~*~ 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.



Wintry weather cooled both the outside and inside of Oz as darkness casted shadows over the pods and everything in between. It was winter and a blizzard was supposed to be hitting the outside, but nothing would change inside Oz. Nothing ever changed inside Oz. Officer Murphy walked around one last time; he was reveling in the silence, before he climbed up the stairs and rang the morning buzzer. Ryan O'Reily jumped awake. He thought he was having a nightmare.

"Fuck. Cyril, hey, you okay?" he asked and looked down to see his little brother looking at his long hair.

"My hair is changing back," he smiled gleefully.

"Oh, shit. Look at that."

"And my skin. I'm not wrinkled."

An officer pounded on the door and yelled, "Let's go, let's go."

Both got quickly dressed and went outside for count. After, they had to come back and brush their teeth and wash their faces before heading out to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. O'Reily hurried them both because he did not want to hear Pancamo's mouth this morning. That bastard got off on the power he thought he had---if he was even able to get off anymore with all those steroids he took. His balls had to be the size of peas by now. Everyone entered the kitchen and got to work. The air was definitely cooler in Oz now.

Breakfast had been uneventful for the most part but O'Reily found himself keeping an eye on El Norte throughout the entire meal. Mainly Morales. He was just as delusional as Pancamo in that he thought he had real power and respect. The leaders had gotten complacent---except for maybe Redding and Said. No one but him knew he was watching of course, but he was unsure of why he was looking at them. One thing was clear, though. It did not look the same without Alvarez.

He may have been crazy or moody or had completely gone off the deep end in the past, but he had heart. Alvarez had heart and loyalty and respect for what El Norte should have been. He had only wanted to be a member of the group, for them to accept him, but they treated him like an outcast---someone expendable and not even worth keeping alive. He was the only fucking member worth having in that group. Not scumfuck lapdogs like Guerra or stupid asses like Vasquez. He made a stupid move on Alvarez and it cost him his life. Alvarez was beyond all of them and yet still Morales treated him as if he did not deserve to be a part of the Latino gang. Morales still wanted him to prove himself after everything he did out of loyalty to El Norte and their fucked up leaders.

"Dammit, Alvarez," O'Reily muttered under his breath as he was eating.

"Ryan, what's wrong?" his brother asked and looked at him with those childlike eyes of his. "Are you sick?"

"No, no. Nothing like that, Cyril. Finish up your breakfast. We have to get back to the kitchen to clean up soon."

The kitchen was clean about an hour later and he walked back to Em City alone and unescorted. He had asked Pancamo if Cyril could leave a little early because he wanted to watch the weather and the Italian agreed. He was swimming in his own thoughts and felt a cold brush of air on the back of his neck. A thought interjected itself into his brain and he suddenly felt remorse. For the first time in a very long time, Ryan O'Reily felt remorse over someone other than Cyril. He thought that Oz had stripped him of all the weaker emotions and powered up the malevolent, stronger ones. But, even he was still human.

He had thought back to the boxing matches and the lengths he went to ensure Cyril's victory over every opponent he faced. He had not cared about who he stepped on or stepped over to get to the prize. His brother's winning had made him happy, and had put a lot of money in his pocket, but the wins had not been real. Well, except for Khan---and even that had been under some extraordinary circumstances, with him manipulating his own brother's emotions. Cyril had nightmares for months about killing Khan and he had to sit there and rock him back to sleep every time. Maybe that was his penance to bear.

But O'Reily had never thought twice about how his cheating had affected Alvarez. He had even thrown in a couple of insults at the Latino himself after he had lost to Cramer. El Cid had come down hard on him for losing to a fag and embarrassing the Latinos. That had only made relations between the two of them more strained. Alvarez had walked around for a while like a zombie without purpose or concentration. The other inmates had disrespected him continuously for the loss and El Norte had wanted nothing to do with him. El Cid had wanted him dead so many times over.

The wins had never been real. He had never told Cyril or anyone else. He was not going to crush his brother's victory like that---even if it had come from underhandedness. And, he had not given a fuck about the likes of Pancamo or Wangler, but Alvarez actually had some moves in the ring. He just never had the proper chance to show them off. Now, the Latino had found himself in the same situation again---had to prove himself to someone who was not even worthy of his time. Someone who had no idea of his potential---how valuable he could be. Now O'Reily understood why he did it. Why he had taken shit from Hernandez and now Morales. It was not about them---it never had been. It had always been about El Norte. He was loyal to El Norte itself.

