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"Uncertainty" Chapter 16: "Something To Talk About" (16/47)

Title: "Uncertainty" Chapter 16: "Something To Talk About" (16/47)
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: 6199
Rating (for fic as a whole): R

A/N: Chapter title from the Bonnie Raitt song.

~


"That was reeeeeally good. Is there more?"

"Why don' you jus' eat your cake?" Joel suggested -- since it wasn't the dessert that Ellie was referring to. About an hour after Joel's little fib declaring they'd be doing it 'soon,' the cake-cutting had finally occurred.

"You mean your cake," Ellie clarified. "So, since you gave me most of your piece, maybe you could..."

"No, you don' need any more champagne. An' don' pout like that. It won't work." I hope. He'd dealt with a drunken Ellie once before, and it hadn't been pretty. At least this time she's drinking with ME? And they were now alone at their table, as Tommy and Maria had gone off somewhere after the cake show to mingle with other guests.

"Aww, c'mon. Just a little more wouldn't hurt. I'm not even... what's that word?"

"Hammered?"

"No."

"Wasted?"

"No."

"Plastered?"

"No -- isn't that something you do to walls? And broken legs!" Ellie laughed loudly at that.

"How about jus' plain ol' 'drunk'?" Joel offered.

"No! It's like... oh! I remember! When there's a buzzing in your head! Buzzed. I think maybe I am now, a little."

Joel had never connected that term to the actual sound, but it was logical. "Well then, you don' need no more."

"But I'm only a little. What's that other word... tipping? I'm not that."

"Tipsy," Joel corrected. "An' it's the same damn thing."

Something about that statement amused her, too. She was all smiley and bubbly -- and adorable, naturally. It wasn't that Joel didn't like seeing her happy... he just didn't want her to overdo it. She'd been acting a little strangely since before the champagne... she'd nearly fallen on the dance floor, and she and Sophie had come out of that restroom giggling like a couple of school girls. He'd thought Ellie would rather chew glass (or... kiss a Bloater?) than even be in the same room as Sophie, yet there they were, all chummy. Ellie offered no reasonable explanation afterward. -No explanation at all, really. Joel chalked it up to one of those bizarre, inexplicable girl things that seemed to take place in restrooms. It had mystified him back in the day, too. Put two dudes in a restroom together (straight dudes, anyway), and all they would do is ignore one another. Why the hell would anyone want to do any... bonding in there?

Ellie had eaten a healthy amount at dinner. It was a couple of hours ago now, but it still seemed like she shouldn't be three sheets to the wind on diluted champagne. Maybe it got more potent over the years? It definitely got flatter. And it had an odd, sour aftertaste... which didn't seem to put her off of it at all. Anyway, Joel couldn't help being a little suspicious. "That champagne got to you awfully quick. Did Max slip you some booze or what?"

"Are you serious?!" she exclaimed -- with amusement instead of irritation, at least. "Joel, you were watching me the whole time. How could he?"

"...maybe he did it when I was blinkin'. I don' know-- I could've missed somethin'."

Ellie looked scandalized. "You? Miss something? Never! You're the most observant person I know. Well, at least with stuff like that. Maybe not so much, like... noticing when a girl's in love with you or something..."

"Ellie..." he warned.

"I'm just SAYING," she drawled. "In general. Sheesh."

That was another reason not to let Ellie drink too much: that tongue of hers sure didn't need to be any looser. She'd behaved herself so far. They'd talked to a fair amount of guests over the course of the evening, and she hadn't slipped up at all, that Joel could see... hadn't shot him any looks... That was important. Stifling the urge to exchange looks. People could pick up on that shit. In most instances, it didn't matter, but where the nature of their relationship was concerned... he really needed her to be discreet. He wasn't overly worried about it tonight, though, because he felt confident in his ability to smooth over any hiccups in her discretion with lies where needed; blaming the alcohol could come in handy.

"Joel..." She had a mischievous look about her.

