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On a scale of one to ten

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Soon after they had danced together and shared a kiss (Ellie still couldn’t believe that), they left the party. Heading for Dina’s hideout – an abandoned building on the far end of town. On the outside it looked like shit. The windows were boarded up and there were cobwebs hanging between the planks. The roof was riddled with holes and over all the building looked like it would take a lot of maintenance to be able to be lived in.

That’s why it was such a good place for a hideout. There was always too much work to be done around town and there were enough places for everyone to live in which is why no one took up the task of fixing it. Dina knew that so she choose that building.

When Dina had found it, it was almost completely empty inside, except for some busted up tables and chairs. She had found somewhere really nice furniture and brought it over (with the help of Ellie) to make the place look homier and it really worked, the place was great if you could ignore the fact that whenever it rained the roof leaked so they had to line up the floor with buckets at all times because they couldn’t always predict when it would rain.

On the way there Ellie had taken Dina’s hand in her own, not saying anything. The whole walk had been silent as well as when they got there.

Ellie remembers falling asleep on the surprisingly comfortable coach after she had gotten cold and Dina had lent her one of her hoodies. She wakes up to Dina pushing on her legs so she can sit on the couch. She holds a blunt in one hand and an ash tray in the other which she places on the arm of the couch.

Ellie smiles at her sleepily and murmurs, “Good morning.”

Dina takes a drag out of the blunt she's holding. Exhales the smoke.

It never fails to amaze Ellie what kinds of things Dina can find. From alcohol to weed to even comic books just for Ellie. (Yes, comic books are a bigger rarity to Ellie than even weed.) Ellie has tried countless times to ask her how she manages and yet Dina has never said a thing, insisting that she had to keep her secrets.

“Scale of one to ten,” Dina begins. She lifts her leg onto the couch they are sitting on so she can face Ellie. “How would you rate our kiss from last night?” she drawls, but Ellie can see the hesitant, shy smile that tugs at her lips.

Ellie smiles a small smile of her own.

This is real. This is real. This is real.

She can hardly believe it still, but it is. She looks down, bites her lip and decides to not be an asshole about it just this one time.

“Amazing,” Ellie says, but then remembers that the question wasn’t actually this so she adds, “A ten.”

“So just a ten,” Dina teases and scoots closer, offers the blunt to Ellie.

Ellie quietly laughs to herself. This is such a Dina thing to say.

She accepts the blunt and takes a small drag, hands it back to Dina and exhales the smoke after a couple of seconds.

“Then maybe we have to fix that number.” She scoots even closer to Ellie, takes a deep drag of the blunt and blows the smoke in Ellie’s face, Ellie scrunches up her face at that. Dina puts out the blunt in the ash tray on the arm of the couch. “Don’t you think so?”

Ellie hears the invitation loud and clear in Dina’s words and even louder in the way her head tilts and the raise of her eyebrows. Ellie takes a deep breath, the smoke of the blunt still burning her nostrils, and lifts her leg on the couch to mirror Dina.

She wraps her hand behind Dina’s neck and brings her in for a kiss. At first she’s hesitant. She’s inexperienced and more than a little nervous so she lets Dina lead the kiss. Dina kisses her slow and deep. Ellie can still taste the smoke on her lips and her tongue.

At one point Dina decides that the angle is not good enough so she pushes at Ellie's shoulders until Ellie is sitting straight on the couch. Then she straddles Ellie’s hips, not once breaking the kiss.

Ellie slowly moves her hand to Dina’s hip, afraid that any sudden movement will break the moment, wake her up from this amazing dream. She smiles against Dina’s lips and then sure enough that breaks it.

Dina pulls away from Ellie, her arms still propped up on her shoulders and linked up behind her neck. She grins down at her. “So, on a scale from one to ten?” She repeats her words from before, let’s the rest of it go unsaid.

“Definitely much better than anything I have ever imagined.” Ellie bites on her tongue when she realizes what she has said. The old habit of talking before speaking still persists. She feels her cheeks heat up and she's sure that they have turned a bright shade of red.

“Oh,” Dina chuckles and raises her eyebrows in that oh so Dina way. “You have?”

“I mean, I,” Ellie sighs, realizing her unfortunate fate and lets her head fall back against the couch. Squeezes her eyes shut. “Fuck.”

That only makes Dina laugh louder and Ellie wonders if she can sink through the couch. It doesn’t make it better that Dina is still sitting in her lap so she’s can’t move away even if she wanted to. Which she does now.

Or maybe not. It feels good to have Dina's weight on top of her, to feel the warmth coming from her body.

