A/N: written as a collab between ~hiss120 & ~slouchingtyger
Disclaimer: Capcom owns Resident Evil 4 and its characters.
Terms of Service
The sound might once have been startling enough to make him choke on the drink he was in the middle of. Now it barely fazed him. He'd heard it often enough to realize that it was just as likely to be a mouse or a mayonnaise jar as an actual problem. He took his time replacing the lid on the glass bottle and walking calmly into Ashley's bedroom—just a little slower than he would have walked normally.
She was standing in front of her bed, more clothes spread out before her than Leon even owned. Ah, good, so we're cleaning the closets, maybe that means we can skip the stupid party…
"Well, you're sort of a guy..."
He raised an eyebrow.
"Maybe you can tell me... Which one?" She held up a shirt in each hand. In her left hand was a shiny silver number that looked to be about the size of a washcloth. The garment in her right hand wasn't much better: a white shirt slit so far down the front that it would probably show her belly button.
Leon pretended to consider. "Uh... What about the one I gave you for your birthday?"
"Hmph. That was a turtleneck, Leon."
"Exactly." Leon started to think and he looked at both of the shirts; both of them would obviously attract the attention of—well, any guy with eyeballs, not to mention the sleazy types Ashley tended to talk to at these frat parties—and he looked back at her. "And why do you want to ask me of all people?" he said in a slightly agitated tone.
"Well, you seem to be the kind of guy that would help me..." But as she looked at him, she mentally growled from the memory of his rejection of her almost six months ago. He was only here now because it was his job. No, he was definitely not the one to ask.
"So are you going to choose?" she asked him impatiently. "No," he replied with a smirk, taking a long drink from… from one of her frappuchinos, catching her eye as he did so. "You should know what to wear." With that, he turned to leave.
Ashley huffed and glared at Leon's back. "What did I tell you about drinking my frappuchinos?!" she shouted after him as he left. Without turning around, he raised the glass jar and tilted it towards her as if in a toast. Growling under her breath, she threw the shirts back onto the bed as Leon disappeared into the hallway. Not like he'd look at her anyway, no matter what she wore. The man had to be either gay, or a eunuch. She sighed and admitted to herself that she still hoped he wasn't either of those things. Much as she hated him, she still loved him.
Back in the kitchen, Leon chugged half of the coffee drink he was still holding and made a face. He didn't even like the stuff, but Ashley hated it when he raided her fridge. He just considered it payment for having to report for guard duty and then wait around for hours every time she wanted to go out. And getting on her nerves even half as much as she did on his—well, that was just an added bonus.
Speaking of which, what was she thinking asking him to choose some skimpy outfit for her? It was bad enough the way she acted at these parties—batting her eyes at every guy in the room—except him, of course.
He finished his drink and threw it in the trash. "Damn, she better be dressed now," he muttered and he went into the hallway towards her room. He wondered why he even decided to get this job, since it turned out to be a bit of a living hell for him. He walked into her room—without bothering to knock—and saw that she was dressed.
Ashley turned around to look at him. She was wearing white pants with a red belt and a matching top. "What do you want?" She glared at him.
"Ready now?" he asked her, wanting her just to go to the party and get it over with.
Ashley smiled to herself at the pure frustration evident in Leon's tone, biting her lip to keep the smile from showing. She knew full well how much he hated escorting her to these parties. Tough luck. That was his job—to protect her when she went out, to keep her safe in situations where normal Secret Service guards would be inappropriate. And maybe if he was a little nicer to her, spent a little more time with her on his own, she wouldn't go to so many parties in the first place.
"Ready," she affirmed with a nod.
Leon soon arrived at the party with Ashley and escorted her inside. There were several frat boys there already and most of them had obviously had something to drink. He kept a close eye on Ashley and the frat boys to make sure that nothing happened.
It wasn't long before Ashley was flirting with a small group of guys sitting on a couch, but she was looking at everyone in the room except for Leon, as usual. She continued to flirt with the frat boys and she wasn't really paying attention to what they were doing.
But Leon was paying attention. Even from across the crowded and dimly lit room, he noticed every time one of the guys shifted closer to her on the couch, every time their eyes tilted downwards to Ashley's generous cleavage.
