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I’m cold.

The quiet murmur slips through Robin’s thoughts as she ambles ahead. She glances down at her right hand, noting the faint veins pressing against translucent skin. Paleness touches her palm and scrubs it clean of color except for those dismal red lines travelling within her. She traces one of the veins with her pinky finger, the touch colder than expected, and her heart constricts in her chest.

When did I get so cold?

She knows the hospital is a place without natural wind. It’s a cage between realms where concepts like “weather” have no meaning. There is no gentle breeze from a nearby window or the soft lull of air conditioning bustling through the vents.

But why am I so cold?

Robin notes that her right arm is colder than her left. It feels heavier, too, numbed to sensations. She forces her fingers to curl back into a fist and shivers, the effort feeling almost strenuous as her white knuckles crack.

Somewhere, out of the corner of her eye, a ceiling light flickers. It mocks her, fading in and out with pulsing tints. She hears electricity crackling above her head as she treks on, leaving behind the flashing light as a curse upon her thoughts.

Robin heaves out a sigh and fears that she’ll see her breath, but there is no puff of white air to be seen. She grips her elbow and checks the closest rooms with the others in tow. The supply closets give way to nothing. The boxes inside are filled with rusted scalpels and containers full of bubbling, milky liquids. If they’re mixtures of blood or goo, it’s none of her concern even when Jay picks a vial and shakes it, watching with Sarcastic Ghost as the coagulated blue serum shudders.

“Oh, I know what this is. It’s some new medicine Dr. Poe was working on a week ago. Wonder why he’d store ‘em in this closet,” Jay says when he notices Robin glancing over at him.

“Really?” She edges closer to gaze at the shivering, glossy hues of azure gunk sticking to the rim of the container.

“I think he said it was supposed to cure boils,” Jay replies, and Robin recoils, her brow furrowing.

“Ghosts-ghosts can get boils?”

SG, unreadable as always, sneers, “And if you’re not careful, you might get some if you stay here for much longer.”

Jay shoves the vial back in the box and chastises SG. He even waves his finger like a scolding teacher. SG brushes him off, jeering that he was kidding as Jay narrows his glower.

Even if SG isn’t joking, Robin feels another chill creeping up her spine and spreading throughout her body. Her right arm feels like an icicle, weak and frozen in place. As if all the blood in her arm chilled, her stiff arm refuses her commands. Tensing fingers remain pinned to her side as she struggles to even fiddle with the hem of her gown.

I’ll end up-

She grits down on her teeth and forces herself to banish the thought as SG and Jay bicker. Their voices are louder than her internal struggle. She manages to turn away and stumble out the door, gnawing on the insides of her mouth.

Their footsteps are the only echoing sound. Not even the quips SG grumbles compares to the monotonous thudding of their steps marching through another unexplored branch of the hospital. Sometimes, something will moan in another room or staff members will pass them, whispering into each other’s ear. All Robin hears is her own heart pounding in her between her ears as each jarring, unnatural noise bellows around every nook and cranny of the hospital.

She’s not supposed to be here, but as fate would have it, she’s trapped. Growing colder all the while, Robin flits her eyes to and fro between her companions, both of whom seem perfectly fine. They’re used to the hospital. Filled with medicinal scents and monstrous apparitions, this is their home. She’s the outlier, the one who simply shouldn’t exist in such a place. One wrong move and she’ll sink into the snow white tomb prepared for her in Dr. Poe’s examination room.

Something’s wrong, something’s so wrong. I shouldn’t be here unless I’m meant to be. There’s got to be some reason why I’m stuck here surrounded by the dead, dead, dead.

The chills contaminating her body plague her senses. Every atom of her being feels whipped with sterility and ice, a cold, morbid decimation of her body and mind. She isn’t sure how death should be as it looms around every corner in the hospital, but she prays that it isn’t meant to be like this.

Maybe I’m dying right now, and my body is telling me it’s gonna be over soon. I’ll be done with all this and rot here and become part of this hospital forever. Dr. Poe will put in one of those jars and have my blood examined and Carna will laugh and inject me with whatever is in her needles, and it’ll be so cold, and I’ll really be...

Her lips hitch, and the scream rises in her throat, only trapped by grinding teeth. She shudders and trips on her own two feet, momentarily blinded by nothing. The checkered floor comes faster than she can blink, and she braces for impact, expecting the hard tiles to slam against her jaw, breaking all her teeth into a fine powder.

Lunging, Jay snatches her collar and drags her upright, forcing Robin’s eyes wide open. He wobbles and catches themselves, blurting, “Hey, are you okay?”

“Jeez, don’t trip on nothing. What are you, a baby?” SG snaps, hovering in front of them.

“Show some compassion, man.” Jay bares his teeth, and his lip curls.

“If I could shrug, I would.” SG floats closer to Robin. “Come on, Robin. We’re not even being attacked. What happened?”

Robin tilts her head at the ground, wishing for the heat of a blush to color her face. “It’’s silly. Um, sorry, I’m cold.”

“Oh! I can grab you a scarf from the lobby. There’s a lost and found box behind the help desk. I’m sure Minerva wouldn’t mind,” Jay replies, his grin stretching into his cheeks. “Oh, there might be some coats and mittens, too. Whatever floats your boat.”

Robin glances over her shoulder, the long hallway taunting her. “But-but we’ve already walked so far down. It’d be a waste of time to go back just because I’m cold.”

“But we won’t be able to keep moving ahead if you’re gonna trip over yourself all because of a little cold,” SG retorts. He floats between them and heads back up the hallway. “‘Sides, might as well regroup in the foyer. Nothing of interest is around here anyway.”

Robin opens her mouth and appears like a fish out of water when she tries arguing back. SG continues floating away, and she huffs a sigh. She splays her fingers, the faintest bit of warmth passing between the spaces of her digits.

Jay tugs her hand and pulls her along. “Don’t worry, Robin. It’s not that big of a deal if we go back.”

She bows her head. “I’m-I’m sorry.”

“Hey, it’s not your fault. I mean, you’re a living person. You guys get hot and cold all the time. That’s normal,” Jay says, and he flicks his attention to the ground, the faintest hint of wistfulness crossing his vision. Shaking his head, he barks out a laugh and beams at her. “Besides, I wanna check out if they have anything cool! Vinny’s always dropping off stuff he can’t sell in there, so I take it. Anything free is good in my book.”

Robin manages to smile and eases her steps in tandem with him. “Um, okay. Yeah, that sounds okay with me, too. Thanks, Jay.”

“You’re welcome! There, conversation ended! Let’s get going before my patience fizzles out!” SG calls from the corner of the hallway as he waits for them.

“Stealing my ‘you’re welcome.’ Rude snotty blob,” Jay grumbles, and Robin chuckles.

As they walk, Robin rubs her arm once more. Warmth coats her hand, and she smiles as it spreads throughout her body, her fears quelled with smoldering compassion. Even if it’s only for a brief moment, she’ll accept all the kindness given to her in this maze of a realm.