Lumy (luminations) wrote,
Lumy
luminations

"Accretion" Chapter 25: "Drink You Away"

Title: "Accretion" - Chapter 25: "Drink You Away"
Fandom: The Last of Us
Word Count: 5406
Rating (for fic as a whole): R
Chapter Summary: Ellie drowns her sorrows in drink like a... teenage girl not accustomed to liquor!


“Get it? The fucking song is about him, and she’s like, saying he’s vain cuz he thinks it’s about him, but it totally is so he’s not really. At least not about that. He’s a dick, though. I mean, obviously, cuz he’s male.” Ellie snickered. Max didn’t take offense at that so she nudged him with her toe. “Aren’t you gonna defend your species?”

Max shook his head, smiling. “My species. Cute. Nope, you figured it out. We’re all assholes. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache, learning that so young.”

“Well, fuck, you coulda told me that before I—“ Nooooooooo, Ellie, you’re not drunk enough to spill your guts. Bounce it back to him. “Never mind. You’re not one, though. If you were, you wouldn’ta loved Zoe. You just want to act like a dickwad sometimes for some reason. Stupid tough guy bullshit. Just like Joel.” DON’T TALK ABOUT JOEL, ELLIE. FUCK!

“How do you know it’s bullshit? Maybe the rest is bullshit and that part’s real.”

“Orrrrrr it’s all real. Like how moods change, right? You just wake up and decide if it’s gonna be an asshole day or a nice guy day.”

“More like… when people expect you to be an asshole, you’re an asshole.”

“Really?” Ellie pondered that, with whatever capacity for thought remained in her fuzzy brain. “Maybe sometimes. But you have to start being an asshole somewhere in the first place. Like what came first, the chicken or the asshole? Ha! You know, like, the egg?” She laughed loudly at her own lame joke. Actually, it was so lame she wasn’t sure it even qualified as a joke.

“The asshole’s the egg?”

Ellie laughed even more at Max’s bemusement. Alcohol made everything funny as hell! “That should be a code word thing for… something.” She lowered her voice to a stage whisper to repeat it. “’The asshole is the eeeeegggggg.’ Wink wink! Ohhhh I crack myself up. –So I’m the egg! I crack myself –- ha!”

Max rolled his eyes but laughed along with her. “The Ellie is the egg…”

“But that’s not a good code word, my name. So still the other thing. Oh hey! You can say it when people are coming so I shut the fuck up!” There weren’t a ton of people who had reason to walk down this street to get home from the lake, but there had been a few. Ellie had also noticed some walking their way but then taking another route as they drew closer. Not wanting to risk an awkward scene with the drunken idiots, perhaps. Chickenshits! We don’t bite! And I swear Max doesn’t even seem drunk.

“Or I could just say ‘ssshhhhh’…”

“Boooooriiiing!” Ellie giggled and took a swig from the flask. The shit still had a pleasant burn to it, and it was true that she no longer cared about the taste, now that she was ‘buzzing’ (which did not actually feel like having a bee in her head). Max still kept cautioning her to go slow, that if she drank too much she’d pass out or puke. “Axshull— ax—bleh!” Now I can’t talk?!Ac-tu-al-ly, I’m not gonna shut up. Fuck it! Why can’t I say g’night to people? I did to those one— to some— before, and nothing happened.”

“Do what you want, hon. I dunno what you ‘spect to happen. People will talk, but they’ll do that anyhow.”

A few people had stopped to chat with her. Most simply returned the smile and greeting and went on their way. Apparently no one had been worried or appalled or whatever enough to go say anything to Joel about her. Maybe I should act drunker? -And do what? Ellie both did and did not want Joel to find her. If he found her, it would be the end of her fun. She’d been so sure he would care, that he’d be angry at her… but what if he didn’t? What if he hadn’t even asked Clicker where she went? Or maybe he did ask, but then was content to believe she was with Annie. What good was an act of defiance if it went unnoticed? But worse than that would be if he showed up, got pissed off, and left her in disgust. Or maybe he’d only be slightly irritated, even apathetic. He can’t be. I need him to be pissed off. He can’t just not give a shit.

