Sup people. I've neglected my other fanfictions to bring you this, because I'm incredibly disloyal and, well, I suck. This story attempts to provide a backstory to the wonderful Alex and Piper dynamic ever-present in OITNB. I was thinking of continuing this to be more than just a one-shot. You decide.
Disclaimer: If I was, Season 3 would be here already.
The day had grown late by the time Piper Chapman finally secured the lock and descended the porch steps. The golden afternoon light started gradually seeping away, yet managed to catch on the red autumn leaves that hung precariously on the trees that lined the street. Piper inhaled a shaky breath, her chest constricting as a flood of cold air pierced her lungs. Damn, I should've worn a jacket, Piper muttered inwardly. She picked up her pace a little in an effort to dispel the cold, scuffing along the sidewalk.
Piper had always enjoyed the coming of winter. She loved the feeling of the cold as it hit her cheeks. The way the snow patted gently on car rooves and letterboxes. The musty smell the house generated without fresh air to flow freely through it. Yet these days, winter was associated with another wasted year; at least that was the case for her parents. Most graduates went on to steady jobs and careers. But that wasn't a reality for Piper. She hadn't picked her major based on income prospects, despite the endless encouragement from her parents to study something solid. But solid wasn't Piper's game.
Nevertheless, she had enjoyed the time it allowed her to pursue her passion for theatre, read all those books that collected dust on her shelf, get dragged into parties and sleep the next day away. But her parents slowly began to resent the full financial support they granted her, and the necessity of finally getting her head down was slowly winning out.
Guilt at her half-hearted attempts at finding a job incrementally ate away at her conscience, and so Piper convinced herself that she'd bunk down at a coffeehouse, work off her hangover, and reconsider her options. She hung her head, unfocused as her worn Doc Martens paced the pavement, everything falling into a blur. The cold bit at her fingertips, and in retaliation she jammed her hands into the slim pockets of her jeans.
Piper was interrupted from her daze when she felt herself collide into something, or someone. Piper winced at the impact. Her clumsiness had made her accustomed to the familiar crash, and she mentally cursed herself for failing to pay attention to her direction. Her mother always pestered her about this habit of hers, stressing that If you don't cure yourself of that nasty habit of yours, you'll have a run-in with something much more serious than a signpost!
"Oh, shit. I'm so sorry…" Piper muttered, excusing her clumsiness as she held out her hand to steady the victim. "I wasn't looking where I was going-" Raising her head sharply from its gloomy tilt, Piper's jaw dropped ajar slightly as she realised who she had crashed into.
"Uh, it's…you" Piper stuttered, tripping blindly over her words, failing to formulate coherency. Her glance inevitably drifted, noticing how the cerulean-tipped locks appeared almost imperceptible against her dark blue leather jacket. Working her way up the jet-black curls, Piper finally managed to tentatively return Alex's gaze; her black-rimmed glasses framing those piercing green eyes that shone confidently back at her. She was hard to forget. And even harder to avoid, apparently.
Alex cracked a tentative smile. "Oh yeah. Laura Ingalls Wilder. I remember you."
Piper felt heat sting at her cheeks as she desperately tried to crush the signs of embarrassment giving her away. Finally, Piper managed to muster up the courage to respond, swallowing down the lump that was forming in her throat. "Look, I'm so sorry about that. Did I hurt you?"
Alex grimaced as she held out her coffee cup and inspected it for spillage. "I'll survive. You didn't manage to drench me in mocha, so congratulations. You successfully avoided a dreadfully overused cliché where you're obligated to clean the mess off my shirt."
The forwardness of Alex's reply threw Piper off-guard, and she rendered her completely unsure of how she could even appropriately respond. Is she flirting with me? Piper realised that she should probably reply before she was made completely mute, but each time she tried to form a logical answer in her head, she failed dismally. Alex arched an eyebrow, sensing Piper's discomfort. "Kidding, mostly."