"Ay, O'Reily---get your ass moving back to Em City," a passing officer ordered him.

The Irishman hadn't realized that he stopped walking when he was engulfed inside his mind. He smirked at the officer and quickly made his way back to Em City. Cyril had saved him a chair so he went to retrieve his earphones from the pod and sat to watch TV. Maybe it would get his mind off the guilt he felt. O'Reily needed to get away from those kinds of weaker emotions because they could be used against him here. Showing weakness was never an option to him.

Snowfall outside was going to be a problem, or so the weatherman said. He wondered what it would be like to touch the powdery white stuff again---to have snowball fights with his brother like they did when they were younger. Cyril had one of the fastest pitches he knew. His snowballs hurt when they met with skin. O'Reily had to reserve himself to the fact that those days were never coming back again. They were never going to happen for him.

"O'Reily. You got a visitor," an officer walked up and announced to him.


"I don't know. Some broad."

He wondered what this was about as he got up and went to follow the officer. There was no one he was expecting and his mind ran through the possibilities as the two of them made their way to the visitor's room. Maybe it was a lawyer. It definitely was not his Aunt Brenda. The officer let him into the room and showed him the station he needed to be at. O'Reily looked at the older blond woman and did not know her. He sat down, picked up the phone, and never took his eyes off her.

"Who are you?" he asked, waiting for an answer.

"My name is Suzanne Fitzgerald," the woman answered in a sweet voice.

"Do we know each other?"

"Yes, but we haven't seen each other since you were a very small child."

"Look, lady, I'm not real big on nostalgia, so, what do you want?" O'Reily still had no idea where the conversation was going.

"Ryan, I came because I have something to tell you, and it's something I think you're going to find impossible to understand."

"Try me," were his only words.

"I'm your mother," the blonde woman said, with their eyes connected.

"My mother's dead," O'Reily responded as a rage built up inside him.

"No, I'm your real mother. That woman that you thought was your mother---"

He shot up and slammed the phone against the glass partition as he screamed, "My mother's dead!"

Suzanne Fitzgerald got a look of terror on her face as her son attacked the glass separating them and had to be restrained and removed by two officers. She still had so much to say but understood he needed time to process what just happened. She watched on until he was no longer in view before she left. It was a hard adjustment for anyone so suddenly to understand. She knew she had expected too much from the first meeting.

O'Reily brushed off the officers after he calmed himself down but his mind was still reeling with questions. He immediately thought it was a scam, but she seemed so nice---so gentle. And, he freaked out like a maniac in front of her. It probably scared her off. Rage and anger bubbled over in that moment and he was unable to control himself. The Irishman swallowed hard when he saw another hack walking towards him.

"I got this, boys," Howell said to her two fellow officers. "I'll escort this little prick back to Em City."

"Fuck you, Howell," he scolded.

"My thoughts exactly, stud."

The other two officers disappeared and Howell walked him to another practically deserted female bathroom to have her way with him. She immediately pushed him into the stall and grabbed his package between his jeans. It responded, but O'Reily was in no mood to play with her. He was not even in a sexual mood at the moment. Not with the bombshell that had just exploded in the visitor's room. The hack was on her knees in front of him as he sat on the toilet and she slipped his dick into her mouth.

O'Reily closed his eyes and tried to enjoy the experience for what it was instead of hating the hack that was touching him. Her head went up and down as he grabbed a fistful of her hair and grunted. The faster he got off the better. He did not care about her pleasure this time---not that he ever did in the past. She had a pussy and that was all he needed. No way was he going to be fucking some guy in the ass. Keller knew he always cringed at the mere mention of that and that was why he always teased him about his and Beecher's escapades.

Howell pulled down his pants more and was rubbing his thigh with one hand while continuing to suck and lick his meat. Her other hand clumsily fumbled with her belt buckle to loosen her own pants. O'Reily had to make this as quick and painless as possible for himself. He could not think of her wanting to get her crummy hands on Cyril or the woman in the visitor's room. He had to finish this soon.

"Well, it's about damn time you got hard. I was starting to think you didn't find me attractive anymore," the hack stood up and looked down at him while she slid her pants down.

"Just hurry up and fuck yourself already. It's up."

"Aren't you just a romantic."

She split her legs on either side of him and lowered herself to mount him. He let her do all the work as his hands stayed at his side and never moved. Their lips never touched and he kept his eyes closed most of the time. The Irishman felt the warmness envelop him though and there was a momentary jolt of pleasure, but their spark had been lost long ago. He was not attracted to her and the sex was lousy. But, it was prison, so O'Reily took what he could get.

