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Lost Souls
by Dustandroses

art by Neevebrody

CHARACTERS/PAIRING: Chris Keller/Ryan O'Reily, Chris Keller/Miguel Alvarez, Chris Keller/Miguel Alvarez/Ryan O'Reily, Miguel Alvarez/Alonzo Torquemada
WORD COUNT: 59,000
SUMMARY: Three lost souls.
Chris Keller has lost his last chance with Toby, who discovered Chris' betrayal and has chosen his family over Chris. Ryan O'Reily has lost his brother, his father, and now, even Gloria has left him. Miguel Alvarez lost his last chance at freedom when Ruiz became head of the parole board, and now the only thing left for him is an empty life of trailing after Torquemada, in search of the next tab of Destiny.
When Keller finds a way to smuggle drugs into Oz, he goes to O'Reily, who he knows can move the product for him. With their partnership back in place, they both begin to feel a purpose in their lives again. When they befriend Alvarez, they discover Torquemada can be a bitter enemy when crossed. Can they bring Alvarez back from the brink of disaster? Will the three of them be able to stop Torquemada, if they do?
NOTES/ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Tons of thanks to Ozsaur and Trillingstar, my tireless betas, and favorite cheerleaders. You guys are my heroes and shit! Also: much gratitude goes to MarytheFan, Ozsaur, Trillingstar and Rustler for their hard work and dedication to Oz and to the Big Bang which made this whole thing possible.



Chris glanced up in surprise at the hack standing by the door of his cell.

"Get your ass in gear," Nelson growled at him, "you got a visitor!"

Half a dozen guys shouted catcalls in his direction, and Chris made a production of strutting to the gate as the sorry sons of bitches who were left behind fantasized about his ex-wives. Enough of them had seen him in the visiting room; they knew what he had waiting for him. He grinned as he walked away. That's right, he was the man.

Chris hadn't expected a visitor today, but other than Toby, the only ones who ever came to visit were his ex-wives. And since Toby was supposed to meet Langhorst tonight to pick up the Oxaliplatin, there was no way Chris would be hearing from him until the Department of Corrections planted his ass back here in Oz for parole violation. Chris smiled to himself. He was looking forward to holding Toby in his arms again.

Toby was smart, he might be suspicious that Chris had set him up, but if he checked her medical records, he'd see that Bonnie really was dying of ovarian cancer. It still pissed Chris the hell off that her own fucking brother had refused to get the drugs she needed to survive, claiming that since it hadn't passed the FDA's tests yet, that it wasn't safe for her. Chris ground his teeth in anger.

They were using the drug all over Europe and Canada, but because some asshole of a Senator was taking bribes from a rival pharmaceutical company, Bonnie was going to die and her own brother was gonna stand there and watch. Toby knew how he felt about his exes - especially Bonnie. There was no way Toby would believe Chris could throw her chance for survival away, not even to get Toby back.

He wouldn't, either. He'd ask around. Chris was sure he could find another supplier. The hard part would be finding someone he could trust to deliver it to Bonnie. Maybe Kitty could find someone for him. She wasn't playing scams these days - that businessman of hers kept her in style, and all she had to do was look pretty on his arm and socialize with the other trophy wives at the country club. But he knew she kept in touch with her sister, even though her husband disapproved. She'd always liked Bonnie; they got along really well for ex-wives. She could hook him up with someone through her sister Meg, he was sure of it.

Chris had his conversation half-planned out already by the time they got to the visitor's area but Nelson led him right past the visitation room, where all the non-secure visits were held.

"Whoa! What's up? I thought you said I had a visitor?" Chris' internal warning system went off; there was something wrong. He hadn't been in trouble since he'd gotten off Death Row; he was allowed contact visits. There was no reason they'd be going to the secure visitation booths.

"I guess your visitor asked to see you behind the glass," Nelson answered. He stopped at the check-in desk. "You piss off one of your old ladies, Keller?" Nelson asked with a smirk as he signed the paperwork handing Keller over to the visitation guard. The hack motioned him through the metal detector, and then proceeded to pat him down on the other side.

Chris submitted to the procedure anxiously. Not that he had anything they'd find - they didn't do that thorough a job when you were going to be seated in a booth. There was no contact with the visitor at all here, so no chance of passing contraband. No, what had his mind working overtime was trying to figure out who the hell his visitor could be.

The bored words of the guard blurred together in his mind. He knew the routine: hands above the counter, remain seated at all times, no loud, foul or abusive language. The only thing different here was the lack of touching, and since there was a thick pane of glass between him and his visitor, that wasn't likely to be a problem.

The hack shoved him toward the middle of the line of chairs. "Booth seven. You got fifteen minutes, don't waste it."

He stumbled in the direction of the chairs. Since they called him late, most of the other chairs were already filled. He glanced in the booths as he passed - bikers, and junkies, and Aryans, oh my. He grinned at his own joke. The grin died on his lips when he saw Toby on the other side of the glass. He felt a chill, like he'd been splashed with a bucket of ice water. Something had gone horribly wrong with his plan, and he shoved all his fears behind him, focusing on finding out what had happened, and how best to manage damage control.

"Toby?" He sat heavily in the chair supplied for him, searching out Toby's eyes. "What's wrong?" Toby's face was lined with pain, his jaw set stiff, and he wouldn't meet Chris' eyes. He reached for the phone on the side of the booth, and with a start Chris realized Toby couldn't hear him, yet. He reached blindly for the phone.

"Toby?" Chris waited for a response, but Toby closed his eyes, shaking his head. His behavior made no sense at all. "Toby, what's wrong?"

"You know what's wrong." Finally he opened his eyes, and Chris fell back against the chair, shocked by the hatred he saw there.

"What are you talking about?" Somehow Toby had found out about his plans, but Chris could handle this. He could talk Toby around if he could just calm him down enough to listen to reason.

"You know, you bastard. You tried to take me away from my children." His voice was low, and scratchy, as if he'd screamed himself hoarse, or cried all day. But his eyes were dry, there was no telltale puffiness under his eyes or red splotches on his cheeks.

"Toby! No! I could never - you know me better than that!" Chris insisted. "What happened?" His best bet was to keep Toby talking. Eventually he'd say something that would give Chris the 'in' he needed to plant enough misdirection to confuse the issue, leave Toby uncertain of Chris' intentions. Once he was uncertain, Chris knew he could sway Toby to his side. He'd been pulling ponzies for most of his life, he knew how to cover his bases. He could fix this.

"Talk to me, Toby!"

"I knew something was wrong. I knew it. Even after I spoke to Bonnie, and knew her cancer was real, I knew something wasn't right." His voice cracked and Chris felt the relief flood through him. That was good. If Toby let his emotions guide him, he'd land in Chris' arms again.

"You spoke to Bonnie? She's not back in the hospital, is she?" He lowered his voice, trying to draw Toby back into their secret. "That damned brother of hers, he's willing to let her die before he'll risk his neck, and he's convinced his daughter not to help her either. I'm the only one she's got left. The only one who loves her enough to take the chance..."

"Oh, you talk a good game, Keller, but you fucked up this time."

Toby's voice had hardened again, but Chris wasn't worried. He knew he could salvage his plan; he knew it.

"I gave this phone number to a P.I. that works for my father's firm. He's an old, retired cop, but he keeps good relations with the Police Department. He's friends with a Detective in the Narcotics Division by the name of Weber, ever heard of him?"

The ice water was back, running through his veins, and he felt his blood freeze. "Weber? I don't think so, Toby. What does this have to do with Bonnie?" Misdirect and misinform, that was all he could do now. He needed to plant uncertainty and doubt in Toby about the facts, and keep clouding the issue. "You think Langhorst was double-dealing me? You think he worked out a deal with this Weber to bring you in? Is that it?"

"What?" Toby got a crease on his forehead, right above his eyes, when he was confused. Keller loved that crease. He wanted to trace it with his fingertip, like he used to do, and run his finger down the slope of Toby's nose. The fucking glass between them was making this harder than it should be. If he could touch Toby, he could convince him that everything was going to be alright. That this was all a huge mistake.

"No, that's not it," Toby said, his voice heavy with frustration. "Weber got an anonymous tip telling him all about my meet with Langhorst."

"You're bullshitting me. No one knew about that but me and you, Toby." Chris tried to keep his voice low and easy, but it was getting harder to maintain that degree of calm. "Langhorst must have told someone. He must have let it slip to someone who wanted him out of the way."

"Keller..." Chris didn't let Toby interrupt him. He needed to make sure Toby had someone else to blame this on, and Langhorst was his only option.

"Did they pick Langhorst up? Even if they didn't, we'll have to find another supplier. Someone we can trust this time."

"What?" Toby seemed surprised, but that was good. Keeping him unsettled would make Chris' job easier.

"Bonnie needs that drug to survive. I promised her I'd get it for her."

"Stop it!"

"It's her only chance, Toby."

"Stop it now!" A hack wandered over their way, and Toby lowered his voice. "That anonymous tip came from Oz."

"No. That can't be right..."

Toby just kept talking. "It came from the phones in Unit B, Keller. That tip came from you, didn't it?"

"Toby, no. How can you even think something like that?"

"Don't lie to me, Chris."

That was the first time he'd called Chris by his first name. He pressed that small concession, going for Toby's weak spot. "Toby. I love you. I could never do anything to hurt you, you know that!"

"I know you love me, Chris. I do know that. And I know exactly what you're capable of doing in the name of love. I've seen it. I knew it, but I believed you anyway. Never again. Not ever again."

"Toby, please, listen to me!"

"No. You listen to me!" He stood up, pushing his chair back with a loud scrape, his voice rising in volume. "I don't want to have anything to do with you ever again. Do you hear me? Don't call me, don't write me. Don't give Sister Pete messages for me; don't contact anyone who even knows me, because I am through with you, Christopher Keller. I hate you. I wish I'd left you on Death Row!"

"Toby! No, Toby. Wait!" But it was too late. Toby had thrown down the receiver and left, leaving Chris staring at empty glass with nothing but his own reflection staring back.

Four Months Later

Chapter One

Ryan shuffled his legs a little, trying to find a more comfortable position without revealing his presence to Mukada. He'd gotten to his spot in the duct work outside the padre's office later than usual, worried that he'd missed the best bits of gossip. Sister Pete and Mukada might call their weekly conference a 'therapeutic review,' but to Ryan it sounded a lot more like a coffee klatsch. They always did their best to avoid revealing confidences made only in the confessional or a psychiatrist's office, but since they often found themselves working the same problems from different directions, they were able to discuss many issues concerning their 'flock' without crossing that line. Ryan found their discussions very illuminating.

He always tried to get into place early, but he'd been spewed on by an upchucking patient in the infirmary right before his shift was over - what a fucking mess. By the time Ryan had cleaned up, pulled on a new pair of scrubs and wriggled his way into the duct work, he'd expected to find their meeting already well underway. But it looked like Sister Pete might not be coming this week; she was already twenty minutes late. From the sighs and the unanswered phone calls, it was pretty clear that she hadn't mentioned to Mukada that she wouldn't be showing up.

Ryan's knees were usually killing him by the time the meeting was over. He had to kneel; there was no way to sit down. He was far enough from the padre's office that if he moved any farther back, when the heating or the a/c came on, he couldn't hear a thing. As it was, he had to twist his body into a pretzel shape, and press Gloria's stethoscope up against a much smaller duct that went off at an angle from the one he was leaning into. Unfortunately, only one arm would fit in that duct.

He never would have found this spot if he hadn't been looking for a good place to hide from Pancamo, back before he transferred to the infirmary to work with Gloria those last few months before she left him. He'd smelled cigarette smoke, and realized he must be near Mukada's office; that place always reeked of smoke, despite the fact that the no-smoking ban had been in place for years now. He guessed no one was willing to tell a priest he had to put out his cigarette. Ryan had found the spot right in the middle of someone's confession, and just as he'd gotten comfortable on the floor of the duct, the heating came on, and he lost the whole thing. Next time he came back, he brought Gloria's stethoscope with him.

It was hard to believe he'd had that thing four years now. It was close to the only thing of Ryan's the hacks hadn't confiscated at one time or another. Not even the explosion that had taken out the kitchen, Em City and a good sized chunk of the infirmary last year had revealed its hiding place. He'd kept it there for a long time; that was obviously a good spot for it. But after that frustrating moment in the heating ducts, Ryan had pulled it out of hiding.

It was the only thing he owned that had once belonged to Gloria, and he treasured it. He knew Gloria wouldn't approve of its current use, but she would approve of Ryan obtaining the information he needed to be safe, and that stethoscope helped keep him that way, so he felt justified using it here. In the meantime, he knelt on the heavy metal duct work and cursed a nun for torturing his poor, abused knees.

Sometimes he wondered why he even bothered. What the hell was there left for him to care about? Gloria was gone; she had left only weeks after Cyril's execution. His dad was dead. The old bastard had finally pissed off the wrong person, and had ended up shanked a couple of weeks after Gloria left. His mom was still around, that was something, but he only got to see her once a week now. It wasn't enough. She was his only tie to family now that Aunt Brenda was gone.

He thought the reason he kept coming back had more to do with touching the one part he had left of Gloria than it did with the need for information. He wondered what would happen if he missed that one crucial piece of news that could mean his death? Who would care? If it wasn't for his mom, he doubted anyone would even notice that he was gone.

Well, Alvarez might miss the chess games. Ryan had been playing poker and checkers with him for a while now, and about a month ago he'd finally talked Alvarez into trying out chess. Alvarez had a sharper mind than Ryan had expected, although his impulsive nature usually led him into making a mistake sooner or later. When he was floating on D-tabs, though, he was only good for a game of checkers - that shit really fucked with Alvarez' head.

Torquemada never let him hang out for too long, anyway. The guy had a jealous streak a mile wide, which was weird when you realized that he and Alvarez never even touched. Weird shit. He couldn't see them from his pod, they were on the second tier, and he was down on the ground floor, but everyone said that Alvarez always jerked off, and Torquemada just sat there and watched him. There were rumors about other shit that happened in private, but even then, everyone said Torquemada never did anything but watch.

"Where have you been?" Mukada's cross voice asked.

Thank Christ! At least he wasn't stuck in here for nothing. Hopefully, Pete would have enough good gossip to make it worth the trouble of bruising his knees.

Mukada's door closed. "Oh, don't fuss. It's been a rough afternoon. Let me sit and drink my tea for a moment, please?"

"Sorry. There was no answer at your office, so I wasn't sure what was going on. Are you okay?"

"Oh, yes. I'm fine." There was a pause, and Ryan could just imagine Mukada biting his tongue not to push her to tell him what was going on.

"Oh, that's better." Peter Marie sighed. "I just had a minor crisis in the psych ward, Ray. I tried to get away to call, but when someone is crying in your arms, it just won't do to ask him to hold on while you make a phone call."

"Oh no. What happened?"

"Chico Guerra. He had another breakdown today. He was high as a kite, but at least he didn't overdose this time."

"I'll be sure to stop by and see him when I take communion around."

"Good idea. He was a mess, Ray. We gave him a tranquilizer, so he finally calmed down enough to get some rest, but it's not going to be easy getting him off that crap."


"Again." There was another pause before the Sister started talking again. "I spoke to Tobias today."

"Oh, yes? How is he?"

"He's doing well. Still doing pro bono work at Lardner. He's very pleased with how it's going."

"Good. I'm glad he decided not to volunteer here at Oz. There are far too many bad memories for him here."

"True. He's still seeing Marian - Holly's teacher. Only, it's a new school year, so she's not Holly's teacher anymore."

"Well, that's good. I mean, I'm sure she's a good teacher and all, but there's a rule about that kind of thing for a reason."

"Oh, I know. I thought about that, too. Obviously, they were circumspect about it. Toby said she's relieved they can be seen in public together, now."

"It sounds like he's happy. That's good, he deserves it."

"He does."

"I spoke to Keller. Or I tried to, anyway."

"Yes, he's not being especially talkative these days."

"It was odd. For a while he seemed angry at me for trying to talk to him, but then it just faded away. Like he couldn't be bothered to hold on to the emotion."

"You've hit the nail on the head, Ray. He doesn't seem to care about anything."

"So sad."

"I know..."

Ryan kept half an ear on the conversation after that. There wasn't much new. Just more of the same. The news about Guerra would be hard on Alvarez. Whenever Guerra went off the rails, Torquemada insisted that Alvarez pick up the slack. Looked like Ryan needed to find a new chess partner in Em City; Alvarez was going to be busy for a while. At least that meant that Torquemada would cut back on the D-tabs; he'd need Alvarez to be at least semi-alert if he was going to be running the show.

Beecher's news didn't really figure into anything, unless he was going to land himself back in Oz, and he doubted screwing around with his daughter's schoolteacher would be enough to break his parole. Lucky bastard. Ryan had a sudden pang of melancholy. It didn't last long; he refused to dwell on what was or could have been. Besides, it never did any good, it just made you hurt more than you already did.

But Beecher. Well, he missed the old Beecher, some days. It would be nice to sit around and get high with someone who had no intentions of taking advantage of you, or getting something from you. All Beecher had wanted was a chance to not give a fuck about anything for a while. Beecher had been fun. He'd been worth the trouble. Too bad there weren't many around like him.

There weren't many around like Keller, either, and Jesus, but that was a damn good thing. Ryan and Keller had made a good team for a while. He was dangerous as fuck, but his kind of danger kept you alive. You had to be on your toes when you danced with Keller, 'cause he'd stab you in the back and break your spine just for the hell of it. But the rewards of working with him were high, if you could keep your head, that is.

Ryan didn't see much of him, he was in Gen Pop - Unit B. He liked knowing Keller was around, it kept things lively, so he hated to hear that Keller was fading out on them. He understood the feeling, though. Some days it was hard to keep going. Especially when there didn't seem to be much reason to keep up the fight.

"So have you heard from Gloria?" The padre's question got his attention.

"No, and I hope I don't."

"What? Why not?"

"I don't know how O'Reily gets his information, Ray, but he's clever and resourceful."

Ryan snickered. Damn right.

"I don't think much goes on in this prison that he doesn't know about. I wouldn't put it past him to be able to get into Querns' files and dig out Gloria's address."

Unfortunately, that was one thing Ryan hadn't had any success with. Well, he'd gotten into Querns' regular filing system, but where Gloria's file belonged was a note stating that Dr. Nathan's files were kept in Querns' safe. He hadn't managed to get into that, yet.

"I told her not to give any of us that information. The less we know, the less chance there is of Ryan O'Reily getting it from us."

"Okay, I see what you mean. But if she writes you at home..."

"I'd bring you in a copy of the address. Someone would break into my office or yours and before we knew it, it would be all over the prison."


"I mean it, Ray, he's that good."

It was nice to hear that the Sister thought that highly of his talents, but at the same time it was frustrating, because it sounded like she'd pretty much screwed up his chance at getting Gloria's address through the prison system. Besides, he tried to keep a low profile, and having Pete build his rep up would make it harder to get around the staff in the future.

"Gloria deserves a chance to have a life untainted by the pain she lived through here in Oz. She deserves to have a happy life. And if that's what it takes to give it to her, I'm fine with never speaking to her again. I'm fine with knowing she's got a chance as long as she stays away from us."

There was a long pause before Sister Pete spoke again.

"I know this may sound odd, but I wish Ryan really did love Gloria."

Ryan took a deep breath. What the hell did she mean by that? Of course he loved Gloria!


"He doesn't love her. He's obsessed with her, and there's a huge difference. If he really loved her, he'd understand that she deserves a chance to be free of him, and live her own life. If Ryan really loved her, he'd leave her alone."

Ryan didn't hear a word they said for the rest of their session. His thoughts were in turmoil. Of course he loved Gloria. He'd do anything for her. He wanted her to be happy more than anything else he wanted in life. But in the back of his mind, there was a thought lurking that whispered, he wanted her to be happy with him. Only with him. If she couldn't be happy with him, could he set her free? Could he let her go? He didn't know if he could. He wasn't sure there'd be anything left of him, if he gave Gloria away. Could he live knowing he'd never see her again? Would he want to?

Chapter Two

Miguel ran his fingers over his nipple, teasing himself with the too soft touches, arching his back and moaning softly. The other hand kept up a slow pace on his cock, only pausing to run his thumb across the head to pick up the drops of precome as his hips moved slowly, bucking his cock up into his hand. The two D-tabs he'd taken earlier had already peaked, and he felt mellow and relaxed. In his mind, Cathy Jo grabbed the hem of her sweater, pulling it over her head and blushing as Miguel hissed in pleasure. Her breasts swayed gently with her movements, her nipples crinkled and sharp in the cool evening air.

"Querido," Miguel murmured as he stepped up to her, one hand wrapping around her hip, holding her close. His other hand slid slowly up her side, teasing her soft skin as he moved his hand until he could palm her breast, squeezing it gently before rolling the nipple between finger and thumb. So perfect. He bent over and sucked that nipple into his mouth and she gasped, pressing herself even closer to him.

"You're thinking of that blonde again, aren't you? That little slut that kissed you only days after her husband's death?"

Torquemada's low voice shattered the fantasy into pieces, and Cathy Jo's image fled, driven away by his scorn. Miguel's hand faltered on his cock, and he sighed, his legs falling flat to the mattress as he squinted at T in the dim nighttime lighting. Miguel held onto his cock, stopping his movements altogether as he pointed his hard cock at T.

"What the fuck do you want from me? You want me to quit? I don't have to be doing this, you know. I could roll over and go to sleep right now. Is that what you want?"

"What I want, Miguel, is for you to come up with a different fantasy. Something that will drive you wild with excitement and provide me with something worth watching for once." Torquemada crossed his legs smoothly, shifting to the side as he leaned his elbow on the desk beside him. He ran a hand through his hair, his black-painted nails glimmering as the low light hit the glossy surfaces.

"What else you do dream of? There must be something in that tiny mind of yours that sets fire to your imagination."

Miguel felt his lip curling at Torquemada's insult. The bastard was constantly tearing him down, insulting his intelligence, and it pissed him the hell off.

"Fuck you." He turned over, then threw his sheet and blanket over his body; he didn't like having his bare ass pointed at T, it made him nervous. He may say he never does anything but watch, but there was no sense in tempting the bastard.

"C'mon, baby. Don't be that way." Torquemada crooned as he walked over and sat on the edge of Alvarez' bunk. "You know I'm only joking. I wouldn't have you for my Second if I didn't trust you to take care of things for me. Remember how wonderfully you managed when McManus put me in the Hole last month? You spoke to my contact and took in the shipments. You handed out the D-tabs and took care of the money collection. You even paid off Chucky."

He put his hand on Miguel's shoulder and rubbed lightly up and down his bare arm. "You did everything just right." His voice dropped low, and he leaned in close to speak in Miguel's ear. "I was so proud of you."

Miguel shivered as T spoke, the warm air puffing over his skin, drawing it up into goosebumps. He hated the effect Torquemada had on him. Maybe it was the fact that when they first started this whole thing, T would talk to him when Miguel jerked off, whispering fantasies that made it easier to bare his body and perform for another man. Now when T whispered to him, he got hard.

"Show me how hard you are, Miguel. Show me how much you want to please me." Torquemada slid down to the bottom of the bunk, his hand running lightly along Miguel's covered leg until it closed around his ankle. "Turn onto your back, baby, and take off that blanket."

Miguel sighed, but did as he was told, turning onto his back as T helped pull the blanket off before he wrapped his hand around Miguel's ankle again. Miguel picked up his half-hard cock, and stroked it, wondering what he should think about; unsure what he could do to impress Torquemada this time. He concentrated on the heat he felt from the hand around his ankle. Miguel loved being touched. He sought it out, especially here in Oz where it was so rare. It didn't have to be sexual, any touch at all felt good to him.

Torquemada's fingers grazed the inside of his ankle, a soft, small caress that tantalized, teasing Miguel with the promise of more. He knew there wouldn't be more; this was the most he ever got from T. But as he closed his eyes and sank into the feeling, Miguel's body reacted to the strokes as if he was being touched everywhere at once. He tightened his grip, imagining that those fingertips were touching his cock, running lightly across the head, teasing the slit.

In his mind's eye he could see T bring those fingers to his lips, his tongue coming out to lick off the moisture he'd gathered. Miguel moaned, his hips rolling as he jerked his cock faster, imagining those warm fingers running up his leg, sliding firmly up his inner thigh. He spread his legs, letting his knees flop wide, wishing T would touch him high up, on the spot where his thigh and hip joined. He loved being touched there, the skin was so sensitive.

"Oh, yes. This is much better, Miggy."

Miguel ignored the nickname, concentrating on the sound of Torquemada's voice instead.

"Play with your balls, baby. Roll them in the palm of your hand. Yes, that's right. You look so good like that, with your head thrown back and your eyes closed."

Miguel pretended that those were T's fingers rolling his balls, squeezing them lightly; his hand on Miguel's cock, slick with precome, sliding firmly up and down the length as he murmured into Miguel's ear.

"Eres tan caliente - so very hot." Miguel shivered as he imagined T biting the lobe of his ear. "What's got you so excited, now? Who are you thinking of?"

T gasped softly when Miguel licked his lips. Miguel opened his eyes to stare into Torquemada's. Even that freaky eye didn't slow Miguel down. He didn't care for T's looks, but that hot hand around Miguel's ankle was setting him on fire. He was so close now.

"Estoy en el fuego," Miguel murmured, arching his back as he came, but never taking his eyes off Torquemada. His come spattered across his abs and chest, his hips jerking as he gasped. It was hard to keep his eyes open, but he knew what kind of image he must make; his face flushed, eyes half-lidded, gasping and panting as his muscles slowly relaxed. He let go of his cock and ran his fingertips though the slick come on his chest.

Miguel had to hide his smirk as he watched Torquemada's eyes follow his fingers. T swallowed heavily, licking his lips before speaking.

"Tengo celos."

Jealous? What did T have to be jealous of?

He leaned forward, his hand grasping Miguel's chin, turning his face to the side. "Who were you thinking of, that made you come so hard you got it on your chin?"

Torquemada's thumb gathered the drop up, but before he could move back, Miguel's tongue flicked out and wiped it away. T gasped and jerked back in surprise before composing his face and shaking his head at Miguel, tisking at him. "What a naughty boy you are. You know better than that."

Miguel shrugged and grabbed his t-shirt off the floor, using it to wipe the come off his chest. He rolled onto his side and pulled the bedclothes back over his body.

"This isn't over, you know."

He knew Torquemada wanted his question answered, but Miguel felt reluctant to tell him, so he pretended to misunderstand. "Sure it is. I know I'm not supposed to touch you. Don't worry, it won't happen again."

He wasn't sure why he was unwilling to tell T what he'd been fantasizing about. It wasn't the first time Miguel had fantasized about a guy when he'd jerked off for him. T had made his little minions suck Miguel off lots of times. That tranny bitch Fiona was the best cocksucker he'd ever had. He'd come thinking of the things she could do with her tongue more than once.

Okay, maybe that wasn't the best example, since she had tits and called herself by a woman's name, but she must have a cock, or she wouldn't be in Oz. Besides, both Kiki Faye and Pinkerton could hold their own in the cocksucking category. It was confusing, though. Kiki called himself by a woman's name, too, even if he didn't have any breasts. Miguel'd had one hell of a good time with the two of them once - Fiona sucking his cock and Kiki Faye rimming him. That had been one muy caliente orgasm. He wondered if he could get Torquemada to arrange that again. He liked Pinkerton's mouth - he had big, soft lips. Maybe Pinkerton could be in back next time.

T let go of his ankle with one last squeeze, and pulled the blanket over Miguel's feet. After he jumped up onto his own bunk, Miguel finally relaxed. He'd have to figure out what to tell Torquemada tomorrow, because the man was persistent. He wouldn't give up until he thought he had the answer to his question. Miguel didn't want to tell him that he'd jerked off to thoughts of T, though.

For one thing, he was pretty sure that wouldn't go over well. The man had weird issues about his own body. He never took his clothes off, except to shower, and he made sure that there were people he trusted around him when he did even that. He didn't like to be touched, and seldom touched anyone else, more than the occasional casual gesture. Miguel was sure that had something to do with why just T's hand on Miguel's ankle had turned him on so much tonight. That was more touch than he usually got from T. Miguel flopped over onto his back, one arm behind his head as he stared at the mattress above him.

More importantly, Miguel didn't want T thinking that he meant anything to Miguel. He didn't, not really, he told himself firmly. It was merely that being in such close quarters for so long and revealing himself almost nightly to T had created a false sense of intimacy and trust that Miguel fought on a daily basis. He didn't want to trust Torquemada. He didn't think he should. He was just a plaything to the man, and sooner or later, he'd get tossed away. He had to be ready to protect himself, because once T was through with him, he'd be expendable, and who knew what would happen to him then?

He sighed heavily. Hopefully, he'd just get pushed out of T's pod, replaced by a new toy. But Torquemada was selfish and very jealous - Miguel worried that he wouldn't like the idea of his discarded toy being touched by others. If that happened, he'd have to have allies. He couldn't fight both T's and Pancamo's people on his own. He was going to need help, if he was going to survive once Torquemada was through with him.

T slid down from his bunk and settled on the edge of Miguel's. He watched T warily, unsure of what was happening.

"Why are you awake, Miguel?"


"You're usually asleep by now. Such a typical man. Once you come, you fall into a stupor."

He was hit by an inspiration. "I was thinking of how to ask you for another Miguel sandwich." He felt a load lift off his chest; this would work as an answer to T's question, and it shouldn't make him angry, either.

Torquemada laughed, relaxing against the foot of the bunk. "That's what you were all worked up over? Fiona and Kiki Faye will be so proud."

"But maybe not Kiki this time."

"No?" T raised one eyebrow. "Who did you have in mind?"

"I bet Pinkerton would be good at rimming, don't you?"

"Deval? You think Deval would be better than Kiki Faye?"

"Don't tell him I said that." God, the last thing he needed was another pissed off queer. They already didn't like him. They thought he took up too much of Torquemada's time. If they started some kind of jealous fight over who was the best rimmer, he'd never have a moment's peace.

T smiled. "Oh, don't worry, Miggy. I'll let them think it was my idea. How about we have a rimming contest? That might be fun."

"Yeah, but if there's a contest, there's got to be a winner. If I say one of them is the best at anything, the others will hate me even more than they already do."

"Don't worry, baby, I'll protect you." He winked. "Maybe the winner's prize will be you."

"Me? You tired of me already?" Miguel said with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Of course not. But I'd love to see you fuck the winner."

"No." His heart raced as he started to panic. He wasn't going to let T force him into something he didn't want. He leaned up on one elbow, staring defiantly at Torquemada. "I told you. I'm not fucking a man. You know that."

"But Miguel..."

"You promised me that you'd never force me to do something I wouldn't already do. I won't fuck a man."

"Never mind, Miguel. It was just a thought. We'll give them something else for a prize."

He rolled back onto his side, turning away from T. "I don't want to judge some stupid contest."

"I won't make you. I can judge the winner by the way he or she makes you come."

Miguel rolled his eyes. "Jesus."

"See? You just need to tell me what you want, Miggy. I'll keep you satisfied."

"What I want is to go to sleep."

"All right. I can take a hint, baby." Miguel felt him stand, the mattress dipping as T used it as a stepping stool to climb up to his bunk. "Sleep well."

Miguel relaxed as best he could with a flat mattress and sagging springs. Sleep took some time, and as he drifted off he could have sworn he heard Torquemada whispering in his ear. "Someday, Miguel. Someday, you'll do everything I want, simply because I tell you to."

Chapter Three

Sean watched as Tim slipped into the room, juggling his coffee and his notebook as he tried to close the door as quietly as possible. It didn't help, everyone in the staff meeting looked at him as he crossed to the table. Querns tapped his fingers on the table, frowning. Sean rolled his eyes. Tim was late as usual.

"Sorry." Tim excused himself, apologetically. "There was a fight in the library. I'm sure you'll all hear about it later." He sat in the only empty chair, murmuring, "Please, don't mind me," as if he had control over their thoughts.

Nice try, but the Jedi mind trick never worked. Sean had explained that to Tim more than once, but it looked like it still hadn't sunk in.

"As I was saying," Querns said, pointedly staring at Tim, "with this most recent attempt on Keller's life, I think he should be moved back into Protective Custody whether he wants it or not."

"I understand your concerns, but he's quite opposed to the idea." Sister Pete leaned forward on her elbows. "I guess the question is, should we respect his wishes in this case, or ignore them and protect him against his will?"

"You think he's trying to get himself killed?" Mukada asked. Sean was surprised to hear it stated that bluntly, despite the fact that he'd wondered the same thing himself.

"Suicide by staff negligence?" Tim asked.

Querns frowned at that. "That's why we need to move him to PC no matter what he wants. I won't have him committing suicide on my watch."

"How about a compromise?" Sean asked. That got everyone's attention.

"What kind of a compromise?" Querns drew his brows together like he did when he was getting ready to make a decision no one else was going to like, so Sean jumped in before he made any declarations they'd all regret.

"Give him a job somewhere that has no contact with the Aryans. Move him out of Unit B, into a Unit with a smaller ratio of Aryans. Send him to meals when there are no Aryans in the cafeteria. Limit visits to the gym and the library to times with no Aryan interaction. The less contact he has with them, the better his chances of staying alive, and the better our chances of having a clean homicide record this month."

"It couldn't hurt." Sister Pete nodded approvingly. "It wouldn't be as secure as PC, but it would definitely improve his chances."

"McManus..." Querns didn't get very far; Tim cut him off before he could say more than one word.

"I don't have room for Keller in Em City."

"But you've got the only Unit with no Aryans in it." Mukada argued. "You have to agree, Tim, he'd have a much better chance of surviving in your unit."

"There has to be someone undeserving of a berth in Em City," Querns said. "Who's your biggest disappointment this month?"

"No one!"

Tim turned to Sean, looking for support, but he wasn't going to get any this time. Hell, it was Sean's idea, for Christ's sake. "Sands is due to be released from the Hole tomorrow. He's been in and out of Ad Seg for the last six months, Tim, and after that trick he pulled on Busmalis last month, I gotta wonder why we haven't kicked his ass out already."

Tim sighed, and Querns jumped on his obvious capitulation. "It's settled then. Max Sands to Unit B, and Christopher Keller to Em City, effective today."

"Thanks so much." Phelan grouched. "Just what Unit B needs: another biker."

