Absence of Faith
When you feel all alone
and the world has turned its back on you.
Give me a moment please
to tame your wild, wild heart.
I know you feel like the walls
are closing in on you.
It's hard to find relief
and people can be so cold.
When darkness is upon your door
and you feel like you can't take anymore.
When you feel all alone,
and a loyal friend is hard to find.
You're caught in a one way street
with the monsters in your head.
When hopes and dreams are far away
and you feel like you can't face the day.
Because there has always been heartache and pain.
And when it's over, you'll breathe again.
Let me be the one you call.
If you jump I'll break your fall.
Lift you up and fly away with you into the night.
If you need to fall apart.
I can mend a broken heart.
If you need to crash, just crash and burn.
You're not alone
-- Savage Garden - "Crash and Burn"
Panic. Blind fucking panic. Crawling through this small - and getting smaller
every second - dark tunnel with nothing but a tiny-ass flashlight and Busmalis'
skinny ass leading the way.
Even saying these words as a mantra in his mind doesn't make this any easier. So he crawls, keeping his eyes focused on Busmalis, trying to forget the small hole they're squeezing through to get past the cold, solid walls of Oz. And El Cid.
He should be dead.
He knows he should be. No doubt about it. And that exact thing is what makes this - escaping - that much more important to him. It's life or death to Miguel. How many more chances would he have inside?
"Yo Busmalis...move. Fuckin' move hermano!" The nervousness and fear he's trying to bury beneath a tough-guy mask, bubble to the surface in his tone.
Busmalis stops and turns back to face Miguel. He makes a shusshing sound, like a parent makes to quiet a noisy child. He's got balls that's for sure. If they weren't in this tunnel, Busmalis would have a shank shoved into him so fast he wouldn't know what hit him.
"Try and be a little more quiet Alvarez. We're almost out. And the last thing I want is to see the smiling faces of the CO's on the other side of the tunnel. Besides, I figured you'd be used to such cramped spaces since you've spent so much time in solitary." He turns and crawls on.
Miguel bites back a reply and follows. Like a little fucking puppy. But that's all right. He'll follow this hole-digging cocksucker all the way to the top. All the way to freedom.
Free. "Until I'm fuckin' caught, anyway." He mutters to himself. The plan is to not get caught. So he shuts his mouth and tries to push away all the paranoid, claustrophobic fears that haunt him.
Rushing air passes over them. He can smell it, taste it. Ahhhhh...fresh air.
Busmalis speeds up and Miguel follows. His heart is pounding so hard he is *sure* he'll have a heart attack before he even gets past the walls of the prison. The pain from the shank wound in his side is burning from the sweat and dust that seeps under the covering, but he moves as fast as he can behind his savior.
Savior? Where the fuck did that come from?
The unspoken word floats through Miguel's mind. The word is replaced by a face...a familiar face. The face of the man who time and time again was there for him, believed in him, tried as hard as he possibly could, to save him. Him.
Probably the only man to ever give a shit about what happened to a low-life punk like him. Will the Padre miss him once he realizes Miguel is gone? He swallows the thought quickly, not wanting to admit that he too, will miss seeing his friend.
He pushes on, crawling through the dark, to his freedom.
He can see a small bit of it already. The dark sky speckled with bright white stars. A cry almost escapes from his lips, but he presses them together and stifles it. Almost there...don't want to get caught by the fuckin' hacks. Besides, there's plenty of time for that pussy shit later.
Busmalis pulls himself out of the hole into the night and takes a deep breath. "Alvarez? Alvarez! Come on." His hand reaches down into the tunnel and Miguel winces in pain as he is pulled free. He collapses to the earth and for a minute all he can do is lay there. Smelling the air, the grass, and freedom. Busmalis grabs him by the shirt and yanks him to his feet. Miguel's fist clenches and he draws it back to throw the punch...and then he remembers.
Busmalis reaches out for a handshake. Lips curling into a smile, Miguel relaxes his fist and reaches his own hand out.
"Good luck Alvar...Miguel. I hope I never see you again." He pauses and shrugs. "No offense." Busmalis walks off into the night.
"Me either compadre...me either." Miguel watches the other man's back fade into the blackness that surrounds the prison. He looks around once more and begins walking away from the hellhole of Oz.
* * * * *
"Who is this?"
"Fuck yeah it's Miguel. Who the fuck'd you think it was?"
"I don't kn...where are you?"
"I'm out baby."
"What? I don't understa..."
"I'm coming over there. I'm about...shit...fifteen minutes away maybe. I just didn't want you fuckin' freakin' out when you saw me."
"Don't come here. Please. I don't want you to come here."
"What the *fuck* do you mean 'you don't *want* me to come there'?"
"Miguel, I can't go through it again. I won't go through it..."
He slams down the payphone and starts walking.
* * * * *
He approaches the building, hidden from sight by the inky blackness of pre-dawn. He jogs up the stairs to the apartment he knows Maritza has been living in since she was released from prison. His anger has dissipated slightly, turning into a rampant longing to see his woman. He approaches the door, it is slightly ajar. He smiles, thinking she must have come to her senses and cracked it open for him.
He knocks gently on the wood with his knuckles and pushes the door open, expecting to see her there, waiting for him. She is no where in sight.
"Maritza?" He calls. No answer. He walks through the tiny space searching for her. "Maritza!" He calls again, more insistent, more angry this time. He passes in and out of the rooms, searching for some sign, any sign, that she's here somewhere. Her clothes are here. Her shit is all over the place.
When he can't find her, he begins to panic, thinking maybe something is wrong. That something had happened to her in the time it took him to get here.
*It was only 15 fucking minutes Miguelito. What could happen in 15 goddamn minutes?* El Cid's sarcastic, condescending voice cuts through his mind like a knife. Pushing him, forcing all his doubt and uncertainty out in the open.
He shakes the thought from his head and continues tearing apart the rooms of the apartment.
"Maritza!" He calls and calls. He's about to leave and search for her...when he sees the envelope on the kitchen counter. It has his name on it. The writing is easily recognizable as hers. He picks up the envelope and slumps against the cool surface of the refrigerator.
"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck." He taps the envelope against his forehead with each word. The tears begin before he even breaks the seal. The hot salty water pools in the corners of his deep brown eyes and spill over to his cheeks.
He pulls the sheet of paper free and begins reading. Her writing is halting and sloppy...the letter obviously having been written in a hurry.
