Lumy (luminations) wrote,

"Uncertainty" Chapter 8: "Strange Fire" (8/46)

Title: "Uncertainty" Chapter 8: "Strange Fire" (8/46)
Fandom: The Last of Us
Characters: Ellie, Joel, Tommy, Maria, OCs
Pairings: Joel/Ellie
Warnings: Underage [please see A/N of doom in Chapter 1!]
Word Count for this chapter: 5206
Rating (for fic as a whole): R
Author's Notes: Chapter title comes from the Indigo Girls song/album

"Just enough time to get home: It takes women twenty to thirty minutes to fall asleep after an orgasm, compared to the two to five before men pass out."

Ellie reread that little snippet, marveling at the difference... and she had to wonder, how the fuck does anyone know this? Like, was it someone's job to study people's habits after they orgasmed? Did they get paid to do shit like that? Wasn't there anything more important they could be doing? And as for the orgasm thing... what if it wasn't even bedtime? Would you still fall asleep? Maybe it was just that the urge to sleep was really strong afterwards, not that you had to sleep. Otherwise, it seemed like she would've heard about it somewhere. That could be dangerous, really. She wanted to ask Joel about it...

She added it to her mental collection of Things to Ask Joel Someday. That one, she could probably work into a casual conversation without quoting the stats. She could've just heard it 'around.' But... asking anything related to orgasms was tricky, because she would feel embarrassed -- and that feeling was supposed to be exclusive to Joel! She didn't think she'd ever actually had a real orgasm. From all the magazines she'd been devouring lately, she'd gathered that it was okay to touch herself... it was normal, not shameful... she'd never done much of that, back in Boston, and not at all since she'd met Joel. The thought didn't even cross her mind out on the road, and then... well, after that, they slept in the same bed. He kinda would've noticed if she'd started doing it. And once she'd started wanting him to touch her... the thought of doing it herself was just... sad, somehow. Now that they were together -- like, together-together -- she knew it was just a matter of time, and she wanted to wait for him. Even though the magazines sort of give me permission, I'm not going to do it, she decided. Touching me is Joel's... right? Duty? Privilege? Whatever.

Besides, she might be sleeping alone for the time being, but she couldn't touch herself in a bed that wasn't hers. That was... dirty, or something. Some kind of betrayal of trust. Esther had invited her to come sleep under her roof, not masturbate. And Ellie had gathered that once you started, it was hard to stop, like an addiction... what if she couldn't control it? Like, if she had to do it at home and then Joel caught her or something? She would die!

With no clock in the magazine room, it was easy to lose track of time. Ellie heard some voices outside, in the distance... one of the movies must be over. Fuck, I better wrap this up! She'd never gotten locked in the library before. She could get out, but she'd feel bad leaving the building unlocked. This room didn't get a lot of use, particularly at night, so she couldn't be sure Angie, the closing librarian that night, would think to check it before locking up.

Ellie quickly replaced the various magazines in their respective holders on the shelves, marking her place by filing the one she'd just finished upside down. She hurried around the corner to the ladies' restroom to beat the 'movie rush;' one girl either hadn't been watching that movie, or she had to go so bad that she ran over there and skipped out on the ending or something, because she was just coming out of a stall when Ellie entered. It was Karen (or "Young Karen," because there was another Karen in town who was even older than Joel), a fellow fifteen-year-old, and one of the few Jackson residents who wore glasses -- like, all the time, not just for reading. Back in Joel's time, a person could actually go to a doctor and get glasses custom-made so that they could see perfectly. In Jackson, the eyesight-challenged people just had to keep trying on pairs from the collection, and hope that the ones that worked best weren't too scuffed up.

"Ellie! I didn't know you were here!" Karen exclaimed like it was some kind of big revelation.

"Is it really that big of a surprise?" Ellie brushed past her into another stall and locked the door.

"Were you in Spider-Man?" asked the other girl from the sinks.

"You guys are watching that again?" Seemed like every time she checked the whiteboards, where the movies of the night were announced, there was a Spider-Man movie on one of them.

"It's part three," Karen explained. "I guess you weren't, then. Heh. I wasn't either. But Clicker was looking for you, and I told him you weren't here. Whoops." Ellie heard the faucet shut off. "I'll see if he's still around. Later!"

