Kurdy lay on his back, hands behind his head, and looked up at the bunk above him. Jeremiah's bunk. It had been a week since his estranged partner had moved out of their shared quarters and the Mountain to become the director of the Millhaven community. A week of being sole occupant of the room and free to enjoy snore-free nights, and not having to worry if he was going to disturb Jeremiah if he came in too late. But there'd been a lot of soul searching done in the dark in that room, laying on their respective beds and talking long into the night, exercising personal demons. Odd how the empty bunk felt more like an oppressive shadow hanging over his head since Jeremiah's departure, waiting for it's new occupant. No one had been assigned to share Kurdy's quarters just yet, but it wouldn't be much longer before Marcus was forced to address the issue. There were just too many people and too few spaces in the Mountain to accommodate all of the refugees that had started pouring in from Daniel's death camps.
Kurdy was tired of waiting. He'd had his fill of solitude and he wasn't willing to leave the decision up to Marcus. He slid out of the lower bunk and took a moment to slip into a pair of trousers. Bare-chested and bare footed, he padded out of his room into the corridor.
Henry was on guard at the massive metal doors to Thunder Mountain. A good man and always alert. He had seen Kurdy coming on the monitor panel five minutes before he'd arrived in the anteroom. "Up pretty late, aren't you, Kurdy?" he asked amiably.
"Thinking about a midnight snack," replied Kurdy. "Smith gone out tonight?"
"He just got in about an hour ago," said Henry. "I don't know what he does out there, but he looked pretty beat. Practically asleep on his feet. He's around here somewhere. Want me to have –"
"No, don't bother. I'll find him. Thanks, Henry. Night."
"Don't mention it. Morning," he corrected with a bit of a grin.
Kurdy padded back into the maze of corridors and headed for the cafeteria. If Smith wasn't in his little sanctuary outside of the Mountain then Kurdy had a pretty good idea where to find him. A few minutes later he was walking into the cavernous cafeteria. The tables stood around the room like silent sentries, their benches and chairs piled high like jagged crowns. The only lighting came from the empty buffet tables, glowing softly through glass sanitary shields. In another hour the cooks and bakers would arrive, bringing the room to life with warm lights and the welcome smells of breakfast and coffee in time to greet the first shift.
In the furthest corner of the room, away from the food area, was Smith. He had taken one of the benches down from its table and positioned it to act as a bit of a screen, allowing him to stretch out a bit on the floor in his makeshift bed. His head was pillowed on his ever-present knapsack, and he had pulled his coat closed tight around himself to ward off the draft. It was not meant to be a blanket and Smith was shivering.
Kurdy shook his head. He'd heard some of the complaints by the morning staff about having to rouse Smith some mornings before they could begin setting up the cafeteria, and damned if it wasn't true.
Without ceremony, he reached down, grabbed a fist full of coat sleeve, and pulled. "Get up!"
"Wha---? What?" Smith blinked awake, Kurdy's strength having already pulled him halfway to his feet. He'd barely had enough presence of mind to grab for his knapsack before he found himself being propelled across the room. He nearly stumbled over the overturned bench but Kurdy kept a firm hold on his arm and successfully steered him around it. "What's the matter?" asked Smith, clearly exhausted but suddenly alarmed. "What's wrong?"
"You. You're what's wrong," said Kurdy as he guided Smith out of the cafeteria. "You're a health hazard, you know that? Did it ever occur to you that that's where people eat? Man, no one wants to look at your scruffy ass stretched out on the floor when they're trying to have breakfast."
Smith hung his head. "Sorry. I just figured it was the most out of the way place."
"Well, it ain't. And you're an eyesore. Look at you! You need a bath. Some fresh clothes wouldn't hurt, either."
"But I like these clothes."
"Then maybe you could wash them a bit more often." Kurdy gently but firmly pushed Smith ahead of him, up a flight of stairs to another corridor. "And what the hell's wrong with sleeping in a real bed? It's a shitload more comfortable than the floor or wherever else you've been sacking out."
"There aren't enough beds," said Smith reasonably. "It's not right for me to take any of them. I'm fine. Really. I'm used to –"
"Well, I'm not. Inside!"
Meekly, Smith obediently did as instructed. Once inside, his gaze roved across the room, taking in the double bunk bed, its bottom mattress recently slept on, the top mattress neatly made and empty. He saw the clothes thrown across a nearby chair and a picture in a frame on the dresser of a beautiful young coffee-skinned woman.
"This is your room," he whispered. "And Jeremiah's."
"Yeah, well, Jeremiah ain't here right now," said Kurdy gruffly, shutting the door behind them. "And he's not going to be using it for a while. No sense letting it go to waste."
"Go to --?" Smith's eyes grew wide. "Are you asking –?"
"It ain't no big thing," replied Kurdy as he sat down on the lower bunk. "Way I see it, I'm keeping Marcus from assigning me some roommate like that asshole Trent. This way I've got some control. Not to mention I'm preventing a health hazard by keeping you off the cafeteria floor. Now go to sleep, will you?" He turned and stretched out on his back, hands behind his head, and closed his eyes. Topic closed.
Smith didn't move. He merely stood there, looking up at the topmost bunk with an indescribable expression on his boyish features.
"You're still standing."
"You've got about two seconds before I grab your ass and throw it up there. Go to sleep!" Eyes still closed, Kurdy could hear movement at last. He heard Smith throw his pack onto the upper bunk and the springs squeak a bit under it's weight. i Better /i he thought, satisfied.
A heavy sigh, then, "What?"
"I'm afraid of heights."