We Are the Last Of Us || Sansa Stark & Ezra Brooks

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    Set one year after the events of "The Last of Us." Ellie and Joel have found
    community among the people at Tommy's Dam, but how long can it last?
    The Infected are becoming more active, and the quest for safety and family
    security becomes more dangerous than it has ever been before. When the
    floodgates are broken, who is left to pick up the broken pieces?

    AJ Malone (info)



    HEIGHT: 5’7”

    WEIGHT: 175lbs

    LIKES: Fishing, Hiking, Hunting, Smithing, Building, ‘Getting His Hands Dirty’, Being Busy, Gathering Parties (Supply Hunting)

    DISLIKES: Being Idle, Confined Spaces, House Work, Chores, Turnips, Complaining, Darkness

    FEARS: Darkness, Enclosed Spaces, Bloaters, Heights (mildly), Public Embarrassment

    PERSONALITY: AJ is easy going, relaxed, nonchalant. The biggest criticism he’s faced, to date, is that he isn’t observed to take things seriously. Aj is exceptionally bright, and the truth of most situations is that he understands all too well the gravity of them, but instead of focusing on it, he decides to lighten the mood with a smile and a joke. He’s young, energetic, optimistic, but living in the world he does have given him a serious edge when he cannot push away the gravity of a situation. He’s loyal to a fault.

    BACKSTORY: AJ was born on the South Side, old Chicago. His father was a construction worker, his mother a nurse at the local hospital. After the outbreak, his parent’s were instrumental in rebuilding the quarantine center in Chicago. When the survivors rioted, and booted the military out, his father quickly organized a militia that cooperated and later was absorbed by the fireflies. AJ grew up, groomed to become a firefly, until three years ago, when firefly leaders turned on his parent’s and executed them. AJ, recognizing what was happening, quickly gathered as much of his family to him as he could, and led them out of the city. He never saw his parent’s again.

    He and his family were half starved and lost when Tommy and a pack of hunters came across them. AJ earned his keep when he ID’ed a firefly infiltrator he had recognized from dealing with his father in Chicago. The spy was dealt with, and AJ and his family given sanctuary in exchange for help maintaining the dam. Since coming to the dam, AJ has acclimated himself to a life of labor. He hunts, fishes, aids in the construction of homes and maintaining the electrical equipment.

    FAMILY: Anthony Malone (Father – Deceased), Jessie Malone (Mother – Deceased), Alice Turline (Aunt – Deceased), Jordan Turline (Cousin, younger), Jessica Turline (Cousin, younger). Jackson (Deceased).

    Catherine Stiles (info)


    AGE: Twenty-one

    HEIGHT: 5'3''

    WEIGHT: 120lbs

    LIKES: Singing, reading, hunting, laughing with others, doing around-the-home duties, cleaning, children

    DISLIKES: Messes, rudeness, people who disagree with her for "stupid reasons," overassertiveness, laziness

    FEARS: Bees/wasps, being alone, being unimportant, being unloved, feeling hopeless

    PERSONALITY: Catherine has a naturally nurturing demeanor but is very fiery when tested, and not afraid to stand her ground. It takes much to make her angry. She is typically very sweet, positive and encouraging. She is a bit aggressive and often will do anything to get her way or persuade others that she is right. Catherine is diplomatic and an expert negotiator. She has a will of steel and a way with words, but is not without a childish sense of curiosity.

    BACKSTORY: Catherine has grown up in a position of maternal instinct. Her mother was pregnant with her when the outbreak happened, therefore Cat knows nothing of the old life, but she remembers much of the transition from chaos to a somewhat-formed society. Her mother came to Wyoming from Denver, Colorado, after leaving a ward there that had fallen to Infected. She found a few other places to stay as they made their way across the country, until she came across Tommy's Dam. They were allowed to stay. Catherine has been living there for nearly two years, with her mother, step-father and younger brother.

    FAMILY: Jim Stiles (father, deceased), Dan Hendricks (step-dad, 53), Julia Stiles (mother, 52), Kegan Stiles (brother, 25, status unknown), Jeremy Hendricks (half-brother, 15)

    AUGUST 11TH, 2034
    Catherine Stiles; The Homemaker
    "The only home left is wherever we make one."


    Catherine had always loved the courtyard. She loved the sounds of children laughing, of innocence and comradery that was so rare to find in the healing world. The common grounds at the center of Tommy's Dam allowed for a sense of community. It had never occurred to Catherine how much she'd missed such a feeling, but each time she felt it, she cherished it wholeheartedly.

    Night fell swiftly upon the simple state of Wyoming. She looked around the joyful crowd, all gathered together in celebration of Maria's birthday, and couldn't help but smile to herself. Little electric lights were strung up across tall beams to add to the party's decor. Various couples were dancing to the beat of some catchy, old tune. A small band had gathered together with whatever makeshift instruments they had available to them. Throughout the night, music from times long past would be played on a wind-up turntable, only loud enough to allow the partygoers to listen comfortably and not attract Clickers to their doorstep. Catherine watched the gleeful group of survivors, a group that had become her extended family, and smiled to see Maria share a warm kiss with her husband. Catherine drew in a deep breath and sighed, swinging her legs off the edge of a crate, content to be a wallflower.

    "Hey, Cat." Ellie hopped up beside her, a cup of ice cream in her hands. She scooped a large chunk of sweet vanilla into her mouth. "Nice party, huh?"

    "Yeah. I love seeing everybody so happy." Cat chuckled and rubbed her bare arms, exposed from the tank top and shorts that she wore. "Tommy and Maria look like they're having such a good time. That's really important. They've done so much for our little community. I'm glad they get to take a night and simply be themselves without worry."

    "For sure. Hey, you want some of this?" Ellie offered some of her ice cream to Catherine, which she eagerly accepted. The two girls shared the frozen treat and held conversation about the goings-on around the Dam, their various jobs and stories, until the party began to die down and one by one, the guests returned to their rooms. Catherine leaned back on her hands and looked up at the stars while Ellie hummed a tune that was stuck in her head.

    "Where's Joel?" Catherine asked, albeit a bit sheepishly. "I thought he'd be out here."

    "He is. He's over there, see?" Ellie pointed out to a tall figure in the distance, leaning against the iron railing and looking down to the rushing river below him. "Probably thinking about stuff. Being quiet. He does that a lot."

    "So I've learned." Catherine watched his shoulders rise and fall with a deep breath, trying not to stare for too long.

    Ellie, ever-intuitive, seemed to catch on. She elbowed Catherine playfully in the ribs. "You should go talk to him."

    "What? No." Cat chuckled nervously and rubbed the back of her neck. "You said it yourself, he's thinking. I don't want to disturb him."

    "Come oooon," Ellie complained. "You and Joel would be cute. You're all happy and stuff, and he's so serious. Opposites attract, right?"

    He's almost the same age as my mother, Cat thought, but she didn't give it voice. "Maybe. Maybe not."

    "He deserves to be happy." Ellie's demeanor became suddenly serious, and Catherine looked over to her, eyes softening in understanding. "He's been through a lot, you know? He could use someone to be happy with. I really...I really want him to have someone, someday."

    Catherine frowned. "He will, Ellie. He's a good man. I know there aren't many single women here, but I'm sure there's someone else--"

    "Will you just fucking talk to him?" Ellie's words were not ones of anger. She raised her hands in the air as if to say 'just do it already!' in a teasing manner. "I know you're into him."

    Ugh, I don't need a teenager playing matchmaker for me. But Ellie had spoken no lie. Catherine groaned and slid off the crate, making sure to take Ellie's ice cream with her as a price. "If it'll make you feel better," she said before walking away, ignoring the teen's shouts of "Hey, bring my ice cream back!"

    Catherine approached Joel with care. The two of them hadn't had many interactions over the year since he and Ellie had come to live at the Dam, but all of their encounters were pleasant and she'd found herself thinking of them often. Once she'd discovered him playing guitar and singing to himself by the riverside. Another time she had to calm a horse that had gone rogue with him still in the saddle. They'd exchanged brief greetings and inquiries to their well-beings over the many months, but Joel was a guarded man, and Catherine had no desire to come at his stone walls with a bulldozer. She was careful and considerate of all that she did, regardless of how much she wanted the same thing as Ellie. Joel deserves happiness.

    "It's so pretty tonight," Catherine said, leaning her elbows on the iron bar and taking a small bite of Ellie's ice cream. "I love the stars during the summer. They shine so brightly, and the air is always so fresh by the water." She drew in deep from her lungs and released, content. "It's nice to really feel at home."
    #1 moffnat, Aug 22, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2015
    • Love Love x 2
  2. Joel Miller - The Protector
    Joel Miller
    "I struggled for a long time with survivin', and no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."

