Such a simple thing was remarkably soothing, especially after such an ordeal. She had always been something of a restless girl, but she had almost forgotten how much she loved being able to move around of her own accord. Besides that, being cooped up for days in a dank and damp old basement, she had sure missed the luxury of running water, something she took full advantage of even as she stood alone in the lavatory on the main floor of the academy.

Rushing the glacier-cold water over her features time and again with her eager palms, Skylar looked up at her reflection in the faded, rusty-edged mirror that hung before her. She could see and feel the cool drops sliding over her cheeks, nose and chin, and though it would have normally bothered her, she allowed it to drip several times and splatter against the scratched-up bathroom counter and sink.

Her sunken eyes still appeared worn and tired, though she had fallen asleep nearly as soon as Alice had tucked her into bed the night before. In fact, she had somehow fallen asleep in the middle of some grateful rant she unloaded upon her room-mate, who chuckled through most of it and sat by her bedside with that charming dimpled smile she always wore. Skylar found herself looking into those love-struck eyes of her own as she stared at her slightly warped reflection, and huffed a solemn laugh to think about how silly she was to think such devoutly fond thoughts of her blonde friend.

An inadvertent flinch surprised her, and her body felt cold for a moment, and shaky. It bothered her more than anything, the way that she still felt afraid of some shock whenever she thought of even something so innocent as gazing upon the girl's loving face. It only got worse when she saw Alice, but Skylar shrugged that idea off in favour of wiping her face and getting out of the rotten old lavatory.

Ducking out of the water closet, Skylar dug her hands deep into her black dress pants pockets and slouched towards the library, where Alice had promised to meet her after Skylar's appointment with Headmistress Celeste. She felt better now, that they had settled it all, or at least had come to terms with the situation as it stood.

It was promised that Skylar would not press charges for the less-than adequately consented (or clergically approved) therapy, if the Headmistress would tell no one of her miserable and pathetic response. She would also be receiving passing grades on the courses she might have missed instruction on, as she had been overcoming an unnamed adversity at the time. Even if Skylar had been the type to blab about the therapy, it wasn't as though any of the goings-on would have been believed, coming from the mere delinquent student that Skylar had made herself out to be. But the Headmistress couldn't have any tarnish on the academy's reputation, nor her own. Besides that, all the professors and Sisters had agreed to back off about her disposition and leave her punishment "up to the Lord," or so they had put it.

Though the unpleasant conversation was still fresh in her mind, Skylar trod off to her destination. She would not have to search the library for her room-mate's familiar face, however, as the girl had opted to wait well outside earnestly, searching for Skylar without falter. Upon catching sight of the blonde girl she had learned she adored, Skylar was stopped dead in her heavy steps.

Her heart jumped up into her throat and nearly burst through her larynx in the form of a stunned whimper as she caught sight of the young lady, whose always gorgeous appearance seemed especially enchanting. There she stood, clad in her usual white dress shirt, pressed black blazer, and teasingly-long-enough black skirt, and yet she had never looked more beautiful. To Skylar, it was as though she was seeing her for the first time again. And it was the first time: the first time since she had been released from her supposed treatment, the first time since she had ironed out her fate and accepted it, the first time since returning to the old familiar life she once despised.

Never had she looked quite so divine, standing there amidst dozens of monochromatic blurs that Skylar could once half-identify as peers. Her golden hair and sun-speckled skin seeming so rich and vibrant that Skylar wanted nothing more than to taste it, her curious and seeking expression directed in an alternate direction; her enticing, God-given curves apparent even through a conforming school uniform. And yet, alongside the love-struck tingles up her spine and flutter of the heart, Skylar felt uneasily ill and shaky. Her eyes squinted as she recalled the painful shocks against her temple and she squeezed her fists up to recall the bars that had weakened her muscles to uselessly limp; the screams - her own screams - echoed in her mind and the electricity raced through her once more. As she ground her teeth together and furrowed her brow, she cursed every wonderful and terrible sensation that captivated her.

"Sky!" and then, from her beloved room-mate's lips, her name sprung forth. Even if hadn't been the popular nickname that it was, the way that Alice's alluring tone embraced her from afar entirely hypnotized her with familiarity.