It wasn't exactly unusual that Clicker was looking for her, but something was up; Ellie got that feeling from the general buzz in the air when she entered the main area, the heart of the library. She saw a couple of girls that she talked to sometimes (she wouldn't go so far as to call them friends) hanging out on one of the couches... a place Joel liked to sit when he pretended he wasn't watching her. She waited for them to pause their conversation and acknowledge her presence before speaking. "Hey, Lisa... Dee... did something happen?"

"Yeah, but no one will spill," Dee replied in her 'gossipy' tone. "Maya said her dad like sort of admitted something happened but wouldn't say what. Maria came home early from the other farm."

"Yeah," Lisa echoed her, "and anyone who asks her what's up just gets told there's gonna be a meeting tomorrow morning."

Ellie's first thought was horrifying -- that there was something wrong with the baby -- but if that was true, why would Maria call a meeting? It wasn't even widespread knowledge that she was pregnant. "Did Tommy come with her?"

"No," Dee answered, "it was just--"

"Yes he did," Lisa interrupted. "He's back, too -- Mel said she saw him, remember? But he came back after Maria."

"And Joel?" Ellie asked, hoping she didn't sound insanely hopeful.

"He was here," Dee said, all nonchalant-like, having no idea what effect those three words had on Ellie's heart. "I saw him in here before the movie started. Oh, and Clicker's looking for you. Ell, when are you gonna put that poor kid out of his misery?" she added with a smirk.

"Whatever," Ellie mumbled distractedly. Joel's back! Did he come here looking for me, too?

"Sucks to be him... she's into older guys," Lisa snickered, and that last part was pointed enough to draw Ellie's attention. The look she was giving Dee kind of made Ellie wonder -- especially because Dee looked clueless -- but she didn't have time for this shit now.

"I gotta go..." ...and find Joel. If he was back in town, she didn't want to waste one more second talking to anyone else!

She wasn't going to escape Clicker's notice, though. The kid saw her leave the two girls, and he shouted her name loud enough that everyone turned to look where he was looking -- at her. She started walking toward him as he ran toward her. "Ellie!" he said excitedly. "You're okay! Where the fuck were you?"

"None of your business, dweeb," Ellie teased. "Why wouldn't I be okay?"

"Mr. Joel was looking for you!"

"You talked to Joel?" She tried not to sound overly excited. Tried and failed, probably... well, fuck it, who really cares?! Of course she'd be excited that he was home -- that fact didn't have to imply romantic feelings! "When? Where did he go? Is he okay?"

But Clicker wasn't done offering explanation for his concern; it was like he hadn't even heard her. "And every time he's looking for you like that... like, really hardcore looking for you, it's usually cuz of something bad. He came here first and you weren't here, and someone -- Angie, I think -- told him you were here but that you left. So he goes to the farm, and they tell him you left there to come here. Er -- wait, no, he went to the farm first, cuz he had a horse to bring back, but they told him you weren't there. Then he checked here, talked to Angie, went back down there... so then he comes back here and you still aren't here. So he goes and checks like your house, and Tommy'n'Maria's house... and some other places, he didn't tell me all of them -- but he looks like everywhere. Comes here again, asks me if I'm sure I haven't seen you, like I'm fucking with him or something? He had that look, like, 'Dude, I'm SO not in the mood for this shit' -- but of course I'm not fucking with him, right? and--"

Ellie could sympathize with Joel's impatience. She groaned loud enough to interrupt Clicker. "Dude! So where the fuck is he?"

"I'm getting to that! So I swear to him that I'm not covering for you this time -- I prob'ly shouldn'ta said 'this time' cuz he sort of looked at me funny, like... I mean, he knows about other times when you--"

"Clicker! Fucking answer my question!"

"Jeeeeeeez, Ellie, just chill! So... um, where was I..."

"You were about to tell me where Joel went before I break your neck!" She pretended she was about to do that, or possibly strangle him, and he grabbed her arm the way she'd shown him in an impromptu 'lesson' and twisted it around her back. "Oh shit -- good, that was perfect!" She broke free easily enough, though, and whirled around to face him. "Now tell me!"

