs a strong leader now until I can get back to take care of it. I need your loyalty."
"El Norte's been suffering---even when you were head," Alvarez told him. "I used to be loyal to it. I was fucking loyal. I fought, I shed blood, I killed for it. El Norte betrayed me many times but I took it because I was loyal to what it stood for---what it was. Not anymore."
"It's inside you. No matter how much you deny it, El Norte is a part of you, Miguel," Morales impatiently said.
"No. Not anymore. I turned my back to it."
"Fuck you," Alvarez said and he stood up. "Fuck you and fuck your offer. I don't give a rat's ass if Urbano finishes running El Norte into the ground."
"You're making a mistake," he said. "You have no idea what you're doing."
"Yo, officer, I'm done here," the Latino said and walked away.
The games that bastard was playing was sick and twisted. Alvarez wondered if the conversation was real as he walked back to Em City. Morales had always known his level of loyalty for El Norte and skills for getting things done, but had still treated him like a worthless and expendable grunt. He had officially washed his hands of the gang and was happy with the partnership he and O'Reily formed.
Earphones were around his ears as he watched TV in the quad, but was not really paying attention to what was on the large screens in front of him. Alvarez thought of how different things could have been had Morales given him the acknowledgement and respect he always knew he deserved. El Norte would not have been on the brink of destruction as it was now if this had been the case. He was pissed off at all of Morales's words. A hack tapped him on the shoulder and told him that McManus wanted to see him in his office.
"Miguel---sit down," the unit manager said when he entered the office.
"What did I do?"
"Well, that's what I'm wondering. Tell me about your relationship with Wolfgang Cutler."
"Cutler---the Nazi guy?" Alvarez asked in slight confusion. "We didn't have a relationship. Dome-head was an equal opportunity racist."
"So, it would surprise you if he left you something in his will?" McManus said.
"He left me something? Like what?"
"Like everything he owned."
"What?" he shockingly asked.
"You are the sole beneficiary of all his worldly goods---both in Oz and on the outside. His house, his car, hell, his 1942 Indian motorcycle," McManus said as he read off a piece of paper on his desk.
"Get the fuck out of here."
"The will is signed and notarized."
"Are you shitting me?" the Latino asked and still could not believe it. "I barely spoke to the fucking guy---a couple of times at rehearsal. That's it. The guy have any wife, kids, family---anything?"
"Wife, no kids."
"This is fucking crazy."
"We packed up his cell---put all his belongings into a box," McManus said to him. "You're going to have to decide what you want to keep."
"I'm not going to look through a dead guy's things. Jesus," he firmly said and left the office.
The Latino did not know what the hell was going on or what to think. It had to be some kind of joke, but it was all true---Cutler left every single possession he had to him. He could not figure out why the Nazi would do something like this, especially since he had a wife. Something about this did not feel right and Alvarez immediately felt bad for his wife. To lose her husband and then to be left without anything was unfair and not right. That was her house and her possessions---not his.
Alvarez remembered the conversation the two of them had in the cafeteria. Maybe this was Cutler's way of trying to coax him into killing White from beyond the grave. It was an extremely risky and foolish move if that was the case because he was not going to kill anyone. He was walking the rows of the library to look for a book to read while he was in his pod---at night mainly. Alvarez knew he would be lying to himself if he said he had never thought about sharing a pod with Ryan O'Reily.
"I guess we'll have to wait until the afterlife to find out why Cutler would up and give his belongings to a fucking wetback," Schillinger said from the table behind him.
"Yo, I'm as bugged out as you," the Latino turned around and replied. "I mean, I know you guys spent a lot of time with Cutler. Did he ever mention anything about me?"
"Yeah, in his sleep at night, he'd whisper your name. Fuck off," Robson said.
"I suggest this now, Alvarez, or I'll find a way to make it happen later. You sign all his stuff over to his wife," Schillinger threatened.
"I already thought about that."
"Don't think, spic---do," Robson spat out.
"You know what? Maybe I should give all his assets to you, Ruby, being as you already gave him your ass," Alvarez degraded Cutler's former prag and said.
He ignored the Nazis and found a book to check out before he headed back to his pod. Today so far had already been an eventful one, but he was tired of the surprises. Alvarez wondered what O'Reily would think of his new inheritance and realized just how much power he had. All those things belonged to him. He could put Cutler's wife out on the streets and sell the house if he wanted to. The inheritance could go so many tempting ways.
