Fandom: The Last of Us
Word Count: 3368
Rating (for fic as a whole): R
Chapter Summary: Bring on the awkward!
Author's Note: My first title for this chapter was "Tit For Tat." *snicker*
When he’d imagined Ellie’s reaction to his apology, Joel had anticipated one of several possibilities. This was not one of them. “Are you serious?”
She looked serious. “Um, yeah? So you felt me up in your sleep. Like you said, it was an accident.”
He winced at the phrasing. “You know I’d never knowingly do that to you, don’tcha?”
“Yeah, I guess, after you ran off like that. Like it was the worst thing ever.”
“I’m sorry about that too, I jus’… freaked out a little… I shoulda told you I was sorry right away.”
Ellie shrugged. “I don’t care about that, I just wonder…”
“You wonder what?”
She looked uncomfortable now. “I mean… really, what was so awful about it?” she asked again, quietly. She looked at the same spot Joel had earlier -- his knee.
Joel blinked. “What was so awful? No one should be touchin’ you, Ellie. Period. Not me, not anyone.”
“Well… okay, so… besides you thinking that. What was so bad?”
“What? I just told you.”
“Besides that. You acted like… I mean… was there something…” She was definitely blushing now. Red as a tomato. And she left the half-asked question hanging there.
“I don’ understand.”
“Never mind. But… it’s fine, Joel. Really.”
Joel sighed. “It’s not. You’re... okay, though?”
“Of course. Why would I not be okay?”
“I jus’ thought that… maybe you were reminded of… things.”
She looked at him squarely. “No. Not at all. Did you really think… is that why you acted all weird?”
“Partly. Yeah. You’re sure?”
“Oh my God. It was nothing like that. You’re… you. He was a creep.”
Well, that was a relief. But… “It was still… uh… unwanted.”
“I didn’t mind, actually.”
“You… what? You should fucking mind. Ellie, I was sleepin’. I didn’ do it on purpose.”
“Yeah, and? I didn’t mind.”
Joel groaned. How could she be so casual about it? “Well, you shoulda pushed me away or elbowed me or somethin’. You don’ have to, uh… put up with it.”
“If I minded, I would have done something,” she said matter-of-factly.
“You know I didn’ mean to do it.”
“Yes! You’ve said it a hundred times. I know. And I’m telling you, it’s fine!”
She didn’t mind. Truly. She wasn’t just trying to please him. She didn’t mind? How the fuck could she not?! “Well, next time, you push me away— er...no, there ain’t gonna be a next time, so it don’ matter.”
“Soooo, what, you’re gonna have me tie your hands together?” She smiled. “I can do that. Problem solved.”
“No, I’m gonna sleep on the couch where I shoulda been sleepin’ all along.”
The smile vanished. “What? No you’re not!”
“I am. It’s inappropriate for us to sleep in the same bed.”
“I just told you it doesn’t matter! I’m fine! God!”
“Well, I wanna make sure you stay fine.”
“I will, if you’re in there with me! Jesus, Joel, you can’t punish me because of this, it’s not fair!”
“I ain’t punishin’ you. It’s for your own good!” He was punishing himself, though. It was long overdue.
“Ugh!” She hopped up and started pacing, just like he did sometimes when he was angry. “I can’t believe this. What the fuck, Joel?! Stop doing things that you say are for my own good that really aren’t!”
Fuck. He didn’t want to get into all that shit again. “Keepin’ you from getting hurt is for your own good, Ellie.” He felt weird sitting down while she was walking around, so he stood up. Watched her pace back and forth in front of him like a perturbed lioness.
“I wasn’t hurt! Fucking— God. I just told you! It was nothing! I don’t care!” She stopped right in front of him. “You’re acting like I was sleeping with some perv. It was just you! You can touch me wherever you want and I wouldn’t care!”
Uh… what? “Jesus Christ, Ellie, don’ say shit like that. It ain't like I wanted to—“
Damn, she was fucking furious. Awkward as it was, though, she was talking to him, and he was glad about that. Hot fury was easier to deal with than cold silence. “Right, well, it still happened, an’ it wouldn’ta happened if you were sleepin’ by yourself. Simple as that.”
She crossed her arms in front of her chest and stared him down. “Great. Fucking great. So because you think something terrible happened, I have to be awake all night, or if I do eventually crash from exhaustion, I’ll have nightmare after nightmare, and you’ll just be snoring away out here happily while I, like… never sleep again. Because that’s what you want.”
