Title: Final Illuminations
Rating: R for violence and swearing
Summary: RE movie fanfiction. In this sequel to "Fading Away" and "Into the Light", Alice, Michael, Rain and J.D continue in their efforts to defeat Umbrella, finding along the way new allies, new enemies—and new hope for Matthew Addison.
Chapter Summary: In which the trilogy ends… period.
Thanks very much to DarkPrincessPyro99, masked-in-your-shadows, rain1657, sarah-vs-psychotic, XMaster, Kagii, rayine undeadx, Sakura123, and Freakshow1 for your reviews; I really appreciate it.
And so the novel begins!
This is the last chapter, no ifs, and, or buts about it. There will be no other installment; that's the whole point of a trilogy :)
Thanks to Dishwalla, actually, who's music has been a huge inspiration—in particular, "Candleburn" and "Winter Sun", which always started as general RE songs and became Alice orientated instead:) Also to "Damaged People" by Depeche Mode, which always worked for Alexei/Rain and Michael, and "Stay Awake", also by Dishwalla, for Rain/J.D; and so many others I can't even remember now.
This story has gotten to be such a pain to find the time to write; but all the same, I will miss it very much; I put over two years into my life into this story, and I am hugely proud of what I have produced and how far I have come as a writer… and so thankful to you, the readers, who made it worthwhile.
I'd like to say a quick thank you for everyone who's reviewed—I really do appreciate it.
And as this is the final chapter, please, please review. I myself rarely review until the final chapter, so I completely understand if any readers haven't—but please, for this chapter, make the time to review; I'd really appreciate it. Comment on this chapter, "Final Illuminations", the trilogy as a whole; ask questions, make jokes, do whatever you please, but please review; I really appreciate it.
Thanks again; I hope you enjoy this chapter, and I hope you enjoyed the trilogy.
Chapter Eleven: Winter Sun
Will the winter sun keep us warm, in these cold times?
Will the winter sunlight keep you warm, untorn, untorn and alive?
"All endings are happy; all endings are tragic. In all stories—in life—bad things happen, and so do good things. So in the end, whether triumphant or miserable, all an ending really is is an ending; or perhaps, a new beginning."
There were cars whizzing past in the busy streets below, and students walked across the quad, talking and laughing. He saw a pair of brunettes, a blond boy relentlessly teasing both, and thought of Rain, J.D, and Alexei.
A short distance away he saw a blond woman, hair striking in the late winter sunlight and wondered, not for the first time, where Alice was.
The bell rang.
There was a flurry of activity, and Michael returned back to Earth, turning to face his students, leaving the window and the world behind.
He considered telling them to hand in last night's homework—but students were already racing out the door, obviously hoping to avoid that exact occurrence, and he gave in.
Returning the waves and chipper "Bye, Professor Cahill!"s that were sent his way, Michael waited until the room was empty and the door had been closed before sinking into his chair and covering his face with his hands.
Fighting their war against Umbrella had been difficult enough—but returning to normal life, as they were all finding now, was even harder.
Michael had tried to return to medical school, and hadn't lasted a month. Every experiment he performed made him uncomfortably conscious of the mutations Umbrella had created in much the same way; every time he stitched up a wound he remembered his friends, their faces expressions of pain as he stitched up their bloody injuries.
And every time he set foot inside the lab, the nightmares he'd seen, both inside and outside of the Hive, returned full force.
He'd dropped out after the first two weeks.
Eventually he'd found work as a teacher, working with a small English Literature class in the University of Washington, where he spent his days thinking about events from four months ago and talking about his own left over emotions, thoughts that he related weakly to whatever they were studying at the moment.
Case in point: today's literature, Steinback's "Of Mice and Men".
If one could stretch so far as to picture Alice as Lennie, Michael supposed he'd be George.
Even the best of intentions could only get one so far.
His class, at least, liked him—he was easy on them and tended to 'forget' homework checks—and as far as he was concerned… it passed the time.
