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The ashes swirl; we sing their mourning

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Nobody really paid attention to the maintenance workers. Fixing the electrical was what they'd told Beverly and it was only when Annabelle overheard her aunt arguing with the Bursar over how much it was going to cost that she realized something was wrong. It didn't take long to confirm that no one had called about the electrical and St. Trinian's wasn't a place where people showed up to fix things without being called. Especially not things that they were more than capable of fixing on their own.

“Zoe!” Annabelle yelled as she rounded the corner. The girl in question looked up from the study group she was working in as Annabelle shouted, “I need you to look at something.”

Annabelle could see her groan, but she got up and walked over. “What?”

“No one hired those electrical workers and I want you to check on what they were doing,” Annabelle didn't have to explain further and the two of them took off towards the maintenance shed to pick up some tools.

They never made it to the shed. Annabelle didn't know if the fire had already been smoldering, but it seemed to spring from the walls all at once. Within minutes the hall was filled with smoke and they made a mad dash for the relative safety of the front hall where they found Bianca running towards the entrance way.

“Bloody hell. I got the art classes out the side, but a wall collapsed-” She cut off as a coughing fit overtook her.

Annabelle grabbed her arm and started helping her to the door when she heard a cry, “Annabelle!”

It took her a second to figure out where it was coming from in the roar of the fire, but she eventually found Chelsea at the top of the stairs. The middle flight was encased in flames, Annabelle yelled to her, “Who else is up there? Can you reach any of the other stairs?”

“I've got a bunch of first years with me,” Chelsea had never looked so grim and Annabelle felt her stomach sink at what she was saying. “We're blocked off.”

“Right,” Annabelle nodded, kicked off her shoes, and braced herself, “I'm ready.”

Chelsea didn't wait before turning away to picked up one of the first years. She took a second to judge the distance and tossed the girl. Annabelle almost fell over when she caught her, but she managed to stay standing. Bianca took the girl and directed her towards where Zoe stood, halfway to the door, ready to make sure she got outside.

She'd barely put the first girl down before Chelsea was tossing the next girl down over the landing. Together they managed to get six more girls outside before the landing gave a warning groan. Annabelle and Chelsea shared a panicked look and Chelsea turned back to try and get one more girl over the railing in time. There was another groan and then Bianca was pulling her away just as landing gave way. Annabelle managed to cover her face with her arms just in time as burning splinters showered over them.

Staring at the mess that used to be the main stairs, she knew there was no point in calling out for Chelsea. Annabelle thought she must be crying, but the heat of the flames made the tears evaporate as quickly as they formed. Turning around it became obvious that however she and Bianca were getting out, it wasn't through the front door. They could see Zoe on the other side of the crashed supported beam, but there was no way they were getting to her. After sharing a look with Bianca to make sure they were on the same page she yelled, “Go on! We'll find another way.”

Zoe stared at them for a second before nodding and running out the door. Holding each other up, they headed down the only open hallway left, trying to make it to another exit or at least a window big enough to get through. They didn't get far before Bianca stopped, “Did you hear that?”

Annabelle shook her head; it was almost impossible to hear anything over the fire, but she listened to try and figure out what Bianca had heard. Distantly she heard a yell coming from the room next to them. “There!”

Bianca nodded and kicked the door in to one of the classrooms. Inside they found Tara desperately trying to move yet another fallen ceiling beam that was blocking the closet at the back of the room. She looked up at their entrance, “Tania's inside!”

Annabelle looked at the lever Tara had been attempting to use to move the beam and knew it would never work. The wood she had been using was already on fire. There was a floor lamp in the corner of the room that could work, but there was no way Tara would ever have been able to lift it. Annabelle hopped to the corner, pulling off her stockings. “Get her out of here.”

Bianca watched as she wrapped the stocking around her hands and arms before nodding, “Right. Good luck.”

She could hear Tara yelling as Bianca picked her up and carried her out of the room, but Annabelle didn't spare them any of her attention. Instead she double checked that her stockings covered all of her hands and forearms and picked up the metal lamp. It was so hot she screamed at the pain of touching it, but she lifted it regardless and brought it over to the door. The beam had fallen close enough to keep the door from opening, but with enough room for Annabelle to get between it and the wall. Doing her best to ignore the pain in her hands she braced herself against the wall and used the lamp to lift the beam up. It was only a couple of inches, but it was enough for Annabelle to grit her teeth and kick at the beam with her bare foot. It rolled half a foot before stopping again, but it was enough.