"Hey," Sean teased her, "we know you're turned on by all those hairy, tattooed guys. That's why we send 'em all your way."

She rolled her eyes at him. "Well, I think we've reached our quota. The next time we get a guy with more tats than brains, I'm kicking him over the rainbow to Em City."

"Yeah, yeah...you said that every time." Tim smiled at her, playing along.

Sean relaxed, relieved that Tim wasn't going to fight Querns on this one. He'd take a suicidal Keller over an idiot biker that liked to shit in old men's hats any day.

Chapter Four

"Why won't you go see Alan, Ryan?" Suzanne asked, leaning forward over the tabletop. "He's got a great sense of humor; I know you'd like him. He'd love to see your break dancing moves. I told him all about them."

Ryan sat back in his chair. The only reason he'd ever signed up for music lessons was that she was teaching them. Now that she was gone there was no reason for him to be there. "Ma. I'm not going to sing, you know I don't sing. There's no reason for me to go to music lessons if I'm not going to sing." He hated to disappoint her when they saw each other so little now, but she needed to get this crazy idea out of her head. "Why are you pushing me on this?"

She sighed, scooting her chair a little closer to where Ryan sat at the visitation table, reaching out to take his hand. He understood her need to touch, she'd been that way since she first showed up. She'd been so good for Cyril - hugging him, holding his hand when he needed to be reassured, smoothing his hair back out of his face and cupping his cheek. It had made Ryan think about how things would have been if she'd been around when Ryan was little. It made his heart ache, sometimes. There were times he'd been jealous of Cyril, to be honest.

"I just worry about you, Ryan." She played with his fingers, holding his hand in both of hers. "You need to find something to keep your interest, something to keep you involved. You're so quiet these days. And thin."

"Hey, I used to work in the kitchens; I know what goes on in there. I can't help it if I don't trust those bastards."

"Yeah, I know. Believe me, I saw what you guys cooked every day. But Ryan, you need to eat. Maybe if I brought you some vitamins?"

"Ma," he said, forcing a mask of contentment onto his face. "I'm okay, really. Don't worry about me."

"I can't help it." She relinquished his hand with one last squeeze, sitting back in her chair. "I'm your mother. It's my job."

"And can I say, you're very good at it?"

"Ryan. Sweetheart. I just want you to be happy."

He shrugged. "Well, that ain't gonna happen as long as I'm here in Oz, so unless you got a plan to slip me out of here in your pocket or something, I guess we're just going to have to live with it, okay?"

"I know. Doesn't mean I have to like it, though."

She looked so frustrated. He hated to see it, but it made him feel good to know she worried so much about him.

"I wish there was something I could do..."

"My subscription to National Geographic is about to run out." Ryan jumped in before she could get started on another round of worry.

"Already? Don't worry, then. I'll take care of it for you." She hesitated briefly. "You have plenty of undershirts and socks, right? And um...boxers?"

"Ma!" He joked, pretending to be scandalized by her question. She was blushing like crazy, but at least she'd had the guts to ask.

"Well, I don't want you to go without, just because you're too shy to let me know what you need," she insisted. "You have to tell me, or I won't know."

"I could use some socks, but otherwise, I'm all set."

"You're sure?"

He wiggled his eyebrows at her. "You think you could sneak me in a buxom brunette, about five-five, five-six - c-cup minimum." He thoughtfully supplied her with some visual inspiration, cupping invisible tits.

"Oh, you!" She slapped him on the arm, playfully. "The best I could do for you is a subscription to Playboy."

"I'm not getting my stroke mags from my mother!" he teased her. "A guy has to draw the line somewhere."

"Okay. But if you change your mind, you let me know."

"Thanks, Ma."

"O'Reily! Time's up." Murphy gestured for Ryan to leave. Damn, it always seemed to go so fast.

Suzanne's face fell. "Okay, I guess we have to go." She stood up, grabbing onto Ryan's hand as he did the same. "Think about Alan, Ryan. He'd love to meet you."

"I'm not singing for anyone." When her face fell, he rushed to reassure her. "But I got your point. I'll figure out something to keep me occupied. You happy, now?"

"Oh, thank you, Ryan." She hugged him tightly, holding on as long as she could. "You don't know how much that means to me, baby."

"I love you, Ma," he whispered in her ear.

"I love you, too, Ryan." She pulled back far enough to cup his cheek in her hand, and his heart squeezed tight in his chest. "Take care of yourself."

He pulled away, letting go reluctantly. "I will. Bye."

"Bye, sweetie."

Ryan scowled as he followed Murphy down the hallway back to Em City. It always hurt when he left his ma. It made him panic to think of how much there was out there that he couldn't help her with. There was so much that he didn't have control over; car crashes, crazy men with assault rifles, food poisoning. She could trip down the stairs in her apartment building and break her neck, for Christ's sake. He wanted her near him, where he could keep her safe. But that hadn't worked out, either. His enemies had almost been the death of her more than once.

Peter Schibetta had tried to kill her - he'd stolen her car keys and threatened her because Ryan had had a hand in killing his father. Reggie Rawls had been after revenge on Ryan that day three months ago when he'd held Suzanne hostage. Ryan had been caught up with a fucking mini-riot in the gym that day, and Rawls had felt forced to act when Ryan hadn't shown up.

That's why Querns had axed her volunteer program, practically eliminating his access to his mom. But maybe that was all for the good. If McManus hadn't come by to say hi to Suzanne and found Rawls there with a knife at her throat, there's no telling what he would have done to her. He could have beat her. He could have slit her throat. He could have raped her. Jesus. Just thinking about it made him sick to his stomach.

Ryan missed her like hell, but in the long run, the less contact she had with him, the better off she was. He was fucking death to those he loved. He'd ruined his marriage to Shannon. He'd fucked up Cyril's life by insisting he kill Gloria's husband. He'd destroyed Gloria's life, as well. What did he have to offer anyone who loved him besides death and destruction? Maybe Sister Pete was right. Gloria would be better off without Ryan around. But did he love Gloria enough to let her go?

If he did, he wasn't sure he could give up his ma, too. She'd be all he had left if he let Gloria go. He had to have a connection with someone or he'd fade away into nothing. He'd lost his chance with Gloria. But if he was careful, and kept his mom at a distance, if he didn't let her get too close, maybe she'd be safe from him. He'd just have to be careful if he was going to hold on to her without pulling her down into his crap. Maybe she was right. He needed something else to focus on, so he wouldn't destroy his only lifeline, because if he was letting Gloria go he'd need his ma more than ever.

Chapter Five

Chris dropped the box of files on the desk with a thump. The damn things were heavy. He'd been working in the Old Records room for close to a week now, and it was as depressing and boring a job as he'd ever had here in Oz. No, make that his whole life. At least with any of the other meaningless, repetitive jobs he'd ever been forced into he'd had company. Someone to talk to. Here it was just him and Officer Hart, as ugly and boring a man as Chris had ever hoped to avoid meeting.

He'd already bitched about it to Sister Pete in his weekly sanity check yesterday; but he had to agree with her, it was a hell of a lot better than being stuck in the clothing factory. There were too many people around, too many chances for some asshole to sneak up behind him and try and take him out. That prick Bauer didn't even work in the factory; he'd just wandered in and tried to stick a shank in Chris' back right in front of God and everybody. If it weren't for Rebadow's alarmed shout, the asshole would have gotten away with it, too.

He'd defended himself more out of habit than anything. Chris might have just opened his arms and said: have at it, man, if he'd had a chance to think it through. Well, maybe not. He didn't really want to die. He'd seen hell, and it was enough to keep him from giving in to death for as long as possible, but Jesus; there was only so much a man could do. He was so worn out. So tired of trying. He hadn't even tried to call Toby in over a month. He'd left daily messages at Toby's father's law firm, Beecher, Schultz and Lambert for three months, but he was certain Toby hadn't even looked at them. Finally, Chris just stopped trying.

The look in Toby's eyes that day in visitation had chilled Chris to the bone. Even after Chris had betrayed him, been party to breaking Toby's arms and legs, even then, he'd been able to see in Toby's eyes that he still loved Chris. That was why he'd hurt so much. He wouldn't have been so torn up over Chris' betrayal if he hadn't still loved him. But that day Chris hadn't seen any hurt at all, just blind fury at Chris for trying to take Toby away from his children.

That hadn't been his purpose; Toby had to know that. It was only a secondary consideration for Chris - a side effect of his goal. The important thing was to get Toby back with Chris where he belonged. He'd known that Toby would be angry, but he'd thought that once Toby had settled back into Oz, he'd get past the anger; that Toby would understand. He'd misjudged Toby's reaction. Chris had never believed that Toby's love had limits. He'd been so wrong.

He knew Toby would never forgive him now, and if Chris didn't have Toby, he wasn't sure how much longer he could keep fighting. It was too hard to keep going when there was no purpose in his life. All he had now were his wives. He loved them all, but they didn't need him. Last month the mud Senator Arlington had been throwing in the works over Oxaliplatin had been cleared up, and the FDA had finally approved the drug. Bonnie's oncologist put her on it immediately, so Chris no longer had to worry about getting it to her. She'd been incredibly grateful for his assistance for the past four months, but now not even Bonnie needed him.

He'd enjoyed seeing Meg, who had been very helpful getting the Oxaliplatin to Bonnie. It was a shame she wouldn't be around as much anymore. Kitty's kid sister had always had a special place in Chris' heart. He'd miss seeing her. She'd been so psyched about her newest venture the last time they met. What was it called? Normantin? Something like that. The street name was Storm. She'd been five minutes into her spiel before he realized she was talking about pot in a pill form.

"Wait a minute! You're talking about weed?" Chris asked incredulously. "You're getting this excited over marijuana?"

Her eyes had gone wide, and her face had paled beneath her shock of bright red hair as she glanced quickly around at the hack leaning against the door, scanning the crowd with bored eyes. Once she was sure the hack wasn't paying attention, she leaned closer to Chris and whispered, "It's not just pot. It's a thousand times better than those synthesized THC products they use for cancer patients."

She beamed at him, her bright eyes and deep dimples making her look like a kid in a candy shop. "It sends you flying for twenty minutes or so, then you mellow out and just float for the next couple of hours. It's a great buzz. It's new on the club circuits, but people who're in the know are paying big bucks for it. I'm sure that once it becomes more popular and more manufacturers get involved, the price will stabilize. But for now, I've got a corner on the market, and I can't keep the stuff, it flies out of my hands so fast."

"You sure you know what you're doing? Playing a ponzi is one thing, Meg, dealing is totally another," Chris cautioned her. "You're gonna run up against the big money if this drug is as good as you say it is." He cut off her automatic protest. "I'm not saying I don't believe you. You've got a good solid head on your shoulders, I know that. Just be careful, okay?"

"Don't worry, Chris." She grabbed his hand and squeezed. "I know what I'm doing. And I'm keeping my eyes open. I'm not going to get stung. I promise."

He hoped Meg was right. She was as close to a little sister as Chris had ever had, and he hated the thought of her getting all tied up with the wrong people. But she was careful, and had a good deal of common sense. If she could stash away some dough while the market was wide open like she said, she could be set up for her last two years of college, and not have to scrounge for money the way she'd been doing so far. A degree in business with a minor in accounting would get her into places Chris had never even imagined going. She was a smart kid.

He finished scanning the contents of the last file in this bunch and dropped the full box onto the stack sitting on the pallet. He'd pretty much filled the damn thing since Tuesday, but he couldn't figure out for the life of him what they intended to do with it. The whole idea was to clear out all the old records and replace them with computer files that could be stored in a much smaller space but still be available to the staff, and could be searched and cross-indexed a hell of a lot faster than these old paper files.

Oswald was 50-some years old, and after it was built, all the records from the old state pen that had shared the property, were transferred over. There were thousands and thousands of files in this huge warehouse of a room, and they were all Chris' to play with. They'd started him with the oldest files, so some of the guys they'd had him scanning into the computer had been dead for thirty or forty years already. The files themselves were old and crumbly and smelly, and they smudged ink and print onto his hands as he worked. What the hell, at least he had job security. He'd be doing this shit for decades.

He sat down at the computer and started making new folders for the names on the invoice that came with each box of files. Once he had those set up, he could scan the original paperwork into the new folders and the old files could be packed into another box. Then he would shove the finished box on the pallet that was slowly filling up over by the door and start on the next one. At the beginning of the week, they'd had some little fart from records come by two or three times a day to spot check his work, but yesterday, the guy had told him he'd come by once or twice a week to do a random check, but that for the most part, Chris was on his own.

He could do anything he wanted to this shit, and chances were, no one would ever even notice. At the moment, he couldn't think of anything worth the trouble of messing with, so he just kept scanning papers, one after the other, until it was time for the next box. Then he'd start all over again. He was thinking of asking Hart if he could scrounge up a radio or something, just to keep them both from going insane, when Hart's radio squawked at him. He couldn't hear a damn thing that was said, but Hart shouted at him, and he walked over to the door, wiping his dirty hands on his pants.

"What's up?"

"You see a pallet jack around here?"

A pallet jack! Hot damn. Maybe he'd get a chance to leave the room, if only for a few minutes. He'd wondered what they were going to do with all those boxes of files. They couldn't just throw them out; there were social security numbers and confidential health and psychiatric records in them. It looked like he might find out what they had in mind.

After a few minutes of searching, they located a room with broken equipment lining the walls and a couple of dusty pallet jacks in the corner, only one of which worked. Chris dragged it out of the room and aimed the rusty thing at the pallet, pumping the hydraulic lift to get the wooden pallet up far enough off the concrete floor to move. It was a little stiff getting started, but it rolled pretty well once it was moving.

The boxes were pretty sturdy, but Chris would have been happier if they'd had some straps or maybe plastic wrap to hold them together. The last thing he wanted was for all the boxes to fall off the pallet while he was moving it. Especially since Chris knew he'd be the one who got stuck putting them all back on it again. Looking around, they couldn't find anything that would do, so they decided to take the chance without the extra support. He followed Hart to the loading dock where a small commercial truck sat, backed up to the open door, the initials B.S.I. emblazoned on the side in large red letters.

Chris heard someone stomping around inside, but he was totally taken by surprise to see Lewis Walker step across the two foot gap between the truck and the dock, dressed in a brown uniform with B.S.I. on the pocket. He could tell Walker had seen him, but he didn't make any sign that he recognized Chris, and Chris took his cue from that, leaning up against the jack as Walker pulled out a wide ramp to cover the gap between the truck and the dock.

Walker hadn't changed much since they'd run a ponzi or two together a good ten years ago. Maybe a few more gray hairs, but how could you tell? His frizzy salt and pepper hair had always been a good camouflage. Nobody expected a distinguished, Morgan Freeman look-alike to be running an investment scam.

Walker looked over at Hart, briskly rubbing his hands together. "Right. What have you got for me today?"

Hart shrugged at the pallet, and Chris asked, "You got any wrap I can use on this thing?"

Walker frowned at the stacks of boxes, then back at Hart. "What the fuck are you thinking, letting someone move this without securing it?" He disappeared into the truck, and emerged a moment or two later with a large hand roll of clear wrap. He proceeded to wrap the pallet, blistering Hart's hide over his lack of concern for safety procedures in the workplace the entire time.

When he finished, he pulled a case cutter out of his back pocket and sliced the wrap off the roll, dropping it in surprise when Hart grabbed the case cutter right out of his hand.

"What the hell?"

"Didn't anyone search this truck when you came through the prison gates?" Hart asked angrily.

"Well, yeah. But they didn't search me."

Hart loudly cursed the inefficiency of the gate staff. "Razor blades are forbidden inside the prison."

"Okay. I won't bring one in again." Walker frowned at him. "Can I have it back?"

"Sorry, no." Hart stuck it in his pocket and crossed his arms, frowning at Walker.

He rolled his eyes. "Whatever, man." Walker picked up a clipboard that had been leaning up against the dock opening. "Sign here." Hart signed on the dotted line, and Walker pulled the jack onto the truck, setting it next to half a dozen others before loading an empty pallet onto the jack in exchange for the one he was keeping.

As he brought the jack back out, Chris' curiosity got the better of him. "Where's all that shit going?"

Walker shrugged casually. "Bleekman's Secure Incinerators. We burn all sorts of confidential paperwork. We're bonded." His grin was contagious, and it took all Chris' control not to burst out laughing. How the hell Lewis Walker had gotten bonded was beyond him. The guy had been running cons since Chris had been in diapers.

"You can keep the wrap," Walker told him, "but get these cheap bastards to buy you your own before this runs out, got it?" Chris nodded, bending over to pick the roll up off the ground. "You're on your own for cutting it, though." He glanced at the hack's name tag. "Our dear friend Officer Hart took my last case cutter."

"Sorry," Hart shrugged. "It's the rules."

Walker nodded, and held out his hand. "No hard feelings, Hart. Nice to meet you." Hart took his hand and they shook. Then Walker turned to Chris and shook his hand, too. "Name's Horace Bleekman."

Chris grinned at him. "Nice to meet you, Horace. Chris Keller."

"Get going, Keller. You've still got another half hour on your shift."

Hart nodded at Walker, who took his cue and started pushing the ramp back into place. "See ya next Friday, gentlemen!" he shouted from the bed of his truck.

Chris' head was spinning as he pulled the jack back to the Old Records room. What an opportunity. If only he had some clue as to what to do with it. He felt like shouting, or laughing so loudly they'd hear it in the closest town. He hadn't felt this energized in forever. Something good was going to come from this, he just knew it.

Chapter Six

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

Ryan heard Keller's words, but didn't even bother to turn around. "Fuck off, Keller. I'm not in the mood for chess." Ryan had no idea how long he'd been lying there, but he must have drifted off if he hadn't even heard the pod door opening when Keller came in.

"Jesus, O'Reily." Keller said, indignantly. "I could have been anyone. You could be lying in a pool of blood right now. I've been here five minutes now, and you never moved once."

"Like you give a fuck if I live or die."

Ryan didn't have the energy for this. He wondered whether Keller would go away if he pulled the pillow over his head. They'd been hanging out some since Keller had shown up in Em City about a month ago, a chess game here, a game of poker with Alvarez there. Nothing big. No reason for Keller to sound so upset over Ryan's lapse of judgment over his personal security. Okay, he played chess better than Alvarez did, but it wasn't like they were best buddies or anything. If Ryan died, Keller could play chess with Rebadow; he was damn good at it when he was in the mood.

"Well, I thought I did. I'm not so sure anymore."

Keller's disgruntled voice surprised Ryan, plucking at his long disused need to know everything about everything. What the hell was Keller's attitude about? He turned around on his bunk, staring at Keller, his eyes narrowed as he tried to figure the man out.

"What does that mean?"

Keller shrugged, laughter practically dancing in his eyes. He leaned back in Ryan's chair, crossing his long legs in a casual pose. "Don't worry, O'Reily. I'm not trying to get in your pants or anything." He gave Ryan a long appraising glance, his eyes skimming up and down his body. "Although it might be fun, that's not the kind of proposition I had in mind."

Ryan's eyebrow went up. A proposition? Keller's eyes roving Ryan's body made him uncomfortable, and he realized that he probably made quite a picture, lounging on his bunk, sleepy eyed, his hair all messed from his nap. He cleared his throat, and sat up, running his hands through his hair. It was time to get it cut.

"What kind of proposition you got in mind." he asked grouchily.

He wasn't sure about this new, slick Keller, yet. The first couple of days after he moved back to Em City, he'd been dour and sullen most of the time, and Ryan had put it down to Beecher's final words to Keller months ago. The whole prison had been buzzing over that one for weeks, but Ryan had, of course, had the best information. Sister Pete had talked to Beecher after the visit, and hadn't left a detail out when she'd told the padre all about it. No wonder Keller had been torn up over it.

According to the scuttlebutt, he'd stayed upset for months. He'd turned down a truce with Schillinger that same day, and had been dodging Aryan shanks ever since. The word was, Keller was the one who broke Winthrop's neck. It had happened the same day Keller went back to Unit B, so that made sense, but no one knew why he'd risk it, so close after his last death row experience. Ryan had his theories. Keller'd had seven close calls with death that Ryan knew of before Querns finally got smart and plopped him in Em City, the only Aryan and Biker free zone in Oz. It hadn't seemed to change Keller's mood any.

A couple of weeks after he got to Em City, though, Keller started to ease up. These days he was joking around, playing poker with Ryan and Alvarez, even flirting with that new female hack they had working the kitchen. His chess game had improved dramatically. It was like a light bulb had turned on, and the bitter and angry Keller who didn't give a fuck about anything had changed overnight to the Keller Ryan remembered from a couple of years ago when Adebisi had taken over Em City. That Keller had been a deadly son of a bitch, and not to be messed with. If he had a proposition for Ryan, he should probably listen.

Keller leaned forward on his elbows, his eyes bright with the intensity of his stare. "How would you like to make a lot of money?"

Ryan laughed. "Who the hell wouldn't, man. The problem is, there are always complications." He paused for a moment, but when Keller didn't elaborate, he prompted him. "What did you have in mind?"

"You ever heard of a drug called Normantin?" Keller took a breath, ready to explain, but Ryan cut him off.

"Yeah, I know it. They call it Storm, right? Kind of experimental. How stable is it?"

"I know someone who's been dealing it for close to six months now, and she says there's been no complications the whole time she's been working it. It gives a consistent high, and it's one that would be perfect for Oz. A fifteen-twenty minute euphoria, then a mellow, even buzz that lasts for about two hours."

"It's been consistent?" Ryan was interested despite himself. Keller was right, that kind of drug would work well in Oz. Users would get an intensive rush, which they could experience in the privacy of their cells or wherever they could hole away from the hacks, then they could step back into gen pop and enjoy a mellow buzz that wouldn't get them into trouble.

"It may cause problems with Torquemada. He'd have a cow if it cut into his profits, and he's got a good arrangement with Pancamo. You don't want to mess with the Wiseguys."

"That's part of the reason I was thinking of a partnership. If I start slinging this stuff so soon after I land in my new job, it's not going to take much of a jump to figure out where I'm getting it. I can't be seen having anything to do with it. I need someone who's already familiar with how shit goes down, and who can do the wheeling and dealing. You know the Italians; you've worked with them before."

"If I make an arrangement with Chucky, it's gonna cut into the profits."

Keller frowned. "Would we need to do that? You used to deal all the time, and they never did anything but shake you down every once in a while. If we keep it small, at least to begin with, you could handle it by yourself, or maybe get a couple of buddies, people you trust to work for you. We wouldn't need to cut the Wiseguys in, would we?"

"Before, I was doing tits, and very small time. This isn't going to stay small time very long. And you'll want their support against Torquemada, who will certainly raise hell, if you're dealing club drugs..."

"It's not really a club drug," Keller protested. "Storm starts out intense, sure, but when it mellows out it's just like pot, and that is far away from the clubbing scene. I just don't see the need to bring in another party."

"Keller, if I agree to this, I'll be the one they'd come down on, not you. If I get involved, I'll only do it with the Italian's approval. They could stop "Tor-kee" and his fags from causing trouble, too."

"What, you're afraid of a few fags?"

Ryan looked at him like he was an idiot. "There is nothing worse than a scorned faggot. I'd keep far away from that bunch if I were you."

Keller laughed.

"Don't you know how he ended up in Oz, Keller? He threw a big beaker full of acid on some other queer's face. Ate it clean away."

"What?" Keller was shocked.

"Don't mess with a fag, man," Ryan warned him. "They're fucking scary as shit."

"Jesus." Keller shuddered, then refocused on the conversation. "So, what do you think?"

"I think I need to ask around. Talk to a few friends on the street before I make a decision."

"Look, it's a small but dedicated group producing this shit right now, and they're not going to like being investigated."

"Nah, nothing like that."

"My contact is just a kid, and I don't want to put her at risk because your people are stomping around, making noise."

"What, are you related to this kid or something?" It wasn't like Keller to be sentimental over an outside contact.

Keller shrugged sheepishly. "Might as well be."

"Well, don't worry. I'll just ask what the word on the street is; maybe have them check out a pill or two."



"They look a lot like those legal synthetic pieces of crap that the government hands out to cancer patients. Little round things. But they're not the same, and they actually work."

"Well, we'll see. Give me a couple of days for them to do their stuff."

"Okay." Keller nodded. "Look, I got a few capsules coming in on Friday. If you want to try them out before you make a decision..."

"I might." Ryan nodded his head. "One good thing I heard about them was that there aren't a lot of side effects."

"Only one or two."


"Normantin actually does what Marinol is supposed to do. It increases the appetite."


"Dry mouth." Keller shrugged. "Like weed."

"Great, so we'll have a prison full of men with the munchies and cotton mouth."

"We could make a mint selling chocolate..."

Ryan shook his head. "One drug at a time, Keller. Don't get greedy on me."

Keller stood up, moving to the door of the pod. "Game of chess?"

"I don't think so, man. If we do this, you and I can't be seen together. If I'm associated with you, they can still tie us back to your new job."

"Good point."

"Let's keep our distance for now. I'll call some people and talk to you later in the week. Maybe we can meet up over the weekend. My favorite storage room is empty all day Saturday."

"Sounds good. Too bad about the chess. Alvarez is a sucker's bet. I need someone who can give me a challenge."

Ryan nodded. "Talk to Rebadow. When he's in the mood, he can play a mean game."

Keller looked surprised. "Rebadow, huh? I'll do that." He left with a nod, and headed to the TVs where he found a seat in the back next to Rebadow. He bent his head down and whispered something in the older man's ear, and after a brief conversation, the two got up and moved over to a table where they began setting up a game of chess.

It didn't take Keller long to replace Ryan. He watched the space outside his door curiously, realizing with a start that he didn't know the inside stories of a good third of the people in the common room. That wouldn't do. If he was going to get back into the game, Ryan needed to start organizing his resources and - well, he just generally needed to get his shit back together again. He'd sat around moping and whining for far too long. It was time to get to work.

He had a sudden flash of his mother at their last visit, telling Ryan he needed to find something to occupy his time. He doubted this was what she had in mind, but in Ryan's opinion, it was a hell of a lot better than croaking noise at some idiot musical therapist. Besides, there was no way he could make money off his voice, but this he could do. He realized that he'd already decided to do it. Unless he got really bad news from his streetside contacts, he was in. Looks like his and Keller's partnership was back in business.

Chapter Seven

When Miguel slipped into the storage closet he was surprised to find it already occupied by some tall guy with sharp, intelligent eyes and dusky skin. He didn't look like a muscle bound weightlifter, but he had muscles, and Miguel got the idea he'd be someone to watch out for in a fight. He was wearing prison grays, and his tag said 03D726, so he couldn't have been here more than a month or so. Smells like new fish, Alvarez thought. The fact that the guy didn't look surprised at Miguel's entrance made sense if they were both meeting Torquemada. He hated it when T sprang shit on him like this.

"Who the fuck are you?" he asked.

The guy frowned at him, but he didn't get a chance to answer. The door swung open and Torquemada strolled inside, leaving two members of his entourage in the hall behind him.

"Now you two scamper back to Em City." He flicked his fingers, brushing them away. "Miguel will escort me home later."

Masters turned away, taking Pinkerton with him.

"Have a good time," Pinkerton called over his shoulder, his fingers waving goodbye.

"Oh, I will Deval." He closed the door behind him. "Well, looks like I'm late to the party." He strolled across the small space between Miguel and the new fish, dusting off the top case of a stack of floor cleaners before sitting fussily, crossing his legs and smiling at the two of them.

"Did I miss the introductions?"

"I just got here." Miguel answered. "Who the hell is he?" He knew that letting Torquemada know that he was irritated just encouraged him, but he'd had trouble holding his temper lately, and he was feeling a little shaky. He'd had a meeting with Sister Pete earlier, and he didn't like taking D before he saw her. He'd taken one right before he got here, so hopefully it would kick in soon, but right now, he wasn't on top of his game, and he knew it. He crossed his arms and waited for T to explain himself.

"Oh, Miguel," Torquemada chided. "Temper, temper. And here I've arranged such a nice treat for you."

"For me?" Whatever it was T was peddling, it was definitely not for Miguel. That prick never did anything for anyone but himself. He gave shit away all the time to his followers, or to tempt others into his sphere of influence, but in the end, it always benefited one person and one person only. "And what did I do to deserve a 'treat?'"

"You smiled at me this morning, Miguel. It made my day brighter. Besides, who says you had to do anything? Can't I just want to give you something out of the goodness of my heart?"

Miguel's bark of laughter made the new fish jump. He stepped up next to T, as if to defend him, his heavy frown just begging Miguel to start something.

"I brought you a new playmate, baby." They both looked at T like he'd lost his mind, but he smiled sweetly. "Miguel, let me introduce you to Ramón Delarosa." He played with the syllables of New Fish's name, dragging out the rosa as if savoring the flavor of a good meal. He reached out and squeezed one well developed bicep with a little gasp of pleasure. "So nice. Ramón was the head bouncer at Sabotage. He also did a great side business organizing the boys selling Destiny for me on the street."

That got Miguel's attention. Being head bouncer at one of T's bars didn't impress Miguel, but being in charge of the guys slinging D on the streets definitely did. He would wonder why T hadn't arranged a spot in Em City for someone he obviously trusted, except he was beginning to get an idea of what T had in mind.

"Oh, I see the light bulb shining in those beautiful eyes of yours, Miguel. That's right, Ramón is going to be watching out for my interests over the rainbow, so that means you no longer have to worry your pretty little head about the rest of Oz. You just need to focus on Em City and the infirmary, and cover for me if I can't meet with my contacts. See? I look out for you. Now you'll have so much more time to spend with me. Aren't you happy?"

Fuck. He hadn't thought about that. The last thing he needed right now was to spend more time with Torquemada. Still, it meant he wouldn't be run ragged trying to keep up with a dozen guys slinging D over the whole prison.

More time for a game of chess with O'Reily. He'd been surprised at how much he liked chess. He was still new at it, and he could tell that O'Reily held back some trying to encourage him to keep playing. He knew that 'cause once, when O'Reily wasn't around, he'd played with Rebadow. For an old man, that guy was sharp. He'd checkmated Miguel in no time. But then he'd talked him through a game, and taught Miguel a few things that had made his next game with O'Reily a bit more even. Keller was good, but he had no patience for Miguel's fumbling beginner's style. He was better off playing checkers with Keller.

T dusted his hands as if getting rid of some dirty task. "Now that we have the business out of the way, I'd like to see a little action."

"Action?" Miguel asked. He glanced over at New Fish, wondering if the guy knew how to talk. He hadn't said one word since Miguel had gotten there. "What kind of action did you have in mind?"

Torquemada nodded at the door, and like a good boy, Miguel went to the sink and rooted through the junk behind the faucet for the door stop they kept there. He dropped it onto the floor, and used his foot to wedged it under the door, so no one could open it from the outside. He glanced at Delarosa, not sure what T had in mind. He didn't like it when he didn't know the players before the game started. It made him uneasy.

"You got a mouth, New Fish?" He felt the need to establish his place in the pecking order, and make sure Delarosa knew where he belonged. He didn't take orders from anyone but T.

"Oh, good idea, Miguel. Ramón, honey, why don't you get on your knees and show Miggy what you can do with that delectable mouth of yours. I think I'd like to see that."

"What?" Delarosa stared at T in shock.

"Hey, he can talk!"

"Oh, yes, baby," T assured him. "He was famous for sweet talking all the prettiest boys at my parties. And he loves to suck cock, don't you Ramón?"

"There's usually a party going on by the time we get to this point, isn't there?"

He licked his lips nervously, and Miguel grinned. New Fish obviously wasn't used to the way they did things in Oz.

"No time for that shit, New Fish. If you can get a hit of anything inside you before you get started, you're ahead of the game."

T pulled out a vial of D-tabs and held one out in Delarosa's direction. "Stick out your tongue, sweetheart." He walked over and T dropped the tab on his tongue. He swallowed it and T smiled at him. "That's a good boy. Now, show Miguel what you can do."

Delarosa turned to Miguel, who was leaning against the wall, one hip thrust out in an insolent pose. He wasn't making it any easier for the bastard. That was part of the game. New Fish walked up to him, trying to intimidate Miguel with his height, but Miguel didn't give a fuck about that. He'd taken on men taller than this one, and fifty pounds heavier, so he wasn't about to back down.

Miguel gave him a once over. "You sure he knows how?" he asked, and T laughed in the background.

"Oh, yes, baby. He's very good at it."

Miguel shot a look at T. "As good as Fiona?"

"Nobody's as good as Fiona."

Miguel nodded his agreement and looked up into Delarosa's face. "Are you gonna suck my cock or not?"

"Are you sure I'm good enough for you?" New Fish asked angrily.

Torquemada tisked. "Attitude, Mony," he reprimanded. "Go ahead, show him what you've got."

Finally, Delarosa fell clumsily to his knees and reached for Miguel's fly. Miguel smiled. He could feel the D buzzing through his system, and he relaxed into the high, staring down at the top of Delarosa's head as he pulled Miguel's pants down, letting them sag around his thighs. He glanced up at T, and realized from the frown on his face that T was not happy. No wonder, all he could see was the back of new guy's head.

He pulled away from Delarosa's grip on his cock and shifted a couple of feet, so he could lean up against the other wall. "Move around, New Fish, T can't see what's going on from there."

T smiled at him, a big honest smile, like Miguel seldom saw. "Thank you for thinking of me, Miguel." Then Delarosa rolled a condom onto him and sucked Miguel's cock into his mouth. Miguel's head fell back against the wall and he forgot all about Torquemada.

The Destiny was working him good. He always liked this part, but it was especially powerful when he was jerking off or someone was sucking on him. He could feel himself expanding, like he was growing larger and larger, and the pleasure grew with him, until it filled everything. It was like the D was soaking into his entire body, making every nerve ending tingle and buzz with sharp edged arousal.

Delarosa was good. He flicked his tongue around the crown of Miguel's cock, sucking on the slit right through the condom, and making Miguel moan. He grabbed Delarosa's curly black hair and worked his fingers through it to hold him close. New Fish jerked fast on the bottom half of Miguel's cock, while he sucked on the top, and Miguel was impressed with his suction power. His hips jerked automatically, and New Fish pulled back so he wouldn't choke.

It gave T an idea. "Fuck his face, Miggy. Do it."