Some of the frat boys started to get closer to Ashley and the situation was slowly getting out of hand. One of them started to rub her thigh and he looked down at her chest. "How 'bout going with us?" he leered at her.
Leon started counting down from ten in his head. If that hand wasn't off of the president's daughter's thigh in ten seconds, he was fully authorized to use deadly force. Well, maybe not deadly, but whatever it took. Protecting Ashley's 'virtue'—an item he increasingly suspected was a myth in the first place—had actually been a part of the job description he'd received from the president, if informally.
Ashley was about to smack the hand off of her thigh before she noticed Leon glaring in her direction. So, she finally had his attention. She leaned into the touch, moving closer to whisper in the guy's ear. What was his name? Tyler? She'd barely been listening, not like it mattered anyway who he was. He wasn't Leon.
Tyler, on the other hand, knew perfectly well who this girl was. She had a rep, enough for him to know not to get his hopes up. A pretty package, but she came with a price—some asshole bodyguard cockblocker who'd ruined more than a few promising evenings for his friends. But, he leaned in close to hear her and he smiled when he heard her agreeing to go somewhere less crowded with him. "Sure, let's go now," he grinned. He stood up with her, glancing over his shoulder as he did so and noticing the older guy lurking in the back of the room, staring right at him. He didn't look that tough. Tyler's smile only widened.
Leon silently growled as he glared at the boy. He looked at Ashley, wondering if it was actually worth it to escort her to all of these parties—she seemed to be able to handle things well enough.
But a job was a job, and this was his. Besides, his trigger finger was getting itchy. As he moved to intercept Ashley and her latest boy toy before they could reach the door, he mused that the evening was actually starting to look up. She'd picked a guy in record time tonight, meaning he could get rid of the kid and drag Ashley home sooner rather than later.
Tyler was almost out of the room with Ashley when he was grabbed by the shoulder and pulled away from her. "Hey, what the hell are you doing?" he asked, glaring at Ashley's bodyguard.
Leon returned the kid's angry expression. "I'm doing my job, watching the president's daughter." He looked at Ashley, his eyes piercing into her like spears. "Let's go," he said to her, already agitated about what she did. Just where the hell did she think she was going with this kid?
Ashley stepped in between Leon and her 'date', crossing her arms and narrowing her eyes menacingly. "You don't get to tell me what to do."
"Well, actually... kind of my job. And that's why you're coming with me. Now." He gripped Ashley's shoulder and guided her toward the door.
Tyler stepped in and he removed Leon's hand from her shoulder. "She's with me," he growled as he looked at him. "You have a problem with that?"
Leon returned the growl. "Fine, y'know what? Do what you want, I don't care." He looked at Ashley. "Go and have fun with your toy."
Ashley looked at him. "Fine, I will. I don't need you." She turned to Tyler. "Let's go." She gripped Tyler's arm gently, glancing out of the corner of her eye for Leon's reaction to the gesture.
Tyler responded eagerly to her advances, placing a hand on Ashley's lower back possessively. That bodyguard of hers was still blocking the doorway, so Tyler stepped forward to get rid of the guy. "You heard her. Move it."
Leon had been through a lot in his life. He'd escaped the chaos that was Raccoon City after a viral outbreak. He'd retrieved Ashley from a crazed cult—facing chainsaw-wielding villagers and a slew of freakish mutants. And through it all, he'd kept his cool, never letting it get to him, not when he was scooped up in the clutches of el gigante, not when Ashley was snatched from him and thrown over the shoulder of yet another enemy, screaming for Leon to save her…
But he was not, NOT, going to let some snot-nosed rich-kid frat boy push him around. Before said frat boy could blink, he was yanked out the doorway, slammed against the side of the house, and had the cold barrel of a 9mm handgun pressed to his neck.
"What the hell?!" Tyler said and he looked at Ashley. "Do something about your guard!" He was slightly sweating as he looked around, worried by the lack of any potential witnesses.
"Leon, quit it!" Ashley said, and she narrowed her eyes at him. "You're not supposed to use force like that, or do you want me to get you fired?" she asked him in a slightly aggressive tone.
