See chapter one for disclaimers
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The walls of Terri's office were supposed to be sound-proofed, but despite the dubious insulation, the shrill shriek of an inmate's alarm was easily discernible. Dismissing it as a routine drill, she momentarily ignored the grating noise, but when it continued unabridged for several minutes, her tolerance levels rapidly depleted. "Fucking hell." Grabbing her jacket and hastily exiting the office, she sprinted over to the communal staff room, only to find it devoid of any occupants. A puzzled frown marred her countenance as she jogged on to C-wing's deserted landing, wondering where the hell her staff had vanished to. Glancing down through the meshed safety netting, her astute eyes instinctively roved to the mass of uniforms congregating outside of Devlin's cell. For one terrifying moment, her heart stopped beating, and she gripped a nearby railing to quell the onslaught of nausea. She wouldn't have branded Devlin as the suicidal type, but after the events that had transpired that morning, she couldn't help but fear the worst. Please, no. Oh God, no. Slightly disorientated, she watched as four officers emerged from the cell, dragging a limp Devlin alongside of them. The inmate was rarely compliant in the face of authority, and Terri's concern intensified when she offered no resistance to the degrading process. Her eyes widened in outrage as Gareth Rawlinson began to shake a submissive Devlin with uninhibited ferocity. She was by his side in seconds. "Get your hands off of her."
Gareth turned to regard her, maintaining his vice like grip on Devlin's arms. "Ma'am, we were just about to call for you - "
"Before or after you roughed up one of my inmates?" Terri's eyes glinted with dissolute animosity, and she glared at Gareth with deadly intent. "I said get - off - of - her." With each clipped word, she set about loosening Gareth's grip, prising his chubby fingers away from the swollen arms they encased. Turning to regard Devlin, she tenderly caressed the inmate's taut biceps, fingering the mottled purple bruises residing there. Oblivious to the dumbstruck looks she was receiving from her colleagues, she softly inquired, "Are you OK?"
Devlin regarded Terri coolly, pulling away from the intimate contact and appearing nonchalant to the governor's concern. "I'm fine," she enunciated abruptly, studying her shoes with avid interest in an effort to evade the hurt in Terri's eyes. As if on cue, the prison doctor rounded the nearest corner, clutching his first aid kit as if he actually knew how to use its contents.
"Right, where is he?" The brusque demand was rhetorical, because an escorting officer immediately set about ushering Simon Foster into Devlin's cell. Terri glanced at the inmate sharply, noticing her bruised fist for the first time. Entering the compact room with a certain amount of trepidation, her eyes widened in shock at the sight that greeted her. Lee had been helped up, and was now sitting on Devlin's bed, cradling the lower half of his bloodied face with visibly trembling hands. The doctor handed him a tissue, and as Lee reached out to take it, Terri caught a brief glimpse of his broken nose. It was set at a rather awkward angle, and only served to enhance his unsightly exterior. Terri found the pitiful sight oddly amusing, and fought to suppress a smile.
"Stupid fucking bitch," Lee cursed, glaring at Terri accusingly. "I told you she was a psycho."
Terri refused to flinch. "And I told you to leave her alone. What the hell were you doing in here?"
"I only wanted to offer my condolences."
"I'll bet." Terri regarded him dubiously. "I'm sorry Lee, but I did warn you. This is what happens when you disregard my instructions."
Gareth Rawlinson appeared in the doorway, his expression a mixture of outrage and incredulity. "Don't tell me you condone this, for God's sake? She just beat the shit out of a senior officer. She needs to be punished."
Terri whirled around, facing the robust officer defiantly. "I wouldn't interfere if I were you, not after the way you just man-handled her. You'll be lucky if I don't decide to report you, too."
Gareth gaped at her in open amazement. "I was just restraining her, that's all."
"Do you know what a euphemism is, Gareth?" Terri regarded the officer coldly. "Because let me tell you now, I'm not about to tolerate any of more of your adulterated crap. She wasn't even putting up a fight, for God's sake."
"How the hell was I supposed to know that she wouldn't lash out? She usually does." Gareth could barely believe that he was being subjected to an inquisition. Everyone in the prison service abided by the notion that any mishaps, however minor, were instigated by the inmates.
"You'll have to forgive her, Gareth. She gets a little... personal when it comes to Devlin. They're very close, aren't you, Ma'am?"
Terri glanced at Lee with barely concealed loathing, her face becoming flushed with anger as the doctor regarded her curiously. "Oh, just do your job," she snapped angrily, promptly turning to exit the cell. Slamming the door abruptly behind her, she gazed at Devlin expectantly. "Well?"
"Well what?" Devlin remained evasive, retaining an uncanny interest in the floor below her.
Terri leant forward, forcing any trappings of despair from her tone. "You know better than to play games with me." She regarded Devlin beseechingly. "Why are you being like this?"
"I don't know what you mean." Devlin forced herself to meet Terri's penetrating gaze, azure orbs defiant.