"Ellie," he answered warily.

"How 'bout just a tiny bit, to wash this down? My glass is empty, see?" She turned her glass upside down to demonstrate. It wasn't actually a champagne flute, although the bride and groom, and select others, did have those. There just weren't enough to go around. At least the amounts served had been comparable to flute portions. Seeing most of her tumbler empty made Ellie feel like they'd been cheated, even though she understood the geometry concept behind it.

"You can drink somethin' else."

"There is nothing else."

"At this table, maybe, but they still got the beverage thing set up over there. I'll go get you somethin'."

"Noooooo!" she complained before he even started to get up. "You can't leave me!"

"Well, I guess you ain't that thirsty then."

"I am! You just can't leave me!"

"Then get it yourself?"

"Then I'd be leaving you!"

"So... we go together."

"Noooo, someone'll drink your champagne!"

"Someone who ain't you." Joel chuckled. "I'll bring it with."

"No!" she insisted, not unlike a stubborn two-year-old... irritating, yet somehow still cute. "Just... no. Let me drink your glass. Your drink."

"Maybe I'll jus' get Clicker's attention. Bet he wouldn' mind fetchin' you somethin'."

"Ha! He hates me."

Joel had to laugh at that. "He does not. Why would you say that?"

"He was making fun of my dress! And he said my hair looked weird like this!" She flicked at a lock of her unponytailed hair.

"Newsflash: that's what kids his age do when they have a crush on someone."

"Um, he should be a little old for that, actually. Anyways, he doesn't have a crush on me anymore -- he got over it, Joel! He did! Didn't you see him dancing with Alyssa? I know you did."

"That don' mean he's over it." It would be nice if the boy did get over it, because Joel knew he didn't have a shot in hell with Ellie.

"Whatever -- all this talking is drying my mouth out even more! And we wouldn't--" She looked a little sheepish, and Joel got the impression she'd just swallowed a naughty thought. "Joel! Pleeeeaaase?"

"Jesus Christ, Ellie, do you know how pathetic you're bein' right now?" he teased. "Over a few drops of champagne?"

"That's why I neeeeed it! So I'm not all PATHETIC," she whined.

He knew he shouldn't give in to her, but... she was so damn cute. And she wasn't slurring her words yet. Maybe she wasn't all that drunk. "Fine. Here."

"Yay! Thank you!" She nearly knocked the glass over when she hopped up to give Joel a hug.

"All right..." Joel hugged her for only a second before gently pushing her back over to her seat. He hoped no one had noticed, but it wasn't really worth casting furtive glances about, trying to determine if they had. Just an innocent father-daughter hug, nothing to see here...

Ellie took a big swig from his glass, and Joel put his hand on her arm. "Hey. Easy with that. That's the last you're gonna get."

"Says you."

"Uh... yeah, says me, 'cause there ain't no more."

As if on cue, the champagne server gal started asking a nearby table if anyone wanted to finish off the bottle in her hand. Ellie whipped around to find the source of this generous offer. "Yeah! Over here!" she called, waving madly to get her attention -- even though she'd just shouted loud enough to turn heads at tables fairly far away.

"Ellie..." Joel warned again.

It was one of the bridesmaids peddling the booze; he didn't remember the woman's name. She approached them, smiling at Ellie. "Girl, I think one's enough for you."

"Oh, it is," Ellie agreed, to Joel's surprise. She sloshed the champagne in her (his) glass a little. "I'm only halfway done. But Joel drank all his -- see?" She held up the empty glass for inspection. "And he's a big dude, he needs extra!"

I should've known. "I'm fine. Really."

The woman probably noticed that the empty glass had been sitting more in front of Ellie than Joel, but if she suspected a trick, she didn't let on. "Half a glass?" she suggested.

"Yeah, that's good!" chirped Ellie. "Thanks, Emily! Maybe a little more than half..."

