Tell the Angels It'll Be Alright
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters. They all belong to Capcom. I don't in any way make money for this so don't sue. The amazing and wonderful song "Learn to Fly" is by the Foo Fighters.
Okay, here's the thing. Sorry I took forever on this. I wanted to give this fic a good ending, but it didn't turn out that way. To be frank and blunt, I think this chapter sucks my ass. I really do. I don't know what went wrong. ::sighs in defeat:: But I really, really tried my best…sorry. Just give it a read, eh? Hopefully some people will beg to differ…
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We'll live happily ever after trapped
If you just save my life
Fly along with me
I can't quite make it alone
Try and make this life my own
A sense of foreboding hung in the air, hiding its monstrous face behind the mists that permeated the room. Death on its white steed was lurking in the shadows of the throne room, and in the back of her mind, Claire knew it, but refused to defer to its might. Instead, she tightened her sweaty grip on the key card and slid it through the slot in the reader, watching with controlled anxiety as the iron grid in front of her creaked and screamed in protest as it was slowly pulled into the ceiling by the electronic trigger.
Is Steve here? Claire wondered nervously as she walked over to the threshold and peered into the mist that covered the throne room. Mist doesn't belong inside, she thought. There has to be something in here. This is where Steve's voice was coming from, right? Right!
Taking a deep breath, resolve hardening her beautiful features, she tightened her grip on her assault rifle and took a step into the room. A loud click suddenly sounded from behind her, ringing endlessly in the silence. Claire turned and glared suspiciously at the door to the room, as if the intensity of her gaze would make it unlock again. She felt anxiety rise unbidden in her heart, but she hurriedly pushed it away. Now wasn't the time to be worrying about a damn door! Steve was in here, and she had to get to him first!
Forcing herself to look away from the locked door, she walked into the throne room, her legs unsettling the fog that had made its home close to the metal floor. Her heart was thudding in her chest so loudly that she was surprised it didn't create echoes in the ominous room. Dozens of suits of armor stood against the walls like living sentinels, watching Claire smugly as she strode quickly past, wanting to get to the end of the corridor as quickly as possible. She didn't like the paranoid thoughts she was having about things hiding in the suits of armor. She kept thinking that she saw a Hunter crouched in the corner, or a zombie lying hidden in the mist on the floor, ready to sink its infected teeth into her legs as she strode by.
But the thing that kept her heart beating in her throat with barely repressed anxiety was the faint sound of someone breathing that echoed slightly in the silent room. It could be anyone – Alexia, Steve, or some other survivor of this nightmare island, just waiting in the mists for her to come across them…or it could just be her imagination, but Claire's instincts told her that someone was in here, and her instincts rarely ever failed her. That was why she had come to be sort of an expert at surviving in such impossible conditions.
And now her trusted instincts told her to hurry up…so she did.
With her assault rifle clutching tightly in her gloved hands and her boots thudding loudly on the metal floor, Claire ran down the corridor, splitting the mists like a dagger as she shot through them. It wasn't long before she reached the end of the corridor…and saw what was there.
She stumbled to a stop, not believing her eyes. But it was really him!
"Steve?!" she called, a mixture of relief and anxiety making her normally confident tone sound wavering and uncertain.
Steve Burnside sat completely motionless in a metal chair, bound to it with two large metal straps and a super large ax that was embedded in the wall right next to his handsome face. His head was lolled onto his broad shoulder, blood red hair shining defiantly in the dimness of the throne room, a flame that refused to die. The handle of the grotesquely long ax was crossed over Steve's torso, preventing him from moving…not that he looked like he was going to anyways. His eyes were shut tightly, the flesh around them dark from sleep deprivation and the aftermath of fear, making him look like some extraordinarily handsome yet weary angel fallen from the heavens to the dark prison of the earth. Claire felt her heart pounding with anxiety as, for a split second, Steve made no reply to her voice. He wasn't dead, was he?
Then she saw his eyelids flutter open slowly. He lifted his head from his shoulder and blinked in her direction with bleary eyes, black pupils dilating and retracting like lonely islands within their pale green seas.
"Ugh…Claire?" he croaked, nasal voice echoing in the mist-covered room. God, she had never been so happy to hear another person's voice in her entire life! She had the sudden, silly urge to run over to him and rock him back and forth until he got better, but, of course, her pride and I'm-tough-as-nails attitude would never have allowed such a thing.