Rain and J.D had readjusted far more easily than he had, due hugely to the fact that they had started this together and, now, were ending it together as well. While the war had changed all of them, both had leaned upon each other and as a result, had escaped relatively unscathed.
Alexei was a different card all together—he and J.D had developed a shaky friendship, and when he was with Rain, he seemed happy—but for the first time since Michael had met him he seemed out of place, and at times he thought Alexei was having a harder time adjusting than all of them.
None of them knew where Alice was.
She'd sent Rain a postcard through the governmental S.W.A.T. division that had once funded Umbrella's own services two weeks after their last encounter, a postcard Rain had immediately shared with the rest of them.
The message was blunt, clear, and enviably elegant, as Alice herself always had been, six words on snowy white stationary: I'm fine. Don't look for me.
And just underneath, in the hesitant script she'd always used while trying to make and important decision, she'd added four more: I need more time.
Two months had passed with no word before two more postcards came.
The first had been addressed to the group—all it said was: I'm still okay. I will come back again when I'm ready—take care.
And the second, addressed to Michael, read simply: I forgive you.
Michael didn't want to think about what Alice was forgiving him for, didn't want to even begin considering whether or not it was something he could forgive himself for.
Like a slate wiped clean, his indiscretions had been kept under a shroud of silence along with everything else that had happened within Umbrella. Someone—Michael suspected it was Alexei—had told Rain and J.D what had happened, and nobody had mentioned it since.
When the four of them got together, they never discussed Umbrella—they discussed their jobs, the weather, Alice. Anything other than what had happened in the past two years.
If they knew about the third postcard, they hadn't asked any questions and Michael hadn't volunteered any answers.
In the end he was just happy for Alice, happy that she had escaped the burden of resentment, of pain and of anger; happy that she had been able, somehow, to forgive him for what he had done.
Happy that, somewhere within herself, she had found some degree of the peace she had always been looking for.
The war had been hard, and the war had been painful—but somehow they'd survived.
In a world gone mad, in a world full of chaos and monsters and death, they'd not only realized the potential for a greater good—but they, together and in each other, had found it.
Alexei had always lived a charmed life.
His earliest childhood memory was his fifth birthday party, a grand bash with over five thousand prestigious invites drifting in and out and an equally impressive open bar organized by Vincent Crawford himself. Alexei had never had friends—but the enormous stack of gifts he'd received had more than made up for that, and he remembered his father, Crawford's right hand, beaming with pride as Alexei received the Demitrov signet ring.
If Alexei could remember his days of infancy, he was fairly certain they would involve a baby blue cradle and a gold—not silver, but gold—spoon in his mouth.
When his father had died six years later, killed by Crawford himself, Alexei had hardly noticed; Nicholai Demitrov had rarely seen his son, and at the time, Alexei had been far too busy buying and bossing around his friends.
Even from childhood, he'd been brought up to know that people were only another sort of material wealth—things to be bought, used, and discarded, and he'd adhered to these codes of conduct well.
By the time he'd reached twenty-four, he'd decided, quite abruptly, that the games of wealth and parties had become boring to him, and he desired something far more interesting: power.
And so the plan to steal the anti-virus had been inspired; and for the first time in his life, Alexei Demitrov had experienced failure.
For the first time in his life, Alexei had to live on his own, with no money and a forever scalded family name that was of no use to him anymore; for the first time in his life, he'd met people that he'd actually had to work for to gain approval.
For the first time in his life, he'd actually wanted to gain their approval.
In the end, he didn't change—he didn't want to change. He knew he wasn't perfect; he was arrogant, spoiled, at times cruel and malevolent.
But for the first time in his life, he had a reason to try to be a better person.
Sometimes, when he woke up in the morning and saw Rain lying next to him, he was seized by fear; the same sort of fear that struck him hard when they'd have a screaming fight, and she'd stay overnight at Salinas's just to get away from him.
Sometimes he felt that Rain wanted more from him than he could give; and when she left, he knew a strange sort of terror at the possibility of her never returning.
