Lumy (luminations) wrote,

"Comforting Sounds" Chapter 10: "Inside Out" (10/17)

Title: "Comforting Sounds" Chapter 10: "Inside Out" (10/17)
Fandom: The Last of Us
Characters: Ellie, Joel, Tommy, Maria, OCs
Pairings: Ellie/OC
Word Count for this chapter: 5041
Rating (for fic as a whole): R

WARNINGS for this chapter: Talk/thoughts of abortion, some of which are pretty disturbing, as are Ellie's thoughts in general.

~ ~ ~ ~

Once Maria put it out there, Ellie went from being in complete denial that she could possibly be pregnant to one hundred percent sure that she was indeed pregnant. Unfortunately, even if they had a home pregnancy test from olden times, it wouldn't work anymore, so there was no way to scientifically prove that she was. There might have been, at a hospital better equipped than the little clinic they had in Jackson, but no one knew for sure that such a place existed. Ellie would have to just wait and see.

She was tired of waiting for things. The ambiguity rattled her. Joel's never coming back, she had to tell herself, because if she believed that he might, the agonizing wait would drive her insane. She was pregnant, damnit; she didn't have to wait any longer to know. The longer she waited, the worse it would be -- she had to fix this.

At some point before she was due her next meal, Ellie dozed on the floor of her bedroom amongst the game pieces. She didn't remember the dream, but when she woke up, she couldn't breathe through the terror clutching her throat. And her mind flashed back to a time she was high, when she felt like something was clawing at her from the inside out. It was so vivid in her head, and the timing of it, of remembering this now, made her even more certain of what she needed to do. She gasped for air and told herself to calm the fuck down.

It wasn't a full-blown panic attack, at least. Once her breathing had regulated itself, she got dressed, tucked the Glock into her jeans, and headed downstairs. The living room clock told her it was nearly 4:30, and the brightness of the room told her it was afternoon. Along with the friendly aroma of stew in the crockpot, and the sight of Ed and Maria alert and dressed in the kitchen. She could see them through the archway that connected the two rooms. Ed was conversing with someone on the walkie talkie and Maria was fussing with some kind of gadget in pieces on the table. Ellie approached her, keeping her voice low so as not to disturb Ed. "Hey. I'm gonna go talk to Dr. Choi, if he hasn't gone home already," she announced casually. She turned to leave, but Maria followed her into the living room.

"Ellie, what's wrong?"

"Everything," she scoffed and kept walking.

"I'll go with you."

"No, I can go by myself, it's practically right down the street."

"Are you in pain?"

"No." No more than usual.

Maria followed her outside, too. "You want to ask him about..."

"Yeah. Like you said I should. I want to go by myself. Really -- it's okay, go back in."

"No way, girl. I'm going with you. If you don't want me in the room with you... you can talk to him by yourself if you want, but I'm going."

Ellie rolled her eyes. "You're as bad as Tommy."

"Oh, ouch!" Maria pretended to be insulted.

Ellie almost smiled at that. That happened, sometimes... life was this awful, miserable affair, and there was nothing to feel happy about, but once in a while, she found herself... well, almost amused at some little thing like that. She didn't let on, though. Couldn't have people getting their hopes up about her being 'cured.' And such amusement was always followed by guilt, or even outrage. How COULD you, when Bailey -- and most likely Joel -- never will again, thanks to you! she'd marvel at her own audacity.

Secretly, Ellie was kind of glad to have Maria walk to the clinic and back with her, at least. It seemed completely ridiculous to be nervous about walking around town, especially when she was armed, but... it felt so strange to her now. Like it was something the old, confident Ellie did easily without considering the possible dangers. Now she felt more like when she'd first arrived in town with Joel, after their long journey -- wary of even the empty spaces. The bright sun, the hum of cheerful voices in the distance, the majesty of the trees... none of it lulled her into thinking that nothing bad could happen here.

But no way did she want Maria present when she talked to the doctor. It's better this way. Maria will think I'm seeking professional advice about my symptoms and what I should be doing about it all.

