Running Up That Hill
(Fool for Love)
Claire Redfield was not the kind of woman who was often noticed by people.
She was casual, a jeans and t-shirt girl. A wake up on a Sunday morning and lay on the couch all day with a good book in hand girl. She wasn't that woman who turned heads when she walked by, in her pencil skirt and five inch stiletto heels, Louis Vuitton purse on her shoulder and Dolce and Gabbana on the bridge of her nose. She didn't want to be that woman.
But sometimes Claire had to do things she didn't want to do. Like wear a dress. Against her will, once a month she packed away the comfy jeans and ponytail holder and walked through the streets in an a-line sleeveless black dress, teetering on too high heels.
She had a cab drop her off two blocks away, begrudgingly regretting the fact that she couldn't ride her motorcycle wearing a dress this short, and now strolled the rest of the way.
Claire looked like she belonged downtown and had somewhere important to be. She could be the CEO of a large company or the wife of a senator. The only item that stuck out like a sore thumb was the backpack slung across her shoulders. No matter how elegant she was trying to look, she refused to carry a purse.
Blowing a rogue strand of hair out of her face, she tucked the lock behind her ear. Her hair was down, a rarity for sure, flowing over her shoulders with curls framing her face. It took her an hour to get it to look just right but the finished product was almost perfect. She never spent that much time on her hair (five minutes tops and one minute on makeup) and she still couldn't wait for the moment she could gather the hair and pull it up into its normal ponytail.
Tugging on the hem of her dress to cover up the expanse of thigh exposed by the lack of material, Claire stopped in front of the largest building she'd ever seen in her life. No, she'd seen bigger but this place just had a larger than life feeling to it with it's perfect glass doors and diamond chandeliers hanging from cathedral ceilings, black and white marble columns and tile flooring so stunning she could see her reflection in them.
The building was palacial in every sense of the word and the only place Claire would ever put on a dress to go to. Just by looking at it, she could tell that the structure would swallow her whole if she stood there for too long, digest her slowly over a thousand years.
The doorman, decked out in a rather unattractive green suit trimmed in yellow, tipped his hat toward her and pulled the golden handle on the door open. "Miss Redfield," he greeted with familiarity, a soft smile on his face.
The deep lines around his eyes crinkled as he smiled at her. He looked like a typical grandfather type with tufts of gray hair sticking out from beneath the hat, creases in his brow and twinkling blue eyes that hid behind a pair of gold bifocals. He was gentle as a lamb and always good for a tip on the stock market.
"Ralph, I keep telling you to call me 'Claire.'" She reached out and wrapped her fingers around his forearm, her red nails clashing with the yellow and green. "How're you?"
"Just fine, Miss Redfield," Ralph replied, chuckling amiably. No matter how she many times she told him to call her "Claire", he never did. A stickler for old school manners until the end.
Pulling her hand back, she stopped short of the threshold, her eyes skirting past Ralph and into the lobby beyond the doors. "And the girls?" Her focus darted back to Ralph when she noticed nothing of interest in the immediate foyer.
"Acing the third grade." Ralph gestured to the door with a white gloved hand, pristine as the day they came out of the package. He glanced up at the darkening skies above. "Going to rain, Miss Redfield. You'd best get inside."
She hadn't even noticed the black clouds looming overhead or the wind swirling and pushing at her dress. Leaves danced at her feet like a spring production of Swan Lake. Her fingers grasped the hem of her dress to keep the thin material from flying up. She was already showing too much skin.
"We'll catch up later," she promised and then ducked inside the glass doors before she got caught in the upcoming downpour.
Her heels clicked harshly against the tile flooring and she always felt each step was announcing her presence to the entire lobby. She constantly expected every eye to turn toward her, turn up their noses and make snide comments behind well manicured hands.
They would know she didn't belong. She was a fraud and eventually would be found out. "What is she doing here?"
