If there was a tried and true handbook on what to expect her first day, Rey would have read it. She would have curled up on her sofa at home, her favorite cup of green tea at her side, and a blanket over her lap as she devoured the information laid out for her. She would have absorbed every single situation where an inmate was sent to SEG and what their crime was to have deserved it.
Sure, she had gone through the academy, received her training, and her obligatory pepper spray to the face and learned how to defend herself through the pain. There was a difference between hearing about situations and living them, though. No matter how many guest speakers had been brought into their little class room, no matter how many sparring sessions she and her classmates had together, there was no way to really prepare oneself for the sheer brutality that happens every day in a prison.
They’re fighting right in front of her, three large men that have nothing more to do with their time than to exercise and build their strength up for these animalistic displays of dominance.
It seems to be two against one and Rey is frozen in place. She hadn’t been prepared for something to happen on her very first day of work. The trainers and more seasoned COs always said to be prepared for anything to happen, but how is she supposed to break up a fight between three men that look like they bench press cars for a living? Two of them are absolutely shredded, their eight packs looking strikingly close to the spray on abs used in movies. The third one they both seem to be ganging up on looks just as strong, but in a different way. Whereas the first two look strong in that flashy, showy kind of way, the third one, inmate KR-122019, is built more like a refrigerator. He's tall and has broad shoulders, his pale skin patterned with various tattoos that ripple as he moves. They're hard to make out as he moves, but she thinks she sees how they curl around his arms and go from his shoulders and disappear down his back. He isn’t as “porn ready” as the other two, but there's absolutely no denying the hard muscle he possesses.
He doesn't have a dad bod or a beer belly, but he has that more purposeful kind of muscle, the kind that lets you know he could still just as easily pick you up and throw you around, but could also be a really good pillow to use. He's the only one out of the three that had opted to keep his hair instead of shaving his head, that black mane whipping around him as he dodges blows and returns ones of his own. Each of his connect somewhere different on the other men, and each one either has blood gushing or a bruise forming. He moves quickly, much more quickly than a man of his height and muscle mass should be able to, shoving one of the other men into the ground while simultaneously elbowing the other in the face hard enough to knock him out cold.
The first guy manages to scramble to his feet and land a punch right on the taller man’s mouth, busting his lip until a bright crimson line was dripping down his chin.
Distantly, she can hear the blaring alarms going off, ones that instruct the other inmates to lie on the ground until the all-clear's been given. The two inmates in front of her hardly seem to care. They’re still going at it, still grappling with each other until the last bald man falls to the ground with a hard thud, his skull cracking against the asphalt.
She meets the remaining inmate’s eyes then, watches as his chest heaves, and his body seems to vibrate with adrenaline. His expression is one of a man starved, like he feeds on violence and power and being able to walk away from a fight. He looks behind her then, his attention drawn away briefly before he smiles at her, his teeth stained with his own blood.
“Hey, sweetheart,” he rumbles, eyes dipping briefly to her name badge.
The smile stays in place as at least a dozen other guards rush in around her, circling him with batons drawn while barking out commands for him to get down. His face never changes, eyes on her as they yank his arms behind his back and force him none-too-gently down to his stomach.
They slap a set of handcuffs on him and haul him back to his feet while other officers do the same to the other men involved in the fight.
They’re awake now, their heads lolling from side to side as they try to figure out what’s going on.
Rey says nothing to the inmate that had spoken to her, though her hackles raise instantly at the nickname. She’s in a position of authority over him and he’s treating her like she’s just supposed to accept his disrespect. She’s proud that she doesn’t react, other than to hold his gaze as the other officers lead him past her.
He smirks at her the whole way, and as he draws closer, she’s able to make out more of his features. His eyes are a honey caramel in the sunlight, raw and intense in a way she’s unused to. The moles that dot his face remind her of a constellation, contrasting the paleness of his skin like the stars in the night sky.
Just when he passes her, he winks, that same cocky smirk on his face.
"See you around, Officer Johnson," he says, that voice of his so deep and low.
He watches her a second longer before he turns his head forward and disappears into the nearest cell block with his escort.
Rey is still just standing there, rooted to the spot. She can’t say what it is that made her clam up—maybe it’s first day nerves, maybe it’s just the inexperience and the fear of harm that’s made her freeze like a typical rookie. To be fair, these men had been a lot larger than her and if they were really intent on a fight, they were going to get it until back up arrived.
“Johnson! What’s the matter with you? You could have been killed. You’re lucky they were focused on each other and not on you."
Shaken from her inner conflict, she turns to look at the man that had spoken, ignoring the whispered fuckin' rookies, and typical women falling for a pair of pretty eyes bullshit. She’s blushing because they’re right. It was a rookie mistake to freeze like she had, and it’s undoubtedly something they’re all going to hold over her head for the rest of her days here. There isn’t a whole lot else to discuss around here on a good day.
Snap Wexley, the man that had reprimanded her, is attractive enough in that teddy bear dad kind of way. Not really her cup of tea, but then again, he’s also her superior, so it doesn’t really matter.
“I’m sorry, sir. It was three of them and only one of me. I didn't think—"
"Exactly!" he barks. "You didn't think. And if you keep on not thinking, then I'm going to be dealing with a whole lot of red tape that I really don't want to fuck around with. Have you seen my office?"
"No, sir." She fights to keep her eyes on his.