There was something about this Alex character that Piper felt utterly captivated by. Some foreign quality she'd never seen before in a person. Some difference that appeared so attractive to Piper, she felt compelled to chase after it. Perhaps it was because Alex was distinctive to most in this town. From what Piper had managed to establish, Alex belonged to the sophisticated, cultured clique that rented the town-houses up on the high road. They rarely bothered with the college bars and cheap diner joints haunted by the broke college kids. Piper had never harboured any inclination to associate with those types. They were rich and considerably older than herself. But Alex didn't quite fit that mould. Alex was something else entirely.
"How's that resume bullshitting treating you?" Alex quipped, effectively bringing the conversation back to something a little more sterile. Piper shrugged slightly, her glance wandering as she avoided her tendency to state; balancing her gaze between eye-contact and the brickwork of the building adjacent. "Oh, you know, I'm working on it."
Alex nodded enthusiastically in assent. "And by working on it, do you mean working off a crippling hangover?" Piper cringed, getting the sensation of Alex's eyes boring into her. It was a feeling she had never felt before, like someone had taken a knife to her and ripped her wide open. Like all her defences couldn't shield her from Alex's intuition. Like Alex was somehow able to see her for who she really was. Was it really that obvious?
"I-, how can you tell?" Piper stammered, crossing her arms in a meek last-line-of-defence gesture.
Piper watched as a smirk tugged at Alex's lips, allowing her slight dimples to peek out from her cheek. "I can see the bags under your eyes. Your make-up's not exactly hiding it all that well." She responded, brandishing her cup close to Piper's face.
"Oh. For a minute that I thought you were some kind of psychic."
Alex gave a throaty laugh. "Are you fucking kidding me? No need for psychic-voodoo, you're an open book, kid." Piper grimaced. Perhaps she was. She was a terrible liar, and even worse at keeping secrets; but she'd never felt so incredibly transparent.
Alex adjusted her position awkwardly, drumming her fingers on the takeaway cup she brandished, waiting to see whether Piper would respond. But Alex had done a wonderful job at rendering Piper mute, remaining absent of a reply for what felt like close to a minute.
"Hey," Alex began, "I can see that you're freezing. They've got some killer espresso in there. Keep me company, and I'll give you a few resume tips while you're at it." Alex offered, gesturing towards the corner coffee shop.
A strange sense of joy began to bubble within Piper at the offer. She wanted to jump at the opportunity, to let her eagerness show as she took the bait from the trap so whole-heartedly. But she decided that eagerness was sure to put Alex off, and the last thing Piper wanted was to scare her away.
"Sure." She replied casually, sticking her hands back into her pockets. Alex crinkled her brow in confusion. "It's just an offer, Piper Chapman. You're not obligated to take me up on it." Shit, thought Piper. I overdid it. "No, no. I mean, I think I could use the tips."
Alex hesitated, but detected the slither of a smile creep onto Piper's face, and figured she was being deliberately nonchalant. Playing hard to get.
Piper rubbed her palms together furiously before jamming them in-between her thighs. Alex pushed the coffee towards Piper, taking a swig of her own as she did so. "Thanks," Piper muttered as she lifted up the plastic top and discarded it on the table, the strong aroma of coffee being released into the air. Raising the hardened edge to her lips, Piper tasted bitterness flood over her tastebuds. Piper screwed up her features and cut her sip short at the assault. "Oh gosh, what's in this?" Piper exclaimed, horrified. Alex grinned, giving Piper the impression it was intentional.
"Double shot. Of whiskey, that is. You looked like you needed it."
Piper nodded in acknowledgement. "You really didn't have to pay for that. In fact, it's kinda becoming a habit, don't you think?" She commented, revelling in the way the liquid bubbled and burned deliciously down the back of her throat, creating a wonderful sensation of warmth that only seemed to spread through her entire body.
Alex shook her head. "Don't worry about it. You're a broke college grad! I'm practically aiding the nation's poor and needy! Perhaps I can even take you in and give you shelter." Alex teased. Piper spluttered against the rim of her drink, hot liquid being expelled back into the cup as she was reduced into a coughing fit. Alex clapped her hands together in triumph, attracting the attention of several disgruntled patrons who shot disapproving looks at Piper.