Clicker looked proud of himself for successfully avoiding strangulation. "It doesn't matter where he went -- he's coming back here! He gave me a job to do when the movies finished: interrogate everyone in the library about your whereabouts. When they last saw you and where that was. I took notes, see?" He produced a crumply piece of paper from his pocket.

Ellie snorted. 'Mr. Joel' liked Clicker, and the kid had helped him search for her before. He was also the one who figured out that she'd left town that one time and then tattled to Joel about it (man, was Clicker surprised at how easily she'd forgiven him for that -- only because it had ended up leading to her first kiss with Joel!). Joel might have just been giving Clicker some game to play here that would make him feel important or something? Interviewing people struck her as a silly thing to ask him to do. "Joel will be proud," she said sarcastically. "So when's he coming back? They're gonna close the library soon..."

"Yeah, I thought he'd be back by now. He said he was going to check the lake. I guess cuz you guys walk around there sometimes. That was ages ago, though."

The 'lake' was more like a huge pond, but all Jacksonites referred to it as 'the lake.' That would be a great place to find him now, with no one around... "Okay, thanks!" She turned to leave, but Clicker grabbed her arm.

"Wait a sec -- you can't go -- I just told you he's coming back! I'm supposed to keep you here!"

Yeah, like I can really just sit around waiting when I haven't seen Joel in almost five days and he's all desperate to find me? "Well, if you see him, tell him I went to the lake looking for him. Bye!" She broke free and scurried away before he could stop her again.

"But he's gonna kill me if I let you go!" he whined as she sprang for the door.

"Tough shit!" she called back, laughing. ~I'm going to see my Joooooeeeellllll!~ she sang to herself. She was practically skipping the whole way to the lake, which wasn't all that far. She'd remembered to bring her little flashlight with her to the library this time (that had sucked the other night when she stayed late and didn't have it to light the loooong way back to Annie's), but the moon was bright enough tonight, especially reflecting off the silvery lake, that she could leave it in her pocket. What she had forgotten to bring up from the farm was her hoodie; it was usually warm enough in the daytime when she left, but she would sometimes get a little chilled at night -- especially when it was windy, like tonight. I just need to find Joel, he'll warm me up... "Joel! ...Joel! ...JOEL! Are you still out here? JOOOEEELLLL! " she yelled at the top of her lungs as she started to circle the lake. Clicker had never really answered her about whether Joel was okay, she realized... but he must be, or Clicker would've SAID, right? Somewhere in all those words coming out of his face, he would've fucking mentioned it. "Joooellll! Where are you?!"


Joel's voice! And he wasn't terribly far ahead! Ellie shrieked and started running. "Joel! Where--" Then she saw him step out of the dark-darkness into the moonlit-darkness, and she increased her pace to full speed ahead. He just stood there, probably knowing that she was going to leap into his arms the second she got close enough... "Joel!!!" she cried happily as she lunged at him.

He sort of caught her, but this time, the force of her jump knocked him to the ground. "Shit!" he managed to say before Ellie started kissing him breathlessly.

"Are you okay?" she asked between kisses, panting heavily from her sprint. "Sorry! Did I -- hurt you?"

He didn't say anything, but he wrapped his arms around her really tightly and rolled them over several turns -- making Ellie giggle, which didn't exactly help her catch her breath. Then she realized he wasn't just doing that to be playful; he wanted to be in the shadows, out of the half-moon's light. Ever so cautious, even with no one around.

"Sorry!" she repeated. He ended the rolling with her on top of him again, but he didn't ease up on the near-crushing grip. Ellie loved it when he held her so tightly. With one arm across her back and a hand cradling her head against his shoulder, it wasn't going to be easy to resume kissing him. But they were technically still in public, so he probably didn't want her to do that...

"Ssshhh, jus' catch your breath, all right? Damn, your heart's beatin' as fast as you were runnin' jus' now. Someone chasin' you?" he teased.

"What're you -- doing here?" she gasped.

"I can leave if you want..."

Ellie would have slugged him, but couldn't exactly fucking move. "Fuck you," she giggled, squirming.

"I ain't leavin' you again," he murmured, suddenly serious.

At least, Ellie hoped he was serious... "Really? No shit? Really?!"

"Really," he affirmed, laughing softly at her incredulity.

