6am in the rebel camp kitchen

Angie finished filling a thermos with strong coffee, fake white cream-stuff, and sugar in preparation for a who-knows-how-long lockdown with Willie and the "New Todd." They were determined to devise a workable plan to circulate the desalination-systems virus (with a few communications glitches thrown in for good measure) before any of them slept again. But before that… Tyler had some 'splaining to do.

"So what's this crap you told me about me making 'loopy puppy noises' when you come in at night?" she demanded, stepping aside to let him get his own morning jumpstart. Though damn him, he never seemed to need it as much as she did.

He leaned close to her ear and attempted to demonstrate while he filled up with his own style of brew, black-as-my-soul-thanks.

"mmmh, mh-mmh-mmmh," he murmured in imitation of the sleepy whimper he'd heard so often.

"Nice try," Angie snickered and turned her head so they were cheek to cheek, leaning in turn into his ear, "but that sounds more like you do when we're in bed. Just before you…"

Tyler cut her off by whipping an arm around her waist and yanking her tight against his side. "I'm surprised you got that wrong, Angel, I'd say that's more like," he buried his mouth in her ear and growled "nngh, nnnNNGHH, NGGRRRNNNGGGHH…"


"Hey!" Elias shouted from where he stood mere feet away at the head of a growing line of rebels impatient for their own wake-up fix. "Can you two bust a move here? We got our own caffeine jones to feed!" He added in an irritable grumble as the pair moved on, "And get a room, will ya?"

"This is a room, wise ass," Tyler shot back over his shoulder.

"All rooms in camp are designated 'multipurpose', remember?" Angie reminded him before returning her attention to Tyler. Elias watched as they settled in a couple of chairs in the far corner of the adjacent dining hall, talking quietly about who knew what, totally focused on each other but strangely casual about it. Caleb nudged him from behind.

"You watching, or you pouring?"

"Ha, ha," Elias filled his mug and waited for Caleb to pour his own and restart the now-empty coffeemaker, then the two of them sat down at a nearby table. "Check it out, people all around, and it's like we're all invisible. Or maybe they are." He shrugged, laughed, and mused, "I guess a personal force-field comes in handy, especially when you're always surrounded by…" he looked around the room, now crowded with comrades both familiar and less so, "everything." As usual the air around them was full of conversation, gossip, and speculation about the near and far future.

Caleb raised his mug in agreement. "Your mother and I sure thought so… especially after you arrived."

Elias offered a fake shudder. "Too much information, dad. It's too early in the morning to hear about you and mom and your 'personal' skills!"

"Maybe right now," Caleb nodded in the direction of the corner where Tyler and Angie sat, no longer talking but still undeniably in that private space that allowed entry to nobody and nothing else. Then he looked Elias in the eye and advised, "But hang onto it, son. Someday you might be lucky enough to find someone who'll make you glad you did. I might even too, before I forget why."

Father and son smiled at one another as Elias ventured, "Here's to living long enough to find out."

They clicked mugs.

"I'll drink to that."