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Wayfaring Stranger

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As Ellie approached the giant steel gate, a thousand emotions consumed her, making the now pale girl off balance. 

“It’s Ellie! Open the gate!’ a deep voice yelled.  The gates slowly opened.

 

Ellie stood motionless as she watched the blurry silhouette of Tommy rushing closer to her, becoming more into focus the closer he got, the whole moment felt like it was in slow motion. The frail girl felt Tommy wrap a protective arm over her and lead her through. As she heard the gates slam shut behind her, she felt a small sense of relief that she was safe.

 

Tommy grabbed Ellie’s skinny shoulders to give her a quick check over for any signs of a big wounds as he locked his eyes onto her left hand and noticed that she was missing two fingers. 

“John! Can you cover the gate? I gotta see Ellie to the clinic now” he yelled in urgency. 

 

Ellie didn't say anything on the walk with Tommy to the clinic, she merely observed her surroundings like a hawk, hoping to see Dina. “It's going to be okay kid, you’re safe now” Tommy reassures her.

 

The clinic wasn't far away. They made it there in just under two minutes, although it felt much longer. They entered the warm room with the nurse already expecting her and a bed readily waiting. 

“Rose, her fingers” Tommy almost whispered as he pointed to Ellies left hand with his eyes. “Don't worry, Tommy.  I’ve got it all under control.  Why don't you wait outside?” the nurse calmly replied while resting her hand on his shoulder.  

 

As Tommy stood there not sure what his next move should be, Ellie gave him a nod as if to say ‘It's okay, go outside ’.

 

The nurse was very gentle with Ellie and made sure to not probe about where the scars and bruises came from.  “Well it looks to me that you saved yourself from infection on your fingers” The nurse reassured the frail girl sitting in silence. “Your patchwork is incredible. How did you even..” she stopped as she noticed Ellies face scrunch to try to stop herself from crying. “I’m so sorry, love” she whispers, continuing to look over Ellie in silence. 

 

An hour had passed, and Ellie was free to go with just a couple of prescriptions and a few bandages.  The tall girl stepped outside and saw Tommy waiting outside, arms crossed and watching his feet kicking the small rocks on the ground.

 

“Hey” Ellie choked.

 

Tommy snapped his head up and dropped his arms to his side taking a few steps closer “Hey kid… How are you?”

 

“Sore” Ellie said stretching her neck “But i’ll live” She gave a half smile.

 

“Glad you’re okay” Tommy awkwardly stated.

 

The silence was deafening for a few moments.

 

“How have you been?” Ellie softly spoke.”And how is Maria? Are you both okay?”

 

Tommy paused, eyebrows scrunched. “I’ll be honest, kid. I wasn't doing so good for a while. I had been drinking a lot and I..” He took a deep breath in finding it hard to open up “I really let myself go” He exhaled.  “I wasn't eating, I wasn’t sleeping... but, I have been working on myself, and trying to be a better man. For myself… for Maria” He half smiled. “Were working on our marriage, and I think it's going to be okay” 

 

Ellie feels her chest tighten with the thought of her leaving Dina and their family behind.

 

“How have you been doing, Ellie?” He asked, not looking forward to the answer.

 

“Oh just great” Ellie shrugged with her left hand raised staring intently. “I’ve definitely been better” She looked down at her converse letting her memories consume her mind.  Tommy had asked her to complete a job, and she didn't follow through.

 

Ellie’s chest started rising and falling quickly as she struggled to catch her breath.

 

“Tommy, I didn't do it. I couldn’t do it… I had the chance and I… I..” her hands shook and tears welled in her eyes.

 

Tommy grabbed the girl and pulled her into a big fatherly hug. “Shh.. It’s okay.. It’s okay” He whispered to her.  Tears poured down her face. “I’m so sorry that I put you through this. I am so.. fucking… sorry” He let his tears fall too. Letting all of his guards down.

 

They stood there in each others arms for a few seconds before Ellie pulled away and scanned the area wide eyed.

 

“Is she here?” Ellie spoke with Tommy knowing full well who she is.

 

“She actually left this morning, kid” Tommy said.  “She’s on a two day patrol with a couple of others.  She’ll be back though.  Just a couple of days” 

 

Ellie couldn’t hide her disappointment. Just a couple of days.  Just a couple of days. Ellie repeated those words in her head.  She has been away for 6 months. What was another couple of days?  This would allow her to prepare for her reunion with the girl whose heart she broke, hoping she will be forgiven.

 

“I don't suppose my old shed is still available?” Ellie looked up at Tommy, very hopeful.

 

“Of course, Ellie. It's all yours.” He smiled.

 

Tommy offered to walk her back and she accepted.  As they walked towards their destination, Ellie watched the kids run by playing tag and laughing uncontrollably.  She smiled and looked away, noticing some familiar faces peacefully smiling at her and she smiled back.

 

Ellie was worried about what people may have heard about her. What did Dina say when she returned to Jackson? She shook her head to free her thoughts.

 

“Well… here we are...” Tommy awkwardly gestured with his hand pointing towards the shed that was once Ellies home before the farmhouse. 

 

“Thank you, Tommy. I appreciate you taking me in” Ellie rocked back and forth from heel to toe. “And don't worry, I will be pulling my own weight around here. I can work in the stables, I can work the watchtower.  I can even go on patrols!”

 

“Woah.. hold your horses kid” Tommy laughed with his forearms raised waving them to tell Ellie to slow down

 

“I need you to just relax for a bit okay? Don’t worry about all of that right now.  At this moment in time, your health is all that matters” He said.

 

“Are you sure?” Ellie said.

 

“I’m sure. Please look after yourself.  We can talk about work in a couple weeks. I just need you to rest” Tommy reassured her. “You’ve been through a lot, Ellie. Take some time for yourself yeah?”

 

Ellie stood there watching the taller man leaning on his good leg, showing her how much he cared.

 

“Thank you, Tommy.. I mean it” Ellie smiled. “I think i'm going to go inside and take a shower if you don't mind.  I might try to get a couple of z’s too” She shrugged.

 

“Please! Go for it.  I’ll pick you up some dinner for you later and drop it by if you like?” He offered starting to walk away as Ellie walked closer to the door.

 

“That would be really nice.  Thank you” Ellie grinned.

 

Tommy salutes her with his two fingers before turning to walk away.  Ellie watched him walk a few steps before turning to open the door to her new but old home. 

 

As she walked in, she had felt a wave of emotions rush through her body. All the memories of her and Joel, her and her friends, her and Dina.   Some of her old belongings were still there that she never bothered to take to the farmhouse but was grateful she had them now.  An old green and grey flannel hung in the closet, it was her favorite at one point. 

 

She threw her backpack on the floor, started to undress and walked into the bathroom turning the shower onto the hottest setting, letting the room steam.  Now fully undressed, she stood staring at her reflection in the mirror, eyes locked onto her fingers run over her scars and bruises she had now accumulated. She scrunched her face shut tight, took a deep breath in through her nose and exhaled loudly, opening her eyes at the same time.

 

It’s time to win her back.

Chapter Text

Tossing and turning, Ellie awoke in an instant. Sweat dripped from her forehead as she sat up, panting. She had suffered from nightmares a lot since Joel died. She always pictured that day, the staircase to where he was being beaten was getting longer and longer. Her nightmares had shifted since her fight with Abby. No longer did the staircase lead to the scene she’d seen a million times.They now revolved around her life and the thought of dying alone.  Now the door at the end of the long stairway opened up to her room at the farmhouse.  A figure would be lying in the bed, Ellie’s heart would start to race, and every single time for a split second she thought her nightmare had finally become a good dream. But then Dina started to click and the blood drained from Ellie’s face, frozen in place with her hand stretched towards the bed. And then the clicker was on her. Every night she would wake up in a cold sweat, hands shaking and barely able to breathe.  

 

She had been on her own for months now, and everyday she wondered if that would be her last. 

 

She wiped her brow and dragged herself out of bed before raising her arms above her head to stretch out her body. A breeze filled the room from the cracked window and Ellie was grateful as it cooled the sweat on her skin. The tall girl padded her feet over to her desk where she sat and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. As the room started to come back into focus, she glanced over at her Starlight Savage poster and smiled at the memory of Joel surprising her with it, just a couple of years after they settled into Jackson.

 

“Hey kiddo, whatcha up to?” Joel said leaning against the door frame of Ellie's new pad, a childish grin appeared on his face from ear to ear.

 

“Well, I was organizing my clothes but now i'm wondering why your face looks like that” Ellie raised an eyebrow. “It’s kinda creepy, Joel” She awkwardly smiled.

“Well aren’t you nice? I try to do something nice for you.. But now you go and ruin it” Joel shrugged and turned to walk away, smiling to himself hoping the young girl doesn't notice.

 

“Ugh! Wait, you fucker!” Ellie rolled her eyes.  “What is it? I like it when you do nice things for me..” She crossed her arms and tapped her right foot

 

Joel's childish grin returned as he turned back around.  “Well, I was on patrol just outside of Jackson yesterday and I may have stumbled on something you might really like?” He questioned, now second guessing if the teenager really would enjoy the gift.

 

Ellie stood there and motioned for Joel to continue.  Her eyebrow raised and curiosity was apparent.

 

“Okay, close your eyes” He said, and Ellie complied.

 

“Keep them closed!” Ellie could hear Joel's voice become distant and then close again.  She could hear his excitement which made her smile too.

 

“Okay, Ellie.  You can open your eyes” Joel said, now standing right in front of the girl.

 

Ellie opened her eyes slowly, the room suddenly felt much brighter than before.  She stared at the long tube in Joel’s hand and slowly brought it into her own. She could tell by the packaging that this must be some type of poster, she already had a couple in her room of various rock bands.  But what could be so special about this one? She popped the cap off and let the poster slide out from the tube.  She took a moment and looked at Joel smiling before bringing her eyes back to the rolled up paper.  

 

She slowly unraveled the poster, revealing the picture. ‘SAVAGE STARLIGHT’ was the first thing she saw and she carefully sped up her pace. She took a moment to stare at the poster in her hands before she looked up at the man in front of her, biting his fingernails anxiously. She grinned.

 

“Holy shit, Joel! Savage Starlight?! This is awesome!” She let the paper roll back up and jumped into his arms, not wanting to let go.

 

“I'm glad you like it, kiddo” Joel whispered into her hair as they hugged for a moment.

 

Ellie pulled away to look up at Joel and gave her best cheesy grin.  “Seriously, I love it.  What if we put it over here?” The smaller girl pulled away and walked over to her desk with nothing but her journal in view.

 

“I love it” Joel smiled.  

 

Ellie sighed at the memory, scratched her head and stood on her feet. She cursed at herself and wondered why her nightmares couldn’t be dreams of her happy memories. The tall girl scrunched her face tight and wondered if things really could get ever back to normal again. ‘ I have to try’ she thought.

 

Ellie padded her feet across the room and spotted an old gray hoodie peeking out from underneath her bed. She bent over to grab it and took a sniff on the way up, hoping it was at least somewhat clean. It still had a hint of Dina’s smell. Dina always used to steal Ellie’s clothes, which she really didn’t mind because she loved having her clothes smell like her. She hugged it close to her chest before pulling it over her skinny torso. She looked under her bed again hoping there might be a clean pair of jeans in sight, she was in luck. 



She took longer than usual to get ready that morning.  In every corner of her room was a memory that would distract her with memories of her past. The nerves started to creep on Ellie when the thought of Dina returning tomorrow came to mind.  What am I going to do? How could I ever expect her to hear me out? Would she even want to see me? I really fucking miss her. I miss JJ. I miss my family. 

 

Her long road home from Santa Barbara felt like the longest journey she had ever taken.  She had travelled all over with Joel, but this somehow felt like a lifetime. The confrontation with Abby was life changing for her.  She had given up everything to kill her and avenge Joel's death, yet when it came down to it, the picture of Joel couldn't leave her mind.  She knew at that point that it would be a never ending cycle, and she couldn't do it anymore.  They had both lost people they loved dearly, and they had both paid their prices.  Ellie knew that she needed to learn how to move on, and how to focus on the future.  She had a whole family in Jackson, and when it came down to it Abby was not worth ruining that. ‘ We've got a Family.  She doesn't get to be more important than that’ Dina’s voice echoed through her mind.  She was so right.  Ellie wished it didn't have to take her risking her life, and losing her family to realize that, and she knew that it would take a lot to show Dina she could be trusted again.