That declaration made Ellie so happy that she thought she might never fully catch her breath... until finally she was able to speak in full sentences without gasping. "I missed you so bad! It's like you were never even here for that day and a half and you've been gone for two weeks or something."

He rolled them over a half turn, so that he was on top of her, and pulled her gun out of her jeans, laying it beside them... ever mindful of her comfort. "I'm back now," he whispered before pressing his lips to hers.

So he DOESN'T mind kissing me out here! Ellie was thrilled when he deepened the kiss, his tongue expressing that urgency she attributed to them being apart for ages. He was already crushing her pretty nicely, but she wrapped her arms around him, hugging him as closely to her as she could. It was like being in a cocoon... except no way could any dumb old moth feel the things Joel made her feel! She hesitated to coil her legs around him, thinking it might be too much, somehow... until she did it without even thinking about it, too lost in the embrace to think straight... she felt his hand on her ass... felt it inching toward... no, he's just teasing...

Then he groaned and rolled off of her, just as she predicted he would. Something about touching her there always made him end it right after. And it wasn't even her bare ass! She turned and snuggled up to his side. "If we were at home, you wouldn't have to stop..." she cooed in his ear.

He chuckled. "Yes I would. C'mon, sit up, kiddo." He sat up, expending a little extra effort than usual, and brought her up with him. "Let's sit at that table for a minute."
"Is your backside all sore now? I'm so sorry!" she apologized again as they stood up together.

"I'll live," he said, kissing the top of her head. There was a picnic table nearby. Ellie recognized their location now: a spot where Joel liked to sit sometimes... with her, but also by himself. His backpack and a couple of guns lay on the tabletop. He slung one leg over the bench and patted the spot in front of him.

"No, like this..." Ellie lifted his other leg and slid it under the table so that he was sitting properly, as if he were about to have a meal there or something. Then she straddled him, wedging herself between him and the table, and put her arms around his neck. "That's better!"

He chuckled and kissed her again. She shifted around a little... she could feel that he was hard. She liked feeling it. She knew that he knew that she liked feeling it. They just didn't usually acknowledge it... Joel didn't, because such comments would make him uncomfortable, and Ellie didn't because... well, making Joel uncomfortable was not conducive to snuggling, and sometimes led to an argument, or to him putting a little distance between them. If she didn't say anything, he could keep pretending that she was too innocent to notice, and he sure did seem to like her being innocent. Which didn't make sense to Ellie -- her so-called innocence was the whole fucking problem! If she were skanky like Sophie, he'd have fucked her that first night, probably.

She'd been a bit clueless back then. Right after Joel had kissed her for the first time, she'd sort of assumed they'd be having sex later -- maybe not that night, or even the next night, but soon. When he'd done his 'we'll talk about that later' thing, though, she'd gotten the feeling she was wrong. At least 'later' did actually come -- when they got home from their little accidental adventure that had led to that first kiss. It was really late, so they'd gone to bed shortly after arriving home, but Ellie had been too excited to sleep.

"Joel, why did you make me go change in the bathroom? We're together now, right? So..."

"So -- that don' mean we need to see each other naked yet."

"Why not? That's what people do when they're together... and they have sex..."

"How do you know what people do?"

"Um... movies? Books?"

"Right. That's FICTION. Real life is different. People don' jus' hop right into bed with each other right away like you see in movies. 'Least, not all of 'em do. I don't."

", tomorrow, then?"


"When? In a week?"

"No! There's no timetable... Ellie, just 'cause we kissed don' mean we have to have sex."

"But... you said..."

"I didn' say... THAT. I know I didn't."

"You said you wanted to fuck me."

"Never said that, either. You asked me if I wanted to, and I said we'd talk about it later."

"Okay -- it's later! You do, right?"

"Can we talk about this tomorrow? I'm beat."

"How hard is it to just say yes or no?"

"It ain't a yes or no question."

"How is it NOT a yes or no-- er, unless it's a maybe? Is that it?"

"...How 'bout yes AND no."

"Both? At the same time?"


"Um... okay, explain it to me."

"Later. Too tired."

"Jooooeeeellllllll I'm going to wonder about that all night and I'll NEVER fall asleep!"

