Josh Wheeler stroked a hand through Eli Cardashyan's hair, smiling softly to himself as the boy lay across his snored slightly.
He could never quite remember how they ended up this way, only that Eli had just seemed like that annoying kid in class before the apocalypse, and after him almost dying, bleeding out all over Josh's arms made the older boy realise just how much he actually need Eli. How much he actually liked Eli.
And now Eli liked him back. And now they lived in the mall together. With Turbo Pokaski and Wesley Fists. And Angelica Green. And Mrs Crumble. Everyone else had gone. Samaira Dean had made her own tribe out of what was left of the jocks, Mona Lisa as her right hand. Then there was KJ and the rest of the mall kids, all whom had scattered after Sam had taken control, including the fighters from the Cheermazons. Now it was just the six of them left.
"I can't believe that you asked out Eli." Josh looked up from his seat on a bench in the middle of a long row of shops to see Wesley grinning at him, albeit glancing at him wearily.
Josh shrugged. "You're boyfriend's an ex-mass murderer, mines just a massive dick." Wesley chuckled and sat beside Josh on the side that the rest of Eli's body wasn't cast across. "Same difference." He grinned.
Josh had been so set on finding Sam. So set on saving her. Taking her away. Going to a place that the apocalypse couldn't reach them. He'd made a plan (not a great one but a plan nonetheless) and he'd even been willing to sacrifice his friends.
Now, he realised what a mistake that had been. He didn't know when or how, but he knew at this point that Sam and Mona Lisa we're together. And he couldn't care less.
Because he had Eli, and everything with Eli was different from what it had been like with Sam.
Eli didn't say the cringy, lovey-dovey stuff Sam used to say. He certainly didn't get Josh to make a list of what he was comfortable with. This time also, Josh was certain that who he was dating was a virgin. Not because he'd said so, but because the only person he'd ever gone out with was Mavis who, after the one time of seeing her in person (though he still couldn't be sure if he'd imagined her or she was actually there) looked pretty much like a lesbian, and had confessed to not having sex with Eli after the talk she had with him (mostly because somehow the conversation had moved to Sam).
Eli hugged him more than Sam did. Sam didn't want Josh to touch her unless it was on her terms. Unless she felt like she wanted to get a little touchy-feely, she wouldn't let him. Not even for a hug. She'd do it out of politeness to strangers though. Eli was the opposite. He'd only hug Josh, never anyone else, and deny it if anyone said they saw.
"Isn't it weird how we never used to get along, and now we're here?" Eli's voice was croaky from tiredness as Josh finally pulled himself to bed. He'd been worked up for hours, making sure that every exit, be door or window or just general holes in the walls, was closed up. Eli had been sat waiting for him patiently the whole time, checking out his old magic cards that Josh had retrieved for him from the school.
Josh shuffled closer to Eli, pulling the smaller boy into him, chest against back. Josh knew how it worked. They go to bed late at night, the tiredness and relaxation causing Eli to come out with something that's been on his mind as of recent times, something he wouldn't share otherwise, and Josh would hug him tightly and try his best to explain or answer whatever came out of Eli's mouth. They were mostly questions.
Josh shrugged, and he knew Eli could feel it. "Maybe we'd have gotten together sooner if we'd hung out a bit more. Or maybe we wouldn't have, who knows." He pressed a kiss to the back of Eli's neck, relishing in his shudder.
Eli moved to face Josh and placed a kiss on his lips. "I think we're pretty great together." He murmured, his eyes not leaving Josh's lips. Josh kissed him again. "Me too." And once again, his arms wrapped securely around the younger body, pulling him closer.
He liked this. He liked Eli falling asleep on him, kissing him, hugging him, talking to him about the first random thought that came to mind. He liked how defensive he got, he liked how possessive he was whenever KJ or Sam came round for a quick pop-by. He liked how he talked, the way it made him seem younger, what with words most teenagers Josh knew would never use. He liked Eli.
No. He loved Eli.