A Dollar Short

Claire sighed, as she walked down the streets of dirty New York. Everything was so busy and crowded. She remembered how packed the subway was, and therefore she refused to wait half an hour for a subway that might not even come on time. Kicking a penny that had fallen mysteriously on the floor by some bystander, Claire looked up at the sky. She looked so much like a foreigner but she believed it didn't matter. Her head was always up in the clouds somewhere and she was determined to prove that in more than one way.

She stroked her own hair, remembering the feel of it when Steve had said,

"Hey beautiful," to her and slyly touched her hair, his fingers threading through. Unfortunately, Steve was..dead. He died in Antarctica in the Umbrella Corporations sub-base. Wesker, the leader of the S.T.A.R.S. team had betrayed them and fooled them all. He was always one step ahead and had decided to launch Umbrella's B.O.W. on Chris, Steve, and herself. She closed her eyes tightly, trying not to remember the harsh moment. Tyrant, Nemesis..they were all the same. She had been scared out of her mind the first time she had come to Raccoon City. A huge deep breath intake was initiated by Claire. She sighed softly once more. She had been doing a lot of sighing these days.

There was a man standing on the stoop in front of an newly furnished apartment building. His head was covered but the man looked up for a while, revealing his stunning looks. Blonde-Brown hair scattered on the forehead of a bright-blue eyed Caucasian. His features were soft, but he suddenly reminded her of-

"LEON!" She yelled out to Leon S. Kennedy, her partner during the Raccoon City incident. She cried out with all her force, but he could not hear her. She was carried along with the crowd, not to see him again.

Chris Redfield was a young man with hopes and dreams. His sister had left this morning to go out and have breakfast and neither of them were very skilled at cooking, while he had stayed home, trying to make something on his own.

So far there was a messy kitchen, a greasy cookbook's pages strewn on the floor. Chris chuckled. He was never good at cooking; When Claire attempted she had actually gotten something to taste beautiful..the only thing his sister could make was pie, she was an expert on pies. Apple pie, blueberry pie, strawberries n' cream pie..she would make them for her hungry brother while he munched happily. He wondered when she was going to come back.

Click. The door's locked smoothly switched from lock to unlock as Claire tried to open the door outside. Chris laid down on the couch, awaiting his sister to come in.

"Chris?" she said gently, her voice wavering. He had known his sister to be strong and defiant but right now she was slightly vulnerable.

"Yuh-huh? I'm right here. Come on over.." he patted the area on his chest, and Claire walked over slipping into her older brother's arms. He cradled her, her cheek brushing against his own.

She sighed as he began to fiddle around with her hair, pulling it in different directions. She lay her head down on the "manly" Chris Redfield and both looked at each other affectionately.

"I think I saw Leon today." She stated abruptly. She hadn't meant for it to come out that way, but it had.

"Yeah he told me about this…moving to New York." Chris nodded, patted his sister's back, and encircled her stomach.

"It's 433 N. Lawndale. Chris..you should go tomorrow to check things out." it was more of a statement than a request; Leon had saved Claire's life during the Raccoon City incident and during Antarctica by phoning in Chris.

"Sure, squirt." he said chuckling.

"Heh? You haven't called me that since-"

"Since the Antarctica Adventures..I know."

He smiled and once again his sister ignored this and rolled her eyes. Boys were such idiots sometimes.

The area was clean, new, and state of the art. They were condos, not apartments. They were large, spacious, and modern. Chris knew he should have gotten one of these beautiful condo's a long time ago.

Chris knocked on the steel storm door. He smiled as he saw that Leon had cleverly placed an ADA sticker on the window to his right. He rang the bell once more just to confirm that Leon was not at home but something told him that-

"Who is it?" said a cute, girlish voice. What was Leon doing with a girl in his condo?!

"Chris Redfield." He was not phased. Maybe it was his daughter? But the voice was older than he thought because when the girl finally opened the door, there stood a blond-hair blue-eyed fourteen year old. She had tied up her hair in a tight ponytail and smiled, with her orange tee-shirt and denim jeans.

