Lumy (luminations) wrote,

"Comforting Sounds" Chapter 3: "Nightswimming" (3/17)

Title: "Comforting Sounds" Chapter 3: "Nightswimming" (3/17)
Fandom: The Last of Us
Characters: Ellie, Joel, Tommy, Maria, OCs
Pairings: Ellie/OC
Word Count for this chapter: 6268
Rating (for fic as a whole): R
Author's Notes: Chapter title from the R.E.M. song.

I feel the need to mention that although this is a WIP, I wrote the "skeleton" of it (more than an outline, less than a first draft) in its entirety before I began posting the story here -- before the Part 2 trailer was released. Thus, any similarities to the trailer are coincidental, any differences are unintentional.

WARNINGS for this chapter: Sexual assault/rape, and other violence. This chapter has a major shift in tone. The second half was difficult for me to write (I even gave myself a quasi-nightmare, writing the first draft). I tried not to be overly graphic, but it's still just awful. You may want to have some fluff on hand to wash it down with. Please don't hate me.

~ ~ ~

Ellie started staring at her bedroom window around eleven-thirty. Maybe Bailey will come early...

Except she'd told him not to. Joel didn't necessarily have to be asleep for her to sneak out, but he did need to have retired for the night, with his bedroom door shut, which would muffle what little noise she made. It wouldn't muffle the slight squeak of the front door, however -- she'd learned that the hard way, when it had betrayed her to Joel even behind his closed bedroom door. Luckily, that was long before Bailey had come along; Joel only had Ellie to be furious with that time. He'd been more peeved than furious, actually. This time, he'd be livid if he knew what she was up to. Ellie's bedroom door was shut too, of course, to further silence her movements. If Joel were to rap on it, she could still quickly scurry under her blanket to hide the fact that she'd changed from sleepwear back into real clothes. But she couldn't imagine why he'd need to talk to her now after they'd spent the whole evening together.

It hadn't worked out too badly. In fact, when she'd mentioned that she and Joel could host next time, Rachel hadn't objected (possibly only to be polite). There was still some unresolved tension, and maybe there always would be... but it seemed to Ellie that they'd all enjoyed playing the board game. Joel ended up being the big winner, with Rachel going bankrupt first. When it was clear to Ellie that she was never going to get ahead herself, she'd asked Joel if she could 'live' with him, combining her meager holdings with his. Bailey had protested vehemently that such a thing was against the rules, which, to Ellie's amusement, only seemed to make Joel more inclined to say yes. Ellie said it was only fair that since Joel was the parental figure, his opinion on the matter trumped Bailey's (it was all in good fun, but she hoped that making such a definitive statement wouldn't come back later to bite her in the ass!).

When she and Joel had walked home, they'd headed for the front door, and therefore did not walk by her tomato plants. It was easy to pretend she'd forgotten all about the lullaby. It was almost 11:00 by then, and Ellie didn't want to keep Joel up late with the singing. So now he probably thought he was safe from being forced -- persuaded, rather -- to do so. Only until tomorrow night!

After forever, Bailey's head finally popped up in the window, startling her even though she'd totally been waiting for him. She couldn't actually see his face, just a silhouette against the moonlight. Paranoid of alerting Joel, she'd told him not to tap on the window... to just show his face and back up a little.

Ellie had prepared the window in advance by undoing the screen so that all she had to do was gingerly remove it. Completely silent in spite of her excitement, she climbed out, with Bailey's (totally unnecessary) assistance, then oh-so-quietly shut the window behind her, so as not to advertise to the town that it was unlocked. Not that anyone really needed to worry about shit like that in Jackson, especially in summer when open windows weren't uncommon... but still. They crept away from the house -- in the opposite direction of Joel's bedroom -- all the way to the far side of the dilapidated backyard fence before finally daring to breathe... let alone hug and kiss and whisper excitedly to each other.

Actually, it was Ellie doing all the excited whispering. Bailey was pretty chill. More than once, he asked her if she was sure she wanted to do this.

"You're not chickening out on me now, are you?" she teased him the second time he asked. "I have the Beretta. And my knife. Plus there's never anyone Outside at night. Raids always happen in the daytime."

