Claire Redfield titled her head and enjoyed the sensation of the hot morning sun. A nagging voice at the back of her head muttered about sunscreen and melanoma, but she told it to shut up. She'd been locked away from the light for too long; she took any chance of getting outside.
She wiggled her toes in her shoes. They'd finally begun to heal after six weeks away from the Antarctic -- away from Wesker. So far she'd heard nothing about or from him, and hoped things would stay that way.
Idly, she rubbed a few lines onto her sketchpad. The charcoal made a satisfying scratch against the rough paper, and she jotted a rough outline of the gothic facade in front of her, ignoring the students shouting as they threw a frisbee back and forth. It felt good to be on the university campus again, even if she wasn't a student. She'd spent some of her best hours and done some of her best work here, and it felt like an escape from everything... from everything.
Leon had been remarkably good about the whole thing. She'd thought she'd never hear the end of that videotape, but he didn't even mention it until she brought it up, and then he dismissed the incident with cheerful good humor -- maybe too cheerful. Things were strained between her and Leon. She wasn't sure where they were going. She loved him, or thought she did, but months with no human contact -- unless you counted Wesker, which Chris said she shouldn't -- had taken a toll on her, and she wasn't sure she was ready for any relationship right now. Besides, there was Ada... Leon never talked about her, but Jill had told Claire what happened in the facility. Ada had provided the self-destruct sequence that saved them all.
She shook her head and sketched a few details before realizing she hated the way the building crouched on the horizon. Disgusted, she tore the piece out of her sketchbook, wadded it up, and stuffed it into her bag. She flipped through the pictures underneath, things she'd done long ago, since the sketchbooks Wesker had given her had been destroyed along with the facility. She was sorry about that -- some of her best work had been done in those months of isolation, and now that she was free, she couldn't seem to find that artistic spark. She'd hoped that revisiting the university would inspire her, but instead she just felt... empty.
Her fingers slowed as she came across the sketch of Wesker she'd done so long ago. Some kind of emotion rolled in her chest -- fear or anger or pity, she didn't know what -- and she snapped the book closed, shutting her eyes against his hard, cold stare.
When she opened them again, a shadow had fallen over her. "You're in my light," she barked without looking up. The last thing she needed right now was to fend off some frat boy's clumsy passes.
"My apologies." The answering drawl hadn't lost one bit of sarcasm. She jerked around, almost giving herself whiplash, but by then he'd sunk silently to the ground beside her. She fumbled and pinched herself, refusing to believe that Albert Wesker was sitting beside her on the grass.
But it was him, right down to the stupid glasses. He wasn't looking at her, either, just staring ahead at the frisbee game, arms draped over his bent knees. From this angle, she could just see the gleam of red beneath his eyes.
Terror overwhelmed her, sudden and unwelcome. She moved to sprint, but his gloved hand clamped over her arm. "Please, Miss Redfield. If I'd wanted to hurt you, I'd have done it by now."
"You're not taking me again," she hissed, struggling against his grip. She wondered what she could do -- scream? Call for help? Please. Wesker would tear her saviors to pieces.
"No," he agreed, startling her. She stopped fighting and he released her at once, still not looking at her.
Rubbing her wrist, she eyed him hesitantly. "Then what are you doing here?"
His thin lips twisted in a smile. "Did you think me dead?"
"I hoped," she replied.
Finally he turned his head to glance at her, not needing to voice the word liar. "You'll be pleased to know that I salvaged my research from the facility. I even managed to save the computer hard drive -- and learn who'd given your friends the security access code."
"Who was it?" Claire whispered, knowing the answer full well, scarcely daring to breathe.
But he surprised her. "Yuki Hirakoshi is, I fear, no longer among us."
Who? "So you're back," she said to cover her bewilderment. "Why?"
"To declare a truce." He leaned back on his hands and smiled slightly at her confusion. "Why did you come back for me in the first base, Claire?"
She flushed. "I don't know. Stupidity, I suppose."
"Is that so? You don't strike me as a stupid woman."
"I let you manipulate me," she said slowly, hating herself even as she spoke the words. "That probably has something to do with it."
"I don't think so, dear heart." He shook his head and now he fixed her with the full force of his stare. She could feel it even through the glasses, and shifted uncomfortably. "We spent a long time together. I must confess, I've become rather fond of you. And I think you're not entirely without feelings toward me."
"Don't flatter yourself."
"Dear heart, there's no need for this nonsense. I'm not proposing we run away together, just stating a fact."
"So what are you saying?" she demanded, flustered and hating that he could discompose her so, hating the fact that he may be right. "Why did you come here, Wesker?"
"I told you. I want to declare a truce. You stay out of my life, and I'll stay out of yours." He reached out and tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. Without meaning to, she tipped her head toward his hand, and his palm briefly cupped her cheek. "In other words, dear heart, you don't have to keep looking over your shoulder. I won't come for you again."
"And my brother?"
"Will die," he said slowly. "Nothing has changed, not really. I don't want to hurt you, but if you cross me..."
He left the threat unspoken, and she shrugged, accepting it. "You know I'll stand behind Chris."
"Yes, always behind him. He never does let you take center stage. Now if you'd stayed with me..." He shook his head. "Regardless. I came, Claire, to say goodbye. If I see you again, I'll kill you. Don't make me. Live your life. Draw pictures. Be happy." He leaned forward and brushed his lips over hers, very softly, so softly she thought at first she'd imagined it. Her eyes drifted closed.
When she opened them, he was gone.
Raising her hand to her lips, Claire wondered what had just happened, if anything had just happened. Had Wesker really been there, or had she dreamed the whole thing? He'd threatened her -- that sounded like him -- and then he'd kissed her -- sort of. She stared at the spot where he'd been sitting, his words still echoing in her mind: if I see you again, I'll kill you. Live your life. Draw pictures. Be happy.
Slowly, she opened her sketchpad and began to draw.