But she always did. She always did, usually dragging J.D in tow, which was always okay with Alexei—they'd developed a shaky friendship now, one based entirely upon necessity and a mutual enjoyment in teasing Rain and insulting one another—and there was never any apology. Rain would start cooking something, J.D would tease her about not wanting to eat burnt macaroni again, and Alexei would take over, because if there was one thing growing up with three cooks had given him, it was the ability to make excellent pancakes.
Eventually J.D would go home, he and Rain would make a few cutting comments, never really getting at the topic of their idiotic arguments but dancing around it, and eventually fall into bed together, if not entirely confident than at least comfortable in the depths of their tumulous relationship.
"Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose," he muttered plainly to himself.
Rain stirred next to him; he rolled over and planted a slight kiss on her temple, just below her hairline, and smirked.
Their sleeping habits couldn't have been more different—Rain slept in past twelve when he let her, while he couldn't stand staying in bed past seven.
Right now he was negotiating—it was nearly ten now, and he'd been lying awake for two hours now, bathed in the crystalline, delicate winter sunlight, watching Rain sleep and thinking about the changes that had happened in his life, good and bad, and how they had shaped him.
He'd come to the conclusion— the same quote his father had always commented on, something the man had finally gotten right: the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.
In an entirely different way…he was still living a charmed life.
Life was all about change.
J.D pondered this very carefully as he leaned against the doorframe of the little apartment Rain and Alexei had rented.
At the beginning of all this, he'd thought nothing could possibly change, not as long as he still had Rain—the two had been together for what felt like years, partners in crime, and as long as they faced Umbrella together, everything would remain the same.
The door opened—but instead of Rain, J.D found himself facing a sleepy looking Demitrov.
"Salinas," he drawled insolently. "How kind of you to grace us with your presence."
Of course, now he also had Alexei.
"Is Rain still asleep?" he demanded. "I said I'd be here by ten."
"Right," Alexei said, a small smile crossing his face. "It seems I forgot to tell her. Oops."
J.D scowled at him. "Oops?"
Alexei grinned, an outright grin, and opened the door. "She's tired, okay? I tried to wake her up, and she kicked me."
J.D laughed. "Well, there's a certain technique to it," he said plainly.
"Obviously," Alexei said, looking, somehow, both amused and entirely bored. "Do you want coffee? Or alcohol, perhaps?"
"Coffee's good," J.D said absentmindedly, dropping down on the couch and switching on the tv.
The room was cleaner than he remembered it—everything had been tucked away carefully, and the light blue curtains were thrown open, allowing the pale winter sunlight to flood the room with it's early morning light. Alexei's influence, no doubt; Rain was one of the messiest people he knew.
He could hear Alexei puttering around in the kitchen, and grinned despite himself.
Alexei was a pain in the ass, and for some reason, Rain brought out a strangely effeminate side in him—probably because she expected him to cook and clean, since she so obviously hated it.
But he made Rain happy, and in the end, he wasn't that bad.
He knew that it made Alexei jealous, sometimes, when Rain came to his place every time the two got in a fight; just like it made him jealous when he came over and both Rain and Alexei got that look in their eyes, the look that made him politely excuse himself and leave the house.
J.D had started dating since the Hive incident, or at least tried to—but like Michael's failed attempts at finishing medical school, he was finding it harder to adjust to the real world than he'd thought it would be. Every girl seemed empty, and hollow, and while that once had been fun, he found, for the first time, that he wanted more.
He'd had Rain—and now he had to share her, and he was okay with that.
J.D had always been particularly adept at adjusting—far more so than Rain, who's idea of an honest attempt was to try once, fail, and demand a return to the original state of things.
He was finding more trouble doing so this time.
Alexei came out of the kitchen, carrying J.D's coffee in one hand and what looked like a Black Russian in the other. Handing the coffee off to J.D, he collapsed next to him on the couch and took a delicate sip of his drink.
J.D stared at him. "It's ten o'clock in the morning, Demitrov," he pointed out.