"My sweet Miguel,
I'm not quite sure how to say this, but for my sake and yours, I won't waste what little time you have. I'll tell you straight. I love you. I love you as much today as I did the day we met. Please don't ever forget that. But...I can't do this anymore. I can't handle the thought of going back in. We did some really fucked up things before we got locked up, but we also did some beautiful things, like having our son. When he died, I swore to myself and to God that I would change. I decided that once I got out, I would never go back. That I would change my ways and clean myself up. And I have Miguel, I have. I don't want to be tempted back into that bullshit again. You love the wild and crazy side of life...and when I'm with you, I have no control.
I will miss you terribly. But please, please don't try and find me. I want to move on and I want you to move on. I know that you came out with nothing. I left you something to use to get on your feet. It's on the top shelf in the freezer.
Please be careful. They will look for you here first.
He grips the tear-stained paper in his fist and turns to open the freezer. It's sitting right where she said it would be. The ring. The one had he had given her the first time he said he loved her. A sob escapes him. He picks up the golden band and clutches it tightly against his chest. The edges of the small diamonds slice into the tender flesh of his palm as he tumbles to the floor.
He falls asleep right there. The ring and the letter held against his heart. He calls out her name quietly, tears falling freely from his eyes, as sleep claims him.
* * * * *
"How the *fuck* did this happen?" Leo Glynn screams at his staff. "How the *fuck* was Busmalis allowed to dig a *goddamn* tunnel in the medical ward? How the *fuck* did both he and Miguel Alvarez get through that tunnel and escape?"
Blank faces stare back at him. Shoulders shrug.
"I don't know how..."
"We do a thorough check every night..."
Those were some of the answers finding their way to the warden's ears.
"This is unacceptable! We have search parties out scouring the area for them. I *suggest* that you all get up off your goddamn *asses* and search every square inch of this prison."
"But we've already....."
"Check it *again*!!!" Leo Glynn slams his large, angry fists against the table and storms out of the room.
Sean Murphy clears his throat and takes charge. He glances around the room, taking a mental count of how many people are available and how many should go into each search party. One, very noticeable face is missing from the group seated around the table.
"Does anyone know where Fr. Mukada is?" Murphy questions the room.
"He called me this morning." Sr. Pete offers. "He mentioned that he was going to stop by an ill friend's house on his way in today and that he would be a little late."
"Did you mention anything about the situation?"
"No. But I did let him know that he needed to get here as soon as he could. That there was an incident late last night and Leo was holding a staff meeting regarding the situation." She pauses. "He asked what happened, but with his close relationship with Miguel, I figured it best that he didn't hear about it over the phone."
"Well, as soon as he gets in, make sure he's brought up to speed." Murphy's voice is condescending and stern when he speaks to her, but Sr. Pete isn't surprised or insulted.
"I will talk to him as soon as I possibly can."
The room empties and Sr. Pete walks alone to Ray's office to wait.
* * * * *
A ringing phone startles him awake. It takes him a moment to get his bearings and figure out that last night was not a dream, not a fantasy. He did escape from Oz. Maritza is gone. He shakes the sleep from his groggy head and stands. The answering machine picks up and he hears Maritza's voice gently asking the caller to "please leave a message and I'll make sure I call you back real soon." Fresh tears threaten to fall, but he uses all his mental strength and he halts them before they leave his eyes. He hears a very familiar male voice booming through the machine.
"Hello? Ms...uh...Alvarez? This is Leo Glynn, Warden at Oswald State Correctional Facility."
A long pause.
Miguel hears Glynn nervously clearing his throat and he can't help but feel...vindicated. All those long days in solitary. Glynn's little fuckin' Latino toy. Throwin' him in the motherfuckin' hole whenever he could, tryin' to get him to squeal like a fuckin' rat about who raped his daughter.
If he knew. If he ONLY FUCKIN' KNEW who was sitting here listening on this end of the call. Wild laughter erupts from his mouth as his tormenter continues to speak.
"I wanted to inform you that Miguel Alvarez escaped from Oz late last night. We have search parties already combing the surrounding areas. He may be heading your way. Please contact me should he show up there. Thank you."
Glynn leaves a number and hangs up with an audible click.
His moment of glory is short lived. The words "He may be heading your way," seep into his brain and slowly bring him back into reality.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
How long was he asleep for? He glances at the clock over the stove.
Fuck! Time for action. He's got to get moving. No time for grief or sadness. He has to save his own ass by getting the fuck out of here as quick as he can.
He rushes through the apartment, trying to find something, anything, that he can take with him. Money, clothes, anything. He finds some of his old shirts and jeans in a closet and jams them into a pillowcase. No jewelry or valuables, nothing.
Except the ring.
He tosses the gold band into the air and catches it with a flare of arrogance. He places a gentle kiss on the circle of precious metal before shoving it into his pocket.
"Ah well. You do what you gotta do hermano," Miguel says to the empty room.
He takes a long look around and walks out the door, slamming it behind him.
* * * * *
Ray drives through the entrance to the prison. He had cut his visit short. His mind was on whatever had happened at Oz during the previous night. He couldn't imagine what could have occurred. Obviously it was bad. Leo had called an early morning staff meeting. He didn't even do that when an inmate was killed.
He locks the car door and heads toward his office. The prison is in complete lock down. CO's and S.O.R.T.'s are scouring the halls. There are people everywhere.
He pulls open the door to his small office and closes it behind him. He is startled to see Sr. Pete pacing in front of his desk. She's waiting for him.
"Pete," he addresses her as he places his knapsack on the desk and pulls his sweatshirt over his head. "What's happened? What's going on around here? And why couldn't you tell me over the phone?"
"Ray, you may want to sit down for this." She cautions him.
"It's about Miguel."
"What's happened to Miguel? He's not...dead is he? I *knew* putting him back into solitary was a really bad idea!"
"He's gone Ray. He escaped with Busmalis last night through a tunnel. A tunnel Busmalis had dug in one of the walls of the medical ward."
The priest falls into his chair. He looks as if he's just been slapped.
"We have to find him Pete. You know what solitary did to him, to his mind. If we don't find him he's as good as dead." Tears well up in his soft, searching eyes.
She walks over to his slumped, defeated form and places a reassuring arm around his shoulders.
"It's ok Ray. We'll find him. Somehow, someway, we will find him. Leo has already called in the authorities and they are searching."
"What about Maritza? Has anyone called her?"
"Leo was going to call her and let her know. Ray...are you ok?"
"Yeah. I'm just...yeah I'm fine. What can I do to help?"
