Sunday, 31 May 2009 - 7:24 pm

The pretence

There’s still so many Seekers that we can’t all sleep in the same room – quite often there’s just not enough space to lay down our blankets. Even with it getting colder and people huddling together for warmth.

Sally and Masterson still share blankets, despite their recent upset. He frowns at her a lot, and sometimes his words are short and sharp, but they look better when they’re asleep.

I’ve seen Nugget cuddled up against Thorpe’s back over the past few nights. I think he finally gave up and spread his bedding out with room for her. Jones often pins them down, a ginger bagel in the blankets’ folds.

Dillon grew brave enough to ask if he could sleep next to me a couple of nights after Ben left. After yesterday, I won’t let him sleep alone. I wonder if we’ll all end up sleeping in one big heap if it gets much colder.


Last night, I did my usual after-blogpost rounds, looking for somewhere I could set the laptop up to charge where the Wolverines wouldn’t see it (the hardest part is getting the stolen car battery inside without them seeing) and checking on my Seekers. Everyone had settled down except for Dillon and me – we were on first watch – but a couple were missing.

I found them in the corridor. I was just starting to wonder where Matt was when I came across him with Kirk. The Wolverine was taller than my friend and leant against the wall in a way I didn’t like. I remembered him outside our door a couple of nights before. I don’t like the way he appraises us, especially Matt, and I hated the way he lounged with such intent there in the corridor, blocking the way.

I knew it wasn’t right from the look on Matt’s face. He was ashen and taut, as if a touch might shatter him. I felt the anger rising in my chest, lava begging to be spilt.

They saw me at the moment my flashlight beam pinned them. Kirk turned that cocky grin on me, the one that gave me an instinctive desire to smack him across the face, and Matt shook his head. He could see it in my face, in the shiver of the lightbeam when my hand tightened on the flashlight. Don’t do it, Faith. No trouble, please. Trouble with one means trouble with all of them, and we can’t afford a battle with them.

I hesitated, struggling for options. I wasn’t going to just walk away, not even if Matt had begged me. I just had to work around this.

I took a breath and smiled. I focussed on Matt, in case that made the expression more convincing. “Hello, boys. For a minute there, I wondered what was creeping around out here.”

Matt didn’t respond. Kirk flicked a glance down and up my body that made me want to go shower in rainwater. “No, just us.”

I moved over to join my friend and placed a casual kiss on his cheek. “Sorry to interrupt.” Of course, I wasn’t, and I couldn’t hide it. So I covered it up the first way that came to mind. “You ready to come to bed yet, Matt?”

I slipped my free arm around his waist and found that he didn’t just look taut: I could feel his muscles all knotted up and tense. He cast me a surprised look and hesitated before putting his arm around my shoulders in turn.

I glanced between him and Kirk, and immediately regretted it. The Wolverine looked intrigued, as if wondering how he could use this to his advantage. He made my hackles want to rise and that made acting casual difficult. It was easier to think about getting out of this peacefully if I kept my attention on my friend.

“I know, we’re not supposed to tell anyone about this. But there’s only so long that we can pretend, right? And Kirk here won’t tell anyone.” I tried on a smile for size.

Matt looked uncomfortable, which only made Kirk’s smirk widen, but that was okay. As long as he thought this faux-thing between Matt and me was a secret, he would think he had something over us. It would keep him busy, and we could throw it away whenever we wanted.

“Sure, okay,” Matt said finally, finding a smile from somewhere. I don’t think I’ve heard him so quiet and reserved for a long time.

“Won’t tell a soul, promise,” Kirk put in, crossing his heart. I restrained the urge to roll my eyes at him.


I bid him a cheerful goodnight and Matt and I headed off towards the rooms where the Seekers were bedded down. Once out of the Wolverine’s gaze, Matt sagged and pulled away, going to his pack to free his blankets. I closed the door behind us and watched him for a moment. He was more upset than he was letting me see.

“You didn’t have to do that,” he told me. He sounded angry with me.

“It was the first thing that came to mind.” I wasn’t going to apologise to him; I was on the verge of shaking after that encounter.

“Now they’re going to think you’re….” He shook his head, still facing away from me.

So I went over and touched his arm. “They think that none of us Seekers is on our own. Which we’re not. I don’t care if they take it down to that level, as long as they leave us alone.”

His head drooped and he still didn’t look at me.

“It’s not forever, Matt. Just until we’re out of… this place we’re in right now. Then we go our separate ways.” Of course, no-one really knew what that different place would look like. Less shamblers, I guess. “Think you can pretend you like me until then?”

That made him snort, and then he turned to hook an arm around my neck. “You’re crazy, you know that?”

I sighed with relief and hugged him. No-one’s allowed to be on their own, that’s all. We have to stick together and protect each other. It didn’t occur to me to ask him what he was doing out there alone in the first place; I was too glad that it had ended without any trouble. I grabbed my blankets and laid them out next to his, and told Dillon to settle down on the other side of me.

Everyone has company, even in sleep. It’s the way it has to be for now. Even the snoring doesn’t bother me any more.