Chapter Eleven

Deferral

Since he no longer had a plane to stalk, Chris was pacing his own living room. Claire slumped on the couch, gratefully munching on an apple, her first non-protein food in several days. Leon sat beside her, close but not too close. He'd tried to move closer and Chris had snarled at him, actually snarled. Any other time Claire would have told him off, but like everyone else, she was wary of her big brother when he was in a mood like this. Better to let him pace it off.

Except that he didn't seem to be calming. If anything, he was growing more agitated, coming up with increasingly ludicrous ideas. "A cellar!" he exploded, jabbing his finger in Claire's direction. "That's what we need. No, not a cellar -- more like a bomb shelter." His eyes started to glaze over. "With dogs. Even better -- zombie dogs. No -- no, I've got it! We'll get the bomb shelter, but we'll build it on an island. And we'll infect the entire island with the T-virus, and then as long as we never come out of the shelter, we should be perfectly safe."

Claire blinked at him, hoping he wasn't serious. It was hard to tell with Chris. "Okay, just so one thing's clear -- I'm not spending any time in a cellar or a bomb shelter, much less one on an infected island." She met Jill's eyes across the room and for the first time shared a moment of something other than antagonism with the older woman.

"Chris," Jill said gently from her perch on the arm of Barry's chair, "why don't you sit down? Maybe a cup of coffee?"

And a valium, Claire added silently. But Chris turned to Jill and she had her chance; moving as softly as possible, she got to her feet and tiptoed into the kitchen.

Leon followed, as she'd half known he would. "Chris' ranting aside, you all right?" he asked, almost off-handedly.

She smothered a smile. That was his way, always treating things casually. The more important, the more casual. His apparent lack of concern touched her. "I'm fine. A bit bruised, a bit tired. A bit scared that Wesker really will be back."

"I'm sure he will. He wants Chris."

Claire cleared her throat. "Actually... He may want more than Chris." Before Leon's horrified eyes, she reached into her pocket and produced a vial of blood.

"Claire, what the hell is that?"

"It's blood."

"I know it's blood; whose blood is it?" He was almost shouting; quickly, he checked himself with a glance in the direction of the living room.

Claire perched on the counter and turned the vial in her hands. "It belonged to a friend of mine," she said softly. "Steve Burnside."

"Wait -- the kid from the island?"

"Yeah. Wesker used him for some sort of sick experiments. Steve himself..." She swallowed hard, angling her face away. "Steve died in that explosion in the desert. I don't know. If you believe Wesker, he was dead long before that. I couldn't save him, and I'm not sure I wanted to. It must have been a terrible way to live." She wiggled the vial between her thumb and forefinger. "This is all that's left of him and the virus he was infected with. I slipped it out of Wesker's pocket when he was choking me back there. He was so intent on Chris he didn't notice."

"Claire, you're crazy. What are you going to do with that?"

Her face hardened. "I'm going to get rid of it. Steve might be dead, but I can protect what's left of him. Wesker's not getting his hands on my friends -- any part of my friends."

She tipped the vial as if to pour it in the sink, but Leon arrested the action by snagging her wrist. "Um, let's not pour the terrifying and infectious virus into the sewer, okay?"

Claire blanched at what she'd almost done. "Oh, God, Leon -- I'm sorry."

"You're exhausted." He gently touched the side of her head. Without meaning to, she tilted her cheek into his hand. "Come on. I know just the place."

"Claire!" Chris shouted behind them. Ignoring Jill's attempts to get in his way, he charged through the kitchen door, panic driving him. "Where the hell is she?"

"Wesker doesn't have her," Barry replied dryly. He was standing behind him, one arm around Jill as if to protect her from their friend's increasing agitation. "Leon does. Which, all things considered, is a damn good thing. Chris, you'd better get some rest before you lose it completely."

"Leon," Chris muttered, sinking into a chair. "Great."

All things considered, he thought he might have prefered Wesker after all.

-----

The bonfire was highly illegal, but they'd driven far enough out of town that no one would notice, let alone care. "Let them call the police," Leon had joked, sprinkling the massive pile of dry wood and leaves liberally with lighter fluid. "We'll explain exactly what we're doing."

They'd waited until the bonfire was raging to toss Steve's blood, vial and all, into its midst. Standing as close as she could to the intense heat, Claire felt tears trickle down her cheeks. "This is really goodbye," she whispered, and Leon's arm closed around her, drawing her close. She loved the feel of it. Somehow Leon always managed to make her feel safe without smothering her. Chris, on the other hand, was never happy unless she was directly underfoot. If he'd had his way, she'd still have a babysitter. It was the downside of growing up without parents, she supposed, and she loved Chris more than anyone could imagine. Still, he irritated the hell out of her.

Leon pulled her closer and sank to the cold grass, drawing her with him. "Wesker won't like this."

"Good." Claire leaned her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, letting both Leon's warmth and the fire's enclose her in welcome, numbing heat. The opposite of Wesker's hole, which she would always remember as cold... and lonely, so, so lonely. "I don't think he's happy," she whispered through a yawn.

"Wesker, you mean?"

But Claire didn't answer. Leon glanced down and found her asleep, her fingers curled against his denim-clad thigh. He shifted her and lay down, pillowing her head against his chest, idly stroking her hair. He couldn't imagine why Claire would care about whether Wesker was happy or not. She couldn't have meant him -- Steve, maybe? Or Chris.

Leon, for his part, didn't care about any of them. Everything that mattered to him was lying in his arms, and he was damned if he was going to let Wesker steal it again.

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Author's note: That's it for Wavering. Watch for the sequel coming soon, though! I just wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who's been kind enough to leave me a review, and everyone who's read my story. If you haven't checked out my website(s) please do (see my profile for more info). I loved writing this story and can't wait to get going on the next! Thanks again to everyone!