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I'll Always Have Your Back

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It’s half past five before they finally leave the hospital to head back to Wentworth. With count at 6am sharp, worry gnaws vigorously at Vera’s insides, sending her gut churning at an almost nauseating pace and causing an irritated bub to box furiously in her stomach. She chews the inside of her cheek as she drives through the early morning twilight, her heart hammering in her chest each time they catch a red light. Even without traffic, it’s a twenty minute commute, leaving them with a window that’s too dangerously close for comfort. 

However, thinking back at the anxiousness on Rita’s face as they awaited an update from the surgeon and remembering her wails of agony in the slot just a few nights ago, she knows she wouldn’t have done things any differently. Her heart broke as she watched the suffering on the woman’s face and a little pang of envy plucked at her heart, knowing that no one had ever been so distressed over her. Perhaps Joan had been right, all those months ago: no matter what, her humanity always wins out.

In the passenger seat, Rita stares blankly out the window. The flicker flash of street lights dances across her worried expression as she nervously tugs at her bottom lip. She’s relieved beyond belief that Ruby’s made it through, but she knows the road ahead is still rocky and she longs for nothing more than to be at her kid sister’s side.

Vera sighs heavily as they catch another red light, drawing Rita from her deep introspection. “You right, Ms. Bennett?” Her voice is soft, but urgent, and her brow creases further with worry as she looks to the smaller woman. 

“We’re just...it’s almost time for the count.” Vera whispers ominously as she cuts a quick glance in Rita’s direction. Even if she doesn’t regret her actions, she’s not prepared to handle the repercussions if Will should find out. Rita takes a look at the time on the dash, “We’ll be right, we’ve got enough time,” she offers with encouragement, though she too is beginning to worry. Vera remains tight-lipped and presses the accelerator as the light goes green.

Rita knows what Vera’s risked to do this and she’s floored by the unexpected extension of kindness and the way the smaller woman has willingly put herself on the line. She admires the courage Vera possesses and recognizes the amount of trust she placed in her by sneaking her out of the prison alone. Suddenly, she’s compelled into confession by the unspoken bond that this night has forged between them. “I was a copper, when I came into Wentworth.” She blurts into the silence, causing Vera’s bottom lip to drop as she quickly glances over.

“S-sorry?” Vera questions, unsure if she misheard what Rita said.

“I was on an undercover job. But they cut me loose when I killed Drago. So, I’m stuck here.” Nervously, Rita wrings her hands in her lap as she watches Vera’s profile and the way her features shift into stunned amazement. “Ruby knows, and so did that new girl, Narelle- I busted her a couple times a few years back- but I’ve kept it from the other women cause, well, I’m sure you know why.” 

Vera’s shocked by the revelation, but despite the outlandish situation, she instinctively knows it’s true. She always felt something was different about Rita; that she possessed a righteousness and strength that was far removed from all the others. She had always shown a level of respect for the officers, unlike the usual disdain and begrudging obedience of the rest of the women. In turn, Vera had always felt a kindness toward her. This also explained Rita’s resistance to be Top Dog, despite the push and support of many of the women.

“Is there no one in the force that can help you?” Vera finally asks after a prolonged stunned silence. Rita casts a remorseful glance with a sad shake of her head. “I don’t think so. They wiped my record completely and closed ranks in order to keep their noses clean. I still deserve time for what I did to Drago, but I wouldn’t change it because I had to protect Ruby.” She pauses, swallowing hard before she continues. “So….you’ve no idea, Ms. Bennett, how much what you’ve done tonight means to me.” She chokes up as the weight of her emotions tightens her throat and tears flood her tired eyes. “I don’t know if I could have survived if Ruby had...if I’d have lost her and I wasn’t there.”

Vera doesn’t know what to say so she simply offers a sad glance toward Rita, unable to articulate her sympathies or words of encouragement. She knows without question the immensity of Rita’s grief would have been heartbreaking and again, she feels that little pang of envy that she’ll likely never be that important to another person. 

The next turn puts them in the back entrance of Wentworth and an immediate hush falls around them as Vera pulls up to the back door and turns off the ignition. They remain still for a moment, preparing themselves for the possibility of discovery and what the repercussions might mean for them both. Sharing a quick glance and deep breath, they finally exit the car and hurriedly move inside. It isn’t until they’re finally back into Protection, that the tension leaves their shoulders as Vera unlocks the cell and they both step inside. At least if they’re caught like this, they can pass it off as Vera checking in.

They stand in an awkward silence for a long moment until Rita finally speaks. “I can never thank you enough for this, Ms. Bennett.” Vera looks up with a small smile and simple nod of her head. “There was never a question.” She drops her gaze as she feels the tears begin to pool in her eyes and she takes a deep breath as she pushes them away. “Ruby’s very lucky to have you.”

Rita offers a self-deprecating smile. “I can never repay your kindness, but I can promise you that as long as I’m in here, I’ll always have your back. And if I ever manage to get out, I’ll have your back out there too.” Vera’s chest burns as she tries to keep the tears spilling from her eyes.

Suddenly, Rita pulls her into another embrace and she sighs as her strong arms pull her in. Stomachs pressed tightly together, bub gives a furious kick that they both feel and they each exclaim in amused surprise as Rita pulls away and tenderly places both hands on Vera’s belly. “Oop, sorry little one, we didn’t mean to squash you,” she coos with a small laugh, gently rubbing Vera’s belly with a wide smile. Looking up, she sees the tear running down Vera’s cheek and she rises up, lifting a gentle hand to wipe it away. Vera smiles shyly as they make eye contact, Rita’s hand still cupping her face. 

Rita draws her in slowly and Vera finds herself leaning until they meet half-way. The kiss is tender and gentle, sweeter than any Vera can recall ever having before. It lingers, but doesn’t grow in intensity. Eventually Vera pulls away, opening her eyes to meet Rita’s shy gaze. She feels Rita’s hand slip into her own and offer a gentle squeeze as they share a shy smile. “Get some sleep, yea.” Rita whispers tenderly. Vera nods in agreement and squeezes Rita’s hand in return. “You too.” 

With a final nod and smile, Vera releases Rita’s hand and exits the cell. Closing the door, she offers a final shy smile as they share a glance through the window. She leaves the unit smiling widely, her heart feeling a little bit fuller after the intimate exchange.