Skylar's bright and wide eyes immediately set on the blonde girl once more, and seeing the way she was waved over with a fond and pleased smile, she was powerless to stay away. Like she was controlled by some torturous addiction, Skylar followed the musing of her name even if it had led her back into the darkness. And even though her body still trembled as if anticipating some cruel smite or scold, Skylar could not stave her own frantic heartbeat nor the habitual obedience she gifted to her truest friend.

"There y'are, I was lookin' all over," Alice hurried over to her side at once, shifting the books in her arms to one side so she could reach out and give Skylar a one-armed hug, which riveted the young girl's absent mind. "Didn't your meetin' end like a half-hour ago?"

"Uh, yes, I just," she struggled for words, clearing her throat and trying to hide the heat in her cheeks that flustered her whole body. "Sorry, I just doddled about as usual."

"You goof-ball, c'mere." The blonde chuckled a bit and ruffled her friend's hair playfully before taking her arm and guiding her towards the library.

For once in her life, Skylar was speechless. She wanted desperately to ask how long she had been waiting, but no words could form at all. Now that she contemplated it, she wasn't quite sure when Alice had become so familiar with her, but suddenly it all felt right. It seemed like merely a few weeks ago that the two of them had been nothing but classmates, one of whom often neglected her stationary, but now she was a much dearer companion that Skylar had ever anticipated.

She blinked dumbly as she realized they had already reached the library, and tried to act aloof and unconcerned as Alice led her around the groups of studious peers, who tried in vain to feign subtle as they glared at the passing pair. At last, they reached their usual table, and Alice dropped the books onto the top without hesitation, grabbing the backrest of a chair and spinning it around as she always did. Skylar smiled to see the charming and characteristic motion, curiously tilting her head to perhaps glance beneath Alice's skirt before she adjusted it well enough to block any passing gaze. The blonde plopped down on the chair easily, her spread legs hugging the backrest in a rather classless yet becoming way.

Another unwelcome twitch cut Skylar's enchanted observation short, and she touched her still sore fingers to the burn mark on her temple that she had tried to hide by not-so-playfully mussing up her bangs. Her sweat broke violently, but she merely shook her shoulders like a tag had scratched at her neck or something to try and hide her insecurity. Shaking it off as best she could, Skylar went around the table and slid into the seat across from Alice, knowing how difficult it would be to keep concentrated with the way Alice's leg might brush up against her own had she chosen to sit beside the girl.

"Al'right, let's see," Alice began in a hushed voice as she shifted through the books and notes she had gathered, finding a particular stack and passing it across the table. "Here's all the homework y'missed."

"What? Homework?" Skylar's voice cracked and she blinked in shock, noticing how tall the pile already was. With a snort and frown, she prodded it back across the wooden top and murmured, "And here I thought you were my hero."

"I am, I took real detailed notes and everythin'," she obliviously defended herself, taking two pencils out of her case and passing one across the table to Skylar, who had expectantly forgotten one. "And who d'you think is sittin' by your side until y'do it all?"

"Brilliant. I do suppose that my education shouldn't suffer as I have," Skylar grumbled with a frown, cracking open the notes and dully looking them over.

"Sky." Alice's voice was soothing, but not as soothing as the feeling of her hand gingerly sliding over Skylar's. Skylar was stalled by the touch, and her eyes trailed up the girl's well-dressed arm, along her usually-teased-about, poorly tied tie, and landed on her caring expression. It reminded her too much of the moment when they had crossed the threshold from acquaintances to dear friends, when Alice had saved her for the first time. "We ain't gotta do this right now if y'don't want to. If y'ain't ready."

For a moment, Skylar just stared at the girl across from her. The way she leaned one elbow over the backrest between her legs, the way she rested her cute little chin on her wrist and tilted it ever so slightly to the left, the way her gleaming green eyes sparkled under the white fluorescent lights, it was all so remarkably unremarkable and all so very Alice. The gentle and loving caress of Alice's fingers over Skylar's own was warm and comforting, and Skylar would do anything to keep the two of them near, even if that meant the bitter kiss of mere friendship and usually unwelcome studying.

"Reform," Skylar read one of the words on her vocabulary assignment, as it seemed so truly imperative to her conception of the last few weeks. "The improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, or unsatisfactory."

