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17 February 2014 @ 02:36 am
Title: Ribs
Pairing: Ellie/Riley
Rating: PG13
Word Count: 1561
Warnings: Spoilers!
Summary: Stay safe and, when you're ready, look for me in the light.
Note: In June 2013 this absolutely amazing video game came out called The Last of Us.  It's a zombie game, but it's more than that.  It deeply explores the relationship of two characters, Ellie and Joel.  On Feb. 14th 2014, the DLC (downloadable content aka bonus gaming) was released, exploring the relationship of Ellie and Riley, her best friend before she meets Joel.  For some reason, I really connect with this game, so I wrote a little something.

They rode the carousel for hours.

Sometimes it would have enough juice for just one ride, sometimes enough for a few in a row.  They didn’t care.  Ellie knew there was at least a day to spend together but all they wanted to do was ride the carousel.  Round and round and round.  Again and again and again.  If only it could stay this way.

They were terrified.  They had never been more so in their entire life, but at the same time it was almost relieving.  Spending your whole life waiting to die in combat or by infection created one hell of an anxiety attack.  At least the waiting was over.  At least now, they knew.

So they rode the carousel and tried not to think about the imminent.  They imagined what surfing in the west coast was like.  They hunted each other with the water guns a few times.  They found a store with a lot of Christmas decorations—sure, they celebrated Christmas at the military academy, but what was the point of all these things?  They had no idea.

Often times Ellie would feel her hand slip into Riley’s when they moved from place to place.  Her warm palm offered such comfort to Ellie; she felt herself pulling her face into Riley’s shoulder, into the corner of her neck.  The feeling was almost eternal, a fluttering in her stomach, a close connection of familiarity.  It was addictive.

They would leave the carousel and visit Winston’s old place, find new stores in the mall they had never bothered to explore—but they always returned to it.  Even when it wasn’t running, they sat on the horses and Ellie read from the pun book.  Some of them they didn’t quite understand, maybe because the book was older than they were.  It didn’t matter.  They laughed all the same.
After dusk, they left the mall and moved into an abandoned apartment that hadn’t been scavenged down to scraps.  They found a few cans of food, some crossword puzzles from decade-old newspaper, even candles, which they lit.  Sitting closely together, they read each other bits and pieces of books left behind, escaping.  Sleep was the first dare they had never committed to.  Ellie often lightly placed her cheek on Riley’s shoulder while she read, letting the sound of her voice resonate through her brain—letting the cordyceps hear another victim.
The fever set in on Riley around 3am.  Ellie couldn’t tell, but it was still dark outside and had been for quite some time—the kind of dark that was downright horrifying, not comforting.  They had barricaded the doors and windows long before, although most had already been prepared for them.  Nothing was getting in and no one was going out.  This is where they would die.  And that was okay.
Ellie fetched as many cool objects she could; surprisingly, the water still ran in the apartment.  Boston had been one of the last to develop a quarantine zone, after all.  But Riley was restless.  She would settle down from time to time, but grew fidgety quickly.  Story-telling became less appealing to her.  All the anxiety tired her, and she placed her head in Ellie’s lap for a little while.  Ellie traced the features of her face, an attempt at precise memorization, the foreword to a novel that had no epilogue.  The fever hadn’t set in on Ellie, and by the time the morning light was drifting in through the breaks in the barricades, Riley was in pain.

Ellie wasn’t losing her mind and this was in no way poetic.  She wanted to help Riley but it was beyond that.  Her best friend was curled on the floor, alternating between holding her sides and balancing her head in her hands.  Ellie kept the cool cloths coming, knowing how futile her efforts were, knowing that the end was coming soon.  But it wasn’t.  Why wasn’t she feverish, aggressive, insane?  What was wrong?

Ellie knew the signs from the military academy and could tell that Riley would be fully turned by the next morning.  Luckily, Riley was still her cheery self and would lightly punch Ellie in between rounds of intense pain.

“You okay, Ellie?” She would ask every few hours, curious as well.
“I’m fine.  I don’t understand.”

“Me neither.  You gotta win at everything, don’t you?” Riley cracked a smile and Ellie leaned in to kiss her.  She didn’t know how many of those she would have left.  She felt her palm mold around the back of Riley’s skull, felt her hold Riley close to her.  She breathed in every second she had left with Riley, because clearly, Ellie wasn’t going to turn today.

When they came up for air, Riley leaned her head on Ellie’s shoulder, a transfer of power, designating Ellie the alpha.  Riley reached around and pulled her handgun from the back of her belt.

