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Story Notes:

This is longer than most of the Ephemeral stories, but it's sort of a prequel to Icy (although they both work fine as stand-alones) and it shows how Icy really can be read without the slashy subtext. Apologies to those of you who liked the subtext ;)

It had been a long and trying day, and it wasn't until she herself was finally lying down to sleep that Hilda Annersley realised what had been subconsciously worrying her. Dragging herself wearily out of bed, she put on her kimono and slippers and, torch in hand, made her way silently along the corridors to tap at a bedroom door.

"Hilda! My dear girl! Whatever are you doing here at this hour?"

Hastily switching off her torch, lest even the dim light from the blue-painted bulb should escape through Nell's uncurtained window, Hilda looked up to find her friend in the process of flinging back the bedclothes. "No need to get up, Nell."

"Let me at least clear off a chair for you," Nell insisted, scrabbling underneath the bed for her slippers.

The moonlight flooding the room clearly revealed the mounds of books and Nell's personal paraphernalia covering every available surface, and Hilda's lips twitched. "No need for quite such extreme measures, my dear," she said, sitting down on the edge of the bed and fixing her friend with a look of such stern severity that Nell abandoned the search for her slippers and leant back against the pillows once more.

"Not to seem inhospitable," Nell said, as she allowed Hilda to tuck her in, "but what did you want to see me about that couldn't have waited until a reasonable hour of the morning?"

Hilda sat back, her eyes meeting Nell's. "The message from Karl Linders." There was a moment's silence. Hilda gently captured Nell's rigidly still hands and held them between her own. "I've been thinking about it all day, and I'm certain its having been dropped in this exact location can only be a coincidence. They can't possibly know the School is here. You're safe, my dear - or at least," she added, with a wry smile, "as safe as any of us can be, in the circumstances."

***

When the rising bell sounded, Hilda blinked blearily at the unfamiliar surroundings, wondering for a moment why she felt so stiff and chilled. A gentle squeeze of her fingers by the hands she still held clasped in her own recalled her.

"Hilda, I..." Nell struggled to find the words, settling instead for a gruff, "Next time, for goodness sake get into the bed, woman, and don't go freezing yourself on top of the eiderdown."

Hilda smiled. "Yes, Nell," she replied meekly.

FIN




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