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Wentworth : Redemption

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Alice got out of her car, placing her bag on her shoulder, her hair flying in the wind, her eyes scanning her surroundings, the place looked desert if not for the rumbling of voices coming from the centre. The grayish, cool tones of the sky fitting the area she was in, it was most certainly depressing to anyone who walked by, but she seemed unbothered by it. Her legs brought her to the door and entered, the voices distinct now, she looked around Officers in uniforms rushing from every corner, she was about to go to the reception when a voice called out her name, making her turn right away.

-Vera ! It's good to see you.
-You too, how did you travel so fast ? I know that was a last-minute call...
-No, it's alright, we're a bit tired that's all, we'll get over it.
-We ?
-Me and my daughter.
-Oh yeah right Frannie, I forgot.
-It's alright, what about you ?

Vera took her phone out of her pocket and stopped walking toward the staff room.

-That's Grace.
-She looks a lot like you, she's gorgeous, you failed to mention if you settled with somebody.
-It's way too long, too complicated, plus I need you to meet the team, see your office, maybe look through the files and I still need to give you a tour.
-Wow, the Regional Manager giving me a tour, be careful you'll make people jealous. I'll take you up on that you know, you'll have to tell me.
-Yeah right, just come with me, Missy.

* * * * *

Will and Jake were seated at the table eating breakfast while Bridget was going through files. The three of them were exhausted from the last few months, much like the inmates themselves. The staff room was silent for once, though it was filled with each member of this year's team. When Vera and Alice arrived, she felt a notable tensing in her jaw, Will was on his feet looking at everyone, ready to make his introduction speech.

-Good morning everyone, I know how hard it must be for many of you to come back here after all that happened, but I wish to thank you for it because it denotes a great amount of courage from your part. The inmates will be in the same state of mind as you are in, but that doesn't mean you have to stand for any bad behavior, many will grieve, many are probably traumatized, will act out and it is of the utmost importance that we make things go smoothly for everybody, I do not pretend to know how things are going to go from now on, we can all agree that it's going to be hard. But together we can make things work, help these people and therefore help ourselves. If you need anything we now have two psychologists here in Wentworth who will be happy to help you, or just talk if you feel the need. That will be all for now.

Everybody nodded and went on to their business, while Jake and Bridget stayed seated at the table, already in a discussion. Vera dragged Alice to the table and all head turned to them.

-Everyone this is Alice, Alice this is Bridget she is a forensic psychologist here, I asked her to help with the inmates until you get settled and if the demand is too high. This is Jake, he is an Officer and this is Will, he's the Govna'.
-You two know each other ? Inquired Vera.
-No. Yes.

Both Will and Alice looked straight into each other's eyes. Alice wasn't going to start lying to Vera nor these people, it was already hard enough being who she was, she wasn't going to give them reasons to doubt her motives.

-You guys should sort your story straight, said Jake from above his newspaper.
-Bridget Westfall, I never thought I'd see you again.
-What are you doing here Alice ?
-I called for her.

All heads turned to Vera, who seemed displeased with Will and Bridget's reaction. She turned around and saw Linda checking in.

-Miss Miles, come over please.

Linda looked up and saw the whole table looking at her.

-Is everything alright ?
-Yes, don't worry. Alice this is Linda Miles she's the Deputy Governor, Linda this is Alice Olivier she's the new psychologist.
-Oh, nice to meet you.
-Likewise, I heard you were forefront in the action during the siege. If you ever feel like talking I'll be glad to hear you out.

Linda and Jake were taken aback by the cool tone of her voice, almost emotionless, the blonde nodded and left hurriedly. Alice turned towards the table slightly confused.

-Did I say something wrong ?
-It was a traumatizing experience, try to be a bit more laid back about it, advised Jake.
-He means warmer... Added Vera.
-I'm not here to coddle anyone during breaks, but I'll put on my best "normal behavior" during the sessions.
-Yeah people like you can't help it can't they, reproached Will.
-I will not take time out of my day to answer that, if you want to behave like a child then I'm not the person you should be talking to.

Jake chuckled and stood up, putting his cup in the sink.

-Vera, why did you call for her ?
-What do you both have against her ?
-Vera, the brunette turned to Alice who had a knowing look on her face.
-Oh come on, I can't believe you are going to use that against her.
-Last time we had a psychopath here you know very well how it ended, snapped Will.

Alice noticed the distinct twitch in his voice and the lump in his throat, Vera had lowered her head before looking at the people around the table.

-You're a psycho ?
-Jake for Christ's Sake!
-It's alright Vera, I can handle that. Yes mister... Stewart, it's actually called Antisocial Personality Disorder.
-And you work in corrections ? He asked incredulously.
-No, not only. I mostly work with other people who sadly have this predicament, but also who you call sociopaths as they share common traits with psychopaths. I also sometimes work with children who experienced traumas, as well as adults. Must I give you my resume or are we all going to behave like adults and cut this discussion to an end ?

Vera was looking rather pleased at how Alice had handled the situation, her cool and emotionless voice had always left her perplexed, yet after years of being her friend she had learned to notice the slight twitch of her lips or even the tightness in her jaw. They had been friends for years, though she was wary at first, she was nothing like her. Jake lifted his hands in retaliation and left the room taking his talkie with him a definite smile on his lips

-Now that this is clear, Bridget can we go to the office now or are you going to keep on bullying her on her first day ?
-Vera after what happened how can you react like that ?
-Bridget, I know Alice and unlike the person we're thinking of, she has never hurt me. She has always been honest.
-Who are you talking about ?
-A former inmate and Governor.
-An inmate was Governor ?
-You didn't hear of it ?
-No Bridget otherwise I wouldn't ask. I was away for studies and cared very little about such content.
-It's a long story, which I'll have to tell you everything about.

The brunette turned to Will who was giving her a cold stare, but she didn't back away, she straightened her jacket and raised her eyebrows, making Alice glad to see her toughened and standing tall.

-I don't think I need to have your permission Will to tell my friend and now colleague what happened, especially if it allows her to understand our history better. Now Bridget.

Vera turned her heels taking Alice by the arm, leading her away. Bringing her closer and pointing at the rooms they passed.

-What do you think ? asked Bridget.
-We can't trust their kind.
-Will, she's not Ferguson. She was, shall we say, one of a kind.
-That doesn't change anything, these people can't be trusted. Do you...
-What ?
-Do you think she is honest, was it all just an act ?
-I can't tell just yet, but maybe just like Ferguson, she thinks she has her shit together. All we need is to stir it up and see what comes up.
-Could you ? Do that I mean...
-Sure, I'll see you at lunch break, if not before.

Bridget stood up taking the files in her arms and going towards the office leaving Will alone. He looked at the bottom of his coffee cup and closed his eyes just briefly, but it was enough to remember the chilling cold of that night.

* * * * *

Bridget entered the office and found Vera laughing while moving boxes and Alice a genuine smile on her lips, a lively atmosphere hanging in the air.

-Ah ! Bridget, I was just telling Alice how everyone hates coming here, it's just insane they know they need it, but they just won't talk. All because of that stupid rule.
-Maybe we shouldn't bother Alice with unnecessary information.
-Do you mean don't press the panic button and don't include the Officers ? Every facility has these rules, but I guess the punishment differs from one facility to the other.
-I forgot you knew about that first hand.

Vera stopped was she was doing, turning to Bridget her eyes blazing while Alice took a box in her arms and gave it to Bridget with a smile.

-Make yourself useful and sort the files of the prisoners still in the centre and those who are no longer there. I want to be able to discern them just by looking at them.
-Order seems important to you too.
-Why do you need the files of the ones no longer here ? Cut Vera.
-Because each and every inmate here has a story, and that story is linked with everybody else's. Know one and the others will follow. Any inmate I should read first ? What about that Governor ? What's the name ?
-Maybe start with the living, the dead won't go anywhere, they can wait. Marie Winter could be a good start.

Alice was scanning Bridget who gulped under the power of her stare, she looked at Vera and saw her nod at the name, her jaw tightening significantly, making her think. If Vera agreed with such a statement, then it's exactly where she was going to begin.

-Alright, Marie Winter it shall be. Vera can you, yeah that box, put it there. Thank you.
-Bridget, I asked you in today to help not to sit on your ass, come on, the sooner we do this, the sooner we're finished. Vera paused to think before turning to her friend. So when can you come ?
-Depends when we're both free. You should come over, maybe we should ? I mean what suits you best. Anyway, the girls could meet.
-You have children ? Asked Bridged.
-A daughter, about to turn nine.
-Do you have a picture ? Oh my god, Bridget come here. She's so gorgeous, she doesn't look much like you though...

Bridget let go of the box and went next to Vera, her eyes fell on the picture on the phone and for a moment thought her eyes deceived her. She shot a look at Vera who seemed to have had the same thought and back at Alice who was smiling softly.

-You'll see Vera they grow fast, especially at this age.
-I bet, but honestly, I can't wait for her to grow, babies are so hard to take care of.
-In a few years you'll think back to that and say you wish she still was, said Alice softly.
-Bridget what's the matter ?
-Nothing, I just, can you excuse me for a minute ?
-Yeah, sure... What was that ?
-She's going to go and tell Will or just read my file, whichever that may be.
-Tell him wha.. Oh... How can you even tell ?
-You still ask after all these years ?

Alice turned the gaze to Vera, giving her the same look as earlier and Vera sighed before rolling her eyes.

* * * * *

-Hey again, may I enter ?
-Sure Bridget, is everything alright ?
-Yeah, yeah, hum you wouldn't happen to have a file on Alice Olivier by any chance ? Prison or else ?
-I do, why ?
-I'd like to read them, see if everything is in order. Did you read them ?
-Didn't need to.
-Why is that ? I understand Vera knows her from someplace, but you ?

Will looked around his office and closed the door before sitting back down. Bridget looked up from the file unsure as to what to say next.

-You won't see it in the files, but..
-What is it ?
-Back when I was a social worker I, hum, I had a bad experience. An inmate had to have her baby removed.
-Removed ?
-Yeah the Governor thought it would be bad for everybody, a distraction, the girl was distraught.
-Who wouldn't be ?
-I did what I thought was right, right for the baby.
-But you regret it ?
-Sometimes I do, and then she was killed by the inmates.
-Wha... Why would they do that ?
-Because she and Ferguson were in a relationship. They hanged her in the stairway.
-Ferguson was the screw ?
-Yes, at Blackmoore.
-Ferguson... Always about her... Everybody she touches dies.
-She cared. As much as it costs me to admit it, she truly cared for the girl.
-You think she did ?
-I know she did.
-What makes you think that?
-Because of her Vendetta against me, but also, she asked another inmate to watch over her when she couldn't, that inmate, no one dared to cross her. She and the inmate were... Friends as far as I know.
-And who was that guardian inmate ?
-Alice Olivier.

Chapter Text

-These are the blocks, I don't need to tell you what they're for. You can ask to see any inmates you think needs to talk, or if you deem appropriate to assess someone. The Govna' and I can also send inmates to you if we deem it necessary. You should also try to be present if inmates have been attacked or...
-Vera, don't worry I know the drill and you know they won't lag.
-Doesn't mean we can't try, Vera smiled before opening the gate, This is the highlight of my day, let me show you around, please ?
-Were you that eager to have me back ?
-Of course silly, you can meet with the peer worker as well, outside of sessions if need be.
-Have you appointed a new one yet ?
-No, we were waiting to see who was still here and what new inmates we were going to have. They are supposed to arrive today, normally during the afternoon.
-And Top Dog ?
-No word about that so far, though we have an idea as to whom it might be.
-Care to share ?
-Allie Novak. She gravitated around the former Top Dogs, she did get rid of the man who killed inmates during the siege.
-I see, and what do you think of her ? Her personality, her behavior.
-She isn't even there yet and you're already trying to size her up.

Alice laughed and Vera stopped, turning to face her.

-She... I think she'll be a good Top Dog. I've seen my fair share of them, and she seems like a good pick. At least with her, we'll be able to talk, have a discussion and not always wonder if we're gonna get stabbed in the back.
-Who was the last Top Dog ? For you to say that she must have been pretty awful.

Vera's face dropped, and she looked dead into Alice's eyes, she turned her heels and felt her heart race in her rib cage. Marie Winter was worse than awful, she was worse than Joan. Wait what ? Alice sighed biting the inside of her cheek, when was she going to learn not to be that straightforward. She looked at Vera and lifted a hand to touch her shoulder, she awkwardly patted her, making Vera turn her eyes a bit watery.

-We really need on your comforting skills, she said laughing.
-I'm sorry, if I said something...
-No, it's me. It's just, she's... She was the woman they were trying to take out of the centre during the siege. She was with them.
-I clearly should just be normal all the time.
-Don't, if you do people will really start to think you're lying to them. I'd better have you speaking your mind than not.
-Thank you Vera.
-What for ?
-Your support. I mean... I know what I can do, what I've done. But I also know that I don't know, that maybe even with all the things I've tried to change and learn about myself, maybe somewhere deep inside there is still that anger, that want, that need to hurt people because I can, because I have the smarts for it. You know people are quick to judge. And I'm... You know... I'm not the one to make friends...

Vera's jaw tightened when she heard the last words, reminiscent of her last diner with her former mentor, how she too stumbled to have the words, her thoughts, come out into coherent sentences. She had almost refrained herself to snap at her when she got a glimpse of her that, vulnerable. But if there was one thing she had taught her, was to assert herself no matter who was in front of her. And she had proven to her that she didn't care, that she only saw her as diseased.

-Earth to Vera, are you alright ? Ve ?
-Hum ?
-You were far away, like away from these walls for a moment. Everything alright ?
-Yeah... Yeah sure, I'm sorry, you were pouring your heart out, I zoned out...
-That's okay, we can talk about that when we're out of here. So what now ?

Vera was about to answer when she felt vibrations coming from her pocket, she took out her Bipper and furrowed her brows.

-What is it ?
-It's Will.
-What does the Governor want ?
-I don't know... Come.

* * * * *

-You can't confront her like that, she'll lie to you. Started Bridget.
-I want to know. We need to know, she could be a danger to us all.
-She'll size us all up, and she'll find out if you...
-They're here. Jake just, don't say anything.
-Mate, why not just asking her... Tried Jake.

Vera opened the door, stepping in before Alice. The friends looked at each other before returning their gaze to the people filling the room.

-Will is there something wrong ? What happened ?
-Sit down, Vera was about to move but Will stopped her, No not you, Alice.

Vera looked at Bridget and Jake trying to make out what this was all about and let out an exasperated sigh. Alice sat in the chair, relaxed and neutral.

-What is this about ? Snapped Vera
-You might want to listen to what they have to say, Vera.
-Don't you even start with me. What is going on, Will ?

Will stared at Vera before sitting back on his chair, Alice looked around and saw Bridget's eyes fixed on her. Alright, a setup, which part did they read that did not agree with them.

-I guess that means you read my files. So what's it going to be ?
-Will this is totally unneces...
-Vera, stop. We did not read the entirety of your files.

Vera dropped her arms to her sides before looking at Bridget and Jake.

-Did you engineer this ?
-I didn't know anything until ten minutes ago, please Vera, just listen.

She raised her hands in retaliation and crossed them on her chest, visibly displeased.

She was not Joan, she was not Joan. Joan was different.

-Alice, how did you come to hear about this position ?
-Will this is ridiculous...
-Vera stop it or get out.
-It's alright Vera. I can manage a setup. How come I heard that you needed a psychologist ? Vera called me, because she trusts me.
-And would you say that she is right to trust you ? Inquired Will.
-It's not because you deem me untrustworthy that Vera does. She saw beyond the I'm a psychopath, a manipulator, a liar, etc, etc. For my sanity amend the record. Are you gonna keep staring at my face or say something ? If not, you should know that it's now considered impolite to do so, she said her gaze blazing at Bridget.
-You said you have a daughter.
-I don't remember saying it to you. But I can easily guess who thought it was important to report that. Remind me, Bridget, to never tell you anything, since you are so prone to betray people's trust like that.

Vera's breath hitched, and she turned towards her friends. Betrayal for having said too much personal stuff, this was oddly familiar.

-How's your daughter ? How has she been ?
-Compared to what, Will ? Compared to the general population, she is considered a genius. Compared to me, she is a normal being.
-Why the defense mechanism ?

Alice turned her head ever so slightly towards Bridget, her eyes scanning her.

-Well you tell me. You're the ones setting me up. Being noisy enough to ask questions to which you don't deserve an answer to. Now, will you tell me why you asked me here. Because my daughter is not the issue so it seems.
-So you're condescendingly avoiding the question.
-Out of mind your own business and get straight to the point. It might not look like it, but I am here to work and make the best out of it.
-Alright, Blackmoore.
-What about it ? What is there about it that you wish to know ?
-You were there when you were a teen correct ?
-Yes, obviously.
-And how did people perceive you ?
-Officers or Inmates?
-I was respected.
-Just that ?
-Feared as well, at least people did not try to hurt me when I was there. They were afraid that if they hurt me I would kill them.
-How did that make you feel ? To know you had that power over them.
-Well, all-powerful, but I fail to see the relevance of that.
-Will, I already know all of that, leave her be.
-I'm getting to the point, give me a few more minutes.

Will gave Vera a pleading look before turning back to Alice who straightened her back and breathed out, seemingly bored.

-Alright. Just say what you mean.
-Back then you were asked to protect and inmate, were you not ?
-Yes I was.
-Was it this inmate ?

Will took out a picture of Jianna Riley, and Vera nearly gasped. She recognized that picture all too well, as former her mentor had seen fit to smack her cheek after she had thought Vera had plastered her walls with hundreds of them. To later on discover that it was Fletcher and Bea's doing. She looked at Bridget and Jake before turning her gaze towards Will.

-Yes it was her.
-Why were you asked to protect her ? What was in it for you ?
-Because the person was afraid the other inmates would hurt her. She was weak compared to the women there and got into Blackmoore for a minor incident she was not a bad person. She just made a mistake. She didn't deserve to be there and nothing was in it for me.
-Do expect us to believe you did this deed out of the goodness of your heart ? Interrogated Bridget.
-Why would they hurt her ? She doesn't strike as the type of person to get into trouble, asked Will while giving Bridget a cold stare.
-She and the Officer were in love, it didn't pass well with the inmates. But you already know that.

At this Vera's jaw dropped, she looked at Will and then Alice who turned to her, her brows furrowed slightly. Jake was leaning on the wall still trying to wrap his head around everything Will had told them. It did sound paranoid to a certain extent but knee-deep as they all were, they needed to know. Bridget couldn't quite make out much from her face, but one thing she was certain was that so far she had not lied, she was taking her time to answer but nothing alarming despite the very psychopathic answer towards power and dominance.

-Was it this Officer ?

Will reluctantly took out another from a folder, which did not go unnoticed to Alice's eyes, and she smiled when she saw the picture, making Bridget retract from the desk. Vera was looking at the picture, her jaw and arms hanging, she had no idea what was going on, nor what Will was trying to do. But she didn't like it. Alice knew Joan, she knew her. How come she never came up in the discussions ? Had Vera never mentionned her ?

-You already know the answer to that, as well.
-You know her ? Asked Vera.
-That's Joan. She had asked me to protect her.
-What was your relationship with her ?

That sent Alice's sirens on, something was off. Will Jackson knew most of the answers to the questions he was asking, what was he after then ?

Think, think, think. Get yourself out of this.

Alice smiled and took the picture in her hands pointing at her face.

-She was one of the best screws until Jianna was killed. She was fun, wouldn't think so looking at her, and gorgeous too but that everybody knew. Why do you ask ? You know her ?
-Alice stop playing with us.
-I don't understand ? Why you asking me about her ?
-Stop the normal act, started Bridget her hands now resting on the desk.
-When was the last time you saw her ? Inquired Will.
-I'd say six years ago.
-Do you expect us to believe that, snapped Bridget.
-Well yes, since I was not even in Australia.
-Where were you then ?
-What's the point in reading my files if you ask me the questions anyway ?
-It's your prison file, not the...
-I would have been more cooperative if you had started by that. Alright. I left six years ago because I wanted and had the opportunity to attend schools in Europe. Mostly France and England. Attend seminars, talk to people, help researches, be a little cobay.
-And this woman ?
-Joan ? Haven't seen nor heard of her ever since I left, Alice smirked and lifted her chin, You all probably know more than I do about her if you ask me.
-Why didn't you tell me you knew her ?

Alice turned to Vera her face blank, while Vera's gaze was going from the picture to her friend. Alice looked at everybody before turning back to Vera.

-Why would I tell you ? It's not as if you knew the woman. There was no reason to bring her up.

The room fell silent as Alice looked at everybody present, she turned back to Vera whose face was pure shock and she put the picture down. She was about to speak when knocks filled the room and Will stood.

-Governor, the inmates are back. The bus is at the gate.
-Alright, thank you. We'll continue this conversation later.
-Will, you've done enough. Drop it. Come on Alice.

Alice looked at Bridget and Will expressionless and left the room with Vera holding her arm her head toward Alice's, talking. Jake got on his feet and went next to Bridget.

-So what do you think?
-Except her distinct psychopathy which she didn't bother hiding, I didn't sense anything else.
-So she wasn't lying ?
-Not as far as I know.
-Now how are you going to explain that to Vera ? Maybe they hated each other, tried Jake.
-Jake did you even listen to her ?
-Okay, she said she was good looking and funny so what ? It's a crime ? It's not as if they were going to be friends with their condition. I thought you said they couldn't care nor love. Problem solved.

Bridget and Will looked at each other, obviously Jake was right but that didn't mean they had to like it. Will sighed and passed the door followed by his friends.

Chapter Text

Alice and Vera stepped out of the centre and both took deep breaths which did not go unnoticed. Vera held on tighter to her arm before letting go and joining her hands behind her back. Will, Jake, and Bridget came out and Alice put on a neutral face. She turned her head and made a pitiful excuse of a smile before looking at the bus, intrigued. The doors opened and inmates started to come out, the rumbling of voices becoming more persistent. Teal tracksuits filling the area, Alice saw some of the inmates smiling, whereas some were making a six feet long face probably dreading to come back after what happened.

-Miss Bennett !

Everybody turned toward the bus as a woman climbed down accompagnied, Alice saw quite a few people smile as she walked by and turned toward Vera who seemed to reciprocate. She must be the Novak woman. The blonde stopped in front of them and took out her hand, which Vera shook gladly. Before looking at the woman next to her.

-Hey Miss Bennett.
-Nice to see you Jenkins.
-How's little Grace ?
-She's fine, thank you. I think I'll have to make the presentations at some point.
-Really ? I mean it wouldn't be a problem ay ?
-Not at all, I owe you and... Liz... a lot.
-Ay... Thanks Miss Bennett.

Boomer passed the door and Vera gaze fell back on the blonde, a smile gracing her lips.

-I see you changed your hair.
-Yeah, needed a change. Who's that ?
-Alice Olivier, the new psychologist. Alice this is Allie Novak the one I told you about. I thought it would be better for the inmates to talk to a new face.
-Good pick. Hey Mister Jackson, Stewart. Miss Westfall, Miss Miles, said Allie nodding toward the blonde.
-Good afternoon Novak.
-So... Started Vera.
-What ?
-Who's Top Dog ?
-Who do you think?

Allie walked past the screws and the rest of the inmates followed her. Alice grinned and understood what Vera meant, her exposure to the other Top Dog gave her enough knowledge and confidence to rise to that position as well. She'd have to ask her about that.

-This went alright…
-You expected something bad to happen ?
-Nobody ever knows with them, one minute they're all over you, the next they want to shive you.
-What was that this Jenkins ?
-It's a long...
-That's part of the long story.
-Yeah, you'll just come over during the week and I'll fill you up on that.
-You don't seem convinced.
-Let's say an evening seems rather short to even begin to explain what happened here during the past six years.

They both turned towards Will, Jake, and Bridget and Vera took Alice inside, a disapproving look hardening her soft features.

-Don't pay attention to them. They probably just wanted to throw you off.
-Why ? It's as if they knew Joan. Which they couldn't because...
-What ?

Alice had stopped at once, her brain working like crazy. Every piece of the puzzle coming together, she looked up to Vera who suddenly seemed worried.

-Alice are you okay?
-Will Jackson...
-What about Will ?
-He was the social worker who took Jianna's baby away... Joan...
-Joan what ?
-Joan thought it was what killed Jianna. I...
-Everything alright here ?

Alice looked behind Vera her expression returning to stone once more. Will was walking towards them while Jake followed the inmates and Bridget spoke to Miss Miles.