The drinking had taken her mind off things, somewhat. She’d coaxed a little of Max’s history out of him. Not a lot, because it was depressing. Of course it was; everyone’s past was drenched in pain. Talking about it too much would have been a ‘buzzkill,’ he said. So they discussed random shit, most of which came from Ellie’s head.

She was pretty tired. At one point she’d lain down, but when she realized she’d never be able to resist sleep that way, she’d returned to sitting in her corner. Max had told her to go ahead and take a nap if she felt like it. She felt like it, she just stubbornly refused to give in to fatigue. How could she when she hadn’t seen Joel? And she had to keep him from killing Max, should he be so inclined. She was getting that weird feeling again that maybe Joel wasn’t real. Like she’d made him up. She’d always been alone and would always be alone.

“You don’t have to work in the morning, do ya?” Max asked her presently.

“Nope. Why, d’you think I’ll have a hangover?” Ellie wondered what those felt like.

“Yeah, you might. Maybe you should cool it on that shit.”

“Not yet, there’s still some left!”

Max laughed. “No no no, you ain’t finishin’ that whole thing. It’s too much. How much you got left? Lemme see it.” She handed it to him and he sloshed its contents around a little. “You drank maybe half. That’s a shitload for a little girl, ‘specially one who ain’t used to drinkin’. Even though you’re goin’ slow.”

“Not so little,” Ellie grumbled, snatching it back from him and taking a swig like it was proof of her toughness. “Are you workin’ tomorrow?”

“Day after.”

“You just got back from the… monthy—month—ack! Month-leee thing, right?” Every time she flubbed a word she had to giggle. Her voice sounded thick to her own ears. Max sounded normal, and he’d been drinking longer than she had. “So what’re you doing, guarding?”

“I ain’t militia no more.”

“Really? You quit? You can do that?”

“Naw. Got kicked off. Someone thought I showed up drunk for my shift.”

“What? Were you drunk?”

“Not at all. I’d had one beer.” He shrugged and slouched a little more in his corner. “S’fine. I still do the deliveries… supply runs… an’ my favorite, scouting. That’s what I’m doin’ next.”

“Why’sat your fav’rite?”

“Less people. Sometimes it’s even just me.”

“You like it that way? Iznit scary? What if you get lost, or hurt…”

“Then I get lost or hurt.”

Ellie couldn’t imagine being out there without Joel. Even when he’d been so sick, she’d found his presence soothing. She felt sorry for Max. It was sad that he wanted to be alone like that, that he wasn’t as close to anyone as she was to Joel— no, USED to be, Ellie. You’re not close now. Now it hurts to even think about him. “You alone this next time?”

“Maybe. G might come.”

“Zoe’s dad? What’siz real name again?”

“Gawonii.”

Ellie was usually pretty good with names, but this one was unusual enough that it didn’t stick; the nickname would suffice. Max had told her it meant ‘he is talking’ in Cheyenne, which was kind of funny because the dude didn't talk all that much. Ellie had no idea what her own name meant or why her mother had chosen it. “Where you goin’?”

“Followin’ up on a tip I got ‘bout a hospital that’s s’posedly pretty functional, in Idaho. If they’re legit, they’d be a good ally. Might be able to trade ‘em some of our dope for medical supplies… or even services -- kinda far for that, but we’ll see. I'll be back Saturday.”

“Can I go with you?” Ellie blurted out without even thinking.

Max chuckled. “Maybe you should wait ‘til the second trip where Tommy or—“

“No! I might need to leave soon!” She didn’t really think that the knife thing would get her in that much trouble –- she hadn’t really hurt anyone, after all -- but suddenly the idea of leaving was very appealing. It would only be for a few days. Joel obviously didn’t care -- he hadn’t even found her yet tonight. Then he’ll be sorry! “Pleeeeease? I won’t bug you, I won’t say a word the whole time if you want -- and I can shoot real good, if we run into like bandits or hunters or Infected or whatever… please?”

“You’re kind of drunk,” he observed. Like it mattered?!

“Nooooo jus’ tipsy!” She liked that word. “Max, pleeeeeeeeeez?” she beseeched him in a tone she hoped was cute, not obnoxious. Then add the puppy eyes…

“What makes you say you need to leave?”

“Um… stuff?”

