Sherry Birkin would never go to college. She could only imagine what her parents would've thought about that, but given the situation she'd found herself in, it was better to be safe than sorry. Enrolling under a false identity wouldn't necessarily be enough, given the reach of some of the people she wanted to avoid.

Eight years ago, before the ruins of Raccoon City were even done smoking, the question of who would be given custody of her was already being hotly debated. They'd ripped her away from Leon as soon as they'd reached quarantine, and as much as Sherry might've wished that Claire had still been there—because she wouldn't have just given her up without a fight, would she?—she was gone, off to look for her brother. He was the reason she'd come to Raccoon City in the first place, and in the end, Sherry hadn't been enough to keep her there.

Neither William nor Annette Birkin had any close relatives still living, and while they had specified a godfather, Albert Wesker was apparently dead, too. Sherry hadn't been aware of that, and though she and Wesker had never been particularly close, he'd been a presence in her life since she was born, another familiar thing that was never going to be there again. Another thing to mourn.

With no one to challenge them, the US Government had free reign over her—which, to them, meant unlimited access to the remnants of the G-Virus in her blood and a chance to study the effects it would have on her. The months she was a ward of the State were spent in laboratories, being poked and prodded and examined under bright lights by scientists who seemed to have forgotten there was anything more to her than her blood.

In a way, she'd been thrilled when Derek Simmons came along. Being his ward wouldn't mean an end to the tests, she was sure, but at least she'd have someone who might watch over her, who might make it stop when it was all too much.

On the other hand, she'd been suspicious. Something about him made her vaguely uneasy, even though she couldn't figure out why, and he was so nice to her, so generous for no reason. For all the faith Claire had given her in humanity, what she'd seen in Raccoon City had driven home just how rare a person like her was and she wasn't sure that Simmons was one of them. He worked for the government, after all, and wouldn't it be an advantage for him to have personal control over the girl they wanted to study so badly?

Sherry still hadn't been sure about him when he'd walked into the lab one day with a woman on his arm—a woman that she recognized. The one from Raccoon City, with the red dress.

She'd smiled at her, the expression radiant on her beautiful face, and leaned down as soon as Simmons wasn't looking.

"Leave your window unlocked tonight," she whispered.

Sherry had no reason to trust her, even less than she did Simmons. There were a lot of people who wanted her blood, bad people who would hurt her in much worse ways than the government was. That might've seemed convenient, coming from the people who already had her, but Sherry had already seen what Umbrella was capable of, had lived it. She didn't doubt what some people would do to her.

Yet somehow . . . the woman in the red dress never made her think about any of those things. She just obeyed.

By the next morning, she and Ada Wong were halfway across the world at Organization headquarters, and she was in the custody of a very alive Wesker.

Life with him wasn't always easy, but she didn't mind. There were still visits to the lab, of course—there would always be visits to the lab—but he didn't let her stagnate. He and Ada instructed her so that one day she could work in the field, like them, and though that didn't leave much time for school, she had some private tutors. Wesker said she had a brilliant mind, that it would be a pity to waste it.

When Ada had betrayed them in Spain (and oh, God, how that had hurt), Sherry had thrown herself more fully into the academic side of her life. She might not be able to go to college thanks to the Family and the US Government, but she learned through experience from Wesker and the other scientists and she was proud to say that she was getting to be a reasonably capable scientist.

Capable enough, even, that Wesker had left The Patient in her care when he went to go pass out somewhere for a little while.

Sherry didn't know who The Patient was, but he was important somehow—thus the capital letters. He was on life support, with so many injuries that it took her a while to finish reading the list on his medical chart. What caused them—a fall, maybe, or a car accident—was less mysterious than who he was and how Wesker had come by him. He'd gone off following intel on Oswell Spencer's possible location and had come back a little while later with The Patient, who was already being worked on by a team of surgeons.

Did he have some connection with Spencer? (Had Wesker actually found the son of a bitch, after all this time?) Or was he something else entirely?

Why, exactly, did he warrant concern?

Oh, Wesker wasn't obvious about showing it, but Sherry knew him—knew how to read him. It was a quiet undertone, apparent in the little twitches of his fingers at his side and the focus of his eyes. This man had value, and it wasn't just professional—there was personal investment there.

He was determined to keep him alive, even though it really would've been more merciful to pull the plug. Even with all the painkillers, he was so badly mangled that it must've still hurt, and what Wesker had turned to in an attempt to bring him back from the brink was—well, she'd been horrified when he'd briefed her about it.

Yes, she'd read Ashford and his hypotheses, but she didn't agree with them. There was no denying Progenitor and its derivatives had amazing regenerative properties—she was living proof of that—but in light of what they could create, she didn't think it was worth the risk.

Wesker apparently did, though. Some of his notes became hard to follow after a while, probably from lack of sleep, but she got the gist of how he was attempting to manipulate and focus the cell regeneration. And she had to admit that The Patient's heartbeat was just slightly stronger than it had been yesterday, though that was tempered by the slow stirrings of a fever and a small patch of rash on his arm. If he was awake, he'd be itching and nauseous and his thoughts would probably be going a bit vague and unorganized.