-Everything is fine Governor. If you're looking for me, I'll be in my office sorting out the numerous files left to rot. Tell Bridget I expect her here and I expect her to work this time, feel free to pass by during the afternoon, okay ?

Alice left rapidly towards her office and when she closed the door, she let her back rest on it, her shoulder finally relaxing, her eyes closed, her breathing steady. She could distinctly hear the roar of the inmates as if she was back there, held down, Jianna trying to get away. When she opened her eyes, scanning her environment, grounding herself, she regained her stone face and looked around to the multitude of files scattered everywhere.

-This is going to take more than an afternoon...

* * * * *

-What on earth was that ?
-Vera, calm down.
-Don't even pull that on me Jake ! Do you even realize that what you did was unprofessional ? Or that didn't cross your mind ? Let me guess, it didn't, like for Marie !
-Vera what we were trying to do...
-I called you back here because you know some of the inmates, because I thought you could help her get settled ! Not set her up !
-Are you even going to let us defend ourselves ?
-Defend yourselves from what ? A dead woman ? A ghost ? Goddammit, Will, you said you buried her, we saw a body.
-Volume, said Jake.
-They never confirmed that it was hers.
-So what, we go back to being scared of being slapped by black leather gloves ? I'm sorry but I won't go back to that.
-Vera, she knew her.
-So what ? You don't know if they were in contact, you don't know if they spoke much during Blackmoore ! And even if they did talk, who cares ?

Vera was enraged, she never thought out of everything her friends could do, they would do that. Then again, Will, whom she considered her closest friend had buried someone alive, so maybe her judgment needed an update.

-Listen, I don't pretend to understand why you did what you did. But Alice is my friend, I've known her for a while now. She has never lied to me nor manipulated me. She has always been honest and told me when we first met she had ASPD, that there might be a possibility that she would lie, because oh you know, old habits die hard.
-Did she ? Lie I mean, asked Bridget.
-No !
-Vera, we were just trying to cover for ourselves.
-Maybe you wouldn't have had to do that if Will had not taken it upon himself to BURY HER ALIVE !
-Keep your voice down !
-Vera ?

She was already exhausted, great. My gosh, what was she going to do with them ? She let her arms rest along her body trying to calm her nerves. Alice was nothing like her, change is always difficult in the beginning, but she worked for it.

-What Bridget ?
-Are you angry because we do not entirely trust your judgment about Alice ?
-Of course I am, I'm part of this team, like I've been for at least two decades now, and it seems my opinion still falls to deaf ears.
-Okay, do you regret it ?
-Regret what ? Jesus, stop with the riddles !
-Do you regret Will burying Ferguson ?

Vera's lips parted in disbelief, of course she did. She saved the woman from the lynching because she couldn't bear to see her suffer like that. She would be lying if she said she felt nothing for Joan, deep down Vera truly had cared for her, she thought of her as a friend and mentor, even if there was it was one-sided, she still bore in her the idiotic thought that maybe Joan truly cared too at some point. Just like Alice in her own way, way she probably dismissed out of not knowing. Just the thought of Joan trapped in that box, how she must have felt, was enough to make her stomach twitch.

-Vera ?

She looked at her friends and before she even realized what she said, the words had already slipped from her lips, surprising everybody as well as herself.

-No one deserves to be buried alive, not even her. Not even after what she's done. I saved her because I cared and I still do, call that Stockholm syndrome but... I... I would save her again and prevent you from sealing her in that box if I could ever go back in time.

Vera turned towards the door and left slamming it, leaving everybody speechless.

* * * * *

-Vera wait !
-Not now Jake.
-Please wait ! Did you mean it ?
-What ?
-Back there, did you mean it ? About Ferguson ?
-Yes. I did...
-Vera, she... She was poison to everybody.
-And what does that make of us Jake ? We're as bad as she was ! Except that we made that decision to be like that, we had the choice to turn the other cheek and be better, yet what did we do ? Exactly what she would have done.
-She deserved it, Vera. She hurt us. She destroyed people.
-No, no, no, no. You cannot blame her for your own fuck ups. You let yourself be manipulated. I warned you, like Will did, Linda, we all did. You decided to deal with her and to let her wipe debts, and god knows what.
-I did it because I wanted a clean start with you.
-And in order to do that, you lied to me, and you pretended...
-I've been trying to make up for all of that.
-Yes well, maybe that's not possible ! Maybe you hurt me more than she did because you were just blindly following her orders.
-She hurt you too !
-I took her job and got her incarcerated, what did you expect from her ?! She thought I broke her trust ! She and I were played !
-Why are you defending her ? She doesn't deserve what you're doing for her !
-Maybe you're right ! Maybe I am defending her out of fucking guilt for what happened ! We'll never know now, will we ?
-After everything that she's done to you, all of it... You still defend her. Why ? She's hurt you more than anybody here.

Vera stopped walking and tilted her head towards Jake without looking at him, she sighed and kept on walking towards her office. Leaving Jake under the persistent gaze of their colleagues.

* * * * *

-I'm sorry about earlier...
-About what ? Setting me up or just blandly trying to prove I'm not to be trusted to boost your ego ?
-I deserve that...

Bridget stopped mid sentence when she saw Alice take black leather gloves out of her bag and placing them next to her coat, carefully folding them. She watched her as she turned to face her, unbothered by the uneasyness she had caused.

-Listen I don't know what I've ever done to you, but if you have something to say to me, at least have the decency and professionalism to say it to my face. Because so far you make a terrible colleague.
-So much for the charms... It's not that. Not about you specifically.

Bridget looked around trying to gather her thoughts, when she looked up she saw that she was not going to make this easy for her, fair enough. Bridget was not going to make it easy for her either.

-Everybody here has been through a rough patch. Well more like rough patches...
-What does this have to do with me in any way then ?
-I don't know if I should be telling you any of this.
-You owe it to me after what happened, with the lot of you. And it's not as if I asked for details, merely what it has to do with people like me. And why on earth were you all so interested in Joan ?
-She was the Governor here a few years back. Roughly four years back.
-And she did some reprehensible things.
-Hum, you think I'm going to fall for that ? Is that it ?
-It's not what...
-Or maybe you'd like for me to tell you her darkest secrets, her most private thoughts ?
-It's in her file, file which is in that box on the sofa. The one at the top of the pile. I made it with the help of colleagues here...

Alice scoffed and opened the box of inmates no longer present at Wentworth and took the first file in her hands, opening it, sure of herself. When she saw the picture she turned white, the little amount of color present on her face gone, leaving her with a ghastly color. She traced the picture with her finger, unable to focus on the words written on the page in front of her eyes. An inmate who was Governor... Fuck Joan.

-Still thinking I'm lying ?
-Get out.
-Excuse me ?
-I said, get out.
-Okay. Bip me if you need anything.

Bridget left the room, and fell face to face with Will and Jake.

-How did it go ?
-She seemed a bit shaken. I don't think she knows what she's done in the course of her stay as both Governor and inmate. She isn't lying. But something doesn't line up.
-What do you mean, asked Jake.
-She hasn't seen her in years, she was an Officer, she was an inmate, she seemed to like her to a certain point.
-What do you reckon ?
-I don't know yet, but I intend to find out. Don't mention that to Vera.

* * * * *

She was walking down the corridors she once considered home, their colors had faded slightly and some tiles were cracked, but overall it still looked the same. Though nothing was as it was when she arrived, these walls had seen so much, and were probably going to see so much more in the years to come. But at this point, she didn't give it much thought because she was home. She went toward her cell, seeing that nothing had been touched during their stay away. A bittersweet feeling started creeping through her and she tried to shake it, she was Top Dog now, things were going to move and maybe things were going to get better now. Hopefully, they wouldn't dare to release Marie into the general population, she would not be able to lay a toe outside that she would get teared apart, yet she knew Mister Jackson could probably be blackmailed since he was involved with her before he discovered her plan to escape. Yes, things were going to change here.

-Home sweet home ladies.
-Feels weird, being back here.
-It'll be alright Boomer, as long as we stick together.
-I don't think I can do it...
-What do you mean ?
-Going back to the... you know... I mean it's where they...
-Boomer it's going to be fine, we'll go down there and everything will be fine, we'll own it. We have to, for them.
-I know Allie but...
-What ?
-Things won't ever be the same now, ay ?
-When have things ever stayed the same long in this place ? Scoot over, let's watch Tv ay ?
-Ay, okay I missed that.
-Me too, me too...

But some things would always stay the same.

Chapter Text

Alice closed the door, making sure to lock twice, she took off her coat and shoes, before taking off her gloves, laying them on the wooden surface, finally feeling able to relax. She untied her hair from the ponytail and passed her hands through it. She heard footsteps and saw a little girl appear from the living room, she put the files she had in her arms on the table and the girl gave her a hug.

-Mom !
-Moya malen'kaya devochka (My little girl), how was your first day of school here ?
-Boring, lessons are too easy.
-I know but don't... Try not to dwell on it, alright ? And the house ? Remember it ?
-It's our house !
-Yes, it is, it stayed the same actually.
-Really ? Are you sure ?
-Yes, still the same as when you were much younger than this. This little.
-Was Mama there ? Tell me where she liked to stay, please Mom !
-Alright, she was there, and she loved that big armchair over there, she would have never admitted it though. You know she had her own place too.
-I know, I miss her...
-Me too, but cheer up you are coming to work with me tomorrow.
-Really ?
-Yeah I can't have my girl bored, I'll try to find stuff on the computer and print it for you to do tomorrow, how do you like it ?
-Can I do science tomorrow ?
-I'll see what I can find, anything else ?

The little girl seemed to be in deep thoughts when Alice tightened the grip on her arm softly.

-You could always read the book I bought you, it would help you keep your French. Alright, I'm hungry how about diner ?
-Yeah !

Alice nodded to the girl in her arms and left toward the kitchen to prepare diner. It felt so strange being back here after all this time away. Six years, was quite some time, she had expected the house to be bought, but little did she know, she, had made sure the house stayed hers. Maybe she had thought of them during their stay away. They finished diner talking about school and work per usual and Alice put Frannie to bed. When she came back downstairs she opened her computer and went on Google, her fingers lingering above the letters, a lump forming in her throat. She typed on the computer and when the results appeared on her screen her face hardened, she could feel her eyes watering but no tear dared to escape. Alice looked up to her daughter's room before looking back at the computer, gently tracing something on the screen. She couldn't let it show, not at work. She looked to her right on her desk, to the pile of files and took the third one, placing it on top. Alice opened it and started reading, peaking at her screen from time to time. Joan had really screwed up this time. But she had bigger fish to catch.

* * * * *

Alice was seated on the sofa in her office, going through files, when there was none on the pile next to her, more was added to the already precarious piles of files she was sorting out. She looked up from the file she had in front of her and gazed at her daughter who was reading on the ground. She was taken out of her thoughts when the door opened on Vera, whose face displayed surprise.

-Alice, hi !
-Hey, please come in. Frannie come here a minute. Vera this is Frannie, Frannie this is Vera. She's a friend and a colleague.
-You're Ve, Mom spoke of you often.
-Well I'm glad to hear that, hopefully, she said good things.
-Yeah, no, I told her how terrible you were, said Alice laughing softly.
-My, my, you two do make a pair. I mean it's weird...
-What is ?
-She really doesn't look like you, claimed Vera looking at both of them.
-I know right ? It's even more striking now that she's older.
-She reminds me of someone, I just can't, I know it's someone I used to know but...
-It's alright, just know I didn't steal her !
-I hope, otherwise we'd both be in trouble.
-Ah, there you are !
-Bridget ?
-I was looking for you, to see if you wanted to have lunch ?
-Oh well, Alice ?
-Are you hungry Frannie ?
-Yeah, can we eat with Ve ?
-Can we eat with Ve ? Asked Alice playfully.
-Sure let's go, wanna help me lead the way ? Great, it's this way.

Vera and Frannie left the room, leaving Alice and Bridget alone. Alice stepped closer to door, before stopping at Bridget's level.

-Are you afraid Bridget ?
-Why would I be ?
-Well, because you don't know whether I can be trusted or not. Let's make one thing clear shall we ? You can say whatever you want to me, I've seen worse. But if you pull one like you pulled on me yesterday on my daughter...
-Why would I do that ?
-Don't play with me. I am most certainly not in the mood.
-What will you do ?
-I'll destroy your career.
-Threats ?
-Yes. I should have called the board on you. Giving inmates, Governors fake diagnosis.
-What ? Asked Bridget taken aback.
-Don't play dumb with me, Westfall. I don't know what caused you to let your emotions, your hatred, blind your judgment and prevail on your professionalism but I won't let you do that ever again.
-I never gave a false diagnosis.
-So you're implying you're incompetent ?
-I don't even know what you're talking about.
-Joan Ferguson.
-What about her ?
-You blandly lied to her face, you called her names and you falsely diagnosed her as a psychopath. A Psychopath.
-I diagnosed her because it's what she was.
-She was not. You never knew anything about her did you ? Never tried to scratch the surface ? She needed help and could have finally gotten it again and you dismissed her. I don't know what she did to you, if she ever did anything, but I won't let you do that to anybody else. Never. I'll tell your dear Governor if I must.
-What makes you think Will would believe you ? He hated her and that will never change.
-You know when I entered this line of work, it's because people who cared and believed in me helped me become who I am now, it's what our job is about. Yet when I read this file, I'm starting to wonder if I shouldn't call the board to assess you. You know to show dominance and superiority. See you at lunch, malen'kaya devochka boitsya bol'shogo, plokhogo volka.(little girl afraid of the big, bad wolf)

Alice left the room Joan's file still in her hands, while Bridget was catching her breath and followed her footsteps thinking about what she had just heard. What had she meant by again ? What had happened the first time ?

* * * * *

Alice arrived in the room and saw Vera and Frannie seated at the table, Frannie showing her, her book and reading it to her, Will and Jake looking at the girl as if they had seen a ghost. Alice went to take their lunch from her bag, hiding Joan's Wentworth file from view, and laid it on the table, while everybody was about to start eating. Vera looked rather impressed by Frannie and kept on listening to her as she spoke in French, apparently reading from the book in her hands. Bridget arrived at that moment and sat beside Will and Jake who turned toward her. She dismissed them before looking at Alice who was smiling at her, making their heads turn to look at her.

-How did it go ? Asked Jake.
-She didn't know.
-For real ??
-She threatened me as well.
-What ? Asked Will incredulously.
-Nothing serious, she thinks I gave Ferguson a false diagnosis.
-Did you ?
-Well no of course not. She displayed every sign of psychopathy, I did my job.
-Then why would she say that ?
-Who knows ? We tried to unsettle her, maybe it's her payback.
-Bridget, are you sure about what you're saying ?
-Yes Will, I am. She had no idea and has no idea about her whereabouts, if she was to be above ground.
-Okay, thanks.
-You're welcome.
-What's that word ? Questioned Vera.
-It's mitochondria, that's the plural in English.
-Alice, she reads in French ?
-Yes, since we lived in France for a while I thought it would be appropriate.
-How is she doing ? What else does she speak ?
-Pretty good, she speaks Russian fluently as well, she has thought about taking on Greek and Japanese as of late. I might not be able to show love like she can, but that doesn't mean I cannot show it my own way.
-Russian ? My, my, I wouldn't even dream of that !
-Russkiy ne tak uzh i slozhen, pravda, Mom?(Russian is not that complicated, right mom ?)
-Eto ne samoye prostoye, no s Ve tebe nuzhno govorit' po-angliyski, yesli tol'ko ona ne skazhet inache. Ponyatno ?(It's not the easiest, but with Ve, you need to speak English, unless she says otherwise. Are we clear ?)
-Da Mom.(yes mom)

Vera looked at the little girl next to her impressed and looked at Alice a thin smile on her lips.

-Wow, that's impressive I can barely speak two languages, said Vera laughing, what did you two talk about ?
-Just Russian being a difficult language, but that she needs to speak english with you.
-Does she practice any sport ?
-I fence.
-Fence ?
-It's not common, started Will.
-It teaches her to keep her focus, and discipline, interjected Alice, her mother used to fence, and I asked if she wanted to try, and she's been doing it for years now.
-You mean full on protected and thin swords ? With the masks and everything ?

Alice raised an eyebrow at the face her daughter was making, clearly not amused by the lack of knowledge related to the sport she loved dearly. Vera repressed a laugh and took a sip of her water.

-I think you'll have to search for fencing terms, if you want to keep talking to her, said Vera.
-Yeah, yeah I'll look it up, it's just not common to hear kids say they fence.

Frannie furrowed her brows even more, looking at Jake who rested his face in his hands, while Vera was on the verge of dying of laughter. Alice raised her brows and patted Frannie's shoulder, making her look at her.

-It's alright. Not everybody knows that sport, or would think of it. But you need to be accepting of that.
-Yes Mom.
-I take it back, she does look like you after all, it's striking.
-What's her name ?
-Frannie, said Alice her eyes on Bridget.
-Mind if I talk to her ?
-Frannie, do you mind ?

The little girl nodded negatively and Bridget went next to her, she kneeled and Frannie closed her book after having placed her bookmark.

-Hi Frannie, I'm Bridget.
-I'm a psychologist, do you know what that is ?
-Yes, Mom is one as well. She tells me about her work and I tell her about mine. You know, school work.
-Oh really ? And does that interest you ?
-Yes, kind of, but I'd rather fence and study languages.
-I see, does she know about you ? Is she like you ?
-No Bridget she doesn't have Antisocial Personality Disorder. And yes she knows what it is and that I have it.
-What do you feel knowing that ? At home, I mean ? Said Bridged turning to the girl.
-I feel okay, you know we came back to our house, Mama kept it for us. It's just as we left it, right ?
-Yes it is.
-Her mother ?
-Frannie's mother couldn't come with us. That is a subject I won't discuss with you Bridget.
-How did you feel knowing you she couldn't come with you ?
-I can't remember I was three, but when I think of it now, it makes me a bit sad.
-Does your mom have a name ?
-Yes she does, what kind of question is that ? Pochemu ona zadavat' vse eti voprosy, Mom ?(Why does she ask all these questions, Mom ?)

Bridget was taken aback by the sharp come back coming from the girl in front of her and Alice smirked.

-Khorosho, Frenni syuda.(Alright, Frannie come here.)

The little girl took her book and stood next to Alice who got on her feet as well, tidying her side of the table. She touched her bun making sure it was still tidy as well and looked at the people seated next to her, who seemed to have swallowed nails at the sight of the gesture.

-I'll see you later Vera, Jake, Linda.

Mother and daughter left and Vera dropped her fork in her Tupperware. While Bridget sat down on the chair previously occupied by Frannie. Jake put the newspaper down while Linda looked at everybody unsure.

-That's an impressive daughter she's got there.
-It went better than I expected.
-What was that about ? Inquired Linda, baffled by the exchange.
-Nothing that concerns you, Linda, I don't want you getting mixed up in this. I don't even want to get mixed up in this. You are awful, the two of you. It's her second day, her second day and you... You... What is it you're trying to do ?
-We're just trying to see if we can trust her.
-And the best way to do that is to push her over the edge ? Compare her to Ferguson ? They have nothing in common !
-What's she have to do with any of this ? Asked Linda.
-They are both psychopaths, that's the thing they have in common.

Vera looked over at the blonde and pushed her meal aside.

-You know I've been reading Bridget.
-Reading what ?
-What a psychopath is, a sociopath, how to recognize them, the big traits. How nobody but movies and us uncultured people use those terms. Alice said it, its Antisocial Personality Disorder. No matter the ramifications.
-And did you find any of that interesting ?
-Gosh, I had hoped to spend at least the first week before talking about this... Yes, want to know why ? Because it was the complete definition of who Alice is.
-Which is not surprising since she admits it, added jake.
-Alice is a psychopath, asked Linda shocked.
-And you know who it did not correspond to, not entirely ?
-No. I do not know.
-Joan. It did not correspond to Joan. She had some of it. But the rest was junk, and I knew her better than any of you.
-Where does that come from Vera ? Why defending her ? Asked Will.
-Linda could you leave us please ?
-No Linda, don't bother. I can't believe we've come to this. I'll be either in my office or with Alice. Better I'm taking my afternoon. Because know this. I don't care if I seem out of character. I don't care if you deem me defending Joan, as bad or something psychological. I cared. You never have. She let herself be vulnerable with me. I 'm not sure anybody here can claim the same. I know things, things that... That I can say I relate to, we are more alike than I care to admit... She...

The room was silent, Vera knew it, she had always known. Joan only spoke to her like that, maybe she was trying to manipulate her, but a part of her knew that it wasn't just that, their last diner being proof. She knew exactly why she was defending her, but she also knew they wouldn't understand. They did not take an interest in knowing Joan Ferguson, not like Vera did. She remembered Fletcher telling her what he had just witnessed, Joan talking to thin air, talking to someone who was in her head, the words chosen, the meaning behind them. Vera knew these words all too well. She knew the feeling of never being good enough. Of being bullied, and ill-treated. She was no different from Joan in a way. The only difference was in how she coped with it, they were at the two extremes. Joan had decided to walk over people before they could walk over her, whereas Vera let herself be walked over as she didn't know her worth.

-Vera ?

The brunette was taken out of her thoughts and looked at the people at the table who seemingly had waited for her to say something. Vera took her things and left towards the entrance not listening as Will called her. She walked towards her car and entered setting her things on the passenger seat. She let her head rest on the driving weel and heard knocks on her window. She turned her head and saw Linda smiling at her. Vera smiled back and opened her window.

-Listen whatever that was back there, I won't mention it. It doesn't concern me.
-Linda, it's alright. It's just I can't with them. I understand them and I understand why but I can't agree.
-So it's true she is a Psych... I mean...
-Antisocial Personality Disorder, she won't mind if you don't remember.
-You sure ? Why did you want her on the team ?
-Yeah...She's my friend Linda, I've know her for a while now. And though I'm always amazed by how detached she is, she has never lied to me, she tried to be like us. She tries all the time, but honestly, I don't want for her to be like us, I like her just the ways she is, even if that means she seems antipathic.
-Like us ?
-Society's definition of normal. You know showing eeps of emotions, extroverted, our definition of love. She... Her daughter, she is lucky to have a mother like hers.
-Hey ! Grace is lucky to have you too ! You are a good mother Vera.
-We both know I didn't have the best example.
-So did Alice. Yet does that stop her ?
-She has ASPD, she thinks she is superior, Linda. That helps quite a bit, said Vera chuckling.
-Oh... Yeah well, still...
-Thanks though, for the kind words.
-Wait !
-What, what's this ?
-Alice asked me to give you that.
-What is it ?
-She didn't say, but she told me to tell you, that she heard you talk to them, and that she wanted for you to have this file. She said you'd find it interesting.
-Thanks, I'll see you tomorrow, alright ?
-Sure, and Vera take care of yourself okay ?
-I promise. See ya.

Chapter Text

Vera entered her house and made sure to lock the door twice, before taking off her shoes and coat, finally able to let go of all the tension of the day. She rid herself of her jacket and put her bag on the diner table, it's content spilling a bit. Vera made herself a glass of water and looked at the file poking from her bag. Why would Alice think she'd be interested in it ? She had heard her discussion with Will, Bridget and Jake about Ferguson, maybe she knew something they didn't ? She could feel herself growing more intrigued the second the thought had penetrated her mind, but she was unsure. Unsure if she wanted to know, did she really ? Was she ready to see the Freak... Joan as a human being, again, and not the manipulative, psychopathic monster they had learned to know ? So far she had never really poked into someone's life like that, except for that one time when she inadvertently found Fletcher's journal. She set her glass on the counter and took the file in her hands, opening it, she saw a paper attached to the jacket, intrigued, she turned it over and saw Alice's handwriting.

Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting. Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behavior. - Peter Senge

Vera furrowed her brows, unsure as to whom the message was referring to, and why these words specifically. She opened the first page of the file and her breath hitched. Ferguson's. Wait, not Ferguson's. Joan's. Vera sat down, she looked at the dates and the handwriting resembling the one with which the quote had been laid on paper. She flipped through the pages seeing plenty of handwritten papers, diagrams as well, interrogation marks, like someone was trying to decipher something. Or someone. The dates, the newest were dating back from six years ago, the oldest seemed to be older than ten years ago. A little over... Six years ago, being the last time Alice supposedly spoke to Joan. Vera kept on flipping through the pages and stopped. The page's content were pictures of people, she didn't recognize, until her ocean eyes found chocolate ones. She was slightly taken aback by the girl in the picture, but remembered distinctly where she had seen it. In Joan's house, near the violin. Vera brought the photo closer to her face, looking at the girl in the picture in fencing attire. She looked so much more approachable, yet there was a hardness in her features that she recognized all too well. She scanned the page to see if there were any information and it's only when she turned the page around that her question was answered, yet the names seemed unfamiliar.

