So because of my long absence I decided I would try and do fast updates to show you guys how sorry I am. Now that I know how I want this to end I won't get stuck anymore. I am also revoking the Review challenge as I feel I've kept you all waiting long enough.

Little tip from a seasoned pro guys, always plan the story out full. You won't get stuck and you'll keep your readers happy because of it. It also makes you a better writer cause you won't be stressed to come up with the rest.

Any who, I actually have a little favor to ask. I've seen people do fan art for fics before that are phenomenal so I would like to formally request a fan art for Jesse and Ellie, just Jesse or even of Loke the puppy. Whatever you guys want, I'd just love to see something.

Anyway, I won't keep you waiting...


I slumped against a tree. I had no idea what kind it was, nor did I care. I was trembling violently as I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out the orange bottle of pills. My hands were shaking so badly I couldn't get the top off. "Come one," I growled, willing them to be still, but it only resulted in them shaking harder. It had been hours since my last douse but I had been trying to ration them after losing a bottle to Leav.

I hope that bastard dies of starvation thanks to that busted leg.

"Come on, Jesse," I growled again as I fumbled with cap. My breathing was getting heavier. "You can do this. You can do this." My thumb slipped and I dropped the bottle. "God fucking dammit!" I threw my head in my hands and yanked at my hair as I screamed. When my throat was raw I settled for sobs, my whole body wracking as my head pulsed in pain.

When I cried all I could I began to take breaths, hacking coughs and dry heaves coming out. I had found that the pills quelled the shakes when my symptoms came back but it was the clear liquid stuff that cleared my headaches and fever. But there was no way in hell I was going to stick my arm while I couldn't control my hands.

"Slay the demons Jesse," I mumbled, my head between my knees. "Screw you, I'm not afraid. Screw you, I'm not afraid." With a few more deep breaths I managed to reach down and pick up the tube. With a few jerky movements I finally managed to grip the cap and all but wrenched it off. I gulped down two without even waiting to take them with water. As the shakes began to calm down I reached into my pack and pulled out Ellie's CD player. I switched it on and pushed the ear buds in. I had started with the CD we had taken from Bill's but I barely lasted two songs before the need to hear Ellie's voice overpowered me.

"Hey there, this is Ellie and I'm gonna sing whether you like it or not!" I smiled, my muscles ceasing their erratic twitches more and more as Ellie's voice soothed me. However much time passed before I felt calm enough to inject some Dimercaprol IM I didn't know, but it was enough for me to know the end of the CD was coming up. As the last song finished up I felt a little part of me crumble away.

This was all I would have of Ellie until I found the cure. If I found the cure. I shook my head to rid myself of these thoughts and got ready to hit replay.

"Wait." I froze at the voice, my head snapping in every direction. That was definitely Ellie's voice. "I found some extra space on the CD. I could tell the guys, but I think me and the band deserve a little solo time." Ellie, it was like she was talking to me. "Besides, Jesse would just hog it."

I frowned as she trailed off into a chuckle. Thanks Ellie.

"He's lucky I love him."

My heart leapt into my throat. She loved me. I already knew she did, but hearing her say it, even if she never told me herself, made me feel like I was fifteen and figuring out my feelings for her all over again. I rewound the recording and replayed those five words over and over, knowing that I would never get tired of hearing her say it. Finally I decided to let her carry on.

"Anyway, the band said I get to pick the song so here we go."


If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in a river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

Uh oh, uh oh

Lord make me a rainbow, I'll shine down on my mother
She'll know I'm safe with you when she stands under my colors, oh,
And life ain't always what you think it ought to be, no
Ain't even grey, but she buries her baby

The sharp knife of a short life, oh well
I've had just enough time

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

The sharp knife of a short life, oh well
I've had just enough time

And I'll be wearing white, when I come into your kingdom
I'm as green as the ring on my little cold finger,
I've never known the lovin' of a man
But it sure felt nice when he was holdin' my hand,
There's a boy here in town, says he'll love me forever,
Who would have thought forever could be severed by...