    Sometimes, he could scarcely believe it, that the circle had been completed. How long ago had it been since life had uprooted him from a comfortable, sustainable position, one where he could grow content, still, fat and old. How little did he understand what he had back in his youth, sitting on that couch with Sarah. It’s funny how you’re never happy with what you have until it’s taken away from you. So many years, how many times had the circle completed for him, only to burst like a strained dome of soap blown into the wind. He could have lived out his days with Tess, smuggling to get by, living on his anger and his strength. But like the others, that bubble too came to burst. A year ago, another closed around him and Ellie the moment he shot Marlene and destroyed all knowledge of Ellie and exactly how special she was. Where once his nightmares had been consumed with images of runners and clickers, of being torn apart or bitten and succumbing… now his fears centered around Ellie, and the bursting of this bubble.

    So were his thoughts, as the waters of the river rushed below, turning over turbines that whirred power back into this broken world, returning a small piece of modernism into a shattered and broken world. The laughing of children playing a backdrop to the music that skittered lightly throughout the night as the dam shone a dim beacon to the evils that threatened the world, tell them simply that humanity has not been broken. We still laugh. We still cling to hope. We still survive. The dam was a home for those who lived here; a place to settle in, but would it ever be a place where he could give himself to complacency? Children laughed, ate ice cream and danced to the music as their parents watched in wonder. He turned long enough to see Ellie , a smile on her face, a cup of ice cream in her hands, and a grandiose motion of her arms speaking of a conversation that wasn’t so tragic or severe as previous days. And in wonder equal to that felt by those other parents, Joel watched for a brief moment, thankful for this place, this time. Then his eyes turned to the woods, to a darkened shape along the river’s edge. A deformed shape bent down into the water, searching. Parents watched in wonder as their children danced, Joel watched the horizon in fear of the horror he knows lies outside. A fish turned up in the water, drawing the clicker’s attention. The mindless killer lurched forward, a step too far into the rushing water of the river, and was swept quickly with the current.

    Then there were steps. Soft footfalls coming up behind him on the concrete of the dam. Joel didn’t shift his position, but returned his gaze to the river nearest the dam, to watch the white water rushing over the turbines bathed by a single, yellow bulb. The voice was Catherine’s. Since arriving, Joel has spoken to everyone within the dam, at least once, enough to put voice with name, name with face, so that when he averted his gaze, and rose up from the railing he had been leaning against, he wasn’t surprised to see her soft eyes looking back into his. The fact that she came to converse with him was out of the ordinary. For month now, they’d been living here, hardly expressing a thought to each other except for a simple exchange of well wishes or a halfhearted courtesy of expressing interest in one another’s wellbeing. He didn’t know that much about her, no more than he needed to. She wasn’t a threat to Ellie, and she belonged.

    “I guess,” Joel responded, hardly knowing what to say in return. Most people found the stars at night to be of some celestial beauty, and he was partial to their presence because of their light rather than the darkness of the cloud cover, and he enjoyed them ascetically. He almost gaped at the idea of that. How long had it been since he looked at the stars as anything other than a portent of an easy night. A lot of light, and a promise of no nightly showers. He looked up at them again, with this new idea put into his mind, and for a moment, the briefest of seconds, there was a peace that washed over him. “I hadn’t thought about it like that in a while.”

    Ideas. Knowledge for the old days rushed through his mind. The Big Dipper, Orion… a memory of standing in his yard in Austin, showing Sarah the sky, and the idea of seeing if he could find the same stars, if they still turned in the heavens, and showing them to Ellie. Would she have heard about the Dipper? Aside from navigating their path by the stars, he’s not looked up to them for much these past years.

    “’Suppose I’ve been too busy looking around at what’s in front of me, to spend much time worrying about what’s up above,” He spoke as he turned his eyes back to the river, again watching the approach to the damn as though expecting to see someone, or something coming up the path.

    “You’re the vet,” Joel spoke, remembering the horse, the day she’d calmed the beast, how impressed he had been with one so young, with such a useful talent with animals. A few days after that, he’d come across a book of veterinary medicine, and had told Danny to give it to her, figuring she could make some use of it. He’d been most impressed when she’d taken the bullet out of a horses flank a few months later. “Enjoying yourself?”
    #2 Ezra Brooks, Aug 24, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 25, 2015
    • Love Love x 2
  3. Catherine Stiles; The Homemaker
    "The only home left is wherever we make one."

    Catherine had never heard him say so many words, not so openly, not so raw. It was no secret that the mysterious Joel Miller was a hard man, and his acquaintances were for the purpose of work instead of personal friendship. Catherine saw him speak only with Ellie and Tommy to any extended degree, and Maria and Danny on occasion, but apart from that, she only ever observed him when he was working or alone. Joel was brought into a different light when talking in the open on a night as stress-free as this seemed to be. She took a moment to examine his face closer in the moonlight. Joel's words made sense, and she related to them, so Cat allowed herself a smile. She'd forgotten how the sound of his southern voice always caught her off guard.

    "You're the vet," he said with a tone of recognition.

    "Oh, I wouldn't take it that far," Catherine replied rather modestly. "I know some medical things here and there. I've been learning from books along the way, and I really like working with the horses...but you remember that, I'm sure." She curled her hair behind her ear, feeling uncharacteristically shy. She remembered the book he'd given her, using Danny as a medium. No stranger had ever taken an interest in her hobbies like that before. I won't forget the look on his face when Virginia nearly bucked him into the river, either. Catherine grinned at the thought.

    "Enjoying yourself?"

    "Yeah. As much as I can." Cat dragged her fingertips through long blonde hair and sighed contently into the evening breeze. "I love seeing everyone happy and dancing. I know it's hard to be optimistic in this world, but...I don't know. Nights like this make it easier somehow. I never like feeling hopeless."

    Catherine's smile fell, thinking on things long gone, the struggles her family had suffered and the horrors they'd seen. Sometimes, the occurrence of a good spirit made her ponder the past. The dancing was suddenly less appealing. "Sorry," she said. "Didn't mean to be a downer. I usually try to be a happy person, I don't know what's come over me." Cat watched the crowd before turning to meet Joel's hazel eyes. "What about you? Are you enjoying yourself? And don't lie," she teased with a chuckle, "I happen to be the best psychic veterinarian in town."
    Ellie Williams; The Cure
    "Don't tell me I would be safer with somebody else, because the truth is I would just be more scared."

    "Nice and slow, now." Ellie giggled and smirked at the adults making eye contact in the distance, blonde and young versus graying and strong. She was onto them. Ellie was no fool, and certainly not as immature as the children her age around the Dam. She knew sexual tension and romantic buildup when she saw it. Call it teenage hormones or a biased opinion, but Ellie liked the way that Catherine and Joel complimented each other both physically and in personality types, and in her mind it all added up to a sweet conclusion she was desperate to achieve.

    Oh, yeah. I've got this one in the bag.

    In the time she had been safe inside the Dam's walls, Ellie felt comfortable enough to play matchmaker despite how both of her role models might disdain the term. They could be happy in this place, together. Joel and Cat. They could raise a family. They could find some sense of happiness here in this shitstorm of a world, and Ellie knew in her heart that if anyone deserved that happily every after, it was the man she'd claimed as the family of her own.

    She loved Joel. Ellie would never admit it, but that didn't make it less true. She loved him more than she ever thought she was capable of loving someone. The father/daughter connection they had formed grew only stronger with the passage of time, with dumb jokes and gifts and supply runs and normalcy. Perhaps that was why she wanted to see him happy--if Joel was at peace with his life, she would have done him the ultimate service by pairing him with a mate. I'll get 'em, she thought with a wicked grin, watching Catherine move her fingers through her hair in a way that surely left Joel thinking about it. Shouldn't take long if she keeps doing shit like that.

    Ellie hopped off the crate and approached a friend of her own, her very dearest, and jabbed him in the back to grab his attention from whatever he was thinking about. "AJ, check it." She pointed to Cat and Joel chatting in the distance, wrapping her free arm around the teen's shoulders. "Tell me I'm a genius, because I so am. Go on, do it."
    • Love Love x 1
  4. Joel Miller - The Protector
    Joel Miller
    "I struggled for a long time with survivin', and no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."

    He chuckled at her, a polite acknowledgement of her joke, mingled with a brief sense of amusement at the humor of it. It wasn’t as bad as some of the puns in one of Ellie’s books, it was close. Still, her question turned around in his head, and he was surprised with how difficult the truth was to come by. Of course, he let none of it show. He simply answered, almost immediately ‘yeah, I reckon’, after his chuckle, as though it took no real effort to come up with the answer. But was he truly having a good time? He wasn’t sure what that meant anymore. He didn’t have to crouch behind jersey borders or leap desks to get away from infected, which was always a plus in his book, but he didn’t have this overwhelming urge to dance or sing, or even smile. He was simply there, watching the river’s edge for signs of trouble. Not relaxing, standing vigilant.

    Because nobody else is, Joel told himself, turning his attention back to the river, ignoring the fact that he simply just didn’t know what else to do. He had no business with this woman, no reason to talk to her, other than she approached. It was odd, how difficult casual conversation can be when it’s not practiced, rehearsed. What was he supposed to say? Ideas crept into his mind, but he tossed them out, believing them to be from another place and time. Outdated references of a life lived before the fallout, before the world went to shit, probably before she was even born. How old was she?

