September 6th, 2010

Over the last few months Nick had made some pretty intense promises. Did he regret any of them? Not particularly. So far he was 3 for 4.

He had kept his promise to his sister—when his phone had rang for the first time in late February he had answered. He had answered it every time since—and Ellis had returned more calls than he could possibly keep track of, but whatever made the kid happy… he would let him do whatever he wanted.

By early March they had traveled to Omaha and Ellis had seen snow—rather, he had dove into the first snow bank he had seen and then reemerged with a shocked expression and a proclamation of 'Damn, man, this shit's cold!', of which, Nick had spent a good five minutes laughing until his sides hurts. Guess the kid really hadn't seen snow before.

They had spent the rest of March all the way through Easter in Omaha—and that had kept his promise to his nieces. Hell, they had stayed until late May. It had been… odd. Spending so much time with the same people. Sure, he had done it before in his conning. Knitting new weaves of friendship, only to destroy or cut them later. But this was different… This time when he had left, he had had no intentions of severing these lines… And shit, he still had him at his side. He never would have thought he could stand being so close to someone for so long.

But Ellis… Ellis was much different than anyone else he had ever met. Then again, he had never really been in love before—so maybe that's what this was. This need to always be close, to hear that voice, see those smiles… He had never wanted to be there for someone so much... His heart hurt too much when they were apart… Shit… was that cliché of him to say? That he was lovesick? Maybe… regardless, it was true. He needed Ellis. Ellis was his addiction.

By July the rest of the Survivors had returned. You may have thought that these returning folks would be cautious and cold—afraid of what tomorrow would bring—another outbreak? A different one? More death, more losses…? More suffering and pain? And although what had made them all human may have suffered and been lost during the Green Flu outbreaks, it wasn't a permanent loss. It had never been. In fact, if anything, all that humanity had returned tenfold—maybe to make up for those days in which empathy had been replaced with callousness and indifference. When neighbor saw neighbor, alive and well, there was no suspicious scowls or dogging cautiousness, but tears and laughs in between embraces of someone that could have very easily been a stranger before the Infection, but today was nothing short of family.

It was obvious in the fact that Nick hadn't even the slightest clue of who had lived near him. Oak Ridge hadn't been a location he had wanted to exploit and so he had countered his conniving nature by simply ignoring what was without his home. What he didn't know was out there, he couldn't con. But that had all changed—and maybe it had been Ellis' fault that he now knew the names and faces of his neighbors, but shit… This made it more like a home, right? Being able to stroll next door, tap on the door and find a familiar face that was just glad to have company, right? Yeah, I'll borrow some sugar, thanks, but first tell me about the kids, how things are going for you, did you get that room painted? Did you hang up those photos on your bedroom wall?

Nick couldn't even begin to count how many people Ellis had simply walked up to and asked if they needed any help cleaning up their homes or getting things working again. At first it had annoyed him—mostly because he had somehow always ended up having to go with Ellis—maybe because he was still a little paranoid—but mostly because the way those big blues eyes had blinked so innocently at him, but at the same time asked that little 'wanna come to, Nick?'. Of course he did. He always did. He could never say no. Being apart was just not an option.

It had surprised Nick by how easily he accepted this new lifestyle. People were interesting… he had always thought that, known that. That was probably why he had enjoyed face-to-face conning instead of stealing identities or some other shit from afar. He had enjoyed that interaction—studying people, learning what made them tick and where their weaknesses fell. Figuring out the easiest way to charm them, to steal from them, to hurt them and to leave them still trying to figure out what the fuck had just happened… that had been thrilling for him.

But, it was different now… Sure, habit had forced him to calculate people like math problems, but he wasn't that practitioner anymore. He had no more desire to break these people…but to learn more than just how to fuck them out of whatever he wanted. You didn't always have to know someone's hopes and dreams, heartaches or joys to con them. Sometimes just a winning smile was enough… People had turned out to be more interesting than he had originally thought.

Yeah, Ellis sure had changed him. For the better though. Nick was still Nick—a stubborn asshole who often gave more than he could take, but he was different in the sense of patience. Well… maybe heart was a better way to say it. He was still Nick, but his heart wasn't as heavy and cold as it had once been. Yeah, he had changed. Probably for the better. Well… definitely for the better. Yeah, no doubt for the better. It was good to feel; to feel dizzy with adoration or faint with love. That was okay. He wouldn't trade this feeling for anything else in the world…

He had been planning this for weeks—months, actually. He had left early in the morning to sneak out of the apartment—which had felt sort of strange since he had never done so with Ellis (other people, sure, but not El)—but he had returned before the man had awakened. And that was exactly what he had hoped.