"Well, I wasn't sure if I should mention this, but I think it may be important." She pauses. His eyes meet hers. "There is a small possibility that he may come to you. Try and find you on the outside. If he does, you need to convince him, somehow, to turn himself in. To come back to Oz."
He turns his eyes to the floor. "Why would he come to me Pete? To Miguel I'm the enemy. I'm the 'authorities'. The bad guy. He won't come."
The nun curves her palm under his chin and gently raises his face. "Ray, now you know it's a possibility. You *know* it is. You and Miguel...you have a special relationship. He trusts you."
"He doesn't trust me. Not anymore."
"You can try all you like to convince yourself of that, but you know it's just not true. Miguel considers you a friend. And right now, he may just need a friend."
Ray shifts his gaze to the small altar and nods in agreement. His eyes slip shut and his mind flashes back to the last time Miguel was in this office. Covered in Rivera's blood, flames of insanity burning from his eyes, incoherent mumblings falling from his lips. Ray himself bound, powerless to stop him as he put the scalpel to his own throat.
His eyes open and stare into the nun's. "We have to find him Pete." The words tumble from him in a choked whisper.
* * * * *
On the inside, on the outside, nothing seems to change. He recounts the money he got for Maritza's ring and tries to figure out where he can go. What he can do.
He can't think of a single place he can go. At least where he can go and be safe. All day. He's spent all day going over his options in his head. And he has none. He wanders aimlessly, stopping every once and a while to get something to eat, or to piss when he needs to.
He stays hidden. Cutting through alleys and side streets, avoiding everyone, drawing no attention to himself. He sees cops come and go. He assumes they are looking for him. He heads towards the edge of town, thinking maybe he'll hitch out of town. Get away. Start fresh somewhere, somewhere no one knows "Miguel Alvarez".
But a nagging thought keeps him here. Keeps him from running away. A silent option that he is really trying to avoid. He plays it over and over in his head each time he passes a phone booth, sees a phone book.
Call Ray. Find Ray.
Miguel knows the priest will turn him in. How could he not? Miguel is a criminal. Ray is a man of God. Good vs. Evil. Right vs. Wrong.
But the thought just won't go away. It eats away at his resolve, his stubbornness. He knows he needs to get away. If he stays, he gets caught. But he can't go, can't run.
He makes the decision, and stops the next time he spots a phone book.
* * * * *
Fr. Ray Mukada sits alone in his office. An aura of disbelief permeates the air surrounding him.
He stands and approaches the altar. He strikes a match and lights the lone candle. He falls to his knees and says, what must be for the hundredth time, a prayer for his young friend.
The ringing of his phone disturbs him. Hopeful for even the smallest piece of news, he scrambles to his feet and grabs the receiver.
"Office of the Chaplain, can I help you?"
Nothing. No voice, no heavy breathing. Just silence.
"Hello? Is anyone there?"
Still no answer.
"Miguel? Miguel is that you? It's Ray, Miguel. Please say something."
"Miguel! *Miguel*! Shit!" He slams down the phone. And he waits. Waits for another call. But he sits and stares at the phone and prays for nothing. The phone doesn't ring again.
* * * * *
He panicked. He reached out and he fuckin' panicked.
"Fuck!" He pounds the glass of the phone booth with his fists until the anger is gone.
He rips the page from the phone book and quickly flips through it. When he finds the page he wants, he rips it from the binding as well. Frustrated and exhausted, he tosses the book at the payphone, knocking the receiver free of its cradle.
He studies the second torn page for a minute before crumpling both up and shoving them into his pocket. Thunder rumbles in the sky above him.
He begins to walk as the water-soaked clouds release their cold drops to the earth below. He pulls the hood of his sweatshirt over his head and sighs.
It is going to be a very long day.
* * * * *
No news. Not a single word for the entire day, except that neither Busmalis nor Alvarez had even been sighted. They were like ghosts that disappeared when someone turned on a light.
Ray Mukada spent most of the day in his office. Waiting. Listening to the rain sing as it struck the roof, producing a sad symphony that does nothing to make him feel any better.
To make things even worse, everyone on the entire staff kept stopping by his office. Some, more than once.
Did he need anything? Was he doing ok? They knew he and Alvarez were close. How was he taking it? Did he think they would find the men? Would they still be alive? How could this have happened? Was he scared?
God help him, it took all his strength and courage to answer each of their questions with his usual patience and kindness. When all the while he was screaming inside. Screaming for them to shut up, to leave him alone, to mind their own business. He wanted to slam the door shut and lock himself away from the questions and the comments and the never-ending sorrow that pierced his heart every time the realization hit him that he may never see Miguel again.
His total devastation over the inmate's disappearance disturbs him greatly. Since that day in the medical ward, the day they met, he had felt a special kinship with Miguel Alvarez. Although he was hurt and conflicted when Miguel had allowed the other Latinos to take him, to beat him, during the riot, he had forgiven him almost immediately. Would he have been so forgiving had it been Schillinger or Said or O'Reily? As much as he'd like to believe that he would have been, that he actually did treat each inmate equally, it just isn't true. He'd always defended Miguel whenever he needed it. He had helped him before the birth of his son, and had provided support after his death. He'd put his job and his own safety on the line time and time again for him.
Why? Why Miguel?
The answer is one he doesn't want to admit, doesn't want to believe. The answer is one he relives every time he is jolted from sleep in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, with thoughts of the young Latino pulsing hotly through his veins.
When the day finally comes to an end, he is relieved. He avoids contact with everyone, sneaks out of the prison, climbs into his car, and drives off into the stormy night. The tension in his body dissipates slowly over the long drive home. He pulls the stiff white collar from his throat and places it in the breast pocket of his shirt. He even begins to hum softly. By the time he pulls into his driveway, he is feeling better.
Still worried...but better.
He exits his car and runs through the pouring rain into the open garage. He makes a mental note to clean out all the mess in here so that maybe he could park his car in the damn thing.
He feels it even as he opens the door that separates the garage from the house. He doesn't know what is causing it, but he senses something is wrong. Not danger exactly. Something...different, yet familiar. Tension. Anxiety. Fear.
But not his own. He's never been afraid in his own home. His sanctuary. He shrugs off the sensation, steps over the threshold and closes the garage door behind him. "It's probably just the weather," he quietly reassures himself in the dark hallway. "Yeah...the storm. It's making me jumpy."
He shakes the water from his damp hair and flips the light switch, filling the vicinity with dim light. He glances up at his reflection in the mirror hung on the adjacent wall.
