~*~ 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.



The Irishman remained mostly unseen as he leaned up against a column under the staircase and secretly watched El Cartel and his men across the quad. He had singlehandedly revived El Norte and had fortified it with enough new Latino inmates to make him a powerful force. It looked like they were planning something and O'Reily immediately thought about Alvarez and what that meant for him. Calderón had made it clear numerous times before that he was not going to accept Alvarez's decision to stay away from the gang.

Already, the similarities between El Cartel and the past leaders of El Norte were starting to become known. He was more ruthless than El Cid had been and was more precise and calculating than Morales had been. But, he was falling into the same pattern and was making the same mistakes the past two leaders had. He was seriously underestimating and trying to control the loco Latino. O'Reily knew he had to come up with a plan to prevent Calderón from becoming too powerful, but also to keep him far away from Alvarez.

Neither of them could afford to draw any unwanted attention to themselves because of how tense the air had become inside these walls. Neither could do anything to expose the partnership, but El Cartel looked like he was going to give Alvarez problems. For now, he had to focus on slowing down the maniacal madman to keep both of them safe and completely unlinked to each other. O'Reily saw Redding passing by and an idea instantly formed itself in his head as to how he could buy himself more time---even when Torquemada was eventually released.

"Hey, Burr, come here---come here," he said.

"I don't have time for you, O'Reily," the man stopped and said. "Got business to take care of."

"Me too."

"Yeah? Why you under here then?"

"Waiting. My business is with you," O'Reily easily said.

"What business you got with me, son?"

"Bring back the homeboys, Burr. Gather your men and get back in the tit trade."

"What the fuck angle are you working now, O'Reily?" Redding asked.

"I hear the telemarketing thing isn't going too well. And most of your men deal on the side anyway."

"Used to. They don't anymore."

"That's only because Destiny is out of the picture. Once Torquemada comes back, his drugs do too," the Irishman stated the fact. "Your boys will be behind your back in no time."

"He floods the place and those boys who don't listen to me will get what's coming to them."

"Listen to me, Burr. The telemarketing plan was good for a while but look at where the fuck we are. Your boys have lost interest and moved back to the only thing they know. Don't abandon them. Get the homeboys back in the game. Start slinging tits again and you'll get back all that power you gave up to do this telemarketing bullshit."

The man said in his raspy voice, "Power isn't everything inside these walls. If they choose not to follow me, then they deserve to be abandoned. For every one I lose, I'll gain one."

"We live in the same Oz, old man? Power and survival is all we got."

He needed Redding to get away from his stupid telemarketing mindset and back to the one that had brought him to Oz in the first place. It was vital that he mended the rift with his men and took control over them pushing tits again because it would be another huge blow to Torquemada's already crippled alliance with the niggers. O'Reily was growing impatient with Redding's good act and wanted him to get back to being the real leader of the homeboys. The telemarketing bullshit was a phase that had passed and he needed to get back in the drug trade.

"You know the warden will shut down the program soon. He doesn't like to see any of us out of our cages," O'Reily said. "The inmates aren't into it anymore. Time to move on, Burr."

"I didn't realize moving on meant going back to the old ways," Redding sarcastically quipped.

"When the old way was working just fine, why not?"

"I gave up the drug trade when Augustus died. It would be an insult to his memory to start pushing again."

"You'll lose all your boys if you don't make the right move. You haven't been much of a leader lately, Burr. Not the kind of leader they want anyway," he said. "When Querns finally has it with the telemarketing program, where will that leave you? Now is the time to make a preemptive move."

"Not before I figure out what you're up to, son. Not before that," the man croaked out and left.

"You'll never know that, you old fuck," he snickered and laughed. "Not until after it's too late."

He remained under the stairs and out of the view of most of the other inmates as his eyes went back to Calderón and his now healthy gang. If Redding was to take his advice and get the homeboys back into the drug game, not only would Torquemada be weakened, but there would be a big enough gang to stand up to El Cartel and El Norte if they chose to go on the offensive. O'Reily knew how critical it was for Redding to bring the niggers back into power. There was no way he was going to let the queen or the warlord hold all the cards inside Em City.