"Shut up and drink your coffee," Alexei muttered. "Mother."
Staring at him, at the stubborn expression on his face, J.D couldn't help but be reminded of Rain.
"I have a question," Alexei stated abruptly, and J.D turned to look at him.
"About what, exactly?" he asked warily. Like Rain, being around Alexei at times gave J.D the uncanny feeling that there was something going on that he knew absolutely nothing about.
"Rain's birthday is coming up," Alexei said, and actually looked nervous as he glanced towards their bedroom door.
J.D waited for him to continue, but he was silent. "So?" he said finally.
Alexei scowled. "So I don't know what to do," he said, his voice barely audible.
J.D stared at him. Then he started to laugh.
Alexei tolerated it for about a minute. Then he raised his drink threateningly and said, "Shut up, Salinas, or you'll be wearing this."
With great effort, J.D did as he requested. "It's a birthday, Alexei. What do you mean, you don't know what to do?"
"Rain's not like other girls," he said plainly. "I can't pull the same bullshit I do with everyone else."
"If your asking whether or not you have to show actual emotion, the answer is yes," J.D said simply. "Is it really that hard?"
"No," Alexei said flatly, and, obviously not happy about what he was going to say next, drank about half of his drink in a single sip. "But I want it to be special."
J.D was rescued by having to respond to that comment by the entrance of Rain herself, who came wandering out of her bedroom half asleep, dressed in a tee shirt that came down to her knees. She smiled when she saw him.
"Hi, J.D," she greeted him pleasantly, and shuffled over to kiss Alexei, squishing in between them and curling up, her legs on J.D's lap and head on Alexei's shoulder, and J.D grinned slightly. Rain was like a kitten—cuddly and soft somehow when she just woke up, and energetic with all a kitten's unconsciously cruel playfulness once she'd fully woken up.
"Are you drinking, Alexei?" she asked, looking mildly curious, and Alexei grinned.
"Of course," he said plainly. "You just missed the lecture your overgrown friend gave me for it."
"Go make me one, too," she demanded. "I'm thirsty."
Rain was also demanding when she first woke up. And for the rest of the day, actually, something J.D was all too familiar with.
Alexei looked mildly outraged. "I'm not your servant, Ocampo. Do it yourself."
Rain poked him hard in the side; he elbowed her in return and moved in to tickle her, and she laughed and squirmed, and J.D got the uncomfortably voyeuristic feeling being around Alexei and Rain too long sometimes brought.
Finally, Alexei got up, and Rain said, "And you'd better get me something good for my birthday, too."
Alexei blushed; Rain turned to grin at J.D, and J.D laughed.
He obviously wasn't the only one having problems adjusting to this strange little threesome.
But somehow, Rain, and even Alexei, made it worth trying.
Rain hadn't known J.D when he was a kid, but she suspected he'd been the same way he was now—funny, arguementive, and, despite that, entirely too willing to share.
When she had been four, and her mother had dropped her off at the daycare, one of the boys in her class had tried to steal her toy car.
While some of the more well behaved students—including, probably, J.D—would have run to a teacher or found another toy to play with, Rain was entirely less reasonable.
When her mother was called ten minutes later, she was less than shocked to hear Rain had pinned the boy down and hit him over the head with a toy teakettle until he'd given up the toy again.
Rain had always been slightly over-possessive of her things.
In this insanely changing world, someone had to inject some degree of normalcy into things.
When she woke up to the view of winter sunlight streaming in through her uncovered window, a view both breathtaking and painful to behold, she rolled out of bed and padded over to the door, pressing her ear against it.
She could hear Alexei and J.D laughing, and arguing; she pressed her ear more closely to the door, but could hear no other woman's voice.
The first time J.D had brought a girl here, she'd thought it had been Alice; she'd rushed out to see some dumb blond sitting in J.D's lap, and things had gone downhill from there.
J.D hadn't brought a girl over since.