Joel sighed. “Ellie, don’ be so dramatic. You know this is the right thing to do. You’ll get used to it and sleep jus’ fine, trust me.” Himself, on the other hand…
“Fuck you. I will not. I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”
“I’m doin’ it for you, not to you.”
She glared at him. “I think you’re doing it for you. What are you so afraid of?”
“I’m afraid of hurtin’ you. Which I risk doin’ if I keep sleepin’ with— in there.”
Ellie snorted. “But you’re doing that right now. On purpose, too. And you don’t care. You don’t care how I feel about it.”
“Ellie, I care. You know that. But this is what’s best.”
She rolled her eyes, glared at him icily one more time, and stalked off into the bedroom. She pulled her nightshirt (the sexy one) out of the dresser and stomped into the bathroom. For the second time that day, the bathroom door got slammed hard.
Joel changed into his pajama pants and tank top and sat on the bed, facing the door, leaving the room dark. He hated upsetting her. What could he say to her that would make her understand? He should probably just let her be. If she was mad enough, maybe she wouldn’t want him in there anyway and it would be easier… being angry with him had never changed her mind about it before, though.
Ellie brushed her teeth and did whatever else she did in there to get ready for bed, then came back to the bedroom and stopped in the doorway. “What are you doing in here? You better get out, you might hurt me,” she said coldly.
He haaaated it when she got sarcastic like that. “Ellie… please, jus’…try an’ understand. I ain’t doin’ it to hurt you.”
“Then why are you?” She stayed in the doorway, an angry silhouette.
“I told you. You’re safer this way.”
“I’m not. I’m safer with you than without you,” she said quietly.
“I’ll still be here. Right outside. You can leave the door open if you want.” It was like a replay of their first night here.
Ellie sat next to him. “Joel, please. If it really bothers you, can’t you just sleep way over on your side and I’ll stay on mine?”
Joel regarded her skeptically. “Easier said than done.”
“What do you mean? You just… do it.”
“If I’m here, you’ll want me to pet your hair an’ you’ll fall asleep like that an’ it’ll be the same as it was.”
“Well, that’s a good thing.”
“No, it ain’t. This mornin’s proof of that.”
Ellie sighed. “Then why are you still here? Leave and I’ll just lay here awake all night cuz I don’t dare close my eyes.”
Joel knew she was exaggerating, but he still didn’t like the thought of her struggling with her demons on account of him. “I’m sorry, baby girl.”
“If you’re sorry then can’t you just… stay here until I fall asleep? Please? There's no harm in that, right?”
I shouldn’t. I really shouldn’t. “Well… all right. For tonight, at least.” He started to get up and Ellie grabbed his arm.
“Don’t get up –- I’ll check the house and get the light. If you do it, I don’t trust you to come back in here. Lie down and don’t move.” She gave him a little push backwards and scampered away.
“Yes ma’am,” said Joel amusedly. At least her mood sure could change quickly...when she got her way.
He stayed in that position, lying across the bed instead of in his usual spot. The house went dark. Ellie bumped into the wall coming back into the bedroom. “Fuck,” she muttered.
“You all right?”
“Yes –- Joel, get in the bed!” She clambered up next to him.
“I am, I’m right here!”
“Your feet are on the floor like you’re gonna leave!”
“Well, you told me not to move.”
She tried to tug him backwards and he didn’t budge. “You can move now, silly!”
“Nope, this is comfy.”
She got directly behind him, wedged her arms under his armpits and pulled backwards, with what Joel presumed was all her strength. She grunted, tugged, grunted some more, tugged, made frustrated noises. “Joooeeeelllllll,” she whined.
“All right, I s’pose I can scoot back some. Try again.”
She pulled and he launched himself back enough to knock her backward, too, making her squeal. He was completely on the mattress now, Ellie halfway underneath his back. “This is pretty comfy, too.” He stretched out as if he were yawning, but did it in such a way that he covered up more of her, and she giggled. He loved her giggle. He rarely got to hear it.
I should quit playing with her and just lie the fuck down where I’m supposed to. But… it was fun. And he was diffusing her anger, or some shit. Right. “Are you comfortable down there?” he teased.
“No, but I will be!” He let her start wriggling free and then dropped on her like a dead weight again. She was perpendicular beneath him, and now her arms were free. She tried to roll him off of her or push herself out from beneath him, Joel wasn’t sure which. It didn’t work. Then she grabbed his arm. Curious to see what she’d do, he left it slack. She managed to extend it over his head, and tried to push him over.
