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A door slammed, a car rolled away, and the sound of two people ascending the stairwell was the only sound on the sleeping floor. Their footsteps moved quickly up the bare concrete, for they were eager to reach a sanctuary after the chill of the night. Light shone on them as they moved up the flights. One of the pair had pale red hair, and the other a dusty black. Both were fully dressed even though the sun had disappeared hours before.

Eventually, their rapid footsteps stopped next to a closed door. The dark-haired one, a thin girl of about seventeen, opened it quietly and led her guest into a bedroom. It was softly lit and furnished with dressers, and a bed topped with a soft blanket. At once the red-haired girl threw herself down onto the bed without grace. Her breath was emerging in short gasps from the run and the chance to rest her body was sorely appreciated.

"Is your arm okay?" the black-haired girl asked in a sharp voice, between her own ragged breaths. With a delicate hand she pushed back her straying bangs, and jerked her head backwards when she thought she heard a noise.

"I think it's stopped bleeding..." her partner spoke weakly. She peeled back a stained sleeve and grimaced at the pain, at least but the blood had stopped flowing. Hastily she added: "But, Serena, I don't want you to go yet..."

"I'm not going anywhere long. I swear, Corrie.” the girl called Serena replied, enfolding her friend in a brief hug. Corrie clung to her tightly. Serena sighed, but returned the hug for a few moments before getting up to leave.

“I’ll go get Sean, he’s still awake. You’re okay with… filling him in a little?”

Corrie nodded weakly. Her wide green eyes followed Serena’s progress through the door, and then she curled up slowly underneath a blanket and covered her face like a shy child. She could barely endure the idea of being alone once more- regardless of how short a duration it would be. A few reluctant tears descended from her squinted eyes.

The bedroom felt colder and less safe without Serena. An old bookcase half-filled with dully colored volumes was opposite Corrie, but she had no temptation to look at them. It felt plausible to her that a malevolent creature could be hidden within the closed closet, and she focused on that fantasy; for any images or thoughts were less horrible than the ordeal she had just endured.

Endless moments later, the door moved again. A familiar boy strode urgently in, Serena trailing behind him. This man was tall and dark-haired, with soft facial features and a fresh countenance that made him seem younger than his nineteen years. He looked all the more gentile while next to the scrawny Serena, with her frazzled ponytails falling out of their bands. Corrie slowly emerged from her veil to see Sean, watching cautiously as he sat next to her.

"Where's Vivienne?" Serena asked pointedly as she also sat down, surprise evident in her face. "Thought for sure you'd take her along."

"She fell asleep a long time ago." Sean answered immediately. "Don't disturb her. And we don't need to crowd Cordelia at the moment, anyway."

Nervous at hearing her full name (rather than the diminutive), Cordelia sat up weakly against the head of the bed. She was still clutching to the blanket. Her slashed arm ached uncomfortably and her eyelids seemed heavy, yet she knew that sleep was impossible in her current state. Instead she tried to focus on Sean, but unconsciously recoiled when he drew closer to her. He sighed. It was clearly out of sympathy rather than impatience.

"Cordelia..." Sean began, his voice deliberately soft. "From what Serena’s told me, I think I know what's happened to you. I just want you to tell me who did it, if you can do that?"

"I can't." the exhausted girl whimpered reflexively, and Serena gave a low grumble. "H-he threatened me... if I told anyone."

"Threatened you, with what?" Sean persisted.

"Sean, that's a damn stupid question!" Serena cut in angrily, glaring at Sean. "Cordelia, listen, just tell us who it was. He'll never know you did as long as you don't tell him yourself- and anyway, he can't touch you with us around. It’ll be alright."

Cordelia's face paled, and she raised her fingers to her mouth. She glanced jerkily in several different directions at some invisible distraction before answering, Sean and Serena listening anxiously. Cordelia’s words were an unsteady whisper, like she was struggling to get adequate air.

"…It was Robin. He did it, but... Shanna was there too. She watched…"

Immediately, all three fell silent. Serena's narrow eyes became vast with revulsion, and only Sean could remain businesslike. Both of them knew the mentioned name well.

"Cordelia, did Robin rape you?" Sean asked candidly, after a pause. Cordelia flinched at the awful word, her trembling fingers now concealing her lips.