It took them only a few minutes to reach their chosen point of escape. Ellie’s plan made her feel quite clever, at least compared to the younger kids she'd heard about recently who'd helped each other climb up on a shed and over the fence, but then lacked the means to get back Inside. The idiots had had to eventually traipse around to the gate. Busted! She and Bailey were exiting behind the house of a pre-Cordyceps junk hoarder (or so Joel had speculated), which was unoccupied now. There were mounds of junk everywhere. And that was after the salvageable junk had been scavenged, so all that remained was truly junky junk. Broken, rusty, filthy, critter-infested piles of unrecognizable pieces of who-knows-what that even the adventurous children in town wouldn't explore. She and Bailey had cleared themselves a path through it. Behind a tall, rotted-out wardrobe were a couple of panels of fencing that they'd worked loose earlier that day -- two panels where there should have been three. All they had to do was heave the dresser out just enough to permit them to carefully shift the wood aside and slip through.

Bailey went first; he barely fit. After Ellie clambered through, they reached back inside to right the loose panels, so that to the naked eye (Joel had explained that expression to her, but it still made her imagine clothed eyeballs stripping!), everything appeared to be in place -- as much as anything else on this sad portion of fencing, anyway. Even if Outsiders did try to push their way in, most grown men wouldn't be able to squeeze through that skinny opening. If they somehow had the right tools with them... well, then they'd be able to get in at any number of places around the perimeter anyway. Ellie would never have just straight up cut a hole in the fence to get out, leaving Jackson blatantly exposed, but this was practically invisible both inside and out. And it was midnight. And they'd only be gone maybe a couple hours. The risk to the town was so minimal. They'd done it once before; that time was mostly just to prove they could. It was too nerve-wracking in the daytime, expecting to get caught any second by someone on patrol, or perhaps some hunters (the citizens who hunted game for the town, not the bad kind).

In theory, there were patrols at night, too, but everyone knew the guards were pretty lax about it (third shift tended to congregate at the main gate), and the guards' flashlights would announce their presence in plenty of time to take cover, anyway. Bailey and Ellie had brought their own flashlights, but decided not to use them in favor of moonlight, which was strong enough to illuminate their path. It bathed the forest in a silvery glow that Ellie found utterly beautiful and romantic.

Their destination was like a fifteen- or twenty-minute walk away. There really was no need to whisper anymore, far away from the open windows of the town with only the trees to hear them, but they continued to do it anyway... it seemed to add to the illicitness of it all. It was surprisingly thrilling to break the rules, even if it was tainted with a twinge of guilt: good thing Joel will never find out about this.

The list of things Ellie didn't want Joel to know was getting longer.

He would be so disappointed in her if he knew that in spite of the agreement, she and Bailey had already had sex. Twice, in fact. And while it hadn't exactly happened by accident, it's not like they'd planned on being deceptive from the beginning. Ellie couldn't remember if she'd promised Joel she wouldn't do it, technically... but all the same, she'd agreed not to. Rachel had actually made no such demands of Bailey, although she didn't have to, thanks to Joel... and Bailey had said she was definitely happy to hear that they wouldn't be having sex on account of Joel's decree.

It had happened when they'd gone 'out for a walk.' Not Out-out -- only around town. There were plenty of unoccupied houses or buildings to provide them with enough privacy. At first, there'd just been some touching. Curious hands wandering over each other's bodies. Ellie had felt so guilty about that later that she thought surely Joel would somehow know she'd done something naughty. He didn't seem to, though, so she'd chalked it up to paranoia. Later, it was their eyes that got curious, followed by their lips and tongues. With each offense, the guilt lessened. They weren't hurting anyone, after all. Bailey was way more hesitant about things than Ellie (he claimed he had an image in his head of Joel finding them making out and proceeding to beat the shit out of him -- ha! Like she would ever let Joel do that). Every time Bailey said something along the lines of 'no we shouldn't,' Ellie couldn't help but respond with 'yes we should' -- and she pretty much always got her way. She would find a way to tell Joel, eventually... when she'd convinced him that she was old enough, and Bailey was a good guy, and they were truly in love.

They didn't mess around every single time they saw each other, or even every time they were alone. But... well... it was enough that they kept feeling tempted to go further. When they got to the point where they were naked, grinding against each other, hands grabbing, bodies and tongues intertwined, they were both just like 'why the fuck not?!' about all-the-way sex. As long as Bailey pulled out? -again, no harm done.

