Lumy (luminations) wrote,
Lumy
luminations

"Uncertainty" Chapter 44: "Girl Talk" (44/47)

Title: "Uncertainty" Chapter 44: "Girl Talk" (44/47)
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: 9024
Rating (for fic as a whole): R


~

"Tonight might be a good night. If you want to."

Had sweeter words ever been spoken?!

They'd been at Golden Sands for a couple of days now, and Ellie was ecstatic that Joel felt comfortable enough -- and rested enough -- to take that final step. They hadn't done much of anything in their new bed yet except sleep; Ellie wouldn't have minded fooling around a little, but Joel really was exhausted, and she wanted him to rest up for The Big Event, so she decided -- like she had in the past -- that it was better for both of them to like... save up for that. After they had sex, they'd be doing it all the time -- no going backwards -- so there was no need to get greedy now. Like the bride not seeing the groom before the wedding... Ellie had only ever seen that on the screen, but Joel said it was a real-life thing that some people adhered to. She had thought that was kind of a dumb tradition... before. Now, she kind of liked the idea of holding off… of making it feel even more special because they didn’t just get each other off all the time.

This morning, after those beautiful words had sprung from Joel's lips, Ellie assured him that yes of course she fucking wanted to, and there was no might about it -- if he felt ready, and the beach didn't get invaded by Infected or something, it was fucking on. She would make sure of it. Fuck -- even if we DO get invaded by Infected, I'll kill all the motherfuckers with my bare hands before I let them fuck this up for me! And then she would turn to a very surprised Joel, smile sweetly, and say, "Now, where were we?"

About halfway down to the water, she found Sophie on a blanket, lying on her stomach, reading... 'laying out,' as it was called, except that's actually supposed to be done in your bathing suit, and Sophie was wearing regular clothes; the sun was out, but it was what Ellie thought of as a 'cold' sun. Ellie wasn't wearing her suit, either. She flopped down in the sand next to Sophie, legs scissoring, arms crossed beneath her chin -- then her cheek, as she turned toward Sophie with the biggest smile ever. Sophie's eyebrows shot up as soon as she looked at her. "Girl... look at you! What is up?"

"Um... can I talk to you? But not here. Like can we go for a walk? Unless you're busy..."

Sophie snorted. "I don't know if I'll ever find any other time to read this book, but okayyyy... just for you..."

Ellie giggled. It wasn't even that funny, but she was positively giddy with excitement. When Sophie closed the book and exposed the cover, Ellie could see it was different from the one she'd had on the trip. "Hey, no more half-naked cowboy?"

"Finished yesterday and traded him for this." She wrinkled up her nose at the cover, which was definitely more pretty than sexy. It was all flowers and butterflies and fancy lettering. "Bum deal, but at least this is new."

Ellie giggled again. She was so happy that everything struck her as extra funny, extra wonderful... just... more awesome, somehow. Because LIFE is awesome! She scrambled to her feet, then grabbed Sophie's hand to tug her up, too. "Come on... by the water..."

"Oh hang on a second then -- you know the rule!" Sophie let go of Ellie's hand so she could plop back down and take off her shoes and socks. Ellie followed suit; their feet would be freezing, but Sophie had a thing about needing to be barefoot in the surf, so Ellie had made it her thing, too.

"Ellie! Come help me make the princess house!" little Gabby called from nearby. She and her big brother Chad were engaged in their favorite activity: sculpting shit out of wet sand.

"Later, Gabs -- I'll come help you when I'm done talking to Sophie, okay?" It would be fun, and it would help her pass the time -- because there were about a zillion hours between now and sex. Maybe she'd recruit Joel to help, too... he would resist, but she was pretty sure she could get him to do it, and he'd end up having fun. He was currently schooling some of their new neighbors on... something to do with firewood. Splitting it... stacking it... letting it dry out before burning it... Ellie couldn't hear his words, but she could practically hear him in her head. Soon, they'll all be doing everything the Joel Way... ha!

Ellie practically skipped down to the edge of the water, yelping a little as it lapped at her ankles. They fell into an extremely leisurely pace along the shore, each step taking them further away from anyone's earshot. Even Joel can't hear us next to the ocean!

Sophie watched her curiously. "Ooookie dokie -- only the ocean can hear us now. What is it? I don't think I've ever seen you so..."

"Happy!" Ellie filled in the blank. "Cuz I haven't been. Today... might just be the happiest day of my life."

"Oh yeah? Why's that? Wait -- don't tell me. Does this have something to do with a certain boyfriend of yours... the one with the sexy Texas accent?"

Ellie giggled. "He's not my boyfriend -- he hates that word. He is pretty sexy, though, huh. And, um... about that... the sexy thing... uh... he, um..." They were such simple words, but they didn't seem to want to form coherent sentences! Ellie felt a blush creeping up her neck already.

"....yyyyeeessss?"

"Well... you know we haven't... um... done that yet..."

"Done what? Sex?"

"Yeah." Ellie could tell she was blushing hard now... and I haven't even started asking her stuff yet! Hopefully she had enough of a sunburn to hide it. "So... we're actually... well... tonight's the night." She stage-whispered the last part.

Sophie gasped. "Really?! No shit?"

"Yep! Finally. I've been waiting forever for him to be ready."

"...For him to be ready. Not you?"

"I've been ready for months!" Joel had told her that was pretty backwards; it seemed that Sophie agreed with him. "Joel says we're... unconventional."

"I'd say so, yeah. So tonight... holy guacamole. It's your first time?"

