Blindside tr. v.
- To catch or take unawares, especially
with harmful or detrimental results
- To attack from an unseen or unexpected direction
March 30, 2003. 12:25pm. Washington DC.
Thirty-seven. The exact number of minutes displayed by the carefully-polished hands of the clock. Thirty-seven signalled also the number of steps he had taken around the immaculately-woven rug in the centre of the room. Thirty-seven minutes he had been kept waiting.
He was sure that the wait was deliberate. On any other occasion he would not have questioned such tardiness - there were many schedules far more important than his own - but he had been the one to call the meeting in the first place. Never keep a guest waiting; that was what he had always been told.
'Nice to see they don't even live by their own rules.'
"Leon," spoke the familiar voice at last. "Come in."
He cast one final glance towards the secretary before catching the heavy oak door and pushing his way inside a much larger room.
Vincent Gregor did not quite live in the same world as Leon Kennedy, and the interior of his office was evidence enough for this claim. It was a superficial library in itself, ornamental books tightly packed onto shelves that lined the semi-circular alcove into which his desk was set, all the way up to the ceiling. A large window offered a view onto the front of the property, the midday sun illuminating the office with a brilliant light.
"This looks...comfortable," he commented.
Gregor remained stoically blank, and signalled to a seat in front of his oversized desk.
"Sit down," he ordered. "You requested this meeting?"
His eyes met Leon's, told him to explain himself and make it good.
"Yes, sir," he confirmed. There had been a lot on his mind lately; Gregor was known for his limited patience and there was no doubt that he would cut the meeting short before all had been spoken. "I have been...fighting Umbrella for the past five years, at your request. I have been watching the news; I know what is happening, even if everyone around here is keeping quiet about it. To be perfectly honest, sir, I can't help but wonder what is next? After all, you only hired me to act against Umbrella."
Gregor held his hands against the desk, eyes seemingly taking in every minute movement that his subordinate made, analysing his behaviour stealthily. Leon did not move, simply met his eyes and was sure to convey the fact that he would not leave until he had the answer he was searching for.
"What do you want to do?"
Leon blinked. Nobody had ever asked him that before. Sure, he had been asked how he felt about certain predicaments, but his words never had much bearing on what was to happen. What he wanted never mattered much. Truth be told, he was unsure of exactly what he wanted.
"I am...quite comfortable here," he replied, choosing to speak his feelings and hope that desire soon followed. "All my life I have felt powerless to intervene in situations that I can now help resolve. If it is at all possible, I'd like to continue to work for the government, in whatever capacity my services are required."
Gregor's eyebrows rose; he had evidently not expected to hear such a request.
Though his reaction had given Leon less reason to hope for agreement, he refused to feel disheartened over the prospect of redundancy.
"That is good to know," Gregor smiled; an unusual act for a man so uptight. "Your work here has not gone unnoticed, Leon. You have impressed many of us with your skills and your attitude. Such dedication is rarely found in a man so young; we would be fools not to extend to you a more permanent position."
Leon's shoulders relaxed. He had not been aware that he held himself awkwardly until relief removed all formality.
"What you have heard is correct," he was told. "The joint effort of the Russian government and anti-Umbrella operatives succeeded in dealing a crippling blow to the Umbrella Corporation. The courts finished with them a month ago; the liquidation of their assets is almost complete. However, the Global Pharmaceutical Consortium - as you will already know - is facing an unprecedented amount of backlash from the case. We require another representative to oversee the dismantlement of what remains of Umbrella. I'd like to place you in that role, Kennedy."
Was he serious? Leon pushed himself upright in the rather uncomfortable chair, trying to discern the meaning of his superior's offer. Surely it had to be a joke. He was no rookie, he had seen his fair share of horror; to place him in what amounted to a legal situation was nothing short of insulting. Had he been trained for nothing?
"With all due respect, sir," he began to complain.
"Just hold it there," Gregor chuckled. "A man who begins a sentence with those words never truly means them. I will be honest with you; I have an ulterior motive."