Ellie had been rather underwhelmed by the act itself (it hurt, and wasn't the earth supposed to move? It hadn't) but Bailey sure seemed to like it. He'd constantly asked her if she was okay, even though she always said yes. She did like the closeness of it. There was an emotional aspect that she hadn't ever fully realized before; she and Bailey couldn't get any closer than him being inside of her, transcending the physical and filling a certain emptiness she hadn't even known was there. She felt bad that she didn't enjoy it as much as Bailey did, so she tried not to let on that she preferred his mouth and fingers over his dick. That just seemed... rude.

Tonight wasn't about sex, though -- if it happened, it happened, but really they just wanted to go skinny-dipping! Well... Ellie wanted to, and she'd managed to get Bailey excited about it, too. It was quite bad-girl-corrupting-good-boy of her... but Rachel would never know. Ellie started peeling off her clothes as soon as the lake came into view, vast and black with shimmery stripes of moonlight rippling through it. Bailey laughed at her eagerness. "Hey, wait 'til we get closer, what if someone's around?" He actually sounded nervous. He switched on his flashlight and scanned the area, every which way.

"Go ahead and look, there's ~no one~!" she sang out gaily, no longer bothering to whisper. "And who really cares if anyone wants to look at us? Everything looks awesome in moonlight!"

"You... definitely don't have anything on that body to be ashamed of, Ell. Even in full sunlight."

She could feel him watching her appreciatively -- and she was glad that moonlight also concealed blushing. "Aww! Um... you too..." She kissed him, but only briefly -- she was a woman on a mission. She was also completely naked before Bailey -- once satisfied that they were indeed alone -- had even pulled his pants off. "Come on, slowpoke!" she teased, tugging at his shirt.

Their clothes lay scattered about the grass. Bailey tried to make a big show of picking them up and folding them neatly, just to drive Ellie even more crazy from impatience, but she wouldn't let him. She dragged him down the bank into the water, stumbling over the large-ish stones at the edge, splashing in knee-deep before coming to an abrupt halt. "It's fucking cold!" she shrieked. "And I stubbed my toe!"

"Sssshhhhh, oh my God you're loud," he scolded, laughing. "Just keep going deeper, we'll get used to it..."

They did get used to it, but they were still shivery and goosebumpy and Ellie wished the sun would shine on them to warm them up. Swimming in the daytime was risky for her, though, thanks to her scarred arm. She could wear long sleeves in the water over her suit, like she wore long sleeves everywhere else ("I sunburn easily," she would say)... but she still had to be careful the sleeve didn't get pushed up. In the dark, even with all the light from the full moon, it was impossible to make out the bite for what it was.

Not that Bailey didn't already know. That was another talk Ellie had to have with Joel.

"I have to tell him, Joel."

"No, you don't. You can't. It ain't like you're gonna be naked with him. Right? ...Right, Ellie?"


"So you can hide it."

"I don't WANT to hide it from him! Even with me wearing long sleeves all the time, there's a chance he might feel it's not smooth there or something and then try to look at it and maybe freak out. What if he sees it and shoots me? Do you want that on your conscience?"

"Very funny. If he'd shoot you then, he could jus' as well shoot you when you tell him."

"He won't. I'll explain it and make him promise not to tell a living soul and then I won't have to worry about it anymore."

"The more people who know, the more we HAVE to worry about it."

"Not him! I'm telling you, Joel, he's trustworthy!"

"Say you two break up, an' he's pissed off an' wants to get back at you or some shit?"

"Ha! That's not gonna happen!"

"Anythin' can happen."

"Okay then, how about this -- we tell him together. You can tell him you'll blow his brains out if he tells anyone -- and their brains too -- or whatever you wanna threaten him with that makes you happy. It won't matter cuz he won't tell."

"...I'll think about it."

It had taken another six days to convince Joel, and he did opt for them to tell Bailey together, swearing him to secrecy first. They told him the real story of how they'd come to be in Jackson. Bailey took it pretty well. He was surprised, but he didn't seem to think Ellie was a dangerous freak or anything. And he was perfectly content to keep the secret. Joel asked him if he would feel bad keeping it from his mom, and Bailey said no, because it was their secret -- Joel's and Ellie's -- not his, so it wasn't his choice to make. Besides, Bailey knew his overprotective mom would flip out, and he certainly didn't want to give her any incentive to declare Ellie too dangerous for him to be around. He marveled at the fact that they'd hidden it from everyone in Jackson for over a year.

