A/N: Not mine, don't sue.

A break from studying for my finals. ...will edit when I have the time. This is set a year after RE4.

Reviews will be appreciated and flames will be ignored.

Smiles

A smile. Sweet and bitter, like a memory in the brink of being forgotten. It was a simple gesture of twisting the lips up, her way of conveying happiness, loneliness and fear. Seven years and he still couldn't tell for certain what forces lay behind her smile. All those years and he still didn't know her enough.

He found her waiting in their room, sitting straight at the edge of their bed. The bed was made. The covers were smooth and crisp this time, unlike the way he wanted them to be-- rumpled and messy, which reminded him of lovemaking and falling asleep in each other's arms. She greeted him with a smile, icy and stern, that made her muscles strain. But he didn't notice this. Not the warmth and vigor that was no longer there.

His bag dropped with a thud on the floor. She wasn't distracted by the sound. Their eyes never broke contact. He returned her smile with one of his own. Her eyes searched for the warmth in his smile, for the brilliant luster of his eyes, for the loving passion zinging in his stature. She found none. She noted with dropping spirit that his smile had long lost its meaning and was replaced by a mechanical, calculated gesture.

"I'm back," was all he could say, neither stepping closer nor moving back.

She nodded from where she sat, both agreeing to what was obvious and pacifying herself with what was less so. It was harsh—the thought. The thought that he could never love her enough, that his few memories of another woman will always be more cherished. She wondered just how far he was willing to go, given the chance that he could be with her. She didn't try to hide the pain in her eyes, nor the lack of energy in her welcome. It was there, all the signs of giving up, all the indications of what was lacking. It was just that he didn't notice. Couldn't. Wouldn't.

"I would have returned sooner, but the mission clean-up…"

A finger delicately placed over his lips kept him from finishing his sentence. "It's alright. It doesn't matter," she whispered before she replaced her finger with her lips. It was a quick, innocent kiss, unlike the numerous others they used to share. She was half-expecting him to scoop her up and show her just how much he missed the warmth only she could give. He didn't. She had proven, yet again, that expectations will always remain as just that and nothing more. She ran a hand through his silky hair and stared into the blue pools that were his eyes.

She was met by a naïve understanding of the situation, by a man expecting her to be limber, forgiving and tolerant. She could no longer be either of those and it hurt her that he didn't know this. She knew that his hands weren't tainted, but his thoughts were. She knew he would never intentionally hurt her, but seeing his futile attempts to get over her couldn't shelter Claire from the pain. The innocence of his gaze squeezed at her heart, at what remained of her heart that was still expectant of a miracle. How could he not notice what was no longer there? How could he not see that this was goodbye?

They had changed so much in a year without realizing it. The man she was in love with, the one who loved her, never returned to her from his mission. The man who returned was the one who was confused, disillusioned and had a raven-haired woman in his dreams. She never got her Leon back. She tried to recall the times when she could stare into his eyes and see something else, when she could taste what she thought was happiness, when she could feel the love that never was. She realized she could no longer reach that far back into her memories. Not anymore.

She took a step back and gave him another smile, bittersweet and thankful at the same time. Perhaps the last one with love. She made her way to the door. A hand on her wrist stopped her. An unexpected force tugged at the corner of her lips. Maybe she was wrong after all. Maybe there really was a truth in all their lies. Maybe he could love her just as much.

"Where are you going, Claire?"

"I'm getting you something you've always wanted," she answered.

He narrowed his eyes, digesting her words. His lips moved to say silent nothings, searching for the words he never said. He stared at her for the longest time before he looked away with a confused gaze. He tightened his grip before he let her arm fall loosely on her side. His letting go of her was the most disappointing and painful thing he'd ever done.

She let the door open and close as silently as possible. She held on to the knob and stared at the thick door that separated them. She let out a smile and congratulated herself for a job well done. It was the culmination of a long and painful goodbye.

END

Yeah, it's angsty, sort of. And you could all make a good guess who the other woman is. No, Leon is not cheating (intentionally), he just couldn't let go of that other woman (like he said in the end of RE4).

Leave a review if you can!

edit: 3-24-06