Ivan Romanov, Dzhoan Anastasiya (Tasiya) Romanovna - 1974
Deceased, cause of death : killed
Joan & her father

Vera breathed out, staring at the names in disbelief before looking at the cause of death, wondering who could have done that. Why would Alice think it appropriate to give her that file, which was not the file they had at Wentworth, compiled by everyone there... It wasn't Wentworth's file. It was Alice's. The realization made Vera drop the file on the table, Alice had done a file on Ferguson, well Romanovna... Gosh that was by far the strangest she's read so far... Not even her name was real. Alice... She had tried to get to know her, to assess her, maybe she had succeeded ? Why revealing a good deal of information to her ? Alright Vera, try to think like them... Alice doesn't trust people easily, neither did Joan, her being outgoing and charismatic is all about making people see what they want to see and be able to size them up. So did Joan. But Alice was her friend, Vera was hers, Alice had never lied to... Alice did lie to her, no, she had concealed information. What for ? For the greater good ? Vera scoffed at the thought that could easily fall from the lips of both her friend and her former mentor. She shook her head taking back the file, she flipped the page and what caught her eyes was a woman holding a little girl, they both were smiling at the camera, they seemed so happy. Vera flipped through the pages and saw a few more like this one, until she turned the page again and saw another picture of Joan with her father. Vera went back to the first picture with the woman and the little girl, rubbing her temples. She turned the page and her breath got stuck in her throat.

Sasheen Vasilyev, Dzhoan Anastasiya (Tasiya) Romanovna - 1965
Deceased. Suicide ? Murdered ? Left ?

She let the file rest on the table, her arms feeling numb, her brain empty of thoughts. Suicide ? Murdered ? Left ? How could they not know ? How did they not know ? Who was that...

Joan & her mother

Vera let go of the picture covering her mouth with her hands, she stood up and went towards her fridge taking out a bottle of Pinault and didn't even bother taking a glass. She sat back down taking a sip of the alcohol, before tracing the face of the little girl with the tip of her finger, her gaze shifting at the mother, the resemblance striking her. The long, ebony hair, chocolate eyes, boyish features. Why weren't there any pictures of the three of them ? Why just with one or the other ? She put the bottle down and looked at the pictures before taking her phone from her bag unlocking it, going into her messages. She stared at her screen before looking back at the file, Alice had given her the file for a reason, whatever the reason was. What did she know ? Who had she been speaking to ? Why had she done this file in the first place ? Vera drank from the bottle again, something wasn't right. Alright Vera, focus, think.

-Why did you give this to me ? Why did you do this ? What did you hope to achieve ?

Vera replayed in her head the last two days which, as always, when working at Wentworth, were emotionally charged. Will knew Alice and Ferguson from Blackmoore, hence the wariness towards Alice over the last two days. He knew she knew her, but didn't know the extent of it. Jake was mostly worried that what they did would be uncovered, and a small part of Vera wanted for them to be uncovered. No one deserved that. She shook her head and put the bottle back in the fridge, focus Vera goddammit ! Bridget was a forensic psychologist, it was her profession to deal with people like Alice and Joan, yet something about her diagnosis rang hollow. She had never truly seen Bridget assess her for psychopathy, never really read the assessment because she trusted Bridget's professionalism and objectivity. Yet when Bridget had told her that psychopaths have no fear she knew something was off, Joan had fears, and a great many deals of them. It was only when Alice had told her that no one with a Ph.D. used psychopath or sociopath (except to be understood by the general population), that they were a product of fiction, to separate the branches of this disorder, something had light up, she had read about it. Many people, especially psychiatrists, forensic psychologists, criminologists, and police officers couldn't differentiate the two due to their closeness in traits and the effective manipulation of actual psychopaths. Her mind wandered for a moment, how come Alice had gathered all these information about Joan ? How come she got to the point of getting so close that she did a file, and for whom ? What did she think needed to be addressed ? Did Joan ask her to do this ?

Vera felt her eyes sting from fatigue and looked at the time. A quarter to five. How long had she been brewing over that file ? Just the thought tired her even more. She didn't bother putting the file back in order and for a second felt like she had taken a cold shower, she didn't know for how long she had been home, she was so caught up in what happened that she forgot to check on Grace. Vera rushed to her room, her breathing heavy, she stopped when she reached the door, trying to listen. Nothing. She opened the door ever so slowly and relaxed when she realized her mistake. The nanny was there next to Grace's crib, seemingly focussed in her book, so focussed that she had not been aware that Vera had come home, nor rushed to her room. Vera cleared her throat and the young woman looked up, startled. She had put her hand to her chest before letting out a sigh of relief. She stood up and went next to Vera by the door.

-Miss Bennett I didn't know you finished early today...
-I... I didn't, I just... I was, it was a... The last two days have been exhausting.
-At the risk of sounding condescending, it shows that you're exhausted.
-When did you arrive from work ?

Vera opened her mouth but no sound came out, she had no fucking idea. Her mind had been so wrapped up that she had no idea about the time, she had even forgotten to check on her daughter. The young woman put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

-I can stay with Grace if you want to sleep for a while, or if you want me to leave ?
-No, no, I'll just go to the guest bedroom, I know you need the money and I trust you, Anna. Thanks I appreciate.
-It's alright, go, I'll look after her if she wakes up.

Vera nodded at Anna smiling softly before gazing at Grace who was sleeping peacefully, how jealous was she of such an ability to sleep soundly like that, without problems of the day weighing on you. She closed the door going to the guest's room and laid on the bed, not bothering to change her clothes. Vera arranged the pillow below her head and closed her eyes, hopefully, exhausted as she was she would sleep as peacefully as Grace. Or at least she hoped she would.

Chapter Text

Alice entered her office, her daughter's hand in hers. She had warned Bridget but since she seemed unbothered with the consequences her actions could produce, she was going to teach her a lesson. She let go of Frannie who settled back on the ground, opening her book where she last paused it. Alice saw her behave and was glad for her daughter's higher IQ, meaning a lower EQ, because it made them much more look like. She put her bag down on her desk and thought, maybe she did have to play normal, maybe it's what was going to be needed of her even with her colleagues. She swallowed her sense of superiority and left her office, locking it. Alice started walking back to the Officers' area but stopped just before she could be seen, listening to the conversation.

-You know I've been reading Bridget.
-Reading what ?
-What a psychopath is, a sociopath, how to recognize them, the big traits. How nobody but movies and us uncultured people use those terms. Alice said it, its Antisocial Personality Disorder. No matter the ramifications.
-And did you find any of that interesting ?
-Gosh, I had hoped to spend at least the first week before talking about this... Yes, want to know why ? Because it was the complete definition of who Alice is.
-Which is not surprising since she admits it, added Jake.
-Alice is a psychopath, asked Linda shocked.
-And you know who it did not correspond to, not entirely ?
-No. I do not know.
-Joan. It did not correspond to Joan. She had some of it. But the rest was junk, and I knew her better than any of you.
-Where does that come from Vera ? Why defending her ? Asked Will.
-Linda could you leave us please ?
-No Linda don't bother. I can't believe we've come to this. I'll be either in my office or with Alice. Better I'm taking my afternoon. Because know this. I don't care if I seem out of character. I don't care if you deem me defending Joan, as bad or something psychological. I cared. You never have. She let herself be vulnerable with me. I 'm not sure anybody here can claim the same. I know things, things that... That I can say I relate to, we are more alike than I care to admit... She...

Alice rested her back on the wall, somehow struck by the power of Vera's words. Vera could relate to Joan... Alice silently face palmed herself, cursing in her mind. Of course, Vera understood Joan, they both shared abusive parents and unhealthy environments. Traumatized childhoods. Touché Vera, come after Bridget, very good. She knew she had created a bridge between them, but the thought only made smile, this would be the start of Alice teaching Bridget what it means to toss someone aside and be unprofessional. Not a painful teaching but enough to make her feel guilt and remorse. Because if the people who believed in her had had the same behavior she probably wouldn't be here and wouldn't have made such progress, and gosh did she change over the last twenty years. Why defending her ? Why wouldn't she ? Did something happen between them ? What did Joan tell Vera ? Did she even tell her the reason behind why she was doing what she was doing ?

-Vera ?

Alice listened as the room fell silent, she heard things moving and saw Vera leaving towards the entrance as Will tried to call for her without much success. Alice's brain worked like crazy, and she rushed towards her office, unlocking it, startling her daughter who looked up from her book. She didn't look at her as she took a file from her handbag and rushed back outside as quickly as she arrived. She saw Linda walking towards her and stopped in front of her.

-Linda ! Could you give this to Vera ?

Linda caught her breath, looking down at what Alice was extending to her, her eyes stuck on the gloves. She looked up an eyebrow raised.

-Why don't you give it yourself ?
-Linda, could you ? It's important, she has to see this. I thought that it might interest her.
-Why ?
-I heard. What just happened.
-You were eves dropping ? Said the blonde smirking.
-No I caught the discussion and preferred to lay back. Could you please give it to her ?
-Alright, and Alice, I don't... Care what you are as long as you don't hurt anyone. And I'll take you up on what you said, that session...

Alice's lips fell apart, she had not anticipated that, which didn't go unnoticed by the blonde who left with a half-smile, almost running outside. Alice looked at where she disappeared and blinked, but not because of what she said, because of the reaction it created in Alice. She had felt warmth when Linda let the words slip, she trusted her to a point where she was ready to feel vulnerable with her, and she had not judged her. Alice's lips twitched in a smile before turning neutral again, going back to her office.

* * * * *

Frannie opened the door and hung her coat, before giving her mother the keys, she placed her shoes in the rack and went to her room. She looked through her library and put the book back from where she had taken it, taking an album photo instead. She sat on her bed, her legs crossed, and opened the album flipping through the pages of pictures she had looked at, every day for the last five years. Alice had gone up the stairs after locking the door twice and was looking at the scene in front of her. She knew anybody normal would have walked into the room and asked what their child was doing if they needed anything. But Alice had stopped when Frannie had told her she didn't need to do something she didn't want to. But truth to be told, when it came to her daughter, though she was happy they needn't interact much, she still wished she knew how to bond with her in these moments. She stepped back and went to her office, she needed the calm. She took out a record of Moonlight Sonata Op 27, No 2 by Beethoven, and sat in the leather chair before breathing out, her eyes lost in the void in front of her. Alice had no idea if giving Vera the file was a good idea, maybe she wasn't even going to read it, why would she ? Vera's curiosity would get the best of her assuredly, she'd want to know if Alice had more to share about Joan. Joan who probably would have thrown a tantrum if... She had been here. She wasn't here anymore, she was dead. Buried. A lump formed in her throat, her chest rising painfully. Derek Channing kept on pleading his defense, his innocence... Alice could tell he wasn't lying, but still, he had killed that woman. Murphy. Thinking it was Joan, he would have killed her, he wanted to kill her. But who had buried her then ? Alice's finger started taping on the wood of her desk, her eyes focussed on the void, the violin and piano filling the air, penetrating her ears. The police never confirmed the body was hers. It could have been somebody else, a ploy, maybe she had had a backup plan in case it turned to this. She sighed looking at the frame resting on her desk, she had been so happy when this picture was taken, the event that stirred these emotions was expected, but the afterward made her smile 'til her cheeks hurt. She had never seen her that happy. And she probably never would again.

She didn't have the time to dwell on the thought that she received a text on her phone, she read it and called the person. She opened her laptop, going through her mails and found the one she was looking for, downloaded the files, before printing them. Alice laid them out on her desk looking at each one thoroughly, there was a pattern. She heard the person at the other end pick up, and she started taking notes.

-You've got hem ?
-Yes. There an obvious pattern.
-We know, but that's the problem. It's obvious and no one comes forward willingly. Maybe there's more to it.
-And what does Howard say ?
-He says we should refer to you if anyone comes forward, or if you want to try to talk to these women.
-Good, child's play. Now, are these recent ?
-No these are from a few years ago. We are currently trying to gather women would could be in the same situation, but doing so without raising suspicion is no mean feat.
-Yes, which is why they picked us Alexander.
-I know, I know. But do you really think the pattern is that easy ? I mean he seems to have been doing this for years. Surely he wouldn't risk it...
-The pattern is easy because its only women, women who have no one. No relatives, friends, no one who would look for them or protect them if something bad was to happen. There is no definite range of age, which worries me if all of these are victims. Also, no one in the administration seems to care about the former allegations against him, which would mean someone is pulling strings. That could be the reason why no one dares to come forward now.
-I'll try to see what else I can find, you tell me if you find anything or if you have an illumination, okay ?
-No problem, we'll chat again soon.

The man at the other end hung up and Alice stared at the files, scanning them. They would catch him, no matter how long it would take.

Chapter Text

Alice was walking down the corridors of the correctional centre, looking around, she had been here for a few months now, and she knew the facility by heart. It's corridors, rooms, hiding places, even the cameras. Especially the cameras. The Officers and inmates all knew her name, there was no proof of her being behind the murder of her family, yet she was here, and she didn't seem to mind. It served her well as no one dared to cross her, though she was much smaller and seemingly weaker than the rest of the women here. They had all learned what she was capable of. The Officers knew better than to trust inmates but people were drawn to her, her charisma acting without her consent. Which led her to talk to the Officers more than the inmate which didn't displease her, some of them on the other side were decent, some even nice. She arrived near the entrance and saw new faces, some looking almost proud of themselves and others seemingly bored as if they knew the drill. She sat down on the bench taking in what was happening. Only one stood out for Alice, her expression impossible to decipher. She furrowed her brows and saw the girl looking at her wiping tears away from her cheeks, before looking at the Officer who told them to move. Alice felt a presence next to her and didn't turn, already knowing who it was.

-I cannot believe how many inmates have arrived here over the last few months... What has the world gone to ?
-Maybe the world has gone mad. Or maybe it's just people like us who act upon what they know.
-Us ?
-You might be fooling yourself but you aren't fooling me. YA tebya vizhu.(I see you.)

Joan sighed, shaking her head slightly, a thin smile on her rosy lips, she gazed at the inmates before checking her watch.

-Who is she ?

Joan looked up at Alice before staring at the inmates, her brows furrowed.

-Which one ?
-The one who's crying.

Upon not hearing an answer Alice turned to look at the Officer and realized the pain hardening her features. Yet her eyes seemed to soften looking at her. Alice nudged Joan's shoulder and the woman looked back at her like taken out of her thoughts, she sat down smoothing her uniform.

-What was that for ?
-You didn't answer.
-I'm sorry I was... What did you ask ?
-Who is she ? The one you were staring at.
-I wasn't.

Alice raised an eyebrow and Joan blushed before looking away.

-It's Jianna Riley.
-What is she in for ?
-Her former boyfriend gave her name to the police when he was caught, a minor robbery. He is stationed at Walford along with a few of his friends.
-Did she partake in the robbery ?
-They claimed she did but police couldn't find her fingerprints anywhere.
-Why is she here then ?

Alice looked up at Joan who seemed at a loss for words, before her gaze fell back on the girl.

-You know you shouldn't.
-I'm not doing anything.
-Why do you keep lying to yourself ?
-I could slot you for insubordination.
-Then why don't you do it ? Unless you deem what I said true, as they say truth hurts.

Joan was about to go to the new inmates when Alice stopped her, the expression on the girl's face striking her again.

-What is it ?
-What's that ?
-What's what ?
-That expression... She is crying I know but...
-It's fear... Why ?

Joan sat back down, perplexed when she saw Alice studying the girl.

-Have you never seen that expression before ?
-You know I have, I saw it on you, what does it feel like ? Fear I mean.

Joan seemed taken aback by the question and looked at the girl whose picture was taken, making her heart sink in her chest. She felt Alice's insistent gaze and turned to her once more.

-Your hands are shaking, cold even, your guts twitch, your blood flow increases and you can feel your heart pounding in your rib cage, the thrumming in your ears amongst other things...
-Did you feel like that during...

Joan's face hardened but when she looked to her right, her lips parted slightly. Alice had never looked as innocent as she did at this very moment, felt as teenage as she did right now, asking questions about unknown territories. The brunette swallowed the lump which had formed in her throat and nodded before looking straight ahead.

-I never felt that.
-Never ? Not even during...
-Just the thought is foreign to me.
-I envy you...
-I know. But you shouldn't.
-Why not ?
-Because then it would mean you'd be like me. And you're not, the way you look at her proved it yet again.

They heard a rumble of voices and Joan's gaze got lost on the girl again, but this time it didn't go unnoticed by her. Alice saw that and smirked before raising an eyebrow, checking her nails. She heard the woman next to her sigh and brush her hair out of her face.

-I wasn't going to say anything.

Joan looked over at Alice who suddenly seemed quite intrigued by her last word.

-You haven't taught me that one.
-It means liar.
-Do you want me to be honest ?
-I don't know anything about that, what just happened, that connection. But here is not the outside world, rules exist, and people can get killed for not following them.
-I know...
-She is good-looking.
-She is.
-So are you, Alice heard Joan scoff at her comment clearly dismissing her, Do you like her ?
-I'm not...
-I don't judge. If you like her who's got anything to say about it ?
-I don't like people.
-lzhets. You like me.

Alice's mouth twisted into a grin and Joan smiled genuinely. Alice patted her hand before standing up, looking down at her.

-I don't know what happened to you, I don't know what makes you repress yourself like that but take my advice, Joan. From somebody who cannot feel things like you, act upon it. Come what may, maybe you could be friends if that's what you both want. But whatever tells you to stop living, don't listen to it. I'm told that living means putting yourself into situations you might suffer from or get intense happiness. Be yourself and be proud. Because you're a strong woman, in fact you're the strongest woman I've ever met. Ty vyzhila.(You're a survivor.)

Alice left as the sirens signifying to go back to work resonated everywhere, leaving Joan seated on the bench, thinking about what she had just said. Her words contrasting with those of her father's, building a gaping hole inside her. She lifted her gaze again and found herself looking into two brown orbs, her breath caught in her throat. Maybe she could take that advice.

Chapter Text

-There you are, thank you Stevenson we'll be alright, please sit down. How do you prefer to be called ?
-Allie's fine.

Alice was seated at her office, waiting for Allie to join her in a more convivial part of the room. They both sat down and Alice smiled taking a sip of her coffee.

-So, I guess you know why you're here.
-Yep, to talk about the siege.
-Amongst other things yes, I'd like to start with something else.
-How it is you became Top Dog ? Out of everyone else that is.
-I know the drill. I've... Known it for years.
-Yes, Miss Bennett told me you gravitated around the former Top Dogs, is that correct ?
-She said that ?
-Isn't that what happened ?
-Yes, but I didn't gravitate.
-What did you do then ?
-I was friends with some, I loved one of them.
-I see, how long ago was that ?
-About three years.
-Do you still love that person ? Is that one of the reasons why this position is important to you ?
-Obviously you don't really stop loving someone like that, not her, but yeah it's one of the reasons.
-What are the others then ?
-We had some pretty awful Top Dogs, and I care about the women here, so I decided that if they wanted me, then I'll step up and do my best.
-Could you be referring to Marie Winter ? From what I heard, she pulled a number on everybody.
-The siege was to get her out, she didn't even pass the front door. But she wasn't the only one...
-Don't stop because of me, if I feel the need to say or ask something I will. Please proceed.
-We had Marie alright but before her there was the Freak, she was...
-The Freak ?

Alice furrowed her brows, surprised by the name-calling, it had happened to her before with other inmates and at Blackmoore, but she always detested it, it was so fifth grader. Allie smirked and looked at the window before pointing at the basketball hoop, leading Alice's gaze.

-It's where we hanged her.
-Did she die ?
-No, Miss Bennett intervened and did CPR. The bitch survived.
-Language Miss Novak, this might be a safe place but I won't abide name-calling. As for Miss Bennett she did the right thing. And where is this woman now ?

Alice's heart skipped a beat as she looked at the woman seated in front of her. Allie was smiling victoriously while Alice took a sip of her coffee, control yourself, be collected. Alice nodded briefly seemingly unbothered by the words of the young woman.

-You mean the woman going by the name of Joan Ferguson ?
-She won't be needing that name anymore, plus the Freak sounds more appropriate.
-I told you...
-She wasn't even human to begin with, if you knew the things she had done.
-Miss Novak.

Allie stopped at once, her eyes falling into fiery ones.

-You know you seemed quite approachable when we met yesterday.
-And what changed ?
-Bridget. She told me eeps about you.
-I see. And what exactly did she say to you, Allie.
-Stuff like you having gone to prison before, being a psycho like the Freak was, and also that you knew her.
-Tol'ko to, chto mne bylo nuzhno(Just what I needed), muttered Alice, at least Bridget saved me time, that's one positive aspect of the whole ordeal. Now did she tell you, to tell me, about Joan to unsettle me ?
-Yep, feels like you're hiding something from them she said.
-Yes well, maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. Now we aren't here to discuss myself, but you. After all, you were the one to pull the trigger on the man who helped Marie Winter. What was his name again ? Teased Alice.
-Sean Brody...
-Right, and you had never killed before, correct ?

Allie stayed silent, obviously she had never killed before, not that she hadn't tried with Ferguson and failed deplorably. But no, she had never pulled the trigger on anybody, and she didn't think herself capable of it, but now she knew better. She touched the top of her tracksuit pushing it away from her neck before looking at the clock.

-How did it feel ?
-Why ? You want me to say I liked it ? So that I can be like you and the Freak ?
-Her name was Joan, Miss Novak. And I only asked you how you felt when you did.
-Empty, I felt empty.
-And ?
-I... I don't know, I was furious, he had killed Kaz, he had threatened us and Miss Bennett, he killed inmates, I... I just wanted for him to suffer, I wanted for him to die.
-And you shot Marie Winters as well.
-I'm not going to ask if you regret getting rid of this man, because the answer is very likely to be no. But did you enjoy it ?
-No, of course not.
-It wasn't an accusation, just to confirm what we all already know.
-And what is that ?
-That prison changes people, they do horrible things to survive and make others fear and respect them, but sometime they do these horrible things to protect others, and also that you, indeed, are not like me, or Joan.
-Why would Miss Bennett take someone like you after we had the Fre... Her, she said with disdain.
-Because Miss Bennett and I are long time friends, and she sees deeper than my mental condition, which I gather Bridget told you but failed to inform you of the progress.
-The progress ?
-Yes, I'm not the woman I was twenty or so years ago. I haven't hurt anyone to the point of death in well over fifteen years, in spite of being what you call a psychopath.
-Hum, and what makes you think that you won't ever hurt someone again, hum ? Maybe you're fooling yourself, maybe you're never going to change your insides. God knows she could never.
-Maybe you're right.

Allie was taken aback by the soft answer, she looked at the woman in front of her trying not to show her shock but Alice could very well see it. Allie was right, she had no idea if her ill nature would ever come up again, if she would lose the control she had worked to gain, how she would react if someone she cared about was being armed. Would she kill the people involved, would she cry, she had no idea. She was so focussed on trying to control herself and try to help the people she worked with that she never really took the time to assess how much she had progressed. She clasped her hands on her knees.

-You are right, I do not know. Maybe I am fooling myself. But does that mean I can't try ? Does that mean I have to let whatever I was born with define who I am, or even who I want to be. Maybe I'll always have that violence raging to come out, maybe I will hurt someone, but with maybes and what ifs we could change the world. And thinking about it won't do anybody any good. Anyways, enough about me, enough about Bridget and Joan for a moment. Why don't you tell me about the siege ?
-What is there to say about it ?
-You tell me, you were there, I was not, not in that one at least.
-You have been in a siege ?
-Yes a long time ago, and I know how ugly it can become.
-It was... Scary...
-How so ?
-What do you mean ?
-What scared you ? What aspect of the siege.
-Every aspect, not knowing if you're going to be the next dead corpse on the floor, if your friends are going to die, or worse. The betrayal as well.
-You mean Marie's plan to escape ? Were you close ?
-We were together. I loved her.
-What did it feel like when you realized that, she, was behind it ?

Allie glanced at Alice before looking by the window, she didn't want to talk about that, but she knew that in order to get her to talk she had to as well.