Rain hadn't liked Olivia, but at least she'd been somewhat intelligent. If she had to share J.D, it wasn't going to be with some stupid blond sexpot.
Alexei had asked her yesterday what she wanted for her birthday—and despite being probably about as far away from sentimental as a girl could get, the first thing had popped into her mind had been both simple, and impossible.
She wanted Alice back.
She liked this strange little threesome her, J.D, and Alexei had; she liked it when Michael stopped by, adding a strange degree of intelligence to the mix while they thoroughly corrupted him with alcohol and childish games.
But Alice had always looked out for all of them; and right now, with everything so asunder, Rain couldn't help but feel they should be looking out for her.
Eventually, she'd answered simply, "You", and meant it.
It didn't lessen the fun of teasing him over it, though—Alexei was strangely panicked over the whole birthday thing, and it was nice to have the upper hand for once.
She could hear J.D laughing; heard Alexei questioning, somewhat desperately, about something to do with her birthday.
Hastily, she pushed the door open; she had a feeling that J.D wasn't going to be able to control his laughter, and if he started laughing again, it just might push Alexei over the edge.
"Hi, J.D," she said cheerfully; he grinned at her, and she shuffled over and gave Alexei a quick kiss, then squirmed in between the two, getting comfortable.
If she had to get out of bed, she might as well take advantage of the situation.
"Are you drinking, Alexei?" she demanded.
"Of course," he said plainly, his eyes lighting up. "You just missed the lecture your overgrown friend gave me for it."
She didn't bother pondering the comment. "Go make me one, too," she said promptly. "I'm thirsty."
To her still sleepy amazement, Alexei didn't obey. "I'm not your servant, Ocampo. Do it yourself."
But I'm tired, she whined inwardly. Unlike J.D, she figured Alexei wouldn't respond properly to the comment, so she poked him hard in the side.
He responded by elbowing her in return, and tickled her hard in the ribs, his fingers digging into her sides, so she laughed despite herself and squirmed out of his grasp.
Alexei finally got up, and she added, "And you'd better get me something good for my birthday, too."
He went red, and she grinned, and turned to look up at J.D, who laughed as well.
Alexei wandered out of view, and she reached around J.D to take the remote. "What's this bullshit? We watch cartoons in the morning, J.D, not football."
"I like football," he protested halfheartedly.
"My house," she reminded him, "My rules. Suck it up, J.D."
He scowled at her; she laughed, and he rolled his eyes.
They fell into a pleasantly mindless stupor, watching the vivid colors flashing across the screen.
Alexei came back in with two more drinks, setting one in front of her and J.D each. "I figured we should all be drinking," he explained airily, gesturing to his own drink.
Rain scowled at him. "It's ten in the morning."
"You wanted a drink, Rain," he reminded her patiently.
"He's right, you know," came J.D's somewhat absent voice from her right.
"I changed my mind," she said. "Go get me something else."
Alexei looked completely exasperated. "Tell me, why am I with you again?" he demanded of no one in particular.
"I'm good in bed," she said promptly, and J.D sat straight up.
"That may be true," Alexei acknowledged, raising his glass to her. "However—"
"If you two are going to talk about sex, can I go home?" J.D asked, somewhat plaintively.
"No," they both said in unison, and Rain laughed.
When they'd been together in this, in the middle of this war, somehow, she'd never imagined this was the way things would end up.
She'd thought Alice and Matt would be together, would be married and have perfect little blond children; her and J.D would share an apartment, and Michael would go off and become some world famous scientist that would occasionally deign to come and visit every once in awhile.
She'd never imagined this—her, J.D, and Alexei actually staying. Michael, off teaching English to a classroom full of students. Alice, off and alone and probably more peaceful than she'd ever been with them.
And as unorthodox as this was, as completely apart from her original vision of her future it had become—somehow, she wouldn't change a thing.
Somehow, things were probably better this way.
The sun was alight in the sky, turning everything it touched to pale, pale shades of gold that glimmered and sparkled, lighting up the soft covering of snow and making it sparkle like diamonds.
