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The week had truly been the week from hell. There had been a riot at Wentworth where two prisoners had died, and there had been a handful of overdoses, which had resulted in one death. When Vera and Bridget sat down for lunch on Thursday, it was hard to believe that it was only the third working day of the week.

“It’s times like these that I regret my career choice.” Vera slumped down in her chair at the staffroom table.

Bridget joined her. “It’ll pass, Vera. You can’t let it affect your life outside of here. You’ll go crazy if you do.”

“I know. I just go home, and every day, there’s some incident that just keeps replaying in my mind,” the governor sighed. “Maybe I just need some kind of distraction.”

“That’s not a bad idea actually,” the blonde said, taking a bite of her sandwich. After only three days of Franky helping at her friend’s restaurant, she already missed her meals. “Why don’t we plan a night out?”

“A night out?” Vera couldn’t even remember the last time she’d had a night out except for Bridget’s birthday the week before.

“Yeah, we can go out and have some drinks, dance a bit, blow off some steam. You can ask some of the officers and I’ll get Franky to bring some of her friends. It’ll be fun.” Bridget looked at her expectantly.

“I don’t know…” Vera looked around the room as if the answer would appear written on the wall somewhere. “I suppose it could be fun for a change.”

“Yeah!” Bridget playfully shoved Vera’s shoulder. “I’ll leave the officer invites to you and I’ll let Franky know. And I’ll have to find someone to stay with Em, but that’s my problem, I’ll get it sorted.”

“Righto.” Vera nodded as Bridget packed up her empty lunch containers and headed back to her office.

********

The rest of the day had passed relatively quickly, and Bridget soon found herself on her way to pick up Emily from her cooking class. She arrived a few minutes early, and was waiting at the back of the room for the class to finish when Emily motioned for her to come over to her station.

“Hey, love. What did you make today?” She asked, approaching her niece. “It smells lovely in here.”

“Cimonim buns.” The young girl struggled with the word.

“Cinnamon?” Bridget corrected her.

“Yeah, that’s what I meant. Here, try one.” She held out a sticky, frosting-covered bun to her aunt.

Bridget took a bite. “Mmmm, this is delicious, Em.”

“She’s a natural.” Franky came up beside Bridget and put her arm around her waist, pulling her into her side.

“She definitely is. Try it.” Bridget held up the bun in front of Franky, who took a bite.

“Oi, good job Em!” Franky exclaimed and the girl’s face lit up.

“You’ve got frosting on your face, baby,” Bridget said, pointing to the corner of her own mouth so that the brunette would know where it was.

Franky swiped at the wrong side of her mouth. “Good?”

Bridget laughed, “No, come here.”

Franky leaned down and the blonde reached up, wiping the frosting away with her thumb. She let her thumb linger on the brunette’s lip, pulling at it gently. “Now, it’s good.” Bridget winked.

“And you must be Bridget,” Liz said, greeting the woman and extending her hand towards her. “Franky’s told us so much about you, love. Good to finally meet you.”

“Aw, likewise Liz. Franky speaks very highly of you.” The blonde reached out with her non-sticky hand and shook Liz’s.

As the children all left, one by one, Franky’s friends made their way over to say hello to Bridget. They were all eager to meet the woman who had captured her heart. Franky was usually never one to go on a second date with someone, let alone get into a relationship. Bridget greeted them all warmly. They all chatted for a minute, then began cleaning up the various stations.

The blonde wrapped her arms around Franky. She wasn’t normally clingy, but she hadn’t seen the brunette much the past few days. “Baby, Vera and I were thinking we should have a night out tomorrow. It’s been crazy at work this week and we just need to decompress. Why don’t you ask your friends to join us? I just need to find someone to watch Em.”

“I can do that.” Liz was cleaning the station next to them and had overheard.

Bridget looked over towards Franky’s friend. “Are you sure? You wouldn’t rather come out with us?”

“No, love. I gave up the bars and clubs long ago. Me and Em will be just fine for the night.” She smiled at Bridget then went back to cleaning.

“Oh that’s so nice of you, thank you, Liz.” The blonde went over and gave the older woman a quick hug. “Franky can give you directions to the house? We won’t be too late getting back.”