-It felt like my heart had been ripped out, numb, I couldn't form a coherent sentence, why do you ask ?
-Why do you keep asking me, why, I'm asking you how you felt ?
-Why not, I'm curious. How was the siege you were in ?
-It was alright, there were casualties, people were gravely injured but we managed.
-We managed ? What do you mean we ?
-The Officers and I.

Allie scoffed before seeing the serious face in front of her.

-You helped the screws ? So what, you were a lagger ?
-You can call it like that, yes.
-You wouldn't have lasted a day here. The women here would have skinned you alive.
-I'd still take my chances. Anyways I did help the Officers quite a few times when I was at Blackmoore, they grew fond of me.
-So ? What's it got to do with anything ?
-Well you asked about the siege didn't you ? So a little of context won't hurt. I didn't lag per se, but, I used to give tips to the Officers and stop attempts at hurting both the ones behind bars and outside them.
-Why ?
-Because it seems like a good thing to do.
-Are you kidding me ?
-Yes I am. Back at that time I was working by the reward, they said if I helped them they would try to up some privileges and maybe try to get to with my psychologists more.
-And you agreed to that ? More shrink ?
-Yes, now about the siege. It was pretty much the same context as you have been. Except that it were prisoners who started it, with no help from the outside.
-How did it go ?

At this point Allie was genuinely interested, the siege had scared her to a point she never thought she'd reach, Bea's near death having been the worse scare of her life up until the siege. But the woman in front of her seemed so detached about it, it was almost concerning, albeit fascinating.

-Well, I didn't know until late there was a siege, what alerted me was the lack of Officers and inmates in the corridors, the alarm did not even go off. What is it ?
-Was it before or after the girl ? Jianna.
-Nobody ever stays buried, right ? It was before Jianna. I was going down the corridors, there was an eery silence, I can't remember these corridors ever being silent, but that one time. I was due to the laundry, so I went there but while on my way I heard a rumbling of voices coming from the kitchen. I went there and it was a sight to behold. The Officers were gagged, their feet and wrists attached. There wasn't a lot of inmates but enough to prevent them to rebel. What I didn't know at that moment was that the same was happening at another part of the facility, but also that a few inmates were treated like the Officers because they had no quarrel with them, so they were perceived as screw lovers. The inmates in charge were spitting insults at their faces, calling them names handling them around, passing them from one to the other. And I stood there watching, I knew very well I couldn't beat a dozen inmates, armed as they were, but I couldn't really do nothing.
-Why not turn away and leave ?
-I don't know. Up to this day it's still something I ask myself and still find myself without a proper answer. But something held me there, whatever it was, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't glad.
-Why ?
-In the room, tied up of course, were three inmates, Marion was killed in front of everybody, Shanae became paraplegic and Jamie left the room traumatized for life.
-And the screws ?
-There were three women and two men going by the name of Randal Higgins who was killed as well, Chadwik Rogers, Annika Thompson, Adriana Nichols and Joan Ferguson.
-Wait what ? She was there ?
-She was there. May I continue or not ?
-Good. So with all these inmates and Officers tied up, and the dozen armed, I didn't know what to do. I couldn't take them one on one, I wasn't sure if their restreins were cut the Officers could fist fight with the inmates, I can't recall ever feeling lost but at that moment either. The Officers, their jackets were on a table, and their shirts opened like they had been ripped, I couldn't see much from where I was standing but they had blood smirred over their faces. Jamie and Thompson were crying, holding on to each other, Randal's body was next to them and a puddle of blood had started to form around him. Chadwik was trying his best to compose himself from what I could see, he tried talking to the inmates, asking them why they were doing what they were doing, why couldn't they just talk ? Nichols was tied to a chair, it's only after the facts that I learned that she had killed an inmate while trying to get them out of this situation.
-And Ferguson ?
-Joan was... Sitting in the middle of this chaos, she was holding on to Chadwik, fear in her eyes, I had never seen her like that before. She almost looked small, fragile, as if the slightlest thing could shatter her to pieces. It was the first time I saw her cry.
-Hmf, forgive me but I can't really see the woman who hotshot me as someone who's ever known fear, even less crying.
-You hanged her and you're going to tell me she didn't fight ? She wasn't afraid for her life ?
-Maybe she did. But her fearing inmates ? That would be a first. Crying, she can't feel shit.
-She was shived on that day you know, trying to protect Marion.
-Which one is that already ?
-The inmate who died. Joan tried to keep her out of harm's way, but she was shived, and beaten to a pulp.
-What did you do ? You staid standing all along ?
-So you're a coward ? Cut Allie.
-If you could let me finish you would already have your answer. I went to the laundry which was deserted and took a metal poll used by the jukies to hide their stach. When I went back upstairs to the kitchen Joan was on her feet being passed around the inmates while the others were telling them to stop, to let her go.

Alice saw a distinct twitch in Allie's eye, she could see the difficulty she had to swallow and she saw her rub her hands. At was as hard for Allie to listen to this than it was for Alice telling it. As a matter of fact she had never told anyody before except for the Board once the deeds were done. She felt like she was exposing herself way too much but deep down she felt a weight being lifted, easing her, allowing her to breath once more.

-She fell on the ground, who could blame her ? She had been shived and cut like the others, an inmate tried to make her stand, at this point I don't she think she could anymore, I had no idea for how long they had been playing with them. But the inmate gripped her hair and made it collide with the wall, so to speak. She started kicking her stomack just where she had been shived, how surprising right ? That's when I entered, honestly I didn't fear for my life. The way I was seeing it like was, I have some pant up anger, I have this unexpricable need to hurt people or see how they hurt, see how they respond to wounds, it always fascinated me. So I came inside and started bashing them.
-The screws ?
-The inmates. Chadwik had used the effet de surprise to untie Nichols, and they both helped me try to stop the inmates. I remember hearing something break, a muted sound and screaming, that was when I hit the inmate over the head with the poll, she fell on the ground and I hit her abdomen again and again until I heard the same crack that I had heard a few moments ago. She had broken two of Joan's ribs, amonsgt other things. So I saw fit to break hers as well.
-She didn't fight ?
-Who ?
-She didn't, but not because she couldn't. She could fight alright.
-Then why didn't she ? She took on four inmates by herself and left with a lip cut, while one had her shoulder dislocated, another a broken nose, and the others had their wounded pride.
-You seem well informed. You were in the four I presume. She didn't fight because she was afraid of what she could do. She was afraid of turning like me.
-And ? What happened next ?
-Well, if you really want to know, you can always ask Bridget and the Governor, they have my file and in there, is my deposition about what happened on that day. But understand this Miss Novak, you should never judge a person if you don't know the extent of their story. It doens't excuse whatever bad deeds they've done, but as we both know. Traumas and prison change people for ever. I think it's enough for today, feel free to come back anytime, also do tell your friends to come to me if they need anymore explanations or maybe read my file, because this is barely scrapping the surface of what really happened.

Allie stood up, feeling heavy, her movements slowed, she passed the door without looking back, how did she know ? It was supposed to have been hidden ! Wait... She knew and she kept on telling her what presumably happened. Allie shook her head and followed the screw, to a different office.

Alice had stood up and was resting against the window, looking down at the yard. How easy it had been make her react to it all, she had merely scratched the surface, shortening it, but the memory still left a bittersweet taste langering on her tongue. Plokho slomannaya kukla.(Poor broken doll.) She looked at her watch and felt a buzzing coming from her back pocket. She took her phone and looked at it, perplexed.

Incomming call Unknown

Alice picked up, placing the phone next to her ear.

-Alice Olivier speaking, who is this ?

Alice only heard silence, she thought discerning a faint breathing and she looked at the phone, growing frustrated.

-Is this some kind of joke ? Bridget, Will if it's you mark my words, I won't mind taking this to the Board.

Again silence. Alice thought she heard a scoff and she sighed and rested her hand on the glass panel looking down at the basketball hoop, feeling her eyes burning with tears.

-If it's you, know that telling me about Joan was a blow below the belt. It's unprofessional, and I deserve better, much better. And so did she. Neblagodarnyye debily.(Ungrateful morons.)

Alice hang up and threw her phone on the chairs before heading out. She needed fresh air, she needed to see it.

Chapter Text

Allie entered and saw everyone gathered around the desk, making six feet long faces. She took out the mic from under her jumper and laid it on the desk. Will took the device and put it away in his desk before looking back at Allie, who was eyeing everybody here. Bridget was looking down, writing things sometimes stopping to think, Jake was seated, seemingly unbothered if it wasn't for the tension in his jaw. Vera was standing by the window of the Governor's office, looking down to the yard, tears threatening to escape. She was shaking, her whole body tensed. She knew nothing of the woman, but Alice sure as hell did.

-Did she lie ?

Everybody but Vera turned to Jake, Will sighed and took Alice's file in her hands before having it snatched from him. Vera had taken the file and was flipping through the pages, looking for the deposition. Bridget put a comforting hand on her shoulder but Vera didn't seem to care, she wanted to see that paper. She found it and started looking at it thoroughly, she gasped and Bridget caught the file as Vera almost dropped it, steadying herself on the desk.

-What is it Vera ? Bridget ? Tried Jake.
-Miss Bennett ? Asked Allie.

Bridget found the statement, she looked at everyobody present before clearing her throat and started reading.

-I was going to the laundry, back to work just like any other day on laundry duty. But when I reached the kitchen, I heard screaming, I had no idea what was going on nor that the same thing was happening at another part of the facility. I looked through the glass panel and I saw Officer Randal Higgins, Chadwik Rogers, Annika Thompson, Adriana Nichols, and Joan Ferguson and inmates Marion Linton, Shanae Hale, and Jamie Myers gagged and tied up. Their jackets on the ground, their shirt seemingly slashed with shives. Everybody was alive at that moment, but a dozen inmates were in the kitchen, spitting insults at them. They called the inmates screw lover, laggers, worthless, and called the Officers dogs, monsters, amongst other things. I remember looking through the door and seeing Officer Ferguson looking at me and nudging Officer Rogers, she seemed to be pleading while he seemed to want for me to leave. I guess it goes without saying that as I don't feel much, pleading wasn't going to help. But still I motioned for them to stay put, she was crying, he wasn't. I walked toward the laundry and I looked for something I could use. Something that would cause much pain, and lots of damages if wielded the right way. I found a poll used by the junkies of the facility and took it out before coming back upstairs crossing no one. When I got back I heard screaming and looked through the door once more, Officer Higgins was holding his throat, I assume somebody slashed his throat with a shive, at this moment Officer Nichols rushed towards the inmates, I don't know why they didn't kill her when she killed the inmate, they chained her to the table instead but not without giving her a good beating. Marion tried to step up, she wounded one of the inmates responsible but she was pushed back, Officer Ferguson screamed and tried to get to her, but inmates were holding onto her. Marion died due to the beating they gave her. Officer Thompson and Jamie were holding onto each other, trying to make themselves as small as possible, they didn't speak up, too focussed on the body of Officer Higgins next to them. The inmates holding Officer Ferguson made her stand while holding her, an inmate separated from the group, and told her not to intervene when justice was being served. She received a blow to her stomach and the woman forced her to look at her, she held the shive next to her throat but slashed the remains of her shirt, a few inmates claimed that this was retaliation for the strip search. I didn't know what it was but her expression changed right away, I remember the inmates pushing her to the floor...

Bridget took a deep breath, daring to look up from the paper, staring at everyone in disbelief. Vera was still holding herself to the desk, a firm grip preventing her from dropping to the floor. Bridget looked back at the paper since no one protested and resume reading where she left off.

-I remember inmates pushing her to the floor but she didn't obey, the inmate slashed her chest, she bent forward and they made her stand, bouncing her around, each time faster and harder, sometimes hitting the wall, until she fell on the floor.
-Why didn't you enter ? Don't you think you could have prevented certain things from happening ?
-No, I wouldn't have been able to prevent the two murders, I didn't know if the Officers could fight, I thought that I needed for them to be focussed on someone, and then strike.
-And is that what happened ?
-Yes, when Officer Ferguson was on the floor, the inmate who slashed her grabbed her by the throat, I knew she was chocking her, Officer Rogers had been staring at me for the whole time, and he nodded at me when most of the inmates' backs were turned to the door, I entered the kitchen unnoticed and while doing so he tried getting closer to Officer Nichols who was trying to untie herself. I motioned for him not to do so, as he was in plain sight and took care of untying her, that's when we heard screams.
-Whose were they ?
-Officer Ferguson's.
-What happened ?
-The inmate holding her to the ground had stabbed her with the shive when she tried to fight her off, she was crying, screaming too. I saw red, I don't know why I did, but I went towards the inmates responsible and used the metal poll on them.
-We heard you got injured ?
-Yes, but not enough to stop me.
-Officer Nichols and Rogers started gazing the inmates and cuffing them, they could only cuff three at the moment it happened. Shanae tried to get out to get help but an inmate grabbed her and stabbed her from behind. I got stabbed as well and hit an inmate over the head with the poll, I don't know if she is dead or not but I also hit the head of the inmate who stabbed Shanae against a table.
-That inmate died.
-Good riddance, she didn't deserve to walk again, because Shanae won't either because of her. Another inmate tried to slash me but Officer Rogers held her arms preventing her from going anywhere, I hit her stomach as strongly as I could and when I looked behind Officer Rogers I saw the inmate battering Officer Ferguson who was near unconsciousness, I had heard cracks and I assumed she had broken a few bones. I gave the poll to Officer Rogers and lunched toward the inmate, I got stabbed with the shive again but I started hitting her head, relentlessly. Breaking a few ribs in the process.
-When happened afterward ?
-I wanted to kill her.
-Did you ?
-I don't know, Officer Rogers tried holding onto me. YA by ubil yeye, ona ne dolzhna prikosnulsya Dzhoan.(I would have killed her, she shouldn't have touched Joan.)
-What ?
-Officer Ferguson is a decent Officer, she cares about us. She didn't deserve what they did to her.
-How was she ?
-She was laying on the floor, there was a lot of blood. She couldn't move, I don't even think she was conscious at that point, Officer Nichols tried to give her CPR, but since I heard cracks I stopped her and tried to prove my claims, she had several broken ribs and the bone of her right forearm was fractured, so was her jaw. It was only after the surgery that we were told that one of her ribs had perforated her left lung. Officer Thompson and Jamie had gone to look for help, anybody that could be of any use at this point.
-Did you get the help ?
-Not right away since there was another incident, similar to this one also happening at the other side of the prison. I don't remember much after that.
-What can you remember ?
-I remember staying with Officer Ferguson while Officer Rogers and Nichols were taking care of the inmates who had caused this. I took off my jacket and tried covering her with it, since her shirt had been reduced to rags. I remember standing close to her, I was trying to catch if she was breathing, and I checked for her pulse. It was barely impossible to catch but, there was still a pulse, however small. That's when she regained consciousness.
-Keep on.
-She was crying, blood spilling from her wounds, she tried to speak but her face twisted in pain. She took hold onto my hand while I applied pressure on the wounds on her stomach, she coughed up blood, it was later then the medics and ambulance arrived.
-Did you go with Officer Ferguson ?
-Yes, I was stabbed, but within the moment I didn't feel anything, it's only when waiting with Officer Ferguson for the ambulance that it started hurting. I took off my shirt and pressed onto my wounds with it. As strange as it might sound, she didn't let go of my hand until we had to go into surgery.
-Maybe she did it out of comfort, you after all helped save their lives.
-Maybe... It was... Nice.

Bridged stopped reading for good this time, closing the file. She put it down and pushed her hair from her face, before breathing out heavily. Allie's brows were furrowed in spite of her shock, she just couldn't tell if it was due to what Alice had done or what had happened to Ferguson, but it didn't change anything to what she had done, would she be alive, she'd still have to pay the price for hurting everybody in this room. Will had already read the file and the transcripts, the depositions, it didn't make him feel much anymore, especially when it was concerning Ferguson, when he was thinking about it now he only felt stupid not to kill her good. Vera on the other hand had started crying at some point, she could picture it as if she had been in the scene. And it was taking all her strength not to empty her stomach on the floor. She could not bear to see the bruises on her body, even less seeing her hang. So seeing her being beaten, stabbed and not defending herself out of fear of turning into who she inevitably turned into, was too much for Vera to handle.

-She didn't lie.
-It's far worse than... I had no idea... Had started Bridget.

Bridget looked down and started rubbing her temples while Allie stood there waiting for any sign of dismissal.

-Can I go now ?
-Of course, thank you, Novak. We'll keep in touch about the whole thing.
-Sure, just let me know if there is anything else.
-I want this to stop Will... Just stop...
-Vera, we have no idea if she is alive or dead, suddenly Alice comes back, her daughter looks like her. And you can't deny that you haven't noticed. She has been lying to us.

Everyone had been startled when Vera yelled. She was exhausted, she couldn't do this anymore, the hate, the watching over one's shoulder. She wanted all of that behind her, she wanted the past to stay where it belonged. Vera looked up to her friends, tears still going her cheeks, she opened the door and left, her legs carrying her to wherever they wanted. She didn't care at this point. Vera considered her surroundings and realized she was in the yard, standing under the warm sun, her arms resting to her sides. When she opened her eyes, scanning everybody, she saw someone standing by the basketball hoop, looking up to it. Vera was watching as Alice rose her gloved hand to touch the metal of the structure, something about her seemed different. She knew there was a part of truth into what Will had said, but the more she was thinking about it and the more she realized she didn't care. Because once more events had proven to all of them they had no idea who was Joan Ferguson, and they probably never would now. The things she had been through... Vera knew it didn't excuse anything, but at least it succeeded to bring her closer to the woman she had grown to care for. When Vera looked back at the basketball hoop she saw Alice staring at her, she seemed in the same state as she was, but Alice never cried. Or so she thought until now. Vera's lips parted when her eyes caught a glimpse of the tears going down her cheeks, her face expressionless yet somewhat tensed. She saw her leaving towards the building probably getting back to her office, where calm would probably find her. Vera on the other hand had decided something. She was going to read that file. And she was going to confront Alice about it. No matter how long it was going to take her to read it.

Chapter Text

Joan's told me about her father today, I promised her we'd take it as slow as she'd like, she admitted having never spoken of these things. I knew what she was like and rushing her wasn't going to serve anybody, only make her retreat and start all over again. We've met two years after my release, and she looked worse than ever, internally. Her appearance always ever so perfect, though wrinkles had started to grace the corner of her eyes, and gray was slowly peppering her ebony hair. We had started to meet weekly, she had told me she was afraid of herself, that she had done reprehensible things at Blackmoore since Jianna. I'd be lying if I said I knew what to do. But today was her father's only, and I did not expect what she told me. I told her to come over to my house, so we could chat in a safe environment, she seemed pleased and agreed. As if we had never been apart since Blackmoore, and had kept on chatting daily. I gave us wine and before I even had the time to sit down, Joan had emptied half of her glass. I stopped her, if she wanted to do this right, she'd have to be sober. So she started fidgeting with her necklace instead, the one she kept from her mother. An oval lock with a picture of them, she admitted having never shown it to anyone, not even Jianna, but that today she needed the token with her. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel proud of her trust in me. Joan started to go on and on about how her father used to treat her, the ways he used to call her, the habits he gave her and the lessons he taught her, it was like being in the army, the Russian army. How he kept pushing her limits, her boundaries and making her, even as a little girl, face things that scared her whether it was irrational or not. She briefly mentioned being locked in the cellar, but seeing the look on her face I didn't ask, or rather, I didn't need to. I can't recall the moment she started crying, but I remember her telling me she used to call for her mother, pray she'd get her out of there. How she'd scrub herself clean after hours spend down there. Which is what could have traumatized her enough to give her OCD, her irrational fear of germs, anything remotely dirty or unclean. That caught up with diseases too, she told me that though she didn't fall sick easily now, it was another story when she was child, having spend so much time in the damp and coldness of the cellar. Until the day she stopped getting sick and crying, that was the day her father took her out before the usual eight hours in that dreadful place. She told me she still could remember the coldness of the stone beneath her feet, that it was even worse in winter and the stink of fish. Korsakov being on the coast of a Russian island, near Japan, fishing was part of the everyday lives of the people living there, she added. She had said that with such disdain, it was obvious she didn't have many found memories of that place. Suddenly it was as if she had frozen, her face turning whiter than it already was. I asked her if everything was alright, and she started looking at me, leaving me to look at the torment of emotions being the chocolate of her eyes.

Vera put down the paper, taking a sip of her wine, she had decided to use her day off, again, to keep on reading Joan's file. Making Anna more than happy for the day job and extra money, money that Vera was gladly giving away. She had spent hours reading about Joan going to Alice's or the other way around, and talking. Just talking. Screaming sometimes, fighting, quite often from what she had read. But still, that file retraced Joan's life, at least the things she and Alice had talked about, but it was more than enough. She could picture a little girl trying to make her father happy yet being called a waste of space and time, being told she could never be loved for who she was. That people would use her feelings to get to her and hurt her, bring her down. That she had to be toughened for her own sake. Vera would have never thought Joan had ever self harmed, making her father even more disappointed in her. Repressing and stifling her emotions, her feelings. How he spoke of controlling them yet never taught her to recognize what she had to overpower with an iron fist. He was the one who had made her take up fencing, she had obliged, she wanted for him to be proud. In spite of the bullying, the bruising, the taunting, the name-calling, she had claimed that at some point she just accepted it as something normal. That the reason he did what he did was because he cared for her, and she had to be better than that. It made Vera sick to her stomach the more she was thinking about it. She had known Joan was broken and traumatized, but she would have never guessed all the things she had read. If she were honest with herself, she would say that she'd have laughed at the person who would have told her that back when she was Govna' or even an inmate. But this was nothing to laugh at, it was abuse in its purest form, and she had been so brainwashed that she accepted it without question, taking it all in, thinking that it was right. Thinking that he was right. That she would never be good enough, she would never be loved, no one would ever understand her, that no matter what, she'd always be alone. And in the end he was right. No one understood the reason for her actions, she had never been with anybody, she had been alone.

* * * * *

Bridget was walking toward the office she shared with Alice, she was supposed to be alone with the inmates today, she entered and closed the door before freezing.

-Alice ?

The brunette was seated in front of the window, looking through it, clearly lost in her thoughts. So much that she didn't even hear as Bridget called her and put her things down. Bridget knew she and Alice had avoided each other during the past week, she knew she had taken her distances with Will and Allie as well. She had no idea how she figured there was a wire but obviously Alice just like Joan could discern things that normal people couldn't, maybe because of their sense of observation. Bridget had not seen Vera in over two days, and it had worried her, but she knew the thing they learned in Alice's file had upset her, it had upset Bridget as well. She had heard of the siege of Blackmoore before, but had never actually read any declaration of someone who was there when it happened, she was barely out of college when it had occurred. The whole ordeal had made her think, she knew deep down, though she'd probably never admit it, that she had been quick to send Ferguson on her way. She knew it was a fault that could cost her, her job. And destroy her carrier. Bridget looked at Alice once more and sat on the chair next to her, looking at the yard.

-I thought you had gone home.

Alice breathed out and started playing with something Bridget couldn't see from where she was seated, the blonde crossed her legs and gazed at Alice.

-Do you want to talk ?
-What about ?
-Whatever is on your mind.
-So you can report to the Governor ? No, thank you.
-Would you mind if I asked you questions ?
-Now why would I agree to that ?
-Because there are things you can't learn from a file.
-Like ?
-Where did you and Vera meet ? She's never mentionned you.
-Well, now I know why she hasn't, Alice snapped, she breathed out and softened her voice as much as she could muster, We met a while back before Frannie was born, it was a convention for correctional centres, it also dealt with psychology, how to give inmates better care. Especially for the most deranged ones. You probably wonder how it went. Rather well, we were presented and I told her who I was and what I was doing and she accepted it, she was wary but still, she gave me a chance.
-Vera's always been the one to trust easily and give away chances, even to people who don't deserve it. She's a good person.
-She's killed her mother you know.
-Now why would she do that ?
-Why do you think ? Her mother was abusive, manipulative, and bullying her. She had it coming, Vera was right to do it.
-So to you it's right to take the life of someone who does that ?
-I am unbothered by death, it feels like a friend. I was accused of killing my family, what did you think I was going to answer ? That she shouldn't have killed her mother ? She was going to do it sooner or later.
-You didn't seem that unbothered by what happened at Blackmoore.
-I didn't care about the people who had died, they were gone and still are. I couldn't have helped them, I would only have gotten myself and everybody killed.
-The fits of rage you went into, did that happen a lot ?
-At first yes, it's like... An urge you know. Now not so much except if something triggers it.
-What do you do to remedy to that ?
-Are you assessing ?
-I'm trying to get to know you...
-I go and run or I use my punching ball. Even cutting vegetable feels like a relief at this point.

