It's been a long time since I've posted anything on this site, and while I've tumbled through a few fandoms, this is the only one where I've found the will to write. This is also on AO3, where my username is magicmilktea.

She didn't say anything as they dragged her off to SHU. There wasn't anything she could have said that might have changed the course of fate right then, and so she didn't try to. She didn't say a word. She didn't mind so much as notice the knowing grimaces that she passed in the hallways, and her body didn't seem to register the hard shove into the cement-lined box of solitary confinement, so she stumbled in, falling to her knees, her upper body landing with a dull clang against the grimy frame of the cot. Perhaps it hurt, perhaps it did not. Piper Chapman didn't care.

It didn't really matter, anyway.

Twitter had nothing on prison, especially a women's one, and it had barely been an hour since Piper had been hauled off down the hill when news came; Litchfield's resident fancy-pants had been found thoroughly tenderising the face of one Tiffany Doggett on the night of the Christmas pageant. The latter was carted off to hospital - the former thrown into solitary. A makeshift cross-turned-shiv had been found, and injuries on both had suggested enough of a story.

'Guess she knew how to celebrate Christmas real good,' Nichols joked at dinner, but not really. There was a hint of a smile on her face, but judging by the tough crowd, she'd guessed that it was her impulse reaction to throw some dry humour into the air. It only landed her blank faces from the women around her, and she turned to Alex, who pursed her lips and let her brows furrow, hunching over her own tray without a response.

Nichols wished she hadn't said anything at all.

'I didn't think she had it in her,' came Poussey quietly, looking around the table with a shrug.

Black Cindy spoke up too. 'Chapman got some fire, y'know?' She looked down at her tray with a sigh, then at everybody else. 'She gon' be all right down there, right?' If Chapman could take down the little white girl who bitched in the name of Jesus, she mustn't have found SHU so daunting.

Nichols wanted to say that Chapman would be fine. She'd been down in SHU herself - it wasn't exactly a weekend at St. Barth's down there, but she wouldn't die. Chapman would come back eventually, if the stories trickling down from the COs was true, and maybe she'd be a little worse for wear, but she didn't know why everyone was so wound up about it. Pennsatucky got the beating of her life, which Nicky was sure 99% of the prison was secretly happy about, and Chapman would probably come back with a crazy, hyped-up reputation, and probably might've grown a pair while she was down the hill to back it up. She looked over at Alex, and while the taller, dark-haired woman had always been enigmatic, Nichols had never more wished that she could read her.

She'd developed a system; it wasn't an easy one, but Piper figured that if there was any way that she was going to come out of SHU with her sanity intact, this was it. She didn't have the strength to cry, not a single tear, but there was a strange soothe to the chaos in her brain when she pushed her body as far as it would go. Sit-ups, push ups, squats - whatever she could scrape from memories of terrible aerobics videos, Piper used it then. There was no way of telling night from day, and so the routine revolved around mealtimes, if she could call them that.

The first half-dozen meals had been impossible. She couldn't eat it, and even if she could, she wouldn't have. The food up in the dining hall might have been tasteless, dry, mealy or overcooked in every sense of the word, but the food in SHU couldn't be classified as food. It was garbage, and there was no denying it, not with the zoo of mould growing on the surface, and not with the putrid taste.

By the end of the first week, however, Piper had managed to stomach most of what had been given to her in a meal, if only for necessity, and because anything she'd gained exercising would be lost if she didn't. She slept plenty, masturbating when she could, finding it passed the time a little less than she'd liked, but there wasn't much else to do. She should have been irked by the confinement, by the loneliness, but these days, Piper wasn't sure if there was much of herself any more to bother.

'I hear Pennsatucky's awake and talkin' like a parrot,' Nichols said, her shadow spilling over the pages of Alex's book as she stood by the other woman's bunk. 'That'll mean Chapman's outta the first part of the woods. No manslaughter.' She sat down on the bed beside Alex, nudging her slightly with an elbow. 'You hear me, Vause?'