"Chris Redfield?! You're Claire's brother right?" She asked, with a smile that brightened Chris's day almost automatically.

"Yes, that's right. You know Claire?" Suddenly Chris was curious.

"Sherry, who's at the door?" called a gentle voice from inside.

"Leon, its Chris Redfield!"

".." There was sounds of footsteps approaching the door when suddenly Chris and Leon met face to face. They had always heard of each other, but never seen each other.

"Hi. I suppose you..know me?" Chris said faintly. He had never been so nervous before. Here he was, Chris Redfield, in front of the oh-so famous Leon S. Kennedy, who had saved his sister's life when he couldn't. He had protected his sister from danger and here he was, standing in front of him.

"Yeah..through Claire..I do hope she's still alive…" Leon said, staring at the floor. His blue eyes did not dare meet the courageous eyes of Chris Redfield. Suddenly he looked up and Chris studied his facial features. He had a clean-shaven face, with bright blue eyes, blond-brown hair that parted through the middle and reached lower than his ears. He had a set jaw, and a well-shaped face. Chris almost laughed..this was the man that Claire often mentioned? But Chris knew..that it was Leon that had paged him a message that Claire had been captured at Sheena Island. How could he ever repay him?

"Yeah..we live here in New York yanno'." Chris fidgeted with his fingers.

"Hey you wanna have some dinner? Leon's made this great tasting chicken fried rice.." Sherry said, breaking the awkward silence.

"Chicken fried rice?!" Chris's face suddenly brightened and Leon laughed.

"I'm glad to hear that you're as hungry as I am. Come in!" Leon led the way through the neat, tidy condo. The kitchen had a circular table with four metal chairs around it.

"Chris, you had mentioned Claire lives here? How come she's not here right now?" Leon said, confused.

"She had some things to do. But I bet she's going to come tomorrow, if that's all right with you." Chris could almost anticipate the smile on Leon's face..but there was none.

"I have a lot to discuss with you Mr. Redfield. I'm sorry I didn't address you that way earlier." Leon said, shaking his head.

"Nah, it's just Chris." Chris said casually. Sherry set the table and Leon gave Chris a cup of soda to accompany his meal.

"I hope you like it.. I make this all the time. Sherry loves it." Leon patted Sherry's shoulder but withdrew a smile. He had been focused ever since Chris had mentioned Claire. It brought up bad memories.

"You look different than Claire described you.." Chris said softly. He hoped he had not touched a weak spot.

"I infiltrated the Umbrella Base and was infected by the Black Cloud/Progenitor Virus. The effects are ever lasting but I was cured just in time." Leon said softly. "Don't tell Claire..this. She will act on this, I'm sure." Leon shuffled uncomfortably as he scooped up a spoonful of fried rice to his mouth. He chewed slowly..

"I'd like to meet Claire again too..it's been two years..right Leon?" Sherry said sadly, looking at Leon.

"Almost two years Sherry. We'll see her soon." Leon said this softly and the three of them continued to eat, with Sherry discussing the latest trends in music and fashion every once in a while with Leon and Chris jumping in once in a while.

Claire dialed the number that Chris had given her. It was Leon's. She had hoped to find out how things were going. But this phone call was restricted to permission to come over.

"Hello?"

"Claire?"

"Yeah it's me. I'm sorry I didn't come yesterday the weirdest-"

"Sherry says she missed you." Leon's voice drifted through the phone, vibrating through Claire's ear. She suddenly felt so guilty.

"I miss you too." Leon finally said. The words echoed in Claire's mind.

"Claire?"

"Yuh-huh? I'm sorry I got absorbed..look, I know I wasn't there for you and Sherry but-"

"You want to come over tomorrow?" Leon cut her sentence by half. Claire smiled at his eagerness..

"Sure, why not? There's lots of things to discuss.." Claire said, and then silence followed for about 10 seconds.

"You want to eat anything special? Chris liked chicken fried rice when he came over," Leon chuckled gently.

"No, it's okay. Don't go out of your way to make something special for me Leon…you really don't.."

