Ellis had plopped himself down beside Nick, in front of the fireplace. They'd found some firewood under a tarp in the back yard that afternoon.
"Yeah, kid?" Nick looked over at his companion, driven from his thoughts of what Rochelle had told him a few hours prior.
"You've been pretty happy today." It wasn't so much a statement as it was a question of why, "What I mean tuh say is that you haven't been yerself much today. Not that I mind, that you're beein' nice an' all," Ellis added quickly, "But I was wonderin' if there was somethin' wrong? Are you okay?"
Nick looked at Ellis questioningly, as the hicks concerned eyes met his. "Dammit, Ellis," thought Nick, "Do you WANT me to be a prick?"
A warm hand sliding over his gave him his answer. Nick held his breath, as the younger man carefully intertwined his fingers with Nick's.
"Ellis, have you ever had a moment when you had to admit something scary to yourself?"
"Like what?" asked Ellis, his eyes still trained on Nick.
Nick sighed, "Like, finding out something about yourself. Something you never wanted to know."
"I guess so," said Ellis, his voice quivering, as he began stroking Nick's hand with his thumb. Whatever the hick's intentions were with the sudden affection he'd been showing lately, it was obvious that he was nervous about it. Nick refused to believe that any good was going to come of it, but none the less, he let Ellis continue. "Like when the infection hit. My auntie Darla had stopped by for coffee with my momma. Everything was okay, until her eyes began to leak blood an' she charged at me. I had tuh put her out of her misery with my wrench. I learned that I could hurt people that day," he said solemnly. Nick let Ellis put his head on his shoulder for comfort, squeezing his hand, gently. "Or like the time that Keith and I went out lookin' for rattlesnakes, on acounna, Keith said they were real good to eat. I felt pretty fearless, I mean, I went hunnin' all the time. But man, them snakes aint like other animals. Not tuh me at least, 'cause, when we finally found one, it hissed at me real loud, an' I almost pissed myself. Keith made fun of me for months after that."
Nick just let the kid ramble on, sure the meaning of his question had been lost on him. He figured he'd try again after the holidays. It was probably better for Nick's pride that Ellis didn't know what he had meant anyway.
"And then, there was this time when I fell in love with the meanest son of a bitch I ever met," Nick's head shot up, suddenly. Ellis continued to prattle on, even faster than before, obviously embarrassed, yet unable to stop, "I never meant to neither. It just kinda…happened. I realized how come all of the harsh things that they said bothered me sometimes, when other people's insults never did, an' how flawed they really were, an' how badly they prolly jus' needed someone there for 'em, and why I couldn't stop looking into their eyes whenever we was talkin'. They're just so green and they drive me crazy, Nick. I couldn' help it, I'm so, so sorry."
Nick's heart raced, and he felt like throwing up again. Beginning to shake with emotion, he said the only thing his pessimism would let him, "That Zoey girl wasn't that mean, Overalls. A real bitch, maybe, but not the worst you've ever met, I'm sure."
"Nick…" came Ellis, obviously choked up, as his eyes filled with tears, "I wasen' talkin' about Zoey."
So he had understood.
And without another word, Nick pressed his lips against Ellis', holding the hick's face in the hand not preoccupied with holding Ellis'. The tight feeling that had been in his chest for so long seemed to spill out into the kiss, as Ellis pulled him closer, clinging onto Nick's shirt. It was like pain medication for all of the emotional stress he'd felt over Ellis for the past months, and he gave himself up to it completely.
When their faces were finally separated from one another's, Ellis buried his face into Nick's shoulder, wrapping his arms around his waist and shaking uncontrollably.
"Stop it, Overalls," Nick murmured, smiling into Ellis' cap, "All I did was kiss you, it wasn't that bad was it?"
"God, no, Nick. I jus' never though'-"
"Don't think, Ellis. It's not your strong suit."
Ellis backed up a few inches, smiling at Nick through tears, "I love you, Nick."
"I love you, too, Ellis." It felt so damn good to finally say those words. Ellis leaned in for another kiss, and Nick happily obliged, making sure to savor every moment of it.
"Come here," said Nick, moving to lie down on the pile of blankets they'd called a bed since staying there. Ellis did as he was told, snuggling as close as he could to the ex-conman.
"I suppose we should get some sleep," muttered Ellis, closing his eyes, as he enjoyed the body heat being exchanged between him and the man he loved, "After all, tomorrow's Christmas, and we only got one day left until we're back out in the world of zombies and murder again."
"I suppose so," replied Nick, closing his eyes. He didn't mind so much about what was ahead of them after tomorrow, though. Because, no matter what, he knew he'd have someone fighting at his side, and something worth fighting for.
The end! Hopefully my dumb, fluffy holiday story was satisfying! Reviews are welcome!