The priest sees him just a moment too late.
Miguel springs out of the shadows and grabs him from behind, trapping Ray's
arms against his sides. He covers his mouth with a strong hand cutting off
any possible sound he may have thought to make.
"Hi Father," he whispers softly into the other man's ear. "I bet you're surprised to see me here."
Ray can see him in the reflection of the mirror. Their eyes meet. His body tenses at the visual contact. His stomach lurches as the blood surges through his veins and pounds at his temples.
Again, memories of the past flash through his mind. He sees the man that let him be taken during the riot, who didn't protect him from the others. Who let him be beaten and degraded. The man who blinded another man. A criminal. A murderer.
But he sees something else too. He sees pain. The pain of loss. The tears that fell when he lost his son. The sorrow of wasting away, cast out from everyone, banished, sent to live in a solitary world. A world where no one cared if he lived or died.
But someone did care.
His throat tightens as tears threaten to fall. He recognizes the battle in behind those eyes. The battle that reaches deep into Miguel's heart and soul. The self-loathing. The blame. It's as clear as black and white. The darkness and the light, fighting for dominance in this confused, tired man.
His body relaxes slightly, the tension draining from his constricted muscles.
"Now, if I let you go, do you promise not to yell or scream?"
The priest nods and is released.
"Miguel," the relief that he shouldn't be feeling is apparent in his strained voice. He does not turn to face the other man, but holds his gaze in the mirror. For a moment he is without words. He stares into the eyes of the soaking wet man that has invaded his home. He gasps, his breath is quick and shallow, his mind reeling with fear and uncertainty as his heart thuds rapidly against his ribs, constricting within a tight noose of love.
The beginning of his own internal struggle over right and wrong.
"Miguel, I can't believe it's you. What are you doing here?"
Miguel begins to fidget. He drops his eyes to the ground. He studies his fingernails and starts to pick at them. He does everything except look at Ray.
"Miguel!" The priest whorls around and slowly approaches him, still unsure and slightly frightened of the man standing in front of him. This isn't Oz where CO's stand nearby to break things up before they get out of hand. When he gets no reaction, he thrusts out his hands and grabs the younger, stronger man by the damp material of his sweatshirt, startling him into raising his eyes.
"What are you doing here Miguel? How in the hell did you get into my house?" The tension between them is palpable and heavy. "Answer me!" He still gets no answer. Without thought of repercussions, Ray shoves him backward, knocking Miguel off balance.
Miguel backpedals and regains his footing seconds before smashing into the wall behind him. His own strong forearms strike out and knock Ray's hands from his body. He bends forward until he is face to face with him. As close as he can be without actually making physical contact.
"I *didn't* have any other fuckin' choice man!"
Ray does not back down. He holds his ground and doesn't move or make a sound. He can feel the heat radiating from Miguel, feel his scorching breath on his tingling skin. It courses through his body like an electrical shock that hums through his veins. The scents of rain and sweat mingle with those of fear and want and need. He holds his breath, trapping it in his lungs, forbidding the intoxicating aroma from entering and wreaking further havoc on his rapidly weakening psyche.
They are frozen in time, neither wanting to bend to the will of the other.
Finally Miguel breaks. A sob tears from his throat, but he chokes it off at the last second. He finds his voice, but when he speaks it's in a hoarse whisper.
"I got no other choice." He sags back against the wall behind him and slowly slides down it to the floor. He pulls his legs in close and places his head in his hands. Ray stares down at his friend. Sorrow and regret grip his heart and squeeze it like a vice. He inhales deeply to quiet his throbbing nerves and moves down to kneel beside the broken man.
"Miguel, you do have a choice."
"No. I don't."
"You have to listen to me."
"No. I know what you're gonna say Padre and I won't fuckin' do it."
"You have to Miguel. You have to go back. To Oz." He reaches out and lays a hand on the agitated man's shoulder, only to have it batted roughly away.
"I ain't goin' back. I ain't fuckin' goin' back to that shithole!" Miguel's eyes blaze with unharnessed hatred. He jumps to his feet and begins to pace the tiny hallway. Rainwater falls from his body and splashes to the floor. Ray follows his lead and stands. The water drips from his own hair, joining Miguel's on the wooden tiles. He again tries to comfort and calm Miguel by placing his hand gently on his forearm.
"Miguel, it's the only thing you..."
"NO FUCKIN' WAY!" He spins to face Ray and pushes him back against the wall, pinning him with his hands and chest. "Because you know what?" He moves his face lower, his lips gently brushing against the priest's ear. He wraps his hand around the back of Ray's neck and pulls his head closer. He drops his voice to a low growl, the warm breath of each word stroking his skin like feathers. Gooseflesh rises and falls in waves along Ray's skin, his stomach coils in and tightens, forcing the heat into his groin. "If I go back to Oz, I'm fuckin' dead. Dead. Glynn'd send me right back to fuckin' solitary. The hacks'd keep on starvin' me." He pulls his head back so he can meet the other man's eyes. "And El Cid...he'd fuckin' get me, even in there."
"I wouldn't let them..." He is silenced by a finger pressed to his lips.
"What're you gonna do huh? You sound like a broken fuckin' record. 'I won't let them.' I'm sorry Padre, ya know, but you can't do a fuckin' thing in there. And me? Fuck. I'd rather die out here, free. *Free.* Better than dyin' in there, fuckin' locked up like an animal."
He turns away and wanders into the adjoining room, leaving Ray alone. He crosses the floor and drops himself wearily onto the small sofa. Ray wills the gooseflesh flowing along his body from their contact away. He takes a deep steadying breath, and follows Miguel into the room.
"Miguel." Exhaustion and anxiety color his words. "What am I supposed to do?"
"I...I can't." He walks to the window and stares out at the rain.
"Yeah, you can. Nobody'd ever think to look for me here. It's fuckin' perfect."
"Do you *know* what you're asking? You want me to hide you...an escaped convict...in my home?"
"You are asking me to break the law. To commit a crime." He shakes his head in disbelief. "You are asking me to go against everything I believe in, everything I am." He turns back to face the other man. "For you."
Miguel meets his eyes squarely. "Yep."
"Miguel, I can't do that. I can't even believe that you came to me." Miguel stands and slowly approaches Ray. "Shit Miguel, what were you thinking?"
"Don't you fuckin' listen to me man? Shit! I *said* that I ain't got anywhere else to go."