Instead, she hung her assault rifle across her chest by its strap and ran over to Steve, her euphoria quickly turning to full-fledged concern as she noticed how deathly pale and tired he looked, even more than usual. His face seemed frozen in a grimace of pain, and his eyes weren't focusing quite like they should be. Anger suddenly coursed through her veins. What the hell had Alexia done to him? God, if he died, then Claire was going to find the crazy bitch and kill her with her bare hands!
A painful moan from Steve as he struggled against his binds made Claire push away her revengeful thoughts in shame and spur herself into action. Casting one last worried glance at Steve, she rushed over to the button on the wall beside Steve's chair and punched it. Like she had suspected, all the metal straps released with a whooshing sound, and Steve sagged in the chair, arms and legs going limp as their metallic supports vanished.
Steve, are you going to be like this forever? Claire thought as she took hold of the ax, the only thing keeping him imprisoned. Keeping a careful eye Steve, fearful that he would lapse back into unconsciousness again, she tugged as hard as she could on the handle of the enormous ax, the wood cutting into the palms of her gloves as she did so. Her face creased with effort, and Steve grasped the handle weakly in an attempt to help her. Damn it! The ax wasn't giving a single inch!
"It's no use!" she exclaimed in panic and frustration. "I can't do it!"
Steve made no reply, and Claire glanced over to see that it appeared he was going to fall unconscious again. Desperate now, she put her hand on his shoulder, noticing that his skin was unnaturally warm.
"Who did this to you?" Claire demanded, though she was willing to bet her favorite motorcycle that it was a certain insane, sniper rifle-toting blonde woman who had been causing nothing but grief to both Claire and Steve ever since they had first encountered her.
Steve stirred weakly, his face still twisted in agony and his pale hands wrapped tightly around the handle of the ax. When he spoke, however, his voice was slightly frantic, and the words came tumbling out of his mouth in an almost incoherent rush. "That…crazy woman," he stammered. "Said that she was going to…perform…the same experiment on me…that she did on her own father!"
He weakly lifted his right hand from the ax and showed her the back of it. At first Claire had no idea what he wanted her to see, but then she caught sight of a small puncture wound – most likely made by a needle – in the middle of his pale skin, right over the winding blue-green river of a vein.
"She's gone completely…insane!" Steve rambled, dropping his hand back down.
Claire was about to say something encouraging when Steve suddenly screamed in pain, his pale green eyes flying open wide. His hands, weak and flimsy until then, twisted themselves into claws and scratched at his chest. His back suddenly went ramrod straight in his metal chair, his chest brushing against the handle of the ax. He let out another painful bellow as his face contorted with unseen agony.
Oh my god! Claire panicked. What's happening to him?!
"Steve, what's wrong?!" she cried, placing her hands on either side of his face, trying in vain to get him to calm down. The intense heat of his flesh stung her hands even through her gloves, but Claire wasn't given much chance to ponder this abnormal development before Steve's hand suddenly lashed out quicker than the eye could see, hitting her in the arm and flinging her away from him. Shocked, Claire stumbled to a stop a few feet away from where Steve was still writhing in agony.
"Claire!" he cried in a panic as his hands still continued to claw at his chest. "Can't…breathe!"
"Steve!" she cried, unable to do anything else to help him. The terror and panic she saw in his eyes was heart-breaking, and she knew that the memory of those eyes would haunt her for the rest of her life.
Suddenly, Steve's entire body went rigid, his claw-like fingers poised above his chest. "Claire," he whimpered, eyes drilling into her with child-like abandon. "Help…me…Claire…"
The last incantation of her name was said in a voice that wasn't his, a voice that was harsh and deep, made for bellowing and roaring rather than speaking. It was followed by a sudden burst of blood that erupted from Steve's chest and splattered the ground inches from Claire's feet. Steve's eyes fell closed, human for the last time, and his body began to contort and convulse as the monster's seed Alexia had planted in his blood began to gestate and rip through his fragile form.
Claire's hands flew to her mouth in utter horror as she watched Steve's body mass triple in size. His clothes ripped and tore as patches of thick, scaly green hide replaced his soft human skin. His feet became horribly warped and grew claws at the ends of them – demon's feet. Bone-like extrusions shot out from the area that used to be Steve's shoulder. The handle of the ax shuddered with the force of restraining the unholy creature he was becoming.