As the clock turned to 1pm, Ellie felt her stomach grumble.  She pulled her hood up and headed for the door.  The breeze outside was crisp and she was glad she found the sweatshirt. She walked over to the bar hoping to get some food.  As she was approaching, Ellie heard a voice call out. She turned and saw Tommy walking as fast as he could towards her but she could see it was a struggle, so she decided to walk back toward him and meet him halfway.  

 

“Hey Tommy” Ellie half smiled and pulled her hood down

 

“Hey, Ellie.  I was going to stop by today but I wasn't sure if you wanted any company.  How are you doing?” Tommy stood with his hands on his hips.

 

“I’m okay” Her stomach immediately started growling and they both looked at the spot where the noise was coming from. “A little hungry though” They looked back up at each other, smiles on both of their faces.

 

“I was just going to head to the bar to see if they had any food” She pointed in the direction of the tall wooden structure.

 

“Would you mind if i joined you? My treat” He smiled.  “But please don't feel obliged.  I get it if you wanna be alone...” He continued

 

“Lets go.  You need me to carry you? Seems like you’re struggling a bit” She laughed

 

“Fuck you” He lightly punched her in the shoulder but couldn’t help chuckling himself.

 

The two sat in the bar for hours talking about memories and what has been happening in Jackson for the past 6 months.  Ellie didn't want to open up about what happened in Santa Barbara just yet, and she was thankful that Tommy didn’t pry.  The thought of Dina sunk in once again. 

 

Ellie sighed “So… How has Dina been? And JJ?” She looked as if she didn't want to know but her curiosity got the best of her.

 

Tommy sat up straight and took a moment before looking Ellie dead in the eyes.

 

“She really misses you” He started “She's not a big fan of me of course, but she does miss you.  She’s doing everything she can to keep herself busy” 

 

Ellie cringed at the thought of all the hurt she put Dina through.

 

“She’s been a great help over here” He half smiled. “And as for JJ, he is getting bigger every day.  He's over at Robin’s while Dina is out.  I’m sure Robin will let you see him if you’d like” He gestured towards the door.

 

“No!” Ellie grabbed Tommys hand across the table as he was attempting to get up from the booth. “I can’t” she sighed.  “I have to see Dina first. I need to talk to her.  I need to try to make things right”

 

“Do you know what you’re going to say?” He asked

 

“I think I do” She looked directly into Tommy’s eyes. “I’ve had a long time to prepare for this, but I am so... scared.  I’m scared of royally fucking it all up all over again, Tommy. I know it’s not going to be easy, and I think i’m prepared for that but it’s just.. Scary”

 

Tommy took Ellie’s hands into his own and smiled at her reassuringly. 

 

“Listen kid… This world is a scary fucking place” he paused for a moment. “But you? You have faced the scariest shit that even I am scared to handle.  You have survived in this fucked up world for twenty years, and have conquered more obstacles in that time than I have in my lifetime.  You are the bravest and strongest person I know”  He squeezed her calloused hands lightly. “You’ve got this, you hear me?”

 

Ellie took a moment to take in his words and let out a breath of air.

 

“Thank you, man.  I really appreciate your support” she said.

 

The two both sat there for a few moments before Ellie stood to her feet.

 

“Well, i'm going to head home if you don't mind.  I’ve got a lot to think about for tomorrow” She smiled.

 

“Of course, go ahead. I’ll see you soon” He waved his hand at her.

 

As Ellie turned to walk away she heard Tommy yell “Hey, kid!”

 

She turned to look back at the older man still sitting

 

“She should be home before lunch” He smiled and leaned back into his seat.

 

Ellie smiled back at him and nodded her head before leaving the bar.

 

When Ellie returned home, she slumped herself down onto her bed.  Her mind raced with thoughts of her talk with Tommy, and what might happen when she reunites with the love of her life.  She prepared herself for yet another sleepless night.



The following morning, Ellie found herself dressed and ready by 9am.  She should be home before lunch. Tommys words replayed in her head . She didn't want to be too early, but she didn't want to be late either. She stood in the mirror and fixed her collar on her flannel for the fourth time that morning. Fuck it, I’m just going to go.

 

The tall girl walked slower than a normal pace on her route to Dina’s house.  She walked with her head down, picking her fingernails.  An anxious habit of hers.  She planned to wait on Dina’s porch for her arrival.  She reached the house and Ellie found herself breathing harder. It’s going to be okay, It’s going to be okay. She sat on the front step and glanced at her watch. 9.17am. 

 

Ellie sat and tapped her feet, anxiously waiting for what felt like hours. As long as Dina’s patrol went to plan, they should be home any time soon.  As long as it goes to plan? What if something happened on the patrol?  What if they were ambushed by a swarm of clickers? FUCK.

 

Ellie rubbed her face to clear her thoughts.  She heard laughter in the distance but the laughter immediately stopped.

 

“Ellie?”

 

Ellie took her hands away from her face, and looked up into dark brown eyes.

Chapter Text

Ellie jumped to her feet, and straightened her creased shirt with her now sweaty hands.   

 

Holy fucking shit. Dina’s beauty was captivating, she was a vision like no other. Ellie’s mouth was instantly dry. Whatever speech she had planned was now thrown out of the window.  How she thought she would be able to stay cool, she did not know.  

 

Dina’s beautifully tan skin went pale in an instant, and her eyes glossed over with tears,  her slim hands moved to cover her mouth in disbelief. 

 

“Hey D” was all the taller girl could muster. Her hands found their way into her pocket as she stood awkwardly. 

 

“I…” Dina paused for a moment “I can’t believe you’re here” Her heart thudded in her chest, and the tears escaped from her eyes. 

 

Ellie moved towards the sobbing girl and hesitantly wrapped her arms around her slim physique. Dina stayed still, her arms dangling by her sides, for a small moment Ellie revelled in the warmth of Dina’s body against hers, but then Dina’s hands were on Ellie’s stomach and she was being pushed away. Ellie’s arms fell helplessly to her side as her throat began to close. She tried to blink back the tears, determined that she wouldn’t let herself cry. 

 

“Dina..” Ellie’s lip trembled and the tears threatened to spill from her eyes,  “I am so sor..”

 

“Dont, Ellie. Dina spat, her eyes darkened, filled with rage.

 

“You… fucking left me.  You left JJ.  You left us!” she wiped her eyes with her sleeve and placed her hands on her hips. “You don't get to just come back and say sorry and expect everything to be okay”

 

“I know” Ellie choked.  “I understand that I fucked everything up.  You have every right to be angry at me” she gave in and let the tears fall.

 

Ellie took a small step closer to the girl she longed to touch again clenching her fists by her side in an attempt to give her space.  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in, and exhaled.  Fucking tell her how you feel. .

 

“The day I left you was the biggest mistake of my existence.  But… At the time, I felt like I owed it to myself.  I felt like I owed it to Joel.  I was so consumed by revenge and rage, that I wasn’t even myself anymore.  I know you know what I’m talking about” Her eyebrows furrowed and Dina looked to the ground

 

“I never wanted to hurt you, I really didn’t”  She took a smaller step closer, loosening her fists and reaching towards her, glad that Dina wasn’t backing away.  “Dina, I know I can’t change what I have done” she slowly took Dina’s hands intothem with her own.  She watched Dina’s eyes fall to her to nubs where her fingers used to be, and heard the gasp that Dina tried to disguise as a cough . She would tell her about that later. If she lets me.

 

Determined, Ellie looked Dina dead in her eyes “But I am willing to do whatever it takes to show you that I am a better person than I was six months ago” 

 

Silence filled the air. Ellie took Dina’s soft hands and placed them behind her neck, and wrapped her own around the smaller girl's waist. Time stood still as she took her final step forward and placed her forehead against Dina’s. They stood there for a few seconds, although it felt like hours.  

 

Dina broke the silence and brought her head back to look into Ellie’s eyes, but remained in the embrace.  

 

“Ellie,  I really don’t know how to feel right now. This is all very overwhelming” 

 

“I know, it’s okay”

 

“I’m just so hurt” Dina’s eyes filled with tears yet again “And I don’t know how i’m supposed to just get over that” She moved her hands over Ellies shoulders and felt how skinny she had gotten during their time apart.  Dina ground her teeth in and scrunched her eyebrows as she took a step back, breaking the soft embrace.  Ellie’s arms flopped to her side and her chest tightened from the sudden lack of touch.

 

“I need some time to think” The tan girl chewed on her lower lip and her eyes darted all over Ellie’s face, but never actually met her own

 

Ellie rubbed her sweaty hands against her jeans anxiously and nodded.  She knew that Dina would need her space, and she had prepared for it, but it didn’t make it hurt any less. She exhaled a deep breath.

 

“Take as much time as you need.  I understand” Ellie half smiled

 

“Where are you staying?”  Dina’s eyes met the glossy emerald ones

 

“Uhh… Tommy set me up in my old shed” she gestured with her thumb pointing in the opposite direction

 

“Well that was nice of him, I guess” she scoffed and rolled her eyes.  Ellie hummed in response.

 

Dina rested her hands on her hips and watched her boots scraping against the floor before whipping her head back up to look at Ellie. 

 

“If you don’t mind, I'm going to head inside” Dinasighed.  “I have a lot to process and I just can’t think straight right now” Dina walked past the taller girl and headed up the steps to her front porch. 

 

“Yup. Totally fine” Ellie breathed.  Her hands had returned to her pockets again.  “I’ll see you soon?”

 

Dina nodded and watched the tall girl turn to walk in the direction of her shed. Dina’s lips trembled as she took a deep breath.

 

“Ellie, wait!” Dina called out.  Ellie turned around so fast she could have given herself whiplash

 

“I’m really glad you're alive, El” Dina leaned against the railing and gave Ellie a small smile.

 

Ellie took in all of the beauty standing right before her.  Her heart thudded and her stomach made somersaults.  She still loved Dina with her whole heart, and was so happy to have her at a close distance once again.  Together or not, she knew that Dina was alive and safe and that's all that mattered.

 

“Me too”  She smiled deeply.  She was glad.  She had another chance and she was ready for anything to come in her direction.

 

Ellie watched Dina unlock the front door and enter her home. She wished she could have followed in behind her. The tall girl turned on her heels and walked slowly home.  She didn’t know what to make of everything, but she knew that this was a new start.  There was still some hope left.



Ellie spent the rest of the day keeping herself busy, and her mind occupied.  She tidied and reorganized her room three times in total.  She couldn’t ease her mind from the image of Dina from earlier that day, and the mental pain was excruciating. She threw herself onto her bed and covered her eyes with her forearm.  Fuck, she looked so good.  Is she happy?  She looked happy.  She was laughing before she saw me.  Who was she laughing with? Has she moved on? 

 

Her eyes shut tight and her lips trembled.  The thought of Dina being happy with someone else was gut-wrenching. She had been alone for a very long time, but in this moment, she felt more alone than ever.  Before she knew it, tears fell down her face like a river escaping a dam.  She grabbed the pillow beside her and cried to herself to sleep.

 

The floorboards creaked beneath her shaking legs. The white door at the end of the stairwell moved further and further away.  The screaming grew louder and louder. She sprinted down the stairs but no end was in sight.  “Help me, Ellie!” Dina’s scream was piercing and it terrified her soul.  Ellie tried to run faster but it was near impossible. The screams continued. Ellie tried to yell but she was mute. The noise suddenly stopped, and the door was inches from her face.  She burst through the scuffed door and entered the room.  Dina stood in the corner of the room, and her hands covered her face, with her body half crouched. Ellie took two agonizingly slow steps forward.  The floorboard creaked underneath her. Dina’s face snapped up and an uncomfortable screech bellowed from within. 

 

Eyes snap open.  Ellie sat up quickly, as she gasped for air.  Her chest pounded, and the cool sweat dripped from her brow. She grabbed her chest as it tightened and took long deep breaths. She glanced over at the alarm clock on her nightstand, it was now 10pm. Fuck, I was out for hours.  She slowly stood up, removed her flannel, and threw it on the floor, leaving her in her jeans and a black t-shirt.  She walked into the bathroom, and ran the cold tap for a few seconds before pooling the water into her hands and splashing it over her face as if she was washing away her twisted visions.

 

As she dried off her face with a towel, she heard three firm knocks at the door.  What the fuck? She threw the towel next to the sink, and walked to the front door and cautiously opened it.  Ellie was relieved to see the tall blonde woman, standing before her.  Maria stood confidently and smiled as she held a plate in her hand, napkins covered the content of the dish.

 

“Oh my god!” Ellie jumped forward and hugged the familiar face “Fuck, it’s so good to see you” she almost yelled.  Maria chuckled at the younger girls' excitement and squeezed into their embrace with her free arm.  

 

“It’s good to see you too. I’m glad you’re safe” Maria smiled as they broke their hug and put a distance between them.