"You know, I should be picking up the phone and calling Warden Glynn right now."
*Then why haven't you Ray?* His own subconscious taunts. He forces it quiet, not wanting to acknowledge the answer he already knows is there.
"So do it. Fuckin' do it then! Pick up the motherfuckin' phone Ray and make the call!" He screams in rage.
Miguel is visibly shocked and stumbles backward. His eyes cloud with confusion.
"No I won't turn you in." He sighs and continues. "I know what's waiting for you back there. Glynn's rage, Hernandez's hatred. If I send you back there, you will die."
The stunned man nods his head, his mind reeling with shocked relief.
"But, I can't let you stay here Miguel. You have to find somewhere else, someone else. What about Maritza? Why didn't you go to her?"
"Fuck *that*!" He turns away from the priest. Sobs shake his body, but he refuses to allow tears to fall. He hates the weakness he feels. But he is completely powerless under the flood of emotion.
Ray closes the space between them. "Shit Miguel. I'm sorry. Did I say something?" He attempts to force the man to turn back and face him, but his body is rigid. "Miguel, what is it? What happened with Maritza?" He places his palm on Miguel's forearm. He feels the muscles ripple and relax under his touch as Miguel reaches into his pocket and removes a crumpled up sheet of paper. He turns and extends his hand to the priest.
Ray accepts the offering and begins to read. His heart climbs into his throat, choking off his breath. He lifts his gaze to meet Miguel's, the pain he feels for him evident in his face.
"I, I had no idea." He folds the letter and places it on the table beside the sofa.
"I don't blame her Padre. I did, but not now." He rubs his tired eyes with the sleeve of his soggy sweatshirt. It does nothing except make his face wetter than it was.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"No." He pauses, realizing how harsh he must have sounded. "Sorry. What I'd really like to do is get the *fuck*out of these soakin' wet clothes." They both laugh, although it's an uneasy laugh. Ray walks out of the room and returns with a dry pair of sweat shorts and a t-shirt. He hands them to Miguel and leads him to the small bathroom. He removes his own damp sweatshirt and tosses it into a chair.
Miguel reappears moments later, dressed in the dry clothing. Ray sits on the sofa, waiting. Neither speaks for what seems like an eternity.
"Miguel," the priest begins, breaking the silence. "I don't know what to do for you. If I let you stay, I'm breaking the law. If I let you go, there's no telling what will happen to you. And I can't, in my heart, take responsibility for that. I can't."
"Padre, you wanna know why I came to you? Huh? Do you really fuckin' think this was the only reason?" He picks up the letter, shows it to him and crumples it into a ball. He tosses it back onto the table and sits down next to Ray.
He's not sure he wants to know, even though in his heart he already does. He feels it like the air he breathes. His body is tuned into it like the moon and the tides. He doesn't say a word, he allows the other man to continue.
"Do you remember that day? The day in fuckin' Glynn's office?" He is answered by a look of confusion. There were so many after all. "When Glynn was on my ass about his daughter and the fuck that raped her?" A nod. "He was gonna kill me that day, I think. And you, ya know, you stepped in. You wouldn't fuckin' leave man. *You* jumped in front of me when Glynn was gonna pound me. You fuckin' saved my ass."
Ray is completely silent. He never realized, never knew.
"You Padre." Miguel points a finger at his chest. "You. Not fuckin' Maritza, not the scumfucks from El Norte. You." He starts to pick at his fingernails again. "Bet you didn't know I noticed huh?"
"Miguel..." He swallows the lump in his throat. "I don't know what to sa..."
"Don't say nothin' Padre." He meets Ray's eyes, searching for understanding, begging forgiveness for the things he's done in the past. Pouring out his heart and soul without a single word being spoken.
Ray is trapped within those eyes. His mind takes him to a place where he knows he shouldn't go. Into the place that shatters his sleep, waking him, wrapped in his soaked sheets, passion pulsing through his veins like lifeblood. The place where he feels the heat of Miguel's skin pressed against his own. Where he tastes the salty sweat that pours from Miguel's body as he traces the muscles along his back with his tongue. Here there is no sin, no pain, no sadness. Only pleasure and release and sweet satisfaction.
"Yo Padre." The voice comes to Ray like an echo. It sounds distant and quiet. "Hey." Miguel grips the priest by his shoulders and gives him a gentle shake. "Ray, what's up man?"
But Miguel knows. He's known since that first day. He knew that one day they would end up right here, in this situation. Whether it had been in Oz or right here in Ray's living room, he could feel it coming. He sees it reflected in the priest's glazed expression, in the quick, short, choppy breaths he is taking, in the slowly growing erection hidden beneath the rough black material of his pants. Raw need. He can't help but allow a grin to slip across his lips. He shakes him again, more insistent this time.
Ray blinks. The haze lifts from his mind. He is immediately aware of Miguel's hands on his shoulders, and the reaction his body is having to them. A shiver passes through him. He knows what the smile spreading across the other man's face means. That "hungry wolf looking for it's next meal" expression he has seen at least once on almost every face that has passed him every single day in the prison. He drops his eyes, embarrassment and shame spreading a deep red blush across his cheeks and down his neck.
"Shhhhhhhh." He reaches out and again places his finger against the priest's lips, quieting him. He increases the pressure on Ray's shoulder, stroking his long fingers across the clothing-covered skin. "It's ok man." He waits until Ray lifts his eyes. Their gazes meet. "I understand."
They remain locked in this moment for what seems like hours. Their souls laid bare for each other. Their feelings declared through nothing more than a simple look. Each searching and seeking for what they need most. His heart pounding, Ray reaches up with a shaky hand and traces the entire length of the scar on Miguel's face. From his temple, along the cheekbone, and finally down to his lips. His touch lingers there, softly stroking up and down the tender reminder of what Miguel had done. His trade to God for the life of his son.
Miguel swallows roughly and sighs. His eyes slip shut as the priest's gentle, timid touch passes down over his neck and stops at the prominent Adam's apple. His fingers linger there, memorizing each curve, each imperfection. Miguel feels his own body begin to respond to the soft pressure, his heart beating in rhythm with each circular stroke. He knows he will have to take the lead in this, but the only thing he wants right now is for Ray to keep touching him. He swallows again, trying to remove the lump that has gradually formed in his throat.
Ray is mesmerized with Miguel's throat. He touches everything, burning the image of it into his mind. When he swallows the second time, any hesitations Ray may have had, disappear. He leans over and presses his lips to Miguel's. A jolt of electricity passes between the men.
