"I love him."
"What?" Zoey's head turned sharply to look at Ellis, eyes full of confusion. It was close to the end of their watch, Rochelle and Coach would be there to take their spots at any moment.
"I love him," Ellis repeated, the soft light coming through the poorly boarded up window reflecting in his blue eyes. He stared, determinedly at Zoey. Hurting her wasn't his objective, but he wanted her to know, for sure, that he knew what he was talking about. He didn't need her trying to convince him otherwise.
Zoey's eyes widened in surprise, "Who." It wasn't a question. She knew what Ellis had meant, but wanted him to say it one more time.
"I love him, Zoey. I'm in love with Nick. An' I need to do something about it, because he's hurtin'. He's hurtin' so badly 'cause a' me, and I'm not gonna let him hurt anymore. I love him more than anything in the world, an' he deserves t' know it," Ellis said, sternly, daring her to retort. He wasn't fucking around anymore. He'd messed around with Nick like a stupid teenager for long enough.
"I know," he cut her off. It felt as if his chest were caving in. He'd pushed his limit, breaking Nick's in the process. He glanced back through the window at the conman, who was still sitting in the entryway, staring up blankly at the ceiling. He had done that. He had turned the unequivocal, strong, and angry man he had fallen so very in love with into a bleak, fightless mass of misery. He was sorry. He had been immature and selfish, never understanding what Nick really needed from him. Now he knew. He just hoped it wasn't too late, "I know more about him than you ever will, Zoey. An' that's been the problem from the start. I gave him up to impress you. And in the end it only hurt me and everyone left that I care about."
Zoey looked at the ground, irritably, "He doesn't love you back, Ellis. He's probably not capable of it."
"You're wrong," Ellis snapped, "You've been wrong from the start, an' I don't even know who to blame. Probably myself, because I tried to deny Nick what he really needed, and myself what I've wan'ed all along." It was his turn to feel broken. For so long he had tried to convince himself that he had wanted Zoey. She was a cute girl who was nice to him. What more did anyone need, right? But he had been childish. She wasn't enough, and she never would be. Not after he had been exposed to the raw ache Nick had made him feel ever since the day they had met on the rooftop of that hotel in Georgia. Crushes and stomach butterflies could never compare to it. Nick's dry wit, his ferocity, his talent, and his awkward generosity burned throughout Ellis. He could feel a pained scream, clinging to the back of his throat, and if noise wasn't the infected's main trigger, he would have let it out right then. He wasn't angry with Zoey, he was angry with himself for not accepting everything sooner.
Zoey blinked, not necessarily looking hurt, but certainly looking upset. She let him continue, though.
"Before you joined the group, a few months back, we had an incident with a helicopter pilot. He was the second one to die on us, too," he said, softly, looking down at his feet, "I was so sure we'd get outta here at last. I was so tired of runnin', Zoey. I still am."
Zoey looked on in confusion, and although her eyes softened, he wasn't sure just how much she understood.
"Nick saved me in a way I don' think anyone else could, that night, because I broke, Zoey. I was so fuckin' broken," he sighed, "He held me, an' talked to me in a way that I'd never heard before. He gave me hope and made me want to give hope more strongly than I ever..." he could feel tears stinging at his eyes, as the memories of defeat and fear threatened to surround him. He looked back at Nick, finding his anchor in the older man, before becoming steady enough to continue, "The reason I know you're wrong 'bout him is because he did tell me he loved me that night. I just didn' realize it. I didn' know how. I know now."
Just then, the door creaked open, and Rochelle stepped outside, followed by Coach.
"How is it out here?" asked Rochelle, but Ellis jumped up, quickly and pushed past her, into the entry way where Nick still was. He didn't bother to glance back at Zoey, no longer caring if he had convinced her or not. This wasn't about her anymore. He would apologize for his insecurities and the way their friendship had played out at a later date. Right then, there was only one thing he wanted and only one person he needed.
Slowly, Nick moved his head to see Ellis approaching him at a fast pace. He sighed inwardly, hoping that nothing was said during Zoey and the southerner's watch that would cause any more tension between them. It had torn the two men up enough already. Suddenly, Nick felt a body collide with his, and Ellis was crouched in the older man's lap. Before he could respond, Ellis had grabbed hold of his shirt collar, and yanked the conman forward, slamming their lips together, savagely. Nick whimpered in shock, head spinning, too astonished to move.
Roughly, Ellis pulled his face a couple of inches from Nicks, piercing blue eyes staring directly into his green ones, tears beginning to trickle down his cheeks. Nick instinctively moved to wipe them away, still gawking at the man he adored.
"You," Ellis hissed stormily, voice barely above a whisper, "It's always been you."
With Ellis' words, Nick could feel his own hot, wet tears of relief, running carelessly down the sides of his face. And with them seemed to go all of the pent up hurt, frustration, and confusion the past weeks had hammered into him. Him? Ellis was choosing him? The heartless monster that never did anything for the good of anyone but himself. He, the liar, the gambler, and the asshole who nobody wanted around. The kindest, and most beautiful person he had ever known, Ellis, wanted him.
It was Nick's turn to initiate kissing Ellis, and he did so, letting out a sound of genuine joy as he pulled him closer, repeatedly grasping at the younger man's lips with his own, only truly breaking apart when neither could breathe any longer.
"I love you, Nick. Only you. And I'm so, so sorry it took me this long to do somethin' about it," Ellis said, pressing his forehead to Nick's jaw, "I didn' understand before, what makes love; actual love. But I do now."
"That's all that matters, kid," replied Nick, running his fingers through Ellis' soft hair, placing his beloved cap in his lap, "You're my saving grace, you know that? I love you, Ellis."
"Saving grace, huh?" chuckled Ellis, breathing in Nick scent, running the bridge of his nose across his jawline.
"You make me want to be something more, Ellis. You take all of these parts of me, and make me want to fight to do something worthwhile with them. I want to live because you believe in me. Your traits, beautiful, perfect traits; your determination, your kindness, your outlook, your spirit, they make me feel alive," Nick whispered, "I've always wanted to tell you that."
"I feel the same," Ellis murmured into Nick's neck, "I just haven't been able to realize it until recently."
"El, I'm a scamming, no-good, pessimist," laughed Nick, squeezing his love's shoulder.
"No," said Ellis, "You're blunt, but honest about how you feel, and you're strong, Nick, real strong, and smart, and…incredible. You're like an untamable storm, Nick. That's how I've always seen yeh."
Nick felt his chest tighten with adoration. Ellis really did think that highly of him, didn't he? His breath hitched, as the southerner gazed up at him, sincerity and absolute exaltation in his eyes.
"I've always seen you as that way too," said Nick, leaning down and placing another kiss on Ellis' lips, "An untamable storm, ready to take on anything."
"We'll take it on together," promised Ellis.
The two survivors held one another like that until morning, where they would, as always, be fighting life and limb just for the right to see another day. Somehow, though, things seemed far more hopeful.
They had found enough hope and enough love in each other to believe in life after Hell. That was what made them strong. Ellis and Nick lover each other for who they were, truly and completely. And in with that, they felt as if they could take on anything.
Yeah, finally finished with that one, huh? I honestly didn't know for a while if I could pull it out, but I'm really glad I did. Thanks for sticking with me for all of this time.