Not Vern's first idea for a home, not by a long shot. Lots of bodies, almost as cramped in glass and white as in bars and uniform grey. Admired the theory behind white: power, sheets, skin, good shit. Not as satisfied in practice, staring at white lights and walls until his eyes throbbed. But the place was his, not Beecher's, fuckin' glorified blowhole had taken enough of Vern's life already. Jizz, good vision in both eyes, where was it supposed to end?
Hated McManus and his bleeding heart unreality, pleading brotherhood in public, oh-so-superior in that elevated office. Man made a caste system and couldn't grow a pair long enough to realize it.
Lambs and wolves marched through the gates as equals. The trick was proving which you were. Niggers and spics were in and out'a jail before they got their fifth little welfare stub of a sib, didn't need the grace period. Vern cut the whites more slack. 'Cept Beecher, he already had enough breaks. Beecher was so fucking dumb his first days, reeking of Wall Street and cherry. Which was why, for petting his wool, and keeping the darker shades away--Vern had deserved to make a fleece outta his ass.
Beecher had begged to be protected. All prags did. Did a damn fine job too, nobody touched ToBS. Then Vern cut the red wire instead of green, unintentionally set that psyche on the final crack. Some nights the glass scratched his eye, fuck what the doctors took out. Scraped and teased, laughed at his failures as a man.
Almost as grating as Bitcher when they ran into each other earlier that day. Not a word of thanks for teaching him some desperately needed survival tips, no truce for Vern's kids, even though Beecher supposedly loved his brats more than booze itself. How the fuck did they get so blonde anyway?
McManus and the other muckies probably thought he had the beatdown coming. He saw the way "authority" figures watched, their anger at evil Nazi Vern taking advantage of the poor, innocent CHILD KILLER.
Vern laid on the bottom bunk, hands pressed over his eyes, feet pushing the wall. Trying not to remember that dope Hank and Andy were high on, defying everything he taught them. Laughing at him just like all his other wayward possessions.
Scott Ross, in head-to-toe black. Should have heard his boots stamping across the floor.
Ross ran his hand against the frame, giving Vern the deadman stare. Game face that wasn't a game face. He mocked too, Vern didn't mind, Ross had been laughing at him since that cheap dive of a bar. Even the most serious fucks needed humor once in a while.
"My old pod. I missed it. Hey, best 5 minutes of my life man."
Said with a straight face. Ross sat on his feet, parting them to squeeze between his legs.
"Still being a big pussy I see. We're gonna have a riot. A fucking *riot*. I need you there to drain some nigger blood."
Vern adjusted, Ross responding with a hand on his knee.
"Or Beecher's blood. Pretty blue pints. C'mon Vern. Lots of fun."
What was he supposed to say? A man who was taught to live by his fists, taught that he was the purer race, lost everything cause he used his life lessons and a crowbar? That he wanted to put his kids first, not fucking Beecher or Scott Ross or darkie drops?
Vern stared him down, stumped for the words. Ross wasn't a human being, said it himself enough times. No reason to waste the oxygen.
Ross smiled. "A half-assed glower. Really Vern, I don't understand what's happening here. That bitch is winning. Gimme the word, and I'll..."
"...rat me out first chance you get."
Vern sighed, rumbling through him and betraying more than he wanted.
"I want to get out. I don't care about the riot, Beecher (*or you*)...,"
"Think of all the brothers."
"...or killing homeboys."
Ross slammed a fist into his upper thigh, Vern doing his best not to jump or throttle.
"I never want to hear you say that again!"
Vern kept the sigh in that time, moving the hand. Shut his eyes, expected the other man to reject him again. Felt the hand instead, rubbing the inside of his thigh.
"So the big point here is nothing can get in the way of this mythical parole. No pillaging of towns, ravaging of virgins, tax fraud."
Skinny fingers traced circles in his denim. Thought Ross would be fun, a diversion from Yuppie self-loathing and submission too bone-deep for him to get any more thrills out of.
"I was watching that little girlfriend of yours...'scuse me, ex-girlfriend...and he's hot. Chubby hellcat, but aren't you tired of anorexic prison bitches? I mean, eat another tater tot for Hitler's sake! Anyway, I think, no, I'm definitely going to get a piece of him. Soon."
*NO YOU FUCKING WON'T.*
Where'd that come from? Vern shrugged.
Forgot that Ross had a way of taking other people's soul, along with their mind and body, and twisting it into his dark realm. With all the nostalgia over hazy fucks, Vern had shut out the uglier memories.
"Answer me a question here Vern. WHY does a lifelong eradicator of all things homo have such great taste in men? First, the one with the ass..."
Wished Keller were here now, shut Ross down with a smirk or a shank, maybe both.
"Yeah. We were like kids at camp when we found that shared connection. That and some coke. Real good time there, once I kicked the knife away. OK, I let him cut me once, I have to confess. Amazing that you remember his name, since he's just a prag."
*Gonna throw you down on this bed and beat your...*
"I thought you had a riot to start."
The hand moved up again, doing an irritating dance across Vern's zipper.
"Then that bleach-blonde Vern in training, one we met up with on the road trip. Fredericks? I swear he quivered when you walked into the bar."
