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Formica Bubble
by Suz

The day the world ended, Kurt had paté on toast for breakfast.

Not just any paté, of course. It was the rarest, most expensive paté he could find within a twelve-block area of his apartment. It didn't matter if it was an orgasmic experience against his tongue, or made his taste buds want to commit harakiri—the fact was that he was still Kurt Mendel, and there were certain expectations that came with that.

Even now, he intended to live up to every single one.

Angela wasn't there when he woke—hadn't been for a long time—so he showered and changed alone, making a point of singing loudly under the water because it was easier than standing there in silence, remembering the feel of her hip against his hand.

When he would have been looking over that morning's results on the shuttle, he pulled on his expensive jeans, instead. He followed it with a white shirt emblazoned with the occasional black vertical stripe, which he quickly buttoned up and decided Sarah was right. It did look good on him.

Slipping on his shoes before a quick mess with his hair to make it look like he hadn't bothered at all, and then Kurt was out of the apartment, rolling the door shut behind him.

The drive to the diner was the same as always, only instead of some distant future time his thoughts were full of 'these people will be dead later today'. And not just those people. Him, the others. Everything on the entire fucking planet would be destroyed, imploded, sucked into oblivion.

Kurt personally thought there were much better uses for sucking.

So Kurt drove, and looked at the people, and appreciated things in a way he never quite had before (and would never admit to anyone). Sidewalks were really quite fantastic inventions, weren't they?

He parked wherever he found a space, not particularly caring about a ticket or being towed. Not today. He strode into the diner, heard the familiar jangle of the door and looked towards the table.

It was always the same table, unless someone had arrived there before them (Neil had once jokingly put a curse on anyone who sat there instead of them. Kurt had told him that while there were several lifestyles he could have chosen that would have actually given him the ability to curse someone, joining NASA hadn't been one of them).

Today the table, the one by the window, was theirs.

Chuck had taken it.

By the window, staring outside, hands wrapped around a mug of coffee, hunched forward in that battered brown jacket. Kurt seriously doubted that Chuck even owned any other fucking jackets.

Chuck's head turned, looking up when Kurt approached the table and displayed the expression that was the closest thing to a genuine smile between the two of them.

"Waiting for it to all disappear?" Kurt asked dramatically, sliding into the seat opposite Chuck's and instinctively picking up the menu as if he didn't already know exactly what he was going to order.

"Just looking at the people," Chuck shrugged, and for a moment Kurt really did have to look at the menu because when he and Chuck had something in common the universe always felt a little off-kilter.

Kurt was vaguely sure that they should never have met.

Probably wouldn't have if Angela hadn't recommended him for the mission.

"So," Kurt said suddenly, thumping the menu back down on the table, "this is it. Just the two of us. The collective saviours of Earth being apparently not so collective."

He knew why the others weren't there, of course. Neil and Holly had patched things up now that silly little things like the saviour of mankind weren't at the forefront of Neil's mind.

Sarah was with Corey which was right, how it should be. How it always should have been. Though it sounded ridiculously romantic of him, Kurt couldn't blame either one of them for wanting to be with someone they loved. Especially today.

And Angela was...someplace else. They didn't did know where; had never known since the day she disappeared. Kurt had hoped, and occasionally—by himself, because that was the only time that he could admit to himself that maybe, just maybe there was a God—prayed that she was all right.

So it was him. Him and Chuck, the only two people in a diner full of strangers who knew that the world imploded today. Had imploded. That everything and everyone had been wiped out.

The only two out of the five with no one else to be with.

The harmony in that felt disturbing, and the world was off-kilter again.

"The wisest and the smartest," Chuck said, un-hunching and lifting his mug up in silent salute.

"Why Chuck," Kurt quipped, "I'm touched. I didn't know you cared."

"That's probably because I don't." Chuck lowered his drink. "I was talking about me, smart ass."

"Ah, so you do think I'm smart!" Kurt could never back down from a chance to bait Chuck, and he never had even once over the last five years. Annoying Chuck had been one of the few pleasures in life amid sentients, synthetics and death. It ranked right up there with saving the world.

Okay. Almost.

And really, how depressing was it that no one was ever going to know what a hero Kurt Mendel had turned out to be? Maybe he could actually write that Odyssey 5 book some day...

The waitress arrived then. She was a new one—Gloria, Kurt suspected—and Chuck ordered his customary chili when Kurt suddenly changed his mind and asked for the healthiest thing on the menu. If they actually weren't going to die today, he should probably start trying to make up for five years of rich food and even richer alcohol. The body being one's temple, and all that.

He tried not to think that he wasn't living up to expectations.

Chuck stared at him after Possibly Gloria left, obviously surprised at the food choice. Not liking the scrutiny at all, Kurt suddenly found himself doing something he never, ever did.

"Have you heard from Marc lately?"

Kurt didn't ask about Marc. He doubted any of them ever had.

After Paige died, Marc left. Chuck had, too, just... differently. Chuck came back eventually, helped them do what had to be done, but Marc never had. For all Kurt knew there'd never been so much as a phone call, or post card. And even if there had been, Chuck never would have said anything.

He never would have run into the diner, giddy like he sometimes was and announced to all and sundry that he'd heard from Marc. That wasn't very Chuck Taggart.

"You know, Kurt," Chuck began, evidently ignoring the question as he stretched out in his seat, "there are different kinds of smart. You, for example, have doctor smarts. Science smarts."

"Whereas you have grumpy old man smarts?" Never missed an opportunity. Ever.

"More like 'I may be older than you but I do know what the hell I'm doing' smarts."

This was going to be good. "And what is that, Chuck? Enlighten me with your knowledge."

Chuck hunkered forward in his seat, but this time it was to look closer at Kurt. "Sitting here. With you. On the day the Earth imploded." He grinned, almost a real one. "Nicely ironic, don't you think? That out of all of us it's me and you sitting here right now. Hell," he groped his mug. "I never would have picked you as a friend."

Words. Words were life, words were death, and Kurt never ran out of them. He thought words were going to get him killed, sometimes. They very nearly had. "Thank you, Chuck. I wholeheartedly return the sentiment." Yet here they were. Friends to some degree, brought together by fate or coincidence or nanobots. Whatever it was they were together, and quite depressingly Chuck was all Kurt had on this particular anniversary.

The food arrived. They exchanged more barbs. In the past sometimes their 'conversations' would become rather philosophical.

Today, the day the Earth died, they simply talked about nothing and Kurt decided he didn't particularly care for salad that came without dressing.

He knew they'd won. Knew the threat was gone, that Earth was no longer in danger.

But he was staying in the diner with Chuck anyway, in their little Formica bubble, until the moment the bright sky had happened.

Just to be sure.

Just to see.

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