“Such as?” he prompted.

“Just… stuff.”

“Big secret?”

“Kind of. Yeah.” Max was studying her as if he could figure out her secret if he looked hard enough. She giggled. “Are you trying to read my mind? Like in that movie... whatwuzit… Star Track? You're doing it wrong.”

“Talk to me tomorrow. When you’re sober.”

“No I wanna talk now! I won’t change my mind—“

Max interrupted her. “Ssshhhhh. I think there might be trouble headed this way.”

The meaning of his words didn’t quite register so she didn’t lower her volume. “Not ssshhhh, you mean the egg is in the asshole—no! Hee! I mean -- shit, what was it—“

“Yep, it’s trouble, and it’s comin’ over here pretty fast,” he said quietly, jerking his head towards the street.

Ellie followed his gaze… omigod it’s Joel! FINALLY! “Then I better drink s’much as I can,” she whispered, giggling as she took a larger swig than usual. For the first time all night, she wasted some: a little bit dribbled on her shirt, thanks to the giggle. “Fuck! Sorry!” Anticipating that Joel would come up to ‘her’ corner of the truck, she scooted away from it, towards Max. He was leaning into the corner, so she couldn’t sit right up alongside him without being in his lap –- and that might be a teensy bit awkward. She settled for slouching next to his leg, her forearm over his right knee like it was an armrest.

Joel did seem to reach the truck pretty quickly, approaching the side she’d just abandoned. And he looked pretty fucking pissed off. “Ellie, what the fuck are you doin’?!” he bellowed.

She was so happy to see him, and to see him angry as ever… that familiar scowl… the fists clenching… he DOES care! She actually forgot she was upset with him for a moment. “Joel! Hiiiiii!” she chirped. She waved the flask in the air, but not close enough to him that he could snatch it from her. “D’you want some whiskey? Come up’n’sit with us! We can pull the thingie up so you have a corner…”

“I have been lookin’ everywhere for you.”

“Really?” Oh, how thrilled she was to hear that! She assumed an innocent expression, though. “Why? Clicker knew I waz ‘ith Annie. Didn’choo ask him?” ...as if having been with Annie explained where she was now? Okay, that doesn't really make sense, I guess I can cut him some slack...

“I went to the farm. An’ the house, an’ Tommy’s, an’ up’n’down all those goddamn streets you were at earlier. I went to the burnt houses. All over the fuckin’ place, an’ then I find you sittin’ here with this piece of shit?!” He edged around to the tailgate.

“He’s my friend!” she said, trying to sound angrier than she was. Max didn’t seem to take offense; if anything, he seemed mildly amused, which would surely enrage Joel further if he noticed. At least Max was keeping quiet. She shifted so that she was positioned completely between the two men, sitting in front of Max’s crooked leg, hoping to obscure him from Joel’s view as much as possible.

“He ain’t your friend. Now get your ass down here.”

She did feel a bit annoyed now. Why did he think he could just order her around like that? Maybe he'd gotten away with it before, but now… “No,” she said, miffed. “’m staying here.”

“The hell you are. Come on.”

“No! Whattayou care if I stay?”

Joel just scowled. “If you don’ get outta this truck…”

You’ll drag me out, Ellie finished his sentence in her head. And with her out of the way, he could do whatever he wanted to her buddy. She had to protect him. “’k, jus’… wait. I’ll get out. But can we talk firs’? You’re too… mad.” I need to talk him down… but I also want to piss him off… aaargggh!

“We can talk when you come down,” Joel growled.

“Uh-uh. You’re pissed ‘n’ you won’t hit me so you’ll take it out on Max whichiz toootally uncool ‘n’ unfair cuz I like forced ‘im to gimme it an’ ‘e wuz like ‘Ellie are you suuuure’ ‘n’ I said ‘hell yeah’ ‘n’ even then ‘e wuz relutt— re-LUCK-tent.” She paused to giggle. “My voice sounds funny. But ‘m not drunk. I’m tip-- tipppsssyy.”

“Jus’ get out. Let’s go.” Joel was not amused, but she thought he sounded a teensy bit less angry. Maybe.

“Not ‘til you swear you’ll leave Max alone. Anjoo hafta mean it.”