"Half," Joel conceded. He tried to signal 'enough' at halfway-ish, a few glugs... but Emily apparently couldn't resist finishing off the bottle, and it was probably close to a full serving after all. After she walked away, Joel looked at Ellie sternly. Or... tried to. She's too cute for her own good. "I'm drinkin' most of this, now. Not you. Got it?"

"Says you," Ellie repeated, giggling. She raised her glass. "Cheers!"

Joel clinked glasses with her, then took a drink, smirking at her a little as he did, making her laugh even more. One or two glasses of champagne wouldn't affect him much. If they were at home, and booze were available, he might be inclined to drink more (though he'd prefer something hard, like scotch). But even after four months in civilization without incident, he hadn't gotten to the point where he was entirely comfortable around other people. Especially people who had been drinking... and most especially when he had Ellie to look out for. He knew Ellie wasn't giving any thought at all right now to her own safety. And he was glad: this was exactly what he'd wanted for her. To forget. To be happy and carefree... like a normal kid.

As normal as a kid could be while conducting a romantic relationship with a forty-nine-year-old, anyway (he would be fifty in a month, but until then, he was forty-nine, damnit).

She handled things with a patience and maturity beyond her years, and Joel continued to be impressed by that. He knew all the secrecy was hard on her. He'd seen the longing on her face during the wedding ceremony, at this reception... she wanted it to be okay to be in love with him, and him with her. And it just wasn't. Not in anyone's eyes but their own -- and not even completely in his, some of the time. He told himself he offset that deficit by showering her with affection... even if that was limited to behind closed doors. Maybe it was a lie he just wanted to believe, but... Ellie did seem happy with him, most of the time. He couldn't be doing that bad of a job.

Joel ended up drinking half of his half a glass, and Ellie finished the rest. "You're so good to me," she cooed, then drained the glass, punctuating the last swallow with an adorable little hiccup. He knew he had let her have a little too much, but they'd be going home soon, so it didn't really matter. She smacked her lips and made an "ahhhhh" noise. "Thank you! You're the best!"

"Kinda the opposite of that, really," Joel muttered. Was he really no better than Max? No, I'm just a hypocrite, is all. "You ready to go?"

"Go? Go where? The party's here!"

"An' it's gettin' late."

"Not really! Look -- people are still dancing! Dance with meeeeeee," she pleaded.

Joel sighed. "We danced a bunch before, remember?" A few times, maybe not a bunch. But it should have been enough. Hell, he'd even let her talk him into doing (well, half-ass doing) the Electric Slide, and he loathed that song.

"You wouldn't do the dirty one with me," Ellie snickered.

"Of course I wouldn't. Silly girl." She and Annie had tried it out, to Joel's amusement. It didn't look all that dirty, the way they kept moving awkwardly, laughing at each other... Joel did like to see Ellie have fun as a kid. It was pretty fucked up, really. Sick bastard that he was, he somehow wanted to be both her father and her lover, and he couldn't reconcile the two.

Ellie stood up and took his hand, trying to pull him out of the chair. "Come on! It's really not that late, Joel. They haven't even done the bouquet yet."

Shit. He knew Ellie wanted to catch the damn thing. That she'd been looking forward to it. He couldn't ask her to leave before that. He wasn't sure they should be dancing, though...

Ellie kept tugging on his arm, and he resisted, partly just to see what she'd do. He could tell she wasn't trying with all her might to make him stand. She was just pulling then relaxing... there was a sort of rhythm to it. Back and forth, to and fro... "You're weak, little girl," he teased.

"Am not! Not weak or a girl," she protested. She tried a little harder.

"Uh, you're definitely a girl."

She giggled. "Yeah... guess you noticed that... uuuggghhh!" She yanked harder on his arm, which made her teeter forward harder on the return, and then somehow she was tumbling into his lap before he could stop her. "Whoooaaa!" she cried, laughing.