Howell straddled him and started bouncing on his lap and he interlocked his hands behind his head, determined to make her do all the work. It was practically molestation---as many of their past sessions had been. She had virtually forced or blackmailed him into having sex with her. It had been a great release for O'Reily at first and he enjoyed the hell out of it but she was possessive and vindictive now---and the sex had fizzled out into an ordinary routine, like the one prisoners were forced to followed in Oz. Grunts and groans hit his ears and she bucked wildly to try and get herself off.

"Push into me dammit!" she demanded. "I'm ain't feeling shit!"

"You do it. Not in the mood here---" O'Reily said and never even bothered to open his eyes.

"Tough titties! Use that big dick of yours to fuck me."

"You do it. And hurry up---I have other places to be," he said to her.

"Come on---fuck me like you did when we were in the hole. You had your spark then."

He ignored her and just concentrated on keeping himself hard until she got off or got sick of him and physically got off him. She rubbed and grinded into his lap and it seemed to help because he let out a soft grunt. The stimulation was slowly building and it seemed like they had been going at it for hours. Sex with Shannon was never this tiresome or joyless. But, it had been a long time since they had been together and the walls of Oz severely limited O'Reily's chances of getting laid the way he wanted to. Getting sex on his terms---not with some dyke he could not even stand.

She was bucking and rubbing and swaying her hips like a bitch in heat and it was actually starting to crush his thighs. It was uncomfortable and void of pleasure as she fucked him. That was essentially what it was---she was fucking him. O'Reily was not down on his hands and knees getting fucked in the ass or anything like that, but he was just there with his hard dick for her to take advantage of. He had been forced to take the role of the submissive partner in their relationship a few times because Howell was so fucking domineering.

"Fuck this shit!" he screamed out.

O'Reily removed his hands from behind his head and gripped on to her meaty hips as he began drilling into her. He was never submissive in bed---he was not this hack's bitch. He was the dominant force in the bedroom---or occasional bathroom, as the case was here. He slammed his lap into her hips and the smacking sound of skin echoed throughout the bathroom. Fingers squeezed her skin tightly and she cried out in pain but never stopped herself from keeping the rhythm they had developed. O'Reily finally thanked his body as he pushed Howell back a little and his dick flopped out and smacked his stomach, cum dripping out onto his skin.

The ugly hack pushed him off and said, "Well, finally!"

"Jesus, dammit!" he groaned as he reached for paper to clean off his stomach.

"Feels like you've been in there since Halloween," she complained while organizing her clothes.

"Hey, I've got a lot on my mind."

"Like I give a shit!"

"You know, Howell, you are such a cunt," the Irishman sneered and stood up to pull shirt down and his pants up.

"Look at us arguing like an old married couple. You know, O'Reily, that's the problem. The thrill is gone."

"Meaning what? What, what, we're through?"

"Yep. Time for me to move on to greener pastures."

"Oh, I'm just so heartbroken."

He covered his hands over his chest, as if someone as stupid and ugly as Claire Howell could ever break his heart. He had to laugh at what a dumbass she was, but she could potentially be off his back for good. Dread set in when he realized Cyril was very high on the list of being her next victim. Before O'Reily had a chance to warn her to stay the hell away from his brother, she was gone---slipped out without as much as a word. He was fuming inside at the thought of her hands on him. That poisonous bitch.

O'Reily had to get back to Em City to see his brother, but now was lunchtime and they were both supposed to be in the kitchen. Pancamo was going to have his head for being late. He rushed out of the bathroom and down the hall towards the kitchen. Cyril had delivery duty today so he was unable to watch him the whole time. The Italian boss glared at him as he rushed into the cafeteria and the ending spot on the serving line to get to his duties. O'Reily took back his job from one of the wops and glanced around to see if his brother was there. He had already left.

"What the fuck, O'Reily?" Pancamo came up behind him and yelled. "You're giving out too much corn. Scale back."

"Huh? Where's Cyril? He left already?"

"Out making deliveries. If you ass was on time---maybe you'd have seen him before he left. Why the fuck were you late?" the built man questioned.

"Fucking hack Howell had me tied up. I hate that bitch!"

Pancamo leaned in closer to his ear and said, "She use a rope to tie you up while she was fucking the shit out of your ass with that club of hers?"

"Fuck you, dago!" O'Reily dropped the spoon of corn and turned to face the other man. "You got something else to say, Chuckie?"

"Settle down back there!" an officer eyed them both.

