Warnings: Series, AU (canon will be adhered to when possible), violence, non-con, adult themes, dark, and character death.
Pairings for The Rare series (overall): A healthy mix of het and slash. Main ones are Leon/Wesker, Leon/Saddler. The rest are various combinations of male and female.
An: This story is basically brand new. Re-imagined, rewritten. Same plot for the most part, but many many new elements are present. The differences will become more noticeable in later chapters.
Rare Side Effects May Include the Following:
What a team they made. She cowered and he fought. Barrels and boxes became her new best friends, and his gentle commands became her lifelines. Duck and cover your head, Ashley. Run over there, Ashley. Follow me, Ashley. Obeying was an automatic gesture, her default. Stay out of the way, Ashley. You're more trouble than you're worth, Ashley. No, Leon never said it, but his eyes did. If it hadn't been for her, none of this would have happened.
She sighed. The island facility, laboratory, torture chamber, freak show—whatever name deemed appropriate—had been designed to get under the skin and fester there. It stank like a salad of sour fruit, moldy sneakers, blood, and decay. Cracking walls lined the dim hallways and dirty paint peeled from the ceiling. Fluorescent lights strobe-flashed, casting shadows from objects not really there. The steady drip of condensation nagged the silence and her nerves. She picked at the hem of her sweater and glanced down the long corridor. The rusted metal door stayed closed.
Her fingers shook. Maybe he had gotten smart and had left her there. She wouldn't have blamed him.
She bit her lip, but imagined her father's raised eyebrow and glare of disapproval. His voice invaded her head, a lazy drawl that somehow sounded mean and friendly at the same time. Never show emotion. Keep your guard up. Even your friends can't be trusted. Arm's length, darling, Daddy whispered in her mind. They can't hurt you if they can't get close.
Another glance down the hall. Another bout of shivering and fearful reassurances to herself. Wait here, Ashley, I'll be just a minute. But his minute had become her hour. Maybe she should look for him - no, if he returned and found her missing, he'd think the worst. She had to be patient. Leon always came back. Always.
One of the overheads popped and she jumped with a little squeal. The parasite under her ribs twitched in dismay. Would it take her over now? According to the research files Leon had shown her, when the creature reached maturity it would transform her into a mindless slave. After that, all Saddler had to do was wind her up and send her toddling back to her father. Say bye bye to America, and hello to the pod people.
Feel this intoxicating power. Don't you want it, little one?
Saddler's voice cooed in her head and her plaga reacted. Pain bloomed around her middle, the sensation crawling into her lungs. Her throat twitched. She tightened her jaw, and held her breath, but warmth spattered her chin when a cough burst past her pressed lips. She grabbed the stone wall for support, doubled over with an agonized gasp. Her lips trembled as she tried not to cry. Her chest constricted. Her fists balled up. The parasite thrashed in her chest like a skewered fish.
Images popped unwanted in her head: alien creatures exploding from lungs, aliens eating the host from the inside out. There had been so much blood in those movies. So much screaming. Didn't seem fun anymore now that it was real. Fear doused her insides with icy water. Her vision blurred as she fought for air. The coughing increased. Tears ran down her face; she fell to her knees. Hazy disjointed thoughts buzzed—his face the only thing clear. She clung to his image. He would soon find her. He would protect her, keep her safe.
Leon Kennedy opened the rusty door as silently as possible—which meant an assortment of squeaks, groans and shrieking from the weathered hinges. He rolled his eyes and swallowed a groan. Sometimes he wished Murphy's Law wasn't so...lawful. One look down the dark hall and his jaw tightened. Where the hell did she run off to this time? He should seriously think about a leash.
He took a step, then a soft sob erupted from...somewhere. He raised his weapon, but didn't call out. The halls he just left had been swarming with ganado. He had killed fifteen and still, they kept coming. It was like an endless march of pissed-off ants. What if one had managed to get through and—
He stiffened as he heard the cry again, coughing along with it, but faint, around the corner somewhere. He stalked forward, gun drawn until he rounded the bend of the L-shaped hall and spotted his charge, alone, bent over in the shadows and heaving.
"Ashley!" He holstered his gun and rushed to her side. She sputtered and managed one look up before coughing an alarming amount of blood on the floor—and on him. God, was the plaga finally maturing? Was this the final attack before it took her over? He wrapped his arms around her shaking body and rocked with her with every spasm, with every breath she struggled to take. There was blood on the floor, on her hands. Guilt coiled in his stomach. Why didn't he save those pills Sera gave him? Ashley's parasite was further along than his; she had needed them more. Damn Salazar and his stupid rituals! Who knows what that little midget geezer did to her, or what Saddler might have—
Ashley exhaled in a quaking sigh and ceased coughing. She panted against him, her eyelids half-mast. Tears streaked her cheeks; her hair clung to her forehead in dirty blond clumps, and he had seen tanner skin on a corpse. Blood coated her lips, more had spattered on her sweater. He should wipe it away, or at least the red splotches on her face. He braced her with his arm and reached into his back pocket. Damn, nothing but a few pesetas and some empty gum wrappers. Ashley moaned and wiped at her mouth. "Gross," she said even though it sounded more like goss.