Dr. Choi hadn't gone home yet, but the people he referred to as his 'med students' had. Perfect -- Ellie didn't want them getting all up in her business. Bad enough the doctor even had to know. He was surprised to see her, of course, since he'd been doing house calls for her, and his immediate assumption was that something had happened with her hand. She assured him that wasn't the case, and he ushered her into the examining room, closing the door behind them, Maria remaining behind in the lobby.

Ellie didn't sit on the examining table like you're supposed to when you see a doctor; she stood in front of it, arms crossed over her chest. The doc was usually pretty cool... not super-warm and friendly, but not a real dick, either. He was around Joel's age, although he didn't look it. He had nice hands; Ellie would almost go so far as to call them feminine, they were so unblemished and soft and smooth. Prettier than her own hands.

She wasn't sure how sympathetic he'd be to her plight. "If I tell you something... can you promise not to tell anyone?" she asked, trying to look the way she imagined she looked whenever she persuaded Joel to do what she wanted.

He leaned against the counter and regarded her with curiosity. "That depends."

"On what?"

"On whether what you tell me... poses risk to yourself, or others..."

"I'm pregnant," she blurted out, impatient with his slow, measured words. "I don't want to be examined or anything. I know you can't tell for sure yet and I... I just know."

If this surprised him at all, he didn't show it. "Mmm. Are you basing this assumption on... a disruption in your menstrual cycle?" he asked matter-of-factly. "There could be other causes of--"

"Yeah I know, I know all that," she said irritably. "It's lots of things, not just that. The thing is, I can't have a... especially not one fathered by... I need you to get rid of it for me. Please," she almost forgot to add.

The doctor stared at her in disbelief. "You want an abortion? Ellie, you may not even be pregnant."

"I am! And I want it out," she insisted.

He gestured for her to sit, and she obligingly hopped up on the table. "It's not that simple," he said with a sigh.

"Why not? Just cut me open and yank it out."

He smiled at that, like he was amused. It annoyed her; she wasn't trying to be funny. But the smile disappeared quickly. "That's not how it's done," he said grimly. "It would be done vaginally, and I don't have the right tools. Even if I did, there'd be too big a risk of damage... or infection... I don't have the right medicine to give you. I don't do abortions. Ever."

Ellie balked at the word 'vaginally.' She barely heard anything after that. "So... it would hurt. That's okay." It'll be worth it.

The doctor shook his head. "No. Er-- yes, it would hurt... quite a lot... but it's simply too risky. You could die. And that's even with the proper tools. Which I don't have."

"Bullshit. You can improvise. You've done surgery on people!"

"Certain kinds of surgery, yes. In life-threatening cases. You may recall those patients often die. I'm not actually a surgeon."

Ellie couldn't decide if he was lying or not. "You're just trying to scare me," she said, rather uncertainly.

"I'm not. It's the truth. Practicing medicine here is not like it was at the beginning of the century. Years ago, a surgeon might have repaired your wrist... cut your recovery time down to a third of what it was. But it wasn't life-threatening... not worth the risk, and risk always accompanies such procedures... especially with our limited means here."

"Well, this is life-threatening," she insisted.

"Being pregnant?"

"Yes!" With a monster, not a baby. She had a feeling the doctor would laugh at her if she tried to explain. His smile was infuriating enough as it was. Why does he keep smiling? This isn't fucking funny!

"That's unlikely. You're young, in good health... with the proper precautions--"

"Fuck that! I don't want this." Calm down, Ellie, he'll be more likely to help you if you act sweet than if you yell at him... She took a deep breath before speaking. "I'm willing to take the risks. Isn't that all that matters? If I say it's okay to go ahead? Please, can't you... just try?"

Her pleas didn't move him at all. "No. If the physical risks aren't enough to... to give you pause, there are other things to consider. The moral aspects... emotional aspects... this would affect you the rest of your life."

Ellie groaned. "I don't care about any of that! Having this th-- having it would be way worse than not having it. Worse than an abortion. There's no way I'd ever change my mind, I don't need to consider anything!" She wasn't doing a good job of acting sweet. Maybe if I cry... but she had a feeling that tears would not sway the stubborn man even a smidge.