"Of course! I'm only fifteen." Though really, she couldn't take offense at the question if she truly believed she was old enough. She should be glad Sophie wasn't sure if she was a virgin. "How old were you? Unless that's..."

"Eighteen."

"What? No way." From what Ellie had gathered, that was old for people in olden times.

"Way. I was pretty dorky in high school... didn't have a lot of boyfriends, really."

That didn't sound right, either. Ellie liked Sophie a lot more now than when they'd left Jackson, and she blamed Joel for that whole... seduction thing... but she still thought of Sophie as kind of skanky. The woman didn't seem to be lying, though. "So... was he like... ~the one~? Your first?"

"Haha! Noooooooooo. Not even close. He wasn't even my boyfriend. He sure was hot, though. And popular. Football player. Second string, but still." Sophie's smile was kind of wistful, which Ellie found strange since she said the guy wasn't even close to being The One. Before Ellie could ask what strings had to do with anything, Sophie continued. "I couldn't believe he wanted me, y'know? And he had this car... I don't even remember what it was now. Something sexy. I never knew much about cars. But that's where it happened. The back seat. I wonder how many girls lost their virginity back there."

Ellie tried to imagine herself and Joel doing it in a car. It would have to be big enough in the back to accommodate-- er, maybe it would be better if it wasn't that big, so they'd be totally squished together. "That's... kinda romantic, I guess?"

"Romantic?" Sophie scoffed. "No, not at all. Better than doing it in the locker room... but not romantic."

Ellie idly wondered how Sophie could have no reaction to the cold-ass water lapping at her feet when she was such a wuss about that stuff. Maybe it was just different if you weren't going all the way in? "So... what happened with you guys? After that, I mean."

"After we did it? Well... we were never really together, so... we had sex a few more times. I thought I was hot shit, being with this cool guy... but I was never his girlfriend. And he had a girlfriend. The whole time. Ohhh how I envied that bitch!"

"Wait -- he had a girlfriend, while he was having sex with you?"

"Yeppers."

Man, if Joel had a girlfriend this whole time... Ellie would kill him. And then die herself, probably. "And you were okay with that?!"

Sophie snorted. "I wanted to be. Told myself I was. But when I saw him at school... like with other people around? He acted like he didn't even know me. So the girl wouldn't get suspicious. At least, that's what he said -- I think he just didn't want anyone to know he liked a nerdy girl."

It was hard to thrust Joel into a school setting in her mind, but Ellie tried to imagine how she would feel if he acted that way toward her. ...She couldn't imagine it. Because he'd never do that! "Man. How did you stand it?"

Sophie kicked at the water. "It sucked. I thought it was worth it, though. Like maybe he'd realize he loved me instead... 'cause how happy could he really be with this girl if he's cheating on her, right? Now, of course, I realize he was just a huge jerk. But I was young and stupid. I just kept telling myself I was fine with the way things were, until... do you know what sexting is?"

"Sexing?"

"Sex-ting."

"Um... I think I've heard of it, but... no?" Ellie wracked her brain for something she thought she'd read about in one of those magazines.

"You know what? Never mind about that. None of this has anything to do with you and Joel. It's going to be sooooooo much better for you."

Ellie smiled. "Yeah. I'm lucky. Joel's like... perfect. But that's... sort of what I wanted to talk to you about. He's, um... you know. Older? He's done it a zillion times, and... I don't want to disappoint him. I don't wanna be the worst one, out of all his... everyone he..."

"Aww, sweetie, you won't be!"

"I will!" Ellie lamented... but she liked how convincing Sophie sounded. "He barely lets me... do anything, you know, like... I'm just not gonna know what to do, and what if he doesn't like it?"

"Oh, he'll like it," said Sophie, chuckling a little. "No worries there."

She's so confident! "How do you know?"

"He's a guy. -And not just that -- he loves you, Ellie. Have you talked to him about this?"

"Yeah, and he just says totally not helpful things like 'Don't worry'... 'be yourself'... or he'll tell me I'm cute. 'Do whatever feels natural' -- what does that even mean? How can it feel natural if I don't know what's natural? What if I don't have the right, like... instincts about what's natural, or what's right..." Sophie tried to answer her, but Ellie talked over her. "No, let me finish! It's not like whatever pops in my head is right. I've said the wrong thing before, and it completely turns him off. What if I say something stupid and ruin everything? So, I could just not talk at all -- that way I won't piss him off, or make him laugh at me... I think this, now, but when the time comes, I prob'ly won't really be able to do it. It's hard for me to shut the fuck up, apparently. But, say I do. There's still the problem of not knowing what I'm doing. I've looked in the library for like... anything that'll tell me how to do it. There's nothing! There's 'how to' on everything else you can think of, but if there were ever any sex books in that library, they're not there now. So I looked at magazines -- and some of those are gone, too, or the helpful-looking stuff is -- and I found some stuff, but I don't know if I can remember it all at the same time -- oh and then there's also stuff in there like, you're not good enough to be with someone special unless you've fucked at least two guys, but less than ten -- is that for real? I can't help it if I've never--"

"Ellie Ellie Ellie -- slow down!" Sophie finally interrupted her. "You're putting waaaay too much pressure on yourself. This is supposed to be fun, not like... some skill you have to master, to make him, like... I dunno... you know, I'd say the pressure's more on him. He's probably just as nervous about this as you are."

"Joel? Are you kidding me? What does he have to feel nervous about? He knows I've never been with anyone else... that I can't compare him to anyone else. He's it. Whatever he does is... that's all I have. He can do anything and it'll be right."

"But that's exactly what could make him nervous. If you don't enjoy yourself--"

"I don't care if I enjoy myself! I mean... obviously I'm going to anyway, cuz..." ...it's sex. With Joel! What's not to enjoy?