Being naked with him, again, did make Ellie feel the familiar guilt... but not enough to make her stop. Eventually, she would confess her various transgressions to Joel. When she was sure he wouldn't actually kill Bailey -- as if it were all his doing and Ellie was an innocent bystander, even though it was totally the other way around. So, there was sneaking out... getting naked... possible sex later... and Joel also wouldn't like that she was swimming without him. He'd taught her the basics, but she wasn't what he considered a strong swimmer, and neither was Bailey. They didn't go out all that deep, though, and it wasn't like there was a current or anything. The lake was calm and still, and beautiful in the moonlight. Completely non-threatening.

They did very little actual swimming. They frolicked in the water, jumping around, splashing and chasing and climbing on each other, kissing, groping a little... but Ellie didn't want to try to have sex in the water, and Bailey seemed relieved to hear that. The water didn't feel conducive to it; it was too cold, and mechanically, sex seemed like it would be even more awkward than usual. They'd completely abandoned the idea of keeping quiet, laughing and splashing and yelling freely.

After about twenty minutes of this, they became more interested in the kissing and groping than the playing. With her arms around Bailey's neck, Ellie whispered in his ear, "Let's go fuck in the grass under the stars!"

He grinned at her. "If you insist!" He moved them toward the water's edge, Ellie clinging to him, giggling, as the water receded, her arms and legs wrapped around him. He set her down on her feet before they got to the rocks.

"You're supposed to carry me," she protested, pressing her body up against his as he walked her backwards.

"What if I tripped over these rocks and dropped you?" he reasoned apologetically.

"You wouldn't! But fine, be that way, Mr. Better-Safe-Than-Sorry. Come on!" She broke free of him and scrambled up the bank. "It is seriously fucking freezing out here! How could we forget to bring towels?!"

Bailey chuckled. "I guess cuz it was hot out when we planned it?"

"Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" she lamented, hugging herself. Bailey was a few paces behind her as she hurried towards the area they'd littered with their garments. She had quite forgotten that they were Outside, until she detected some movement in the shadows... No, there's no one there, it's your imagination... Still, she needed to find her gun as soon as possible. She suddenly felt apprehensive and vulnerable. Had she really forgotten what it could be like out here? A distant memory flitted through her mind of another time she'd broken the rules, the kind of rules that exist to keep people safe... Riley and herself, scared shitless, on the run from infected. I should know better. I'll never drop my guard like this again! Just please let that be nothing--

Then a figure emerged from that shadow, stopping her dead in her tracks -- and the chill that shot through her had nothing to do with the temperature. This was worse than encountering infected. It was a man -- with a shotgun pointed straight at her. Bailey froze behind her. Ellie couldn't see the man's face, but she could feel him leering at her. She kept her arms crossed in front of her chest and cursed her own stupidity at being caught naked out here.

"I'll warm you up, baby girl," drawled the man.

Hearing him use Joel's pet name for her like that gave her the creeps. Maybe the guy didn't mean any harm. Lots of people had guns, and maybe the creep was just trying to see if she and Bailey were a threat to him. She had to assume the worst, though. THINK, Ellie -- what can you use as a weapon? The large stones at the water's edge, maybe. She slowly started backing away from him, towards the water. Bailey took a step forward as she moved backward, so that he stood between her and the man. She hadn't intended to put him in that position; he couldn't see as well as Ellie, and he wouldn't know what to do. Not that she fucking knew what to do herself... and holy shit there was another one! A little further away, investigating their abandoned clothes. He'd just switched on a flashlight. There goes my gun -- and my knife. Fuck!

"Don't move!" the first guy barked, advancing towards them slowly. She wasn't anywhere near the closest rock. Maybe they could make a run for it. There were a lot of trees around to provide cover... not anything really close, though. She and Bailey would have to move at exactly the same time or the guy would probably shoot Bailey. Unless he was a terrible shot, he could probably shoot them both before they reached cover anyway, and how far could they actually get if they did make it into the shadows? The guy on the ground had a flashlight; it's not like they could really hide. And he was about to get two more flashlights. Fuck fuck FUCK! What should we do?

"Yo, Tony!" the second guy called. "Check out this sweet little blade!" He shone the light on the switchblade to showcase it to his buddy.

"That was my mother's!" Ellie blurted out angrily without thinking. She knew they wouldn't give a shit. She wanted to yell at them to leave their stuff alone, to leave them alone... but that approach usually only got her into more trouble -- and she had nothing to threaten them with. Stay calm...

"Oh yeah? Aww, ain't that nice. It's mine now."

