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"Comforting Sounds" Chapter 2: "Monopolies" (2/17)

Title: "Comforting Sounds" Chapter 2: "Monopolies" (2/17)
Fandom: The Last of Us
Characters: Ellie, Joel, Tommy, Maria, OCs
Pairings: Ellie/OC
Warnings: PLEASE SEE NOTES ABOUT WARNINGS IN FIRST CHAPTER
Word Count for this chapter: 5533
Rating (for fic as a whole): R


Now Ellie understood the meaning of the term 'deafening silence.'

Silence between herself and Joel was never awkward. Had it ever been? She couldn't remember. Tense, maybe... a little... in the beginning, when she wanted to talk and he most definitely did not. Generally speaking, she could fill the air with words on any occasion. This situation was tricky, though; she didn't want to say the wrong thing, as she had apparently already done before tonight, many times, without realizing it. And now Rachel hated her.

Ellie wasn't one to give up easily. Unsurprisingly, that had been Joel's first solution: "Fuck 'em. If people don't want you around, no sense wasting your time on them." Conveniently lumping Bailey and his mom together as one entity. Once he realized she was not inclined to follow this sage advice, she'd expected him to change his tune to "well, fuck HER then," but no. He said it would be best if the differences could be worked out, that she and Bailey would be happier if they didn't feel like ultimately they'd have to choose between each other and their family. It kind of made her wonder if Joel was trying to get along with Bailey only because he feared he wouldn't like the outcome if there was a choice to be made. Maybe Rachel didn't feel that way because Bailey was her real family? Her bond with her son had to be stronger than Joel's with Ellie due to that fact alone. Did that mean if he were faced with the choice, Bailey wouldn't choose Ellie?

Ellie didn't want to find out. She didn't know what it was like to have a real family. Joel had claimed her as family, which pretty much forced Tommy and Maria and even Maria's father to accept her as well, to some extent... but that didn't make any of them legitimate relatives. Joel and Tommy didn't always get along, Bailey and his mom didn't always get along (even Bailey thought that Joel was being cooler about things than Rachel)... but in the end, these mysterious family bonds trumped all. With family, you didn't just steer clear of the other person after a disagreement, or when you found out things about them you really don't like. Ellie had been ditched more times than she cared to admit, but she'd also done the ditching herself on occasion. With non-family, you might never see the other person again, and most of the time, no one really gives a fuck -- or if they do, they stop giving it soon enough.

Ellie just had to make Rachel see that she wasn't the enemy -- that she wasn't trying to steal her baby boy away from her.

Bailey wasn't exactly afraid of Joel now, but he was still... wary, would probably be more accurate. For no real reason evident to Ellie other than perhaps the initial threats (ancient history!) and a snide remark here and there (just Joel being Joel!). He said he hadn't told his mom anything negative about Joel, not that he could recall; he definitely hadn't told her about any threats. Rachel seemed to pick up on Bailey's wariness, though, and held it against both Ellie and Joel. Her attitude towards Ellie was enough cause for Joel not to like her, and this just compounded it.

Why had Ellie thought this might go well?!

At least things were more uncomfortable than hostile. The rehearsed shallow compliments didn't really break the ice as Ellie had hoped, and some of Ellie's dumb jokes could probably be blamed on nerves, or 'trying too hard.' Like when she'd found out the dish they were eating was called chicken a la king, and lamely asked where the king was, and mentioned that it didn't seem fancy enough for a king, but oh there's nothing wrong with that... yeah. Joel and Bailey had pretended to be amused, rescuing her from Rachel's cool gaze with remarks of their own. 'Cool gaze' was too hospitable, actually -- it was more like a deathglare.