 

“I’m so sorry for dropping by so late, but I heard you were back… and I thought you might be hungry” She smiled and handed the plate to Ellie.

 

Ellie eagerly took the plate and lifted the napkin.  Deer steak, broccoli, and mashed potatoes.  Ellie’s favorite.  The young girl subconsciously licked her lips and widened her eyes playfully.

 

“Thank you, so much. This is going to be fucking amazing”  Ellie grinned 

 

“Well, you are welcome.  I’m really glad to see you in one piece” 

 

Ellie let out a humorless laugh and scrunched her face as she lifted up her left hand to show Maria how wrong she was.

 

“One piece? Not so much” Ellie’s tone was dry

 

Maria’s eyebrows furrowed as she felt pain for the younger girl. “Ellie, I am so sorry..”

“It’s fine.” Ellie cut her off quickly. “Please.. Don’t worry about it”

 

“Okay okay” Maria backed off. She knew not to pry any further “Well, I’m going to let you get back to your evening.  I hope you like the food” She smiled

 

“Yeah, that plate is going to be empty in five minutes” Ellie chucked back.  “Thank you, again”

 

“I’ll see you soon, Ellie” Maria chuckled back and gave a wave before walking away.  Ellie returned the gesture and turned to walk back into the room, closing the door behind her.

 

She immediately placed the plate on the coffee table, grabbing a fork on the way, and plonked down onto the couch.  Her stomach growled, and she couldn’t wait any longer.  She pulled the napkin off the top, and didn’t waste any time before taking a ridiculously large scoop of mashed potatoes, almost too big for her mouth. She hummed in delight as she leaned back into the couch, savouring the delicious flavor. 

 

As she reached eagerly for her second bite, she was interrupted by a knock at the door again, this time it was two small knocks. She huffed as she placed her fork down onto the plate and brought herself to her feet. It must be Maria again she thought.

 

“Please tell me you have dessert too” she chuckled as she swung the door open.  

 

“Oh… I’m sorry, I came empty handed”

 

The blood from Ellie’s face drained in an instant. Fuck.

 

“Dina! Hey..” she quickly wiped her mouth with her sleeve, and prayed that there was no mashed potato residue on her face. 

 

“I’m sorry, are you expecting someone?” Dina looked around, and wondered who Ellie would have expected to be at her door. A ball tightened in her chest. 

 

“Oh my god, no! Maria just dropped by with a plate of food. I thought she came back” Ellie found herself talking faster than usual.

 

They stood there for a moment in awkward silence. The only sound was the leaves swaying in the trees from the cool fall breeze.

 

“Would you like to come in? It’s a little chilly out” She offered, and hoped the girl in front of her would accept. She took a step to the side and to her delight, Dina walked in. Ellie caught a whiff of Dina’s familiar cent, and it made her knees weak.

 

Ellie followed her in, and closed the door slowly behind her. 

 

“You wanna sit?” Ellie motioned toward the empty couch

 

“Sure” Dina gingerly sat on one leg, and immediately began twiddling her thumbs.   Ellie joined her on the couch.  Her heart sped up as she realized just how close they were..

 

“Look, El” Dina began, and locked her deep brown eyes with soft emerald ones.  “I’m really sorry for stopping by so late.  But I just felt like I needed to see you again”

 

Ellie couldn’t control the way the corners of her mouth tugged up at those words. She wanted to see me

 

“I’m really glad you’re here” Ellie smiled. 

 

Dina gave a half smile back, and continued to speak

 

“Ellie, when you left I felt like my whole world came crashing down in front of me. It felt like you chose revenge over your future with me, and that was so hard to work though.  It was as if you would rather die trying to kill Abby, rather than living a peaceful life with me and JJ, and fuck, that was a hard pill to swallow”

 

Ellie scrunched her face at the words that came from Dina.  Fuck, I can’t believe I did that.

 

“It has taken me a long time to think about everything that has happened from that night, and to be quite honest with you, I don't know if I am ready to forgive you for it” The tears escaped from Dina’s eyes “But, I would like to try and sit down and talk about everything to see where this could go between us.  Of course I still care for you immensely.  Fuck, I couldn’t stop if I tried.  But, I cannot go back to crying myself to sleep every night thinking you are dead” her breath caught and she closed her eyes tight before looking back at Ellie “and when I saw you standing outside my house this morning, I felt like I was going to pass out.  I thought I was dreaming, honestly.  At that moment, I was so relieved to see you and was so grateful that you’re alive, that I was reminded that there’s not a whole lot of people in this god forsaken world, and when you find someone that makes you feel like the world isn't so bad… you just can’t let that go”  Dina took a second to wipe her wet cheeks with her sleeve and composed herself. “What I am trying to say is that I would like to sit down with you, and talk about everything that happened.  I need us both to be fully honest with each other before we can continue with whatever this is.  I need to learn how to trust you again, and I am willing to talk if you are”

 

Holy fucking shit.  Ellie did not expect those words to come from Dina.  She wants to try. 

 

“Dina, I want that more than anything. I am so sorry for the pain that I have caused to you. I promise I will do whatever I can to show you that I am serious, and that I can be trusted. Can I take you for breakfast tomorrow? Or lunch? Then I can tell you everything” 

 

“I can’t in the day time tomorrow, I have to take JJ to the daycare in the morning, and then I promised Maria that I would help out at the stables in the afternoon. I am free for dinner though.  I can ask Robin to watch JJ for the evening, I’m sure she won’t complain” She smiled 

 

“How is the little goober doing?  I’m really look forward to seeing him.  I miss him,” her voice caught “a lot.”” Ellie’s eyebrows furrowed as she picked at a loose thread in her jeans

 

“He is doing really well.  He gets attention from literally everyone, and he loves it.  He’s even walking now!  It’s really amazing how fast he picks up on things” Dina gave a proud grin but Ellie stayed silent, the thread on her jeans had worn away to form a small but noticeable hole.

 

“Hey” Dina placed her hand on Ellie’s arm which caused Ellie to snap out of her thoughts. “There’s a lot that you have missed, but you’re going to have to be okay with accepting that. You can’t just close yourself off”

 

The hairs on the back of Ellie’s neck stood tall from the touch. She turned to look at Dina with her eyes glossy from trying to hold back her tears. 

 

“You’re right. I’m sorry…” 

 

“So I get off at 5pm tomorrow, maybe you could pick me up at 5.45pm from my house?” Dina spoke to clear the silence

 

“I will be there” Ellie smiled 

 

“Perfect! I will see you then” Dina grinned, and grabbed the fork from the coffee table before taking an even bigger bite of mashed potatoes than Ellie did.  

 

“What the actual fuck” Ellie sat in disbelief that she had just done that, but was very glad there was no longer any tension in the room

 

Dina gave a childish grin, potatoes were all around her mouth, and she stuck out her tough playfully to show the contents of Ellie’s meal.

 

“You really are so gross” Ellie laughed, and playfully snatched the plate away before Dina could take any more

 

“Wow, Ellie.  You really are a fun sponge” Dina giggled.

 

“You give me no choice” Ellie rolled her eyes.

 

Dina bought herself to her feet again.  “I really should go, it’s really late” 

 

Ellie wanted to tell her to stay so bad, not wanting to stop the fun and be alone again.

 

“Oh yeah, just come here, steal my potatoes and run” she joked while escorting the shorter girl to the door.

 

Before she knew it, Dina had wrapped her arms around her neck and pulled her into a deep hug.  Ellie sank into the embrace and wrapped her arms around her back.  The feeling was everything she’d been missing for the past six months.  They stood there for a few minutes, neither one of them made a sound.  It was the safest Ellie  had felt in a very long time.

 

They both pulled away from the hug at the same time, but Ellie craved the touch instantly again.

 

“I’m really glad you came here, D” Ellie smiled.

 

“Me too” Dina looked deep into Ellie’s eyes. Ellie could feel that she meant it.

 

“Alright, well I will pick you up tomorrow?”

 

“Yep, I’ll see you then.  Don’t be late” She teased before opening the door and closing it behind her.

 

Ellie sat back down on the couch with a content smile plastered on her face.  That day was better than she could have imagined.  It was going to take a lot of work, but she was confident that everything would all work out in the end.

 

She scarfed down the rest of her food, not caring that it was now stone cold.  Once she finished, she undressed into her boxers and an old t-shirt that was now way too big for her small physique.  

 

She pulled herself under the covers and immediately fell asleep. 

 

That night, Ellie slept peacefully.

Chapter Text

Two Years Ago

 

The air was especially cool that fall evening.  The stars sparkled brighter in the sky than she had ever seen before. The smell of the crackling fire was extremely comforting as she sat on the log, and snuggled into her blanket wrapped around her shoulders while gazing into the fire, causing her emerald eyes to glisten.  Ellie smiled to herself as she was thankful that Dina had dragged her along to the bonfire that evening.  It took a lot of effort on Dina’s part, but Ellie finally caved.  She loved making her best friend happy, and if that meant that she would have to give up an evening of reading comics and playing the guitar, then it would be so fucking worth it.

 

She took a swig of whiskey from the small cup in her calloused hand, and winced from the heat that travelled down her throat.  

 

“Hey you” She heard the far too familiar voice in her ear which sent tingles through her body.

 

She turned to see Dina smiling down at her before plonking herself down next to her.  Their bodies were as close as they could get. Dina pulled the left side of Ellies blanket, and wrapped it around herself, somehow bringing the two even closer together than before. Dina took the drink from Ellie’s hand and took a sip herself before smiling at Ellie, and resting her head on Ellie’s shoulder.  Ellie caught a waft of scent from Dina’s hair , and closed her eyes, intoxicated..  She wasn’t sure if it was the aged whiskey, or Dina’s presence, but she was suddenly feeling a buzz that made her feel like she was on top of the world.  

 

“Hey” Ellie replied softly as she rested her head on top of Dina’s.

 

“I’m really glad you came, Ellie.  It’s really nice to see you” Dina spoke after a few moments of silence.

 

“Me too” Ellie smiled

 

“I honestly wasn’t sure if you would come.  I thought you might be hanging out with Cat tonight or something” Dina replied.  Curiosity was clear in her voice.

 

Ellie took a moment to reply.  She hadn’t actually told Dina that they had broken up yet.  She wasn't trying to hide it from her best friend, but she just hadn’t been ready to talk about it with anyone.  

 

“Actually” Ellie took a deep breath “Cat and I broke up” She took a bigger swig of her drink than before

“What?” Dina pulled her head up, and looked at Ellie who was staring down at the cup in her hands. Ellie gave a small half smile and shrugged her shoulders.

 

“When? How?” Dina pushed further and placed a comforting hand on Ellie's thigh.

 

“Well..” Ellie took a moment to look at her best friend, and then down to the hand on her thigh and covered the slim hand with her own. “We’ve been a little distant the past week, and I guess we just haven’t been connecting emotionally like we used to” She took a moment to think about their breakup again, and furrowed her brows. “Don’t get me wrong, we had a great connection, if you know what I mean” Ellie winked and let out a dry laugh to mask the real hurt she was feeling.  She really did care for Cat a lot, and she was very sad that they were no longer together.

 

Dina cocked an eyebrow up at Ellie’s confession, and smirked at her confidence. The two giggled together for a moment.

 

“But in all honesty, Ellie.  How are you about this all?” Dina became more serious and gently squeezed Ellie’s thigh once again.

 

Ellie knocked back the last sip in her cup, and coughed from the heat, and took her hand from the top of Dina’s and held it to her chest to calm her breathing.  She immediately missed the contact, and quickly moved her hand back to its previous position over dina’s

 

“You want my honest answer?” Ellie looked back at Dina and raised her brows.  Dina gave her an all knowing look as if to say of course.

 

“Well, I’m pretty fucking bummed out.  I really fucking liked her, a lot.  But I guess I should have expected it, nothing good can last forever you know?” Ellie looked down at her now empty cup

 

“Ellie” Dina sighed. “That’s not tru..”

 

“How are you and Jesse?” Ellie cut the smaller girl off. She knew exactly what Dina was going to say, and she couldn’t bear to hear the ‘everything will be okay’ speech. “I uh.. I saw him earlier today but I haven’t seen him here yet” She continued, and felt Dina’s hand pull back into her own lap.

 

“We're taking some time apart” Dina whispered, twiddled her thumbs, and avoided eye contact with the brunette.

 

“Oh?” It was Ellie’s turn to be curious. Although, she was used to this.  Dina and Jesse were always on and off.  The amount of times Dina had come to Ellie’s place and complained about how boring their relationship was and how serious Jesse always acted towards literally everything, Ellie didn't have enough fingers to count. It was probably the same amount of times that Ellie wanted to confess her love for her best friend.