She dropped the lamp and turned to the door. She couldn't stop because if she did she knew she'd give into the pain. Instead she grabbed the doorknob, screaming again at the searing agony as the heated metal burned her palm, and pulled the door open. Inside Tania sat curled up as far from the door, and the flames, as she could get. Annabelle waved at her frantically with her less burned arm. “Come on!”

“Annabelle?” Tania asked as she moved forward.

“Bianca's getting Tara out,” Annabelle answered the unasked question as she guided Tania around the fallen beam. Together they made it into the hallway to find it covered in flames. Annabelle could feel the skin on her legs crackling as she lost feeling in her arms. A quick assessment of the hall, though, had her gesturing to the only other door they could reach, “We'll have to go through there.”

Tania nodded in response and led the way.

The run out of the building was a blur, but by the end Annabelle knew Tania was supporting her more than she was supporting Tania. It way okay, though, because even though she couldn't seem to move her legs properly everything had stopped hurting. Stepping outside she could hear a burst of noise, but she couldn't make anything out. She could feel herself losing consciousness, but that was okay too. She'd rest up and heal a bit and then work on making the bastards who did this pay.

Distantly, as she fell to the ground, she heard a crow caw.

~.~.~.~.~

Waking up, she knew time had passed. She'd done something, made some argument, and won, but she couldn't remember what about or how long ago that was. Waking up hurt. Pain ran up and down her skin as burnt flesh crackled and broke when she moved her arms and legs and pushed up. In flashes she could see the ground rising up and she knew she was watching herself push against the lid of her coffin. She didn't know what was going on, but she knew she had to push. Then with a long, drawn out groan of protest the earth gave way and she felt the lid move. Dirt rained down on her, but she crawled up towards the view point she was watching herself from.

Eventually she made it to the top and pulled herself up alongside her grave. She could see herself lying next to the grave. It was only as the view came suddenly closer and she felt the wings of the bird, heard its caw as it landed next to her head, that she realized she was seeing out of the crow's eyes. If she concentrated she could stop it, but then everything went black. She felt the crow nip at her nose gentle and she let herself see out of its eyes again. It was looking at her face and this close up she could see the empty sockets where her eyes had been.

Reaching up she touched the edges of the sockets. With a gasp she remember pushing Tania behind her as the chemistry lab exploded. The feelings of something running down her cheeks as Tania pulled her towards the door once the fire pulled back into the lab. She'd been in so much pain at that point that a little more hardly mattered. Just like that, everything came back to her, from the maintenance men no one could remember calling, to how quickly the fire spread, and the desperate race to save those trapped in the flames. She remembered racing for the exit with Bianca, only to find Tara desperately trying to free her sister from a storage closet. That last desperate run after getting Tania free.

She could see herself through the crow's eyes as she shuddered and flopped around like a fish on land with each memory, but she couldn't help herself. Someone had destroyed her home and killed her family and it hurt to remember it all. It hurt, but it was a pain she welcomed because it meant she was capable of feeling and thus capable of acting. She sucked in several deep breaths before turning towards the crow. “Now we make them pay.”

It cawed, almost excitedly, as she pulled herself to her feet. It flew up to her shoulder and guided her out of the cemetery and into London. If the crow didn't seem so sure of where they were headed she would have been sure they were making random turns. Eventually, though, they came to a door and she kicked it open. Through the crow's eyes she looked around as they moved into the building. It was easy enough to see that it was a theater, a little run down, but a theater. With very little effort they found the costume room and for the first time since waking up in her casket, Annabelle smiled.

There were certain rituals to keep. The crows had allowed her the chance for revenge and she could only pay homage to them in turn. It wasn't hard to find the right items among the racks; black dance pants, a long sleeved black leotard, and a black leather jacket. She shed burnt pieces of skin as she changed out of her funeral clothes and into the new ones, her hands and arms crackling with every bend and pull of her body. From there she moved to the make up tables and selected the proper powder and lipstick. White across her face, black along her lips pulling up into her cheeks, and carefully traced black around her empty sockets.

The crow cawed in approval when she was done and hopped back onto her shoulder. She stopped only briefly on the way out to grab a pair of black Doc Martins and a small pillbox hat with a veil to cover the upper portion of her face. She'd lost most of her hair in the fire and she could feel some of the remaining bits break free as she pulled on the hat. Annabelle found herself smiling again as she set out into London once more. There was work to be done and people to find.