Joel groaned. “Ellie, I ain’t in the mood for this shit, now come on.”

Max poked her in the back. “Hey,” he said. She turned to look at him. He kept his voice so low it was barely audible. “You don’t have to go with him if you don’t wanna. Does he… are you afraid of him when he’s angry?”

Ellie assumed Joel hadn’t heard that, because he would have had some kind of reaction to such a question. She didn’t want Max to think Joel was abusive to her or something. “No, ‘course not! It’s okay, I’ll go, bu’ not if ‘e’s gonna hurt you.”

“Ellie. Now,” snarled Joel, ever-impatient.

Max nodded, smiling a little… trying to be… agreeable, maybe? His expression had lost the cockiness that she was sure would piss Joel off even more. “Go on, then. S’okay.”

“Noooo, ‘e didn’ swear,” she grumbled. She turned back to Joel. Oooo dizzy again… “Joel, I can’t letchoo hurt ‘im. I’ll go with you if you swear.”

“You’ll come with me regardless ‘cause I ain’t leavin’ you here.”

Yes! Just what I wanted you to say! Ellie hoped she didn’t look overly happy, although her face betrayed her by smiling before her sluggish brain caught up. She felt pretty woozy. It wasn’t an unpleasant sensation, really, except that her stomach was churning almost painfully. She’d dropped the flask at some point... which was fine, as her stomach was telling her not to drink any more, not even solely to antagonize Joel. She scooted over to slouch against Max’s side of the truck, along with his left leg. “Um… I’m tired, can I take a nap firs’?”

“No. You can sleep in your bed. C’mon.”

“I can sleep at Max’s place.” Ellie had completely pulled that out of her ass… not that Max protested.

“What?! No, you can’t. Come over here an’ I’ll help you down.”

“I don’ wantchoo to kill ‘im!” she cried.

Joel sighed. “I ain’t lookin’ to fight, Ellie, I jus’ wanna get you home.”

Ellie stared at him. Joel was often hard to read, and the crappy lighting didn’t help, but… she kind of believed him. “Really? Okay… but, Tommy’s. Right?”

“If you want.”

“Mmkay.” She crawled over to the open tailgate and swung her legs over, then reached for Joel. He put his arms around her and pulled her off the truck, and she felt her throat constrict with tears. What the fuck? She hugged him as hard as she could; she didn’t feel too steady on her feet, but that wasn’t the real reason.

“You all right?” Joel asked softly.

And just like that, he sounded like her sweet Joel again. She didn’t trust herself to speak at that moment. “Mmhmm,” she mumbled. Joel tried to shift her over to his side, but she was gripping him too tightly to budge without force.

“Hey,” he said, chuckling. “C’mon, I got you. Jus’ keep your arm around me… there you go. You’re cold. Here—“

“No! Warm on th’inside.” Just keep YOUR arm around me and I’ll stay warm. She smiled at Max. “Thanks. That wuz fun. ‘Night!”

Max nodded. “Take care, hon. I’ll talk to ya tomorrow.”

“Oh no you won’t,” Joel growled. Ellie hugged his side tightly. If he wanted to hop up in the truck and have a go at Max, he’d have to push her down to break free, and she didn’t think he’d do that. “You stay away from her. I will talk to you tomorrow.”

Shit. Ellie was afraid Joel’s ‘talk’ would be more physical than verbal, but maybe she could diffuse his anger overnight, at least a little. “Joel! ’s not ‘is fault. I pratt—prack-tic’ly attacked ‘im.”

“Mm. I’m sure. C’mon.” They started slowly walking down the street. More like hobbling, really. Ellie thought she was probably capable of walking without leaning on Joel, but she didn’t want to let him go to find out. “I think you should come home, kiddo.”

“If I do arya gonna sleep in the bed?” she asked hopefully.

“No. Keep your voice down,” he reminded her, glancing around furtively.

“Oopsie, our seeeeecret,” she stage-whispered.

Joel wasn’t done being angry with her, either. “Ellie, what the fuck were you thinkin’? Sittin’ out here at night gettin’ drunk with a prick you don’ even know, all alone—“

“No! Lotsa people came by! AND ‘m not drunk AND ‘e’s not a prick AND now I know ‘im.”