Alice and Bridget laughed softly, Alice looked around at the office before looking back a the yard.

-What else do you want to know ?
-Joan, what did you think of her ? Back at Blackmoore.
-She was decent. She didn't let anyone walk over her after what happened, but she genuinely cared for us. She thought we could get better. I guess in seeing that in us, she thought of herself as well.
-What do you mean by that ?
-Well, Joan, there was something with her, she just never knew what until I told her I could see she had bagage that was doing more than holding her back. To be fair, I think she is... was my closest friend.
-I... I would like to apologize. I have been way out of line.
-You were there weren't you ?
-Where ?
-When Allie asked me about the siege.
-Yes, I was. Alice I'm sorry...
-I had never... I had never mentioned that to anyone else, until she asked...
-Never ? Not even to Ferguson ?
-She and I made a point to not breach the subject again, but we both knew we could count on each other after that day.
-And did Vera know about this ?
-Well unless if she was in the room in the moment I said it... Great...
-If I had known I wouldn't have...
-I know. Believe it or not, I... I don't think you are a bad person, even less a bad forensic psychologist.
-I don't deserve that.
-I know. But it's what's appropriate to say in such a situation.
-Is that how you measure things ? By what you've been taught is appropriate ?

Bridget saw Alice stand up and rest her shoulder on the window, closing her eyes. When she opened her eyes, silent tears fell, astounding Bridget who got on her feet, scrunching her brows.

-I don't know why you are so quick to judge us. Me in this case. I don't know why you think we can't change or feel. But I wish you could see things with my eyes, and feel things with my heart.
-I guess... I just had a bad experience, I let myself be blinded by it.
-Joan ?
-Yeah, Joan...
-She wasn't a psychopath you know.
-How do you know ?
-I gave Vera a file.
-And what's in it ?
-Joan's life.

Bridget's lips parted as she sat back down, followed by Alice who started fidgeting with something around her neck again.

-I heard you all and Vera, when she said she understood Joan. That they were alike...
-But they aren't, started Bridget.
-They are more than you think. Vera had an abusive mother, and she never mentioned her father. Joan had an abusive father and never mentioned her mother. They were both bullied, called named, ill-treated...
-How come you know about that ?
-About who ?
-Them both. How come you know so much about them both ?
-Because Vera is my friend, we met when she was younger and easily impressed, but also because people feel safe with me, for a reason that is obvious, so she told me things about her, and I said little about me. Joan... Joan it was different. She had all these things she wanted to say, but didn't have the knowledge of how to express them. Not that she wasn't learned, but she lacked the understanding. She had been inbreed with the fact being vulnerable, trusting people, would only get her hurt. She had no knowledge on how to communicate, yet mastered the art of using words to get what she wanted and make people trust her.
-Why are you telling me this ?
-Why not ?

Bridget sighed and Alice closed her eyes, wiping tears away, before looking at the necklace hanging from her neck.

-I don't know fear, only the thrill, the rush of adrenaline. That's why I do sensations, why I can more easily get hurt by doing risky things. But Joan knew fear. She had so many.
-What was her biggest fear ?

Alice opened the necklace and showed it to Bridget. The blonde took it and lowered her eyes to the picture present. Joan Ferguson was holding a little girl, smiling at the camera, while the girl had her arms up in the air, laughing.


Chapter Text

-Whats if I was mistaken ? Mistakes happen all the time...
-Gidge, it's the Freak we're talking about ! She was bad and would have always been !
-Franky, you know I love you and I respect your judgement, but you weren't there when I heard what I heard.
-I don't need to. Gidge, she's killed, she's abused people !
-So did everybody in Wentworth, staff and inmates alike, yet you didn't see them hanging from the neck did you ?

Bridget stood from the sofa rubbing her temples while Franky turned to her.

-She seems to have been abused Franky...
-Yeah, well look at Miss Bennett ! Didn't see her abusing anyone.
-She's the one who pushed Gambaro down the stairs, it was an accident, but she's still the one who did it.
-Yeah so what ? Gambaro and her boys gave her Hepatitis C, it was only deserved !
-So that's how you see it ? Vera gets hurt and wants revenge and shouldn't be punished for it but when it comes down to Ferguson it cannot even be discussed ? Do I need to remind you what you and Bea put Jodia through to get her to testify against Ferguson ? Or when Bea escaped Wentworth to get revenge on Brayden Holt ? Everybody praised her as far as I can remember.
-Okay, what has happened at work ? What did this bitch tell you ?
-Who ?
-The new shrink, Alice. What kind of lie did she tell you ?
-She didn't lie Franky.
-How would you know ?
-Because everybody knows she is a psychopath ! And at the first, the one misstep, she could lose her job, her daughter. Franky, she could lose her life !

Franky stood up going near Bridget who had stopped pacing up and down.

-Why are you defending them ?
-Because I think I might have done something wrong. And because I decided to trust Alice.
-Gidge, no, listen to me, you cannot do that. Not their kind.
-Gosh, you sound like Will !
-Yeah ? Well maybe he's right, who knows !?
-Exactly Franky ! Who knows ? He might be fucking wrong for all we know ! After what he di...

Bridget stopped talking, her back turned on Franky, who was looking warily at her.

-After he what Bridget ? What did he do ? Gidge ?
-Nothing, forget it.
-Does this have to do with when I escaped ? The letter Allie gave me ?

Bridget turned at once, gazing at Franky shocked.

-What letter ? Franky... What was in that letter ? Did this have to do with Ferguson ? Franky !
-Okay, okay Jesus ! I'm getting it ! There !

Bridget took the letter in her hands and started reading out loud.

I'm sorry but I had to lie to you,
Mister Stewart didn't buy my story at all, he was onto me.
But I think I found a way to protect you, to get you out.
So get going, run like hell and clear your name.
You need to prove your innocence,
I need to do something else.
I loved Bea and Joan Ferguson took her away from me.
So I want revenge, in Bea's name.
I made a deal, to share my escape plan.
By getting rid of Ferguson for good.

The blonde gazed at Franky and stepped closer to her, visibly angry.

-How could you keep this from me ?!
-What does it matter ? She allowed me to get out !
-Because that, that could put them away for good !
-What's that supposed to mean ?
-By getting rid of Ferguson for good...
-Oh shit... You mean she... But she wasn't out, I told you she wasn't out.
-It's not her who did it Franky.
-What, Channing ?
-Then who ?
-Jake Stewart and Will Jackson...
-You're kidding ? Gidge, tell me you're kidding, they wouldn't have... They couldn't.
-Will and Jake admitted it to me and Vera.

Franky sworn, clasping her hands behind her head, looking at the letter. Bridget took deep breaths reading the letter again and again. Franky tried to snatch it but Bridget was faster.

-What on earth do you think you're doing ?!
-That can put them away for good, you said so yourself.
-So what ? We can't get rid of it ! Oh no, Franky, no.
-Why not ?
-Because it's not right. Franky, if you really dislike who Ferguson has become, why do you want to act like her ?!
-I'm not...
-Yes you are ! Because the Ferguson we knew would have concealed it so that no one knew she had done something reprehensible.
-So what you're... We're going to send our friends to hang ? Just like that ?
-I didn't say we were going to show it to the police.
-Then to who Gidge ?

Franky let her arms rest on her thighs staring at Bridget in disbelief, the blonde folded the letter and put it in her handbag. Tomorrow was going to be another exhausting day at Wentworth.

* * * * *

Vera was seated at her office, occupied by the mountain of papers that had accumulated over the last few days. She was never one to complain about paper work, but right now she cursed herself for not having brought some of it home, so she wouldn't have so many when she returned. Not that she hadn't worked at all during those "off days". Reading Joan's file and caring for Grace with the help of Anna was a real challenge, not because of the lack of time but because of the breaks she had to take while reading certain parts. Her mind wandered off for a moment, to a passage she had, read making think of what Fletcher had told her he saw.

-"So what do you want to talk about today ? Do you want to tell me why you seem to look at someone other than me sometimes ?
-I don't know what you mean.
-You know Joan, I can only help if you want the help. Now I know for a fact you repeatedly during several sessions, were looking at that exact point on the wall, visibly angry, but scared, tormented as well.
-I don't want to talk about it.
-Why not ? Do you think I would use it against you ? Is that too personal compared to everything you've already told me ?

Joan shifted on the sofa, playing with her hands.

-Is it because someone else is warning you about me ? Telling you that I'm gathering all that, so I can to crush you afterwards ?
-How do you know that ?
-Joan, I'm starting to know you better than you know yourself, how about this, now you tell me what you think.
-Alright ?
-How about you start telling me about that, and if someone comes up, no matter who, that person and I will talk.
-How ?
-Well, I talk to you, or the person if you will and you tell me what the person says or does. How does that sound ?
-You don't think I'm crazy ? That there's something wrong with me, needing correcting ? Asked Joan ashamed.
-Crazy, no. But wrong ? I guess it depends on your definition of the word. I mean there is something wrong with me too, but... I work towards controlling it, and for that I need to have a good understanding of it. Do you have a good understanding of these people you see ?
-So you don't know if they are really here or if it's just your mind ? Have you ever thought about asking these people ?
-No I... It never broached my mind. Why ?
-Well, because it could either mean you're talking to dead people, which would mean you are a medium, that being perfectly normal. Or maybe it would mean you are having hallucinations of people who aren't here at all. Then again you could also just be talking to yourself and have this physical representation of a person who had a huge impact over you life, it could be how your mind, your mental demeans you, because it knows it's going to affect you.
-Meaning ?
-Meaning, if it's the hallucination, you'd have more to work on, Alice heard Joan sigh, Can I ask you about it ?
-Who do you usually see ?
-My father...
-And what does he do ?
-Even dead I'm never going to be good enough for him...

Joan's eyes started to fill with tears, her chin high, Alice got to her feet and kneeled in front of Joan, she looked at her and took her hands in hers, patting them awkwardly, making Joan look at her.

-Eto ne pravda.(That's not true.) You are good enough Joan. And if he failed to realize that when he was alive, well that's his loss. Because hear this, what you're doing right now, what we've been dong for months now. Hell, when you came back after the siege. Not everyone can do it, that doesn't mean you're superior, it just means you mustered the courage to come and talk about it, to rise againt it. Because you want to change, to understand the reason behind the why. Now, who else do you see ?
-Jianna... She never talks, she just stares...
-Why do you think she does that ?
-Why wouldn't she ?
-What do you mean ?
-I've done terrible things... I don't deserve her, she's probably ashamed of me. I couldn't protect her.
-Joan, I couldn't protect Jianna either, yet I've done my best, or I want to believe I did. You did not let her down, you loved her.
-Why are you like this ?

Joan was gazing at their hands before looking into Alice's eyes, causing her to furrow her brows.

-Like what ?
-Like you care.
-Maybe I do.
-Nikto ne zabotitsya o vas.(No one cares about you)

Joan's smile faded and she seemed to have lost all the colors present on her face, her eyes looking behind Alice towards the wall. Alice turned her head and saw no one, she turned to Joan once more and sat down next to her.

-What is it ?

Joan opened her lips but no sound came out of it.

-Ty takoye razocharovaniye, ona vidit vas uyazvimymi.(You're such a disappointment, she's seeing you vulnerable.) You're giving your enemy a weapon to use against you.
-No I'm not.. I'm...
-Joan ? Tell me who is here.
-She'll use everything you told her to bring you down.
-She wouldn't do that !
-You can't help it can you, first that girl, now her.
-Stop it !
-Vy bessmyslenno, vy nichego ne stoit, vy nichego, nikto ne zabotitsya o vas, nikto ne skuchayet.(You’re pointless, you’re worthless, you’re nothing, no one cares about you, no one misses you.)

Joan covered her ears with her hands, sinking into Alice's side, tears going down her cheeks. Leaving Alice unaware of what to do, feeling uneasy by the contact, she looked around before looking down at the woman and wrapped an unsteady arm around her, making her look at her.

-Joan, tell me. Who is here ? What do you hear ?
-Moy otets.(My father.)
-Can he hear me ? If I were to say that he doesn't know me and I wouldn't hurt you. Could he hear me ?
-Ona pytayetsya poluchit' v vashey golove.(She's trying to get in your head.)
-He's saying you're trying to get in my head, he said I was a disappointment, that you'd... You'd use this against me. That I'm...
-What Joan ?
-YA bessmyslenno ! YA nichego ne stoyu ! YA nichto, nikto ne zabotitsya obo mne, nikto ne propuskayet menya ! (I'm pointless ! I'm worthless ! I'm nothing, no one cares about me, no one misses me !)

Alice's face showed signs of surprise when she heard the older woman say that sentence. Tightening her grip on Alice, Joan sobbed again.

-All this time trying to make you see what people really are like, they only want one thing, to find where it hurts and use it. Vse eto vremya vpustuyu na vas.(All this time wasted on you.) Vy bessmyslenno, vy nichego ne stoit, vy nichego, nikto ne zabotitsya o vas, nikto ne skuchayet.(You’re pointless, you’re worthless, you’re nothing, no one cares about you, no one misses you.)
-Pozhaluysta ostanovis' ! Ostanovi eto...(Please stop ! Make it stop...)
-YA zdes'. YA ne pozvolyu yemu prichinit' vam vred. Potomu chto ya zabochus'.(I'm here. I won't let him hurt you. Because I care.)"

-Vera ? Vera you're okay ?

Vera blinked several times, turning her head towards the door, seeing Bridget her hand on the handle.

-I've been calling you for the last five minutes.
-Oh… I'm sorry I was... In the past.
-Are you alright ? You seemed...
-What ?

Vera sighed and shook her head slightly, rubbing her temples. Indeed she was. When she saw she wasn't going to get an answer Bridget continued.

-May I come in ? There's something I'd like...
-Sure, come in, what is it about ?

Bridget gave her a look and Vera sighed again, closing her eyes, before lowering her voice.

-Close the door. I don't want anyone getting their hands on these informations.
-It's not like that... It's just... I spoke to Alice yesterday.
-How did it go ?
-Surprisingly well. I was expecting anything but that.
-I really want to say I told you so, said Vera smiling.
-I'd deserve that, please be my guest.
-I told you so.

Both women laughed and Bridget took out the letter, making Vera lower her eyes.

-What's that ?
-Before we get to that, I wanted to say I'm sorry. I know, we both know why I was wary, but I shouldn't have judged her based on nothing... Just like I did with Joan... Now how are you ?
-Me ?
-Yes, you've been on days off and my pinky told me it was not to spend more time with Grace.
-How would you know ?
-Alice told me she gave you someting, a file on Joan.
-Yes she did...
-Did you take time off so you could read it ?
-I have.
-And ?
-And nobody here, except Alice ever really knew her.

Vera breathed out, fidgeting with Joan's pen, maybe she could share a bit of what she had learned, gradually.

-Bridget, you've read Joan's file, I mean when she was an inmate.
-Yes of course, I helped compiling it, remember ?
-Right, hum, so you're aware that she's Russian.
-Yes, I'm aware of that, what's your point ?
-You've never wondered why her name sounded English, not even once ?
-Well, I guess I just assumed she was born there but given an English name, but as we both know, our knowledge about Joan's past is scarce. Did you find anything ? Is that why you're asking me all these questions ?
-I... I might have found her... Real name.
-What ?!
-Yeah... And it's a bit different from what we're used to.
-Do you mind sharing ? I mean... So her name's not Joan Ferguson ?
-Well technically, Joan is her real name, it's the typography that changes, but yes. Ferguson isn't her real last name.
-Well, What is it ?
-I guess you won't mind my bad pronouciation, her real name's Dzhoan Anastasiya Romanovna.

Bridget's jaw went slack, staring at Vera with disbelief. She passed a hand in her hair and scoffed, while Vera repositioned herself on her chair, awaiting an answer.

-Well... That's... I wasn't expecting that...
-Me neither, but I think we can agree it makes more sense than an Anglicised name.
-And you're sure...
-Yes. It's in the file Alice gave me, it's repeated several times. I haven't read the moment she tells her yet.
-What else can you tell me ?
-That we screwed her up even more.
-Shit... Muttered Bridget
-I can't believe we didn't see it at first. She looked just like any one of us.
-So does Alice... Joan she... She worked at having her shit together. She hid it well until she unraveled.
-What is it ?
-You know I thought, once she's dead it will be over. We'll move on, we'll just tell ourselves that it was a bad moment, it had to happen teach us things and then move on. But Will keeps bringing it up, you, Jake, Allie. The only one who didn't bring her up was Alice.
-Until we made her bring her up.
-I hated her, I wanted for her to hurt for everything she had done. But when it came down to it, when she supposedly fell in the showers, when she hanged, when Will...

Vera swallowed the lump forming in her throat and looked up at Bridget seated in front of her.

-Seeing her hurt, made me feel like I was worse than her. Like she didn't deserve it.
-Why ?
-I don't know... I didn't know half of the things I know now, yet it still hurts.
-You really cared about her.
-Yeah... I think she did too, at some point.
-What makes you think that ?
-She brought me dinner once or twice, and invited me over.
-To her house ?
-Yes... I remember the last dinner we had, I was stupid to leave her like that.
-Why ? What happened ?
-She told me she always wanted to be more than a mentor to me, that she enjoyed working with me, that we were alike when it came to corrections.
-And what did you say ?
-I told her that we were nothing alike, that I'd never do what she had done to me to anyone.
-What do you mean ?
-During the riot, when she was still Govna', I was taken hostage and they threatened to use a niddle to my neck if she didn't move a muscle. They wanted to get Bea out of the slot, they needed for her to open the doors.
-She didn't open the doors ?
-No, Channing did.
-But why didn't she ?
-I asked myself that question so many times... Turns out her motives were legitimate.
-How so ?
-The inmates picked me because they knew we were close.
-So ?
-So... She saw the long run, and for the long run, pretending she didn't care was more effective.
-Wait... You mean... She lead them to believe she didn't care because otherwise they'd use you again ?
-Yeah... And I fucked it up... She started saying that someone was trying to build a bridge between us, and I told her.
-What ?
-That she never cared about me... She said she did, and she put her hand on mine, she seemed so lost, and uneasy. I told her I had Hepatitis C and she took it off. I left after that and it was the stupidest thing I've ever done.
-What ? Why ?
-Have you ever seen her use hand sanitizer or gloves ? Or just no wanting to be in contact with anyone.
-Yes all the time, why ?
-She had OCD, you know germs, organization...
-Yes I know that why... Oh...
-Yeah... I left when I should have realized her taking off her hand wasn't rational. It was that. And I blew it. I knew she had that and still I didn't get it...
-We all make mistakes Vera.
-I know but I keep wondering if I had not left, if I had asked her why, maybe things would have been completely different.
-Seems like you two cared in your own way.
-Do you think it's wrong ?
-What is ?
-That I miss her, you know seeing her smug smile around the corner and witty one liners. Just seeing her.
-That she had plenty of those to spare, said Bridget laughing softly, I don't miss her attitude but if she had gotten help I think I would have come to appreciate her.
-She did. Alice's. Hence the file.
-You mean that file is valid ?
-Yes, Alice did it because Joan asked her, she showed it to her own psychologists.
-And what did they say ?
-That she was doing a good job, that whoever it was did have many problems but that she was managing, they helped her aparently. You know, they told her what she could ask, things she could ask Joan to do, that sort of thing. We should have helped her, we were blinded by our ressentment and anger....

Vera stopped talking and lowered her head, taking it between her hands before looking at Bridget.

-I don't even know why I'm telling you this.
-Because you feel confortable, and because we're friends.
-Yes we are. Did you apologize to Alice as well ?
-I have, and Franky thought I lost it.
-Couldn't expect anything less from Franky. How has she been ?
-Great, she's been bonding with her father and her sister, she's healing old wounds by doing so.
-I'm glad, and I hope the next time I see her won't be in here. So you tell her to stay out.
-I will Vera, thanks.

Bridget started figeting with the letter under her fingers, gradually loosing her smile; making Vera put the papers she had in her hands away, looking at the letter.

-What's this ?
-Franky told me this was a letter she received on the night she escaped. I promise, I only learned of it's exsistence yesterday.
-Alright and what's inside ?

Bridget looked at the door and the ceiling, making Vera furrow her brows.

-There are no cameras in this office. Bridget who wrote that letter ?
-Vera, how much do you know about the night Franky and Joan escaped ?
-Hum, that Franky went under the radar, that she left the same way Ferguson did, in the boxes. I still can't wrap my head around the reason why Franky would have told Ferguson her plan.
-It wasn't Franky.
-What ? Who then ?
-Franky didn't know anything, she thought she was with her the whole time, until Will arrived and went a different way.
-Bridget who was supposed to be with Franky ?
-It was Allie's plan, Jake told Ferguson, well, Roma... Joan. He told Joan the plan, and he told Will. She wanted to get rid of Joan. She put her in that box Vera.

The brunette's jaw dropped and she took the letter opening it, reading it. She put it down and stared at Bridget before shaking her head. Maybe she'd have to confront Alice sooner than she'd expected.

Chapter Text

Classical music was filling the air, the melody gracing Alice's ears as she was filling papers regarding Wentworth and her studies. She was focussed on an inmate when her phone rang, making her look up. She took the phone, bringing it in front of her face.

In coming call Unknown

Alice furrowed her brows, it was the second time this week, she answered the phone and put it next to her ear.

-Hello ? Who is this ?

The brunette couldn't hear much coming from the other side of the call, if only for a faint breathing and cars.

-Is anyone there ? Why do you keep calling me ?

She heard a soft sigh and Alice stared at her phone, who on earth was that ?

-Hello ?

Suddenly the person at the other end hung up, leaving Alice to wonder once more who was playing tricks with her. She heard knocks on the door of her office and put the phone down, seeing Vera enter the room still dressed for work.

-Good afternoon. Did Frannie let you in ?
-Frannie did, she told me you were here. I locked the door again, twice.

Vera was fidgeting with the handle of her bag while Alice pushed the files away.

-To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit ?
-Dzhoan Anastasiya Romanovna...

Alice started to tidy the files and pens on her desk, while Vera was eyeing her surroundings, before focussing on Alice again.

-I read it. Well not all of it, but a big part... I had no idea...
-Well, now you know.
-Yes but... That's not right. I mean if I had known just one-tenth of what I've read so far... It's so dark...

Alice joined her hands on the wood of her desk looking at Vera, silent.

-Did you really think, and do not lie to me. Did you really think she could be saved ?

Alice stood up and went to the record player, stopping it, putting the record back in its cover before turning towards Vera. She walked towards her desk and picked up the frame resting in the corner, giving it to Vera.

-What is this ?
-Your answer.

Vera took the frame in her hands and turned it over taking a look at the picture, her breath caught in her throat, looking up at Alice whose jaw was tensed. She looked down again at the picture of Joan holding a baby in her arms, Alice an arm wrapped around her shoulders, they looked so happy. Genuinely happy.

-Is that ?
-It's Frannie.
-You mean... Joan's...

Alice sat on her desk, slouching slightly, gazing at Vera warily. The brunette caressed the frame with her fingers, looking at the raven-haired woman. It was fucking obvious, and it made tremendous sense, the resemblance was unmistakable. Vera breathed out, thinking about how to say what she had come here to say. But now, knowing that, made everything more complicated.

-Alice I...
-I know you'll feel like you have to tell Will. It's alright. I understand.
-It's not that. It's... I know what happened the night Joan was...

Alice got on her feet, feeling her heart beating in her chest.

-You might want to sit down...

Alice's face turned blank within seconds, and she sat back down in her chair, her eyes locked on Vera who was playing with the frame in her hands.

-I know what happened the night Joan was buried.

Vera took a deep breath and saw Alice swallow with some difficulty, repositioning herself on her chair. Vera handed her the letter and Alice read it, perplexed.

-Jake discovered an escape plan, and he told Will. They made a deal. Will and Jake pinned Channing for it, but he didn't do it. I was afraid for my friends, I couldn't tell the police... We went back for confirmation later, but we couldn't tell. The police found the place, we don't know how, they said they'd run tests, but we never heard back from them. We don't know if it was her in that box.
-Whose plan, was it ?

Vera was staring at Alice's face, she had seen it harden ever so slightly, though her body seemed relaxed. She sat down and looked at the frame in her hands, caressing the picture with her fingertips. Vera looked up at Alice who pushed the letter aside.

-And I need to tell you what happened when Joan was at Wentworth. What we've all done.

* * * * *

-Alice, wait !