"A Middle English word, derived from Latin 'r French. The verb means to restore peace, the noun dates back t' the seventeenth century," Alice added, reading upside-down over the page her room-mate was looking at.

"Subordinate definition, to bring about a change in someone... so that they no longer behave in an immoral, criminal, or self-destructive manner," Skylar finished, her voice falling quieter with each word.

A small squeeze on her palm reminded Skylar that she was still holding Alice's hand. Glancing up at the girl who stroked her knuckles, Skylar tried to hide the uncertainty in her expression. She found, however, nothing but that same old charming smile that drove her mad with envy and lust, just a few of the cardinal sins she seemed so very akin to whenever she was around the blonde belle.

"Don't go thinkin' what I know you're thinkin', honey," Alice told her firmly, though there was a playful edge in her voice. "You ain't somethin' that needs t' be reformed, even though you're probably stubborn enough to resit it any-who." She added a wink.

"That's subjective," she responded monotonously.

"Hey." Alice shrugged casually, adding a very simple statement to her argument, "Y'can't fix what ain't broken."

As the heat between their held hands increased, Skylar winced, feeling the need to pull back. Not only was she getting far too excited by something so clearly platonic, but her palms still stung from the burning shock they had been subjected to, which flared up from the heat of Alice's comfort. Forcing an understanding and agreeing smile, Skylar abruptly broke the hold and pretended to organize her papers. Though Alice found her evasive behaviour unnerving, she said nothing on the subject.

"Thanks for all your help, Alice," Skylar's monotonous voice dragged itself across the table that betwixt them. "You're a diligent peer indeed."

"A peer, that's my classification?" she hummed an amused tone to consider it for a moment, and Skylar's eyes found her beneath the drop of her brows. "Or are y'just hesitant to pronounce th' word, friend?"

"I am careful with the term, yes," she nearly whispered, but the cheerful perk in Alice's allure had her particularly taken already, even if she did her best to resist it. "But if I must make the distinction, I would have to label you my most dearest of confidants. Truly. More than a friend, by my warped standards."

"Shucks, you're makin' me blush," Alice laughed and pretended to fan the heat from her cheeks with a few flicks of her wrist.

She couldn't help it: Skylar cracked a smile. A small exhale of tightly held breath burst from her nose and she shook her head to hide the flush of her own cheeks. Though there was something awkward and unnerving about trying to return to the life she once knew, Alice seemed to make it her mission to pretend that nothing had changed. But things had changed, for Skylar anyway. The small experience of laughter pained her swollen chest, and she had trouble keeping it up while fending off the looming distress.

Alice noticed immediately, and her gaze softened upon the girl she felt so strongly about. She wanted to reach out and take her hand again—a very rare influx of physical attention she realized, but couldn't epitomize why it came about—but Skylar was too far away to permit the touch. As her words were merely half amalgamated, Alice opened her worried lips and was about to try for either solace or query, but she would not get that far.

"So are you cured yet?" An obnoxious question breached the sanctum of their private table in the student library.

"Excuse me?" Skylar slowly churned out between the grind of her teeth.

"Penny, stop it!" Tara Stark hurriedly squeaked out as she tried to grab the eccentric girl's arm and pull her from the dialogue.

"You look really different—worse... but different!" Penny exclaimed again, though it was a strange mix of whisper and scream that no one knew whether to shush or listen harder.

"Thank you so dearly for your appraisal, I dare say that worse off, I am," Skylar simply agreed, lightly tapping the bottoms of her homework sheets over the desk as to arrange them together more closely. "But that's of little concern to you."

"Oh no, I am very concerned!" her voice breached audible pitch for an instant.

"Penny," Tara tried again, her voice becoming firmer as her bangs hid her eyes.

"You misunderstand! I am concerned for your immortal soul, as we all are. I know salvation can seem pretty hard, but," she tried to rearrange the words, but did not seem to notice the growing annoyance in her company's expressions. "Well, we all find our way, somehow. I know we do. We all wrestle with the millions of things that the Bible tells us is right or wrong—heck, in the book of Deuteronomy it says that we should burn cities of people who worship other gods—even the animals! But the New Testament is different, just like our world now is different. What's that passage about love and sin and stuff?"