The warden had to close down the telemarketing center sooner than later for his plan to be guaranteed. But, Querns was a fucking idiot that did not deserve to be running the prison because he did not care about anyone but himself. There had been numerous disagreements between him and the rest of the staff, and none of the prisoners had any respect for him because of all the programs and recreational activities he had slashed. He was making Oz feel more like a prison that it already was.

After lunch, he walked to work and thought about what his next move should be because everyone was playing it safe for the moment. Since Urbano, El Cartel had practically gone into seclusion and was only concerned with multiplying his men. Pancamo was a sitting duck without Torquemada and his D-tabs to control the inmates. Redding had to come to his senses and interject his gang back in the drug game before it was too late. The atmosphere was going to drown him if he did not strengthen his position.

As he walked into the infirmary, he looked around and saw that most of the beds were empty. Mostly, the hospital resembled a ghost town because of how quiet and inactive the entire prison was recently. O'Reily knew he could not get too used to it because, if his instincts were right about what was going to happen, the beds would soon be full with wounded and dying bodies. He looked over at Dr. Nathan's office and saw Alvarez was in there talking to her. His curiosity got the best of him but he suppressed it and went to the storage room to restock supplies.

Since their conversation after he got out of the hole, O'Reily did not know where their partnership stood. Alvarez seemed to ignore him at every turn and they had not spoken since that critical conversation. He did not know what was going on and did not want to accept that their partnership was over---not at this crucial time. The Latino just needed to cool off and put everything into perspective before they could move forward. He looked at the list attached to a clipboard and browsed through the numerous shelves to find the supplies needed to be restock as he thought about the other man.

"Yo, Irish," Alvarez greeted when he entered the storage room.

"What are you doing here, Alvarez?" he turned around and asked.

"What's it look like? Working. What you think---I look cute in scrubs, huh?" the Latino said with that sexy grin of his.

"You're so damn caught up in yourself---so vain. How do you fit that entire ego inside your head?"

"The same way you do, I think. And, it's not being vain if it's true. You look surprised to see me here."

"I---I kind of am."

"Why? We agreed I'd come and work here. Didn't we?"

"Uh---yeah," O'Reily said and had since stopped doing his job.

"Okay. Here I am."

"I don't know where the partnership stands," he said the truth and felt awkward.

"Don't do that shit again," the Latino seriously said. "Everything we do, we talk about first."

"All right. Yeah, I got it."

"Good. Let me help you. I think I still remember the procedure," Alvarez joked.

The Irishman was secretly happy that he was there and that they were putting the hole behind them to better the partnership. Both men worked together to stock up the cart so that they could replenish all the items out on the floor. He hated the fact that Alvarez was able to surprise him this way. It had completely caught him off guard seeing him here---especially with everything that was going on between them. O'Reily felt a strange warmth from their bodies being so close together. He immediately backed away.

"There you are, Ryan," Dr. Nathan stood in the doorway and said. "I guess you've already noticed that Miguel will be working here now."

"Yeah, I noticed," he said.

"Can I see you in my office?"


She walked away and he and Alvarez caught each other in a quick look before he left as well. Now that they had put everything behind them, the hospital was the perfect place for them to plot plans or pass information to one another. It was surprisingly private because most of the patients slept a lot because of the various drugs given to them for their various ailments. And, Dr. Nathan was out of the office a lot dealing with the inmates who could not be in the hospital ward or in numerous staff meetings. O'Reily closed the door behind him to seal them both away.

"What's up?"

"I got the results of your HIV test back," she said.

"Oh. What---what does it say?" O'Reily stomach suddenly went into a knot.

"You're fine, Ryan. The tests came back negative. All your blood work came back negative. You don't have anything foreign in your system"

"Fuck! That's great news! Hey, thanks a lot."

"Sure," Dr. Nathan warmly said. "You needed to be sure."

A weight was just lifted off his shoulders with the final results of his blood tests being revealed. He walked out of the office and saw Alvarez replacing used items with new ones for the patients and hospital staff alike. Their eyes were joined together again but he dismissed it and went to the back room to revel in the good news. O'Reily needed a minute for himself to let it all sink in and took a few moments for it to do so. He went back to the main room and began stripping a bed when they both noticed as Dr. Nathan came out of her office.

