AN: I maintain two separate versions of Leon and Claire in my head. Reading my other things Resident Evil-related on this site might explain a little more about the versions of the RE characters I focus on here. The other versions get focused on more over at Live Journal, in the leon(underscore)x(underscore)claire community and the 30(underscore)kisses community. The L/C community has a ton of my stuff on it—if you go back through about four pages of it, you should see it all.
Anyways. I just wanted people to be aware of the fact that I've got two separate interpretations of the characters. Kind of a 'what if' scenario. Heh. Also? If you read this and you're wondering about Leon's bastardized background, you should read Endgame on this site. It's another one of my RE fics here. All this aside, on to the story.
Leon was exceptionally good at getting around unnoticed. It was kind of strange; he wasn't exactly a very discreet kind of person. One would figure that a tall, blonde, preternaturally blue-eyed guy would stand out like a sore thumb; that people would notice him, but no one really ever did. One of Leon's many talents, his senior agents informed him, was his natural ability to either be the first thing someone noticed when they walked in a room or the face that one would never recognize in the crowd even if one tried. It was a talent that could be imitated, but not taught. Apparently it came to Leon naturally, whether or not he'd ever noticed or known it.
No one paid him any mind as he strolled down the hotel's hallway, his hands in his pockets, in no apparent hurry.
No one paid him any mind as he calmly pulled open the stairwell door—the fire alarm wires had been cut before by an assisting operative, long since gone. The man's only job in Turkey had been literally to show up at the hotel and cut the wires, then get himself out of the country and back to the States.
In the stairwell, since there was no one else around and no one else going to be around, Leon sped up. He moved down four flights of stairs quickly, quietly, reaching the ground floor. He went down one more to the parking garage, opening the door.
The gloves had been put on between the second and first floor.
Immediately Leon hung a left, walking at a pace that was definitely moving but not hurried. If anyone would have seen him, they might have assumed that he'd just left something in his car and was on his way to retrieve it, or that he was late for a dinner date. He was a master of nonchalance. This was not an inherent skill; this was a skill he'd worked hard to teach himself, to learn. He had not always been so collected.
Hanging another left, Leon walked along next to the row of cars, hands back in his pockets.
There was a man in front of him on his cell phone, speaking in Arabic. Leon only knew enough Arabic to get him by. He was by no means fluent. Leon moved along, following the man, but not following him.
The man turned between two cars, still talking on the phone. The SUV had extremely tinted windows, much to Leon's advantage. He didn't need the advantage, but it was nice. Made it easier for him. He ducked between two cars and dropped down low, moving to the front of the row of vehicles, running at a crouch.
The gun was out.
Two cars away from the SUV, Leon ducked between two cars again and popped out on the side of the row of cars he'd originally been on, the gun low at his side, his gait normal. The man was on his cell phone still, fishing between the seats for something.
Calmly, Leon walked up next to the vehicle, brought up the gun, and fired it. The breaking glass made a noise—not as loud of a noise as one would have expected—but the gun made virtually none, and neither did the man as he fell over dead on the passenger seat, the bullet having entered the lower back side of his brain somewhere.
Turning away, Leon began to walk away in the same standard pace he'd had for most of the way, the gun back in his coat, the gloves off. He didn't discard them. He didn't need to. He was not supposed to. If he was caught with them, well, then, tough shit. It was his fault for not being quieter, for not being better. No one was going to come to his aid, certainly, if he was caught—he was expected to die before he talked, and that's what would happen.
They would have nothing on him. He was just a faceless person. No one could threaten him with anything that would make him open his mouth.
His family would get a folded American flag and an apology. No explanation. Just forced closure. Most people wouldn't even get that; they'd hear it second-hand.
It was why Leon never screwed up. And it was why he never let himself think about anything until he was very far away and very safe.
"Y'know, I hate the New York Times."
Leon didn't look up from the paper he was reading, sitting at Heathrow Airport, waiting on his flight back to Washington DC. "I hate it too, but I hate your face more," he replied, nonchalantly. "The paper's a good shield."
"Don't hate me 'cause I'm ugly," Caravino said, sounding wounded. "Hate me because I'm a prick."
"It can't be both?" Leon asked, conversationally.
"Fuck you, Kennedy."
"Right back atcha."
"So, did any wires get crossed, or are we good?"
"We're good. Went down easy, like your mom."
"Went down easy and didn't leave a bitter taste, huh?" Caravino asked with a snicker. "Unlike your sister, huh."
Leon bristled imperceptibly at the comment; it was the same frat-boyish ribbing they all gave one another, but it hit a little close to home. He was on edge, his nerves a little frayed; Caravino had made an innocent comment. How was he to know that Leon's sister had been dead for years, senselessly killed in a car accident by a drug addict? How was Caravino—who knew nothing about Leon aside from his last name—to know that Leon's sister's death had put him onto this path in the first place, her senseless killing turning him to police work? How was Caravino to know that if not for Malloreigh's death, Leon would have been in Detroit still, working for the family business?
