Going Through the Emotions
Aerika S.



There's a memorial service going on. A senator, I don't know which one and I don't really care either, is giving an impassioned eulogy to the deceased of Raccoon City. You can tell how much he cares by the way he's outstretched his arms like he wants to give all those corpses a great, big hug. He's using the words "heroes" and "noble" a lot too. Somewhere out there, a speech writer's feeling really good about himself. I'm just wondering what's so damn heroic about getting slain like cattle.

The senator's one of a dozen or so government people here; they wanted to make a good showing today. I guess dropping on nuke on a city calls for a full court public relations press. It doesn't matter that Raccoon City's citizens are better off this way. There are things a whole hell of a lot worse than being dead.

Mr. Senator's starting to conclude. He's saying something about how the people were victims of a "tragic, unforeseeable accident," and that we should remember their sacrifice, blah, blah, blah…

Chris lets out a short snort of derision at the tragic accident part. It looks like I'm not the only one being cynical and jaded about all this. Leon says nothing. He hasn't said anything since we got here.

We're standing at the periphery of a fairly large crowd. Family and friends of those who lived and died in Raccoon City have gathered today at the remains of said city for the six-month anniversary of the Big Bomb. Six-months because they had to wait for the radiation to clear. Well, the radiation and all the campaign contribution checks from Umbrella. There actually was a government investigation into the "incident." It lasted a whole four months and while Umbrella's name did come up a few times, it was only as the owner of over half the town. The official explanation was some vague bullshit about research on deadly viruses at the hospital and somebody not following safety protocols closely enough. Like Mr. Senator said, it was just a tragic, unforeseeable accident. Amazing how easily lives are sold out.

I notice Leon's looking around pretty intently at the crowd. I know he's checking to see if any Umbrella agents have decided to come join in on the mourning. That's one of the reasons he and Chris didn't want to come. Umbrella knows who we are and the sunglasses we're wearing wouldn't even fool Lois Lane. Still, when I heard about the service, something inside started pulling at me. I had to come. I had to come but I didn't want to come alone. Jill refused, but my brother and Leon agreed. I need to deal with some things, and not just to what happened here. Memorial services are supposed to be good catharses. This one seems to be working for those gathered. Pity it isn't doing anything for me.

Chris and Leon start heading back to the van as soon as the speech is over. They've wanted to leave before we got here. They're only here because I insisted anyway. I hate to admit it, but I've become rather dependent on the two of them since getting back from the Antarctic. I used to pride myself on being the free spirited wild child who was the first try anything and everything. Now I get nervous after being left alone for just a few minutes. When you lose someone, it makes sense to cling on to the people you still have left.

There, I thought about him. My whole reason for coming here and I've been doing everything I could to not think about him. It's not as if Steve was the great love of my life and I had planned this great two kids and white picket fence fantasy future with him. Honestly, I thought he was a nice guy with some potential, but not much beyond that. He felt a little differently though. I should have seen it. After his father died, he become so protective of me, but I just didn't realize why. Like I said, you cling on to what you have left. That's all I thought it was.

How was I supposed to know a teenaged boy that I had only known for a night would come to love me so much, that even as a monster warped beyond all humanity, he would give his life to save mine?
How could I fail to notice something that strong? He loved me and I thought he just had a horny little crush on me.

And that's what's really been tearing at me. Yeah, I feel the loss, but a part of me thinks I should be feeling it more. I miss Steve. I wish he was still alive, but it's the same wish I have for everybody else that died because of Umbrella. Maybe I'm just being stupid. Why should I feel guilty for not feeling the same way he did? Because he died for me?

Yeah, because he died for me…

It's called survivor's guilt. You're dead. I'm alive. I feel kinda bad about that. That's simplifying it, but at this point in my life, I'm craving simplicity. Get up in the morning, have breakfast, go to class. No zombies, no evil mega-corporation sending undead versions of the Terminator after me, nothing. Just a nice, normal life. To think I was actually bored with college before I went to Raccoon City. Now I would give anything to be back in a cramped dorm room, talking about guys and bitching about finals. Instead, I'm stuck in cramped hotel rooms talking about guns and bitching about Umbrella.

I shouldn't complain though. I chose this path. I could have walked away, changed my identify, tried to hide. Chris has connections from his time in S.T.A.R.S.; he could have set it up. He wanted to set it up. But I couldn't do it. When he told me about it, I gave him my standard "I'm not a little girl who needs her big brother watching her every move" speech. He didn't like hearing it, but he respected it. He knew what I had been through and he knew I had the strength to go through it again if I had to. I think it was the first time he ever saw me as an equal and not just his baby sister. I think that's also when I realized how much I really do love my brother.

"Hey, you okay back there?" I snap out of my reverie. We're almost back to hotel already. Last thing I remembered was crawling into the back seat of the van while Chris and Leon decided who was driving.

"Earth to Claire, you still with us?" Chris has turned around and is looking at me, concern on his face. He always could sense when I was feeling depressed. I don't want him getting worried though so I tell him I just feel tired. He's not satisfied, but after I yell at him to keep his eyes on the road, he lets it go.

But Leon picks up where he left off. "You sure you're okay? That service must have hit you pretty hard."

"You where there too."

"Yeah, but I didn't go through all the crap you did on that island and the Antarctic."

