Disclaimer: I do not own Resident Evil in any of its forms, be it game, book, or movie. All recognizable characters are the property of Capcom. All unrecognizable ones are the intellectual property of yours truly; their theft is punishable by severe voodoo-induced pain in any and all sensitive organs of the body, followed by eternal damnation.
Because, you know, stealing is wrong.
Summary: She was perpetually aware of the too-sweet scent of almonds, though perhaps 'scent' was the wrong word. It was a taste as well, and she did not need to breathe to be aware of it. The scent of infection. Movie fic. Set before and during Extinction. AliceCarlos
Warnings: mild cursing, mild gore, character death, and spoilers for Resident Evil: Extinction
Author Notes: I have not played the game, because strange as it is, playing the games scares the absolute bejeezus out of me, but I adore all three movies. Go figure. So, I do understand that a) Alice does not exist in the games and b) Carlos was a much-different character in the games, but in the movies, they had chemistry. To be frank, RE:E is the first movie in a long time with a kissing scene that did not send me into convulsions of disgust.
Which is... odd. Again, go figure.
REVISED! I went to see the movie again and noticed several little inconsistencies in Bittersweet, so here we have the new and improved version. Little bits here and there have been tweaked, the final flashback and ending scene were both revised, and a couple grammar boo-boos were cleaned up. Enjoy!
Alice: She's infected. She's infected on a massive level.
Jill: How can you tell?
Angela: Because she is, too.
- Resident Evil: Apocalypse
The world was made of fire and ash, cleansing fire that purified the air of the cloying taint of that smell, a maelstrom that echoed the storm swirling and surging within her skull, pressure and power and pain.
The fire and wind faded, ash drifting down like tainted snow, but the churning within her head merely grew stronger still until it felt as though skin would tear and bone splinter and cartilage crumble beneath the onslaught. She stumbled, swaying, feet finding no purchase upon the desert sand, and she fell.
Then there was warmth and pressure around her shoulders, and someone was holding her. Soft puffs of breath stirred her hair, and she was pressed with bruising force against a broad chest, her ears filled with the throb of a heartbeat so familiar that her own heart stuttered and twisted with recognition, and beneath the storm raging within her head, in a small place of calm, voices whispered and chanted:
You, it's you, you're here, alive, here, safe, it's you, you, you, you...
She was not certain that it was all her own thoughts, and as she fell beyond where the storm could reach, she could not bring herself to care.
She dreamed of cold metal tunnels buried deep in the earth, of a blue eye trapped in a face of twisted, mutated flesh, of air filled with the scents of rotting meat and death and the too-familiar sickly sweet odor of infection, of frightened eyes crying tears of blood, and she came awake choking on a silent scream.
"Hey, hey." Gentle pressure on her shoulders held her down, warm hands that squeezed lightly, waiting until her movements stilled before easing away. "Calm down. You'll wake the little one."
Her head pounded in time with her heart, pulse throbbing painfully in her temples. She panted, blinking rapidly as the shadowy blur above her resolved into a stained ceiling. A dark-haired man leaned over her, eyes narrowed, lips pinched in a thoughtful frown.
She swallowed around a tongue that seemed three sizes too large for her mouth. She managed a hoarse grunt, swallowing again, and coughed against the ache in her throat.
Another voice came from somewhere beyond her range of vision. "Hey, man, she awake?"
"I'm not sure. Alice? Can you hear me?"
I know you.
Police? No. S.T.A.R.S.
"Krrr-los," she said, frowning when the word emerged as a muddled parody of what she had intended.
"Hah!" The frown vanished from the man's face, replaced by a boyish grin. "Stubborn woman. You would choose to wake up at three in the morning, wouldn't you?"
She moved clumsily, hands exploring the plush surface beneath her: sheets and something thicker and velvety—a comforter? The air was stuffy and stale, smelling of age and mold. She turned her head, taking in the peeling wallpaper and a nightstand marred by water-rings and small bits of graffiti. Carlos half-sat, half-leaned upon the edge of the bed, watching her solemnly. Beyond him in the doorway, she could see the whip-thin figure of another man. Her mind was clearer, working more at its normal speed, and it provided the name with much more ease: L.J.