"Chris told me your favorite food. You want pilaff with gyros and kabob tonight? Just the three of us, you know." Claire smiled.

"Sure. I have to go now Leon. Bye."

"Bye."

There was an echoing dial tone and then a click.

Claire strolled up on their yard, it was her first time coming here. She looked forward to seeing Leon.

RING! Claire pressed the doorbell twice and stood there, shuffling her feet and fidgeting. It's been two years..will he still remember her? Thoughts exploded through her mind..

"Hi Claire!" said a voice that did not belong to Leon. It was Sherry, whom she had left in Leon's care two years ago.

"Sweetie! So glad to see you." Both of them embraced and for a long while they hugged. It had been two years since she had seen those shining blue eyes and adorable smile. Now Sherry was all grown up to the age of fourteen!

"Leon's in the kitchen. He says he wants to talk to you there. Oh, I'm doing my homework so if I don't come downstairs you might know why!" Sherry giggled and ran up the stairs. Claire smiled after her and looked down the empty hallway. At the end of it was the kitchen, were a man figure was standing, tall and lanky. He had one hand in his pocket and the other resting on his thigh.

"L-leon?" her voice squeaked and did not have the strength in it as usual.

Leon was still facing the other way and was awaiting her arrival in the kitchen.

Claire walked briskly to the kitchen and smiled. Here he was making her wait. But there was something in his stance that made him..so depressed.

"Leon?" she said softly.

"Hmm?" he answered without looking around. You had to give it to Leon for making everything so suspenseful.

"Come on, look at me, at least." Claire pleaded gently. She put a hand on his shoulder, which Leon did not yet shrug away.

"I don't' want you to see how I am." Leon said. It was genuine and honestly Leon.

"Who cares, Leon?! I just want to see you please!" The please was forced and a tiny cry.

"I..I.." his voice was soft. He turned around and Claire was slightly shocked.

The person that looked like Leon outside had not been Leon. This was Leon, the new Leon.

His once naiive look was now softened and more serious. His bright childish blue eyes were replaced with softened serious ones. His body was now thinner and lankier and his skin was paler than before. His hair now reached below his ears but was spiky and curved.

"What's wrong with what you look like now?" she said, closing her eyes.

"I don't want to be the different man from what you knew two years ago."

"You can't be reflecting in the past." Claire said, and Leon turned around his back facing her. She then grabbed his hand, and said,

"We were friends. And we are friends."

A genuine smirk came upon his face.

"What made you think we weren't?" he said, a soft chuckle growing in his throat.

"Nothing at all, Kennedy. Nothing at all." she said, and collapsed in one of the chairs nearby.

"I'm tired," Claire said, and looked up at Leon.

"I'm tired of living." Leon said, a smirk forming on his face once again.

"You shouldn't say that.." Claire said, but then gave up. "So how's Sherry?"

"Good. She's the top in her class for almost everything. Beats me how she could be so intelligent and beautiful at the same time," Leon said, smiling.

"She's a great girl. I.." Claire was at a loss for words.

"It's all right. After you left the government tried to take her away from me. But I said I'd rise up against the Umbrella..and.." Leon shook his head. "It doesn't matter now."

Claire got up. She sighed, a resigning sigh.

"So what happened up in Antarctica..?" Leon asked curiously.

"It doesn't matter, stupid things happened. Wesker showed up and tried to strangle me..Chris came to the rescue..yeah and you know what happened next.." Claire was weary of it. She only had nightmares of Steve and Antarctica every other day.

"Hm..Chris said you helped one of the prisoners on Sheena Island escape," Leon said, edging her to tell him what happened.

"Yeah, well..Chris says a lot of stuff..his name was Steve. We worked together to get out of Sheena Island. Unfortunately he was injected with the virus and died." Claire said softly. A flicker of a memory of the wild red-haired punk kept flashing in her mind.

"I'm sorry."

"You shouldn't be..I was the one that deserted you at the hospital..I left you to take care of Sherry..and I.."

"It's all right." Both of them didn't notice but their hands were inching towards each other. Leon rested his hand on hers.