Miguel still had his hands in Delarosa's hair, so he gripped tighter, feeling the rush of power when New Fish tried to pull back but got nowhere. It wasn't like he could really choke the guy, 'cause he had the base of Miguel's cock in his fist, and he was holding on tight. So Miguel started thrusting into his mouth, and New Fish finally just held on for the ride. He could hear the guy's fast gasps for air and they just drove him on, and he pushed in as far as he could.

He was so wrapped up in it all, that Miguel was totally unprepared for his orgasm when it hit him, and he shouted wordlessly as the pleasure burst through him, jerking his whole body with the power of his release. He slid down the wall, his bare ass cold on the tile floor. It was the cold that woke him up, and he opened eyes he didn't remember closing to see Torquemada staring at him, his face flushed.

"Oh, Miggy. That was amazing. I don't think I've ever seen you that powerful and dominant before."

Miguel didn't answer. He was still having trouble catching his breath, but he didn't want to let T know that. He glanced over at New Fish, who wasn't as happy as T was about how that had turned out. His hair was all messed up where Miguel had grabbed him by it, and his mouth was red and his cheeks were blotchy. He was still breathing hard, and despite his buzz, Miguel knew that if that had been him, he'd be pissed off at the way he'd been treated.

He glanced over at T, but realized Torquemada wasn't too worried about the guy. He guessed that he should probably offer the guy something in return for what he'd done. Miguel peeled off his condom, and tied it off before he tossed it in the trash by the door.

"Not bad, Delarosa."

The guy looked over at him in surprise. He'd probably expected Miguel to keep up the nickname, but he'd earned at least a bit of respect from Miguel for what he'd put up with. T stared at him, his eyes narrowed, and Miguel realized his mistake too late. T pounced on his slipup, and Miguel felt the first tendrils of worry; he could never show a moment's weakness or Torquemada would find a way to work it to his advantage.

"Yes," T purred. "You were wonderful, Ramón." He looked at Miguel, biting his lip as he thought. "He deserves a reward, don't you think, Miggy?"

Miguel shrugged, his stomach knotting in panic, but refusing to show fear to T, because that would make whatever T had in mind worse.

"Why don't you return the favor, Miguel?"

Miguel gasped. "You know I don't do that shit."

"I know, Miggy. But he did so well. Don't you think he deserves something for what he did for you?"

Miguel pulled his pants up as best he could, struggling to zip them without showing that his knees were still too weak to hold him up.

"I ain't gonna beg for nothing." Delarosa angrily jerked his pants open, pulling out his hard cock. "I can take care of myself."

Miguel felt guilty for the way he'd fucked Delarosa's face, not even giving the man a say in the matter. The head of his cock was deep red. He'd obviously gotten off on the scene, which was good, but still, Miguel knew he shouldn't have treated him that way. As the first rush of anger at T faded, the buzz came back, and Miguel found himself fascinated by how angry Delarosa's cock looked - red and inflamed and fierce.

Delarosa was jerking his cock fast and furious, and Miguel wondered if it was as hot as it looked. It was almost as if Delarosa would catch it on fire if he kept this up.

"Touch it, Miguel."

Miguel looked up at T and realized that he'd been watching Miguel as he stared at Delarosa's cock.

"Aren't you curious about how it feels? Is it hard? Or maybe slick? Would it slide through your fingers?"

T threw a packet of lubricant at Delarosa, who caught it and tore it open, drizzling some of the clear lube on his cock before he started jerking off again, slower this time. He kept glancing back at Miguel, unsure of what was going on, but willing to play along. His breath was speeding up again, and Miguel was certain he was close to coming. Delarosa reached down and cupped his balls, his hips jerking as he moaned, putting on a show for them both.

Finally, Miguel reached over and made a fist, curling his fingers around to encircle Delarosa's cock. He was surprised at how heavy it felt in his hand. Delarosa's hips jerked and he thrust his cock through Miguel's fingers. Miguel tightened his fist, squeezing Delarosa's cock, moving his hand up and down, like he did on his own cock. It wasn't that different than his own, but it felt almost alive, the way it jumped in his hand. Delarosa's hips moved faster, and Miguel let his cock slip through, allowing Delarosa to set the pace.

They moved together, Miguel's fist and Delarosa's cock, faster and faster, and Miguel realized how easy it was to make him gasp just by squeezing the head for a second before he moved back down again. Suddenly, Delarosa shouted, bucking his hips wildly, and Miguel pulled back in surprise as he came, spattering his come all over the floor.

Miguel panted, shocked by what he'd just done, staring down at his slick hand. A couple of sheets of paper towels floated down, and he grabbed them, nodding at Torquemada's knees, too embarrassed by what he'd done to actually look up into T's eyes. More paper towels floated down in Delarosa's direction, and he snatched them up, cleaning up himself and the floor. Miguel crossed over to the door and tossed his towels.

Delarosa joined him at the door, and threw his trash away. He put his hand on Miguel's arm to stop him from turning away.

"Thanks, man."

Miguel didn't know what to say, what did you say to a guy you'd just jerked off? He didn't have a chance to come up with anything, anyway, as T came up behind them.

"Yes, Miguel. Thank you for that. It was just lovely." He opened the door and turned back to Delarosa. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, Mony." Then he swept out of the room, "Come, Miggy!" and Miguel followed. He nodded to Delarosa as he left, wondering if he'd ever get used to life with Torquemada. It was something new every day.

Chapter Eight

"I think Torquemada is blackmailing Miguel into having sex." There. He'd said it. Ray hadn't wanted to say it, but he wanted Pete's input. He felt bad, because he was close to crossing a line, since most of what he knew came from Miguel's confessions. But Pete knew Torquemada, who had actually asked for weekly sessions with the psychiatrist, as rare as that might be here in Oz. Pete had brought up something similar last week, and it had been weighing on Ray's mind ever since.

"I'm not surprised, Ray. Torquemada is so smug when he talks about Miguel. He brags about practically owning him."

"It's the drugs, isn't it? Making Miguel act the way he does? He doesn't mention them at all, except to say that he takes them. They have a stronger impact on him than he thinks they do, but there's only so much I can say unless he brings it up first."

"If you push it, he'll stop coming to you, and that's the last thing he needs. You're just going to have to wait for him to reach out to you."

"Dear God."

Pete laid her hand on his arm, a spot of warmth that seemed strangely at odds with the cold he'd felt overwhelming him this week. He fought back his anger at Torquemada. Miguel had been through so much already. The last thing he needed was an arrogant prick like Torquemada twisting his head up like this.

"I hate the idea of Torquemada touching him. He's had so much trouble already. He deserves some time to heal."

"Well, he's in the wrong place for healing, isn't he? It seems the only thing we do these days is punish. Torquemada doesn't touch him, though."

"He doesn't? Then..." Ray's voice died out as he tried to figure out how that would work.

"Torquemada is a voyeur, Ray. He watches other people have sex."

Ray thought of the Plexiglas walls of Em City, and remembered the first time he'd seen them. He'd been shocked by the lack of privacy. "Well, he's in the right unit, then, isn't he?"

"I guess so," she answered mischievously.

"Then how does he...I mean." He shook his head and started over. "If Torquemada isn't having sex with him, how is he pressuring Miguel?"

"Chris Keller's new pod is only a few doors away from Torquemada's."

Ray blinked at her, confused by the quick change of direction in their conversation. "Yeah?"

"He says Miguel masturbates, and Torquemada watches. There's no touching, ever."

"Oh!" Ray found himself rather flustered by their conversation. Imagining Miguel touching himself for Torquemada's pleasure was rather disturbing.

"He says... Let me see if I can get this right." She cleared her throat and lowered her voice, imitating Keller with a slinky smile. "The floor show is excellent."

Ray laughed loudly before slapping a hand over his mouth in surprise.

Pete looked up. "Did you hear that? It sounded like someone sneezed or something." She glanced up at the heating vent above their heads suspiciously.

Ray brushed off her concerns. "No. It's not what you think. We have rats."


"In the duct work. I hear them all the time."

Pete stood up, examining the small vent a good four feet above their heads. "You're certain that no one could..."

"No. When I first got this office, I was worried someone would overhear confessions, so I climbed up and looked inside. The ducts are small, here."

"You're sure?"

"I climbed up myself, and unscrewed the cover. The ducts are only six inches around. There's no way anyone could get close enough to hear anything. It's not a problem," he assured her. "Don't worry about it."

She sat down again, with one last glance at the vent. "Rats in the ducts. Well, you are close to the kitchen." She shuddered. "I hate rats."

Ray decided a change of topic was appropriate. "So Keller's settling into Em City?"

"Yeah. I think the move has helped his attitude immensely."

"It has to be a relief to put some distance between himself and the Aryans."

"Who can blame him?" She frowned at Ray, and he realized he knew what was coming. "He hasn't come back to confession, then?"

"No. I doubt he will. He can't trust me anymore."

"You sure you don't want to tell me why?"

Ray shook his head. "I'm sorry. I'd like to, but I can't. I'll just have to deal with this one on my own."

It had taken a long time for Pete to learn how to deal with Keller objectively again, after he'd almost single handedly destroyed her faith in her calling. Ray didn't want to take the chance of prejudicing her against him yet again. Keller needed someone to confide in, and Ray knew it couldn't be him. He'd confessed to a fellow priest that he went to whenever Oz was beginning to wear him down. Father Landon had approved his decision not to absolve Keller unless he was willing to admit to the police that he'd murdered those men. But that didn't change the fact that Ray'd ruined his chance to act as Keller's confessor.

"Totally up to you, of course."

"Have you spoken to Beecher?" He changed the subject again.

"Not in a couple of weeks. He was taking the kids to the coast for the weekend, last time we spoke. The family has a home there."

"Sounds nice. I'm jealous."

"Me, too." Pete took a sip of her tea. "Chris told me last week that he was certain he'd never see Tobias again."

"Really?" Ray was shocked.

"I think he's beginning to let Toby go."

"Wow. I didn't think I'd ever hear that."

"I know. I don't think he'll ever stop loving Toby. But I think he's finally resigned himself to the fact that their time together is over."

"That's a good thing. I'm glad he's doing better."

"I guess so."

"You're not sure?"

"Well, you know Chris. He's not one to be trusted. And this new good mood of his worries me."

"You think he's up to something?"

She looked at Ray over the top of her glasses. "When is Chris ever not up to something?"

Chapter Nine

"Catholic girls are the best," O'Reily informed Chris, authoritatively. "When I was seventeen, me and Cyril were in a train with this girl from our parish, and she did at least fifteen of us."

Chris raised one eyebrow suspiciously. "At least? You're not sure?"

"Nah, guys were slipping in and out of line, getting booze, smoking dope, and taking double hits."

"Double hits?" Chris shuddered. "Jesus, talk about sloppy seconds!"

O'Reily laughed. "Yeah, she was pretty messy by the time I went back for more."

"You hit her twice?"

"Hey, I was seventeen, what do you expect? Fortunately, she was insisting on skins. I wouldn't have touched her otherwise. I mean, I was a horny teenager, but even I knew better than that shit."

Chris stretched his long legs out, relaxing as best he could against the wall of the storage room. Not the most comfortable place to try out their new investment, but you took what you could get. At least it was quiet; they didn't have to worry about any interruptions. According to O'Reily, nobody used this room on the weekends.

"What got me was the guys who didn't bring protection. What the fuck were they thinking, right? I mean, we all knew what was going down. But hey, worked out alright for us. Me and Cyril both brought a six pack each, and we sold the extras at ten bucks a pop."

"You made out like bandits!"

"Hey, always be prepared, right? Boy Scout motto." He raised a couple of fingers in the air, but it didn't look like he was really concerned if they were the right ones or not.

Chris laughed. "Like you were ever a scout."

"Yeah, that's true, but Cyril was."


"The boxing coach was a leader or some such shit. He talked Cyril into it. Said it would build his confidence and teach him leadership skills for the future."


"Made me laugh, too. Me and Cyril were the leaders of our gang two years before Cyril ever met the guy."

Chris shook his head. "Somehow I don't think that's what he had in mind."


They sat in silence for a moment or two, and Chris realized he was staring at his boots. They were so black. It was like the black sucked up the light like a black hole, pulling all the color in the room into the void they left behind them. That was weird.

"Oh, hey!"

O'Reily's voice sounded excited, so Chris rolled his head along the wall until he could see the shocked look on O'Reily's face.

"This shit is good!"

Chris laughed. "I guess it's kicking in, then, huh?"

"You're not feeling anything?" O'Reily studied him closely.

"Oh, no. I'm getting it. It just started, though."

"Yeah, me too. Bam! Outta nowhere." O'Reily grinned widely.

Chris looked around the room, fascinated by the details he ignored on a daily basis. "Everything's really... clear all of the sudden. Bright and intense."

"Yeah. I could stare at that wall all day and never see everything. The cinder blocks have so many little holes in them - bumps and valleys and the grout has shadows at the top, did you notice that? I never noticed that before." He paused and took a deep breath. "They're so even," he announced solemnly.

Chris looked over at him. That was the weirdest thing he'd ever heard. "Jesus, O'Reily, there has to be something better for you to look at than the walls."

"I don't know. It's a storage room, not a whole lot of options." He cocked his head to the side, like he was contemplating those options. "I could pull out a roll of toilet paper, I guess..."

Chris stared at him, uncertain if he was joking or not. Suddenly O'Reily laughed, his eyes sparkling with humor. Chris snorted, trying to hold back; he didn't want to get too carried away. O'Reily said this room was pretty secure, but he hated to take the chance of drawing attention to themselves. It looked like O'Reily was having the same problem, his eyes were crinkled, and his face was all scrunched up as he fought for control of his laughter.

That was more than Chris could take. He guffawed loudly, and O'Reily's eyes opened wide with shock, right before he let out his own raucous burst of laughter. He clamped his hands over his mouth, trying to muffle the sound, but it was pretty much a lost cause. They were both gone by that point, snorting and chuckling, leaning up against each other, as they struggled to stop. It seemed like every time one of them would get a hold of his laughter, the other one would break loose, and they went back and forth for what felt like forever.

Chris found himself slipping slowly, his head falling in a slow glide down O'Reily's chest, until Chris landed in his lap, staring up at him. "I fell down," he said in surprise.

"No, you didn't. You slid. There's a difference."

"Picky, picky..."

"You slid down me," O'Reily reminded him. "I ought to know."

"So? You have a problem with that?"

"No." O'Reily shook his head, slowly. "But it was weird. I've never been a slide before."

"Yeah?" Chris thought that was funny. "Ryan O'Reily, Human Slide. You could sell tickets."

"You're a fucking lunatic, Keller. You know that?"

Chris rolled his head to the side, to get a better view of Ryan's face, and found himself cheek to cheek with a rather substantial hard-on. Pleased with his discovery, he rubbed his face up against it, startling Ryan.

"Hey! Watch it! That's not part of the ride."

"Well it should be." He pressed his open mouth up against it, breathing hot air over the bulge.

Ryan tried pushing him away, but Chris grabbed his hands and held them away while Chris mouthed his cock through the cloth, humming up against it as he felt it swell under his lips.

"Aww, Jesus!"

Ryan closed his eyes, throwing his head back against the wall, and Chris took advantage of his distraction to let go of Ryan's hands, quickly undoing his pants and reaching through the boxers to grab his cock. It was long, if not quite as thick as Chris', and the cut head was already purple with want. He licked around the crown, sliding his tongue around and around, it was so slick and felt so good. He slipped the tip of his tongue into the slit and pulled out the taste of precome. Fuck! Nothing had ever tasted that good before. He took a deep breath in through his nose, and the scents almost overwhelmed him, heady and flavorful. He thought his head might explode from the intensity of all the sensations hitting him all at once.

"Fucking hell, Keller!" Ryan's hands were on his head again, jerking his head away from Ryan's cock.

"What?" Chris pulled free of Ryan's hands, sat up and straddled his thighs.

"Get off me!"

"No. You want it." He glanced down at Ryan's hard cock, which was pressed between the two of them. "You know you want it."

"It's just the Storm," Ryan argued.

"So? Who gives a damn? It's so fucking good."

Chris took his face in both hands and kissed him, pushing his way into Ryan's shocked mouth before he could say no. But he didn't fight Chris, and soon Ryan was moaning into his mouth, just as eager as Chris was to experience more. Chris knew he was a good kisser, all his wives had told him so, but Jesus, Ryan had serious skills. He closed his eyes and lost himself in their kisses, aware that he was probably being influenced by the Storm, but too busy enjoying himself to give a fuck.

Chris missed kissing. He missed it almost more than he missed fucking. When he was willing to let it run wild, the intimacy of the act left him feeling raw and exposed in a way he seldom felt comfortable sharing with others, but it was the most real and honest exposure he'd ever shared with anyone. Kissing Ryan was like that - while their tongues dueled, slick and eager, he felt more alive than he'd felt since... since the last time he'd kissed Toby.

He pulled back from Ryan in surprise. Ryan opened his eyes slowly, and Chris found himself focused on his swollen, red lips. He'd done that. He'd made Ryan O'Reily look like he'd been fucked hard, just by kissing him. He smiled slyly as Ryan looked at him puzzled.


Chris shrugged. He didn't think Toby would mind if he could make Ryan look like a wet dream with just a kiss or two. In any event, Toby wasn't here, and Ryan was, and Chris was thinking too much. Fuck that. He dove back into Ryan's mouth, and Ryan's hands came up, holding his face as if he could stop Chris from changing his mind if he held on tight enough. Who the hell knew, maybe he could. Didn't matter, though, because Chris wasn't changing his mind. He wanted this. Wanted it badly.

The kisses went on and on, one flowing right into the next. They broke for air from time to time, but it never lasted long, one or the other would start them up again and Chris would be lost in them before he even had time to think. He wasn't sure how they ended up on the floor, but it didn't stop them, Chris simply adjusted his position and kept on kissing. Ryan was moving his hips, and Chris realized with a start that he could feel the tip of Ryan's cock against his stomach. His t-shirt was wet from where he'd pressed up against Ryan, and Chris wanted to feel it rub up against him, against his skin, making it slick.

Ryan's pants were already around his lower thighs, it didn't take much to push them down low enough to get his legs between Ryan's. It was harder to keep the kisses going when he was working on other things, but he didn't want to stop them. The end product would be worth it, though, so he kept working, getting his own pants unzipped and pushing them down around his knees before pushing his shirt up. Ryan gasped when he first felt Chris' cock slide against his own, and Chris laughed into his mouth as he thrust again. Ryan's head fell back and bumped against the floor as he groaned.

"Goddamn!" Ryan gasped.

Chris took the opportunity to suck and nibble on Ryan's neck, and discovered that Ryan really liked that. He also discovered that Ryan had one hell of a dirty mouth when he was getting laid.

"Jesus fucking Christ! Yeah, yeah, don't stop, you motherfucker."

Chris was pretty sure the only reason he hadn't noticed that before was that he'd had his tongue down Ryan's throat for the last fifteen or twenty minutes. So Chris kissed him again, to keep him quiet, and started thrusting steadily, his knees pushing Ryan's thighs as wide as they'd go with the pants around his ankles. Ryan grabbed his ass, pulling them closer together, then slid his feet up close to his ass, bending his knees so he could clamp them tight around Chris' hips.

Once they got a good rhythm going, it was hard to keep kissing, and Chris let his mouth slip to the side and buried his nose behind Ryan's ear, licking and nibbling at the skin there. He scraped his blunt teeth down the side of Ryan's neck and Ryan practically whined with need.

"Christ on a crutch!"

Ryan's nails were sharp, digging into Chris' ass as he clutched him tightly. The bright flashes of pain made Chris shudder, ramping up his pleasure another notch, and he sucked on Ryan's sweaty neck, pushing the tempo of their hips even faster.

"Harder, you cocksucking bastard! Yeah, yeah...like that. Do it, do it!"

Chris was getting close, so he pushed himself up onto his elbows, increasing the pressure on their hips, their cocks sliding between them on the slick of their precome.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!"

It sounded like Ryan was about to come, too, so Chris ducked his head down and bit sharply into the muscle between Ryan's shoulder and neck.

"Oh my fucking god!" Ryan shouted, his hips jerking out of control.

His hands clenched spasmodically on Chris' ass and the sharp sparks of pain from Ryan's nails sent Chris shuddering into his orgasm, his cock grinding hard onto Ryan's belly as Chris gasped into his neck. His hips jerked two or three times before he stopped, breathing heavily. Chris rolled off Ryan, landing on the chilly tile floor, and they spent several minutes just breathing, their harsh breaths loud in the quiet room.

"What the fuck was that?" Ryan's voice was high and panicked, so Chris tried to defuse the situation with a joke.

"Well, if you're French, they call it 'frottage' but us normal people just call it getting off."

Ryan struggled to his feet and stumbled over to an open box of toilet paper rolls, grabbing one out and tearing the wrapper off with trembling hands. "What the hell did you do to me?"

Chris looked over at Ryan to see if he was joking. "What the fuck does that mean?"

"I'm not a fag, Keller. I don't do that shit."

Chris laughed, incredulously. "It's not like I took advantage of you or anything, you were right there with me all the way."

Ryan wiped himself off, cursing when he realized he'd gotten come on his shirt. "Only because I was high. Really high."

"Yeah, maybe. Storm is supposed to lower inhibitions. My contact didn't mention that it raised the libido, though. I think that was all us."

"No it wasn't." Ryan's voice was harsh and angry. He pulled his pants up with more force than was strictly necessary.

Chris got up and crossed to where Ryan had dropped the roll, grabbing some toilet paper to clean himself up with. "O'Reily, we were talking about sex before the drug kicked in. I had a semi before my boots became a black hole."

"They did what?"

Chris shook his head. "Never mind." He smoothed down his shirt and zipped his pants. "What I'm saying is that we were both half hard from the conversation before the rush hit us."

Ryan nodded grudgingly. "Yeah, all right. I'll give you that."

"It wasn't that bad, was it?" he asked, taking a step in Ryan's direction. "You seemed to like it."

"It was awful!" Ryan backed up in a hurry, bumping into the door.

"Awful?" Chris knew better than that. Ryan had liked every second of it. "You liked it well enough when my mouth was on your cock."

"That's different. A mouth is a mouth. It doesn't have a sex."

"Sure it does." Chris argued. "My mouth is definitely a man's mouth."

"That's not what I mean. A mouth doesn't have any..." he paused, hesitating over the right word, "male parts or anything."

"So what bothered you was the rubbing? The frottage freaked you out?"

"Let's put it this way. Your cock plus my cock is one cock too many. Get it?"

"But the mouth stuff is okay?" He had a feeling he knew the answer, but he was going to make O'Reily spell it out for him, because his double standard was beginning to piss Chris off.

"No, the mouth stuff is not okay, either." O'Reily crossed his arms, closing himself off from anything Chris could have done to change his mind. "No kissing, no cock sucking, nothing. If it happens again, I will officially call this partnership to a halt. Is that clear enough?"

Well fuck. It was worse than Chris thought. Fucking narrow-minded asswipe. "It's clear. It's perfectly clear. It's too bad, but it's clear. Never again. Okay?" Unfortunately, he needed O'Reily, no matter how annoying he was.

"Okay. Good."

"So is that it, then? You're in?"

"Yeah. I'm in." O'Reily nodded. "As long as we agree to include Pancamo. I won't go behind the Italians' backs this time; I'm over getting slammed by the Wiseguys."

Chris nodded. Meg hadn't liked it, but Walker had insisted it was the way to go and she'd finally given in. "Agreed."

"All right, then." O'Reily held out his hand and Chris took it. "Partners, once again."

Keller grinned at him. "We're gonna make a killing."

Chapter Ten

"I don't see what the problem is, Torquemada." Pancamo leaned against the railing, looking out over Em City's common area, but speaking quietly enough that Miguel, standing on the other side of T, had to struggle to hear him. "They may both be club drugs, but they aren't close enough alike to attract the same people."

"My sales will go down, and that means your cut will too."

Pancamo shrugged. "Not by much. My people say Destiny takes in five times the money of Storm every day."

"That's not good enough. You assured me that our arrangement..."

"Look." Pancamo straightened up, stepping closer, his beefy finger pointing at T for emphasis. "I've spoken to my people outside, and they agree. They're slinging both drugs on the same streets, and they don't interfere with each other. It's too bad that this bothers you, but that's just the way it goes. Understood?"

Miguel could feel Torquemada trembling with anger, and grimaced. It was almost time for lock up, and he was going to be the one stuck getting the heat from this boil over. T had one hell of a fierce bad temper.

"I understand perfectly." T stomped away, angrily. "¡Chingar tu madre, cabron!"

"Torquemada." They turned back to see Pancamo scowling at them, arms crossed. "O'Reily and his men are under my protection. If you want to keep your own, you won't make any moves against them. I will be very unhappy if I find out that you have."

T turned his back and walked away. Miguel followed him down the stairs and over to where Masters, Pinkerton, Fiona and Kiki Faye were sitting. Kiki saw them first. He scooted over, giving T his chair, his eyes wide. "What happened? I thought you said Chucky would take care of everything."

"That pinche guey isn't going to do anything. We need to organize." T stated flatly. "We're going to war."


"Oh, my God!" Fiona's hand was shaking as she covered her mouth.

Miguel shook his head. "No you're not."

The look on T's face was harsh, and Miguel's stomach rolled over, but he knew no matter how much he'd have to deal with later, he needed to wake Torquemada up to some home truths now, before he did something they'd all regret.

"El Norte is not going to back you up on this one, man. They will leave you where you stand if you try to push them into something like this."

He grabbed a chair from the next table, and turned it backwards, straddling it, and pulling it close so he could make sure T heard what he was saying.

"If O'Reily hadn't gotten Pancamo's backing, they'd be all over his ass, but this is different. El Norte has been on the receiving end of the Wiseguys' anger once too many times to do it again. They're stronger now, but Guerra is not a powerful leader. He's not going to stand against his whole gang to support you, and if you insist, they'll drop your ass in a second."

Torquemada looked him coldly up and down. "I think you mistake the depth of Chico's devotion to me."

Miguel shook his head. "That won't matter, T. Even if he does stand up for you, the rest of El Norte will not."

He could see in T's eyes that he wasn't getting through. "Torquemada, listen to me. I'm not saying that you shouldn't do anything. I'm just saying that you have to be careful. If you start an all out war, it's going to destroy us all. The only way to get rid of O'Reily and his Storm is to take your time, do it slow. You need to find a way to avoid being tied to the deed. Otherwise, you'll go down with him."

Masters sniffed. "You're only trying to save your 'chess buddy.' You care more for him than you do Alonzo."

Pinkerton bit the inside of his cheek, his eyes on Torquemada. Miguel could see he was thinking it through. "You do have an agreement with Pancamo, Alonzo. If you back out of that now, who will trust you in the future?"

Finally, someone who was using his brain. Before he could say anything else, Mineo shouted.


Fiona looked surprised. "Already?"

Torquemada stood up. "We'll talk first thing tomorrow, darlings." He took off walking without acknowledging Miguel.

Miguel's stomach dropped. Torquemada had never hit him, or harmed him in any physical way, but that wasn't what he was concerned about. His tongue was a vicious weapon. He'd been cut to ribbons on it more than once, mixing truth and lies, and using Miguel's own doubts and fears against him until he'd been utterly devastated. If he couldn't convince Torquemada that he was telling the truth, he wasn't likely to survive this night unscathed.

Chapter Eleven

Deval looked down from his bunk at the scene in the next pod over. He was close enough to hear a fair amount of Alonzo's words even through the Plexiglas, but since they were speaking in Spanish, he couldn't understand a thing they said. There was no doubt about Alonzo's anger, though. From the moment count was over and they'd been locked into their pods, Alonzo had had nothing but harsh, angry words for Alvarez. At first, Alvarez had tried to placate him, but it was obvious that nothing he said was going to help.

Alvarez had confronted Alonzo in front of his followers; told him flat out that he couldn't win a war. Alonzo didn't deal well with challenges, and right now he'd perceive anything but a 'yes' as a challenge. The problem was that Alvarez' arguments made sense. El Norte would not go to war with the Wiseguys. They might have, when the Latinos had been stronger. They'd been true partners with the Italians once upon a time. But the power had shifted. Both the homeboys and El Norte had lost their strongest leaders and become weak and disorganized. Under Pancamo, the Wiseguys had flourished, and now nothing illegal happened in Oz without their approval. Well nothing organized, in any event. Even the Aryans stayed out of their way.

Deval took a deep breath when Alonzo raised a fist, thinking that he was going to actually hit Alvarez. He didn't, he punched his mattress instead, the most physical thing Deval ever remembered him doing in anger. He kicked the bottom bunk, and Alvarez rolled out of the bed, crossing to the sink, casually washing his face, as if he hadn't actually reacted to Alonzo's anger. It was clear enough, though. He was worried that Alonzo was angry enough to change his tactics and didn't want to be lying down when he did so. Deval didn't blame him. Alonzo was furious.

On the other side of Alonzo's pod, Deval could see Kiki standing at the foot of his bunk, eyes wide with surprise, one hand over his mouth. Fiona was sitting cross-legged on the bottom bunk, facing into Alonzo's pod eagerly, as if all she needed for the evening's entertainment was a bowl of popcorn.

Deval had to admit, he'd snuck a glance at the two during some of their more intimate moments himself. Alonzo liked to strip Alvarez bare before he let him jerk off, and Deval wasn't above sneaking a peak at that sculpted body. He knew that even some of the self-proclaimed 'straight men' that had pods up here on the second tier had let their eyes wander this direction at some point or other once the lights went out.

This was different. It felt more intimate than any of their voyeuristic duets; the tension in the air was like a live thing, sparking in the air like electricity. Deval shivered, rubbing his palms up and down his arms to try and warm himself, almost afraid to breathe for fear of what was about to happen.

When he was twelve, his father was stationed at Wright Patterson in Ohio and Deval had skipped school to watch the student pilots practice barrel rolls in fingertip formation. One plane suddenly started spewing thick, black smoke and began to dive, spiraling in the air as it fell closer and closer to the ground. The pilot had ejected only seconds before the plane crashed, a huge fireball exploding up from the ground and forcing Deval to look away, eyes closed against the brilliance.

That moment was a lot like this one; the pilot had ejected and the plane was spiraling down, black smoke trailing behind it, twisting around itself like a thick black snake. He'd known it had to happen, but it had seemed like forever before that plane had hit the ground. Alonzo was speaking again. Deval couldn't hear his words, but Alvarez blanched and walked away from him, crossing to the door and staring out into the dimness outside their pod. He could see Alvarez' hands shaking as he wrapped them around his waist, holding onto himself in a futile effort to hold himself together.

Alonzo followed, his low voice pounding mercilessly against Alvarez' skin, beating him down with his words. Fiona had told Deval once what Alonzo said when he got this angry; ugly words of hatred and spite, pushing against what little self-esteem Alvarez had left, driving him to hide inside himself to avoid the bitterness and disgust, the foul loathing and disdain that Alonzo pulled out just for Alvarez. Until Fiona had told him, Deval hadn't known that Alvarez had tried to commit suicide, but Alonzo knew. He knew about Alvarez' father and grandfather, and how Alvarez had tried to save his baby boy by bargaining with God, slicing his face open and piercing his hand. Alonzo pushed and pushed until Alvarez collapsed, curled up into a ball, shaking like a leaf, his head buried under his arms as if to protect himself.

There was no defense against Alonzo. When he spat upon Alvarez, both Deval and Tony gasped in shock and Deval closed his eyes against the glare of Alonzo's fierce elation as he laughed at Alvarez and turned his back, jumping up onto his bunk and settling down to sleep. It might as well have been a fireball. It had destroyed Alvarez as clearly as if it had been, leaving nothing behind but a shell. Alonzo had gone too far this time; of that, Deval was certain.

He felt heartsick and weary. Alvarez stayed where he was, curled up in a ball near the pod door, arms over his head, Alonzo's spit slowly sliding off his bare back to the floor. It wasn't as if Deval cared what happened to Alvarez. The man had barely tolerated any of them, and they didn't care one whit for him in return. But no one deserved this, no one. He turned away, thinking maybe he'd wash his face before trying to sleep, and came face to face with Keller, separated by only a layer of Plexiglas.

He'd obviously been watching what had happened, and the ugly, baleful glare in his eyes was enough to make Deval shudder. That man always managed to creep him out, but tonight - tonight he was almost beyond recognition, his brow wrinkled, his fierce scowl enough to frighten a ghost. He was staring at Alvarez, and Deval moved away, not wanting to be between Keller and anything he had his eyes on. That man was frightening even on a good day.

When he finished up at the sink and jumped up onto his bunk, he noticed that Alvarez hadn't moved, and neither had Keller. He closed his eyes on both of them, but all he could see were planes spiraling though the air, and fireballs bursting behind his closed eyelids. It was going to be a long night.

Chapter Twelve

"Keller, would you concentrate?"

Keller had been like this since he'd gotten here. It was their Saturday check in; Ryan's idea. Since they couldn't talk in public, they needed a time and place that they could sort out any problems. Not that there had been so far, but it was best to touch base, just in case. As well as things had gone yesterday, it wasn't like they had a ton of stuff to talk about, but you'd think that Keller could at least pay attention.

Ryan had picked up his package as planned, and by the time Keller got back from the gym, Grady had sold half his load already. Riordan was making the rounds in Unit B, and Buchanan had the AIDS Unit. Ryan couldn't get to Daly until Sunday when he showed up for his shift in the infirmary, so Unit C was behind schedule, but Ryan was definitely pleased with how it was going. They'd decided to start up with a select number of units and keep the quantities small. Hopefully, that would make it harder to track where it was coming from, and they wouldn't flood the market.

Ryan had expected Keller to be buzzing from the sheer rush of a well laid plan moving smoothly along its projected course. Ryan knew he was. But not Keller. Keller was distracted by something, but he didn't want to talk and it was pissing Ryan off.

"Are you high?"


Ryan cheered inside; that at least got his attention. "You're not listening to me. What the hell is so important?" he asked, angrily.

"Oh," Keller shook his head. "It's not important. Not really."

"What is it then?" he pushed.

Keller looked over, annoyed at Ryan's persistence. "You saw Torquemada last night. He was pissed as hell."

"So what?" Ryan shrugged. "He's not stupid enough to do anything, not with Pancamo leaning over his shoulder. I saw how their talk went. Pancamo gave it to him straight. He'd be a fool to mess with the Wiseguys."

