Welp, my first ever Nellis fic. Valve owns the boys, and the lady, and the zombies. I know it's not really anywhere near Christmas as I write this, but knowing me, by the time it's done, it will be.

"Got your cookies, got your milk! Got mah shotgun trained on the chimney!"

"Hey, Overalls!" Nick called to Ellis, as he made is way down the stairs of the safehouse the two survivors and their companions had decided to stay at for the time being.

"Stole mah woman and all I want for Christmas is to kick your ass!" The hick belted out, pretending the bloody axe he was holding was a guitar.

"Ellis!" Nick snapped. The kid had been singing that song for the past two days now, along with a variation of other, equally irritating Christmas songs. The Midnight Riders carol was definitely Ellis' favorite, though. Seeing as it was only two days before Christmas (at least they thought it was), this wasn't surprising.

"Oh, hey Nick!" greeted Ellis, giving the ex-conman one of his signature 1,000 watt smiles.

Nick shook his head. The kid was definitely irritating at times, but no one could ever stay annoyed for long with the joy and positivity that practically radiated off of him. It had deeply affected all members of their little makeshift family, but none more so than Nick, who had been such a cynical bastard when he had first met the three other survivors on the hotel rooftop, back in Savannah, Georgia. Sure, he still took jabs at Coach's love of food and Ellis' simple-mindedness, but, he couldn't help but admit, after several months of chasing CEDA around with the three, that they weren't really all that bad. And, while the situation was grim, at least they were all together. At least he had…friends.

It was strange to think about. Having friends. People who would lay down their lives for him, and, even though he'd never openly admit it, he would do the same for them in a heartbeat.

"Coach and I are gonna see if we can find a small pine tree to drag back here. You in?"

Ellis' eyes grew wide with excitement, "You mean, we're gonna have us a Christmas tree in the middle of a zombie infestation?"

He nodded.

The hick bounced up and down a little on the balls of his feet, "You bet!"

Nick smiled. In all honesty, the attempt to get a Christmas tree was his idea. He knew how happy it would make Ellis. Nick didn't know when he had gotten so sentimental, especially where Ellis was involved. He had caught himself going out of his way to make Ellis happy over the last two months or so. Not to say he didn't still snap at the kid, or mock him when his attitude got too obnoxious for Nick to handle, but he found himself trying harder and harder to please Ellis despite that. Sometimes he'd catch himself giving out too many compliments on the kid's shooting, or trying to hand him a bottle of pain meds when he clearly didn't need them. He found himself occasionally letting Ellis finish one of his stories about his friend Keith, or teasing him in non-offensive ways, his chest getting a strange, but pleasant tightening feeling all the while. He became extremely irritated with himself in these moments. It would have been fine if he had been doing the same for Rochelle and Coach, but he hadn't. It had taken a turn for the worst when he had found himself playing with the hick's hair one night, as he, Rochelle, and Ellis huddled close one cold night, before they fell asleep. Coach, who had been on watch, gave the ex-conman an odd look, as Nick affectionately stroked the sleeping Ellis' sandy locks. Nick, who was horrified with himself, quickly drew his hand away, and pretended to go to sleep, a sinking feeling beginning to grow in his stomach.

"Nick, could you help me out, here!" called the loving, motherly voice of Rochelle, as she came out of the room upstairs with two cardboard boxes labeled "X-MAS". Nick was grateful for the distraction. That feeling in his chest had started to come back.

Nick took one of the boxes from Rochelle and brought it down the stairs, setting it on the small table next to Ellis.

Excitedly, Ellis tore open the box, grinning at what was inside, "We hit the jackpot, guys! Lookit all these dec'rations!" The hick pulled out a silver bulb. "Our tree is gonna be the pudyest Christmas tree for miles!"

"It'll be the only Christmas tree for miles," commented Nick.

"Well I haven't seen many zombies 'round here. Maybe they're celebratin', too"

The reason they hadn't seen the infected for a while was probably because they had all died from the cold, but Nick couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of a witch and jocky under the mistletoe, before a deep voice called out from upstairs, "Catch!"

Coach threw the boys a pair of coats and gloves, "Found these in the closet upstairs," he said, making his way over to them, already dressed in his winter gear.

Nick and Ellis quickly got dressed, as Coach picked up the axe Ellis had been playing with before. "Hopefully this doesn't make too much noise," he muttered. Nick suddenly felt a tug around his neck. Turning, around, he saw a smirking Ellis, who had snared Nick with a blue and white knitted scarf.

Nick could feel his face quickly heating up. If Ellis were to pull the scarf just a little more…he felt a shiver run through his body, and his mind began to wander.

"Nick?" came the hick's voice, sheepishly.