"... What?" Skylar thought she might have gotten lost along the way, as Penny's mouth moved so quickly, but it became more clear what she alluded to.

"... Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter, 4:8." It was Tara's voice, as she gently spoke a hush of something much greater than her voice could proclaim.

As Skylar and Alice cast their glances at Tara, it became apparent that she was utterly embarrassed, and reticent to speak for herself. She hid her scrunched eyes under the hang of her bangs and squished her books up against her chest, staring shyly at the far wall that bore what few modern novels had not yet been banned in their institution.

There was apparent tension between Skylar and Tara, which neither of them explicitly addressed. It didn't appear that Penny noticed much of it at all, beyond her fervent nods in agreement with the sentiment and a few shakes of her finger towards Skylar. Alice was cautious as she allowed the interaction to play out, but her fingers felt tight as her fists taunted closing up or clenching the table that kept them all apart.

"Yup, yup! That's the one, or, close enough anyway," Penny slapped the table a few times until the Sister watching the library for the period glanced up over her reading. "I believe that God's doing what he can for you, Skylie—"

"Don't call me that," Skylar grumbled irritably under a smouldering breath.

"And everything will work itself out! You've got all this love around you, right? Right?" Penny roughly patted both Alice and Skylar on their backs loud enough to be audible to the whole room, causing both of them to stiffen and recoil from the unwelcome touch.

"Love, is that so?" Skylar repeated dully, and her heart scrambled across the table to imagine the hearty pounding in Alice's chest that she knew so little of.

"Skylar," Tara interrupted her tainted thoughts, and the girl in question could not even look over at the purple-haired girl who addressed her. She spoke anyway, albeit vaguely. "I'm sorry that things did not turn out better for you. I did what I could, in any case. Maybe one day, you'll understand that—"

"Hey Sappho," Alice's voice disturbed the whole conversation, and the screeching of her chair out from under her was a loud mar on the polite academy they attended. "Y'wanna escort me up to our room? T'practise lesbian... poetry, maybe?"

Skylar's jaw fell through the library floor and into the boiler room she presumed to be below that, or at least, she felt as though that must have happened, as she wasn't in the right mind to know any better after what Alice had just said to her. A stammered exclamation fell out of her agape mouth like pebbles, but she had no understandable response. Alice loved the reaction, and stifled another chuckle as she took Skylar by her clammy hand and raised her from her chair clutching the unintelligible notes about which she realized she cared nothing. Guiding the red-headed girl away from the dumbfounded library, Alice pleasantly skipped towards their aforementioned destination.

"I get it: lesbian. Sappho, the lyric poet of the Isle of Lesbos, yes, very clever. Clever joke," Tara hurriedly remarked in a shaky voice as if to qualify the joke enough for it not to have been perceived any other way. Watching the two actually leave, she uneasily added, "... Alice?"

"Let 'er wonder," Alice whispered with a compelling wink that stole away Skylar's voice whether she had protest or not.

They were gone from the library at once, and half way up the stairwell that the two of them had once been confined to when they spoke out of turn. It was like a dream, like a dangerous, devious dream that she had perhaps imagined under the fog of drugs or torment, as as such, Skylar was hesitant to fall so willingly into it. Alice's hand was hard and tough, and she could feel the callouses from holding a pen or doing up buttons or retying the tie about which she was so often teased. Such marvellous detail, she couldn't have imagined in her hysterical mind. She allowed herself, for just a taunting instant, to believe that it was true.

She growled through bearing teeth as the images struck her haunted head, and Skylar pulled away from the most desired attention to hold in the scolding shouts that filled her noggin. As her cool hands touched her hot face, they were reminded of their scars and nearly summoned a stifled shout from the cavities of her person. Alice was right there with her though, and pried her clawing hands off her wounded temples long enough for her words to be heard.

"Okay... It's okay, honey, I'm here. You're safe, you're with me. You're free, I promise." It was like a calming mantra that brought Skylar's feet back to the ground.

A harsh intake of breath sounded too rough for sensibility, and Skylar shook her whole body to take hold of herself long enough to speak, "Goddamn, sorry, AJ. I lost myself there for a second. I must appear mad, surely I must."