"Yep," Leon said, forcing his voice to be even and neutral. "Sweeter than screwing your wife last week."
"Fuck, you want her?" Caravino asked, giving a dry little laugh. "Take 'er. If I have to hear about building a new deck one more time I'm gonna sell her on eBay."
"Keep her," Leon said, detaching himself, careful not to let too much of himself show. He was an enigma to his fellow operatives, something he kind of liked. He could be friendly, but he could be a dick, too. He could switch between them flawlessly. And he always, always kept it impersonal. He didn't want them to know anything about him. He wanted them to know him as Kennedy, never as Leon. His fellow operatives coined two nicknames for Kennedy, depending upon what role he was playing on any given day: Dr. Jekyll, or Mr. Hyde. Kennedy didn't care about the nicknames. Leon did not like it one bit—it only served to remind him that he was probably fragmenting further and further into pieces that resembled less and less of who he really was. "You give her the deck, I'll give her the dick."
Keeping the two personalities separate kept him sane, and possibly human.
He suspected he was enabling himself. But then again, he didn't give them anything to go on otherwise, made no efforts to change their perceptions of him.
So they kept calling him Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, depending upon what position his Kennedy attitude was switched into on a particular day. Today, he was Hyde.
Leon would have considered someone a fucking prick for not defending their wife, for letting him say what he'd said with no defensive retort at all. Kennedy didn't care.
"See you Stateside, Hyde," Caravino said with a chortle, standing up and ambling away. After a few seconds, Leon let the paper drop a little and looked at Caravino's retreating back.
Kennedy saw a fellow agent, someone he needed to—and could—count on to help him get a job done, to back him up. Leon saw a guy he wanted to punch in the face, grab him by the collar and tell him to go home and tell his wife that he fucking loved her or else Leon was going to show up and break his knees with a baseball bat.
Sometimes, Leon wondered if the two personalities were crossing over.
Twenty-three successfully completed missions. More than some, less than others. Leon was good, but he wasn't necessarily the best. He didn't expect a little gold star next to his name. He didn't even expect a good job. Expecting it was asking for too much.
"How do you feel about running along with Danielson and Lewis in two weeks?" Hunnigan asked him, looking across her desk at him. Leon shrugged.
"They need me?"
"They might. If not, you'd just be sitting around in a hotel room in Minsk for three days. Consider it a vacation."
Leon shrugged again. "Yeah, sure. Sign me up. I don't even know where the hell Minsk is."
Hunnigan pushed her glasses up her nose and shuffled through some files on her desk, a corner of her mouth pulling up at him. "It's lovely this time of year." She tossed a file at him and leaned back in her chair. "I'm going to buy you an atlas for Christmas. You don't know where anything is."
"It isn't like I'm flying there myself," Leon said, taking the file. "You point, I go. I don't need to be the damn champion of the geography bee."
"And that's why I like you," she said, the corner of her mouth still pulled up. "You don't seem to have any problems in taking orders from a woman. If I could find one of you outside of this job, I'd be set."
Leon gave her the same lip quirk she was giving him. "You break my heart, Hunnigan. Don't you know I'd quit this job for you in a heartbeat?"
"Get out of my office before I send you back to STRATCOM with your tail between your legs," she said with curt amusement, turning back to the papers on her desk without giving him a second look.
Kennedy—and Leon—liked Hunnigan. She was fucking fierce and capable and she didn't take shit from anyone. He'd only seen her disordered twice, and it had been because he'd nearly gotten himself killed. It wasn't necessarily because she had any kind of concern for him as a person, but because as his home base liason, the person who fed him intel and kept him up to date in the field, it would look like absolute shit on her if he were to croak. It was a black mark on your record if your operative got himself killed. It was regarded as his (or her, there was one female operative) own fault, but it was also regarded as the liason's fault.
And only one of them was alive to catch the flak. So Ingrid Hunnigan had a vested interest in keeping him alive and on his toes—it was career suicide not to.
"Ark," Leon said into the phone, cradling it against his shoulder as he sat behind his desk.
Yes. Even field operatives had desks. Leon had a desk job.
"Leon. Still alive and kicking, I see," Ark said, conversationally. "How's the air up there?"
"Not bad." Leon turned back and forth in his chair some, staring into space. "How's the air down there?"
"Keeping your old chair warm ain't half bad," Ark said, snickering. "I think some of the guys around here miss you, though. Like Bruce."
"They only miss me because I was like, student of the week during the whole Umbrella thing." He grinned a little. "I was the best thing that ever happened to those bastards when I walked in and dropped some Umbrella science on them."
"I think they miss you because you're young enough to be a son to most of these guys," Ark said, still snickering. "So what's up? You never call me unless you need something or Claire's too busy to go drink a beer with you."
"You know me too well."
"And hate every second of it," Ark said cheerfully. "Lay it on me."
Leon held up the piece of paper in his other hand, looking at it. "I'm gonna give you an address," Leon said. "Grab some guys and head over there. Call the local PD and wave some government bullshit around and get a warrant for whatever the hell you want to."