Three buttons on his badly fit blue shirt were popped open before he could react. Did his best to button them back while the voice went on and on.
"Next, what's his name, the psycho with no butt and, oh, that's me. Never mind."
Vern ground his hands into fists, cock half-hard thanks to the finger that snuck over the top of the zipper. Knew if he made a move, he'd set Ross off.
"Finally, barring bendovers I don't know about, comes Beecher. So weak, too weak. We should've realized. Now he's nuts. Going by Freddie's policy of firing live ammo every time he spurted, he should be checked off in the loony box too. We're all crazy Vern."
Ross ripped the belt and snap open, shoving a hand in.
"Crazy for you."
Vern knew all the rambling was some half-assed try at making him give into the coming madness. He could live with that, Christ knows he lived with Dad's babbling long enough. But the hand was different, dangerous. The hacks would see, or McManus, hypocrites waiting for him to fuck up.
He grabbed the small wrist with a rough grip, squeezing bones, biting back a pain moan at the squeeze on his cock.
"You move me off, and I start a fight. A fight that'll get you sent to the Hole. Great for the parole board."
Vern looked around, no Brothers nearby to help him, any chance of them caring after his shit meal was 'bout as likely as Beecher putting on those glasses again. He settled for slouching, head as close to the bar of the bunk as possible. Grunted when the boxers were pulled down, cold air hiding in places the dry hands didn't reach.
"I met your kids Vern. If they started on the drugs, they won't stop. A shitload of emotional baggage. It's a surefire recipe for OD. Why should they? No future, no father, no mother, only the next high."
Always amazed at how fast the gossip mill swirled around this toxic waste dump. Twisting, he kicked Ross away, foot connecting to a rank pit.
"Don't talk about my boys."
Voice sounded half as calm as he wanted.
Ross laughed, hollow. Head slowly lowering as he pushed himself to the floor.
"Which boys? I wonder what you regret more. Making sure your kids have an even worse childhood than their Fuhrer?"
Knees on the floor, Ross ran his tongue over his lips, mouth inches away from Vern's dick, Vern telling himself to zip up but his body not obeying.
"Knowing a few more kind words would have kept Beecher on your dick, instead of in your mouth?"
Flicked that familiar, wet tongue again, leaning, leaning, Vern fighting every instinct to slam that yapper over his raging...
Turned toward Vern's face, usual teeth-hidden grin, Ross more jittery than he had any reason to be.
"Or that I would've sucked you off after just the slightest show of physical force?"
Ross stood up, dusting himself off for no reason, stubble and eyes a perfect match. Stirred something in Vern he'd forgotten a long time ago, even if the hair were more salt than pepper now. A type of primal anger. Ross was everything he never allowed himself to be, and the contact was (or used to be) worth staring in the face of madness.
"I can't stop them from killing you Vern. And if I could, I wouldn't."
He was gone. Vern leaned toward the window, zipping himself up with practiced hands, glad no one saw that mind game. Or pretended they didn't. Ross walked by Beecher, psyching him out, laughing when Beecher growled. Two together were a strange sight. Ross never changed. Beecher changed so much it was more likely this shit had been buried inside him long before Oz, and only Vern helped him face it. Still no thanks for the breakthrough, unless the bitch wanted to give him a faceful of piss.
He laid back down on his bunk, deciding not to jack off, waiting for another day to end. Maybe he'd take a walk, see how his lapsed men were doing.
Weirdest thing about Ross was how he spoke. Not the vocabulary, white trash babble. He never just talked. Every word went to an extreme. Meaningless and forgotten seconds after it hit your ears, or horrifying, breaking through barriers covered with the sheen of decades.
Thing Vern hated the most, what he only admitted when he gave up all hope for the way, was how much his last memory of Hank blurred with Ross. The eyes, the cynicism sewn into his skin, lack of caring about any object but himself and drugs.
Crushing the thought under a pile of other topics to avoid, he walked out his pod door. Another reason to make parole. Like he needed one.
Vern pressed the damp shirt closer to his nose, sure the cotton was doing nothing to block the smell, but not sure enough to try breathing raw air.
He looked back at the chaos every few minutes, not too long. Didn't want a trigger-happy SORTer to shoot him for ogling. Prison was about knowing everything and pretending to know absolutely nothing. Less you knew about this riot, the better.
Tear gas. Tear gas and...blood. Vern almost tasted the copper tang in his mouth. Stench seeped through Em City in waves. Just like the riot. Riots weren't grand political gestures, they were mob violence. Death. Hate. Then it's all over, 'til enough shit gets backed up to spark the next uprising.
To make real change, controlled violence was the key. A war-trained, single-minded group. There was no chance at making a difference. The blood and death and hysteria was nothing more than a jerkoff session for Minister Said. Pointless or not, Vern would have jumped in, teaching the impure who the real masters were. Course, lessons aside, he'd have been beating his fair share of heads if it weren't for fear of lowering his parole chances from no chance in hell to Donny Osmond selling out downtown Harlem.
Vern never expected any show of Aryan force from Ross. Ross leap-frogged from faction to faction, watching the flames grow, siding with the tattered AB, punks desperate for any leader with their skin color.