“I need you to take this now.  If I tell you to give it back to me, don’t.  Don’t let me take it from you.  Shoot me before I try to kill you.” Riley said it very stoic, but very sad at the same time.  Ellie wrapped her arms around Riley, encompassing the sadness and the fever and the pain and trying to transfer over.  If only Riley could be the one to live.  Strong, independent, lively, lovely, brilliant Riley.  Riley could change the world with Marlene.  She could.  But she can’t.

“I’m gonna miss you, you know?” said Ellie.
“You better.”

They stayed like that, Riley half on the floor and half in Ellie’s lap.  One of them would lean in for a kiss here and there, but mostly they reminisced, daydreamed, imagined.

“Riley, what’s it like on the outside?”

“It’s beautiful, Ellie.  You would love it.” There was a pause.  “I’m going to go to sleep now, and I need you to shoot me before I wake up.  Okay?”


“I’ll hurt you if you don’t, you know that.  I can’t do that.  I won’t be in here anymore and I can’t do that to you.  You’re my only person in the whole world.”  Riley sat up, clutching her ribs.  “When you get out of here, find Marlene.  Tell her what happened.  She’ll know what to do.  There’s something extra special going on here, Ellie.  Don’t waste it.  And don’t forget to go back for those water guns, I put my life out on the line for you there.”

Ellie could only nod, fighting back tears.  “You’re my only person in the whole world, too.”

Riley smiled and had Ellie move her onto the couch.  Ellie did her best to make her comfortable, sat with her and stroked her hair back, planted goodbye kiss after goodbye kiss on her lips.  There was so much sweetness and affection and caring between the two bodies that sometimes they formed one entity, and it was only when Riley would cry out in pain that Ellie remembered they were separate, that half of that entity would be gone soon.  Riley’s hand grasped Ellie’s in desperation, trying to sleep, trying to hold on.  There wasn’t enough time.

Riley was asleep by sunrise.  Ellie had to move quickly, knowing the military would be patrolling soon.  The sound of a gunshot would alert them.  She gathered what she could, the few cans of food remaining, the pun book, a novel Riley had taken a particular liking to.  She quietly moved the barricades.  And then there was nothing left to do except kiss Riley’s forehead goodbye one more time.

The sound of the gunshot echoed in Ellie’s brain, where the cordyceps were probably laughing.  She sobbed.  Riley looked the same: peaceful, asleep, afraid, but there was a bullet in her temple.  Ellie stared for a moment and moved on, back to the mall, for those goddamned water guns.

She grabbed Riley’s backpack too, the Walkman, the water guns.  She didn’t dare return to the military academy.  In Riley’s backpack was an extra shirt, a coastal scene.  Ellie kept that.

At one point, she stopped to rest.  The Firefly base that she was aware of was a while away, and she was trying the tunnels.  The closer she moved to the Fireflies, the further she moved away from the world she had known so far—the military academy, the run-down mall, the carousel.  Round and round again Ellie thought about Riley, remembered Riley, missed Riley, mourned Riley.  She pulled out the contents of both backpacks, searching for the Walkman.  She wanted to replay the tape over and over again, reliving her last happy and fear-free moments with Riley.

Inside Riley’s backpack, there was a note addressed to Ellie.  It read:

I hope you get to read this.  I’m sorry about lashing out at you before I left.  I didn’t mean any of it.  I came back to see you because you are the most important person in the world to me.  Nothing could separate us for too long, you know? 
I’m sorry that I have to leave.  I want you to come with me, but you know Marlene.  I’m afraid, Ellie.  But I know we’ll see each other again soon, and when we do, we will be safe.  Away from soldiers and infected.  Surfing in L.A.
Stay safe and, when you’re ready, look for me in the light.
Simon: Ginny/Luna- our own sunlit days 2prunesquallormd on February 18th, 2014 08:17 pm (UTC)
Oh :'(

Oh hon, that's beautiful, but so, so sad :(
I loved it, even if I do have tears in my eyes right now :)

I'd heard of the game but I've never played it. I'm not a big computer gamer but it sounds amazing! :)

And oh my gosh, I've missed you on here <3
I'm so glad we're back in touch, but there's something really special about seeing your user name on my flist. You were the first person I became friends with in fandom, you were my impetus to try my hand at writing, and you'll always have a really special place in my heart :) <3
I'm looking forward to catching up with you again soon. I hope things are good with you.
Loads of love and hugs <3 <3 <3