...the sharp knife of a short life, oh well?
I've had just enough time

So put on your best, boys, and I'll wear my pearls
What I never did is done

A penny for my thoughts, oh, no, I'll sell 'em for a dollar
They're worth so much more after I'm a goner
And maybe then you'll hear the words I been singin'
Funny when you're dead how people start listenin'

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

Uh oh (uh, oh)
The ballad of a dove (uh, oh)
Go with peace and love
Gather up your tears, keep 'em in your pocket
Save 'em for a time when you're really gonna need 'em, oh

The sharp knife of a short life, oh well
I've had just enough time

So put on your best, boys, and I'll wear my pearls.

Everything in my heart had plummeted into my stomach. I can't believe Ellie thought about dying. I mean, I'm pretty sure we all did, years ago when we were always having to fight, but now they were middle of the night thoughts that we would sometimes share if one of us couldn't sleep. I wonder what else she thinks about that she hasn't told me.

"So that was a little weird, huh? I don't normally get all sappy like this but the bands gone and I've got a few minutes of recording time left so, what the hell."

This could be it. Everything that Ellie's kept hidden could come out right now. I could finally know how she feels about me, us, everything.

"Well to start, everything's going really well here." Or not. "Jackson is amazing. I get to work with horses all day and the stable people are really nice to me. There are some other kids here to but some of them don't like me very much. But that's okay though, I still have Jesse so I don't need anyone else." That made me feel a little better but then she sighed wearily. "Jesse's been great. He's supportive and he works hard to get stuff for the house Joel got us. He treats me like he always has so I'm glad that hasn't changed." There was another pause. "I still hope that one day he'll get over me. Nothing would make me happier then see him be able to be hap-"

I clicked the stop button. She still wants me to move on.

I don't know what I should be feeling. Anger? Resentment? Hurt? But all I felt was pity. She wants me to be happy, even if it's not with her. I didn't listen to anymore of her recording, I already felt like I was invading on her privacy. So instead I sighed and clicked replay before standing up.

I had been travelling for over a month so Salt Lake city had to be getting close. It also meant that my meds were running out. I only had two pill bottles left and half a bottle of Dimercaprol IM. Maybe I would get lucky and find some more at the hospital, but I didn't want to get my hopes up.

I had left and entered forests all across the county but this one wasn't as thick as the others. The dankness and constantly wet feel of the one that surrounded Jackson was now just a memory compared to the one I was currently trekking through. The trees were leafy and green but spaced wide enough apart to let in great pools of sunshine that I could feel on my skin, even through my jacket. It wouldn't last long though, some of the leaves were already swapping their vibrant green for a duskier colour as autumn got closer and closer.

So I left the forest in my trail and reached an abandoned highway by the time the sun began to one direction spanned an endless track of cracked asphalt and abandoned cars. The other direction sported very much the same, only in the distance I could make out the outline of a city. The highway sign, half bent backward and rusted almost beyond recognition was hard to read, but it didn't matter, as I'd read those very same letters years before.

Salt Lake City, Utah.

I took off at a sprint. I don't know how long I ran for, all I know was that I didn't stop until the need to void my stomach became too much. After I was done I tossed back two more pills and took another shot. Afterwards I crawled into an abandoned truck and let myself drift off into an uneasy sleep. Of course I dreamed of Ellie again; of having a house and a dog, of waking up next to her, cooking her breakfast, bringing home flowers after work for her, hanging out in the house and then getting to crawl back into bed with her – just to get up and do it all again the next day.

If she knew I thought these things there would be no doubt that she'd laugh and call me a girl.

Well, she's kissed girls before so I'm totally okay with that.

I woke with the sun and wasted no time in making my way across the remainder of the highway. From my truck I realised it would only be a few miles and managed to reach the city by the end of midday. It was as damned as I remembered. No sign of life was visible as I walked the streets, following the signs to the hospital. I didn't run into any Hunters, just like the last time, but I didn't let my guard down. My hand stayed at my hip, fingers ready to coil round the revolver at any movement.

Despite the vegetation sprouting from pretty much any building and the calm, chilled breeze, the whole place stank of death. Whether it was me remembering the way the hospital smelt or if the military had just abandoned this place and let the Infected run rampant, I had no idea – but I didn't want to wait to make the distinction.

So instead I shouldered my pack and moved at a jog. When I got the hospital I hesitated at the door. Was anyone still here? Were there any Fireflies left anymore? I was even wondering if using the front door was too obvious. But then I remembered the way Ellie sounded as she cried over me, over the thought that she'd infected me, and I marched right through those doors, leaving my fears to float away in the wind.