“Don’t be silly, take the night for yourselves, you deserve it. Franky’s been working her ass off this week and I can’t even begin to imagine the things you see in your job. I don’t want to see either of you until the next morning, got it?” Liz gave Bridget a serious look that quickly changed to a warm smile.

“Ah, Gidge, don’t even bother trying to argue with Liz. I learned that lesson years ago.” Franky laughed. “We’ll go back to my place after.” The brunette winked at the two woman.

Liz moved on to the next station and Em tagged along to help her. Seeing this, Franky took Bridget by the hand and led her into the office, closing the door behind them.

She pulled the blonde into a tight hug, holding her close. “I’ve missed you this week, Gidge.” She heard Bridget sigh into her neck.

“I’ve missed you too, baby. Are you coming over tonight?” The blonde asked hopefully.

“I’ve got another early shift at the restaurant. This should be the last one though, babe. She’s got someone else to help out for the weekend and the regular guy should be back on Monday.” Bridget lifted her head and Franky could see the disappointment in her eyes. “Just one more night, then I’m yours all weekend, okay?” The blonde nodded and Franky pulled her in for a long, slow kiss.

They were interrupted by a knock on the door and Franky broke away from their embrace to answer it. She opened it to find Allie there with Emily who had all of her stuff packed up and was ready to go home with Bridget.

“Oh thanks so much, Allie.” Bridget said warmly, putting a hand on the younger woman’s arm. “You ready to go, darling?” She asked looking down at Emily, who nodded. She turned to give Franky one last quick kiss before she left.

“Call me tonight before you go to sleep, okay?” The brunette asked as Bridget was heading out. The blonde turned and smiled, giving her girlfriend a small nod.

Once Bridget and Emily were out of sight, Allie turned to Franky. “Wow! Franky, she’s a good one!” The brunette laughed and playfully shoved Allie’s arm as she turned and went back into the classroom.

“No, Franks, I mean it.” The young blonde said, laughing. “And she’s hot!”

Franky chuckled then took a deep breath, letting it out in a big sigh. “I know.” She was quiet for a few seconds. “So does that mean you’ll come out with us tomorrow night?”

“Hell yeah!” Allie replied enthusiastically.

Franky asked Boomer and Bea and they both agreed to go as well. She didn’t know who Bridget was planning to bring, but she assumed Vera would be there and probably a couple of other people who worked with them. It didn’t really matter to her who else was there. She was looking forward to spending the evening with her girlfriend.

********

Friday had come and gone and Bridget and Franky were finally out with their friends. Franky had invited Boomer, Allie and Bea while Bridget had brought Vera, Linda, Will and Fletch. They’d all had a couple of drinks and Franky and Bridget were currently out on the dance floor.

There was a mid-tempo R&B song playing and Bridget was dancing as close to Franky as possible. She had her back against the brunette and was grinding back into the younger woman’s hips. Franky wrapped one arm around Bridget’s waist and held her, while her other moved a strand of hair aside so that she had access to the blonde’s neck. Bridget tilted her head, making it easier for Franky to leave small kisses down the side of it and then on the back of her exposed shoulder. She had chosen a slightly more risqué version of the dress she’d worn for their first date, knowing how much Franky had liked that one, while Franky had chosen tight black jeans and a v-neck t-shirt with a dark grey and black plaid shirt over it.

Franky lifted her eyes and looked towards the booth where some of their friends were sitting. Bea, Linda and Will were having a conversation while Vera sat quietly with her drink. Every few seconds, she’d quickly glance up and look at the two women on the dance floor. Franky caught her eye one of the times she looked over at them and the shy woman quickly looked away, realizing that she had been caught.

Franky turned Bridget around so that they were facing each other and gave her a long, deep kiss. They continued dancing and Franky again noticed Vera discreetly watching them.

“What’s the deal with Vera, Gidge?” Franky asked, moving her lips to the blonde’s ear.

“Mmmm, “ Bridget hummed, “What do you mean, baby?”

“She keeps looking at us and watching us dance.” Franky lowered her head to leave a kiss on the older woman’s shoulder.

“Maybe she’s just thinking that she wants to be out here.” Bridget mumbled.

“Why doesn’t she bring one of the guys out and dance then?”