Eyes faded away and he went back to serving corn, more worried about his brother now. He did not know what lunch run he had---or if he was going to run into that ugly cunt Howell. His blood boiled at the thought of her hands on his skin. The line seemed to get longer and he knew the dagos' eyes were on him. They owned the kitchen after all, but he didn't care. O'Reily just did what he had to do before he could get the hell out and go find Cyril. The Italians were not a problem to him.

"O'Reily, Dr. Nathan needs to see you. Now," the same officer that broke up his war of words with Pancamo walked over and told him.

"What, what? Is it my brother?" he dropped the spoon and asked.

"Don't know. Let's go."

Pancamo started to protest but it fell on deaf ears as O'Reily ran out of the cafeteria and towards the hospital ward. Something had to have happened with Cyril. His relationship with Gloria was still strained so she rarely called him out to come and see her. The officer kept up with him until they stopped outside the ward. Cyril was lying in one of the beds with his eyes closed and his wrists and ankles bound to the side of the bed. He tried to rush over to the bed, but was stopped and redirected into the office by Officer Murphy.

"Officer Howell says that you brother, without provocation, hit her," Dr. Nathan said.

O'Reily's face grew with anger and he said, "She's a lying cunt."

"In any event, I've sedated him. He'll sleep in the ward tonight," she went on to explain.

"We seem to be coming back to the same problem. I'm not sure what else we can do," Murphy said to him.

"I don't understand."

"We're thinking Cyril should be transferred to the Conley Institute," Murphy told him.

"The insane asylum? Uh-uhh---no fucking way!" O'Reily was furious at the suggestion.

"We won't decide anything until McManus gets back. John, take him out of here," Murphy ordered another officer, who came forward.

"Gloria, don't let them do this. You know he won't survive in there," the officer grabbed his hand and pulled him away. "Gloria, I'm serious!"

His voice echoed throughout the infirmary as he was escorted out and returned to Em City. He immediately went to the phones to place a call and returned to his pod to think. So much was going on around him and he felt like he was losing control. O'Reily had to be strong and remain in control though because he had both himself and Cyril to watch out for and protect. Oz's trials and tribulations were seeping away his strength. He rested on his brother's bunk was unaware when he drifted off to sleep. His body craved rest.

"O'Reily, hey. O'Reily," an officer popped his head into the pod hours later and called out.

"What?" he turned on the bed but did not bother to open his eyes.

"You got a visitor. Wake up."

"Oh, shit!"

The Irishman jumped up from his nap and quickly headed out the pod to get the answers he needed. Maybe something could be salvaged from this horrible day. O'Reily walked quickly with the officer at his side to the visitor's room---the one that resembled a lounge rather than the phones and glass with no physical touching. The man was dusting off snow from his hat when he entered.

"Hey, Dad."

"It's snowing like a motherfucker. They said we'll get maybe fifteen inches by Thursday," Seamus O'Reily told his son as they both sat across from one another.

"I appreciate you making the effort."

"What's wrong?"

"The hacks are talking about sending Cyril away to the state loony farm," O'Reily said the words that left a bad taste in his mouth.


"So? So, if he goes to that shithole by himself, then he's gone forever."

"What's the difference? This shithole, that shithole," his father was uncaring and it made him upset.

"Yeah, but at least here in Oz, he's got me."

"And you've been such a force for good in his life, huh?" Seamus O'Reily threw it in his son's face.

"Fuck you."

"That's my boy. You didn't call me about Cyril. You got some other nonsense going on. Now, out with it because I want to get back before the roads get worse."

Discussing Cyril was only a small part of him wanting to meet the man. He did not care about what happened to either of them when they were on the outside so it came as no shock that he did not care about Cyril's possible placement in Conley. O'Reily had to find out about that strange woman, though. What she wanted---if what she said had been true.

"Suzanne Fitzgerald. She came to see me. She says she's my real mother."

"She's a lying cunt," Seamus's body tensed and went on the defensive as he said it. "A miserable lying cunt, you hear me?"

"Fuck---it's true," O'Reily could immediately tell by his father's actions.

"I got to go," he got up and put his hat back on.

"It's true, isn't it, Dad?" he got up to and yelled out at his bastard of a parent. "It's true!"

His hands shook as his father never bothered to look back as he left the visitor's room. O'Reily could not believe it---the woman he thought was his mother all his life was not, and now his real mother had found him. It sounded like a clichéd episode of a soap opera, but this was his life. That woman rotting in the ground was not his flesh and blood. O'Reily left and badly needed someone to talk to. He knew Gloria had her hands full, so she would not be able to give him the attention he needed. The nun. He quickly walked over to her office and barged in without even knocking first.