"That was three months ago."

"Sorry, I didn't know there was a time limit on grieving."

"I'm not…" I'm not sure how to answer him. How did he know I was thinking about Steve? "I'm fine, okay. I went through some very nasty experiences, but then I attended the nice service with the nice Senator making his nice speech and now I'm fine."

My sarcasm doesn't impress him. If I want to get him of my back, I'll have to use the heavy artillery. "Look Leon, you dealt with the whole Ada thing, why can't you believe I've dealt with what happened to Steve?"

"That's different, Claire. Ada was a spy for god only knows who that lied to me more times than I care to count. Steve was your friend. He cared about you."

"Ada said she cared about you."

"Please reference the lying portion of my previous statement. And if you're so damn fine, Claire, why are you throwing Ada in my face instead of talking about Steve?"

I can see the smile on Chris's face in the rear view mirror. Leon's got me there and we all know it. "Okay, score one for Leon. I'm being defensive."

"And still evasive." I kick the back of Chris's chair to show him my response.

Leon persists. "We're just worried about you. Yeah, it was three months ago, but how many times in that three months have you actually talked to someone about what happened? And I'm not talking about giving a recap of events."

He lets it drop at that. He knows he's pushed me enough. He knows I'll talk only when I want to. Leon's gotten to know me pretty well over the past few months and despite the occasional prying into my emotions, I'm glad for it. Actually, I'm pretty glad about the prying into the emotions too. It's nice to be reminded I still have them.

***

Jill was waiting for us when we got back to the hotel. Even though she hadn't gone to the service, it was obvious it had been heavy on her mind. She asked us how it was out of polite habit but didn't look at any of us when we gave our polite responses.

She and Chris went out for dinner a few minutes ago, leaving me and Leon to fend for ourselves. We're debating between Taco Bell and pizza when the new comes on. Of course they're talking about the service at Raccoon City. I lose interest in dinner as they show pictures of the crowd. Underneath their faces, they have captions identifying who they are. Mother of a victim. Sister of a victim. Son of a victim. Some poor bastard's caption says he lost his whole family. The sense of loss is tangible, even on television.

Leon forgets about dinner too. He sits down on the bed beside me and puts his arm around me for comfort. Earlier today, I would've shoved his arm off or gotten up. Whatever I thought would make me look stronger and more in control of my emotions. But looking at those faces, seeing their grief, I feel that pull in the pit of my stomach again. And this time I know it's not going to go away until I let it out. All of the anger and all of the pain just churning inside me, growing colder and harder and taking me with it. I'm tired of fighting it. I'm tired of pretending I went through hell and I have the right to cry, to scream, to throw things against the wall, to do whatever the hell I need to do to work through this. I have the right to be glad that I'm alive when others are not. I have the right.

So I let go. The pull becomes a push as everything starts flowing out of me in choking sobs of grief and anguish. The television blurs under the wave of tears, but I can still see the faces of my fellow mourners clearly in my mind. They'll always be there. And I realize that remembrance isn't necessarily a bad thing…

I'm still crying when the news moves on to the weather. Leon turns off the TV and holds me closer. I put my head on his shoulder and we just sit there for awhile. He doesn't say anything; he doesn't expect me to say anything. I don't think I could say what I'm feeling right now anyway. Six months' worth of emotions packed into a few minutes time is hard to express.

Time passes and I hear the couple in the room next door return. First thing, they turn on their TV. The news is over and a Friends rerun is coming on. I hear the claps of the theme song and the lyrics. "I'll be there for you, because you're there for me too." I'll be there for you… God, I can't believe I'm finding poignancy in such a cloying little pop song. As the irony hits me, so does the laughter. Leon gives me the strangest look and I start laughing harder.

I try to explain, but that somehow makes it even funnier. "I'm sorry, it's just that stupid song…and I was crying…and the claps…"

"It's okay, Claire. It happens to the best of us."

***

I wake up to find Chris and Jill staring at me. Jill's got an amused smile on her face; Chris's expression is…not so amused. I look to discover Leon's sleeping beside me on the bed with his arm around my waist.

"Oh, god. It's not what you think. We were just talking and I guess we fell asleep."

"So it was a boring talk, right?" Chris still has that same expression, but the light in his eyes tell me he's teasing.

"Oh, yeah. Except for graphic sex parts. They were pretty intense."

He can't keep the straight face. He lets out a loud laugh and Jill smacks him across his back. "Be quiet. You'll wake up Leon. And after your sister tired him out too."

He doesn't stop, of course, and it doesn't take long for Jill and me to join him.

"It's good to hear you laugh, little sister. I haven't heard that for awhile."

"Um, that's probably because I haven't."

"You're okay." He says it as a question.

"Yeah, I'm okay." I say it as a fact.

***

Author's Note: This was my first fan fic - cranked out in an afternoon and originally loaded with the spelling errors to prove it. (Um, if any are still there, kindly ignore them. I have no editor and sometimes, it really, really shows). I was never quite happy with it, but put off editing it to do other things. I finally forced myself to just sit down and fix the damn thing. This story's been posted for so long, I doubt anyone's going to notice, but hell, I'm happy with the changes and ultimately, I'm the only one I write for. But if you're reading this and want to sing my praises, I surely will not stop you.