"Can you stand?"
Ashley sniffed. "Yeah I think so." The sickly gleam to her skin lingered, but she seemed more alert. She clung to his arm for support and hobbled to her feet. "Thanks," she murmured against his shoulder. He ignored the red smear when she lifted her mouth.
"Are you okay?"
Ashley nodded and took a rattling breath that would have made a smoker wince. "Yes, I think the worst is over, for now anyway." She looked at him through wide, bloodshot eyes. Her expression of stupid hope made his heart lurch. "Did you find the laser?"
He nodded and motioned toward the door he had just came from. "I found the device, I think. It seems to be working. As for its safety?" he broke off and grimaced. Perhaps now might not be the right time to mention the risks in the report he had just read. The further along the plaga, the harder it was to kill; the harder it was to kill, the longer the patient had to endure the pain. Severe internal bleeding or burns could result—at worse, death. Better not mention that detail; the less she knew, the easier it would be to get her into that chair. "Not sure about that…the thing looks a bit, worn."
"But you found it?"
He clamped his mouth shut and began walking toward the door. Guilt simmered inside, but he cooled it with a deep breath. There was no other choice now. Either they became Saddler's pawns or they risked death to destroy the creatures inside them. If this didn't work...
Well, he would worry about that later.
He waved Ashley to follow. "Yes, it's this way, stay close."
The room where he had found the laser was large and caked in concrete as most of the facility. Slender florescent bulbs hummed like strained bumblebees, and hung lopsided from their supports. Computer monitors lined one wall and blinked like erratic Christmas lights. Cables ran thick and serpentine toward the middle of the room, where the main attraction, a metal chair complete with wrist restraints and guarded by two lasers, squatted like a prop straight out of a science fiction movie.
"This hunk of junk? Are you sure about this, Leon?" Ashley eyed the chair with distaste. Fear clouded her features, and seem to age her ten years. Poor kid. When this was over she would need some serious R and R.
"We have no choice," he said. "The plagas need to be destroyed—sooner rather than later." Ashley did the lip-biting thing and he forced a patient sigh. "I know the chair looks scary, but it will be okay, okay?"
"I'm not five years old." She crossed her arms, but her lip remained tucked under her teeth. Not five maybe, but not willing to jump in the chair either. Guess the Ladies First rule didn't apply.
"Ashley, I'll go. That way, if I survive, you'll know it's safe."
"That's your plan?" Her eyes actually bugged, and he had to fight to keep a straight face. "What if you die? Where does that leave me?" That whine began to creep in her voice. God, he hated that. He had coined this particular tone the 'Ashley Shrill' back at the church when he had first rescued her. It's a wonder Saddler never used a muzzle.
He gave her his biggest smile, then pointed to the console. "Yep, that's the plan. If it works, we got one less problem; if it doesn't, we'll both be out of our misery one way or the other." He dropped the cheerful act and met her eyes. "I'm sorry, but this is it, Ashley, the choices just ran out."
She stopped chewing her lip to shreds, but now looked ready to burst into tears. He braced himself for the rivers soon to flow, but they never came. To his surprise, Ashley blinked several times, inhaled a shaky breath and walked to the console. The control panel bathed her face in green light as she looked over the buttons. She bit her lip again and nodded. "Looks easy enough, I guess."
"Good. Now don't press anything until I get my butt into the chair."
"Kay." She kept her eyes on the screen. He could see her hands clench her sweater, wringing it. He better hurry before she lost her nerve.
He appraised the chair and his entire midsection did a loop-de-loop. Wrist restraints? Whoever built this thing had seen one too many horror movies. And why two lasers instead of one? Did they intend to miss the first time? He sighed and rubbed his forehead. Okay, now who did he have to coax himself into this chair? The fluttering in his stomach twisted into a cramp and he felt his plaga undulate with a burning jerk. He gasped. Quickest pep talk he ever had. Two lasers or one, whatever it took to kill it, whatever risks were involved, he would take the chance.
Once he seated himself under the lasers, he said he was ready. Ready as one can be anyway when searing lights would probably incinerate his vital organs along with the parasite, which wasn't very "ready" at all to be honest, but no point in saying that out loud. He was the hero after all, here to save the day, not fidget even if he now gripped the arm rests with cold, stiff hands. Fearless, yeah right.
