Rain came down in sheets so hard that each drop felt like a tiny needle. Nick kicked the dead zombie off him and closed his eyes, not bothering to shield his face from the downpour. Everything hurt; he'd pulled something running from the horde and whenever he moved his right leg pain burned up and down his hamstring. Absorbing rifle recoil all day had turned his shoulder into one huge bruise and his throat was raw from a Smoker almost strangling him. The rain was already turning the ground beneath him to mud and if it swallowed him up he didn't have it left in him to care.

He heard the sound of boots squelching towards him, the step too heavy to be Rochelle's and way too speedy for Coach. That only left one option and as the steps came closer Nick could hear Ellis actually talking out loud to himself, which answered Nick's question of how Ellis would cope with having no one to ramble at if everyone else managed to get themselves killed and eaten. The chatter broke off abruptly and the pace broke into a run, Nick guessed because Ellis had spotted him. He raised one hand before Ellis could start panicking loud enough to bring back the horde.

He heard Ellis let out a whispered, "Oh, thank you Jesus," as he stood over him. "Nick, I been looking all over for you, you can't even imagine. I was startin' to think..." He let out a long breath. "Here, I'll give you a hand up."

Nick shook his head. "Don't bother. I'm fine."

"You're fine?"

"Perfect. I'm just going to lie here and wait for the zombies."

He opened his eyes to see Ellis frowning down at him, his shoulders hunched against the downpour. "You might not have noticed, but it's rainin' kinda hard."

"Good point. Maybe I'll drown first."

"C'mon Nick, you won't..." He broke off and looked around. "Actually, this might be a flood plain, now that I think about it."

Nick groaned and threw one arm across his eyes. "See? Won't even take long."

Ellis clucked his tongue. "Could be worse."


"'Least we're not in a swamp again."

Nick laughed, a dry, mirthless sound that was just this side of hysterical. "I'm done. With all of this, I'm done."

"Don't talk like that." Nick almost laughed again; he'd seen Ellis hurl himself at Tank without blinking and he sounded scared now? Nick didn't know what was wrong with the kid sometimes. "Don't. We ain't licked yet, not by a long shot."

"I am. I'm done. Move it."

"Nick, you know there's no way in hell I'm leavin' you here in the street."

"This isn't a street. Streets are paved. This is a path. This is a trail. I knew the second I met all of you I was going to wind up dying in some redneck mud hole, I knew it." The humidity hung heavy in the air and the rain tasted foul.

"You ain't gonna die." Ellis knelt beside him and lifted Nick's arm away from his face, murmuring apologies when Nick's sore shoulder made him wince. Nick only stared at him, blinking against the rain. "You hear me?"

"Don't be stupid. We're all going to die. I'm just fed up with waiting to find out which of these things is finally going to tear my throat out. This," he said, gesturing vaguely around himself, "this is the biggest sucker's bet I've ever seen. I've been around a long time, Ellis, and believe me, the house always wins." He closed his eyes again as thunder cracked loud enough to make his ears ring.

He felt Ellis shift so he was kneeling above him, straddling Nick across his hips. Rivulets of water streamed down the brim of his cap and Nick tried to shield his face. "Watch it, would you?"

Ellis moved his arm aside again and kissed him, muffling any further complaining. He sighed and opened his mouth to the kiss before he could catch himself, the taste of Ellis mixing in with the rain. "Funny way to get me up," he said when Ellis finally broke the kiss.

"Yeah, well, seems to me you need some incentive." He leaned down and sucked the raindrops from Nick's fingertips one by one; Nick straightened his fingers and Ellis licked at the water pooled in his upturned palm. He smothered back a moan as Ellis' tongue traced the curve of his hand like he was trying to memorize each line. He felt Ellis' lips touch the delicate skin on his wrist and shivered. "Y'cold, Nick?" Ellis said, so close the hot breath on his skin made Nick bite his lip.

"The fucking sky is coming down on us, so yeah, just a little."

Ellis planted one last, deep kiss on his palm - Nick did moan then - and laced his fingers with Nick's. Nick felt the cold mud slide between their fingers as Ellis shifted position to lie on top of him, one thigh pressing between Nick's legs; Nick hissed in a breath, already hard. Ellis kissed the ring of bruises around his neck, soft, soothing touches. "Oh," Nick breathed. "That's good. That feels good."

"That Smoker did a number on you," Ellis murmured, the vibration against his throat sending a chill through his spine. Nick hitched up his good leg and Ellis took the hint, rocking his hips so his thigh ground against Nick in a slow rhythm. Nick tipped his chin up and Ellis kissed his way up his neck inch by inch, slowly tracing the line of jaw until he finally made his way back to Nick's lips. Nick whimpered as Ellis ran the tip of his tongue along the edge of Nick's lower lip. "Feelin' better yet?"

He slid one hand under Ellis' soaked t-shirt, pulling him closer and feeling his muscles work under his skin; Ellis ground against him harder in response until Nick started to swear. Ellis cut him off with a long, deep, wet kiss until all Nick could do was moan and gasp beneath him. Ellis finally broke the kiss, leaving Nick panting. "We ain't far from the safe room," he whispered. "You get up, we could beat the others there. Finish this up proper."

Nick grabbed a handful of Ellis' hair, knocking his hat away. "You stop now and I will shoot you, I swear to God."

Ellis laughed. "Promise me I never hear you say you're givin' up again." He ground hard against Nick. "Not ever, now."

Nick moaned, tightening his grip on Ellis' hair. "Sure. Fine, whatever."

Ellis kissed Nick until he whimpered. "Promise."

Nick nodded. "Promise. I promise, God, I will kill you if you stop I swear, please."

Ellis chuckled. "I'll hold you to that." He levered himself up and Nick groaned, thinking for a second that even after all that Ellis was still going to stop. Then he felt Ellis start to fumble with is belt; he shifted himself into better position and waved him off, undoing the belt and buttons while Ellis worked the zipper. Ellis' shirt was so soaked it was almost see through, clinging and outlining him like a second skin. The rain plastered his hair down to his head and he took a second to wipe the water out of his eyes before bending back down with a look so hungry Nick almost came right there.

He had a moment to shiver as the cold rain hit his exposed skin, then he felt Ellis' mouth wrap around his cock. He tossed his head back, feeling mud seep down past his collar and not caring. Ellis sucked hard and Nick moaned and swore, grabbing for Ellis' hair, his shirt, desperate to touch any part of him. He bucked his hips and Ellis took him deep; Nick realized he was begging but couldn't stop himself, all he could think of was he needed Ellis to keep doing that, just a little longer, just a few more seconds, please, just like that.

He came with a shout swallowed up by the thunder, one hand still tangled in Ellis' hair and the other clawing at the muddy ground; Ellis sucked him one more time and licked up his shaft before collapsing on top of him in an exhausted heap. Nick pulled him down into a long, hard kiss before collapsing himself, breathless and shaking and spent. "Now I really don't want to get up."

"No fair," Ellis muttered against his shoulder. "'Promised."

"Your fault." He ran one hand down Ellis' back. "Hey. Think we can still beat the other two back to the safe room?"

Ellis smiled. "Can't hurt to try. All this mud, we gotta get ourselves cleaned up anyway."

That would be a handy excuse if Coach or Rochelle walked in on them half dressed. "What're we wasting time out here for? Sounds like a plan."

Ellis grabbed his hat and Nick let himself be helped to his feet without a word of protest. He leaned close to Ellis and whispered a filthy suggestion of what they could do once they got to the room, one that made Ellis turn bright red.

Nick laughed as another lightning strike arced across the sky. They couldn't have gotten to the safe room any faster with the entire horde on their heels.