He caught her, tried to bring her up and off him, but now she was the one resisting being moved -- she squirmed around and put her arms around his neck, giving him a crushing hug. Like she was holding on for dear life. "Don't push me off!" she said crossly.

Did she just stage that whole thing? Maybe she ain't that drunk after all. "Ellie..." He tried to loosen her death grip.

"And don't 'Ellie' me! I'm just hugging you!"

"Ssshhhh. Is that what you're doin'? Feels like maybe you're tryin' to choke me."

She giggled. "Hug me as tight as you can."

He humored her with that, of course not nearly as tight as he was capable. "You wanna dance? Let's go dance." People had taken notice of them, he was sure. Well, let them see she's a little tipsy. She ain't the only one... Joel had observed plenty of the other teenagers having a glass of the (non-bubbly) bubbly as well. It was a fucking wedding, after all. And he'd rather demonstrate that Ellie was being lovey as a side effect of her drunkenness, nothing more. Part of him wanted to just not give two shits what anyone thought. That was his usual method of operation -- but not where Ellie was concerned, and their relationship in particular.

"Why? You think you're gonna get hard if I keep--"

"Ellie! Jesus Christ," he hissed. Thankfully, his shirt had muffled that some, where she was pressing her face as she clung to him. "Keep your voice down. An' get up."

She protested, but he did manage to push her off his lap while still keeping hold of her, not quite trusting her to hold herself up, even if he did suspect she might be faking the severity of her inebriation. "Fiiiiiiiine -- let's go dance!" she said... more excitedly than irritably.

"Hey." He resisted as she tried to tug him toward the dancing, turning her around and putting his hands on her shoulders, looking her in the eye. "I need you to tone it down a little, all right? Remember... where we are."

"Not home. Right. I got it! Come on!"

They headed for the dance floor, hand in hand, and Joel was glad to see she wasn't walking erratically. He felt a little bad thinking she might be playing him a little, but... She knows damn well she has me wrapped around her little finger, and she's too resourceful not to use that. He just wasn't sure why she would want him to think she was drunker than she was. It could very well be his imagination. How would Ellie even know enough about how drunk people acted to pull it off? From movies? From her own experience that one time?

There were still plenty of people dancing, although the DJ was taking a break and had left the stereo shuffling between five CDs. Ellie called out greetings to everyone she knew along the way, which was pretty much everyone. One teenage girl came over and hugged her; she seemed a little tipsy herself. Joel felt a little better about his own bad parenting... then reminded himself he wasn't Ellie's parent anyway. Ellie had let go of his hand, and he started to back away, hoping she'd move over to the throng of young people and get the dancing out of her system that way. One of the young ladies had gone over to the stereo to skip around until she found the desired track: the Cyndi Lauper classic, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." He knew Ellie was familiar with the CD, and he watched her face light up when she recognized the beginning of the song. She did look over at Joel, but he told her that this one was obviously for girls so she should just go ahead. The huggy girl took her hand, and Ellie bounced off with her to where her peers had gathered. The song was a cue to all the guys to exit the floor and leave it to the ladies.

Joel stood nearby, watching Ellie dance like the goofball she could be at times... she looked so happy, and she was a joy to behold. He hoped that the dancing might make her sick enough to puke some of the alcohol out of her system, and thus, lessen the severity of a hangover, maybe even avoid one altogether. Even though it was for her own good, the thought still made him feel a little guilty. Maybe she could have a little more fun first...

He could almost pretend it was olden times, and that was rare in an assembly of so many people. The wedding stuff itself didn't make him feel nostalgic for any particular time in the past (certainly not his own pathetic excuse of a marriage). He knew it was bittersweet for some folks. Not just weddings, but parties in general... or any social event, really... hell, he hadn't even wanted to watch movies when they'd first come to town. For Ellie, they were pure fantasy -- not the fantasy genre, but any movie that depicted the world as it once was, so different from today's. For him... he had no desire to be reminded of what he'd lost. Yes, all of this shit is bittersweet.... bitter the this-is-what-was-taken-from-me, and sweet the with-this-I-can-almost-take-it-back. Almost. And without Ellie, the sweet wouldn't even come close to cutting it... to making up for the losses. Nothing would ever make up for losing Sarah, of course. That wasn't the sort of pain you could feel for a while and then be done with it -- no, he carried that knife around in his heart every day, and would until the day he died. But Ellie had dulled those edges some... had made life worth living again. She was his life now.