“I don’t think that’s her thing.” The blonde looked up and kissed Franky.

“Okay then, why doesn’t she bring one of the girls out?” The brunette thought maybe that would be Vera’s thing.

“Vera is just, Vera. I’ve never heard her talk about dating anyone or even liking someone and I’ve known her for years. I think she’s just really shy about it.” The blonde had never realized it until now but it was true that she had never known Vera to have an interest in anyone before.

The brunette was quiet for a minute before she spoke. “She should at least come out and enjoy herself. She’s just been sitting there all night. There must be someone here she’d dance with.”

Hearing Franky’s words, Bridget remembered the morning that she and Vera had sat outside talking while Franky and Emily made breakfast. It was the first time that Vera had met the brunette:

“she’s just so…So hot!”
“I can appreciate when someone is attractive and yeah….good choice there!”

“She’d dance with you,” Bridget said suddenly.

Franky laughed. “What? Why would she dance with me?”

“She thinks you’re hot.” The blonde’s eyes twinkled with mischief and she thought that maybe she shouldn’t have spilled her friend’s secret.

“Gidge, how much have you drank tonight?” The brunette raised her eyebrows.

“I’m not drunk, baby. She told me the first morning that she met you. She’s not into women as far as I know. It’s just…you.” Bridget said the last sentence with a smile on her face, because of course Franky would have that effect on people. The blonde had been drawn to her from the first moment she saw her.

“Yeah I have that effect on women.” Franky joked and the blonde slapped her playfully on her arm.

As the song ended, Bridget gave Franky one last kiss before she turned to go back to their booth. “Why don’t you ask her to dance? I need a break anyway.”

Franky followed the blonde back to their booth and sat down beside Vera while Bridget grabbed some money and headed to the bar for another drink. Vera looked over at the brunette, knowing that she had been caught watching her earlier, and waited nervously for her to say something.

“Come dance with me.” Franky decided that she wouldn’t phrase it as a question so as to not give the governor a chance to decline.

Vera looked down nervously, playing with her glass that was almost empty. “Uh, thank you, but I’m good here,” She said with a small smile.

“Wasn’t a question, come on. Two songs then you can sit here the rest of the night if you want.” Franky stood, reaching down and taking Vera’s hand to lead her out into the crowd. When she didn’t move, the brunette gave a gentle tug once more. “Come on!” She gave a small laugh. Vera smiled nervously, but got up and followed the younger woman.

The first song was up-tempo and, while it took Vera a few seconds, she managed to loosen up a bit and dance with the tall brunette. Franky reached out and put her arm around the smaller woman so that they wouldn’t lose each other in the sea of people. She figured that if they got separated, the other woman would just go back to her seat, and there would be no chance of getting her out there again.

After a couple of minutes, Franky leaned in beside Vera’s ear so that she could be heard and asked, “You good?” She pulled back, waiting for Vera’s response. She gave a quick nod and smiled.

The next song that came on was a slow one and people started either pairing up with their dates or leaving the dance floor until the next song. Vera started to turn away from Franky, but the brunette didn’t release the arm that was around the smaller woman’s waist. “Where are you going?” Franky asked her.

“Um, I just thought, you know, since….” Vera was having trouble finding her words.

“Ah naw, the deal was two songs.” Franky smiled, shaking her head.

“Yes, but maybe I could have a rain check……Bridget…” She pointed towards the booth where Bridget was sat with their friends, sipping her drink.

“Gidge won’t mind.” Franky looked over to her girlfriend and pointed to Vera and then gave a thumbs up, asking if the blonde was okay if she danced this song with her friend. Bridget quickly returned the thumbs up with a smile. “See, all good.”

Vera sighed, “Okay.”

Franky could see that Vera was having trouble deciding where to put her hands, so she helped her out. The brunette took the other woman’s left hand and placed it on her right shoulder, then took Vera’s right hand in her left. Franky replaced her right arm around the smaller woman’s waist, keeping her hand in the middle of her back. After a moment she felt Vera relax a little more.

“You’re good at this.” Vera smiled and glanced up at Franky. “It’s been a long time since I danced with anyone.”

“You need to find yourself a boyfriend to take you out then. I could see if Bridget knows someone who’d be good for you,” The brunette said, leading the pair on the dance floor.