"... Fine, all right, I'll try. I have... some feelins... along those lines, yes. But you are fifteen years old--"

"I don't care about the age difference!"

"Jus' let me finish? You're fifteen, I'm forty-nine. It's actually a crime for me to sleep with you--"

"Not anymore it's not! And I told you -- I won't tell anyone."

"It ain't even that. You know WHY it's a crime? 'Cause you're too YOUNG."

"Well, clearly I'm NOT, or you wouldn't've... you promised you weren't going to change your mind!"

"I'm not. I won't. It don' mean that I think we should have sex."

"But we're TOGETHER now. Like boyfriend/girlfriend. Right?"

"... well... ..."

"Okay, forget the whole label thing. You have feelings for me -- THOSE sorts of feelings -- and I have them for you. Therefore, we should fuck."

"Ugh... would you quit sayin' it like that?"

"Like what? Fucking? You prefer ~making looooove~?"

"Ha. 'Havin' sex' is fine."

"Yep, it is... so we should have it."

"You're fifteen."

"You said that already. So what? You said you weren't going to change your mind about us!"

"Ellie... jus' because we... look, what's the hurry? I don' think we should rush into anythin'."

"Um, you totally just pointed out before that it took a YEAR to have our first kiss. We're not RUSHING!"

"That's different. This type of relationship... it's brand new. An' I told you I don' have all my shit sorted out yet."

"Yes, and you also told me we wouldn't go backwards."

"And we won't. That don' mean we have to surge forwards real quick-like, though. We'll talk about it all you want tomorrow... okay, baby girl?"

Eventually, she had let poor Joel fall asleep. Then she'd just laid there, listening to the rhythm of his breathing... the pulsing of his heart beneath her cheek... the heart that now belonged to her. They'd fallen asleep like that, all tangled up with each other, so many times before... but that night, everything was different. She'd stayed awake that whole night, convinced that she was too happy to ever sleep again... but she did fall asleep, some time late in the morning (she didn't have to work, as she was supposed to still be out of town, thankfully!). The next day had been one of the best days of her life. Possibly the best day.

It almost felt like that again now, because they'd been apart... like it was all brand new again. Joel said they were still new, even though it had been weeks and weeks already. Maybe he could make promises now about not leaving because he felt that same giddiness... but when it wore off, he'd be all "We each have to do our part for the town, Ellie" again. Wait... did he even promise?? She figured she'd better exact an actual promise from him, if she could. It might make all the difference later. Joel was really sensitive about promises right now -- she knew he absolutely didn't want to break any more of them.

"Joel," she murmured against his lips. "Did you mean it when you said you weren't leaving again?"


"Like, ever?"


Wow, he didn't even hesitate! "Promise me."

"I promise. If I'm ever asked to leave this town again, only way I'll go is if you're with me."

Too easy! She had to milk some more from this mood of his... work out the loopholes... "And... ...and you won't send me anywhere so that I have to leave you? Promise me that, too."

Joel chuckled and gave her a quick peck on the lips. "Why would I send you somewhere?"

"I don't know! Or maybe someone else wants me to leave. Promise I won't ever have to leave you."

"I promise. We'll stick together. Really together."

"Yay! Omigod, Joel, you just made me the happiest person ever," she squealed and kissed him... excitedly at first, high on his promises as she was... but then a little more slow'n'sweet. If she wanted to kiss him for any decent amount of time, that was the flavor the majority of the kisses had to be. She could only guess at what went on in the male body in its aroused state, but they always reached a point where Joel said he had to stop. Like he couldn't stand it anymore -- even though it felt good, and wasn't it just bad things that had to be... standed?! It didn't really make sense to Ellie. Like when they were playing in the grass just then... feeling his hand on her ass was a thrill -- which was a good thing -- and it made her want more, but if he'd just kept kissing her instead, that was still fucking great -- and it was preferable to stopping. Ellie had asked Joel before if it was physically painful for him and that's why he always had to stop, but he said no... and that he just couldn't explain it. Sometimes she wondered if he just wouldn't admit to her that it hurt.