"Cuz why?" Sophie urged.

"Well... duh. I'll be with Joel."

"And being with Joel means you'll enjoy it because...?"

"Um... cuz he's Joel?"

"The man you love."

"Right."

"You just want to be with him. Be close to him."

"Yeah...?"

"Well, don't you think he feels the same way? He's not gonna be sitting there thinking, 'Oh, Stacey did this, I hope Ellie does it too, and Stephanie -- hoo boy, she was hot..."

"Wait." Ellie stopped walking, arrested by a surge of... jealousy, maybe? She didn't know which was worse: hearing about Joel's partners, or knowing he confided in Sophie about them instead of her. "Who are Stacey and Stephanie? Joel actually talks to you about girls he's been with?"

Sophie punched her arm lightly. "No, silly goose, those are just examples! Not real girls."

"Oh! Okay, good." That really didn't seem like a Joel thing to do, and Ellie was relieved that there were no phantom girls to compete with. Except there ARE... I just don't know about them...

"I'm trying to say that... he loves you, and all he cares about is being with you. He won't be thinking about anyone or anything else. Just you... and making you feel good."

They resumed their leisurely pace, and Ellie wondered if Sophie had read her mind. Or... maybe read her face, because Joel seemed to think that didn't require much skill (unlike his own face -- Ellie was still mastering the nuances involved there!). "Well, I want to make him feel good, too, cuz if he doesn't like it..."

"He will! Trust me, he will. You wanna know what I did my first time?"

Yes!!! This is exactly why I needed to talk to another girl! "Yeah! If it's not too personal for you..."

"It's not -- I just laid there. Literally. I had no clue. I didn't have to do anything else, though -- he did it all. When he kissed me, I kissed him back, but then when he started... you know, the sex part... the kissing was over with and I just... laid there. Thinking 'wow, finally I'm having sex! Neato!' "

Ellie giggled. "Neato? Or cool beans?"

Sophie smiled. "Maybe it was cool beans. I don't remember. I just remember thinking WOW."

Ellie couldn't imagine Sophie being clueless about sex; for some reason, she figured Sophie was good at it -- and that she was somehow just naturally good at it. Ick, that word again! "So, WOW -- does that mean... did you... like it?"

"Like... physically? No, not really. No happy ending for me that night. I don't think I was... hot'n'bothered enough first, if you know what I mean."

Ellie grinned. "I don't know about the 'bothered' part, but I get the 'hot' thing. Did it hurt?"

"A little."

She wondered if Sophie was downplaying that; would she really admit if it was excruciating and she'd just wanted it to end? Ellie wondered if she should share her idea with Sophie... about how she was going to get around the pain problem. Why not? She's cool about talking about this shit, and maybe she can tell me if it will work! "So, his... it was hard when it... went in?" She tried not to giggle... too much.

"Well, yeah," Sophie chuckled. "Of course."

...Of course? ...Why hasn't anyone else thought of letting it go in soft? It made her a little shy about asking. Like maybe she was being stupid. But, if my logic is flawed, Joel would've told me when I explained it to him that night! Or he would've laughed. And told me I was cute. "Don't you think... wouldn't it have been better if he..." She bit her lip, somehow too shy to say it.

"If he what?" Sophie had to prompt her.

"I just thought... it hurts when it's all like... big and hard... right? So if it was just... soft and floppy and small..." Ellie felt her face catching fire again.

"Then... what? I'm not following, girl."

Isn't it obvious?! Since apparently it wasn't, Ellie completely lost her nerve. "Okay, actually ummm never mind. Did it hurt so bad that you wanted to stop? Tell me the truth."

"No, not that bad. It didn't last all that long anyway... teenage boys can't keep it up that long, really. They can get it up a lot, but they tend to... finish pretty fast."

Ellie blushed even more furiously, thinking how Joel wouldn't have that problem. At least, I hope he won't... he didn't used to... and he told me he wouldn't commit to this First Time if he had doubts! "So... you laid there. Did you have to like... help him put it in?" She tried not to be immature enough to giggle at that.

"Nope. Just laid there. I was afraid of doing or saying something stupid, I think... something that would make him think I'm too lame for him and make him change his mind. He knew enough... he found the right hole. I'm sure Joel will, too."

Oh yeah, he knows where that hole is! Ellie turned and buried her face on Sophie's shoulder for a moment and stifled another giggle. "I can't believe we're talking about this."

"Haha! Does Joel know what we're talking about right now?"

Ellie lifted her head and glanced in Joel's direction. He waved at her, and she waved back before nearly doubling over in a sudden giggle fit. Her laughter infected Sophie, and they laughed together for a few moments until Ellie finally recovered her composure enough to answer. "Yes... and no? Not exactly. I asked him if I could tell you. About tonight being the night. He was kinda surprised I wanted to. But he said I could." And he probably assumed the rest -- that Ellie would be asking Sophie for advice. Maybe... maybe he WANTED me to, cuz he also thinks she's good at sex and can tell ME how to be good at it? Ellie wondered if maybe it would've been better if Joel had asked her not to talk to Sophie. If it truly didn't matter how good Ellie would be, then why would he? He always said he wanted to be the one to tell her everything, show her everything...

"Maybe I can talk to him for you," Sophie mused.

That... is sort of a horrifying thought! "About what?!"

"Like... what your concerns are..."

"No! He knows! We do talk about stuff," Ellie assured her.

"You've told him everything you just told me?" Sophie said doubtfully.