    His attention focused, the sound of Ellie’s voice off in the distance, a rather energetic and excited tone drew his curiosity, even as he cut his head to look towards her, coming to stand beside one of the other boys living at the dam, and immediately he became suspicious as to her ploys. He saw her eyes cut towards him, even as he cut his back to Catherine, putting together in his mind what was going on here. A ploy of Ellie’s, an attempt to get the old man to open up a little. Well, if she wants to play games, Joel thought. Had anyone else attempt to mettle into his life in such a manner, the outcome would be anger, but Ellie was like a daughter to him. She was allowed a certain amount of leeway.

    He adjusted the watch on his wrist, and turned his back fully from the river. “So what should I call you?”

    AJ Malone - The Wild Card
    AJ Malone
    "Have you ever wondered why, in a dream you can touch a fallen sky?"

    AJ was walking, turning a white plastic spoon into the thick, cold ice cream in a Styrofoam cup, his mind dancing with the same melodies he’s heard a dozen time before. The CD they were using for music was one they had borrowed from his neighbor, who listened to it so much that AJ knew the tracks and the melodies by heart. He twirled the ice cream up onto the spoon, pulling it free to take his first mouthful, but was stopped before doing so by a firm jab to the back. He stopped, turned to see Ellie standing beside him, motioning quickly and with some degree of excitement towards the dam wall. His eyes quickly found what Ellie was talking about, the slender, young frame of Catherine standing before the rugged, solid form of Joel. Immediately, AJ shook his head, knowing of Ellie’s newest hobby, and remembering a startlingly bold decision she had made about a week ago to find someone for Joel.

    “No way,” AJ said in disbelief, shaking his head, a smile crossing on his lips as he stared at the pair, talking. He put the spoon back, untasted, and quickly rounded on Ellie, as she declared herself a genius. “How did you? I mean.. The man’s a stone Ellie,” He spoke, in quiet tones. He may be a stone, but he had freaky good hearing.

    “No way,” AJ spoke, shaking his head, disbelief kicking in again, as the world once again righted itself. There was no way that anyone could break through the walls that Joel kept up, no one but Ellie that is. It was perhaps the one sure thing that could be said about the world these days,. There were just certain constants by which you defined your life: life sucked, the world was hard, and Joel was impenetrable. “It won’t go anywhere.” AJ spoke, restoring the balance of his world, all the while turning to sneak another peek off into the distance, at Joel and Cat.

    “Will it?”

    • Love Love x 1
  5. Catherine Stiles; The Homemaker
    "The only home left is wherever we make one."

    When Joel turned, Catherine did as well, leaning her back against the iron rail and taking the final bite of ice cream from the bowl in her hands. She moved from Joel's side to toss the trash in a nearby bin before returning to him. He's not so bad, Catherine thought, offering him a sidelong glance before resting her elbows back on the bar behind her. He's just rough around the edges. I can't blame him for it.

    "Most people call me Cat," she said. "Or Catherine. My mom calls me Little Cat, she has since I was a kid. I always hated that nickname, though. Makes me feel so...well, little."

    Catherine supposed she was little, in a sense. She was short and petite, neither of which were very useful in a world that valued strength and brute force over anything else. Her mother always said that she could have been a model in the old days, but showing off clothes and being sexualized never appealed to Catherine. She liked hunting. She liked singing and was known for her frightening accuracy with a gun. She may not be the first choice as far as physicality, and she certainly couldn't hold her own in a fist fight with bandits, but she had other qualities about her, ones that made her useful to Tommy and the community he'd created here. She was fast and willful. Why on earth were looks so important in the past?

    "You can call me whatever you want. I'm not picky." Catherine leaned her head back and let the wind blow through her hair, watching the stars up above. They had always fascinated her. "I don't think the name 'Joel' has many nicknames though, does it? Unless you invented one." Cat laughed at the first thought that came to her mind; JoJo. But surely Joel would push her into the river if she said that aloud, so she saved herself the embarrassment.

    Cat heard the unmistakable sound of Ellie's laughter over the music. She lifted her head, seeing them off in the distance. "What is that little girl up to?" she asked rhetorically, grinning. "She's a troublemaker, your Ellie. I love her to pieces, but she's sneaky. Do you think she's up to something?" She waved to Ellie in the distance.​
    Ellie Williams; The Cure
    "Don't tell me I would be safer with somebody else, because the truth is I would just be more scared."

    When Catherine waved, Ellie returned the gesture with a wicked smile. "What do you mean, it won't go anywhere?" Ellie asked as she turned back to AJ, her hands on her hips. "Joel's gotta let loose a bit. He needs to get laid, and honestly Cat's the hottest chick in this place. Well, I think so anyway." Ellie shrugged and laughed, but suddenly she became more serious.

    "He needs someone like her, AJ. She's so bright and happy. She likes kids. She's perfect for him, and he knows it, and I know it too. So what if I gotta push a little? They're right for one another. She can open him up and he can bring her down to earth. I mean, I'm not a love whisperer or anything, but even you gotta admit that it makes sense in the long run."

    In truth, Ellie just wanted to see Joel smile. They had a connection that was unbreakable, bonded by shared trauma and life-risking love. Joel was so very important to Ellie, and she knew that in giving Catherine to him, she could give herself a gift as well--a gift of family. She liked to think of Cat and Joel raising kids together in this place, in Tommy's Dam, a heaven on earth that had gone far too long without collapsing. She liked the idea of helping Joel change shitty diapers and listening to him sing a lullaby, of Cat's cooking in the morning, of seeing her loved and cherished.

    And I always wanted to be a big sister, Ellie thought against her will. That future was possible here. She would never forgive herself if she let Joel live the rest of his life alone when he had the chance for something more.

    "Anyway. I think she has the hots for him, and I know I've seen him checking her out. A few days ago he asked me where the 'pretty blonde one you always talk to' was. And she really likes his accent."

    Ellie reached over and grabbed AJ's spoon, dipping it in the sweet dessert and taking a big bite. "Trust me," she said with a full mouth. "This is gonna work. Save the date for the wedding."
    • Love Love x 1
  6. Joel Miller - The Protector
    Joel Miller
    "I struggled for a long time with survivin', and no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."

    "I don't think the name 'Joel' has many nicknames though, does it? Unless you invented one."

    The question turned Joel’s head, and for a moment he studied her face, as though to check to see if the question was an honest one, or a joke. He wasn’t really one for cute pet names and childish fare, had never been really. His humor was more harsh, had always been. He preferred snappy smart-assed comebacks and clever insults to childish names and endearing calls.

    “It’s safer if there isn’t. I think Joel will do just fine,” Joel responded, turning as he noticed Cat wave back to Ellie, turning to level a gaze down at the little girl, smirking and shaking his head. He laughed when Catherine asked if she was up to something, the honest joy that usually came to voice when speaking of or to Ellie present as he responded “of course she’s up to something. She’s breathing. I think it’s a requirement for that girl,” He turned and looked back to Catherine, giving her a passing glance before turning his eyes back to the river, watching the stillness of the night in contrast to the rushing waters of the river just south of the dam.

    “She’s playing you, that’s what she’s up to,” Joel spoke honestly, his mind paying attention to the night’s cool breeze. He loved the night, the safety of the darkness, the comfort of the cool night air in contrast to the heat of a day spent walking. He felt free in the darkness, as though nobody was watching, waiting for a show of weakness, or a slip up, so they could take their shot. Sometimes, he felt as though he lived in the crosshairs of someone’s sniper scope.

    “Ten to one has it, she talked you into coming over here.” Joel spoke, not in accusation, but simply as a matter of fact, but to address what Ellie was up to. He spent enough time with the teen to know how she thinks, what her priorities are, where here concerns lie, and as much as Joel wants to see Ellie happy, he knows she wants just as much for his happiness. “I know how she operates. I’d like to say I taught her everything, but she came with some tricks… You see, I know her motives, her reasons, and I know why I’m participating in this game of hers, but yours are not so clear. You I haven’t figured out quite yet.”

    AJ Malone - The Wild Card
    AJ Malone
    "Have you ever wondered why, in a dream you can touch a fallen sky?"

    “A softer, kinder Joel? Yeah, right. I ‘ll believe it when I see it,” AJ spoke, taking the spoon from Ellie, dipping it back in the cup, and getting himself a bite of ice cream, before plunking it back into the cup, letting it rest in the cold, vanilla dessert. What was it about cold desserts on cold nights that just made them so much better? The savored the flavor, as he watched Joel turned to look at the pair of them, knowing his gaze fixed on Ellie, and then back to his conversation.