In his peripheral vision, Joel saw Sophie approaching him, but he pretended that he didn't until she was right next to him, willing her to just walk on by.

She didn't heed that mental wish. "Someone's been hitting the champagne a little, huh?" she remarked, looking in Ellie's direction.

Joel chuckled. "You come over here to lecture me?"

"No, no... she's having fun... not getting into trouble... you're keeping an eye on her..."

"Right. She's been through a lot. Deserves to have a little fun."

"She's not the only one." The song ended, and the CD switched to another Cyndi Lauper track. Sophie cocked her head towards the dance floor. "You wanna...?"

Joel shook his head. "No thanks. Jus' gonna keep lookin' out for Ellie. How come you didn' go out there with the other girls?"

"For one thing, I hate that song," she said with a laugh. "This one's not so bad. But..." She shrugged. "Not into the girlfriends thing, I guess."

He could've asked her about the bathroom thing with Ellie, but he didn't. It was mostly younger girls out there dancing now. "Mm. Think I saw you dancin' with... what's-his-name, earlier..." Joel let that trail off, hoping she'd start gushing about the guy -- whichever one she preferred, if there was more than one. Then he could reassure Ellie that the woman wasn't holding a candle for him -- and it wouldn't even be bullshit.

All she said was, "Yeah. He's nice."

Some of the guys had started to return to the floor. Ellie turned around and scanned the outskirts of the floor like she didn't remember where she'd left Joel, and when her eyes landed on him, she made a beeline his way, looking annoyed.

"Heyyyy!" she said as she rushed over to him, and he had to catch her by the arms to keep her from ramming right into him. "What're you doing?!" There was an accusatory tone in her voice, like he'd done something wrong. Before he could even answer, she turned to Sophie. "And you! Just cuz we... just cuz... you keep your hands off of him -- he's mine!" With that, she lunged at him, her arms snaking around his midsection instead of his neck this time.

Joel allowed her to hug him, and just patted her back with one hand. "Ellie, for chrissakes--"

Sophie seemed amused. "I know that, sweetie. Hands are off!" She held up her hands as if surrendering.

"You ready to go home, kiddo?" He tried to pull away from the hug, but...

She kept her arms around him. "No! Bouqueeeeeeet, remember? I gotta catch the fucking thing."

"I see you've got your hands full with that one," Sophie said to Joel with a smirk. "Catch ya later."

Joel thought Ellie might get a little pissy about that comment, but she didn't. She lifted her head to look at him, not even stepping back like she normally would have -- should have, in public. She was just smushing herself into him. She grinned. "Yep, you've got your hands full of me! No room for anyone else! Just Ellie!"

He tried to pry her arms off and step back a little, but he couldn't do it without being a little more forceful than he'd like. "Calm down, all right? And shush. People are lookin'."

"Oh, let 'em look! We're not doing anything bad!" she cried, loud as ever.

Joel's patience was wearing a little thin, yet still he couldn't help thinking she was adorable -- in more of a fatherly way than a loverly way, he supposed because of the way she was behaving. He kept trying to extricate himself from her embrace, and she giggled, no doubt thinking it was like one of their play-fighting games that he let her win.

"We should give 'em something to look at," she cooed -- softly, thank God.

"No, we shouldn't, an' you know it."

"Aww, you're no fun." She'd said that to him earlier as well... after making some outrageous suggestion that she must have known would be a no. A hell no, even.

