I don't own or claim any rights to any characters, scenarios, and/or any game-plays in this work of fiction. All rights and property belong to Naughty Dog, Sony Entertainment and/or any and/or all other parties in respect to any popular television, literature and/or motion pictures references that I include in this work. In other words, I own nothing (seriously, ask my bill collectors they'll tell you I own nothing) in this work; I am only playing around in the amazing world Naughty Dog created. My only hope is that if Naughty Dog, Sony Entertainment and/or any other parties who's works I am referencing see this work; I hope that they are entertain and do not send the Runners, Stalkers, Clickers, and Bloaters … er … I mean the lawyers after me. (That does sound like a great name for law firm, don't it … 'Runner, Stalker, Clicker and Bloater … we'll take a bite out of you for justice'.)
I hope that you, as the reader, also enjoy this work. Updates, unknown; sorry but I can't tell you how often I will update, or how long this will be nor the end point. Ellie and Joel will tell their story at their own pace, I'm just the transcriber. Although, I have four chapters done at the time of this posting, so …
I don't like Author notes, so don't expect any. Unlike my other stories, this will be more of a collection of short stories of Ellie's and Joel's life after the they get back to Jackson. Except the first and last chapter, each chapter will be first person of either Ellie or Joel or an O.C., depending on the story that needs to be shared. This story is and will remain rated M, don't blame me; Ellie has the mouth of a sailor. Also for violence, some adult themes … however, if you are looking for graphic, hot, steamy, sex scenes … sorry you are not going to find it here.
So enough of my babbling on to the story …
Home is where the heart is
by Mik Sunrider
Year Zero: Spring +5 weeks
"You ready," Joel said looking at the gate down the road. He could see motion on the platform above the main gate. He choose this path, to let them be seen out in the open as they approached the town.
"Okay," Ellie answered quietly, not at ease being so open, so exposed after so long in the shadows, but trust Joel's judgment explicitly.
They came to us from out of the wilderness …
Without looking at each other, they both reached out to grab the others hand in reassurance. Each knuckles white as they sought to calm the other and themselves. Hand in hand, they walked towards the gate.
… a pair whose story as old as time but as unique as themselves.
"Halt, get your hands up, palms facing me!" The male voice screamed as they got closer. They let go of each others and slowly raised their hands. Joel's eyes straight ahead while Ellie's eyes moved back and forth, not in fear but in calculation, assessing the threat before them. "Make any sudden moves and we will shoot!"
Ellie resisted the urge to chuckle, after what they had been through these guys wouldn't be a challenge. Still, even without Joel telling her, she knew pointing that out would just make this harder then it need to be.
"What is your purpose here?" The first voice said.
"I'm here to talk to my brother, Tommy. He is married to Maria," Joel said calmly.
Ellie also resisted the urge to whistle as well, she was glad they weren't going to attack this wall. It was about ten feet tall with metal plates providing not only cover for people on the other side but offered no way to climb them. There was also razor wire on top of the fence as well as a double strand of razor wire outside the wall. The brush and grass didn't exist between the wire wall and the main wall, about five feet in between. There was no cover to take advantage of. In the glittering sunlight, she could see the electric wiring interweave in all the razor wire.
"Wait, I know you," a second voice said. "You were at the power plant last fall … your name is … Joel … and your little girl's name is … Ellie, right."
"Hey," Ellie said giving the unseen voice a small smile and wave.
Joel let out a small snort, only Ellie could act so cute to men with guns pointing at her.
Their stories are as unique as they are as well …
"Jesus, Steven; he is the guy I told you about. The one who help us take out those bandits last year at the plant." Sam whispered to his boss as the girl gave them a perky smile and wave. Steven snorted, the girl had some serious balls to act like she was walking around the mall and not being covered by 5 armed men. The older man had a backpack, a rifle, shotgun and lead pipe on the outside of the pack, wait was that a flame thrower stick out of the pack? No doubt he had a pistol or two hidden on him. The girl had a bow and a rifle on her shoulder with arrows sticking out of her pack. Lot of weight for someone her size but she wasn't even twitching.
"Yea, Tommy told me about him, told me a lot." Steven raised his voice so the duo could hear him. "Hey you, what is Tommie's little nephew's name and what city did he die in?"
"My daughter's name was Sarah and she died outside of Austin, Texas." His reply was tight and had a angry tone to it, about what Steven expected. There was a small pause, Steven could have sworn he heard the girl muttered, 'asshole', which was something he didn't expect. "Okay Joel, I let Tommy know your here; sit tight." He turned to the other men and bark out orders.
One was nearing the end of his journey, his body and soul weathered and cracked from years of surviving the worst of humanity. Where once stood a man who's light shine bright now had a heart as cold as the frozen north and as dark as a moonless night. His eyes has seen the death of all he has known.
"Excuse me, miss but I said all of it," the one name Steven said after as the stood around the interior of the main gate.