His head was the last thing to change. Claire screamed Steve's name in vain as the neck twisted and lengthened, the newly born monster bellowing with glee as it felt its form on the verge of completion. Scaly green hide covered Steve's face like the spread of a disease, and the strands of his hair hardened and fused together until they looked more like bone extrusions on his shoulders than the soft, fiery locks that Claire had loved to tousle when Steve was least expecting it. Pebbly ridges grew up Steve's back and up the nape of his thick, scaly neck. The behemoth that had once been Steve Burnside lowered it head to allow the ridges to spread and complete their growth. It grunted and bellowed with demonic euphoria.
Then everything was silent. Steve Burnside was gone.
The monster that Claire had once called her friend lifted its abominable head and fastened its hungry, red eyes with their slit-pupils on the horrified figure of Claire Redfield. It's fang-filled mouth gaped open, as if trying to speak.
"No!" Claire choked out, tears springing into her eyes. "Wait!"
Please hear me, Steve! You have to be in there! You can't be gone! Don't let the virus beat you! Please, Steve…hear me…
But the creature that Steve had become could hear nothing, spoken or unspoken. It had one thought and one desire, a single need that pulsed through its brain: Kill.
And so it intended to do so.
Claire watched in mounting horror as the behemoth easily pulled the ax from the wall and lurched to its powerful feet. She choked back a scream when she saw that in the place of her friend, the one who had saved her life from the Bandersnatch, the one who she had spent hours talking happily with in the snowmobile, the one who used to swat her ponytail back and forth until he learned his lesson – in place of Steve Burnside now stood a monstrous creature twice as tall as Claire. Its limbs rippled with muscles; its shoulders and chest were huge. But the worst of all were the eyes. Instead of extraordinarily beautiful lakes of pale green were slitted crimson orbs that revealed a void in which no emotion at all existed, where hunters reigned supreme, destroying anything and everything in their paths.
Oh, god, Steve! This is too cruel! God, do something! He doesn't deserve this!
Her silent pleas to a callous deity were cut short when she heard the unmistakable sounds of the iron grid closing at the end of the corridor, eager to trap her in a cage with a hungry monster. Her heart began to thunder in her chest, pumping adrenaline through Claire's system as the Steve monster still stood staring down at her, as if waiting for some unseen signal to begin its dark ritual killing. It smiled.
Then it took one mighty step forward and swung the ax at her. Claire immediately jumped backwards as the blade of the ax whooshed through the air in front of her. In a split second, reflexes kicked in and she had her assault rifle in her hands, finger on the trigger. She felt the enraging battle calm descend over her heart like an angel with gilded wings, and for a moment, as she stood there staring into the eyes of the frothing creature that wanted to kill her, she wished for nothing more than to blow the monster with ax off the face of the earth.
But then she remembered Steve, his face, his laugh, his eyes, and she felt the icy calm melt and wither like a snowball in hell. She couldn't do it; she would rather turn the gun on herself.
So, out of options and seeing no other way to escape this horrible nightmare, she ran, with tears blurring her vision and her heart heavy as lead in her chest.
The longest moments in her entire life took place then, her bleary eyes focused on nothing else but the slowly descending iron grid that was bent on aiding the demons of hell in delivering her into death. Her breath whooshed in and out of her lungs, and her heart thundered in her ears, but she didn't hear these things. Instead, she heard the horrible pounding sounds the Steve monster's feet made as it chased her. Everything from the clacking of its toe claws to the hollow thumping sound as its heel struck the floor didn't escape her ears. She heard its deadly, lethal breathing as it followed not even five feet behind her. And she heard the whoosh of the ax blade as it split the air at her back like a shark's fin through water, missing her by mere millimeters and decapitating the suit of armor she had just passed. Close one!
Unfortunately, the next two swipes did not miss her. Pain exploded across her senses as she felt the monster's ax blade scrape the area across her shoulder blades, opening up a huge gash that spewed blood out like an angry river. Her reaction was automatic. First Aid Spray.
And she continued to run.
Two more running strides. Monster breathing on her neck. Feet pounding. Grid getting closer to the floor.
C'mon, Redfield! Run! Run! Run!
Pain!!! Another hit, this one in the opposite direction, forming a bloody cross on her back. Mixed herb.
Running, running, running! So close! The monster was right behind her! No more time! She sensed the ax flying past her back and knocking over another suit of armor. Another close one!
Please! I have to make it! I don't want to die! Please, God, please, please, please!!!
