Southern Comfort.

A/N: WELL. Now then.
/slower updates from now on kinda-sorta-maybe. Need to take care of things and figure out where this story is going, exactly.
The ironic thing is that while I was writing the whole how-Ellis-feels-about-Zoey bit the song 'Making Memories of Us' came on. I mean really. |:

Also. You're all horrible people: when I asked about killing off any Survivors, I was kidding. And even if I did kill someone off, it would probably be one that you like. :D /kidding


12. These things take my time and energy.


"What are you doin' down there? We've got zombies to kill 'n shit."
Ellis


For the life of him, Ellis could not remember getting into the bed. Hell, he couldn't even remember waking up and getting off the couch. Apparently in his sleep induced haze he'd failed to notice Rochelle's absence, and as such had gone about emptying his bladder in the attached, dilapidated looking bathroom and then clambered into the bed that had thus far proven much more comfortable than the angry fibers he'd been sprawled across.

Zoey could be quite mobile while she slept, Ellis had quickly learned. Truth be told, he only woke up because her fist had bopped him in the nose, thankfully interrupting his sleep and dream that had consisted of being choked to death by a Smoker. Attempting to move out of her line of fire he shifted just so, trying not to jostle her at all and was instead rewarded by an arm draped across his chest.

The mechanic froze as her fingers twitched, almost fingering the thin gauze pad Coach had told him to keep wearing beneath his shirt. The girl turned, pressing her nose his uninjured side and he swore she could probably feel his heart thud against it. The boy cursed under his breath as he felt her own beat against his bicep, it being successfully pinned between them and beneath her from where she was lying on it.

Ellis glanced around the motel room, eying the door that connected to the one the other four men had bunked in and all the while wondering where the hell Rochelle was.

"Ro..." he began to call out to her, if only to determine where she was before they all drifted back off to sleep.

Ellis spent the next ten minutes slowly trying to worm his way off of the bed in order to return to his couch; Zoey spent the next ten moving around in her sleep.

It wasn't that he particularly minded their close contact (well, okay, maybe a little), but rather he didn't want to be in the same bed as her when she woke up and have her think he was being too forwardoh god, what if Francis or one of the others walked in and thought he was trying to take advantage of her? With that in mind he made it his goal to extract himself from the arm encircling him, chocking it up to the many challenges he'd taken part in with his buddies.

"Alright El, I dare ya ta get outta the bed," he muttered to himself. In saying so he was reminded of the sarcastic dares that had once been while he was in high school when it came to girls and advances. Mr. I'm-Three-Years-Older-Than-You-And-Therefore-Have-More-Experience-Than-You-Do Keith had at times cracked jokes about his lack of a girlfriend, even though he himself could hardly hold down a relationship of his own. "Challenge accepted."

Ellis had just lightly grasped her wrist when Zoey made a sudden noise in the back of her throat. She frowned and he stilled until she sighed and made herself comfortable again. It wasn't until the girl sighed and started practically nuzzling his chest that Ellis finally stopped to think.

This was Zoey. This was the girl he'd only know for maybe five days topsonly four of which he truly remembered, even though one was a blur of running through a mall and stealing a carbut he still found that he really, really liked her. Keith would have told him that the best way to go about telling Zoey was to stop dancing around egg shells and just do it, but he still hadn't as of yet for fear of coming across as too intense. Then again, Nick had pretty much blown it for him anyway.

He knew he needed to tone it down and take it slow before he scared her but they didn't really have a lot of options at the time

The young man gave a soft groan and ran his hand down his face at the thought, his annoyance disrupted by the quiet sniff from the girl curled into his side and then Ellis found himself truly looking at her. Five days ago he had called her prettyan angelyes, and he would stand by that statement because he thought it was true. And might he add that she looked much...calmer while she was asleep. There was no frown or scowling, no anger or annoyed gnawing at a lower lip, just a relaxed, calm look as her breathing slowed and evened.

Ellis did have to admit that, given enough time and well-executed opportunities, he could get used to waking up like this.

Catching himself staring and starting to fantasize about a zombie-less world he looked away blushing, his heart still hammering away in his ribcage.

There was no use in planning out a future with the girl if that wasn't something that she wantedhow could he do that? Sure he was allowed to have his little daydreams and the like, but still. He needed to ensure that she liked him that way and if she didn't...