When she wasn't glaring, Rachel really was quite pretty, Ellie thought. She had a gracefulness about her. High cheekbones, only a dusting of freckles on her light skin... Bailey had the same skin, but his freckles were way more pronounced. Like Ellie's. Bailey had also inherited his intense blue eyes from his mother. Their hair couldn't be more different, though -- and not just because Rachel didn't have a charming cowlick. Hers was blond (dirty blond, according to Joel, but Ellie thought that was a mean way to describe it), about shoulder-length, and tonight she wore it pulled back, with some wispy strands framing her face. Her bangs were thick and neat, unlike Ellie's; Joel had many talents, but cutting hair was not one of them. She actually thought she could cut her own hair better than he could cut it -- which was really sad. Joel wanted to take her to some chick in the Town Square who would do it properly, and Ellie always refused. She didn't much care what her hair looked like. It seemed silly and vain.

"Ellie, have some more," Bailey encouraged her as she took her last bite, and she wondered if he was trying to score points with Joel on that one; he knew Joel always wanted her to eat more and put some 'meat on her bones.' No one else had finished yet.

"It's so good I guess I ate it too fast," she said sheepishly. Ellie had already praised the meal a couple times, but it's not like she was being insincere. She was about to help herself to more mashed potatoes when it occurred to her that maybe she ought to, for once, mind her manners. She was seated next to Joel at the rectangular table, and across from Bailey, who sat next to his mom. Ellie didn't feel comfortable addressing Rachel by her first name. It also seemed silly to use the 'Miss Rachel' that her young students used. Ms. Donovan seemed too formal... and she just plain didn't like 'ma'am', which is what Joel favored (although it did sound good in Joel's Texas accent), so on the rare occasions she spoke to Rachel without being spoken to first, she kinda just had to wait and get her attention. She looked in Rachel's direction. "Um... may I? Please have some more?"
Joel answered instead. "He jus' told you to, you don' gotta ask. 'Specially if it's sittin' right there in front of you."

Still, Ellie paused with her hand on the serving spoon, waiting for Rachel's blessing, for her to just glance her way and nod, at least. This is so fucking stupid. After another beat, she slowly took a small dollop of potatoes, and the woman finally graced her with a stiff reply. "Take what you want."

Ellie wondered if she was imagining the sarcasm in that statement. She helped herself to a modest second portion. "We've been here like a year and I still eat too fast sometimes, huh Joel." She waited for Joel to grunt assent. "On the road we didn't always have a lot of time to eat -- eating is a distraction from staying alive. Er, I mean, it helps you stay alive, obviously. We didn't always have a lot of food to eat either. So I'd get really hungry and that made me eat faster, too. And before that, at school, the kids who ate slow didn't get to finish their meal. Some bully would steal it from them, or try to. Eating was kind of a violent pastime in Boston." She realized she was babbling (about an unpleasant subject, no less) and shoveled a forkful of creamy chickeny goodness into her mouth to shut herself up.

Bailey had heard it before. "Everyone underestimates Ellie 'cause she's small but she could hold her own," he told his mom proudly.

"Well, I had help," Ellie reminded him. "My best friend, she was two years older than me. We looked out for each other. We had our fair share of enemies in that school." Shut up, Ellie -- having enemies won't impress her! She sipped her lemonade (which she'd also made sure to over-compliment) to occupy her mouth with something other than saying stupid shit.

Rachel made a 'tsk' sound. "It sounds awful. You had such a violent upbringing compared to Bailey."

Something about the way she said it made Ellie feel like it was a criticism of her, and Joel must have felt it also, because he interjected, "It wasn' Ellie's fault she was in those schools. Her poor excuse for a guardian shoulda done more to protect her. You're lucky you got to homeschool your kid. Or at least be the one teachin' him, in whatever Zone school he was at."

"I agree," Rachel replied coolly. "We've been very fortunate. In many ways. It's just that the two of them are so... different. They're from different worlds."

Joel snorted. "Ain't no such thing anymore. There's no... ghetto versus uptown, or... it's the same fucked-up world out there for everyone."

"Not exactly," Rachel replied. Ellie was beginning to wonder if glaring was actually her default method of looking at people. "It's just a different form of class distinction."