"Well I have a stack of papers already this high." He holds his fingers up in an approximate estimation of three inches. "I would like to theoretically get home in time to eat dinner, tuck my kids into bed, and then, maybe if I'm lucky, I'll fuck my wife. Is that okay with you? Can I do that, Johnson?"
"Yes, sir," she replies, resisting the urge to grit her teeth.
He turns away then, directing the other officers to make sure the rest of the inmates in the yard are placed back in their cells for lockdown until the situation is sorted out. They don’t know the cause of it, not exactly, and will have to review some camera footage to see what seemed to have sparked the brawl and why a rookie officer like Rey was the only one within range at the time.
The entire time that she’s herding everyone back inside, she can’t get those eyes out of her mind. Those eyes that had seemed so arrogant, so cock-sure, the ones that had seemed to see right into her soul.
She can only hope that she doesn’t have to deal with him too much in the future.
"How bad can it really be?"
Rose asks it like she asks almost everything: ever the optimist, like the worst thing she's ever been through was that one time her pile of white clothes turned pink in the laundry.
"Well, it wasn't really bad, exactly," Rey mutters, stirring the overpriced coffee Rose had dragged her out to get.
Rose scoffs. "What I mean to ask, is was it really so embarrassing that you're contemplating on assuming a false identity or otherwise becoming an old recluse somewhere on a completely remote, and yet still somehow quite lovely, island?"
"Oh, come on! Tell me what happened."
Rey sighs, taking a sip of the warm liquid in her mug and letting it sit on her tongue while she collects her thoughts. "So we're out in the yard, inmates getting their rec time and whatnot, and I'm standing here—" She points to a spot on the table. “—watching everyone like I’m supposed to, and all of a sudden, this fight breaks out and it’s three guys involved.”
Rose’s eyes light up light a Christmas tree. “Over what? Do you know? Oh my god, did anyone pull out a prison shank and off someone?!”
“No, no! Nothing like that,” Rey half-laughs.
“Then what? What happened?”
Were this a movie, Rey would have a very real fear of Rose leaping across the table, grabbing the front of her shirt, and shaking her until answers were given. Thankfully, it wasn’t, and Rose is doing little more than frothing at the mouth, much like a news reporter for a story.
Rey tells the rest of the story, telling as much detail as she’s allowed with an open investigation. She tries to keep her description of the guys down to the barest minimum to keep them apart.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Rose interrupts. “Back up. What was that part you said again? The guy with hair put both of their asses in the dirt? Sorry—asphalt.”
“Yeah, it was both crazy and fascinating to watch. Like, I was frozen in place, Rose. What if he had decided to turn that power on me and make it my face on the ground? What if he’d held me hostage, broken my arm or something? I’m just grateful everyone else rushed in when they did. But at the end, when he was getting led back inside…”
She trails off, biting her lip as the memory pops back up. What did that weird little smile mean?
"When he was getting led back inside…?"
Was this something Rey really wanted to share with anyone? Granted, Rose had been her best friend for the better part of two years, and she could pretty much tell her anything.
It was just that she didn't know if she should tell anyone. Because, while she loved Rose to death, the girl had a bad habit of accidentally spilling the beans about things that didn't necessarily need to be spoken about in the company of others. Sort of like that time where she'd reminded Rey, rather loudly, about how she'd saved her ass when Rey had bled through her jeans at school and was relegated to wearing a skirt Rose always kept in her locker just for such emergencies, nevermind that Rey had needed to pin the waist just a tidbit tighter.
Sighing, she shrugs, the barest little lift of her shoulders as though to ask what is there to say? “When the other officers picked him up from the ground, he called me sweetheart, and when he was led by me, he kept smiling, and said he’d see me soon, whatever that means.”
“Oh shit,” Rose gapes, hand flying to her mouth. “That sounds like a threat if I’ve ever heard one.”
“I didn’t even do anything, though!” Rey panics.
“I didn’t say it was a threat that he was going to kill you or anything,” Rose grins. “Obviously he’s going to see you again—you’re both sort of limited in your space while you’re working and he’s locked up. What if it was a threat of a different sort? Like he wants to see you in a different sort of way?”
She punctuates it with a knowing smirk as she sips her coffee.
A blush creeps up Rey’s neck and she ducks her head. “I hope not.”
“What was that? You were mumbling, sweetie,” Rose presses teasingly, cupping her hand around her ear.
“I said I hope not,” Rey grumbles more loudly, throwing a well-deserved glare her way. “I don’t want to be fired or locked up myself, thanks.”
“Well, how about this—just be polite to him, but not overtly so. You know, make sure he knows you're in charge. You hear about female COs getting seduced all the time. They never see themselves as falling for an inmate, and then bam—said inmate has earned her trust, and then they manipulate her into doing things for them. Sexual, smuggling, whatever. I just don’t want you to lose your wits and get hurt, either emotionally or physically.”
“That won’t happen. He’s a felon, Rose. Who knows why he’s in there?”
Rose stifles a giggle. “Well, isn’t it sort of your job to know that?”
Huffing, Rey rolls her eyes. “Okay, fine. Yes—but you know what I mean.”
“Okay, okay, I get what you’re saying. I just want you to be safe, is all. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. You know I love you.”
Rey smiles, reaching across the little tabletop to grasp Rose’s hand in her own. “I know. I promise nothing bad is going to happen. I’ll make sure of it.”
Why, then, was she anxious to get back to work tomorrow?