"Ryan, Miguel, I have to go down to Solitary and then Unit J to examine some patients. I'll be back soon. The nurse should be coming back from her break within the next half an hour," Dr. Nathan said and left them alone in the practically empty infirmary.

"What was that about?" the Latino asked when he was sure they were alone.

"I got tested. I had some blood work done to make sure everything was okay."

"Why? Did something happen to make you think otherwise?"

"Let's go in the back," O'Reily said and then walked into the back room for a little more privacy.

"Hey, Ryan, is something wrong?" he followed and asked.

"Dammit! There is no easy way to say this."

"So just say it."

"I had to make sure I was clean. Especially after you---" O'Reily began to stay but stopped because he could not continue with the words.

"Oh---I get it. You think I gave you something," Alvarez said and finished the awkward words for him.

"It's not like there was a condom between us. And this is a goddamn prison."

"I'm clean, man. I don't know what else to tell you. I don't got anything."

"Alvarez, before we do anything else, you got to get tested too. Tested---like I did," the Irishman said his request.

"Don't need to. I already told you I'm clean. What did your results say?"

"I got nothing."

"See? We're both good," he said and did not like where the conversation was going.

"You have to be sure. I have to be sure."

Alvarez face and expression said more than his words did at the moment. It was a big moment in whatever it was they had formed beyond the partnership and he looked like he was offended and maybe hurt by the words. O'Reily did not want to have this conversation here, where someone could easily walk in on them, but they had just fallen into it and he was going to take the opportunity to get everything out between them. It had become important to him.

"I'm not accusing you of anything. We both have to protect ourselves since we can't get condoms without raising suspicion."

"But I'm clean. I know I am," Alvarez confidently said. "I don't need any tests. Your tests prove that. We---"

"Don't say it!" the Irishman quickly cut him off because he could not hear the words now.

"Well, it happened. And you got nothing from me."

"Please, loco. I need you to do this so that we can both know. It's just to be safe."

"Shit, man. Fine," he reluctantly agreed. "I'll tell Dr. Nathan---tell her I got an infection when I was in the hole and want to have my blood tested. Just to be safe."

"Sounds good. Okay."

"You know, we're going to have to talk about it. It did happen, you know."

"You're fucking kidding me! Of course I know it happened," O'Reily prematurely snapped but did not mean to.

Now was the time to get answers and fill in the blanks in his memory as to all that had happened during their time in that storage room. O'Reily knew he needed to stop acting like a fucking kid because if he had not wanted it on some level, it never would have happened. He was no goddamn fag, though. He had spent almost as much time protecting his ass as he did plotting and working behind the scenes to get rid of his enemies. No one was ever supposed to know him in that way because he was never supposed to spread his legs and take it like a bitch.

"I don't---I don't remember much. Those pills really fucked with me---my head. I took so many," the Irishman said with a hint of resentment in his tone.

"I know. You gave me some too. That mixed with D-tabs made for one nasty fucking cocktail."

"Hey, come over here," O'Reily said and pulled Alvarez by his arm to a secluded corner of the back room for even more privacy. "Alvarez---I have to ask you something. It's something I never thought I'd ever be asking in my life. It's difficult."

"You sure here's the right place to do it, then?" his voice got serious when he asked.

"We won't be having this conversation long enough for anyone to notice anything. I need you to give me a straight answer---yes or no. That's it."

"Okay," the Latino said and was a little confused. "I'm a little confused now."

"That day, you know, did I, you know, did I---" O'Reily tried to get the words out but they just would not come.

"What is it, Ryan? Did you what?"

"Did I beg to be fucked? Did I beg you to fuck me, Alvarez?" he finally said and his eyes were glued to the floor because he felt too vulnerable.

"Oh, wow. Um, no---no. You didn't beg. You kind of---teased me though."

"What? How?"

"I don't know. It's all complicated in my head too."

"You don't know for sure then?"

"No---I know you didn't beg," Alvarez confidently said what he remembered from the encounter. "It wasn't anything like that. The teasing was different, though."

"Okay, stop," the Irishman said and felt like he was going to be sick. "I'm going back out there so that the hacks don't notice we're missing."

"I'll tell you what I mean later."