"Fine, sod you then." Swallowing the lump residing in her throat, Terri nodded to the remaining officers. "Sling her in isolation."
Filing an incident report was an elongated process, and Terri spent all evening reviewing the alleged assault. She was certain that Lee had provoked Devlin in to lashing out, but why and how remained to be seen. Without Devlin's side of the story, Lee's allusion to her 'psychotic tendencies' appeared to be partly justified, and Terri's hunch was rendered void. He insisted that Devlin had lashed out for no fathomable reason, and unless she could prove otherwise, the inmate risked being charged with a summary offence and incarcerated for even longer. Lee was certainly petty enough to press charges.
Terri wasn't about to let that happen. Devlin's apparent rejection had stung, but she knew her loyalties would always lie with the enigmatic inmate. It was just a matter of convincing Devlin how much she cared. Standing outside of the Isolation Block, once again unaccompanied, Terri hesitantly pushed open the wrought iron door segregating civilisation from seclusion. Her arrival was greeted with frenzied banging and a litany of profanities, but she advanced towards Devlin's cell regardless. Deftly unlocking the door, she knocked lightly before entering the dismal room.
Devlin turned to regard her questioningly, and seeing her tear-streaked face, Terri's eyes clouded with compassion. Sinking down on to the flimsy mattress, she gently touched the inmate's elbow. "How's you hand?"
"Sore," Devlin conceded, allowing Terri to examine the contused appendage. A warped smile marred her haggard features. "But before you ask, it was more than worth it."
Although Terri could understand Devlin's self-satisfaction, she was obliged to frown at her lack of remorse. "You won't be saying that if he decides to press charges."
"He hasn't got the nerve." Devlin sighed, regarding Terri nonchalantly. "And even if he did, what would it matter? I'm still gonna spend the best part of my life stuck in this shit hole." The twisted grin resurfaced. "So I might as well spend my time constructively."
"I don't think you understand the severity of the situation." Terri's emerald eyes emitted a flicker of agitation. "He's petitioning to get you shipped out, Devlin."
"So what? It's just more shit from a different angle. I'm used to it."
Terri felt a pang of anguish upon seeing the aura of defeat emanating from Devlin's slumped form. Having hated Lee before, she now despised him beyond all reason. Laying a gentle hand on the inmate's arm, she asked the one question Devlin didn't want to answer. "What did he say to you?"
"Nothing new." There was a lengthy pause as Devlin considered the merits of elaborating. The sympathy shining in attentive emerald eyes offered her some reassurance. "He just reaffirmed my position as the resident fuck-up." She shrugged, laughing bitterly. "You know the job description: everything I touch turns to shit, people I care about have the tendency to drop dead, anyone who puts an ounce of faith in me gets let down." Devlin relayed the words in a detached monotone, but the tears shining in her pained azure eyes told a different story.
"And you believe him?" Terri ventured softly.
"I didn't want to. I know he usually spills a load of adulterated crap, but I guess he hit the nail on the head this time." Devlin studied her hands with avid interest. "That's why I hit him. I told him to keep his mouth shut, but he wouldn't listen. He just kept on at me, and I guess the truth hurt more than I expected. Maybe punching his lights out was irrational, but I don't regret it."
"You shouldn't. He deserved it." Terri's eyes blazed with blatant furore. Her empathy would have been frowned upon, but once the words were out of her mouth, she didn't chastise herself for saying them. Reaching out to grasp Devlin's uninjured hand, she squeezed it gently. "It's blatant provocation, and if he even attempts to suggest otherwise, I'll punch him myself. I don't care how high we have to take this, I'm not letting you go without a fight."
"Terri, you've got to stop intervening on my behalf." Devlin regarded her ally helplessly. "It'll only make him more suspicious. He already thinks that there's something going on between us - "
Devlin glanced at her sharply. "What?"
"I know, and I don't care." Terri paused, absently caressing the hand she held in her own. "Look, if he decides to take it to Area Management - the operative word being 'if' - then I'll just show him up for the vindictive wanker he is. He's full of adulterated shit, Devlin. You shouldn't let him get to you like this."
"Why not? I mean let's face it, Terri. The man might live in fantasy land, but he's got some justification in saying that I ruin people's lives." Devlin studied the governor intently, trying to fathom where her compassion stemmed from. "It's my fucking forte, for God's sake."
"Don't be so hard on yourself," Terri admonished, barely able to conceal her hurt as Devlin gently extracted her hand.
"Terri, it's the truth. I mean, look at my track record. I begged Sarah to leave her husband, knowing how angry he'd be." A look of self-loathing marred her features. "If I'd stopped to think for one second, she'd still be here today."
"Yeah, and she'd still be with him, spending every waking moment wishing she was dead." Terri regarded Devlin defiantly. "You can't honestly expect me to believe that given another chance, you'd just leave her to fend off the blows? At least you showed her a glimpse of humanity before she died."
