By: Mahiri Chuma
Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to L4D2 – it all belongs to Vault – if it belonged to me I would have added more cut scenes … seriously.
A/N: Hi everyone! I'm new to the L4D fandom and would like to make my offerings as we have so many talented authors out there and I'd like to add my piece. This will be composed of a series of one-shots surrounding our survivors, though a lot of focus will be on Ellis, I just love the boy. Hope ya enjoy!
- Rivolta Silenziosa -
Things Fall Apart
Ellis walked around the abandoned room, leisurely prodding the mess of books and papers on the ground, pushing them over to read their covers as glass crunched underneath his feet.
Anne of Green Gables.
It was an abnormally quiet day, almost as quiet as it was hot and that was saying quite a lot. The small group of survivors were 'somewhere north of Altamaha and east of Oconee' by Ellis' account and they had stumbled upon a promising looking plantation style house.
As much as they would have liked to bed down in a safe house each night, they could be far and few between. As they moved through western Georgia, safe houses became more scarce and nights spent huddled in a derelict bedroom were becoming more frequent.
Ellis prodded the blood splattered cover of a book with the barrel of his rifle.
A Wild Sheep's Chase.
He didn't mind much, though he preferred the definitive safety of the safe house. He had also become the self-proclaimed scout, making a point to be the first to check the room before they chose to hunker down for the night, not so much for zombies but for the sometimes stomach turning displays that may be waiting on the other inside.
One night they had arrived at an innocent looking house – charming even – and after disposing of a single hunter the group trudged tiredly to a room on the second floor only to find the decaying remains of three children and their parents, a pistol in one of the adult corpse's hands
Rochelle had promptly lost her stomach contents onto Nick's expensive Italian shoes. Being the good ol' southern gentlemen he was, Ellis decided it was his job to keep those incidents from occurring, it was just one more thing they could all do without.
That and Nick's rage was something they avoided like the undead.
He kicked over a rather thin novel, sticky with what appeared to be Boomer bile.
They way he figured, whoever had said that man got use to the carnage, that one eventually became desensitized to death and gore, whoever said that had severely underestimated the human condition.
Blood and gore had become commonplace but it was no more unsettling than it was before the whole apocalypse happened. He understood where that guy was coming from, though for he had to admit, sometimes they acted like it was, in fact, nothing.
He moved over towards the fallen bookshelf and peeked underneath, spotting two additional books. He got down on his stomach, still painfully sore from an encounter with a Smoker, and reached, wincing as his fingers just barely found the dusty covers.
He had initially searched the room looking for the basics - food, medicine and ammunition - and when he came up empty he spied the fallen bookshelf and remembered something Rochelle had said a few days prior.
They had been discussing, in the relative comfort of a safe house, things they would miss, things they might never see again. Ellis had been quick to answer: food, driving and racing were on the top of his list. Rochelle took a moment to reflect before deciding with complete certainty.
Books, she had said.
Ellis had laughed and gaped at her.
"Shoot, really?" He had said, slightly disappointed, but still, she insisted.
He had never been one for books. He got too bored and they never lasted long in his care; besides, he and Keith experienced and learned more through their antics than any ol' book could ever teach him.
He understood her point, though. Her eyes had dimmed sadly as she thought about what the last book published might have been and how a new story would never again be put on paper. It was a sobering fact and since their talk Ellis had kept an eye out for any books he thought she might like.
So far nothing had caught his eye; most of the titles and authors too foreign to him or the book's covers terribly antique.
He sat on the floor against the bed, turning the two prizes of his search over in his hands.
The first was an attractive little book with an interesting cover. It had also been spared from the terrible gore of the rest of the room.
Things Fall Apart.
He liked the title; it was fitting for their current predicament and made him feel as though that's just how it was supposed to be, that things sometimes just fell apart, just as their own lives had done.
He turned it over, scanning the back for a minute before deciding that this one may be to Rochelle's liking and folded it, tucking it into his back pocket.
The next book was more familiar.
The Holy Bible.
He stroked the cover and immediately thought of his mother. She was – had been - a good Christian woman and had never missed a day of church in her life. Ellis could remember her holding it to her chest every Sunday before mass.
"Ellis," she would say, "jus' remember boy, you keep yo' friends close, yo' enemies closer and the Bible even closer than that. Do that 'n God will always be on yo' side."
He hadn't cared much then, as most eight-year-old boys didn't, but now that she was dead and gone he ached for Sunday morning mass and to see her hold that Bible to her chest with nothing but love in her eyes.
He cracked the small Bible open, the thin pages tearing slightly with the movement. He felt as though he might be holding something rare and precious. Most books he'd seen had been damaged by the elements and the vile fluids of the dead and infected. This could be one of the last intact copies of a most precious text.
His eyes drifted over the small words, most of the passages forgotten and unfamiliar to him.