    “I wonder what that would be like,” AJ started to ponder on the idea, his lips curling with a mischievous grin, his playful nature getting the better of him, “Can you imagine? She’ll teach him how to bake, and he’ll find an apron he likes on one of these supply outings.” He spoke softly, knowing Joel’s freakishly good hearing could kick in at any moment, and not wanting to risk the anger of a man who could smash his skull open with his boot. AJ was around the last time the dam was attacked, and he remembers, very clearly, watching Joel clear a room of bandits single handedly. Since then, he’s been in awe of the grizzled man, a awe born of respect, and fear.

    “Nah, sorry Ellie, I just don’t think it’ll work. I can’t really see him settling down,” AJ spoke, but understanding of how important this was to Ellie did soften his features, made his next words come out warmly, supportive, as though he realized late how unsupportive he was being in this, as though he realized late how much this meant – that it wasn’t simply a joke. “So we just got to help it along. She would be really good for him, and maybe he can teach her how to be just as kickass. She is pretty after all.” AJ spoke, putting a hand upon Ellie’s shoulder, offering the cup of ice cream.

    “Maybe if we cuff them together,” He spoke, trying to get the mood back to a lighter, happier note. “I hear that if the boy knocks the girl up, then the dad can force them to get married. It’s an old custom Mr. Hendrick’s was talking about a while ago… a shotgun wedding he said it was called. I wonder if that would apply?”
    • Love Love x 1
  7. Catherine Stiles; The Homemaker
    "The only home left is wherever we make one."

    Catherine giggled, finding it adorable how Joel knew Ellie's motives and intentions while still claiming to be a hard man. She knew that deep down, there had to be some semblance of an old Texan teddy bear, to warrant such a strong bond with a little girl. Trauma had hardened him, that may always be true, but Cat could tell that he could be unwound. She hoped that, someday, he could do so comfortably.

    "Of course she wanted me to talk to you," Catherine said with a small smile. "You're over here all by yourself, and she wants you to make a friend. She really cares about you, you know. You're all the family she's got."

    Ellie had told her a long time ago that Joel was all she cared about in the world. "I never knew my dad," she'd told her, "but I don't mind. I've got one in Joel. Doesn't get better than that." Catherine smiled at the memory of little Ellie in her pajamas sitting up by the candlelight, telling stories of hers and Joel's travels that Cat had asked to hear. Her heart had been warmed by the growing love between them. What an odd combination it was.

    "You I haven't figured out quite yet," Joel finished. Catherine looked over at him and raised her brow.

    "Me? I'm not that complicated, really. I like talking to people. I like talking to you." She curled her hair behind one ear. "Ellie may have told me to come over, but I wouldn't have done it if I didn't want to."

    Why are you participating, though? she wanted to ask. A playful Joel was not something she'd expected to find. Entertaining Ellie was one thing, but indulging in her motives was another entirely. All Catherine knew was that she wanted Joel to find a friend, but now that she thought of Ellie's wording and her personality, she began to wonder if the teen was setting her up for something more serious.

    "That sneaky little thing," she muttered under her breath, yawning from exhaustion. "I think I've been played."

    But did she truly mind?​
    Ellie Williams; The Cure
    "Don't tell me I would be safer with somebody else, because the truth is I would just be more scared."

    She watched Catherine and Joel chuckle at something, and began to feel the fruits of her labor bubble with joy inside her. The smile on Cat's face was genuine and Joel seemed relaxed to be around her. They looked happy to be in each other's presence. The thought alone was enough to make her feel accomplished.

    She would have let them be, were it not for AJ's speculation.

    "A shotgun wedding?" Ellie said in shock. "Damn, that sounds intense. I bet Joel would do it though. Sounds perfect, let's do it." Ellie took another bite of her friend's ice cream before clapping her hands together in thought. She was silent a moment before opening her mouth to speak.

    "Okay, here's the plan. Tomorrow I'll get some handcuffs from Tommy and tell him that we're gonna get Joel a date. He'll totally be into it. Then we'll...I dunno, lock him onto Cat somehow. And then they'll get married." She shrugged. "Hey, romance doesn't come easy in this world. Sometimes you gotta give it a little nudge."

    The idea of pregnancy didn't sit well with Ellie, though. As much as she wanted Joel to find a wife and have a family of his own, there were so many risks involved. Childbirth wasn't as safe as it was in Joel's time. Traveling with a baby would attract Clickers more often than not, and many would see the child as a trophy to be stolen. Ellie knew the ways of the world. However, if there was ever a shot at happiness and trying to make a new life together with someone they loved, their best shot was here at Tommy's Dam. And Ellie wanted Joel to try.

    "The handcuff thing is fucking genius, by the way," said Ellie with a playful punch to AJ's shoulder. "He won't see it coming. I bet they'd do the deed and get hitched by the end of the month."

    Oh, crap, she thought with sudden pause. He might have heard that.
    • Love Love x 1
  8. Joel Miller - The Protector
    Joel Miller
    "I struggled for a long time with survivin', and no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."
    Joel just smirked as Catherine came to the same conclusion he had moments ago, leaving the ‘I told you sos’ to the unspoken realm, while he pushed up from the metal safety rail he’d been leaning against, picking up a worn deer hunting rifle by the shoulder strap, and lacing his head and right shoulder through. He shouldered the weapon naturally enough, and it hung as though it knew exactly where and how to hang, as though guided by memory of a thousand repetitions. Night hand settled upon them long ago, and it had been quiet enough on this end that Joel felt somewhat comfortable moving on to another spot, another break in the solid concrete wall where he could see the outlying world around their little solace.

    “Well, Miss Catherine, enjoy the view, and the rest of the party,” Joel said with no further hesitation, and turned to leave her by the railing, turning, as he did, towards Ellie and her little friend AJ. The boy, Joel knew only little things about, mainly that he seemed to have some skill as a laborer of most trades, and that Ellie valued his friendship, the latter a particularly dangerous trait that Joel wasn’t so sure he was comfortable with. The closer the girl got to these people, the more Joel wondered just how difficult she’d be to protect, should the shit ever really hit the fan. For most here, it was a matter of IF they were attacked, to Joel, it was simply a matter of when. Bandits, infected, or some new threat, Joel wasn’t comfortable with the notion that, for the rest of his life, there wouldn’t be a need to defend this dam. It was an oasis in a harsh land, and that made it valuable. That made it worth killing for.

    And this world isn’t short on killers these days Joel thought to himself, Leveling his gaze at Ellie as he drew closer, catching wind of her plans for him and the other girl, but letting none of it show on his face as he walked by, stopping for just long enough to remind Ellie not to stay out too late. The roar of laughter, the upbeat swing of the music, the talking crowds, the smell of roasted deer and boar… Joel stood for a moment, breathing it all back in, and even his stony pessissism, his guarded nature had to admit that, on nights like tonight, the world didn’t seem such a harsh and dangerous place. Tonight, hell didn’t seem to burn quite as hot as normal.

    AJ Malone - The Wild Card
    AJ Malone
    "Have you ever wondered why, in a dream you can touch a fallen sky?"

    AJ grinned and nodded his understanding of Ellie’s plan, and his approval of her instructions. He knew it was all contingent on getting Danny to release a pair of hand cuff’s to Ellie, which would mean Danny would have to be along for the plan as well, which may be as difficult to arrange as getting Joel himself to go along with the exercise. Sometimes AJ wasn’t quite sure what to make of the older man. He seemed dangerous, deadly, and the stories that Ellie has told him over the time they’ve been friends only reinforces what the worn flannel and scruffy beard portray, Joel was capable of savagery. Or so the whispers in the camp often went, when parent’s got together in the belief that all the young ones were out of earshot. How often they overlook him, young enough to be concerned by the gossip that spreads, yet old enough to put on a pair of boots and a hard hat and works his day away with the rest of the men. Still, they never seem to concerned themselves if he’s around, they just go about whispering about their mistrust of Joel, hearing of past deeds.

    Others say he’s a hero. What he did for Ellie, and how he defended the dam the first time he was hear has obviously won him some supports in the population, but the longer they stay, the more time they seem to spend with Joel, the less they remember the hero, and the more they’ve face to face with the fact that he scares the bejesus out of the majority of them: AJ included.

    AJ just smiled as Ellie credited him for his idea, almost wincing that in wish that she hadn’t as Joel stepped up a few moments late, leaving AJ wondering if he had heard her or not. Perhaps he had caught just a piece of it, AJ thought to himself, but one hard look from Joel was enough to tell the teen that he knew more than AJ was comfortable with. Joel left without word or incident, and AJ exhaled a breath he hadn’t been aware of holding.

    “Holy crap,” AJ exclaimed under his breath, mindful of his tone and volume now, “ are we sure we want to screw with him? He wouldn’t hurt you, but I’m pretty certain he wouldn’t hesitate to stomp my head into the dam. And poor Cat! What’s going to happen to her, all bound to him like that." Of course, it was all melodrama, over-reacting for the sake of over-reacting. He was a kid, after all, and because he knew it, didn’t mean he wasn’t prone to it.

    “Do you really suppose Cat likes him?”
    #8 Ezra Brooks, Sep 1, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 1, 2015
    • Love Love x 1
  9. Ellie Williams; The Cure
    "Don't tell me I would be safer with somebody else, because the truth is I would just be more scared."