The bottom of the grid wasn't even two feet off the floor when Claire lurched forward with her arms outstretched, tears streaming down her face and the Steve monster right behind her with the murderous ax stained with her blood. Friction burned the bare flesh of her arms, and the clash of the assault rifle's metal barrel on the floor made sparks fly, but her human mind was only focused on one and one thing only: escape.
Her feet had barely slid underneath the descending grid before it came crashing down onto the floor, Steve's ax striking iron bars instead of shapely legs clad in blue jeans. The monster roared in anger, infuriated that its prey had escaped.
Claire immediately leapt to her feet, knees a bit wobbly as the adrenaline that had propelled her throughout her crazed run began to ebb. The Steve monster bellowed again and began to pound the iron grid with its bloody ax, looking like a bloodthirsty demon crying release from its prison. Forcing herself not to look at the beast she had once called a friend, Claire stumbled to the right and leaned her weight against the wall, tears trickling out of the corners of her eyes as she listened to the clanging of the ax against the iron grid. Heaving for breath, she heard her rational mind telling her to get the hell out of there – eventually, the iron grid was going to break and she would be at the monster's mercy.
But Claire was done listening to her rational mind. Her mind didn't matter anymore; her every action was being manipulated by her heart now. But as she turned her agonized eyes to the hungry monster pounding on the iron grid, she felt that heart breaking. She didn't see that the iron grid was starting to bend and dent already; she didn't even see the scaly monster, really; instead, she saw Steve and his terrified eyes as he cried her name for the last time.
"I'm sorry, Steve," she whispered, tears running down her face. "You wanted me to help you…you called out to me. I failed you!"
The monster's only response was to roar and pound harder on the bars. Claire imagined that she could still hear the phantom of Steve's voice in the monster's cries.
Then, quite suddenly, the wall between her right leg and the iron grid burst open, and something long and green and scaly spewed out like poisonous bile, writhing and contorting in the air like a laughing demon. Claire stared in shock. What the hell was it?
The tentacle! she realized, and raised her assault rifle.
But it was too late.
Quicker than lightening, the thick head of the tentacle shot towards her, landing a devastating blow on her shoulder that left her entire arm numb with pain and sent her flying into the wall. She screamed as the assault rifle flew from her gloved hands to land on the floor, out of her reach. Her other shoulder struck the wall with jarring force, and she slumped to the ground like a rag doll.
No! No! No! This isn't happening! Claire thought wildly as she tried to wrestle to her feet, a considerable feat when one considered the fact that the room was spinning. Now I have two monsters to deal with!
Suddenly, she saw something snake-like and green come flashing towards her again. This time Claire wasn't even given the chance to fling up her hands before she felt the tentacle wrap around her waist like an iron clamp, pinning her arms uselessly to her sides. To her immense horror, she felt herself being lifted from the floor and into the air, her feet kicking at space as the tentacle gripped her carelessly, like she was some meaningless toy that could be discarded at anytime. Claire was suddenly gasping for air as the tentacle began to squeeze tighter, cutting off her circulation and her air passage. Her insides felt mashed, and she was already starting to lose feeling in her lower body. Darkness began to creep into the corners of her vision like demons from the shadows.
Then she heard the most horrible sound in her life: the sound of grinding metal and low grunting.
The Steve monster had broken through the grid.
The tentacle suddenly shifted Claire's struggling body so she could see very clearly the creature that would be the death of her. It lumbered over to where she was held suspended in mid-air, grunting – almost laughing – the whole way over. Light gleamed off the ax blade. It looked up at her with its slitted red eyes and bared its teeth in another one of its ghastly grins. And Claire stared back for as long as the darkness intruding on her vision would allow, her heart brimming with words unspoken. Her voice may have been taken from her, but her tears and emotions hadn't been.
Steve…well, I suppose there are worse ways to die than by your hands. Go ahead, you monster! Monster that took him away from me! Bring your ax down! At least I'll be able to see him again…the boy you killed, the kind-hearted boy Alexia Ashford ruined so that you could be born! Strike me down! I'm not afraid of you!
But she was. She didn't want to die.
That's why when the monster grunted and raised the ax above its head for the final blow, Claire turned her face to the side, unable to look Death in the face. She closed her eyes and waited, waited for the swipe that would end her life…
But it didn't come.