"Your hand..is so cold.." Claire shivered slightly.

"Claire..Ada was tracked down by Umbrella. I think they're keeping her somewhere but reports indicate she escaped soon after she was found.." Leon said smirking.

"Ada was an agent trying to use John to get information on Umbrella…" Claire said, reminiscing about the young, sly woman in the red dress.

"John died and therefore she came after to find out if he was there.." Leon said. "But it's over now..it's over.." Leon faintly remembered the taste of Ada's soft dying lips. Only a flicker, then it was gone.

"Heh..I should be going now. I'm only intruding you know…" Claire said, and got up, heading for the door. "Tell Sherry I said bye."

But Leon put a hand on her shoulder this time and pushed her against the refrigerator.

"Leon? What are you doing?" she asked quickly. She was panicking, his hands feeling like the ever so familiar zombie.

He leaned in his head next to hers, their lips only centimeters away.

"Leon?" she said softly. She could feel her breathing get irregular.

"I..I don't want to be alone..anymore.." Leon said, closing his eyes, then opening them again.

"You won't ever be alone..you have me as a friend, you have Sherry..Chris will be there.." she said faintly.

"No, ever since then I've always thought that you would help me Claire..realize that life isn't about.." he stopped, there and leaned in. Claire closed her eyes, not knowing what would happen next.

He leaned into kiss her, but suddenly he jerked his head back. He felt a wave of pain overcoming him. He could not love somebody like her. She was not-

"I-I should be going now.." she said, briefly and slipped under his now loosened grip and walked to the door.

"Good-bye Leon."

Sherry leaned against the railing. She had heard every part of their conversation, and pieces of it confused her. Leon obviously was trying to tell Claire something she didn't know. Both of them hopeless, she thought. It was up to her to bring the two most important people in her life together once more, not on the battlefield as two years ago, but on a deeper more emotional level. It was for both of their sakes, she thought, and headed back upstairs.

Claire's breath was ragged as he finally reached her apartment. She fumbled for the keys, silently cursing under her breath. Pressing the key into the keyhole, she twisted and turned until it finally opened. Inside, she could hear Chris shuffling around.

"Chris?" she called his name in the "empty" apartment.

"Yeah?" Chris replied plainly.

Thank god, she thought. She was so paranoid.

Leon eased unto his bed, it was 8:30 and it was time for him to go to sleep. An undercover agent has his duties, he thought, chuckling. Ever since he had lost his job in Raccoon City because of the nuclear explosion, he was granted a job as an undercover agent against Umbrella. Ever since Umbrella had been defeated, he usually filed and typed up every single piece of information known on Umbrella as well as documents found. It was a long and tedious process, as well as recording everything in the Undercover Agency's database.

His thoughts drifted from work to two years ago.

"Claire!" he yelled panicked to the other side of the burning car. He was scared. Was she still alive? Please let her be alive. Please.

"Leon!" she called back after a while. Thank you god. Thank you so much.

"We should head to the police station! Let's split up!" he said carefully. He hated leaving her because his duty as a police officer was to serve and protect; splitting up always ended up with one or the other dying. He was scared out of his mind for her sake. But she was a strong-willed and a smart girl. He knew that because she was Chris Redfield's sister, and because of the way the had talked in the car before it had crashed.

And their frightening journey began. Leon shook his head. He could never forget what happened. Claire had survived, she was a normal girl just looking for her brother, and him, a police officer that was the new recruit for the S.T.A.R.S. team but it had failed. His dream of being the elite went down the drain. And the clever Claire with it.

He sighed, He was undressed, with only boxers on and he felt extremely comfortable but he missed something. He had a queen sized bed because he kicked at night, but he felt lonely and depressed as he reached across the empty bed, the other side which he longed for a woman to fill. To fill the empty void in his heart.

He had felt lust for Ada Wong, the spy. She had only used him to get out of the police department but he had loved her anyway. She was a beautiful woman with short black hair, and an irresistible figure. But she had exited out of his life as fast as she had come. Their kiss was as good as it could get, although he had never kissed Claire.