The Latino emerged from his pod and walked down to the quad to sit at one of the game tables by himself. He wanted to play another game of chess with the Irishman, but the latter was in the kitchen preparing for lunch. What they had was developing into something. Alvarez was jealous when O'Reily had told him that Keller had been looking at his ass. Those were dangerous thoughts that he was not supposed to be having.
"Alvarez, we got to talk," Urbano said and sat without waiting for the appropriate response.
"Damn, I'm just a busy man today," he responded. "Everyone wants a fucking piece."
"So I hear. What you going to do with Cutler's inheritance?"
"That ain't your business. What do you want?"
"You're not a stupid man, Alvarez. Not the smartest, but not stupid, either," the default El Norte leader said to him.
"I know Morales spoke to you this morning."
"So?" the Latino nonchalantly said.
"What was that about? You're not a member of El Norte anymore."
"Again, not your business."
"Don't cross me, Alvarez. I'll do what El Cid and Morales couldn't---I'll put you down permanently."
"That supposed to be some sort of threat?" he laughed at the inexperienced bastard. "How many have tried, maricón. I'm still here. Your words don't mean shit."
"They ain't me."
He had to hold in his fits of laughter inside because Urbano was so fucking green and inexperienced in how things actually went down in Oz. Morales was right about him being headstrong, but had failed to mention that he was a complete moron as well. No wonder El Norte had lost as much respect as it did inside these walls---no one could take that tool seriously. Morales had begun hammering everything the gang was into the dirt and Urbano was going to finish it off. Alvarez did not feel strongly one way or the other about the gang's reputation anymore.
The pathetic half-bred Latino that catered more to his Italian side than he did his Latin one had taken up El Norte. There was no doubt that Pancamo was planning to merge the wops together with the spics to reinforce the Italian presence inside Oz. Though Alvarez did not care what happened to the gang, having El Norte falling into Pancamo's oversized hands would be a massive blow to the Latinos. He had to set the record straight, though.
"You right. When they were running shit, El Norte was something. It demanded respect and took no bullshit from anyone in here," the Latino made the strong point. "Now, it's just a few pussy bitches running around pretending to play gang wars. You're the laughing stock of Oz, you stupid motherfucker."
"Watch your goddamn mouth, asshole. El Norte is still at the top of its game," Urbano stupidly and blindly defended his rapidly sinking ship. "You better not come sniffing back here for the leadership role, cocksucker."
"Think whatever you want, you dumbass. I don't want dick to do with El Norte---that's all for you to run into the ground. Besides, I'm not a member anymore, you know. It's just like you said."
"Glad you understand," he said and got up. "Bastard."
The conversation could have gone in a very different direction. He could have told Urbano what Morales had really thought of him, but the inside joke was too good for him to make public. He knew he was going to be laughing at him long after that stupid fuck buried El Norte, and possibly himself, under six feet of dirt. Alvarez watched Urbano walk away and kept to himself at the table. The buzzer rang for them to go to lunch so he left and went to the gate to get out.
Things with Alvarez were pushing too far past his comfort zone and getting too deep inside him. It was uncomfortable showing more of his insides, and no matter how hard he had tried to close himself off from the Latino, O'Reily was failing. The line between their secret partnership and personal relationship was becoming more blurred and scattered. Alvarez was getting too close for comfort and he was worried about what that meant.
He left Em City and headed to the infirmary because Cyril was experiencing negative side effects from the electroshock therapy and he wanted to see if everything was okay. The execution date crept closer and almost all his options had dried up now. O'Reily walked into the hospital ward, but his brother was sleeping---his wrists and ankles strapped to the bed like an animal. Dr. Nathan came over and both went out to the hallway while he kept looking at Cyril through the window.
"Hey, Gloria---hey, thanks a lot for letting my brother, you know, chill out in the hospital ward," he said. "It means a lot to me."
"Well, that's okay," Dr. Nathan said back.
"Yeah. Hey, we just heard that, yeah---his latest appeal has been denied and the lawyer's going to plead his case to the state Supreme Court but, you know, unless a fucking miracle happens, I think Cyril's going to be executed next week."
"I have to go," she uncomfortably said.
"Hey, Gloria, I never stopped loving you---not for one second."
