Alex has a dream about Piper at 4am, the day before seeing her in the yard. There are zombies and an angry pizza delivery person in the dream. Larry is there, shouting at her from a rooftop, while zombies close in around him. Alex has to shoot at them because hey, she can't let the woman she loves lose someone she cares about.
She's still freaked out from her dream, so much so that when a fight breaks out in the yard that day, she's convinced for a second that it's the end.
And then she sees her. She hears her first. "Alex!" Her name called out in that slightly shrill, worried, happy as fuck to see her kinda voice.
They meet up at the divider between their sections and Alex plays it cool as much as she can. But she's giddy with love at the sight of her wing-nut ex's smile…
…and ridiculous obsession with a slow moving cockroach. Which makes Alex pretty fucking worried about her for a minute.
They're in the same place again and she can finally talk to the woman whose life she's about to ruin by seemingly throwing her under the bus when really, it's the only thing she can think of—this plan. To take a plea and get the fuck out with all of the heat following her. Leaving Piper alone and keeping her safe from this.
She takes a nap before the trial, because it's the best way to avoid her cellmates and her rising anxiety. She dreams that the prison is overrun with corckroaches but that Piper shows up with a flame thrower and a cigarette dangling from her lips.
"I got this." Piper announces and winks in Alex's direction and incinerates the insects before pocketing a long, slow one, and sashaying away in her orange overalls.
Piper knows somehow, that she'll be with Alex for a long time, because of almonds. Well, it had been because of other things—smoothies and foot rubs and stomach rubs—but it's also the almonds—the bag that Alex plunks down between them, alongside some weird kelp treat, before buckling her seatbelt. This is the partnership that Piper always worried Alex couldn't provide.
Alex starts the car while Piper remains in a daze, staring at the almonds.
"What?" Alex asks. "You ok?" She actually looks worried, so Piper just smiles through sudden, ridiculous crying.
"When are you writing the bar again?" Alex asks. They'd put it off after a bout of morning sickness followed by Piper claiming that it was too much to take on anyway.
"Soon. I don't know." Piper wipes her eyes and laughs at her little moment.
They drive a half hour in silence, broken up only when Alex tries to play with the radio. For whatever reason, Piper can only handle easy listening or jazz so they settle on a station with both.
And maybe the trip they're going on isn't as glamorous as any of their past adventures, but it's more than enough.
Piper's voice shakes a little when she tries to explain some of this stuff, but Alex just waits for a red light and then leans over, straining against her seatbelt to kiss her warmly.
They both look pretty good in orange, Alex decides. In fact, the moment Piper strides toward her, looking relieved and grateful at once, Alex pretty much forgives her and simultaneously feels a jolt of desire for her. She forgives her for choosing Larry, because that look on her face is not one of someone who would make the same mistake twice. Not that it matters. They're pretty much fucked.
They can't hug, but they can talk about a goddamn cockroach that Piper needs to give her ever-pooping cellmate. Alex is worried about Piper's mental health but she goes along with it.
The rest happens so fast. Alex had been so lonely in prison, so incredibly terrified of being stuck there forever, and she had to hope that a plea deal would at least keep them both safe. Because Kubra was going to kill them if he got the chance.
Prison doesn't end with release.
Alex's first night of freedom in her own, is spent writing neat, all-caps, two-page letters to Piper. She signs everything 'A' and tries her best to explain the things that have gone completely wrong.
It's 2am when she tries to turn out the light and crawl into bed, after making a careful pile of the four letters that survived a flurry of edits.
She's in bed all of two minutes, the covers pulled up to her chin, when she turns over quickly and slams her hand on the lamp, fumbling for the switch.
Sleep doesn't come, even then, so Alex gets back up and re-reads the letters. There is a juvenile quality to them. Not to the writing itself but to the idea of writing. Like…what does she expect? Does she think that Piper will fawn all over the paper, smelling it and whatever the fuck else, like a teenaged girl? She laughs out loud at that because it's exactly the kind of thing she'd been secretly thinking.
Alex and Piper's supposed dog is a giant black lab.
"You don't have to keep him in the city, but you can visit whenever you need a little canine therapy." Cal puts the 'canon therapy' part in air quotes. He likes saying it. He says it a lot, in fact.
They sit around the fire while Neri grins and fires questions at Alex about the gigantic drug kingpin she'd worked for and what had ever happened to him, until Piper changes the subject completely.
Cal hums as he whittles the weirdest looking, least utilitarian looking wooden spoon, Piper has ever seen. Beside her, Alex smirks. But Cal interrupts the inevitable sarcasm. He asks,
"So when did you know that the people you worked for would be willing to cut you loose?"
He's talking to Alex, not Piper. Piper sits back, surprised. Alex takes awhile to answer. Her hand strays to Piper's forearm, strokes her distractedly.
"I knew I was expendable pretty soon into it all." Alex replies with a shrug.
But still, there's more.
Cal makes them walk for an hour through the woods to the outermost edge of his property. Actually, he leads them in a circle and then doubles back before finally figuring out the direction he feels like taking. The dog walks dutifully beside them, taking a keen interest in Alex's movements in particular.
"What is this?"
"I built you a house. Well my friends did. It's small."
Piper, who can't remember a member of her family ever treating her with this much kindness and generosity, bursts into tears. She cries until it turns to laughter when she sees the one room 'earthship' made of concrete and bottles in the front, and a conventional roof and wooden structure on the rest. She actually doesn't stop laughing, because Alex's horrified question about structural issues makes Neri laugh and Cal look a little worried.
"It's beautiful. We'll tweak it a little for…structural safety…" Piper kisses her brother on his bearded cheek and tossles his hair. "And thank you."
"As soon as I'm done with Davy Crockett, I'm here." Alex agrees, though the look on her face says otherwise.
"We just want to be close to our little niecephew." Neri had coined the word after a lively discussion by the fire about the baby's gender. "And to you guys. You guys are a hoot. Seriously. I can't believe you caught a roach for her. That's true love." She socks Alex in the arm for emphasis and grins at their little messed up house.
Someone calls Piper 'Doogie Howser' and it sticks. It's probably Taystee's doing. She and Poussey steer clear of Piper. In fact most of the women seem to steer clear of Piper. Someone named Soso seems to have a little crush on her but otherwise even Nicky looks pissy whenever Piper walks by. Alex isn't sure why and she tries to ignore the pang of sympathy she feels over it.
Alex is sitting with a book, on the other side of the library shelves, when she hears Piper mutter, "That doesn't even make sense."
And she has to bite back laughter of her own. Because whatever. As annoying as Piper can be, and as pissed as Alex is at her, the way she takes things so literally is sort of hilarious.
They're back in here together and Alex feels stupidly calm about it all.
She also feels purposeful, which is a change from her last stint in the place.
They both have work to do in the world, whatever that's going to look like. And for now, this is home. And home is fucked up. It needs more than just to be escaped from, what with so many dozens of women streaming in and out each week.