(Not worth it, she thought. If she was in his position—not that she ever could be, as it was—she would rather die than face becoming one of . . . them.)

"Signs of improvement?" Wesker asked, and she jumped. God, the man could move quietly when he wanted to.

She glanced over her shoulder at him. It hadn't been all that long since he'd left, but he was back to being as perfectly groomed as usual and looked rested. He wore a lab coat over a black dress shirt.

"Slightly stronger pulse," she said. "But I mean minute."

He nodded, his expression inscrutable as he looked down at the man.

Sherry fidgeted with the edge of the medical chart she held, warring with her curiosity. Finally, she decided that if Wesker was willing to leave The Patient in her care, he should be willing to share some relevant information.

"What happened to him?"

He was silent for a beat. "We fell from a window in Spencer's mansion."

She inhaled sharply. "Did you find Spencer?"

"Yes."

"Did you . . .?"

"Yes."

Did he suffer? The question was on the tip of her tongue. Did you make him suffer, like my father suffered for a week? But she didn't ask. She knew there was nothing Wesker could've possibly done to him to equal what he'd inflicted on so many others.

"Why was this guy there?" she asked instead. "Who is he?"

"His name is Chris Redfield."

Sherry's head jerked down, eyes wide as they landed on the man. Chris Redfield? The Chris Redfield? Claire's brother, who she'd been so determined to find? But—

"You've met his sister," said Wesker when he saw her reaction.

"Why did you save him?" she forced out, stunned. She'd never really expected to meet Chris, and certainly not like this.

Wesker tilted his head, considering. "I used to know him," he finally said.

That didn't explain anything at all. It made sense—she'd known there was something personal about this—but Wesker wouldn't go to any lengths for anyone unless they were useful to him in some way. Was he intending to use him against Claire somehow? Was Claire even a problem for him?

Or was he implying that he saved him out of some sort of . . . sentiment? I used to know him—was he saying they were friends, or something? But Claire Redfield's brother, friends with someone like Wesker?

She could feel him watching her out of the corner of his eye. "It was in Raccoon City," he said.

And as if he didn't know that that would shut her down immediately. There was very little she hated thinking about or discussing more than that place.

She turned away from him and sat down in the chair beside Chris's bed. Wesker moved too, milling around the room to check the readouts of the machinery and prepare the drugs to be injected into his IV.

She made a point of not looking at him. For a while, her eyes lingered on Chris's hand, bruises on the back and casts on the fingers. Then they traveled up over the cast on his arm and the rash poking out at the top to rest on his mottled face.

She tried to look past the injures for similarities to Claire, but she found, to her grief, that she couldn't really remember what she looked like very well any more. Reddish-brown hair—were her eyes blue? She was pretty, but the details . . . they were vague, like a mist had rolled over them.

Maybe she could ask Chris, if he ever woke up.

.

When Jill had walked into work that Monday after the funeral, still slightly ill despite Carlos's best attempts to nurse her through the hangover, she'd honestly expected that her new partner would be Parker Luciani.

No one could ever replace Chris, but she liked Parker—he'd had her back on the Zenobia and he was easy to get along with, though she wasn't quite sure she would be able to stomach the frequency with which he'd started talking about Raymond Vester in glowing terms. It wasn't that she wasn't glad for him to have found someone, but considering the state of her own life, it was just a bit . . . difficult to face someone else's happiness.

Still, it could be worse. It could be Quint Cetcham, who was a genius and a good agent but got grating after a while ("a while" being a few minutes) or some scheming bitch with an ulterior motive in the same vein as Jessica Sherawat.

No, compared to them, Parker was great.

Only, when she got to her office, he hadn't been there. Instead, there were two people she never would've expected.

"—a G mutation with no prior experience, I doubt you'll have to do much to get yourself back into the swing of things," Clive O'Brian was saying to Claire Redfield, who was sitting behind what had been Chris's desk with a small, uncertain smile on her face. It didn't reach her eyes.

"I hope so, though Harvardville kind of made it apparent I was out of practice . . ." She trailed off upon noticing Jill, and O'Brian turned around to greet her.

"Hello, Jill," he said warmly, and she made an effort to smile back. The incident with Lansdale notwithstanding, she'd always liked O'Brian, and she hadn't seen him for a year before he came into town for the funeral.

"O'Brian," she acknowledged, shooting him a questioning glance. "I didn't know you were still here."

"Ah, yeah. I've been milling around HQ over the weekend. Brings back good memories. My flight leaves in—" He checked his watch and cringed. "—but I thought I'd stop in and talk to Agent Redfield. I've heard a lot about her."

"Agent Redfield?" Jill repeated incredulously. Claire? The woman had been working for TerraSave two days ago, hadn't she?

"I'm your new partner, Jill," she said, briefly darting sad eyes to Chris's former desk. "Or, I will be soon, at any rate."

"But—I thought you were happy at TerraSave." That's what Chris had said, the last time he'd mentioned her.