"Well... kinda... okay, not all of it. He just tells me I have nothing to worry about. No matter what I say. I don't even think he hears me, sometimes." Saying that made her feel a little disloyal to Joel... but it's fucking TRUE!

"Obviously that's not helpful, since you are worried."

Yes! But-- "No... I mean, when he tells me, I believe him." Because he usually kisses me and makes it all go away... "But later..."

"The doubts come back."

"Not... doubts, exactly..." That sounded bad, somehow. If she and Joel were so perfect together -- which they obviously were! -- there shouldn't be any fucking doubts.

"Worries... uncertainty... fear... whatever you want to call it."

Ellie sighed. "But that's stupid. I know it's wrong to worry."

"Wrong?"

"Like, I shouldn't, because Joel loves me. I know he does. That should be the only thing that matters."

"Well..." Sophie chewed on that for a moment. "Feelings... aren't right or wrong. How you feel is how you feel, y'know? I think if he knew--"

"You can't tell him!" Ellie practically shrieked, horrified again. "I wouldn't have told you all this if--"

"I won't! I won't. Promise. I just thought... if he kinda pats you on the head and says 'oh you're so cute' / 'don't worry' ... he wouldn't be that way with me, you know? He'd have to... really listen."

She had a point. Joel couldn't avoid talking about shit by kissing Sophie, like he did with Ellie. At least, he'd BETTER not! But it also struck her as childish. If there was anything Joel needed to know about her feelings, she should be able to tell him herself. And since he did make her feel like she had nothing to worry about... well, it was just plain wrong to keep worrying. She disagreed with Sophie on that one: feelings could be wrong. "Thanks, but I don't want you guys talking about me behind my back," she smirked.

"Girl, what do you think we talked about every time your back was turned these past couple months?" Sophie teased.

Ellie shoved her playfully. "Whatever! Joel barely even lets me turn my back now as it is."

"Right?" Sophie chuckled. "Is that annoying?"

"No." Ellie looked at Joel again. She didn't know if he was just constantly staring at her or not -- he couldn't be, if he was talking to people -- but every time she looked at him, it seemed like he was looking at her. Kind of hard to tell from this far away. She gave him another quick half wave -- and he waved back. Yep, he is! "No, I'm used to it. And I like that he cares so much. It's weird to think of him not being like that. But once we've been here a while, he'll go back to normal. Or... a little more normal, at least."

"Does that mean you guys are staying?"

She sounds excited about that! Ellie thought happily. "Yeah, I think so. For a while. Not forever, but a few months?" Ray and Janelle had told them they were welcome to stay as long as they wanted to. They hadn't even had to make themselves ~useful~ all that much, though Joel said volunteering to help with chores and shit could only help, and she had to agree. "We'd be crazy to go back to Jackson for the winter when we can have... this." She gestured at the ocean, its beauty still powerful enough to captivate her even though she'd seen it a bunch of times now.

"You can have that anywhere out here, though," Sophie pointed out. "Anywhere on the coast. I do hope you stay, though. I've always wanted a little sister."

"What?" Ellie was really taken aback by that -- and she blushed, for some reason. I thought blushing was just a me'n'Joel thing now! She stared at her bare feet like they had suddenly become fascinating. "Is that what I am?"

"The job's yours if you want it!" Sophie said warmly. "Age-wise... I suppose mother and daughter would be more..."

"Nah. I like sisters better." Ellie already had a mother, after all. Even if she'd never known her.

"Better than... aunt and niece?" Sophie pondered.

"Yep! Sisters," Ellie said firmly. "Except sometimes I'm the big sister -- like with the bodyguard stuff."

"Haha! You're right! That's definitely more of an older sibling's role. Anyway... you can still be my sister if you leave. I'd just miss the bejesus out of you."

"Aww." Ellie wasn't sure what a bejesus was, but in context, she gathered that Sophie would miss her a lot. She sidled up close to Sophie and gave her a side hug, and finally took her eyes off her feet enough to at least glance at her. "I'm sorry I was so mean to you before."

Sophie laughed in surprise and hugged her back. "When were you mean?"

"Lots of times! But especially that one day in your house. When I did that creepy stalker thing." She'd meant to apologize for that a long time ago; she felt so ashamed of the way she'd acted that it was hard to broach the subject. She started walking again, kicking away a slimy strand of seaweed or whatever the fuck that shit was that kept washing up.

Sophie fell in step beside her. "Well, a lot's happened since then," she said kindly.

Of course she would be nice about it. She was a nice person, unlike Ellie. "I guess," she muttered. Annie is nice, too... nice people like me, for some reason! Neither of them ever lose their temper and start spewing mean shit that may or may not be deserved-- Ellie remembered the one time she'd ever heard Annie cuss, and even then, she had been nice. TOO nice, since she eventually ended up forgiving that stupid asshole Jacob... maybe her and that cunt Christine are even BFFs now?! Ha! Ellie felt a sudden pang of longing to see her friend.

"And I don't blame you," Sophie continued. "If I'd known about you and Joel back then..."

Ellie snorted, her nostalgia shelved. "You would've thought Joel was a pedophile."

"No! ...er... well, okay, maybe. Maybe. I didn't know him very well. I guess we'll never know. I certainly wouldn't have bothered trying to... yeah."

"Can I ask you..." ...Yeah, she's answering everything I ask, so... "You would've had sex with him that day, right?"

Sophie laughed again. "Ellie, you heard him, he didn't want--"

"But say he did want," Ellie insisted. "Like, maybe I never existed, and he was just this guy... a single guy... you would've fucked him."

"Probably. Yeah," Sophie said nonchalantly.