 

“I don't know, we're just in two different places it feels like.  I want someone who will love me for all of my quirks, and my flaws, and someone I could call my best friend..” Dina sighed

 

Like me , Ellie thought and wished she could take Dina’s hand and confess her everlasting love. She furrowed her brows and chose to place her hand now on Dina’s knee, knowing that anything more would only be a dream.

 

“Sometimes I just don't think that Jesse is that person, you know?” Deep brown eyes had now locked onto Ellie’s. Ellie noticed she could see the reflection of the fire in her eyes, and it was captivating. 

 

Ellie gave a half smile and squeezed Dina’s knee where her hand was placed.  Dina mirrored the smile, and they both stayed staring at each other for what felt like hours. Ellie suddenly felt her mouth go dry, and her palms sweat as she tried to control her urge to kiss the girl next to her, she wanted nothing more than to grab Dina, and kiss her passionately, the crowd around them held her back. It didn’t feel right to kiss her there with everyone watching.

 

A sound of loud cheers in the background broke their stare, and they both turned to see where the noise came from. A few boys were playing a drinking game, and one guy had to chug a pint full of random mixed drinks.  The other boys cheered him on as he finished the last sip. The cheers quickly stopped as the guy’s face suddenly went green and he threw up all over his shoes.  The girls looked back at each other and laughed out loud, the tension between them dissolving into the night air.

 

“Hey, you wanna see something pretty awesome?” Ellie asked with childish grin

 

“I think I'm already looking at it.” Dina winked. Ellie rolled her eyes.  She was used to Dina’s flirtatiousness. 

 

“Come with me” Ellie bit her lip and grabbed the girl next to her, leaving Dina’s mind to wonder.

 

Ellie didn’t say a word as she led Dina through the back streets behind some vacant homes.

 

“Are you kidnapping me you fucker?” Dina laughed slightly out of breath

 

“If kidnapping someone is this easy I should really reconsider my career choices” ” Ellie turned back and laughed.  “Trust me, D.  Were almost there.  Tonight is the perfect night for it”

 

“The perfect night for what?” Dina’s annoyed tone brought Ellie to an abrupt stop. She turned to look at the shorter girl, and a breath hitched in her throat as she realized just how close they were. . She couldn’t stop her eyes from darting down to Dina’s lips, taking in their plump shape. She quickly looked back up into deep brown eyes, hoping the smaller girl didn’t notice.

 

“You’re ruining the surprise” Ellie whispered “I can easily turn back around and go back home” She shrugged.  Playing the dramatic card on Dina was her favorite.

 

“You drive me crazy” Dina whispered back, and Ellie winked with a cheeky grin before pulling Dina in the direction of her surprise.

 

A few left and right turns, Ellie finally stopped in the middle of a field close to the edge of their borders. She let go of Dina’s hand, and turned to quickly lay out the blanket before throwing herself down onto her back leaning onto her elbows.

 

“Come lay with me” Ellie smiled sweetly and moved her weight onto her right arm so she could pat the empty side next to her with her left hand.

 

“Are you trying to seduce me?” Dina laughed but Ellie swore she saw a flash of something in her eyes.

 

“Oh please” Ellie laughed. “You wish! Just come and lay with me” She patted the empty spot again.

 

Dina rolled her eyes before letting herself drop down to the spot next to Ellie.  They locked eyes once again, and Ellie gave a big smile.

 

“Now lay all the way back and look up” Ellie placed her hands behind her head and layed completely flat and watched Dina hesitantly lay back and entangle her hands together over her stomach.

 

“Oh my fucking god” Dina whispered as she took in the sight before her. The hazy band of light shone down over them, and travelled for miles. Billions of stairs painted the sky, twinkling softly. 

 

Ellie looked over at Dina and was mesmerized by her beauty.  Dina’s mouth was slightly open, and her eyes were open wide.  Ellie was in awe of her.  She smiled softly and didn't take her eyes off of her.

 

“Beautiful isn’t it?” Ellie whispered

 

“It’s fucking gorgeous” Dina chocked

 

“Yeah, it is” Ellie didn't take her eyes from the beauty next to her, ignoring the Milky Way above.

 

*******

 

Present Day

 

Ellie shook her head to free her mind of her memories and gazed at the woman sitting in front of her looking deeply into the menu.  The noise of people's chit chat in the background was muffled as Ellie tried to bring herself to the present moment.  She was so happy and nervous to see Dina again. When Ellie picked Dina up from her house, her nerves subsided, and she was able to at least make small talk on the way to the restaurant.

 

“Do you know what you want to order?” Dina finally spoke as both her and the waitress were now staring at her, waiting for her

 

Ellie hadn’t even looked at the menu, and felt embarrassed at the fact that she had been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn’t been making any effort to converse.  Don’t fuck this up, she thought. 

 

“I’ll just have a burger and fries” Ellie pretended to look at the menu before closing it and handing the menu to the waitress. 

 

“I’ll have the same please” Dina smiled and handed the menu over.

 

The waitress left to put the order in, and the two were left alone.

 

“So how was your day?” Ellie asked

 

“It’s been a day, let me tell you” Dina chucked to herself

 

Ellie leaned forward into the table and rested her chin on her intertwined hands, and smiled softly.

 

“Well, to start off, I barely slept” Dina rolled her eyes and took a sip of her water

 

Why couldn’t she sleep? Was it because of me?

 

“Then JJ had of a bit rough morning, he’s got more more of his teeth coming through so he’s been a little monster” 

 

Ellie couldn’t help but feel guilty at Dina’s words.  She wouldn’t have to do this alone if Ellie didn’t leave, and that distressed her. She couldn’t help her mind from taking herself away from the conversation, and let her thoughts consume her. Dina’s voice became distant.

 

“Then I stood in cow shit at least three times today, which was just fucking fantastic” Dina laughed

 

Ellie sat motionless.

 

“Oh, and to top it all off” Dina continued “My date invited me here and has barely spoken all evening” her eyes were now wide, and her lips thin.

 

Ellie immediately snapped back into the conversation and leaned back into her chair.

 

“Dina, I’m sorry.” Ellie finally spoke “That was rude of me”

 

“Yes, it was” Dina snapped back  “Why am I even here?”

 

Ellie scrunched her face for a second, and felt frustration towards herself. Fuck, Ellie. Don’t fuck this up, you fucking idot.  She rubbed her eyes over her face, and looked back up at the slightly pissed off woman in front of her.  Even really mad, Dina still looked so beautiful. Stay fucking focused.

 

“Can we please start this over? I’m really sorry” Ellie pleaded

 

“I need you to be in this, Ellie.  This isn’t a joke to me” Dina replied without taking her eyes from the girl in front of her.

 

“I know.  I’m in this, I swear.  It’s not a joke to me either.” Ellie's eyes were suddenly raw as she held back the tears that were trying extra hard to fall.

 

Dina waived down the waitress and yelled across the room “Can we get two whiskeys over here?” and the waitress nodded back.  They both sat in silence for a moment before the waitress placed two small glasses filled with whiskey in front of them.

 

“I want to hear everything” Dina finally broke the silence as she pushed one of the glasses towards Ellie with two fingers.

 

Ellie took a small, but long sip, never breaking her and Dina’s stare.  She took a deep breath in, and exhaled. Tell her fucking everything.  No secrets.

 

“Okay, so, my journey there went better than I expected, I mean it wasn’t perfect by all means, but it could have gone a lot worse.  I had a few close moments going through Idaho with a swarm of runners, but by some fucking miracle, I stumbled across some makeshift bombs. I took about seventeen of them out with one bomb alone, and managed to outrun the rest, losing them in the smoke” Ellie paused to take another sip as she watched Dina’s facial reactions.  She couldn’t figure out if she was mad, upset, or genuinely interested. “I won't lie, it was rough trying to rest or find any food. Travelling solo is a lot tougher than travelling with someone. But I was so anxious to get there, that there were a couple of days where I knew I was pushing myself too hard, and I did have to force myself to rest and salvage some food.”  She watched Dina scrunch her face in annoyance. “I know D, I’m an idiot.” 

 

The waitress arrived back at the table with two plates of food and placed them in front of the girls.

 

“Anything else you girls need?” The woman looked between the two girls.  Ellie shook her head, and Dina looked up at the woman and asked for two more whiskeys. 

 

The girls sat silently for a moment, adding salt to their fries.  The waitress was back in a flash and placed the two drinks down. “Enjoy” She smiled and walked away

 

“Please continue” Dina spoke while biting a fry

 

“So, I finally arrived in Santa Barbara after a long few weeks, and all of a sudden my foot got caught in some sort of trap with a clicker on the other side, also hanging upside down, and the force of me being swung up made me swing into a tree, and a branch had been carved purposely into some sort of sharp, pointy dagger and it stabbed me right in my side.  Fuck that hurt.” Ellie found her hand at her side wincing at the little pain that was still there, cringing at the memory. “And anyway, I was just hanging upside down in the air for god knows how long. My knife had fallen, I had fucking nothing, and I was bleeding out.  I was so terrified in that moment” She couldn't help but notice Dina wiping a tear that fell from her eyes “I honestly thought that I might die there, and all I could think about was how stupid I was to have left you. How much I loved you, and I hated myself for leaving you that way” Ellie fought back her own tears and chugged the rest of her first drink, taking her second glass in the palm of her hands.  She cleared her throat from the burning sensation before continuing.  “Yeah, so, then a couple of guys came along, who initially I thought was Abby, but they were the ones who obviously layed the trap and they cut me down.  I knew they did not mean well, and you know I can’t keep my mouth shut, so I pissed off one of the guys and he tried to get the clicker to bite me, but I used my immunity to my advantage and ducked out of the way before the clicker could get to me so it took him out instead.  Then I grabbed his gun and shot the other guy in his legs to bring him down, and before I could get to him he told me he knew where Abby was, and mentioned I could get to her before my infection set, which confused me until I looked at my hand and noticed a bite mark.  I knew I had this guy at the palm of my hands from then.  He would tell me anything I needed to know because he probably just thought I was dead already” She let out a dry laugh and took another sip from her drink.  The alcohol has definitely kicked in, because all of her nerves were long gone.

 

“Fuck, Ellie.  That’s fucking intense” Dina whispered and took and big swig from her glass. The food on the table stayed untouched.

 

“Yeah, i’ve had better days” Ellie raised her eyebrows and gave a half smile

 

“Then what happened? Did you find her?” Dina pressed

 

“So I followed the man's directions and finally came across this red dome type of building, which was basically the main settlement of this fucked up group called the Rattlers.  They would trap people and keep them as slaves, and they would have runners tied to chains.  It was so fucking weird.  They were fucking strong but I managed to take most of them out, and I freed the prisoners they had locked up, hoping to find her there but she was no where to be seen.  I asked one of the prisoners, and they told me that she had tried to escape and she was down at the beach at the pillars”

 

“The pillars?” Dina asked in confusion

 

“Yeah, I was confused too.  I immediately ran there, and fuck, Dina.  It was so fucking morbid.  So these ‘pillars’ were giant and had dead people hanging from them.  There were fucking loads of them.  I finally came across one with the face of... her, but it didn’t look like her.  She was weak and frail, and her hair was all cut off.” Ellie took another sip “I cut her down, and she was barely alive.  She got up and cut down that kid that was with her, this time he had a full head of hair and looked near death also.”

 

“Fuck” was all Dina could muster

 

“Yeah” Ellie sighed “I honestly didn’t know what to do at the time, she looked like fucking shit, and she was so fucking weak as she held the barely breathing kid in her arms.  I found myself following her down to the water because she said there were boats down there. I was in so much paid at that point, that all I wanted to do was fucking come home.  But I had gone all of that way, I needed to finish what I started.  I..” Ellie took a deep breath in, looked directly into Dina’s eyes, and exhaled.  Dina took Ellie’s hands into hers which instantly made her feel safe.

 

“I made her fight.  I could have just let her go, but I was so fucking angry, and I made her fucking fight.  I tried to drown her, and she bit my fucking fingers off.” Ellie winced, and took another sip of her drink.  This was not an easy memory to relive, but she knew that she had to explain it all.  Dina gave her hand a light squeeze, and brought Ellie’s bad hand to her lips and gave a soft peck before setting the hand back down, keeping them in her own hands. Ellie suddenly felt a huge wave of emotions rush through her body, and she let the tears fall. 