“Uh, no, no boyfriend.” Vera had gotten quiet.

“A girlfriend to take you out?” Franky knew that Bridget said her friend wasn’t into women, but she thought it was worth a shot.

Vera looked at her, hesitating for a moment. She opened her mouth, then closed it without saying anything and looked back toward the floor.

“I could set you up with Allie if you’d like. She’s a sweet girl.” Franky wasn’t usually in the business of setting her friends up with each other, but she was willing to make an exception for Vera.

“No, thank you. That’s very nice of you, but no. I don’t think I’m the type of person anyone is looking for.” Vera took a shaky breath.

Franky sensed that she had hit a sensitive subject and felt bad. She had genuinely just wanted to make Bridget’s friend have some fun and now she was worried that she’d pried too far into her personal life.

“I don’t think that’s true,” Franky said honestly.

“What?” Vera picked her head up again and the brunette could see there were tears starting in her eyes.

“I don’t think what you said is true. Why do you think you’re not anyone’s type?” Franky asked and Vera just shrugged. “You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re nice, you’re good, you’re cute.” She said, raising her eyebrow, waiting for Vera to agree with her. When she didn’t, Franky continued, “I think those are the main things everyone looks for in a partner. So stop being so hard on yourself. You’ll find someone.”

A tear ran down Vera’s cheek and she let go of Franky’s hand for a second to wipe it away. “No one’s said anything like that to me before.”

“Well, they should have.” Franky took Vera’s hand again and Vera rested her head against Franky’s shoulder easily since she was a few inches shorter than the brunette.

The song ended and when the next one began, it was a slower ballad as well. Vera made no move to leave this time and Franky decided that one more dance with her wouldn’t hurt.

When they returned to the booth, Franky took her seat beside Bridget, putting an arm around her, and the blonde melted into her side.

Bridget looked over at her friend and noticed that she looked like she had been crying. “Vera, are you alright?” she asked, concerned.

“Yeah, yes, very much.” Vera smiled at the blonde, then at Franky, and Bridget made a mental note to ask Franky what had happened later when they were home.

********

A couple of hours later, their night at the club came to an end. The friends all said goodbye to each other and Franky and Bridget got in a cab and headed for Franky’s apartment. Franky learned that night, that after a couple of drinks, Bridget got handsy, but she wasn’t complaining. She had to divert the blonde’s hands a couple of times during the cab ride over, and she was currently trying to unlock her apartment door as Bridget reached around from behind her, trying to undo her belt.

“Well, well, well…”

Franky and Bridget both turned, just as Franky got the door open, to see Kim standing behind them. She walked up to Bridget, stopping just inches in front of her, and looked her up and down.

“So this is the new flavour of the month, eh Franky?” Kim asked, looking over Bridget’s shoulder to where Franky was standing behind her.

“Get the fuck out of here, Kim.” Franky growled. She could feel the anger rising inside of her. It was one thing for Kim to come at her, but it was another thing for her to have a go at Bridget in front of her.

“You think you won this?” She spat at the blonde.

“I wasn’t aware there was a competition, but if there was, then yes, it appears that I won.” Bridget looked at her cooly.

Kim scoffed, looking back to Franky. “She’s a downgrade from your usual type. Just some skinny-ass scrag in fancy fucking clothes.”

The brunette stepped forward, putting a hand on Bridget’s shoulder, moving her aside so she could stand between her and Kim.

“You need to shut the fuck up and get out!” Franky screamed the last two words in Kim’s face. A few seconds later, a door down the hall opened and Mrs. Watson once again stuck her head out to be nosy and see what the commotion was all about. Franky turned her head. “Don’t you ever fucking sleep? Go the fuck back inside!” The old woman scowled at her and closed her door.

Kim started again. “You know, now that I finally see her up close, she’s a lot older than I thought.” Franky set her jaw, her eyes burning into Kim’s. “I’d always heard you had mommy issues, but I didn’t realize you worked them out by fucking women old enough to be yours, Francesca.” She let the name drip out of her mouth like venom, knowing that Franky hated when people used her full name.