The uncomfortable tension between them was at a formidable high and he walked out of the back room to finish stripping the unattended bed. As if on cue, the nurse showed up and was followed by a hack and an inmate complaining of a stomachache. She began to tend to him and O'Reily got back to work as Alvarez emerged from the back and busied himself with work as well. A part of him was relieved to hear that he did not beg for anything, but his brain was running laps to try to figure out how he had teased the Latino.

It was such a weird thing and he could not envision himself doing it. Of course, he had never envisioned himself getting fucked and seeing his own personal stars because of it either. It felt so different from anything he had ever done sexually and he was not as convinced as he wanted to be that he did not enjoy it on some level. Maybe it was the drugs that had made it feel good, and not Alvarez sliding in and out of him. The sliding that had eventually led to heat and then friction and then that spot that had made his skin whimper when it was touched. That spot that had made his blood boil and his urges for pleasure converge in a hostile takeover inside his brain.

The drugs had nothing to do with his pleasures that day. They had altered his mind into allowing Alvarez to go inside him, but the gratification his body had received from being connected to someone else's had been all natural and created between them for them. O'Reily dragged the dirty bed linens and dumped them into the laundry cart to be taken away and cleaned. He was never going to resort to drugging himself into a stupor again. Cyril was gone and he had to accept that his younger brother was never coming back.

He did not want to dwell on his kid brother, but his father's words carved through him like a well-handled scalpel. What Seamus O'Reily had said to him was unacceptable and he was not going to put up with any more crap from the old bastard. Regardless of how the words affected him though, O'Reily was not going to stop the fight to keep him from death row. Cyril would want him to keep fighting to try to save their father, and he was not going to let him down again.

"Can you disappear tomorrow before we come in to work?" the Irishman asked Alvarez when they were both alone in the medical supplies room.

"The hacks are making it fucking harder to get lost. I can sneak away though."

"Solitary, then?"

"The AIDS ward," Alvarez replied and quickly looked at him. "It would be better for right now."

"Hey. About before---" he said lowly and somewhat uncomfortably.

"We'll talk about it tomorrow. We can use all the fragments to piece together the whole thing."

"If we can," O'Reily said and was unsure if he did want to know everything.


Water sprinkled down on his lightly tanned skin as one hand pressed into the tiled wall and the other one dangled almost lifelessly against his side. His head was stuck under the falling water and his eyes were closed because his brain wanted the freedom. Alvarez let his thoughts run anywhere else he wanted to be but behind bars and trapped like an animal. They had just come back from breakfast and his body was itching for a shower so he indulged himself. He had to find and take advantage of whatever pleasure he could find in the desolate wasteland that was his home.

He remembered to the conversation that happened in the infirmary with the Irishman. It had to have been uncomfortable and frustrating for him not to remember enough of their sexual encounter to ask the question he did. O'Reily was a private man that never wanted to talk about his feelings, so asking that question had to have been difficult for him. Alvarez did not see him any differently since their intercourse. The man was just as dangerous as he had ever been---probably more now.

The Latino wanted to ask him what it felt like---if he had liked it. He was not going to push because the subject obviously drove O'Reily over the edge. Something he had sworn he was never going to do or was never going to happen to him had, and he was having a rough time dealing with what it all meant. The door opened and he quickly glanced back and became irritated when he saw Calderón enter and walk over to the sink.

"I hear you're working in the hospital now," El Cartel said as he applied shaving cream to his face.

"It's no secret."

"You become more valuable to me with each passing day, Alvarez. You know that?"

"I'm not one of your boys," the loco Latino said and wanted to end his now tainted shower. "My value don't got dick to do with you."

"True. But it has everything to do with El Norte."

"Don't you get tired of sounding like a fucking broken record? Get it through that thick skull of yours," Alvarez said and shut off the shower because he was not going to stay anymore. "El Norte and me don't belong in the same sentence anymore. I ain't ever going back to that bullshit."

"It was bullshit. How those fuckers in the past ran it was bullshit. El Norte never got the real respect it deserves."

"And that's where you come in?" he asked as he was drying off. "Is that it?"

"We'll be the most powerful gang once I get done in here. If you're smart, you'll be on our side---the winning side."

