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As he opened his eyes, it felt a bit like deja-vu. The irritating sunlight shone in through the blindless windows. The tunnel vision in his eyes had disappeared, but his headache still pounded to a lesser degree. Letting out a groan, he rolled onto his side. A slightly damp washcloth, which had once been yellow but now showed signs of dirt buildup, fell off his forehead and landed onto the pillow beside his face. With a grunt, he pushed himself up into a sitting position. The chandelier on the ceiling hung, as always, to mock him of its uselessness.

In the beginning, he had kept track of the days in between the power being on and off. He had lost count long ago now, and doubted their fortunes were going to improve any time soon. Natural lighting through the windows was all they had left, and yet it aggravated him to no end when it shone into the bedroom in the middle of the day when he wanted nothing more than to sleep through it.

A strong afternoon wind caught the stench from the ground below and carried it through the open window. The cool air was refreshing, but the rancid smell it carried along made his stomach turn. Hopefully as it continued to grow colder as winter approached, the air wouldn’t continue to carry such a strong smell. Of course, winter would bring its own problems, and he wasn’t looking forward to those issues one bit.

The smell must have woken him, and he knew he might as well get up and stretch his legs. Lifting the discarded washcloth from the pillow, he held it as he swung his long, slender legs over the side of the bed. With an exaggerated yawn, he rolled his shoulders and tilted his head side to side to stretch the stiff muscles. With a clearing of his throat, he stood and moved to the bathroom. The room felt more cramped than usual, and the sight of his reflection in the mirror above the sink made his forehead pulse.

Gripping the edge of the sink basin, he cast his eyes down from the mirror, only to find his sink filled close to the brim with water. No doubt who had helped with that task, and he reckoned he owed her a thank you the next time he saw her. Instead of squeezing the remaining water in the washcloth into the clean water in the sink, he opened the door to the shower and rung it dry in the confined space before looping the washcloth over the towel bar.

Shutting the shower door to give himself as much space as possible in the confined area, he dipped his hands into the sink and splashed some water on his face. His hands remained over his cheekbones as he stared at himself in the mirror. He had noticed how skin and bones Lenore had become on the roof, but it seemed he had been ignoring his own state of appearance. The skin on his face held tight to the bones, and his jawbone was pronounced where it had never been in the past.

Dropping his hands, he looked away from the mirror once more. He would have to try to remember to eat something by the end of the day if he could find anything on the barren shelves in his cabinets. A knock on the open door startled him, and he turned towards the noise immediately. His hand reflexively reached around the sink for something to grab for use as a weapon if need be. If he had thought about it more, he doubted something or someone who was going to attack him would bother with knocking, but the thought only came to him as his fingers wrapped around the handle of his toothbrush.

“Didn’t mean to startle you,” she said as she held her hands up in a gesture of peace. “Just heard you get up and wanted to check to make sure everything was alright.”

The toothbrush clanged as he dropped it back into the cup he used as a holder. His fingers wrapped around the basin of the sink again as he willed his racing heart to slow and his composure to return. “What the hell are you still doing here?” The words left his mouth without having time to process in his mind; he regretted them instantly.

The look that immediately followed on her face was clearly hurt. He wanted to swallow the words right back down. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that.” He did, in fact, wonder why she was still in his apartment, but he hadn’t meant to voice the words aloud, especially not with that tone. “You just scared the shit out of me. I didn’t expect anyone to come knocking on my bathroom door, yeah?”

“Sorry,” she apologized, staring down at the space between their feet. “Are you feeling better?”

“I’m not feeling well,” he admitted, running a hand over his head before he remembered that he had shaved it only days ago for no other reason than he had been bored and had had leftover water. The stubble atop his head caused a tingling sensation across his fingertips. “But I am at least feeling better. I suppose I owe a lot of that to you, so thanks.”

“Of course,” she brushed off his thank you as if it was just a passing comment of little or no significance. He had half expected that she had stayed and helped, and then made her presence known, in order to receive that praise. Now, he had the feeling she was actually concerned about his well being, which made him feel even guiltier. She and her brother were a weird pair, that much he knew for sure about them. He didn’t know if he would be so eager to help the others, especially since even though they had been forced together for the past couple months, they still hardly knew each other. He didn’t even know Lenore and Sebastian’s last name, and he doubted they knew his.

“Anything else you need help with?” she asked, her fingers playing with the edge of the door frame nervously. He wanted to say that he had not needed help in the first place, but bit back the words. No need to make the situation even more uncomfortable than it already was.

“I would feel guilty asking for any more help. You’ve already done more than enough,” was his politer reply.

A shrug of her shoulders was her first response. “Not like I have anything better to do.” He could certainly understand that feeling. Sometimes, all he wanted to do was lock himself in the apartment to get away from these seven other strangers. Other times, he racked his brain for any excuse to interact with one of them. Sitting around the building day in and day out left him feeling useless, and he was used to being a productive member of society. This new role, or rather this new society, was proving difficult to adjust to.

“Well, I appreciate it. Really,” he insisted. Their eyes met and he paused for a moment to see if he knew how old she was. He could have sworn it had come up once in conversation, whether directly with her or with Sebastian or Davidson. Now, he couldn’t remember to save his life. She looked so young, not a day over sixteen, and the ever decreasing weight and muscle tone only reversed aged her more. She was at least twenty, and he wanted to stay twenty-two, but he couldn’t be sure. To be that age and have nothing to show for it but the ability to help a twenty-eight year old with his migraine. What a strange world indeed.

“I should probably be going.” He didn’t know if his lack of social skills was boring her to tears or if she was just looking for an escape from the now rather awkward moment. Whatever the case was, he knew for a fact that it was statistically highly unlikely for her to have somewhere she needed to be. Having a schedule for everyone in the building made those types of lies easily see through.

“I’ll walk you out,” he offered, though the offer was rather ridiculous. Everything in the building was made to be compact, and his apartment, though spacious for what it was, was no exception. It took them less than half a minute to make it from the bathroom to the front door. Another awkward moment lingered over them while they stood there as he figured out the proper good-bye for such a situation.

He watched as her eyes traveled from him to the door. Clearing his throat, he moved to open the door for her, “Right then. I guess I will see you around.”

“Of course. Doubtful either of us are going anywhere.” Her joking comment would have made him laugh if the thought wasn’t such a solemn one.

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