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You'd Bleed Just to Know You're Alive

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Joan sighed as she thought about what she'd have for dinner tonight. Alone again with her thoughts, she wondered at times if she really did enjoy eating alone. The routine was comfortable, but never truly satisfying. Yearning for human contact was something she fought against on an almost daily basis. Some days were easier than others, often when she reminded herself of the many human weaknesses that she tried so hard to suppress.

She gazed at Vera smiling as she walked through the corridors, knowing that whatever she was smiling about had to do with something Joan would never understand. She hoped her smile had something to do with their work. Although, Joan would be remiss if she didn't acknowledge the changes in Vera. She was slowly coming into her own, and it wouldn't be long before she'd have to spread her wings. Joan didn't exactly look forward to that day, and she wondered why it bothered her. She trusted Vera on some level that went beyond the need to mentor her. Yes, she used her to gain information but it was a necessary evil in order to run the prison more efficiently.

She didn't make friends easily, and their debriefings and dinners reminded her of a simpler time. Her father's words reminded her that you couldn't trust anyone, but he wasn't around anymore. The more alone she felt, the more desperate she became. Over time, the debriefings were more than just superficial talk about work. Vera was more than just her colleague, she was a friend. Joan cared... in her own way. Tonight, she would finally ask Vera on a date. She cringed even thinking of the term, but that's exactly what she wanted. She wanted them to move forward beyond friends... and she knew it was very possible that Vera felt the same way.

She glanced up as Vera walked into her office. “I have these reports for you, and I think we might need to do a ramp soon.”

“Good work, Vera,” Joan said as she took the reports from her.

Vera smiled slightly, nodding her head. “Doyle is up for parole soon.”

Joan hid her disgust, knowing very well that it wouldn't be possible. “Well, we'll see how long that lasts. I don't have high expectations.”

“Miss Westfall believes--”

“As much as I appreciate Miss Westfall's... services, her opinion is irrelevant. Remember what I told you, Vera. Some of these prisoners will say and do anything to fool us into believing they're a productive member of society. Some people are beyond our help.”

Vera frowned. “I hope you're wrong about that, because I do think she might be ready to leave us.”

“I hope you're right,” Joan said quietly.

“If that's all, Governor?”

Joan looked up, feeling the tingling in her fingertips, the butterflies in her stomach. Such a strange, yet pleasurable feeling. “Hmm, not everything. I was wondering if you'd like to have dinner tonight.”

“I can't actually, I already have plans.”

Joan blinked, not used to this sudden rejection from her Deputy. It was unusual, and she wondered just who she had plans with. “I see... well, I can't say that I'm not disappointed. Another time, perhaps.”

Vera immediately looked contrite. “I'm sorry, Joan, I would love to have dinner with you on a different night. I'm just... um, I'm going on a date.”

Joan felt cold as her mouth went dry. It was an odd feeling, and she knew then that she was experiencing jealousy. She stared at her for a few seconds before lacing her fingers on her desk. “That's good, I wouldn't want to... deny you of that. Have a good time,” she said, forcing a smile, but inside she felt completely dejected.

Vera disappeared out the door, and she narrowed her eyes as she saw Fletcher talking to her outside. Their body language gave her everything she needed to know. She wondered if this was the first date she's had with Fletcher, or if they'd been seeing each other longer. She thought they weren't on good terms anymore, but somehow Vera slipped out of her grasp. Her nostrils flared, thinking of all the opportunities she wasted. She waited too long to realize how she really felt about Vera.

She'd had dreams of kissing Vera for months. At first she thought they were just dreams, but overtime she realized they weren't. It had been a long time since she dreamed of any woman except Jianna. She had finally gathered up the courage to possibly pursue Vera in a relationship, and now this happened. Joan closed her eyes, imagining those soft, full lips against hers. She spent so long mourning Jianna that she forgot what it was like to feel something again. She'd bleed just to know she's alive.

She glanced at the CCTV and saw Vera leaving the prison. She quickly rose from her chair, following her outside.

“Vera!”

The smaller woman jumped and turned around. “Yes, Governor?”

Joan now stood in front of her, lowering her hand to brush off a piece of lint from Vera's shoulder. Vera bit her lip, looking up at her slightly confused. “What is it?”

“I know you already made plans, but would it make any difference if I told you that I, uh, I don't want you to see him?”

Vera furrowed her brows. “Are you saying I need your permission? There isn't anywhere that says we can't date another officer.”

Joan breathed deeply, reigning in her irritation. Don't screw this up.

“It's not that... I'm not being clear and I apologize. I-I'm attracted to you.” There it was finally out.

Vera's eyes grew wide, and Joan continued somewhat in a rush. “And if you have any feelings for me, will you please think about this? I would enjoy taking you on a date, if you'll allow me.”

“This is... this wasn't what I expected,” Vera said.

“I know, but all those times we spent together after work and at my house, they've been very special to me.”

“They have been for me too,” Vera said, her cheeks reddening.

Joan took a risk and lowered her hand to her cheek, feeling how soft Vera's skin was. “You're special to me. If you cancel your date with him, I promise you that I'll make it up to you,” she said softly, her eyes gazing at her fondly. She gently rubbed her cheek with her thumb, and Vera leaned a little into her palm.

“What took you so long?”

Joan smiled with relief. “My own insecurities. Do I take that as a yes?”

“Yes, I'll cancel with him and I'll go on a date with you. Except not tonight, I need more time to prepare.”

Joan was a little confused. “Why not tonight?”

Vera bit her lip. “This is you we're talking about. I've never been on a date with a woman either, and I just want to impress you. Can you believe me when I say that I want it to be perfect?”

Joan smiled slowly, leaning down and whispering in her ear. “Yes, I can, but don't make me wait too long,” she said, her mouth gently brushing her neck in a faint kiss.

Vera gave a slight shiver. “I won't.”