The trees were empty and bare, covered in the same pale sheen; in the middle of early March, birds were returning, and their chirping filled the air with the melody of warmth, of happiness, of spring.
Under the blue sky, a figure kneeled on the ground, her blond hair sparkling in the winter sunlight.
There was a brief, quiet wind in the air, and as she spoke, it lifted her voice and carried the words away, up into the sky, into the clouds and light.
Two simple words, and she shifted slightly; as the months passed, it was getting harder and harder to find a comfortable position here.
As comforting as it was to stay here, to be so close to him, eventually she was going to have to leave Vegas; whether she returned to her own hometown in Germany or reunited with her friends in Washington, eventually she was going to have to leave—it was better for everyone.
The snow was cold, inching through her skin; but the sunlight on her back was warm, and she felt content.
The war wasn't over; Umbrella wasn't finished. She knew that.
They had destroyed it's people, it's base; everything they could reach in the time they'd been given.
But if there was one thing they'd all learned about Umbrella, it was exactly how resourceful it's agents could be—and she was certain that, given enough time, they would be up and running again.
But not in her time, not in their time. They had fought a war, all of them—Rain's impulsiveness, J.D's strategy, Michael's at times painful vision, and even Alexei's inside knowledge, and she had led them the best she could.
She hoped she'd done well.
She loved them, and she missed them, but she wasn't ready to return, not yet; she only hoped they could understand why.
They had spent so much time locked into this war, so much time locked into a chaotic battle of pain and rage and shattered hopes; and yet, somehow, had found each other, all of them.
She had hated Michael for what he had done; but he had kept her going. She had envied their utterly intangible innocence, the kind bred from having the ones you loved directly at your side, and that innocence had kept her hope alive.
In the end, it was that hope, perhaps, that had shattered so badly.
In the end, it was that hope, ultimately, which had fostered her survival.
In the end, it had all been worth it.
And even so…
"Umbrella will return," she said, her voice raspy and quiet in the cool morning air. "They'll return, and a new war will begin; and someone else will fight it, someone else will love and lose and go on living in a world oblivious."
"But for now, it's over. Thanks to the everyone who fought this war; thanks to Michael, thanks to Rain, thanks to J.D, Alexei, Kaplan. Thanks to us."
"Thanks to you," she whispered.
For the first time, a single tear slid down her cheek, and fell harmlessly into the snow below her, where it caught the winter sunlight and sparkled, and she was reminded, in a bittersweet slew of memories, of the newfound lack of discrepancy between light and darkness—the horror, the bitterness, that had wound itself in and out of every last hope, every last option; every time she'd kissed Matt and wondered if it was their last goodbye.
And she remembered the happiness; the times Matt would hold her close and kiss her; the times Rain and J.D would try, awkwardly, to comfort her; Michael's acceptance of the burden she had placed upon him, the weighted responsibility of leading their group.
With every moment of pain had come some sort of happiness; and every moment of darkness and despair had led to new rays of hope. Darkness had emitted into sunlight, a light that shone through heaven and hell and the icy winter stagnancy of losing Matt; new death had led into life, and she was left irrevocably aware of the twisted moments of irony in which life worked in a world inverted and chaotic.
And looking back, she regretted no gesture she had made, no reckless decisions or impossible hope she'd allowed herself to feel—because it, all of it, had been done in love, and for that she had no regrets.
"For now, we're safe—I'm safe, thanks to you."
Her hand, resting gently on top of her headstone, freezing their with the numbness of winter as if she could still, somehow, reach forward and touch him, reach him, moved downwards gently in a sort of caress, sort of hello, sort of goodbye.
With her other hand, she touched her stomach, and smiled, feeling, not for the first time, and not for the last, as if Matt were right here, standing next to her.
As he had been, and always would be.
"And so is our child," she whispered.
Planting on last kiss on the headstone, she stood and walked away.
There will come a time when you believe everything is finished… that will be the beginning.
xxxx END xxxx