Ashley hesitated. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
He cleared his throat. "Yeah," he said. She frowned at him, then hovered her finger over a button he couldn't see. His body tensed and he almost told her to stop. No, this had to be done. If it was his time to go, then—
"Here goes nothing," she said, her voice soft and unsure. He heard the hollow click as the button depressed.
Pure agony. The wrist restraints didn't seem so funny now. Without them, he would have bucked off the chair and curled into a screaming knot on the floor. The plaga launched itself into a series of furious contorting that made all previous cramps seem like love snuggles. Tears sprang to his eyes and the hoarse cry echoing through the room didn't sound like himself. Fire seethed in his torso, scoured his insides with bristles made from flame. The plaga thrashed, and he felt something else. Satisfaction. Good, let it burn alive. No more muscle spasms, blackouts, coughing up blood, forced obedience to Saddler—
He liked that last one best of all.
The parasite hears its host's thoughts and shrieks in soundless fury. Its body is melting, oozing apart, becoming nothing. It refuses to become nothing. The source of its demise is burning light, it must escape, must hide deep inside, deep where the light can't find it. Its core is still strong, still intact. Through death, there is life. It will endure, it will adapt, it will swim through blood and flesh, burrow inside the host mind, find sanctuary in rooms unused, pathways untraveled.
It will wait until the right moment, until its wounds heal, until the host is vulnerable.
Then it will feed.
"All done!" He heard Ashley sing from a long tunnel filled with fog. That fog invaded his brain and messed with his motor functions. His limbs felt broken, heavy. His eyelids didn't want to open, but that was fine with him. His body felt hollowed out from the inside. It was hard to breathe, but the moan that crawled its way from his throat eased that a little, just a little bit. He raised his arm and grunted as it flopped back on the metal armrest.
"Leon?" Her hand grazed his forehead, but her fingers were too warm, almost burning. He moved his head away with a twitch, and that twitch developed a life of its own and continued down his body in a shuddering wave that had his teeth chattering and legs jerking as if pulled by puppet strings. He moaned again and braved a peek at the world. Everything spun in blurs and halos. Ashley better find a pan quick because he was going to be sick.
And aside from his other woes, there was a strange flexing sensation, like something twisting deep inside his head. His heart began to gallop in his chest, and in his current state that wasn't a good thing. The plaga wasn't dead! No, stay calm, of course it was. Ashley wouldn't say "all done" for no reason. She would have told him it wasn't dead. It was just a muscle spasm, it had to be.
He cracked his neck back and forth. The sensation went away. Weird.
He squinted at Ashley. The lights were too bright. He blinked her into focus, enough to see her worried frown and her lip buried under her teeth again. He attempted a smile, but it never made it to his lips. "See, that wasn't so bad…" he said with a croak. How convincing he sounded.
Ashley sighed with relief and brushed the hair from his face. It was an affectionate gesture, one he wasn't comfortable with, but allowed because it would've been rude to lean away. "I was worried. I thought you were going to die." Her hand cupped his cheek. Even with his mind fuzzy, he knew if he didn't do something quick, she would do something else she might regret later, or something else that if Daddy ever found out about, Daddy would fire him on the spot.
He brushed her hand away and softened that action with a laugh. "Really, Ashley, I'm okay. Still in one piece, more or less. It's finally gone at least and that's the important thing." He heaved himself out of the chair and stood. His legs felt like soggy twigs and his back creaked. "Your turn," he said, and managed a wink. She pouted, and whether it was from his polite spurning or the fact she was next in line for Plaga Removal, he couldn't tell.
Ten minutes and some creative bribing later, Ashley stood and wiped her eyes. She smoothed her sweater over her skirt and adjusted her headband. He stared at her over the console, mystified. She was fine: no spasms, no groaning, no whining, no adverse affects other than the tears—which was something they both had experienced.
Maybe they carried different species of plaga. He knew of three varieties of the Las Plagas from those he'd eradicated from the village, castle and even here on the Island Base. But how many more were still out there? And what species had been inside him? Did it even matter now?
Ashley looked over at him and grinned. Despite his irritation, seeing her smile like that made everything better. Even made the pounding headache he still had worth it.
"That wasn't so bad. You made it seem hard." Her grin turned teasing.
He sighed and powered down the machine. He had made it seem hard? If she had felt what he felt—
Never mind, he'd sort it out later. Maybe when he got back to the States, he would contemplate these mysteries while sitting under a palm tree and sipping some nice strong tequila. Until then, he had a job to do. Take Ashley back to Daddy, save the world, and try not to die.
He felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth. Secret government agents only, kids, don't try this at home.