...well she didn't. He couldn't make her.

Zoey's brow twitched in time with his sigh.

No, he couldn't make her like him, but if she didn't that would just...majorly suck. Ellis was not the sort of man to go around chasing skirts, despite the quips with some of his friends from his teenage years and the only time he liked a girl was when he liked a girl, not just because everyone else had a girlfriend and he'd be the odd one out if he didn't or because she was pretty.

He'd been the butt of enough jokes about his lack of a girlfriend the first two years of high school and he'd be damned if he was going to let that get to him now. Besides, he'd been the victim of that damn friend-zone more times than he cared to count. (Only three times, Ellis. Calm your shit.)

Zoey shifted again, bringing his attention back to the present.

"Focus, Ellis," he hissed to himself, trying to wave away the mental image of his first 'official' girlfriend from the summer just after sophomore yearRebekka. Her name had been Rebekka and she'd been kinda pretty and"God damnit, Ellis! Come on!"

The Savannahite moved just barely, and the girl's arm curled in on itself atop his chest. He watched the motion in silence, his eyes trailing up from the wrist to few loose hairs curled against her neck before his gaze settled upon her face once more. Again, it was hard to ignore that tiny pang that made it painfully obvious just how he felt about her.

He'd kissed her the night before and, timid little fool that he was, had booked it out of there as fast as he could (which had been quite fast for a man with a bullet hole in his side). As far as he knew Zoey hadn't had a problem with it, but neither of them had brought it up in the car while the others had been asleep. Well, he'd more or less told Nick and the others back when they were all debating separating and sticking together...and it was fairly obvious what Ellis thought of Zoey and it was therefore presumably no big secret what had happened between the two. And if he'd been able to kiss her once maybe he could

Without much preamble the college student suddenly rolled away from him, flopping onto her back as she let a deep breath out through her nose.

That gave him an idea—not a brilliant idea, but an idea nonetheless.

It was a simple, quick, and presumably stupid gesture, but he was suddenly overcome with the urge to brush Zoey's hair away from her face, if only to smooth out the frown lines that were beginning to form on her recently calm features and as if there was truly something going on between them. (Oh lord, El, why.) Swallowing and attempting to steel his nerve, Ellis managed to prop himself up on his left elbow, rolling onto his good side as he timidly reached forward. He was balanced precariously on the edge of the bed, putting some strain on his wound as he twisted and realizing that she'd either wake up and somewhat appreciate the gesture or see him as a pervert that liked watching her sleep.

The mechanic was definitely hoping for the former.

A soft grunt escaped his lips as he gently shifted, and his finger tips were about to brush against the few strands clumped against her forehead when he abruptly halted. This was being too forward. He honestly had no right to touch her in any manner other than helping her off the ground or maybe some quick help with a few bandages; other than that there was really nothing he could do without her consent.

Rightfully conflicted, the boy continued to hover for a moment before he finally made up his mind with a blunt nod to himself. Still balanced on his elbow, Ellis turned away, he made to sit up and swing his feet over the edge in order to either go hunt for Rochelle or return to his couch for a few more hours of R&R.

Zoey then proceeded to sharply turn back and practically shove him.

With nothing to grab onto for leveragehe couldn't very well reach out for the girlthe mechanic was sent tumbling over the edge of the bed with a startled yelp. This cry awoke his attacker, and she then sat up with her own bewildered look, finding herself alone. and gently calling out for her comrade.

"Ellis?"

His response was little more than harsh gasp as his stitches burst when he hit the floor.

And then Rochelle screamed.


Rochelle had only gotten up due to the fact that she hadn't even been able to sleep to begin with. She'd been able to doze for roughly an hour or so, but movement from Zoey and the nagging feeling that no one was keeping watch had made her restless and up and moving in no time.

The fact that she was hungry was just an added bonus, having forgone a granola bar that she'd been offered before been and instead practically shoving it down Ellis' throat.

Chewing idly at bits of chocolate in the bar she'd snagged from her pack, the woman sat perched just outside the hotel room, now holding her dinner in one hand and gun in the other. Georgia's humid midnight air had her shirt clinging to her back as she ran the back her fist across her forehead, scanning the parking lot and surrounding walkway while the alarmed car flashed dangerously beneath her.