He said the words but was not sure if he believed them anymore. It had just felt like the right thing to say---maybe he wanted it to be the right thing to say, but he knew his feelings for her were slowly changing. O'Reily knew there was never going to be a chance for them and he was tired of fighting for it to happen. Dr. Nathan had made it clear time and again that there was no chance for them. He looked at Cyril inside the ward through the glass when she had left him alone.
O'Reily wanted more than anything to love her the way he used to, but his body did not feel the same things it once had. Maybe he never loved her as he thought he did. There was no such thing as love inside Oz. He had to get to that place again though because Alvarez was consuming too many of this thoughts. He did not want the Latino so far inside his mind. It felt like he was being invaded. An officer walked him over to the cafeteria for his lunch duty.
"Hey, stranger," his mother greeted him when he entered. "Haven't seen much of you lately."
"Well, you, know, you've been busy, with the play---boyfriend," he said.
"Jahfree Neema. I see you here---I see you there, laughing and whispering. It's very sweet---very intimate," O'Reily coldly replied, his green eyes flaring with anger.
"Ryan, come on," Fitzgerald smiled because she thought it was all a joke.
"What? You going to tell me that I'm imagining it---that my eyes are deceiving me?"
"You asked me to be nice to the guy---I tried. He blew me off. You know, I know you think he's some sort of hotshot savior and all, but to me, he's just another fucking wanker. You two enjoy yourselves. Meanwhile, my little brother's going to die," the Irishman said and started to walk away to the kitchen.
"Ryan," she called out.
"What?" he yelled as he looked back.
Fitzgerald looked at his eyes and said, "Promise me you won't do anything to harm Jahfree."
"Oh, gee, ma---you really think I'm capable of something like that?"
The resentment and deadly sarcasm was there in his voice, but there was also a twinge of jealousy. O'Reily left to the kitchen to get to work and regretted seeing his mother there. He had been trying to avoid her as much as he could since Neema had come to Oz. Her only focus was supposed to be on him and Cyril---especially Cyril and his impending execution.
A plan to take out Neema could easy formulate itself inside his head and he was seriously considering it, and going against his mother's wishes. The arrogant fuck needed to be knocked down a peg or just airholed. O'Reily leaned against a stone column in Em City and was only a few feet away from where Redding and Neema were talking. Both men knew he was there, but neither cared. He had to know what they were talking about and if it was anything he could use to his advantage.
"Neema, I know we haven't had much chance to talk since you arrived here---" Redding said in that raspy voice of his.
"That's probably because we have nothing to say to each other," Neema kept with his attitude.
"Well, look, I know on the outside, you and me, we was never that friendly, but---"
"Friendly? Redding, you are anathema to me," he replied in disgust.
"See, there you go using them big words---think you going to curl me, but it don't," Redding firmly said.
"For the past thirty-something years, you've been supplying the children of our community with lethal drugs while I have fought to keep those same children safe. And now, just because we both find ourselves in this clapshack, you want to believe that we have a bond? We don't."
"We do! I've seen the error of my ways, and I'm trying to correct them."
"I don't believe you," Neema dispassionately reaffirmed and walked away.
"You know, Burr, that Neema, he's a pompous piece of shit, man," O'Reily stepped forward and said. "I say it's time he learned who's the boss around here."
"You want him dead, O'Reily?" the man asked.
"I wouldn't weep if he was."
"If you really want to do Neema some harm, tie him to your mother's crime," Redding said the cryptic words.
"What do you mean?"
"You're a clever boy. You figure that one out."
Redding left him with the words and he wondered what they meant. He had to do some research and dig into some backgrounds so that he could have some inside information on Neema. If the man ever became a problem, O'Reily would have the solution stored away in his brain of dealing with him. He returned to his pod and Cyril was on his mind. His faith was not working because his little brother was still on death row. The fight to save him had become so exhausting.
"Ay, Ryan," Meaney said when he entered the pod. "What's up?"
"What do you want, Liam?" he asked, a bit annoyed.
"I got some news for you."
"Morales. He's dead."
"What?" O'Reily looked over and said. "He got airholed? Who did it?"
"Don't know yet. Happened overnight."
"Shit. Urbano's in charge now?"
"For right now. I heard some of the Latinos whispering. Apparently, they want that stupid motherfucker Alvarez at the helm. Though why is beyond me."