“You’re slurrin’ your words an’ you can’t walk: you’re drunk. An’ whatever you think you know about him ain’t true. He got you drunk to piss me off.”

“What? Tha’sso dumb! Why would ‘e even care—“

“’Cause he’s an asshole, that’s why. I can’t believe you, how careless you were. You can’t jus’… he coulda hurt you. Where’s your gun? Not that you could even use it in your current state.”

Ellie was glad he’d noticed her gunlessness. He was passing all her little tests. “No one ‘n this town wou’dare hurt me. Too scareda you. Big bad scary Joely…” Ellie giggled, which seemed to aggravate her roiling stomach. She stopped walking. “Oww…”

“It ain’t funny.” Joel dragged her a step before he realizing she’d stopped. “What’s wrong? You gonna throw up?”

“No, I wish. That’d prob’ly make it feel better.” Joel pulled her forward and she walked a few more steps before stopping again. “I needta lie down.”

“You can lie down at home.”

“Tommy’s!” she corrected him. She started to slump to the ground, but Joel held her up. “‘m too tired… tummy hurts…”

Joel groaned. “That’s what you get for gettin’ wasted. Keep movin’.”

Ellie wanted him to carry her, but she couldn’t just flat-out ask him to. If she just made walking too difficult for him… “I can’t,” she whined, keeping her body limp.

“Ellie, knock it off.” He hitched her up a little, but Ellie refused to be anything but dead weight and started sliding down his leg the second he eased his grip on her. This time he let her plop down on her butt.

“Go ‘head, I’ll catch up later,” she said nonchalantly. She lay down on her back on the gravelly road, clutching her stomach. It really did feel better than walking. “Ohhh so comfy! G’night…”

Joel sighed. “You know I ain’t gonna leave you layin’ in the street like a corpse.”

That remark made her giggle a little. “So lay here with me!”

“C’mon, sit up. I’ll carry you.”

“Good idea!” She didn’t sit up, but she held her arms out so Joel could pull her up. She wondered if he would sling her over his shoulder, or…

“Put your arms around my neck… there you go.” He scooped her up like she weighed nothing. She felt dizzy again… in a good way.

Ellie kept forgetting she was mad at him; her heart swelled with love. “Sorry ‘m such a pain in the ass.” But not sorry enough that I won’t get drunk every night if that’s what it takes to be this close to you…

Joel just grunted. “Why’re your pants wet?”

Surely her jeans must be mostly dry by now -- the rest of her was. She’d truly stopped noticing. She giggled again. “I didn’ pee ‘n ‘em if thasswhat you think!”

“That’s good, seein’ as how it’s your legs that’re wet.”

She kept laughing. “Like it rolled alllllll th’way down? Maybe ‘s not jus’ my legz!” She stopped short of actually suggesting that he feel her crotch.

“Jus’ let me know if you’re gonna puke an’ I’ll set you down.”

“Oww! Stop makimme laugh,” she gasped.

Joel finally chuckled. “Nothin’ I’ve said’s been even remotely funny, silly girl.”

If it weren’t for feeling kind of shitty physically, things would be perfect. Last night had never happened, it wasn’t real. She was, literally, in Joel’s arms, once again the happiest girl in the world.

She should have realized it sooner, but it wasn’t until their surroundings went dark, lit only by the moon, that Ellie noticed they weren’t going the right way. “Joel -- Tommy’s! Turn ‘round!”

“You’ll be fine in your own bed.”

Your bed. I can’t sleep innit. ‘less…didjoo change’r mine?” Could this get any more perfect?!

Joel didn’t answer. Maybe he wanted to talk to her about it… about all of it! Yeah, right. Don’t count on it. He said no earlier. Still, it was hard to keep her hope in check. Maybe I just need to act like his silence means yes, if he needs convincing… “Ohhhh thank you, Joel! You won’be sorry, I swear. I’ll be good. I’ll liv’ith you forever. I… I feel kinda… sick…”

Joel swiftly set her down and she dropped to her knees. She knew she’d feel better if she threw up but now she really didn’t want to. She kept swallowing, trying to stave it off. Vomiting was decidedly unsexy, uncute, and unflattering. “Go ‘way!” she barked at Joel.