Claire. She was here but she knew that he was just a friend. Only a friend. Where would he look, for his girlfriend? For a possible wife? Thoughts exploded through his mind like a bullet as he began to panic. He was already 24 years old and didn't even have a girlfriend.

Why can't you be here with me? His mind screamed at him for being so naiive and such an idiot. He could have had Claire when he had had that chance. It was in the S.T.A.R.S. room, two years ago..

"Leon?" She entered the room swiftly, her steps grazing across the carpet.

"…Claire!" he had responded slowly because he had just done reading a memo that indicated that Chris had left for Europe, and might even be dead. He couldn't tell her, but the file was in his hands, right smack there.

"What's that?" She asked politely. She put out a hand for him to let her see.

"It's..a memo..indicating that your brother isn't here. He might even be dead." his words were kind yet cold.

"What?!" Claire suddenly broke down, leaning against a weapon case to the right of the door. "What?" she repeated once again. She slid down, sitting to the carpet, her fingers trembling. Her lip quivered slightly, and her breathing was ragged.

"Claire, are you all right?" he was standing next to his desk that would have been his had not the whole city gone "zombie" on him. It was messy and he was shuffling through the papers although he was concerned about her.

"I..I.." she failed at producing words, but stood up. She wiped at her eyes which was normal for a teen, but she obviously was a strong individual.

Leon faced her, and put his arms around her to comfort her. He wasn't good at this, at all. Women were fragile creatures, and he had little understanding of them. He felt embarrassed that he didn't know much.

She looked up at him, and for a second he saw a flicker of interest. She put her arms around his neck, and Leon's body became tight.

"Please, let there be survivors. Let my brother be okay." she pleaded softly, almost to Leon. Leon was nervous as usual, his hands almost trembling at her sides. She looked up, slightly. He was her rescuer. He had saved her life from almost being munched on by a group of zombies back at the diner.

Her face leaned into his, and she kissed him. It was a soft, gentle kiss. Leon did not know how to react, he remained still. His body shivered from contact. He pulled back suddenly, walking away from her.

"I can't do this," Leon said softly.

Claire took a deep breath inward, and replied.

"Come on," she breathed quietly.

He shook his head.

"B-but..I want you," she whispered. Leon's heart raced. Nobody had ever felt this way about him before..and he wanted so badly to hold her. He contained himself, though.

"I-I..we can't let this happen.." Leon's nervous hands tapped at his hip for a long time before she looked back at him, and smiled.

"Well what are we waiting for? Let's get out of here!"

Leon shook his head. I am an idiot. I am a huge idiot for not letting her kiss me back there, two years ago. She could have been the greatest thing that could have happened to me and I let it go. I am such an idiot. Leon bit his lip, and fell into a troubled sleep.

"Claire, get up!" Chris let drops of water fall on his sister's cheek.

"Chris!" she got up suddenly, slapping the cup of water out of his hand. Luckily there was little in there for it to spill.

"Hee-hee." Chris giggled like a madman and scooped up his sister in his arms. She lay kicking and screaming for him to let go.

"Let me go Chris!" She screamed loudly, and laughed while he tickled her. She suddenly kicked her way out, with Chris smiling at his sister's attempts. He ran after her, with his contagious smile and laugh that also made Claire laugh. The whole scene was funny, brother chasing sister around the kitchen table.

The phone ringed and both stood still. Chris motioned for her to go and get it. Claire rolled her eyes, picked up the phone, and sat on the floor.

"Hello?"

"Claire?" the familiar voice asked.

"Leon.." she didn't question, she knew it was him. Chris walked slowly over to her.

"I'm sorry about what I did yesterday..I didn't mean to do that," he said apologetically.

"Leon, its not your fault, I mean," Claire was at a loss for words. Chris bent over to listen. Claire glared at him, then let him listen because he pouted. Chris mouthed "sorry about what?"

"I hope we are still friends," Leon's voice was soft and gentle.

"We are, and always will be." Claire said sweetly. She felt like hugging Mr. Kennedy right then and there. A long sigh erupted from the other end.