But nobody so much as glanced in her direction. Claire wasn't an anomaly here. She was just another well dressed, beautiful woman walking through the lobby of a five star hotel. Although she probably was the only well dressed woman with a bright pink Jansport backpack strapped across her shoulders.
The front desk associate greeted her with bleached white teeth and a firm handshake. "Welcome!" Eric, as his nametag read, was stuck in a dreadful peach and black outfit that made him look like rotting fruit still on the tree.
Stifling a laugh, Claire slammed her backpack down on the counter and rifled through it. "Hello, Eric. Checking in." She pulled out a stack of cards, credit cards, library cards, bank cards (naturally not all in her name) and sifted through them until a driver's license fell onto the counter in front of her. She slid it over to the Eric with her index finger, a smooth, unashamed smile on her face.
Eric, like a good employee, asked no questions. He made quick work of the computer, gave her a rundown of the activities going on throughout the week and even gave her a complimentary bar of chocolate (which Claire snatched and shoved into her bag so quickly it was like a magic trick).
"Has anyone else checked into the room?" she asked casually, slipping her bag back in place, room key in hand. She hated being the first one to arrive. There was a certain mystique to being late, being waited on. It left an inkling of wonder in the mind.
Checking the computer, his fingers flying over the keyboard, Eric shook his head a moment later. "You're the only party checked into the room," he told her, looking up at her, that smile still on his face, like it was a permanent facial feature and he never had a bad day.
"Party for one then," Claire muttered, nodding her head in thanks.
She was never sure if she was supposed to tip the front desk associate. She knew to tip the doorman on her way out (and shoot the shit with him for a half an hour about sports and high yield bonds) but other than that, she failed the course. She turned and walked away, never knowing if the person who checked her in was shooting her daggers.
The hotel had a piano bar in it, complete with a player who looked somewhat like Billy Joel. It was kind of uncanny and Claire sat at the bar with "Piano Man" running through her head, her eyes fixated on the look alike. She wondered idly if his microphone smelled of beer.
She ordered a White Russian and sat quietly, her legs dangling off the too high stool. The bartender attempted to strike up a conversation with her but Claire's face plainly read "leave me alone" and he eventually gave up and moved to the other side of the bar where a blonde with full, plastic lips was on her fifth martini and looking kind of lonely.
After two hours of swinging her legs in rhythm with the piano, nursing the same White Russian, Claire was about to give up and head up to the room. At least she could take a nice, long bath up there, soak in chocolate scented bubble bath and drift off to sleep reading a book. Piano Man was starting to grind on her nerves.
Throwing a tip down on the bar, she was about to turn and leave when she felt a hand brush against her bare shoulder. She smiled, shuddering slightly from the touch, a thousand bolts of electricity rushing through her body in excitement. Her heart beat sped up, blood pumping through her veins at an accelerated rate.
"You're late," she murmured, twirling around in her stool, the drink in her hand sloshing over the side of her glass. Unfortunately, the face looking down at her was unfamiliar.
"Sorry, you're waiting for someone, aren't you?" the stranger asked, his hand stretched out in the air. He was a rather nice looking guy, eyes so blue she could swim in them and a perfectly symmetrical face.
If Claire knew anything it was that "beauty is about symmetry". "Oh, uh, yeah. I guess so."
"You guess so?" The guy looked slightly amused, big blue eyes twinkling at her, mouth turned up at the corners. "Sounds like maybe you were just waiting for me to come over here." He emphasized the word "me" and stuck his thumb out into his puffed out chest. A baboon truly looking for a mate.
Claire shook her head, wanting to nip this in the bud before this guy got the idea that she was playing hard to get. She wasn't that type of woman either. Playing hard to get wasn't in her encyclopedia of communication and actions. She just wasn't wired that way.
"No, I'm waiting for…my husband," she stated brazenly, a too long pause hanging cautiously in the middle of that sentence.
