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It was quite possible that the strident, repetitive harangue of the alarm was the most excruciating element of their ordeal. Even with her palms pressed tightly against her ears, Kelly could practically feel the noise piercing her skull. She didn't need to open her eyes to know that Tracey was still sitting calmly on the opposite side of the badly scuffed and barely utilitarian table. If she did open her eyes she'd be confronted by the same four walls she'd stared at aimlessly for the previous hour. Dingy institutional concrete walls, disguised by several coats of paint that she suspected had been marketed under a fanciful and optimistic name such as "frosted sienna" when it was quite plainly "drab prison beige." Regardless, she was sick of looking at them. Had been sick to death of them within minutes. Now they were closing in.
She had to do something to distract herself or go insane. "I don't know how you can be so ... so ... unaffected by this."
"On the contrary. I'm just as affected as you are. As I see it, we're both in the same situation."
Kelly could picture Tracey crossing her arms as she spoke. She dug her fingertips into her scalp just a fraction as she leaned on her elbows, eyes stubbornly remaining shut.
"Well ... this is a first for me. Forgive me if I'm not quite as ... composed."
Tracey's voice betrayed a hint of amusement. "You're forgiven." When Kelly didn't respond after several beats, she continued. "It may be a first for you ... being held in Rikers against your will ... but unfortunately, it's not a first for the DA's office. I'd be willing to bet that at least one of our former colleagues is a resident."
Peeking around a wisp of blonde hair that had fallen forward, slightly obscuring her face, Kelly raised an eyebrow. "At least one?"
Kelly laughed shortly, grimacing and rubbing her temples methodically. "So ... the last time you were here during a lockdown ... how long did it take? Please ... tell me that this GODDAMNED siren is going to stop clanging any minute."
"You don't want to know."
Incredulous, Kelly buried her head in her arms, taking a long deep breath before lifting her face again, her eyes a bit desperate. "This isn't driving you completely crazy? How is that possible? Ear plugs? Hypnosis?" She waved her hand helplessly.
Now it was Tracey's turn to laugh. "Something like that." She leaned forward, stretching her hand out to touch Kelly lightly on the wrist. "The first time I went through this, I freaked out. I was a wreck, a basket case ... by the time they came back for me, I had nearly shredded my vocal chords screaming and shouting my displeasure ... to the notice of absolutely no one."
She shrugged one shoulder. "It was one of those moments ... an epiphany of sorts. I had wasted an enormous amount of energy, effort, and quite a bit of colorful vocabulary to no avail. I was raging against a situation that I had no control over and no affect on. My presence here was ... and is ... insignificant to the outcome. It took just one look at the guard's expression as he opened the door ... " Tracey glanced toward the single exit as she spoke. "I realized as I read the relief in his eyes that I was lucky to have been merely inconvenienced."
Settling back in her chair, Tracey folded her arms again. "So, here we are. It can't be helped. Nothing we do is going to make it end any faster. And ... at least for now ... we're safe."
The entire time Tracey had been talking, the jarring blare seemed to recede into the background. Kelly was concentrating on her words, her touch. But as the meaning of Tracey's last comment began to sink in, any comfort she had taken from the preceding few minutes was lost.
Tracey watched as her partner's demeanor went from frazzled and annoyed to nervous, anxious ... scared. Damn. She hadn't meant to go there. "Kelly ...."
She moved easily from her seat into the one next to the blonde, resting her palm casually on her shoulder. "Listen to me ... we're fine. The sergeant locked the door for our protection ... it's a precaution, really. I doubt the disturbance is anywhere near this area of the prison. It's just procedure. It could be something as simple as a mattress fire ... we just have to be patient and let them sort it all out ..."
Speaking soothingly, she slid her hand behind Kelly's neck, gently massaging the tense muscles there. She cursed silently for bringing up the inherent danger of their circumstances when just moments before the worst thing Kelly had imagined was a pounding headache.
Beneath her fingers, she sensed Kelly imperceptibly relax ... heard her soft exhalation ... willed her to feel the reassurance she was attempting to convey. At the same time, she repeated her mantra of optimism to herself, hoping to shore up her own confidence and resolve. Despite appearances to the contrary, being caught up in a maximum security prison incident was hardly a routine occurrence for her. Her previous "experience" may have made her marginally better equipped to handle it, but she was certainly not cavalier about the possibilities.