He studied Leon's expression for the briefest of moments, measuring his response. Intrigue and the natural reaction of overwhelming curiosity became displayed perfectly in the sudden narrowing of his eyes.
"Last week a Nigerian village fell victim to a plague," Gregor continued. "International medical staff were involved in the control of this isolated incident, and it soon became clear that the plague in question was none other than the T-Virus."
"That's impossible," Leon interrupted, forgetting his manners momentarily. "The T-Virus was property of Umbrella. Umbrella's research was all destroyed."
"All samples found in Umbrella's possession were destroyed," Gregor clarified. "Though a small number were retained for the purpose of developing preventative measures, but all have been accounted for. We believe that a former Umbrella staff member sold the sample to a militant group. It was a controlled infection, though unfortunately there were no survivors. The Global Pharmaceutical Consortium is concerned over public reaction should this news ever reach the media. They have been searching for a means of buffering the impact and ensuring that the remains of Umbrella that have evidently drifted out onto the black market do not harm any more innocent people."
All of this information was beginning to sound familiar to Leon; a passing conversation between friends that he had paid little attention to at the time. There had been much talk of the post-Umbrella days amongst the ranks of the underground groups he had drifted through at the government's request; he was not out of ideas as to how the GPC could react to the recent infection.
"They were approached by several of your former comrades," Gregor explained. "They brought to them the idea of an anti-bioterrorism taskforce, and as you can imagine it all went over quite well. While this has little to do with the government, I believe that one day it will. We are not fools, Mr. Kennedy; diplomacy and carefully-worded speeches will get you nowhere in this world. One day, this taskforce will likely be bestowed the power to take a more...direct approach to these incidents. If viruses are finding their way into the hands of terrorists, it is likely that B.O.W.s will soon be the weapon of choice. When that day comes - and I feel it will be soon - a representative of the government will be required to assess this unit and determine whether or not they are competent enough to conform to what is required of them, at least on American soil – this is a UN issue after all. I would like you to be that agent, Mr. Kennedy. If I place you on another assignment in the meantime it is unlikely that you will be able to take on this new responsibility. So I ask you to bear with me and help us."
Silence fell around them as Leon contemplated the offer. The opportunity to once again be involved in the suppression of bioterrorism was more than his eager mind and just heart could resist, but the preceding task of tackling the legality of a situation that was far beyond his control did not appeal to him in the slightest. It could be years before this special unit rose to military importance. Did he want to commit himself to a task he despised on the off chance than he would eventually pursue a desired line of work?
"Why me, sir?" he asked. "If you don't mind my asking, that is."
Gregor smiled, sensing that he had already won the young agent over.
"You will doubtlessly have met several of the proposing individuals," he told him. "They will likely react far better to a familiar face than to that of a stranger in the government's employ. In fact, I believe that two of these individuals are close friends of yours: Christopher Redfield and Jill Valentine?"
At last, a smile broke on Leon's stubbornly straight face.
"Chris," he laughed. "He hates it when people call him Christopher."
The idea of a special unit trained to combat bioterrorism had initially struck him as odd, but he had previously worked alongside both Redfield and Valentine, and knew that a unit they had any part in founding would be a great success. Never before had he met two individuals as dedicated as the steadfast partners.
"I accept," he announced, spurred on by this new information. It had been far too long since he had worked with his friends; it would be a welcome experience.
March 30, 2003. 9:08pm. Arlington, Virginia.
The comfort provided by a moment's solitude was incomparable. Jill always sought the outdoors when her head became too crowded with thoughts. Yet one element that had never been present in her previous encounters with solitude was the cigarette that rested limply between two fingers. It had been incredibly devious of her to swipe both the cigarette in question and a rather old lighter from the pocket of her best friend, but she doubted that he would notice. Were he to smoke himself, Barry would kick him out into the back garden, where he would stumble upon her and doubtlessly accept the claim that the lighter had fallen from his pocket.