"Hm?" Nick blinked, pulling him from his thought.

"Yer stairin' at me funny."

"Just staring off into space, Overalls" said Nick, hurriedly pulling the scarf from Ellis and wrapping it around himself.

"Looked like you's 'bout to pounce on me, like a hun'er or somethin'" laughed Ellis.

Nicks face flushed even more, as Rochelle giggled, handing Nick his pistol, and Ellis his hunting rifle.

"Better be careful I don't tear you apart like one, too," growled Nick.

"Aw, Ah was jus' teasin', Nick. No reason to get mad at me," sulked Ellis.

"Ready?" asked Coach, as he scanned the land for the infected.

"Ready!" said Ellis, Nick's anger quickly forgotten.

"Let's move out, then," commanded Coach, once he was satisfied with the empty terrain.

They made it to the edge of a nearby forest without much trouble. They had spotted a smoker off in the distance, but Ellis had killed it, and they hadn't had any issues since. Ellis ran up to one of the trees and picked happily at a few of its needles.

"We can't bring a really tall one back to the safehouse, since there's not much room," said Nick to Ellis, "But other than that, you can pick any one you want."

"Jeez, Nick, you're gettin' soft," chuckled Coach, as Ellis excitedly scanned the forest for his favorite tree, "First you suggest we have Christmas in an apocalypse, and now you're lettin' him pick out the tree? I thought you didn't like thinking about others."

"Come on, Coach, we all want Christmas. And it's not like the kid wouldn't be the one to pick it out, anyway," said Nick, defensively, trying not to snap.

Coach rolled his eyes and smirked. He had seen too much for Nick to be able to cover his tracks.

"Getting' a tree was YOUR idea, Nick?" asked Ellis, slightly baffled.

"Yeah. It was," said Nick, the tightening in his chest coming back, as Ellis looked up at him. His bright blue eyes were even more gorgeous in the moonlight. It hurt to breath. Nick cursed himself.

"Wow, Nick. ah never pegged ya for the cheery, holiday-lovin' sort," jabbed Ellis, snarkily.

"I'm not," snapped Nick, "I just figured it would be nice to forget the damn zombies and do something close to normal for once."

Suddenly, Nick felt Ellis wrap his arms around him, as the younger man pulled him into a bone-crushing hug.

"Thanks, Nick."

"Uh…sure, kid. You're welcome," muttered Nick, sure his face was flushed, as he quickly patted Ellis on the shoulder, before shrugging him off, "You and Coach are doing most of the work, anyway."

"Hah! That's what YOU think!" laughed Coach, "Who do you think is dragging the thing back? It sure ain't gonna be me."

Nick groaned, "Ellis, could you maybe pick out one of those little Charlie Brown trees?"

But, Ellis was nowhere to be seen.

"Hey, Overalls, where'd you get to?" shouted Nick, into the forest.

"Ah think ah found it!" came Ellis' voice.

Nick and Coach made their way through the trees, toward Ellis to find him standing beside a five foot blue spruce. He smiled at his two friends.

"I never saw a blue Christmas tree before!"

"You sure you want this one, Ellis?" asked Nick. Blue spruces were notorious for having incredibly sharp needles. Sharp needles that would dig into Nicks skin all the way back to the safehouse.

"Yup, ahm sure!" said Ellis.

Coach started to hack away at the tree's trunk with his axe.

"The things I do for you, Overalls…" thought Nick, irritated, as he began to drag the tree by what was left of its trunk.

"You know, this reminds me of one Christmas, when ah was 'bout nine years old, me n' Keith were in the Christmas pageant at our church, and he wanted to play Joseph, on account of Lily Wilson was playin' Mary, and he wanted to play her husband, cuz he had a crush on her. Instead, he got stuck as one of the shepards, jus' like me. Dylan Kurts got to play Joseph, and, man, oh man, was Keith pissed…."

Nick really wasn't listening to Ellis. He was too busy dragging the kid's damn tree. Why had he agreed to do this again?

Ellis turned to Nick, giving him a big grin, "...And that's how come Keith ended up at the hospital Christmas Eve with six stitches! Though, Ahm sure having Christmas in a zombie apocalypse is gonna be a way better story than a fight at a crummy play! Because it was yer idea, Nick! You're pretty smart sometimes, you know." His eyes lit up with hope and excitement. Nick's heart began to thud hard against his chest. It wasn't because of the added strain of the tree, either.

Right. That was why.

Nick suddenly felt something cold and wet on the tip of his nose. He looked up to see-

"ALRIGHT! SNOW!" yelled Ellis, stretching out his arms to catch as many of the flakes as possible.

It was coming down in a pretty thick flurry. "Great," grunted Nick, "Now I have to deal with lugging the tree in the snow."