    Ellie often forgot that the people around her saw a very different Joel than the one she'd come to know. She saw the father figure who called her "kiddo" and "baby girl," the man who risked humanity's future just to save her life. She saw a broken man hardened by the scars of years worth of suffering. Others only met the asshole who refused to let anyone else in. Ellie sighed, resting her hands on her hips as Joel left them, turning her attention to a disappointed Catherine in the distance.

    "I mean...yeah, I think she likes him. She says she just wants to 'get to know him' but I know what that means." Ellie kicked a nearby rock and paced slowly back and forth. "Joel's just being annoying. But he did talk to her, so that's a good thing. I don't know. Maybe I'll just have to be patient. I fucking hate being patient." Especially when Joel's happiness is on the line.

    When the party began to die down, Ellie yawned. She'd woken up early that morning and just wanted to crawl back into her bed. "Whelp. I'm pooped. See ya tomorrow, AJ." She patted him on the arm and waved to Catherine, making her quick way back to her and Joel's shared home. A simple two-bedroom space, Ellie had come to love it, and let her guard down over the months she was able to live here. She pulled the keys from her jean pocket and unlocked the door, stepping inside, knowing that the instant she was heard by their guard dog an attack would ensue.

    Wait for it. Ellie bit her lip, preparing for impact when the shadow of a great beast came thundering around the corner.

    "Hey, Bourby!" she exclaimed. Ellie opened her arms for the excited German Shepherd and smothered him in scratches and pets of affection. The dog, named Bourbon for the alcohol that Joel liked, panted and barked in glee to see Ellie home safe. The girl giggled and made sure to feed him and spend time with him before retiring to her room, where Bourbon hopped on her bed and curled up at her feet.

    Before she allowed herself to drift to sleep, her eyes shot open and she wore a devious grin. Ellie scrambled to a notepad, writing something clever for Joel and placing it on the kitchen counter. Shortly after, she rushed back into bed with her dog and her comfortable blankets, and wondered what Joel would do when he read her little note.

    'Maybe we should get a Cat. ;)'
    Catherine Stiles; The Homemaker
    "The only home left is wherever we make one."

    She hadn't expected him to leave so suddenly, and Cat would taste a lie to say she wasn't disappointed. Joel was a mystery to her--to everyone, even Tommy. Only Ellie seemed to have him figured out. She supposed that was simply how things would be, and wondered if Joel wasn't interested in her. What a twist, she thought, that this is something I can worry about in the world we're in. It was too good to be true.

    When the party was over, Catherine wished everyone a fond goodnight and returned to her family's home. Her mother was up watching Raiders of the Lost Ark with her step-dad, laughing at an unknown joke when Cat walked in.

    "Hey, sweetie. How was the party?" Julia asked.

    "Great. I brought you back some cake." The entire Dam knew that Cat's mother was not in good health. There wasn't much to be done about cancer in a world that lacked the care. Cat kicked off her shoes and picked them up, watching the TV as she walked by. "Is this the part where the guy gets melted?"

    "Close," said Dan, her mother's husband. "Wanna watch with us? Jeremy's still out with his friends."

    "Nah, I'm good. I'm tired and I'm on duty tomorrow, so I'm gonna get some rest." Catherine kissed her mother's cheek. "Love you, mom."

    "Love you too, Kit-Cat. Sleep well." Julia squeezed her daughter's hand before cuddling up with her husband again, and Catherine smiled to see her so happy.

    Catherine took a shower and dressed in her pajamas before finally crawling into bed, finding sleep much sooner than she anticipated. Her dreams were filled with a strong Texan accent and the sound of a guitar, of picking off Clickers with a rifle one by one. The sun was bright and the breeze was warm and sweet, filling her lungs with peace. They weren't at the dam, though, at least not Tommy's dam. It was a foreign place. Somewhere new, somewhere far away.

    An explosion stole her from those dreams. Catherine woke with a start, ducking at the sound of another, much closer bomb. She threw the covers from her body and scrambled out of her bedroom, almost colliding with her mother.

    "Mom?!" she shouted. "Mom, what's happening?"

    "Bandits. There's over a hundred of 'em, Tommy just came by." Julia snatched a shotgun from the kitchen and loaded it. "Bastards want to take this place from us. Dan went to go get Jeremy. Get dressed, sweetie, and grab you're emergency bag."

    "Okay. Okay." Catherine gathered her groggy thoughts and dashed back to her room, throwing on a pair of jean shorts and a random shirt she pulled from her closet. She tied up a pair of running shoes and grabbed her emergency backpack, retrieving a revolver and some bullets for loading. "Mom, what do we do?" she asked as she came running out to the living room. "Where do we go?"

    "Here. Take the car keys." Her mother handed them to her. "If things get bad, leave. But for now, go find Joel."

    "Joel?" Cat was temporarily shocked. "Why him? What are you--"

    "I told him to look after you if something happened, a few months back. He's the strongest guy here and his place is just around the corner. And his girl, I know you love her, you two have to stick together. You know what bandits do to young girls like you."

    "But what about you?!"

    "I'll be okay. I'm going to find Dan and Jeremy. This isn't my first rodeo, kid." She kissed her daughter on the forehead. "I love you. Go on, make it quick, okay?"

    Catherine hesitated. A horrid feeling festered in her gut, a terrible sensation that all was about to go wrong in the worst possible way. But she swallowed the instinct and did as her mother told her, fleeing the house at the closest opportunity. She kept her gun at the ready and tried not to focus on the town in flames around her. Cat fired her gun twice at incoming bandits. She was good with a gun, but horrible at close combat which meant she had to keep any assailant as far away from her as possible. Cat rounded the corner and barreled through Joel and Ellie's front door, panting and frantic. "Ellie!" she called. "Joel! Where are you?"
    • Love Love x 1
  10. Joel Miller - The Protector
    Joel Miller
    "I struggled for a long time with survivin', and no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."
    Everything was dark as Joel unlocked the front door, letting himself into the apartment that he shared with Ellie. Everything was still, quiet, as the mut slept in the back with Ellie, a stark contrast to how the night had been going. After his talk with Catherine, he got only a few feet away before Tommy found him, and forced him into some circles of conversation, at which Joel answered crisply and directly any questions answered him, but little else. He wasn’t in the mood for sharing, had wanted to simply go about his self-appointed patrol of the dam, and his self-prescribed solitude. Apparently, he was destined to get neither objective met that night. He pulled open the fridge, pulling out a rare can of Soda, pushing it back closed. He popped the top as he saw the note Ellie had left for him, and he plucked it from the glossy surface of the fridge. Joel chuckled, humored in private at the joke, yet frowning because deep down, he understood that it wasn’t totally a joke. Somewhere along the way, apparently, just the two of them ceased to be enough for her.

    Joel pushed away the thought, as he took a drink of the soda, closing his eyes to the tastes. Dr. Pepper, one of those indulgences that was tragically lost during the fall of civilization. He had managed to find a twelve pack a few months ago, and had told himself that each can would be a memory. So what did today’s can stand for? Tommy’s wedding, or was it something else that he was immortalizing in his mind behind the 23 flavors of Dr. Pepper. He took another drink, let his mouth fill with the sweet liquid before tilting the can back slightly, his ears relaying the sound of whispered voices through the open window of the kitchen. Joel immediately stepped out of sight of the window.

    “Just wait for the signal,’ the voice whispered, making the fine hairs on the back of Joel’s neck stand, and his eyes immediately scanned the kitchen, looking for the 9mm he kept on the kitchen counter. The darkness didn’t help his search, the lack of light helping to camouflage the darkened metal, hiding the gun from Joel’s sight. A step back, and Joel crouched down into the corner as the sound of an explosion ripped through the quiet of the night, and almost immediately afterwards, a second explosion rang louder, Joel feeling the concussive force of the blast like small waves of air rushing through him. The back door to the apartment opened quickly, and Joel saw two figures step in through the door on the opposite side of the kitchen. From his crouched vantage point in the small nook between counter and wall, Joel was hidden, the deep shadows preserving him the two booted men slowly strode through the kitchen.

    Joel heard Ellie’s start, as did the two intruders, who paused just inches from where Joel crouched, their attention turning to the sound of Ellie’s room, in the back of the apartment. Quickly, without hesitation, Joel reached out and came to his feet in one fast, conclusive motion. He grabbed his arms around the first bandit’s neck, quickly applying pressure on the man’s head, to choke off his air supply. His sudden appearance startled both bandits, causing the one he was currently strangling to drop his weapon, while the second, obviously unnerved by Joel’s sudden appearance, turned and put a bullet into the body of his companion, which Joel had maneuvered before him as a shield.