She'd attracted the attention of Tommy and Maria. The pair strolled up to them, Maria smirking and Tommy... judging, most likely. "How much did she drink?" Tommy asked him. "Kids -- the teens, anyway -- were only s'posed to get like half a glass."

Joel stopped trying to break free, and Ellie giggled some more. "I'm right here, ya know," she told Tommy. "You can ask me. I drank... mooooore than half a glass. But only a little!"

"She's had... a little bit more than that, yeah. It's all right, I'm gonna take her h--"

"Noooo!" Ellie wailed. She hadn't loosened her grip on Joel at all. "Not until I catch the motherfucking bouquet! God, why can't you fucking remember that?"

"That should be soon," said Maria. "They're doing a garter toss, too."

"Garter toss?" Ellie looked puzzled. "Isn't that like underwear?!"

Maria laughed. "Not exactly -- it's just like a... little elastic thing."

"It's like a bouquet toss but for the guys," Tommy explained.

"Oooo," Ellie cooed. "So Joel can catch that when I catch the bouquet! Perfect!"

Tommy and Maria both shot Joel a sympathetic, knowing look. Like "poor Joel, he has to deal with this teenage girl having a big ol' crush on him." He hoped Ellie didn't notice. Still, like he always said to himself (and to Ellie), it was better than the alternative. "I ain't catchin' nothin'. Sorry."

Of course, Ellie was disappointed to hear that. "You're not even gonna tryyyyy?"

Maria looked at Ellie. "If he did catch it, he'd have to put it on the leg of the woman who catches the bouquet."

"Babe, if she thinks--" Tommy began to say something, but Maria shushed him and turned back to Ellie.

"I don't think that'll be you, unless you sober up real quick," she said. "Trin's probably gonna aim for one of her friends, anyway. Even if she didn't, alcohol slows your reflexes, you know. And... it kinda looks like you can't even stand up on your own right now?"

"Pffffffff. Can too." She proved it by finally letting go of Joel. To her credit, she did stand there just fine. Joel wondered yet again if she was faking it, and just how much of a show she was putting on... and why. "Seeeee?" she trilled.

Joel would have liked to let her stay for the toss since she'd never participated in it before, but if by some miracle she did catch the goddamn thing, he wasn't going to let some perv fondle her bare leg -- nor did he want to be the perv doing it in front of a hooting-and-hollering crowd. "The garter thing... it's a stupid tradition, Ellie. We don' wanna do that. C'mon, let's jus' go home."

"Ellie, why don' you come stay at our house tonight?" Tommy offered.

What the fuck? Joel glared at his brother. "Why do you want her at your house?"

"Why not? It'll be fun. Her an' Maria can do... girls' night stuff."

" 'Why not?' " Joel scowled. "Well, maybe 'cause she don' need to--"

"Wait!" Ellie exclaimed. She stood next to Joel with her arm around him, and Joel's arm automatically hugged her to his side. "Can Joel come, too?"

Right, because my brother won't mind us sharing a bed under his roof. Not at all! And that was where they'd end up, one way or another. Joel snorted. "No, Joel can't come," he answered for Tommy. "Joel's goin' to his own house, an' you're comin' with."

"We thought it might be easier for everyone, if..." Maria glanced at Tommy.

Joel didn't like where this was headed. Maybe it was Maria's idea too, but it was Tommy he glared at. "You think I can't handle things, little brother? Is that it?"

Tommy jutted his chin out a little. "I think you haven't necessarily handled 'em all that well so far, no."

"What the hell are you talkin' about? 'Cause I let her drink a little champagne at a--"

"I ain't talkin' 'bout that. I mean... in general. I don' see that things are changin'. Tell me I'm wrong."

"You're wrong," he replied. Of course he said it. Tommy made it too easy. He hoped Ellie's perceptions were dulled enough that she didn't pick up on what his brother was really getting at. She might not know exactly, but she could wonder just how much Tommy knew about the nature of their relationship...