Oz was the perfect place for Ross. Fights and fucking, constant supply of both. Mind games too. Vern had never, in all their years, seen the other man struggle with decisions, demons, try to help people, or have a good reason for hurting them. He was a buncha body parts wrapped up in an insane package.
Which explained why Vern had never given Ross's feelings a second thought. He'd punched him...wore out his ass on a few boozy nights, but those were just physical actions. No emotions traded, or wanted.
Supposed to be the same with Beecher--but going by the flat-out declaration of war from that brain-fried nutjob a few hours ago, their dealings were gonna be nothing *but* emotions. Hate on top of hate, as rotten as all the shit Vern made Beecher wash off his dick after that first night.
If he thought about Beecher too much, rage boiled inside his gut. Raging was the last fucking thing to do now, had to keep control, calm, cool...
Coughing, Vern risked another scan across the hollowed corpse of Em City. A few screams, gunfire, men sucking in lunguls of fog for their last breaths. Silence. More frightening than the screams. He saw a few blurry images by the guard tower, put a hand over his bum eye to focus.
Wasn't that Ross? And Whittlesey. Ross walked toward her, gun pointed at McManus. Direct hit to the shoulder or neck. *Hope he shoots him for each lie he told.* Hard to see with the bad eye, but the woman showed no fear, wouldn't give Ross that pleasure. He was gonna rape her, or kill her, probably both. What'd she expect? Any woman working in Oz had better know some chink fighting skills, or carry serious artillery.
Wait. Whittlesey had a gun in her hands. No hesitation from Ross, he kept moving forward, body shrouded in mist.
Three times. Head, heart, balls. Ross fell. If he wasn't dead he'd wish he was. Whittlesey went back to her boyfriend, cradling, cooing, checking his wound. That bitch was pure ice.
Vern sat back on his bunk, shock passing through. Most people had a clock ticking over their heads; Ross had an egg timer. But watching the death with his own eyes...some sight.
He lifted an arm under the back of his head, propping up. He'd seen a shitload of people die, some by his own hand. Or weapon of choice. He'd seen a good woman laid out over the steering wheel, neck...
Maybe this was a good death. Ross would have taken Vern out eventually, for "betraying" the cause. Like it was ever that looney tune's cause to defend.
Ross was his last connection to the outside world. Vern knew his life had been littered with a trail of mistakes, every last one of which he could trace back to the two ends of his personal scale: His beliefs, vs. everything those same beliefs told him to hate.
Ross was death with a pulse. But he had never blamed Vern for his problems. One of the only people in the last ten years who hadn't been tossing blame, with their eyes, with their mouths, with their turned backs. Had never even mentioned what screwed him up, 'cept that night in the kitchen. Maybe a few other times, under the influence of sex or more illegal substances. Vern had tried not to look directly at Ross in those rare times he showed any pain. The pain was bone-deep, agonizing, and covered up as quick as those black eyes could cloud over again.
One time Ross had said something about people looking at him, seeing worthless shit, every time he'd walked into a room. Finally, he'd just decided to go for it. Give 'em what they asked for. Every person who'd begged for their lives, begged not to be raped or beaten, it was a variation on the same hag or spic or cocksucker or bully who had spit on him when he was still young enough to have a chance.
Those times, Vern figured he had never known Scott Ross at all. Figured Ross'd never known himself either. Those bitter, flat-toned words, said almost like he was looking for a punchline, were the last few pieces of his humanity, peeled off right in front of Vern.
Did Vern ever mean anything to him? Was that why Ross had never killed him in his sleep, always begged Vern to fuck him so hard? Had picking parole over dead Beecher torn down the man Ross counted on? Too late to ever know now, and Vern had enough problems that he didn't give a fuck.
Ross had made Vern feel...like a teenager. Nah, what he was supposed to be as a teenager. Vern'd spent his teen years in and out of juvie, in and out of his father's line of fist. Never really partied or fucked around. Not until that three-way, with Ross and...what's her name...Cassie. Yeah, Cassie.
Vern never had to justify himself or his way of life to Ross. Not cause of dominance, Ross just didn't give a fuck. Closest Vern had ever come to an equal prag was Keller, and every emotion Keller ever showed after his split cherry was a lie. Ross had told more lies than you could count on Slick Willie's hands, but Vern knew he'd only done that to fuck with people's heads. Ross was a black hole. Only time that hole filled up was when he wanted dick.
And now he was gone. Would Vern miss a friend? No. Would Vern miss his mouth and ass? Maybe. Vern sure wouldn't miss his total lack of hygeine. Day he did, he'd go share a tree with Adebisi.
At least Ross had given him enough dirt on Whittlesey to bury her, if she didn't help get him out. Ross wasn't worthless after all. If he had been there, he'da laughed at that idea, mad, Grim Reaper eyes and twig body, coiled, always coiled and ready to strike.
Vern sighed, fingers tapping his stomach, good and bad eye shut, waiting for the SORT team to drag them all out already. And, somewhere in his head, letting a few minutes of Scott Ross mourning pass. Scott Ross, the best prag he never had.