Title: For Want of Other Idleness
Fandom: Resident Evil Extinction
Disclaimer: Not mine. Don't sue.
A/N: Set in the Extinction movie-verse. Feedback is super appreciated. In fact, I'll trade my first born for feedback. And by the way, yes, I am a smoker. And yes, this is potentially the first part of a series. Go me.
There was only one thing in the world Claire Redfield wanted more than a cigarette.
And she wanted a cigarette bad.
She knew exactly how it would feel when she would take that first heavy drag and held it, how the smoke would curl in her lungs, aching to be exhaled. She knew how that first rush of nicotine would feel when it hit her blood like a silent scream coursing through her veins. She knew that after the first several drags of the cigarette, how her head would feel light, almost airy after such a long period of denial.
Her hands would instinctually know how to behave, the actions ingrained in the memory of her muscles. Her lips would press around the filter of the cigarette, the fingers of her left hand cupped just slightly around the opposite end. Her thumb would effortlessly fall into the well-practiced motion of flicking the wheel of her lighter, once maybe twice before she would hold the thick of the flame to the tip of the cigarette and inhale until the paper singed to lifeless ash and the tobacco glowed embers of livid orange red.
Once lit, she would inhale and take the cigarette away from her lips with her left hand as she began the first tremulous exhalation. The cigarette would fall between the first joint of her middle and index fingers, right where the filter met paper. Her hand would raise to her lips automatically, as soon as she finished one exhalation she would start the next, breathing in the acrid taste of nicotine and tar deep into the bottom of her lungs.
Claire preferred full flavor cigarettes. Although she had gone without for so long, that she would settle for a light or an ultra-light. Even though smoking a light cigarette was the equivalent of breathing to her, like breathing in the thick, humid air of an enclosed space filled with sweaty bodies. Although, even that was preferable to a menthol which felt like trying to inhale ice water. But she had gone for so long without a cigarette of any kind, she was willing to settle.
Who knew that Alaska would be so void of any nicotine products? At first, when Claire had landed her chopper containing the few ragged remaining members of her convoy, she had been relieved to reach the far northern state.
It was just as Alice had claimed it would be. The Virus had not touched Alaska; there was no infection there. Not to say there was no death. People in the larger cities had died when the water stopped running, grocery trucks stopped rolling, and garbage trucks stopped picking up the rotting piles left at the street curbs. Starvation had taken its toll and disease of a different kind than the T-Virus robbed what little life remained when basic sanitation broke down.
But the smaller towns and villages fared much better. Instead of hoarding food and killing one another over scraps, the smaller communities stockpiled and shared, organized farming and hunting parties, divided labor. When they didn't, they became ghost towns just like any of the hundreds Claire's convoy had driven through in Nevada.
The largest difference for Claire was the wilderness. In the continental states, the T-Virus had turned the majority of the country to wasteland. It was an empty, barren desert that had spread and swallowed land that had once been lush and fertile. In Alaska there were trees, whole forests of trees and grass and bushes and foliage that, without human interference, flourished. There were animals: more rabbits than she had ever seen, herds of elk and deer, foxes and bears. Species that had been endangered before had rebounded in the face of the human extinction.
The dozen or so survivors of her convoy had taken up residency in one of the former ghost villages. They had cleaned it up, scavenged food, and built a home for themselves. A home, safe from the infected, from the flesh-eating zombies that had ravaged the world.
It was truly a Paradise, just like Alice had claimed. Except there wasn't a single pack of cigarette to be had north of Juneau. Hell, she would have settled for a nicotine patch if she could roll it and smoke it.
It had ceased to be a hunger and begun to become a clawing need. There were mornings when she sat on the porch of the small cabin she had claimed as her own, watched her breath frost on the cool dawn air, and pretended it was smoke. Those were the moments when she missed smoking the most, when she sat in the cool quiet glow of the sunrise or sunset, alone and wrapped in a tattered, reclaimed woolen blanket and sipping hot tea warmed on a wood-burning stove.
She had never smoked before. Before. Before the T-Virus had escaped the Hive, infested and broke through the quarantine of Raccoon City and began its relentless assault on the rest of the world. Before when she had been a college student, and not the leader of a convoy, driving across the country trying to survive. Before when flesh-eating zombies and gun battles had been a thing of fiction and movies, not real life.
But she had done a lot of things in the past five years. Things that she had never done Before.
Which led to the only thing that Claire missed more than cigarettes and smoking.
When she closed her eyes, she could still see frightening blue eyes peering up at her in a moment's hesitation, thin lips pressed together, head cocked in a half nod just as Claire pulled up on the stick that launched her chopper skywards.
She missed those eyes. Those eyes that were like gazing into a melting pool of a glacier, almost feral in their intensity. Eyes that missed nothing, that were relentless in their scrutiny and could strip Claire naked and raw with a glimpse.
More, she missed feeling that body underneath her hands. Her hands remembered exactly how the skin felt underneath her fingers, smooth and flawless like porcelain. How taut stomach muscles flexed and quivered under splayed fingers. She needed to feel that body against hers again, holding her while she slept, and clutching her, sweat skin against smooth skin.
It was a painful ache underneath her ribs every time she thought of Alice, the quiet, aloof stranger that wandered into her camp and became so much more than a savior. When Alice had joined their convoy, Claire had realized for the previous five years, she had been merely surviving. They drove from dead town to dead town, scavenging what they could from the skeletal remains of old buildings, fighting the abrasive bite of the sand, struggling against the swell of the living dead. Never thinking, never feeling, always trying to evade the next brutal stab that death threw their way.
But when she was with Alice, she was more. When she was with Alice, she was living.
She hadn't wanted to leave her at the Umbrella Corporation's underground desert complex. Every nerve had protested when she swung the chopper into the air, leaving her lover on the ground below. But she had understood why Alice had stayed.
More than ever, she felt alone. The angry ache of loneliness was more fierce than it had ever been before Alice. Before Alice she could hold herself aloof, impartial from the rest of her convoy. But since she had tasted what it meant to live again, the devastation of being alone was all the more acute. Especially when Alice had given her, all of them, this life.
Buffered by thousands of square miles of wilderness and isolation, they were safe from the malicious grasp of the T-Virus. But even safe and well-fed, comfortable in a warm bed instead of the backseat of a Hummer, Claire felt starved and alone.
Seated in the old rickety rocking chair on her front porch, swaddled in worn blanket as she waited for the sun to crest over the mountains, Claire yearned for the comfort of a cigarette to quench the burning lack of Alice.