Joel was unperturbed. "Well, we're all in the same place now, and this is it. There's nothin' better or... fancier, an' whatnot... to aspire to, this is as good as it gets. 'Less you wanna join the military, an' that's a crapshoot on how good you'll get it."

"That doesn't make Bailey and Ellie... the same," Rachel replied. The hesitation made Ellie wonder which word 'the same' had replaced. 'Equals,' maybe?

"It don' make Bailey any better than Ellie, either." Again, Joel's thoughts followed Ellie's.

"I never said that."

"But you're thinkin' it."

Ellie was glad Joel wasn't taking Rachel's shit (even if it was, allegedly, impolite to act thusly in the home of someone hosting you for dinner; fuck that outdated custom!). Still... Joel was starting to sound much more confrontational than conversational -- again -- and she had to think of a way to diffuse the tension...

Rachel's smile was patronizing -- and fake, of course. Like she was only playing at being civil. "I'm sorry, but you have no idea what I'm thinking."

"Oh, I think I do."

Ellie tried to telepath 'Just drop it' to Joel, who usually picked up on such things from her... but he was ignoring her.

"Of course I'm not better than Ellie," Bailey interrupted cheerfully, clearly attempting to lighten the mood. "Ellie does all kinds of things better -- she can fish better than me, even though she just started last year and I've been doing it since I was about yea high." His palm indicated the height of a small child.

Ellie laughed a little louder than necessary, grateful for the subject change. Maria's father, Ed, was actually the one who'd taught her how to fish properly. "Uh, that one time, you mean. Sheer luck."

"Yes, anyone can get lucky." Rachel didn't let up. And it seemed that she and Joel were trying to outglare each other. Who are the adults here? Ellie mused to herself. She watched Rachel's fork idly twirl across her plate as she continued. "It must've been hard for Ellie growing up without her parents and only that... 'poor excuse for a guardian,' as you put it, someone who didn't actually raise her, or even live with her, Bailey tells me? Especially if those schools were so rough. It's a wonder she's not... well... deranged, in some way."

Ellie had to bite her tongue to keep from snarking back, "Who says I'm not?" All the ass-kissing was starting to wear on her, and her true self yearned to be expressed. But Rachel's tone seemed to imply that she did think Ellie may have a screw or two loose, as they say, and Ellie didn't want to reinforce the idea.

"I didn't say it was."

"It's okay," Ellie said to Joel before turning to Rachel. "Yeah, growing up wasn't easy, but I didn't know any different, y'know? Me and the other kids there... we had to figure things out the hard way. l learned how to survive. Then I was lucky enough to meet Joel, and we sort of adopted each other." She leaned sideways to give Joel a quick sidearm hug, hoping to relax him a little. Sometimes just that tiny bit of affection was all it took.

"How did that come about?" Rachel asked with what sounded like genuine interest. "With all the speculation there was about you two when you first got here, I don't think I ever got the whole story. Bailey only told me that you met randomly in Boston, and Joel helped you come out west."

"Mom, it's rude to ask people stuff like that," Bailey chided her with a nervous chuckle.
"How is it rude? Aren't you curious?"

Joel always answered these sorts of questions smoothly, albeit vaguely, with grains of truth amidst the lies. They'd concocted a palatable story for such inquiries, and that's what he fed Rachel. A tale of Marlene trying and failing to escort Ellie to a safer environment (it's not like anyone out here knew how safe or unsafe the Boston Quarantine Zone was), and to a real home, not a military school. How, when they'd arrived, the people Ellie was supposed to live with were missing, presumed dead or infected or driven away to parts unknown... how Marlene also had family living in Colorado near the UEC, and since Joel had a hankering to try out life in his brother's settlement in Wyoming, he'd offered to take Ellie along. That accounted for their 'passing through' in the fall of 2033 -- enough residents knew about that visit that it had to be included in the story. But of course, she and Joel had found that the Colorado folks met the same fate as the others, and then they returned to Jackson for good.