"Ours," the guy called Tony corrected him.

"You called dibs on the pistol!"

"Because I need one, dipshit. You don't."

Okay, so if they're distracted by arguing with each other, maybe Bailey and I could both lunge for that shotgun... But before she could even attempt to mutter any such thing to Bailey, the other guy strolled over, brandishing a gun of his own: a pistol, one that wasn't hers. She didn't see hers on the ground anywhere... could it possibly still be with her jeans, even though the guy had just extracted her switchblade from them? Maybe Tony had called 'dibs' on it but didn't physically have it yet...

With the flashlight now directed right at them, Ellie suddenly couldn't see a thing.

"Don't be so shy, girl," the flashlight guy said. "Quit hidin' behind your little boyfriend. Give us a looksee."

Ellie didn't move. She couldn't.

"Look, um..." Bailey sounded more nervous than she'd ever heard him. "We don't want any, uh... any trouble... just... you can have all our stuff, there... please just let us go."

Both of them seemed to find that amusing. "That's not something we're in the habit of doing, boy," Tony snarled. "Know why? It's dangerous to let people live. Dead people don't follow you and kill you in your sleep."

"We-- we wouldn't! We would go in the complete opposite direction of you guys and-- and n-never look back, honest to God we would," Bailey pleaded. He sounded like he was about to cry.

Their laughter sickened Ellie. These guys weren't just toying with them. They really were going to kill her and Bailey, unless she could figure out how to stop them.

"Just let him go, then," Ellie heard herself say.

"Ell, shut up," Bailey hissed.

She ignored him. "He's unarmed, he can't hurt you. I'll... do whatever you want." She shifted over a couple steps, enough that she could catch Bailey's eye, and give him what she hoped came across as a meaningful glance: Go get help! She took his hand and squeezed it hard. Watched a tear roll down his cheek.

"Mmm, I like the sound of that," the flashlight guy said. "Thing is... you're gonna do that anyway."

Tony snickered. "We haven't had any pussy in... shit, at least a month now."

Ellie swallowed the fear rising up inside her, let go of Bailey's hand, and slowly side-stepped away from him, as if to offer the men the view they'd requested -- and as she'd hoped, the flashlight followed her. Now he's not so blinded by the light, maybe he can slip away while I... do SOMEthing... She was afraid Bailey wouldn't leave her alone with these guys, but they had to get help. There was no way to communicate with him, not with the two men so close to them now. She and Joel had fought through tough situations together so often that they could read each other, they didn't always need words... but, usually it was Ellie following Joel's lead. Now she was the leader. Bailey was older than her, and physically stronger than her, but he had so little experience -- and they were at a serious disadvantage.

The flashlight guy whistled in that obscene way that perverts do. "That last bitch wasn't anywhere near as pretty as you, neither."

Ellie's instinct was to try to cover herself, but she willed her hands to stay at her sides. She needed to distract the motherfuckers. Smile... thank him for saying you're pretty... She couldn't. Her life -- and Bailey's -- may have depended on it, yet she couldn't flirt worth shit. They'd never buy it, anyway...THINK, Ellie! Maybe if you could make them laugh, relax their guard some... Her own sense of humor had vanished, but she could appeal to their meanness, their macho we-can-do-anything sense of entitlement..."If you don't let him go, I'm not doing anything with you," she scowled. Ugh, lame!

"Is that so?" Tony smirked. They both seemed to find it funny, but it's not like they were roaring with laughter or anything potentially helpful like that.

Not good enough. Fuck! THINK...

"I like this one," Tony remarked to his friend. "Maybe we should keep her around. Case there's another dry spell. We got any of that rope left?"

Please please please God or whoever's out there who can hear me, let Joel have woken up and found me gone and come looking for me and just be waiting for the right moment to shoot these guys-- But if Joel were here, he would have shot them already. She had no doubt. Please please please let him be on his way then, almost here, if I can just stall them for a while!

"Think so. Dude, are you ever gonna shoot him? Be kinda mean to make him watch."