    The gunshot was Joel’s queue, as he felt the impact of the bullet rock the man he was holding, he knew he’d only have a moment to act. He shoved the dying bandit forward, towards his partner’s form. The two bodies collided, giving Joel the needed time to swoop down to the floor, and pick up the dropped gun. Immediately, Joel leveled the gun on the second bandit, who has since shed the body of his comrade, but was still riddled in confusion of who, or what was attacking him. Surprise allowed Joel to fire the weapon, sinking a bullet into the man’s left shoulder. The bandit fell. Joel was quick to close the distance between the two of them, kicking away the second gun, and putting his boot in the neck of this poor unfortunate soul.

    “Ellie,” Joel called out immediately, only a second after she gave her start of alarm, “get your things baby girl, We’ve gotta go now,” and Joel stepped down hard on the bandit’s throat, feeling the soft, delicate structures of his throat crushing beneath the weight of his boot. He picked up the second bandit’s gun, tucking it into the back of his pants.

    He whirled around quickly as he heard the front door burst open, but relaxed when he saw Catherine coming through, and Joel quickly moved to close the door behind her. “What the hell is going on?” He asked quickly, skipping past the greetings and unnecessary questions about how she was. He saw no wounds, and she wasn’t dripping blood.

    AJ Malone - The Wild Card
    AJ Malone
    "Have you ever wondered why, in a dream you can touch a fallen sky?"
    The bombs went off, the first sounding like it was right outside the door, the second, a ways off. The sounds had shattered AJ’s dreams, causing him to leap up out of bed with a start, and immediately run out into the living room in his sleeping shorts and his tank top. In quick procession, the other door to the small apartment in which he lives opens, and the small figures of Jordan and Jessica, his two younger cousins, come rushing into the living room. Jordan the older of the two, who was just eight himself, was looking at AJ with a look of sheer terror in his eyes, as he shook his head, mumbling ‘not again’. AJ knew his position as guardian, and he knew it well. He quickly ran to the front door, to a large book shelf he kept to the right of it, and with a strong, quick shove, toppled the shelf before the door, baring the only entrance and exit to the small apartment, except the window to it’s right.

    “Come on Jess. Jordan,” He spoke, holding a hand out to the little girl as he led the two into the safety of his bedroom. Quickly he put on a pair of pants, and his boots, pulling their emergency packs from beneath his bed, helping them into their shoes as he heard voices collecting outside his door. “Jordan, help your sister,” AJ spoke, “Hurry.”

    AJ tucked a pistol into the back of his pants for quick access before picking up the loaded, pump shot gun standing at the doorway to his bedroom. He took a position in the living room, watching the front window, cocked the gun audibly, and waited for the first genius to decide they could attempt to come through his window.

    • Love Love x 1
  11. Catherine Stiles; The Homemaker
    "The only home left is wherever we make one."

    "Bandits," Catherine said in a rush, looking down at the floor where two blood-smothered bodies lay strewn at odd angles. "But I guess you already figured that out." She stepped away from the evidence of Joel's brutality and looked back to him. "Tommy said there's over a hundred of them. This place might not make it. I, uh, I have my mom's car keys, she said to bail if it gets too overwhelming...she's out fighting."

    Cat didn't know how to feel. She had actually allowed herself to believe that this place could work, that they stood a chance here in this hydroelectric dam where all odds had been defied. And now some greedy bastards are coming to take it from us. She wanted to fight, but did they truly stand a chance? Would it be safer to run while they had the opportunity, or to fight for their home? Not even Joel could take on a hundred men.

    "Cat!" Ellie shouted, rushing from her room with her bag, which looked heavier than it ought to be, with Bourbon quick on her heels. The dog was wearing a bullet-proof vest, no doubt found from a police car some time ago, but Catherine was touched and sorrowfully reminded of Ellie's child status by her devotion to the German Shepherd. "What are you doing here?"

    "Making sure you're okay," Cat replied. "I--I don't know what we should do. Uhm." She lifted her gaze to Joel, knowing he would understand. "These aren't the kind of men who will just let Ellie and I go, if you get my drift. I think they're the same group who took Teresa and Amy three months ago."

    "I can handle myself," said Ellie defiantly.

    "And so can I, but we can't stand up to a hundred of them and they're trying to take this whole place for themselves. We can't get caught up in it."

    But I don't want to leave. Catherine groaned and ran her fingers through her hair, thrown into emotional turmoil at the decision. She couldn't leave her family, but they would want her to flee from the clutches of the devils knocking at their door. And what of Ellie? Joel couldn't protect her on his own with so many men after them. Perhaps he had before, but Catherine didn't want to risk it, not when she cared for Ellie so. But was she allowed to tag along? Would they make it out alive? Cat forced out a sigh and pulled out her revolver, trying to think of what to do.

    Ellie spoke up. "We should go, then. At least far enough away to stay out of it, and then we can come back and see what happened, yeah? I can't die. I'm--" She stopped herself then, shaking her head. "I just can't." She and Joel shared a look that Catherine didn't understand, but she had no desire to argue.

    "Come with me, then. We can use Dan's car." Catherine patted her pocket where the keys were. "It's in the woods about a half-mile from here. He didn't want it too close to the dam in case something like this happened."

    "Okay. Joel?" Ellie put a gentle hand on his arm. "You cool with this?"
    • Love Love x 1
  12. Joel Miller - The Protector
    Joel Miller
    "I struggled for a long time with survivin', and no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."
    “Yeah, we’ll get out of here,” Joel spoke, securing his old pack to his back as he spoke, letting the two women do what it was they did best, talk. Joel checked his guns, making sure that all were loaded and ready. Over the last year, he’s added straps and places for each to his pack, allowing him to carry a small collection of weapons within quick reach of his hands, should the need arise. He worse a small arsenal of weapons, but none of them would hinder his movement, not the pistols strapped to his hip, nor the long rifles crossing his back like swords. His eyes carried immediately to the two women, and he smirked as he walked past, knowing they’d follow suit with him. “Now if the damn committee meeting is over,” He spoke, sarcasm being part of the order of the day in situations such as these, Joel finding it somewhat helpful to keep tensions low in a situation that literally was about life and death.

    The question of waiting for his brother, or anyone else was rendered moot with the loud shirll cry of the emergency siren. A few months ago, a meeting of the minds had come together to put into place a plan should the dam ever come under attack. To be honest, Joel wasn’t too keen on what all was going to happen, it wasn’t his task, all he knew was that the siren would announce abandonment of the dam, the turbines would be blown, and everyone would rendezvous with one another somewhere in the forest. Joel had never planned on the meeting, and Tommy was well aware of it. His plan was to take Ellie away, to see her safe. Inwardly he had hoped that it would never come to this. He had hoped that this would be the haven it was meant to be… but people are as dangerous as the infected, just as brutal. So they’d leave. That was the plan.

    Joel hit the back door a moment later, ducking low into the shadows and looking back to ensure the others were on their way with him. He motioned each of them closer, so that he didn’t have to speak much above a whisper. “We’ll go through the maintenance hatch in the north wall. It appears the attack is coming from the South, so hopefully, unless we’re surrounded, they won’t be lying in wait for anyone to come through the door. I need you ladies to stick with me,” Joel spoke, and looked Ellie dead in the eyes, but something of an almost playful grin on his lips as he follow up his idea. “And keep an eye on the rookie for me.”

    The next thing heard was the sound of a gun cocking, and Joel settled the weapon in his left hand, as he walked out of the small apartment he had called home for the last few months of his life. A part of him was sad to leave it behind, having enjoyed the peace and quiet, the almost normalcy of civilized life having been a nice reprieve from the harshness of the world. He was torn with anger at having it taken, and an awkward form of relief that they’d get back to the road, away from the temptation to let survival go, away from the allure of simply settling in, growing comfortable-soft. But this was the best place for Ellie.

    So I’ll just have to find her someplace else, Joel thought to himself as he stepped into the shadows, crouched down a few steps from the doorway, and listened to the sounds around him.

    He could hear Ellie and Cat breathing around the corner, the subtle shifts of their bodies as they waited. He could hear the sounds of men talking, communicating in whispers and hushed tones as they stalked the shadows. He heard the shrill, powerful thundering of gunshots in the distance, and those closer, the crackling of a metal barrel burning from the explosion that had rocked the inhabitants of the dam awake… the cries of the wounded, the dying, the fearful tears of those fleeing for their lives. It was a jumble of sounds, a rush of sensory data that left Joel open to one conclusion, that sneaking around would be useless. He stood up, knocked twice on the doorfame with the hand that held the gun, his signal for Ellie to follow, and they began to cross the courtyard at a half run.

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  13. Catherine Stiles; The Homemaker
    "The only home left is wherever we make one."

    The sounds of death and dying were far too familiar. Catherine hated the cries for help, shots fired in the same atmosphere where there was once music and laughter. This had been home for her. So many memories were made over the two years these walls had offered her protection, yet on the whims of greed and some inhumane desire for ruining lives, her sanctuary came crashing down. She drew in a tense breath and released, trying to hold it together until they reached some semblance of safety.