"I am on the winning side---mine. I'm not into any power quest. Don't bother me with this shit again."

"You don't want to keep talking to me like that. You said you know who I am," Calderón said and made it clear he was not to be taken lightly.

"I do know who you are. That don't mean I'm scared. I'm not one of the gutless pricks you brought in here. You want to make a move on me? Go ahead and try. It's become a fucking tradition with El Norte leaders now," Alvarez slipped on his pants and laughed as he said.

"I'd prefer it if you were on my side. Laying waste to someone like you would be---counterproductive."

"I bet."

The man was so full of himself it was sickening. His ego alone could stand to be chopped down a few times but Alvarez was not going to get involved in any way with him. He gathered the rest of his stuff and left the shower room behind to go back to his pod. In the quad, O'Reily was passively giving him a look because he must have been looking at him and El Cartel interacting in the shower room. Alvarez gave him a quick wink and smile before he disappeared upstairs to his pod.

He knew the víbora's eyes were still on him because he could feel it. It was amazing that after all this time and all the shit that had gone on between them, none of the other inmates or hacks knew about their partnership. There may have been the occasional bouts of mistrust between them, but Alvarez knew that there was no one else in Oz that was worth the time or effort to create a partnership with. He and O'Reily was an unstoppable force that none of these fucks had even the slightest clue about. That was why it was worth it.

His confidence to go up against El Cartel was mainly his own because he really was not afraid of the warlord, but some of his assurance did come from the fact that one of the most dangerous men in the entire prison was at his back. If something were to happen to him, he knew O'Reily would retaliate back hard. It was the same if the situation were in reverse as well. They had somewhat come to depend on each other for survival as well as some level of companionship.

Neither would ever physically admit that the partnership had dug such deep roots into them, however. The Latino had never been one to discuss his emotions and he knew O'Reily was even more standoffish about it than he was. There had been a few times where they had caught each other in weak moments and that was okay. Talking and sharing personal thoughts was the foundation of trust between them. No one ever knew what he wanted to name his son but the Irishman. And, Alvarez found out that behind all the bravado and lying and plotting, O'Reily was not a bad guy.

However, he would never say any of it to the Irishman because he did not want to be killed. O'Reily was comfortable being the person Oz had made him into and saw most emotions as extraneous and weak. He really was a decent man behind it all though. Hints of it had been made public in the past because of how he had cared and protected his bother Cyril. Alvarez sat on his bed and thought about all the bad choices and situations they both had made to cause them to be continually imprisoned away from the rest of the world.

Alvarez walked through almost maze-like hallways with a hack not far behind him. He had already been able to secure his disappearance for after lunch today and was heading to Father Mukada's office because the priest had requested to see him. The purpose of the meeting was unknown to him, but he was not going to refuse a chance to go roaming since Querns wanted to keep them locked away for as many hours as possible. The guard stopped outside and Alvarez knocked on the widely opened door.

"You wanted to see me, Padre?"

"Miguel, yes. Come on in and close the door behind you," Father Mukada said from his desk.

He did this and sat on one of the chairs on the opposite side of the desk. Despite everything, the priest always remained on his side and always fought for him. After all the shit he had done inside this place, the man still had faith in him. Alvarez's instincts knew there was something more there, but he was a priest. He had taken an oath to God and it was forbidden to act on such desires. He knew Father Mukada was fonder of him than of any other prisoner in Oz.

The Latino had been curious a few times before about how deep the priest's feelings went for him. He had especially thought about it during the riot so many years ago. Father Mukada was a professional though, so it probably was not a sexual attraction. Maybe he was just determined to save Alvarez's soul. Either way, Alvarez's instincts had never been wrong when it came to people liking him. Father Mukada may have been a professional, but something was definitely going on behind that calm smile of his. Neither was ever going to bring it up, though.

"What's up?" he asked.

"I wanted to see how you were handling being off the drugs. I know it can be difficult sometimes---the withdrawal symptoms."

"I'm past those cravings. I don't get them anymore."

"So, are you drug free right now?" the priest asked when he stopped writing.

"I'm clean. I'm never going back to that shit."

"You seem to become more dangerous when you're under the influence of drugs. You get more violent."

