The hot, humid nights at the end of July were always the worst. The windows were wide open, but the light breeze barely moved the curtains, letting in air more hot than cool, doing more harm than good. But he couldn't bear to close them, the stifling claustrophobia of a sealed room more uncomfortable than any suffocating heat. He had spent too many years on the run, hiding out in cramped, stuffy little rooms with no air-circulation, barely able to breathe with the stink of sweating, unwashed human flesh. Now he kept at least one window open whenever possible, never knowing when he'd be cut off from fresh air again.
No, it wasn't the heat that kept Chris Redfield awake, nor was it the gorgeous woman curled up naked beside him, her face next to his on the pillow and one arm slung haphazardly over his chest.
Sometimes he forgot how breathtaking she was; all the little details that made her stand out blurring together after so much time.
The way she bit one side of her lip when she was nervous. The way she could kill a man 50 ways with nothing but her bare hands and a paperclip. The way she walked, heads above everyone else in the room. The way her hair curled against the nape of her neck. The way she didn't even have to raise her voice to instill fear in the hearts of men. The way she would smile at him across a room, but only when she thought no one was looking.
He would forget, and then it would all come back to him in one burning rush, like an electric shock.
It had taken a long time, too long a time, for them to get to a place in their lives where they could finally sit down and admit what they had together. It would have been too messy an ordeal while they were both on S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team; too many politics, and Wesker had made his distaste for relationships between officers more than evident. And then after, with the world on the brink of collapse, living on the run, squatting in every little shit-hole known to man while Umbrella tightened their death grip - it had hardly been time to set up house.
Umbrella. Their abominations had kept him up far too many nights in the first few months after the Spencer Mansion incident, and then again after Rockfort and Antarctica. Horribly mutated creatures had chased him down endless, winding corridors, their infected breath hot on his neck as his fingers fumbled over every inane little puzzle. Eventually he had just stopped dreaming all together, the clammy night-sweats fading into a dark, restful sleep.
The reason he was still awake, a fan methodically moving hot air over both of their sweating forms, the sheets bunched at the foot of the bed, was, oddly enough, Barry Burton's wife.
Ever since Leon Kennedy had limped back from Spain almost a year ago with news that Umbrella was back their lives had been put through the meatgrinder –again. They – the former S.T.A.R.S. as well as Claire and Leon – spent hours each day trying to dig up any lead on Wesker's new nightmare, all the while still valiantly trying to maintain the thin venir of routine on their so-called Normal Lives.
But Wesker had learned from the mistakes of the old heads of Umbrella, and almost twelve months of frantic searching had produced next to nothing. Judging on what Leon had been able to tell them about what had happened in Spain, and Wesker's interest in it, they were quickly running out of time, if they hadn't already.
Chris had phoned Barry earlier in the evening to give him the latest dismal report on the most recent batch of dead-ends they had turned up. Barry's wife, Kathy, who had been like a surrogate mother to Chris and his sister ever since they had been introduced, had answered.
"You're going to run yourself ragged if you don't start taking it easy," she had scolded, "you're only human you know."
He was only human, and that was the problem. No matter what they did, Wesker was always ten steps ahead of them and larger than life. It was like they were all still stuck at the Spencer Estate, following the trail of breadcrumbs right into the Tyrant's lair. Chris couldn't shake the feeling that Wesker still had a hand in every meager lead they managed to find, still manipulating them for his own pleasure, the way it always had been.
And even if they could catch up to him, what would they do with him? Their last face-to-face in Antarctica had been like dueling with a semi-truck. Wesker was impossibly fast, and sickeningly strong, the side-effects of the infection only bolstering what had already been an impressive array of talents. That load of iron bars should have crushed him; the falling debris should have seared off half of his face, but instead he'd laughed. Laughed. Chris had been lucky that day, but he wouldn't be again, and he couldn't afford to rely on that kind of luck any more.
Jill shifted beside him, murmuring sleepily for him to get some rest before tucking her head more securely under his chin. He pulled her closer, feeling her warm breath against his chest, and closed his eyes. Wesker would still be around to deal with tomorrow – he always was.