"I'm surprised you two could travel all the way across the country without getting yourselves killed," Rachel marveled.

"I've learned how to survive, too," Joel said simply.

"By killing people," Rachel added.

"Mom, seriously?" Bailey groaned.

But it's not like Joel was ashamed of their conduct on the trip. Ellie wasn't, either. She'd struggled with the killing at first, but she'd adapted. They'd done what they had to do. "Yes, when I had to," Joel echoed Ellie's thoughts. "That's how the world works."

"She's killed people before, too," Bailey said, earning himself one of his mother’s glares. He turned to Rachel. "Sorry, but it's true. You can't judge them."

"There's a difference between... isolated incidents of self-defense, and killing anyone who gets in your way," she explained. "Some people seem to... develop a taste for violence, as it were. Tommy's talked about the kind of life he and Joel used to have. The toll it took on him... why he left... they were basically like the bandits who raid this town."

"Joel and Tommy are nothing like those shitheads!" Ellie knew Tommy had talked about his past with every new arrival in town, and that he didn't purposely paint Joel as the bad guy of the duo, but some people would draw their own conclusions. Joel didn't give enough of a shit to dissuade anyone from their assumptions, either. He'd said he would try for Ellie's sake if anyone's opinion of him somehow adversely affected her -- but the truth was, she didn't really give a shit either.

Except for situations like this one, apparently.

"It's all right, Ellie," Joel said calmly. He really didn't seem to care what people, or at least Rachel, thought of him. He only started getting fired up if it was on Ellie's behalf. Just like she took more offense to someone talking shit about Joel than about herself. "Truth is, we weren't so different from them, back then. I ain't proud of it, but it's my past, an' I own it. Only killin' I've done in this past year-plus was either in self-defense or defense of this town. Ellie hasn' killed anyone since we got here."

"I would, though," Ellie interjected. She had to stand by Joel on that one, even if it didn't endear her to Rachel. "It's still kill-or-be-killed. Joel just has this thing about wanting me to have a normal childhood. Even though it's too late for that -- I'm not a child anymore."

"Yeah you are," Joel said, smiling a little.

"On that, we agree," Rachel said. "Because Bailey's still a child, too."

Bailey rolled his eyes. "For another seven months. Eighteen is like some magic number that instantly turns a kid into an adult."

Ellie laughed. "So it's not just Joel who thinks that!" She knew very well that the eighteen thing wasn't invented by Joel, but she did so love to give him shit about some of the weird customs he'd observed in olden times.

Joel chuckled. "It don' make you an adult overnight, no. That was jus' the law. Have to draw the line somewhere." He looked at Bailey. "Tell you what, though -- I'll prob'ly think of Ellie as a kid for at least a few years after that. Bet your mom'll do the same with you."

"She can't, I've been hearing about eighteen my whole life -- I'll remind her if she forgets."

Rachel swatted at his head playfully, but Bailey ducked out of her reach in time. "I'll still be your mother! That's all that matters. You boys want to finish this up? Ellie?" She'd started divvying up the rest of the food between the two guys before they even answered, but Ellie declined a third helping.

When Rachel started taking the empty serving bowls to the kitchen, Ellie got up, too. "Let me help you with that."

Joel and Bailey both protested, but Rachel didn't -- she even said it was nice of Ellie to offer, in a way that didn't sound all bitchy-like -- so Ellie grabbed the empty plates on the table and followed Rachel to the kitchen, which was actually a whole separate room in their house, unlike Joel and Ellie's. Rachel suggested that she wash and Ellie dry.

They worked silently, other than Rachel instructing her on where to put things, and Ellie felt rather awkward. She tried to use the silence to rack her brains for something not imbecilic to say. They couldn't really eavesdrop on the guys' conversation too well, but the indistinct chatter they did hear was lively, animated... the sweet sound of her two favorite people bonding! She wished Bailey could hear the same sounds coming from the kitchen. What am I even doing? I should have stayed at the table.