Alice was going down the stairs energetically, feeling her whole warming up, Vera following her closely. She went towards her kitchen to her fridge and took out a bottle of vodka, taking a glass out of the freezer, she poured herself a drink feeling the liquid burn her throat. Focussing her mind on other things, control yourself, don't throw away everything.

-Alice. Please, it wasn't just one person, I've hurt her too. It's our fault, to us only, Bridget sees it now too.

Vera arrived next to her, she was staring at her, unsure as to what to say next.

-It's my fault.

Alice took the glass and threw it on the wall, startling Vera, the latter heard noise coming from the stairs and saw Frannie pass her head. The girl saw her mother and the glass and climbed down the stairs, making Vera take step towards her.

-Hey you.
-What's going on ?
-Everything is alright, nothing to worry about.
-Why is the glass broken ?
-Hum... Mom is having issues, she's... She'll be alright. Why don't you go back upstairs ?
-You can handle it ??
-Of course, look, I'm a big girl.

The sentence made Frannie chuckle and Vera smiled before looking at Alice who seemed calm and collected externally. She made the girl go back upstairs and went towards Alice whose hands were resting on her hips, her eyes void of emotions.

-Alice ? Talk to me, please. Promise me you won't do anything.
-What ?
-I promise.

Alice picked her sweeper and dustpan and cleaned the mess the glass had made, leaving Vera pending. Was it really going to be that easy ?

-Alice, I mean it. Don't do anything that could hurt you or Frannie.
-I said I promise, Vera. Now, have I ever broken a promise ?
-No... So you're not going to hurt someone ?
-Do you want to ?

Vera could see the conflict occurring in her friend, she stepped closer and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.


Though she was taken aback, Vera stepped closer and wrapped her arm around Alice's shoulders, feeling no resistance.

-Who ? Me ?

Alice paused a moment, gathering herself.

-Me. I'm furious at myself. She told me, us, to leave, and I did. I should have been there. She should have called. What an hypocrite, I didn't call either. I should have been here, we should have. Chert voz'mi. (Fucking Hell.)
-Alice, breathe.
-I am breathing.
-You know what I mean.
-She was all alone, and it's my fault.
-You don't know that, it seemed to be her choice.
-She relapsed and told us to leave. I should have said no.
-You did Alice. But we both know, when she had something in mind, nothing could stray her from it.
-I left her alone. He was right. I made him right.
-Who ?
-Her father. He used to tell her she was pointless, worthless, nothing, that no one cared about her, that no one missed her.
-I should have fought harder.
-She made her choice. Everybody suffered from it.
-I failed her like I failed Jianna. Because I wasn't strong enough.
-You know it's a lie. You did what you could, but you had to think about what was best for you and Frannie. Alice. Joan had made her decision, and she did everything in her power to follow through. Had it been a good deed she would be praised, it only depends on the perceptive.
-I left her alone Vera, that's the worse thing I could have ever done to her.

Chapter Text

-Vera wait !
-Jake ? Is everything alright ? Has something happened ?

Vera stopped walking and turned to Jake who smiled, dismissing her comments.

-No, no, no I just... I wanted to ask how Grace was doing ?

Vera went to pick a cup and started the coffee machine, Jake following her.

-She's doing great, I have someone caring for her since I must try to be present here.
-Someone ?
-Yes, her name's Anna, she's a college student, and she needed the extra income.
-And you trust her ?
-Yes Jake. I trust Anna, don't even start with this.
-I'm just asking because I care, Vera. You've been keeping me at arm's length ever since she was born.
-Yes, with good reasons.
-What ? Why ?
-Your stunts with Will, Bridget, Allie. My god Allie. Shame you lost Bridget to me and Alice.
-I don't follow...
-Alice knows it was Allie's plan. She knows you and Will got Joan out and did this, Admitted Vera, hopefully, this was going to keep them at arm's length from Alice & Frannie as well, she thought.
-How would she know ? Only us know... She couldn't possibly have figured it out... Oh, no. Vera. Why did you tell her ?! We have to tell Will ! We have to warn Allie !
-No need.
-Vera, she's going to go after them.
-You still don't get it, do you ? The only people who are doing anything right now, it's you three. Alice knows and promised she wouldn't do anything. There is nothing to gain but pain and suffering from going after you. She has a daughter to think about, and she cares about her career.
-It didn't stop Ferguson from going after each and every one of us.
-She is not Joan. And out of everybody here, she is the most professional in a ten-mile radius. I hope just like Bridget you'll see that.

Vera left, her coffee in hand, couldn't there just a day when it'd feel like a stroll in a garden, just once.

* * * * *

-Will, I am not able to disclose anything without...
-Vera said you sided with them. You owe us the reason.
-Mate, she didn't say it like that.
-As much as I don't condone what Joan did, I don't condone what you three did either. Friends or not.
-Jake, you are the one who reported this to me, now man up. Bridget what changed your mind. You out of all people.
-Because we knew nothing Will, that's a fact. Alice knew Fergu... Joan better than anybody here, and she had no idea what happened while she was here.
-Jake, said she knew it was Allie's plan, and that we helped with it.
-Vera said we didn't need to worry.
-Vera's judgment has been quite good so far, started Bridget, I don't think Alice will do anything, she has her daughter to think of, and she has made tremendous breakthroughs since Blackmoore.
-How would you know ?
-She kindly gave me her file to read. And I've learned my lesson Will.
-Which was ?
-Don't judge when you don't know. And even when you know, you never know the full extent of it.
-So you think you were wrong ?
-It's not that I think. I was wrong, Alice and Vera were right, it was very unprofessional and I could lose my job, again.
-So could we all if Alice talks.
-She won't Will. Vera made her promise.
-I don't trust her. Bridget, if one of us falls, everybody follows.
-I know which is why I decided to trust Vera and Alice's judgment. Wanna know what the funniest thing is ?
-What ?
-She isn't even angry at you all. Not even Vera for not standing up.
-What do you mean ? Asked Jake.
-Don't get me wrong, she despises you for what you've done. But she's pissed at herself. She keeps saying it's her fault, that she is the one to blame, tried to talk her out of it, and she wouldn't listen to me. Nor Vera. I've accepted the fact that I've done a mistake, that I was unprofessional, and that I probably hurt Joan deeper than intended in the first place. Why can't you ?

* * * * *

-Ah, Linda ! Please come in, I'm sorry for the mess, I'm still trying to organize the files.

The blonde looked around her eyebrows raised, as the only files were on the sofa and desk in neat piles.

-Yeah, looks like World War 2 if you ask me.

Alice laughed and invited Linda to sit near the window.

-I was starting to wonder when you'd come.
-I know, I know, it's just been a bit wild with everyone coming back.
-It's alright, when it comes down to these sessions it should be when one feels ready.
-I know...
-So, is there anything you'd like to talk about ? Something you need to get out of your system ?
-As if you didn't already know that.
-True, but I like to ask people what they want to talk about because it feels appropriate, I'm just here to offer professional opinions but also to listen and try to help people understand.
-I can see why you and Vera would be friends.
-Oh really ?
-Yeah, shame you didn't work with us before all of this happened. Things would have turned out differently.
-Maybe, but the past is not something we can temper with now, ay ? I don't know if it's going to make you feel more at ease, but, I've been in a siege too.
-For real ? Where ?
-At Blackmoore, you probably heard of it. It was late 1990s, early 2000.
-No way... Of course, I know of it, it was in the papers for weeks, months even.
-I remember that yes.
-So you were there ? Wow... I'm sorry it ever happened to you.
-Likewise, Vera told me it happened in the laundry, and that you and several inmates were here.
-Yeah, we were in lockdown but a good half of the inmates had no idea, we didn't want to create chaos, not that it wasn't chaos already. Gosh, it was the worst day I had ever had.
-Surely it's not the only one, working into corrections, there must have been others.
-Yeah, but these I kinda... Caused... The siege, it was different. We were powerless. I'm sorry, it's probably rude but...
-Please ask away, we're here to chat.
-Did you feel powerless, during the siege ?
-No, I'm sorry. The difference between our sieges is that I could help. I was the one in power and so were the two Officers who helped me. And just like you we had... Casualties.
-It was silly, I shouldn't have asked.
-No, it's okay. I do know however, what it feels like, to be powerless.
-Really ?
-Yes, and I never want to feel like that again.
-Me too... So does that mean you weren't scared either ?

Alice chuckled soon followed by Linda.

-I see you did your homeworks ! Again, I'm sorry but no. To be honest, I've never felt fear.
-Never ? You're pulling my leg.
-I'm not, I never felt fear. I don't know if I ever will. Some think it's cool, because it takes away a factor for not doing certain things, and because it allows me to speak my mind regardless of the outcome. And some think it's a bad thing for that exact reason, making me more apt to do risky things, put myself in danger etc.
-Gosh, I truly wish you had arrived before. Maybe we wouldn't have had to go through all of that.
-I wish I had too. Though I cannot fathom empathy completely just yet, I saw how was our siege, and I saw Vera's face when she told me about yours. It's not something I would wish upon anyone.
-Yeah, it was scary... At least to those who can feel it.
-I already asked Allie what scared her, would you mind telling me as well ?
-I guess it was just the fact we knew nobody was safe. I mean Sean, he... He would have killed us all, there is no doubt about that. Vera was in labor, he had shot two people, Marie was the reason they were here in the first place, you know he even killed a former Top Dog because she could have stopped Marie for good ?
-He did ?
-Yep, Kaz Proctor.
-Kaz... Karen Proctor ?
-That's the one, she was a good Top Dog, wasn't perfect and a bit lax, but she was a good one.
-She wasn't one to cause trouble, was she ?
-Not in the end, being Top Dog is a position nobody wants, you can see it, they start off with ideas about how they're going to make things better, how they want to change things, and it slowly gets back at them. It's exhausting.
-I guess it wouldn't be that exhausting if the screws could do their job right.
-What's that supposed to mean ?
-The panic button.
-Ah, well...
-It's here for a reason, though they prefer to keep things between themselves.
-Yeah, but the siege brought some of us together, it was... Not ideal but still, at least we were all in the same shit, and we saw each other for who we were.
-I see you've worked on that, it's good. Did you take that initiative but yourself or did you see someone ?
-Nah, I wanted to get back to work, not only do I need the money, but I actually like it. I wouldn't do anything else.
-Like you've found a purpose or because it's all you know ?
-More of an in-between, I mean... I know I'm not employee of the month, I've made my share of mistakes and fuck ups, but I like the job, there is a reason why we do it. And if we don't do it, if there was no one like us, who would do it ?
-I like that thinking, I'm glad you came to that conclusion, but also that it didn't seem to leave too big sequels, sometimes people can develop PTSD, even in its smallest form.
-For real ?
-Yes, a siege is a traumatic event, so please if anything happens don't hesitate to come to me since we've already discussed the matter. Or any other Officer for that matter, whether it's me or Bridget.
-I'll remember that, so...
-Again Linda, feel free to say whatever is on your mind.
-No, I know it's just... I don't know quite how to say this...
-Well take your time, we have plenty of that right now.

Alice smiled and Linda furrowed her brows, rubbing temples.

-Does that concern the siege ?
-No, it's... I'm sorry.
-Why ?
-I was... There... When they hanged her.

The smile slowly left Alice, and she breathed out, looking at the blonde who seemed to grow uncomfortable.

-Why are you telling me this ?
-I don't know...
-Vera, told me what happened. I know you couldn't do anything, you had a shiv to your throat, plus I know nobody cared much for her.
-I felt pity...
-Gosh, I hope you never told her that !
-No I didn't, I didn't want to lose my tongue you know, laughed Linda.

Alice furrowed her brows, following the blonde's gaze towards the yard, until Linda directed her gaze to Alice's.

-I didn't care much for her. But I wish I could have helped. She had done horrible things, but I'm glad Vera cut that rope.
-Yeah, Vera said she couldn't bear seeing it happen.
-Me neither, I heard that Channing didn't want for any Officer to enter the yard, Vera disobeyed his order by saving her life. Officers reckon he wanted her dead.
-Channing, the man who was sentenced ?
-Yeah, for killing Murphy and Ferguson.
-Do you happen to know why he would do that ?
-No, I'm sorry, but for what it's worth I'm glad he is out of the picture, I never liked him.
-Yeah, Vera and Bridget told me he wasn't liked aroudn here. Joan probably loathed him if I'd dare to say.
-So that true ?
-What is ?
-You actually knew her.
-Yes, she was an Officer back in the days, during Blackmoore. Since we mentioned sieges. She was also in one, but she was scarred for life.
-How was she ? I mean, before all of this.
-I didn't know you were interested in her as well !
-Well, she did scare me a little, she was particular, a good Governor but...
-Can't deny that. I think you'd have liked her.
-Now you're pulling my leg ! No way !
-I'm serious, you would probably have been close !

Vera who was passing in the corridor, heard laughing and turned around to look through the glass panel perplexed until a faint smile appeared on her lips upon seeing Alice and Linda having a good time. Warmth filling her body, she listened to the laughing feeling better and felt her phone ring in her pocket. She unlocked it and placed it next to her ear.

-Vera Bennett speaking.

Vera heard nothing but silence and looked around before looking at the phone.

-Who is this ?

Again silence, until Vera heard a ragged breath confirming the presence of the person at the other end.

-Hello ? Is this a prank ? Jake is that you ?

She heard a scoff and started thinking, who could call her at this time of the day ? She looked through the glass panel, her eyes falling on Alice still chatting with Linda and her eyes widened slightly, she had to try.

-Joan ?

The call ended abruptly after she heard a gasp and Vera nearly dropped her phone on the floor. She looked around and tried to regain some composure when she saw she was in the field of action of one of the numerous cameras in the corridors. She replaced the phone in her pocket and knocked on Alice's door, replaying the last minutes in her head trying to remember every detail.

Chapter Text

-Vera, are you sure about this ?
-Yes, I think... I mean, it happened quickly...
-Alright, retrace the call for us, said Alice.
-I said my name and I heard nothing, then I asked who was on the other end, I didn't hear anything but breathing, then I asked if it was Jake pranking me and I heard someone scoff, I just... I don't know, I wanted to hope.
-What did you say ? Questioned Bridget.
-I said her name. I said, Joan. And whoever was on the other end gasped and hang up.

Bridget was sat on the desk her arms crossed, an indescribable look on her face, while Alice was pacing up and down, in front of both Vera and Bridget.

-I mean, it was... I wanted to believe it...
-Vera, it's normal. You out of all people would have asked that, it's understandable. Said Bridget trying to gather her thoughts.
-Alice ?

The brunette stopped pacing and turned to the women.

-You said you only heard breathing ? No cars, no city sounds ?
-Hum, not that I remember... Why ?
-Someone has been calling me too.
-What ?!

Alice turned to Bridget who was now on her feet.

-When ?
-It started last week, the last call was just a few days ago, before Vera came to my house to tell me what had happened that night.
-And what did you hear ?
-Breathing, cars, city sounds, not much. The person didn't talk. But I heard someone scoff too.
-Could it be from a booth ?
-Well, there is no actual number so what else could it be, especially if you heard quite a certain amount of cars.
-Do you think it could be her ?

Bridget and Alice turned to Vera who was seated in the armchair, looking up to them, her eyes filled with renewed energy.

-It could be, said Bridget turning to Alice, what do you think ?
-I don't know. But it might be.
-What ?
-No, it's just... I feel relieved ?
-We don't know yet Vera...
-I know, I know, but Bridget... It could be, the person gasped when I asked if it was Joan. And the number only called Alice and I.
-Yes I know, but why doesn't she talk then ?
-She's ashamed.

This time it's Vera and Bridget who turned to Alice whose brows were furrowed, her fingers rubbing the bridge of her nose.

-Joan ? Ashamed ? Scoffed Bridget.
-You think ?
-It's obvious, remarked Alice.
-To you maybe, but remember Joan is still a mystery to us, snarked Vera.
-You still know more than me Vera, I merely just learned her real name.
-She told you ?
-Yes... shouldn't I have...
-It's alright, that can't do much harm as it is.
-Anyways. Care to elaborate ? Cut Bridget.
-Yes, right. If there is a possibility that the person who has been called us is indeed Joan, she has good reasons not to talk. She's hurt you, maybe she came to the conclusion you had nothing to do with her being buried, which we all know you would have never partaken. You saved her life though she has made yours difficult to say the least, you tried to put her in protection, and she refused until you couldn't anymore.
-What about you ?
-She must have seen me in town, or gone to my house and seen my car. Or just heard of me being back. I don't know. But she must feel like she shouldn't talk to us, if she's ashamed. She knows she's done things that I won't approve of, that I tried to help her with. She probably thinks she deserves all that's happened to her.
-So it's her punishing herself ?
-It could be, she already did it in the past. She's distancing herself.
-I just don't understand why she didn't go after anyone. Knowing her like we do, it would have been the most logical next step to whatever she could have had in mind.
-Who says she hasn't tried ? Do you know of any incident that could prove it ?
-I do...

Both Alice and Bridget turned their gaze to Vera, seemingly unaware.

-What do you mean ?
-A while back someone was, someone was bribing me.
-Joan ?
-A former Officer... Murphy.
-Why would Murphy bribe you ?
-I might... I might have done something unethical...
-Who in this room can claim they haven't done something unethical, Vera ?
-Yeah, right... Anyways, she had been bribing me for an insane amount of money and left black leather gloves on my pillow, not only that but there were footprints the size of Joan shoe's.
-And you think she might have orchestrated that ?

Vera nodded and Bridget looked at Alice and the brunette repeatedly.

-Why would she do that ? I mean she had plenty of money last time I saw her...
-Yes, but technically, she was alive when she had plenty of money, maybe her bank account was closed ?
-I wonder if I may share an idea ?
-I'm sorry, of course, you're the only one capable of helping us understand Joan, what do you think ?
-It is very likely that Joan got a hold of that Officer, depending on the work she was doing in the prison, if they spent some time together. Very often Officers are bribed with money due to the pay they receive. Would that be the case from Joan's living ? With the money she had, she could have bought Murphy's loyalty and if she were to be alive right now, she'd have told Murphy what to do to mess with your head, thought I don't know for whom the money might have been. Maybe she did envision going after you all, but somehow she didn't.
-So there is a chance, however small, that it might be her ?
-Yes, a thin possibility.

Vera felt a weight being lifted off her shoulders and Bridget joined her hands below her chin while Alice's brain was working. She knew how Joan must be feeling, if it was indeed her, like she didn't deserve the help or even to contact them directly, but a tiny part of her was praying she would at some point. Just the thought of her in the streets alone and vulnerable made her insides twitch.

-We can't tell Will, Jake. We can't tell anybody.
-So what ? We're supposed to lie ?
-Yes, Bridget. We are. It's not as if we had never done that before. Remarked Vera.
-Do you have a better idea until we have confirmation ?
-No, I don't... Alice, what do you think ?
-Vera is right, we can't tell them. They would go to the police or try to find her. And something tells me I don't want Will Jackson to find her, given what happened last time.
-Fair enough. But Jake ?
-Jake is lacking a good dose of integrity, and he would go running to Will. After all, he told Vera that Will and Allie had to be warned, because I knew it was them. Will probably told Allie after he asked you, Bridget, why you had changed your mind.
-I see...
-So what now ?

Bridget sat back down on the desk and Alice sat next to Vera shaking her head.

-I have no idea.
-Well, that's a first, said Vera smirking.
-Yes... I guess the best we can do is wait.
-I wouldn't put my hopes up, just in case.

Vera looked up to Bridget nodding energetically, though she was repressing a smile from growing on her lips. Alice breathed out, closing her eyes for a few seconds. There was hope, and she intended to hold on to it until she knew the full picture. No matter what it was.

Chapter Text

-You wanted to see me ?
-Yes, please sit down.

Allie sat down on the chair in front of Will, interested.

-So what's new ?
-Not much as far as I know. How are the women ?
-They manage.
-Things have been doing good so far, when do you reckon things are going to turn ?
-I don't know. Nothing struck me, they seem to be getting their bearings again. I guess with all that happened they just want a bit a peace before the storm.
-So you think something is brewing ?
-Mister J, it's Wentworth, when are things not brewing under the surface ?
-True... What about Boomer ?
-Well, she's coping. That sentence was a bitch to her.
-I know but it's procedure.
-She did what Liz asked her. She shouldn't have been charged with manslaughter.
-She loved Liz like a mother. Everybody knows that.
-I know... But I didn't have much say in it, the only thing I could do was to either slot her or let her walk freely.
-I know... Thanks for that.
-No problem, and Ruby ? I imagine things must have been hard since Rita left.
-Yeah, she stays with us, still, she wishes Rita could phone though she knows why she can't.

Allie looked around before bending towards the desk.

-What about Marie ?
-What about her ?
-What's going to happen to her ?
-She is to remain in isolation for the time being. But I can't keep her here forever. She'll have to be moved at some point. Bridget reckon her mental state could get worse if not taken care of.
-They'll kill her if she steps out of isolation.
-It's your job as Top Dog to make sure it doesn't happen.
-Why would I do that ?
-Because you're better than that, and because you said you wanted to make a difference. Or was that you talking out of your ass.
-Chill Mister J. I'll do it, but I can't guarantee that it'll be successful. Can't you put her in protection ? After the slot ?
-I don't know, she could try to bribe me, you know she has the material to do so. Plus I have the Board breathing down my neck since the siege, concerned about how I handled it.
-You did what you could.
-Vera would have handled it better.
-Miss Bennett has been Governor before, she was also Deputy Governor, it's only fair that she would. But at least there weren't that many casualties.
-Thanks, hopefully, we won't ever have to go through that again.
-I'd drink to that if I could, said Allie laughing, was that all ?
-You should be careful.
-What about ?
-We both know Alice knows what happened.
-I'm not afraid of her Mister J. Plus she can't do anything, she's got too much to lose. We're holding her in the palm of our hands.
-Still, she is dangerous, and there are other ways to mess with someone as we both know.
-So what do we do about her ?
-Nothing, for now, Vera and Bridget trust her, they believe her. We can't be seen messing with her.
-So we wait ? For her to lose it ?
-Something like that... Thanks for coming, we'll talk later.

Allie stood and passed the door, escorted back by Jake.

-So how did things go ?
-Quite alright.
-What are you going to do ?
-What about ?
-Why do you ask ? She's a member of the staff, making a move on her would just lengthen my sentence.
-Just tell me if you need anything, to dig stuff on her or something.

Allie stopped walking and turned to Jake, she squinted and nodded.

-I'll take you up on that. If you're up to it ?
-What do you need ?

Allie smiled and kept on walking towards her block followed by Jake.

* * * * *

-That's fucked up.
-Not more than what we're used to.
-Gidge, it would mean they failed it. She'd come after them if she knew.
-Franky, if it's Joan do you really think that she wouldn't have figured it out by now ? It's been what ? A year ?
-My gosh, you're calling her by her name now, sweet ! So what, you're going to do nothing ? You won't involve the police ?
-Why would we ? We aren't even sure it's her.
-Yeah, but what if it is ? What you're going to do ? Sent her back to Wentworth ? With Allie ?? That's like putting her back in that box.
-It's not our call to make.
-Bullshit !
-It's Joan's. Or Alice's if Joan can't make a decision, if she's too messed up to think straight...
-I can't believe it...
-Franky ?

The brunette looked, up her hands resting on her forehead, staring at Bridget, who sat next to her.

-You have to promise me you won't tell anybody.
-It's important Franky. We all messed up. And I won't make that mistake again, even if it concerns Joan, especially if it concerns her. Promise me.
-At one condition.
-I want to meet her.
-Joan ?
-No. Alice. I want to talk to her, make my own opinion.
-It's my condition, I want to meet her and see for myself. I want to know if I have a bad feeling about her or not.
-Always following your guts, ay ?
-Do we have a deal ?

Bridget sighed before smiling at Franky, sinking to her side, wrapping her arms around her waist.

-I'll ask Alice tomorrow.
-What d'you reckon she's gonna say ?
-I think she won't mind meeting with you, I think it'll surprise her.
-Good, I like to surprise people.

Bridget laughed quickly followed by Franky who wrapped an arm around the blonde's shoulders. She had to prepare herself for that encounter.

* * * * *

Vera was walking up the prison grounds, pushing a pram, followed by Linda, who couldn't take her eyes off the little girl playing with her toys. The inmates started gathering, some whistled while others shouted, making Vera laugh, making sure not to bump into a rock.