“It’s all right, let it up—“

“Don’ watch me!”

“It’s dark, I can’t see nothin’.”

“Jus’—“ She couldn’t hold it back. Not only did Joel not go away, he sat next to her and attempted to hold back the raggedy locks of hair not contained by her ponytail as she retched with, in her recollection, the most godawful, loud, disgusting noises ever issued from her body. She sat there panting for a few moments, then did it again. “Gross.”

“Done?” He rubbed her back with slow, soothing strokes. Clearly he didn’t care about the no-touching thing, at least for the moment.

She spit in the dirt and wiped her mouth on her sleeve. “Yeah. So fucking embar’ssing.”

“Y’know, if you kept on drinkin’, you mighta got alcohol poisonin’. You can die from that, Ellie.”

Ellie wanted to be coddled, not lectured. “Well, I didn’t. I knew whenta stop. I could feel it.”

“Obviously not or you wouldn’ve jus’ puked your guts out. You can thank your new friend, upstanding citizen that he is, for givin’ you too much—“

“No no no it wuz me – ‘e kept sayin’ go slow. Which I did… ‘til th’ end.”

“The motherfucker shouldn’ve given it to you in the first place. You are not gonna do that again. You ain’t gonna see him at all, do you hear me?”

“Whatever,” Ellie scoffed. Joel just loved to forbid her to talk to other men, like he had any right to. She didn’t want to fight with him now, though. “Can we just go?”

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow.” He stood up, helped Ellie up… but made no move to carry her again. “Can you walk now?”

She would settle for leaning into him. Which was better, actually, because she was afraid her breath stank like puke now. When they reached the house, Joel had her lean against the wall by the door while he fetched the key. Her head was spinning, not unpleasantly. She was more concerned that her exhaustion would make her fall asleep as soon as she lay down, and she wanted to relish every minute she could play ‘pretend’ with Joel. Or maybe not-pretend?! If he changed his mind…

As soon as they got inside, she headed straight for the bathroom, fumbling through the dark before Joel could even switch on a light. Her toothbrush was at Tommy’s, so she finger-brushed with a dab of toothpaste. She used the toilet. Splashed water on her face. She did not change out of her clothes; she hadn’t brought her nightshirt to the bathroom, and besides, if Joel wasn’t going to sleep in that bed with her, she’d have to leave. Tired as fuck that she was, she would probably be able to sleep in it tonight, but it was the principle of the thing. She’d told Joel she wanted to go to Tommy’s -- a decision he knew to be based on his refusal to sleep in the bed -- and he’d brought her here, so he damn well better have changed his mind about it.

She scuttled over to the bed and sat on the edge of it, wanting to flop over but not allowing herself. Joel came in with a glass of water and sat next to her. “Drink. You’re dehydrated. An’ it’ll help you not feel as hungover in the mornin’.”

Ellie accepted the glass from him and took a few gulps of water, eyeing him suspiciously. “Don’t you want me to be hungover? Teach me a lesson, all that shit?”

“I prob’ly should. But no, I don’ want you to suffer needlessly.”

Could’ve fooled me. But she just grunted into the water. He wasn’t sitting as close to her as she would have liked. She wondered if he was going to try to be ‘proper’ with her now. Joel the Dad.

“Your voice sounds a ‘lil better than before,” he observed.

It still sounded rather muffled to Ellie. Sitting up was requiring too much effort. She finished the water and handed the glass back to Joel. “You’re gonna sleep in here with me, right?”

He set the glass on the nightstand. “I’ll stay here ‘til you fall asleep. All right?”

Unfortunately, she’d probably be asleep in five minutes. She didn’t have the energy to negotiate. “Okay.” She let herself fall sideways into him -- rather awkwardly, her head on his elbow. He shifted a little and let her head rest on his thigh. He even started petting her hair. Again, she inexplicably felt like she could cry. She swallowed the feeling. “Why’d you trick me?”

“Trick you how?”

“Bringing me here.” She forgot to wait for an answer. “Mmm I’m gonna sleep like this. You have to stay.”

Joel chuckled. “You ain’t even all the way on the bed. An’ you’re still dressed.”

“S’okay.”