Good, she didn't lie! "Even though you... I mean, you weren't in love with him, right?"

"No..."

"But isn't it better to love the guy first, and then sleep with him? I thought that was the order things were supposed to go."

"In a perfect world." Sophie snorted. "It's always been the other way around for me. Like, get the sex thing out of the way, and if he sticks around--"

"What do you mean, get it out of the way?"

"I mean... guys will act all nice at first... some are nice, and some just act like that to get you in bed. Or, maybe they only feel like being nice until then... they fall in and out of love real quick? I dunno. I really haven't had... a lot of partners. I was pretty young when the Cordyceps thing happened, and things got so... anyway. If the sex feels... off, or... sometimes I just lose interest... it's best if we either both fall in love and things are great, or neither of us do, and that's that."

Ellie absorbed that for a moment. "But... sometimes one of you does and the other doesn't? Is that what happened with you and Max?"

"Max? Haha! What made you think of him?" Sophie seemed more amused than annoyed, at least.

"Why not? I dunno... you never talk about him, and he never talks about you, I just know that it... wasn't good."

"He... could've been nicer. That was just... no, I wasn't in love with him, and he sure wasn't in love with me. I don't know if he's even capable of loving someone."

So Max is misunderstood by everyone but me? Ellie knew he wasn't heartless. Far from it. He just didn't like people to see it. "Like Joel..."

"Whaaat? He's nothing like Joel!"

"No, that's how Joel used to be. For like twenty years. That's what Tommy said. And he was kind of a dick when I first met him."

"Well, he's obviously not like that anymore. Because of you, huh?" Sophie smiled at her knowingly.

Ellie blushed again. "Maybe." She liked to think so.

"So maybe Max just needs an Ellie to come along."

What the fuck?! "Fuck that! I'm not--"

"Not you," she clarified, laughing. "But someone in that role. Someone that comes along and turns everything upside down. It sure as shit wasn't me. I don't have anywhere near that kind of patience."

Ellie imagined Joel hanging upside down. "Ha! I didn't do that with Joel..." Well, I DID, literally? No, wait -- that was Bill. Hehe! "I mean, it wasn't like I was trying to... it just sort of happened."

"Fate!" Sophie declared. "You guys are like a real life romance novel."

"Something like that, I guess." Ellie smiled. "It does seem dumb to worry about... sex stuff, when obviously... but, whatever. Okay, so... you would fuck these guys, but not fall in love with them. Or most of them. Right?"

"Yeah... ?"

"So that's how... is that normal? Cuz if you have to have between two and ten sex partners to be perfect for whatever guy you really want--"

"Wait -- you mentioned that before. Who the fuck told you that? I know it wasn't Joel."

Um, NO! He doesn't even want me being FRIENDS with guys! "No, he would never... I figure he can overlook that, cuz of my age? I know he wouldn't want me to go out and fuck people just to... meet the quota. So... that's not something that was like... common knowledge, back in your day?"

Sophie shook her head... and seemed rather bewildered. "There's no quota. That's messed up."

"It was in a magazine, though," Ellie pointed out.

"Aha -- so that's where you got it from! So what? One person's opinion."

"An expert, though."

"What makes them an expert?"

"Duh -- they're writing for a magazine."

Sophie chuckled. "Still just one person's opinion. That's just someone who got a job working for the magazine... they got paid to write things that people would want to read. Even if they did some kind of study... like polls, or whatever... it doesn't mean that it's some kind of rule or something. You didn't tell Joel about this, I take it. There's no way he'd let you believe that bull."

"No... I didn't want him to know I was doing research," Ellie admitted a bit sheepishly.

"Research? …oh yeah, you mentioned the library before…"

"Yeah. So I could be... good. At stuff. Don't tell him, okay?" Me and my big mouth!

"I wish we'd been friends back then," said Sophie, shaking her head. "Don't worry about... not being experienced. Everyone's different. Maybe someone's a virgin at forty... maybe someone else has had, like... thirty partners before they hit thirty. There's no... magic number that makes you just right for someone else. Maybe that article was more like... focusing on the paper qualifications?"

"Paper...?"

"You know, like if things look good 'on paper'... it doesn't mean it works in reality. Maybe by some kind of... textbook definition, you have to have a, b, and c to be perrrrfect. But real life is way messier than that. Look at you and Joel -- no one would peg you as the perfect couple on paper, but you seem pretty darn perfect for each other to me."

"Really? You think so?" Ellie beamed.

"Not like I know what perfect really is? But you guys love each other like crazy. I mean, literally crazy -- like burning-your-hand-off-in-a-fire-for-him crazy."

"Hey, my hand is just fine!"

"Yeah, yeah. And you should've seen him... on those two awful days, Ellie. Three days, really." Sophie had told Ellie all about it before; she remembered the time span better than Joel did. It was like fifty-something hours, spanning three days. "He... wasn't even human. He was like this machine... can't eat / can't sleep / must find Ellie. And when we got you out... the way he cried..."

"I'm still not sure I believe you about that. Joel doesn't cry." She knew Sophie wouldn't have lied about it, though... I just want to hear her insist it's true!

"He did! I shit you not! Waterworks galore. And as soon as he had his arms around you, he could sleep again. In broad daylight and everything. With me as guard -- so you know the poor man was totally wiped."

"Aww!" Ellie wished she could have seen Joel cry. ...then again, maybe she didn't. He must've been super embarrassed, which would've make things awkward, and then she'd feel like a dick if she teased him about it.

"Anyway... yeah, don't worry about whatever those magazines said. You can't... learn that stuff from a magazine. Forget every single thing you read."