"What?" Ellis replied with exaggerated bewilderment. Steven didn't look impressed, he looked as if he was fight back a smile actually. Ellie knew no one really couldn't see past her age or her innocent look, and played to that prejudice well. Steven on the other hand, was being difficult about this whole thing, Resistance was not futile in his case. Only Joel's small clearing of the throat did she ended her resistance. Letting out an annoyed breath, she muttered, "Fine."
Steven watched as she laid down a now unloaded 9 mm, a switchblade to the already impressive pile from her backpack. When she finished, he just raised an eyebrow, saying nothing. The kid, rolling her eyes again, pulled out a second blade from her sock. This time he was satisfied.
"Jesus Christ, she got two pipe bombs, several health packs, two full clips, a bottle of gin with a rag stuck inside it, three blades, switchblade, a long bow and 10 arrows, four flint fire starters, 9 mm, Remington 700 and a box of .30-06 ammo … plus clothes!" Alvin said sounding astounded as he looked over the pile. Steven was not so impressed, both of them need to be heavily armed to survive out there for as long as they had.
"Pftt; this is nothing, you should see what he makes me carry when I going out on a date," Ellie said pointing back to Joel who was leaning against the wall.
Steven couldn't help himself, his loud laughter mixed in with the other men at the gate as Joel's only response was to give her a loud sigh and dirty look.
The other one was on the cusp of her journey. Her face and body radiating peace, optimism, and wide eye, child like excitement of the world around her. She has never known any other world except the one she was born into but desperately eats up any bits of the past, as if she was eating her last.
"Easy Tommy," Maria giggled as the newly refurbished golf cart whipped around the corner. "Killing us won't get us there any sooner."
"He said he might come back this way," Tommy said grinning like cat with a fresh bowl of milk. "I … I didn't really believe him but he is back."
Racing down main street, Maria could see a small crowd of men and women with a tall man and young girl leaning against the wall.
"Ellie is still with him," Maria said softly as they got closer.
"I see that," Tommy's voice said not losing a single note of happiness. "I reckon he has his reasons." He all but bounce out of the cart as it came to a skidding halt to embrace his brother.
Maria followed with a more temper pace, observing the ghost of a smile on Ellie's face, but her emerald eyes were bright and shinny with happiness for her protector as she watch.
"Welcome back Joel," Tommy said coming out of the brotherly embrace. Turning to the girl, he nodded to her as well, "Hello again, Ellie. I'm happy to see again as well."
"Hey," she said in that awkward but endearing teenage way.
"Its good to see you again, Ellie, Joel," Maria said giving Joel a hug as well. "How long are you too planning on stay with us this time?"
"That is what I am hoping to talk to you two about," Joel said, rather nervously actually.
Neither of them of them would have chosen to travel with the other but as is found through out human history, God cares not for what mere mortals desire. Fate threw them together, chance made them friends … circumstances made them survive.
"Here, you can keep these," Ellie said handing over the two pipe bombs. The man named Steven nodded in appreciation but lost his smile as she added with a grin. "I can make more later."
"Hold up a second. Maria," a man called out from a tent near by. The same man who took the blood samples. Ellie let out annoyed breath but Maria just patted her on the back. "We have an … issue … I need to discuss with you."
"Is Joel clean," Maria ask while helping Ellie put on her backpack, while wisely not offering to take any of her weapons off of her. She remember what she was like as a teenager, always trying to prove to others that she can handle anything.
"Yes," he answer quickly, "but ..."
"We know about Ellie," she said quickly while laying a hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "She had the same condition when they came thru last fall."
"She is immune," Tommy said from behind her, as the crowd of guards around them began to muttered excitedly.
"Steven, let the town know that we will have a town meeting tomorrow night, I will explain everything then." She then look down at Ellie, giving and receiving a bright smile. "Tonight, we are having a small family reunion."
Together, the walked to the edge of the Abyss, as so many have before them. At the edge, they didn't cower, they didn't turn away in fear … they didn't even blink. They took a breath and jump in, to full embrace the future.
In a modest two story house, the electric lights cast a warm glow as a family of five sit around a table with, by the day's standards, a feast fit for a king.
"And then Joel reaches out and touches it! Actually, touches it! Can you believe it!" An excited 15 year old girl says in between bites of her dinner. "Then he is like, 'come over here, Ellie' and I was a bit nervous, I have never seen one before, and they are so huge. But I reached out anyways and it was so cool! It was so soft and warm and … it was just amazing!"
"That is pretty amazing," the oldest of the five, Kevin the father of Maria, said with a smile as bright as the youngest member of the group.
"Wow, I remember seeing one, oh my what … when I was eight or nine, dad? When we took that trip to Florida, do you remember?"
"Yep, although we weren't allow to touch them. I remember being annoyed with it because the tour truck we were in had to sit for about 10 minutes as the thing kept walking back and forth on the road ahead."