"What the fuck did you say?" the Irishman lashed out but quickly regained himself because it was a mistake.
"What?" Meaney said and gave him a look.
"Nothing. Get the fuck out my pod."
"Geez---you're in some mood."
His grunt left the pod and the Irishman had to bring his thoughts back. He had wanted to attack Meaney because of what he called Alvarez. His mind and body were fucking going insane. O'Reily could not understand why it bothered him so much to the point of him almost getting violent with Meaney over a curse word he had heard and said a million times in here. It was a curse word that had been aimed at the Latino and his highly defensive nature had kicked into overdrive.
The next day, O'Reily leaned against the wall of the storage room by the AIDS ward with his arms folded and his eyes closed. Again, he was thinking about Alvarez as he waited for him to show up in the room. They really had to talk because Morales's death could be used to their advantage. More than business however, he wanted to see the Latino and talk to him. O'Reily kept his mind on what happened with Meaney in his pod yesterday, even though he did not want it there. He was unaware when the door quietly opened.
Alvarez easily walked over to him, put his lips close to the other man's ear, and whispered, "You thinking about me, víbora?"
"Jesus Christ, Alvarez!" O'Reily immediately opened his eyes and exclaimed as their bodies were softly pressed together. "You scared the shit out of me. When---how did you get in here without me hearing you?"
"Don't know---soft steps?"
"Back up. Back up," he said as he broke free and stepped away from the Latino's warm body.
"Nothing. Nothing. Morales is dead."
"So I hear," Alvarez said, while still looking at him a bit strangely. "You know, it's weird. He wanted to talk to me the morning before he died---almost like maybe he knew he was going to, you know?"
"Did you talk to him?" the Irishman asked from a few feet away now.
"He wants me to lead El Norte. He thinks I could make it respected and powerful again."
"What'd you say?"
"No," he said as he sat on the ground. "I told you, I'm not interested in having that kind of power anymore. Let that stupid dickhead Urbano have it. I'm done with them."
"The Latinos are losing influence in here. Urbano's a dumbfuck that follows Pancamo's words without a peep. He doesn't deserve to lead and will destroy what is left of El Norte's reputation. I think you should consider it," O'Reily said.
"What? Are you fucking high?"
Those were the last words Alvarez expected to hear from him and kept his eyes on the other man as he sat down next to him. Something was going on inside that mind of his---some plan to gain control through this opportunity that had presented itself. O'Reily was thinking more about what would be beneficial to him rather than to Alvarez and inside, a part of him hated how selfish he was being. He had to work this angle though because it was a chance to get the spics in his back pocket.
"No. I think it would be a good opportunity for you to build back El Norte to what it used to be," he carefully said.
"You're fucking playing with me. What the hell are you up to?"
"Nothing. I'm just saying---don't say no so quickly."
Alvarez glared at him and asked, "You want me walking around this place with that target on my back? Is that it? That's what you fucking want?"
"Miguel---think about it. You have me in your corner, and---and you could have the gang in your corner, too. We could make that grow and become a force in Oz."
"I can't believe I'm hearing this shit from you. Where's all this coming from?"
"It's a good opportunity I think we should take advantage of," O'Reily said.
"I've never been one of them---you know that. It won't work. I'll have to reveal our partnership to them. The whole prison will know about us if I do that."
"Not true. It could remain just as it is now."
"No---all right? No. Let Urbano have El Norte. I'm not going to be sitting out in the open like that. I don't trust any of those motherfuckers."
"You're not thinking about this, loco---"
"I said `no', Ryan," the Latino firmly said. "No."
O'Reily wanted to say something back because he was not so easily dismissed, but something stopped him. It was definitely a risk he was asking the Latino to take in leading El Norte because it would instantly make him a target for every other inmate. That was what had led to the demise of Hernandez and now Morales. Alvarez thought the same way so that was why he was refusing to step up to the leadership role---even though he would be a great leader for the gang because of his smarts and skills.
"Okay---okay, geez. Forget I said anything," the Irishman said and felt a little comfort in his offer being rejected by the other man.
"I'm good where I am, víbora. This partnership is where I want to be."
"I'm thinking about expanding, Miguel---the bigger picture."
"No. Not with them. Those cocksuckers will stab you in the back the first chance they get. It's not happening."