Instead, she heard a choking, gurgling sound coming from the monster's throat, like it was gagging on its own tongue.
Then it spoke. "Cl-Claire???" it asked in a coarse, rough voice.
Claire's heart stopped for an instant, then soared with angel's wings raising it up high.
Then the creature growled again, not with anger or hunger, but with determination. The ax came swooshing down suddenly, slicing cleanly through the tentacle that had Claire prisoner. The scaly green appendage wrapped around Claire's body immediately went slack, deprived of its lifeblood, and she felt to the floor artlessly, eyes riveted to the scene unfolding in front of her even as her blood went rushing back into her numb limbs.
The tentacle literally screeched in pain from some unseen mouth, green blood dripping from its severed, pulpy end and pooling on the floor. The thing was injured…but it wasn't dead. It still had one last defiance left in it, and as Claire watched in horror, it suddenly lashed forward like a striking snake, catching Steve right in the stomach with its bleeding end. There was the horrible sound of newborn flesh and tissue being torn as Steve roared in pain just before the impact of the tentacle slamming into his burgeoning body sent him flying into the opposite wall, the life-saving ax flying from his claws. He slumped to the floor as blood, thick and viscous, poured from a huge hole in his stomach. The tentacle, wounded and offended, retreated back into the wall with a thin screech.
And Claire was left alone with a dying Steve.
Pulling in a gasping, painful breath, she managed to lurch to her feet. "Oh…Steve," she whispered tearfully, mesmerized by the visage that was slumped against the wall. Beaten, the monster forsook its host body, leaving Steve to die alone. She watched with a heavy heart as Steve's monster form began to fall away from him. Pale, creamy skin replaced green scales. Toe and fingernails emerged from curved claws. He lost almost three feet in height and hundreds of pounds of body mass all in three seconds. His warped demon's face was exchanged for his own pale, beautiful one, with its delicate features and soft green eyes.
The only thing that didn't change was the huge hole in his stomach. It stood there glaring at her from Steve's naked belly, taunting her with the death its legacy would surely bring. Claire's throat immediately constricted under the wound's teasing, and she stumbled forward drunkenly, falling to her knees in front of one of Steve's bare, outstretched legs. Though her arms still ached from being squeezed by the tentacle, she reached out numbly and touched the corner of the gaping hole in Steve's stomach with one trembling hand, as if that one touch could by some miracle cause the wound to seal up.
But Claire was only human, and humans are not creatures capable of healing, only destroying.
Steve suddenly reached down and gripped Claire's curious hand in one of his own, guiding it up to his face. Surprised, the young woman raised her tear-filled eyes to the now human face of her friend, and felt a moment of disbelief when she saw a small smile playing on his lips, barely visible in the darkness. That smile was the one spark of life in his whole figure, aside from his eyes, which still sparkled despite the fact that his life was fading fast.
"They're…warm," Steve said softly, rubbing his cheek weakly against her gloved hand. That smile was still on his face.
His skin is so cold…
"Steve," Claire whispered, her wavering voice sounding too loud in the silence. "You've got to hang in there, okay?"
God…don't let him die! Please!
"My…my brother has come to save us!" Claire rushed on. "We're getting out of here!"
Steve closed his eyes briefly, and Claire thought the skin on his eyelids looked too pale, too thin. She felt her heart breaking, her will shattering.
No, God, no…he's going to die…
But then his eyes flickered open again, and he spoke. "Your brother kept his promise," he whispered, voice straining as he fought Death. "I'm sorry I cannot…"
A bout of confusion broke through Claire's depression. "Wh-What are you saying?" she asked tearfully, forcing herself to speak past the lump in her throat.
Steve somehow found the strength to squeeze her hand, that smile never leaving his lips. Looking her right in the face with those unforgettable green eyes of his, he said with heartbreaking sincerity, "I'm glad that I met you. I…I love you, Claire…"
Then terrible Death brought its scythe down, and Steve's hand fell away from hers as his head sagged forward, red hair falling out from behind his ears to hide his face, giving the effect of a curtain closing. He spoke no more. He breathed no more.
Tears immediately started falling from Claire's eyes as she realized that now she was truly alone in the room. Steve was dead. Her heart shattered, and she felt a scream of anguish building in her throat.
