Note: Okay, if you're going to read this, keep in mind that this story contains spoilers for The Last of Us. So if you haven't completed the game yet, don't read! Anyway, here we go.
Ellie wasn't sure what to make of Joel's response. She sensed that he wasn't telling the whole truth. Could the Fireflies really have stopped looking for a cure? Was it really in their nature to give up after fighting for so long? And if what Joel had said was true, about there being plenty of others immune to the infection like herself, why did the Fireflies specifically need her for this vaccine? And why did she never get to see them before they left? The thoughts raced through her head for a few seconds, until being interrupted by the sound of Joel's rugged voice.
“Well, come on, we better go. I'm so tired. We'll finally get to take it slow after this exhausting trip we've had.” said Joel as he turned around and started walking alongside the cliff, his gaze fixated on Tommy's town.
Ellie hesitated for a moment, then began following Joel again. As she walked alongside the cliff, she began thinking of David again, and the things he had tried to do to her. She remembered how they had fought off the infected in the factory, and his manipulative, seemingly caring demeanour at the time, and his psychotic behaviour as he stalked her throughout the restaurant. What would he have done to her if the knife had been out of her reach that time? Trying to completely block the memories from her mind, she thought back to Sam and Riley, two of her closest friends that had been taken away from her. She remembered the toy robot that Sam wanted to take with him, which Henry would not allow, and how she had forgotten to place it on his grave. She remembered how he had tried to kill her after he had become infected, and how Henry had shot himself right in front of Joel after killing his brother. Her life was full of nothing but bad memories. But perhaps now that she and Joel would be settling down in a well-fortified town, life would just maybe get a little easier.
It wasn't long before they reached the main gate of the town. A huge silver structure with a lookout posted at the top, looking out for any signs of infected or hunters. As soon as he spotted Joel and Ellie, he immediately signalled the other guards to open the gate.
“Hey! It's Joel and Ellie! Open the gate, quickly!” signalled the guard. He must have been given a description of them by Tommy.
In a matter of seconds, the doors were swung open, and a group of three guards armed with assault rifles directed Joel and Ellie into the town, swiftly locking it behind them once they were inside. Ellie marvelled at the sight in front of them. The town looked even more magnificent up close than when she was on the cliff. It was nothing like the Boston Quarantine Zone. Everywhere you looked, you could see families out with their kids, with not a care in the world, rather than armed security guards ordering everyone around. There were still a few guards patrolling around, each with a badge on their chest, but they looked a lot more peaceful and easy-going than the ones in Boston. The road was full of streetlights, and Ellie could see television sets playing movies through the windows of each house,which were not dilapidated and covered in graffiti like in Boston, but well-kept and tidy, each one with a garden in front of it, some with children playing in them, oblivious to the outside world while being watched by their parents, others with people watering the plants. Joel looked around and a grin bestowed his face. For a moment, he felt like he was back in the real world, before everything went to hell, but then he thought about Sarah, and how he would never see her again.
“Hey guys! My name's Mike!” said the lookout as he hopped down from the wall and walked towards them. He wore a brown leather jacket and denim jeans, with a holster for his pistol on his right hip. “I'm the head guard around here. Tommy's been itching to see you guys again! Here, come with me. I'll take you to his house.”
“Alright, thanks. Lead the way.”
Mike began walking up the street, with Joel and Ellie following him. As they walked towards Tommy's house, Ellie began talking about the town.
“This place is awesome! I've like, never seen anything like this before! It's almost like we're in a different world now! Is this what it was like in the old days?”
“Well, kinda. We weren't bottled into a single community without contact to the outside world, but yeah, this is about as close to the real world as I've seen in twenty years. We could really build a new life for ourselves around here.”
“Yeah, we've been doing pretty good for ourselves ever since we got the power plant back up and running. We've still had a few problems with hunters and the like, but everything's been running smoothly since you guys left.” said Mike, proud of the town he had helped to flourish.
“Okay, well, we're here. That's Tommy's house right there.” said Mike as he pointed at a two-story house at the end of a cul-de-sac.
“Thanks, Mike” said Joel.
“Any time, buddy. Oh, and tell Tommy I said hi.” Mike said as he strolled back to the main gate.
“Huh, it's finally time to rest up.” said Ellie.
“Definitely, you deserve it after all we've been through.”
Joel walked up to Tommy's door and rang the doorbell. The door was opened and they were greeted by Tommy's wife, Maria.
“Oh my God! Tommy! Come here! Now! You gotta see who's here!” said Maria with excitement.
Tommy ran from the sitting room into the hallway, and spread his arms out as he walked towards Joel, embracing him in a brotherly hug.
“My God. You're back, you're f*cking back!”
“Yep, we sure are. Did you really think we wouldn't make it?” asked Ellie with a smile.
“I never doubted you guys for a moment.”
“Well, how about we go inside? You two must be exhausted from your travels.” said Maria.