The guy glanced down at her, his eyes skimming over her body, taking an apparent assessment. "I don't see a ring on your finger," he pronounced after a moment, a grin spreading out over his lips like he had just won the grand prize and figured her out. "Why don't we go up to your room. See what you've got going on under that dress."
Symmetry wasn't so attractive anymore.
Her fingers instinctively reaching for her necklace, she was about to let this guy have it. She just didn't need this. She felt the gun she had strapped to her inner thigh rub against her skin and she wished she could grab it and blow this jerk away. Two bullets to the chest and one to the forehead. Very professional.
Instead, her fingers tightened around the necklace, her index finger dipping into the platinum ring held around her neck by the white gold chain. She opened her mouth to tell this guy where to go, to leave her alone before she socked him in the stomach and screamed "rape" (which she would do, given the right circumstances).
Claire never got the chance though, which was too bad because she was really looking forward to kneeing him below the waist. She heard a voice speak up from behind her, a deep baritone that could not be mistaken.
It was the sort of voice that resonated, stayed in the mind for weeks and made a person weak in knees. "Dear heart, am I interrupting?"
Whipping around, Claire's hand dropped to her side, a coy smile ghosting over her lips. She had to admit the guy had good timing. "You're late," she said softly, her eyes darting over to the symmetrical but no longer so attractive face.
Dressed head to toe in black, an out of place Johnny Cash, Wesker's hidden eyes trailed over her body, the tilt of his head giving away the direction of his gaze. "My apologies. I was held up." He reached a gloved hand out and grabbed the strap of Claire's backpack and placed the other hand on her arm, staking his claim on the woman.
It was so primal, Claire wanted to laugh. Ridiculous. The dominant male in the tribe had declared his mate, the only thing missing was growling and the baring of razor sharp teeth.
"It's quite all right." She tilted her head at the stranger still in her presence. "Thank you for keeping me company but we have dinner plans," she lied easily enough through her teeth.
She hooked her arm in Wesker's and smirked at the stranger who was staring at this strange man dressed all in black and wearing sunglasses indoors of all places. The stranger practically had his eyebrows pegged to the top of his head and he opened his mouth to speak but Claire didn't let him get that far. She turned on her heel and walked out with Wesker, the clicking announcing her departure.
They walked together to the elevator in silence, arm in arm, black and black. They were quite the pair, looking sharp together. Sophisticated and important. Except Claire was sure onlookers would think they had just returned from a funeral.
She craned her head up to watch the numbers descend down to one. Once inside and the doors shut tightly, she let go of Wesker's arm and punched the button for the sixth floor.
Wesker kept a tight grip on the strap of the backpack, the black leather glove cracking from the hold. He kept his head forward, his arms dangling cautiously by his side. His face was stone, calm and collected, and his body rigid and upright.
She hated how awkward it always was at first. She didn't know what to say and what was going on in his head was always a wonderment to her. She would never know what he was thinking. There were so many things she wanted to say and when she opened her mouth to let one of the many topics slip from her lips, the elevator doors opened to the sixth floor.
Claire slipped the keycard into the reader and pushed open the door. The room was as impressive as the rest of the hotel. It was a suite, as usual, complete with a living area and separate bedroom. Claire set the keycard down on the dining table and slipped her shoes off, pushing them into the corner with her toe.
"Claire," Wesker started out, the door clicking shut behind him, "you look well." He had bitten the bullet and spoken first, putting Claire somewhat at ease.
She looked up, a smirk on her face. "I feel well." Approaching him, she stopped in front of him, head tilted to the side. "You look good too," she told him, knowing he was probably itching to correct her grammar except she was commenting on his looks and not his health.
"I feel good," he responded, dropping her bag by his black boots. He reached out and grabbed her around the waist and pulled her in close. "Your boyfriend downstairs must be quite jealous right now."
Rolling her eyes, Claire dug her nails into the fabric of his shirt. "We were going to run off together and buy a chateau in France. You ruined it." She laughed softly, burying her nose in his collar.