"What's wrong?" Claire questioned.

"Sherry needs a second chaperone for her little trip to the amusement park. I was going to ask Chris but he has work that day. So I was wondering if.." Leon didn't finish.

"I'll come. I promise." Claire said softly.

"Thanks Claire." he said his goodbyes then hung up. Claire smiled and looked at her brother who was suddenly serious.

Chris looked at her, with a raised eyebrow.

"What? We're only friends!" Claire yelled and stormed off. Chris smiled. His little sister was growing up.

"Leon, this place is amazing!" Claire exclaimed. The entrance of the amusement park titled "Thirty-Three Balloons" was full of lights and food. Leon led the way with Sherry ahead of them, happily skipping.

"Leon? Can I go by myself?" Sherry asked politely. She knew that Leon would have a fit if she ran off by herself.

Leon was just about to say no when Claire interrupted.

"Sure, sweetie. Just come back near the ferris wheel at 6:30, okay?" Claire asked.

"Thanks Claire!" Sherry ran off to the many interesting rides and roller coasters.

Leon looked at her in astonishment. Claire raised an eyebrow.

"I know. My brother used to do the same thing. You think you can protect her forever, but you can't, Leon. She's growing up. She's going to start dating soon, liking boys, and even though that sounds crazy, it's true." Claire laughed.

"Well I'll approve every guy that she dates!" Leon said officially.

"Stop acting so macho!" Claire laughed and linked arms with him. Leon found this behavior abnormal but enjoyed being this close with Claire. He nodded and they both headed off toward a roller coaster nearby.

"The Firey Dragon!" The title screamed out at Leon and Claire.

"Sounds fun!" Claire exclaimed, and dragged Leon over to the roller coaster. It was a long line and they waited patiently. They began a conversation while they were at it.

"So..what have you been up to since I was gone?" Claire asked casually.

"Nothing much. I've been earning money as a special agent for Sherry's schooling." Leon glanced at Claire then looked away.

"You must be making a lot, right?" Claire looked up at him gleefully.

"I guess so. The condo wasn't much, if that's what you were thinking," Leon chuckled but then grew serious. She reached up and put a hand on his shoulder. Leon's body tensed.

"You were doing all right. Thanks for taking care of Sherry. It means a lot to me," Claire said gently.

"It's ok. The government tried to take her away but I didn't let them," Leon said looking doubtfully at the sky. "I'm sure they'll try to get her again."

"Oh, Leon.." she whispered. "I'm sorry I left you all alone."

"That's not what's bothering me. I have to leave for work starting tomorrow. From 6:30 in the morning to 10:30. I can't leave Sherry alone." Leon said, looking at the ground now. He was waiting for a miracle.

"I can take care of her," Claire said. "She likes my company."

"Of course she does. She thinks of you as her mother..her own parents weren't exactly the best ones." Leon said, softly.

"And what does she think of you?" Claire questioned. Her hand had slid from his shoulder to his hand.

"I don't know." Leon choked out. He knew if he said father, that Claire could infer something. He got the feeling she already knew.

"We get to play mommy and daddy?" Claire laughed, the twinkling in her eyes and jingle in her voice.

Leon just smiled, and looked off to the side. It wasn't what he had expected. Then his body tensed once again as Claire's arm now looped around his waist. His breathing became irregular and his heart raced.

"Well? I'll take care of her, but first I need the keys, silly." Claire said, laughing. Leon's body relaxed and he slowly inched his hand around her slender frame.

"You can stay overnight. You won't be able to wake up so early," Leon said, chuckling.

"All right, Kennedy. You've got a deal."

"This is it. Come on," Leon nudged Claire out of the car, with Sherry jumping out of the backseat.

The three of them walked to Leon's condominium. It was a starry night, and Claire gasped at the scenic view.

"What? The stars are always like this, silly." Sherry said, pulling Claire inside.

Claire walked up to Sherry's bedroom. "You got a phone?"

"Yup. You want to call Chris, right?" Sherry answered and ran up to her room.

"Wait up!"