    Catherine followed Ellie and Joel until they reached a mid-point between the town and the north wall. Crouched behind a few boxes that served as ample cover, Cat retrieved a silencer for her gun and twisted it into place. She peeked her head over the edge of the crates. "I see two walking by the pipes," she said with a sniffle, ducking behind the cover to look back at her companions. "I can take 'em out from here, then we run."

    "You sure?"

    "Yeah, gimme a sec." Catherine gave a nod of confidence to Joel and Ellie before skittering quickly behind a few barrels closer to where the two hunters were on alert. She took a slow breath before popping out from behind her cover. With expert aim for which she was known, Catherine fired her gun twice and her bullets met the heads of the assailants before they knew what was happening. The bodies collapsed to the ground and Cat jogged over to them, taking any ammo she could find and hoisting one of their rifles over her shoulder. "Okay. C'mon, let's get out of--"

    "You bitch!" barked an unseen raider, slamming the butt of his shotgun against Catherine's temple. She fell to the concrete with a gasp of pain. He grabbed her by the hair and yanked her on her feet, pinning her against the stone wall. "You fuckin' killed 'em! You're gonna pay for it!"

    "I don't think so, asshole!" Ellie, who had charged from Joel's side in Catherine's protection, leapt onto the back of the hunter and plunged her knife into his chest once, twice, three and four times until Catherine lost count from the throbbing in her head. She touched the wound and winced, looking down at her bloody fingers. "Dammit," she cursed, trying to catch her breath. "Shit, that hurts."

    "Hey, no time to think on it! We gotta get out of here!" Ellie reached out and took Cat by the hand. "Come on, keep holding my hand. Joel an' I gotchya. We're gonna make it out."

    Only later would Catherine realize how touching the sentiment truly was; Ellie considered Catherine close enough for her utmost love and devotion. Cat gripped the teen's hand as they made their way outside the wall, trying desperately to save what was left of themselves.
    • Love Love x 1
  14. Joel Miller - The Protector
    Joel Miller
    "I struggled for a long time with survivin', and no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."
    Joel was left to watch as the woman rushed through to the fallen raiders, risking it all for a few dropped rifles and some bullets they may have had on their person. He shook his head in inaudible disagreement with her decision to loot the fallen, finding it too brash, too dangerous given the current situation. Had they needed to make their way towards the bodies, then he would have been fine with the action, but out of the way, with too many blind spots surrounding… He reached out as Ellie rushed forward at this new attacker, finding his fingers meeting with empty space as the child rushed, and leapt onto the back of Catherine’s new assailant. Joel swore under his breath, and did the only thing he could do at the moment, watch the group to make sure nobody else joined this little fray.

    When the bodies fell, the women collected themselves, Joel moved to join them on their way out of the central yard of the dam’s wall, shaking his head again, to emphasize his words. “Now that we’ve got that shit out of our system, lets try not to repeat it,” He spoke, looking at Catherine first, as she was the adult of the two, and then down to Ellie, who he deemed to be the more experienced, “ Ever.” He didn’t concern himself with courtesy at the moment. He knew Ellie was accustomed to how he behaved in these situations, and if Catherine chose to get her feelings hurt, perhaps it would only serve to reinforce the lesson that he hoped she was taking from the ringing in her head: that the rifle and the bullets were not worth the life she had wagered for them.

    “And since it now bears repeating, ladies, stay with me,” Joel spoke again, as he turned his eyes back to his surroundings, after a quick once over of Catherine’s forehead, and condition. She seemed a tad sluggish, still shaken from the blow to the head, which would slow them down a touch, for a little while at least. So forward again, this time slower to accommodate Catherine’s head, as well as give Joel ample time to assess the situation in case of any more fill conceived heroics were to take place. He peeked around the corner of another crate, seeing a group of invaders grouped at the door of a house off in the distance, the faint sounds of gunshots giving rise to the idea of the house still being defended.

    Poor bastard, Joel thought to himself, seeing far too many for him to successfully aide with, so he pressed on, passing from one crate to another quickly, quietly. He could hear the sounds of whispering voices on the other side of this new position, obviously a pair of raiders taking cover, waiting for someone to just happen by. He peered back at Ellie, motioned with his hands to indicate the two behind the crate, and he made a stabbing motion with his hands, towards his own neck, to signal that he wanted her to sneak around the left side of the box, to stab the raider there, while he went around the other, to take care of his companion. Joel knew the sight of him would cause an instant and monetary start to the pair, giving him time to grab one, while Ellie took out the other. Surprise used as it was supposed to be.

    The door was only a few feet away, visible against the deeper shadows lining the wall, a steel lightness in the deep dark, glinting occasionally from the silver light of a moon that should be blood red. Joel poised to burst around the crate, when a loud, shrill siren filled the night, giving him pause, and causes the pair on the other side to start. Joel found his chance. He burst around the crate, took one of the assailants in his strong arms, and instantly his gut twisted: there wasn’t two, but three.
    • Love Love x 1
  15. Catherine Stiles; The Homemaker
    "The only home left is wherever we make one."

    Catherine frowned and scoffed at Joel's criticism. She would have made a backhanded comment if the time was right for it, but saving their lives was the ultimate priority and her head was throbbing too hard to put up with an argument. She followed Joel and Ellie's lead through the fray and crouched behind obstacles as they had, but when Joel began making plans that excluded Catherine, she began to feel slightly resentful.

    Joel and Ellie leapt from their hiding spots to surprise the two assailants. There was a third, however, unseen by Catherine but heard by Ellie's cries of distress. Catherine cursed and loaded the rifle she had stolen, her favorite weapon, and took a mere second to aim. She fired once, blowing the brains from the attacker who nearly caught Joel under his machete. She reloaded with speed and fired twice more, at the two snipers in the distance who had Ellie under their aim. Waste of time my ass, Catherine thought, standing when the threats had been taken care of. She could throw a punch, but guns were her greatest self-defense, and she was damn good at using them. She shot Joel a pointed stare when he looked at her with disbelief.

    "Glad I got that rifle, huh?" she said with no small degree of sass.

    "Holy shit, Cat!" Ellie exclaimed, touching her throat where she was being strangled only moments ago. "Where did you learn to shoot like that?"

    "My mom." She reloaded the rifle and swung it back over her shoulder. "But, you know, could just be a string of 'rookie' luck." Catherine made sure Joel heard the retort, but she wasn' intending to be rude. Just to prove a point. Guns were her only defense--if getting a rifle meant risking her life, when she could save so many others by putting it to use, it was worth the time.

    "Come on. We gotta get outta here fast, those shots won't be missed by these guys' friends."
    • Love Love x 1
  16. Joel Miller - The Protector
    Joel Miller
    "I struggled for a long time with survivin', and no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."
    Joel let the first comment slide, the display of prowess with the gun wasn’t lost on him, nor was the meaning between the lines. His position hadn’t changed on the decision, and a pile of dead bodies killed by a gun recklessly gained did nothing to curve Joel’s opinion. Perhaps they would simply have to disagree, or so Joel told himself, choking up the comments made as Ellie rushed her enthusiasm towards Catherine. Joel remained hunkered down by the boxes, letting the girls celebrate and take their moment. He kept his mind on his hearing, on listening to falling footsteps, to the expanse of loud noises and gun shots echoing all around them. But when Cat spoke again, of rookie luck, Joel shook his head, finding his ability to keep himself pinned in taxed to the limit.

    “There is a time and place, and this is neither Cat,” Joel spoke, shooting her a fierce glare, drawing in a carefully controlled breath. “It’s a damn calculated risk, the longer we stay in this place, the more likely we are to end up with a fucking bullet in our skulls. Am I glad you had a gun then, yes. Does it change a damn thing?” Joel spoke, pulling his own long rifle from his back, to indicate that if she had wanted one, she had to simply ask, not charge through the middle of a gun fight to retrieve one. And as though to make his point, out of the corner of his eye, Joel saw a crouched figure, running from cover to cover towards the fallen bodies Cat had just put down. It took Joel a moment to realize he didn’t know the guy, another split second to put the man in his sights, pull the trigger, and add to the body count.

    He was about to say something else, about to continue his thought, but his first words came echoing back in the back of his mind, there was a time and a place for everything, and this was neither. But he wanted to scream, to tell her to leave, or demand to know what it was she was trying to accomplish. Was she trying to justify her place? To prove that she fit in? Could she not see the gun wasn’t worth the risk? Yes, it did turn out for the best in this case, but when the situation came up again, would she do the same, seeing how this turned out? He ran a few boxes forward, always keeping an eye out for those behind him, sniping oncoming attackers with the long rifle as he ran: Ellie he felt understood. If lives were going to be gambled, it would be his.

    Maybe we should get a Cat

    The words of the note scrolled in the back of Joel’s mind, and inwardly, he pushed them away. Let her in so it stings more when she dies? She’s hot headed, stubborn. I’ve seen enough to know she wont stop. Useful, yes. Pretty, definitely, but reckless and unwilling to listen. I don’t want to grieve anyone else…

    He stopped behind the next box, pushing away his thoughts, but he didn’t need a keen sense of hearing to hear what was going on. A group of survivors, not too far away, prisoners taken by the attackers. He could hear the whimpering of children afraid to cry, and as he peeked his head out, his body tensed immediately. Three boys, lined up again wall, two clinging to an older boy that Joel had come to know pretty well over their time here. Immediately he grabbed hold of Ellie’s wrist, knowing her quick reactions and hot headed temper could cause some trouble if she were to look up and see what he saw.

