"You think anyone'll find us here?"

Joel inspected the contents of the house's second bathroom. During his entire onceover, all he'd managed to scrounge up were a few half empty bottles of alcohol and a rag or two. Helpful, but most certainly not enough. He stepped back through the hallway, the floorboard creaking gently under his feet.

"Don't think so," He murmured, voice catching in his throat, "Isolated. Too quiet."

Ellie was sprawled out on the beaten up, half burned couch in what was once a living room. A lot of the furniture had burn marks; even the floors were a little charred. But the walls were intact, and that was the important thing. Ellie nestled her head on the arm of the couch, a piece of couch fluff tickling her cheek, and closed her eyes.

"Nice place."

She wished she had a blanket. The inside of the house was a lot cooler than the outside, which was strange because it was fall and the winds now carried a chill. But who was she to complain? There wasn't much that could be done about it.

Joel entered the living room and turned off his flashlight. It was pitch dark in the room, save for one window that let the faintest rays of the moonlight into the building. Aside from the couch, the living room was pretty bare. It held a smashed up TV, a broken coffee table, and a fairly well looked after arm chair. The rest had to have been looted, stolen by someone convinced they needed it more. Joel tossed himself into the arm chair.

Outside of the house were crickets, making their chirping noises. Joel closed his eyes. Ellie rolled over on the couch, tucking her knees up to her chest and squinting through the darkness at Joel. She could tell from the pace of his breathing that he was on the forefront of sleep.

"Hey, Joel?" Ellie asked tentatively, "What's your favorite song?"

He had barely started to drift away. His eyelids were heavy, and so he didn't open them. Rather, he made one of the sounds more accustomed to his persona.

"Hm?"

Joel could hear Ellie flip over on the couch and pull her knees up into her chest. He couldn't see her in the dark, but she had stuck her bottom lip out in curiosity. Ellie breathed in a gulp of the fresh night air before repeating her question.

"You, ah, you told me you wanted to be a singer. When you were younger. So what's your favorite song?"

The question threw Joel. It was a long time now that he'd even thought about music, let alone his favourite song; hell, he didn't even really know if he had one. Opening his eyes just a crack, Joel stared off into the dark emptiness of the abandoned living room.

Nothing really came to mind when he thought of his favorite song. As a country man, it was rather easy for one to guess all of the big artists he liked; Hank Williams (Sr., of course), Brad Paisley, Willie Nelson, even a little Jason Aldean every now and again to modernize things up a bit. But while he loved them all and loved their songs, they were never really his favourite. And there was no way in hell he'd ever remember the lyrics.

He settled for an answer that didn't satisfy Ellie in the slightest, "I dunno. Never really thought about it."

The following flurry of movement could only be the sound of Ellie sitting up, "Oh, c'mon, Joel! There's gotta be some fuckin' song that's your favorite!"

The corners of his mouth pulled up in some semblance of a smile. It was not often that he was inclined to grin at something, but sitting in the dark with Ellie arguing over some trivial thing like music was just something destined to make him laugh.

"Then what's yours, huh?" Joel challenged, sitting back up in his chair, almost straight, and crossing his arms over his chest, "You do a lot of talkin', but I ain't hearin' you answer your own questions."

Ellie laughed, a bright sound in a dark place. She stretched her legs out on the couch and stared at the ceiling. She and Riley had found a single package of damaged glow in the dark stars, once. Ellie didn't know what they were until Riley had placed them on their ceiling just before dark. When they illuminated the small quarters in which they slept, Ellie had been something akin to awestruck.

She wished now that she had some glow in the dark stars. Even some real ones would be a half decent substitute.

"I didn't hear a lot of music back in the Zone," Ellie mused, fiddling with her fingers, "But this one time, Riley and I found a tape player and a tape, and we played it, and it was a guy named Don something. I don't, uh, I don't remember his last name or anythin'."

Joel smiled, "Don McLean?"

"Yeah!" Ellie's eyes lit up, and Joel almost saw the look of recognition from across the room, "Yeah, that's him. And there was, uh, this song. American Pie. And we decided it was our favorite song. Riley liked it the most, but I thought it was kinda nice."

It was quiet, then, between the two. The smile still played on Joel's lips, and Ellie still stared at the ceiling, without its stars.

"Gotta say. Never pegged you to be the American Pie type."

Ellie bit her lip to keep from laughing, "Oh, fuck off! At least I have a favorite song!"

Stretching out his legs in the armchair, Joel closed his eyes again. His eyelids were feeling very heavy when he heard the sound.

"Did you write the Book of Love, and do you have faith in God above? If the bible tells you so…"

It took him a couple of seconds to figure out that the cracking, tired voice he was hearing was Ellie's, and that she was singing her favorite song to him. He smiled again, and noted to himself that he was doing a lot of that lately, and that it probably was going to come back to haunt him later as some sort of weakness.

He let her go on for a couple of lines, not judging or commenting, but rather listening to the voice of the young girl. It had been so long since someone had sung to him. In fact, he couldn't even remember the last time something like that had happened. Maybe as a child?

And while she sang to him, Joel thought about all of the songs he remembered, and whether or not he liked one above all the rest. Ellie was midway through the first chorus of the song when Joel interrupted her, opening his eyes again.

"You wanna know my favorite song?" He said, watching Ellie closely. She blinked, and in the dark he could see her head move in a nod, "You won't know it. And it's, ah, it's not somethin' that I really listened to anyway."

Ellie sighed, impatience clear in the way she forced the breath out, "If you didn't listen to it how, is it your favorit-"

"Just, quiet for a second. I used t' sing it to Sarah when she was a little girl, right before bed. I guess it's my favorite. 'S called Beautiful Girl."

The room was quiet again. Ellie didn't ask him to sing to her, likely because she knew it would result in a resounding 'no', and that it would probably upset him. Joel swallowed and closed his eyes again, knowing that the conversation was now probably over, since Ellie had the answer she had waited for. The girl rolled onto her side and curled up, settling down to sleep.

"'Night, Joel. Thanks for talkin'."

Joel didn't answer her. He listened to her breathing for a few minutes, and after a while, it slowed. He knew she wasn't asleep. She knew he wasn't asleep. But for a moment, they both could pretend that the opposite was true.

"Beautiful girl, let the sunrise come again; may the weight of the world resign. You will get better."

The words were the same that he'd sung to Sarah more than twenty years earlier as he tucked her into bed. Ellie, who on a normal occasion would have felt more than victorious about getting Joel to sing to her, settled into the couch to let him continue.

She fell asleep to the sound of his voice.


[an] I actually updated and I am rather proud of myself. I don't like this chapter though, so. Nonetheless, there really is a song called Beautiful Girl, and it's by William Fitzsimmons, and it's beautiful.

Please review? Please review.

Cheers!

Katelyn [an]