Then Rachel decided to break the silence with, "I don't hate you, you know." Wry smile, sidelong glance.

Ellie wasn't expecting that. Can she fucking read my mind?! "Oh, um... I don't hate you, too. -Either, I mean." She took great care wiping the spots off the lid in her hands, thinking the silence was actually less awkward than cutting the bullshit – if that’s even what this was...

Rachel continued, "You do make Bailey happy, and that's... important. It's just that... he's a good boy..."

And I'm a bad girl, Ellie finished for her. She couldn't really argue with that. She and Joel had had many futile discussions about the good/bad spectrum and where they each landed on it, and why. Joel would never rank her high enough on the bad side (or himself high enough on the good side). But she'd never been the proverbial 'good girl,' nor had she desired to be one -- until this moment, possibly. Oddly, she found that she actually wanted Rachel's approval. For real, not just as part of some charade for Bailey's sake. "He is. I like that about him -- I'm not trying to like... change him, or anything."

"Well. He is nearly a grown man now, he deserves to lead his own life and make his own decisions, and if I've done my job well, he'll make the right ones. I can't keep him with me forever."

"He's still with you! I'm not stealing him from you, I swear."

Rachel's smile still struck Ellie as condescending. "Perhaps you're not trying to. But it's what happens."

"No! Really! Doesn't he... I mean, on the days when me and Joel hang out..."

"Oh, I see him, yes, of course. He also spends time with Marcus, and maybe a couple other kids from time to time... and he likes to be alone sometimes, too. It's not so much the time, as the... tch, never mind that. I'm just a mama bear sometimes." She chuckled at herself. "A lot of times. He's my only child. And as far as I know, my only living relative."

"I totally get it," Ellie said kindly. "Joel feels protective of me, too -- and I'm not even his biological kid. We've only known each other two years. So the protectiveness you feel towards Bailey must be like... ten times as bad. -As much." Ellie didn't really believe that, because she knew Joel was pretty fucking hardcore protective, in spite of them not even being related, but she was feeling generous now.

"Here -- I think that's sufficiently dry now, hon." Rachel handed her the pot she'd just washed, and Ellie tried not to feel embarrassed that she'd been mindlessly overdrying that lid. She can be a smartass and not be a bitch, Ellie reminded herself. You do it all the time!

"It is a strong feeling," Rachel continued. "Joel has nothing to fear from Bailey. He'd never hurt you... or anyone. He's the sweetest, most loving boy in the world."

"I know," Ellie said, feeling embarrassed in a different way now. She could imagine the hilarious shade of red Bailey would turn when she told him -- in exaggerated fashion, of course -- how his mom had gushed about his sweet nature. "Um, in case you're worried about Joel, his tough guy act is... well, an act. He's all talk, really. He's not violent."

"He kills people, but he's not violent, hmm?"

"He... doesn't like killing people, I mean." Ellie wasn't really sure she believed that, actually, because when he got angry enough... Rachel wouldn't appreciate the distinction, though. "He doesn't have that taste for violence you talked about. He wouldn't hurt Bailey, trust me." That was kind of a lie, too. Except not really, because Bailey would never do anything to me that would MAKE Joel hurt him. Yeah!

"Maybe I should worry about you," Rachel replied, and Ellie seriously couldn't have said if she was joking or not. Why is she so fucking hard to read?!

"Me? Ha ha, right. I'm so dangerous." Ellie rolled her eyes, like that was the most ridiculous thought ever; then she busied herself arranging the lidded pot just so in the cabinet with its mates. Truthfully, Ellie believed that she could beat Bailey in a fight with any sort of weapon, or that wasn't a contest of sheer strength. He'd had such a sheltered -- or, as Joel liked to say, privileged -- life that he could actually remember all the fights he'd ever been in; he could count them on one hand.