"Classic." Alex remarked, as Piper finally managed to recover from her distress. Piper timidly let her eyes flicker back up to those green orbs, catching glints of mischievousness being directed back at her.
"If you're so financially secure, Piper Chapman, why the stricken job-search?"
"Since I'm such on open book to you, you should be able to work that out for yourself."
Alex sat back against the chair. "What, you want me to guess?" Alex asked, sceptical of Piper's intentions. What's she playing at?
"That's right." Piper confirmed, resting her jaw against her palm as the leaned further towards against table, raising her eyebrows as she waited patiently for Alex to accept the offer.
Alex couldn't escape the feeling that Piper was baiting her, but wasn't one to turn down the offer of a challenge. Mirroring Piper, Alex rested her elbows on the table, her fingers pressed against her cheek as she evaluated Piper. Challenge accepted.
For several moments Piper wondered whether this evaluation was just a false pretence, as Alex stared relentlessly at her, only occasionally lowering her glance to take in some other aspect of her appearance. "Hmm…" Alex hummed, her eyes narrowed as she put down her cup and focused her attention folly on Piper.
"Are you, addicted to something?" Alex quizzed.
Piper shook her head. "No."
"Some weird journey of self-discovery?"
"Nope. Why would I need a job for that anyway?"
Alex huffed in feigned annoyance. She was fairly confident she knew why Piper was out pacing the pavements, applying for every damned job within a 5 mile radius. But if it was games Piper wanted to play, Alex was more than content to play along.
"Desperate measure to avoid someone? Roommate, boyfriend maybe?"
Piper bit her lip, shaking her head slightly. She was quite sure that was not just any guess that Alex had so casually suggested. That was an intentional interrogation veiled as a lucky guess. "No boyfriend." Piper countered, masking it as a subtle drop of information. Alex nibbled slightly at her lower lip, catching Piper's gaze with an intensity that seemed to transport them both into new, unexplored territory. Alex sensed Piper grow timid, and swiftly broke away, returning to her coffee. "We might speed this up by you just telling me, rather than taking on a wild goose chase." Alex suggested.
"My parents are getting sick of supporting me. I haven't exactly followed through on the college-to-career front."
"Ah. Your parents should've seen that one coming, honestly." Alex admitted, sniggering slightly.
Piper wasn't sure whether or not to take offence. Her hand dropped from her jaw, sinking down against her chest defensively. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, come on!" Alex exclaimed, plunking her coffee back down on the table. "You majored in theatre! No-one majors in theatre with a well-paying career in mind. Passion, Piper. Passion is why people study theatre."
Piper furrowed her brow in confusion, raising her hand in the air, indicating for Alex to hold up. "Wait a second." Piper began, her tone uneasy. "Can we backtrack a little?" Shit. Thought Alex, as she realised her mistake. I've blown it now. "How did you know I studied theatre?" Piper queried.
But Piper remained unconvinced. She thought back to the condition of her resume, and what information had been spilled onto its pages. "No, no, I'm pretty sure that's not on my resume…"
Alex shrugged, trying to appear as indifferent as possible, despite the fact she knew she had blown her cover. Piper was familiar to Alex, long before their 'meeting' the week prior. Alex always spent a lot of time at Smith, and in doing so, grew familiar with those that frequented parties and taverns. Piper had gained her attention, although her identity remained a mystery to Alex. Yet, at some point during semester, Alex recognised her in one of the various classes she crashed, cementing her face firmly in her memory.
"Relax, kid. I'm not a stalker." Alex reassured, finding it difficult to hold back the laughter threatening to burst forth at Piper's apprehension.
"But how did you know?" She insisted, becoming more befuddled by the second as Alex's source of information continued to elude her.
Alex finally burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter, utterly humoured by Piper's adorable expression of bewilderment that was etched onto her face, her brows crinkled together as her eyes darted to Alex's, unnerved. "Put your hand down, kid. They'll think you want something." Alex managed to say, fighting to keep her tone steady as she fought amusement.