Franky let out a growl and raised her arm, she pulled it back and swung as hard as she could, landing her fist squarely on the doorframe beside Kim’s head. Bridget winced, hearing the sound of bone against wood.

“Alright, alright, I’ll go now.” Kim backed away and started down the hallway. “You two enjoy your night and I’ll see you later.” She laughed as Franky flipped her off.

“Franky.” Bridget reached out to take the brunette’s injured hand. She had split open the skin on two of her knuckles and there was already bruising and swelling.

“Don’t,” Franky said, pulling her hand away and flexing her fingers, making sure that nothing was broken.

“Franky, baby, at least put some ice on it.” She passed the brunette some ice cubes wrapped in a clean towel and Franky placed the bundle on the back of her hand.

Bridget sat on the couch while Franky paced back and forth between the kitchen and living room. Neither had spoken for a good fifteen minutes when Franky broke the silence.

“You’re not going to ask what that was about?” Franky was used to people prodding into her life, trying to figure her out, but Bridget hadn’t said a word yet.

“She pushed your buttons and got under your skin. Sounds like she knows about some things you went through. You haven’t told me about those things yet, but you will, if and when you decide that you’re ready.” The blonde was calm and even more unbelievably, she was still here and that was something Franky didn’t know how to deal with. She didn’t understand why this woman wasn’t long gone out of her life after what had just happened.

Franky paced back and forth, trying to shake off the tension that was still in her muscles. She was trying to remember everything they’d taught her in therapy, but she was having a hard time making any of the strategies work at the moment.

Bridget sensed that the brunette was having a hard time calming herself down. “Baby.” She stood up, walking over to stand in front of Franky. “What do you normally do to settle yourself?” She was willing to try anything to help her girlfriend out.

“I don’t know, nothing’s fucking working.” Franky was getting more agitated. “All the stuff those fucking therapists told me, it all seems like bullshit right now.”

“What about before that?” Bridget asked calmly.

“What?” Franky stopped pacing and looked up at her.

“What did you do before all the therapists?” the blonde asked.

“Fight or fuck.” Frank chuckled. “You know, for most people it’s fight or flight, but for me, it was fight or fuck.”

Bridget considered this for a moment before she spoke. “Well you can’t punch any more walls because that’s a fight you won’t win.” She opened her arms and Franky just stared at her.

“No….no, Gidge. No way.” She shook her head and turned to walk back into the kitchen.

“Why not?” The blonde hadn’t moved.

“Because that’s not…..I don’t…You’re….” Franky couldn’t get her brain to form the words she wanted to use, but Bridget knew what she was trying to say.

“You’re not going to hurt me.” Bridget truly believed this.

Franky turned and looked at her. “How do you know that?”

“Because I know.” Bridget was still calmly standing her ground. She knew Franky wouldn’t take her up on her offer to fuck her as a way of dealing with her anger, but she needed the brunette to be the one to make that choice; to realize that she really had changed.

“I’m not a good person, Gidge.” Franky said, looking off to a point on the back wall of the apartment.

“Yes, you are.” Franky shook her head, tears streaming down her face, but Bridget wasn’t backing down. “You could have hurt Kim, but you didn’t.” She took a step forward. “You could be fucking me right now if you wanted to, but you’re not.” Another step forward. “If this had been back before you decided that you needed to change, one of those things, or maybe even both, would have happened, yeah?” Franky nodded her head. “And now, they didn’t. So, that’s how I know.”

Franky’s shoulders slumped and a sob escaped her mouth. Bridget rushed forward and wrapped the brunette in her arms. She held her tightly while her body shook, and when Franky’s knees started to give out, the blonde stayed with her and held her as they sat on the kitchen floor.

When Franky’s tears had finally stopped, Bridget reached out and brushed the hair out of the brunette’s face and wiped her tears away. “Let’s go to bed, baby,” she said, kissing the younger woman’s forehead.

Franky nodded, standing up and helping Bridget to her feet. They fell into the brunette’s bed exhausted and hoped that sleep would come quickly and end this day.

********

Franky woke with the first rays of sun that spilled in through the large windows. They hadn’t bothered to close the curtains last night. She opened her eyes to see Bridget laying beside her, staring up at the ceiling, clearly very wide awake.

