Her bare feet touch the concrete floor, cold to her skin, which is flushed and almost feverish. Her clothes are spilled out across the narrow stretch of concrete between the wall and her mattress, standard black sweater and jeans crumpled into a corner. There isn't room for much besides her mattress in here – they told her it was probably used for something like solitary confinement, with the rusted metal door they had to fix to lock only from the inside, a single slit into it that always cast light from the hall into the room. The only object previously in it was a small metal faucet and basin tacked to the wall. This is what Elle reaches for as she stands from the mattress, rising in one movement so that she has to catch herself on the faucet's single, round valve.
The water splashes into the basin. One temperature only, a usually disappointing tepid, though right now it feels cool against her warm skin. Behind her, the mattress groans as Rati shifts, probably standing as well. "You're always in such a fucking hurry..."
She splashes the water from the faucet onto her face, thoroughly between her fingers, at the base of her neck and over her shoulders. Then she cups her hands together and spills the water over her now shoulder-length hair. She's pulling her wet fingers through her damp and tangled hair when she's aware that Rati's standing next to her – she scrubs her own hands under the water and starts pulling back her black hair into a ponytail.
"You could really get a mirror in here or something."
Elle still doesn't answer, and doesn't look at her. She steps away from the faucet, heading to the corner, where she picks her underwear up the floor and pulls it on, listening to the splashing water and the loud creek as Rati turns the faucet off again.
She's pulled on her jeans and picked up her sweater when she finally does speak.
"We shouldn't be so loud."
Rati laughs – it has a high, melodic quality, and like everything about her seems twice as loud in this room, where all she can do is bounce off the closed in walls.
"I wouldn't worry about it. They're used to hearing screaming from this room."
She's pulled her own long-sleeve black shirt over her head, and yanked her ponytail out from beneath the collar, when she turns back to Elle. Elle is still holding her sweater, not seeming entirely able to move, and Rati's seemingly perpetual grin curves sideways. She folds her arms, and steps across the mattress to reach Elle. With one hand, she reaches out, taking a lock of Elle's still damp hair between her fingers.
"I don't get how you can stand it in here, anyway."
Elle stays still, meeting Rati's dark brown eyes, not even looking away to think. "It's not that different out there."
Concrete walls and floors. Or metal. One cavernous underground structure, with a desert above them. No windows and only florescent lights.
Yes, it seemed some things were inevitable.
"I'm out there," Rati answers.
With no change in her expression – "You're in here, too."
Rati rolls her eyes, and runs her fingers down the lock of Elle's hair. When she lets it go, Elle reaches for the lock herself, and sees that it has turned bright blue.
"Change it back."
No answer, but Rati also doesn't make to flee the room before Elle can do anything about it. At least they can negotiate rather than her having to deal with something like spending the day with green hair. So Elle thinks about it for a moment, pulling her sweater on over her head and tugging her hair out, so it falls loosely over her shoulders.
Then, she folds her hands in front over her, and leans over, very lightly kissing Rati's nose. Rati grins again, and reaches out, now take a fistful of Elle's hair, but releasing it all its natural blonde hue.
"Later, alligator," she calls, turning and pulling her hand through her own hair, leaving streaks of bright gold that Elle can't help but think did look rather beautiful. Still, it's another moment before she pulls on a pair of dusty white tennis shoes and follows Rati out the door.