He waved. "Welcome back, sleepin' beauty."
Carlos leaned in again. "Do you remember what happened?"
"Raccoon," she said, voice hoarse but words coming easier. "Umbrella." Her eyesight blurred, and she blinked back tears. "Nemesis."
L.J. muttered something and scoffed. Carlos nodded. "And after?"
My name is Alice.
... and I remember everything.
"Doctors. A laboratory." She squinted up at the ceiling. "... headache."
She nodded, closing her eyes.
"I got it, man," said L.J. "There's some aspirin and stuff in the med kit Jill lifted."
Soft steps faded away, and she listened to the soft rushing of Carlos' breath.
"How long?" she asked.
"Since we found you?"
She nodded again, faintly so as to not aggravate the ache building in her skull.
"Nearly a week."
Her breath left her in a rush, and she stared up at him. "What?"
"Whatever they did, it... ah, I believe 'knocked you loopy' is the phrase Jill used."
"We were starting to worry." He paused. "It's good to have you back."
"Wandering? You go missing for years, and all you can say is that you've been 'wandering'?"
Alice laughed softly, enjoying the shade provided by the remodeled school bus. "Just like you, probably. Searching for survivors, hunting supplies."
She glanced at him out of the corner of one eye. His shoulders were tensed, slightly hunched, mouth pinched in a frown.
"Yes," she admitted.
"We would have protected you."
"There are some things you can't protect me from."
His frown deepened for a moment, and she thought he would pursue the argument, but he released his breath in a long sigh and smiled lopsidedly.
"You could have protected us," he said wryly.
That's what I was doing.
"You seem to have managed well enough. Found a new pack to run with." She looked out over the ruins of the hotel. One of the refugees, dirt-smudged and hunch-shouldered, was making his way over to the hummer, carrying a sack of some sort. The man caught sight of her, and his eyes widened enough that she could see the whites around his irises even at this distance. He nearly ran the rest of the way to his destination, disappearing behind the vehicle, and she sighed softly. "Skittish though they may be," she added.
"Fear and awe are close brothers," said Carlos.
"I don't want either."
"As much as supernatural powers may stun everyone else," he said, "I, for one, am exceedingly grateful that you were able to do what you did. K-mart, too, I'm sure."
"K-mart," she muttered, remembering the blonde-haired girl –the first refugee she had met who bothered to scavenge mascara and eyeliner. I will never get used to that name.
"She likes you," he said. "A bit of hero-worship there, I think."
"She likes everyone," countered Alice, and then she added without thinking, "Except Jared, but his jokes would annoy a saint."
"I didn't know you'd met him," said Carlos, chuckling.
She stared down at the sand and felt cold despite the desert heat. "I haven't," she said.
She felt more than saw as he looked toward her, and she could feel his concern, almost taste it, the way she could detect the sickly-sweet scent/taste of infected flesh.
"Alice...?" he prompted.
"I'm changing," she said, feeling as though it were a confession of some dark secret. "I don't know what they did to me, but I'm changing more and more."
There was silence then, but not uncomfortable, not around him. He shifted nearer to her, leaning close.
"It will be okay," he said.
Their shoulders brushed together, and she looked at him. His eyes, normally so dark, caught the light reflected upon the sand and glowed a rich brown. She caught herself tracing the shape of his mouth with her eyes, and she wanted...
She pulled away, tugging her hood back into place. "I'm going to... I need to see something," she stammered, and she fled.
"There are rules."
Her hands paused in the middle of folding one of the short black skirts that were Jill Valentine's standard garb, warmth seeping into her hands from the soft fabric. Laundry: such a mundane thing in the midst of a world gone mad, but it was still a necessity. She glanced over at the young girl curled upon the bed, at the angry red flower-mark blooming upon the pale arm, one among a garden of pale scars, and tucked the skirt into a perfect square, setting it atop the small pile of folded clothing beside her on the floor.
