It starts with a lift.

They feel foolish here, standing about exchanging names as the elevator descends achingly slowly into the hell below. Ellis. Coach. Rochelle. Nick. Names, just titles that could mean less to the others. Only worth knowing in order to effectively scream for help should they need it, or call out a warning if they're feeling generous.

Fire-forged friends don't count, anyway.


The mechanic is just beginning to set into another of his stories in the safety of a reinforced room when the con man poisonously snaps at him to shut or or be shut up.

There's a stony silence for a moment as Rochelle finishes binding the slash on Coach's arm. She sends Nick a heated glare, muttering dully beneath her breath.

'... one of 'em...'

'Speak up, princess.' His words are cutting, brash, and she complies more out of distaste than for his convenience.

'I said: I knew odds were one of you guys was gonna be an ass.'

Nick chuckled darkly, the stress of their predicament bubbling in his stomach like acid. 'That's the way you wanna play it, huh? We can all take a roll, sweetheart- I'm the jerk, fine.' He gestures to Ellis and Coach, not looking at them. 'Introducing the inbred and Santa.' Finally he rounds on the woman. 'Who do you wanna be? Smart little city girl who thinks she's got all the answers?'

She rises to the confrontation, neck craning until they're nearly nose to nose. 'Don't start with me, Suit-'

'Hey. Hey, now. None a' that.' Coach's face is set and stern, and Nick is only too ready to continue but Rochelle appears to be done, sufficiently peeved. She whirls away and picks up another roll of gauze.

'Lemme see that scratch on your shoulder, Ellis.'

For a while, it happens like this.

Fight together. Rest apart if possible. Revive each other. Heal each other. But for the love of God, don't like each other.

In New Orleans, they'll go their separate ways. That's for sure, and Nick doesn't have any qualms about expressing how much he's looking forward to it. Ellis isn't so sure- he finds some degree of comfort in Coach's booming laugh and Rochelle's dry jokes. Even Nick's sardonic comments are welcome in the chilly darkness, hissed above the sound of a Witch's soft wails.

Anyway, his buddies are gone now. Like, gone-gone. Maybe they made it, but what with the lack of sensation in Keith's right foot he doubts it. So he could really use some new buddies right about now, and these folks don't seem half bad.

No ties. No heartbreak. No ties. No heartbreak.

That's what she keeps trying to tell herself. They're probably surprised that she, the sole woman, has even lasted this long. She never fails to notice the almost patronizing glance Nick will always spare her when passing uninfected bodies or particularly sad messages scrawled onto walls, or the way Ellis is quick to scurry forward, med kit in hand, after a bad fight.

But she can be strong, too.

The Hunter moves so damn fast, pummeling her into the gravelly ground below in mere seconds. By the time she's rid of it however, her shoulder is raw and bloody and the teeth marks are apparent. She's been bitten. Isn't that how this works?

That night, she takes Coach aside and expresses her doubts about her immunity.

'If I start to turn...' she mutters steadily.

'Yeah, girl. I can do it.'

He doesn't have to, and the next day Coach gives her a bear hug that almost crushes the life out of her.

And just like that, she's gone against her own rule without a second thought.

'Stop that.'

'Stop what?' Rochelle replies innocently as she watches Coach administer more alcohol from a cotton ball to Nick's abdominal wound. Beside her, Ellis snickers.

'Stop enjoying this!'

'We ain't enjoyin' you gettin' hurt Nick, really,' Ellis says hurriedly, the grin still apparent on his face despite his best attempts to smother it with a sombre mask.

Coach screws the cap back onto the bottle, a slight chuckle rumbling up from inside him. 'I think what they're tyin' to say, Nick, is that it's just different seein' you needin' help, you know?'

'Yeah, man, that's all,' the young Southerner adds.

'... I hate you people. Ellis, stop making that face.'

'Up and at 'em, pyro.'

Rochelle smirks through her discomfort at having been batted to the ground and reaches up to take the con artist's offered hand. A horde is fast approaching, and they need to move- fast.

'I guess you do have a heart, huh Mr Tin Man?'

He heaves her up and grabs her axe from the ground, pushing it into her grasp with a fleeting smirk. 'Oh yeah? If you're gonna be like that, maybe I'll just leave you behind next time.'

But he doesn't.

'Ya'll did good out there, people.' Coach commends wheezily as the safe room door claps shut. For a moment there's only silence, broken by their ragged breathing and a clatter or two as they drop their weapons from sweaty, bloodstained hands.

A look passes between the four of them, and while it's quickly broken the impact is like steel.

'Yeah,' Ellis agrees with a simple grin, adjusting his hat more firmly atop his head. 'Yeah, we did.'

A/N: Written on a whim when I was considering the development of the L4D2 survivor's relationship... resulting in this. It's short and drabbley but all the same, I had a little fun with it. Hope you guys like. :) Feel free to check out my other L4D fics or leave a review. I don't own L4D... shockingly. ;D