He always had believed in God, he still did in fact, but he wouldn't call himself a good, practicing Christian. Not even devout. As a child he had never liked going to church and as soon as he was old enough he would ditch in order to go to the Sunday car races.
When he thought about it, the Bible itself had never really been a part of his life. He knew what God was and knew a few stories but he also knew there were other religions out there. He reckoned his God might be no different than someone else's and thus never devoted himself the reading too far into it, much to his mother's chagrin.
He hadn't really felt bad about it until now; he figured that if he ever wanted to go back to it, it would be there waiting.
He continued to flip through the text, his grimy fingers leaving smudges on the thin pages, until he reached a page that he recognized.
The Ten Commandments. He remembered nights where his mother would state them when he had done something she just plain didn't approve of.
Like everything else in the Bible, his mother had lived by the words as though it was all she would ever know; they were – had been, he corrected himself - the true guidelines to her life.
He could remember a few of them, but many were lost to his memory. As he read the commandments he felt a sudden sadness that was rather uncharacteristic of him – if this is what his mother lived by and expected of him, she would be disappointed.
But, given the circumstances, she would understand, wouldn't she?
"Son, y' ain't got nothin' but these rules to live by. Do that and y' done me right."
Her voice, for the first time in ages, seemed so clear in his head. Before he could hardly recall the way her voice sounded, not even when he tried his hardest. But now, in his guilt, it was as clear as though she were there sitting next to him.
A light knock interrupted his thoughts and he grabbed the rifle sitting next to him. He didn't remember putting the weapon down and he mentally berated himself for having done so.
Coach had already lectured him countless times on allowing himself to become distracted and here he was sitting and reading as though it were just another lazy summer day pre-walking dead.
Rochelle smiled lightly at him from the doorway, the shadows under her eyes heavy and dark.
"Oh, hey Ro'." He said from his position on the floor, the book lying limp in his hands momentarily forgotten.
"Ellis, sweetie, you didn't hear me calling your name?" He furrowed his brow for a moment before shaking his head, somewhat disturbed at having been so distracted that he hadn't heard her calling. What if they had needed him? What if they had been in trouble?
He stood up, his knees cracking painfully. He eyed her, worried, as he raised his rifle.
"'S something wrong? Is everyone alright?" She crossed the short distance between the door and the bed and shook her head, quickly disarming his fears.
"No, it's nothing like that. We were just worried when we couldn't find you."
"I'm sorry, jus' got a bit distracted, thas' all."
She sat at the edge of the bed and motioned for him to do the same. She noticed the small book in his hand and turned her head quizzically as she attempted to read the title.
"The Bible?" She asked, interested. She never figured Ellis for one to read the Bible, or anything for that matter. "Doing some light reading?"
He looked down at the forgotten text and chuckled.
"Naw, I was jus' flippin' through it. I ain't seen many of these between killin' zombies and lookin' for supplies."
She nodded, remembering their previous conversation concerning books and the loss of the literate world. They sat in silence for a moment and she watched as the handsome southerner rubbed the books spine.
"Something on your mind?" She wasn't stupid. She had come to know Ellis quite well and it had become clear when something was bothering him. Though he was an overwhelmingly optimistic and energetic soul he wasn't immune to bouts of sadness, though they were rare.
He smiled weakly.
"Naw, Ro'. I'm fine, jus' thinkin' about some things." Rochelled stretched, her Depeche Mode shirt lifting slightly above her stomach.
"I've sure got the time. What kind of things." He glanced at her from the corner of his eyes and smiled. She really was a nice girl, Keith would've liked her.
"Jus' my ma. She would read the Bible all the time, an' I mean all the time. Seein' it jus' made me think of her, an', well …"
He stopped for a moment, wondering if he was just being silly.
"Well what, sweetie?" It didn't take much for him to want to continue. His momma had always said he had the gift of gab.
"Well, d'ya think ya can still get t' heaven after all this? I mean, I was readin' the part with the Commandments and well, I reckon' we done violated a whole lot of 'em."
He flipped through the text once again, searching for the part he had read before while Rochelle watched, her eyes soft and kind.
"I mean, it says right here, you shall not murder," he grinned weakly at Rochelle, "We sure done a lot of that. And here, you shall not steal – we been stealin' since day one. Jimmy Gibbs Jr.'s car, food, this rifle, this Bible …" his eyes widened as if he had just realized something terrible.
"Oh, my momma would kill me if she knew I stole a Bible." Rochelle couldn't help but laugh as Ellis looked as though he were bringing himself closer and closer to some sort of mini-breakdown.
"Ellis, honey, you don't have anything to worry about. We steal and, well…" she refused to say murder, it wasn't murder after all – these things weren't really alive, right? "We kill because we need to stay alive. Better them than us."
"Well, look here, y' shall not covet thy neighbor's posessions. I both covet and steal my neighbor's possessions, well these ain't my neighbors but it's still bad ain't it?"