With her free hand she patted the back of Kelly's left one as it rested on the table and was immeasurably gratified when Kelly grasped her fingers, squeezing them warmly. She was caught off guard, however, when Kelly swiveled to face her, blue eyes searching. "You're worried."
Tracey tried to recover quickly, her face neutral, aiming for a semblance of a smile. "About you?"
Shaking her head slightly without looking away, Kelly watched her closely. "No ... about this ... us ... being here. I can see it ... I can tell ... I mean, Tracey ...." She glanced down at their intertwined fingers. " ... you're holding my hand."
"Well, technically, you're holding mine ... but okay." This time the smile was genuine. "If it makes you feel better ... I'm all for it. I meant what I said before ... we're going to be fine. There's nothing to worry about."
For emphasis she pressed her palm against the back of Kelly's neck, leaning in to make sure she could be heard over the unrelenting squawk of the alarm. "I won't let anything happen to you."
Kelly's fingers tightened their grip on Tracey's hand in reaction, her eyes flashing briefly before the grin spread slowly across her face. "Unless you carry a gun in that briefcase ... or you're secretly a black belt ... I'm not sure how you'd pull that one off. But I appreciate the sentiment just the same."
"Even if I did carry a weapon, they would have confiscated it when they collected our cell phones at check in ..." Tracey had been surprised at the wave of protectiveness that had prompted her declaration, the depth of emotion behind it. Now she was unprepared for the rush of near-giddiness that threatened to swamp her because she'd made Kelly smile like that. "Besides, I can't shoot worth a damn."
Moving her neck against Tracey's hand so that the connection was more of a caress, Kelly raised and lowered her eyebrows sharply. "Really? ... I can." Her face was just inches from Tracey's, but suddenly that was too far away.
Her voice barely more than a low purr, her fingers following Kelly's lead, sifting repeatedly through strands of her hair, Tracey tilted forward until her forehead rested against her partner's. "I just got very turned on ..."
Kelly's eyes closed momentarily. "Just ?"
As Tracey's nose nuzzled softly against her own and she felt the faint brush of her lips, Kelly was only dimly aware of the formerly inescapable racket. Such a wonderful distraction. Dreamily she whispered, "Are you sure you want our first kiss to be ... here?"
"Are you so sure I was going to kiss you ...?"
"Uh huh ..." Nibbling delicately at Tracey's lower lip, Kelly slid her hand along Tracey's arm, fingers crawling up to stroke her jaw. "Weren't you?"
Curtailing any further discussion, Tracey covered her lips urgently, the hand beneath Kelly's hair clasping her firmly to her as she deepened the kiss. Savoring and exploring ... sinking totally into the abyss.
It took several seconds for either of them to realize that the wailing shriek of the alarm had finally ceased, that the residual ringing in their ears was not due to their hammering heartbeats. Then they were just struggling to breathe.
Even as she knew that they would soon be interrupted, Tracey couldn't stop staring at Kelly's slightly swollen lips, riveted by the way they glistened in the harsh fluorescent light ... irresistibly drawn toward them ...
Kelly blinked slowly, disoriented by the sudden echoing silence, the expression on Tracey's face, the hunger in her eyes. She spoke haltingly. "They'll be ... coming back ... for us?"
Nodding immediately, Tracey ran her hand through the short blonde hair once more before untangling herself, moving slightly away ... beginning to regain her equilibrium, a slim grasp of control.
"Shouldn't be long now."
As she began to straighten her clothes, smooth her hair, and generally make herself presentable, Kelly was struck by a small fit of giggles.
Bending to retrieve her briefcase from against the wall, Tracey was intrigued. "What? What's so hysterical?"
"Us ... making out ... in prison !! Tell me that's not number one with a bullet ... " she waggled her eyebrows at the word " ...on Ravell's fantasy list ..."
Rolling her eyes in mock disgust, Tracey remarked wryly. "He'll find out about it over my dead body ..." She scowled darkly. "... or yours."
Kelly grabbed her hand playfully, pulling it up to her lips for a quick kiss. "Okay then ... tell me this ... can I be your girl once we're on the outside ... or was this just a jailhouse romance?" Her eyes danced merrily as she waited for Tracey's reply.
Hearing the scrape of the key in the massive lock on the door, Tracey leaned to murmur in her ear.
"You kiss me again like you did a few minutes ago ... and you can be anything you want."
Smirking slightly, her voice equally lowered, Kelly replied just as the door swung open.
"Well, technically, you kissed me ... but you're on."
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