"Ryan---what are you doing?" Sister Peter Marie asked as she stood up from her desk and looked at him through her glasses, a bit alarmed.

"I need to talk to you," he said, the desperation evident in his voice. "Now."

"I can't now, Ryan," she walked over to him and touched his arm with obvious concern. "I have an appointment in a few minutes. But I can schedule---"

"Actually, Basil cancelled this morning," Beecher said to her from his computer. "Sorry, I forgot to tell you. What's wrong, Ryan?"

"Not now, Beecher!" he snapped. "Please, Sister. I need to talk to you---alone."

"Okay, sit here. Tobias, can you give us a minute?"

"Sure, Sister Pete," he went out and closed the door behind him.

O'Reily did not have time to entertain Beecher's curiosity nor did he care to. He just wanted someone who did not hate him or wanted him dead or was secretly plotting against him to listen to him and offer comfort. This Suzanne Fitzgerald thing was weighing him down into a void. Sister Peter Marie sat on the coffee table across from him and gently touched one of his hands as it hung from his upper leg.

"Ryan? Ryan?" she called to him. "What's the matter?"

"I'm---I'm losing control, Sister. I'm losing Cyril and then---"

"I heard he attacked Officer Howell in Unit J. Did something else happen to him? Ryan, I'm going to need you to look up at me."

O'Reily slowly did and said, "They want to send him to Conley. I can't lose him, Sister. He's all I got."

"Oh. You have to understand that Cyril's behavior has been very erratic these past months."

"She fucked touched him! I know she did," he said with scorn on his lips.

"Touched him how?"

"Maybe she squeezed his ass---or grabbed his dick. He never recovered from what that Nazi fuck Schillinger did to him. He was scared and confused and---"

"Okay, okay," Sister Peter Marie calmed him down and spoke in her serene voice. "I will talk to Cyril tomorrow after he leaves the hospital ward, okay? I'll see what information I can gather from him."

"You have to help him, Sister. McManus will send him to Conley. Gloria said there was nothing she could do."

"I will talk to Tim when he returns from the hospital, Ryan. If Cyril was provoked in any way by Officer Howell, and that brought back memories in him of the ordeal with Schillinger, then his actions could be deemed plausible."

"Yes, Sister," O'Reily said as he began to calm down.

"Plausible, Ryan---not condoned," she made it extremely clear. "Violence against other inmates or staff members is not taken lightly, you know that. And Cyril has a history of violent outbursts against both inmates and guards."

"I know, Sister. I try to keep him calm and under control but I'm not with him all the time. I can't be," the Irishman sighed.

He felt like he was losing his brother to Oz. The currents inside the maximum security prison were pulling them apart and away from each other. Cyril was the only one he really had. His father was a fucking liar and an asshole that never cared about any of his children. And, he was unsure of what kind of relationship he would have with Suzanne Fitzgerald---his mother. O'Reily sometimes wished the currents in Oz just dragged him away and never brought him back. That thought had only occurred to him when he was under massive amounts of stress and buried in problems, though.

"I will run another psychological evaluation on Cyril and talk to Dr. Nathan about more possible solutions to keep him calm. Don't worry, Ryan. Conley will be the last resort," she said as she got up and went over to her desk to begin writing things down. "Is that all?"

"Um---no," O'Reily sounded so timid.

"Oh, okay," she returned to the coffee table. "What else is on your mind?"

"Sister, whatever we say here stays here, right? I mean---between you and me?"

"Now, Ryan, you know us nuns aren't the gossiping type. But if it's something illicit---"

"It's not, Sister. I promise."

"Okay. Tell me."

"I got a visit from a woman earlier today. She---she said she was my real mother."

"Oh, I see," Sister Peter Marie looked at him with those caring eyes of hers. "Could it be a mistake? Has she mistaken you for someone else?"

O'Reily thought about it for a while then said, "No. No. I asked my Dad to come and see me and he all but confirmed it. She's my real mother."

"Okay. And, how does that make you feel?"

"Angry---upset," he looked over to her but away again. "Confused, and, hurt."

"What did you say to her? Did you tell her you felt these things?"

"I---yelled that my mother was dead and slammed the phone against the glass. She got scared---I saw it in her eyes," O'Reily remembered the look.

"Give it time to sink in, Ryan," she took his hand in both of hers and said. "Imagine how hard it must have been for her to come here---to see you after all these years."