"Kiddie porn?" Ark asked, and Leon could hear the grin on his face. "Man, I love dropping that one on people."
"Whatever makes you sleep easier at night," Leon said, allowing himself a smile. "I need something inside that house. I need you guys to turn the place upside down until you find it."
"Yes ma'am," Thompson said, and Leon wondered—still wondered—why Ark didn't just tell him to fuck off whenever he told him to do something, after what had happened the first time--Sheena Island. It was still weird for Leon to think of Ark as being in STRATCOM—good old STRATCOM, it seemed like it enjoyed gobbling up anyone and everyone who came into contact with Umbrella. "So gimme the address. I'll head over there now."
"Might take you a few days. It's in Yorba Linda, California."
"Aw, fuck me, Leon," Ark grumbled, sighing. "Figures. Figures I'd get to go from sea to shining sea on a damn errand."
"I'd do it myself if I existed as a government agent," Leon said, shrugging. "You think your gig's sweet, mine's sweeter. I just get to farm out all my dirty work to subordinate suits."
Ark laughed. "Bastard. Gimme the address and tell me what you need and you'll have it by Thursday."
Four days gone and he was home, feeling the same kind of momentary disorientation he felt every time he came back from a mission. He hadn't even been home yet, but it hadn't been so bad—not like he'd strenuously exerted himself in Turkey, or anything. He'd had a pretty decent meal, too. He hadn't even been gone long enough to be jet-lagged.
"Thank God for the small things," Leon mumbled to himself, looking in the mirror after his shower. "You son of a bitch." He blinked at his reflection.
Leon did not always necessarily like himself.
"Hey," Claire grinned at him, standing up from the table to give him a brief hug. "In one piece, I see. That's always good."
"I'm missing a toe," Leon said, his face even and serious. Claire looked up at him for a second, her face knowing and snide. "Claire, I'm not kidding."
In increments, her face sobered. "Jesus, are you serious?" she asked, looking at him in horror.
"About as serious as Ross Perot running for president," he said, grinning at her widely. She rolled her eyes and socked him in the arm, sliding back into the booth while shooting him a sour glare. "Gotcha."
Being with Claire made him feel human. He wondered, sometimes, if she would still consider him human if she'd seen some of the things he'd done, or how they'd gone down.
"You're a prick," she said, drinking from her beer. "I don't know why or how I still fall for your crap. One of these days you really are going to be missing a toe, and I'm going to laugh at you and stomp on your foot. Boy who cried wolf, you know."
"You'd stomp on my foot just to stomp on it," Leon said, looking at her in amusement.
"I might," she conceded, arching an eyebrow at him. "Someone has to, every once in a while, otherwise your ego," and here she made a giant space between her hands, "gets this big."
"It's nice to know you care," Leon said.
"Hey, someone's got to take an interest in you, right?" Claire said jovially, shrugging. "I feel personally responsible for your moral and developmental well-being. Without me, you'd be nowhere."
She had no idea how true she was. She had no idea.
"Didja bring me a souvenir?" Claire queried, wiggling her eyebrows. "I keep asking you for one of those nifty WMD things, and you keep forgetting."
"Settle for a free dinner," Leon said, pointing at her. "Those WMDs aren't all the fun they're cracked up to be. I was severely disappointed in mine. It got boring after five minutes."
Claire smirked at him. "I settle for free dinner only if I can order the most expensive thing on the menu."
Leon smiled back at her. She was adorable when she thought she was getting out on top. Claire didn't fuck around. She didn't wait around for what she wanted. She saw it, she took it. He'd seen her bully men twice her size into giving her what she wanted, giving her free license, and he loved her for it. She was about as real as they came. "Sure," he said.
She grabbed the menu and flipped it open, frowning. "Shit. Lobster. I hate lobster."
"You said the same thing," Leon said smugly, "last time we came here. You need to remember to ask for the most expensive liquor in the house next time, and not the most expensive thing on the menu."
"Well," she said with a haughty grin, "I've already had two beers. Imported beers. They're expensive."
"You're going to break me."
"That's the plan," Claire said, quirking her eyebrow and tapping her finger on the table. "Then it's on to the next fellow viral survivor sap who's going to buy me dinners."
Leon laughed at her, watching her tauntingly take a giant gulp of her beer. "That's what I miss about America, every time I leave," he said.
"What, surviving viral attacks?"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "The women."
Claire gave him an amused, tired little look, folding her arms over her chest. "If I didn't know any better," she commented dryly, "I'd say you're hitting on me, Leon Kennedy."
"I might be," he replied, looking back at her, raising his eyebrows questioningly. "Is it working?"
She laughed at him, looking down at the table and shaking her head slightly, like he was some kind of ill-behaved but beloved pet that she didn't know what to do with. "Ego," she said, smiling over at him, spreading her arms again, "this big."
"Success rate," he added, making a space between his thumb and his index finger, "this big."
Claire laughed at him again, rolling her eyes up to the ceiling, flicking a speck of something on the table at him. "Welcome home, you dork."
And Leon felt like he was home. He felt like Leon. Kennedy had no place here.