"Yeah. I agree. But I'm not sure that will stop him. I saw the way he and Alvarez were talking. He's mad. He'll be out for revenge."

"Yeah, all right," Ryan agreed. "Everyone is aware of that possibility. They're paying close attention. They know there's a risk." He shrugged. "Anytime you're slinging, there's always a risk. They know to keep an eye out, there's no need to push it."

Keller laughed. "Wasn't it just last week you were telling me not to underestimate the fags? When did we reverse positions?"

"So you believe me now that Torquemada is dangerous?" Ryan was surprised at this turnaround.

"Yeah. I do."

"What happened? What changed your mind?"

Chris frowned as he gathered his thoughts. "Your pod is down on the ground floor, underneath Torquemada's."

"Yeah?" he encouraged, trying to get Keller to spit it out already.

"I'm just a few doors away from 'Tor-kee' and Alvarez. They can put on quite a show some days." He wiggled his eyebrows exaggeratedly.

Ryan held his hand up, putting a halt to that. "I don't even want to think about it, so don't say anything."

"No, that's not what happened last night."

"Yeah?" O'Reily grinned. "Alvarez couldn't keep it up?" That was different.

"He didn't get a chance to try."

Keller was driving him crazy with all this non-information, but Ryan kept quiet, hoping he'd say something relevant eventually.

"I had a feeling something was up, just from the look on Alvarez' face as they took count, but I had no idea."

Ryan was interested, despite himself. "What happened?"

"Torquemada ripped the hell out of Alvarez. I never saw anything like it."

That just seemed wrong. "I know Alvarez hasn't been lifting weights or anything these days, but there's no way a lightweight like Torquemada could take down Alvarez. I've seen him fight. He's fast and deadly with those fists of his."

"No, Torquemada never touched him."

This conversation was going around in circles. "What are you talking about then?"

"He ripped him apart with his words, O'Reily. Just tore him to pieces. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but I'm pretty sure at least part of it was over his hanging out with you."

"Well that makes sense. I mean, Torquemada thinks we're on opposite sides now."

"You'll have to keep your distance. No more playing chess. No more poker with him and Rebadow."

Damn, he hadn't thought about that. Since he and Keller had stopped hanging out together, Alvarez had been the one he saw the most of. He'd miss that. He shrugged casually, as if it was no big deal. "Rebadow always cheats anyway." Keller gave him a confused look, so Ryan looked up, like he was looking at heaven. "He's got the inside scoop."

Keller laughed briefly. "It's not like Alvarez hung out with a lot of people in the first place. It was just me and you for the most part."

"And the fags," Ryan reminded Keller.

"All of whom hate him." Keller got up and started pacing the small room. With his long legs he was across the room and back in eight steps.

"They're just jealous of him and Torquemada."

"Doesn't change things, though, does it?"

"What is this, Keller? Are you feeling sorry for Alvarez?"

That brought him up short. "No!"

"Yes," Ryan insisted, "you are."

"You didn't see him last night, O'Reily." Keller started pacing again. "Torquemada had him curled up on the floor, hands over his head trying to protect himself from the bastard's words." Keller shook his head, hands wrapped around his waist. "But you can't stop words. They can hit you when nothing else can. They get in the cracks and burn like acid."

Ryan stared at Keller for a moment, thinking back to this morning. "He did look pretty down this morning, didn't he?"

"He was a mess." Keller finally stopped pacing and leaned against the wall. "I tried to get him to play chess, but he couldn't even concentrate enough for checkers."

Ryan winced. "Ouch."

"I was so mad at Torquemada last night. I don't know why it hit me so hard, but it did."

"What are you going to do about it?"

"Me?" Keller looked at Ryan, surprised. "Nothing."

"Sure you are."

"What are you talking about?"

"You want to do something." Ryan pointed out the obvious. "You want to help him."

"Yeah. I guess so." Keller slid down the wall across from Ryan, landing with a bump on his ass. "Somebody needs to. He can't take care of himself."

"You're gonna take care of Alvarez?" Ryan tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice. He knew he'd been the one to get them playing chess, but Keller had responsibilities now. He'd better not get all caught up in Alvarez and forget their partnership.

"No. Of course not. But... Well, at least he'll have someone he can talk to."

Ryan snorted. "Never figured you for a Good Samaritan."

"I'm not!" That got him angry.

Ryan hid his smile. "Riiight."

"I'm not! I can't be seen with you either, and aside from Rebadow, there's not a whole lot of other people in Em City I care to be seen with. This will benefit us both. I'm taking care of myself."

"Sure you are." Ryan continued to plant doubts. "And if it benefits Alvarez at the same time..."

"Just an accidental side effect. What's that word? Serendipity? Besides, I can keep an ear out. He could say something about Torquemada's plans that might come in handy for us, right?"

Ryan approved. "That's the first smart thing you've said all day."

"Shut up, O'Reily."

"Back at 'cha, K-boy." Ryan got up, and moved to the door. "Okay. Unless we've got more to say, I'm outta here."

"Take a hike."

"Turn the light off when you leave. If the hacks figure this place out, it's gonna make it harder for us to meet."

"Yes, mother," Keller sing-songed, waving his fingers.

Ryan flipped Keller the bird as he slipped out the door. He shook his head, laughing. Keller was having soft and fuzzy feelings for Alvarez. Who would have thought it? Made sense, though. The last person he got all soft over was Beecher, and Beecher and Alvarez had a lot in common. They'd been shit on by a dozen different people by the time Keller got close to them, and they gave off this 'woe is me' vibe that made you want to protect them and take care of them. But they both had a core of steel in there somewhere. You had to be careful of people like that. They'd club you to death with that steel core if you didn't watch your back.

Chapter Thirteen

"C'mon, baby. Come sit with us for a while." Torquemada whispered in Miguel's ear. "I'm sure we can think up something much more interesting for you to do than waste your time with this huelebicho."

Miguel looked down at the table and the chess game he'd just started. He shivered as T's breath blew across his warm skin, and shook his head to clear it. T didn't want him. He just didn't like the idea that someone else could interest Miguel. He wanted to be the only thing Miguel could concentrate on, wanted to be what Miguel couldn't live without.

"You know, it's funny," he responded, pulling away from T's hot breath. "I had the distinct impression that you hated playing chess. That's what you told me just last week. Since that's what I want to do right now, I think I'm better off with Keller, don't you?"

Miguel pulled back, so he could look directly into T's eyes. That funky one didn't change, but the other one was filled with fury for one split second, his body tensed and trembling with anger. Then it was gone. Torquemada schooled himself, and his normal, condescending, slick as shit attitude was back. T smiled as he stood, running his hand through Miguel's short hair.

"That's okay, baby. You come visit me when you're bored of this mierda, okay?"

He slid his hand into his pocket, and Miguel could see Keller stiffen and frown as he pulled out a D-tab and slipped it onto Miguel's bottom lip. "Here baby. Something to help you enjoy your game."

Miguel opened his lips enough for T to slide the tab onto his tongue, then he tucked it to the side between his teeth and his lip. He swallowed, and T's smile widened triumphantly. Miguel knew that T thought once the Destiny was in his blood stream, he'd never be able to concentrate on the game. He sauntered away, sure of his victory. Miguel felt the bitterness as the tab began to slowly dissolve against the slick skin inside his mouth, and wanted, for a brief moment, to give into the mindlessness it represented. But he wasn't going to let Torquemada rule his life, and the only way to do that was to quit the madness that was Destiny.

He glanced up at Keller, who was following T as he walked away, a sneer of disgust on his lips.

"Tell me when none of his little friends is looking."

Keller glanced at him in surprise, but nodded and looked back in the direction T had gone, as casual as if nothing unusual had been asked of him. He murmured, "It's just that Squeeky Dee thing. No, he's looking away now. You're clear."

Miguel had been checking out to either side, and knew he was free, so he ducked his head for a split second and spit the thing into his hand. He unwrapped a piece of Kleenex with two or three other partially melted tabs in it, and added the newest one, wrapping it up. As he got ready to stuff it in his pocket, Keller stopped him.

"Leave that on the table between us."

Miguel blinked in surprise, but did as Keller said. "Why?"

"You don't want Torquemada seeing that, do you?" Keller asked. "Especially when you don't go wandering off in the middle of our game like he's expecting you to. He's gonna get suspicious sooner or later." Keller captured one of Miguel's pawns, and set it down near the wad of tissue, and when his hand returned to his side of the table, the Kleenex was gone.

"You're slick," Miguel was impressed. "That was a nice move. I never saw it, and I was watching."

Keller shrugged casually, relaxing in his chair and grinning back at Miguel. "Years of practice, my man. Years of practice."

"I bet." He glanced down at the board and realized, "Hey, wait a minute! It wasn't your move!"

Keller raised one eyebrow at him. "It was only a pawn. Wasn't it worth the sacrifice?"

"Yeah, but I'm already so much worse at this game than you are. I need all the advantage I can get. Besides, I was going to flush them as soon as I got back to the pod."

Keller frowned at him. "You can have them back, if you want, Alvarez. But if you're trying to wean yourself off this crap, you're gonna need someone who's got your back." He glanced in the direction where Miguel knew Torquemada was currently holding court. "You're definitely not going to get backup from any of that bunch of fairies."

Miguel stared at him, trying to see through Keller's hustler's smile and bedroom eyes. He was very slick. Miguel had watched Keller for years. He'd kept his distance, staying out of the disaster that was Keller and Beecher's twisted love/hate relationship. There was no doubt in his mind that Keller was dangerous and deadly. Now he wanted to watch Miguel's back. Why the hell would he want to do that?

"What's in it for you?" No sense mincing words.

Keller shrugged at him again, grinning crookedly. "A chess buddy who can make it through a game without wandering off to examine the cracks in the walls?"

Miguel sat back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest, unconvinced.

Keller sighed, spreading his arms wide. "Look around you, Alvarez. Do you see a horde of guys lining up to be best buds with me? Do you see any at all? I've made myself a reputation here at Oz, and it's a good one if what you want is to be left the fuck alone. And for the most part, that's fine with me. I don't have any interest in listening to idiots yammer on about shit I couldn't care less about. There aren't a lot of people I want to spend time with, but of the people I don't mind wasting my time with, you're the only one around."

Miguel knew that wasn't strictly true. There for a while he'd spent time with O'Reily - that was who had brought Miguel and Keller into the same small circle with Rebadow. But Rebadow, well he didn't mind playing chess or maybe poker from time to time, but he was an old man, and he spent a lot of time sleeping, or watching the TV with Busmallis.

O'Reily, well, he'd kind of ostracized himself these days. He spent most of his time with that Irish buddy of his, Grady. He stopped spending time with Keller a couple of months ago, before the Storm shit happened. For the most part, Keller was right. He didn't have a lot of people who wanted to be seen with him.

Just like Miguel. No one wanted to spend too much time around the man who belonged to Torquemada. And if they knew his reputation from the last six years here in Oz, they didn't want to be seen with the crazy man who liked to poke people's eyes out with sharp objects. T wouldn't let Miguel near O'Reily. That hurt, 'cause that meant he'd lost one of the three people who actually treated him like a human being. Without O'Reily, there was just Keller and Rebadow.

Sure, he could play a game of poker with Chico, but all of El Norte treated him as an outsider. Morales had cut Miguel's ties with El Norte before he died, and no matter how much Chico tried to include him, he would never be a compadre again.

The only thing left for him was to dangle off Torquemada's wrist like some jewel that he kept close and bragged about; something to be shown off, but never touched. He was just a thing that Torquemada flaunted, and nothing more. With O'Reily, he'd felt like a human again. And he'd introduced him to chess, which was something he'd never thought he'd like. But he did. He might not be very good at it, but he liked it.

And that led him back to Keller, who was offering to watch his back. If he was going to get free of Torquemada, he'd need help. And Keller was the only one not tied to T in some way that he had any faith in at all. He didn't think he could really trust Keller, but he knew Keller had less respect for T than Miguel did. That gave them a bond of some sort. Keller wasn't likely to sell him out - to T, anyway.

Miguel nodded slowly, "Okay, I can see your point. We could both use someone to watch our backs."

Keller nodded solemnly. "Yes, we could."

"All right. It's a deal."

Keller raised his hand as if to shake hands on it, but detoured to the chess board at the last second, making another move. "I'd shake your hand on it, but we have an audience that I think you might want to avoid making any more jealous than he already is."

Miguel frowned. "¡Carajo! I can't be rid of that bastard soon enough."

"You're on the right track, Alvarez," Keller told him. "You get your head cleared up, and you'll be amazed at how much damage the two of us can do."

Miguel shook his head at Keller's proclamation and lowered his eyes to the chess board again. "¡Puta madre!" he swore. Keller's last move had set him up to capture Miguel's queen. No matter what move he made, Miguel would have to sacrifice his bishop to save his queen. "You son of a bitch!"

Keller gave him a shit eating grin, and Miguel translated it into Spanish for him. "Maldito comemierda. You are a shit eating bastard."

"Don't worry, Alvarez. When it comes to the important stuff, you know I'll be there for you."

"Yeah, right." He finally took a turn, sacrificing his bishop to get the best advantage he could. Then he took another move to try and even things up before Keller moved again. Keller allowed it graciously before snagging Miguel's bishop and dropping it to the side.

Miguel thought about Keller's words as he studied the board. He knew all about Keller's first months in Em City, everyone did. He'd won Beecher's heart, and then betrayed him to his enemy. He wasn't sure why he felt comfortable with a man with that kind of reputation at his back, but he did. Maybe he was a fool, but it seemed that he trusted Christopher Keller to some extent. He'd just have to take a chance, and see where things went. It wasn't like he had much choice.

Chapter Fourteen

Suzanne closed the door to Peter Marie's office, lost in thought over their conversation. She turned away from the door, and ran into someone, her hand flying out to grab onto a black sweatshirt to try and keep her balance.

Papers flew everywhere, and just before she went down, a strong hand grabbed her arm, keeping her from falling. "Suzanne!"

Father Mukada's concerned face swam into focus. "Ray!" They clung to each other for a moment as they righted themselves, laughing at their near fall. "Oh, my goodness. Are you all right?"

"Oh, I'm fine," he assured her. "Are you?"

"Oh, yes. Just a little surprised."

Ray went down on one knee to sweep the papers he'd dropped into a pile. "I'm so sorry. I was trying to get these in the right order, and not paying a lick of attention to where I was going."

"Me, too." She picked up a few that had escaped to the other side of the hall, gathering them together. He took them from her gratefully.

"Thank you, so much."

"It's quite a coincidence that I bumped into you. I was just coming to see you."

"You were?" he asked, smiling at her.

"Do you have a few minutes of spare time?"

"I was just about to ask you if you'd like some coffee."

"I'd love some."

Ray reached down and grabbed a paper bag off the floor, and she eyed it, dismayed. "Oh, no. The cake!"

"I'm sure Ryan will still enjoy it, even if it's a little shaken up."

"It's not for Ryan," she said sadly, taking the bag and glancing inside at the remains. "It was for us."

Ray had found bowls in his office, and they ate their crumbled coffee cake with spoons as she told him about her volunteer work in Ryan's old neighborhood. She was so happy there, working with all her nine and ten year olds.

"It's hard sometimes, though. Knowing it's too late; that I lost my chance to see Ryan at that age years ago."

Ray put down his spoon, and covered her hand with his. "You really miss him, don't you?"

She nodded, using her napkin to blot a teardrop that was threatening to fall. "It's been hard to go from spending so much time with him to seeing him once a week."

"You had so little time with him over the years. It's bound to be rough on you."

"I'm very worried about him, Ray."


"I think he's losing interest in his surroundings now that Cyril and Gloria are gone. He seems restless and unfocused, and that's dangerous in a place like this."

"It is, I know." Ray agreed, taking another sip of his coffee. "It makes sense; he's lost so much in the last year."

"I keep urging him to speak to you or Peter Marie, but I can't force him to do anything."

Ray shook his head. "No, you can't. And if you try, he'll come to trust you less, and you don't want that. "

"No, I don't." Suzanne hated feeling so helpless. "He doesn't speak to you?"

"Oh, he's shown up for a service now and then, out of boredom, more than likely. He hasn't been to confession in some time, though."

"Before Cyril?"

"I'm afraid so."

She'd wondered about that. "You think he still blames God for Cyril's execution?"

"I don't know. He's an intelligent man. Hopefully, he's figured out it doesn't work that way by now."

"Well, he wouldn't be the first to blame God for the bad that happens to them."

"That's very true."

"Well, I'd better go. It's a long drive, and I have to work this afternoon." She stood up, brushing cake crumbs off her dress. She smiled at him, waving one hand in the direction of the crumbled cake. "You can keep what's left of the cake."

Ray poked at the cake with his spoon. "Thanks so much." He stood. "I'm so glad you came by."

"It's done me a world of good to see you. Thanks so much for listening to me."

"Always." Ray took one hand, squeezing it in his own. "Don't worry Suzanne, Pete and I will keep an eye on Ryan for you."

"Thank you, Ray; you don't know what that means to me."

He linked his arm with hers, leading her out of the door. "Let me walk you out."

Ryan waited until he heard the door behind them, then sat down, rubbing his knees. When he saw his mother and the padre headed to his office, he'd high-tailed it into the ducts, hoping to catch their conversation. It looked like Ryan was going to have to do something about his mother's concerns. He'd actually started paying attention to the world around him, recently, but it's not like he could explain to his mother why. "Yeah, Ma, I'm dealing drugs again, isn't that great?" He couldn't see that one going over well. Maybe he should go see the Sister. If he told her what she wanted to hear, maybe his Ma would ease up some.

Chapter Fifteen

"I need to know how he's getting the drugs into Oz. Once I know that, I can figure out a way to make his supply dry up."

Miguel turned over a red eight, setting it down on the black nine on the third row from the left. It had been over a week since O'Reily brought Storm into Oz, and Torquemada hadn't talked about anything else since. It was getting really old. T had become very demanding and angry, ordering Miguel around, and insisting on the oddest things. It wasn't just Miguel; he was doing it to everyone. Even his entourage was wearing thin from his constant pushing. But it was worse with Miguel.

If it had just been the random, odd orders, like insisting that no one but T talk to the Italians, not even in line in the cafeteria, or that they all turn their backs on O'Reily whenever he walked into the room - those things he could handle, even if he did think that T was losing it.

Red queen on a black king.

But at night, when it was just the two of them, he cut Miguel to shreds with his acid words, and then the next day, he expected Miguel to act like he'd never treated him like dirt the night before. It was too hard for Miguel. It hurt too much.

It wasn't like he ever expected to be anything to Torquemada, other than a toy to play with, then toss away in favor of someone new when he'd gotten old. Somehow, Miguel had decided that T liked him enough to keep him around, and that made a difference. Now? Now Miguel knew better. He'd seen T's true stripes, and now he wanted nothing more than to get away. He wanted to find a place where he wasn't wanted just for his body. Somewhere that he could be comfortable, and maybe even free, even if only for just a few hours.

Black four on a red five.

He dreaded the time he spent with T's groupies. Their remarks were getting more and more pointed, and he knew that they'd be glad to see him gone. They still fell on their knees and sucked his cock when T asked it of them. They'd rub up against him and writhe and pant and come all over him, grunting and moaning. But it took more and more to please Torquemada, and Miguel found himself fighting T harder every day to keep to his rules. Miguel had drawn the line, but T kept pushing harder and harder, and he was afraid that sooner or later, if he didn't get away, he was going to give T everything he wanted just to make him stop pushing.

Black ten on a red jack.

He wasn't sure that would be enough, though. He had the feeling there would always be something more T wanted.

He missed playing chess with O'Reily, or checkers. Whatever. He just missed being treated like a regular person. It seemed the time he spent with Keller was the only time he felt comfortable. Keller laughed with him and taught him chess moves, and told him, secretly, not to listen to Torquemada; that he was a worthy man who didn't deserve the treatment he received at T's hands. He'd never spent time with Keller in the past, but he knew Keller wasn't an easy man to befriend. He was sure that Keller wanted something, too. Everyone did. At least Keller treated him with respect, and that was something he hadn't gotten from anyone in so long that he'd almost forgotten what it felt like.

Torquemada sat on the edge of the bunk, scattering his cards. Miguel looked up at him warily.

"If I knew how he was getting the drugs into Oz," T said.

"Yeah, I know. You could make his supply dry up. You said that already."

"But did I tell you that you could do it for me?"

"Do what?"

"You could find out how he does it."

"How could I do that?"

"You're his chess buddy. Tell him you want to jump ship. Convince him you want to join him, work for him. You could do it, you're very persuasive, Miguel."

"You want me to spy on him?"

"Sure. Why not?"

Miguel thought about it for a moment. If he could make a deal with O'Reily, maybe he'd take Miguel in, let him work for O'Reily. It wouldn't be the same, but Miguel didn't need that much money. It had to be better than living with Torquemada, didn't it?


"You'll do it?"

He shrugged. "It might not work, though. He might not trust me. He'd probably be a fool to do it. But it can't hurt, right?

Torquemada smiled at him brightly. "No, it couldn't hurt at all."

T reached up his hand and let his fingers trace the curve of Miguel's jawline. For the first time in weeks, it felt as if T was seeing Miguel; not the toy he played with and ordered around, but the real man. Miguel felt his heart squeeze in his chest, and he opened his mouth to say something, although he wasn't sure what he wanted to say.


Torquemada's eyes followed the motion, fixing on Miguel's lips, and his thumb traced Miguel's bottom lip. "I love your lips, baby. One day - one day these lips are going to do just what I want them to do."

Miguel tried to pull away, but T held on tight enough to hurt his jaw. He stopped struggling, because it only made things worse when he fought. He didn't know what he'd been thinking. Torquemada would never see the real him. He only saw what he wanted, and that had nothing to do with Miguel at all.

"One day they'll suck the cock I point them at, and they'll kiss the lips I tell them to. One day, you'll give me whatever I want, simply because I want it."

He slipped a D-tab between Miguel's lips, and rubbed his thumb across Miguel's bottom lip again before he stood up and jumped up onto his bunk. "Night, baby."

Miguel checked the pods around him carefully before he spit out the D-tab, slipping it inside his pillowcase until he could dump it down the can. Torquemada was so positive that Miguel would give him what he wanted in the end. Maybe he would, someday. But he wouldn't go down without a fight.

Chapter Sixteen

Chris stretched, the tight muscles in his back pulling with the effort. These boxes were heavy, and all the bending, and straightening, and hunching over the scanner and the computer monitor got old. He could use a back massage. Kitty always gave the best massages. He wondered if he and Kitty could get away with a massage at visitation tomorrow. They were only supposed to touch to hug hello and good bye, but the guards didn't pay much attention unless you were making a scene.

His mind went back to his visit with Kitty's sister the day before. At first, she hadn't been happy that Chris had approved cutting the Italians in on the Storm deal, but he thought she'd dealt with it better after Chris had Lewis Walker sit down with her and give her a talk. At least she'd seemed to be accepting it yesterday. She'd liked Walker from the beginning. Of course, that was part of what made him perfect for what he did, he was a likeable guy. But Meg was a bright kid. She'd cut her teeth on ponzis and scams, she knew how to tell if a fellow grifter was scamming her or if she had found someone she could conditionally trust.

There were plenty of shysters that would scam a fellow con artist. But as odd as it might seem to others, there was a rule that most con artists followed that stated clearly that you didn't try and scam your partners while you were working together. The smartest way to keep your head above water was to keep enough info on your fellow shysters to insure their loyalty. He had a feeling that Meg was falling lax on that one. She trusted Chris, so she trusted Walker, which wasn't necessarily the smartest move on her part. But Chris knew where a few of Walker's skeletons lay, so Meg was safer than normal with this one.

It would be nice if he could talk to Walker one on one. Chris would like to see what he thought of Meg. Being stuck here in Oz, Chris couldn't be there to keep an eye on her, but he couldn't think of a better influence on her than Lewis Walker. They'd make a great team. He'd have to talk to Meg about it. Chris knew she was still impetuous and very proud, so it might be a hard sell, but she was smart. Hopefully, she'd realize that she could always learn from someone who'd been around the block as many times, and as successfully, as Walker had.

A quiet, scuffling noise came from between two rows of shelves Chris hadn't cleared out yet. He went on alert, immediately. There were far too many shelves loaded with boxes of files where someone could hide out, and Chris had enough enemies that he needed to keep on his toes. There was only one way into this large room, but someone could sneak in before he got here for his shift, or someone could pay the hack on duty outside the door to let them in. It was a different hack than normal today. Hunt didn't work Wednesdays, and Chris always had someone different.

This hack was some Latino guy he hadn't seen before. What was his name? Quintero, maybe. The point was, it wasn't someone Chris knew. However, being Latino, he also wasn't likely to be working with the Aryans. Who did that leave? Could someone have figured out he was working with O'Reily? He wouldn't put it past Torquemada to try and shut down Storm at the source, but they'd been very careful. He didn't think there was much chance someone had figured them out.

Alvarez had been spending time with O'Reily again, which was odd considering Torquemada's anger over Storm. O'Reily said he'd been hinting at being interested in selling out Torquemada, if there came a need. The problem was that they were in no position to take on a larger organization like Torquemada had in place. They were better off sticking with Pancamo and leaving the Destiny trade alone. Under normal circumstances, they'd be fine with the Italians' backing, but Torquemada was unstable, and they couldn't trust him to stick to his agreement with Pancamo.

Which brought him back to noises in the stacks. He picked up an old three foot length of two-by-four he'd found in the mechanics room they kept the jack in. It wasn't as heavy as a bat, but it would pack a wallop. He moved silently down the row, careful not to make any noise that might alert anyone to his presence. At the end of the row, he peered out, then moved over to the next. He'd searched over a dozen rows before he decided he was imagining things. This prison was full of rats, that must have been what he'd heard.

Feeling sheepish for his overly cautious ways, Keller headed back to the desk his computer was on. He hadn't gotten two steps out of the stacks before he saw movement in the corner of his eye. He spun, his two-by-four raised like a club, coming face to face with a startled Alvarez, who jumped backwards, hands raised to protect his head.

"Whoa! Hey, it's just me! Chill the fuck out, okay?"

Keller dropped the two-by-four back to his side. "Alvarez? What the fuck are you doing here?" He looked around cautiously. "Are you alone?"

"Yeah, man. It's just me." He shrugged. "I just needed to talk to you in private, so I paid the hack to let me in."

"I knew that hack was up to something. He was acting funny the whole way here." Chris blustered. He didn't like getting caught unawares like that.

"I had to promise him you'd leave the room in the same condition you were in when I got here, so I guess he's not taking any chances with his job."

"Huh." Most hacks weren't quite that scrupulous. But that was good to know. "He must be new."

Alvarez nodded. "I saw him in the infirmary a couple of weeks ago. He's usually in Unit C, but I heard him complaining to Mineo that they keep moving him around."

"He's new," Chris shrugged. "He's gonna get all the shit jobs."

Alvarez shrugged. "That's what Mineo said."

"So what do you need to say to me that you can't say over a game of chess?" Chris was still being cautious, despite the fact that he'd put his weapon down. He stayed close to it, leaning up against the desk where he'd set it. He couldn't think of any reason Alvarez would be here except on business from Torquemada, and if that bastard knew he was the source of the Storm invading his territory, he wouldn't send Alvarez to talk.

Alvarez nodded, stepping closer to stand directly in front of Chris, pulling himself up to his full height, straightening his shoulders as if he was bracing himself to say something he didn't want to admit.

"Look. Destiny is killing me. Torquemada is poisoning me, and he laughs as he watches me slowly die. He caught me last night throwing D-tabs in the can, and I'm not going to lie to you - it was awful. You'd think a man as...as flamboyant as he is couldn't do someone like me a lot of harm, but it's not his fists that hurt, it's his words. He makes me feel like a piece of scum, the crap that you scrape off the bottom of your boots before you come inside."

Alvarez was trembling, but Chris didn't think it was withdrawal; it was as if just remembering Torquemada's words could send him back to the place Chris had seen him last night. He'd curled up against the pod door, sobbing, until he'd fallen asleep there. He'd still been there in the morning, only barely dragging himself up in time for count. Torquemada had ignored him, bursting out of their pod, swishing and smiling and talking to his little crew of fags. He'd turned his back on Alvarez as he walked away.

Chris hung onto his anger, forcing it down. "I saw."

Alvarez laughed self consciously. "Yeah, pretty much everybody saw, right?" He looked down to the ground, shrugging his shoulders, his proud stance of a moment ago gone as if just thinking of Torquemada could tear him down to nothing. "He told me that I would never be free from him, Keller. That as long as I was alive, I'd belong to him."

"Well, he's full of shit, isn't he?"

"I don't know." Alvarez shook his head. "I don't know if I can get free. Not as long as he's alive."

Chris laughed. "Well, that's the thing, isn't it? He has to survive to keep you prisoner, Alvarez. That's the bottom line."

"I don't think I can do it, though." His voice was strained, and he wrapped his arms around his stomach, as if to protect himself. "I don't think I could take him down."

Chris was beginning to see what Alvarez had in mind. "So you're looking for some assistance."

Alvarez glanced up, into his eyes. "I've heard the rumors."

"Have you now?"

"You're not a man to be fucked with. I think you're a man I could count on to do it right."

Chris stared at Alvarez, remembering the way he'd curled around himself, trying to protect himself from Torquemada's anger. "Say I was the man who could do it right. What would be in it for me? This goes far beyond watching someone's back, Alvarez."

"I've got money."

Chris laughed. Money was something he had no need of.

"I don't need money. I have plenty of that."

"I'll do whatever it takes to get free of him."

That perked Chris up some. "Whatever it takes?" Well, this could get interesting. He wouldn't object to fucking Alvarez. The man was pretty, after all. And he bet Alvarez could fuck like crazy. When he wasn't drugged to the gills, he was hot-blooded and passionate. That counted for a lot in Keller's book.

Alvarez paused for a moment, looking Keller up and down. Maybe he was wondering exactly what he was getting into. But then, Chris had heard rumors too. Alvarez did more than just jerk off for Torquemada, he was sure of that. No point in confusing the issue. Chris made his point blatantly,
spreading his legs, and letting his hands hang off his waistband to emphasize his cock, which was half hard from just thinking about fucking Alvarez.

Alvarez swallowed, but nodded decisively, his voice firm. "Whatever it takes."

Chris smiled. That's more like it. "Well, why don't you give me a sample, then."

Alvarez stepped up to him, standing between Chris' legs where he leaned against the desk. Chris put his hand around Alvarez' neck to pull him in for a kiss, but Alvarez slid out of his grip, down onto his knees. He leaned in, pressing his face to Chris' cock, which responded eagerly, swelling until he felt it pushing against the cloth between them. Alvarez could feel it, too. He outlined it with his lips, breathing hot air on it until it was full and heavy in Chris' pants. Finally, Alvarez reached up and undid the button and unzipped his fly, and Chris breathed a sigh of relief. He was eager to have those lips on his cock.

Alvarez reached inside, pulling out Chris' cock, but instead of getting right to it, he held it in his hand, staring at it like he had no idea what to do with it. He stroked it a few times, pumping it in his fist, and Chris groaned. It had been a couple of weeks since he'd had sex. He'd had to use his own hand lately, memories of O'Reily's hot tongue in his mouth keeping him going. There was nothing like a hot hand wrapped around your cock, except maybe a hot mouth. That trumped a hand any day of the week.

Alvarez reached for Chris' balls, squeezing them gently, in time to the rhythm of his other hand moving on Chris' cock. He was right there, his mouth just inches away from sucking on Chris' cock, and his hesitation was driving Chris crazy with want.

"Do it, Alvarez," he said huskily. "Suck my cock."

Alvarez swallowed, glancing up at him briefly, and Chris caught the nervous look in his eye. Holy fuck. The truth hit him hard. Alvarez had never done this before. He had to concentrate hard not to crow with the excitement of knowing he was about to bust Alvarez' blowjob cherry, but Chris' cock almost spoiled the whole moment by pulsing and oozing a generous helping of precome all over Alvarez' hand.

Alvarez leaned back and Chris closed his eyes for a moment, trying to force himself back into his usual cool mode. When he could speak calmly, he opened his eyes. Alvarez was staring at his cock warily and years worth of practice at seducing women and men out of their clothes and their money took over, and Chris began to speak.

"Just look at it, Miguel," he said softly, using Alvarez' first name to increase the intimacy between them. "Did you feel it pulse? I was so excited at the thought of your tongue on my cock that I couldn't control myself."

Alvarez swallowed heavily, but didn't take his eyes away from Chris' cock, his hand still moving on it hesitantly. The hand holding Chris' balls had stopped squeezing, but that was okay for now. One thing at a time was the way to go, and Chris wanted that mouth around his cock more than anything else he could think of.

"Touch it with your tongue. Run it around the head. Go on, Miguel. Do it."

Alvarez seemed to make a decision, because he stopped hesitating and leaned forward, licking a broad swipe up the head of Chris' cock.

"Aw, Jesus." Chris hadn't been prepared for that, and his loud exclamation made Alvarez look up at him in surprise.

"No! Don't stop," Chris rushed to say. "That was good. That was really fucking good."

Alvarez hesitated to go back for another sample. "Tastes nasty."

"Nah." Chris held back a laugh. "It tastes a little funny at first, kinda bitter, right?"

Alvarez nodded.

Chris shrugged. "You get used to it."

"You do this a lot?"

"Hell yeah. I like giving head."

Alvarez seemed unsure if he believed that.

"You stick around me, and you'll see," Chris bragged. "It may not strictly be part of the agreement, but I won't let a guy go away unsatisfied. You stick with me and you'll be getting off on a regular basis."

Alvarez grinned, and from his position between Chris' legs, that was one hell of a turn on. "Full of yourself, aren't you?"

"Hey, it's not bragging if it's the truth. Now get back to work, my cock is drooping from the lack of attention."

Alvarez' grin turned to embarrassment. "I really don't know how to do this shit, man. I never sucked a cock in my life."

"I figured as much." Chris tried to be patient, but he really wanted more than the occasional stimulation his cock was getting now. He was gonna get blue balls at this rate. "Look. Do what you like done to you. I'll let you know if I want you to do something different. It's not that hard. You'll see. The important thing is to keep your teeth covered if they're anywhere near my cock. Other than that, anything goes."