Then everything happened so fast -- Ellie saw Bailey lunge for the shotgun, so she hurled herself blindly at the other guy, hoping that if he wanted to fuck her badly enough, and wasn't a necrophiliac, he'd be hesitant to shoot her. She heard Tony's shotgun go off, but didn't hear a cry of pain following it -- they were scuffling! -- meanwhile, the flashlight guy had dropped the flashlight to deal with her. What about the gun -- where's his pistol?! It wasn't in his other hand, which exploded across her face, stunning her momentarily. He grabbed her, but she managed to knee him in the groin, and he released her. The shotgun went off again, and she had to look -- the flashlight on the ground was shining on Tony, standing there with the gun, so the figure that staggered backward in the darkness, gasping and making the most awful gurgling sound she'd ever heard, had to be...

"Baileyyyyyyy!" Ellie screamed. She tried to run to him, but Tony grabbed her from behind... she tried to hit and kick and bite and flail and wriggle her way free -- she had to get to Bailey and... and what? Fuck fuck fuck, what can I even do for him?! Tony whirled her around, and then something knocked the wind out of her. Several somethings in a row.

She was on the ground, her head and chest and ankle throbbing, and she didn't even remember falling. Did I black out for a second? When she tried to get up, she found she couldn't put any weight on her right ankle, and she stumbled. She looked around for Bailey -- there he is! -- he lay in a heap, motionless. OH GOD THIS ISN'T HAPPENING THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING JOEL WHERE ARE YOU HELP ME SOMEONE HELP US-- Her panicked thoughts took the form of more screaming, with a side of sobbing. The think, Ellie, think! part of her brain didn't seem to be functioning properly. The assholes sounded fuzzy, like they were far away, but she knew they weren't.

"Fuck -- make her shut up already!"

"No worries, she'll be quiet by the time you get her."

When one of them grabbed her again, she came to her senses enough to reach up and try to poke him as hard as she could in the eyeball. But he intercepted her hands, and in one smooth move, he twisted her left arm behind her back and slammed her back down to the ground. Everything went white for a moment as the pain jolted through her.

Ellie managed to wrench her arm out from beneath her as he climbed on top of her, pinning her to the ground. She struggled to free at least one of her limbs, but the guy -- Tony -- was too strong. An image of David flashed through her mind as she realized what was about to happen -- only this time there was no knife for her to grab... even if there had been, both of her arms were pinned to her sides. Her chest was surely about to cave in on itself. There was only moonlight now (did the other guy leave?), and it lit Tony's face enough for her to see. His eyes were dark and wild-looking, as was his hair, his beard... longer than Joel's... it was full and bushy. She could smell his sour breath, and the stink of his unwashed body -- a smell that should have repulsed her, but she and Joel had smelled like that for so many months, it had an odd familiarity or coziness to it. How fucked up it was to be reminded of that now.

All of her struggling was in vain. She screamed again, and as he shifted his weight a little and lifted his free hand to slap her, she thought she may have had an opening, but her left hand wouldn't cooperate at all.

"Wait! I'm infected!" she cried, wishing she'd thought to use this strategy earlier. It had worked for her before.

"That's creative." It didn't even give him pause.

"I am! Look -- look at my arm--"

He smacked her again, harder, then laughed. Ellie noticed one of his front teeth was missing -- like some pirate in a movie. His smile was truly an evil thing to behold. "Nothing you say is gonna stop me, you stupid cunt. Just lie back and enjoy yourself."

The terror overwhelmed her when he forced her legs open. In spite of what he'd just said, she found herself pathetically begging him to stop. Nothing fazed him. Breathing was really difficult and painful, but her voice was the only weapon available to her now. She cried out for help as loudly as she could manage; it was more of a pitiful wail than an effective shout.

"Scream all you want, bitch, no one can fuckin' hear you."

She squeezed her eyes shut so she wouldn't have to see his face, but she'd caught enough of his expression that she still saw it with her eyes closed. So she turned her head, away from the watchful moon (and from where she assumed Bailey would be... she didn’t want to think about why he was quiet now), and stared at a random star in the sky, waiting for it to be over. She was strangely glad that a little pebble or something was being rhythmically ground into her lower back -- it hurt, but it's just a stone that's all it is it'll be over soon it'll be over soon it's just a stone a star in the sky--

After forever, he pulled away from her, and she folded in on herself, trembling all over.

"You're up!"

She hadn't even been laying there ten seconds when she heard a fly being unzipped. That was the guy she'd kneed in the groin; apparently it hadn't rendered the equipment inoperable. I can't endure that again, I CAN'T. "Please... please don't..." She made herself look at him beseechingly. He too had longish hair and a big fuzzy beard. He didn't really look evil, but it was hard to tell in the moonlight. Please let him realize I'm a person... a person who feels pain...

