Once again I apologise for the extraordinary infrequency with which I update, but hey, I warned you. I have been struck with a rather bad flu that I caught from my partner, so you can probably thank illness for this update. As always, I own nothing associated with OITNB and I hope you guys enjoy – Lark.

Piper was hyperventilating by the time they reached the building's elevator shaft and it was all she could do to not stop walking and lean against the wall and try to relieve the sensation of building panic.

'You ok, Pipes?' Alex asked with a frown.

'Of course, I think I just had too much to drink,' Piper lied.

'You barely had anything,' Alex chuckled, 'though it would hardly surprise me if you were that much of a lightweight.'

'Hey,' Piper protested, 'I'll have you know I can drink Polly under the table.'

'What, barbie? What's her drink of choice, Smirnoff Ice?' Alex smirked.

'No,' Piper sniffed, 'it's raspberry cruiser.'

'Oh yeah,' Alex snorted, 'like that's better.'

'Hey, I like those drinks too,' Piper argued, the banter reducing the panic somewhat.

'Once again Pipes, you dazzle me with knowledge I find ever so surprising,' Alex teased sarcastically.

The elevator arrived with what Piper could only call an ominous 'ding' and it caused her panic to arise again. Here was a confident, sexual woman, leading her into her home with the utmost charisma, and it was all Piper could do not to pass out. It seemed to Piper that the librarian cliché was rubbing off on her far too quickly, it seemed all that was between her and spinsterhood was her sharp tongue. No doubt Alex would have had something to say about sharp tongues if she had voiced that thought out-loud.

Piper's accelerated breathing was highly conspicuous in the confined space of the elevator and Alex shot her a concerned look.

'What's wrong Piper?'

'Nothing, I just don't like elevators,' Piper stuttered.

It wasn't a complete lie; she had always found their metal walls rather confining and the idea of being trapped in such a small space for an extended period of time sent shivers down her spine. However, on this particular occasions she could fairly safely attribute her state to Alex's fingers playing with the bow at the front of her dress.

Piper wasn't sure why she was only feeling this now, god knows she had been in much more compromising situations than this with Alex Vause. Yet expectation seemed to hang thickly in the air and Piper found herself overthinking every move she made.

'Babe, really, don't bullshit me, what's wrong?' Alex placed a hand firmly on Piper's hip and used her other hand to tilt Piper's chin upwards so their eyes met.

'I, um, I don't know,' Piper allowed.

'Come on sweetie,' Alex sighed, pulling Piper closer, 'I'll make you a cup of tea.'

'Sweetie?' Piper chortled, forgetting her emotional state for a moment, 'are you going sentimental on me?'

'What can I say, your adorable awkwardness has broken my hard exterior,' Alex chuckled as she reached for the keys in her pocket.

'I prefer to think that it was my sterling wit and infallible charm that broke you,' Piper half smiled as she followed Alex into her apartment.

'Perhaps, and I look forward to finding out what breaks you,' Alex smirked, offering Piper a salacious wink, 'but, I think, for now, tea is a better idea.'

Piper stepped into the spacious kitchen and swept her eyes over the living and dining room. The space was surprisingly cosy. Alex clearly adored retro and pre-loved furniture that Piper should have suspected given her dress sense. However, what made her anxiety practically vanish was that the apartment in no way resembled a bachelor pad or a player's trap. Piper hadn't even realised that she held fears about how Alex's confidence and charisma was reflected in her personal life until she had found evidence to assuage them.

'Your apartment is beautiful,' Piper smiled.

Alex wrapped her arms around Piper's waist and nestled her chin against Piper's shoulder.

'Not nearly as beautiful as you,' Alex purred.

'Alex,' Piper sighed, her voice nearly lost over the whistling of the kettle.

'Relax, Piper,' Alex murmured, those skilled fingers were once again on the ribbons that held Piper's dress together.

'Alex, the kettle is done,' Piper protested half-heartedly.

'Well I know something that is about to come undone,' Alex purred as she slowly began unlacing the ribbons of the dress.

To Alex's immense displeasure the ribbons merely gave the illusion of an easy exit strategy but were in fact sewed to the dress half way down Piper's cleavage.

'Perhaps I should have warned you,' Piper chuckled, her nerves still incredibly heightened, yet the fear had receded.

'And I should have warned that you'd have to replace this dress,' she replied easily.

Piper could hear the stitches slowly ripping as the ribbon forcefully unravelled from the dress, yet she couldn't find the effort nor concentration to care.

There you have it, sorry that it's short.