Ellie wonders if it’s worth it to try and lie, but she knows that Dina will never believe her.

“Oh my god, relax, I’m just messing with you, dumbass,” Dina says, her hands suddenly find their place on Ellie’s cheeks. “You’re so red, you look like you’ve just had a stoke.”

Ellie groans and then swats at Dina’s hands. “I’m not!”

“It’s fine, Ellie. I have imagined this too,” Dina confesses.

At this Ellie’s eyes snap open. “You have?” She looks up at Dina.

The girl looks genuine enough and yet that spark of mischief is ever present in her eyes.

“Yes, I have.” She pinches Ellie’s cheeks in much the same fashion grandparents do to their grandchildren. Then laughs at Ellie's offended face when she pries her hands away.

“What have you imagined?” Ellie asks hopefully.

This might mean that Dina actually likes her. Ellie needs a lot more proof before she actually believes that she does. And that one seems like a great first one.

“Now now, wouldn’t you like to know?” She taps Ellie’s nose with the tip of her finger.

“Yes, Dina, that is why I’m asking.”

“Maybe I will show you sometime,” she says, leans in close until Ellie can feel her breath on her lips. Just as Ellie thinks she will kiss her again Dina leans back and brings her watch up to Ellie’s face, a bit too close so that she has to go cross eyed to actually see anything. She taps the glass with her index finger. “But it seems that we are late for the patrol. They are going to be so mad.”

Shit! They are already five minutes late and they haven’t even walked out of Dina’s hideout yet.

Ellie jumps into action. She grabs Dina by her thighs, lifts her up and puts her back on the couch. Once freed from Dina’s weight she begins to slip on her shoes.

“Motherfucker!” Ellie whispers to herself as she struggles with her shoe laces.

“Or,” Dina drawls. “Maybe we can play hooky and I will show you some of the things I have imagined right now.”

Ellie’s fingers slow on their work at her shoe laces. There is nothing Ellie would have wanted more, after all this is what she had been dreaming about for years. But Joel had been trying to find a reason to stop her from going on patrols for weeks now. They had gotten in a fight about the patrols the night before. So maybe this was exactly what he needed - her skipping on her patrol - to accomplish that.

“Dina, we can’t.” Ellie looks up regretfully from her stupid shoes.

“You’re right, we will get in a lot of trouble if we do,” Dina laughs and stands up from the couch. Her shoes are on so she simply takes her coat and walks out of the door, she turns around just before she leaves and gives Ellie a look that Ellie can’t possibly decipher.

Without waiting on her, Dina keeps going.

Ellie struggles to put on her other shoe, but gives up, leaving the laces untied. “Hey, Dina! Wait for me!” Ellie yells after her, picking up her own coat from where it had been draped across the couch and running after Dina.

“Keep up slow poke!” Dina turns around to look at, but still keeps walking. “We're so late.”

Ellie catches up to her and puts on her coat, shivering at the chilly winter air. The snow beneath her feet has already become that watery, muddy mess it always does after too many people walk on top and she can already feel her toes freezing even through the thick material of her boots.

She’s never liked the winter. Not even before-

She cuts off her train of thought. She doesn’t want to think about that.

“Dina,” Ellie begins, she scratches at her neck, wondering if she should even ask. She already knows that Dina won’t answer before she has deemed the teasing enough. Which is never. “What have you imagined?” she asks anyway. At least she has the cold weather to blame for the blush spreading across her cheeks.

Dina laughs, she turns around to face the correct way, her eyes now focused on the path in front of them. Ellie is surprised how she managed to not slip on the snow and fall while she wasn’t looking.

“I don’t think that you really want to know,” she says, the air coming out of her mouth not unlike the one from the blunt she had smoked just minutes before. “Especially not so close to the patrol.”

“Come on, Dina.”

Dina doesn’t deem that worthy of an answer and she just keeps walking. Ellie's eyes are glued to the side of her face and she almost slips from how distracted she is. Luckily she catches herself and doesn’t succeed in completely embarrassing herself in front of the whole town.

How had Dina made it look so easy walking backwards like that when Ellie can’t even walk normally without slipping?

“Please, tell me.”

At that Dina turns to look at her and just as Ellie thinks she’s finally won she notices the smirk starting to form at her friend's (girlfriend's?) lips.

“Begging already? Interesting.”

For the first time since they left Dina’s house, Ellie’s eyes leave the side of her face and she focuses on her shoes, stepping through the muddy snow. Fucking Dina. Always managing to fluster Ellie.