“Definitely.” said Joel.
Ellie made her way into the sitting room and sat on a black couch next to Joel.
“Well, you guys want anything to eat?” asked Tommy as he walked into the kitchen.
“Sure, we ain't eaten in a while. Fix us up something good.”
“You got it.” said Tommy.
Ellie looked around the room. It was pretty basic looking, with a coffee table in the middle and another couch which sat opposite them, and a fireplace to the left of the doorway they came through. But what stood out to her was the TV set, playing a movie she didn't know the name of. It looked strange to her. The characters didn't look real, rather they were colourful and artificial. The scene that was playing involved an astronaut looking guy flying through the air, purple wings sticking out from his back, carrying a cowboy in his arms. Ellie found herself intrigued by the movie.
“Hey, this movie's pretty cool. What's with the characters though? They look kinda.... weird.”
“Oh that, it's called CGI. It's not actual people in the movie. It's like, a cartoon created by computers.”
“Wow, that's pretty cool. Did you ever see this movie before?”
“Yep, I did. Many times. It's called Toy Story. It was Sarah's favourite movie. She'd watch it over and over again when she was young. I'd never hear the end of it.”
“Oh, wow. I didn't know.”
“That's alright.” said Joel with a grin.
Tommy walked back into the room, carrying a bowl of biscuits, and placed them on the table. “Here, Ellie, try this.” he said as he handed one of them to Ellie.
“What's this?” she asked as she looked at the biscuit. It consisted of two chocolate disks with a white, creamy substance in the middle. It looked familiar to her but she couldn't quite grasp what it was. She was sure she had seen it on a billboard before.
“Back in the day, we used to call them Oreo's. Most of them are expired now, but we've been able to make our own ones ever since we started growing our own food. It's a luxury not many can afford these days. Go on, try it. I bet you'll love it.”
“Okay.” said Ellie as she stared at the Oreo for a little longer, before taking a bite. She took a moment to let the cream melt in her mouth, before immediately stuffing the rest of the Oreo and grabbing another two from the bowl.
“Haha, see what'd I tell ya?” chuckled Tommy as he grabbed himself an Oreo.
“Oh yeah! They're amazing!” said Ellie as she split another Oreo in two and dunked one end in the cream.
“ Well, dinner's gonna be ready in about twenty minutes. Maria's gone to the general store to get some stuff. So, did you guys find the Fireflies in the end? Have they made a vaccine?”
A sinking feeling came over Joel. He was dreading having to lie again, this time to his brother.
“Yep, we did. But it's not what you think.”
“Why? What happened?” asked Tommy with a concerned look.
“Well, when we got there. The Fireflies told us that they were no longer looking for a cure. You see, there's been plenty of people immune to the infection, like Ellie. No matter what they've tried, they've never even gotten close to a cure. So they've just stopped looking for a cure altogether.”
Tommy looked astounded at the news. He believed something fishy was going on.
“Wait, they've stopped looking for a cure? Are you serious? I know what the Fireflies are like. They would never give up looking for a cure, no matter what.”
“What else did you expect me to do? They had no use for Ellie anymore. That's explicitly what they told me. There was nothing else for us to do besides come back here.”
“Well, okay. It is what it is.” said Tommy reluctantly. “Still, it seems weird that the Fireflies would give up, looking for a cure, you know?”
“I know, it does. But we best not dwell on it. What we should do is forget about it, and focus on our own lives now.”
“Yeah, you're right.”
Ellie had stopped eating the Oreo's now. She knew by Joel's reluctance to talk about it that he wasn't telling the whole truth. Something had happened back there that he hadn't told her.
“Well, I gotta go check up on the generator again. There's no telling when that thing's gonna go out again. Hey, you wanna come with me? I could give you guys a tour of the town.”
“Nah, I'll stay here and keep an eye on the dinner.” said Joel.
“I'd like to come with you! I really wanna see what the rest of the town looks like!” said Ellie.
“Sure, Ellie. You can come. I'll take you to see some of the kids. They'll be really happy to have a new arrival in town, especially one close to their age. Not many people have kids in this world anymore.”
“Alright, but don't get into any trouble now. And don't wander off again like last time.” said Joel
“Haha, don't worry, I won't.”
Ellie followed Tommy out of the room and out to the street. It was beginning to get dark now. The streetlights flickered on as they walked under them, casting a white light onto them.
“Pretty impressive, ain't it? It's so much better not having to use flashlights in the dark anymore.”
Ellie said nothing, simply staring at the ground as she walked next to Tommy.
“Something wrong, Ellie?”
Ellie stood still, then turned towards Tommy.
“Tommy, you know what Joel says about the Fireflies? About them no longer looking for a cure anymore?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Well, I don't think he's telling the whole truth.”
“What do you mean?”
Ellie stared at the ground again for a moment, before looking up at Tommy again.
“I think he killed all of them.”