-What's all that racket ? Asked Boomer.
-No idea... Ugh, I don't want to get up.
-Rough night, ay ? Asked Ruby.
-Something like it, it's nothing, just... Something that needed taking care of.
-What on earth are the others so taken in by ?
-It's Miss Bennett !
-Well done Sherlock she works here, teased Boomer.

Allie turned to the gate and her eyes widened, before smiling.

-And she's coming here.
-What ?
-Booms !

Boomer turned to face the woman and stood up quickly, playing with her hands. Vera was next to the table, baby Grace in her arms while Linda was guarding the pram and giving warning glares to the other prisoners, nodding towards the other Officers present.

-Grace this is... A friend. Booms this is Grace.

Boomer smiled, she wiped her face looking at the little girl who raised a tiny hand in her direction. She was looking at the hand before gazing at Vera who nodded. Boomer tucked a finger out and Grace grasped it, playing with it, making everybody's heart melt in front of such innocence.

-She's gorgeous Miss Bennett, said Allie.
-Yeah well, she's taking after her mom right ? Added Ruby winking playfully at everyone.

Vera laughed and gazed at Boomer who seemed taken in by the little girl in her arms, she looked down at her daughter and back at Boomer who had not said anything.

-Do you want to hold her ?

Surprised, Boomer was taken out of her reverie looking at Vera unsure and a loss for words.

-I couldn't...
-Of course you can, the only advice I can give you is to be careful with the head, the neck is not strong enough yet.
-Come on Boomer !

In the Governor's Office Will was watching what was happening, Jake entered at this moment as Will had asked to see him.

-What's going on ?

Will pointed at the window and Jake stood beside him, his eyes widening immediately. Boomer was holding Grace in her arms, gently tickling her belly making the little girl laugh under the tender yet watchful eyes of everyone.

-What in the... How long has she been here ?
-Less than ten minutes.

Jake left the Office towards the yard, passing Officers along the way. Vera was looking at Boomer who sat down on the bench next to Ruby and Allie.

-Ay, Grace, you probably can't understand much... But this is Allie, and this is Ruby. We're besties, you'll see you'll plenty of those.
-Preferably from outside the bars, added Allie.
-What is it, said the brunette turning towards Linda.
-Two a.m.

Vera turned her head and saw Jake arriving at a high pace. She sighed and put her hands on her waist, waiting for the confrontation.

-What's going on here ?
-Mister Stewart, look, it's little Grace.
-She's just too adorable.
-She'll punch tits when she'll get older.
-Jenkins, said Linda chuckling.
-What ? She won't let anyone walk over her, ay ? You'll be strong, and loved, declared Boomer confidently.
-Vera, what is this about ?
-I promised her.
-You promised an inmate ? This is a prison, Grace shouldn't be here.
-I don't recall needing to ask permission. I promised Booms, she was there when I gave birth, so was Liz. We... I owe them, things could have gone wrong Jake. They didn't walk away, they could have, but they didn't. If you don't agree it's not my problem.

Vera turned to face the rest of the women, kneeling in front of Boomer who was holding Grace in a sitting position, seemingly taken in by Ruby's curly hair. Jake breathed out, staring at what was happening in front of him, before looking up to the Governor's Officer from where Will was looking down. He heard laughing and saw Grace standing with the help of Boomer, and the little girl clapping at her mother, a bright smile on her lips.

Chapter Text

Alice and Vera were seated at the table having lunch, chatting with Linda. While Will and Jake were seated at the other end in a discussion as well, though their eyes were focused on Alice. Bridget entered at that moment, taking her lunch out of her bag, seating next to Linda, who pushed her stuff away to give her some room. There were few other Officers in the room and a male Officer went next to Alice, handing her files.

-The files for the new inmates.

Alice turned her head ever so slightly and took the files with her gloved hands, seeming to sniff something before putting the files next to her and Bridget. The man left and Alice rolled her eyes, clearly exasperated.

-What's wrong ? Inquired Vera.
-That man needs a shower and to sober up.
-Wilson ? Asked Jake.
-Well yes, have you not noticed ?
-I have, answered Linda, but it's not as if me telling him will change much now, will it ?
-That's a job for the Governor, declared Vera looking above her bottle.
-I'll make sure to tell him, before giving him an Official warning.
-Where did you get the gloves from ?

Alice looked at Jake and smiled genuinely, feeling observed by the entire table.

-It was a gift from someone... Important. I've had them for well over six years.
-They're still in good shape, it's like you never wear them.
-I wear them almost every day. Are you unsettled by them ?
-Joan was wearing the same kind, that's why they ask, informed Bridget.
-Yes I know, she was already wearing them in Blackmoore.

Suddenly her phone rang.

-Excuse me.

Alice brought the phone in front of her face and nudged Vera who was about to bring the fork to her lips. She showed her the screen and Vera nudged Bridget's leg nodding at Alice. Under the perplexed eyes of the table.

Incoming Call Unknown

Alice stood up, going near the lockers under the watchful eyes of everybody, she pressed the answer button and brought the phone to her ear. The silence and wait smothering her, she breathed out and parted her lips about to speak.

-Who is this ?
-It's me... Answered a raspy voice.

Alice took a deep breath, putting her hand over the mic of her phone and turned to Vera and Bridget.


Vera and Bridget shared a look before directing their eyes at Alice again.

-What's going on ? Asked Linda to Jake and Will.

Jake shrugged, both men were looking at the scene interested.

-Are you here ?
-YA. Eto tak priyatno slyshat' vash golos.(I am. It's so good to hear your voice.)
-Yours too... You're not alone, are you ?
-YA na rabote, vashi byvshiye kollegi v komnate. YA khochu dokazatel'stvo togo, chto eto ty.(I'm at work, your former colleagues are in the room. I want proof that it's you.)
-Former colleagues ? You're at Wentworth ?
-Da, ya rabotayu tam. YA khochu dokazatel'stvo. Seychas.(Yes, I'm working there. I want proof. Now.)
-You killed your family when you were a child and made it look like a robbery gone wrong. And I... I stabbed you once...

Alice's breath hitched, and she turned, going to her office at high speed. She opened the door and locked it, closing the shutters.

-Joan ?

Alice allowed herself to relax as relief coursed through her veins. She was alive, she was still standing. That was one thing.

-You're the one who has been calling me and Vera, aren't you ?

There was a moment of silence coming from the other end and Alice continued.

-That's why you hang up when Vera said your name.

Again there was silence. Alice clutched her fist, feeling her anger rising by the seconds. After all that happened, she was only giving her the silent treatment. She took deeps breaths and kept on, realizing too late the coldness of her own voice.

-Pogovori so mnoy.(Talk to me.)
-I'm sorry, I shouldn't have called.
-Joan, don't you hang up on me.
-I'm sorry... For everything...
-Joan ! Fuck !

Alice threw the phone on the wall and kicked the armchair, hurting her feet in the process, groaning.

Fucking Hell Joan !

At the other end of the call, Joan let go of the receiver, letting her back rest on the glass of the phone booth, taking deep breaths, playing with the end of her scarf. She wiped her eyes and left the booth, blending with the crowd.

* * * * *

Vera watched as Alice left the room, feeling a growing smile trying to make its way on her lips, she tried to suppress it the best she could and nodded to Linda who looked like a fish out of water.

-Well that seemed like an important phone call, stated Jake.
-And in Russian, Gosh, that's impressive. I wonder who was on the other end. Maybe that name she said Roma-something

Bridget gave a side look to Linda before looking at Will, who seemed suspicious.

-Well, unfortunately for you all, I'm just a forensic psychologist who doesn't speak a word of Russian, said Bridget chuckling.
-Like everybody here, started Jake, maybe it was for work.
-Hum, Linda sorry about a few days ago... Started Vera, trying to change the conversation.
-No worries, we had already talked about the important stuff anyway.
-What happened, inquired Jake.
-I had a session with Alice.
-You went to see Alice ?
-Well yes, she suggested, so I went to her.
-How did it go ? Asked Will.
-It went great, she's fun ! Wouldn't think so looking at her, she's nice too. I had a blast. Hey, you knew she had been in the siege that took place at Blackmoore, my, she must have seen a thing or two.

Everybody at the table went silent as Linda resumed eating before sensing the change in the atmosphere, looking up at everyone present.

-What did I say ?
-Nothing... It's just nobody but us knows about her, informed Vera.
-Yes, which is why it would be most appreciated if you kept the things Alice told you to yourself.
-Inmate and staff alike ?
-Inmates especially, imagine what they would do if they knew her history.
-You mean about her knowing Ferguson ? Or her being a former inmate of Blackmoore ?

Everybody turned to Linda as if she had just told them the secret of the universe.

-She told you, inquired Bridget.
-No I... I told her what happened when she was... Hanged. I mean I told her I was there and I couldn't... She's right I should let this be in the past. I can't change it. -It's not your fault Linda, she got what she deserved. Interjected Will.

Vera stared at Will, a fire behind her eyes while Bridget nearly chocked on her water. Linda looked down, feeling guilty, she knew exactly why she had told her. It had been her fault she had been ganged. She had not paid attention, she took her time to change the angle of the cameras, she had not thought that maybe someone was waiting for this opportunity to jump at her. And ever since that day she had seen the woman differently, amazed by how she rose above it, like it had given her more strength. Linda still was afraid of what she could do, but that didn't mean she wanted her dead or ganged, especially not that. All that blood... Linda breathed deeply while Vera furrowed her brows before placing a conforting hand on her shoulder. Bridget eyed Will and Jake before seeing Alice come back visibly flustered.

-How was your work call ? Interrogated Will.

Alice sat back at the table, her face neutral, yet dead behind the eyes, she placed her gloved hands on the table and brushed a tuft of hair back into her ponytail. Before staring at Vera and Bridget.

-It was short. Wasn't of much use. But I stand by I said previously.

The table watched as Vera and Bridget seemed to understand whatever that was, a smile growing on Vera's lips. Linda was still too focused on her food to even realize Alice was back. Will was staring at Alice, giving her almost the same look, except for the fire burning behind her eyes. She took off her gloves, her eyes still on Will. She placed them next to her and caressed them with the tip of her fingers, feeling the growing uneasiness of some people in the room, enjoying it. She saw Will swallow and trying to keep staring at her. Bridget shared a look with Vera, and she stood going to Linda.

-Why don't we just go somewhere calm ? Come.

Linda stood and followed Bridget out of the room, Bridget turned to everyone when Linda was gone.

-Don't kill each other. That's an order. I'll take care of Linda. And Alice we'll have to talk, but it can wait.

The door closed and Vera turned to Alice placing a soft hand on the one caressing the black leather glove. Alice broke eye contact with Will, gazing at Vera who was smiling at her, as in an understanding that she had understood the message.

-What's going on ? Did we miss something ?
-That doesn't concern you Jake, nor you Will. It was an important phone call. That's all you need to know.
-Vera, she doesn't have to answer to you only.
-I'm the Regional Manager and I appointed her, meaning she answers to me, she can also report to you. But as of late you haven't made her want to talk to you.
-I think she can talk for herself, tried Jake.
-Yes, you're right Mister Stewart, I can. But maybe I enjoy seeing this, she said motioning to the table.
-You find amusing ?
-No, I find this interesting. Amusing would be if you started going on your high horses for no reason. That phone call was private, meaning it only concerns me and the people I want to include. I know you don't trust me and probably never will for your reasons which in case you have failed to notice I still haven't asked.
-Why don't you ask then ?
-Because I don't need to. You're easy to read, and if I was sure no one would enter this room or could hear by just standing on the other side of the door, I'd say exactly why you behave the way you do. -Well say it then, I bet you're bluffing. -Oh, so it's not because you think you're right and you did the right thing ? Thinking it was justified, like people deserve such treatment, people who in a way can't help themselves ? Blame the one who is too hard to understand, hate the one who doesn't think like you, use them as a scapegoat for your frustration, wish death upon them. You make a fine Governor.
-She was worst.
-I never said the contrary, said Alice staring at Will, I mostly pointed out reasons, and you went back to her like a shield to protect yourself, trying to give yourself right. The right to chose whether someone lives or dies. In a way, you're not so different from her. The only, major difference being she thought what she was doing was justified and right because she wanted to avenge Jianna. Wait. Which reminds me of something, no, someone. Bea Smith. Everyone here sees her as a hero. Yet she has done the same things than Joan did. She has abused people, she manipulated you, her, you too, Alice said turning to Vera, Yet Will you would defend her with your life. Bea Smith and Joan Ferguson have done the same thing, all of that for what ? Revenge for someone they loved. And do not start me about Novak. Most of Joan's actions are unconscious, Bea's, Novak's ? Well they seemed to be pretty aware.
-So was Ferguson.
-Mate calm down.
-Don't, Jake.
-Joan was the victim here and you didn't even see it. What did she bring out ? What was inside of you, raging to come out, and she brought it out and you didn't like the look of it.
-Whatever you're trying to do won't work.
-I'm not trying to do anything, just pointing out the obvious. Bea and Joan were so similar, all the things I've read, all I've heard. Yet you put Bea Smith on a pedestal and decided to ruin Joan even more. Why ? Because she did what she thought was right ? Can you begrudge her that when in the end you acted exactly the way she would have ?

Will fell silent, Jake had watched their verbal jousting with round eyes, thinking about what Allie had told him, having second thoughts. Vera furrowed her brows, Alice's words insinuating themselves in her mind, making her think. How could she have not seen it ? She had yet again been proven that her deduction skills had not been the greatest in the past. She'd have to ask Alice to help with that, maybe Bridget and her could learn a thing or two. Bea and Joan... Just like Vera and Joan were not so different...

Chapter Text

Alice was holding Frannie's hand, leaving the school grounds, they passed the gate and were about to go towards the car when a voice stopped them.

-Miss Olivier, wait !
-What is it ?
-Frannie forgot her scarf and someone asked me to give you this.
-What is it ?

The teacher took something out of her pocket and gave her a box along with Frannie's scarf.

-Thank you, Miss Hudson, do you know who has left this here ?
-No she didn't say.
-So it was a woman ?
-Yes, it looked like it.
-Was she tall ? Like 6ft. Dark hair.
-More like gray hair, but yes I think so, do you know her ?
-Yes, thanks again. We'll see you tomorrow.
-Goodbye. See you Frannie.
-See you.

The teacher left them alone and Alice looked at the package in her hands, she opened it and her lips parted when she saw the content. Suddenly she felt Frannie tug her sleeve.

-Mom, mom.
-What is it ?
-Mama is over there !
-What ?

Alice looked up to where Frannie was pointing but there was no one, she gazed at her daughter who seemed confused, looking around.

-She was there, I swear Mom !
-I believe you moya malen'kaya devochka.(my little girl.)

Alice looked at the necklace in the package and warmth spread through her body, she kneeled and removed the hair from Frannie's shoulders.

-What is that ?
-It's something Mama promised to give you.
-Really ?
-Yes, you see that, you can open it and you can put pictures if you want.
-Like yours... Like Mama's.
-Yes, just like that.
-Why doesn't she give it to me in person, I saw her Mom, she was there, said Frannie pointing at the corner of the street.
-Come... Let's go home, you probably have homework and next time try not to forget your scarf. You could catch a cold.
-Alright Mom...

Alice opened the car, she went to the driver's seat and sat down waiting for Frannie. When they were both seated Alice looked into her rearview and right as was going to shift her gaze something caught her attention. She opened her window cleaning the rearview with her thumb and saw the person clearer now. Her jaw tightened, and she looked straight ahead, she didn't want to come forward and Alice wasn't going to run after her, as much as it pained her. She started the engine and left the parking slot, closing her window in the process seeing the woman come out from behind the street corner, her hand brushing her hair away from her forehead before dropping it to her side, seemingly defeated.

* * * * *

-Thanks again for agreeing to come on such short notice. I know it came as a surprise...
-It's alright Bridget, I just had to make sure I could have someone taking care of Frannie. And as for me being surprised, not so much, I was expecting something like that.
-Who did you leave her with ?
-Right... Hum, this way.

Bridget led Alice to the living room, the women entered and Alice continued to take in her surroundings, her eyes inevitably falling on a third person.

-Good evening, Francesca I presume.
-It's Franky and yeah, good evening.
-Alice kindly accepted your request to talk to her, I hope I can go to the kitchen and come back to you both in one piece.
-Of course, maybe we could sit while waiting for you ? Suggested Alice.
-Great, so you both sit down and I'll go fetch some wine. I think we'll need it.

Alice nodded as Bridget left towards the kitchen, she sat on the sofa, placing her bag next to herself, her eyes scanning her surroundings. It was looking rather modern, and she smiled at the sight of the multitude of pictures. She could see Francesca sitting on the edge of the sofa from the corner of her eye and turned her head to face her, smiling softly at the woman before her, whose face expressed focus. They heard the faint sound of liquid being poured and saw Bridget appear with three glasses filled with wine, before going back to the kitchen to grab the bottle. She looked at the two women before sitting in between them.

-I guess we can begin.
-So, why could you possibly want to meet with me ? Inquired Alice.
-Because Gidget over here has been telling me stuff.
-Gidget ? And what is that supposed to mean ?
-I don't know if you're playing a game but-
-No, you let me finish. This is important. You say you trust her, that you believe the things she says. I want to make my own opinion. Because this woman has made you back away from your assessment of Ferguson and you are ready to put yourself on the line and hide stuff from Mister J and Mister Stewart. So I want to know what the hell you fed her with.
-Franky, there is no need to assault her.
-She did prison, she can handle it. So ? So, wanna explain to me ?
-Since you asked so kindly, sure.
-See, she's fine, answered Franky her eyes on Bridget, First I want to know, how you know Ferguson.
-As you so nicely mentioned I served time in prison, as I matter of fact I was stationed at Blackmoore when I was younger, Joan was an Officer there.
-What else.
-She asked me to protect someone. I couldn't.
-That must have been a hard one to swallow.
-Franky !
-It's alright Bridget. Yes, it was, but in the end, I learned my lesson. Plus I left a few months after that and lost touch with Joan. We met a few years after my release.
-Don't stop for me. I want the whole story.

Alice looke up into Francesca's eyes, she could see a fire burning, and a certain pride. From the way she was seated to how she spoke to her, asked, well. More like demanded to know about her past and Joan's. If she wanted the whole story, that was exactly what she was going to give her, just... Not as she would first expect.

-She asked me to assess her, give her a professional point of view. Oh, and of course, how could I forget, we started sleeping together.

Franky laughed dry, until she saw the seriousness on Alice's face. Clearly taken aback by the information while Bridget nearly choked on her wine, not expecting such straightforwardness.

-What ? I thought you wanted the whole story, you should choose your words more carefully next time. Or I might end up telling you the whole story.
-You mean you and her, for real ?
-You dated ? Unbelievable. You can do better.
-I never said we dated at that moment in time. I said we were sleeping together. We didn't date until, well, a year or two after that.
-For real ? Asked Franky her eyes wide.
-Well yes, why would I lie ? What's there for me to gain from lying to you ? To you both. Except maybe losing the trust I tried to gain since I first set foot here a month ago. People like me don't make friends easily, because trust, is hard to gain and even harder to keep. We are born manipulators and excel when it comes to using words. But that doesn't mean we are like that all the time. The situation needs to be right.
-And this isn't right ?
-As I said. I worked at gaining this trust Bridget has bestowed upon me. I have been honest since the beginning. Vera has given me a task and I intend to do it to the best of my abilities. Help the women of Wentworth, it's why I am in this field. As I told Bridget, if the people who helped me had behaved the same way as she did with Joan, I wouldn't be here right now. I would very likely still be in Blackmoore.

Bridget took her sip from her wine, giving a side look to Franky who seemed to be thinking, taking in all the information given to her. She saw her girlfriend rest her arms on her knees getting closer to Alice.

-Honestly what did you see in Ferguson ? That woman is poison to everyone.
-Is ?

Alice directed her gaze to Bridget who gave her a I can't hide her much, she won't let me kind of look. Alice sighed and drank from her glass before setting it on the table.

-I'll try to keep this short.
-I've got time.
-Franky, warned Bridget.
-I'm going to try to keep this short for me. Francesca. First of all, Joan Ferguson isn't her real name. And, she continued before Franky could cut her, it is not mine to disclose to you. Therefore let's move on. When I first met her, when she was an Officer. She seemed kind, assured, like she couldn't be broken, a woman made of steel. But even the strongest of steels can bend at the right temperature. She was broken at Blackmoore, in her childhood, teenhood, adulthood. She had been broken all her life. She thought she was abnormal. That she was a freak. I can't even begin to tell you how many times that word was used to describe her, monster, abnormal, error of nature. We reconnected after meeting in a bookstore, two months or so after that, she asked me if it would be alright for me to see her. As a patient. I told her I was not practicing yet, but she didn't care. She just, she had done terrible things, and she didn't want to believe this was all that there was for her.
-Wow, you're going to make me tear up.
-Franky ! You asked. She didn't have to come and answer your questions.

Franky lifted her hands in retaliation, before laying back on the couch.

-Joan had loads of unhealed traumas, due to her father, his... Teachings. But also her actions, people around her, Jianna's death only added more to it. She had been inbred with the knowledge that she'll never be good enough for anyone. That no one could ever love someone like her. That people would discard her at the first sign of complication. That emotions lead to mistakes and that she shouldn't be bothered with them. To see the look on your face it does ring a bell to you. I guess that means you're familiar with abuse as a child. I know I struck a cord, you have the same look Joan had when I told her that fact. My gosh, she practically left running and only came back a week later. Is there something else you'd like to know ?
-I'm sure she'd be happy about you spilling her life like that.
-Probably not, but she isn't there isn't she ? Plus it's not as if it was going to hurt her, right ? Unless you plan to use some of what I said against her, for a certain dark deed that you'd want to accomplish ? No ? Then why worrying about it ?
-Franky, why don't you ask her right now ?
-Because I'm having so much fun as it is, teased Franky without a smile, Whatever, Bridget's told me you claim Ferguson or whatever her name is, is not a psychopath.
-Because she never was.
-What makes you say that ?
-Do you really want to know or are you just-
-I want to know. Bridget said she was sure, she strongly believed it. She made the assessment.
-Bridget and I have already assessed the fact that her diagnosis was based on no ground, that she was quick to judge her and to send her on her way, I believe she already mentioned that to you too ?
-She has... Tell me.
-Alright. Joan knows fear and I don't, not really. The siege we were both into can prove it. She felt empathy and I couldn't, I have started to feel more when we started spending time together. That is in my file that I graciously offered to Bridget as bedside lecture.
-She can't feel shit. Retorqued Franky.
-Lzhets, lzhets, shtany v ogne.(Liar, liar, pants on fire.)
-Excuse me ?
-Liar, liar, pants on fire.
-Is this a joke to you ?
-No. Is it to you ?
-Why are we even losing time with you.

Franky stood up passing, a hand in her hair, going behind the couch.

-Did Bridget tell you about my daughter ?
-You have a daughter ?
-Ah, good. I do have a daughter. Her name's Frannie.
-Cool name.
-And you know, she is a quite good student, she's even considered a genius.
-Wow, how proud must you be, teased Franky.
-Very much so indeed. But you know, that is not the most interesting detail.
-Oh really ? What could be the most interesting detail ?
-Haven't you guessed already ?
-You lost me...
-I didn't bear my daughter. Her other mother did.

Bridget gasped, nearly letting go of her glass, her eyes wide. She had yet to read that part of Alice's file. Franky looked at Bridget surprised by her reaction before looking back at Alice who was smiling.

-Oh, another lesbo, sweet ! And who is her other mother ?
-Well, Joan Ferguson of course.

Franky scoffed, looking at Bridget waiting for her to deny the allegations, when she heard no protests she turned back to Alice shocked.

-No fucking way !
-And I who thought the resemblance was striking enough.
-She's telling the truth Franky...
-How would you know ?!
-It's in her file, all this for most is in her file. Well, files. Files that she tempered for Will Jackson not to know, and we all know the reason behind that. I was the one to get my hands on them, Will thought he needn't reading them, so it was quite easy. So that's the part you tempered with... Now it makes sense why they both look alike...

Franky sat back down, her hands joined at her lips.

-Franky... I know it's, it's a lot to digest. But nobody is asking you to suddenly like Joan.
-I'm surprised you didn't mention it to me Bridget, I though you'd ask me about it the moment we started talking about Joan, Alice shot a look to the blonde before staring into Franky's eyes, You merely wanted to know the truth, I didn't feel like telling you anything, yet I came because I wanted for you to know the full picture. Though it's always impossible to know the full extent of someone's life, no matter how long and hard you work on it.
-Who knows about this, inquired Franky her eyes alternating between Bridget and Alice.
-Well, now there is Alice, Vera, Me and you. Linda, Will, and Jake don't know one-third of what you know. Vera's been keeping Jake and Will at arm's length so that Alice could have some peace for the time being.