"Well, I won't change my mind either: I don't do abortions."

"Even if... there's something wrong? With the..." She just couldn't get herself to refer to it as a baby. "Isn't it okay to do it then?"

"Unfortunately, there's no way to know that, given our--"

"I do know it!" She couldn't explain about the monster thing, but... "It's the marijuana -- it messed things up in there."

"I doubt it. You weren't using excessive amounts. And only for a short while... a week? The embryo wouldn't have fully implanted – wouldn't even have been drawing nourishment from you so early on. You... may be upset at the idea of being pregnant, it's understandable, but don't worry that you harmed the child in that way."

I'm not worried about the so-called child, Ellie thought bitterly. "There's still something... not-right, about it. And I don't want it. Even if it was totally healthy I wouldn't want it. Why can't you just try? That's all I want. Just do your best. It's worth the risk, to me. And it's my body, so... my decision. It's only fair."

"You're... how old are you? Fifteen? You--"


"Sixteen. Still a minor. You're too young to make decisions like this for yourself. But even if a parent, or... it doesn't matter. I've already decided. The answer is no."

That stupid, arbitrary, 'you're under eighteen so your opinion doesn't count' bullshit again. But it gave Ellie an idea. "You won't do it if I say so, then. Okay. And I don't have any parents..." Joel doesn't count -- not like he's here anyway. She wondered if he would have agreed that the fucking thing needed to not be born, no matter the risk. Doesn't matter! Focus, Ellie! She looked at the doctor earnestly. "What if someone with real authority in this town orders you to? Like Maria. You'd have to do it then, wouldn't you?"

Dr. Choi chuckled, which grated on Ellie's nerves even more than the smile did. "I highly doubt Maria, or her father or her husband, would order me to do such a thing. Especially after I explain the risks involved."

"But say they do. Just pretend they tell you you have to do this. Then would you do it?" She might have more luck convincing one of those three to help her out than this heartless doctor -- they did claim to actually care about her, to respect her wishes...

"No. Absolutely not. I feel too strongly against it."

"Say they're going to kick you out of Jackson if you don't do it..."

"Then... I guess I say goodbye to Jackson and hope one of my students can fill my shoes. -And no, before you ask -- they won't do this for you, either. For the same reasons I've stated, and because neither of them would even know how. Aside from that -- they'd have to do it secretly... without my knowledge or consent."

Ellie sighed and rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Maybe I'll just figure out how to do it myself. Trial and error."

Dr. Choi looked alarmed by this, and Ellie immediately wished she'd kept her stupid mouth shut. "We should have Maria join us now," he said. "What you just--"

She sprang to her feet. "No no no no no, I was just kidding! Please, please don't say anything to her. I'm not gonna do anything, I swear!"

He frowned. "You should talk to her yourself. If it turns out you are pregnant, she can help you... work through these issues... explore the alternatives."

"I will. I am talking to her about stuff. She has a book for me to read about it and everything." Not that Ellie intended to read it.

"Good. How's your diet? Your sleep schedule?"

Wonderful, I eat nothing but oatmeal and I nap on the floor from time to time.

Ellie shrugged.

"You'll want to improve that. Even though you don't know for sure if you're pregnant, you should take better care of yourself. Maybe Maria should come in now -- we could go over some things to that end."

"No, it's okay, she's reading the book too so she'll know what I'm supposed to eat and stuff." As if Ellie cared about nurturing the repulsive thing inside of her that wasn't even a baby. She didn't know what to do about getting rid of it without the doctor's help. Maybe she should try to get more chummy with one of his assistants... even if they don't know exactly what to do, they could probably figure it out, right? Which one would be more likely to help her... when was the last time she'd even spoken to either of them... If only I'd made a few more friends in this fucking town!

Dr. Choi interrupted her thoughts with his doctor-speak. "Are you having symptoms... anything that makes you think you're pregnant aside from missing your period? Nausea... bloating... fatigue... breast tenderness..."

Ellie squirmed a little. "Um... yeah, I guess... look, since you're not going to... I won't take up any more of your time."