    AJ had no weapon, but enough blood on his person to account for how he lost them. Two boys clung to him, one to each leg, as they stood before a small line of three men, being goaded into a makeshift firing squad with another leading the pack. Joel was quick on his feet, looking around the clutter around them, until his hands came across an glass grape soda bottle that someone had forgotten to put in the trash. He bent down quickly.

    “When it breaks and they turn… “He spoke, his eyes looking between Ellie’s and those belonging to Cat. Silently he pleaded, inwardly praying that she understood. He knew Ellie would follow suit.. this is how they had survived – him leading. “shoot to kill.,, or they may get AJ.”


    • Love Love x 1
  17. Ellie Williams; The Cure
    "Don't tell me I would be safer with somebody else, because the truth is I would just be more scared."

    No, no! Ellie's instincts pulled her to AJ's aide, but Joel read her like an open book and pulled her back before she could lunge. Her heart began to pound as she watched AJ's family suffer trauma that none of them deserved, and even Joel's idea of a glass bottle didn't seem like enough, didn't satisfy the need for blood that raged in her core. She nodded at Joel's plan all the same, however, knowing they needed some smarts to get through this alive. "I'll shoot to kill alright," Ellie muttered, cocking her gun and setting to aim. "Don't worry about Cat, Joel. She can handle herself." She didn't want to see them argue at a time like this, both of them far too hot-headed and sure in their ways to back down. It was like having parents, or what Ellie assumed that to be like. But her focus wasn't on either of them for long.

    When the glass bottle was thrown, Ellie was the first to fire. She shot two bullets in the body of the nearest assailant to AJ and Catherine took care of those in the distance, the ones too far for either Ellie or Joel to snipe from their angle. When Ellie was confident in her safety, she drew her knife from her belt and shouted as she ran head-first toward the closest bandit. She stabbed him thrice in the abdomen and chest, quick as a fox, blood pouring over her wielding arm. Another gunman tried to grab her by the ponytail and drag her down. She made quick work of him, opening his throat with her blade and dashing to AJ's side.

    His little cousins lay dead beside him, blown to pieces by the invaders. Ellie tried not to look at them, focusing her gaze on her best friend.

    "AJ, hey, look at me," Ellie panted, cupping his face despite their height difference and making him look at her. "We gotta get outta here. Okay? Come on, Joel an' I are gonna keep you safe. And Cat, too, remember Cat? She taught you how to fish."

    "Ellie!" cried Catherine from the distance. "Come on, the tunnel's right here and there's more of those assholes coming!"

    "Oh man. We gotta move. Come with me, yeah?" Ellie took AJ by the hands and spared herself the sight of the mangled little bodies of children beside him. "AJ, please. I'm not gonna lose you too!"
    • Love Love x 1
  18. Joel Miller - The Protector
    Joel Miller
    "I struggled for a long time with survivin', and no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."
    “The city slips away too soon, today she’s wide awake. Making small talk, Mr. Moon, singing louder than the rest.”

    The voice broke Joel’s concentration. It was weak in volume, but powerful in emotion. There was a sorrow to it that made Joel freeze, and for a moment he closed his eyes. He remembered the song, an obscure song from the mid 2000’s that AJ had discovered on one of his runs. It hadn’t been a particularly interesting melody to Joel, but if he remembered right, Jordan had fallen in love with the song the first time he heard it. The air felt so chill, as the words fell from AJ’s lips, the boy standing amongst the fallen bodies of his younger cousins, his eyes looking ever forward, as though he were expecting the bullet that wasn’t coming to come and tear through him. The voice trembled as it ran through the lyric, a sorrowful piano to scream of the condition of the soul within.

    And in a moment AJ hit his knees.

    “Ellie, go with Cat,” Joel spoke, his voice was soft, solemn, and in its own way beckoned to be obeyed far more than any shout or scream Joel could ever do. He was calm, even if inside his heart was breaking for the two slain children. For a moment, he could see Ellie in their place, the haunting image bringing about a spike of fear and pain that Joel quickly shoved down. His hand gripped on Ellie’s shoulder only a moment before he let her go, looking at her eyes once more before expecting her to move away. “I’ll bring AJ.”

    It was only once she left that Joel bent down, right there in the middle of everything, and put a hand upon the shoulder of the trembling teen. Joel felt that, in a very unique way, he could understand exactly what it was that AJ was feeling. The day his Sarah died… that was the day the world had stopped turning for him. Had it not been for Tommy, he would have died right there, shot by another solider while he was holding the still form of his daughter. Tommy had saved his life, drug him to safety, and even though for a while Joel had hated him for it, he knew it to be for the best. But what to say? He wasn’t Tommy, and AJ wasn’t him. To pull him to his feet and demand he start running probably wouldn’t work as well with AJ as it had with him. The kid was just that, a kid; a kid who was having to deal with something well beyond him.

    “I know how you’re feeling AJ,” Joel spoke, his voice was calm, but deep and strong. “God knows I wish I didn’t, but I know exactly what it is your feeling, I’ve been there. It’s not fair. It fucking sucks, and there’s not a god damn thing you can do about it, except get up, get away, and live.”

    “On nights like these, she can be herself…” AJ gave voice to the next lyric in a voice somewhere between singing and crying, his eyes looking upon the crumbled body of Jordan, leaning over the boy’s head. His sobs broke the song, loud, soul wrenching sobs. It was the sound of the sobs that told Joel that this wasn’t going to be a quick moment. He looked around the pair of them, watching for a sign of anything coming, trusting in the woman and her eagle eye to keep any distance shots from tearing through either of them. His ears told him of the boy’s pain, the sound of sobs atop the passing feet of running assailants, to busy with their tasks to notice the pair of them, crouched along the wall as they were, broken, weeping.

    “AJ man. It’s not safe here,” Joel spoke, again in a calm, understanding tone, "You have to come on. You have to live. They wouldn’t want you to die here with them,” he took the teen’s hands off the crumbled body, felt some slack in them, some give to the muscles that hadn’t been there before. To Joel, it signified a willingness to leave, to get up and go, even if it wasn’t anything he’d do for himself.

    In the next moment, Joel hoisted the man up, putting an arm around his shoulders, moving as quick as AJ would allow to the awaiting Cat and Ellie, before passing his burden off to a waiting pair of women. Let them mother hen the boy for a while, and he’ll survive this Joel thought to himself, remembering what it took… remembering what it was he needed after Sarah.

    “Lets get out of here,” Joel spoke, ducking his head into the entrance of the tunnel, which was nothing more than an emergency flood pipeline that had been opened just on the other side of the wall. It was nearly large enough for Joel to pass through without having to duck down. Once out, he turned to help the others through.


    • Love Love x 1
  19. Catherine Stiles; The Homemaker
    "The only home left is wherever we make one."

    "Come on, come on!" Catherine scrambled through the tunnel and into the outside, with the assistance of Ellie's offered hand. She broke free into the forest and coughed up the stagnant air that filled her lungs. She brushed the dirt from her hands and huffed, wishing she could take a break but the fired shots and screams from the dam were still too close for comfort. Catherine yanked the car keys from her pocket and regained her mental state enough to take action.

    "The truck is just, uh...that way," she said after sniffling and wiping her nose. Catherine reloaded her revolver and adjusted her backpack, looking around at the three companions. She tried not to think of her family back inside the walls. Had her mother and Brian made it out? What about her brother? Tommy and Maria? All the others...

    There was no time to think about it. Cat placed a reassuring hand on the horrified shoulder of AJ, giving Joel a sorrowful glance. "Look after the kids. I can lead from here."

    She didn't give a damn if he disagreed. Catherine pressed onward through the forest and broke into a rushing speed, knowing that Joel would keep AJ in line and Ellie could take care of herself. She followed the trail that Brian had taught her a few months ago, through the brush and forestry that surrounded the edges of their home, now up in flames. The chaos at the dam grew quieter with the more distance they put between it and the destination. Every so often, Catherine would glance back to Joel, Ellie and AJ to ensure they were close behind and following her trail with urgency. Thankfully the car was not far away, but Catherine couldn't help feeling like they were walking towards something dangerous, for perhaps in fact they were. A car meant departure, leaving the place they had called home for so long. It meant the dangers of being out on the road again, and the possibility of death.

    The truck appeared above the hill Catherine climbed. The sight of it brought as much anxiety as it did relief, thinking on the things she would leave behind. She yanked open the driver door and hopped in, starting the truck with little difficulty and revving it to life.

    "Anything or anyone nearby probably heard that," she said with haste. "Quickly, everyone get in."

    She didn't know where they were headed. Only that they needed to leave.​
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