Nick leaned in the doorway of his—their—bedroom and smiled fondly at the mechanic. Ellis was so god damn cute as he laid there, tangled in blankets, his face pressed into the pillow with a half-smile that never seemed to go away. God damn… He could stand here forever admiring that beautiful man… But he had one last promise to fulfill.

The gambler padded across the carpet until very gently sitting himself on the edge of the bed. He leaned towards the mechanic and lifted one hand that held a sleepy-eyed and quietly mewling kitten. The little thing let out another little noise as it was placed beside Ellis' face and it gave a few awkward steps on the bunched blankets until it was directly before Ellis' face. It gave the new object a curious look—but what was this? A slight twitch of Ellis' eyes caught the kitten's full attention and delicately it raised one paw to prod curiously at the little movement.

Ellis' eyes blinked opened and at first he didn't quite seem to understand what he was looking at. He blinked hard, shaking his head slightly and tilted his head back, but the kitten was relentless—following his adjustment with more awkward little steps. And then Ellis let out a little squeak and a grin stole his lips. Nick laughed.

"Ah, man, Nick!" Ellis said, eyes wide, his grin so god damn big it must have hurt. Ellis lifted one hand to gently run his fingers over the kitten. It mewled contently and brushed insistently against his hand. "Aw… man, Nick…" Ellis pushed himself up onto one elbow and continued to pet and scratch at the affectionate little kitten. The young man grinned at the other. "Man… Are ya really lettin' me have this little guy, Nick?"

"Wouldn't bring it in here otherwise." Nick said. He looked immensely satisfied at himself. Those green eyes watched as Ellis shifted onto his back and lifted the little kitten onto his stomach. It was so little in his hands, but it seemed so unaware of how vulnerable it was. It just kept its intense purring, little paws lifting to grab onto Ellis' hands and gave the mechanic a few playful bites. "Well… any names? I got a kitten specifically that didn't have any damn white paws. So no lame names."

Ellis chuckled and tilted his head slightly as he studied it. The kitten let out an insistent meow and Ellis chuckled, petting it obsessively. "Is it a girl or a boy?"

Nick almost laughed. "Far as I know, it's female." And if it wasn't, he was going to kick someone's ass.

"All right…" Ellis chewed at his lip thoughtfully, one eye squinting hard. God damn it, he was so fucking cute as he did it. It took everything in Nick to keep himself from crawling across the bed and smothering Ellis with kisses… Not that Ellis should mind too terribly much, but it'd be nice to let the kid bond with his new pet. "I think… Elise."

Nick quirked an eyebrow, "Elise? Why that?"

"'Cause it's the first song I heard ya play." Ellis grinned slightly, but he was blushing hard. "I think it was when I first began ta fall in love with ya…"

Nick opened his mouth to stay something, but then he just smiled and leaned over to place a kiss at the corner of Ellis' mouth. When he pulled away he rubbed the kitten's head affectionately. "All right. Elise it is."

"Hey Nick?" Ellis asked as he padded out into the living room. He had been listening to the man play for quite some time and when he actually found himself watching Nick play his piano… well… Ellis felt a new flutter in his chest.

"Hmm?" Nick glanced over his shoulder. "You finally put that kitten down." It had been hours. To be honest, Nick had been betting on the kitten lasting longer than Ellis, but, he probably shouldn't have been surprised to find the mechanic meeting him outside instead of that silver-eyed kitten. Not that Nick would complain. He was actually starting to grow a little jealous.

"Yeah…" Ellis shuffled up behind the conman and wrapped him in a hug from behind. His lips met Nick's nape. "Nick? Yer givin' me presents today… But, it should be the other way 'round."

"Oh yeah?" Nick shifted slightly, enjoying how Ellis' hands had worked up under his shirt to knead across his stomach.

"Uhhuh…" Ellis pressed his body closer, pressing his lips against the others ear, "Happy Birthday, love."

Nick blinked once, glancing up. He blinked several times. Well, holy shit. That really snuck the fuck up on—

Ellis' fingers lifted to brush down the conman's arms then to his hands and interlaced his fingers with his and the sound of the melody fell away on a few lingering notes that drifted seemingly all around them. Nick felt a grin tugging at his mouth. Ellis' hands rose to press their interlaced fingers to Nick's chest and he tugged insistently at him and so Nick obliged to that tugging and got to his feet. Ellis guided him away from the bench.