“The log roll! Works better if you’re not underneath the person. I think you’re s’posed to bend my knee, too.”
“Argh, why are you so heavy?” she moaned, laughing.
“Aww, you’re stuck. Too bad.”
She struggled a little and then stopped. “Ow. I think you’re crushing my rib cage.”
“What?” Immediately he arched his back and she scrambled free.
“Ha! Gotcha!” She straddled him –- over his stomach, though, nearly on his chest, thank God –- and did her impression of an evil laugh. It was way too cute to be effective. “You didn’t really think I was that fragile, did you?”
“Clever girl. You knew I wouldn’ take that chance,” he said, chuckling. She had both of his hands pinned over his head. “Oh no, now I’m stuck, I’ll never get out of this.” He mock-sighed loudly.
She giggled again. “I might let you up, eventually. If you’re nice to me.”
“How can I be nice to you if I can’t do nothin’?” Not that this position ain’t conducive to a few nice things… yeah, the dirty thoughts were dancing through his head now.
“Um… I dunno, I’m sure I’ll think of something.”
If Ellie could read his mind, she’d have no problem whatsoever with him sleeping on the couch. She relaxed a little, apparently trying to think of something nice for him to do, and he slowly started to get up.
“Nooooo!” she shrieked, throwing her full weight on him again.
“Ahh, fuck, almost got away,” he said, feigning helplessness. He pretended to struggle… pretended that whatever she did was actually effective in keeping him there. The lewd thoughts weren’t just dancing, they were running laps. I’m romping around in bed with a fifteen-year-old. Classy. Well, I don’t really give two shits.
“You’ll never get away now!” She lay down on his chest, her face in his neck, but then she started sliding down… Joel reckoned he’d better move before things got awkward –- more awkward, rather. He rolled over so he was on top of her, holding her down with his upper body, pinning her hands next to her head. Since she’d been straddling him, her legs were now coiled around him, her shirt hiked up to her stomach. He made sure his groin was safely below where it wanted to be. Torture. Why do I do this to myself?
Because it still felt good. It was fun. Exciting. Wrong as hell, but that didn’t seem to matter to him anymore –- as long as he controlled himself.
Ellie strained against him, still giggly and squirmy. “You might as well give up, I got you," he growled.
After a few moments she went quiet and still, aside from her panting. He could feel her chest heaving, her heart racing.
And he wanted to kiss her like crazy. The urge was really fucking strong. It was too dark to see her face, but in his mind, she was looking up at him with the same desire he felt, waiting for him to make a move… his mouth was just inches away from hers, he could practically taste her…
Fortunately, logic prevailed, and it occurred to him that her heartbeat could be accelerated because this was reminiscent of another time she’d been pinned down, unable to break free -- scared for her life.
Joel pulled away abruptly. “Sorry! Sorry.” He quickly got under the blanket in his usual spot. “Are you all right?”
Ellie groaned. Loudly. “Can you just stop fucking apologizing when there’s nothing you need to be sorry for?”
Her annoyance was reassuring. “Good, then you’re all right.”
“Of course! Why the fuck wouldn’t I be?” She scooted over to his side and slithered beneath the blanket.
He put his arm around her and tried to force his own heartbeat to slow down by sheer will (although the former was probably counterproductive to the latter). “I dunno. I s’pose I worry too much.”
“You totally do,” Ellie said, sighing. “Believe me. There’s nothing you can do to me that would… make me not okay.”
That is not what my naughty brain needs to hear right now, little girl. “You don’ know that.”
“I do too,” she insisted. “That was so fun. You didn’t have to stop.”
Oh yes I fucking did. Ellie was so innocent, she had no idea what he’d almost done. Thank God he’d caught himself before causing irreparable damage to their relationship. He was going to have to be a hell of a lot more careful in the future. “I believe in quittin’ while I’m ahead.”
“Ha ha. Good thing -- I was like, five seconds away from winning.”
“Mmhmm. I could tell.” He lightly threaded his fingers through her hair.
“That’s why your heart’s beating like mad, you were scared of me!” she teased.
“Damnit, you ain’t s’posed to know that. Don’ tell no one. I got a reputation to uphold.”
“I can keep a secret. As you know. We have lots of secrets now,” she purred. She sounded… flirtatious. No, you asshole. She’s just teasing.
“Mmhmm. Does that bother you?” he asked, serious.
“Nope. Like you said, it’s nobody else’s business.”