 

“I didn’t kill her. I.. I.. I couldn’t.  I had the chance, She was almost dead, and I just kept seeing Joel’s face in my head.  It was that moment when I realized that this would be a constant fucking cycle.  I kill her, then what? Her friend then comes for me?  I needed to learn how to let go and move on, and in that moment I did” Ellie took her hand back briefly to wipe her tears with her shirt “I have so much of my life ahead of me, and if I keep searching for vengeance, then i’m never going to get to live through it.  I let her go.  I let her go, and I headed straight home” This time, Dina’s tears were falling. “On my way back, I came across this little village full of the nicest people.  They took me in for a day and helped me clean my wounds, and gave me food for my journey.  I was so thankful for them. After a little rest, I finally headed back to the farmhouse” Ellie sighed

 

 “I knew as soon as I got to the front gate, that you wouldn’t be there.  But of course, there was a small bit of hope that you would be” Ellie took Dinas hands into her own this time.  “Dina, I don’t fucking blame you for leaving. I was a fucking asshole for leaving, and I words cannot describe how sorry I am”  She leaned forward to wipe the tears from her face. “I don’t expect you to forgive me, but I will try my fucking hardest to show you that you mean the world to me, Dina.  I have been a selfish person, and I don’t deserve someone as fucking perfect as you”

 

Dina took a minute to compose herself, while Ellie motioned to the waitress for two more drinks, and they quickly arrived.  The girls both took their final swigs before moving onto the next.  Ellie was so thankful for this buzz right now, it was making her more honest than she would usually allow herself to be, and she knew that's what Dina needed the most.  

 

“Ellie, you went through a lot” Dina’s eyes widened on the words a lot. “And you are a lucky son of a bitch to be alive” She let out a small chuckle.  “Your story is very hard for me to listen to, and I hope you understand.  On one side I am glad that you were able to find some closure on the whole situation.  But on the other hand, you left me heartbroken.  I thought you were dead every, single, day.  I would sit and imagine how many ways you could die.  I’m at a hundred and twelve ways now”  Dina raised her brow and took a swig. “I wanted to stay in that farmhouse, I really did.  But I couldn’t live that life without you in it.  It was just me and JJ, and he was constantly calling for you, and it all just got so much.  I suddenly stopped feeling safe there, because who would hear me scream if I was ambushed? Absolutely no one.  I knew I needed to go back to Jackson with JJ.” 

 

Ellie looked down into her glass and thought about all of the words coming from Dina.  She felt so helpless, and at fault for everything.

 

“I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, I am just telling you my side of the story.” Dina said.  Clearly Ellie’s facial expressions were not as disguised as she thought.

 

“I can’t pretend that everything is going to go back to normal or anything.  But I am willing to try and get there.  I need to learn how to trust again, and that's not going to be easy.  It’s going to take a while, but we need to work on ourselves before anything”

 

“I completely agree” Ellie replied  “I’m willing to do anything to have you back in my life again, D.” I would do fucking anything.

 

“Let's take things slow, yeah? I need some time to think about everything.  I don’t want to lead you on, thinking that we're going to be a couple or anything again right away.  I’m not sure if i’m ready for that.  But I miss you so fucking much, and i’d like to try and hang out again, as friends”  

 

As friends. Ellie’s chest suddenly felt like she had been shot.  She knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but it didn’t make it hurt any less.

 

“I completely understand, Dina.  I just want to become a better version of myself, and that means you being in it.  I would like to try to earn your trust again.  I miss you, and I miss JJ.”  She looked down, her eyebrows furrowed.

 

“And you’ll get to see him again, soon.  I need to know you’re here for the long run first.  I can’t do that to him again” Dina wiped her tears.

 

The thought of Dina not trusting Ellie to stay sends spears through her chest.  She was going to have to fight hard and she was fully prepared for it.  She took a few moments to look at the beautiful sight in front of her.  There was nothing on this earth that would stop her from trying to save her family, and trying to make things work.  

 

“I promise, I will do everything in my power to make this work.  I will prove to you that I am a better person”

 

“Don’t do it for me, El.  Do it for yourself” She was right.  I need to do this for me, so I can finally move on with my life.  

 

“I missed you, Dina” Ellie smiled and looked deeply into Dina’s eyes. She wished she could grab the woman before her, and kiss her her soft lips.  She wouldn’t care who saw.

 

“I missed you too, Ellie” Dina replied, still holding her gaze.. She cleared her throat then and turned to wave down the waitress.

 

“Can we get something to wrap this up in please?” She asked as the waitress started moving toward them. The girl nodded and walked back to the kitchen. “Can't let all of this food go to waste now” She spoke back to Ellie.

 

The two girls composed their red faces, and Ellie nudged Dina’s leg with her foot, admittedly a little harder than intended

 

“Ow! What the fuck?” Dina looked at Ellie with full shock on her face

 

“Oh my god, I was trying to be all nice, I swear! I was going to tap your leg, you would look up at me, and we would smile, it was going to be nice” Ellie held back her laugh, still in shock that she’d actually full on kicked the girl.

 

“Yeah, well, you fucking crippled me instead.  Thanks for that” Dina rolled her eyes

 

“Hey! Welcome to the club!” Ellie couldn't hold her laughter in any longer.  Dina quickly followed suit before jabbing at Ellie’s leg with her own as payback which caused a little grunt from Ellie. 

 

The waitress came over to the table with two small paper boxes and placed them down. Ellie grabbed a few ration tickets from her pocket, ready to cover the expense. The more you do around town, the more tickets you acquire which you’re then able to spend around town at your leisure.

 

 “Your tab has already been taken care of by Maria” The girls immediately looked over at the bar and saw Maria raising a drink to cheers in their direction.  The girls raised their own and necked back their drinks.  

 

“Thank you.” Emily mouthed to the taller woman.  Maria winked back.

 

Ellie and Dina boxed up their food and headed outside.  The cheer and laughter outside rang through the night as people were dancing and music played out. Ellie found herself gazing into Dina’s eyes, and Dina did the same.  Ellie wanted to kiss her so bad, and licked her lips subconsciously.  She almost thought it could have happened until they were pulled from each other’s gaze by a horrible retching sound. They looked to the scene in front of them, and saw the same guy from the bonfire in the corner throw up all over himself, bringing them back to an all too familiar memory.  They looked back at each other and laughed hysterically.  Dina grabbed on to Ellie for balance and the two met eyes once again. 

 

“Jesus, you’d think that guy would know when to fucking stop by now?” Dina spoke as they both giggled.

 

“Let me walk you home?” Ellie asked but knowing that she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

 

“Lets go” Dina smiled and linked arms with the taller girl.

 

They walked together in silence, and enjoyed each other's presence.  As they arrived at Dina’s house, Dina turned and pulled Ellie into a tight, comforting hug.

 

“Thank you for being honest and open with me.” Dina mumbled into Ellie’s neck.

 

“Thank you for listening” Ellie whispered

 

Dina pulled away from the hug first.  

 

“I’m sorry about your fingers” Dina gave an apologetic smile

 

“I’m sorry about your leg” Ellie laughed, breaking the seriousness.  Dina laughed back.

 

“Goodnight, Ellie” 

 

“Night, D” 

 

The girls smiled at each other for a moment before Dina turned to walk into her house. Ellie didn’t move until she saw her go into the house and lock the door.  She let out a long breath and smiled.  She walked home, and looked up at the sky as she reached her front door. Its fucking gorgeous. Yes, it is.   Ellie smiled bright.  

 

Everything will be okay.

Chapter Text

A few weeks had passed by since Ellie’s dinner date with Dina, and they hadn’t hung out since.  Ellie wanted to give Dina the space and time that she needed, and thought it would be best not to constantly be around.  She didn’t want to push the boundaries.  Things seemed to be left on a good note, and she didn’t want to ruin it.  She had seen Dina once while brushing her horse, Japan.  She contemplated whether or not she would approach her at the time, but instead decided on giving a small wave from afar when Dina clocked her watching.

 

One warm evening, Ellie found herself wandering the streets of Jackson.  She didn’t have many people here that she still talked to, so she often found herself lost in her own thoughts, letting her feet take her wherever.  Ellie could have sworn that she had been walking for hours when her calves suddenly felt like they were burning. She bought herself to a halt outside the ‘Tipsy Bison’ and decided to stop in for a drink. The bar was quiet, only a few locals were sitting in their usual spots, the same ones that had been there since she came to Jackson many years ago. 

 

She perched herself on a stool at the bar and gestured to the barmaid for a large whiskey while placing down her ration ticket on the bar.  She took a small sip and winced at the first sensation of heat running through her throat. She closed her eyes for a second, and all she could see was striking deep brown eyes.  She knew that she had to win Dina back.  She thought for a minute about the possibility that her and Dina were officially no more.  Would I stay here? Would she even want me to stay here?  Maybe I could just leave Jackson for good, and let her find happiness again. No. Leaving is not an option.  We will be okay.  Ellie snapped out of her thoughts when she felt a light tap on her shoulder.

 

“Hello stranger” The girl before her smiled as Ellie whipped her head around

 

“Cat.. hey!” Ellie was very surprised to see her ex girlfriend, but happy to see a familiar face “What are you doing here?”

 

“Oh I just finished my shift at the gate, so I thought I would stop in for a quick drink.  And behold, I am lucky enough to bump into you” she smiled. “Is this seat taken?”  Cat points at the empty stool next to Ellie.  Ellie nodded her head, and Cat sat down before ordering her own drink. 

 

“So the rumors are true” Cat smirked as she took a sip of her drink “Ellie Williams is back”

 

“Come on, Cat.  It’s not front page news” Ellie chuckled and rolled her eyes

 

“Well I know that, silly.  But it’s still a big deal, you’ve been gone for a long time.  Shit must have hit the fan” The smaller girl nudged Ellie.  

 

Ellie furrowed her brows at the comment.  She knew Cat didn’t mean any harm, but it was still a sore subject for her to come to terms with.

 

“I know, I fucked up big time” Ellie whispered in her self pity and took another sip of her drink.

 

“Hey, you’re only human” Cat put a reassuring hand over Ellie’s tattooed arm. “You were put in a really tough place, and you needed to do what you had to do” Cat continued

 

Ellie paused for a second and looked at Cat with confusion

 

“How do you know what happened?” Ellie asked almost defensively 

 

“Oh shit” Cat dropped her head “It’s really nothing Ellie, I’m sorry, I should have kept my mouth shut”

 

“Cat, how do you know what happened?” Ellie didn’t take her eyes away from the smaller girl.  Her tone was firm, but curious.

 

“Okay fine” Cat sighed and took a sip from her drink “But you cannot say that I said anything” Cat’s voice was more serious

 

“Fine, just tell me” Ellie’s voice became more impatient, she needed answers.

 

“Dina told me what happened” Cat softly spoke

 

Dina? Why would Dina tell Cat? They never got along, so why would she have all of a sudden felt like she could talk to Cat? 

 

“I know you’re confused, but let me explain” Cat paused “When Dina came back, she seemed really lost.  She wasn’t the same Dina that she was before.  I mean, she looked the same of course, but she was distant from everyone, she kept to herself and didn’t talk to anyone for weeks”

 

Weeks?

 

“Well after about a month or so, Dina was posted on the same shift as me at the stables.  Things were a little awkward, but I just felt like she could use someone to talk to, so I asked her what was wrong and she tried to brush it off as nothing but then she just started crying.  I felt so bad for her”  Cat paused and took a sip from her drink “I just hugged her, she looked like she needed it.  And honestly, I’m glad I did it.  I took her for a drink after our shift that night, and it was nice to have an actual conversation with her.  She had opened up about the both of you, and I’m sure she wasn't trying to tell me everything, but she seemed like she had bottled this stuff up for so long, and was just waiting for it all to spill.” 

 

Ellie took a moment to process everything.  She knew that Dina was hurt, but never expected her to open up about everything with Cat, of all people.

 

“Well then believe it or not, we actually hung out a few times after that.  I think she just really needed a friend.  She really opened up to me, and I’m glad I was there for it” Cat smiled

 

“Thank you for looking after her” Ellie said, her voice soft.  “I can’t lie, I’m pretty shocked that you both became friends, but I’m really glad she had someone to be there for her” She choked as she held back her tears.  Ellie took a long swig of her drink, and gestured the empty glass to the barmaid for a refill. 