Devlin could see the reason in Terri's words, but her guilt trip was far from over. "What about May? She was like a second mother to me. She gave me everything, and I let her down so badly. She probably spent every waking moment wondering where the hell she went wrong." She focused on Terri obstinately. "You can't tell me that I didn't have anything to do with her death. I could see it in her eyes every time she visited me." Covering her mouth to stifle a heaving sob, she finally allowed the river of tears to fall. "And now she's gone, and it's all my fucking fault."
"Hey." Tears of empathy instantly sprang to Terri's eyes, and biting her lip, she wrapped her arms around the sobbing inmate. When Devlin offered no resistance to the gentle embrace, Terri cast all remnants of protocol aside. Awkwardly sinking in to the inmate's lap, she tenderly stroked the arms that promptly enclosed around her. Every anguished sob felt like her own, and for several moments, she simply cradled Devlin against her, willing the tremors to subside. "Sweetheart, look at me." Terri lightly caressed a damp cheek before tilting Devlin's chin upwards. She regarded the inmate with intense affection, willing her to believe what she was about to say. "You know that Lee works purely on the premise of guesswork. He just exploits your vulnerabilities in the hope of getting a reaction. He didn't know your Aunt, so how the fuck can he speak on her behalf?" Terri tried to contain her outrage, but Devlin could feel the tension emanating from her rigid posture. She had never seen the governor so obviously aggrieved, and she tightened her arms around Terri's trembling form.
"Terri, it's OK. Don't worry about me, it's not good for your blood pressure."
"No it's not OK, Devlin." Terri's slender shoulders heaved with an exasperated sigh. "I'm not denying that you've made some mistakes, but haven't we all? You're the only person questioning your motives. And that's exactly what the bastard wants." Despite fighting to keep her tone even, Terri's voice eventually became choked with emotion. "Please don't give in to him."
"Hey." Devlin reached out, steadying tremulous lips with a tender finger. "What's wrong?"
"I'm sorry." Terri blinked back tears, resting her head against a sturdy shoulder. "You're amazing, and it just pisses me off when that snide little shit attempts to convince you otherwise." A lone tear stalked down her cheek. "I hate seeing you like this."
Devlin was too choked to respond with words, but seeing the extent of Terri's devotion provided her with more consolation than inner peace ever could. Lightly brushing her lips against a smooth forehead, she reclaimed Terri's small hand, caressing the silken skin tenderly. After a few moments of simply revelling in the sensation, Terri glanced up in to a piercing expanse of blue, overwhelmed by the uninhibited desire she saw residing there. She couldn't have resisted it, and she wasn't willing to try.
Devlin's eyelids fluttered closed in patent anticipation, and with feather-like grace, Terri brushed her mouth against acquiescent lips. Despite savouring every second of the tentative contact, after a few moments she forced herself to pull away, overwhelmed with the need to study the stunning woman before her. Sensing the blonde's momentary hesitation, Devlin opened her eyes, shocked by the intensity of emotion she saw shining back at her. Reaching out with a trembling hand, she gently caressed a crimson cheek, marvelling at the way Terri instinctively leant in to her touch. Chastity eventually evolved in to undeniable need, and when their mouths met again, tongues immediately snaked out to clash with fervent ardour. Neither could withhold their muffled moans of arousal, but eventually the prolonged need to breathe overrode the intensity of the moment. Re-defining the concept of reluctance, they slowly parted, regarding one another with earnest affection.
"I didn't realise that galvanising the warped workings of Lee's little mind would be quite as satisfying." Devlin sighed contentedly, suddenly feeling alive again.
"You could market that as some kind of tongue twister." Terri grinned, revelling in how wonderful it felt. "You know, try and say this sentence without stopping for breath."
"Speaking of stopping for breath....." Devlin eyed the governor mischievously, and Terri found herself willing to sacrifice the very concept of integrity just to keep that enticing sparkle in the inmate's eyes.
"I don't suppose we could....." Devlin halted as Terri's lips passionately reclaimed her own, and after responding with uninhibited enthusiasm, she hesitantly pulled away. "Terri, I think I should warn you in advance. My libido's been dormant for a while, and so if I turn out to be insatiable - "
"I'll just have to discipline you." Terri offered the inmate a rakish grin, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
Devlin laughed. "Have I ever mentioned that you're a very bad girl?"
"What's wrong?" Terri raised an innocent eyebrow. "Don't you like the stigma?"
"Hey, I wasn't complaining." Devlin regarded the governor affectionately. "I was just drawing attention to one of your many good points."
"Well, that's all right then." Sinking in to the inmate's warm embrace, Terri considered what had just transpired between them. OK, so I've crossed virtually every line imaginable. I should be experiencing an attack of conscience right about.... now. Oddly enough, it never came. All right, so maybe this is a rebellious phase. I'm too young for a mid life crisis. She silently marvelled at how her protective streak seemed to rear its head wherever Devlin was concerned. She knew her ardent defence of the inmate had shocked her officer's, but whether they would read anything in to it remained to be seen. At that particular moment in time, snuggled cosily against Devlin's chest, she was simply too content to care.