"Relax!" Alex called, reaching up to catch Piper's suspended hand and bring it back down to the table. "I know a lot of things."
Piper felt her entire being spark alive at the touch. It started simply, at a single nerve ending, and it grew. It bubbled and simmered and spread. Starting at her fingertips, it caught on every feather of hair like a wildfire that would not be stopped. Alex didn't retract her hand, and let it remain covering Piper's: her fingers curling slightly around to bury it in a chasm of warmth. Whether it originated from the coffee cup or Alex's body heat, she couldn't tell. It was just warmth. And it was delicious. Piper let her eyes wander down to the interlocked entanglement of hands, her breath getting caught somewhere in her throat as her chest began to swell.
A faint humming sound pestered her, and Piper took several seconds to register that it wasn't a product of her imagination, but was the dull buzz of a cell phone. Quickly, Alex slipped her hand back across the table, slithering away, back to safer territory. Piper felt a selfish impulse to snap it back, resenting the loss of warmth it's absence provided.
Fishing the device out of her back pocket, Alex focused her eyes on the screen, skimming through the text that was illuminated on the display. For a moment, Piper swore she saw disappointment surface in Alex's eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it appeared. Alex groaned, stuffing the device back into her pocket. "Look, I've got to go."
Instantly deflated, Piper felt herself release a breath she wasn't aware she had been holding. For her mind, Alex's departure was much too premature. She wasn't sure exactly what she had been expecting. Angry at the expectations that she had managed to unwittingly create, Piper began to slowly retract her hand. "Oh. Okay…"
But before Piper had much time to react, Alex swiftly brushed her hand lightly against Piper's, enclosing softly around her unguarded wrist, pulling her arm gently back across the surface of the table. The pressure encircled around her wrist forced Piper's arm to fall hopelessly under Alex's control. The touch, however light, seemed to burst with some thick anticipation that had stifled the pair of them. Some unsaid, yet mutually admitted, desire. Piper felt her muscles quiver, torn between the impulse to tense, and the urge to relax. To be pulled into Alex, and go willingly.
A pen emerged from Alex's back pocket, and the familiar click resounded heavily in Piper's ears, immune to the chatter of the surrounds, as Alex pressed the ballpoint into her skin. Piper felt her skin prickle as goosebumps flooded along her arm as Alex began to carve a line of digits into her flesh. Piper watched, strangely mesmerised as she focused on the curve of Alex's hand slide along her arm, leaving a trail of ink in its wake.
As each stroke of black ink was applied, a flush developed to outline the numbers. Part of it was from the pressure of the pen, part of it from sensations of touch than danced up and down her arm. Piper secretly hoped that line of numbers would never end.
The penstrokes became achingly slow as Alex drew closer to the end of the sequence, re-tracing again and again unnecessarily over the arcs of the numbers. Piper's skin sparked alive under the command of the pen, evoking sensations that caused Piper to release a shudder that ran through her entire body. She hoped that Alex wouldn't notice, but as her eyes flickered boldly up to read her expression, the smirk plastered onto her face indicated otherwise. Piper watched as the word "Alex" appeared in-between two neatly drawn brackets, slightly crooked as she ran out of space.
"Give me a call sometime. We never did get to those resume tips." Alex invited, letting her hand linger on Piper's skin for a little longer than necessary.
"Sure." Piper answered, her voice breathy and hardly audible; her fingers automatically curling in order to sustain the sensation that lingered on her flesh. Alex reclaimed her mug, sweeping it off the table. Piper let her eyes wander up to meet Alex's, seeing the deliberate and fully intentional nature of her actions reflected in the green depths.
Piper watched her leave, waiting until she was no longer in sight before inspecting the mark Alex had left her. Like claiming her as her own, the name in particular marked Piper as hers.
A smile tugged at her lips.
There you have it. I was really curious about Alex's statement "I kept seeing you around…and then when you called", and thought it was worth a shot. If this was enjoyable and you'd like some more, leave me a review of something. Or some pie. Whichever.