"But some of it--"

"Maybe some of it sounds good, but you'll drive yourself bonkers trying to sort it out, and that's not what... I'm sure whatever you're nervous about, Joel will tell you everything you need to know."

Ellie nodded. It all sounded so logical, when Sophie said it. "Okay... but, um... one question?" She was just dying to know... "Is it like... sexy... to lick a guy's armpit? Have you ever done that?"

"Lick his armpit?" Sophie wrinkled her nose. "I've never done it, but maybe if a person has a sweat fetish..."

"So it's weird? Joel won't like... be expecting me to do it?"

Sophie laughed. "He certainly won't expect that, no. Maybe save that one for another time."

"Oh. Okay." Ellie had kind of hoped Sophie would dismiss that one as utter bullshit, too. So maybe it IS a thing...

Sophie seemed to pick up on her disappointment. "Only if you want to. Once you start... well, you guys can experiment and find out what you like."

She couldn't imagine that licking sweat would be a pleasurable activity. But if it felt good for Joel when she did it... "Joel already knows what he likes, though, right? So should I ask him if he'd like that?" He won't let me lick his dick, but maybe his armpit isn't off limits?

"If you want? Honestly, for this first time, though... I think you should just let him take the lead and don't think about if you should do this or shouldn't do that..."

So in the end, Sophie sounded just like Joel. BE NATURAL and all that. Ellie groaned. "But if I don't remember to flex my feet at the right time, then..." What happens? Why can't I remember?

"Flex your feet?" Sophie snorted. "Curl your toes, maybe."

"Oh great, now I have to do something with my feet and my toes?"

Sophie laughed. "Nooooo you don't have to remember anything. If he makes you feel good, it might just... happen."

"Oh." That had happened already, maybe... I dunno... Ellie frowned. "Breathe. That was another one. I'm supposed to remember to breathe."

"Breathing is good."

Ellie snorted. "I guess it does sort of sound dumb, saying these things out loud."

"Nahhh. You just want everything to go well... understandably. You said you and Joel have done stuff. Not just kissing. Right?"

"Right... not like tons of stuff... hardly any since, um..."

"I screwed that up for you," Sophie said, hanging her head. "Sorry--"

"No! Well... yeah, but it's okay. We wanted to help."

" 'Cuz you guys rock. So -- you've done stuff. When you're doing that, are you constantly worrying about doing something wrong the whole time? Or is it fun?"

"Maybe a little... but it's definitely fun!"

"Well, this really isn't gonna be so different from that."

"But it's... real sex."

"So is the other stuff."

"...not really? If it's the same, then why was Joel so freaked out about it all this time?" she challenged.

"Not the same, like... I don't mean that it's not important, or... like losing your virginity is no big deal. But... it's Joel. You love him and he loves you and... he's going to make sure you're good... relaxed. And ready. Hasn't he been like that so far?"

"Well, yeah... how did you know?" Has she been spying on us?!

"Because he loves you, that's how. And he's not an asshole. I've seen how... well, tender he is, with you. And when you're... if you feel like... maybe you're not ready, I'm sure he'll--"

"Oh, I'm gonna be ready. I've been ready forever. He's the one who might wuss out."

"Really?"

"Cuz of my age." Though lately, that didn't seem to be bothering him as much as it used to.

"Oh, gotcha. Okay, so just... show him you're ready by not stressing out about all that dumb stuff like curling your feet--"

"Flexing, I think it was."

"Whatever. I know he won't want to disappoint you. I bet if you're having a good time and really into it and everything..."

"So... moan a lot."

Sophie smiled. "If the moans come up, then... let 'er rip, sure. But don't fake it. Don't fake anything."

"Anything, like..." ...that?! "Why would I?"

"Maybe you'll find out someday," Sophie said in that annoying knowing way older people had sometimes when they talked about SOMEDAY.

"Can't you just fucking tell me?" Ellie said in mock exasperation.

"Not today. Maybe later."

Ellie snorted again. "You sound like Joel. And then it's never 'later' enough."

"Later, like... just not today, right before your first time. Maybe tomorrow."

Tomorrow... what would tomorrow feel like? It seemed like a long time from now... when she would be a woman, no longer a little girl in any way. Will Joel look at me differently? Maybe he wouldn't feel as protective of her anymore... and she wasn't sure she liked the idea of that. It should make her happy -- how long had she been telling him she wasn't as innocent as he thought she was?! Now she probably wouldn't be innocent at all, by Joel's standards. Why is having a dick inside me going to suddenly make me soooo different, anyway?

"Ellie?"

"Huh?"

"I asked what you're thinking about? I mean, besides the obvious."

Ellie chuckled. "Yeah, not like I've thought about anything else all day. Um... do you think Joel will be different with me... after?"

"Different how?"

"I dunno..."

"I don't think you have to worry about him bailing on you. God, if ever there was anyone who--"

"No, no, I know that he's not going to do that." ...most of the time. She realized it had been a while, though, since the thought of Joel leaving had felt like a real possibility. "I mean like... he likes me being innocent..."

"Huh. Well... it's not like after tonight, you'll be this... crusty old wise woman..."

Ellie giggled. "Not crusty, at least."

"I think with as big of a gap in your ages, he'll always kind of think of you as innocent, in some ways."

"Always?"

"Well, you're never going to catch up to him, so... yeah. Pretty much. I don't know if innocent's the right word, actually. Maybe just... protective? But Ellie -- if anything's different at all, it'll be a good thing. You guys will just be... closer."

Ellie already felt as close to Joel as humanly possible, so that was hard to imagine. But she understood how Sophie could think that; she didn't really know how close they already were. No one did. "Okay. Thanks, Sophie."