"Where are we going, Ellis?"

"Places." Ellis purred, and began to walk the man backwards.

"Oh yeah?" Nick quirked an eyebrow. "What kind of places?"

"You'll see, Nick."

Although he trusted Ellis completely, Nick still couldn't help but wonder where they were going. But it was becoming obvious… so very obvious.

"Close yer eyes, now, Nick." Ellis whispered. "An' no peakin'…" Nick clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth, but he did as he was asked. One of Ellis' hand's released his, and with curiously good smoothness twirled him about so that they were facing each other. Ellis, stepped close, shifting them in a half circle and once again Nick found himself walking backwards. The back of his legs hit the bed and he felt Ellis move closer, lips met his throat and both of the mechanic's hands guided him down onto the bed.

"Can I open them yet?"


No? Nick began to grin. However his grin soon became a smirk as Ellis' fingertips traced down his face and his neck to come to meet at the first button of his shirt. Slowly, carefully, each button began to come undone. Fingers traced across his exposed front until tickling to his shoulders and sliding the garment away.

And then Ellis was climbing into his lap and the mechanics' hands rose to tilt his face upwards and their lips met. Nick reached up slowly to rest his hands on Ellis' sides. He was greatly pleased to find that Ellis was already shirtless.

Ellis' kisses drew away from his lips until tracing a line down the gambler's jaw line, smothering him over and over, hands running across all that exposed flesh greedily. But then those hands found his face again.

"Nick…" Ellis whispered softly, inquiringly.

Nicks lips parted slightly and his eyes twitched, wanting so badly to take in that other man. "Yes, Ellis?"

Ellis lips pressed gently against his closed eyelids, first one and then the other. "Ya can open 'em…"

Nick's eyes opened, intense, green, striking and intent on taking in those beautiful blues. Their eyes held each other for a long moment until Nick shifted forward ever-so-slightly to brush their lips together. He could feel Ellis' warm breath exhale against him and the young man smiled at the faint touch. And god, he looked beautiful as he did.

Ellis had gone all out by decorating the room with as many candles as he could find. Nick didn't mind the fact that, really, nothing matched, but… Christ. Ellis was beautiful in that faint hue, in those flickers of light, the way shadows danced across his skin, how it played with the sparkle in his eyes… Ellis was perfect. He always had been and always would be.

Nick's eyes drifted slightly downward before he coaxed Ellis out of his lap and promptly switched positions with him. It was his turn to climb so adoringly, obsessively and lovingly into the others lap. Ellis flushed faintly at this, but he was grinning too. And that was good.

Nick's fingers lifted to Ellis shoulders and then his eyes drew downward again—to that splash of blue, that little intricate tribal tattoo that had been the disdain of his jokes far too many times. Oh, how he had teased the kid about it… but in truth, he wouldn't change a god damn thing about him. Never would. Ever.

He tilted his head to meet Ellis' shoulder and then butterfly kisses danced down his arm until kissing every inch of that inked skin. When he was finished, his lips left it, but his eyes did not. In the corner of his eye he could see Ellis was grinning slightly at him.

"I though'… ya di'n't like it?" Ellis asked hesitantly, blinking.

"What's not to like?" Nick asked, eyes meeting those blues again. Ellis squinted one eye closed in thought, lips twisting with thought, but Nick quickly met that adorable man with another powerful kiss. "I like everything about you. Let me rephrase that." He shifted his legs so he could press himself even closer. "I love everything about you. Don't ever forget that."

Ellis smiled. "I won't, Nick."

Good, because I'll never stop loving you, even if one day you change your mind about loving me back.

But he didn't dare say that out loud—maybe he was too afraid that voicing such concerns may put ideas into Ellis' mind… but, at the same time, he knew it didn't need to be said. He was pretty confident Ellis wanted this too. Probably forever.

Ellis tilted his head slightly, almost as if he could tell what Nick was thinking. And if he did, he knew exactly what he needed to do. He shifted closer and placed a tender kiss to Nick's lips; a kiss of gentleness, of love, of longing, desire, need and want.

Yeah, definitely forever.

A/N: I've been meaning to write this for a long time. And I needed to finish it; because I am a selfish person. I'm sorry.