Nick slipped the key into the lock of the door, twisting it until it clicked. However, it took a good, firm shove of the shoulder in order for the door to budge any. The conman staggered inside, his partner stepping in beside him, and they surveyed their new living space.
The apartment wasn't a grand affair, by any means. It was really no bigger than the average apartment, with a kitchenette in one corner and a bed in the opposite one, separated by a ratty couch and a very simplistic TV. There was only one other door in the apartment: one near the front door that led the way into the bathroom.
"Whoa," said Ellis as he walked further into their new home, dropping his shoulder bag to the floor that held what was left of his personal belongings. "This is…" He struggled for the right word, aware of Nick standing behind him. "…Cosy."
"It's a shithole," snapped the conman and closed the door behind them, dumping his holdall to the ground next to Ellis' bag. He grimaced at the gross damp patch on the ceiling, wondering just when this place had last been given a damn good clean. His whole form slumped defeated onto the couch, his head falling into his hands.
"Aw, c'mon now, Nick. It ain't that bad." Ellis smiled at him, knowing it usually helped to be on the bright side, and took another good look around their new abode. "Hey, at least we've got a double bed. Makes a hell of a change from the couches we were sleepin' on at Ro's place."
Nick said nothing but continued to stare into his hands. With a sigh, the mechanic moved to sit next to him and placed a hand onto his partner's knee. "Nick, what's the problem? We've got a roof over our heads, ain't we?"
"Some roof." Nick gave a short chuckle and then raised his head at last. He sighed deeply. "It's just… it's not good enough. Our first apartment – something that significant just needs to feel special, okay? But this…" He swept his hand out in front of him, gesturing to the room. "This is a fucking box. And a filthy box, at that. Not what our first apartment should be like."
Ellis listened, gently rubbing a thumb in circles on the back of the man's hand. He lowered his eyes for a moment or two. "Nick," he started and moved to rest his chin on the Northerner's shoulder. "Now, you listen to me, Fancy Suit. We could be livin' in a box or in Buckingham Palace and it wouldn't matter to me one bit." He lightly hugged Nick's arm and lifted his head. "Hey." Hesitantly, the gambler's eyes rose to meet with Ellis'. "As long as we've got each other, right?"
"Sure." Nick smiled a little and rested his hand over the kid's, warmly. "I'm being a jackass again, huh? Well, sorry. It just doesn't feel real, not yet."
Getting an idea, Ellis leant in to kiss Nick's cheek softly before trailing his lips up his jaw to Nick's ear, blowing gently. "Does it feel real now?" he whispered, hand now smoothing up Nick's thigh like a stalking predator. Nick grinned, pleased that Ellis was trying his best to cheer him up. He'd already succeeded, but hell if the risqué gambler was going to stop him going along with this little idea. Nick turned his head and greeted the soft kisses with his own to El's lips. Hooking his arm around that trim waist, he scooped the kid nicely into his lap, a make-out session developing in no time.
Ellis mewled as Nick cupped his buttocks and massaged the denim-clad cheeks. Playfully, he hit his partner on the arm, causing Nick to laugh and flick his nose. After some more stupid shoving, they settled together, Ellis still on Nick's lap and curled into him. One of Nick's hands supported the mechanic's lower back while the other rested on his thigh.
"How much money did Ro give us?" Ellis asked against Nick's shirt. The older man shrugged a little.
"Enough," he vaguely replied. "Well, enough to get us settled at least. The price of rent and food and all… I'd say it gives us a month? Maybe a bit more." He sighed again, kissing El's temple a little sadly. "You know what that means, right?"
Ellis nodded. "I'll need to get a job," he clarified. "I mean… we're in Seattle. Gotta be a short-staffed garage someplace 'round here. Big city like this ain't got cars runnin' on water or shit." He gave a tiny shrug and began to twine the material of Nick's shirt into his fingers, chewing on his lip lightly. "Reckon I can find a job in a month, though?"
"I dunno, can you?" Nick retorted, leaning his head back to rest it on the cushions a little more. "I reckon if you keep your mouth shut in interviews and don't be yourself, you'll be fine."
Ellis' head rose, smirking at his seemingly-content lover. "C'mon now, you'd have to get a job, too. I don't think me tendin' to cars will make enough of a livin' to keep us here."
"Though I hate to admit it, I suppose you're right." Finding work? Nick hadn't worked since he took some shifts at his local bar when he was sixteen. After saving up enough for a motorcycle, he'd settled on drifting, gambling and conning to make his living. He could probably still do that. Most definitely, actually.