Rochelle took a final bite and shoved the wrapper into her pocket and checked the ammunition in her gun, reprimanding herself for having ventured out on her own. She leaned against the wall and kept her ears trained for any and all unwelcome sounds, Ellis having been so adamant about hearing a Smoker back on the highway and she having no plans of being caught off guard.

Francis was just lucky that she didn't blast his head off when he came wandering out of another room.

"Damn," she cursed lightly to herself, lowering her weapon as he his hands. The man chuckled softly and scratched at the side of neck absently, waiting for her to continue. "You couldn't sleep either?"

"Had to take a leak," he muttered before realizing how crude he sounded. Rochelle didn't seem to really care. "And the toilet in our room is kinda..."

"Ew," the producer pulled a face.

Francis shrugged. "'Least the door closes; Colonel Sanders had a hissy fit, though."

Rochelle pretty much giggled at that, and he took it as an incentive to keep talking.

"So what's a pretty young thing like you doing out in the dark alone?"

She wasn't sure whether to take that as a compliment or a jest, so she instead blushed and held up her gun. The biker nodded, tiling his head just enough to expose the butt of his own shotgun. "I didn't really like the idea of no one keeping watch so I thought I'd do it. It's been kind of...boring, actually."

Francis was about to say something when the sound of movement caught their attention, both turning slightly to the tune of shuffling and someone muttering. Rochelle quirks a 'brow and Francis looked none too thrilled as they eyed the door to the room that Zoey and Ellis had been left alone in. Where the woman was a bit amused something in the man's face darkened and he had half a mind to break the door down.

And he actually was about to when there came a sudden yelp followed by someone hitting the floor.

"What the hell—"

"Augh!" Rochelle's scream interrupted his rather annoyed inquiry and he glanced over just in time to watch her stumbled backwards as an elongated tongue wrapped around her torso, jamming her rifle into her stomach.

"Ro!" he shouted, lunging forward and trying to find purchase on the nasty appendage.

"Let go, let go!" she chanted and jerked as the Smoker gave another tug. The ruckus they were causing had successfully awoken the others, the zombie's grip on the woman loosening significantly as Coach came barreling out of his hotel room and slammed into it in a manner much like his college ball years.

Nick followed in hot pursuit, wrenching the slimy tongue off of Rochelle and leaving her to tumble forward into Francis while Louis had managed to limp out and jam his fist into the side of the Smoker's face, expelling a rancid smell cloud of green as it wheezed.

The five were left to their own coughing fits, pawing blindly for one another and Rochelle's assailant. There came a gunshot followed by an angry hack, each of them ducking out of reflex.

The puff of gas dispelled slowly, giving Zoey enough time to shift her aim from the Smoker's wounded shoulder to its head, about to pull the trigger again only to be thrown off balance when another one of its tongues lashes out, this time looping around Francis.

"Aw, hell—!" the biker swore, gritting his teeth as the others were sent reeling on impact. The zombie began back-pedaling, its injured arm flailing as it veered toward the edge.

Louis was the first to snatch at it, Coach helping Nick and Rochelle back to their feet as Zoey grabbed at a black vest.

"Shit, hell, car!" he cried, the Smoker aiming for the railing.

They each failed to notice or mention the way Ellis practically tripped out to meet them, one hand clamped to his side as Coach and Louis' hands grabbed at nothing. The Smoker flung itself off of the walkway and threatened to take a struggling Francis with it; with no other options Nick dove at it, he and the men beside grabbing onto the tongue and leaving the Smoker suspended as the two women practically tackled the ensnared man.

To do his part, the mechanic reached forward and wound the arm that wasn't clutched to his chest around the 'awesome biker dude' and heaved himself backward. His whimpers of pain were lost amidst the shouts to not let go and not let the Smoker hit the alarmed car it was dangling above.

The damned thing was just being spiteful, really. Their grips on the tongue were already slipping and then its mottled, pupil-less eye met green ones.

"Oh, you little son of a bitch—" Nick cursed it.

And then it bit off its own tongue.

They were all sent onto their asses (Francis landed on Ellis, garnering a yell from the younger) and momentarily disoriented.