"It's the drugs fucking with my head too much," Alvarez said. "I won't go back."

"Great," Father Mukada said and came around his desk to stand in front of him. "I also wanted to talk to you about the young man I've seen you with a few times already. Giovanni Vieyra."

"What about it?"

"Miguel, I want you to stay out of trouble."

"Oh, is that it? You think I'm bringing trouble on the kid."

"Let's be honest, trouble does follow you like a magnet," he said and Alvarez was a little hurt by the words coming from him.

"That's not my fault. All I want to do be left the fuck alone in here. I don't go looking for trouble anymore."

"I know that. Your reputation alone makes you a target. Are you trying to influence this young man into those ways? The ways of your past?" Father Mukada said to him and it was obvious that he did not want to be so harsh. "You're not using him, are you?"

"No. I'm trying to save his life," the Latino almost snapped but remained under control.

"What do you mean? Is someone threatening Giovanni Vieyra?"

"No. I feel bad for him, you know. He didn't grow up on the streets like I did. He doesn't have the experiences I've had to live with growing up where I did," he said and was serious about it. "He's a good kid from a good neighborhood who just made one fucking mistake. I don't want anyone taking advantage of him because he doesn't have the street smarts I do."

"So, you've befriended him?"

"The kid's never been in a gang. He lives in a neighborhood where there are no gangs. Sounds damn nice, you know? I told him I'd look out for him while he was in. No bullshit. No secret agenda. It's nothing sinister, Padre."

He knew Father Mukada was only concerned about him so he did not take it too personally as he questioned him about his intentions with Vieyra. After all, finding trust in Oz, especially amongst the inmates, was like finding an autumn-colored leaf inside the dead of winter. Alvarez left the priest's office shortly after their visit was over and was on his way to lunch because it had already started. He meant what he said. He was going to have the young Latino's back and keep him out of trouble. Keep them both out of trouble.

Alvarez walked the lone corridor after lunch with his instincts on edge and his mind ready were he to be found. The warden was spinning out of control with power and madness and the prison population, as well as the correctional staff, was growing restless and uneasy with all his new rules and regulations. The Latino easily found his way inside the room and found a spot to wait for his partner. He wondered what O'Reily would think of him protecting Vieyra. In the front of the room, the doorknob wiggled and inconspicuously opened and closed back.

"Anyone see you?" the Irishman oddly asked.

"No. Why?"

"I thought I saw a hack following me. We might not have a lot of time."

"All these fucking rules are crazy. Querns is a goddamn idiot," Alvarez said and sat down on the ground.

"He's riling up the prisoners. I don't know why, though," he said and sat too. "I think he's up to something."

"Or he just wants to keep us all under lock and key. The man likes his order."

"He keeps running the prison like this and he'll have anything but order."

The Latino changed the subject and said, "Heard you were talking to Redding. Spinning your webs?"

"A viper can't spin webs, Miguel. You're getting your animals confused," he said and laughed.

"Uh-huh. Tell me about it," he said and referred to the conversation with Redding.

"Just to keep our asses safe. If Redding puts this telemarketing honest work bullshit behind him and starts the niggers slinging again, the odds would be better stacked in our favor," O'Reily said.

"Torquemada will lose his control of the niggers and it'll be another hit to his business."

"Exactly. That fucking queen will have his hands full when he gets out. Pancamo will have a few choice words for him too, I bet."

"Don't underestimate Destiny, víbora. That's his ticket. The prisoners love that shit. They were easily hooked the first time," Alvarez said what they both knew was the truth.

Even if Torquemada did lose the homeboys, his precious D-tabs were going to reel everyone back to him once he was out of the hole. It was important that Redding and Calderón started slinging tits again to combat Destiny's hold on the prison. Though he had lost followers, the queen was still a powerful force because of his synthetic drug. Both Alvarez and O'Reily knew it and that was why neither man underestimated him. This was another reason why the partnership between them had to remain intact.

"He'll want you back when he comes out, you know," O'Reily slightly changed directions and said.

"He never had me," he replied with adamancy in his voice.

"You know what I mean. He'll want you back on D-tabs."

"Say what you're trying to say."