"Sister, do you think I should meet her---talk to her?"

She smiled warmly at him and said, "Now, you know I can't tell you what to do, Ryan. And, I don't want to. What I think is that you should seek answers to the questions you have---hear her version of the story. Only then will you know if building a relationship with her is possible."

The conversation had wrapped up with Sister Pete and it did make him feel a little better. He had not always treated her kindly or with the respect she deserved, but she was always there to fight for him---and for Cyril. It was getting late and lights out would be soon so he asked the officer if they could swing by the hospital ward to see his brother. He declined so a bribe was made. Most of the hacks in here were as guilty as the prisoners themselves. Almost all of them took bribes or smuggled in things from the outside for the prisoners to sell and they made a side profit from it.

O'Reily sat by his brother's bedside for what seemed like hours, waiting for him to wake up on his own. He watched as his chest rose and fell with the steady breaths and cringed as he imagined where Howell had violated him---cringed at the thought of that Nazi bastard Schillinger and his skinhead cronies raping him in a closet when he had first gotten to Oz. Again, O'Reily was not there to protect him. He was talking to Gloria about his real mother but she had to go take care of a patient. He stayed still and looked at Cyril until she returned and sat next to him.

"A son's obligation is to protect his mother, no matter from who, even his own father. The woman I thought was my mother; I knew she never loved me. Now I know why," he had come to the realization.

"And Suzanne Fitzgerald?"

"I think she's my mom. And, I chased her out, and I have no idea how to reach her."

"Well, maybe I can find her," Gloria Nathan surprisingly offered.

"Would you? Would you do that for me? And this bullshit about sending Cyril away, you'll take care of that, too?"

"Ryan, I can't make any promises. This isn't my decision."

"But you'll plead his case, right?" O'Reily was hopeful.


"Please. Don't let them separate us."

"Ryan?" Cyril's subdued voice called out to him as his eyes fluttered open.

"Hey, how you doing, champ?"


"You all right?" he spoke to his brother but then turned to Dr. Nathan. "I know you'll do what's right."

The bribed officer shook his head and that meant his time was up. He touched Cyril on his forehead and gave Dr. Nathan a strong look before he was forced to leave. She told him that he would be released in the morning after breakfast but it was going to be lonely in his pod tonight. O'Reily arrived in Em City with little time to spare as count was upon them. He just went into his pod after that and dropped onto the top bunk to fall asleep. The day was a long and exhausting one.

The following day was cooler than the last but things had gotten a bit better because Cyril was released from the infirmary promptly after breakfast just as Dr. Nathan had said. They were all sitting around in the quad talking or watching TV. O'Reily was inside his mind plotting further moves and wondering how he was going to get Howell of their backs. She had evolved from a nuisance to a full-blown problem. The Irishman decided to relax today and put off on spinning webs and making plans, however. He would find a way to deal with Howell later.

"It's cold in here. You guys cold?" Hoyt bundled up to himself and asked.

"Put on a fucking sweater," Pancamo said.

"When is Busmalis getting married?" Beecher asked.

"Tomorrow," Rebadow answered on his best friend's behalf.

"That's what I though. Shouldn't we do something?"

O'Reily turned to him and asked, "Like what?"

"I don't know. Bachelor party," Beecher was enthusiastic when he suggested it.

"A bachelor party here in Oz?" the Irishman said and he tried not to laugh at the foolishness of the idea.

"Bachelor parties are one part alcohol, one part strippers," Rebadow reminded them. "We're in short supply of both."

"Fine. I just thought, tomorrow's a big day for Busmalis. Forget I brought it up," Beecher pouted and got up and walked off.

"He misses Keller," Rebadow noticed as he watched him leave.

"I don't. So, Rebadow, you're the best man, huh? This marriage is doomed. Let's go, Cyril, come on," O'Reily laughed as he and his brother left the old man sitting there.

All this talk of marriage made him sick. The only reason he married Shannon was that he did not want any other man laying a finger on her. He loved her but not the way he loved Gloria. O'Reily returned to the pod with his brother and climbed up the bunk to relax on his bed. Cyril immediately went for the coloring book and crayons their Aunt Brenda sent for him. He looked up at the ceiling of the pod and thought about Suzanne Fitzgerald. He thought about marriage---and love. O'Reily wondered if he ever experienced true love. He knew it was not with Shannon. Maybe he had it with Gloria, but that could never be. He wondered if he was even capable of feeling such an emotion---for it seemed to have eluded him at every corner.