Alvarez had laughed at the teeth comment, but then he stared hard at Chris' cock. Chris hoped he was listening to him, but there was no way of knowing. Finally, Alvarez leaned forward and slid the tip of his tongue around the crown of Chris' cock. Chris took a deep breath, trying to avoid any noise that might distract him.

Alvarez got busy, then, licking circles around his cock, one hand still on the base, holding Chris' cock in place while he licked. He changed up a lot. He used short, little licks at the crown and broad swipes that went from the tip all the way down to his hand and back up again. Then he tried little sideways sweeps that went back and forth from side to side, and heavy, full tongue strokes across the head.

Chris was impressed. He watched Alvarez' face carefully, what he could see of it. His eyes were tightly closed and his forehead creased with a heavy frown, but as he worked it, his frown faded, until Chris got the idea he was getting used to the taste and feel of a cock.

About the time Chris was ready to tell him to start sucking, Alvarez surprised him and took the head in his mouth and sucked lightly on the tip.

"Fuck, yeah."

Chris grabbed the edge of the desk, gripping tightly to keep himself from grabbing Alvarez' head and shoving it down as far as it would go. It was hot as hell, watching Alvarez fumbling to learn how to suck cock. A real turn on. It seemed like Alvarez was encouraged by Chris' appreciative noises, as he started bobbing his head up and down, his cheeks hollowing out as he sucked on Chris' cock.

"Yeah, that's good, Miguel. That's real fucking good." Chris panted, "More. Take in more. That's it. Fuck that's good."

His hips were shifting restlessly, and he could feel his balls beginning to tighten and pull up. He wasn't ready for this to end yet, so he put one hand on Alvarez' head, and pushed him away. Alvarez slowed down, pulling off Chris' cock to speak.


He was panting, too, his lips puffy and swollen. Chris ran his thumb over Alvarez' bottom lip and smiled when his tongue slipped out and licked the tip.

"You're too good at this, already. I don't want to come yet." He grabbed Alvarez' arm and pulled him to his feet. "C'mon over here."

Chris led him down one of the stacks of boxes, stopping about half way down. He pushed Alvarez back against the shelf, and aimed for his lips, wanting to taste himself on Alvarez' tongue, but Alvarez turned his face away at the last second, and Chris sighed. Damn. Too bad. Not everyone liked kissing, and that was cool, but he loved it, and it was a disappointment that Alvarez didn't. He didn't let that stop him.

He started licking his way down Alvarez' throat and Alvarez gasped like he hadn't expected something like that. Chris sucked hard under Alvarez' ear, and he grabbed Chris' face, pulling him off.

"Hey, no marks, man. Torquemada would not be happy if he thought I was fucking around on him."

"Why would he care?" Chris asked, changing his mode of operation and reaching under Alvarez' shirt for his nipples. "It's not like he ever touches you. I've seen you in your pod. He never gets closer than ten feet away from you."

Alvarez liked having his nipples tweaked, if his reaction was anything to go by. He moaned softly, his chest arching out, pushing his nipples further into Chris' hands.

"Oh, you like that, do you?"

Chris pinched a little harder, and Alvarez gasped, "¡Puta madre!"

"Oh, yeah. You like that." Chris smirked as Alvarez' head thumped against the shelf behind him, his eyes rolling up under his eyelids. He'd found a hot spot, and Chris loved that. He prided himself on driving his lovers wild with his skill, and he had a talent for figuring out just what would drive them over the edge. Nobody left Chris Keller's bed unsatisfied. Or his workplace, as the case may be. Hey, he was flexible. Very flexible.

One hand continued to tease Alvarez' nipples, tweaking and backing off, never giving him exactly what he wanted, but giving him enough to make him beg for more. He slid his other hand down between them until he could feel Alvarez' hard cock practically poking through the material of his pants. He rubbed it, massaging it through the fabric, making Alvarez buck his hips up into Chris' hand to get more stimulation, more pressure. He was biting his fat bottom lip, and Chris ached to bite it for him, but since he couldn't, he pulled Alvarez' shirt up and bit his nipple instead.

That set Alvarez off, and he rattled a string of Spanish curses at Chris, who just licked the nipple to soothe it before sucking on it hard enough to make Alvarez shout.

"¡Maldita sea! What are you doing to me, you fucking crazy man?"

He obviously didn't expect an answer, since he had one hand wrapped around the back of Chris' head, as if to make sure he stayed close to Alvarez' extremely sensitive nipples. So Chris didn't bother answering, and worked his way over to the other nipple instead. At the same time, he got Alvarez' pants unzipped and pulled out his hard cock. Chris wanted to see it, but he was too busy nibbling on Alvarez' nipple, but he could feel the wet tip in his palm, and he smoothed it down the length of Alvarez' cock, grabbing it at the base and pulling up, causing Alvarez to shudder.

Chris figured they were both about as ready as they'd get, so he snuck his hand between two boxes and pulled out a well used tube of hand lotion. He got it smeared on his fingers and pushed Alvarez' pants down as he turned him around.

"Hold onto the shelves, Miguel."

Alvarez looked over his shoulder. "What?"

Chris didn't bother answering, figuring he'd sort it out when he felt Chris' fingers up his ass. But Chris didn't get that far. As soon as Chris touched Alvarez' cheeks with his slippery fingers, Alvarez launched himself backwards into Chris, pushing him up against the opposite shelf. Alvarez twisted around, fumbling with his pants, which were falling down around his knees. He advanced on Chris, who was just catching his balance, shocked by the sudden movement.

"What the hell, Alvarez?"

"Stay the fuck away from my ass, you motherfucker."

He poked Chris in the shoulder, looking ridiculous with his pants around his knees and his hard cock waving in the breeze, but the angry glare on his face threatened danger. Chris backed away, up against the shelves, his hands held high.

"Nobody fucks me. Ever." Alvarez was shouting angrily, and Chris slapped a hand over his face.

"Shut the fuck up. You want the hack in here?"

Alvarez backed up, his own hands up, acknowledging his mistake. But there was no mistaking his anger.

Chris was pretty pissed off himself. He advanced on Alvarez, whispering angrily. "What exactly are you planning to pay me with, Alvarez? You said you'd do anything, but you won't fuck. You won't even kiss. What exactly does 'whatever it takes' mean to you?"

He had the good sense to blush, looking down at the floor, embarrassed by his outburst. "I'm sorry. I - I wasn't thinking. I'm..." He swallowed. "I'm new to all this shit, you know? I mean Torquemada, he's just been having other guys take care of me, you know? He's mentioned other shit, but he hasn't pushed it when I told him no. Not yet, anyway. So there's stuff I've never done, and I'm not sure if I can. I mean, can you give me some time on the fucking thing? I need time to work up to that, okay?"

Chris wasn't really happy with that answer, but he understood what Alvarez was trying to work through, so he compromised a little.

"Fucking is not negotiable. Sooner or later, I expect to fuck you. But I can give you a week."

Alvarez agreed surprisingly quickly. "Okay." He still hadn't looked up from the floor. "And the kissing?"

"The kissing thing isn't a deal breaker. Lots of guys don't like to kiss. I can live with that."

Chris hadn't expected that to be as big a deal as Alvarez made it. He let out a big breath and said, "Thanks."

Chris shrugged. "That's cool." He stared at Alvarez for a moment. His cock wasn't hard anymore, but he still looked pretty hot, his lips were still swollen and his shirt was hiked up, showing those washboard abs of his. Chris reached out and ran his fingers through the bushy hair that surrounded Alvarez' cock, and Alvarez looked up at him, surprised.

"You know, Miguel, there are lots of things we can do that don't involve my cock up your ass."

Miguel shook his head. "You just got sex on the brain, man."

Chris laughed at that.

"I mean it," Alvarez insisted as Chris ran his index finger down the length of Alvarez' cock. "You had lotion between the boxes in here. Do you jerk off by yourself, or do you fuck the hacks?"

Chris had Alvarez' cock in his hand by now, and he was getting a reaction, Alvarez was breathing a little faster, and his cock was hardening in Chris' hand.

"Nah, I haven't fucked a hack since Howell left."

"You fucked Howell?" he asked, curiously.

"Yeah, if you got her from behind, she wasn't so bad. She had a decent ass. Tits were kinda small, but hey, can't have everything, right?"

Alvarez leaned closer, and reached out, taking Chris' half hard cock in his hand. He got right down to business, stroking fast and hard, but he kept up their conversation. It felt to Chris like their heads were totally separate from their bodies.

"I think I must be the only man in the prison that she didn't fuck."

Chris leaned closer, so their chests were touching, and he whispered in Alvarez' ear. "She was fucking blind then. She fucked Martinez when she could have had you? Fucking blind." He pulled Alvarez' earlobe into his mouth and sucked on it, and Alvarez shuddered and shifted his head, so Chris had more room to explore. So he did. He ran his tongue behind Alvarez' ear and nibbled on his neck, running his teeth down the length of his jaw.

Chris moved a little closer, and their hands bumped into each other giving Chris an idea. He snagged the lotion again, and pulling back, he poured some into his hand. Alvarez looked down to watch and Chris pulled Alvarez' hand off Chris' cock, smearing the palm with lotion. Then he grabbed both of their cocks in his hand, and started to stroke.

"Oh, Jesus!" Alvarez obviously liked the idea, and Chris dropped the lotion and grabbed Alvarez' nipple, twisting it in time to his strokes.

Alvarez panted, his hips thrusting up into Chris' grip, mumbling in Spanish. Chris liked it when he made Alvarez curse in Spanish. He pushed Alvarez up against the shelves and scrabbled for Alvarez' leg with his free hand.

"Give me your leg."


After a moment or two of confusion, Alvarez lifted his thigh up, and Keller wrapped it around his waist. Alvarez got the idea when the change of position pushed his cock even farther through Chris' hand. He held on tight, wrapping one arm around Chris' shoulder. His other hand slid between their bellies and wrapped around Chris', squeezing them tighter together.

Chris could feel his orgasm slipping up on him, the tension in his body making his legs tremble and his balls draw up. Alvarez was doing the Spanish cursing thing again, and Chris increased the tempo of their combined hands, taking one last twist at Alvarez' nipple.

"¡Dulce Madre de Dios!" Alvarez cried as he came, his come warming Chris' fingers as it spread between their bodies.

Chris' hips jerked as he gasped and panted, almost there, but just not quite. He just needed a little more. Alvarez bent over and sucked fiercely on Chris' neck, right where the neck and shoulder meet. Alvarez held on as Chris spasmed, jerking wildly in Alvarez' grip, coming hard into their joined hands. They leaned against each other, gasping and trembling as they slowly came down from their rush.

When he finally had enough breath, Chris murmured, "Holy fucking hell." Alvarez laughed into his neck. His bruised neck. "Did you mark my neck?"

Alvarez shrugged. "So? You bit my nipple."

Oh, yeah. "I did, didn't I?"

They pulled apart, leaning on the shelves to help hold them up. When Chris got a look at Alvarez, he had to laugh. His shirt was rucked up under his arms, and there was come all over his stomach, and some had dripped down onto the pants that were sagging around his ankles.

Alvarez just pointed to Chris' chest and said, "Laugh away."

"Aw, shit." Chris was a real mess. His shirt was covered with come, and his pants, which were down around his knees, had spatters on them as well. "Fuck." He motioned to the shelf behind Alvarez. "The paper towels are behind you."

Alvarez grabbed them, pulling off enough to clean himself before handing them over to Chris. "You had this all prepared. It's almost like you knew I'd be here."

"I wish." Chris shook his head sadly. "I've been trying to get Hunt to bring in a radio or something, but until he gives in, jerking off has been my one form of entertainment in this fucking place." He pulled up his pants and zipped them, taking off his messy shirt. Thank goodness he had a wifebeater underneath. "Until today. Today was definitely better than jerking off."

"You like all that ... face to face stuff." Alvarez dropped his towels onto the pile on the floor between them, and pulled up his pants.

"Face to face stuff?"

"Yeah, I mean, most guys are okay with a blowjob or a hand job, but you want to be right up in the guy's face and shit. What we did, that was almost like fucking, but with a guy."

"Yeah? So? What's wrong with that?" Chris bundled up all the towels in a couple of clean ones and they walked back to Chris' desk where he threw the towels in the trashcan.

"I'm not a fag. I don't like being that close to guys."

"I'm not a fag, either. I was married four times."

"That's kind of overkill, isn't it? Maybe you're trying to prove something."

"I loved every one of my wives. I'm not a fag." Chris frowned at him. "Look around you, Alvarez. You see any women you can fuck here? You're in a prison surrounded by nothing but men. If you want to fuck, it's going to be men you're fucking. And if you ever want to be touched again, it's going to be a man's hand on you. Might as well get every scrap of touch you can out of someone, 'cause you're never going to get enough of it again."

Alvarez was silent as he thought that through. Finally he nodded. "Okay. I think I've been in here too long, because that made sense."

"You're not going to get any touch out of Torquemada, that's for sure."

Alvarez shook his head. "No, he'll never touch me. You're right. But I'm okay with that. It won't be a problem for much longer anyway, will it?"

Chris looked at him sharply. "It's not going to happen overnight," he warned. "Torquemada is closely watched, and he's got Pancamo on his side, too. It's going to take time to get everything in place."

Alvarez nodded. "I figured as much. It will take as long as it takes. Just knowing that you're working on it will help. I can get through his shit, now that I've talked to you."

Chris shrugged. "Don't let him get you down. He's got his money, and his groupies, but without El Norte and Pancamo, he'd have been a dead faggot a long time ago. You've survived this hell for six and a half long years, Alvarez. You've survived a hell of a lot better than most of the dead lining our path. You'll survive him, too."

Alvarez nodded, but didn't speak. Chris got the idea he was trying hard to not reveal how affected he'd been by what Chris had said. Chris was a little surprised at himself for saying it, but he'd meant it, and that was the weirdest part of all.

Finally, Alvarez took off, the hack looking back into the room suspiciously. Keller waved at him with a big smile. He could afford to be cheerful; he'd had hot as hell sex for the first time since he'd rubbed off all over O'Reily. That had been some damned good frottage. O'Reily liked to kiss, too. That made it even better. He knew O'Reily had said never again, but Chris was a patient man when he needed to be. He could wait. And in the meantime, he had Alvarez.

Chapter Seventeen

"What do you mean you don't have sulfuric acid?" Fiona whispered. She didn't do it very well since Ryan recognized her voice from around the corner and through a mostly closed door. Hey, he worked hard, he deserved a few minutes to himself from time to time. He stepped closer to the door, in case she decided to actually try a real whisper or something. "It's a hospital, isn't it? How can you not have sulfuric acid?"

Someone laughed at her question. He couldn't tell who it was yet. "It's an infirmary. The main purpose of this place is to heal people, not to make them worse. There's no real need for an infirmary to have sulfuric acid on hand. You need a chemical lab or something like that."

Ryan recognized the voice now - it was Chandler, that intern that worked here at Oz twice a week. He might be able to sneak some acid in to Fiona, but it would be tough, and she'd have to wait a couple of days to get it. Ryan didn't like the idea. He knew how Torquemada had landed in prison, and he had no plans for an acid bath, thank you.

"But I have to get it. Torquemada is counting on me!"

"If you don't mind my asking, what do you need it for?"

"I'm not supposed to tell."

"If I know what you're using it for, I might be able to help you come up with an alternative."

"Okay. Torquemada found out that bastard Alvarez cheated on him."

"Cheated on him? I thought you said he never touches anyone? How could someone cheat on him?"

"He wasn't there to watch this time. Alvarez didn't have Alonzo's permission to touch that puto ramera. But he bribed the wrong hack. This one was faithful to Alonzo, and he said Alvarez was all over that prick, cheating on poor Alonzo. It's just not right!"

"What does this have to do with sulfuric acid?"

"You didn't hear what Torquemada is in for? He splashed sulfuric acid all over the face of the last man who betrayed him."

Shit. Ryan wasn't actually in the mood to feel sorry for Alvarez, but Jesus, the man had been through enough. The last thing he needed was a face full of acid.

"Okay, I hate to say this, since I'll probably end up helping to care for the poor bastard after the fact, but you should be able to get drain cleaner with a high sulfuric acid content. It's not going to work as well as the pure thing, but it could do some serious damage if you got the right stuff. I know they have industrial strength drain cleaners, here. I've seen them."

"How much would I need? For two people?"


"T wants me to do the gringo, and he'll get the traitor." Gringo, huh? That was the first hint Ryan had had as to who the guy was.

"I'd think a glass full would do the job - 8 ounces, maybe. If you get it in his eyes, you'll blind him. And he'll be covered with blisters and third degree burns. God, I'm making myself sick just thinking about it."

"Perfect. Thanks so much, sweetie. Here, take this for your time, okay? And I'll be back later if you're in the mood for a treat."

"Yeah, that would be cool. Thanks, Fiona."

Ryan heard Fiona leave, then Chandler spoke again, his voice full of disgust. "Fuck, I can't believe I did that. I'm supposed to be a healer."

Ryan leaned against the door, waiting until he heard Chandler walk away before leaving his hiding spot. Acid, huh? Well, if Torquemada did it in public, that would clear the way for him and Keller for a while. Without Torquemada raising hell, the fags would let the furor over Storm die down. They were pretty much impotent without Torquemada to lead them. It was too bad about Alvarez. He was a decent guy, but he'd be worth the sacrifice to get Torquemada out of their faces for a while.

He went back to his job, bedpans and fetching water and cleaning up puke; what joy.

Close to an hour later, Ryan sauntered back into Em City dropping off Murphy at the gate as he walked by. The hacks were quiet and he'd heard no calls for lockdown, so he supposed either Fiona hadn't gotten the drain cleaner, or the two people necessary for the event weren't in Em City, yet. He wondered who the gringo was who'd done the deed with Alvarez. He spotted Alvarez over by the TVs, but no one was hanging out close by looking particularly guilty, besotted, or overly sexed, so that didn't help any.

Ryan leaned up against the wall right inside the gate, and let his eyes wander the common room. He couldn't see any of Torquemada's entourage, but knowing that they had plans involving drain cleaner and some poor schmuck's face, he wanted to stay alert. If they couldn't get to their primary target, they might easily decide to take out a secondary one, and he had no interest in being anyone's target tonight.

He spotted Keller playing a game of solitaire at a table across the room. He glanced up for a moment, staring at someone over by the TVs, a smug grin on his face. He'd seen that same grin on Keller's face many times before, he realized. Most recently right after Ryan and Keller had gotten all hot and heavy after their first dose of Storm. Keller glanced around the room, spotting Ryan. He slouched in his chair, his legs splayed obscenely wide, one hand dangling between them. He grinned at Ryan, the grin of a guy who'd just gotten laid.

Oh, fuck!

Just then, Keller looked up, his smile changing instantly to a sneer of disgust. Ryan glanced up and saw Torquemada's heavy, three inch, platform heels stepping slowly down the stairs that led to McManus' office, a container of some sort in his hand. Ryan realized time was short. He moved as fast as he could back toward the gate; hopefully he could attract Murphy's attention without drawing too much to himself. If he could stop this without anyone realizing that Ryan was trying to protect Keller, he might be able to save the Storm operation. But the most important thing was to stop Torquemada before Keller got a face full of drain cleaner.

Chapter Eighteen

It felt strange doing his morning rituals without Torquemada's gaze on his body - brushing his teeth, shaving, taking a shower. He had Keller's gaze on him, from two doors down, but that didn't disturb him as much; it didn't make him feel as exposed. But then Keller didn't think he owned Miguel, he was just a horny bastard that liked Miguel well enough to watch his back. Well, maybe it wasn't quite that simple. Maybe Keller had a thing for crazy people? Beecher had been off his rocker most of the time he was in Oz. But Beecher was gone, and now Keller had Miguel to watch.

He wasn't going to fuck with Miguel the way he fucked with Beecher, though. Miguel knew the rules. Don't get emotionally attached, and don't truly trust anyone but yourself. He felt the crawling sensation in the small of his back that meant someone was watching him. He huffed laughter, his head under the spray of the shower as he washed the soap out of his hair. Someone was always watching Miguel. Maybe once he'd understood it. Back before he was scarred inside and out. It always surprised him that people wanted to watch the man who could maim his own face with a scar that would never fade.

Unless they were waiting for the moment he'd break - hoping he'd use that sharp blade on something other than his face. If that was what they were looking for, they better not stand too close. He had a bad habit of using sharp blades on people other than himself, and it wasn't often that they survived the experience. He pulled his head out of the spray, shaking it to get rid of the water and see if he could find who was watching him this time. Keller was on the other side of the glass wall that divided the showers from the common room. He looked first into Miguel's eyes, but then he broke contact, and his hungry eyes traveled up and down Miguel's body, a small smile playing on his lips.

Greedy bastard. Miguel was certain he'd want more soon. That was okay, he didn't mind sex with Keller. What they'd done yesterday had been the most intense and personal sex he'd had with anyone since he'd gotten to Oz. His nipples crinkled at the memory of the way Keller had scraped his blunt teeth across them, and his cock gave a twitch, filling as Keller's eyes focused on it. When he looked back up at Miguel's face, his sexy smirk gave Miguel lots of ideas of how to wipe that smirk right off his face. He'd show Keller a thing or two the next time they got together.

He turned back to the water, picking up his soap and lathering his body. When he glanced in that direction again, Keller was gone. He wasn't sure if he was sorry or not. Some people's eyes didn't feel so awful on his skin.

Before he'd landed in Oz, he'd enjoyed the eyes that searched him out, hungry or jealous, it was all the same to him. He was used to the admiration; it made him feel special. It wasn't the same once he got to Oz. The men still admired him, but he had tried hard to be careful of his reputation. If you were seen as weak, you ended up as property, and he had always refused to have anything to do with that kind of shit.

He'd thought he was better off with his hand. Sex in Oz always carried a price. It was seldom about pleasure; it was about property, and controlling and being controlled. Alvarez didn't have a problem with those kinds of games in bed, but he had been very careful not to allow himself to wonder about sex with a man. Because here in Oz, there was owning and owned, and nothing in between.

He guessed what he was doing with Keller was different, but that was paying a debt. There was no ownership involved. He'd been owned before - Torquemada made it perfectly clear that he owned Miguel, and he wondered how he'd fallen so far from his first angry years in Oz, and his insistence that he'd never give himself to another. But he had. He thought for a long time that he was just waiting to die. That there could be nothing else left for him now. No place left to go but to hell.

Lately, he'd been feeling more like his old self, and found himself chaffing against Torquemada's demands, and his certainty that eventually, Miguel would do exactly as he wished. That hadn't worked out the way T had planned. Now Miguel had a chance to change, to prove to himself that he didn't belong to anyone but himself.

Miguel finished rinsing off and toweled dry, just one man of a dozen in the room. He'd always felt they stuck out when he was with T. Everything T did had to be dramatic, had to make a statement. He didn't like others seeing his body, so he'd surrounded himself with his followers when he showered. It had been a huge production, and it drew more people than it distracted. But that was the way it was with Torquemada. When you made huge gestures, people watched your every move, looking for the next flamboyant thing you would do.

Miguel liked subtlety. He may have once craved people's attention, or at least appreciated it, but now he preferred to slip by in the shadows, and not attract any attention. It was much more likely to keep you alive. Look at the move that had gotten T and Fiona tossed in the Hole.

Torquemada had obviously found out about his fucking around with Keller, probably as soon as it happened. It must have been the new hack. He was Puerto Rican; Miguel could tell from his accent. It never occurred to Miguel that T would own a hack that new, but the hack was probably already his before he even got the job. That had been Miguel's mistake.

T's mistake had been thinking that he handle what he saw as infidelity in his extravagant, over the top style. Drain cleaner? Okay, true, the drain cleaner they used here at Oz was probably pretty damn potent. But he got the closest thing he could to the acid he'd thrown all over that drag queen that had pissed him off - the one that had landed him here in Oz in the first place. He made the same mistakes over again. He had dozens of witnesses, and hadn't even gotten the shit anywhere near Miguel before Murphy had grabbed it right out of his hand.

No one seemed to know why Fiona was lagging behind, and not sticking close to T for backup in case one dose of drain cleaner wasn't enough; but Miguel knew, and so did Keller. Fortunately, Fiona hadn't been close enough for anyone to pinpoint where she was going. He was glad Keller hadn't been hurt by his screw up. He should have known that T would find out, but he'd foolishly ignored the risks, and came close to paying the consequences. He wondered who had tipped off Murphy. He was glad they had or he'd be in the infirmary in agonizing pain right now.

He showed up a few minutes early for the hacks who were taking his shift through the gate. He stood with his back to the wall, staring out at the others who looked at him curiously. They all knew T had tried to disfigure him yesterday, but if any of them knew why, they weren't saying. T and Fiona weren't the only gays missing from Em City this morning. Kiki Fay, Masters and Pinkerton were all gone. According to rumor, they'd been transferred to Unit C. That wouldn't go over well. He could just see that crew dressed in prison grays.

Keller showed up right before the hacks did, walking up to him with a nod. They usually talked before they left for their shifts, so that shouldn't attract any unwanted attention. The last thing they needed was for people to associate Keller with Miguel in any way more than casual acquaintances. They didn't get a chance to say much before the first hack called for the maintenance crew, and half a dozen men shuffled their way over to him. After he'd checked them all off, they headed out the gate to their assignments, and the next hack called for the office workers. When MIneo called for the infirmary crew, Alvarez crossed over to him, but didn't get very far before someone called his name.

He turned back to see Hunt motioning him over. McManus walked up just then, and Alvarez forced down a tendril of worry. Maybe they wanted him to take a day or two off until things settled down. He wouldn't mind that. No bedpans, not puking patients, no usually tough guys whining for their pain meds.

"Alvarez." McManus nodded at him.

"What's up?"

"With the hostilities between you and Torquemada's group yesterday, we decided to reassign you to a more secure duty for a while."

"What?" Miguel protested. "You could always give me a week off, right? I could use some vacation time."

Keller leaned up against the wall, arms crossed, obviously enjoying the show.

McManus shook his head. "Everyone works in Em City, that's the rule. Em City is the most secure unit in Oz, so it's best you stay here with us, but that means you still have to work. So you've been temporarily re-assigned to Old Records."

Alvarez blinked. Keller's sly smile didn't change, it looked like he'd already figured it out. Miguel was too dumbfounded to say a word. Good thing McManus kept talking.

"You and Keller seem to get along, and since his job is the most secure one in the facility, for now you'll be working with him. Keller can show you the ropes. Okay?"

Miguel nodded. "Yeah, alright."

McManus nodded, slapping Miguel on the shoulder. "Good. You'll be safe there, Miguel." He turned to the hack. "Take 'em away, Officer Hunt."

Miguel turned around, surprised to see that everyone else was gone from the gate entrance. It was just them left. The gate opened, and they went through, headed for Old Records. Miguel shook his head, amazed at how fast his luck had changed.

Miguel sent yet another file through the scanner, one piece of paper at a time. He guessed it made sense to get all this shit on computer files that took up a miniscule amount of space compared to this huge warehouse of a room. Not that they really needed this much room. Did they expect a crime wave in the immediate future? They could put most of Em City in this room. Maybe McManus was expanding. The thought of McManus as the leader of a brave new world of Prison Reform made him want to laugh. Reform. Nobody ever reformed in a place like this.

If he'd gotten out in two years, which was what was supposed to happen after he'd cut that guy's face for scratching Miguel's car, his whole life would be different. Well, maybe. His life had been a shambles four years ago, and if he'd kept on the same track, he'd have been back to Oz in no time. Besides, this was where he belonged, just ask his papa and his abuelo. He'd watched his grandfather die here, and sooner or later he'd watch his father die here, too. Then there'd be just him.

When Torquemada stepped into his life with his fuckin' D-tabs, Miguel had been ready for it all to end. It didn't matter what he did, it didn't matter who he did it with, or who he did it for. But the farther down Torquemada pushed him, the angrier he got. He'd dug in his heels and decided that wasn't the way he wanted to go. When Miguel died, he was going out with a bang, not a slow slide down into despair. He'd show Torquemada that he was more than just a body to be used. He was going to show everyone he was someone to respect.

He glanced over at Keller, who was cursing at the computer, like it would respond better if he found just the right place to hit the monitor. Keller wanted his body the same way Torquemada did. Everyone wanted his cock. He should be angry at Keller, too, but he wasn't. At least with Keller it was straight out lust, a chance to get some much needed relief from the tedious monotony of this hell hole, and Miguel understood that. And he liked the way Keller touched him. His idea of sex was much more personal than Torquemada's. Besides, this way Miguel got to decide who touched his body.

He didn't like the thought of giving his ass to anyone, but if he wanted to survive, Miguel was going to have to trust that Keller could take care of Torquemada. That would be worth the sacrifice of his ass, because he couldn't do it himself. He'd killed more men than he could count since he'd been in Oz, but Torquemada was different. Maybe it was the fact that he wouldn't even carry a weapon. The most violent thing he'd ever done was throw acid on someone. True, that was both a disturbing, and extremely effective move, but even at his worst, but even at his worst, T could never kill anyone. Not physically, anyway.

He'd been killing Miguel from the inside out, but still Miguel knew he couldn't be the one to stop him. He'd have to rely on Keller. Keller's demands were reasonable, compared to what Miguel had done for T. He'd done much worse things since he got to Oz than learn how to give a blow job. Besides, Keller's idea of teaching him how included hands-on instructions, and Keller was one hell of a cocksucker. He'd proved that today, when he'd shoved Miguel on the desk and told him to hold on before he sucked Miguel's brains out through his cock.

He liked the way Keller touched him - like he was real, not a possession to be put behind glass and admired. It was just what he needed right now. It would have to end sooner or later, but until it did, he'd enjoy it while he could.

Chapter Nineteen

"You told Alvarez what?"

Chris had known O'Reily wouldn't be happy with this development, but there wasn't much he could do about it. O'Reily was just going to have to deal with it.

Chris shrugged his shoulders. "I didn't have to tell him anything. He figured it out on his own, all right?"

"He met your contact?"

"He's the guy who picks up the pallet every Friday, it's not like he could miss the man. Hunt wanted me to show Alvarez what to do in case I couldn't be there one Friday, so if I'd protested, they'd both have been suspicious."

"Yeah, alright, I see that. But how did he figure out the rest? Why didn't you make sure he wasn't around when you got the drugs out of the pallet?"

"I waited for him to go to the bathroom, but he knew something was going on, so he snuck in and saw the capsules while I was trying to hide them."

"And now he wants in."

"I told him that you were in charge of the day to day stuff. You'd have to decide if he was trustworthy enough to sling for you. He just wants enough to keep him in loose change. He's been used to having all the money he could want, but now that Delarosa is running the D-tabs from Unit B, he's cut off from his source.

"Besides, he can't trust any of those guys - they'd gut him in a second if they thought they could get away with it. They blame this whole disaster with Torquemada on him. The fags are swearing revenge, and this kid Delarosa was working for T outside before he got sent up, so he's not feeling any kind of loyalty to Alvarez."

"But he knows our source now, Keller, that's not good."

"Not necessarily. I can't guarantee that I'll always be available for the trade off. What happens if I'm in the infirmary, or Ad Seg? As soon as your supply ran dry, they'd figure out where the Storm was coming from. This way, you've got a back up. Also, he has an idea for an alternate route, and I figured I'd pass that along, and see what they think on the outside. If they like the idea, we could attempt a few dry runs to see how it works. We don't have an alternate, O'Reily. We could use the backup."

"I'm not happy using an addict. They're unreliable."

"True. But Alvarez is off Destiny now. He's still shaky, but in a few weeks time, I think he'll be back to his old self. You have to admit, he looks better already."

"That's true enough. He's lifting weights again, working out on the heavy bag. I see him. I see you, too. You're spending a lot of time with him. You're not getting in too deep there, are you, Keller?"

"What does that mean?"

"You're still fucking him, aren't you? I can see it in the way you look at him when you think no one else is watching."

Chris frowned. "He's a fuck buddy. Nothing more." He gave O'Reily his best bedroom voice. "If I had someone else to screw around with..."

"Shut up, Keller."

Keller moved up close, and whispered in his ear. "You liked it, you know you did."

O'Reily shuddered, and moved away. "That doesn't mean it's going to happen again."

"Well, then a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Nothing wrong with having a fuck buddy."

Chris stretched out on the floor, just his elbows propping him up. O'Reily's eyes followed the length of his body before coming back to his face. He blushed and looked away when Chris noticed his open gaze. Chris scooted closer to the wall and propped his shoulders up against it, freeing up one hand to massage his cock through his pants. "He's got a natural talent for sucking cock. You should try him out."

O'Reily's blush got heavier, and he stared at Chris' hand for a moment before tearing his eyes away. "Can we change the subject?" he asked, crankily.

"You brought it up." Chris shrugged and sat up. "Look, I think he's worth the chance. No one thinks that Tor-kee is going to forgive and forget. As long as T is loose in Unit C, they'll keep Alvarez in Old Records. When he moves out, we'd still have an alternate pick up in case I'm not around. He's not asking for much, and I think the benefits are worth the risk and the extra overhead."

"I see your point. I'll think it over, okay?"

"That's all I'm asking for," Keller told him.

Chapter Twenty

"I'm not avoiding you," Ryan said, irritated. "Jesus, Alvarez, you sound like my ex."

He didn't like getting cornered in his pod like this. Alvarez had walked in, closed the door behind him and leaned up against it, so if he wanted out, he had to get by Alvarez. Which was not going to be easy with that look on his face.

"Yeah, you are. I get why you're keeping your distance from Keller, but before you started dealing Storm, you and I played chess all the time. I'm thinking that it's going to look odd if you keep walking away from me every time I try to talk to you."

"So this is better?" He pointed at Alvarez and the door. "Trapping me in my own room isn't going to look suspicious?"

"It was the only way to talk to you since you keep running away from me. What the hell else was I supposed to do?"

"What do you need to talk to me about anyway? You talk to Keller. Keller can tell me whatever it is you need to say."

"You see Keller once a week. If you and I talk from time to time, it's not going to look as awkward if I need to pass information from Keller to you."

Ryan scowled. Damn him, that actually made some sense. But he didn't feel comfortable around Alvarez any more, and how was he supposed to explain that? He didn't know himself why he felt the way he did. "Yeah, all right," he gave in grudgingly. "I'll play chess with you once in a while. Is that better?"