The sudden shock startles Ray. He backs away slightly and lightly runs his fingertips over his own lips. A soft smile plays at the corners of his mouth.
"I've never kissed any...another man before." He shifts his eyes to Miguel. The smile falls from his face. Miguel is staring at his mouth. Ray recognizes that look, has seen it so many times in Oz. Pure, unadulterated lust. His small pink tongue nervously darts out to moisten his lips. Miguel's own lips are curled into smirk.
"Mmmmm hmmmmm." Miguel murmurs and moves in closer. "And?" He flicks the tip of his tongue along the outer edge of the priest's lips.
Ray dives into the other man, shoving him back against the arm of the sofa. His lips crush against Miguel's roughly. At first, Miguel is stunned. He wasn't expecting this to happen. He figured he'd have to be the one to make that move. The priest's lips move over his, inexperienced and sloppily. Miguel takes control of the rhythm and slows Ray down. He places his hand near the nape of his neck and pulls him in.
Ray opens his mouth to take a breath and Miguel takes advantage by invading the space with his skilled tongue. He runs the tip over teeth, tongue and lips. Ray's innocence slips from his lips in deep pants as Miguel works his tongue like a lollipop. He slides his free arm around Ray's back, and gently, but insistently guides him backwards. Their mouths are suctioned together, each breathing the others air.
Miguel breaks contact and slowly backs away, straddling the smaller man. He keeps their eyes locked together as he begins to unbutton Ray's shirt. He notices the stiff, white collar in the breast pocket and pauses for a second. He pulls it out and stokes it with his fingertips.
*This is fuckin' wrong hermano.* His subconscious tries to persuade and reason. *He's a fuckin' priest man.*
And in the pit of his stomach he knows it's wrong. He feels the knot of doubt building inside. His mind is spinning around the unsettling thought of taking this man's innocence from him. But Miguel's been waiting, they both have been - playing their little game of cat and mouse with each other - for way too long. Ray can see the struggle behind Miguel's eyes. He raises his hand and removes the collar from the Latino's hand. He looks at it for a moment and places it on the table beside the sofa. He turns his eyes back to Miguel.
"Miguel, don't. It's a choice I knew I would make." He glances at it once again. "I knew that sooner or later it would come to this. I've denied and hid the feelings I have for entirely too long. I can't lie anymore. I can't. I *want* this."
He reaches for the other man and places the palm of one hand against his belly, running it over the tight, perfectly formed muscles, once or twice slipping an errant finger inside the waistband of the sweatshorts.
"Miguel, I want *you*."
Their eyes crash together and the line is crossed. There is no turning back now. Years of study, sacred vows, all shattered with those four simple words.
Miguel's fingers fumble with the buttons. His hands shake with nervous tension. Not because of what he is doing. He's fucked men before, usually out of necessity or force. But this is different. This means so much, to both of them. He parts the still-damp material, exposing the naked flesh below. He lowers his head and dots the priest's skin with heated kisses. He pauses at each nipple and runs the tip of his tongue over the puckered, sensitive skin. He is rewarded with soft groans as Ray arches his back into him.
He drops his hands to the waistline of Ray's pants and begins to unbuckle the belt. Ray grabs at Miguel's shirt, trying unsuccessfully to pull it free from his body. Miguel grips the edge of his shirt, yanks it over his own head, and drops it to the floor.
The priest explores the newly exposed skin with his hands and fingers. He slides his hands over Miguel's arms and chest, gently stroking each tattoo as he passes it. He pays special attention to the taut muscles at Miguel's waist, dipping his fingertips into each ravine between the tightly packed skin. He lifts his hips when he hears the telltale sound of his zipper being lowered. Miguel delicately begins slipping the stiff, restrictive pants over Ray's hips and pulls them down each leg. He moves slowly, not wanting to spook Ray. Wanting to make sure he has an out if he needs it.
The cool air of the room assaults Ray's skin once his pants are removed, and gooseflesh rolls in waves over his body. Miguel wraps his hand around the exposed cock and gives it a strong, tight, slow stroke. Ray cries out loudly in response, and Miguel can't help but smile again. He never could keep his arrogance in check, and he feels *powerful* to be able to get a reaction like this from simply touching Ray's cock once.
Ray's hips buck upwards with the sudden shock of someone else's touch. It almost drives him to come. Had he been with someone as inexperienced as he himself is, the moment would have come and gone.
But Miguel is not that innocent. He is not that naive. He knows what to do.
He releases his grip slightly and slides it gently up the silky skin of his shaft. His touch is feather-light, almost non-existent, as he massages the priest's cock. Ray's breathing steadies and he begins to shift his hips in rhythm with Miguel's skilled strokes.
Ray's hands find the drawstring at Miguel's waist and he pulls the ties loose. Taking his cue from the smaller man, Miguel releases his cock and stands. His shorts drop to the floor and he stands naked in front of Ray. If this were anyone else, Miguel would've stood there, basking in the glory of his own body. But this wasn't all about him this time.
"Miguel." Ray reaches out his hand to him. "I want to *feel* you." The Latino smiles and takes the priest's hand. He pulls him to his feet and closes his lips over Ray's.
He backs him up slowly until Ray is pressed up against the wall. Miguel can feel the unsteadiness in the other man's body. The shakes and vibrations flow out of Ray and into Miguel, arousing him more. He deepens the kiss and guides Ray's hands to his shoulders. He reaches between them and lines their cocks up side by side. He drives his hips roughly into Ray's, forcing sweet friction between them. He rocks back and forth, stroking both of them with his large, strong hand. Ray breaks their kiss and sucks air into his lungs. His head drops back against the hard wall.
Miguel watches the other man's face while he pumps against him. Pleasure and agony float across the priest's pretty features in equal amounts. Ray's mouth falls open and he begins to moan in the back of his throat. The priest slips his hands around Miguel's waist and pulls him in closer. Miguel can feel that Ray is close and tightens his grip. He can feel his own release approaching as well.
Ray's cock pulses against Miguel's. His legs shake as he thrusts his hips roughly against the other man. His head drops to Miguel's shoulder. All of the muscles in the small man's body constrict and harden.
"Oh...God. Miguel!" Warmth spreads over Miguel's stomach. He feels the priest's teeth sink into the skin of his collarbone. The pain from the bite pushes Miguel over the edge. The air rushes from his lips in a rough hiss. His body tenses and his own hot seed shoots from him and coats the skin of his friend.
