A/N: I wanted to take a break from polishing off 'an enemy bigger than my apathy,' so I thought I'd wing this at you. Have at it. Seriously.
The summary is pretty self-explanatory—Ellis winds up on his own for a bit and it doesn't play out so well. (Idea was sort of inspired by the 'Ellis' page on the Wiki that mentioned a bird call he would make when separated by the group or when all of the other Survivors were dead.)
Thoughts? I'd like to know what Keith stories you guys would like to crop up in this story. Ellis is going to do a lot of talking, even if it is to himself.
I completely re-vamped this chapter from what it was originally, and by that I mean I pretty much re-wrote the entire thing. xD
As always, thoughts are appreciated.
All men's misfortunes spring from their hatred of being alone. —Jean de la Bruyere
This is where it all starts.
"Not funny, man, where are you guys?"
His grip on his gun tightened, and Ellis spun in another tight circle in order to survey his surroundings. There was nothing out of the ordinary—the deserted street littered with vehicles and rubble like the aftermath of a child's tantrum was still as unsettling as ever, and the fact that no Infected had made their presence known save for the two or three that had recently run at him only to collapse with smoking holes in their heads was hardly comforting.
The young mechanic turned again slowly, letting his gaze flickering over each building in turn and reminding himself not to be too loud, least he attract unwanted attention.
"Okay, this seriously ain't funny no more."
He swallowed to keep the tremor of worry from his voice, the rifle in his hands shaking in a way that wasn't exactly uplifting.
If this was supposed to be some sick practical joke, it really wasn't that funny. It hadn't been to begin with.
Everything hurt. His arms, his legs...everything burned with a dull ache.
Without thinking, he fired off another shot and left a former C.E.D.A. agent crumpling to the ground, air hissing out of their ill-fated suit, and leaving its bloodied maw slack and staring at Ellis in a pitiful and betrayed manner. There was an unreserved look of shock etched across his face, and Ellis hardly suppressed a shiver at the sight. Mowing down zombies and the Infected had become second nature to him over the past couple of days (or was it a week or two? He hadn't been keeping track since that first incident he still hadn't told the others about.), but there was still something exceedingly unnerving when it came to making eye contact with the undead.
He could almost hear them begging for mercy.
Ellis shifted his gun in his hands again, letting the butt of it thump against the bottle attached to his belt, rattling the pills inside of it. It was with a grimace that he realized he was already running low on his supply on them, and the bottle Louis had chucked down to him after a good few minutes of obvious inner conflict had quickly been dispersed and utilized by he and his comrades. If he were to sustain some significant injury any time soon, he was more or less screwed over at the moment unless he grew a third arm and a PhD to go with it.
Years of mechanical work had taught him a great deal about fixing things, but the anatomy of a car was nothing compared to that of a human body. A vehicle could be scraped and put out of a mind; a life was a delicate thing and a one-shot deal.
Ellis had rapidly been realizing that he wasn't as indestructible as he'd once thought.
That didn't mean he wasn't above trying to impress his friends and give them something to laugh at and look forward to, however.
"Guys, c'mon. Seriously."
But what sort of 'friends' left him on his own to die?
Ellis! Is now the best time?
In that moment, he almost missed Nick's cynical nature, Coach's off-handed rants about cotton candy and other foods, and even Rochelle's almost endearing way of calling him 'sweetie' or 'honey.' He would admit to being the youngest of the group—that was a given—, but that didn't mean he was up for being babied or looked down upon by the others.
He would also admit to being immature and naive in his own right, but that had gotten him this far and it had thus worked out alright by him.
"What the hell, man?"
Ellis took a deep breath to steel his nerves and mindlessly slid a few more bullets into his gun, not wanting to be caught unawares while he was off hosting his own little pity party and not inviting anyone else to join in. He took a few steps forward and was suddenly again aware of the sting in his leg from where the Witch had slashed at him earlier that day after Nick had practically stepped on her. Leave it to his split-second heroism to shove Nick out of the way and end up with a limp and forced smile through the pain.
The pain had been lessened by the pills shoved down his throat and Rochelle's quick patchwork, but that didn't mean it didn't hurt like hell.
Ignoring the bandaged gash that now served as a reminder that limping men might not move as fast as others and that if he was overwhelmed he was done for, Ellis continued on, hoping to find some shaded outcropping where he could hide in the shadows and wait for the others.
With a grunt, he flopped on down to the ground under the overhang of a former eating establishment that had probably seen better days before this whole hell-on-earth scenario and wedged himself behind some dead potted plants. Slumping a bit and trying to come off as at least mostly dead, Ellis assumed and hoped that any wandering zombies would pass him by and leave none the wiser.
The rifle remained cocked and held steadily in his lap all the same.
He hardly resisted the urge to call out again, letting out a harsh whisper that demanded to know where the others were and what they found so funny about all of this.
I don't have a problem with leaving the car and you behind. Okay, Ellis?
Sure they had jokingly told the others on the bridge awhile back that they'd leave Ellis behind and bring the others with them (In hindsight, Ellis didn't see the logic in it: One person did not equal the space three took up. Unless they were discussing the value of one over the other, in which case Ellis was a bit more than a little insulted.), but that's all it had been—a joke.
We ain't got time for this, Ellis.