"It's because of me and Keller, isn't it?" Ryan looked up at him in surprise, his eyes dropping again when Alvarez looked him in the face. "It is, isn't it?"

"No. Of course not."

"Uh huh. That's why you're staring at the floor right now. Can't even meet my eyes."

He forced his eyes up to Alvarez'. "Okay, so maybe it bothers me some. But it's nothing that's going to get in the way of our arrangement."

"You've showed just today that it could. You see guys fucking all the time, O'Reily. It's a fact of life in prison. You need to get over this problem of yours."

"Yeah? So it's that easy, is it? You just 'get over it.' Is that how it happened with you? Well maybe I don't want to get over it. I don't like it."

Alvarez smirked at him. "That's not what Keller says."

Ryan felt the blood drain out of his face.

"Keller thinks you like it more than you want to admit."

"I'm not a fag."

"No one is saying you are. I'm not either, and neither is Keller. We all love women. But there ain't a lot of women around here, O'Reily. You and Keller had your share of the few women around, and ain't I jealous of that?"

Ryan froze. If Alvarez said one word about Gloria, he was going to fucking kill him, no matter what it took.

"But now that Howell quit Oz, the rest of us are out of luck."

Ryan breathed out heavily. No one had the right to mention Gloria's name. It was pretty much all he had left of her these days.

"Yeah, well, consider yourself lucky," Ryan said reluctantly. "Howell's tits were the size of grapes, and she was a ball buster. She kept ordering me around, putting me down while I was trying to fuck her. She was no prize."

"Still, she had a hot, wet pussy, right?" Alvarez said jealously. "I could always put a sack over her head."

Ryan laughed. He found himself wondering exactly what he was upset over. He'd liked Alvarez from the beginning. It was just his sex partners that disgusted Ryan, not so much the gay thing. He made a big deal of that, but that wasn't the real problem. When Alvarez had been with Torquemada, Ryan was repulsed by the whole twisted thing, the voyeurism, and the way Alvarez followed T's demands, like he was some sort of slave or something.

Now that it was Alvarez and Keller, he wondered if part of it was 'cause he was jealous of the fact that Alvarez and Keller were getting some. Ryan knew Keller would get down on his knees and suck Ryan's cock at the drop of a hat, but it just didn't seem right. It felt like he would be cheating on Gloria, and he just wouldn't do that. He'd be faithful to Gloria. After everything Ryan had put her though, she deserved it.

"Look. Maybe the three of us should meet next Saturday, and talk it through. You okay with that?"

Ryan shrugged hesitantly. "Yeah, okay. We can do that. If you're going to be working with us, we have things to sort out, I guess."

"Good." Alvarez smiled, obviously relieved that they'd reached at least a tentative agreement. "I'll talk to you later, then."

"Yeah, that's cool, Alvarez."

Alvarez walked out, and Ryan looked out the glass, glancing around the common room, wondering if anyone had paid any attention to their talk. It didn't look like it. He still didn't like Alvarez knowing so much about their business, but it was true that he could come in handy in the event that Keller was unavailable to meet with the supplier. He thought that maybe his problem with Keller and Alvarez had as much to do with Keller as it did Alvarez. How many times had Keller and Beecher been up and down? After seeing their relationship from the beginning, he tended to worry when Keller's emotions got involved.

Keller swore up and down that there were no emotions involved this time. Ryan wasn't sure he believed him. And if their relationship blew up as spectacularly as it had more than once with Beecher, he didn't like the way that increased the chances of their arrangement getting blown sky high with it. Ryan would have to keep his eye on the two, and make sure he, and the Storm, were both well out of range if they started to blow.

Chapter Twenty- One

Meg's eyes sparkled as she spoke of Walker, her obvious case of hero worship making Chris feel old and jaded. Jealous, too. He couldn't deny that, as much as he'd like to. Meg had followed Chris around like a puppy when he and Kitty had been married. Her school girl crush had embarrassed him at the time, but he'd gotten used to it. He'd been the only male in the family after Kitty's dad had died of a heart attack when Meg was only twelve and she'd clung to him like a limpet, even after Chris and Kitty had divorced.

Chris had treated her like the little sister he'd never had. He'd bandaged her sore knees and kissed them better, teased her about her teenybop music and talked to her about boys. He'd held her as she'd sobbed over the death of her father. He'd threatened her first date so severely that the boy had never asked her out again, and he'd never figured out why she had a different color hair every time he saw her. Their family had moved around so much when she was a kid, it was a wonder she could even graduate high school, let alone with honors. He'd hated that he'd been stuck in Oz and unable to attend the ceremony. He'd been so proud of her when she'd started college.

It wasn't like Chris could be considered a role model for Meg. Grudgingly, he had to admit that Walker was better for her than some asshole sitting in a prison visiting room. No, Walker was an excellent role model. He'd never been arrested, not once in his whole life, and he was in his sixties now. He'd been scamming money out of people for fifty years, and had built himself a nice nest egg. He'd been thinking about retiring soon, but he'd agreed to work with Meg after she graduated college in two years, mentoring her in the fine art of the ponzi. He was the kind of person Meg needed for a teacher. Chris should be proud that Walker had found Meg worthy enough of his time.

What really pissed Chris off was that it had been his idea. He'd worried about Meg being out on her own. Kitty couldn't really keep an eye on her, her husband hated it when Kitty even mentioned her family - none of them were good enough for his wife. So she kept her contact with Meg minimal. Kitty's husband was right about the rest of that bunch, they couldn't be trusted to watch out for Meg. Walker's showing up like this was actually a godsend.

That didn't stop Chris' annoyance, though, as Meg's bright eyes practically glowed with admiration for the man, although that might have more to do with Meg's bright, neon green hair than with anything else. He tugged on a lock of her hair, and she stopped her monologue on the wonders of Lewis Walker, God of the Ponzi and looked at Chris curiously.

"What's wrong, Chris?"

"I've always wanted to ask: has your hair ever fallen out after one of these radioactive dye jobs?"

She grinned at him; her deep dimples making her look like she was twelve again. He smiled back at her, unable to stay grumpy when Meg was rolling her eyes at him in that 'what the hell did I ever do to deserve this idiot?' look that she reserved just for Chris.

"You haven't heard a single thing I've said, have you?" she asked sternly, hands on her hips.

Chris thought for a second. "Ummm...Your new best friend Lewis promised to help you braid your hair for the prom," he said in a high girlish voice, tilting his head one direction and then the other as he chirped at her merrily. "Then you're going to have a sleepover and write in your diaries and paint each other's toenails and..."

"Stop! Stop!" She slapped his arm as she giggled. "Okay, I get the point. I should talk about something else for a while. Sorry to bore you with my enthusiasm."

"No, really, it's okay." He grabbed her hand, squeezing it. "I'm just feeling kind of old and grouchy today. I'm glad you and Walker are hitting it off. I wish I'd been lucky enough to have someone like him around at your age." Chris shrugged. "I did all right on my own, but I could have gone places with someone like him backing me. And you've got the smarts, you're gonna make something of yourself, and I'm gonna get to say I knew you when."

"Oh, Chris."

Her impulsive hug left him feeling shocked and a little raw. He hated when his emotions snuck up on him like this. But he hugged her back, squeezing her tight.

"I'm so lucky to have had you around. You taught me to believe in myself. I'd never have gotten as far as I have without you."

She spoke the words softly, the warm air tickling his ear, but he felt his chest expand with pride. He'd done his part in molding this girl, making her what she was today.

"Thanks, kid," he whispered back. "You make me proud."

Chapter Twenty-Two

Ryan adjusted his balance slightly, shifting on his knees. He'd finally caught a clue and brought a pillow from the infirmary with him for the weekly Catholic Coffee Klatsch. His knees felt much better. He still wasn't sure why it had taken him so long to figure that one out. He'd have to find another place to keep it between Fridays, the last thing he wanted was for some worker to find it during a routine maintenance of the ducts. Now if he could only figure out how to hang the stethoscope at the right angle so he didn't have to hold it to the wall of the side duct the whole time. Still, it was a definite improvement.

"I think Ryan's coming around, Ray. I really do. I know he was forced into meeting with me; he told me Suzanne practically insisted on it, but I've been around him a lot through the years, and I'm pretty sure he wasn't lying to me. He said he felt guilty when he looked at women on the TV or in magazines..."


"He didn't like the idea of thinking of anyone but Gloria, sexually. It made him feel guilty. She deserved his loyalty, he said."

"That's very sweet, but it's not very healthy, considering he's never going to see her again."

"Yeah. I almost felt guilty not telling him that Gloria has moved on."


"There's no way I'd reveal any information about Gloria to Ryan. I think he's doing better - so much better. But as obsessed as he was over her, knowing that she's dating another man could ruin all the recovery he's managed so far. I wouldn't dream of doing that to him."

"Let alone risk his finding out where she lives."

"As if I knew! I'm glad she had a relative contact me by phone. It was definitely the best thing to do."

"True. It's good to hear she's finding herself again. I pray for her every night."

"Me too."

Ryan slowly collapsed back onto his ass. Jesus. Gloria. His mind whirled, spinning off in a dozen different directions. He might be able to find out where she was now that Sister Pete had made contact with her. It wouldn't be easy. He'd played with the idea of having someone get into a family member's home, but the problems were still the same. Who could he trust with the job? He knew a dozen guys who would do it, but there was no way he could trust them with it. This would take a gentle touch. He didn't want to hurt anyone - Gloria would never forgive that. So he was stuck with finding someone who could handle the job discretely, and hopefully without ever revealing that he'd been inside their home.

That's where he'd always been stumped in the past, and it was still a problem now. There was an even bigger problem, though. He meant what he'd said to the sister. He wanted Gloria to be happy, and that meant he had to give up his wild fantasies of her coming back to Oz, and living a hidden life with him. He couldn't ask her to live her life struggling just to find a way to do more than touch fingertips with him or stare longingly at him from a distance. It might make a good romance novel, but Gloria deserved more. Ryan had destroyed so much of her life already; he had no right to interfere with it now.

Hearing that she was seeing someone hurt like hell. It had only been six months, and she was already moving on, leaving him behind like bad rubbish. He couldn't believe that of her. He wanted to believe that she was struggling the way he was - aching every time she thought of him. Maybe this was what she had to do to get past him; find someone who could hold her and touch her and make her his. He hated the thought of anyone making love to Gloria, but it wasn't his choice, was it? All he could do was hope that she found someone who loved her half as much as Ryan did. He always would love her. He'd told the sister that. But she wasn't his anymore. He had to remember that, and hope for the best for her.

He sat there for some time, hearing the low murmurs of Pete and the padre's voices in the back of his head. He was letting her go now, and he felt a deep sorrow at the thought, but at the same time, he felt his chest lighten, like a weight he'd carried for years had dropped away. He asked God to watch over her. He hadn't asked God for anything since Cyril died. Maybe this time He'd listen.

Sister Pete's voice broke through his thoughts and Ryan blinked. He had no idea how long he'd sat there, but he had the feeling it had been a while. Pete was still in Mukada's office, though, so it wasn't too late. He knelt up carefully, putting the stethoscope up to the proper vent, so he could hear them clearly.

"...over Torquemada?"

"Yes, he's doing much better now. He hinted that he's fallen into a new relationship, which worries me, he needs to focus on himself, not get twisted up in another man."

Ryan ground his teeth to stop himself from growling. It's not a relationship, dammit. He found himself parroting Keller. They're just fuck buddies! But his words rang hollow, even in his own mind.

"But he's not getting back into the Destiny again, that's a good sign. Maybe this new guy doesn't approve of drugs."

"He said as much. That's how he brought it up. He's got a friend who's helping him stay away from Destiny."

"A friend?"

"Well, you know how it is. There's only so much he's ever willing to say. Especially under the auspices of confession. I may be misreading what he's saying, but I'm pretty sure I'm right. I told him a friend was good, but that he needed to believe in himself, and trust in God to keep him clean, because friends couldn't always be there. And sometimes they weren't as loyal as you might think. Hopefully, he'll keep that in mind."


Fucking Alvarez. Why did it always come back to him? He knew his disgruntled mood was probably not Alvarez-inspired, but it seemed like Ryan could never get away from that man.

Chapter Twenty-Three

"I can't find Angelique anywhere, and there are these Japanese tourists asking to have their picture taken with me, 'cause they think I'm some TV cop celebrity or something, and I can't get them to leave me alone. I slipped into a bathroom, thinking they'd get tired and go away, but I come back out five minutes later, and they're still there, snapping their cameras at me and I have no clue where to even start looking for Angelique..."

Miguel let Keller's story about one of his wives - the blonde, he thought - slide away from him like oil over water. He heard the words, but they didn't really matter. He was too busy enjoying the moment. He was pleasantly buzzed, but that was cool, because he wasn't doing D. Storm didn't have the same effect on him, and he only used it once a week or so, when he was feeling stressed out. Not today, though. Today, he and Keller had plans. He needed to keep that in mind, and not let himself get too high. They had a goal.

They were already half way there. O'Reily was acting better, and had agreed with them on their concerns. He'd come to their meeting much more relaxed than Miguel'd seen him in a while. He was kind of quiet, but seemed okay. And he hadn't apologized for acting like an ass or anything, but he'd eased up on them both, and had even agreed to get high with them. He was acting a little nervous, but Alvarez got the idea he was putting some effort into not rocking the boat or anything. He hoped that didn't change, 'cause Keller was planning on rocking that boat like crazy, and he didn't need any help with that.

Miguel stretched, reaching his arms above his head to crack his back. His shirt rode up, and he scratched his stomach, rubbing his hand across his abs in a move that was comfortable and familiar. He realized that Keller wasn't talking anymore, and opened his eyes. He hadn't even noticed they'd been shut. Both Keller and O'Reily were staring at him.


Keller got on his knees and crawled over to him like a panther or something, sleek and powerful, muscles stretching under smooth skin. When had he taken off his shirt?

"You look so hot when you do that," Keller murmured, and Miguel could practically hear the panther in his sexy voice. He was getting hard just thinking about those muscles rubbing up against him.

"Do what?"

Keller knelt next to him, and ran his hand across Miguel's abs. "This."

"Yeah? You like that?"

"Oh, hell yeah."

It looked like Keller was going to kiss him, so he tilted his head, exposing his neck. Keller didn't stop; he went right for Miguel's neck, like he'd been planning it all along. Smooth guy. Keller started doing a number on his neck, and Miguel was about to close his eyes again when he realized that he had totally forgotten about the plan. It looked like it was going all right, because O'Reily was watching them intently, but he wasn't frowning or upset. He was looking like he wanted to join in, and that fit right in with Keller's plan, so Miguel crooked his finger at him and said, "C'mon over here, man."

O'Reily blinked at him, like he'd just realized where he was. He hesitated, licking his lips nervously. That was when Keller bit the sensitive skin behind Miguel's ear, and his head fell back against the concrete blocks, his eyes closing. "Shit, Keller. I love that. ¡Tan bueno!"

Keller pulled away from him, and Miguel wanted to object, but he could hear Keller talking to O'Reily, and Keller had a plan. He opened his eyes, and Keller was kissing O'Reily, right in front of him, right over Miguel's lap. It looked hot when they did it. Not like it looked when Torquemada tried to get Miguel to kiss one of the guys he fucked around with. It was like they were so into it, like it meant something important. That was why he didn't kiss guys, 'cause it didn't mean anything, and a kiss was too intimate to Miguel to waste it on someone who didn't give a fuck. Keller and O'Reily - they gave a fuck.

He chuckled. If they were lucky, they were all going to get fucked today. His asshole clenched tight at that thought. He was still hesitant about getting fucked up the ass, despite the fact that Keller's introduction to finger fucking had opened his eyes to why so many gays liked it. The prostate was an amazing thing.

Keller put his hand on Miguel's cock, tracing the length of it through the cloth and kneading it rhythmically. He didn't even stop kissing, but it felt good, so Miguel spread his legs to give Keller more room to work. Watching them kiss reminded Miguel that this was supposed to be a seduction. So Miguel trailed his hand up O'Reily's arm and followed his shoulder around to his side, smoothing his way over the wiry muscles that trembled under his touch. He leaned forward enough to get his hand under O'Reily's body and reached for his belt.

As Miguel struggled with the awkward angle, he found himself breathing right into O'Reily's ear, so he stuck out his tongue and traced the edge with the tip. O'Reily shuddered, so Miguel did it again. Keller and O'Reily broke apart, and O'Reily knelt up, looking down at Miguel, who took advantage of the change in angle to bring both hands into play, finally getting O'Reily's pants undone and pulled down around his knees. He was only half hard, which Miguel considered an insult to their seduction skills, so he took O'Reily's cock in his hand and used it like a leash to pull O'Reily closer to him.

"Hey, watch it. That thing is attached, you know," O'Reily complained.

"Then move your ass closer, O'Reily, I want to taste it."

"Why didn't you say so?" O'Reily straddled Miguel's legs, getting close enough so that Miguel could finally suck his cock into his mouth.

"Oh, fuck yeah."

That was better. The angle was perfect, so he got down to business. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, Miguel and Keller had found that if they took a hit of Storm before they fucked, that they could get lost in simply giving head. The simple, repetitive motions were addictive, and every time you broke them up to try something different, it was like discovering sex all over again: eager and excited and determined to do everything all at once. So Miguel just fell into it, moaning around his mouthful.

Keller kneaded his own cock though the cloth of his pants and murmured sexy things in O'Reily's ear, and O'Reily turned his head and captured Keller's mouth again. Miguel wished that he could watch, 'cause he'd liked it when they kissed, but he liked giving head, too, so he figured it was a fair trade. Maybe he could watch them kiss later.

He let O'Reily's cock slip out of his mouth, and admired how hard it had become. Miguel felt a burst of pride in his cock sucking ability and started licking it all around the head, enjoying the way the smooth skin slid across his lips and his tongue as he lapped at it like a cat. Out of the corner of his eyes, he watched Keller unzip his pants and push them down around his knees, and he reached out with the hand that wasn't holding onto O'Reily's cock and grabbed Keller's. He used it to pull Keller closer, and then he had two hard cocks in front of his face, so he started trading licks, first one, then the other.

Keller pressed himself up against O'Reily and their cocks were suddenly close enough that Miguel could lick them both at once. That was kind of cool, so he tried to get them both in his mouth at once, and that was more difficult to do, 'cause their bodies were in the way of each other. It helped when they wrapped their arms around each other and held on, and for a while he just opened his mouth and let them both thrust into him while he fondled their balls and asses.

Then he realized what he was doing, and his eyes popped open in shock as adrenaline flooded his body. He pulled back from them both, panting heavily, his head hitting the wall behind him solidly as reality slapped him in the face. Oh, fuck! It hadn't been that long ago that he'd been angered by Torquemada's forcing him to give another man a hand job, and he here was sucking on two cocks at once. Keller and O'Reily hardly noticed he'd stopped. They were so wrapped up in each other that it made Miguel hurt a little inside, wishing someone was that much into him.

That was what made the difference between what he was doing here, and what he'd done for T. He liked the men he was fucking around with here. Keller and O'Reily both liked him, and wanted him around, and he'd made the decision to fuck Keller and the decision to fuck O'Reily, too. He wanted this, and not just because he was high. He wanted this, and he wanted them, and this was his decision.

Keller's cock was right there in front of his face, rubbing against O'Reily's and smearing precome on it. Fuck it. His choice. His decision. He stuck out his tongue and licked away the precome, marveling at how quickly he'd gotten used to the taste. He sucked the heads of both cocks back into his mouth, slicking them with his tongue. He'd had more sex since he threw in with Keller than he'd had the entire six months he'd spent with Torquemada - if you didn't count jerking off. And Miguel didn't. This was so much better, because it felt real. It made Miguel feel alive and that was definitely a good thing.

When both cocks were pulled away from him at once, Miguel protested. "Hey!"

They both climbed to their feet and stood over Miguel. "What's the matter, Alvarez?" O'Reily asked, breathlessly. "Lose your binky?"

Miguel shrugged, eying O'Reily's hard on. "Got you breathing hard. Must have been doing something right."

"Yeah. You were doing just fine," Keller admitted. "But I'm not ready for this to be over yet." He reached down a hand, and Miguel grabbed it, letting Keller pull him to his feet.

Keller grabbed the waistband of Miguel's pants, pulling him close enough to get his pants open. He pushed them down and Miguel toed off his Chucks, kicking his pants and underwear over to join them in a pile. Keller pulled his t-shirt off over his head and O'Reily laughed.

"You're not shy, are you, Alvarez?"

Miguel stepped up to him and reached down, grabbing O'Reily's cock which stuck out of his pants obscenely. "I don't know about you, O'Reily, but when I have sex with my clothes on I end up with all kinds of crap on them that's hard to explain to hacks and shit. You take everything off before you start, and you got clean clothes to wear when you walk out of the room."

O'Reily put his hand on Miguel's chest, running the palm over his nipple and down his abs, stopping just shy of the hair surrounding Miguel's cock. He leaned close, his eyes on Miguel's lips, and Miguel tilted his head to the side to avoid being kissed.

"Besides, when you got a body like mine, everyone wants to touch it." Miguel grabbed O'Reily's hand, pushing it down over his pubic hair to the base of his cock. "Touch my cock, O'Reily. Go on."

O'Reily wrapped his hand around Miguel's cock and squeezed, making Miguel moan as he thrust into O'Reily's fist.

"That's right. Dámelo. That's it."

Keller came up on Miguel's other side and poured some lube on his cock, making O'Reily's fingers slide coolly across his heated skin. Then Keller latched onto Miguel's nipple, sucking and nibbling on it as he pinched the other one, rolling it in his fingers. Miguel arched his back, pushing his chest out, panting heavily. Between the stimulation on his nipples and his cock he wasn't going to last very long. He wondered about their plan, but Keller seemed to have everything under control, and O'Reily was jerking Miguel's cock hard and fast, his own cock smearing precome over Miguel's hip as O'Reily pressed up tight against his side.

Keller trailed one hand down Miguel's shoulder, ending up on his ass. His finger played up and down the crack until Miguel couldn't take it anymore. He grabbed Keller's head and pulled him away from his tender nipples.

"Use your fingers, Keller. Do it."

Keller smiled that sly smile of his and pulled the lube out of his pocket. He repositioned Miguel so that he was facing the wall he'd been leaning up against earlier, his arms folded up on it, it so he'd have something to rest his head against. He pulled Miguel's hips back so his stuck out, and he eagerly spread his legs. O'Reily's leaned up against his side, his hand slowly pumping Miguel's cock, and Miguel hummed his approval of that.

O'Reily watched curiously as Keller knelt behind Miguel, and slid a slick finger into his ass. Miguel arched his back, tilting his hips out slightly, giving Keller better access. The finger moved slowly - in and out and Miguel moaned. They'd done this twice before. Keller's finger always felt strange and a little disturbing at first, but Miguel knew that he would get used to it, and when Keller finally touched his sweet spot he'd forget all about it.

O'Reily's hand was still wrapped around Miguel's cock, but he'd totally forgotten about it as he watched Keller slide in a second finger. Miguel took one arm off the wall to wrap his fingers around O'Reily's and get some action going on his cock again before Keller got to the good part. O'Reily took his eyes off Keller long enough to give him a sheepish look in apology for forgetting him, so Miguel let him take over jerking his cock off and he leaned against the wall just appreciating the dual sensations.

"Watch this," Keller murmured softly, right before he crooked his fingers.

Behind Miguel's eyelids bright lights sparked and his body convulsed in pleasure, drawing a long, breathy moan from deep inside him.

"¡Puta madre!"

Miguel forced himself to quiet his voice, but he couldn't stop the string of curses that came out of his mouth. They needed to be careful. They had a stopper under the door, but that wouldn't matter if they let the hacks know they were in here. Keeping his curses low was the best he could do under the circumstances.

When T had the fags rim him, Miguel had always refused to let them play with his prostate, insisting that their tongues be the only thing that ever went up his ass. He realized now that had been a mistake, despite the mixed signals it would have sent them. Keller played him like a violin. Miguel writhed and panted and he knew he looked like a fool, but that bastardo knew what he was doing. Miguel rolled his hips, thrusting into O'Reily's hand with the rhythm of Keller's fingers in his ass.

Miguel hissed as he felt Keller insert another finger, stretching him wider. It burned, but it didn't hurt, and he felt full and hungry at the same time.

"Jesus, Keller!" O'Reily's incredulous voice made Miguel shake his head. O'Reily had better get used to Keller rearranging his brain every time they fucked, because Miguel could tell him it was gonna happen on a regular basis. Keller had three fingers in his ass and Miguel was beginning to wonder how it would feel to have a cock there. In the whole time he'd been with T, he never gave that cabrón half as much as he'd given Keller in less than two weeks.

Keller crooked his fingers again, and Miguel stopped thinking. It was easier that way. With Keller it was impossible to think. Miguel existed for the pleasure, twisting and rolling into the sensations, a feeling like the top of his head was coming off, and an aching need for more. O'Reily's hand was moving faster, and Keller stroked his fingers heavily over Miguel's sweet spot until he was panting harshly, gasping for air as the pressure grew tighter between his ass and his cock.

When he came, that unbearable tension burst wide open and his body jerked and thrashed as O'Reily hung on for the ride, holding onto his cock through the whole thing, cheering Miguel on.

"Fuck yeah. Jesus Christ, look at him go!"

His vision whited out for a moment, and his knees gave out from under him.


Miguel vaguely noted Keller's fingers leaving him, but his body was on overload, and he was grateful for the hands that helped him slide to the floor, propped up against the cool wall. It felt good against his overheated skin. He closed his eyes to better appreciate the feeling as he slowly reconnected with his body.

When he opened his eyes again, Keller was on his knees in front of O'Reily, sucking his cock, his own hard cock poking out of the front of his pants. He had his hands wrapped around O'Reily's thighs, his head bobbing over O'Reily's cock. Miguel thought he ought to get up and help Keller, 'cause they had a plan, so he struggled to his feet. He stepped up behind O'Reily, since he was swaying slightly back and forth, which was understandable. Keller had some damn serious skills when it came to cock sucking. Miguel pressed up against O'Reily's back and O'Reily leaned against him as Miguel ran his hands around to play with O'Reily's nipples.

He had his shirt on, which was annoying; it was hard to feel anything through the cloth. So Miguel pulled his shirt up until he could get underneath, and ran his hands across O'Reily's stomach. He scratched his nails lightly across O'Reily's abs, then he reached up and tweaked both of O'Reily's nipples at the same time.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph!"

Keller did something that caused him to shudder, his head falling back as he moaned. Miguel scrapped his teeth along O'Reily's neck, then bit lightly at the juncture of his neck and shoulder. He kept working O'Reily's nipples, pulling them and rolling them, and O'Reily bucked his hips when he pinched them tightly, making Keller pull back before he choked.

"Hey! Watch it!"

"Sorry, man. Sorry."

O'Reily patted Keller's hair clumsily, smoothing it down as he apologized, and Keller shook his head and went back to his task. Miguel pulled down the collar of O'Reily's t-shirt and bit his shoulder, just below the neckline, sucking on the spot until it was red. It looked good there, against his white skin.

O'Reily was breathing heavily, and Miguel thought he'd blow soon, so he reached down, squeezing his ass cheeks before slipping one hand between his legs. He concentrated on that smooth strip of skin between O'Reily's balls and his asshole, rubbing it and pressing up against it. He'd learned about that the first time Fiona had sucked his cock, so he knew it felt damn good. O'Reily's mouth obviously got worse the closer he got to orgasm, 'cause he started cursing like a sailor.

"Motherfucker. Yeah, that's right. Goddamn. Shit, shit, shit!"

Miguel pressed hard on that strip with his fingers, while his thumb slid between the cheeks of O'Reily's ass and brushed up against his hole. O'Reily's whole body jerked as he came, his muscles trembling as they clenched tight.

"Holy mother of God!"

Miguel leaned up against O'Reily's back, taking much of his weight when his knees buckled. He went back to that spot on O'Reily's shoulder as he held onto his hips, trying to keep him standing. Then Keller stood up and kissed O'Reily, his hips bucking as he rubbed off against O'Reily's stomach. When they broke apart, O'Reily shook his head, shoving Keller back a step.

"Fuck. You taste like come, Keller."

Keller got up in his face, grabbing his hand to place it on his still hard cock.

"Yeah? And who the hell's fault is that?" he growled.

Together, they jerked Keller off, and he came fast and hard, all over O'Reily's bare belly. With Keller leaning on O'Reily, who was leaning on Miguel, he knew it wouldn't be long before they all collapsed into a big pile. Miguel pushed O'Reily up enough to use his own two feet and left the two there while he rummaged through the cases of cleaning supplies until he found one full of paper towels. He cleaned himself up, then returned to the other two, who had finally decided to try standing on their own. He handed Keller a roll of paper towels before grabbing his clothes and starting to dress.

"Christ on a fucking crutch!"

Miguel looked up to find O'Reily trying to wipe come off his t-shirt. "Keller, you are so fucking dead."

"Hey!" Keller protested. "How do you know it was me? There are three of us in the room, and we all three came in the last fifteen minutes."

"Alvarez came all over the fucking wall, and I came down your throat. That leaves you, asshole."

"Fuck." Keller was looking at his pants, which had stains as well.

Miguel smirked at them both. "I told you not to keep your clothes on, didn't I? See? I've got clean clothes, and you don't."

"Yeah, yeah. You're a fucking genius." O'Reily grouched.

"What the fuck is this?" Keller's voice was full of anger as he examined the suck mark on O'Reily's shoulder.

"Alvarez, you marked me? What the hell were you thinking?"

Miguel shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I was thinking it just felt right, you know?"

Keller scowled at him, but O'Reily spoke first. "That's why you two should leave the thinking to me."

"Hey!" Keller protested. "I can make a plan."

O'Reily stared at him for a moment, then nodded. "Sometimes your plans work, but sometimes they don't."

Keller crossed to him, with what Miguel had to call a shit eating grin on his face. "This one worked, now didn't it?"

"Yeah, alright. I guess this one did." He turned to Miguel. "But if I get marked again, it'll be the last time you touch me."

Miguel exchanged a look with Keller. Was he going to join them again?

"That mean you're willing for another go around?" Keller asked casually. Miguel got the idea he was trying pretty hard to hide the eagerness in his voice.

O'Reily shrugged. "It wasn't so bad. I guess I could do it again." He pointed a stern finger at Keller. "But no more ambushes. I don't like it when you sneak up on me."

Keller shrugged. "As long as you don't go getting another stick up your ass, there'll be no need, now will there?"

O'Reily rolled his eyes. "Shuddup, Keller."

Chapter Twenty-Four

"Well what is it, then? Something's different," Suzanne pushed for an answer.

"Nothing's going on, Ma. I'm just in a good mood, is all. Can't I be in a good mood without you thinking something is going on?" Ryan shrugged. "I can't help it if I'm not all grouchy and shit."

"It's the first time I've seen you like this in months, Ryan. You can't blame me for being curious." She patted his hand. "Don't worry. I won't push. You'll tell me when you're ready."

"So what are you up to? Are the kids at the Community Center giving you any grief? 'Cause if they do, you need to let me know. I got plenty of connections; you know they'll behave after my boys give them a talking to."

Suzanne laughed, and Ryan's gut unwound, the way it always did when she came to visit. Hearing her laugh was the best thing he still had going for him.

"Ryan! You are not sending hoods over to intimidate ten year old children!" She slapped his arm playfully. "They're really wonderful kids, Ryan. I wish you could meet them. I talk about you all the time."

"Ma, they're growing up on 112th Street, they're traumatized enough already. They don't need to hear about any more bad influences."

"I can't help but talk about you, Ryan. I love you so much."

"Yeah?" Ryan couldn't help it; he loved to hear her say it. He'd never heard it from Tessie, although he'd never understood why until Suzanne had first shown up to talk to him. But now he knew his mother loved him.

"Yeah. I do."

He believed her. That was the thing that amazed him. She did love him, and he didn't think there was anything that he could do that would ever change her mind. She might not love the things he did; he knew she didn't approve of the way he'd fucked with Cyril way back when, but she loved him, despite the very worst things he'd ever done. She'd always love him. She'd told him so, far too many times for him to ever forget.

He guessed he must have spaced out a bit, 'cause she was talking about her boss again, and he hadn't heard her change the subject.

"This is the faggot, right?" She talked about her boss all the time, and Ryan had mentioned that maybe she should hook up with him, until she said he was gay.

She sighed. "Ryan..."

"Sorry, sorry. I know that's not the right word. I'm not trying to be ugly, or anything. Honest."

"Is this about me finding someone again? Because you know I'm not interested in that." He knew she came to see Neema every week, and he didn't like it, but not because of who he was. He just didn't like the thought of her loving someone she'd never get to touch the way she should be able to touch the one she loved. She was so expressive, and so alive. She needed someone who could share the world with her the way she deserved.

"No. Actually, it's not." He stopped talking, shocked at what he was thinking of doing. But he reminded himself that there was nothing he could do that would stop her from loving him, and took her hand, pulling her close, so no one else could hear.

"What is it, Ryan?"

"I'm just wondering what you think... I mean, what do you think about - about gays?" He couldn't meet her eyes, but he needed to get through this, so he took a deep breath and kept talking. "Does it bother you? Queers, I mean? What they do together?"

Suzanne's hand caressed his cheek before putting her finger under his chin, and tilting his face up so that he had to meet her eyes. He didn't want to look at her, but he refused to hide from her. Her eyes were wide, but she didn't look upset, and she smiled at him, pulling him even closer to her, so she could kiss his cheek before she whispered in his ear.

"I think that whatever two people do together in love is wonderful. It doesn't matter who they are, what they look like, or what their sexuality is. All that matters is that they care for each other."

Ryan snickered into her hair. He wanted to ask her, "Only two?" but he didn't have the guts for that. She pulled back, and he composed his face so he was looking at her soberly by the time she looked into his eyes.

"Why do you ask, Ryan? Do you have someone you care about?"

"Who me?" He shook his head. "Nah, not me. I'm just curious, is all."


"Yeah, well. Sometimes you get lonely. And I've wondered." He shrugged. "I'm no fag, don't get me wrong. But sometimes... You have to think, right? I mean, I'm going to be in here the rest of my life. And it's not like I'm gonna fall in love with one of these assholes, but maybe someday, I might meet someone I could trust enough to...you know..."