Ellie had been meaning to ask Joel if he wouldn't mind giving Bailey some combat lessons. Rachel wouldn't like that, but she didn't need to know. Ellie could give him pointers, but she wasn't anywhere near as skilled or strong as Joel, and although Bailey would probably be scared shitless to actually try to hit Joel at first (for practice), she thought he would eventually do it if Joel goaded him, whereas he would absolutely refuse to hit Ellie, even half-assed. Because she was a girl, obviously, and nice guys were weird about that (if she was kicking his ass, wouldn't he have to hit her then?!) -- but she'd bet that the bigger deterrent was Joel. If Joel found any bruises on Ellie, even just minor or accidental ones from training, he would probably go batshit.

Ellie might grumble about sexism and stupid male egos and the like, but secretly, she kinda liked it. And she was actually special enough now that people didn't want to hurt her.

* * * * * * * *


Apparently it was tragic that Ellie had never played Monopoly. Joel hadn't played it in forever, but he knew how to play. He told Ellie that there were hundreds if not thousands of different game boards, every theme you could think of from movies to TV shows to video games to sports teams to local cities. The one Bailey was monopolizing (pun intended!) from the bookstore, which served as a library of sorts, was Star Wars-flavored. That was some space movie she had yet to get around to seeing. It was so old it had been made even before Joel was born.

They said it would be more fun to do it as four players rather than two teams. The two kids sat on the floor with lemonade, the adults on the couch with mead -- a drink favored by pretty much anyone who drank alcohol in Jackson. Ellie thought it smelled nasty, and she was content with her lemonade. Bailey assured her it tasted nasty, too.

Dinner had all but killed Ellie's hopes for Joel and Rachel to fall madly in love, thereby transforming the four of them into one big happy family. But while Bailey was fetching the game and Rachel the mead, Ellie had clambered up on the couch and furtively told Joel that Rachel had been 'really nice' (perhaps a wee exaggeration) in the kitchen, that she wasn't so bad, really. He'd made a 'that's good' type of remark, and then she couldn't think of anything matchmaker-y to say before Rachel and Bailey returned to the room.

Bailey loved the game so much, he'd had it for months, maybe even a year, without trading it in for another game. He said that was okay because there were other Monopoly games there, but he sounded a little guilty about it anyway, rather defensive... which Ellie thought was adorable. The unwritten rule was one item from each of the entertainment categories at a time, and he wasn't breaking that. Ellie currently had four books in her room instead of one, and she didn't even feel bad about it. If anyone was dying to read something she had, they'd put up a request on the bulletin board, and if she liked (or at least, didn't dislike) the requester, she might read a little faster then, or return it to borrow at a later time.

Joel and Rachel were seated as far away from each other on that couch as they possibly could be while still within reach of the board on the coffee table (they insisted on calling it that, even though there was no such thing as coffee anymore, at least as far as any of them knew). Ellie sat at Joel's feet, and Bailey sat opposite the couch. Bailey started explaining the rules to Ellie, and as a refresher for Joel. Joel argued about one of the rules, and even though Bailey showed him in the instructions where it said Bailey's way was right, Joel said this was a widely-accepted deviation from the rules. Rachel actually said she remembered that, too, now that he mentioned it, and they should play it Joel's way. Ellie got excited about that, just a little... except it didn't make them sit any closer to each other, and she was probably reading waaaay too much into it.

When they were finally ready to get started, Rachel said there was something else they should know about the game. "Or did Bailey already tell you, Ellie?"

"Um... I don't think so? Tell me what?"

"How he plays it alone--"

"Mom!" Bailey groaned. "That has nothing to do with anything!"

Rachel looked quite mischievous, grinning gleefully at her son, who could blush even more spectacularly than Ellie. Amused as she was at his embarrassment, Ellie felt the need to come to his rescue anyway. "That's not so weird," she said. "If he feels like playing it, why not?"

"But he doesn't just play, he has to keep--"

"Mom!" Bailey objected a little more forcefully this time.