"It's no trouble--"

"No, really. I gotta get going." She couldn't bring herself to even thank him when he'd refused to help her out.

"Well then. You know where to find me if you need anything. Since you're here, how's the wrist?" he asked, his tone a bit lighter... rather cheerful, even.

At least that was a more pleasant subject. "Okay, I guess."

"Doing your exercises faithfully, but not overdoing them?"

"Uh-huh." Pretty much true, because she could tell when she was getting past the 'work-out ache' -- the good kind -- into the pain that meant she'd gone too far. Usually she stopped then.

"Good. Let's see."

She laid her left arm across the examining table and slowly rotated her wrist for him. The goal was to be able to roll it, unassisted, from a palm-down position to palm-up, which she could naturally and easily do with her right hand. She rolled the left one slightly more than halfway before it started shaking and refused to go any further.

"Excellent! Excellent. I can tell you're working on it." One of his pretty hands patted her on the back. "Progress might seem slow to you, but don't worry, you're on track. Keep up the good work, Ellie. And be safe."

Usually she felt proud (if a bit awkward) upon receiving such accolades. Today it did nothing for her. She was too disappointed that his solution to her disastrous plight was to just let things be.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ellie lay on her back (on the bed for a change), trying to sleep, staring at a shadow on the ceiling as it began to move. She wasn't concerned with the movement until she realized it was starting to seep over the entire ceiling, enveloping the room -- the whole world, even, she could just feel it -- in darkness. A sharp pain shot through her... originating in her stomach. Except it must have been her uterus -- that creature in there was trying to get out. It had razor-like talons that were going to rip her to shreds. It kept stabbing and clawing as the room got darker and darker. She screamed and no one heard it, they could never hear her -- but even if they did, what could they fucking do?! No one would be coming to save her. Each stab hurt more than the last, sucked a little more life out of her. She didn't understand how the thing hadn't managed to cut its way through her yet. Now she couldn't even move, she was completely helpless, just like... She screamed and screamed--

And then suddenly there was light -- lots of it -- and she wasn't alone with the beast anymore. She was sitting up, and someone was holding her, rocking her a little. Someone else was sitting on the other side of her, stroking her arm, her shoulder... Ed was watching from the doorway, looking on with... concern, or maybe pity. The pain she felt now wasn't even bad, it was like... hunger pains.

The whole thing was in my head.

Tommy was rocking her, Maria was petting her. Joel was...

"Joel!" she wailed -- out loud. She was a little surprised she could hear herself. Could they hear me this time?

"I could kill your brother, babe," Maria muttered... to Tommy, obviously.

"Joel," Ellie lamented softly. Of course he wasn't there. She was irritated with herself for wanting him.

"You're not alone, Ellie," Tommy reminded her. "Were you dreamin' about Joel?"

"It wasn't a dream. But... no."

Ed exchanged some kind of look (Ellie wasn't sure what to make of it) with one or both of the others, smiled and nodded at Ellie, then left, closing the door behind him.

"You wanna tell us about it, honey?" asked Maria softly.

Ellie shook her head, pulling away from them to lay back down on the bed. She lay on her side with her back towards them, facing the wall. "Did you guys hear me? Did I wake you up?"

"Yes, an' no -- it ain't that late yet," Tommy replied. He and Maria remained seated on the bed. "You were hollerin' so loud we thought... we didn' know what to think. Figured it was one hell of a nightmare."

For some reason, she was embarrassed to admit how often this happened, what a weakling she was now. She could tell herself she didn't care what they thought, that they weren't even her real family -- less real than even Joel -- but clearly she did care, or it wouldn't bother her. She didn't want them to think she was afraid of her dreams all the time, or that she couldn't tell the difference between a flashback and reality. This was worse than having a flashback, though -- it was like a prediction of the future.

"I want it out of me," she whined softly to the wall.

They were quiet for a moment. They didn't ask her what she meant, so she figured they knew. "There might not be anything there, we don't know for sure," said Maria. "But if there is, we'll figure out how to deal with everything. Okay?"

She felt the tears coming. Her cheeks were wet already, so the vision or whatever must have already summoned them. "But... but I don't want..." she sniffled.