"Ain't that a beautiful sight," smile Coach, looking around.

"Either of you two ever seen snow?" asked Nick. They were both from Savannah, after all.

"Sometimes it snowed, but not much, an' it always jus' melted right away. It was definitely never like this," replied Ellis.

The wind was picking up, and the flakes were getting heavier. It was becoming a hassle to drag the damn tree. "It's getting kind of crazy out here," muttered Nick, "The wind almost sounds like it's-"

Nick froze, as he heard a low growl, a pair of glowing orange orbs becoming visible a small handful of yards ahead.

"Ellis!" Nick hissed, noticing that Coach had stopped as well.

"What?" asked the Southerner, getting ever close to the witch in front of them.

"Get the hell back over here! You want to startle her?"

"Startle wh-"

Ellis had run into something. Nick could have sworn that his heart stopped.

"ELLIS!" Nick screamed, dropping their tree, and dashing toward the southerner, as the witch let out a violent shriek and lunged at Ellis. Nick pulled out his pistol and began emptying his clip into her, causing the witch to focus her attention on Nick, instead of her first victim. Coach was close behind, axe in hand.

Before Coach could take his first swing, though, the witch had already knocked Nick onto his back, tearing through his coat to reach the soft flesh underneath. He couldn't see anything. Just the snowfall, turning into a blizzard and the witch's blood-stained claws. Then, everything went blurry, until everything went dark, and all he could feel was his warm blood all over his torso and the snowflakes landing on his cheeks, and all he could hear was Ellis' screams.

"He tries to do somethin' nice for once, an' he gets himself killed!"

"Hush now, sweetie. He's not going to die. Crying won't get him nowhere."

"Ah can't help it, Ro. He's dyin' and it was all jus' to protect me. If Ah would have just listened…"

"Ro? Ellis?" The words were scarcely a whisper. He could hear them. He knew it was them. But they seemed…far off, somehow. His head was pounding, too. He dared to open his eyes, only to find the room spinning.

"Where am I?" He grunted, once things seemed still.

"Nick, you're okay!" Ellis came into his vision, as the younger man smiled at him through puffy, bloodshot eyes. It was safe to assume he'd been crying.

"Hey, there, Fireball," Nick greeted, weakly. He noticed the carefully wrapped bandages around Ellis' bare chest. Obviously Rochelle's work. The kid looked okay, just a little scratched. He was definitely able to move, seeing as he was instantly beside Nick, face buried in his neck. Nick forgot to breathe for a moment.

"Ah was so worried 'bout you, Nick. You have no idea. Ah thought you was gonna die fer sure." Ellis began to sob.

Nick forced himself to sit up, despite both his wounds and Rochelle's protests. He looked down, noticing the slightly sloppy, but efficient handywork of Coach's stitching and bandaging. "Easy, there, Fireball. Everything's alright now. I've got you." He cradled Ellis in his arms, running his fingers through the younger man's hair and rubbing soothing circles onto his back. If his heart beat any faster, Nick was sure he was going to puke it up.

"Ah wish ah woulda listened to you, Nick. You got hurt trying to protect me," Ellis whimpered, shaking against Nick.

"Hey, it's okay. You didn't see her in time. None of us did. Besides, Ellis, you're worth dying for." He hadn't meant for that last part to slip out. He could tell he was going to get shit for it when Rochelle gave him an evil smirk and walked upstairs for the two of them to be alone.

"Y-you really feel that way, Nick? About me? That Ahm worth dyin' for?"

"Yes," he breathed, too exhausted to put up a front.

"Ah always thought you jus' put up with me….Yuh know…for the team." Ellis looked at Nick, his blue orbs practically absorbing every feeling behind Nick's green ones.

"Maybe I felt that way once, Ellis. But things change. People change." Nick held either side of the hick's face, thumbing away a few stray tears. All of the emotion in Ellis' eyes called out to him in a way nothing else ever had before. He bit his lip with uncertainty. Then, he spotted something in the corner of the room.

"You saved the tree, too?" smiled Nick, gazing at the blue spruce.

"Yeah," said Ellis, a little calmer, picking up his trucker cap where he had left it on the floor, "Ah didn't want to leave it behind, so ah dragged it, despite my injuries an' all. They aren't half as bad as they coulda been, thanks to you."

"You plan on decorating it?" asked Nick.

"Naw. Not now. We still have a whole day ahead of us before it's Christmas," smiled Ellis. "Ah just wanna sleep."

And with that, Ellis pulled Nick down to the makeshift bed on the floor and pressed his nose against the ex-conman's jaw.

"Goodnight, Ellis," murmured Nick.

"'Night, Nick"

Review and stuff. Also I love blue spruce trees :3