As always when she was near the young girl, she was perpetually aware of the too-sweet scent of almonds, though perhaps 'scent' was the wrong word. It was a taste as well, and she did not need to breathe to be aware of it. The scent of infection.
Somber eyes, far too old to be set in such a young face, regarded her steadily. "There are rules that Daddy taught me, before..." The girl pressed her face toward the pillow for a moment, expression unbearably sad. "You should know them. You need to know them."
"What sort of rules?" She picked up the next article of dryer-warmed cloth –a well-worn black t-shirt. Black, black, and black. Does he ever wear anything else? she thought with a small smile.
"You can't love him."
Heart quickening in her chest, she looked toward the girl once more, eyes wide. "What?"
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I know... You look at him the way my daddy looks at pictures of mum." A sad smile crossed the young face. "Sappy and happy."
"What are you talking about?"
"It's a dangerous gift I give you, and I'm sorry." The pleasantly accented voice fell into a steady lilt, as though repeating a speech well-remembered. Too-old eyes fell half-closed, blinking sleepily. "You can walk, yes, and play among other children, and you cannot know how happy that makes me, but you must be careful... so careful."
Alice stared, a shudder twining down her spine.
"You are infected." The words seemed nearly obscene, spoken by that quiet, lyrical voice. "Your cure is a disease, and you cannot forget that. A virus, terrifying in its own right, and you are a carrier. It is in your saliva, in your blood, and you can pass it to another in many ways. If you are hurt, you must tend to it yourself. Do not share drinks or food with other people. You will never kiss another human the way you see adults do, and there are other ways as well." The mouth curled into a sleepy smile. "But those I will tell you when you are older."
The black fabric slithered from her trembling fingers, puddling upon the ugly motel carpet, and she sat frozen there, watching the young girl sleep.
The man shook the metal can beside his ear and grinned knowingly at the girl at the head of the line. "Creamed corn for you, sweetheart," he said, and she took it with a smile and a soft 'thank you.'
Alice stepped up, face impassive as the man's eyebrows leapt for his hairline and his hand fumbled in reaching for the next can.
"O-oh," he said. His hand trembled as he lifted a can to his ear and shook it. "Carrots... no, erm, pineapple. I think?"
She looked at the can, frowning. "Anything not sweet?" she asked.
"Sure, sure, just a sec," he said, quickly reaching for and grabbing two more cans and shaking them. "B-beanie weanies? Or... ah, asparagus?"
"Asparagus." She took the proffered can. "Thank you."
Carlos was seated a short distance away, grinning, his own can of food opened and his knife dangling from his hand.
"You're scary," he teased, and she kicked a light spray of sand toward his legs.
"Skittish," she replied and took a seat upon the ground. The sun was setting, and the sand was merely a pleasant warmth beneath her. The air was filled with the pleasant mutter of many people talking, moving, breathing, living... It was a rarity for her, something to bask in. She eyed the can and was reaching for her own knife to open it when it was plucked from her fingers.
"Here," said Carlos, and he used his own knife to neatly slice off the top of the can and flick the little circle of metal to one side. "Watch the edge, though. One of the kids lost the tip of his tongue to one of these."
Alice accepted the can (She saw that it truly was asparagus.) and grimaced. "Noted," she said. "Which one is he?"
"Sammy. Well, you know kids. They called him Thammy after that. We... lost him about a week back."
"I'm sorry," she said.
"Good kid," he said, shaking off the moment of melancholy. "Reminded me of my nephew, actually."
She pinched the end of one of the green stalks between her fingers and pulled it from the can, letting the liquid drip back into the container. Water in any form was a precious thing. "You had family... before?" she asked.
"There's always a 'before,'" he replied, using his knife to scoop up little bits of brown paste that she suspected were refried beans. "But yeah. Big family. Maddeningly big. Like a rabbit warren."
"What about you?" He paused in scraping the insides of the can and looked toward her, mouth set in a curious frown. "What's your before?"
"I have no before."
"Come on. You were born, you grew up. Surely there are some details that go with that."
Her stomach lurched uncomfortably. She shook her head and wondered if there was anyone who would want the asparagus now that she had touched it. She certainly was not hungry anymore.