"N-no... He was about to. Isaiah stopped him. But he… he took all my clothes off…"

At this confession, Cordelia began to cry vigorously. Serena promptly placed an arm around her friend’s shoulders, but it did nothing to help Cordelia’s shame, and she merely held her silently. Having known Cordelia since starting high school, Serena knew that she was readily embarrassed by exposing any parts of her body to people; often, she wouldn’t even let skin show in the summertime. Sean knew this as well, and spoke again when Cordelia refused to let him embrace her.

"Well, it was still assault if he touched you in any way, so he can still receive a prison sentence. But it's not that likely, if this is his first offence."

"Then he's free to hurt her!" Serena cried out in anger, sitting upright with a start.

"No, he won't be." Sean chastised. "Serena, she won't be going anywhere alone now, myself or Rain can escort her. And, besides, you have to consider how Shanna was involved too. That’s concerning, because I’m sure it takes more to sit there and watch that happen than to actually do it."

Wiping her eyes, Cordelia lay down and pulled the blankets over much of her body, knowing she was lucky that Sean was here now. Right now, he was not looking directly at her to lessen any shame. It was a stroke of good fortune that she was even here- Serena had received her frantic phone call twenty minutes ago- and even though she’d sounded stressed, Sean didn’t expect to have to hear that sexual assault had happened. And, he thought, for what reason? How could Cordelia have possibly warranted that kind of punishment?

"What did you say?"

Serena asked this suddenly, snapping Sean to focus. Cordelia was sobbing into Serena’s arms, muttering something indistinct. In a moment she repeated herself in a slightly more audible tone, which Serena echoed immediately for Sean.

"She wants Rain in here, go grab her. If she's asleep, then wake her up."

Once Sean had left the room, Serena laid her head across Cordelia's side. The soft sensation of her breathing felt comforting. Cordelia was crying softly, and in alarm, Serena pressed her forehead to the back of her friend's face in a gesture of affection. Cordelia seemed to be too stricken to respond in some way, but Serena could understand the reason.

"Corrie, you're going to be okay." Serena intoned, her voice muffled by her friend’s hair. "Robin won't ever hurt you like that again."

Rubbing her face, Cordelia drew a shuddering breath before focusing her eyes on Serena’s. The grief in her expression was surprising, but unmistakable.

“…I thought… Robin was good. He never tried to… to hurt me before… I don’t understand why he would do that! I don’t deserve it!” Cordelia blubbered into her hands, embarrassment overtaking her anger and sadness.

“Of course you don’t.” Serena growled fiercely. “I always thought Shanna was a lousy fucking homophobe… Now I’ve got proof.”

Not reassured by her friend’s foul language, Cordelia continued to whimper. Maybe the world wasn’t collapsing on her, but she would now have to face the inevitable barrage of stares, questions, and even mockery from her less-kind peers.

“Corrie, listen. We need to put this aside for the night, I know you’re tired, but you need sleep, not stress. Rain and I will be in here with you. It’ll be alright. Just let me get a pillow and blanket, I’ll be two seconds.”

Serena made a dash for her bedroom, untouched since she had heard the phone ringing. She ripped off the thick, black bedspread and grasped the pillow, eyes stinging from the bright light. Pajamas weren’t necessary, and fatigue demanded rest immediately. On her way back to Cordelia’s location, Serena peered surreptitiously in the direction of Rain’s bedroom; Sean was standing in an open doorway, and light was coming from it. A good sign- even if Rain was asleep, Serena knew she’d sacrifice some sleep to comfort a friend.

“Alright, I’m back. It’s the floor for me?” Serena asked with a yawn once she returned to the room, managing a brief smile.

“N-no, I could move…”

“Oh, come on, I didn’t mean it.” Serena chided. “…Unless you want it, of course.”

“I wouldn’t mind, really…” Cordelia murmured. “If Rain says no… y-you can sleep in this bed.”

Spreading the soft blanket underneath her, Serena unclipped her hair and laid her head on the pillow she had tossed down. Already she could feel sleep overwhelming her, but it was not the contended, serene feeling that came most nights. Serena was still fully dressed save removing her shoes and jacket. Looking up at Cordelia’s still form once more, Serena’s last thought was the fervent thanks that she had not been harmed in any more serious of a manner.

When a few minutes passed without sign of Rain or Sean, Cordelia turned around and looked at Serena. She was half-buried in a black blanket, snoring faintly, her breathing deep and regular. Cordelia prodded her with a finger and whispered her name, asking if she was awake. Serena gave a tiny mumble, but slept on. Sighing, Cordelia pulled herself out of the blankets and lay next to Serena’s blanketed body, holding her close as she slept soundlessly.

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Written by Grizzly Bear

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