She shook her head, raising her hand to stop him. "That's okay. I don't need any details."


"Just know this, Ryan. You're a special man, and you're worthy of the very best. Here in Oz, that might be hard to find, but if you ever find anyone who makes you happy, you'd better take the chance. Because if I find out you were too afraid to reach out to him, I'm going to be very pissed off." She poked him in the shoulder with her finger. "Is that clear?"

He pulled her into a hug. "Thanks, Ma. I'm glad you care enough to threaten me. It makes me feel all...warm and fuzzy inside."

It didn't mean anything. It wasn't like he and Keller would ever be more than a casual fuck, but it was good to hear that it wouldn't bother Suzanne. It wouldn't make a difference, 'cause his ma loved him.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Miguel leaned back against the wall watching Keller and O'Reily rub off. It was a pretty damned impressive sight. They lay on the floor in front of him, kissing and writhing across the tiles, as naked as Miguel was. Keller was on top of O'Reily, whose legs were spread wide to give Keller room to fit up tight against him. They thrust against each other, the muscles in Keller's ass bunching and flexing. Their cocks were trapped between their bodies, and they gleamed with sweat as they moved together.

O'Reily liked to kiss as much as Keller did, and Miguel found himself jealous that they both had someone important enough to them to trust with such intimacy. They fit together well, both of them fulfilling a need in the other. He wasn't sure how he knew that they fit, but it just seemed right to him in a way that most couples, either here or outside, never seemed to manage. Miguel had always known that Keller was just passing time with him. It was clear to Miguel that it was O'Reily that he wanted.

But that was okay. Miguel liked them both, and the sex was fucking incredible, but he could live without it. He'd like to remain their friend, though, and their business partner. He'd take it slow, and handle this situation with a little finesse. He'd have to be careful that neither thought he was coming between them. He had a feeling that wouldn't go over well. Keller had been a real ass about the way Miguel had marked O'Reily. The big lug had thought he was trying to get territorial or something, when all he'd been thinking was that the suck mark he'd left on O'Reily's shoulder had looked pretty damn sexy.

Keller dragged his mouth away from O'Reily's, drawing Miguel's attention back to the scene taking place in front of him. He watched fascinated as Keller's hips juddered and jerked, his coordination lost in the heat of his passion. O'Reily gasped, shouting wild curses at the ceiling as he clung to Keller's back, his fingers digging deep into muscle as he came. Keller shuddered, but kept thrusting for a moment or two, then he came as well, biting into O'Reily's shoulder, drawing another shout from him.

They lay there, panting against each other, and Miguel finally struggled to his feet, grabbing a roll of paper towels out of an open box. He pulled off enough for himself, then set the roll on the floor by O'Reily's head. He toweled himself down, cleaning up enough to get through the halls and to Em City, 'cause he planned on taking a shower as soon as he got there. He wasn't that messy anyway. Keller had given O'Reily cock sucking lessons using Miguel's body. He'd gotten hot and sweaty, but for the most part, O'Reily had kept the mess contained to his mouth. Miguel had to admit, watching Keller lick Miguel's come off his body had been damn hot.

Eventually, the couple on the floor stopped gasping for breath, and started kissing again. Jesus. Those two liked to kiss even more than Torquemada's fags. After a while Keller rolled off O'Reily, grunting as he landed heavily on the cold tile floor.

O'Reily reached up to touch the red marks on his shoulder. "You bit my motherfucking shoulder, you asshole."

"You didn't complain at the time." Keller reminded him.

"Well, yeah. You'd just fucked the goddamn shit out of me. It took me some time to get my head back in place again."

He grabbed the paper towels and tore off several, wiping off his chest and stomach while lying on the tiles. Miguel wondered if he was worried that his legs wouldn't hold him. He could sympathize. O'Reily dropped the dirty towels to the side, and tore off some more before hitting Keller over the head with the roll.

"Doesn't change the facts."

"What facts?" Keller was still trying to recover, and was doing so at a slower pace than O'Reily.

"You bit my fucking shoulder, you douche bag."

"Oh, that." Keller replied, very self-satisfied. "I was inspired."

O'Reily got up and stretched, rubbing his shoulder. "Fucking asshole."

Miguel noticed that he didn't threaten Keller with no more sex, the way he'd threatened Miguel a week ago. He did threaten to use Keller's clothes to wipe up the smears of come on the floor if Keller didn't get the fuck up, though. That got Keller moving, but the two of them spent as much time pawing at each other than they did putting clothes on. Miguel hid his amusement. They had it bad. The problem was, they didn't even realize it.

Finally, they were ready to leave the room. Keller walked over and pulled O'Reily's t-shirt down off his shoulder enough to see the fading red teeth marks. "It's almost gone." If Keller'd been any younger, and a lot more innocent, Miguel might have thought that was a pout on his face. It didn't escape Miguel's notice that the bite was in almost the same place as the suck mark Miguel had left on O'Reily last week. Talk about territorial.

O'Reily pulled the shirt back up, smacking Keller's hand. "Don't stretch the neck out like that. I have to wear this thing for the rest of the day, asshole."

Miguel paused with his hand on the doorknob, rolling his eyes at their bullshit. "If you girls are ready, I've got places to be. Think you can hold it down long enough for me to get out the door?"

Keller gave him a nasty look. "Yeah, sure. Let's get the hell out of here."

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chris glanced down at his watch again. He could have sworn it had been more than five minutes since the last time he'd checked. He sighed heavily. Alvarez snickered as he picked up their latest box, moving it over to the pallet.

Chris frowned at him. "What are you laughing at?"

"Four minutes, right?" He walked back to Chris.


"Since the last time you looked at your watch."

Chris turned to the computer. "Shuddup." Damned smart ass know it all. Too bad they had that idiot from Records on their asses again. Just because there were two of them here now didn't mean they could move that much faster.

Of course, it didn't help that Chris and Alvarez took long breaks for more important things than Old fucking Records. Just yesterday, Chris had shown Alvarez that neither Pinkerton nor that Kiki Faye fag could hold a candle to an official Christopher Keller rim job. He'd left Alvarez in a puddle on the floor, swearing that they were both amateurs. Of course they were. Then he'd had to teach Alvarez how, 'cause there was no way he wasn't getting his own back after that performance. Alvarez hadn't been bad. For a beginner. At least he showed lots of enthusiasm. Maybe the two of them could show O'Reily how it was done this weekend. That thought made him happy. He'd been feeling that way a lot of that lately.

"Stop it."

Chris looked at Alvarez who was standing next to the scanner, staring at him. "What did I do?"

"I know what that smirk means. If you don't stop thinking about sex, we're going to fall way behind, and that asshole from Records is going to come back and one of us will lose our job. I like this job, Keller. It's a hell of a lot better than changing bedpans or cleaning up puke, so let's get our quota done for the day, and then we can fuck around."

Chris snarled at him. "I can't believe you're the voice of fucking reason around here."

"Tell me about it." Alvarez reached for the next page in the file, getting it set up before he continued. "I'm feeling good these days, you know? I don't want to fuck with that."

"Yeah, all right," Chris admitted. "I see what you're saying." Focusing on the next file in the stack, he typed in the information, ignoring the impulse to glance at his watch. The sounds of the keyboard and Alvarez' scanner annoyed him, growing louder and louder the longer he sat there. He felt trapped at his seat, tied down and struggling for breath. He didn't know why he felt so anxious today, but he might as well be in the fucking Hole. He'd only been in once since Querns had brought in that restraint chair, but there was nothing in the world worse than that shit.

The thought of Torquemada being strapped into that thing made him chuckle. He glanced over to see Alvarez staring at him. He batted his eyelashes innocently. "What?"

"You've got something wicked on your mind, Keller. I can tell from the gleam in your eye."

"I was thinking about Torquemada all strapped in, 24/7. He's probably ready to tear his hair out at his bleached-blonde roots."

"Yeah, I was thinking about that just the other day. He's gotta be going loco by now."

"He'll be getting out in a couple of days," Chris reminded him casually.

Alvarez bit his lip. "Yeah, I know."

Chris had been afraid of this: Alvarez was changing his mind about killing that bastard. Again.

"He has to die, Alvarez. He's never going to leave you alone. If you want to be free of him, he has to die."

"I know." Alvarez answered. "It's not going to be easy with him in Unit C."

"I can do it," Chris assured him. "It's gonna take time, but you knew that already."

Alvarez grunted. "I know you. You just want to take it slow, 'cause you want my ass for as long as you can get it."

Stepping behind Alvarez, Chris squeezed the ass in question. "Mmmm..." he hummed in appreciation. Alvarez leaned back against him, as Chris whispered in his ear, "I can get this ass any time I want."

Alvarez elbowed him in the ribs. "After we finish this box, maybe. But not before."

Chris bitched. "You drive a hard bargain, man." He moved back over to the computer, and sat down, adjusting his cock which had been half hard all day. "A hard bargain."

"Work now. Complain later."

Chris went back to work reluctantly.

Finally, he settled into a groove, and started catching up with the scans Alvarez sent his way. It wasn't easy to concentrate, not with the edgy feeling that had been creeping up on him all day. He wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that it was Hunt's day off.

The supervisors always picked whoever was lowest on the totem pole for Wednesdays, or maybe it was whoever had pissed off Querns the most. The hacks were always grouchy and out of sorts, so maybe Querns considered Old Records his version of a restraint chair for hacks. Today's hack, Kowalski, was a real prize. He looked like a boxer who hadn't figured out how to duck; his nose had been broken a few too many times, and he'd glared at Chris and Alvarez from under heavy brows.

Chris heard the door open behind them. Speak of the devil. They had at least an hour to go before their shift was over, but hey, any distraction in a storm.

Beside him Alvarez muttered. "¡Mierda!"

He turned around to see Simpson, the Aryan idiot that had replaced Robson as Schillinger's flunky. Behind him were three bruisers from Unit B who could be brothers to the hack. They were all big, bulky and probably about two brain cells between them. But then, there was little chance they were here to strike up a conversation. Jumping to his feet, Chris' gut twisted when he realized that they were between him and his two-by-four club. He'd stopped leaving it close by when Alvarez had showed up to keep him company. He'd felt safer with someone else in the room, but that was turning out to be a big fucking mistake.

Simpson stood in front, arms crossed, and the bruisers spread out behind him covering not only the exit, but any possible escape into the stacks of old records. Pasquin stood to one side, over-muscled and looking like a threat, but Chris had seen him fight against Pancamo the year after Chris landed in Oz. The Italian had taken him out with one blow. It might take more hits, but Alvarez was twice as fast, he could handle Pasquin. Henke was on the other side with Gunner. They were both slow and dumb, and Chris gave himself better than good odds at playing them against each other until they were so dizzy they got lost.

Chris leaned back against his desk, aiming for casual, as if his insides weren't trying to climb up his throat. The odds were against them, but Alvarez was a fighter. He may not have size on his side, but he was quick, often underestimated, and dangerous. Chris' shank was in his boot; he'd have to move fast to get it out. If Alvarez could distract them long enough for him to reach it, they had a chance of walking away from this, instead of being carried out in body bags.

The best bet was to piss off Simpson, and make him jump the gun. That should be a breeze. "Well, if it isn't Larry, Moe, Curly and Schillinger's new prag, Simpson." Chris paused, giving Simpson a once-over. "I didn't realize Schillinger was dipping his wick into pussy again."

Pasquin barked out a laugh. Simpson bristled, and growled, "Shut up."

Chris wasn't sure if it was aimed at him or the biker and his buddies, who'd joined in when Pasquin had laughed. Unfortunately, Simpson had more control than Chris had expected. He turned to Alvarez.

"This isn't your fight, Alvarez. You step aside, and we'll let you go free as long as you don't I.D. us to the hacks. Deal?"

Alvarez looked surprised. He glanced at Keller, then back at Simpson. "How do I know you'll keep your word?"

Chris was stunned. He hadn't expected either the offer, or Alvarez' willingness to accept it. He hated to admit it, but it hurt. Sure, he'd been taking advantage of Alvarez' situation, but fuck, he was only human, and Alvarez was hot as hell. Chris had actually felt bad for the guy, and this is what he got for trying to do a good deed. Despite the letdown, Chris' mind worked desperately, mapping out his limited options. He took advantage of Alvarez' betrayal to improve what was left of his odds. He slumped into his chair.

"Alvarez?" he asked. He didn't have to work to show the disappointment in his voice.

Alvarez shrugged, and Henke stepped aside to allow Alvarez to back up toward the stacks giving Chris the opportunity he needed. He slid out his shank, palming it as Alvarez spoke apologetically.

"Sorry, man. I got plans. I can't afford to go down for nothing."

Simpson nodded. "That's what he is: nothing. He'll be even less than nothing when we're through with him." Simpson cracked his knuckles as he advanced. "I got a message for you from Schillinger."

"Yeah, that so?" Chris stood, preparing to defend himself. The odds had changed drastically. He didn't expect to survive this fight on his own, but at least he could take one or two of them down with him. "What's that chickenshit have to say?"

"Chickenshit?" Henke asked.

Chris smiled grimly. "Hit a nerve, Henke? Yeah, chickenshit. I don't see him here. Is he afraid to face me?"

"He wanted to be here," Simpson said, taking another step closer. "But he needs an alibi, so he entrusted me with his message." He pulled a shank from his back pocket. "Listen closely, loser. 'You ought to know better by now, prag. Never mess with Vern Schillinger.'" He tilted his head. "You think you can remember that, Keller? Well, for the minute you've got left to live, that is."

"Don't you worry about me, pal. You just worry about yourself."

Chris lunged, shouldering Simpson into Gunner, and knocking them both down. While they were recovering, Henke moved forward, grabbing Chris's arm and swinging him around. He aimed his fist at Chris' face, but Chris saw it coming, and ducked, slicing with his shank as he went. Henke stumbled back, a deep cut to his stomach blooming red against his shirt."

Someone socked Chris from behind, across the side of his head. He doubled over, ears ringing, and straightened up in time to catch Pasquin's fist to his stomach. Chris' feet skidded on something wet on the floor and he went down hard, the breath knocked from his lungs and his head still aching from the punch. The back of his head hit the concrete with a sick-sounding thud and he saw stars, teeth clacking together so forcefully that he bit his tongue. Black dots swam in his vision.

Simpson reached down, grabbing Chris by the shirt and jerking him to a sitting position before the cloth gave with a loud rip. Stumbling backwards, Simpson slipped in a puddle of Henke's blood. If he hadn't been trying to scramble backwards away from Gunner, Chris would have laughed at the sight of Simpson starfished on the floor in a pool of blood. Chris slashed Gunner across the back of his hand, but Pasquin stepped in, jerking Chris to his feet and holding him there.

Gunner kidney punched him a couple of times before Chris lost his grip on his shank, and it clattered to the floor. Kicking it out of the way, Simpson put his fist into Chris' gut. When Gunner took over again, seemingly intent on rupturing a kidney, Chris couldn't hold back, shouting at the pain, then arching his back as his knees gave out. Pasquin held on tightly to Chris' arm, all but jerking it out of the socket. Chris hung there, watching through blurred vision as Simpson wiped the blood on his hands onto Chris' tattered shirt. He picked up Chris' abandoned shank, and turned back to them.

"Hold him steady."

As Gunner grabbed his other arm, Chris took advantage of the support and kicked out, sending his boot up into Simpson's crotch with all the force he had left. Simpson crumpled to the ground. His shrill scream echoed in the large room, nearly covering the crunch of wood impacting with Pasquin's skull. Chris stumbled when his arm came free. Pasquin collapsed on top of Simpson, who was rolling on the floor, clutching his junk.

Gunner shouted, outraged. He backed up, pushing Chris at a wild-eyed Alvarez, who swerved around him wielding Chris' two-by-four at Gunner's head like a baseball bat. Chris stayed where he'd fallen to one knee, trying to stay out of Alvarez' way as he swung the two-by-four recklessly, shouting as he chased Gunner around the bodies on the floor.

"That's right, motherfucker! You better run. I'm going to knock your goddamn brains right out of that thick skull of yours! Come on! Come on!"

Alvarez hopped across Henke's legs, weaving and ducking like he was in the boxing ring, forcing a wheezing chuckle from Chris' throat. Gunner knocked the scanner onto the floor, boxes and files scattering everywhere as he tried to get the table between them. Chris struggled to both knees, hoping to get up and stop Gunner from escaping into the stacks, but then Simpson crashed into him, pinning him face down on the floor. Metal bit into Chris' neck and he shouted in surprise, catching Alvarez' attention. Leaving Gunner behind, Alvarez dropped the two-by-four next to Chris, and yanked at Simpson, pulling him off Chris' back. Alvarez punched Simpson in the face, sending him sprawling over Henke's bloody body, the shank flying out of Simpson's hand.

Chris struggled to sit up, watching helplessly as Gunner tackled Alvarez, and the two of them rolled across the floor. Gunner ended up on the bottom, and Alvarez straddled him, punching him in the face and knocking his head sideways. Gunner's hand scrabbled for something that Chris couldn't see, and then Gunner's arm swung up and he stabbed Alvarez in the stomach with a shank. Shouting Alvarez' name, Chris grabbed the two-by-four, but Alvarez was already falling and Gunner stabbed him again, this time in the chest. Chris swung the plank as hard as he could, knocking Gunner off of Alvarez, the shank still in his hand.

Gunner rolled into a crouch and lunged toward Chris, landing on top of him. He raised the shank and Chris reached up to block him, but then Gunner fell back and away, and the angry face of Officer Murphy swam into view.

After that, there was a lot of shouting and running, and Chris lay still, trying to process everything. He hurt like hell, but knew, in a detached kind of way, that he was probably the one with the least amount of actual damage. His kidneys might not agree, but then Simpson's balls weren't going to be too happy for a day or two either. He watched the hacks carry Alvarez out of the room and realized he owed the man his life. He'd have to do something about that, as soon as he was strong enough to lift his head up off this fucking concrete floor.

Chris tried to ask Murphy what had happened and how he'd known to come to their rescue, but he couldn't get his mouth to form the words. His eyes kept crossing, black spots dancing in his vision, and when Murphy started to help him up, Chris puked all over his uniform. As though from far away, he heard someone say the word concussion and he thought that he could have told them that. His vision narrowed to a single long tunnel, and everything went black.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

"Ayúdame! ¡No quiero morir!"

Alonzo's words rang sharp and clear in Deval's mind, the only things he could focus on.

"Help me! I don't want to die!"

Poor Alonzo, covered with blood, his panicked face smeared with it as he struggled against the doctors. Deval was stunned, his mind shattered by what he'd witnessed through the open door earlier that day.

He hadn't realized the guy with the dinner trays had been around until he came back by to pick them up again. A hack knocked his billy club loudly against the foot of Deval's hospital bed.

"Listen up, Pinkerton!" he shouted. "He's asking you a question!"

The tray guy rolled his eyes at the hack, who was obviously still keyed up from all the earlier excitement. "You gonna eat that or not?"

Deval looked at the tray sitting next to his bed. It looked like someone had swiped several things off his tray while he'd been staring into space. Not like he could have kept any of it down, as upset as he was. He took the juice and the banana, and the guy shrugged and grabbed the tray, shoving it on the rack before rolling the cart to the next bed.

Setting the banana on the table, Deval opened his juice, taking a tentative sip. It seemed to stay down alright, so he took another as he glanced around the room. He'd lost track of time this afternoon, which could be a dangerous thing to do, even in the infirmary. But Mother of God, it had been a hell of a day, starting with his surgery this morning, and then what happened to Alonzo... He took another drink of the juice, but his stomach rebelled, so he set the juice next to the banana.

He longed to be in Em City with his friends. It might be easier to deal with Alonzo's death with them surrounding him. Even as he had thought it, he realized that Fiona and Kiki would be devastated, and Tony would be busy taking care of them. It was what he did, after all. Deval would help, of course, but those two were such drama queens; they'd take up all his time and energy. The surgeon had removed Deval's appendix only this morning. He felt so drained that he wasn't sure he could deal with that, so maybe it was better that he was here on his own.

"Help me! I don't want to die!" Alonzo's voice echoed in his mind.

His gaze returned to Alvarez, as it had done dozens of times already. Alvarez had just today come back from Benchley Memorial. According to the rumors, he'd been saving the life of his new lover, Keller, when he got shanked by one of the Aryans. If that was true, the way he'd reacted to Alonzo didn't make sense. Closing his eyes, Deval let the scene roll through his mind.

Deval was still drowsy from the anesthesia when they brought Alvarez into the ward in the early afternoon. Every time he saw Alvarez he couldn't help but feel a deep resentment over Alvarez' betrayal of Alonzo, despite having seen firsthand the reasons why Alvarez would look elsewhere for comfort. He still cringed every time he remembered the way an angry Alonzo had torn Alvarez to pieces with his vicious words.

The doctor fussed with Alvarez' IV line, setting up that annoying heart monitor with its incessant beeping. After the doctor left, Alvarez looked warily around the room, as if cataloging everyone there, taking note of who he needed to watch and who could be ignored. Deval recognized the process; he did the same thing each time he left the safety of his pod. When Alvarez got to Deval, he winced at the ferocity of Deval's glare. Alvarez didn't back down, instead lifting his chin defiantly.

That was when Deval heard the shouting. It might not have meant much; they were in the infirmary, and shouting wasn't that odd of an occurrence. But this was different, because the person shouting was Alonzo. The doors into their ward were open, and Deval looked in that direction automatically, drawn to the sound of Alonzo's panicked cries.

"Ayúdame! ¡No quiero morir!"

They wheeled Alonzo past the doors on the way to emergency care. He was covered in blood; his movements wild as he fought against the restraints. He had dozens of cuts over his face and hands, and from his bed's proximity to the doors, Deval could see deeper wounds that bled freely. His blood-streaked hand reached out to them as they watched in shock.

Deval wished that it was
him Alonzo had been reaching for, but he knew better. Alvarez pulled out his IV, struggling with the medical equipment as he fought to get out of bed. A hack shoved him back down and called for help. Alvarez wrestled with him, insisting that he needed to get up, that he had to help Alonzo. It took four orderlies to hold him down long enough to get him in restraints.

"What happened? Tell me what happened!" he demanded.

When the doctor showed up to repair Alvarez' IV and give him a sedative, he refused to answer Alvarez' questions, but Deval knew the truth, as much as he hated to admit it. As the sedative took effect, Alvarez murmured something in Spanish, mumbling it repeatedly as his eyes closed and he surrendered to the drug. It sounded like what Alonzo had said, so Deval asked an orderly what Alvarez was muttering.

"He's saying, 'Ayúdame. No quiero morir.'" He translated it into English, since it was obvious that Deval didn't understand. "It means 'Help me. I don't want to die.'"

One of the hacks asked, "Isn't that what Torquemada kept saying right before he croaked?"

Deval squeezed his eyes shut against the tears, not wanting anyone to see how crushed he was by the hack's casual words. Before, there'd been the chance that Alonzo had survived. Now Deval's fear had been confirmed, and the pain of knowing the truth overwhelmed him, sending his world spinning out of control.

"Help me! I don't want to die!"

Deval sat up, gasping for air. He had dreamed about Alonzo, the way he'd seen him last, blood streaking up his arm as he reached out for help. Deval touched the bandage on his abdomen, as if that might hold back the pain in his side, since there wasn't anything he could do about the pain in his heart. When his breathing finally calmed, Deval glanced around the dimly lit ward at the sleeping men around him.

Alvarez was awake, watching him with dazed eyes. The restraints had been removed, and he shifted restlessly, the wires attaching him to the heart monitor pulling tight. The wheels creaked as the equipment rolled closer and he stopped moving, as if afraid the monitor would go off. Deval hoped not. He had something to ask Alvarez, and he didn't think he could do it if everyone was awake and listening in. He held his palm over his incision, and struggled to get up, feeling tired, and achy.

His thoughts turned to his grandmother, who had watched over him after his tonsils came out. His father had been late with the child support, as usual, and his mother needed to go to work, afraid of losing her job if she stayed home another night. His grandmother sat in a chair next to his bed all night, cooing soft words when he woke up, disoriented; wrapping warm cloths around his throat; making sure he took his medicine on time. He could have used her hand on his brow tonight, but she was in a nursing home in Indiana, and he was stuck in Oz, so there would be no comfort.

He shuffled across the aisle to Alvarez' bed, resting heavily against the foot of the mattress as he struggled to take a deep breath. Alvarez reached for his IV line, leaning up on his side before he collapsed back again, gasping in pain.

"Don't..." Deval's voice was a bare whisper, but it sounded loud in the quiet room. "I'm not here to hurt you."

"Oh, yeah? Then why are you here?" Alvarez panted, his face twisted in pain.

It was a legitimate question, but Deval didn't have a good answer. "You need the doctor or something?"

Alvarez shook his head. "If I stop moving around, the pain will go away."

"They got you on the good stuff." It wasn't a question, and Alvarez didn't bother with an answer. As Deval watched, the lines of pain on Alvarez' face smoothed out, and his breathing calmed.

"What do you want?" His voice sounded wary, but at least it looked like Alvarez wasn't going to try anything that might attract attention, ending with Deval strapped into his bed for the night.

Deval shrugged, wincing as the movement pulled on his side. "I just have some questions."

"Yeah?" Alvarez laughed biterly, a silent little huff that barely reached Deval. "I'm not sure I got too many answers. Sometimes there just aren't answers, you know?"

Deval's legs were trembling, so he moved around to perch on the edge of the bed, far enough away that Alvarez would know he wasn't going to try anything. "Sometimes they're just hard to find."

"Well, I sure as hell ain't got the energy to go looking for 'em, so don't be too surprised if I don't try so hard." His eyes were harsh. "I don't owe you nothing."

Deval nodded. "But you owe Alonzo."

Alvarez laughed again, but this time it was heavy with anger and a pain that didn't have anything to do with his injuries. "I saw you watch us at night. You saw how he treated me."

Deval looked away, the image vivid in his mind: Alvarez rolled up in a ball, Alonzo looming over him, his face contorted in his anger. Once, Alonzo had spit on Alvarez' back as he lay on the floor. Both Deval and Tony had gasped out loud at that, but Alvarez hadn't moved, his eyes shut tightly, as though he could hold back the tears by the sheer power of his will.

"He..." Deval had to clear his throat, the tension in his chest a surprise. "He loved you."

"He didn't love me." Alvarez' voice was tight with anger, and Deval didn't want to look up, but he forced himself to meet Alvarez' eyes. "He used me."

"He used all of us." Alvarez' eyes widened with surprise. He obviously hadn't expected Deval to admit that so easily. "But he gave us more than he took."

"Maybe to you, but I earned every good thing I got from him. It wasn't a gift. It was what I was owed for the way he treated me." Alvarez' voice rose, even though his teeth were clenched in anger.

Deval realized that the heart monitor was spiking, and he wondered if he should run back to his bed before the hacks or the doctor on duty came in to check on Alvarez. As much as his side hurt, he'd get caught before he was two steps away, so he tried calm Alvarez down instead. He placed his hand on Alvarez' shin, and Alvarez gasped at the sudden contact, his eyes shifting from Deval's face to the hand on his leg.

"Shhh," Deval warned softly, pointing at the monitor. Alvarez nodded, leaning his head back into the pillow, his eyes closing. After a few minutes, the spikes began to quiet and Alvarez' breathing sounded more natural. Deval became conscious of his hand on Alvarez' shin and he pulled back, dropping it into his lap. Alvarez opened his eyes, but didn't say anything.

There was one important thing that Alvarez needed to know. "He trusted you," Deval said.

Anger sparked in Alvarez' eyes.

Deval rushed to get the words out. "I'm not talking about you and Keller. Just listen to me, okay?"

Alvarez nodded sharply, distrust etched on his face.

Relieved that he'd been given the chance to explain, Deval said, "Out of all the people he worked with here, you're the only one who ever met his contacts."

Alvarez stared at him in shock. Deval was surprised; he thought that Alvarez realized how much Alonzo thought of his skills as his lieutenant.

"But Delarosa worked for him outside," Alvarez said, his brows drawn together.

"Alonzo is fond of Ramón," Deval started. He cleared his throat, blinking back the tears, then corrected himself/continued. "He was very fond of Ramón, but he never trusted him with his contacts, even when they were both on the outside. He had others arranging the drops, paying out and picking up the money, but never Ramón. He didn't give Chico that information either. No one in El Norte knows them. Only you."

The stunned look on Alvarez' face was priceless. Deval wished that Alonzo was here to see it. "You're sure? He never..." Alvarez stopped in mid-sentence. "I thought..."

"Well, you thought wrong."

"But I saw them slinging D while T was in the Hole..."

"One of the guys in El Norte got lucky for a while, but he got busted a week ago, so there's been a real shortage of D recently."

Alvarez' eyes narrowed, his surprise giving way to suspicion. "You don't expect me to fill that hole, do you? No one would trust me, not for a second."

"You're wrong," Deval said. "You've got ties to El Norte, even if you're not part of them anymore. Chico would be glad to see you back, he talks about you all the time. And my people will work with you, so long as you treat them like human beings."

"Me?" Alvarez argued. "You guys are the ones with the attitude. Talking me down behind my back... "

"Yeah, okay, it's us, too. But a lot of our anger at you stems from your attitude. We don't have to be friends, Alvarez. Treat us as business partners, and I can turn Tony, Fiona and Kiki around. With them on your side, the rest of the gays will fall in line. I'm sure of it."

"What's in it for you?" Alvarez asked.

"You mean aside from respect, and a chance to keep our dignity? Nobody likes being thought of as a whore, Alvarez." Deval lowered his voice. "Drug dealer may not seem to be a huge step up, but it's worlds away from being treated as disposable trash. We've all gotten used to our new roles."

Alvarez stared at him. "It wouldn't be like it was with T. He got away with a lot of shit that they won't let the rest of us get away with."

"I know. We'll all have to make adjustments. But we're worth it as business partners. Nobody can dig up the dirt like we do. Even O'Reily comes to us for news."

"Yeah, I'll give you that," Alvarez agreed, grudgingly. "You got your fingers on the pulse of Oz."

"So you treat us with respect, and we'll return the favor." He could tell that Alvarez was thinking seriously about it. "I think we can make this work, Alvarez. Do we have a deal?"

"Gimme a couple of days," Alvarez said. "I got to think this through."

"That's understandable. Just don't wait too long. Someone else will find a way to bring Destiny in, sooner or later."

Alvarez snorted. "Yeah. I got ya."

He lay back against his pillow, as if their conversation was over.

Deval didn't leave. In his mind, the image of Alonzo, arm outstretched as he called to Alvarez, his voice strained with panic played through his mind.


Deval took a deep breath, willing his voice steady. "Did you miss him? After we moved out of Em City, I mean."

Alvarez didn't look at him; keeping his eyes focused on the ceiling. Deval had decided that he wasn't going to reply when he answered, his voice soft.

"Sometimes I did. He could make me laugh."

Deval smiled. "He was hard to understand. He wanted love so much, but he was so afraid. Afraid of touching anyone's heart, no matter how much he wanted to."

"He could have had mine."

The words were whispered. Deval held his breath, afraid that if Alvarez remembered he was there, he might stop talking, and he wanted to hear this. He needed to know that Alvarez had cared, in some way.

"Instead, he tore it into little pieces, and then he expected me to put it back together and offer it up to him, over and over. I couldn't do that. I couldn't."

Deval sat there in the dark, watching as tears leaked out of the corners of Alvarez' tightly closed eyes. When Alvarez' trembling breaths quieted and evened out, and the heart monitor was steady and regular once more, Deval finally returned to his own bed. He stared at the ceiling for a long time before falling asleep.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

O'Reily crossed the floor again, nearly stepping on Chris' toes. This was a decent sized storage closet, but it wasn't big enough for O'Reily to pace like this.

"I don't know what you're worried about." Chris tried to calm him down. "It's not like Alvarez is going to set us up or anything. What the hell has he got to gain by that? He crosses us, the money stops."

O'Reily gave him an annoyed look, and kept moving. "He's avoided us for a week now. And he knows your contact. He could sell us both out, and sling Storm with his own people."

"What 'own people' would that be? El Norte, who barely tolerate him, or Torquemada's queers, who think he had something to do with their 'fabulous leader' going down - and not in a fun way?" Keller lisped, throwing invisible locks of hair over his shoulder in a fine imitation of a pique of fussy annoyance.

O'Reily cracked a small smile at that. "Funny. But those queers are not to be underestimated, and you know it."

"Know it? I'm the one who told you that in the first place," Chris said jokingly. O'Reily shot him the finger in response. Finally, Chris caught on to what had O'Reily all anxious. "Wait. You think the queers have decided to forgive Alvarez for betraying Torquemada, and are making plans to take over Storm?"

"Makes sense, doesn't it?" O'Reily stopped pacing right in front of Chris, pinning him with his anxious stare. "What do they have without Destiny? If they don't stay in the drug trade they're back on the street corners, figuratively speaking. Dealers are a large step up from whores, why the hell would they want to go back to that again? Better money, more respect, and they still get the good gossip."

"Yeah, but they'd stick with Destiny, wouldn't they?" Chris argued. "Why the hell would they want to jump tracks and try to take us on? Especially since they'd have to take on Pancamo, too."

"Does Alvarez know Torquemada's contacts?"

Chris paused to think before he answered hesitantly. "I think so."

"You do? I heard he never told anyone."

"I thought so. I'm not sure, now that you mention it. But I don't think we're being set up, O'Reily. I don't think that's Alvarez' style." Chris didn't feel comfortable defending Alvarez, he had too many unanswered questions of his own, but he just couldn't believe Alvarez would turn on them. Not after the way he'd defended Chris in Old Records.

"You sure of that?"

"No. But he prides himself on being honest. He wouldn't set us up; he'd start a war before he did something like that."

"Huh." At least that gave O'Reily something to think about. He started to pace again, but Chris grabbed his arm as he passed by.

"If you thought we were being set up, why didn't you tell me?" O'Reily had the good sense to look guilty over that. "For that matter, why did you show up in the first place?"

He shook his head. "I don't think we are. Not really. I'm just thinking out all the possibilities." He checked Chris' watch. "He's almost half an hour late; it just got me thinking, is all."

Chris nodded, acknowledging the common sense in that. "But you're prepared, just in case?" he asked casually.

