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First Day

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The room is sterile, white, blank. The room is silent. The room is not hers.

 

Helena blinks. Yes, blinks. It is white, and everything is bright, and she should not be feeling or perceiving --

 

(Screaming. Someone's still screaming. The ocean churns under her. Helena screams too, screams as her rigging tears apart and she falls.)

 


 

Outside. Warmth. Light. An unfamiliar base, an unfamiliar year, and yet.... There is a blonde woman with a lopsided grin and a side ponytail. Helena faintly recognises this woman - Cleveland. Once, maybe, she'd seen the other woman out on sortie.

 

"Hey, what's your name? I'm Cleveland, but people just call me Cleve." The other cruiser's grin widens.

 

Helena doesn't know what to say. She freezes. Death is still so very fresh in her mind, darkness still clings to her -- she shivers and she is so cold.

 

"...you okay?" Cleveland isn't smiling anymore. The blonde frowns.

 

Helena gasps for breath. Her chest heaves.

 

"I can take you straight to your dorm," Cleveland offers.

 

Helena shakes her head. Her whole body is shaking. She swallows, and is reminded how bright and warm everything is. It's too bright and warm - it shouldn't be like this, it should be all dark and - dreamless, yes. Everything is clean, everything is bright, but it should be dull.

 

Cleveland's shoes crunch on the grass. Helena can feel her getting closer. She doesn't want anyone to see her - but at the same time, she wants someone there. Helena doesn't raise her head until she can feel Cleveland only a foot away.

 

Her arms are still tingling - her legs are, too. Her heart feels cold in her chest. Her body is cold, but Helena still looks up.

 

"...show me - show me around like you're supposed to."

 

Cleveland bites her lip. (At least, Helena thinks, at least Cleveland might not keep asking her questions. She doesn't want to talk about how she's feeling today, or if she's okay.)

 

Helena reaches out tentatively. Cleveland doesn't react - Helena thanks her lucky stars for that. She grabs on, and maybe her hand is still shaking, maybe she's still shaking, but she wants this. She can't explain why, but she wants to feel someone else's body, their warmth.

 

"Will you… will you show me where Phoenix and the others are, first?" Helena's voice is quiet. There's still a cold dread in her heart, a horribly sick feeling. Maybe someone she knew well could help.

 

"Yeah, 'course I can." Cleveland is calm. Cleveland isn't scared. Cleveland's red eyes have that light of worry, but she's still so much calmer than Helena is.

 

(It's like holding on to an anchor. Holding on to an anchor, a port, as rough waves crash all around you. It's like staying there, staying up despite the waves. Helena holds on tight to that feeling.)