I hated how quiet it was. Nothing should be so quiet that you'd wish for the moans of the Infected, if anything just to fill the void. It was an empty kind of quiet, the kind where if you listened hard enough you could probably hear the walls shriek as they remembered all they had seen. At one point I considered playing Ellie's music again, but decided against it. I wanted to know in advance if there was anything still here.

There wasn't as much blood as I thought there would be. I remembered the way Joel and I fought our way out and it wasn't exactly a clean getaway. I had the scars to prove that there hadn't been at least one casualty. But after I got onto the fourth floor I realised why.

We had fought our way to an elevator and ridden straight down into an parking garage. Here, not too far from the room I had woken up in, I could see the flakes and smears of red, the dried blood staining the walls like a pictogramic story of whoever tried to stand in our way. I couldn't remember any names, all I could remember was how I never once hesitated to pull the trigger.

You do what you need to survive.

It took some time but eventually I found what looked like a blood lab. I rank sacked and rifled through every draw I could but I couldn't find anything about Ellie. I moved on and eventually found what I think was the genealogy department. Nothing I found made any sense to me, it was all a mass of numbers and letters that would mean something to someone who understood medical jargon.

I forced myself to ignore my symptoms as they began to creep in. I was already running low and needed to preserve what I had left. So I kept searching, climbing higher and higher, not realising I was headed down a particular hallway until I burst through the doors labelled surgery. The table was still set up, the medical tools laid out neatly, but all it took was a crane of the neck to see the darkened blood dried against the tiles, the bodies of three surgeons reduced to nothing but skeletons.

I moved towards the table and ran my hands over the cloth. It felt scratchy against my fingers. It didn't just feel bad, it felt vile. With a yell I grabbed the table and flung it, tipping it over so that it crashed against the floor. I stumbled back and my foot went right through one of the skulls of the bodies. I didn't hesitate to kick it off and watched as it shattered against the wall.

Like all hospitals this one smelled of death, but it was a lot different when you knew you were the cause of it.

"What was that?"

"It came from the surgery room!"

The voices came so suddenly that I didn't have time to reach for my gun. Brightness bombarded me and I realised someone had switched on the overhead lights. They were blinding and I cried out, hands shielding my face as pain scorched through my eyes and into the back of my brain.

"It's – It's a kid."

I managed to force the black spots in front of my eyes away. Standing all around me were about four or five guys. Two looked pretty young, no older than me really, but the other three were all at least Joel's age – all three wearing the Fireflies brand on their arms. One had an ugly scar that moved with the creases of his face. It made my stomach plummet as a flash of the memory of a Firefly trying to hold me down in the wing of the hospital raced through my mind. I had grabbed a piece of broken glass and wrenched it down his face to make him let go before following after Joel.

"Well, well, well," drawled the scarred one and even had the nerve to shoulder his gun. "I never thought I'd see you again."

"Nice to know you're thinking about me," I spat back.

"Sarcastic little shit," he growled and readjusted his gun.

"Hodge, you know this guy?" one of the younger members asked, looking between us nervously.

"This little brats the reason we could never make a cure," he said and gave me a glare that made my blood boil.

"You would have killed her!" I shouted.

"And saved millions of lives!" the scarred man yelled back. "Thanks to you we lost our leader, our mission. We lost the chance at a future because you and that hobo had a crush on a little girl."

I would have shot him then and there if it hadn't of been for the four other guns pointed at me. I wasn't surrounded though. We had the overturned table between us but my back was to the wall. I was trapped.

"There isn't a way out for you, kid," one of the other Fireflies said. "If you come quietly maybe we won't kill you."

"What are you still doing here?" I asked, trying desperately to think of an escape. "If the trials were abandoned then why would you stay in the hospital?"

"That's not your business," barked the scarred one before he turned to the one that offered me an out. "Why are we wasting time? The boss isn't gonna want a runt like him and he'd just turn on us the first chance he gets."

"You got a new leader?" I asked as my hand closed around the revolver hidden in the back of my pants. "I guess you would need a new one after we decorated the floor of the parking garage with Marlene's brains."

"That's it you little shi-" I didn't let the guy finish and drew my gun, aiming for the surgical light. One shot had them sparking up like one of the generators at the plant having a fit. Sparks rained down over the Fireflies, who all screamed and ducked for cover. I dived behind the operation table, firing off a few rounds. I heard a cry of pain and took it as my signal to move, leaping the table and crashing through the bodies surrounding me.