"...You're good now? You're not gonna worry about any of that silly stuff?"

"Nope. I'm good. Ready to..." ...fuck Joel's brains out! She couldn't quite say that out loud, even just to Sophie. And she could only say it in jest to Joel. She wasn't even sure what it meant, to fuck a person's brains out. It didn't make sense, really. Plus... eww? "For whatever happens," she finally decided on.

And like Joel had said a few months ago: we fit together so well in every way, why would this be any different?

* * * * * * * * *

"When are you gonna ask me what me and Sophie talked about?" Ellie purred in Joel's ear.

Somehow, even though it kind of felt like time was standing still all day long, it did pass, presumably at the same speed as any other day. She and Joel had just eaten dinner and helped clean up afterward, and were now enjoying time alone in the lull between dinner and campfire time. Not completely alone -- just alone enough that they could talk privately, sitting on the terrace with their chairs pushed together. Ellie wasn't quite in Joel's lap, with the chairs' arms in the way, but their limbs were still tangled up together cozily, holding hands with their arms intertwined, one of her legs snaked through the chair to lay across his.

"I don' need to know what you were talkin' about," Joel replied. He was idly playing with her hand, stroking her arm... Quite innocently, but all Ellie could think about was how not-innocently he'd be touching her in just a short while.

"What if I wanna tell you?" Ellie pouted.

"All right," Joel chuckled. "What do you wanna tell me?"

She glanced around to make sure none of the people milling about had strayed close enough to hear, then whispered, "She was giving me blow job tips..."

"What?!" Joel was so aghast that Ellie almost couldn't restrain her laughter.

"Yep. That's why you wanted me to talk to her, right?" Now she did let out an impish giggle...

"No, I-- I didn't think she'd--" Joel spluttered.

He's pissed! "It's okay," Ellie cooed. "You don't have to act all innocent about it. I know you want me to--"

"Ellie, no. She shouldn't've done that," he said firmly. "I'm... really surprised that she did."

"Well, ~since she did...~" Ellie sing-songed.

"We ain't doin' that."

"But Joel, now I know--"

"I said we ain't doin' that."

Ellie was a little surprised at how vehement he was about that. She thought sex was the Ultimate Thing, so... wasn't everything else fair game now? Fucking's cool, sucking's not? Of course, at some point, she would've had to admit that Sophie had never imparted any cock-sucking wisdom to her, because otherwise, Joel would think she was just absolutely hopeless if she still couldn't do it right. But now... fuck -- he's too irritated! She could feel his body tense up a little... the anger working its way through him. What if he decided they shouldn't have sex at all? She couldn't risk that! This was a dumb idea! "Okay, so, um... actually, she never said anything like that. I didn't even ask her that. Ha!"

Joel stared at her a moment, like he was trying to determine if she was lying.

"I swear, Joel! I was just messing with you. Really!" She squeezed his hand hard, as if the strength of her grip would prove her sincerity.

He exhaled. Shook his head a little. "You were just... why?"

"I dunno... I thought it was funny? But I see now that it wasn't, so... I'm sorry." She bit her lip; she would be really sorry if this made him change his mind about tonight!

But then he smiled a little. "I s'pose it's kind of funny. You had me goin’ there for a minute.”

Ellie grinned. “I did, didn’t I!” She kind of wanted to ask him what the big deal would be if they had talked about that… but she didn’t want to get into the same old argument such questions usually led to. Not tonight! He’s in a good mood, so he’s cool with your little joke, but don’t push him, Ellie…

But hey – maybe this is what tonight will be like? If I fuck up, I just apologize and it’s all good… because he loves me, and he’s NOT going to think I’m TOO LAME for him (poor Sophie!)…


“So what were you actually talkin' about?” asked Joel.

"Um... she told me about her first time. How she was just kind of there and didn't do anything special -- and the guy didn't love her." Ellie paused, wondering if maybe it was uncool of her to blab to Joel about Sophie's love life. "Don't tell anyone I told you, 'k?"

Joel chuckled at that. "Who the hell would I tell?"

"I dunno... her, I guess?"

"You think I'm jus' gonna start tellin' her I know all about--"

"Fine! But just... don't, okay? She was just... like... telling me how lucky I am -- which I already knew, of course." She squiggled up a little to give him a peck on the cheek, then relaxed again. "She was very reassuring about... stuff."

"Mm. That's good. I told you, you've got nothin' to worry about."

"She says you have more to--" ...ugh, don't tell him that, Ellie! Isn't he already worried?

"...more to... what -- worry about?"

"Not exactly," Ellie hedged. "She thinks you're prob'ly nervous about somehow fucking up my first time. But... I guess she doesn't know how good you are at all that sex stuff? I mean, how could she know! Right?"

Joel chuckled again. "I'm a little nervous. Sure. I want you to like it."

"I will like it, Joel, I promise!" It was kind of sweet that he was nervous. Ellie knew he had absolutely no reason to feel that way, but she liked that he did.

"See, that... right there... that makes me a little nervous."

"What?" She looked at him, confused. ...Is he serious? All I said was--

"You don' know if you'll like it, 'cause you haven't experienced it yet. But you say what you think I want to hear, so then I--"

"No! No no no -- I just meant --" Fuck! She hadn't thought of it coming across that way. "I mean -- I love you -- all I want is to be with you... so in that way, I know--"

"All right... calm down..." He leaned over and gave her a quick little kiss, then caressed her cheek -- and looked at her in that heart-melting-ly adoring way that Ellie loved so much. "It's okay if you don't like it. Some people don't. I jus' want you to be honest with me. You've done that before, so I know you can do it now. Even if it's... not what you think I want to hear. I wanna hear the truth. That's all. All right?"