Leon's menacing gaze turned from the frat boy to Ashley, softening as he registered the genuine shock on her face, although she was doing a good job hiding it behind her characteristic anger at him. "Maybe you should," he sighed. "It's not like I ever asked for this job in the first place." He shoved the boy against the wall one last time before releasing him and holstering his weapon.
Ashley stood quietly, watching as Leon turned his back to her and took a few steps into the night. What was up with him lately? She had always hoped there could be something between them—even though he'd turned down her offer, she still got to see him all the time, and the way he acted around her... He teased her about her looks, did things he knew she hated just to get under her skin, had even called her sweetheart a few times... But lately, he was just an asshole. What was his problem? Maybe she'd be better off with someone like Tyler. At least he had stood up for her when Leon tried to lead her away. She looked around for him, seeing that he'd ducked back into the safety of the crowded frat house and was waiting for her in the doorway. She looked back at Leon, who was still turned away from her.
It was so dark tonight. Leon wondered why the backyard of a frat house—which should have been lit by streetlamps and filled with drunken college kids stumbling around—seemed so empty and desolate. It was probably just him. He turned his head slightly, glancing back over his shoulder at Ashley, who was watching him silently. "Ashley..." he began softly, so that she had to step closer to hear him.
Ashley heard him say something, but it was almost as small as a whisper. She was about to go to him until she remembered that Tyler was waiting for her. I can go with Leon, but he's probably gonna lead me away again... She looked at him for a few seconds and decided to walk over to him. "What did you say?"
Leon looked at her, his face showing a small hint of loneliness, and he gently grabbed her arm. "Ashley...let's go." His voice was soft and hesitant. "I'll tell you after we leave."
Leon's hand was warm on her arm, and Ashley shivered slightly as she realized for the first time how cool the night air was. She bit her lip as she gazed into Leon's pleading eyes. This sudden change in his demeanor startled her, but if he was finally calm for once, she wasn't going to question it. She nodded, smiling slightly—encouragingly.
Tyler rolled his eyes as Ashley started to walk away with her guard without even a glance back at him. He lightly punched the doorframe out of frustration, but as he wandered back into the party, he realized it was probably for the best. The girl was the president's daughter, after all. A man would have to be crazy to get mixed up with that.
I must be crazy, Leon kept thinking as he walked Ashley back to her apartment. Something had snapped in him when that kid had challenged Leon's authority over Ashley, and he'd been as eager to accept the challenge as a wolf guarding his territory. Looking back, he couldn't understand what had possessed him to actually pull a gun on the kid. But if it was that easy for him to lose control around Ashley, maybe he shouldn't be guarding her. Someone might get hurt. Not like he'd lose sleep over a bruised frat boy, but… what if he hurt Ashley somehow?
He stole a glance at her every now and then, quickly looking back at his feet before she could catch him. But the last few times he'd looked, she'd been preoccupied with rubbing her bare arms, and he let his gaze linger long enough to register the goosebumps covering her perfect skin. He slowly slid out of his jacket and he glanced at Ashley hesitantly once more before placing it on her shoulders. "This should keep you warm," he said softly, his voice huskier than he'd intended.
She put his jacket on and thanked him quietly as they continued to walk. Why is he so nice now? Isn't he going to boss me around some more? She was used to his typical lectures after he dragged her home from a frat party—about how sleazy the guys she talked to were, how men had certain urges that could turn dangerous, how she shouldn't go off alone with anyone, blah, blah, blah. But this time, he was unusually quiet. She went a bit closer to him so that their sides were almost touching, and she looked over at him. "So...what did you want to tell me?"
Leon sighed as he looked back at her. "I'll tell you after we get you home." He continued to walk her home and he looked up at the clear, dark sky. He'd looked into that darkness often, but he'd never been as tempted to simply fade away into it as he had been after his embarrassing—dangerous—mistake a few minutes ago. If Ashley hadn't come with him, he might have just walked away. If that's what he had to do to keep her safe from himself. A warm hand slid over his forearm, and he smiled wistfully.
