Hey kiddo,

First off, I'm gonna stop you right here if you ain't, what was your term for it? "A crusty old dinosaur." I mean it. If you're younger than a triceratops (remember that day?), then close this letter right up and don't even think about opening it again. The envelope says eighty, and I mean eighty, I'm not kidding. Go back to that museum. Climb a T-Rex. Live your life, kiddo, and stop thinking about me.

But if you've actually, miraculously, listened to me, and you're really getting on – well then, here goes.

I'm sorry.

I lied to you.

I lied in a big way, and you might never forgive me for it, and you might feel like shit because of it, and THAT'S what I'm sorry for, but I ain't sorry for the decision. Never was, never will be – I went to my grave knowing I did the right thing. You're worth it, Ellie. You deserve a hell of a life, you hear me? I love you, I love you so much. And I hate that I'm even writing this, but I hated lying to you too, even though I knew it was for your own good, because you're the stupidest, noblest, bravest kid I've ever met, and if I told you too early, you'd throw your whole life away, and you didn't deserve that. You didn't ask for this, and you don't owe the world anything. Remember that.

Shit. Sorry. I'm not explaining this properly. And sorry for the smudges. Yeah, yeah, your old man's crying. Go on, laugh it up. Ha ha.

I killed the Fireflies at St Mary's. Every last one of them.

Even Marlene.

They were gonna kill you. They couldn't make the vaccine without killing you. Or they wouldn't, they wouldn't try any other way. They were gonna kill you, and I couldn't let that happen. You get that, right? That's why I had to wait 'til now, so you'd get it. Because you wouldn't have, as a kid. You would've wanted to save the world. And we didn't even know if they could save the world, their own doctors didn't know, Marlene didn't know, but they were gonna risk you anyways, maybe for nothing. And you would've never known, you would've thought you were dying for some great cause, and if it didn't even change anything – it wasn't right. I couldn't let them.

I was going to tell you. Eventually. Shit, kiddo, you have no idea how much I want to do this in person. But it's not the right time. You're barely thirty. And still so much of a kid. If I told you now, you'd run right off to try and find the Fireflies again. Sacrificing yourself. Not seeing the whole rest of your life you'd be missing, and trust me, there's a lot of good bits left, it's not all being a "crusty old dinosaur." Even with whatever the fuck's eating away at me, these last few years have been some of the best of my life. Because I got to watch you live and grow and THRIVE, Ellie. I got to watch your goddamn wedding. You and Cat were so fucking beautiful, and I know I shouldn't swear about that, there's gotta be a more poetic way to say it, but you know I'm not good with that. I can't explain what I felt seeing you two, but know that it was so good, like this huge, warm bubble swelling in my chest. I know I told you I didn't cry, but I did, and I did all that night too. Happy crying, you know, because again, I knew I'd made the right choice. You never would've had that if I let the Fireflies take you. You never would've even met Cat. But now you're gonna have a whole life together. And I hope you do. I hope you do so bad.

Honestly, I should've put 100 on the envelope. Should've put 200 – shouldn't be writing this at all. Because I'm worried you never outgrew that kid that wants to save the world. I know you didn't, 'cause you rode right into infected territory to get my ventilator last week, when I specifically told you not to go.

I guess we really are the same, huh.

But that was also why I decided to write this. 'Cause I figured, even if part of you still keeps wanting to throw yourself at all the world's problems like you're nothing more than a shield, you also understand the other side now. Remember how you felt when I told you I was fine with dying, and you said fuck that? That's the same thing I felt at St. Mary's. So you get it now, even if you don't realise it. And by eighty, God willing you're still alive and well, you'll be smart enough to think about this with a cool head. You'll have lived in Jackson for so long, made so many friends, had so many memories with Cat. You'll be able to see what you would've lost if I'd told you this when you were fourteen, or thirty, and you'd made the rash decision. Now you'll get it.

And then you'll get to make your own choice.

God knows I won't be able to stop you now, but again, I gotta say, you deserve life, Ellie. You do. And if you've made it to eighty in this shitty world, then you ought to go all the way. Hell, if you waited like I told you, then the year is 2099, right? You're one year off of a new century, that's a milestone you need to be around for.

Let the people who chose to save the world do their thing. You didn't have a say in being immune. So you don't owe anyone your blood, or your brain, or your life. And you're not selfish for knowing that. You don't have to be a hero.

Shit, no. You ARE a hero, Ellie.

You saved me.

All right, the pen's wobbling a bit too much for me now – hope you can still read this. I understand if you hate me, but I'll stand by it 'til my death and beyond. But I thought you ought to know, just so there wasn't any lies between us in the end. Trust me, I never wanted to lie to you. But I'd do it again to save your life.

Also, say hi to Cat for me. Tell her she picked a hell of a gal.

Love you baby girl,



A weathered palm brushed across the page. Long fingers, bent and spotted brown with age, trembled as they traced the familiar strokes of uneven letters. They lingered on the darker splotches, where stains of long-faded tears had made the ink run. But everything was legible, still. Perfectly legible.

A long, low sigh filled the quiet cabin. Eyes that had gone a bit milky around the irises but had nevertheless clung to their deep shade of green lifted slowly from the hastily scrawled signature to a desk with an empty envelope emblazoned DON'T OPEN 'TIL YOU'RE 80. Framed photographs circled it like spectators: mostly polaroids from a lucky find out on a supply run years and years ago, of a cheeky teen with choppy brown hair making a host of faces at the camera. Often there was a man with her, rolling his eyes, only ever offering a half-quirked lip in lieu of a smile.

There were two exceptions. One was in the oldest photo of all, long faded with curled corners, of the man and a different girl positively beaming at the camera. His arm was around her; hers were thrust in the air, a trophy clutched triumphantly in hand. The other smile came from a sketch, thick charcoal lines tracing out every crow's foot and laugh line of the man's grinning face. At the time it was drawn, he'd been much gaunter, mouth covered by that coveted ventilator, but the artist had improvised because that was how she'd wanted to remember him.

And now . . . there was this.

The letter was tossed on the desk. The hand went to the eyes, rubbing until she saw spots. And an old, creaky voice that even now maintained a hint of its once-youthful flippancy muttered, "Goddammit Joel."

Ellie Miller was eighty years old, arthritic, near-sighted, and half-deaf, and now she'd have to cross the entire country to find the motherfucking Fireflies.

Welcome to my delightfully random AU of TLOU2! I couldn't shake this idea while playing the game once it popped into my head, and after finishing the game I went right to writing 'cause it was still kicking around my brain. Behold the result!

Obviously everything that happened in Part 2 never occurred, we're going full new storyline after the events of the first game. However, characters from the second game will be cropping up in this one - just, uh, with a couple of overhauls. Love Part 2 or hate it, all opinions are equally valid, but I personally found myself wishing some characters went in different directions, so you'll be seeing that here. Chapters will probably usually average around 2-5k; this one's a shortie 'cause it's a prologue.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time!