*AN* this is my first fanfic on here everrr - so apologies if I do something wrong. Anyway - LfA is one of my favourite books and come on guys, Pudge and the Colonel? Perfect slash couple! (This really isn't slash, though. Unfortunately. I tried to write some but couldn't keep the characters in context. Oh well.) R&R?

I am lying in my bed, the covers pulled up around my chin. The light filtering through the window is receding but I am straining my eyes anyway, squinting as the words swim before them. I am reading a biography of Henry Ward Beecher, but I guess it would be more accurate to say I am not reading so much as attempting to because nothing is getting through to my brain, which is numb and utterly uncomprehending.

Alaska is dead Alaska is dead Alaska - STOP! I tell myself, growling and pressing my palms hard against my eyes until stars and lights flash and wink at me. I want to cry, I want to do anything but think about her, but there is nothing but numbness. I pull myself back to the page. I read the same line over and over until impatient, I flip to the index and find the chapter marked Death.

"Now comes the mystery."

The Colonel staggers in later, quietly opening the door and closing it behind him. "Pudge?" He whispers, to check if I am awake or not, and of course I am. I grunt in reply. He mutters something under his breath and then sighs. He has been hitting the ambrosia, I can tell, but not too hard - he can still climb into his respective bunk without staggering. He tosses and turns, and then is still. The silence engulfs our room like cigarette smoke. I stare at the wood panels above me without blinking, my arms behind my head, and I want to talk with the Colonel until I fall asleep, talk to him about anything, to listen to his almost comically deep voice until I forget about her. But I can't seem to think of anything to say and god oh god I feel so alone.

His voice cuts through the deafening silence of the labyrinth. "God, Pudge, how did this happen?" He doesn't slur. At least he is coherent.

I know exactly what he means. People do not just die. People like Alaska do not just die - they live forever, they create hurricanes of dust and glass in their wake, they do not disappear off the face of the earth like this, unexpected, unwarned. Maybe her body is still here, nothing but bones in a pit in the ground, but she is gone.

"I don't know," I say, my throat untearing, and I cannot think of anything closer to the truth right now.
His short legs swing over the edge of his bed. "Christ." He says. His voice wavers and I know he feels the same loneliness that I feel, one that even a thousand spectacular last words could not get rid of. "Can I come down?"

"Sure."

So he jumps to the floor with blatant disregard to the ladder and comes to sit crosslegged on the end of my bed. We stare at each other, his usually hardened face illuminated softly in the falling night that seeps in through our window.

"Why?" He asks.

"I don't know," I repeat softly, wishing I had more to offer him, the Colonel, who always has the answer and for once is asking someone else.
He leans back against the bed railing with a sigh. We sit there in silence again, but this time it's just a thinking silence, not of things unsaid. What is there to be said, anyway? Why did it happen? Why did she allow it to happen? Why? Why? Why? Jesus, we have all the time in the world for why questions. "Don't be stupid, Pudge," I can see her saying. "It's not like I'm going anywhere."

He yawns and his head droops.

"Are you tired?"
"Yeah." He answers. "But I just - ah, Pudge. I just don't wanna be alone tonight."
"Me neither," I say. He looks at me, and stands. At first I think he is going to go back up to his bed, and I almost say, no, please just stay. I don't want to be alone with her memory. But he doesn't - he comes and collapses on the covers next to me. The moment becomes surreal as our bodies, clothed, two layers, are pressed together and I can feel his breath drift across my face. Suddenly, without warning, I think of her wet, cold mouth against mine and her wet, cold body rotting in the dirt of Vine Station. A terrible, un-named fear overcomes me, and I fumble for the Colonel's cold hand. I squeeze it. It is almost nice, this human body next to me, one that is most definitely alive and most definitely not rotting. He presses his face into my chest and I know he doesn't want me to see him cry. Napoleon did not cry, so the Colonel does not cry.

My heart swells unbearingly. I'm glad he's here, the Colonel. I want to tell him, but instead I say, "Liechtenstein," softly and after a second's shocked delay he mumbles, "Vaduz", as if he had been only waiting to say Vaduz all this time. Through my cotton shirt I can feel a grin creep across his face.

"Madagascar."

"Antananarivo."

"Kazakhstan."

"Astana."

We continue, softer and sleepily as time goes on, until:

"New Zealand."

"..."

I look at him. He is asleep, his hand limp in mine. I close my eyes and I can see Alaska up there sitting on some stupid, angelic cloud she would probably profess to hate, and she is smiling, laughing at us. I smile back, and the sadness is not quite so terrible now, because I know that whatever the mystery is, she is enjoying it. I turn over and join him in sleep.