I made for the doors and sprinted down the halls. It wasn't long before I heard feet pounding after me but that was the least of my worries as dark spots began to cloud my vision. I took a left into something called a Paediatric ward and flung myself into a huge metal cupboard. It was filled with blankets and pillows. My hands shook as I struggled one of my pill bottles out of my pocket.

"Come on, come on," I silently begged as I struggled to get the cap off.

"I think he went this way!"

"Shit," I hissed and forced myself to breath slower. My heart was beating so fast I thought it would give me away and my head was pounding, all my symptoms slamming into me at once. A little slither of light shone through the crack in the cupboard doors and I spotted three of the five inside the ward.

"You sure he's in here?" one asked as he checked the beds.

"No, but where else could he have gone. Any further up and we'd definitely know about it by now."

"Any further up and he wouldn't be our problem anymore," the scarred one growled as he strode into the room. Blood was spattered over his chest and coated his hands like red gloves. "Jason's dead, the little shit got him through the neck."

"Fuck," one of the younger ones breathed. "Maybe we should just leave it guys. I mean, even if he does find out what's going on, he won't be able to stop all of us."

"You don't know what this kid's capable of," the scarred one muttered, a gloved hand lightly touching his scar.

Keep calm Jesse, I told myself, just keep calm. Screw you, I'm not afraid. Screw you, I'm not afraid. My hands were shaking violently by this point so I grabbed onto my thighs, my elbow knocking against the side of the cupboard as I did.

"What was that?" one of the Fireflies asked, but the scarred one was already making his way over.

I wrenched the lid off the bottle of pills as a pair of hands burst through the doors, grabbing me by the collar and flinging me out. I hit the ground hard, the pills spilling out in front of me in a shower of white, each little patter as they hit the floor sounding like a jack hammer in my head.

"No," I croaked as I reached for one. A boot came down hard on my fingers and I screamed as I felt two of them crack.

"Aww what's the matter? You sick? You look like you could use a doctor," the scarred one cackled. I struggled but he just kept laughing. When I made to reach for my gun he bent down and grabbed my arm, forcing it behind my back as he hauled me up. "Ah ah ah. Don't want a spaz getting all trigger happy, do we?"

"Fuck you," I said, spitting at him. His head jerked as it hit him on the cheek before he slammed me back down on the ground, his boot following and striking the side of my head.

"You shouldn't have come back here," he said and I heard a gun cock. "I'd say tell that little bitch her days are numbered, but I doubt you'll be seeing her again." I felt something cold press into the back of my neck. "Any last words?"

"Screw you, I'm not afraid," I managed to gasp out.

"You should be."

A shot rang out.

"The fuck was that?" one of the Fireflies asked. "Holy shit, Hodge!"

"It's them!"

I heard a body slump to the ground near me and a few gurgling breaths. Something warm started to wash over the side of my face that was pressed into the floor and the metallic taste of blood splashed against my lips. I opened one eye and nearly shrieked at the lifeless scarred one staring right back at me.

"We told you, Fireflies, what would happen if you came to close!" the voice was new and accompanied by a few more shots. I heard screaming and feet pounding away. "Shit, is this kid alive?"

"I doubt it," one muttered. "Look at that hole in his chest."

"It's old though, by a few years I'd say."

"Looks like it hurts," the first one said and leaned down to touch my chest. His fingers were ice cold against my burning skin and I would have flinched if I had the strength to. "And treated wrong, look at his veins."

"Fucking Fireflies," the second voice said. "He barely looks older than most of us."

"Wait, his eyes, they're open," another, this time female, gasped.

"The kid looks half dead. What did that fucker do to him?"

"I don't know but we gotta get him to Juliana now or he won't be alive for much longer!" It was the one who had scared off the Fireflies, barking orders at the others. He was the last one I heard before I passed out.

So who saw that coming huh? Mystery team to the rescue!

I also have a little spoiler for you guys...This is the last Jesse chapter before we find out what's wrong with him. *LeGasp* So you only have a few more tries to guess what ails him! I've had a lot of guesses but I'm not saying who's right until the jig is up and there's only one way to get me to dance...