He knelt in front of her. "Sorry, darlin'. Can't let him have all the fun. But it won't hurt bad. I'm the nice one." He sounded more amused than sorry.

"Then please just kill me first," she croaked out.

"Fuck that shit," he scoffed. "That's disgusting. What kind of sick fuck do you take me for?"

"Pete -- I'm gonna go wash up some... piss in the lake."

"Hey, why don't I just meet you down at the fork?"

Laughter. "Such a fucking pussy."

"Fuck you. We taking her with us?"

"I don't think she can walk. You wanna carry her? 'Cause I don't."


"Don't take too long. I better hear a gunshot in less than ten."

Ellie could hear Tony, but she didn't comprehend anything funny there, nor did she care to. She felt the cool tip of a knife graze her cheek, not hard enough to break the skin.
"I like your knife," the guy told her. Pete. She'd heard his name. His other hand, the one not holding a knife to her face, roved over her body, casually unfurling her, and she shuddered. He wasn't even hurting her yet... but she was utterly repulsed, and full of dread. She still couldn't breathe. He was... toying with her. "Nice and quiet, now. I don't get off on yelling and fighting and shit like Tony does. You stay quiet and calm, and I won't cut you." His voice was soft and kind. Like he was talking to a young child.

Ellie didn't much care if he did cut her; she was already in a lot of pain, and if he was going to kill her anyway, what difference did it make? But she had no screams left in her, so she was mostly quiet for round two. The stone was gone. She stared at another star and focused on the buzzing in her head. He's going to kill me when this is over, and I still fucking want it to be over. This is it, this is how I die -- I'm not here I'm already dead this isn't happening to me no I'm not here not here not here up in the sky with the stars not here not here...

He eventually pulled away from her, and whatever surreal place she'd been in vanished. Her cheek was stinging anew. She curled up into a ball and waited. These are the last moments of my life. She never thought it would end like this, that she would be stupid enough for it to end like this. If all that afterlife bullshit was actually true, she'd be seeing her mother really soon... and Riley... and oh God, Bailey -- he was probably dead by now, too -- she couldn't even take that in.

She shifted her thoughts to Joel.

Joel, who'd already lost one daughter. Who had opened himself up to having another one, only to see her die, too, because she was a fucking idiot. I'm sooo sorry, Joel. I'm so sorry. Sorry, Joel... sorry... Joel...

"Who's Joel? That ain't what you called that other motherfucker. You got another boyfriend, you little skank?"

She hadn't realized she'd said anything out loud. She may have been empty of screams, but the waterworks were intact; silent tears burned her stinging cheek on their way down her face. Even her own tears were somehow hurting her. She closed her eyes and kept waiting...

"Answer me. Who's Joel?"

He's the only one who never left me. "My dad," she said hoarsely, her voice breaking. Now she was crying for the excruciating agony that she knew would consume Joel when he learned she was dead. Oh God I'm sorry Joel I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry...

She heard Pete get up... heard a gun being cocked...

And she heard the gunshot.

It startled the hell out of her -- but she didn't feel where it had hit her. How could she not... She was confused. Why hadn't he blown her brains out?

Receding footsteps. Was she alone now?

I'm not dead. Why am I not dead?

He hadn't shot her, she realized. He'd just... fired the gun and left.

For a moment, she was practically giddy with relief. But only for a moment.

Bailey -- where's Bailey?

In a heap where he'd fallen. She had to help him. Ellie didn't even try to stand up. She couldn't do anything with her right foot or left hand. She sort of crawl-dragged her broken body over to where he lay on his side. Not moving, not breathing.

No no no no -- she couldn't think about that. She lifted his arm so she could curl up against him, letting it drape over her. She tucked her head under his chin, where it fit perfectly. The skin she pressed herself against was wet, sticky... from the water, she decided. Because she could decide such things. His arm felt cold, because he was naked and it was fucking freezing out here after being in the water. He wasn't trembling vigorously like Ellie was, but that was because he could take the cold better than Ellie could. He hadn't once complained about being cold all night.

He's sleeping, she told herself firmly. He needs rest to heal. She wanted to sleep, too. Maybe the pain wouldn't let her, but she wanted to. She tried to empty her mind. Let's go to sleep now, sleep now, sleep. When they come back and kill us, let's be asleep.

~ Continue to Chapter 4 ~

Tags: comforting sounds, fic, tlou
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