"Hey, from th' place I found y'curled up in," Alice's gentle hands caressed her pointed chin and raised it so that they stared into each other's eyes. "I'm just glad you're here at all. We'll get you through all this business and back to the you y'all were s'posed t' be, I swear."

"Who even are you?" Skylar blatantly babbled in an exasperated voice.

"Your valiant ol' peer, Sky," Alice playfully recited the adjective and noun she had been dubbed by Skylar so very recently. "C'mon now, let's get y'back t' the bunk already."

"Mhmm," Skylar eagerly nodded as she was carried back up to her floor on the steady beat of her heart and perhaps some angelic wings.

Stubbing maybe three toes on her sluggish steps, Skylar made it over the ashy stairs and back onto the familiar floor of the fifth form rooms. Everything seemed so devastatingly similar, so dully dismal, that she almost wished things were as different as she had lately experienced... well, almost. It seemed quite humorous to her that Alice, once a near stranger, was the one leading her and opening to door to the room that once Skylar had though she might be isolated in after her outburst.

The door closed quietly behind them, but from the way that Skylar jumped it might as well have slammed. Alice sighed in relief as she tugged at the knot in her tie and loosened it until it saddled up over her breasts—something Skylar swallowed her notice of as she darted her eyes to the old water-damaged window frame. So very casually, Alice strode over to Skylar's bed and sat on the edge of it, leaning back on her arms and gesturing with her head to invite Skylar to join her. After a thoughtful and repressed gulp, she obliged.

"Oh, Sky," Alice wasn't sure where to start, and Skylar wasn't sure where she was going at all. "This place was way t' quiet without you, y'know that? Th' whole school, I mean."

"Peaceful, is how others might put it," Skylar corrected with a coy tone.

"I wouldn't," she softly countered, crossing her mostly bare legs over one another. Skylar stared at the small distance between them, not certain if she wanted more or less. "Was it... well, was it real bad, th' place y'went? I can't stop thinkin' 'bout it."

Skylar really thought about it, she truly did. It was difficult to do so, as most of it seemed foggy or lost, but she did consider what little she had knowledge of. With a solemn smile, she came up with an adequate answer, "Yes, yes it was."

"They hurt you, didn't they?" Alice pressed on, and Skylar winced to remember long enough to make up an image in her head.

"I think they did. I'm not sure they agree," Skylar introspectively wondered, narrowing her eyes at the white ceiling that seemed far too near to her. "I'm sure, this too, shall pass. I'm sure. But... my hands still burn, and my legs are so tired. My head is dizzy and false, as though I'm not sure what really happened and what I dreamed up. My lungs, and my heart, they feel tight, weak... it's agonizing."

Alice stood suddenly, like she could not stomach any more of it. She trembled in the wake of the words, but did not leave or tell Skylar to stop. Instead, she turned around and roughly wrapped her arms around her small friend. It was a strange sensation to the both of them, being so informal and ferociously gruff, but it was so warm and compelling. With a strong heave, Alice lifted Skylar to her feet, though she stumbled a step or two to gather her balance. The longer it dragged on, the more intimate the embrace became, until it seemed to say more than intended that they clung to one another.

"Sorry," Alice gently spoke into her dear friend's ear, but at the same time, she nuzzled even closer.

It was a consuming silence that swirled around them, but it was exciting in all its simplicity. There between the dead, white walls, those two were vivid and vibrant. A gentle rhythm was shared between their protected chests by breath and beat, threatening to bind them together. But arms could not stay wrapped around bodies forever.

Pulling away as though they had to pry themselves apart, they carefully avoided eye contact. But it felt unnatural to keep them alone, so much so that Alice forced it upon her roommate. Once their gazes clashed, it was fiery and telling. Alice's hands slid compassionately over the bruised body of Skylar, so slowly that their skin might have been sewn together if she postponed motion any longer. The room was quiet, but their blood pumped so forcefully it could almost be heard in their flushed ears.

There was no warning, no spill to tell of what Alice proceeded to do. Her shaking hands ran over Skylar's dull white dress shirt and eagerly pried the buttons apart. Her tie was grabbed by the proper knot and shaken loosely until it came mostly undone and fell to the floor below them. As drawn as Skylar was by the action, she did nothing but stave and starve herself from her desires, waiting patiently for Alice to finish disappointing her fantasies.

