"Goddamn it, cover us!" Nick yelled, tightening his grip on Ellis' waist and dragging him forward. "The safe house is just ahead!" They'd been having enough trouble making it through before Ellis had gotten jumped by that damn jockey; after it had rode him straight into a witch he was useless and progress had slowed to a snail's pace. The arm Nick had wrapped around Ellis's waist was slick with blood and Nick knew that Witch had done a number on him.
A zombie rushed at him and Nick cursed, shoving the infected back and raising his pistol, firing off two shots in quick succession. "Come on guys, let's get out of here!"
"What the hell do you think we're doing?!" Coach yelled somewhere to the left. Nick could hear the heavy man muttering as he popped off two zombies and paused to reload.
"Yeah, well, maybe we should do this a little faster before a damn Tank shows up," he said, hoisting Ellis up a bit higher. "Let's run for it."
Coach nodded, cocking his shotgun. "Okay. Rochelle, you get ahead of Nick. We can't have him fumbling with the damn door. I'll come up behind and shut it."
"Great, glad that's settled. Can we do this now? Ellis isn't some delicate flower here and I'm ready leave him." Nick headed forward, his gait slow enough that Rochelle was easily able to get ahead, down in a crouching run as she shot the infected that stood in their way.
As soon as the safe room door was closed, Nick pulled Ellis into the kitchen and laid him out across the table. "Shit," he muttered, gently pulled the bloodied shirt up over Ellis's abdomen and chest.
Rochelle appeared at his elbow. "First aid kit," she said, opening and pulling out alcohol, butterfly skitches, and bandages. "Come on, pull his shirt off. We need to get this cleaned and stitched up quickly." Nick lifted Ellis's upper half up and pulled off his shirt, rolling it in a ball and throwing it to the side.
"Jesus," he muttered. Ellis was a wreck. The Witch's claws left deep gashes in his skin and bruises lined his ribs.
"Come on," Rochelle said, handing him some bandages and alcohol before leaning over Ellis and slapping his face gently. "Ellis? Can you hear me?"
Ellis groaned, eyes blinking open. "R-Rochelle?" He tried to get up and Rochelle pushed him back down, shushing him. "What the fuck happened? Feels like...fuck, feels like Jimmy Gibbs Jr. ran me smack over."
Rochelle chuckled. "No, sweetie," she said, smoothing his hair back. "A Witch got you."
Ellis was quiet for a moment. "Damn."
Nick snorted. "That's an understatement," he said, finishing with the cleaning and bandaging. "I make no guarantees but you might just make it. Yay."
"Nick!" Coach admonished but Ellis chuckled, immediately wincing at the pain. He closed his eyes and laid there for a moment, taking deep breaths before frowning.
"I'm...why am I on a table?"
Rochelle laughed and leaned back, gazing down at him affectionately. "That's where Nick put you. We'll help you get to the bedroom."
"Naw, it's okay," Ellis said. "Don't really want to move anywhere." He shifted against the wood before grinning. "Wouldn't mind havin' a pillow though."
"I'm on it."
Watching her leave, Nick snorted. "I wonder why she's never that nice when I'm hurt," he said, rolling his shoulders. "She usually just tells me to get over it."
"Well, I reckon I'm a lot more loveable than you are," Ellis said before hissing, one hand going to his abdomen. "Damn, this sure does suck."
"Yeah." Nick watched him, one brow raised, before reaching into his pocket. "Here. Some pain pills. You probably need them a lot more than me right now." He helped Ellis lean up, one hand bracing against the nape of his neck, and tipped the bottle up, letting a few of the pills fall out into Ellis' mouth. "I don't know why it's always you that gets into this kind of shit."
"Hell, I don't either," Ellis said, flopping back down tiredly. "It really fucking sucks though. Not that I'd want any of y'all to get fucked up like this but hell, for once I'd-"
"Here you go," Rochelle said, coming back into the kitchen carrying a lumpy pillow and a faded, well-worn blanket. She tucked the pillow behind Ellis' head and pulling the blanket over him. "I'm going to want to check those bandages in a couple of hours."
"Right," Ellis said, smiling up at her. "Thanks, Ro."
She smiled. "You're welcome, sweetheart." She yawned and ran her hands over her face. "It's been a rough day, huh?"
"Everyday is a rough day," Nick said, straightening his jacket out, grimacing at its newest stains. "This one just sunk its claws in a little deeper, that's all."
"Thanks, Mr. Positive," Rochelle said, rolling her eyes. "I told Coach I would take first watch so he's already found a place to sleep. Nick, feel free to-"
"I'll take first watch," he interrupted, meeting her incredulous stare with an impassive one. "You look exhausted and I'm too keyed up to sleep right now. You go ahead. I'll take care of our little overalls."
Rochelle laughed. "Okay, if you're insisting," she said, stretching her arms up over her head before letting them drop. "Good night, guys."
"'Night," Nick said. Ellis didn't reply; his eyes were closed, his face jaw slack. Rochelle snorted and left the kitchen.
Nick sighed deeply before running a head through his hair roughly, sitting at the kitchen table and resting his head in one hand, glaring at Ellis. "Goddamn it," he muttered. "I take my eyes off you for one second and this happens. Forget the zombie apocalypse, Ellis. I don't know how you survived day to day life." He hesitated for just a moment before reaching out and putting his hand on Ellis' chest, feeling the heavy beat of his heart, the way he breathed. "You're going to be the death of me, you little shit." A low chuckle startled him and Nick tried to pull his hand back, cursing under his breath when Ellis pinned it to his chest.
"Damn, Nick," he said. "Never knew you cared."
"I don't," Nick stressed but Ellis closed his eyes, the smirk never leaving his mouth. Nick blew air out through his teeth but didn't move his hand when Ellis let go, instead stroking his fingers over the bandages. "That was a close one."
"I've had closer."
"No you haven't," Nick said, eyes narrowing. "If you had, you'd be dead. You're not some goddamn immortal, kid. You need to be more careful."
"I know, I know," Ellis said, taking a long, slow, deep breath. "But it's not like I try to get fucked up like this. Hell, most of the time it's like those things are aiming for me! But, well. I guess I'll try and be a little more careful."
"Good. Great. I'm overjoyed," Nick deadpanned, even though he was glad to hear it. "Now get some sleep. If you're not better by tomorrow morning, I'm leaving your ass behind." He tried to pull his hand away but Ellis grabbed him again.
"Hey, where you goin'?"
"Well, I was thinking about sitting in the living room, since it's slightly less shitty than this kitchen," Nick said. "These chairs are hard as hell and I've got to be able to move in the morning."
"Well, you ain't got to go in there," Ellis said, painfully sliding to one side of the table. "Here, there's plenty of room right here."
Raising his eyebrows, Nick shook his head. "You've got to be kidding." He surveyed the kitchen table with a critical eye. The thing didn't look like it was strong enough to hold one grown man, much less two.
"Naw, it's not so bad. Seriously," Ellis said, tugging on his hand. "You ain't gonna leave in here all by myself, are you? I'm all injured and shit."
"Yeah, and that's your own fault." Nick allowed Ellis to pull him down, deciding that if the table collapsed, it would be just one more thing he could hold over Ellis' head. They carefully curled around each other, Ellis laying mostly on his back as to not jar his wounds, his head turned to tuck against Nick's neck.
"Coach is going to be pissed if he wakes up to find me asleep on the job," Nick said, stroking one hand down Ellis' back in an unconsciously proprietary motion.
Laughing quietly, Ellis asked, "Since when did you give a fuck about people bein' pissed off at you?"
"Point," Nick said before tapping his fingers against Ellis' back sharply. "Now go to sleep."