O'Reily smiled at him grimly. "I got my shank."

Chris nodded. "Me, too."

"If it's a set up, we're as prepared as we can get."

"It's not a set up," Chris said, firmly.

"I hope you're right."

"I am."

The door rattled, and they rushed to opposite sides of the door, stepping away sheepishly when Alvarez entered by himself.

Alvarez looked at them warily. "What the fuck?"

"You're late."

"I know, O'Reily. I had to go to the infirmary to get my stitches out, and there was an emergency. Some newbie from Unit B killed a couple of Aryans."

"No shit?"

He grinned at Keller. "Yeah, our buddy Simpson pragged the wrong kid."

"Oh yeah?"

"Well? Talk, dammit."

"All right, all right! Gimme a minute."

O'Reily rolled his eyes as Alvarez took his time getting settled on a stack of boxes of bleach, obviously not interested in sitting on the floor like usual. Chris didn't blame him; getting up off the floor was no breeze when you had a gut wound. Alvarez played it for all it was worth.


"So, it seems like Simpson has been in the Aryan doghouse ever since he got our old pal Kowalski fired, by letting him walk away from his post to give them time to kill you, Keller."

"What the hell are you talking about? Kowalski wasn't supposed to walk away?" Chris and O'Reily had wondered about that. It didn't make a lot of sense to get their own hack fired that way.

"Nah, I heard McManus tell Murphy that they were supposed to conk him on the head and tie him up, so it looked like he wasn't in on the whole thing, right? But he was bitching about getting blood on his uniform, so Simpson told him to take a hike instead. That's why he was in the 'little Hitlers room' when Murphy came by looking for him."

"What the hell was Murphy doing there in the first place?" O'Reily asked.

"Get this. He wanted Kowalski to cover a shift for some hack in Em City whose mother was having surgery or some shit like that." Alvarez was practically beaming, his grin was so wide. Chris was jealous, neither of them had too many chances to beat O'Reily to the gossip.

"Fuck. I owe my life to a hack who was looking for time off?"

"You both owe your lives to Murphy, who was smart enough to realize something was up, and bothered to open the door instead of coming back later to find dead bodies spread out all over the floor."

Chris frowned at O'Reily's defense of Murphy. He was just too fond of that hack for Chris' comfort. "Remind me to send him flowers."

O'Reily ignored his sarcasm. "So what happened to Simpson, Alvarez?"

"Seems he was trying to get some jizz back with the Aryans, so he pragged this kid who turned out not to be as defenseless as he seemed."

"Yeah, I heard he had a new prag." O'Reily always had the news. "Some gay kid named Randolph or something."

"That's right. Turns out Randolph had a reputation on the streets with a knife. So he took Simpson's crap for a week or two, then got someone to sell him a shank, and took out Simpson and a couple of other Aryans before the rest of them ganged up on him."

O'Reily let out a long, low whistle.

"He dead?" Chris asked.

"Might as well be. They sent him to the hospital, but I heard the doctor tell Murphy he didn't think the kid would live through the night."

"Too bad he didn't take out Schillinger. That would have taken care of all your problems, Keller."

"Nah," Alvarez shook his head, "you guys need Schillinger alive. As long as he's around, Keller will keep his job in Old Docs, and you two can keep the Storm trade going, right?"

Keller and O'Reily shared a look. Maybe O'Reily hadn't been too far off the money, after all. "What do you mean, 'you two'?" Chris asked. "You're backing out of our deal, Alvarez?"

He shrugged. "Yeah. I got a better offer."

"What the fuck, Alvarez?"

That shit-eating grin was back on his face. "I worked out a deal with the gays and El Norte; I'm taking over the Destiny trade."

"No fucking way!" Chris had trouble believing that they'd accept him, after all that had happened.

"Turns out Torquemada never told anybody about his contacts but me. Not even Delarosa in Unit B. They've all agreed to work with me."

"You sure you can pull this off, man?" O'Reily was obviously having doubts about this, too. "The gays are pretty sore about you betraying Tor-kee. As soon as you introduce your backup to your contact, you're expendable."

"No, I've got it all worked out."

Chris still couldn't see the gays agreeing to work with him. "How did you get the gays to go along in the first place?"


"The black guy? In the pod next to mine?" Chris asked.

"Yeah, that's him. He was in the infirmary with me when they brought Torquemada in."

Alvarez' voice wavered, and Chris looked at him warily. He'd been worried that Alvarez might be pissed off at the way he'd taken care of T, but Chris had been so pissed at how Torquemada treated Alvarez that he'd lost control. By the time he walked away from the bastard, Torquemada had looked a lot like Shemin had when Chris had left him in the laundry room a couple of years back.

Alvarez cleared his voice and went on, not meeting Chris' eyes. "I'd just got back from Benchley, and was on some pretty heavy duty meds. I wasn't prepared for seeing T like that - all bloody and full of holes. I lost it for a while."

O'Reily nodded. "We heard."


"Listen, Alvarez." This time it was Chris that needed to clear his throat. "For what it's worth, I didn't mean for you to see that. I thought you were still in the hospital."

"It's okay, man." Alvarez shook his head, finally meeting Chris' eyes. "It was worth it."

"It was?"

"Pinkerton was convinced that I didn't have anything to do with T's death. He's the one who offered to convince the others, and he did. As of this afternoon, I'm in charge."

"What about the contacts?"

"It's all cool. The outside contacts don't have a problem with me, and the inside contact would rather work with me than the Wiseguys. And the gays won't be backstabbing me, 'cause they're never going to know who my contact is."

"No back up? That's just asking for trouble, man." O'Reily warned him.

"No, I have plenty of back up. I've got you two."

"What?" Chris wasn't sure he understood.

"I know your contact, and you'll know mine. Either of us ends up unable to take care of our pickups, we've got the other two to back us up. Since my contact is a hack, I can get to your pickups if I need to cover for you."

"Okay. This might just work." O'Reily was still thinking it through, but it looked like he was beginning to see the light.

"Of course it will. I've been worrying it through in my head all week, now. It's the perfect system. We work together and we both win." Alvarez was bragging, but it looked like he might just have reason to. It was a smooth deal.

Chris was impressed. "Jesus fuck."

"I'm impressed, Alvarez. I really am." O'Reily offered him the seal of approval.

"Hey, it's all your doing."

"Mine?" O'Reily asked.

"You're the one who taught me to think things through. If you hadn't showed me how to play chess, I'd have never figured this one out."

Chris reached out and squeezed Alvarez' shoulder. "Good job, Alvarez. I'm glad we're going to stay partners after all."

"Yeah. Me too." Alvarez grinned at them both. "You guys have been good for me. I want to thank you for that. But there's one more thing."

"What's that?"

"This thing between us. The sex thing, I mean. It's got to stop."

"What do you mean by that?" Chris hated to admit that he felt a bit of relief. Not that he wanted to stop fucking Alvarez, he was one hell of a good fuck, but he was beginning to think that maybe he wanted to concentrate on O'Reily for a while. Fucking Alvarez was complicating things, and getting in the way of what he wanted with O'Reily.

"I need a break. I need some time to get my head on straight."

"The sex thing?" O'Reily was grinning at him.

"Yeah." Alvarez shrugged, uncertainly. "Before Torquemada I never - I mean I never had anything to do with a man before. Don't get me wrong, I'm not including you in with Torquemada. The things I did with you two were personal, and I appreciated the fact that you wanted me, not just my cock. I mean..."

"No, we understand. Well, I do..."

Chris glanced at O'Reily, who nodded in agreement. "We both do."

"I saw you with Torquemada, Alvarez." Chris told him. "He fucked you up. I was hoping that being with us might make you realize that it didn't need to be that way."

"And you did. That's something else I owe you. Owe you both. But I need some time to get back to me again. And I can't do that and keep fucking you guys. I need some time to myself."

"Okay." Chris nodded his agreement.

"We can do that."

"Sure we can."

"But we stay partners." Chris reminded him.

"Right. Partners." Alvarez carefully pushed himself out of his seat, and crossed to the door.

"You going now?" Chris was disappointed. He'd been about to suggest once more for the road, but Alvarez was still hurting, so it was probably better that they kept it simple.

"I guess so. But..."

"But what?" O'Reily asked.

"It's just that you guys - you need to stop fucking around and get yourselves figured out." O'Reily started to interrupt, but Alvarez didn't give him the chance. "You're good together. I don't think you realize how good. When I watch you two, I can see it. You fit together. You fit together so well, that I have to admit, I'm jealous of how you are. You trust each other, and that's rare in a place like this. I figure, if I'm lucky, maybe someday I'll find someone half as important to me as you are to each other. Maybe not, but it's something I hope for."

Then he pulled open the door and walked away, and Chris and Ryan were left staring at each other in surprise.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Suzanne smiled as she listened to Ryan telling her all about Querns' pratfall in the middle of the cafeteria earlier in the week. It was all over the prison, apparently, and he'd lost a lot of status as a result. It didn't matter that he'd put the guy who tripped him in The Hole for a month, strapped into one of the punishment chairs. Querns was the butt of the joke right now, and as spiteful as she knew it was, she couldn't help being a little happy over his misery.

If it wasn't for Querns, she'd still be volunteering at Oz, and no matter what kind of horrors she had to endure, it would be worth it to spend more time with her son. He was happier than she'd seen for a long time, but she didn't know why. If she was still here on a regular basis, she'd have found out by now. Sister Pete and Ray were clueless, and although Suzanne hoped that Ryan's question about homosexuality a couple of weeks ago might have something to do with it, until Ryan was willing to say more, she was left in the dark.

"I heard that the guys in the caf are putting extra desserts and shit on his food trays. And since the hacks that end up on Hole duty are the ones who've pissed Querns off the most, they say that some of them even let him out of his chair so he can walk around for a while. He's kind of the underground celebrity of Oz."

"Oh, my. That's so funny."

"Yeah, I wish you could have seen it, Ma. It was really something."

"So what's up with you, Ryan?" She took one of his hands in hers, squeezing it. "You look great. I think you've put back on some of the weight you lost last year."

"Are you telling me I'm fat?" he teased her.

"No. You're no longer looking like a skeleton, is all." She pinched his cheek affectionately. "See? There's almost enough cheek there to get in a good pinch!"

"Ma!" He pulled back in mock horror, slapping at her hand. "You ever want to see me again; you have to promise to never do that."

She smiled. "It's so good to see you in such a great mood." She leaned forward, getting up close so she could whisper conspiratorially. "So? You can tell me. What's going on?"

Ryan sighed. "You're just not going to give up, are you?"

"No, I'm not."

"Okay," he said, taking a look around before pulling his seat up as close to her as he could get. "So, maybe there's this guy I've been hanging out with." He picked at the edge of the tabletop, not meeting her eyes, as if nervous of her reaction. "We play chess and poker, and every once in a while we meet up for... other stuff."

He glanced up at her face and she had trouble fighting off her smile, afraid he might take it the wrong way.

She took his hand again. "I'm glad, Ryan."


"Yeah. I'm glad you've found someone."

He shrugged. "Well, you know. Just someone to pass the time with, right?"

"Have you told him how you feel?"

He looked surprised. "How I feel? It's not a relationship, Ma. He's just a guy."

"No." She shook her head. "You wouldn't have told me about him if he didn't mean anything to you."

He looked thoughtful, but not convinced. She wanted to ask if this guy was someone she knew from her time volunteering, but she didn't want to push, so she compromised. "How long have you known him?"

"Ummm... five, six years, I guess. He got here about a year, year and a half after I did."

"But this is new? Between the two of you, I mean?"

"Yeah. Pretty new. Just a couple of months, really. Too new to know if it's anything important."

"I see. Well, I think it's good for you, Ryan. You've looked better in the last month or two than you have in a long time. You smile more, and you've been joking around. You're happier. I'm glad."

"Yeah?" He shrugged. "I guess so. I've been feeling more like my old self, lately. I guess that's good, huh?"

"Yeah, that's good, Ryan. That's very good."

Chapter Thirty

Ryan closed the door behind him, glad to see Keller was already there; at least he wouldn't have to wait around for him. He tended to over think things when he had time on his hands, and he was nervous enough without any extra tension added to the pot. He nodded to Keller.


Keller frowned at him. "What's up?"


"You just look nervous, I guess. Did you have trouble getting here?"

"No." Ryan schooled his features, not wanting to freak Keller out or anything. "You look nervous, too."

"I do not." Keller said, a little too forcefully.

"Whatever." It wasn't worth causing trouble over.

Keller took out a couple of caps of Storm and offered one to Ryan. "Here. This ought to help."

Ryan shook his head. "Not yet. I want to talk to you first."

Keller put them back in his pocket. "Yeah? That sounds ominous. We got trouble?"

"No, nothing like that. Just a couple of things I wanted to tell you, is all."


He slid down to the floor, and leaned back against the wall, his knees pulled up in front of him. "I met with Alvarez' contact earlier."

"You did? That was quick." Keller sat down facing him, cross legged. "How come you didn't tell me you were meeting him?"

"I didn't know I was meeting him until it happened."

"What the fuck?"

"I was coming back to Em City after lunch, and that hack that always takes you to Old Documents grabbed me and said I was supposed to go with him. I asked him where we were going, but he just ignored me."

"No shit. You mean Hunt?"

"Yeah, he's the one. You told me you thought he was a pretty straight up guy, right?"

"Yeah, I don't think he'd be bribable."

Ryan said smugly. "Well, you'd be wrong."

"No shit? What happened?"

"We went to this corridor up on the second floor full of storage rooms. The floor was all dusty, but it was obvious that someone went that way 'cause there were footprints in the dust. He unlocked this one door, and pushed me in, in front of him, right? And Alvarez was there."

"What the hell? So who's the contact?" Ryan could tell it hadn't sunk in yet, so he stretched out his long legs, crossing them at the ankles while Keller stewed.


Ryan finally took pity on him. "Hunt."

"No shit!"

"Yeah. All this time you and Alvarez were working there together, and he never told you that Torquemada's Oz contact was the hack who stood outside the door while you guys played with files."

"And each other." Keller reminded him, his eyebrows wiggling suggestively. "We played with each other, too."

"Yeah, I know. You were all over each other. I heard all about it."

"Don't tell me Hunt was watching us?" Keller laughed at that thought.

"No. Alvarez just likes to brag." Ryan said grimly. No time like the present to cover the next topic on his list. "Especially once he figured out I don't like hearing about it."

"You don't like it, do you?" Ryan was surprised. He hadn't realized that Keller had noticed. "What's up with that? We were just fucking."

"I just don't like it, all right?" He clenched his jaw. This wasn't how he'd intended this conversation to go.

"You liked it just fine when we did it without him." Keller pointed out.

"That was different."

"What's so different about it?"

"I just don't like... I mean - I just don't like thinking about it, the two of you together."

"You're jealous," Keller said, accusingly.

"I'm not jealous," he tried to tell Keller, but even he knew it wasn't the truth.

"You are. I can tell."

"You're full of shit."

"You don't like the thought of me fucking someone else." Keller's eyes were bright with humor.

Ryan felt himself sinking further and further into this argument, but he had no idea how to get out of it. He got up, and started pacing the room. Maybe if he got some distance between them, he could get a handle on this conversation. "You were fucking people long before I met you, Keller. It would make no sense for me to get upset about it now."

"Yeah, but we weren't fucking then." Keller didn't give him the room he needed. He followed Ryan, getting up in his face. "Now we are, and you don't like it that I was fucking someone else, do you?"

"No! " Ryan shouted at him. "I don't like it. You feel better, now? If someone is with me, they don't fuck around, and neither do I! Why the hell do you think I divorced Shannon? I couldn't stay together with her, and still love Gloria. But you were fucking around with Alvarez the whole time, and it pissed me off, okay?"

"What whole time?" Now it was Keller's turn to get angry. "The first time we had sex, you told me it would never happen again. Never again! Those were your words, O'Reily."

"Yeah, I remember." Ryan stepped back, his face go red with embarrassment.

"You expected me to never have sex again? I wasn't having sex with you, either!"

"No. I didn't." He couldn't look in Keller's face, couldn't look him in the eye, because Ryan didn't like the way he'd acted. "I didn't expect to keep having feelings for you either. But I did. Then suddenly you were fucking Alvarez, and Jesus, but shit got all out of control after that. Even when all three of us were fucking, I was still having trouble. I wasn't upset about Alvarez fucking other people, but I hated it that you were fucking Alvarez without me."

"So you don't want me fucking anyone but you."

Keller seemed pretty damned pleased with that, although Ryan couldn't figure out why after all the arguing. But Ryan brushed it aside and concentrated on the important part.

"Right. If we're fucking, I want to know that I'm the only one you're fucking."

"Does this mean that we're in a 'relationship'?" Ryan could hear the quotation marks around that word.

Keller's voice had gotten softer, and Ryan finally looked up, shrugging. "That's up to you."

"Me? Don't you get a say in the matter, too?"

"I've said my share." Ryan forced himself to look Keller in the face - eye to eye. "I want you. But only if you're with no one but me."

Keller nodded. "I see."

His face was blank, which made Ryan's guts twist.

"So? You need time to think that through or something?"

Keller shook his head. "No, I don't think so. I think I know what I want."

"Yeah?" Ryan waited for Keller's response, his belly full of nerves, afraid of what Keller might say. "What do you want?"

Keller stepped forward, and put his hands on Ryan's face, pulling the two of them together until they were kissing. Ryan opened his mouth to Chris' tongue, then wrapped his arms around Keller's waist, pulling him closer. He felt like he was on fire because this was what he'd wanted from the beginning. Chris Keller in his arms, pressed close, holding on tight, the two of them, together.

When they broke apart, Ryan whispered. "I need to hear it, Chris. Say it."

"I want you, Ryan."

He felt a charge down to his bones, lighting him up from the inside. It was better than a hit of any drug he'd ever had. He nodded at Chris. "Damn right you do."

He pulled Chris back to him, and they kissed again. Alvarez didn't know what he was missing, not wanting to kiss Chris Keller. Chris had a tongue that wouldn't quit, and he could kiss better than anyone Ryan had ever kissed before. Finally he remembered that there was one last thing they needed to get straight between them, and he pulled away.

"Oh, yeah. One more thing."

"What? You got more rules for me?"

Ryan shook his head. "Just one." He poked Chris in the chest for emphasis. "No breaking my arms or my legs."

Chris laughed. "Don't worry. I don't do that shit anymore."

Ryan raised one eyebrow in question. "You sure?"

Was Chris Keller blushing? Ryan was impressed; he'd never seen that happen before.

"I learned my lesson." He looked into Ryan's eyes and said, "I promise. Never again."

"Good." Ryan didn't realize how important it was to clear the air about that until he felt the relief flood him. He had Chris' word. "We're all set then."


Chris reached for him, and Ryan danced out of the way. "Hey! I thought you said that was it. You got more rules for me to follow?" he asked, crankily.

Ryan grabbed the door stop from its hiding place, and shoved it under the door. Then he walked back to Chris. "I just wanted to make sure no one interrupts us."

Chris pulled him close. "Good idea."

Ryan expected this kiss to be hungry, and full of heat, but Chris kissed him softly, one hand in his hair to hold his head, and the other curled tight around his back. Ryan had heard the saying before about feeling a kiss down to your toes, but it had never happened to him before. This kiss surrounded him, and held him just as tight as Chris was doing. He felt it soak into him, and couldn't help but fall into it.

He didn't notice when the kiss became more heated and intense, it happened so gradually, but Ryan was glad for it, because all that tenderness was making him dizzy. Or maybe it was the lack of air? Eventually they pulled back. They were both breathing heavily. Chris would have jumped right back into another kiss, but Ryan held him back.

"Not yet. I want you to take those clothes off."

Chris raised one eyebrow. He toed of one shoe, then the other. He pulled his shirt out of his pants, then stopped. "What about you?"

Ryan shook his head, and leaned back against the wall. "Not yet. I want to watch you strip."

Keller raised both eyebrows this time. "You want a show?"

"Just take your time with it, all right? Nice and slow."

"All right."

Chris took the request seriously, instead of getting silly with bumps and grinds, which was what Ryan would have done. Ryan watched avidly, amazed that it had taken only a few weeks for him to come around to appreciating a male body. Okay, maybe he'd always been able to admire a good looking bod. A guy can tell another guy is hot without wanting them, and Ryan had never wanted a guy. But spending all that time with Chris and Alvarez had made him realize that if he gave himself the opportunity, he could definitely get aroused by a guy.

It was happening right now. Chris had taken off his button down with very little fanfare, but when he smoothed his hands down his wifebeater, his nipples were clearly outlined, sharp points against the white fabric. The bullet scar on his chest made Ryan shiver. The close-fitting cloth clung to the muscles of Chris' chest and abs, and Ryan had to clench his fist to avoid reaching out to run his own hand across them. The muscles in his arms bulged and flexed as Chris pulled the shirt out of his pants, and over his head, the crucifixion on his arm curving and stretching with the movement. Nice.

Chris pulled off his socks before reaching for his pants, and Ryan appreciated that - he didn't see anything sexy about socks, although he knew some people did. He was much more interested in seeing what was behind the pants. Chris took his time with that, though - button and zipper both a slow tease. Ryan glanced up to Chris' face, and his look of satisfaction threw Ryan. Ryan had thought he'd be in charge, by ordering Chris around like this, but Chris had Ryan in the palm of his hand as he let his pants slide down, turning sideways to show off his ass as he pushed them down over his knees, and down to the floor.

Ryan's eyes followed the line of Chris' back, remembering how it felt to smooth his hand down the warm skin. Chris was wearing jockeys that hugged his ass, and when he turned back around, Ryan could see that Chris was just as turned on by the slow striptease as Ryan was. His cock was clearly outlined in the cloth, and Ryan liked the way the head was pushing against the fabric, leaving a wet spot. Ryan caressed his own cock through his pants, squeezing carefully. Chris slowly peeled off his underwear, twisting to the side again to make sure Ryan saw plenty of ass. Okay, he got the point. It was a fine ass.

His voice broke on his first try, and he had to clear his throat before trying again. "Very nice. Now come over here, and undress me."

Chris' smile got wider with that command. "Well, if you insist."

Ryan had always thought that a man with a hard on should never try to walk naked. It always looked ridiculous. He knew it was true in his case, and it had been true in pretty much every piece of porno he'd ever watched. Alvarez had once likened Chris to a big cat, prowling across the floor, and even with his cock bobbing with every step, Chris still looked like fucking sex on legs. Ryan felt his cock stiffen even more.

Chris managed to touch every bit of Ryan's skin as he revealed it, his hand smoothing down Ryan's chest, catching on his nipple, his short nails scraping across them, making Ryan shudder. He got on his knees to take off Ryan's shoes and socks, and Ryan had never thought of his own feet as erogenous zones, but he did now, Chris' warm fingers massaging the soles firmly, making Ryan cling to his shoulders to keep his balance. Chris stayed on his knees to pull down Ryan's pants, and he knew for a fact that it didn't take that many glancing touches to Ryan's already hard cock to get his zipper down. Not that he was complaining. Unless you called his long, deep moan a complaint.

Chris pulled Ryan's boxers off, caressing his thighs and calves as he slid them down, another quick caress to each foot as he lifted it to remove the shorts. Then he looked up, and opened his mouth, like he was going to suck on the hard cock that was threatening to poke him in the eye. But Ryan knew that if he did that, it would be the end for Ryan, he was too close already. So he pulled Chris' head back, away from his cock.

"No, no, no. I have plans for that." Chris looked up at him in surprise. "Come on up here." Ryan gave him a hand up, and pulled him into a kiss. Ryan loved kissing Chris, and he opened his mouth wide, tangling their tongues together, pulling Chris tighter to him, their hard cocks pressed tight between them. When they finally broke apart, Ryan whispered into Chris' ear: "I want to fuck you, Chris."

Ryan's stomach clenched as Chris pulled back, staring into his eyes. He'd watched Chris fuck Alvarez, and realized that there was nothing more intimate that they could do together, aside from kissing. Chris had offered Ryan his kisses from the very beginning, but it had taken Ryan some time to even imagine Chris allowing someone that kind of access to his body. Ryan was sure he'd never allow Alvarez to do that. The only person Ryan knew Chris had offered that to was Beecher.

But it was important for Ryan to know that Chris trusted him this much. Because he was ready to offer that to Chris, but he refused to allow that to be a one way street. If Chris was willing to offer his ass to Ryan, Ryan was more than willing to do the same.

"You know what you're asking?" Chris' eyes were narrowed and impossible to read, but Ryan had gone this far, there was no backing down now.

"Yeah, I know. It's the same thing I'm willing to offer to you. I just need to know that this thing between us isn't one-sided. I need to know that you trust me as much as I trust you."

That was obviously the right thing to say, because Chris was kissing him again, pressing him tight against the wall. With his cock rubbing up against Chris' belly like that, he was afraid he wasn't going to make it to the main attraction, so he pulled back, breathing hard.

"You know what you're doing?" Chris asked as he nuzzled Ryan's neck.

Ryan nodded. "Me and Shannon used to do it once in a while. She didn't like it as much as I did, but from what I understand, it's better if you've got a prostate."

Chris laughed. "Oh, hell yeah." Ryan shuddered as Chris' hot breath heated his skin.

"Good thing I've had lessons on how to find one, huh?" If it was possible, his cock would have gotten harder thinking of that. Chris on his hands and knees, ass pointed at the two of them while Alvarez showed him how to finger fuck a guy. Ryan knew exactly where Chris' prostate was.

Ryan broke away from Chris, and grabbed his pants, pulling a tube of lube out of his pocket.

Chris grinned at him, slow and sexy. "Had this planned, huh?"

"It was a possibility. But I'm sure we would have used it up sooner or later, no matter what."

Chris went down to his hands and knees, and Ryan ran his hand along Chris' back, down to his ass. He ran his fingers along the crack, stroking over his hole, but didn't linger like the last time they'd done this. He squeezed the lube out on one finger, and pulled Chris' ass cheeks apart, going right for the prize.

Chris jumped. "In a hurry?"

Ryan circled Chris' asshole with one finger, pressing lightly, but not penetrating. "Sorry. It's just that you did far too good a job with that fucking striptease, man. If we don't get to the main event soon, I'm gonna come before we fuck." He let go of Chris' ass cheek and rubbed circles low on his back. "And I really want to fuck you, Chris."

Chris arched his back, rolling his hips. "Then get to it, because I'm getting there myself."

Ryan took him at his word, and slid his finger inside, running it in and out a few times, but ignoring his prostate. He lubed up a second finger, and slid them both in, running into more resistance. He worked them for a while, rubbing Chris' lower back as he panted, offering his ass to Ryan as he arched his spine. Ryan knew he was rushing as he spread his fingers, stretching as best he could. Chris was tight, but he was used to being stretched, both Ryan and Alvarez had finger fucked him more than once in the last week or so.

The way he writhed, and gasped was working Ryan up, and as he watched, his cock gave out a pulse of precome that slid down the underside of his cock. He rushed three fingers, making sure they were well lubed, but Chris hissed and Ryan apologized, even as he pushed them farther in.

"Sorry, sorry. But I want to fuck you so bad." He knew that Chris could hear his voice shaking, but he couldn't help it.

"Then do it. Do it now, Ryan." Chris' voice was low and growly, and Ryan pulled his hand off Chris' back to grab the base of his cock, holding off his orgasm. He had to do this now. He pulled his fingers out of Chris' ass.

"Turn over, Chris." Chris looked over his shoulder is surprise, but Ryan didn't know why he hadn't expected it. "I want to watch your face as we fuck."

Chris flipped over onto his back and spread his legs. If Ryan hadn't still had a strong hand wrapped around his cock, he probably would have come, right then and there. Jesus, what a sight.

"Fuck, Chris."

Chris grinned, crookedly. "That's the idea." He reached out, pulling Ryan close.

Ryan smeared the rest of the lube on his fingers onto his cock, and knelt between Chris' legs. He lowered his body carefully, perched on his knees and one hand. Chris' hands held his waist firmly, helping him get into position, and he slowly breached Chris' hole. Chris hissed, and Ryan stopped moving, but Chris wrapped one leg around Ryan's urging him on.

"Don't stop, don't stop."

So Ryan kept moving until he was balls deep, surrounded by Chris, the most incredible feeling he'd ever had in his life. He held on tight, trying not to move, no matter how hard it was. Chris' eyes were closed, and he was breathing rapidly, panting shallowly.

"You okay?" There was no answer. "Chris, look at me."

Chris opened his eyes, and Ryan felt a huge sense of relief when Chris smiled at him, pulling Ryan's face down into a heated kiss. Ryan relaxed his control, his hips moving reflexively, slowly building a rhythm as they kissed. They moved easily together, Chris' legs wrapped around his thighs, his heels bumping into Ryan's ass on every thrust. Ryan held his chest off Chris', resting on his elbows, cursing the hard tile floor. But he wanted to be able to kiss Chris, and he couldn't do that if he wasn't on his elbows, so it was worth the bruises he'd have later.

They had to break apart at some point; lack of oxygen was becoming a problem.

"Jumping Jesus!"

Chris laughed breathlessly in Ryan's ear. "I should have known the first words out of your mouth would be a curse."

"Don't complain," Ryan panted. "I only curse when the sex is really fucking good."

Ryan liked the way they fit together; not just that their parts fit together, but the way they felt holding each other, the way they moved together seamlessly, the way Chris grabbed Ryan's shoulders and held on tight. He wanted to tell Chris, but then Chris' hands were on his face, and they were kissing again. When Ryan and Chris kissed, everything fit.

It didn't take long before Ryan felt the pressure building. He was surprised they'd lasted as long as they had, as hard as they'd both been before they even started. He realized he hadn't been taking care of Chris, and he subtly shifted his hips, aiming up to find Chris' prostate. When Chris gasped into their kiss, sucking the air right out of Ryan's lungs, he figured he'd hit the right spot.

Ryan concentrated on that spot, circling his hips to make sure he got as much of his cock rubbing against it as he could. Chris had totally forgotten their kiss, so Ryan pulled back, wanting to watch his face. Chris' eyes were closed, and his face was flushed. Chest heaving, he moaned out with every breath.

"Oh, God. Oh, God!"

Ryan wanted to reach between them to grab Chris' cock, but he knew he could never keep himself up on one elbow from this position. It turned out it wasn't really necessary when Chris' eyes opened wide. He stared into Ryan's eyes and came, cock untouched between them. Ryan felt the hot come pulsing between their bellies, and he felt a rush of heat and pleasure flood him as he watched Chris' eyes close in pure bliss. His rhythm faltered as he pushed himself closer to completion, his face buried in Chris' neck as he shouted.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!"

He froze inside Chris, then jerked his hips, thrusting again, then once more. "Oh, fuck!"

His arms finally gave out, and his body fell onto Chris', who barely seemed to notice he was there.

"Holy shit!"

Chris laughed weakly, patting his shoulder. "I'll take that as a compliment."

"Christ on a crutch," he gasped into Chris' neck.

Chris grabbed a handful of his hair, and pulled his head up far enough to find Chris' mouth. The kiss was sloppy and breathy, but definitely heartfelt.

Suddenly, Chris pulled back. "We forgot to take the Storm!"

"Oh, shit. We did."

Ryan levered himself back up onto his sore elbows so he could look down into Chris' face. "I'm glad we forgot."


"I'm sure the sex would have been pretty fucking amazing if we'd taken it. But then it was damn amazing without it." Chris nodded, they'd both felt that. "And without the Storm, we know it was us that made it that way."

Chris smiled at Ryan, running his fingers through his hair. "Good point." Then he pulled Ryan's face down to his so they could kiss again. And that was fucking perfect.

Chapter Thirty-One

"So you're okay with the fact that Alvarez is obviously in charge of the Destiny being sold in Oz these days?"

Ray frowned. "I didn't say that, Pete. I just meant that if someone had to do it, he was a better choice than Torquemada. That's all."

Pete crossed her arms and scowled at Ray. He sighed. This was not how he'd planned to spend his Friday afternoon. Taking another sip of tea, he wished for a cigarette, but he'd promised Peter Marie that he wouldn't smoke while she was in the room. It was his office, why did he have to make the concessions? He realized he was being obstinate, and fiddled with his lighter instead.

"The whole prison would be better off if we could get rid of all the drugs."

"I agree with you one hundred percent, Pete, but if we have to have someone dealing club drugs in Oz, I'd rather it be Alvarez than, say - the homeboys, for instance."

"Why not them?"

"They're already dealing heroin, and that's a thousand times worse than any party drug. They don't need a monopoly on the drug trade; it's much easier to deal with when it's spread out."

"It's all bad, no matter who is dealing it."

"I know that. And I agree. But with the drug dealers spread out the way they are, there seems to be less violence."

"Fine, I suppose that's true. It just annoys me that we can't eliminate it all."

"Have you mentioned to Suzanne that it looks like Ryan is dealing again?"

"Good lord, no."

"Good. She's so pleased that he seems to be doing better these days. The last thing she needs to know is that he's back dealing drugs."

"She thinks that his improvement is due to a romantic involvement."

"So she said. I have trouble thinking that. He's been obsessed with Gloria for so long. But even you said that he seems to be getting over her."

"He's getting better, yes, but I'm not convinced that he's over her yet."

"It would be the best thing for them both. I pray for them daily."

"Me too." She put her mug down on the desk. "Oh, I got a card from Tobias the other day."

"You did?"

"He took the children to Disney World last week. I got a postcard with Cruella de Vil on it."

Ray couldn't contain his laughter. He flashed a sheepish smile at Pete.

"Very funny, thanks so much." She grinned, so he supposed he wasn't in too much trouble.

"Well that was thoughtful of him. Sounds like fun."

"I agree. I could use a week in Florida."

"How's Keller doing in Old Records?"

"He seems to be doing fairly well. He's going to be stuck there for a while, I think. As long as Schillinger is around, he'll never be totally safe. I think he misses Alvarez. Maybe we should find someone else to work with. It must be difficult working alone every day."

"You know... at the staff meeting last week, Murphy said he thought that O'Reily was dealing out of the infirmary."

"You're right. He did. Oh, I see where you're headed with this. If we could get Ryan transferred to Old Records, that would take care of two birds with one stone."


"Oh, no, Ray, did you hear that?"

"I heard. It sounds like that rat is back in the ducts again."



art by Neevebrody