 

“I fucked it all up, Cat” Ellie sighed. “I had everything right in front of me, I had a family, something I had always dreamed of, and I fucking left it” Her tears were now falling down her fave, one tear at a time. “And now I'm back, and I met Dina and I look at her, and I just want her to love me again, I want my life back.  I’m so alone, and I have no one to blame but myself” 

 

“Ellie” Cat sighed and rubbed Ellie’s arm  

 

“I don’t deserve her, Cat.  Shes one in a fucking million, and I’ll never get that lucky again.  She said she wants to try to be friends, but honestly, I don’t know how to do that again. I can’t hide these feelings if she never wants to get back together.  I just don’t know what I would do” She took the neck of her shirt and wiped her tears

 

“Ellie, can I be honest with you?” Cat asked and Ellie nodded in response with her lips to her glass. “Please don’t take offense, but you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself”  Ellie took a moment to look at Cat with shock in her eyes, but her face softened and she gestured to Cat to continue.  Maybe she needed to hear this. “Yes, you had the family, and you were in your perfect farmhouse with the love of your life, and yes, you left it all behind to seek revenge.  But fucking deal with it, Ellie.  You are sitting here right now and you are alive. You have been through hell, and you travelled half the country to come back to her. You did what you had to do, now you have to deal with the consequences.  Life isn’t just going to go back to normal, you have to work for it.  Prove to her that you are a better person for her, for JJ, and most importantly, for you.  If you can't get yourself out of this self pity, then how do you expect Dina to fall for you again? If she said she wants to be your friend, then shit Ellie, be her friend!” 

 

Cat was right.  As much as she didn’t want to hear it, she needed to. Ellie gave Cat a smile before pulling her into a tight hug.  

 

“Thank you” Ellie whispered, and they both broke away from each other.   “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you swear so much” she chuckled

 

“Well things change I guess” Cat smirked and lifted her glass towards Ellie “Here’s to changing for the better”

 

“To changing for the better” Ellie smiled and raised her glass to meet with Cat’s, the glasses clink and they both down the rest of their drinks.  They both groaned at the sensation of the whiskey and giggled at each other.

 

The two girls continued drinking for hours that night.  They caught each other up on their lives from the time that they hadn’t seen each other.  Ellie was really happy to be connected with her friend again, things were starting to feel like they were falling into place.  She knew what she needed to do, and she was ready.  She had been best friends with Dina for 5 years, she knew how to do this.

 

The following morning,  Ellie woke up with a headache.  She grabbed her head and cursed herself for not stopping when she should have.  She didn’t regret it though.  She smiled to herself as she reminisced on her evening with her friend, Cat, who she didn't realize she had missed so much.

 

Today was a new start for Ellie.  She was ready to work on herself, and mend her friendship with Dina.  One step at a time.  She threw herself out of bed and pulled on a pair of sweatpants, a long sleeved t shirt, and her trusty converse.  As she was headed for the door, she contemplated whether or not she should grab her jacket or not.  The weather was starting to get cooler but it wasn’t too bad yet, so she opted for a beanie instead, and grabbed her walkman before leaving her tiny home to the crisp outdoors.  She put her earbuds in and pressed play on the mixed tape that Dina had found for her on an old patrol.  The song Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra played.  Ellie smiled and started running, letting her feet lead the way.

 

She found herself running for miles.  She hadn’t felt this free in a very long time, she was ready to get her life back on track, and she was ready to turn things around.  

 

Before she knew it, she found herself standing in front of Joel’s grave.  She cleaned off the leaves from around it, and sat down.  She sat for a while before taking a deep breath.

 

“Hey old man” She started. She felt stupid for talking out loud, but somehow it just felt right “Not really sure what I’m doing here, but uh, I miss you Joel, a lot.  Life has been pretty tough lately, but I’m working through it.  I wish you were here so I could talk to you properly”  She looked down and played with her fingers. “I can’t play guitar anymore.  Fucked my fingers up in Santa Barbara.  I’ve been thinking of learning again, and restringing my guitar.  I wish you were here to help.” she hesitated for a moment “ I’m trying to become a better person, Joel. And I need you to know” Ellie’s tears were now apparent “I’ve been through a lot of fucked up shit since you’ve been gone, and I have come to realize some things. Joel, I… I… I would have done the exact same thing for JJ, or Dina.  I understand why you pulled me out of there, and I.. I forgive you Joel.  I just wish I could have told you in person”  She sat and let herself cry for a while.  She needed the release.

 

Ellie composed herself after a while and put her headphones back in before walking away from the cemetery.  She smiled brightly when the song sing by Tavis came on.  She mumbled along to the words and brought herself to a jog and headed towards the neighborhood homes.  She felt like a thousand pounds had been lifted off her chest. She finally felt like she had closure with Joel.  She had forgiven him, and she was going to make sure he did not die in vain.  She was going to make the most of the life he had risked his own for.

 

After a few minutes, Ellie found herself in the direction of Maria’s house.  She walked up to the front door of Maria’s and Tommy’s and knocked with confidence. The door opened and her eyes were met with warm blue ones.

 

“Well hello, Ellie” Maria smiled “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

 

“Hey Maria, I’m sorry for just stopping by, but I just wanted to ask if I can start working again?  I know that I’m ready and I just want to help out as much as I can” Ellie replied  “I swear I ca..”

 

“Okay” Maria cut her off and smiled. “I think you are ready, but let's start you off slow.  I’ll set you up with patrols soon, but for now let’s just have you work at the stables yeah? You can start the morning shift tomorrow at 7am.”

 

“Fucking deal.  Thank you so much, Maria.  You won’t regret this” Ellie smiled from ear to ear and turned to walk away, Maria chuckled and closed the door.  

 

Ellie returned back to her jog and soaked in the sun, and the cool breeze on her face.  As she turned a corner, she saw the familiar short beautifully tanned woman leaning against a post  outside of the butcher shop.  Fuck it she thought as she headed in her direction.

 

“Hey Dina!” Ellie yelled as she slowed her pace and came to a stop while removing her earphones.  

 

“Hey Ellie” Dina smiled and stood up straight  “I like your beanie” 

 

Ellie felt the beanie on her head and smiled. She knew she made a good choice that morning. “Thanks” She replied

 

“Hey what are you doing tomorrow night?” Ellie asked as she placed her hands on her hips, her voice slightly out of breath.

 

“Uh, I don’t have any plans.  Why?” Dina chuckled slightly

 

“Well I was wondering if you might want to come over and watch a movie at my place?” She watched Dina’s expression and she couldn’t read it. “As friends! I could pick up some pizza from the diner, and I’ll even let you pick the movie. It will be fun!” She smiled and watched Dina smile slightly.

 

“Sure” Dina smiled  “I’ll ask if Robin can watch JJ.  What time are you thinking?”

 

“About 7?”

 

“Perfect. I will bring the movie” Dina smiled big

 

“Alright, well I will see you then. Don’t be late, or you’ll be denied entry to my humble abode” Ellie joked around and was rewarded with a giggle from the smaller woman

 

“I’ll get there when I get there” Dina winked.  Ellie’s heart fluttered at the familiar banter.  

 

“Bye Dina” Ellie waved and Dina waved back with a gorgeous smile.

 

Ellie jogged the rest of the way home, and her smile never faded.

Chapter Text

Ellie stood in front of the stables in the crisp air early that morning.  The leaves crunched beneath her chucks as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other, her hands shoved in her pockets for warmth, and her mouth in an ‘o’ shape as she watched her breath form into clouds. She shivered and cursed to herself for not adding more layers, the temperature had dropped overnight.

 

“Are you going to get to work? Or are you waiting for spring to come?”  She heard Maria’s voice from behind getting closer.  

 

Ellie spun around and gave a cheeky grin “The second option?”

 

“Oh wow, you’ve already given up on the work before you started?” Maria chuckled

 

“Being up this early is hard enough, I think I'm done for the day”  Ellie laughed and pretended to walk the opposite direction

 

“Let's get to work, kid” Maria chuckled and led Ellie through to the stables.  She showed Ellie where all of the equipment was and gave her daily duties. 

 

“You can handle this, right Ellie?” Maria raised an eyebrow and folded her arms “If this is going to be too much, please tell me” 

 

“No, it’s absolutely fine”  Ellie assured the taller woman “I just wanna get started, you know?” 

 

“Well, alright” Maria nodded, her fingers scanned over the roster on her clipboard “Chris should be here to relieve you at 1pm, and Oliver, Rae, and Alex are heading out on patrol at 9am, so please have the horses ready for 8.30”

 

“You got it, boss” Ellie bought two fingers to her forehead and saluted while Maria walked away, unimpressed.

 

She watched Maria leave, on to her next mission.  I got this. I got this. I got this She repeated in her head.  She knew she was ready to prove to herself that she could handle anything.  She was ready to prove to everyone. She made her way through the mud, swore at herself under her breath for not wearing her boots, her converse were already unrecognizable. 

 

She came to a stop when she noticed the familiar hazel horse peering out from the stall.  It was Japan, Dina’s trusted protector.  

 

“Hey boy” Ellie smiled as she raised her hand slowly to his face, not wanting to spook him. She smiled as she pulled out an apple, which she had intended to eat for her breakfast.  She held out the apple in her palm as she allowed Japan to take the snack.  As the apple quickly disappeared, she placed her free hand on the other side of the steed's face, and placed a gentle kiss on the tip of his nose.  “I’ll make sure to take good care of you”



The rest of her shift went a lot smoother than she had anticipated.  She made sure to have the horses ready for the patrol team on time, the stalls were all cleaned, and the horses were fed, watered and groomed.  She couldn't help paying a little closer attention to Japan throughout the day.  The work was definitely not as easy as she remembered, and she forgot how awful it made her smell, but she was sure fucking proud of herself, and the work that she had accomplished.  She smiled to herself as she thought about the rewarding shower she would take when she got home.  Dina would not want to hang out with her smelling like literal horse shit. 

 

Just as Maria told her, Chris was at the stables at 1pm sharp.  She gave him the lowdown of the chores she had completed, and made her way out.

 

“Well that wasn’t so bad was it” She mumbled to herself with a small smile.

 

As she walked home, she couldn’t keep a smile from her face.  She couldn’t help but think of how smooth everything had been going since her talk with Cat. She had a new outlook on her life, and she was ready for everything to fall into place, it was riveting.

 

She arrived at her small home and stripped out of her filthy clothes immediately before jumping into the shower.  Her body relaxed as the hot water came crashing down on her.  She swore to herself that she would never take a shower for granted after being gone for so long with just rivers and lakes to clean in. For a moment, she remembered Joel and his coffee obsession and when he said he wasn’t proud of what he traded for his coffee beans. She smiled as she thought she would have done the same thing for a long hot shower. 

 

Ellie hastily got out of the shower and made her way over to her bed to dry off.  She groaned as she felt her muscles ache from her morning at the stables, and decided to let herself relax for a little while.  She pulled her damp body under the covers and decided to write in her journal.

 

First shift at the stables went well today.  Japan was there,  and he's still as awesome as ever.  I gave him extra treats and made him promise not to tell Dina.

 

I’ve decided I’m going to work on my friendship with Dina.  She wants to be friends, and I'd rather work on my friendship than have nothing at all. Ugh, I fucking miss her.  I miss her sleepy face next to me every morning. I miss her smell.  I miss her comfort. Fuck, I miss her body.  I’m such a fucking jerk dumbass.

 

I invited her over for pizza and a movie tonight.  I hope this goes well.  I hope she shows up.

 

Enjoying the comfort of her bed a little too much, Ellie closed her journal and scooched herself down the bed so her head hit the pillow.  Just a quick little nap she thought as she let her exhaustion take over.

 

Music was blasting, and bodies were cramped and sweaty. Ellie looked down and noticed a drink in her hand, although the liquid inside isn’t her usual brown color, instead It’s completely black, and a thick consistency.  The song ‘Ignorance’ by Paramore now rang through the room.  She chugged the foreign drink, and her vision suddenly became blurry.  The louder the music became, the more her body tingled. She pushed herself through the crowd to figure out where the fuck she was. As she reached a door, she forced her way in.  The room was now so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.  She rubbed her calloused palms over her eyes in an attempt to fix her sight.  The room was pitch black, but she could make out a faint silhouette of movement.  Possibly a person? Possibly more than one? She blindly threw her hands to the wall in search of a light switch, which she found in seconds.  The sight before her was terrifying.  The love of her life sat motionless on her knees, her face almost unrecognizable from the open wound in her forehead, and the blood which covered every inch of her face.  Crouched behind Dina was Abby holding Ellie's knife to the unresponsive woman, a chilling smile appeared on the blonde.  Ellie tried to yell, but she was mute.  Abby let out a dark raspy laugh that sent chills to the bone, and Ellie couldn’t move. “You made her a part of this” Abby smiled as she slid the knife in one motion and let Dina’s lifeless body drop.

