Fandom: The Last of Us
Characters: Ellie, Joel, Tess
Prompt: 5 of puzzleprompts's 8 prompts for June: Ruth B's "Lost Boy" (I chose the lyric "nowhere to go and no place to call home"), looking back with regret, dancing (I chose a physical metaphor), crunchy, and cutting device.
Word Count: 741
Summary: Ellie vignette set in early summer, downtown Boston, before the Museum.
Author's Notes/Warnings: Contains "video game" violence/gore and mentions of death. My first inspiration for these prompts was rather fluffy but this is what the muse ended up churning out, lol.
Crossposted to AO3 and FFN.
The sound of bones crunching and brains squishing made Ellie’s stomach lurch; Joel had just killed the last Runner in the area. “Jesus, Joel!”
It didn’t seem to faze Joel one bit. He didn’t even wipe the brain matter off his boot. Just trotted on ahead.
Tess smirked at Ellie. “He just likes to make sure they’re completely dead. You okay?”
Ellie nodded and followed Tess away from the carnage… although she wasn’t okay, exactly. Not the way Joel was, dancing with their enemies in flawlessly choreographed sequences, doling out death quite nonchalantly. Ellie had always considered herself tough, but her schoolyard antics and isolated encounters with Infected were nothing compared to this shit. It was scary as fuck out here, even with two ‘bodyguards’ and her mother’s switchblade in her pocket.
For the millionth time, she wished she hadn’t been so stupid that last morning, with Riley. Breaking the rules had always been such a thrill for them. Running around the mall like kids, defiant and carefree to the point of recklessness, confident in their invincibility, knowing perfectly well the place was off limits for good reason... no wonder the soldiers got so mad when they pulled stunts like that. They were practically asking to get infected. Now Riley was dead, and life as Ellie knew it was over. If only we’d left five minutes sooner! If only we’d never left my room at all… Her days at that school were probably numbered anyway, but she and Riley could have run away together. Or Riley could have left as planned, and even though Ellie would have never seen her again, that would have allowed her to imagine her friend out there in the world, not…
She could never bear to think of Riley for long.
Ellie had aged three years in the three weeks since then. By all rights, she should be dead, too. If this was the alternative –- traipsing after this surly killer and shitting her pants in fear every so often –- she’d fucking take it.
Being kind of freaked out didn’t mean she wasn’t impressed, though. She could see why Marlene wanted Joel, a total stranger, to be the one to deliver Ellie to the Fireflies. Marlene was tough, too, but weakened by injury, and… well, ‘tough’ didn’t even do justice to what Joel was. He was like a superhero. Without the cape… or the compassion.
Ellie was grateful that his friend Tess -- another total stranger –- had been willing to make the trek across town with them. Not out of the kindness of her heart or anything; she and Joel were getting paid for this in weapons. A shitload of them. At least Tess treated Ellie like a person, not just some nuisance to be disposed of as quickly as possible. And what would become of Ellie when this was all over? If she attempted to enter a Zone, in Boston or anywhere else, she’d be executed on the spot. She had nowhere to go and no place to call home. When the Fireflies were done with her, would she have to become one of them in order to stick around? But that wasn’t the smugglers’ problem. They would just drop her off and return to their normal lives. Whatever happened next would be out of Ellie’s control… no use dwelling on the past or the future.
“Quit lollygaggin’ back there!” Joel called over his shoulder.
“I’m not!” Ellie protested grumpily. Tess waited for Ellie to catch up to her before picking up the pace. Ellie wanted to thank her… but for what? Being cool? Don’t be such a dork, Ellie.
And don’t get attached. She needed to stay practical here, just watch and learn from them for the duration of this journey. She had this bad habit of caring about people, which always sucked for her later -- and she already knew that these two wouldn’t be in her life for long. Joel was kind of a dick, so not giving a shit about him should be easy. But Tess… she liked Tess. Maybe it would be different this time. Maybe Tess could smuggle her back into the Zone somehow afterward and they could be friends or something…
NO. It was precisely thoughts like that that got her in trouble. It was never different.
Maybe she was dawdling a little. She sprinted ahead of Tess, falling into step a few paces behind Joel.