Then she was falling, and there was nothing but darkness as her companion. Steve – her Steve – with his porcelain skin, pale green eyes, and accepting smile, was gone, gone forever. Tears streamed down her face as her hands reached out to touch him, just one more time. Maybe she could whisper in his ear, tell him all the things she felt for him, and maybe, by some divine miracle, he would hear her. Just maybe…
But no such luck. There was nothing but darkness to hold, nothing but darkness to touch. She was alone.
Alone…with her tears and her pain.
"Steve!" she cried, knowing that no one could hear her and not really caring. Her agony demanded a voice of release, and Claire had no choice but to give it one. "Chris! Anyone!" she called again, voice raw with anguish. "Can somebody hear me? Please, someone, I'm scared! Please…help…anyone…"
"Claire!" a voice suddenly cried.
A gasp erupted from her throat as the sound of another person calling her name echoed throughout the abyss. The darkness tried to swallow it but couldn't. The voice seemed to resound forever, jumping out of the darkness' clutches to whisper softly against her ears again and again, beckoning to her…
"Claire!" it cried again.
Who is it? Claire wondered numbly, nonexistent eyes searching the darkness. For a moment, she thought she saw a flash of red hair out of the corner of her vision, but when she whirled, the image was gone.
"Steve…" she whispered, starting to chase after the fleeting memory of the boy whose death had shattered her soul. There was nowhere else to go. She needed to be with Steve…
But then the voice came again, pulling her back.
"Claire! Wake up!"
"Leon!" she cried, tears of joy streaming down her face as her arms shot blindly into the darkness, reaching to grab something, anything. She needed something solid to cling to, yet, she wasn't really expecting to find anything.
That's why when she felt her numb fingers bite into warm flesh, she latched on with the fury of a drowning person onto a rescuer. She felt the warmth of another body somewhere close by, and though she couldn't see anything yet, the smell of peppermint suddenly drifted to her nose like a welcome breath of spring after a harsh winter. There was something tangled around her legs, sufficiently immobilizing her, and she was annoyed to find an almost painful pressure on her upper arms that tightened even as she continued to struggle.
"Claire!" the still-invisible Leon cried…right in her ear.
"Leon!" she screamed, jerking her head from side to side. "Where are you?! Save Steve!"
"Claire! Wake up! You're dreaming! Open your eyes!"
"What?" she gasped, chest heaving for breath as her struggling slowly died off into nothing. She tried to force herself to breath normally as the details of her night-darkened hotel room slowly came into focus. The thing intertwined with her legs was none other than her own sheets and blankets, and the annoying pressure on her arms proved to be Leon's hands, which were clutching her in death grip.
As her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, the worried – almost terrified – features of Leon's face swam into view. His reddish-brown hair was in wild disarray, strands sticking up left and right and flopping into his pale face. Moonlight danced in his worried eyes, making the azure depths appear almost luminescent in the darkness of her room. He was practically lying on top of her, apparently using his weight to hold her down when she had been struggling. One of his legs was tangled with hers, and his bare arms were wrapped around her in a grasp as tight as the one she had on his elbows.
"Claire," he suddenly whispered, wetting his lips nervously as he stared down into her face. "You were having a nightmare. Are you alright?"
For a moment, Claire just lay there gazing up at him, at his eyes, at his skin. Her body savored the comforting warmth of him being so close to her. Her heart, however, felt like lead in her chest, and she was suffering from an icy internal cold that froze her soul and heart until each beat was painful, making her wonder why she went on living. Such pain, such agony…so why was it worth the fight?
Claire suddenly saw Misery rising up from the shadows of the room, spreading its evil wings until they almost reached the ceiling. Her heart stopped in her chest as she felt it looming over her, its presence hungry and its unseen eyes gleaming. There would be no mercy this time. Misery was out for blood.
Claire panicked. "Leon!" she suddenly yelped, flinging her arms around his neck and burying her face in his chest. Her heart was hammering out of control.
His arms fastened around her immediately, rubbing her back gently. "Claire!" he cried, apparently startled at the desperation she was displaying. "What's wrong, Claire?!"
Tears flowed out of her eyes as she held Leon tighter. She nearly screamed when she felt the brush of Misery's wings against her back. "Help me, Leon, please!"
"What is it, Claire?!" Leon sounded as terrified as she did, but the arms that held her were strong and powerful. The warmth from his body soothed her as her tears stained his sleeveless shirt. She was wrapped in the smell of peppermint.
"He's dead, Leon," she suddenly whispered, feeling as if she couldn't breathe. She felt Misery hovering close by.