"I know, sweetheart," Tommy cooed. "Go back to sleep. We'll stay with you."

She felt Tommy's hand rubbing her back, which was kind of nice... in a way, she was glad that at least Joel didn't have to see her like this. Knowing that such filth was growing inside her, he would probably look at her with even more anger and disgust than usual.
If he hadn't left her yet, this probably would have pushed him over the edge.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tommy had Ellie-sitting duty the next day while Maria and her dad went out of town to what they referred to as a 'Jackson affiliate' -- a nearby farm. He usually followed Maria's compassionate approach of letting Ellie do whatever she wanted (what she 'needed' to do, according to Maria), but not today. He insisted that she come downstairs and eat at the table like a human being. In his no-nonsense voice, which could sound a lot like Joel's when he wanted it to. Ellie didn't have the energy to fight with him.

He also didn't feed her oatmeal. He made what he called a 'Denver omelette,' but with an extra ingredient added -- tomatoes from the plants she'd abandoned. If that was supposed to make her feel all warm'n'fuzzy inside, it didn't. The meal did smell pretty damn good, though, she had to admit -- to herself, if not to him. That was two battles he'd won today, and it wasn't even noon yet.

She knew something was up when she saw that he wasn’t sporting his usual pleasant expression at the table. He was scowling. Clearly unhappy about something. "You look like Joel right now," she observed, feeling a pang in her heart just saying his name.

"I just spoke with Dr. Choi," he announced.

Ellie dropped her fork.

Tommy glowered at her. "Yeah. He told me. How could you even think about doin' somethin' like that to yourself?"

"That fucking asshole! I told him I wasn't going to do it! It was just a lame joke!"

"Apparently he didn' believe you. Can't say I blame him."

"He had no right to-- that was a private conversation!"

"Ellie, do you have any idea how dangerous that is?"

"I told you, I'm not going to do anything!" Ellie seriously hadn't given that option much thought at all, other than to decide she really wouldn't have the fortitude required to stick something sharp way up inside herself like that anyhow.

"What about tryin' to get someone else to do it for you? That's jus' as bad."

"I'm not gonna do that either," she said, probably a little less convincingly as she hadn't completely dismissed that one yet. She decided to be honest about her current favorite option, which she'd started considering last night. "I think the best thing would be to figure out how to get it to... go away on its own."

"Like a miscarriage."

"Yeah, exactly." Ellie wondered if she could starve the thing out of her. I bet I could outlast the little fucker... If they'd let her, that is. That could be problematic. She'd have to move back home... and would they let her do that? No. If only she hadn't sent all that surplus marijuana back to the clinic with Joel! They probably wouldn't give her any now. Yeah, she'd hated using it, but in this case, it was the lesser of two evils... if it even did what she wanted. Maybe it wouldn't really hurt the thing; it was just a plant, after all. "Do you think the store would have anything about like... what causes those?"

Tommy sighed. "It could happen naturally, without you doin' a thing. If you're even pregnant. But you can't hurt yourself to try to force it to happen."

She mushed the eggs around on her plate, scowling at them. "You have no idea... can you imagine what it feels like to have a... a black... disgusting... thing, a creature... something growing that's not supposed to be there, inside of you? Think about it."

"You're right. I have no idea. But, if there's anythin' there, it ain't a thing, an' it's not disgusting. It's a little person. An innocent."

"There's nothing innocent about it!"

"Your imagination's gettin' carried away. If it's from... maybe it's fucked up how it got there, yeah. But the baby itself--"

"It's not a baby."

"The baby," he insisted, "is not evil. I get that you don' want a kid yet. You're only sixteen. You don' gotta keep it. There are people in town who would be happy to take it and love it like it's their own. People who can't have kids of their own, or there's a possibility that they can't... I can think of two households off the top of my head. I know that would still be hard on you, but it's a way better option than tryin' to kill it."

Ellie stared at him. Is he serious? He's serious. He wanted her to give birth to the thing. Like it wouldn't drive her completely batshit, having it inside her for an eternity. "I don't even know how to make it through the day, and you want me to... for nine months? Tommy, I can't. I can't do it."