Alice smiled at the mention of Vera and Franky sat on the edge of the couch her hands joined.

-I have your words ?
-What about ?
-She isn't a psychopath, she wanted to be helped. Fuck, after all she's done...
-You have my words, not that I think you put much value in them anyway. I can't change your perception of Joan, I can only tell you the missing pieces to help you understand. Because as I told my colleagues before you, Bea, you, most everybody in Wentworth, me, we were all alike. We manipulated, lied, hurt, killed, used people to get what we wanted. Whether it was revenge, privileges, drug supply, or else. Yet have we been lynched ? Have you been deemed a psychopath by everyone ? No, because they knew you, they knew more than you knew about her. Knowledge is power, Francesca. As a lawyer, you should know that. So have I passed your test ?

Alice drank from her glass, letting the savor of the wine roll on her tongue before swallowing, she needed the drink at this point, but that didn't mean she couldn't enjoy the taste while doing so. She was staring at Franky who seemed to be reflecting on the past hour, Bridget still seated between them put her glass down, her eyes on Franky as well, waiting for her answer, whatever it might be. She saw Franky exhaling, before touching her kite necklace.

-I'm sorry ?
-I'll give her, you both, the benefice of the doubt. I can't forget what she did, the people she's hurt, what she did to my friends... But I learned to trust the facts thanks to my job. And you brought the facts. And you're right, we all... We all have hurt people the way she did...
-I'm glad we could come to an agreeing point. Hopefully, we won't have a repeat of this evening. At least in that context.
-But if you ever hurt Miss Bennett or Bridget, you'll have to answer to me. And so will she.
-Franky !!
-It's alright Bridget, it's a fair concern that needs to be addressed. And truth to be told I wasn't expecting any less of you Francesca. I can't promise you that I won't lie, but I can promise not to hurt them. As for Joan, if someone hurts her, they'll have to asnwer to me and I have never played nice.

Alice raised her glass towards Franky, staring at her. The brunette took her glass and tapped it softly against Alice's before they drank their silent understandingn under Bridget's watchful eyes.

* * * * *

Vera had just put Grace to bed, she was going downstairs to wash the very few dishes resting on her counter, thinking, wandering back at her first days at Wentworth. How much she had grown since then, how much she had learned as well. Twenty years does the trick, and she came out with more than a few. The building had burned, they had had to renovate, she had been Deputy Governor to an innumerable number of Governors, and the inmates... She had seen so many. And though she couldn't remember most of them, some had left an indelible mark on her. It was what had helped her grow as well, seeing all these women, their mistakes, the way prison changed some for the best, or the worst. Her mind wandered back to when she had met Alice as well, Gosh knows she had been scared out of her wits ! She had never actually met anyone categorized as a psychopath before, saying that she had been impressed would have been an understatement. She had been drinking everything Alice had told her, not caring whether it was true or not. She was younger than her and yet had seen so much, gone through so much. She had this wisdom about life in general of how to go through it that had always intrigued her, even to this day, sometimes she failed to understand her, but she tried. Vera stopped washing the dishes, why hadn't she tried with Joan ? She had tried with Alice, she had put in the effort, why didn't she try with Joan ? Vera sighed, it was probably going to be one of those questions she'd never have the answer to. Suddenly her phone started ringing and Vera cursed trying to find a towel to dry her hands. When she finished, she quickly pulled out her phone and hit the answer button before the call would end.

Incomming Call Unknown

Vera held her breath and placed the phone next to her ear, that's when she heard it, cars, people talking, seemingly passing by.

-Joan ?

Vera held her breath, knowing all too well that it was her, but she wanted to see if she was going to talk, or let her do the talking. When she heard no response she remembered Joan was probably using a booth and she sized her courage before it decided to fly away. It was now or never. She had to tell her.

-Joan I'm sorry... I didn't know... What happened that night, I had no idea.

Vera heard sniffing and furrowed her brows. Was Joan crying ? She felt her own eyes tickle her, and rubbed them harshly.

-I know you won't talk, you probably think I was part of doing this to you, I can't say I understand why. Though Alice thinks you don't think I had any part in it... But... I've... I miss you. Things haven't been the same without you. I mean... I don't regret the snarky remarks and plots to bring me down... I'm sorry that came out wrong. What I mean is... Despite all of that, if I had known what was going to happen, if I had been told... Gosh... I would... I would have...

Vera felt warm tears streaming down her cheeks and she sniffed, hearing a ragged breath coming from the other end.

-Gosh, you must think I'm soft and a pathetic mouse for crying like that over a phone... But I saved you because I cared. Here I said it. It's not just my humanity. I couldn't let you die because you didn't deserve what they were doing to you. After all that ou had done, I just couldn't let it happen. My loyalty had always been with you. You were my friend, and I think at some point I was yours too... Or at least I want to believe that... I'm sorry I pushed you away, I tried to understand Alice but I failed you...

Vera rested her back against the wall, closing her eyes, being transported by the sounds coming from the receiver.

-I think about what happened often, and it always brings me back to when you arrived, how easily impressed I was, how much I thought I could learn from you. I kept telling myself that I wanted to make you proud, because I had heard a few things about you and you seemed like a Govna' that would make things different. That would change things for everyone... And you did, you changed things forever... But it's not the same without you... Alice... Will has been hard on her, Jake just follows, as always.

Vera heard a faint scoff and she smiled, wiping some tears away.

-They don't trust her because of how she was born, while she never did anything to them, they associate her with... Vera breathed out, refraining herself from saying they associate her with you, it'd do more harm than good, She's a great woman, and she's a great friend. And I'd do anything for her, I promise I'm not going to let Will nor Jake or anybody else hurt her or Frannie.

Vera heard a distinct gasp and she opened her eyes, that's right, Joan had last seen Frannie when she was three... At least as far as she knew. And to think she was about to turn nine...

-I know about her, I know about you too. Gosh, she looks so much like you, it's insane ! Her expressions are Alice's though, but she's a great kid. She's a very smart one, acing all her classes, she skipped-grades you know, you'd be proud of her... She looks like a tiny you, with that fencing attire, and Gosh her Russian...

Suddenly Vera felt her mouth turn dry.

Come on Vera you can do it.

-I... I have a daughter too.

Vera heard the breathing stop and she scoffed, rolling her eyes.

-Yeah, I know, who would do that to me, right ? I have you to thank for that, well, you and Jake... She's the most precious thing ever, and I don't regret her... No matter what you think. She is the best thing that ever happened to me, she's amazing... Even if I'm dead scared of... turning into my mom... You've taught me so much. And it hurt when I told you otherwise. But I so wanted for you to hurt, to show emotions, anything, it was so frustrating to see you always so composed no matter what. I loved you you know... And I wanted to hurt you, but in the end I couldn't, even when I told you about visiting you at the psychiatric facility you stayed impassive, I wanted to believe it was because you hated me, but thinking back at it, maybe you just didn't remember at all... But I visited you often, like I did with Fletcher, even though you had asked me not to. I wanted to see you, how you were doing, I never told anyone, maybe I'll tell Alice at some point...

Vera sighed and tried to listen to any sign that Joan was still listening, she heard breathing and rested her head on the wall.

-I'm glad you're alive and I hope we'll be able to be friends... I hope we'll be able to mend things between us. To make things right...

Vera heard the tonalities and felt empty, the arm with the phone now hanging loosely along her thigh. She had just poured her heart out, and she felt so much lighter, so much that she could practically fly. She still felt her heart pounding thinking of the moment she had told her she had loved her, it had just slipped, but she needed to say it. Vera had omitted a detail though, she had planned on admitting helping Bea get out of the prison ground to go to her, but in the end she couldn't, she'd have to tell her face to face. She put her phone back into her pocket and looked at the remaining dishes in the sink, turned her heels toward her bedroom. Hoping for a dreamless night.
Joan still had the receiver clutched in her hand still harboring faint traces of the burns, her head lowered, she wiped tears away putting it back where it belonged. Love. A part of her wanted to believe it, God knows she had too. And she had pretended it had vanished when she had betrayed her trust. There was something upon hearing their voices that had soothed her in ways she couldn't describe, she knew she could relapse at any moment, her father always lurking in the shadows, she had nothing to ground her but the sound of their voices. But deep down she knew she would come up again and that she'd want to make things right, that she had put so many people through things they had never wanted. She would make things right. That she was going to make it right. And Joan was afraid of what it meant for Vera and Grace.

Chapter Text

Joan was pacing up and down in her living room, her steps muffled by her slippers. She had been in this state for the last hour, bouncing between taking the phone and actually making the call and putting it down, listing the cons and pros over and over again.

Emotions lead to mistakes.

Upon hearing her father's voice echoing in her mind Joan stopped and sat down on her sofa, letting her hands rest on her knees.

Goddammit Joan get a grip, it's just a phone call ! You have already called people before. What's the worse that could happen ? You just want to spend some time with her, nothing wrong with that !

Joan let her back rest on the pillows, rubbing the bridge of her nose, trying to think logically.

There is no logic in this. I'm nervous about a phone call, the worse could be that she's busy and can't free herself. Or she could just not be interested in spending any more time with me, more than we already are.

The brunette exhaled, trying to rid her body of the tensions, she turned her head toward her diner table and considered her options.

If you don't call, you'll never know, plus, it's not as if it had to mean anything. You've become quite fond of spending time with her. Nothing wrong with that !
No one cares about you, no one misses you.

Joan could feel her father's words trying to overpower the rest, creeping, trying to get to the surface, trying to appear before her very eyes. She straightened her back, joining her hands on her abdomen, taking a deep breath, before exhaling just as deeply. She repeated the action several times trying to relax and focus her mind on the feeling of the air in her body, the way her muscles let go of the tension. Joan opened her eyes and started looking around, nothing. A smile graced her lips, and she twirled a strand of ebony hair between her fingers. She stood up and went towards the phone.

Joan Ferguson, you're no coward, it's merely a phone call to ask her to have dinner with you. And stalling will not help your case. So. Make. That. Phone. Call.

Joan picked the phone and composed the number, hearing the tonalities, it felt like an eternity before she heard the person at the other end pick up.

-Hi !
-Alice... Hum hey ! I'm me...
-Yes I know, your name appeared with your phone number. Is everything alright ?
-Yes, yes it's... I'm fine.
-Oh, okay, I thought something had happened, since it's usually why you'd call.

Joan cursed herself, of course, she'd think that. She placed a tuft of hair behind her ear before grasping her necklace, playing with it.

-I know I'm... I'm sorry...
-Don't worry it's alright, I'm happy to help whenever you need. After all, it's what we said we'd do right ?
-Yes, right, right.
-So what ?
-Why are you calling me if you're fine ?

The older woman felt the words get stuck in her throat, her hands starting to sweat.

Chert voz'mi !(Fucking Hell !) It started alright, just keep on ! She's reaching out for you, take your chance !

-I hum... I was wondering if you'd... Well you know...
-Yes ?
-Take you time, I'm not in a hurry.
-I was wondering if you'd like... Maybe to have dinner... With me...

Joan heard nothing coming from the other end and mentally smacked herself, what had she been thinking, what had she been hoping for. No one cared.

-It's alright if you don't want to... It was stupid of me to ask... I know you don't...
-Joan, stop.

The older woman didn't have the time to finish her sentence, what now ? She started fidgeting with the necklace, her grip tightening on the phone.

-I'm sorry if you interpreted my silence as refusal, truth is, you took me by surprise, which I don't often get, I'll admit. And you're right I don't usually do dinner with people.

Joan was drinking her words, a Damocles sword hanging above her. Alice on the other hand was smiling behind the receiver, she had not been surprised one bit by Joan asking her over for dinner. She knew she could muster the courage to ask her, all she had to do was to do it, to be vulnerable. Precisely what she had to work on.

-I'd like to have dinner with you. To spend some time together that isn't session related will do us good.

Joan felt a weight being lifted from her shoulders, she smiled, feeling a warm feeling spreading through her.

She said yes, O bozhe moy...(Oh my gosh...) What do I say now ?! I don't even know what I'll do. Sure as I was for her to say no...

-Joan ? Are you alright ?
-Hum, yes I am... I was just, I didn't expect a yes.
-I know, but it's still a yes. So what did you have in mind, if you had anything ?
-My place ? Tonight ?
-Sounds good to me, would you like for me to bring something ?

Joan went towards her fridge and opened it, before treating the freezer the same way.

-Wine ? I have Vodka but...
-Wine it will be, should I take a Shiraz or ?
-Surprise me !
-My pleasure, what time ?
-Is seven alright ?
-Yes, I guess it's settled then.
-Well I'll see you tonight, at seven, with the wine.
-Great, hum... See you tonight.
-See you tonight.

Alice hung up looking at the phone, a thin smile taking place on her lips, this evening sure promised to be interesting.
At the other end Joan breathed out, feeling relieved, numb, her heart pounding mercilessly without her consent. She felt excited about tonight though she still had no idea what she was going to make or wear, but she didn't care. Because tonight she was going to have dinner with Alice and nothing could go wrong.

* * * * *

Joan was finishing to set the table when she heard knocks on the door, she glanced at the clock seeing the arrows indicating seven. She went towards the door, not without looking at her reflection one last time. She had opted for a jean and black shirt that showed her cleavage more than she liked, but her wardrobe didn't have much choice when it came to that kind of clothes, she had also decided to let her hair down, covering her shoulders. Joan heard knocking again and unlocked the door, falling face to face with Alice.

-Good evening.
-Likewise, I've got this to put in your fridge.

Joan took the bottle of wine in her hands, raising an eyebrow.

-Pinot ?
-I didn't know if you had already tried it, it's an excellent wine and I have several bottles, so I thought it'd be appropriate.

The older woman had not really heard the explenation, given she had been looking at Alice, she was wearing an ankle-length skirt and a spaghetti top making her gaze at her chest, while her hair was trapped in a loose bun, strands falling graciously on her shoulders.

-Like what you see ?

Joan was taken out of her thoughts, a slight blush making its way on her cheeks. Alice laughed and entered, stopping next to the older woman.

-Relax, I'm teasing. That shirt looks good on you, you should wear it more often.

Alice moved aside taking off her vest, placing it on the coat rack. Joan turned to face her and looked at the bottle in her hands, going towards the kitchen recovering her mobility.

-I'm going to put this in the fridge, why don't you make yourself at home ?
-Living room ?

Joan nodded and Alice sat on the sofa, looking around, she found the older woman to be quite nervous and though it had the habit of unnerving her, she couldn't help but smile at the thought that she was the reason for it. She heard steps and turned her head towards the kitchen, seeing Joan poke her head out.

-Something wrong ?
-No, I just... I forgot to ask, the dish we'll be eating can be served hot or cold. I personally prefer to heat it, but...
-Don't trouble yourself, you can heat mine as well.
-Alright, it'll be ready in ten.

She saw Joan nod before returning inside the kitchen. This evening was definitely going to be very interesting.

* * * * *

-You've outdone yourself, Joan, what's it called ?
-Borscht, it's red beetroot, potatoes, carrot, tomatoes, and meat. Do you like it ?
-Yes, very much, it's Russian isn't it ?
-I thought it would be interesting to make you try, you always said you had never eaten anything even remotely associated with Russia.
-Is the desert Russian too, asked Alice looking from above her glass.

Joan swallowed a lump, taking a sip of the, much to her surprise, excellent wine.

-Relax Joan, you give me the impression that I'm making you nervous.
-Quite frankly I don't really know how I feel...

Alice's lip corner twitched, and she took a sip of her wine before placing a hand on Joan's, awkwardly, making the older woman look at her.

-That happens, but as you can see, I'm not exactly on the top of things either. You don't have to pretend with me, just like I hope I don't have to do with you. Here, I've got an idea.

Alice took the bottle of wine and refilled their glasses, surprising Joan.

-What are you doing ?
-Well if you prefer to use vodka ?
-I... Hum...
-That's settled then. The thing we're going to do is simple, we'll ask each other questions, and if we don't want to answer, feel like its too much, we drink.
-That seems simple enough, answered Joan already hating the game.
-But, the amount of wine in our glass is all that we have, we can't refill it, and if it runs out we have to answer the questions. What do you say ? You're in lyubov ?(love?)

Joan smiled at the name, her eyes meeting Alice's, she weighed the pros and cons before looking down at her plate. Hoping she'd not come to regret this.

-Alright, let's do this.

* * * * *

-So you did kill them...

Alice and Joan were laying on the sofa, their bodies in contact, the bottle of vodka passing between them.

-Why did you do it ?
-I can't tell you eveything.
-Why not ? Said Joan visibly hurt.
-Well, because mystery is alluring. How on earth could I keep you with me if I say everything in one go !

Both women laughed and Joan took the bottle, drinking from it, letting the liquid burn her throat, enjoying the taste.

-And you ?
-What about me ?
-Did you kill your father ?

Joan stopped her movement, sitting, letting Alice miss the feel of them touching, while looking straight at the wall. Alice straightened and went next to the woman, taking the bottle from her, placing it on the coffee table. She sat behind her and slowly wrapped her arms around her, letting her hands rest on her stomach.

-I didn't mean to...

Joan felt her heart beat faster, tears threatening to escape her eyes, while Alice rested her head on her shoulder, rubbing her thumb on the fabric of her shirt, she remembered when her mother used to do that, she had always found it comforting, and she hoped Joan would too.

-It was an accident...
-Do you want to tell me ?

The older woman kept her lips tightly shut, she had definitely not envisioned the evening taking this direction.

-What are you afraid of ?
-Seeing him... I've been seeing him ever since...
-Ever since you... He died.

On the outside Alice was calm and collected but internally she was a mess, she had no idea how to comfort her and the alcohol was certainly not helping. Her attempts during her sessions were awkward and always the same messy touch on her hand or shoulder, it had become so repetitive and she hated it, hated not knowing what to do. Yet when she thought of it, it made her think of her psychologists, who kept on telling her that she could explore all of that, and if she didn't know she could always ask the person. She was feeling fairly uneasy at the thought, but still, something in her hated the sight of the woman in front of her break like that. She had long realized that Joan wasn't like her, that she wasn't born like that, that despite the cold, collected facade, she was breaking, she was shattered on the inside. Alice heard Joan sniff and she made her turn to face her.

-Tell me what to do...
-What ?
-What do you need ?

For a moment Alice saw uncertainty and wariness in Joan's eyes, until the tiredness took over again.

-Could you... Hold me ?

Alice went further on the couch, resting her back against it, she saw Joan get closer to her, separating her legs to rest between them, her head on her collarbone. Alice wrapped her arms around her and felt her body tense before relaxing.

-Anything else ?

Alice looked down at Joan who had tears streaming down her cheeks and saw a slight blush making it's way there as well.

-Joan, you don't have to be embarrassed, I asked. Tell me what you need.

The older woman nodded negatively and Alice sighed, rolling her eyes.

-Why are you doing this ?

Alice was taken aback, she looked down again, her eyes searching for Joan's who was purposedly looking at her hands, playing with Alice's.

-I don't know. I just... Something in me does not like to see you like that. I don't know what it is. But it's there. And I don't know how to act when... That's why I ask what you need.
-I've ruined everything haven't I ?

Alice furrowed her brows and Joan looked up at her.

-The evening...
-Of course not. I've enjoyed myself, you made a delicious meal, an amazing dessert, you have partaken in my game. And your company is always something I appreciate. Now tell me, how could one ruin an evening like that ?
-I shouldn't be crying.
-Better out than in, you know that.
-It hurts.
-What hurts ?
-To feel.

Good job Joan, you've ruined everything, Gosh can't you keep it together just once when she mentions something to make conversation, in confidence ? No wonder your father is so disappointed in you.
Emotions lead to mistakes.

-Joan ?
-I'm sorry...

The older woman got up from the couch, muffling the sound of her sobs, she went towards her bedroom and rested her back on the door, passing her hands through her hair. Joan tried to calm her breathing and started walking in circles, feeling dizzy. She heard knocks on the door and sunk her nails in the flesh of her forearm, feeling her nails dig into her skin painfully.

Why do you have to be surch a disappointment ?

-Joan ? Are you in there ?

Joan covered her mouth again, feeling hot tears falling, she heard footsteps and refrained from hitting the door.

-Please just leave !
-I can't.
-Just go !
-Let me in... Please ?

Alice heard no protestation, she opened the door of the bedroom slowly and her eyes fell on the woman at the centre of the room, her face dropping ever so slightly. Joan's hair was messy, strands sticking to her face due to the tears, she had rolled up her right sleeve, her nails still trying to draw blood. When Alice looked up Joan seemed to have aged drastically, but it was the look in her eyes that made it hard to swallow.

-He was beating me ! I, I was telling him to stop ! That I'd be good ! He just wouldn't ! I couldn't... I couldn't take it anymore !

Alice felt her eyes burning, bringing her back to reality, she felt something wet going down her cheek and felt constricted, like something or someone was squeezing her insides, her heart. Something she had never felt before. She touched her cheek looking at the dampness on her fingertip, her eyes darting back at Joan, that crushing feeling still weighing on her.

-I've always done what he asked of me ! I tried to be exactly how he wanted for me to be ! I was hurting so bad ! He just wouldn't stop !

Joan's legs dropped and Alice made an attempt at catching her, she felt herself falling on her knees, due to their weight.

-I killed him ! I never meant for him to happen ! I'm a monster ! I'm a Freak !

Joan started sobbing again, hot tears tainting Alice's spaghetti top, the younger woman was at a loss for words, she had already seen Joan get angry, sad, fight, but never such a level of despair. It was like her whole life came back at her, crushing everything standing on its way, leaving her a mess on the floor with just herself to pick up the pieces. Alice passed her fingers through the ebony locks, holding tightly onto her.

-You're not a Freak. And you are most certainly not a monster.
-I am...
-No. I am. You are human. You made a mistake, you couldn't... You said enough.
-I didn't want for it to happen, said Joan sobbing, He was hurting me, and I hated him ! But he was my father !
-It's possible to love and hate at the same time. It's in the past Joan...
-He keeps coming back, back and back, keeps telling me things ! I just want for it to stop !
-It'll stop, I promise you. If he ever comes back, he'll have me to deal with.

Alice felt Joan gripping her clothes and rested her cheek on her head, her hand still stroking her hair.

-All I wanted was for him to be proud ! To be good enough !
-You are Joan.
-No I'm not ! I'm nothing, and no one cares !

At this Alice acted, she took Joan's chin between her fingers and made her look at her. She lowered her head to hers and placed her lips on hers, feeling Joan stiffen due to the unexpectedness of the move. Alice stopped the kiss and looked into Joan's eyes, a tear going down, seemingly pleading.

-You are good enough. And don't you ever think no one cares, understood ?

The older woman was looking at her as if she was trying to detect a lie or a scheme, taking her distances slightly, perplexed. Alice trailed a finger on her cheek and lifted her to make her sit on the bed. She kneeled in front of her, brushing her hair away from her face.

-You are... You are nothing like me, Joan. You regret what you've done, you didn't mean to do it. I killed them because I was feeling curious, no other reason. I do not regret what I've done. You. Are. Not. Like. Me. And do not let anyone tell you otherwise. You are so much more, you're kind and caring, you're funny, you're loyal, and determined, strong-willed. These are qualities that balance all the things that happened to you, all the flaws it added onto who you are. You have to deconstruct that in order to be who you were always meant to be.
-And who is that ?
-The real you.

Joan swallowed with some difficulty and lowered her head, closing her eyes. She felt Alice take both her hands in hers, and felt a finger caressing the nail marks on her forearm, drawing a sharp breath from her.

-Let me help you ?

Joan sighed, conceding, she nodded without looking at Alice, she felt her stand and gripped her wrist with her injured arm.

-Why did you do it ?
-Do what ?
-Kiss... Me...

Alice bend toward Joan their nose barely touching, her eyes scanning her tear-streaked face.

-Do you want me to do it again ?

The older woman blushed, nodding ever so slightly, anticipation now present on her face. Alice caressed her cheek pushing a tuft of hair behind her ear and laid her lips on hers, feeling Joan answer this time. They parted for air and Alice planted a kiss on her forehead.

-You stay here, I'll be back with stuff for your arm.

Alice left the room hurriedly while Joan wiped tears away, feeling her heart going back to a normal rhythm, she touched her lips with the tips of her fingers and a smile graced her reddish lips. Maybe someone truly cared.