A/N: This is a one-shot with lesbian references, incorporating moments from the end of series four and the beginning of series five so beware of spoilers for those times. Thanks for reading!
'I'll sit here until she wakes,' Karen told the night officer. He nodded and left the cell, probably just thankful not to be checking on Yvonne every fifteen minutes as he should. She was on suicide watch, after all, not that very many of the staff would care about that. Several of them would be laughing behind their frowns; Jim Fenner the principle one, of course. Karen was past caring what he thought. It was the middle of the night, she had yet to leave the prison, and this cell felt the natural place to be. She wasn't going to deny it, she wanted to be near Yvonne.
Asleep, Yvonne almost looked peaceful. Almost. The skewed limbs were a sure indication that she had been drugged, and the mouth tilted towards her was tight. Karen briefly wondered if she was dreaming, then banished the thought. The tranquiliser would prevent that and, anyway, she certainly didn't want to imagine what nightmares would be flashing through the prisoner's mind at that point. How to cope when your son was dead? Karen didn't have the answer, nor did anyone else, she should venture.
It was strange, she almost felt responsible for Ritchie's death. In effect, she had helped him do it, right from the start when she had fallen for his charms despite his using her. Then he had stepped in to save her life, resulting in his paralysis- it was partly down to her he had been in that wheelchair and she couldn't reconcile that guilt with the way she felt looking at Yvonne.
Karen wasn't a fool, she knew in which direction her feelings had been building in recent weeks. It was that thought which had prompted her to break the rules and take Yvonne to the pub after visiting Ritchie in hospital. She had wanted to put herself on the same level as her charge, relate to her in a normal way- that of a mother and woman instead of a screw and con. It had worked. Yvonne had given her the greatest compliment she could expect when she had said, 'You're alright'. From that moment she had recognised that all she could ever ask of Yvonne was cautious friendship. The prisoner might trust her but in Larkhall trust was a precious commodity, and an illusion that could easily be shattered. Karen wondered if this tragedy was what would break anything they had.
Moving from her seat near the door, she perched on the edge of the bed, inhaling the strong scent of alcohol coming from Yvonne. Of course, she had almost forgotten the riot and hostage-taking that had preceded Ritchie's death- Yvonne had been right at the centre of it. How much guilt was she placing on herself for staging a riot while her son was overdosing? Come to that, how much hatred was she piling on the officers for forcing them to protest against the privatisation in the first place? That was the true Yvonne, ever 'them and us'. It would be worse now.
Gently, Karen wrapped her fingers around the limp hand hanging from the bed. It was cold, distanced from the world. She had already decided to wait the night out. Part of her was worried that this could tip Yvonne over the edge; and she would be devastated, truly, if the so-called 'godmother' inflicted any harm on herself. So she resolved to stay with her and damn any tiredness or smart comments from Fenner or the rest in the morning. She was past caring what he thought, he was a figure in her past who just happened to still torment her on a daily basis. And no doubt he'd have fun with Ritchie's death, she knew that without thinking. The thought of him joking with the others, Sylvia especially, and doing it to Yvonne's face made Karen's throat constrict. She wanted to protect her. That notion was a silly one when applied to Yvonne Atkins but Karen was determined to at least try. And to be there when she awoke and perhaps needed a friendly face.
It was nearing five when the prisoner next to her finally stirred. Karen was brought out of her own light dozing by the gently gripping of her hand. She waited, just until Yvonne had pulled herself into an upright position before she said, 'If you'd rather be alone…'
Her charge chuckled derisively. Fortunately, she hadn't appeared too shocked by her being there; that was the old Atkins way, no doubt. Well, then again, she had been heavily sedated- there was every chance she thought she was still dreaming. 'Alone. Can never be alone in this place. Rather have you here than bloody Fenner.'
'Yeah, my thoughts exactly. How…' She trailed off at the weakness of what she was about to ask. 'I'm sorry.'
'For what?' Yvonne questioned, reaching for her cigarettes. Karen immediately offered a light. 'Thanks.'
'Everything,' she said. 'The visit should never have been allowed, I don't know what Neil was thinking.'
'I wish that bitch was dead an' all,' spat the prisoner, inhaling deeply. 'It should be her instead of Ritchie.'
'Don't do anything stupid, Yvonne,' Karen found herself saying. 'The last thing you need is a longer stretch. You need to get out of here, be with Lauren.'
'Lauren… Nah. She don't need me, not like she used to. She learned too well.'
Deciphering the cryptic cope, Karen said, 'You can still get her out of that world.'
'And offer her what?' Yvonne queried. 'There's nothing else for an Atkins: not her, not me, not Ritchie.'
'Ritchie made his choices, you can't blame yourself for that.'
'I made him what he was! I never backed him up against Charlie. Is it any wonder he ended up with a tart like that?'
'Alright, you listen to me,' Karen said firmly, taking the free hand of the inmate. 'If you want to help Lauren before she goes down the same path then you get yourself out of here.'
'You just don't want to see my ugly mug in here for the rest of my life, do you?'
'Not in here, no.'
Yvonne glanced at her then their joined hands and cleared her throat. 'Any chance of a bath or something? I feel like I just need to…'
'No problem.' Karen rose, went to the door and looked back. 'I can trust you not to do anything can't I?'
'Depends on whether I get a bath or not, don't it?'
'No jokes,' she warned.
Yvonne Atkins looked at her for a long moment. 'Will you come to the funeral with me? Please,' she added as an afterthought. 'Couldn't go through it with Fenner next to me.'
'Of course. But you never answered my question.'
Blowing out of a column of smoke, Yvonne's face toughened. 'I'm not going anyway, darling.' As Karen left the cell she could've sworn she heard her charge add, 'At least not without Merrimam.'