The sound of the alarm was deafening and the cry of the on-coming horde more so.

Over the din of screams and high-pitched wailing, Ellis could vaguely make out the hurried instructions of grab shit and run! These were hurriedly followed as people scrambled to their feet, those that could dashing into nearby rooms and hoisting packs onto their backs and loading their arms with weapons.

They took off running and limping, dashing along the walkway and firing a few rounds down below or behind them as a few Infected got a bit too close for their liking. Nick vaulted himself through a broken window after Rochelle and then turned to snag the mechanic's wrist and yank the young Georgian after him.

The trip down the stairs wasn't overly 'fun,' and even Zoey reached out for him, her expression faltering at his current state of duress and blaming herself for his ruined stitches.

"Hurry up, y'all!" Coach shouted, firing into the mass of zombies as they scurried around to the back of the motel. Francis was quickly reloading his own shotgun as Nick released his grip on Ellis the slid a clip into the gun he'd extracted from his waistband. "And watch'cherself on this slope 'ereshit!"

"Coach!"

Without much thought as to his own well-being, the other Savannahite tore away from the college dropout and flung himself at the elder man now tumbling down the steep hill, fingers just brushing against his sleeve before he too began falling.

"Ellis!"

The trip to the bottom was short yet painful, limbs flying every which way as he slid through the mud and gave himself a good few whacks, shouting all the way down it. He'd just rammed into Coach as the others came slip-sliding toward them, the horde beginning its own descent.

"C'mon, c'mon, get up!" the would-be reporter commanded, Ellis cursing into the mud as Nick hooked his hands under his armpits and took note of the way his eyes screwed shut in pain.

"Holy shit, you alright?" Louis was asking, taking a moment to open fire on the crowd rushing at them as Francis and Zoey helped heaved their eldest to his feet.

"Chat later!" the gambler growled, hoisting the youngest male up. "Let's just focus on getting the hell out of here!"

"This way!" Zoey barked, jerked her pistol (Nick hadn't decided to give it back to her yet, so where the hell did she get both of them?) in the general direction of what looked to be like another hill and a bunch of trees. The conman just exchanged a look with Rochelle that told him where she'd gotten the guns and scowled. Zoey clearly picked up on this. "Trust me!"

He ground his teeth but took off after her and the other anyway, practically dragging Ellis along. "I don't!"

The girl ignored this remark, too focused on getting up the next slope to grant him a smart response and grabbing at branches rather than his neck. Coach reached down and grabbed her hand and pulled her up as they reached the crest, Francis doing the same for Rochelle and Louis.

Nick practically threw Ellis over the edge.

Taking the rear, the suited man whirled around and shot at the Commons still stumbling after them, giving the others time to clear the fenced in lot they'd come into and make a beeline for the rather small storage shack in front of an amusement park the hick obviously recognized.

"'Ey, Whisperin' Oaks," he murmured, limping after Rochelle and Zoey as they charged into what they were going to deem their newest safe room, Nick coming up behind them quickly.

"Toldja we'd make it," Coach replied, clapping a hand on the younger man's back and then instantly regretting it at the flash of pain across his face. He didn't have any time to apologize for before a pair of hands shoved him through the door and dragged the boy in behind him.

Louis was leaning against the wall and panting, the beads of sweat on his forehead mirroring everyone else's as he grinned; Francis joined Nick in shoving a crates and crates against the door to serve as a blockade. It was Rochelle who first noticed Ellis collapsing in the corner and the first to verbalize her worry.

"Ellis!" she exclaimed, dropping her gun on another table and almost diving to the floor beside him. "What happened?"

Nick was, of course, one of the only ones to catch the flash of guilt that flickered through Zoey's eyes.

She made it a point to avoid his gaze and instead tore her bag from her back to begin digging through it.

"Stitches...side..." the boy wheezed, hand clamped to his still-healing wound. "I think I...tore...ow."

He swore up a storm then, his eyes screwed shut as the biker also crouched before him. "Hey kid, how many fingers?"

His eyelids fluttered open to momentarily take in the three digits being waved in front of his face and he frowned with a jokingly annoyed, "I dun like this game."

Ellis' chin ducked into his chest as Rochelle pawed at his side, leaving him to zone out to the tune of guttural yelps and fists pounding against the door.