"How could giraffes had lived so long in Salt Lake City?" Tommy ask while taking a sip of his tea. Joel made a face at his baby brother for his choice of drink, Tommy return the favor.
"They are migrating animals, they probably head south during the colder months or something." Kevin mused as he sipped his own drink.
"Yea, but still ..." Tommy said shaking head in amazement.
"It's life, my son; that is life. Nature will do amazing things despite us humans, like our youngest guest here," Kevin waving his hand at Ellie as she eats her fourth helping of mash potatoes. "Mankind for all of our intelligence couldn't do what nature does on its own without our help. It provides a cure for us."
Ellie was unsure of what to make of that statement, so she just concentrated on filling up her stomach.
In the abyss …
He broke her! He stripped her down to her bare essences, reforged her, reshaped her … in the process he gave her some of his strength and his knowledge … to transformer her into a warrior capable of surviving.
She broke him! She stripped him down to his bare essences, reforged him, reshaped him … in the process she gave him some of her compassion and humanity … to transformer him by reigniting his cold heart.
Ellie, wrapped up in a blanket, sleeping soundly on the couch as the other four remain in the dinning room, speaking in hush tones. Joel, holding his head in his hands, eyes red from restrained tears he refused to show.
"Jesus, Joel," Tommy said, ignore the quick look of reproach from Kevin.
"What was I supposed to do Tommy? Let them slice her up? Let them take her ..." Joel is stopped by Maria's hand on his arm.
"Easy Joel, we are on your side."
"She is right Joel, it just … what did they hope to do by killing a little girl?"
"Even if they did somehow make a vaccine, how did they expect to mass produce it or ever get it out to the general population?"
"I don't know, I … I just knew that … I had to do it."
"It was God's will you able to accomplish what you did, Joel." Kevin said softly.
Joel wasn't so sure, he hasn't had much to do with religion, even before Sarah had died, and sneer at any one who brought up after the plague started. But out of respect for the older gentleman, who was 10 years his senior, Joel kept his impulse under control.
"Well, whatever it was; I spent a week making sure we couldn't be track, no one follow us out of the city. I will understand if you don't want us around after what I told you but ..."
"Nonsense Joel," Kevin said with great conviction. "We will not return you to the wilderness. You and Ellie are welcome to stay here as long as you wish." Tommy and Maria glance at each other but both knowing there would be no way her father would change his mind now. "I'm sure that your story is a good starting point, we will explain to the town that yes, she is immune but a practical vaccine is not possible. I am sure that Pastor Ken could help in reminding the people that sometimes God's will doesn't always run on our timetable. And it will be an easier sell here then most other places; it has been a year or more since the last infected was spotted around here. Except for an occasional bandit raid, which we haven't had since your last trip here, and small groups of stragglers from QZ;we might as well be all alone in the world."
Together, they emerged from the void stronger then either of them could have imagine. They were a family, they were a team, complementing each other, their strengths and weakness inverse. Their obstacles were many, their enemies numerous; their victories unmatched. It was not the strength of their bodies that won the day, or the quickness of their wit; but the love in their hearts. The love of each other that saved them again and again.
"I know you are not a religious man Joel, and that is okay. I don't require or even request that you believe in our Father. However, I do believe that it was His Hand that guild you." Kevin let out a tired sigh, "Faith is such a terrible burden sometimes; to see all you love be turned to ash before your eyes and still trust that God has a plan. But it is also a source of great strength, because you know that in the end, it will all make sense."
It was the love in their hearts that allowed them to prospered … the blood in their veins … the sweat from their brows … that gave life to their greatest contribution to this sad, empty world. Together; they gave birth to Hope. It was their sacrifice that allow Hope to spread out to the world.
"What kind of world is worth saving anyways if it requires you kill a child like Ellie? Uh? Obviously, you know that answer to that Joel. And that is why you succeeded, despite all the odds; you succeed. Because deep down you know what the Civilian government was ignorant of, what the Military refused to acknowledge, what the Fireflies failed to remember. It isn't about sacrificing the many to save the few. You can not save the world if it cost you everything that makes it worthy to live in. Do unto others that you would have them do to you, Joel, do unto others."
Their story, as old as humanity, as special as a new sunrise; they came into our world and we were better for it.
Joel leaned over Ellie, pulling the blanket over her shoulders, before sitting down on the floor next to her head. In the moonlight pouring in from the front window, he could see her reddish brown hair flowing down across her shoulders. Lightly, he brushed back a single lock of hair out of her face.
They were the worst of us.
As he laid back against the couch, his pistol in his lap as was his norm, he felt a small arm fall across his left shoulder. He tilled his head up to see that she was still asleep. She had reached out in her sleep for him, knowing he would be there.
They were the best of us.
He lightly stroke her hand before laying his head back and closing his eyes. It was late and he was tired but felt so light and joyful. Ellie would be safe now, no matter what come in the future, she would be safe. And what more could he ever hope for?
They were The Last of Us.