"What is it, Ashley?" She'd stopped walking, and he turned to look at her, even stepping closer. She hadn't zipped the jacket, and Leon's eyes couldn't help trailing downward. Ashley raised her eyes, and he quickly adjusted his gaze to meet hers.
"Leon... You're not going to quit, are you?" she asked with slight worry. I don't want him to quit...did I push it too far? She hoped that he wasn't going to quit because of her behavior.
Leon continued to look into her eyes and he let out a soft sigh. "Ashley, I'll tell you when we get back, not in a place like this." He gently took her hand and he started to lead her back to her apartment again. I can quit since she's making me go through a lot of shit now, but it seems that she still needs me. If he left, who would protect her? Would they do it right? Would they even care?
When they reached the six-story Winton Rentals building, Leon opened the door as always, leading Ashley to her third-floor apartment and opening the door for her with his own key. Of course he had a key to her apartment, and strangely Ashley never seemed to mind. Even though his own apartment was just down the hall, Leon had to be able to come to Ashley's assistance any time of the night. It was the only way President Graham agreed to even let Ashley return to her college campus, after the scare her kidnapping caused the poor man.
Leon could sympathize. Ashley had been taken from him several times even after he'd found her, and each time his pulse had quickened and an insistent buzzing settled into the back of his brain until he'd been able to find her again. Although the biggest challenge to her safety since then had been groping frat boys, his own hand still twitched in the direction of his weapon every time it happened.
Ashley went into the apartment and sat down on the couch. She had gone through a lot with Leon, and although she had a lot of guys around her, he always seemed to make her feel different. Her heart seemed to skip a beat when he was close to her and she almost blushed whenever he said something to her. "Are you going to quit?" she asked him impatiently.
Leon looked at her and thought for a moment before he spoke. "No, I'm not going to quit," he replied, and he looked at her. "But you're making me go through a lot of shit and I'm getting more and more stressed by the day." He sat down on the couch next to her.
Ashley kept quiet—for once—so Leon kept talking, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees, letting his head fall into his hands. "I'm supposed to protect you, Ashley. How can I do that when you're trying to run off with a different guy every week?"
She looked at him earnestly and placed her hand on his arm. "Leon, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to put you through that." She continued to look at him. "I just… Ever since you said no to my offer…" She couldn't find the right words to express her anger and embarrassment, not without giving too much away, so she sighed instead.
Leon looked at her, seeing how sad she was. "Ashley, it's okay..." He sat up. "It's just that I'm not used to doing things like this. Shooting ganados, I can deal with. But all of a sudden I want to shoot any guy that lays a hand on you. And I don't know where that's coming from. You just drive me kind of crazy." He leaned back and took a deep breath, resting his head on the back of the couch.
Ashley looked at him and she let out a sigh. I was a bit of a bitch to him. She leaned back too and looked at the ceiling. "Maybe you should quit." She frowned at the thought.
Leon lifted his head to look at her and he also frowned. "Maybe, but I'll stay under one condition." Her exposed neck was drawing his attention and all kinds of crazy thoughts were starting to spring up again, but one thought in particular crawled to the forefront of his mind and gnawed insistently at the last thread of reason he was holding on to. Should I kiss her?
"What would that be?" She sat up and looked at him curiously, inching closer to him. It wasn't much, but it was all he needed. The thread snapped.
Leon swiftly pulled her closer and kissed her deeply, a move that could be risky for him.
Ashley let out a small sound of surprise, but then she kissed him back. She wanted him to do this, but whenever they were together, they were usually in a public place where she couldn't try to get close to him, so she had to settle for making him jealous. Fun as that was, this was much, much better.
She was a little out of breath by the time Leon released her. She slowly opened her eyes and looked up at him, wondering whether he regretted the move yet.
"So, will you stay?" she asked hesitantly. His fingers rested lightly on her back, and when the touch turned firm, confident, she knew he'd made up his mind.
Ashley was watching him closely, her eyes wide. Leon raised a hand to her cheek, brushing his fingertips gently across her skin. He smiled. "As long as I don't have to take you to any more frat parties."
Ashley tilted her head into his hand and closed her eyes. "Done. But I have a condition for you, too." She leaned closer, opening her eyes when she was just inches from his face. "Kiss me again."