"There might have been, once. Not anymore. Everything is Umbrella. Past... present... future."
The final vial of antivirus gleamed coldly within the padded case, little empty slots surrounding it as a testament of lost time. Alice felt her stomach twist and plummet as Angela lifted the vial and loaded it into the hypodermic gun with the quiet ease taught through experience.
"Does Jill know?" she asked, gesturing at the empty case.
"She doesn't want to know." Angela tilted the gun this way and that, watching the light play along the emerald double-helix cradled within the layers of glass and metal. "I... I'm selfish, I suppose."
Alice stiffened, horrified. "What?"
"Very selfish," repeated the girl. "This is the last we have of the antivirus, and the virus is spreading, gaining ground... but... I don't want..."
"It's not selfish." She was surprised at the vehemence of her voice. "Wanting to live. It's not selfish, or evil, or anything else you might be thinking."
"You'll need it later."
"You need it now."
"What if someone else is infected?"
Alice rose and crossed over to kneel before the young girl. She lifted the gun from Angela's unresisting fingers and pressed the muzzle against the scarred skin of a pale forearm. She pulled the trigger, watching the green liquid spiral down the vial and out of sight, a soft hiss of breath as the only sign that the girl felt any pain. A new flower-mark bloomed an angry red at the injection site, and she covered it lightly with her own hand, looking into those too-old eyes.
"We'll deal with that when the time comes."
She wanted to fight. She wanted to scream, to bring the infected corpses back to life just so that she could release her rage upon something, so she could reach for the painful pleasure of the force within her mind and let it loose until even these pitiful city ruins were nothing more than new sand to scatter upon the desert.
Because she could smell it. Like wilting flowers or rotting fruit or the too-sweet taste of almond that people used in cake icing, the scent of infection caught in her throat and choked her, and the scent did not come from enemies. L.J. lay upon sand stained brown with his own blood, face twisted from the madness of the virus, and she wanted to kill.
She should have known. She had caught the faint scent of cloying sweetness upon the air, but she never suspected...
How could I not know?
She balled her hands into fists and bit back the scream of anguish/agony/rage that fought to be released.
He had avoided her.
He knew. He knew I would sense it, and he...
"L.J., you selfish—" She bit her tongue hard enough to draw blood, muscles down her arms and back coiling and tensing. I'm sorry. L.J., I'm so, so sorry...
She shuddered, fingernails biting into her palms, and she turned, seeing her own misery reflected upon Carlos' face. He looked down at the body.
"Do you think he'd forgive me?" he asked.
She stiffened. "You...?" she breathed.
"He was going to kill K-mart," said the man. "What other choice was there?"
The question did not sound rhetorical; it was as though he truly did want to know if there were another way.
"We... we all agreed," she said quietly. "Death is kinder. Jill understood that."
"Hmm," he said. He looked at the body for several more moments before nodding to her once and walking past, presumably to speak with Claire.
The air shifted and swirled with his passing, tainted with the sweet scent of infection, and she felt her stomach twist. There was a bandage upon his arm, and she knew.
No one acknowledged the pale tint of Angela's skin, the circles beneath her eyes. Whatever treats they found, chocolate or candy or fruit, were wordlessly granted to the young girl, presented with fond, pained smiles and words of reassurance. 'It will be alright.' 'We'll figure it out.'
Alice awoke to the sound of gunfire, three shots back-to-back, and she was outside and running for Jill and Angela's room with no memory or exiting the motel or even getting up, her own gun a reassuring weight in her hand, and she cursed herself.
Why, why, why didn't we share a room? she thought furiously.
The men were outside, God knew where, scavenging supplies. Why had they split up? Complacency would get them all killed.
She slammed into the closed door shoulder-first without bothering to check the lock, and the wood around the latch splintered and flew apart. A small lamp cast a pale glow over the small room, and her eyes, followed by the muzzle of her gun, sought out the two figures crumpled upon the floor.
Jill looked up at her, movements slow and stiff, face speckled with dark liquid and wet with tears, eyes haunted. Her gun lay on the floor, her hand clamped tightly over her forearm, thick rivulets of blood pressing through her fingers to dribble upon the carpet.