"I don't want you going back on D-tabs. I know you don't see it but he controls you that way, loco. This isn't about me being jealous or any of that other shit. You have to have as little contact with him as possible. I need you drug free for the partnership. Don't let him drug you and turn you against me."

"Is that an order?" Alvarez asked because he had to be sure.

"No. You told me you wanted honesty. We work so much better when neither of us is high. We both have to stay off the drugs and focus and having each other's backs. We have to be on each other's side."

"Yeah, I know. I'm done with that shit, Ryan. It fucks with my head too much after I come down. He won't get anything near me. I'm serious."

"Good," the Irishman said and felt a shade of relief inside. "I see Calderón hounding you every chance he gets."

"He's fucking pissing me off. Doesn't hear shit when I tell him no. I tell him to back off and he still comes at me."

"Don't go too hard. He's all powered up with El Norte and is even more dangerous now."

"What---I thought you liked it when I went hard?" the Latino said in a secretly lewd manner and smiled that devilish grin of his.

The allusion to sex made O'Reily's face turn almost completely pale and white and his body slightly tensed up. That was supposed to be the real reason for them meeting---to talk about what had happened between them. Alvarez was ready with another sexual pun as his comeback but all that became lost because the storage room had fallen into dead silence. It probably was always going to be an uncomfortable topic for him to talk about, especially with how he felt about them being together threatening his manhood.

Maybe now was the time to get everything out in the open---what both of them remembered anyway. There was no denying it had happened and there certainly was no going back on it. Alvarez wanted to start the conversation but knew it was a difficult subject to even to begin to approach. He did not know if it was the drugs or not, but he had not felt so exhilarated in the grips of sex in such a long time. And even when he had been with Maritza, most of the times it had not been as intense as it had been that one time with Ryan O'Reily.

"Alvarez, look---it was the drugs, okay? My fucked up father killing Neema. It---it put me in the same position as before. Like it was with Cyril. Oh, Cyril," he tried to explain that day. "My lost feelings for Gloria."

"I know. I know. Hey, you don't have to explain. I just thought we were going to try and figure out everything that happened."

"I don't know if I want to know. I did something I fucking swore to myself would never happen. And especially in this pisshole."

"You got to relax, Ryan," the Latino calmly said. "You got to take the edge off, you know?"

"That's easy for you to say. You're not the one who had a dick shoved up your ass!" O'Reily snapped and looked away as he quickly jumped up to his feet.

"No. Would that make you feel better, though? Would it help you deal with it?"


"If I let you do it? If I let you fuck me?" Alvarez said in a way that was mostly unreadable.

"What? Are you insane, Alvarez? You want to get fucked?" he turned around and asked as their eyes met.

"Not particularly. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it a couple times before, though. Especially after we did it."

"So why offer yourself like that, then?"

Alvarez stood up and said, "Because we're partners, Ryan. We're equal, right? I know what happened is bothering you. Maybe this would take some of that away. Take the edge off."

"I don't know. Everything is so fucking confusing between us."

"Yeah. I know."

"Can we drop this?" O'Reily said out of nowhere. "Tell me about the kid before we go. Gio."

"You know him?"

"Spoke once in the laundry room. What's up with him? I see him hanging around you. Is he from your neighborhood?"

Alvarez was not at all surprised by this but he was curious as to what they had spoken about. If he knew O'Reily, and he did, the man had probably tried to see if Vieyra knew any information. He had probably picked the young Latino's brain without him even knowing he was fishing for information. The Irishman was superiorly skillful at that after all. Now was as good a time as any to tell him about his arrangement with Gio Vieyra.

"Not at all. The kid has never been out on the streets a day in his life. He's raw to experiences like this."

"Damn. I kind of figured from talking to him. What a way to start getting street experience---in prison. He'll be an easy target for anybody," O'Reily already pieced the words together and said.

"Tell me about it. He sticks out as much as a virgin would in this fuckhole. Even has Calderón sniffing around him."

"He's as good as dead if that deranged bastard's locked on to his scent. If he smells blood, that kid is long gone."

"Sounds like someone else I know," Alvarez said and half smiled. "You see blood and it's over."

"Maybe. But I kill to survive. El Cartel kills for sport. He's a sick fuck that gets off on that shit. I don't."