Miguel's hand drops away from their spent cocks and he slides it up into Ray's hair. He lifts the man's face to his own and kisses him. Slowly, softly. Their bodies press together, soaked and sticky with their sweat and come. Miguel gathers Ray in his arms and holds him tightly as they come down from their high.
They come back to reality slowly.
Ray pulls back first. His face is flushed with spent passion, his lips puffy and bruised. He meets Miguel's eyes and smiles shyly.
"I, uh. I don't really know what comes next." His naivete is heartbreaking, and Miguel can't help but feel guilty. He strokes his damp, sticky belly absently with his fingers. He turns his eyes away from Ray when he speaks.
"Uh, well, we need to clean up man." He breaks away from Ray and walks toward the bathroom.
Ray's heart falls and his throat tightens as he watches Miguel's retreating back. The full realization of what he has done, what he *just* did hits him full force. He covers his face with his hand and takes a few deep breaths, attempting to rein in his emotions. He picks up his underwear and slides them up his shaky legs. He gathers the rest of the discarded clothing and walks into the bedroom. He drops the clothes onto the floor and sits down on the bed. His head is pounding with tension. He raises his hands to his temples and gently rubs the painful ache, wishing it away.
When Ray hears Miguel enter the room, he looks up. He has a towel slung around his hips. His skin is damp and shiny. He won't meet the priest's eyes. His feeling of guilt apparent as he leans back against the door frame and falls into his unconscious habit of picking at his fingers.
The Latino's eyes shift to Ray's for a brief second and drop to his hands again.
"So what, Miguel?"
"So I better fuckin' go then." He shrugs.
Ray stands and approaches the other man.
"Miguel." The priest reaches out and places his hand on Miguel's forearm, halting his nervous picking. "Would you look at me for shit's sake!" Miguel finally meets his eyes. He sees the same feelings reflected in the dark brown pools as he did the day of the riot. Remorse. Regret. "Miguel, I want you to stay. I want you to stay *here*."
Now it is Ray's turn. He presses his lips against Miguel's, gently halting his words.
"I know what I said before." He turns and leads Miguel over to his bed. He sits and pulls the other man down beside him. "It is my choice, my decision." He kisses Miguel again, deeply, passionately. "Stay."
Miguel falls back against the soft mattress. He covers his eyes with his arm and nods. "Ok." His answer is soft and timid.
Ray stands. He walks to the opposite side of the bed and pulls down the covers. He slips out of his shirt and his underwear. He slides underneath the warm blankets and pulls them over his naked body. Miguel loosens the towel from his waist and climbs in beside his friend. Ray reaches over and pulls Miguel's head to his chest. He strokes the other man's hair and drops small kisses along the top of his head. Miguel curls his body into Ray's as he feels himself being lulled into sleep.
"It'll be ok Miguel." Silent tears fall from his eyes. He hugs Miguel close as he, too, slowly drifts away. "I'll take care of you now."
Ray awakens in his bed. He feels sluggish and sore, his body aches with
the stress and exertion from the previous night. He's maybe even a little
bit sad. He knows the choices he made were wrong. Not only in a moral and
spiritual way, but also in a legal way. Which is worse, he doesn't know.
He doesn't need to know.
They were the only choices he could make. He was tired of lying to himself, to everyone. He couldn't live with the denial anymore. Couldn't stand the thought of trying to re-bury his feelings for Miguel under the cover of his vocation. Under God.
He doesn't know what he's going to do from this point forward. He has been a priest for his entire adult life. He doesn't know how to be anything else, can't imagine being anything else. Somehow, someway, the answer will come to him. He just needs to be patient.
Ray sighs the air from his lungs and throws the heavy blankets aside. He slides his legs out from the comforting warmth of the bed. A soft grin curls his lips. He rubs the sleep from his eyes and turns towards the opposite side of the bed. The sleepy, bedroom smile falls from his face.
The bed is empty.
He doesn't call out. Doesn't panic. He feels it stabbing into his heart. Love and sadness tighten his chest almost to the point where he can't breathe. His head drops into his hands and he begins to weep. He weeps for what was found last night and all that was lost.
"Miguel." He whispers to the room. Hopelessness surrounds him. His throat constricts, cutting off his air. He pants between sobs, trying to revive his burning lungs. Salty tears sting his eyes and soak his cheeks. He raises his face to the crucifix on the bedroom wall.
The strength of his belief cloaks him and comforts him. Ray falls to his and knees before the cross and begins his own confession.
He does not feel guilt for having shown his love to Miguel, for giving up his body, his celibacy, his innocence, for that love. Because it is a pure and true love. What he had shared with Miguel was not driven purely by physical need, but by heart and soul and mind as well.
He prays for his soul and Miguel's. He begs for absolution, forgiveness for his sins. He asks for understanding, for solace. For guidance.
* * * * *
Ray pulls into the parking lot of the prison, just like he would on any other ordinary day. But today isn't ordinary. He'd broken his vows. Even though he has made his peace with God, filling his role as Chaplain feels like a lie. He can't even bring himself to slide the stiff white collar into its place. It remains tucked safely away in his pocket.
He enters the building, heads directly to his office and closes the door behind him. The panic he's felt since he pulled away from his house has intensified and is manifesting itself in his pacing of the small office. His heart is thudding within his chest, his breath coming in short, harsh gasps. He takes a few long, deep breaths in an attempt to get himself under control. He knows what he has to do.
Ray sits down at his desk. He picks up the phone and dials Cardinal Abcott's number.
* * * * *
A loud knock on his office door startles him.
"Come in." His voice is harsh, unwelcoming. He clears his throat when Sr. Pete walks in.
"Well, someone woke up on the unfriendly side of the bed this morning." She teases, giving him a warm smile.
*You have no idea.*
"Sorry Pete. I had a really long night." He rubs his tired face with the palms of his hands. "What's up?"
He chokes on the air and attempts to unsuccessfully cover it up as a cough. The nun eyes him suspiciously, but continues without comment.
"He is back in Oz."
He leaps to his feet and again begins pacing back and forth and back and forth. "What!?! When did...? Where was...?" His voice twitches nervously. Panic grips his chest, his mind twists around what he was just told.
Miguel...back in Oz?
"Uh Ray. Try to finish one sentence ok?"
He stops moving and leans over to grip the end of his desk. He takes a deep breath, hoping he can speak normally once he re-opens his mouth. "Where was he? When did he get back to Oz?" His hands are shaking uncontrollably and he clamps his fingers down onto the wood so tightly that all his knuckles turn white.