"What?" Rachel said with mock innocence. "You don't want to keep secrets from Ellie, do you? That's no way to start a relationship."

"I don't even do it anymore!"

"Oh, he does," Rachel assured them. She looked alternately at Ellie and Joel as she explained. "He does these tournaments, three players at a time -- he keeps track of who wins, with all this detail about the properties held and how many ships and the final dollar amount in the till -- all the 'stats' on the winner. He used to do it turn by turn so he had all this info on the losers, too, but that got to be too time-consuming, didn't it, sweetie? So now he just keeps track of the number of turns it takes to win, and everything else is counted at the end. The winners advance to the next round, so on and so forth until there's one champion. It's aaaaaall recorded for posterity in this notebook he has. Pages dated and everything. Who was it that won last time... the Chewbacca token?"

Bailey lay on the floor on his back with his hands covering his face, murmuring "Oh my God" to himself -- until Ellie poked him in the side, which forced his hands to abandon his face to ward off an impending tickle attack. "That is sooooo cute!" Ellie exclaimed, laying down next to him, but he rolled away from her, muttering something about how evil his mother is. "I can't believe you never told me that, Bay! Isn't that the most adorable thing you've ever heard, Joel?"

Joel did look mildly amused. "Oh yes, ~that's soooo cute!~" he trilled in a singsong imitation of Ellie.

Ellie giggled. "Where's this notebook? I wanna see!"

"Nooooo!" Bailey scrambled to his feet to stand guard at the hallway leading to his bedroom.
"I actually don't know where he keeps it," Rachel admitted. "Under his bed, perhaps?"

Ellie hopped up. "On it!" She tried to rush right by him, but he caught her and held her so tight she could barely breathe (or maybe that was because she was giggling so much). She managed to wriggle out of his grasp and start down the hallway, but he quickly caught her again. "Jooooeeeelllll! Help!"

She could hear Joel chuckling in the other room. "Ellie, let the guy keep some pride!"

"That's no fun!" she hollered back.

But Bailey did tug her into his bedroom, and they tumbled onto his bed. Ellie was still giggling when he started kissing her, and she said he wouldn't get off the hook that easily... except he pretty much did, because Ellie loved kissing him, and not being able to do it (or anything other than playing footsie under the table) all night had been some form of sweet torture.

"Bailey! Ten seconds!"

That's what Rachel said to him when he was ignoring her, or taking too long to stop doing whatever he was doing and come out of his room. If he didn't, she'd go stop it for him. Bailey felt that this little routine was childish and should have been retired when he was like, eleven or twelve. "Sheesh, she skipped right to the warning," he grumbled.

"At least you're not jerking off this time?" Ellie started giggling again, remembering the story he'd told her.

A response from him would re-set the 'mom clock' and perhaps even double the time. "Coming!" he hollered.

"No you're not, we don't have time for that!" Ellie snickered.

Bailey was amused, but he shushed her and clamped a hand over her giggling mouth. "What if they heard you?!" he whispered.

She licked his palm to be a brat, and he released her. "Pretty sure they both know what we're doing in here anyways,” Ellie remarked. “They’re not morons.” She didn't want Joel to walk in on them either, though, so she got up and smoothed her shirt and hair. She looked out Bailey's bedroom window. "Look -- the moon's up..."

"Hey, yeah." He looked out over her head. It wasn't completely dark outside yet, but it was dark in his room since they hadn't turned the light on, and the moon was visible enough.

"They say people do craaaazy things the night of a full moon," Ellie said with mock nonchalance.

"They do, huh? I wonder what sort of people do those things," he said knowingly.

"I wonder!"

Ellie didn't mean to wish the night away or anything, especially now that everyone seemed to be getting along just fine and enjoying themselves -- even Joel -- but she kind of couldn't wait for it to be midnight...


~Continue to Chapter 3~

Tags: comforting sounds, fic, tlou
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