Alex pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose, nodding. 'Yeah. Yeah, I heard you.'

'That's all you gotta say about it?'

'Is there something you'd like me to say in particular?' Dark brows knitted together in a frown, the eyes behind the glasses as incomprehensible as they had been on Christmas Day as she finally looked up from her book.

They had been unreadable ever since, Nichols noted, but she kept it to herself. 'Whatever went down with you two outside, and whatever went down here on the inside, you know you can tell me shit, right?' Nicky put a hand on Alex's arm. She'd avoided the question, mainly because she wasn't sure she would be prepared if Alex did have something to say. She and Alex weren't in love by any means, at least not yet, but Nicky didn't specifically name whatever they had. It had been two months since she'd slid her hand into Vause's pants, and frankly, she liked putting it down there. She liked it even more when Alex's head was between her legs. Nichols liked fucking Alex Vause, and maybe she liked Alex Vause too, but they'd fallen into a rhythm that Nicky didn't dare call a relationship. If she made things too real, if she held on too tight, it would slip out of her hands, and whatever Nichols dreamed about with Alex would cease to exist altogether.

They weren't fucking anyone else, and Nichols sure as hell wasn't planning on fucking anyone else, but she would have been an idiot to pretend like Alex was capable of completely drawing the curtain on someone, on something that had been such a large part of her life. Neither she nor Piper had ever clued anybody in on their exact history, but it only took a glance at them in the same room to know something had happened once upon a time, and that something held them both enthralled, with claws buried inches deep that kept them almost helpless.

Nichols liked to think Alex was stronger than that, that if Alex wanted to, if she really wanted to, Alex Vause could move on from the part of her life that had made Piper its shining figure. That Alex Vause could get over Piper Chapman, and maybe, Alex Vause could have a life that didn't have Piper Chapman as anything more than a memory, or even a friend.

Alex wouldn't say so, because she didn't know it right then, but she'd spent years holding onto a strange hybrid of love and hate for Piper Chapman, and whether she liked it or not, her heart could hold on a whole lot longer. 'I know,' was all she said. She stared down at the thumb smoothing over the skin of her arm, and offered Nicky a weak smile. She wasn't sure that she could say what Nicky wanted to hear, but then again, she wasn't sure what that was. Alex hadn't even seen the commotion that night when Piper was taken away; all she knew about it was what Morello had told her.

She wasn't cryin', or screamin', or nothin'. They just dragged her out to the van, and she didn't say shit. It's like she wasn't even there, y'know?

Piper didn't know whether Pennsatucky was dead or not, but down here, it wasn't worth curling up and worrying about for days on end, so she blocked it out. It hadn't been so simple when outside, but for some reason, Piper had mastered the art of it. It was almost a rhythm for sit-ups. Pull up - Larry leaving her? Back down - blocked out. Pull up - Healy letting Doggett come at her? Back down - blocked out. Pull up - Alex cutting her off forever? Back down - blocked out.

It had been easy for her demons to come at her from all sides the last time she was in SHU, and Piper wasn't disillusioned this time - she would be in here for a while, and she'd best start fighting before they kicked her while she was down.

Showers were another thing that she'd learned to deal with; there was a guard at all times, but there came a point when Piper was just happy to get out of her box, guard watching her be damned. She learned to balance enjoying the space outside her cell and washing quickly and efficiently enough before the guard's stare bored holes into her ass.

It wasn't the most stimulating routine; eat, exercise, masturbate, eat, sleep, and then do it all over again tomorrow. The shower fit between the exercise and the getting off some days. It didn't bother her much that there was only one thing that she could think of, one thing that was guaranteed to send her flying off the edge when she had her hand down her pants.

When she closed her eyes, her fingers were already slick, and all she could see was dark hair and that stupid, cocky smirk, and she imagined those long, supple fingers, and it was all Piper could do to cry out as she came, a ghost of a name leaving her lips.

Not sure where this is going to lead, but I have some ideas for it. Let me know what you guys think.