"Dear heart, forget him. I'll buy France for you." He sounded serious and Claire knew that in some way, he was. He was always serious to some degree.
Leaning up on her toes, she brushed her nose gently against his. "Remind me to take you up on that later." Pressing her lips to his, her nose bumped into his glasses and she groaned loudly.
He grinned this time, a genuine smile gracing his lips. Pulling the sunglasses off, he set them on the table next to the keycard, revealing his demon red eyes. They were always brighter than Claire remembered but she could never forget the way they bore into her and scarred every inch of her skin.
She tilted her head back, baring a smooth expanse of neck to him. The ultimate sign of surrender and trust. "It's been too long," she murmured softly, her eyes locked on the red staring down at her. She said this each time and she always meant it.
Lowering his mouth to her neck, he agreed, his voice lost in her skin. Pulling off his gloves and setting them carefully down by his sunglasses, his fingers worked stealthily at her dress, pulling at the zipper and pushing the thin fabric down her body in one effortless motion, exposing soft skin and a lacy black bra with matching panties.
Wesker wrenched his hand in her hair, guiding her carefully through the room as their lips connected and tongues wrestled for dominance. Stopping when the back of her knees hit the mattress, he pushed her down and pulled his shirt over his head.
"Hurry," she demanded, her fingers reaching out and working at his belt buckle.
"Patience, dear heart."
Never one to be patient, Claire grunted and yanked his pants down his hips, breaking the zipper in the process. She expected to feel his hand cover hers, red eyes glaring down, scolding her for ruining a piece of clothing. Instead, he kicked the pants aside and crawled onto the bed, trapping her by anchoring his arms on each side of her torso.
"Hurry," she repeated, her hands exploring the pale skin above her, mapping out the flesh like it was the first time she'd touched it. Each time she wanted to memorize every scar, every blemish to his body but she always ended up forgetting.
Wesker grabbed her wrists, holding them above her head. His eyes blazed brightly, the flush of his skin illuminating his face. "Patience."
This happened so rarely, she couldn't wait to feel him, connect their bodies and souls together. She never could. Once a month wasn't enough. It would never be enough and every time they met in this hotel, she always asked him to hurry and he always chided her with patience.
Their meetings were like broken records, stuck on the turntable for years on end. Once a month, health and biohazard outbreaks permitting, they met and the same scenario would play out. The bar and the symmetrical face guy on this night had been new but that had been Wesker's fault for being late.
This room was their sanctuary, a place where the Umbrella Corporation and B.O.W.s didn't exist. Where she was just a broke college student, struggling to find a direction and a major and he was Wesker, proud and worthy S.T.A.R.S leader.
There was an unspoken agreement that work was never talked about. Plans and operations, assignments and stakeouts were never spoken of. Family was rarely spoken about as well, a rule Claire often broke. Her stories always involved her brother and when his name slipped from her lips, Wesker always pursed his lips, his nostrils flaring. He always listened though and she knew he silently forgave her for the slip up.
The only umbrella they mentioned was used for protection from the rain. It was a system that had been working for too many years to count. But eventually, they both knew it had to come to an end. They couldn't hide from each other in plain sight forever.
Clothes littered the floor and the sheets rustled silently in the pale moonlight filtering in through partially closed blinds. As he finally slid into her, Claire sighed in relief, her eyes fluttering closed. She felt whole, complete, like she had found the missing piece. Arching her back, she moaned softly, her fingernails digging into Wesker's broad bicep.
"Open your eyes," Wesker demanded, slowing his movement to a standstill. He loomed over her like a wild animal protecting his catch of the day, breathing hard and uneven. "Look at me."
Blue eyes opened and she looked at the man above her who forced her deny everything she ever believed in, even for a day. Sometimes denial was the only thing that helped her sleep through the night.
This wasn't her real life. It was imaginary, fake. A world made up of broken dreams and promises. Nightmares left behind and replaced with cold comfort in the arms of an enemy.
This was all she had to look forward to.