Her hands—much more slender yet sizeable than Skylar had pictured—touched her half bare chest, gingerly tracing the marks left from invasive conditioning. As her wrinkled dress shirt fell to the ground with her black tie, she felt just as exposed as when she had been bound to the stretcher. Yet this time, it was so sweet and gentle, so comforting and relaxing that she might have been drifted off to sleep by it. All those terrible metal conductors, they left traces along her neck, her chest, and her abdomen, though some of them were still hidden beyond that. Each one, Alice curiously perused without halt. They had seen each other in such little modesty before, but this was very different.

"It's not as bad as it looks," Skylar breathlessly lied through tight lips, leaning closer to the blonde girl as if to galvanize her to tilt her head ever so slightly towards her to permit a meeting.

Their noses brush against each other, their brows dusting up ideas between them. Skylar's dissuaded hands twitched earnestly in their bound lust to reach out and sweep Alice up into her warm embrace. She could feel her own want in her skin, and it blistered and boiled until she was sure her fingers would shatter from dissatisfaction. A yearning moan brimmed in her throat, and she pretended that looking up at the ceiling might bring the hands of God down to save her from her sick needs. But those prayers were not answered; instead, those sick infatuations were realized.

Alice's virgin lips voluntarily met her own, and for an instant, she was sure she was still in a drug induced vision. But this was so much more real that she might have screamed into that lovely girl's mouth, if she wasn't so devoutly fond of such a fantasy. Alice's tanned, freckled hands slipped up to cup and caress Skylar's tender and tormented visage and head. It happened too quickly to adequately experience it, but Skylar was entirely swept away by the kiss she had been pleading for. An infant of a groan swirled between them as their lips parted for shared breath, and again the elusive kiss found itself in their mouths.

Entirely enthralled, Skylar's fingers dug into Alice's fitted shirt and clawed until she pressed her whole body against the other. Her body heat was much hotter than anticipated, but Skylar's hands still shook like they were freezing for touch. She greedily shoved Alice's black blazer off of her strong shoulders, revealing a shirt that matched her own; slightly wrinkled by the curves of her body and the grasp of lust. It was fast, unrestricted, and accepted. But that, too, seemed to pass.

"Wait," the word went nearly unheard as it meekly slipped out of Alice's own enticed lips between two vivacious kisses. She almost squeaked as she pushed the two of them apart, and struggled to catch up to the breath that had run away with her heart. "I-I'm so, so s-sorry. I just... I jus' couldn't help... m'self."

"Me either," Skylar might have said if she could manage anything more than just keeping herself away from her intentions.

"I-I have to," Alice shoved away from Skylar and forced herself to the other side of the room, running her hands frantically through her tangled hair and breaking through the knots shakily. "I have t' get a hold o' m'self..."

"It's okay, I didn't mean to, to," Skylar tried to think of what she did wrong, and she couldn't verbalize any of her million faults that swirled around in her head. "Uh, you just wanted to make me feel better, didn't you?"

"Of course I did, but," Alice wasn't saying something, and she seemed just as confused and tormented as Skylar was by all of her own demons. "But, well, what just happened?"

Skylar's mouth hung open as she tried to think up a response, but there was nothing that could come to mind besides the way that it felt to finally release her urges with Alice. She wasn't entirely sold on the fact that Alice was thinking any differently, as the freckled young girl had her wide eyes still set on Skylar's rosy lips while they were nervously licked and tried for explanation. She forced a huff of a laugh and tried on that old casual facade that made Alice drawn to her in the first place.

"I'm a corrupting influence, it's the tragedy of the bleeding century," she mused with a shrug, though she didn't have the confidence to make eye contact like she usually did to make the joke stick.

"Sky, that ain't it," she weakly replied, her chest sinking with the absence of the words.

Skylar's heart sunk into her bowels to see the darkened face of her dearest companion. Her normally bright eyes seemed like drained tide-pools, and the contagious smile she usually wore had flipped into a melancholy frown. She looked pained, confused, and guilty. She knew that she had to think up something of value to say, so she strummed together some gusts of air that sounded like they might be enough.