"I decided I wanted to take a more . . . active role. Like Chris. So I resigned and applied here. They were happy to have me. And since my resignation was active immediately, I officially start as soon as the paperwork's done."

"Chris would be very proud," O'Brian said solemnly, bowing his head. "He was a good man and a fine agent. The world was . . . a much better place with him in it."

Claire sniffled, her eyes suddenly a bit damp. "Thank you."

But Jill—no, Jill didn't think that Chris would be proud. More like horrified. One of his main priorities had been keeping Claire safe, his failure to do so in 1998 still rankling him until the end. And being a BSAA Field Agent was, by definition, extremely dangerous—certainly nothing he would've wanted for her.

She missed him so much in that moment. It was like he'd been the only thing keeping her world familiar, and now that he was gone everything was coming apart at the edges and reforming into something that shouldn't be.

But she had sworn to herself after the funeral that she would do what was necessary—that she would greet her new partner and pretend she was happy to be working with them. No matter what she thought Chris would say, it was Claire's decision, her way of coping, and it wasn't Jill's place to question that.

So she smiled, tried to mean it, and said, "Welcome to the BSAA."

And Claire would go on to prove herself a competent partner. She was almost frighteningly efficient at times, going about her work like a woman possessed. There was a loathing in her, just under her skin, and it drove her on, kept her focused. She'd been hurt and now she wanted someone to feel it.

Jill had first thought Claire was lashing out at bioterrorism as a whole. She knew that anger, that desire to destroy the thing that had damaged the course of your life beyond all recognition. It was never something she would've chosen, but after all that had happened, it gave her purpose. With every scientist or terrorist she stopped, she wrenched back just a little more of what had been ripped away from her that night in Raccoon Forest.

Only Claire, as she would come to realize, hadn't joined the BSAA to try to fix herself. She might've accepted the reality of Chris's death but there was no coping, not for her—just a festering wound sitting heavy in her mind, possessing her with an idea.

She was convinced Wesker was still alive, and she wanted revenge.

"Do you think he could still be alive?" Carlos asked her, a little while into the partnership. He'd become a fixture in her apartment as of late, sitting on her couch drinking beer and listening patiently to whatever she had to say, no matter what it was.

Jill ran her hands over her face and thought about what she'd seen that night in Spencer's library—and even more so, about what Chris had told her he'd seen.

Disembowelment, he'd called it. Tyrant's claws straight through the stomach and out the other side, blood everywhere, so much blood. And then in Antarctica there'd been steel rebar and fire and yet somehow, none of it took.

A fall seemed so paltry in comparison to all of that, but God, Jill wanted him to be dead. She wanted it so bad she could taste it, wanted to believe it so fully that she didn't have to be afraid deep in her heart that one day, he'd come back and all the pain of healing wouldn't have been worth anything.

"I want Chris's death to have meant something," she whispered, and it wasn't an answer at all but Carlos seemed to understand, if not agree.

"It did mean something," he insisted. "He saved your life."

She laughed derisively. "You know, sometimes Claire looks at me and I wonder if she's thinking, it should've been you. And it should've been. I don't have anyone to leave behind, not really."

And oh, Chris had been so damaged for those past eight years, too strong to ever give up but fractured deep in his core. Wesker had devastated him and he'd never really put himself back together correctly. He'd thought Jill hadn't known and she wished she didn't, but she was too close not to see the truth right in front of her face.

Maybe that was what had driven his choice that night, some sense of responsibility or a want of closure. But maybe he hadn't realized that for all that he cut himself off from any support, they all leaned on him. Now there was nothing, especially for Claire.

"That's not true," Carlos insisted, surprisingly vehement. "Don't talk that way."

"My parents are dead, I don't have any siblings—"

"You have me."

Jill stopped short, her argument completely gone. Carlos's searching eyes found her own.

"You'd leave me behind," he finally continued, voice a quiet murmur.

Then he leaned in and kissed her.

.

.

.

Author's Note: So hello everyone! Here be some angst for you, with a disappointing lack of Wesker and Chris. But hey, in the next chapter Chris should finally be waking his ass up and moving this bitch along at last. :D

Well, Resident Evil 6 was . . . I guess I didn't hate it? But like, there was no horror at all and I'm really kind of disappointed in the direction they're taking it. I especially didn't like where Sherry ended up after RE2 (with some random new character? really?), thus the beginning of this chapter.

And Wesker, you be nice to Sherry. She's totally gonna be your daughter-in-law one day and the mother of your viral mutant grandbabies.

Revelations has actually grown on me recently. O'Brian is a freaking awesome old dude, Jessica is queen, and there was so much gayness between Parker and Raymond I can't even say.

The world being "a better place with Chris in it" is my mandatory reference to Hannibal, which was an awesome book/movie series and is now a goddamn BITCHING tv show that I discovered between the last chapter and this one. *dies*

Thank you so much for all the reviews! It was definitely them that finally motivated my sad procrastinating self into writing another chapter.

-Anna