They wouldn't willingly leave him behind, not after all this, would they? No, they wouldn't do that. It was partly because of Ellis that they had gotten this far, that they had thought to use the Jimmy Gibbs Jr., that they had been able to navigate around the parts of Savannah that Coach didn't know. How could that possible warrant his abandonment?
The rifle momentarily trembled at the thought-out word: abandonment.
Ellis had never liked being on his own as a child, and he was sure as hell not going to start now. Being alone was supposed to mean that no one cared, that no one wanted to be bothered by someone.
Surely the others cared enough to look for him, if not even consider thinking about it.
"Caw, caw, caw, caw," He called out weakly at first, hoping it didn't attract too much attention from the stragglers around him. The bird call had been a worried joke of his to begin with, but once Nick had responded by poking his head out of the doorway that Ellis hadn't seen them run into, the call had stuck and been used (by him) ever since.
Not that he had been expecting one initially, but there was no response to his first round and it took a bit of mental convincing before he was able to raise his voice enough to be truly heard.
"Caw, caw, caw, caw, caw!" It was stronger this time, but there was still nothing for him to work with. There was little more than a squeaky grunt from around the corner, and Ellis slumped back again in order to keep from being seen.
By the time they found him, Nick was probably going to be red in the face and steaming with something along the lines of What the hell were you thinking, Overalls? and Rochelle would sigh in relief while Coach tried not to give him too condescending a look.
It had been Ellis, after all, that had managed to find them all a ride and hot-wire it that morning after the Witch incident. Coach had also almost shot Nick in the ass as well ("Shot me in the ass again, and your head will be even farther up yours." "Well don' put your ass where ah'm shootin'!") so that morning hadn't been a total loss. It had been much more amusing than most, to some regard.
They'd carried on in silence then, wary eyes roving around their surroundings for any straggling Infected or creatures prowling on rooftops. Never mind searching for any signs of other survivors. As harsh as it sounded, another liability wasn't something they were looking for and there was no way of knowing how stable someone who had been alone in hell for so long would respond to other living human beings.
That all aside, there was almost something comforting in the way they all wandered around clumped together and protected one another without truly thinking about it now.
When it came to taking the vehicle, though, Coach had taken his sweet time in conceding while Rochelle tried not to look too hopeful and Nick had been as sour as ever, calling it a piss-poor idea. The SUV Ellis had rigged had taken them a decent number of blocks and hadn't brought forth that much of a horde due to the low rumble of the engine after he'd been able to cut off the short-lived alarm. It had let out quite a screech, but it had been worth it when they were able to save their feet from a few blisters and temporarily travel much faster. Ellis had even been able to drive, so there was another bonus there.
He'd tried to withhold the grin that sprouted from being able to put his hot-wiring skills to the test. Years of working in an auto shop had taught him a 'thing or two' about the inner workings of various vehicles—some similar to the one they'd been looking at— but he'd never had any true need to really screw with them.
The car ride had been as fun and relaxing as it could have been in the middle of an apocalypse and Nick hadn't bashed Ellis' head in a crowbar just yet, so all-in-all it had been fairly enjoyable.
At least, it had been until there was a familiar bull-like snort and the driver's side door was a bit too close to Ellis for comfort. Nick had had hardly enough time to yank him back before his head cracked against the car horn.
In retrospect, being jostled around the front seat of the SUV hadn't hurt as much as the scathing look in Nick's eyes that might as well have screamed I told you so.
The look was gone just as quickly as it had appeared, its owner too caught up in firing into the mass that was throwing itself against their 'borrowed' transportation and trying to get to its closet victim, who just so happened to be the Southerner Coach was working to pull out of the seat.
There hadn't been much of a horde and Ellis had somehow managed to slam his door against the Charger, but that had done little to soothe the mental blow that brought bother guilt and another threat to his friends' lives. Leave it to Ellis to feel like a screw-up not for the first time in his life.
He'd started to prove his worth again when he killed a Jockey going for Rochelle and the Hunter that had been edging closer to Nick when another familiar roar had filled their ears, replacing adrenaline with dread and the sounds of gunfire with shouts of Reloading!
Man up, we got a Tank!
Coach had been firing a clip into the hulking mass of muscle and flesh when Ellis was greeted with an unobstructed view of the sky before he was slammed into the ground with the wind knocked out of him what felt like a couple dozen times.
Maybe Rochelle had called out to him. He couldn't remember.
Holy shit it was so fast and he was running and running and he couldn't run any faster and his lungs were burning oh God why couldn't he run faster shit this thing was going to kill him—
That had been three hours ago.
Exhaustion, pained, low on ammo and lost, Ellis let himself collapse further into the wall of the former bar and grill behind him, letting the painkillers work their final course before they started fading. His feet ached from all that walking and running before and after the car incident, his ribs were presumably messed up from the door behind jammed into them, and his head and heart pounded out of the fear he'd been telling himself not to feel for a long time now.
He was afraid. For the first time in days, he was really, truly afraid.
Rubbing his side and breathing deeply, Ellis sat and waited.
To be saved or to be left on his own to die, he didn't know.
But he'd sure as hell have to find out.
A/N: I did edit this first chapter: it's completely different from what I had up initially, so I hope you enjoyed this more if you so-happened to read what was up before-hand.
The other three will come make an appearance in the next chapter. ouo
And Ellis is more or less screwed over for the most of the story. Just letting you know.