"I'm not upset with you, Alice," she carefully proposed, and that seemed to lift Alice's shy expression. She carelessly gathered her shirt from the floor and tossed it over one shoulder like it bothered her not. "You're not hurting me, or taunting me, or anything. You don't owe me any explanation, or any further displays of affection. You are very dear to me, more so than anyone else, and I desperately need you with me. In any capacity that you can suffice: a peer, a pencil-loaner, a friend... or anything there after."

"I didn't mean t' make things complicated, I swear," Alice pronounced truthfully, her watery eyes ripping Skylar apart.

"Complicated," Skylar drolly restated with the toss of her hair with a flick of her wrist. She clumsily strung to words together to try and sound like she had any idea what to say. "To... make something more difficult or complex; strangely enough, it's from the Latin, meaning to fold together. An odd choice of semantics, my dove."

Such a statement brought a laugh from Alice's throat, and she shook her head lightly in amusement before responding, "I'm glad you learned somethin' after all."

"Hey." She had initially meant it to sound offended, but it came out more like a plead, and Alice just started at her until she gathered the gall to go on. "Do you think you could... just, perhaps, sit with me for a bit, or something? I just don't care to be alone right now."

Alice silently blinked at the request, but obliged and walked back over to Skylar's side of the room. Skylar plopped back onto the edge of her bed before shuffling and scooting up nearer to the top, not caring that the perfectly tucked sheets were pulled from their positions. Following closely, Alice came around and placed herself on the side of the bunk, careful not to get too close. She wasn't quite sure that she could trust herself around that girl, but she didn't seem to mind trying.

"Brilliant," Skylar uttered as she draped her shirt back over her shoulders as to ease the tension between them.

In the wake of their actions, there was little to say. Skylar wanted to ask how that kiss had felt for Alice, what she meant by it, if she remembered clear enough to identify the details like whose hands were where, or anything to feed her captivated mind. It was all consuming for the brash young girl. But she avoided the subject, as she did not want to scare away the woman who chose to stay so close.

"I don't feel badly, about being honest with you or with myself. I don't feel wrong, bearing such strong love and exposing it," the red-headed girl ranted a bit as she teetered back and forth as though she was enjoying a child's playground ride.

"Don't let 'em tell you y'should, love's a real great thing, Sky. God's got love for us hooligans, too," she responded, glancing out the steamed window yonder. "God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. That's St. Augustine, I think."

"And yet everyone cites the most hateful quotes for their causes, awful." Skylar shook her head and expelled a long sigh.

"Not everyone's s'bad, I'm sure their reasons seem right 'nough t' them," Alice toyed with defending those she knew not enough of to condemn.

"In that dark place... they tried to take you from me, Alice," the mostly-clothed young girl stated suddenly, and Alice looked over. "They wanted me to suffer so that I could be saved, or some trite tosh like that. To corrupt my love. They wanted it to hurt when I looked upon you in unseemly manners. So that it might cure me of my disposition."

"Did it?" She shuffled uneasily like she did not want to know the answer. "I mean, does it hurt, when y'see me?"

Skylar smiled easily as she slipped her hand over the sheets until it met that of the girl next to her, and she quietly answered, "Not as badly as it hurts not to see you."

The warm and loving arm of her freckled peer came around her small, slender shoulders and tucked her close against her plush chest. With an emotional breath, Alice agreed, "That hurts me plenty, too."

Their young bodies found each other in the vast emptiness of the stale room they had been locked together in. It was magnetic and heated, and they indulged so greatly in the company of one another that it seemed nothing had come between them. It was personal and sensual and wonderful, the way their expensive uniforms creased without concern. Her shirt, so pure a white and warm, smelled just like her, and Skylar nestled closer and closer until she could feel the heat of Alice's skin on her lips. It was perfectly soothing, and she never wanted to leave her embrace: as soft and ivory-white as the wings of an angel.

~~{~}~~{}~~{~}~~

It is finished.

Yes, at last. Thanks to everyone who was keeping track of this fic, and I'm glad I finally got it done. I had half written it forever ago... at a very different time in my life. But I tried to keep it close enough to the original plan.

Was there anything you wanted to see, but didn't, in this story? Were you happy with the ending, or not?