"You don't have to tell me that, víbora. I know you."

"Yeah, well---" the Irishman said and it became slightly awkward again.

"Hey, listen. I told him, you know, I'd look out for him. You know, be his eyes and ears."

"What? What are you talking about? Why would you do that?"

"He's a lost kid, O'Reily. I just want to see him get the hell out of here. I won't let El Cartel fuck another one of us up. He knows I got the kid's back."

"If El Cartel's on his ass then he's damaged already. This shit is bad, Miguel. El Cartel could use him to get to you, and could figure out our partnership," O'Reily said and did not sound too supportive of his decision. "It's too dangerous to be seen with him. Especially if you're rubbing it in El Cartel's face."

He did not believe the words that were being spoken from the Irishman. It was getting him upset but he had to remain composed because the conversation was not going to escalate into an argument. There had been too many arguments that had strained their partnership in the past. Alvarez closed his eyes and rubbed fingers over his forehead and cheek because he wanted to find the right words to say. Protecting Vieyra was something he wanted to do because he felt it to be the right move. El Cartel was never going to get his poisonous hooks into the young Latino.

"Listen to yourself, O'Reily. He's a goddamn kid. Not a fucking broken toy to throw away," the Latino strongly said. "He doesn't know anything about this fucked up world. I won't let Calderón get his hands on him and drag him down. I'll make sure of that."

"He did the crime, so he's not that innocent. He can take care of himself. He's not a fucking kid anymore. You don't need to babysit him."

"You know how dangerous it is in here. Someone like him won't last long. I'm not asking for your permission," Alvarez said because he did not need approval to look out for one of his own.

"Why are we talking about it, then? You already made your move," O'Reily asked and was more than annoyed by the implication.

"Just letting you know. Didn't want you to think I was hiding it from you. You know, doing shit behind your back."

"Okay---I deserved that."

"I know you did. That's why I said it."

You want me to keep an eye on him too. Am I somewhere close?" he made the assumption from Alvarez's tone. "Tell me I'm somewhere close."

"I wouldn't refuse it if you did. Come on, Ryan. You know he won't survive in here by himself. He doesn't deserve to die because of one stupid mistake he made on the outside," Alvarez said to try to convince his partner. "You know Calderón will want him dead when he gets tired of the cat and mouse game. And I can't keep my eyes on him all the time."

"You realize what the fuck you're asking, Alvarez? No. I only offer that kind of protection when I'm in business with someone and getting something in return. This kid has nothing I want."

"I told him I would keep him safe. I can't take that shit back now."

"That's your mistake, then. You can't guarantee that. Just like you can't guarantee that you'll be safe yourself when Calderón goes on the warpath," the Irishman said and did not believe the other man's inexperience in handling the situation. "He's eventually going to get tired of you saying no to him, too."

"You're wrong. Calderón ain't got nothing on me. He's never going to touch me."

"How the hell are you so goddamn sure of that?"

"Because---I got you. And you got me. This fucking partnership keeps me safe. I believe that. I fucking believe that more than anything right now," the Latino said another piece of truth. "He needs us, Ryan."

O'Reily remained silent at the words because he did not know what to say. Alvarez seemed determined to get them both on the same page about the young kid. He was an opportunist and that became especially prominent when he was thrown behind bars. He only used people to get what he wanted and then had abandoned them to move on to the next business arrangement. It was his only way of survival. What the Latino was asking of him was to be selfless and to do something without the promise of anything in return.

"What do you mean---like together? You want to tell him about our partnership?" O'Reily finally said by firing off questions.

"No. Just keep an eye on him without letting him know. He doesn't need to know anything about our alliance."

"This is crazy."

"That's why you call me loco, baby," Alvarez smiled at him.

"You too goddamn cocky sometimes," he said and had to smile too.

"Hey---it's kept me alive in here."

"Goddamn you, Alvarez. How the hell can I say no when you put me in a position like this?" the Irishman said and did not like that he felt backed into a corner.

"That's the point. You can't."

"Fuck it. We got to get to the hospital."

"I'll have Dr. Nathan draw blood today. Even though I know I don't have anything," the Latino said and got ready to leave. "Later, Irish."