"I don't usually get ordered around like this," O'Reily said with a bit of anger in his tone. "Dismissed like this."
"That's not what I'm doing, Ryan," he said reassuringly. "I've tried to get those guys on my side for years. None of them knows the real meaning of El Norte. Just let it die."
"Whatever, man. I'm done talking about it."
"Good. Tell me why you were freaked out when I came in---why you pushed away from me," Alvarez said and changed the topic completely.
"Ryan," the Latino said in that persuasive way of his.
"Fucking Meaney!" O'Reily said but he did not want to.
"What about him?"
"I wanted to rip his head off yesterday. It's nothing," he passively said.
"Doesn't sound like nothing. Why---what did he do?"
"Nothing. Forget I said shit."
"Tell me," Alvarez tried to convince him again. "You're on edge. Why?"
"I'm not on anything. Fuck it."
"He was talking shit about you, all right?" the Irishman said and was getting frustrated because he felt like he was being trapped. "He was running off at the mouth about you and I wanted to shut him up because I didn't want to hear it. He was annoying me. But, I didn't do shit."
"Good," the Latino said and laughed. "You can't listen to what these dicks in here have to say---you know that. Why'd you get angry?"
"I don't have any fucking idea, but I hate it so much."
Alvarez knew the answer to his question but he did not push because the other man was having a hard time sorting though his feelings and emotions. He was not going to push or force the situation in any way because he knew how deep that jealousy inside him had sparked when O'Reily had told him about Keller looking at his ass. It was the same concept here, with the emotion being protective rather than envy. They were already in blurry territory and the Irishman was looking uncomfortable, so he had to change the subject again.
"So, you're not going to ask me?"
"Ask you about what?" O'Reily replied and was relieved that the conversation had been changed yet again.
"Cutler. Didn't you hear?"
"Yeah---he's dead. What about him?"
"You mean you haven't heard?" Alvarez asked and was surprised by this.
"Heard what? I've been wrapped up with Cyril and his appeals, and, my mom," he said back. "I haven't been listening to passed words much lately."
"You letting your guard down in here, Irish? What's going on with your ma?"
"Neema, but I'll handle him when the time comes. What about Cutler?"
"He left me everything he had. McManus read his will to me."
"What?" O'Reily asked in disbelief. "Are you joking?"
"Nope. That was my reaction too. The motherfucker left me his house, money---a fucking motorcycle."
"This is real? He left all that shit to you?"
"Yeah," the Latino said.
"What are you going to do with it? He had no family?"
"A wife. I'm meeting her in a couple days."
"Why?" O'Reily asked. "Is she contesting it? Those things are ironclad."
"I don't think she's contesting it. I'm thinking about giving it back to her."
"Why the hell would you do that?"
The tone in his voice already spoke volumes and Alvarez was a bit disappointed in him. He had never had a significant conversation with Cutler and now he owned all of his possessions. His wife did not deserve that and Alvarez felt bad that it happened. It was not right, and he thought O'Reily would have understood that and wanted him to give the stuff to Cutler's wife. She did rightfully deserve it after all, since he was her husband.
"Ryan, it's wrong," Alvarez softly said. "It doesn't feel right to me, you know?"
"It's written on paper. The fuck wanted you to have it. Maybe his wife's a bitch."
"I don't know that. Even if she is, it doesn't matter. That shit belongs to her, not me."
"But he chose you," O'Reily said in a distant voice. "Why did he do that?"
"I have no fucking idea. Your guess is as good as mine."
"Did you suck his dick?"
"What the fuck kind of question is that, O'Reily?" his voice flared with anger when he said after he got up from the ground.
"You think I go around sucking everyone's dick? You are the first person and only I've done that shit with---I told you that. What the fuck are you thinking asking me something like that?"
"Why the hell did he leave you everything he owned then?"
"I told you I have no fucking clue!"
Alvarez walked over to the door and left without looking back. He was offended and angry so he had to get out of there before something happened he did not want to. The question was way out of line, but the Irishman could not deny that a part of him felt special that he had been the only man Alvarez had been intimate with. It was a stupid move on his part and he honestly did not know where the question came from. He did not care if Alvarez was faithful to him or not---that was not the dynamic of their relationship. Or, maybe it was and O'Reily was denying it just like the growing list of things he had to deny or put out of his mind when it came to Miguel Alvarez.