"There isn't anything wrong with using what we need to survive. I'm sure the people who owned this stuff wouldn't mind, they'd want us to have it, don't you think?"
Ellis nodded, agreeing for a moment.
"I reckon so." He said somewhat dejected. It seemed as though he wasn't convinced. Rochelle reached for the Bible, relinquishing him of the apparent burden.
"Let's see," she muttered as she scanned the page, "have you been making idols while we weren't looking?"
"Nope, ain't done that."
"Have you lied?" Ellis paused, thinking about the question.
"I ain't got nothin' to lie about." He decided. Rochelle smiled; the boy was just to darned innocent sometimes.
"Well, it sounds to me like your going to be just fine." Ellis looked unconvinced.
"It's jus' my momma said this was somethin' I should live by and here I am breakin' three of the big ones. I didn' really think about all this before …"
Rochelle put the somewhat tattered Bible down on the bedside table, her eyes warm, yet serious.
"Ellis, don't you think your momma would want you to do whatever you needed to do to survive?"
Ellis put a hand on the back of his neck, rubbing the area as he thought about what his mother would say if she saw him now.
"I reckon so." He said quietly, and he meant it. He knew his momma loved him and though she was gone she would want him to stay alive as long as he could.
"I do too, I think she'd be proud even." At this he brightened up a bit, his eyes clear of the previous burden.
"Yeah? Y' think so?" Rochelle nodded warmly, a comforting hand reaching for his stubbly cheek.
"Oh, I know it. Look what you've done for us. You're a good man, Ellis." They shared a smile and Ellis leaned in, wrapping his arms around her lithe body in a bone-crushing hug.
The loud clearing of a throat from the doorway broke them apart.
"Well, if you kids are done hugging and whispering sweet nothings in each others ears, we could use your help downstairs."
Nick stood at the door, his arms crossed, a pistol hanging lazily from his right hand. Ellis always thought the man had an incredible talent for nonchalance, something he expected came from his former life.
"Sure." Ellis muttered, his cheeks flushing slightly.
"We'll be there in a minute, Nick." Rochelle gave the man a pointed look and watched as he rolled his eyes and snorted before turning away from the door.
They sat there for a moment before Ellis remembered the book in his back pocket.
"Oh, right!" he exclaimed with excitement, "I don' know if this is somethin' y'd like, but I found this."
He handed the small book over, watching with anticipation as she accepted it, her eyes scanning the cover hungrily. He was a little surprised when she chuckled lightly.
"What? No good?" he asked timidly.
"No, no, it's perfect. It's just one of those books I always saw on display and never picked up, you know?" He didn't but he smiled as she flipped through the novel, "My cameraman, Brent, was reading this on the trip down, said it was really good."
"Well, I hope y' like it." Rochelle smiled; the fact that he had been looking for something for her warmed her heart, something not so common nowadays.
"I love it." She leaned over, her lips finding his cheek, planting a gentle kiss. "Thank you."
Ellis gave her a goofy grin and mumbled something along the lines of 'anytime'. His heart fluttered in his chest and his whole body grew warm; he wasn't expecting that, really.
"Now let's get going before Nick finds a reason to kick your ass, Lord knows he's looking for one."
Ellis nodded and stood with her, watching as she tucked the book into her waistband. His eyes caught the Bible on the table and he wondered for a moment if he should take it with him. Rochelle seemed to pick up on his thoughts and picked up the text, offering it to him.
"You taking this with you." Ellis accepted it from here and thought for a moment, turning the book over in his hands before deciding.
"Naw, I'll leave it here. Who knows, maybe someone else'll need it."
He wiped dust from the bedside table and gently put the book down,
Maybe it would bring other survivors together as it had for him, even if for just a moment.
That night Ellis watched Rochelle as she read the novel by lantern, his heart swelling, full and warm.
Just wanted to say, I do not own any of the works by Lucy Maude Montgomery, Haruki Murakami, Herman Hesse or Chinua Achebe – I also, obviously, do not own the Bible!
I hope ya'll enjoyed that little short. I just love the L4D2 cast and wanted to do a series of one shots surrounding their life on the run from the undead. There is no specific order and there will be stories from all genres. As for pairings, I myself fancy Ellis/Ro but will probably play around a bit with Ro/Nick and some Ellis/Nick in the friendship sort of way.
Also, I don't really know much about Ellis' backstory but I figure him to be slightly religious, being a good old Georgia boy. I liked there and Florida myself and found most people to be somewhat religious, though not all. Anyway, I mean no harm in my inferences; the idea just came to my head.
I hope ya'll enjoyed and will review if you find a moment as it would be most appreciated. I will not be updating for at least a week as I will be in Haiti with PIH starting tomorrow - please keep Haiti in your thoughts and if you can help, please do so! Ensemble, nous pouvons faire une différence Allez! Il nous faut des bénévoles pour aider les peuple Haïtien - donnez votre argent, votre aide, votre prières …
Thanks to anyone who reads and/or reviews!