Chapter 1:

Joel grimaced at the pain in his abdomen. The old man was covered in cuts and bruises from the fight, but right now his full attention was on the wound in his abdomen. He looked down at it, and let out a hiss. The knife was buried almost hilt-deep. Blood gushed from the wound like water from a bottle. With every breath Joel took, pain coursed through him. He knew he was done for if he didn't move, but he didn't want to move. He knew moving might cause the knife to move around in the wound, cutting him further.

You can't just stay here, a tiny voice whispered in Joel's brain. You have to get to Ellie, that's your only chance. Joel knew the voice he was hearing was right, but he was having a hard time getting his body to move. It's now or never Joel. The voice whispered. It talked in an eerily calm tone, as if it already knew the outcome of the situation. As if it knew how this was going to end. But Joel wasn't going to let this end, not anytime soon. He was going to fight. With a grunt of pain, he gripped the hand of the knife with his hand, and held it carefully in place. Once he was sure it wasn't going to slip from his trembling hand, Joel pulled himself from his sitting position, onto his feet.

He looked at the door to his right. It just seemed so goddamned far. With every step, excruciating pain would swoop through Joel, nearly bringing him to his knees. His legs shook, as if they had turned to jelly. Blood continued to pump from his abdomen. Dark spots danced across his vision like phantom firetrucks. Joel knew he was running out of time. He knew he was nearing the end. He needed to hurry.

It took all of his strength to get him across the room to the door. When he reached it, he collapsed. He struck the door, and slid to the floor. There he lay, clutching the knife tightly in his hands, trying to keep it from moving. Joel's hand was caked in his own blood, and more of it continued to pour down his body. How much had he lost? He didn't know. But he needed to get out before he bled out. He needed to get to Ellie. If Joel was going to die, he would hold out until he could say his goodbyes to Ellie.

As Joel once again pulled himself to his feet, he let out a scream of pain. It was starting to feel like too much. He felt lightheaded, and when he stood, he almost toppled back onto the floor. Joel put his left arm against the wall, slowly let go of the knife, twisted the knob, and shoved the door open. Once again, his legs gave out. He fell forward, and landed on his right side. When he hit the floor, his left arm grazed the handle of the knife, shaking it around in Joel's abdomen. The old man let out a wail of pain, and began to shudder where he lay, in a slowly growing pool of his own blood.

Joel heard someone calling his name. Was that Ellie? Or was it Devin? He didn't know...and he didn't really care. This was it, it was the end. He could feel his life draining away. His eyelids became heavy, and he didn't fight it when they slid closed, enveloping him in a peaceful darkness...

Ten Months Earlier:

Joel lie in bed, staring up at the ceiling of his bedroom. It was raining outside, and the light pitter-patter of water against the window was soothing. Dust slowly circulated through the air above him, and he watched as it made intricate and fascinating shapes that seemed to dance. The room smelled stale (hell, the whole house smelled stale), and Joel could feel the dirt all over his body. Tommy had told them when they arrived the day before that they were working on getting running water, but Joel wasn't too hopeful. The whole idea of electricity still seemed too good to be true.

Joel stayed that way for a long time, staring at the ceiling, wishing he could fall asleep without feeling like he wouldn't be waking up. But after nine months on the road, he found it hard to trust anything. He didn't trust anything except Ellie. Ellie was the only person in the entire world he was sure he could trust.

Speaking of Ellie, Joel wondered silently how she was doing. This was only their second night in Jackson, and he was sure she was having just as hard a time as he was with settling down. Joel wished it could be easier, but after all they had been through, the idea of safety seemed like a foreign concept.

He lay there, thinking about Ellie and trying to sleep for what felt like hours. After a long time, Joel huffed and gave up on sleeping. He knew he would be getting none tonight, and just laying there was making him feel very uncomfortable. So without another moment's hesitation, he climbed out of bed (a mattress with a ratty old comforter on top) and stepped into the hallway. To his left was the bathroom, and across from that was Ellie's bedroom. Joel briefly considered checking on her, but decided against it. She was probably still awake, and Joel didn't want to disturb her if she was trying to fall asleep.

With a heavy sigh, he turned to the right, and descended the steps, trying to not make too much noise. Once on the first floor, he made a hard left and made his way to the kitchen. To his surprise, he found Ellie sitting at the table, staring out of the window at the nearby houses. When she heard Joel, her head quickly spun, a tense look in her eyes, but she settled when she saw his face.

"Couldn't sleep either huh?" Joel shook his head, and sat at the table across from her. There were dark circles under her eyes, and Joel felt anger flare in his chest. Ever since the incident with David Ellie hadn't been the best sleeper. Joel knew all too well that she was plagued with nightmares of what could have happened had she not been able to get a hold of that machete...or if he hadn't shown up. Joel wished (not for the first time) that he had been there. He would've crushed the fucker's windpipe in a second. Joel heard Ellie sigh, and he was brought out of his thoughts. He looked at her, and couldn't help the swell of affection that washed over his heart at the sight of her. Ever since the last time they had been in Jackson, Joel had felt a growing love for the girl. But it hadn't been until they hit Salt Lake City that he realized that she had found a place in his heart. And she had, Joel wasn't sure what he would do without her here.

"You okay?" Ellie asked when she noticed him staring at her. Joel shook his head quickly, trying to gather himself before he said; "Uh-huh, I'm fine." Ellie nodded, but didn't say anything else. It bothered Joel. She usually wasn't this quiet, but ever since they had returned to Jackson she had been this way. She was in the same place she had been after the David incident. Joel cleared his throat to get her attention, deciding to see if he could get anything out of the girl.

"Anythin' on your mind?" Ellie shook her head. Joel suppressed an annoyed growl, and asked; "Did ya' have another nightmare?" Ellie looked at him again. Her eyes said everything, and Joel felt his heart break.

He reached out, and placed a hand on top of hers.

"It's alright babygirl." She looked into his eyes, and in them he saw love. He returned her gaze with his signature half-grin.

"You want to lay down in my room with me?" Ellie grinned and nodded. This caused Joel to smile, and he removed his hand from hers before standing, and leading her upstairs.

AN: Alright, finally finished the first chapter. I totally changed it and I really like the way it's turned out now. If you liked it, give me a review and tell me what you thought. I'm open to all kinds of criticism-good and bad. Favorite while your at it. Tell your friends about it. Hell, print it out and hang it on your wall if you want to. But above all: enjoy!