 

Ellie's eyes snapped open as she threw herself into a sitting position.  Her hand spread out over her now sweaty chest as she attempted to calm herself.  What the fuck was that?

 

She glanced over at the clock on her bedside table. “FUCK” she yelled when she saw the time showed 5.35pm.  How the fuck did I sleep that long?  What the fuck is wrong with me? She cursed to herself as she scurried through her room to find clean clothes.  She settled on a pair of ripped jeans, and her black pink floyd t-shirt. She ran to the bathroom and splashed water over her face to calm herself down. She brushed her teeth, and threw her hair into her classic Ellie bun.

 

As she walked back into her living space, she cursed to herself for letting herself sleep for so long.  She had planned to give the room a deep clean, but now she didn’t have nearly enough time because she still had to pick up the food.  She lit some incense and began a quick clean.  She took her clothes from her morning shift and shoved them in the bottom of her hamper, underneath more clothes hoping to mask the smell, and threw her shit covered shoes outside. 

 

She walked over to the bed, straightened the sheets out, and fluffed the pillows.  Everything needed to be perfect.  She had to prove to Dina that she was trying, and that she was making the effort, and she needed Dina to notice. She glanced down at her wrist and smiled at the bracelet Dina had given her in Seattle.  Let's do this. Time to get the pizza.

 

She put on a pair of clean boots and grabbed black zip up hoodie before giving the place one last spot check.  She was impressed with how well her minimal cleaning job had made the room look.  She glanced back at the clock which showed 6.02pm. She grabbed her walkman and grinned with excitement as she left to pick up the food from the diner.

 

***

 

The wait didn’t take as long as expected, and before she knew it, the clock showed 6.40 as she stepped into her tiny apartment.  

 

“Okay, I have 20 minutes to calm my shit” She mumbled to herself as she rushed through the room once more.  Fuck, I wish I had some weed  she thought.  Why am I overthinking this? I’ve done this with Dina hundreds of times. We can be friends, we can hang out. Ellie knew she was fooling herself.  She knew that she couldn’t just be friends with Dina, not after everything, but she sure would try her best.

 

Ellie was suddenly pulled away from her thoughts as she heard two small knocks at her door, just loud enough that you could barely hear it.  Fuck, shes early.  She ran to the bathroom and quickly checked to see if she had anything on her face or in her teeth, she was clear.  She straightened her clothes with her now sweaty palms and headed for the door. I can do this she thought as she opened the door to a breathtaking view.

 

Dina stood before her in a pair of jeans that showed off her fantastic legs, and one of Ellie’s old flannels that she let her keep in the beginning of their relationship, even though it was Ellie’s favorite.  Her hair was in a messy bun, with a thick strand in the front hanging loose.  Ellie was captivated by the gorgeous woman standing there. She was speechless.

 

“Can I come in? Or should we just stand here all day?” Dina smirked and Ellie shook herself back to reality.

 

“Fuck, of course.  Come in”  She stuttered as she moved out of the way to let Dina through. “You’re early” She mustered as she closed the door behind her, now suddenly very conscious of the face that she was in her room with Dina, alone.

 

“Well you told me if I was late, I wouldn’t be allowed to come in, so I came early” The smaller woman raised her brows “Is that a problem with you?” 

 

“Not at all!” Ellie smiled, but it quickly faltered as she noticed Dina’s facial expression change. “Is everything okay?”

 

Dina stood silent for a moment before looking at at Ellie “No offence El, but what the fuck is that smell?”

 

FUCK, the hamper.

 

“Oh shit, I was hoping it would be gone by now.  I worked the stables this morning, and yeah I got covered in mud and shit.  Let me just get rid of this” She reached for her hamper and decided to place it outside, along with her shoes. “There, that's better” She brushed off her hands as she kicked the door shut again behind her, and walked over to light more incense.  “Sorry about that.  I kind of fell asleep when I got back, and I didnt get the chance to make everything perfect”

 

“It’s honestly fine” Dina laughed as she sat down on the couch “I appreciate the effort”.  She gave Ellie a content smile.  Butterflies were now doing somersaults in her stomach.

 

“Did you bring a movie?” Ellie tried to change the conversation to stop herself from jumping the smaller Dina's bones.  “I bought the pizza, please tell me you fulfilled your end of the bargain” She joked as she placed the box of pizza on the coffee table.  She purposely sat with a large distance between the two. 

 

“Yes, I bought a movie” Dina rolled her eyes.  “Okay, but you have to be open minded” she smiled “You said I could pick the movie, so I did”  her smile widened as she pulled out the DVD and placed it on the table.

 

“Paranormal Activity? Are you fucking kidding me?” Ellie joked with a small sense of realness in her voice “Dina, I’m terrified of ghosts, and you know that!”

 

“Oh calm down, you have killed hundreds of infected, and yet you cant even watch a made up movie about paranormal shit?” She laughed “You told me to pick it, so I did.  This is my choice.  Is that going to be a problem?” She raised her eyebrow in the challenging way she always did.

 

Challenge Accepted.

 

“Fine” Ellie cocked her eyebrow “then we're going to need this” Ellie continued as she reached under the couch and grabbed an aged bottle of whiskey. 

 

“Oooh, I like how you think” Dina chucked and wiggled her eyebrows as Ellie ran to grab glasses.  

 

The flirtatious banter was a blessing and a curse for Ellie. She was glad they were both comfortable enough to joke around, but it also just made her want to kiss Dina where she sat, more than anything.

 

“So you’re working at the stables now?” Dina asked as she readjusted herself to sit on one leg and took a bite of the pizza.  

 

“Yeah, I told Maria that I am ready, and I just wanna get going again. I’m so sick of just sitting around doing nothing, you know?” Ellie replied as she poured the drinks and handed one to Dina before taking a small sip of her own “I need some normality in my life right now, otherwise I’m going to drive myself crazy”

 

Dina smiled softly and took another sip of her drink.

 

“I’m glad to hear that” Dina replied “It’s good to see you’re taking care of yourself.  Although, I hope you’re not killing yourself in the process” She glared lightly at Ellie

 

“I’m doing what I can for right now, I’m not pushing it, I promise” Ellie smiled.  She was delighted that Dina cared, and that she was already seeing the changes. “Maria said I could even go back onto patrols next week, but we’ll see how this week goes first” She chuckled

 

“How is your hand?” Dina asked softly as she placed her glass down and took Ellied hand into her own to take a closer look.  Ellie’s breath hitched in her throat.  The soft touch against her skin was mentally painful, but physically it felt amazing. 

 

“It’s uh, It’s okay” Ellie replied, almost a whisper “I had a phantom itch at the stables today, that sucked”

 

“That sounds awful” Dina spoke after a few moments. Her hands still covered Ellie’s.  It was almost as if she didn’t want to move them. 

 

“Yeah” Ellie whispered as she watched Dina in awe.  She noticed Dina’s eyes fall to her other hand, to which she followed her stare and realized she was looking at the bracelet that Dina had given her.

 

“You still wear the bracelet?” Her eyes never moved from Ellie’s wrist

 

“I needed some good luck” Ellie responded, her eyes still watching Dina

 

“You don’t believe in luck” Dina replied as her deep brown eyes locked with Ellie’s

 

“Some things change I guess” Ellie took a sip of her drink, and refused to break eye contact first. She would see Dina’s expression soften, almost as if she could cry. Ellie squeezed Dina’s hand tenderly and smiled, Dina smiled back.

 

After a few moments, to Ellie’s dismay, Dina pulled her hand back and grabbed another slice of pizza. 

 

“This pizza is shit by the way” Dina winked as she chewed on her third slice

 

“Doesn’t stop you from fucking eating it, does it?”

 

“Meh. It’s something, I guess” Dina dramatically rolled her eyes before bursting into laughter

 

“You’re the worst” Ellie lightly pushed the woman next to her and chugged her drink in one go, before letting out a small giggle herself. 

 

“Are we going to watch this movie? Or are you too scared?” Dina mocked 

 

“Fuck you, I’m not scared.  Let’s watch the stupid movie” Ellie grabbed the bottle and topped up the glasses before getting the dvd sorted.  Dina took off her boots and walked over to the bed and sat on her usual side. 

 

“Grab that bottle and come sit” Dina tapped the empty spot on the bed.

 

Ellie flicked the lightswitch and jumped in the bed with a beaming smile on her face as the movie started.  In that moment she felt like a teenager again, she felt carefree and she wanted to savor every second of it.

 

She suddenly realized how close she was to the woman next to her, and suddenly the hairs on the back of her neck were standing. Be cool, and don’t fuck this up. 

 

“Now Ellie, don't be scared” piercing brown eyes met with Ellie’s. “I’ll protect you from the ghosts” a small smile creeped on her face.

 

“I. Am. Not. Scared.” Ellie challenged 



**

 

“This is bullshit” Ellie screamed half way through the movie which caused Dina to laugh hysterically.  The sound was like music to her ears.  “Why wouldn’t they just move out? Clearly the fucking place is haunted, and they want Katie and Micah dead! I mean, who would want to live there? I sure fucking wouldn’t”

 

“What happened to you not being scared?” Dina chuckled

 

“You knew exactly what you were doing when you picked out this movie.  You wanted me to suffer, and I just think that's rude” Ellie crossed her arms in a huff

 

“Shh, I‘m trying to watch this, and you are being very noisy” Dina giggled

 

Ellie rolled her eyes and sighed as she took a big gulp of her whiskey to calm down.

 

***

 

“Oh fuck that shit!” Dina quickly screamed and it immediately took the fear away from Ellie. “Did you see the footsteps on the floor?  You cannot make that shit up, Ellie!” She threw her hands over her eyes

 

“Well well well, how the tables fucking turn” Ellie had a wide grin on her face with triumph. “Oh I’ll protect you Ellie” She mocked the smaller woman and earned herself a punch in the arm

 

“Shut up, I just didn’t expect that, okay?” Dina let out a breathy laugh

 

“I’ve missed this” The words came out of Ellie’s mouth before she could even fathom what she had said.

 

Dina stared into her eyes and no words existed in that moment.  Ellie sat still, not knowing what she should do or say.

 

“Me too” she whispered.  She placed her hand on Ellie’s knee and squeezed it “Thank you for wanting to work on us” 

 

“Cheers to that” Ellie topped off their drinks and clinked the glasses together. “Dina, I want this to work, and I know I gotta work on myself first, and then us, and that's exactly what I’m doing.  I have all the confidence in the world that this will work”

 

“Oh yeah?” Dina smirked and cocked her eyebrow

 

“Yeah, I do.  In this shitty, fucked up world that we live in, when you find something worth living for, you have to hold on to it, and do whatever the fuck it takes to keep that bubble of happiness” Ellie placed her hand over Dina’s, still resting on her knee. “Joel once said to me ‘I struggled for a long time with surviving. And no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for.’. Now I finally understand exactly what he meant. You and JJ are worth fighting for, D.” She let out a deep breath and smiled softly.  She needed Dina to hear that, and she could tell Dina felt the same way when Dina gently squeezed her knee once more.

 

Ellies eyebrows furrowed as the thought of her nightmare reappeared in her mind.  She contemplated telling the woman next to her, but decided to leave it for now.  She didn’t want to put any worry into Dina’s mind, and the evening was going well enough that she didn’t want to ruin it.

 

“That was a pretty great speech” Dina smiled “Did you rehearse that all day?” she winked which made Ellie blush

 

“Fuck you, Dina. Lets just watch the movie”  She rolled her eyes “Don't be scared now, I’ll protect you” she held in the urge to laugh which earned a shove from Dina.

 

The two sat in silence for the rest of the movie, with small gasps of fear from the two which mostly resulted in laughter. Ellie felt at complete ease for the remainder of the evening with Dina.  The night was perfect, and she didn’t want it to end even though she knew it would have to.

 

As the movie came to an end, Dina groaned that she should get going and began gathering her things which tugged at Ellies heart strings.  She wanted to pull her back into the bed and beg her to stay, but she refrained herself.  Instead she got up, zipped up her hoodie, and put on her shoes which caused Dina to look at her in confusion.

 

“Are you going somewhere?” Dina asked with a curious tone

 

“I’m going to walk you home” Ellie smiled.

 

“Ellie, you really don’t have to do that.  I live literally like two minutes away” Ellie could tell she was impressed when she saw her trying to hide her smile

 

“I know I don't have to, but it’s dark out, and I want to make sure you get home safe”  The truth was she just didn’t want to stop spending time with her.

 

“If you insist” Dina shrugged her shoulders and gave in to the content smile

 

They both left and started their walk to Dina’s making small chit chat on the way about the movie.  The two minute walk to Dina’s house felt like twenty seconds, way too short for Ellie’s liking. They both came to a stop outside the home and stood in silence, both waiting for the other to say the first word.