Ellie groans and digs the heels of her palms against her eyes until she can see spots against her eye lids. “You’re such a dick.”

Thankfully they have already reached the parts of the street where the snow has been cleaned so she doesn’t fall flat on her ass while she walks with her eyes closed.

“I’m just noting that very interesting fact.”

“Shut up!”

And just like that asking her this question had brought her an even worse result than the one she was expecting.

“And what have you imagined exactly?” Dina asks her after a few minutes of kind of awkward silence.

The awkward was probably just from Ellie’s side.

“It was, um, nothing… nothing much,” Ellie stutters through her words. She knows that whatever she says will result in Dina’s relentless teasing. “Kissing. Yeah.” She cringes as the words make their way out of her mouth, but it’s already too late.

Dina laughs and Ellie’s sure that she would have said something, but they arrive at the fence surrounding the horses next to the gates of the city. Ellie jogs up to it and straight up vaults over the fence to escape Dina.

“What are you doing, dumbass?” Dina yells after her.

She ignores her and walks up to one of her favorite horses, Old Dave, and pets his mane. “Hello, old man,” she whispers to him, smiling when the horse nudges her with his snout. “You gotta save me from Dina, she’s being an asshole.”

Old Dave neighs gently and Ellie decides that it’s an agreement.

“Yes, you’re right. She’s always an asshole.”

“Are you talking with the horses again, Ellie?” Dina's voice startles her from behind. “You just want someone to talk shit with about me, but you know that everyone in town loves me so you resort to speaking with a fucking horse.”

Ellie can’t really argue with the fact. Everyone does love her, herself included.

“Don’t listen to her, Dave, she’s just jealous that I like you more than I like her.” Ellie keeps patting the horse.

“Is that so?” Dina asks as she walks over with the reins of her own horse in hand.

“Yeah.”

“Okay, then you can make out with the horse, how about that?” Dina stops in front of them and waits for an answer.

Ellie laughs. “Maybe I will,” she says. “I bet Old Dave's a better kisser than you are. What do you think, Dave?” she asks him, waits for an answer, but the horse keeps quiet. “I think that he will pass on that.”

“Of course he'll pass, you’re the weird girl that talks to horses,” Dina jabs and begins to tug at her horse's reins to lead him towards the gates.

“Hey! Horses are really cool!” Ellie defends herself and follows after.

“Of course that is what you will say, horse girl.” When Dina reaches the gate she opens it and walks through. Turns around to look at Ellie. “Will you use the gate this time or will you just straight up jump over the fence again?”

Ellie just rolls her eyes and walks through, bringing Dave with her.

“That's not what you said ten minutes ago, by the way,” Dina says after a couple of seconds of silence.

“What did I say.” Ellie frowns, not paying too much mind.

“That a horse is a better kisser than me. Ten minutes ago you said and I quote that it was ‘amazing’ and 'better than anything you have imagined in your entire, whole life and anything that you will ever imagine until the day you die'.” She puts air quotes around the words with her free hand as if that is really what Ellie said.

“Hey!” Ellie says, offended. “That’s not what I said.”

“That is exactly what you said,” she tells Ellie. “I have perfect memory, I’ll have you know.”

Ellie rolls her eyes. “You’re such an asshole.”

“You're hurting my feelings, Ellie.” She clutches at her heart dramatically.

“Ugh, why do I put up with you?”

“You love me, you just don’t want to admit it.”

At that they reach the big gates of the city and Ellie’s glad that she doesn’t have to respond to that

Jesse notices them and walks over. “Look who decided to join us,” he says in lieu of a greeting. He’s holding two rifles and he hands one of them to Ellie.

Ellie is suddenly reminded of what had happened just the night before at the dance and she feels like a very shitty friend. She doesn’t know what he has seen, but she still has a hard time looking at him.

As soon as she takes the rifle, she welcomes the excuse of not having to look at him and checks it over, making sure that it’s working correctly.

“We were waiting up on you two.” He walks away until he’s in the middle of most of the people gathered up. “All right, you all know the drill,” he begins, speaking loudly so everyone can hear. He probably waited on them to start his speech. “Run your routes, mark your log books…”

Next to her Dina mimes putting a gun to her Temple and pulling the trigger. Her head lolls to one side and she sticks her tongue out. She grins at her when Ellie rolls her eyes.

When Jesse is done, they all hop on their horses and head for the gates. Ellie can sense Dina’s eyes on her and when she looks over Dina smiles brightly and then spurs on her horse.

Ellie can’t help, but smile as well. “Let's go, Dave,” she says to her horse and follows after the other girl.