She had a way of making things sound dirty, even though she said them innocently. Maybe it was his guilty conscience that he all but completely ignored now. “And you would tell me if somethin’ bothered you, wouldn’tcha? If I did anything that… made you feel…” He trailed off and let her fill in the blank.
Ellie sighed. “Yeeeessss. Joel, don’t worry about me. Hey, would it make you feel better if I touched you somewhere private so we’d be even?” Followed by that adorable giggle.
Oh yes, I’m sure that would make me feel juuuust fine, thank you. Joel laughed. He mussed up her hair and let his hand fall to her arm. “No, that would only make me feel worse.”
“What? That’s dumb.”
“Why is it dumb?”
“It’s only fair.”
“It wouldn’ be the same thing.”
“I bet it would be exactly the same thing.”
“How do you figure that?” He should stop talking to her about this, but… I’m just curious about what’s going through her mind, that’s all.
“Okay, not exactly, because you don’t have boobs. So if I touched you here— “—she ran her fingers lightly over his shirt—“—it’s not the same. If it was somewhere else…” Her fingers started walking lower, over his stomach…
He grabbed her hand. “Ellie!”
She laughed. “I wasn’t gonna do it for real. Anyway, I bet if I did, you wouldn’t really care.”
Usually the ‘Ellie’ signaled an end to that line of conversation, but if it didn’t, if she kept pushing it, Joel would just stop indulging her. He never threatened to go sleep in the other room over it anymore, which had made her bolder. She seemed to enjoy making him squirm. He must have really been feeling masochistic tonight because he let it continue. He relaxed his hand but left it on top of hers. Just in case. “I would care.”
“Really? Would you feel, like… violated?”
Like that’s even possible with you. Joel chuckled. “No, I mean I’d care for your sake.”
“What do you mean ‘why’? ‘Cause I don’ want you to be… you know. Messed up.”
“Okay. And say I’m not. Would you care for your sake?”
She was utterly adorable. “Uh, no. It’s jus’… different, for guys.”
“Well, I must be a guy, then.”
“Ha! You’re too—“ Careful, Joel… “You’re not. I woulda noticed.” Shit, that wasn’t much better than what I almost said.
She snickered. “Maybe I have manboobs. No wonder you freaked out this morning!”
Joel laughed. “How do you even know that term?”
“I know lots of stuff, Joel.”
“Uh-huh. Yep, you figured it out. You fooled me, I thought you were a girl.”
“Okay, so I’ll grab your manboob and we’ll be even.”
“I don’ have any. So we’re already even, then.”
“That doesn’t make sense! But, Joel, seriously… you’re not really gonna go sleep on the couch, are you?”
Joel didn’t answer. I don’t want to, but I should. I really should.
“Please don’t. I don’t wanna wake up by myself.”
Joel sighed. “It’s what’s best.”
“No, it’s not. Please. Do you want me to beg? I can beg. Joel, pleeeeeease don’t leave. Please please please!” She wriggled up a little bit and nuzzled his neck. “Please?”
I am a fucking weak, wimpy, spineless pussy. “All right, fine. On one condition.”
She squealed happily. “Okay –- anything!”
“If anything like this mornin’ happens again, don’ jus’… you push me away, all right? Or you roll away from me or somethin’.”
“Pfft. Okay, if it offends me, I will, but it won’t bother me, so I won’t.”
“No, you do it anyway, whether you’re offended or not.”
“But if I’m not upset—“
“You do it anyway. Got it? If you can’t do that, I have to go.”
“Fine. But if I’m asleep, and you wake up and your hand is like… in my crotch or something, you can’t punish me for that cuz I’m asleep and I can’t push you away if I’m asleep.”
“What? Uh… if you’re sleepin’. Really sleepin’, not fakin’ it. And it ain’t about punishin’ you.”
Ellie snorted. “Okay, no faking either. Deal.”
How bizarre this was. If Joel didn’t know better, he might think that Ellie wanted him to touch her. “So we’re good?”
“We’re good. Thank you for staying. It’ll be fine, you’ll see.” She yawned and settled back into the crook of his arm. “Good night, Joel.”
He kissed the top of her head, then resumed the hair-stroking. “G’night, baby girl.”
He waited until she fell asleep, then gently rolled her away from him, settling the blanket around her. True to his word, he didn’t leave the bed; he just turned his back to her and scooted as close to the edge of it as he could. Eventually the naughty thoughts subsided enough for him to drift off to sleep.
~Continue to Chapter 18~