For a second, silence fell in the room except for her ragged, tortured breathing. Then, she felt Leon's lips by her ear. "I know," he said softly.
"It's all my fault!" she gasped as painful memories flooded her mind. Blood pounded in her ears, almost drowning out all other sounds. She bit back a shriek when she felt the cold touch of Misery on her shoulder. She tried clutching Leon tighter, attempting to use his strength and warmth to fight the icy fingers, but the cold continued to spread.
"No, Claire!" Leon suddenly cried, taking hold of her shoulders and putting her away from him so he could gaze into her tearstained face. "Listen to me!" he yelled, as Claire's eyes darted wildly around the room, searching for the hideous wraith, Misery. Where had it gone to? The cold was still spreading.
"LOOK AT ME!" Leon suddenly roared, shaking her slightly.
Blearily, Claire turned her leaking eyes to the figure that held her in his arms. Leon's eyes shone desperately in the darkness with a violent desperation that she had never seen before. Moonlight clung to his long eyelashes, and she suddenly found that she couldn't look away from the magical visage that lay before her. He was so beautiful. Claire wondered numbly if Leon knew just how beautiful he really was.
"Steve is dead," she said hollowly, her voice sounding very far away.
Why am I so cold?
"I know he is, Claire," Leon said firmly, pronouncing every word carefully, as if she were a young child who couldn't understand.
"He died in my arms," Claire deadpanned, tears running silently down her face. "He said he loved me, and then he died. I couldn't save him. It's my fault. He's gone forever, and he's never coming back." The cold suddenly became excruciating, and her eyes started to slip closed.
Oh my god, she realized. I'm dying! Misery – it's trying to kill me!
"Claire!" Leon suddenly called again, his panicked voice pulling her back from the abyss. "Wake up! Stay with me, Claire! Listen to me!"
Wow, he's really beautiful. Like an angel…Leon…
His voice suddenly became low and feverish, the heartfelt look in his sapphire eyes telling her more than his words did. "It is not your fault, Claire," he insisted. "I know Steve was your friend, and that you cared for him a lot, but there is absolutely nothing you can do about it now! Living like this, wallowing in grief, torturing yourself to death – what kind of life is this?! Would Steve want this for you?"
Claire suddenly smiled sleepily, her eyes half closed. She felt so warm now. "I'll miss ya, Leon," she said softly. "Thanks for being my friend."
His eyes widened in shock, apparently realizing exactly what was happening. "No Claire!" he cried, shaking her again. "Don't go! It's not worth it! Please!"
She smiled again, smiled at Leon, smiled at the darkness that was staining the corners of her eyes permanently, smiled at the cold that was making her heart skip in her chest. "I'm glad that I met you, Leon," she whispered, her voice dying off into silence as she fought to keep her eyes open.
I love you.
She felt his hand strike her on the face, but the pain was too far away to bring her back. The dark was rising. Her heart couldn't take much more of this. Shadows clouded her mind, making her feel drowsy and peaceful, but somewhere within the whirling maelstrom of confusing emotions that were desperately trying to unravel themselves in these final moments, she heard Misery laughing in triumph. It was then that Claire knew that she had been broken, shattered. And yes, she realized that Claire Redfield, the headstrong go-getter who never let herself shed a tear about anything, had been defeated. She knew she was dying
And she excepted his fate, conceded to Misery's might…but who knew defeat was so bitter? It wasn't supposed to be this way. She wasn't supposed to die, not until Umbrella had been defeated. She promised Chris she would never leave his side again. She promised Sherry she would return and they would go out for ice cream and go shopping. She promised Steve that she would be strong. And she disappointed them all.
Steve…wait for me…I'm coming…
…not yet, love. Not time…
Claire's eyes slipped shut, and she fell into darkness. The cold was in her heart now, and its beats were slowing. Her breaths were just mere whispers of wind fluttering in and out of her lungs, insubstantial things unable to sustain her life. But somewhere in the darkest shadows of death, she thought she heard Leon's voice.
"No, Claire! Don't leave me! Please! Don't leave me alone…"
She felt something wet strike her face and roll down her cheek. Tears? Leon's tears…no, Leon, don't cry for me…
"Ada died so that I could live," Leon's voice came again, whispered and soft. "And Steve died so that you could live…so that you could live, Claire! That has to mean something, doesn't it?" He sounded so lost and panicked. "Yes, it has to! I know it does! Claire, can you hear me?! Don't leave me, please! I don't want to go on without you. I need you. I came back to you. I came here for you. Please don't leave now. Please?"
