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Singed

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When I see a bright red dress and green skin emerge from the Icarus, I blink first to make sure it is not a trick of the light before I break into a run. My friend's face is turned away from me as she helps a fellow cadet limp off the ship, and her auburn hair gleams in the early morning sunlight.

Almost there, I call her name with desperation, and she turns at the force of my yells.

A few seconds pass before I realize my legs have stopped moving. The young woman's face is too wide. Her blue eyes are spaced too far apart, her nostrils too flared, the tip of her nose too pointed and delicate. She is beautiful and wrong. "I thought you were someone else," I stammer numbly. My chest gapes with disappointment and the cold shock of being laid bare before a stranger.

The cadet tilts her head and looks at me, a little furrow appearing between her eyebrows, and a singed copper curl falls from her bun, joining two more that already dangle limply around her face.

"Gaila!" someone calls, and the cadet turns with wide eyes. Quickly but with great care, she transfers the limping cadet's weight to another refugee from the battle. Then, she is hurrying to meet a dark-skinned cadet who is sprinting across the distance between them.

Their bodies meet with a dull smack, and loss burns in my joints as I watch them cling fervently to each other, tears wetting their faces.

"I thought you were on the Farragut with me," the Orion who is not Leira sobs.

"McCoy forced most of the bridge crew to take twenty-four hours leave. I wasn't allowed to come find you," the other woman says fiercely. "I thought you-..." Her voice cracks.

The darker woman pulls back for a moment and brushes the curls out of her friend's face. The Orion grasps dark hands with green ones and kisses the palms tenderly before they embrace again.

I feel exposed and sick, as if I am intruding. I force myself to look away, praying to an unspecified deity for another glint of green skin and copper hair.