Notes: This is the alternate ending to the Bullet The Blue Sky story. For this ending to make sense, read the original story up until the END of ONE MAN ARMY and stop there, that's where this ending kicks in. Not the original ending I had wanted, but thought it would be fun to share it.

[REFLECTION TO AN ENDING] Billy Idol-(Don't You)Forget About Me

"Holyeee shit! Hey Dave, this is Nick! THE Nick!" Dave came up to me, silent blue eyes staring at me as he shamelessly sized me up. Keith extended an enthusiastic scar-covered hand to me, "Man, all we can get outta Ellis is your name. He does nothin' but ask for you. Kid was damn near dead when he came crawlin' back into town. No, seriously, he CRAWLED back here." Keith spread his arms wide in a dramatic swoop at the sky, "Had no idea what he was sayin' or nothin', just babblin' and bleedin' all over the place."

A silence fell over the three of us as Keith's expression dropped, his eyes narrowing, "Hey wait a minute. You say you're his friend, how in the hell did he end up all alone out there. You leave 'im or somethin'?" He policeman poked me in the chest as Dave crossed his arms over his, eyebrows pointed downwards like two giant black caterpillars.

I think my expression was enough to sway them, their faces eventually softening and the subject was completely dropped when I asked, "Can you please take me to him?" I must have looked and sounded pathetic, like a wet cat begging for milk. Keith nodded and explained to me how Ellis lives with his Grandpa, a fierce old man with straight-laced morals and a trigger-happy finger. They made me wait. It felt like days went by while I stood there alone and paranoid while they went inside to talk to him, I guess to trying and explain why a complete stranger was being allowed into their house to potentially rob and rape the inhabitants. Or something.

The extent of what they knew, and the extent of what they had told him, I will never know. The old man gave me the stink eye as I walked by him, and impossibly huge beard pointing at me in accusation as I ascended the stairs behind Keith and Dave. My heart was beating so hard, I thought it would come bursting out all bloody and screaming like an alien in a bad horror film. When they opened the door and ushered me in, I felt like I had just wandered into his soul, the very essence of Ellis. A giant 'Budweiser' cloth banner hung down and covered the majority of one wall, a bass guitar leaning in the corner, two different Midnight Riders posters hung up above it, slightly sideways. And there he was, perfect and alive, scooting up in bed onto his elbows, eyes wide with mouth hanging open. I rushed towards him, "You bastard, I knew it. Goddamn it, I knew it!"

It felt like it took an eternity to get to him, every step I took was in painful slow-motion, wading through the sticky molasses of time. When I finally reached his bed, I clasped his warm face in my hands, smiling so hard I thought it might break my face right in half, like some freaky macabre crying clown portrait or something. I quickly kissed my way down his forehead to his mouth. We stayed there, lips locked for god knows how long before I pulled away and embraced him. He hissed in pain, "Easy there, Nick" he said weakly, pulling his race car themed blankets down to show me his bandaged ribs.

I looked him in the eyes, slowly running my thumbs along his cheek bones, and I made him a few secret promises, promises I'd sooner die than break. He smiled that wonderful smile at me and I smiled right back, it felt like we were spinning out in space, lost in time, and I couldn't of been happier.

I had completely forgotten that Keith and Dave were still standing there, until they started awkwardly coughing in unison. When I looked over to them, they were motioning their heads in little bobbing movements towards the stairs, their eyebrows arched in panicky concern. In other words, heir way of saying 'cut the shit' just as Grandpa Vern breached the top of the stairs and stomped his way into the room, beard first.

The old man stubbornly agreed to loan me the gun room across the hall from Ellis' room, provided I'm up at the ass-crack of dawn every day (except Sunday, of course) to play slave boy. But whatever, I'm fine with it. Sometimes Ellis will be sneaking away from my room just as the sun rises, a fresh hickey bruise just below his collar bone, neither of us able to account for a wink of sleep for the night. Other times I'll quietly slink into his room right after midnight, and we'll just lay together, his head nuzzled up under my chin as we find and name fake constellations in the glow-in-the-dark press-on star stickers above his bed.

-----

Now that Ellis has almost fully recovered, he helps me around the town. We fiercely rejected any help when CEDA came through with a cleaning crew, we must have looked like some crazy redneck army gathered around the barricade surrounding the town, guns pointed, fire axes and chainsaws in hand. After a short, not-so-friendly exchange of words, they left us alone, leaving behind the burden of cleaning up the surrounding area of putrid rotting zombie bodies. Oftentimes Keith and Dave will pile in alongside me as Ellis drives his massive monster truck out to make supply runs. None of us talk about it, but we all secretly know. Another wave of infected is inevitable, but when they come, we'll sure as hell be ready.