"He turned himself in this morning. No one knows where he was or why he decided to come back." She watches Ray trying to get himself under control. Realization passes over her face, but she masks it quickly as a look of concern and crosses the office. When she reaches the priest, she places her hands gently on his shoulders and turns him towards her.
"Ray," she says softly. "He wants to see you." He tenses under her hands.
"I don't know if I..."
She grasps his twitching hand in hers. She meets his eyes. At that very moment, he knows what she has learned just by looking at him, looking *through* him into his soul. "Go."
* * * * *
Miguel, back in solitary, back in Oz.
Ray walks down the long hallway toward the cell in which the inmate is being held. It all seems so familiar, yet so foreign. The last time he walked this hall, he had been concealing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich under his full vestments for Miguel. He remembers it like it happened yesterday. He dropped the sandwich and hastily retrieved it before Officer Howell could see that he was feeding the man that she and the other CO's were trying desperately to starve.
His hands clutch the soft Bible he carries with him. He wrings the book he holds in a desperate attempt to cover up, hide his anxiety from the woman leading him. His forehead throbs with pressure. By the time they reach the tiny cell, beads of sweat are rolling down his forehead and splashing against his cheeks.
"You ok Padre?" The CO eyes him with suspicion.
"Yes Claire." He gives himself a moment to collect his thoughts. He doesn't know how long he is silent for, but when he hears the officer's voice again, it startles him.
"Open the cell please." He takes a deep breath and releases it slowly. The heavy metal door swings back revealing the bars and the cell beyond. She opens the lock and slides the protective bars aside.
Miguel Alvarez stands against the back wall of his cell. He has a white bandage covering his shoulder, hiding the bite wound he was given the previous night. His brown eyes are fixed on the priest. When Ray first sees him, he is frozen. His body refuses to take a step into the small space. He stares at Miguel almost as if he can't believe what he is seeing. He wills himself forward, but he can't move. Miguel breaks the spell with an almost imperceptible nod of his head.
Ray steps into the cell and turns to face Claire Howell.
"Can we have some privacy please." Definitely not a question, but a command.
"Sure thing." She slides the bars back into place and slams the heavy steel door shut.
Ray grips the bars of the cell so roughly that his knuckles turn white. His blood rips through his veins. His heart jackhammers within his chest so roughly that he's afraid that it may actually crack his ribcage. Again he is stuck. He can't force himself to turn and face Miguel.
"Miguel." His voice cracks roughly. He clears his throat. "Miguel. I don't understand. Why?" He shakes his head solemnly back and forth.
"Yo Padre." The inmate sees Ray physically flinch at the nickname, hears the sharp intake of breath. He immediately regrets his choice of words and closes the short distance between them, stepping beside the other man. He bends his neck bringing his head level with his friend's. "Ray." He places his hand gently on the priest's shoulder.
Ray doesn't pull away, doesn't say a word. His head drops forward against the cool bars. The air leaves his lungs in a long, slow sigh.
"Ray." Nothing. "Ray, would'ya look at me? Please?"
The priest turns his head without pulling away from the bars. His face is pale, drawn. His cheeks are sunken, his eyes red from tears and loss and guilt.
"Why Miguel?" His voice is a whisper.
Miguel grasps his arm and leads him over to the bed. He gently guides Ray down onto the hard mattress. He remains standing.
"Why did you leave? After everything that happened. After everything we said and did. How could you do that? How could you leave me like that?"
Miguel drops to his knees in front of his friend. He grabs the priest's face roughly in his hands, forcing him to hold eye contact.
"Ray. Don't. Don't do that." He pauses, his eyes burning into the other man's soul. "I left for you. For you man."
"For me?" Shades of confusion pass over his face. Confusion changes to anger as he processes what Miguel has just said. "For me! How could your leaving have been for me? You left for *you*, Miguel. Did you even think of me when you were walking out the door, leaving me to wake up alone?"
Miguel pushes himself away from Ray and stands.
"Shit Ray! Don't you fuckin' get it?" He begins to pace up and down the length of the cell. "Damn man."
Ray stands and grabs the taller man by the shoulders, stopping Miguel in his tracks. "No, I don't understand. I don't *get it*. I want you to tell me. I want to hear the words come from your mouth."
"I gave it all up man. All of it. My freedom, my life, everything. For you." He meets the priest's eyes. "Last night, after we..." An embarrassed blush creeps up the young Latino's throat and covers his face. "I couldn't fuckin' sleep. I tried and tried, but it just wasn't in the deck for me. So I laid there, watching you, watching your face as you slept." His throat tightens with emotion. "And I fuckin' thought and thought about what I had done. To you."
He pulls out of Ray's grasp and turns away.
"That's when I realized what *you* had done. You fuckin' saved me *again*. I fucked up and you gave up everything to help me. Everything man!" He spins to face his friend. "So, I gave it all up for you."
"Miguel..." Ray reaches out to the agitated man, but his hands are softly batted away.
"No man, let me finish." When the priest nods, he continues to speak. "I decided to do the right thing for once in my fuckin' life. I climbed out of your bed and hitched back to Oz. I turned myself in. I went to Glynn and gave him what he fuckin' wanted. Made a deal with him to only spend time in this shit-hole for escaping." He gestures around the solitary cell. "And I gave him the name of the cocksucker who raped his daughter."
Ray stands in stunned silence.
"I left for you man." He raises one hand to his face and rubs at his swollen eyes. "I left so that you could move on. So that you could have your life."
When Ray finally finds his voice, it is hoarse and choked with emotion.
"I don't know what to say."
"Don't fuckin' say anything." He reaches for the other man and pulls him into his arms. Their mouths meet softly, lips moving against each other in a tender kiss. Miguel pulls back first. He gently leads Ray over to the barred door to his cell and bangs on the metal outer door.
The door swings open and Officer Howell slides the bars open.
"See ya Padre." He smiles at Ray.
The only thing Ray can do is nod as he exits the cell.
* * * * *
And so they move forward. Each revolving in their own worlds, separate from each other, but still together.
Ray went to the Cardinal and asked for his absolution. Came back to Oz as Chaplain.
Miguel went back into Emcity to finish out his sentence. Safe from El Cid who was now dead and buried.
Their paths do cross on occasion, and their eyes always meet. An exchange is made without a word being spoken. A soft commitment made each time Miguel reaches up and softly stokes the scar that still remains on his shoulder.
Because they know. And God knows.
And that means everything.