"Someone's coming!" Ellie hissed as she watched this guy named Rich approach. Rich was somewhere around Joel's age (although his hair was almost totally gray, which she figured meant he was older). He even liked to wear plaid shirts, like Joel did. But his hair was longer, and he wore it in a ponytail -- a nape-of-the-neck one, because for some reason, guys didn't seem to like wearing them even as high as she did, which wasn't all that high. She and Joel were still trying to get used to not hiding their relationship, and she was pleased when Joel didn't pull away from her at all... didn't withdraw his arm, didn't make her take her leg back. He let his hand fall back to her arm, but that was totally understandable. People didn't go around rubbing other people's cheeks while talking to a third party, after all.

Rich had his guitar slung over him. "Hey, you two," he greeted them when he got close enough. "I'm headin' down there now... you wanna come practice a little and maybe play for the gang tonight?"

Ellie wasn't sure why Joel was hesitant to play for them. She knew why she was -- because she sucked! She would need a lot more lessons to feel comfortable playing for anyone other than Joel, as her instructor. Joel, however, had wanted to be a singer in his past life -- shouldn't performing be in his blood? But so far, he'd shied away from it. Maybe I shouldn't have told everyone how good he is? "Yeah, um... maybe we'll come down in a minute then!" Ellie replied cheerfully.

"Cool -- don't wait too long," Rich advised. "It's almost that time. Seats fill up fast around here."

"There aren't any seats," Ellie laughed.

"Oh yes there most certainly are!" Rich replied. "They're just buttprints in the sand, but they're seats."

Joel smiled a little, too. "We'll practice in the afternoon some time, then. But we'll still come down in a bit. Thank you."

"Okay, all right -- seeya in a few."

Ellie waited until he'd gone down the steps onto the beach before waggling her eyebrows at Joel and grinning. "If they only knew what we're gonna do after..."

Joel smirked. "Half of 'em prob'ly assume we're already doin' it."

"Half? You think?"

"At least."

"So... why is it okay-- why are people here okay with it, but not back home?"

"Well... I ain't sure." Joel thought for a moment. "I don' know how... okay they really are with it..."

"You think it's cuz maybe we'll be gone soon? Or... they think we'll be gone soon... so like... it's not their problem?"

"Maybe. I think it's more like... what Sophie said. People don' know us any different here. Right away they knew we were... how we are. Not father an' daughter."

"So they don't think they have to like... save me from you, or whatever stupid shit? 'Too late! He's already corrupted that little girl, so who gives a fuck!' Right?"

Joel chuckled. "Uh... not exactly 'who gives a fuck,' but maybe somethin' like that. Havin' Sophie on our side really helps, I think."

"Even though they don't know her?"

"That girl an' her parents know her. But... yes, 'cause she's at least outside of... us. The relationship. She can see it more objectively than you or me, bein' in it ourselves."

Ellie snorted. "I bet if she'd known about us back in Jackson, though, she would've freaked. She had to get to know us a little better first."

"Maybe. Point is, she acts like it's normal. The two of us. Like it's a good thing."

"It is a good thing!"

" 'Course it is. But when you're sellin' somethin' that's hard to sell... it helps to have testimonials. So people know you ain't full of shit."

"We're not trying to sell ourselves..."

"You want people to accept us, right? It's nice that we don' have to hide who we are?"

"Of course."

"That's the thing we want people to buy. I think some of 'em don' care... maybe they see how happy you are an' figure there's--"

"Or how happy you are?" Ellie interjected.

Joel snorted. "That ain't the issue. Of course a dirty old man's gonna be happy with--"

"Uggghhhh shut up, you're not a--"

"An older man, then. Maybe some of 'em haven't made up their minds yet, but overall, so far..."

So far, they'd all seemed pretty chill. It was almost too good to be true. "...at least they're not throwing rocks?" she finished.

Joel leaned over and kissed her temple. "Exactly."

Even if they were, Ellie wasn't going to let anything get in the way of the amazing night ahead. The last couple nights, she'd been a little sad to see the campfire singing come to an end, but tonight, she'd probably be too distracted to even remember the lyrics to songs she knew, and she'd be counting down the minutes until they were over. No, don't be like that, Ellie... enjoy it, still... live in the moment... it was fun, in a maddening sort of way, to have TONIGHT to look forward to all day long. In general, though, the future could still be a little scary to think about. This moment was the only thing she was guaranteed. She needed to cherish every single one, especially the ones with Joel... no matter what they were doing.

She still struggled with that, sometimes. She just loved him so fucking much, and the threat of losing him hung over her like a dark cloud -- can't outrun those dark ones! In the end, it would catch up to her. The only solution she could think of was to try not to think about it. Eventually, she would be miserable, yes, but she couldn't let herself be miserable now, in anticipation of future misery. That wouldn't be fair to Joel, and might eventually drive him away or make him fall out of love with her -- which would make her miserable on a whole different level! I love him... and it's way too late to UNlove him now. I just want him to be happy. He's happy when I'M happy, and him being happy makes ME happy... that's the cycle I need to keep up.

She couldn't imagine loving him any more than she did right now, but what if Sophie was right? Would tonight bring them even closer? ...isn't that kind of why I want to have sex with him -- because it DOES bring people closer? He said it himself -- it's as close as two people can be... ahhhhhhhh I can't wait to find out!

~Continue to Chapter 45~

Tags: fic, tlou, uncertainty
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