The tiny body of a girl, clad in a simple cotton nightgown that had once been white, lay beside the dark-haired woman, eyes glazed with death, mouth stained with red.
A low guttural moan came from the injured woman. "God dammit," she cursed, the words coming nearly as sobs. "God dammit. Damn Umbrella. Damn viruses and scientists and everything to do with them. Damn Umbrella to hell."
"Jill." Alice dropped to her knees beside the other woman, reaching out to touch one trembling shoulder but pulling back, uncertain.
Jill gasped, breath hissing through her teeth, and doubled over, fingers white and tense where they gripped her arm. The rippling beneath her skin was spreading, and Alice stared in horror.
"She's like you," said Jill. "Different. I always said she was special." She grunted and shivered, hand clenching upon the wound. "Dammit," she whispered again.
The air was thick with the sickly-sweet scent.
Alice rose, trembling, uncertain. "I'll... get the others."
"Yeah, make a party out of it," snapped the other woman.
"We'll figure something out!" Her fists clenched and unclenched at her sides. "There are other laboratories. We'll find something."
Jill said nothing, the harsh sound of her breath the only sound within the room. Alice's lips pinched together grimly.
"I'll get the med kit," she said.
Jill scoffed but did not answer.
"We'll figure something out," Alice repeated determinedly. She turned, leaving the room at a jog, thoughts of green liquid and old eyes in a young face haunting her.
From behind her, one last shot shattered the night.
Carlos and L.J. found her seated outside the open doorway, arms wrapped around her knees and cheeks wet with tears.
"Alice?" Carlos crouched beside her, touching her shoulder lightly, and she shook her head, throat so tight that she was amazed she could still breathe. She opened her mouth, but no sound emerged. He stared down at her, brows drawn together in a fierce frown, and he rose and walked past her, gun in hand. There was silence.
L.J. stared into the doorway but made no move to enter the room. "What happened?"
She swallowed thickly. "A-Angie... turned."
His eyes closed. "Shit."
Carlos emerged from the room, pale and grim-faced.
"Are they...?" asked L.J.
"Dead," he said flatly, and Alice felt new trails of warmth creep down her cheeks.
"Fast," he said, "and painless. If it were me, it's what I would want, too."
L.J. nodded, the movement quick and jerky. Carlos stared out at the pale gray of the coming dawn and swallowed.
"We have to bury them," he said. "I'm not leaving them in there."
L.J. nodded again. "Yeah." He seemed to come back to himself. "Yeah," he repeated, voice gaining strength. "I saw a storage closet near the office. I'll see if I can find..."
He shook his head and left, sentence unfinished.
A hand touched her shoulder lightly, just the faintest brush of contact.
"I'll be right back," he said. She did not remember replying in any way, but he was gone moments later.
Fast and painless.
... if it were me...
"Please, no," she whispered. "No. Don't let it come to that. Please..."
He's going to die.
Claire and K-mart were crying, and it was clear to see the impact that he had made upon the group of refugees. He had found a new family in a world where families were shattered, miserable things, memories to fill one with the haunted longing for the days of Before. Before Umbrella. Before the virus. Before the world went mad.
Then it was her turn. Her turn to say 'goodbye.'
"Just promise me one thing," he said. "When you get down there..."
Goodbye. There would be no Alaska, no time 'after.' There was just now.
A surge of something flowed through her, fierce and undeniable, and she nodded grimly. "Consider it done."
He's going to die.
So she kissed him.
She clung to him, felt the solid warmth of muscle beneath her palms and the pain-pleasure of knife and guns and belt digging into her skin, the pressure of thighs against thighs, chest against chest, heartbeats and breaths mingling. She smelled the sweat and leather and metal and the faint taint of cigarette smoke that made up his scent, small details pulling together into a single moment.
Rules be damned.
Then it was broken, and he smiled down at her, that little grin that always brought an answering smile to her face.
And as she watched him walk away, she tried not to think of the cloying sweetness of almonds that lingered upon her lips.