“Gidge? How long have you been awake?” the brunette asked, trying to clear the sleepiness from her voice.

“I think I slept for about an hour. So, almost 3 hours.” She turned her head to look at the younger woman.

“Babe, I’m sorry about last night. I shouldn’t ha-“

“It wasn’t anything you did,” Bridget interrupted. Her inability to sleep had nothing to do with Franky and everything to do with what Kim had said. In that moment, she’d played it cool, but the other woman had gotten to her.

“Then what’s wrong? Talk to me.” The brunette ran her thumb back and forth over Bridget’s cheek.

“Are you happy with me?”

“Gidge! Of course I am! I love ya!” At first, Franky didn’t understand why the blonde would even question her feelings toward her. Then, she remembered what Kim had said. “Kim’s a bitch and she was just trying to hurt me, and she knew that going through you to do it would be more effective than just coming at me directly.”

“She’s a lot younger than me.” Bridget had never felt insecure about her age until now.

“So?” Franky paused. “Are you forgetting everything I told you last week?”

Bridget wrinkled her brow.

“I chose you. I was supposed to be with her and I chose you.” Franky looked at the blonde with wide eyes.

“You chose Em, not me. You chose to stay with her, because she needed someone to look after her and that’s why you cancelled your date with Kim. You didn’t even know me when you made that choice.” Franky could see the tears that were threatening to spill from Bridget’s eyes.

“Fair enough.” Bridget was technically right but she wasn’t looking at the whole picture. “But then I asked you to stay for supper; that was something I chose. Then, I packed lunches for you to take home and slipped my number in the bag; also something that I chose. Remember I gave you expert sandwich-making advice at almost midnight? I chose that too.” Bridget gave a small laugh, remembering her awkward excuse for calling Franky that night. “And maybe most importantly, I never rescheduled that date with Kim. It never even crossed my mind. So yeah, I’d say I chose you. And I’d choose you again, and again, and every time after that if I had the chance. So fuck her and everything she said last night. She’s not worth the headspace, okay?”

Bridget nodded and Franky reached over and wiped the tears from the blonde’s face. She leaned in and gave her a slow, soft kiss and felt her sigh against her lips.

“Do you think you can sleep for a bit now, babe? It’s still really early.” Franky asked, pulling the blonde closer to her and wrapping her in her arms.

“I think maybe, yeah. And thank you.” Bridget closed her eyes as Franky kissed the side of her head. After just a few minutes, her breathing evened out and she was catching up on some much needed sleep.

They woke again two hours later and decided it was time to get ready and head back to Bridget’s house so that Liz could go home. They showered and dressed, and just as they were getting ready to leave, Franky lingered in the kitchen, hesitating.

“Baby, what’s wrong?” Bridget asked, turning around when she realized that Franky was no longer following her to the door.

“Are you sure you want me to come back with you?” The brunette asked quietly.

“Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I?” Bridget shrugged her shoulders, confused by why the younger woman was even asking her.

“Because you saw what happened last night. What I did and how angry I got.”

“Baby, everyone has their breaking points and it’s clear to me that you recognize your limits and how to work with them. No one is ever prepared for everything and last night was like a perfect storm for you. You said you’d never told anyone before that you love them, but you’ve told me.” Franky nodded and Bridget continued. “That’s something new and you’re going to have to learn how to deal with it. The good parts and the bad. I think you’re handling the good parts very well and last night was the first time you had to face the downside of loving someone. You were fine until Kim had a go at me. You knew how to deal with her saying shit to you but it’s different when it’s directed at someone you love; someone you want to protect. So yes, there’s more work to do now for you to learn how to deal with that, but I never was, and still aren’t, afraid to be around you or for Emily to be around you. If I had thought you were going to hurt me last night, I would have left right then. And I knew even before I offered, that you weren’t going to fuck me out of anger; if I had, I wouldn’t have opened up that possibility. So yes, I’m sure I want you to come back with me.” The blonde held out her hand to Franky. While last night had been messy and difficult, it had only gone to show her that she had made the right choice by believing in Franky and she intended to make the brunette see for herself just how far she had come.

Franky wiped her tears on the sleeve of her jacket, took Bridget’s hand and followed her out the door to the cab waiting to take them back to the house.