"Joel, maybe..." Maria began. Paused. Exchanged another Look with Tommy. "If she could maybe just come stay with us for a while, until... some time goes by..."

Time for her to get over her 'crush.' Sure. That would happen. I don't need to argue, though -- there's an easy solution to this. "Well, I'll leave that up to Ellie. Always has been up to her."

Tommy frowned. "Joel--"

"I don' wanna hear it, Tommy. Ellie, you wanna come home with me now, or you wanna stay here with Tommy an' Maria, an' go home with them later?"

"Home with you," she replied. He heard a 'duh' in her tone.

"Come on, then." He turned her in the right direction.

"Can I go say bye to Annie first? And Karen? And--"

"Tommy will say goodbye for you." Joel was really itching to leave now.

"We'll talk about this tomorrow, Joel," said Tommy. It sounded like a threat. Joel didn't dignify it with a response. Tommy could yak at him until he was blue in the face and it wouldn't change anything... and it wouldn't prove anything, either. It would only irritate Joel further.

He was a little surprised that Ellie didn't object when he took her hand instead of keeping his arm around her waist. She still had no trouble walking.

"What was that all about?" she inquired. At least she'd waited until they were away from the masses. The crowd had thinned out some by now, but being in just one person's earshot was one person too many.

"Nothin'."

"Joooeeelllll!"

"Nothin' you need to worry about," he amended.

"Why do they want me to stay with them?" she asked him anyway.

"I said, it's nothin' you need to worry about. All right? Trust me." He knew she did trust him... And I don't know what the hell I'm doing, which is part of the problem.

"Did I do something wrong? Did I say something--"

"You were fine." Mostly... "A little loud sometimes. But I'll feel better when you're home so you can say whatever the hell you want an' not have to think about it."

Ellie snickered. "You mean like -- 'hey, I gotta idea! Let's have s--' "

Joel clamped his hand over her mouth immediately. "Ellie! Yes. Like that." He let her push his hand away, but he kept it poised to return to position if needed.

She giggled. "You know, I'm not even drunk. See how good I'm talking? Remember last time, I couldn't even say some words, and you said I sounded funny, and you carried me... and Max thought..." She cracked up completely for a few moments before finishing that one. "He thought the total opposite thing. Like, as if you would even... ha! And all I wanted was for you to--"

He covered her mouth again before she could get to the part where he'd undressed her drunk ass and put her to bed. "I've got an idea, too. Why don' you jus' keep your thoughts to yourself 'til we get home, yeah?"

"Mmmfff!"

"What's that?" he asked innocently. I can play, too...

"MMMMFF SHMTTTHHH MMMT!" she articulated into his hand, still giggling.

"What? Ohhh, that's right. You don' know how to be quiet. Well, see, it's like this: you don' move your mouth at all. Not your lips, or your tongue, or your... vocal cords. None of that. You jus' be quiet."

She giggled and squirmed, tried to duck away from his hand, half-heartedly tried to push him away. Then she licked his hand, but even that didn't make him let go this time. She made a muffled noise that sounded kind of like "okaayyyy!"

"If I let go, are you gonna be quiet?"

"YSSHH!"

He slowly eased his hand away, and she grinned. "What about whispering? Can I do that?" she asked in a stage whisper.

"No."

"Awww, c'mon..."

Amazingly, they made it home without her announcing to the town in some way that she lived with a child-toucher. She said she wanted to do the key, and Joel couldn't resist letting her search the yard a little while he followed her path with his little pocket flashlight. She went to the correct spot, but when it wasn't there, she went to the previous spot, as if doubting her own memory. "Fuck! Where is it? You fucking changed the spot again without telling me!" she accused him.

"No I didn't. I always tell you. You're the one who ain't allowed to change the spot 'cause you forget to--"

"Yeah yeah, whatever. Where the fuck did it... Joel! Someone took it! Someone figured it out and stole it! Man, I always thought you were paranoid about that shit, but really--"

"Ellie."