Apparently, Joel still wasn't in the mood for slow and sweet. She could feel his passion... like this crazy-strong intensity that coursed through him and spilled over into her, through his mouth... his fingertips... He really, REALLY loves me, she thought happily. His hand had tangled itself in her hair (her ponytail was only like half-intact by now), cupping the back of her head as he kissed her so deeply that it felt like her head might actually spin off without his hand there to hold it. It made her delightfully dizzy when he kissed her like that, and it was just about the best feeling in the whole world.

She just wasn't used to him sustaining it for so long... and he was holding her so tight -- like, literally crushing her against him. Ellie kept expecting him to lean back, or shift her onto the bench beside him... something to break the contact. Yet he didn't. He was... it's like he's desperately trying to... to WHAT? She wondered if the way she was feeling now was anything like how he felt when he had to stop... she couldn't breathe, yet still she was reluctant to come up for air, too thrilled to end it. No part of her was even the least bit cold anymore... no, she was quite the opposite of that. There was this strange fire burning inside her, and Joel's kisses were fanning the flames, sending sparks up her spine... down to her toes... I'm in a movie -- isn't this the part where we rip off each other's clothes and start fucking like crazy? Maybe they would have, if she were older. Maybe she was supposed to do something, and if she knew what that was, things would progress... but she was afraid of doing the wrong thing... afraid of doing something that might snap him out of this awesome okayness with not stopping. And it felt so fucking good... Maybe he's going to give me an orgasm just from kissing! she thought excitedly.

She was enjoying the hell out of this... but she was also ignoring the part of her brain that was telling her this is really not like him -- what's wrong? He hadn't been like this when they were apart for eight days. And if this was like a prelude to taking a 'step'... why would he do it here and not at home?

Finally, she had to pull back and take a real breath. She held Joel's face in her hands, her thumbs stroking his beard, and she looked in his eyes; she could see them a little better now that hers had adjusted to the shadows. She just wasn't sure what she was looking for... or if it was actually visible. "Hey. Are you okay?"

"I'm jus' great." Only... he didn't say it the way a happy person would. It sounded sarcastic.

Well, he IS Joel... "Are you sure? Cuz you seem a little..."

"Sorry... too much?" He relaxed his grip on her.

"No! No, it's good... it's awesome... it's just..." It's just WHAT? He seemed... off, somehow. She couldn't pinpoint what felt different. Yes, he could be intense sometimes, but this was... well, intensely intense? "Joel, what's wrong?"

He turned slightly to kiss one of her palms. "Nothin's wrong."

As if she would give up that easily. "What happened today? Why did you guys come back? I already know it's not because you were done over there."

"I'll tell you about that later."

Not the dreaded 'later'! "Tell me now! Please? I really wanna know!" He smiled a little, which put Ellie's mind a smidge more at ease. Maybe he was just in a strange mood -- and if he keeps kissing me like that... I think I like his strange moods! "Pleeease?"

"You know I like makin' you wait for things," he teased.

"Arrggghhh! Like how long? What comes first: you telling me, or us having sex?"

He laughed. Quietly, but it was a real laugh. "I'll tell you. Definitely I'll tell you first."

The little laugh made her feel even better about his state of mind. "Maybe that wasn't like the best example to... if you're gonna tell me later tonight, I'd be okay with us having sex first," she added with a grin.

"Ha. I know you would, baby girl. All in due time."

"Okay -- so if you know I would, then that means you know I'm ready," she reasoned.

"Nice try. I know that you think you know you would. How's that?" He kissed her neck lightly in that way that made her shiver... and this time it also made her giggle.

"But I knoooooow I'd have sex with you!" she exclaimed.

"Ssshhh, would you keep your voice--" He turned his head to the side, as if just remembering that they were outside and not necessarily alone -- and something must have caught his eye. "Oh shit," he whispered.

Ellie looked in that direction, her hand automatically reaching back for her gun -- which wasn't even there, as it was still on the ground -- but there was no need for that: it was Clicker! He'd apparently been walking toward them, and now he was frozen in his tracks -- because he heard my comment just now, maybe?! They could see him in the dim moonlight, but maybe he couldn't see them. He was still sort of far away... but not really! If he were still walking toward them, it would only take him like fifteen or twenty steps to reach them. There was no way he hadn't heard that last little outburst. Shit shit shit -- we are so FUCKED.

~Continue to Chapter 9~

Tags: fic, tlou, uncertainty
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