My heart…hurts. Pain. Pain is living. Leon…save me…
Give me a reason to live…
"Claire, don't go! Please! Claire…I love you."
No! No! Misery, release me! I want to live! Give me back my strength. God, just this once…give me another chance. Please?
Claire coughed suddenly, drawing in a painful breath that seemed to send daggers into her already ravaged heart. Bleeding is breathing. Pain is living. Smell and sound suddenly returned in full force. Life flared again in a heart and soul that had been laden with ache and self-torment for too long.
"Claire," a voice whispered, as softly as a ghost in the dark, but oh-so strong, indomitable. She drew on this strength, on the celestial light that emanated from this wingless angel that she couldn't see but knew was there.
"Leon," she murmured, her eyes fluttering open as the name rolled off her lips. She loved his name; she always had.
"Claire!" she heard him cry, voice thick with joy and pain all mixed into one. "You're alive!"
Yes, she realized with complete satisfaction. I am.
She felt a small smile spread across her face as she watched Leon's features slowly emerge into clean, clear focus…everlasting, beautiful. His tears had left glittering, silver tracks on his flushed face, and his azure eyes were wide as he watched her awaken beneath him…reborn.
Yes, reborn…and free at last.
* * * * * * * * * *
The sun had just begun to tentatively peek over the horizon when Claire's eyes flickered open. Essence of gold exploded across her vision, and she smiled even as she winced at the pain the over-eager sunlight caused her. As she waited for her eyes to recover, she relished the feel of Dawn's fingers of rose warming her face and burning the cold from her limbs. She felt warmer than she had in a long time. A long, long time.
Something shifted beside her, and she turned her head to the right, opening her eyes as she did so. Claire couldn't help the smile that spread across her face when her blue eyes fell upon the sleeping form of Leon S. Kennedy. The sun had struck his figure, too, turning his hair into a veil lit woven of liquid fire and chocolate brown as it lay against the pristine pillow. One of his arms was flung across her stomach protectively, his fingers lightly gripping her waist even in sleep. He shifted slightly, one leg brushing hers as his eyelids fluttered.
"No," Claire whispered gently, pressing her lips to his forehead. "Go back to sleep. You need the rest."
Leon muttered something incoherent under his breath, still not waking, burying his face in the hollow of her neck, nuzzling the warmth of it. Claire fought back a laugh as his hair tickled her collarbone. Pressing a kiss onto the top of his head, she closed her eyes as she breathed in his scent deeply, loving the sheer pleasure of having him near her.
"Thank you, Leon," she whispered into his hair, suddenly feeling all choked up. "You saved my life. I love you, Leon."
And there she lay for a while longer, her body warm against his with the sun dancing over both of their forms gracefully. It was with a sense of purpose and great reluctance that Claire slowly disentangled herself from the arms of the man she loved and lowered her feet to the floor. Kissing his cheek gently so as not to wake him, she pulled the covers around his sleeping form to keep him warm until she returned. He stirred, subconsciously feeling the absence of her presence, but did not awaken. She watched him with a small smile until he settled back down again, the soft sheets wrapping around his figure like the protective wings of an angel. Then she walked over to the window, bare feet making soft creaking sounds on the floor.
Claire put one of her hands against the sun-kissed glass, letting the golden heat melt the numbness the night had left in her fingers. Tears of gratitude shimmered in her eyes as the blue gems met an equally blue sky. "Thank you, God," she whispered to the sky. "I don't know if you're listening, or if you're even there. But…thank you. And Steve…goodbye, love. I'll never forget you. I'm going to live like you wanted me to. I won't stop fighting…ever. Everything is going to be okay in the end – I'll make certain of that. Don't worry, Steve…and tell the angels it'll be alright."
Run and tell the angels that everything's alright
1 January 2001
Author's Note: So, how did you like it? Reading through it again, I suppose it's a pretty decent work of fiction, but still…grossness! Anyways, I just want to thank anyone who read this and sent in reviews or e-mails! ^_^ You guys are amazing! Thanks for sticking it out with me to the end! What else did I have to say…oh yeah! You remember that action/adventure sequel I was babbling about at the end of Requiem? Well, should I go through with it after all??? I think it might be interesting…but tell me what you think, eh? ^_^