 

“Thank you for this evening, Ellie.  I really enjoyed spending this time with you” Dina smiled, leaned in and kissed Ellie on the cheek.  Ellie stood frozen from the touch until her mind screamed at her to say something

 

“Me too.  We can do this again soon, whenever you’re ready” Ellie smiled and bit her lip

 

“I’ll let you know, yeah?” Dina replied as she walked to the door and gave a half wave and whispered her goodbye.

 

As soon as Dina was inside, Ellie’s hand held her cheek and smiled from ear to ear. “She still loves me” she whispered to herself. 

 

She hoped she wasn’t wrong.

Chapter Text

Ellie lifted her hood and peeked around the corner as she cocked her gun before swiftly taking out a runner with a bullet straight through the head, undetected with her silencer attached.  Fuck that felt good  she thought as she scanned the rest of the area, her gun leading the way.  She motioned for her partner, Charlie, to follow quietly.  It was Charlie’s first patrol today, and Ellie was eager to show him the ropes.  She decided to take him to clear out a small town just north of Jackson.  It was always quiet, and you’d rarely see any infected.  It would be perfect for a newbie’s patrol.

 

“We’re clear” Ellie whispered as she lowered her gun. She looked around and smiled at the lanky teenager behind her.  “You doing okay, man?” 

 

“You were fucking awesome” Charlie chuckled as he wiped the sweat from his brow “You are all just like pow pow motherfucker, droppin those infected like flies.  You can probably do that shit in your sleep” 

 

Ellie laughed back at him, and punched him lightly in the arm.  She let him praise her a little more, it was good to feel like a total badass sometimes.  “You ready to get the next one?” She raised her eyebrow and winked at the blonde.

 

“Oh you bet your ass” He raised his voice, but not too much to attract attention.

 

Ellie smiled and put her finger to her lips as she heard faint clicking down the street “Remember Charlie, you have to be very quiet and stay completely focused.  I trust you, and I will be right next to you okay?” Her eyes met his blue ones.  She could feel his humor fade and his fear start to settle in.  She placed her hand on his shoulder and gave him a reassuring squeeze. 

 

Charlie’s face became confident as he lifted his chin and nodded.  He reloaded his gun before crouching and leading the way.  Ellie followed silently, with her eyes and ears on hawk mode. 

 

Ellie had been back on patrol duty for almost a month now.  After a week of non stop work at the stables, and strength training in her spare time, Maria finally let Ellie get back into patrols. She had picked up everything again so fast, that before she knew it, she was the fearless leader of the patrol teams and helping all of the newbies train.  

 

As she followed Charlie through the streets of the old abandoned town, she couldn’t help but be impressed by his leadership and his flawless signals.  He motioned his head towards an old laundromat and crouched towards the shattered store front.  

 

The clicking sounds became louder the closer they got, and Ellie kept a firm grip on her gun. Charlie took a step forward, but failed to notice the shards of glass below his feet from the shattered window.  His face fell when the glass cracked under him, the clicker screeched and came hurtling towards them both. Charlie fell back, but with shaky hands he quickly fired his gun and watched the clicker drop to the floor.  

 

“Fuck” he breathed and looked behind him to check on Ellie.  Ellie watched his face fall once more. “Fuck Ellie, watch out!” He yelled, and before Ellie could even turn around, Charlie pulled the trigger on his gun once again, and took a runner out with a shot between the eyes, only an arms length away from Ellie. They both watched the lifeless man drop in front of them.

 

“Holy fuck, Charlie” Ellie grabbed her chest to calm her breathing “Good fucking job, not everyone can say they took down two infected on their first patrol, but to also save a life..  Even I didn’t hear that fucker coming” She whispered the last words in disbelief. She hadnt had a close call like that in a very long time, and it had shaken her more than she expected.

 

“What do you say we grab some supplies and we get the fuck out of here?” Ellie stood and reached her hand out to help the boy up too before wiping off the glass remnants from her pants.

 

“Yes please” Charlie chuckled, still looking a little pale.

 

The two quickly raided the few remaining stores down the street, luckily without any more trouble before jumping back onto their horses and heading towards Jackson.

 

“Seriously Charlie, you did really great today.  And thank you again, you know, for saving my life” Ellie stumbled on her words.  She couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed that she hadn’t heard the runner from earlier, but she was thankful to have a great partner on her patrol. Charlie just smiled and nodded his head in silence.

 

“Are you okay?” Ellie asked 

 

“Yeah, I’m fine” Charlie quickly answered and paused “It’s just… It’s all very overwhelming you know? I mean, I have killed a couple of infected before, but nothing that close up” He sighed “It really makes you appreciate what you have.  I’m very lucky to be able to go home to my parents at the end of the day, you know?”

 

“Yeah, I know” Ellie whispered.  His words tugged at her heartstrings, but she was not ready to show that.  She couldn’t help but think of Joel in that moment.  She would give anything to be able to go home to see Joel playing his guitar on the porch, to play one more song with him, to tell him she loved him.  She then thought of the farmhouse, and Dina, and JJ.  She had that happiness, but it’s long gone..  She let herself wonder at the possibility of getting that life back, being with Dina and JJ again, as a family.  

 

Ellie and Dina had hung out a few times since the first time she came over for pizza and a movie.  They had grabbed dinner a couple of times since then, and a couple of movie nights at Ellie’s too.  Things seemed to be going pretty well, but something was still off between the two.  Ellie could tell Dina wasn’t being her complete self when they were together. She wondered if Dina still didn’t trust her.  She still hadn’t gotten to see JJ yet, and that was killing her more than anything.  She wanted to see her son so badly, but she never wanted to push Dina.  Ellie thought for a moment that maybe she should talk to her about it, ask her how she's feeling, but the thought of rejection terrified her.  But after today, after hearing Charlie talk about him having a family to go home to, she wanted that. Ellie wanted her life back.

 

The ride home took just over an hour, and before they knew it, they were trotting into the stables.

 

“Good job today, Charlie.  You’re a fast learner” Ellie smiled as she jumped down from her horse and passed the reins over to Astrid at the stables, Charlie following behind.

 

“Well I had a good teacher” Charlie gave an almighty grin back.

 

“Yeah, yeah” Ellie scoffed at his words and rolled her eyes “Go home to your family, hero of the day” she smiled.

 

Ellie walked home in silence that evening, her mind running of all the events that occurred that day, especially her conversation with Charlie.

 

As she reached her front door,  she paused and took a deep breath before turning around and walking over to the house behind her.  It was time. As she reached the large red wood door, she glanced over to the chair still sitting on the porch. She smiled as she pictured Joel sitting there strumming softly to a classic country song.  Ellie looked back to the door and hastily let herself in, her chest was immediately tight. As she took in her surroundings she let out a big sigh and began to walk through the house slowly, running her hands over the furniture that remained.  Tommy had taken mostly everything, but some little pieces of Joel still remained in the old house.  She carried herself through the first floor and headed up the stairs.  

 

She reached the top and smiled as she paused to look at a familiar picture of Joel and Callus.  She wiped off the dust with her hoodie and placed it down before heading to Joel’s previous workspace.  His unstrung guitars still hung on the wall, and Elie rubbed her fingers over the dusty wood, leaving a trail behind her. Ellie would kill to be able to play a guitar right now. She looked down at her nubs and rubbed them softly, before wiping a tear away with her hoodie. After a few moments, Ellie glided her fingers down the neck of the guitar before a thought came to mind.  She rushed over to Joel’s old desk and rummaged through the drawers, deep in thought.  It wasn’t long before her fingers brushed the object of her desire, shoved in the back corner of a desk drawer. She grabbed them quickly, and eagerly got to work

 

*****

 

Thud thud thud.

 

Ellie's eyes shot open to the gentle knocks somewhere nearby.  She rubbed her eyes and glanced around the room. Joel’s living room.  For a second, she had forgotten she was there. Ellie had been working for hours and sat on the couch for a break, she must not have realized how tired she was. 

 

“Ellie?” She heard a soft voice from the other side of the door along with three more soft knocks.

 

Ellie threw her hoodie on and padded her feet to the door in a sleepy haze before opening the door.  She rubbed her eyes once more to make sure she was seeing things right.  Dina stood in front of Ellie and smiled cautiously. 

 

“I’m sorry to stop in like this” Dina spoke after a few silent seconds pointing towards the shed “I came over to see you but you weren’t there, and I saw a light on in here, so I thought you might be here” 

 

“Oh..yeah. I don’t really know what I’m doing here, it just felt right today” Ellie smiled back while playing with the back of her neck, which she usually did when she was nervous. “What did you want to see me for?”

 

“Uh.. I just.. I just wanted to see how you’re doing.  I heard about your patrol today with Charlie.  He told me about the runner” Dina’s voice turned into a whisper

 

“Yeah, that.  I’m okay, Charlie was cool.  I was an idiot for not noticing I guess” Ellie shrugged but didn’t notice Dina’s face fall.

 

“Don’t say that” Dina spoke softly as she stepped into Ellie and nuzzled her head into her chest, causing Ellie to stop breathing for just a second.  She exhaled as she cautiously let her arms wrap around the small warm body in front of hers. 

 

In that moment, Ellie was home.  Ellie felt the safest she had in a long time, and it calmed her nerves immediately. This is the feeling Charlie spoke about before. 

 

“I’m sorry” Ellie whispered into Dina’s soft hair.

 

Dina pulled back and looked Ellie in the eyes, her deep brown eyes glistened with the tears she was holding back. “Ellie, you’re not an idiot.  I’m… I’m glad you’re okay” Her arms snaked around Ellie’s neck.  Ellie stood frozen, unsure of exactly what was happening in that moment. 

 

“Dina” Ellie whispered “What are you doing?” Dina’s face was now so close that Ellie could feel the warmth of her breath. The hairs on the back of Ellie’s neck stood tall, and her mouth became dry.  She licked her lips to help, but it just caused Dina to look down at them for a moment.

 

“I..I..I’m just so fucking glad you’re okay” Dina looked back up into Ellie’s eyes, almost pleading with her with unspoken words.  She watched Dina’s eyes fall to her lips once more and she knew what she had to do next.

 

Ellie leaned forward slowly and pressed her lips to Dina’s softly. She paused for a moment and looked to Dina for permission to keep going.  To her delight, Dina pushed herself more into Ellie’s arms as she kissed her back with hunger. Ellie felt tears prick her eyes and she let them fall.  She was overcome with love in that moment, and didn’t want that to end any time soon.  To Ellie’s delight, Dina didn’t seem to want to end the kiss either,  instead she kissed faster, and harder, and ran her fingers through Ellie's hair.  As Ellie cautiously leaned further into the kiss, she started to let her hands wander. Dina delicately placed her hands on Ellie’s chest and took a step back. Not now her eyes were speaking, and Ellie understood immediately.

 

Ellie couldn’t help but let out a small laugh from the tension, and was glad when Dina returned the gesture.  Her face was radiant, and she looked extremely beautiful in that moment. Dina smiled as if she could hear Ellie’s inner thoughts. 

 

“It’s late, I’d better go” Dina smiled as she leaned up and made the conscious decision to kiss Ellie on the cheek this time, not wanting the moment to escalate once more. 

 

“Okay” Ellie replied, still standing motionless as she watched the smaller woman walk down the steps and into the street in the direction of her house. She quickly snapped back into reality as she ran down the steps “Wait, Dina!” she called and Dina stood still to hear what Ellie had to say. Ellie reached her and looked at her with conviction, “I want to see my son, our son” She smiled as she took Dina’s hands into her own.  “I know you might not be sure, and I know you said you wanted to trust me 100%, but I promise you, D, I’m not going anywhere.  I’m missing out on our son's life.  I miss him” She sighed “I miss you too”

 

Dina stared at Ellie for a moment as she took a strand of Ellie’s hair and placed it behind her ear.  Her hands paused over Ellie’s cheek as she wiped away the wetness. “Come over for dinner tomorrow.  I will cook, and you can see him” She smiled “Come at 5.  He likes to eat a little early…” Dina paused for a second before smiling “But you already know that”

 

“Yes, I do” Ellie smiled back. “I’ll be there, I promise”

 

“Then it’s a date” Dina leaned in and pressed a quick kiss on Ellie’s lips and turned to walk home. 

 

Ellie grabbed the back of her neck before letting out a huge grin.  “Fuck” she whispered as she walked back into Joel’s house and decided to sleep there for the night.


She touched her lips as she laid in the bed and smiled like a teenager.  I’m so fucking ready.