“C’mon.” Joel slithered away from her and she couldn’t even attempt to stop him.

“Don’t go!” she cried.

“I’m right here.” He shifted her up higher on the bed, then swung her legs up into his lap –- he was taking off her shoes and socks. “I’ll get your nightshirt…”

“Uh-uh. Too tired. I’m good.” She closed her eyes and enjoyed feeling like a pampered princess who didn’t even have to take her own shoes off.

“You’ll be a lot more comfortable in the shirt.”

“I slept in my clothes for like a year. I’ll live.” Besides, he’d probably leave the room while she changed and never come back.

Joel sighed again. “Your jeans need to dry out.”

She opened her eyes a smidge and smiled sleepily at him. “You can take ‘em off if you want.”

She’d expected an immediate ‘no,’ but apparently he was considering it.

Time to switch gears! “Joel, can you? Please? I’d be sooo much more comfy. I’m too tired to sit up. Please please please?” She tried to paw at his arm, but he was just out of her reach, and she couldn’t sit up to do it if she was ‘too tired,’ now, could she.

“I’m sure you can do it yourself.”

“No I can’t! Pleeeeeease? I’ll never ask you for anything else as long as I live!”

Joel chuckled. “Is that so? Why don’ I believe you?”

A nagging little voice in Ellie’s head said it might very well be true if Joel turned back into a jerk in the light of day, but she wasn’t in the mood to listen to it, and she certainly wasn’t going to spoil the moment. “C’mon, it’s not like you haven’t seen my underwear before. And it’s dark in here. You don’t even have to see, really.”

Suddenly she wished she remembered which panties she was wearing… if they were one of the less-ugly pairs. Does it matter? I hope not, since I can’t do anything about it now.

“It’s a bit diff’rent when you’re wearin’ ‘em.”

Ellie was pretty sure he’d seen them on her body before, too… innocently, in the course of sharing the bed. But she didn’t want to remind him of any supposed impropriety in that regard. “I’ll toss’n’turn all night if I have to keep wearing these… I’ll prob’ly roll over on my stomach and the button will like, jab into my flesh…”

Joel laughed at that. “All right, all right. The things I do for you…”

Ellie giggled, then reminded herself she shouldn’t be giggling like a little girl if she wanted Joel to think of her as a woman. She felt slightly nervous. Why? It’s not like he’s undressing you for sex, Ellie -- you wish. At the same time, she felt like she wasn’t as alert as she should be… like she might doze off before he even finished pulling her pants off. It wasn’t all that dark in the room, really, with the light from the hallway spilling in, but he seemed fuzzy and shadowy and far away.

His fingers grazed her stomach, tickling a little as he unbuttoned her fly, but she managed to stifle another unwomanly giggle. I should be doing something, or saying something. Something sexy. But what?! -No, I don’t want him to think I have ulterior motives for getting him to depants me… even though I totally do… just don’t fall asleep don’t fall asleep don’t fall asleeeeeeep~

She couldn’t keep her eyes open. Maybe that’s why she didn’t feel as embarrassed or self-conscious as she thought she would… she felt completely relaxed. He unzipped her with deft fingers, and in spite of her drunken fatigue, she felt a tingle of excitement, a yearning to feel his hands on her. He had a bit more difficulty sliding her pants down (thanks to the wet patches?), but Ellie tried to shift herself helpfully, and he managed it with minimal skin-to-skin contact. “’kay, now my top. Please?”

“Uh, no. Like you said, you’ll live.” She felt him pulling the blanket out from beneath her, drawing it up over her body to her chin.

“But… my bra…”

“Tough shit.” He sat down beside her.

“Just unhook it? After I fall asleep, even… if you don’t wanna…” She let out a big yawn.

Joel sighed… or maybe that was a yawn, too. He was quiet.

“Stay with me,” she murmured.

“I’m right here. Go to sleep, now.” He smoothed her hair back off her face, and that was the last thing she remembered of the night. Or maybe the second-to-last thing… she thought she heard him say “love you, baby girl,” but… no, of course Joel would never say such a thing. She was just having a sweet dream… one that she wouldn’t remember in the morning.

~Continue to Chapter 26~

Tags: accretion, fic, tlou
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