"First thing in the mornin'," Ellis grunted, reluctantly releasing himself from the older man's embrace in the process of standing. "I'm gonna go out lookin' for vacancies. Don't have to be at a garage, neither… I'll look for anythin'. I could probably wait tables. Maybe." He rubbed his arm a bit – he silently hoped it wouldn't have to come to that.
"Well, here. I'll give you your first bit of precious experience. Waiter, get me some goddamn dinner. Make it snappy, I have a hot date with me." Nick laughed and the tall man stretched out on the too-small couch, feet dangling off the end almost comically.
"Yeah, very funny." Ellis walked over to the kitchenette, opening and closing cupboards. All of them were bare. "I can get you a steamin' hot plate of nothin'." He remarked in snarky reply and huffed in exasperation. The fridge was also empty. "Okay… scratch that. First thing we'll do tomorrow is find a grocery store. Can't have my Nick growin' all starvin' now, can we?"
Nick opened one eye, watching the boy explore his little kitchen. "No sir-ee Bob." He was amused how Ellis became happy about the littlest things, like when he found a can-opener in the drawer, he enthused about not having to use his penknife anymore like they had done during the apocalypse. What a kid.
"I am just as excited as you, El. Believe me. I'm so pooped from all this excitement that I'm gonna turn into bed." He looked over to the double bed in the corner and grimaced again, squinting at the thing. "It's probably full of bugs."
Ellis tugged him off the couch with a short chuckle, playfully petting his cheek. "Well, hell. Let's go bounce 'em out!"
Rolling his eyes, Nick wrapped his arms around the boy and gripped at his sides before hoisting him up off the floor. Ellis let out a delighted laugh as he was taken away towards the bed, holding on tight to his conman's shoulders. Their adventures during a zombie-infected apocalypse may have long reached their conclusion, but this domestic journey had just begun.
Nick lay back on the mattress, arms folded back and cradling his head. Ellis was asleep beside him with an arm draped over the conman's gently breathing chest. The hick fidgeted a bit in sleep as he dreamt peacefully, not disturbing his older partner. Nick only lay awake from the thoughts swimming through his head, interfering with falling asleep for now. The dark-haired gambler bit his lip, teething the little bits of skin, patching his lower lip as he stared up at the ceiling in deep thought
So… here they were. Finally free to live their own lives together, free to do as they pleased. Seattle wasn't even his first choice. The first was Vegas. Back home. But the City that Never Sleeps was still a yellow zone in terms of infection and lasting damage. The west coast was less of a risk to take and there was no way Nick was going to California. So Seattle it was. Nice and quiet, out of the way, and somewhere new where he and Ellis could start afresh. They had already accepted the loss of their possessions and loved ones since the apocalypse, and perhaps almost a year and a half in quarantine had provided them with some form of closure. The world they once knew had transformed, but what was left of the population was now rebuilding - the perfect opportunity for change.
Ellis shifted a little next to him, his arm moving a little further over Nick's chest as he nuzzled his cheek to the gambler's shoulder in his sleep. Nick tilted his head a little until the side of his face met with his younger lover's soft hair. Before infection, Nick would've listed his greatest priorities as money, his suit and avoiding going to jail after conning a sucker for his every last penny. And now?
The older man gave a deep inhale and caught a whiff of Ellis' scent; it was mostly musk, with young adrenaline and a little sweat mingling with something that smelt a little like engine oil. Years and years of working under, over and on top of cars meant that some things lingered, including smells from the mechanic's work. Ellis was really the only good thing that came out of the infection, for Nick at least. Someone who not only trusted him despite his black past, but also had found the capabilities to fall for him, was not something he had planned.
Planned or not, Ellis was his. And Nick rather liked that.
So now, he had to make sure he kept Ellis happy. And having money problems like they were bound to encounter, it would be hard for Nick to keep up what he did best – conning and gambling. But, in his mind, gambling didn't always mean losing. More often than not a risk paid off, and Nick would be rolling in the cash.
A sly smirk spread over his face as he remembered the feeling of endorphins being released into his system whenever he got a good haul, inflating his already swollen ego and egging him on to try more daring cons with a higher pay-out. He'd sure as hell missed that, not that he wasn't planning on never doing it again. Ellis could get a job no problem and Nick could earn them more of the finer things in life by swindling his way through the naïve and gullible survivors of Washington state.
It seemed like a fool-proof plan and the card shark was confident that his abilities were still very much intact, even after a long while of disuse. Tomorrow, while Overalls looked for a job, he would find out.
Now feeling content, he gave his first real yawn of the evening, thick and heavy and rather appealing at last. Settling down, he let his eyes slip shut and finally fell into slumber with a warm and safe Ellis by his side.