She was pacing now instead of searching. "Who the fuck would want to-- unless they want our guns and shit? Oh man -- maybe it's someone who like--"

"Ellie!" He waited for her to look at him, then he held up the key and shone the light on it. "We left together. Remember?"

"Fuck! It was in your pants the whole time? You dick! Gimme that thing--" He didn't put up a fight, although she seemed to want him to. "You just wanted me to reach down your pants and grab it, huh!"

"Sshhh... jus' go inside, will you? Shit." At least she hadn't said it very loudly, and they lived far away from everyone else -- a fact Joel was increasingly grateful for.

He heard her complaining to herself about how he wouldn't let her reach down his pants and grab it, but he let that slide. With any luck, she'd pass out pretty soon.

She didn't even turn any lights on when they got inside. As soon as Joel entered, she pushed him against the door, slamming it behind him, and she pressed her body to his, her hands crawling up his chest to his face, pulling it to hers for a kiss. "Ellie..." he protested feebly. I'm in father mode. I should STAY in father mode, goddamnit...

"I've wanted to kiss you allll niiight," she moaned theatrically. "See how good I was?"

He tried not to kiss her back... much. "You were an angel. But now you really jus' need to get to bed."

"I agree!" she said brightly. "You can undress me for real this time! Like can you get this sweater off me? It's warm in here..."

Joel obliged, grateful that the lights were off so he'd have less of her freckle-dusted skin to be tempted by. If I could just not TOUCH it, now... Easier said than done; the skin on her shoulders was smooth and soft, and utterly touchable. Even though they'd messed around a handful of times already, her drun-- tipsiness made him feel like he was taking advantage of her.

She started walking them backwards in the general direction of the bedroom. Slowly, as she wasn't the most adept at multi-tasking and she kept sidetracking herself with more kiss attempts -- attempts he resisted, albeit half-assedly. "It's okay, Joel, we're home now," Ellie pointed out helpfully.

"Thank you for lettin' me know," he teased.

"Well, you can... kiss me and stuff," she said as if he needed the explanation, sounding rather like she was speaking to a small child.

"You're drunk."

"I'm not! I swear! Not like--" She interrupted herself with a giggle. "So, that night -- did you wanna take my underwear off?"

He kissed her forehead. "No." Maybe he had, a little. The thought had certainly crossed his mind... just idly, not as a possible course of action.

"Really? Not even a little bit?"

"No." He chuckled. "You're disappointed? I was a perfect gentleman that night. You were all fucked up."

She banged into the wall. "Oww!"

Joel laughed. "If you'd let me turn on a light..."

"That's cheating!"

"Why don' you go to the bathroom first. C'mon." He turned and reached out to feel the way along the wall. "You feel sick at all?"

"Nope!"

She let him guide her into the bathroom, and she cringed when he switched on the light, like it was blinding her. "Drink a couple glasses of water now," he suggested. A couple, since the glass on the sink in there was pretty small.

"You want me to wet the bed?" she replied, punctuated with a little giggle.

"Better that than feelin' hungover tomorrow. It helps. I'll go lock up an' then I'll be waitin' for you, all right?"

"Okay. Don't you dare fall asleep! I have big plans for us!"

Joel sighed, but he couldn't help smiling a little. "The big plan is for you to go to sleep."

He was trying to leave her in there, but she didn't want to let him go. "That's boring! I'm not even tired!" she protested.

Why did I let her have all that sugar, too?
Again, he felt mildly disturbed by how fucked up it was that he could think of Ellie as a young child one minute and a young woman the next. He was going to have to keep reminding himself of child-Ellie, now. Her behavior made that not so difficult...

...to a point. When she started kissing him again --- more insistently, more aggressively than she usually did... parting his lips with her tongue... pressing her body against his like she meant business... Shit. What am I gonna do with you, girl?


~Continue to Chapter 17~

Tags: fic, tlou, uncertainty
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