"Only seven an' a half months left. An' you can. If you even have to."

"I am pregnant," she scoffed. "I know it."

"All right. Say you are. Have you considered that the baby could possibly be Bailey's? Would you feel differently about it then?"

She sighed. "Maria told you about that, too? God, no one in this town can keep their fucking mouth shut."

"Hey, Maria an' me, we got no secrets between us. She didn' tell me your conversation word for word, if that's what you're thinkin'. Jus' the gist of it."

"Whatever. Did she tell you it's way more likely to be a scumbag's kid than Bailey's? What if... what if I have it and it looks exactly like one of them, every day I'd have to look at that..." Although she already did that anyway, in a way... still, it had to be worse to see a little monster in the flesh than a ghosty thing in her mind.

"It won' look exactly like 'em. It's half you, you know. An' maybe it would look a lot like Bailey."

"Pfff. It doesn't matter anyways because there's no way to find out now, when it would be nice to know," she said dejectedly.

"That's right. You don' know. Maybe you could tell yourself it's Bailey's if it helps... helps you live with it."

"Right. And maybe I should tell myself Joel's coming home today, too. Every single day, tell myself the lie, like that will make it true," she said sourly.

"There is somethin' to be said about the power of positive thinkin'."

Ellie was starting to understand how Joel could get so annoyed with Tommy and his 'pollyanna crap' (Ellie didn't know who Pollyanna was, but Joel had explained the term to her). "Oh, bullshit. No matter what I think, something is either true, or it isn't."

"But... how you think, that's how you can cope with shit. You're strong. You can get through anything."

"I'm weak," she retorted. "I used to be strong. I can't fucking deal with this, Tommy. I just can't. You have no idea."

Tommy sighed again. "I know it's hard. After you're done eatin' we're gonna go pay a visit to Nana; she can prob'ly say stuff -- shit that helps -- better than I can."

Ellie groaned. "I don't wanna go see her."

Tommy smirked. "Notice I didn' ask this time? We're goin'."

"She has all those kids running around, how am I even supposed to talk to her?!" she protested.

"I think seein' the kids might be good for you, too. But one of the older ones can mind the younger ones for a bit so you can talk in private. Or... I can help with that, if you'd rather not have me there with you an' her... if you want girl talk. That part's up to you."

Ellie was sure all the kids hated her. She'd killed their teacher, after all. The beloved Miss Rachel. Technically her hands were clean, but she was responsible for her death, which was just as bad. Rachel's sobs still echoed in her head every day. "Isn't it kinda rude to just barge in on her and expect her to wanna talk?" Right, because I'm never RUDE. She had a feeling she wasn't going to get out of it this time.

"That's jus' how it's done, with Nana. She's wanted to talk to you before, so I know she'd be willin'."

"Well, I don't wanna talk to her." So Ellie did know who Pollyanna was: Nana was bound to worse than Tommy!

"Well! You can sit there with her an' jus' not say a word then. You can lead a horse to water..."

"What?" If she had horses there, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Ellie did kind of miss riding, sometimes... but she wouldn't admit that to anyone.

"Nothin'. I can drag you down there, but I can't make you talk. Fifteen minutes, Ellie. That's all I ask."

"So now you're asking? Then sorry, but no."

"That's all I... demand, then." Tommy actually chuckled a little. "You're makin' me feel like an asshole now. I won' ask nothin' else of you the rest of the day, I promise."

"And tomorrow too?"

He hesitated. Sighed. "And tomorrow, too."

She supposed it wasn't so much to ask, and they'd asked so little of her in the month or so that she'd been with them. Once Tommy saw that the visit didn't have the effect on her that he'd hoped, he'd stop trying to 'help' in such bothersome ways. "Fifteen minutes. And no, like... hugging and crap. She's a hugger."

"No hugs. Jus' talkin', or sittin' there in silence, if you prefer."

How awful could it be, really? She'd certainly been through worse. "Okay."

~Continue to Chapter 11~

Tags: comforting sounds, fic, tlou
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