She had always wondered what the fascination with something so deadly could possibly be. Though she had spent her life amongst smokers of varying degrees, she had never taken one of the toxic instruments to her own lips. The odour of second-hand smoke was enough to put her off. If it tasted so bad when accidentally inhaled, it must have been unbearable when drawn from the source.
Stress-relief; that is what many smokers claimed it to be. It was all part of their line of work, and she knew how it felt to crave release. There were so many reasons to delve into the world of tobacco, and the small white stick became more and more desirable with each one that passed through her mind. Stress, lack of sleep, the scattering of her friends, living alone after so long sharing bunkers and rented houses, boredom, memories she would much rather be without, the knowledge that a large part of their fight still loomed ahead of them, five years without sex...
She groaned as she considered every detail, her mind laughing at the idea of the last; the only predicament she had landed herself in by choice. There had been offers, men she had found attractive and likeable enough. But each and every time they made a move on her, she would remember a faint promise made many years before and they would limp off with wounded egos, likely to find another target for their affections. Exactly why she had chosen to believe him eluded her completely. Umbrella were finished, and yet she still found herself alone.
Flicking the lighter open, she held it to the tip of the cigarette and inhaled, lighting it with minimal effort. Then she spluttered, coughed, and generally wished that her taste buds were not so sensitive.
What the hell did he see in it? The taste was vile, the feel unpleasant and quite frankly obscene. How could anyone derive such joy from this?
"What the hell are you doing?" asked Chris from the doorway several feet to her left. "Is that my lighter?"
"What the-" she spluttered before another violent cough choked her words away. "How can you- That is...disgusting."
The cigarette was plucked from her hands, the lighter reclaimed as he lowered himself onto the bench beside her and took a long, slow drag. She reached up to snatch it from his lips moments later and stubbed it out before snapping what remained in half.
"You really shouldn't be smoking," she wheezed. "It can kill you, and it makes you smell like a damn ashtray."
"You've never complained about the way I smell before," he chuckled.
She could not pick fault with his statement. The scent of smoke had always been light against his clothes and had in fact become ingrained into her memories of his presence. Even when they had kissed, she had not tasted anything that had repelled her; quite the opposite, actually.
Frustration rose once again and she battered it back down. She had told him to reveal his feelings if they still rang true; no speech, no feelings, it was as simple as that. She fought hard to shield herself from the impact of this thought but it stung regardless.
Five years of no nonsense and no complications had done wonders to their friendship. She would have gone as far as to say that their partnership had become quite formidable. There had been a time when she had wondered if their friendship - and therefore partnership - would ever recover, but she felt confident enough to say that they had never been closer. Yet somehow, she wanted more.
"Talk," he requested, gently nudging her knee with his own. "Don't say there's nothing on your mind; you've been like this ever since the court case ended."
"I'm just...sad," she admitted. "I thought I would feel different when Umbrella fell, but I don't. I still feel as though we're at war. Maybe I just don't know what to do with myself? This is all so confusing."
Chris considered her words in silence for a short while.
"Well, the GPC are moving to enable the taskforce," he pointed out. "That's something, I suppose."
"I suppose," she breathed in agreement.
Umbrella had fallen, but Wesker and Spencer remained at large. If Chris's summation was correct then Wesker possessed the T-Veronica virus, rendering him a serious threat. Aside from that, their revenge was still incomplete, and their souls would not be satisfied until both tyrants were held accountable for their actions.
Their fight was not over yet, and so a relationship was still off the cards. How many more years would it take? Would they ever find the targets of their vengeance? Though her heart longed for Chris, and would always truly belong to him, she did not know how many more years of loneliness she could take.
'Perhaps that blind date is not such a bad idea?' she pondered. If her thoughts were to be considered rational, it made sense to move on and to accept that perhaps she and Chris were simply never meant to be.
It was difficult to face reality when your mind lay elsewhere and she knew that her mind needed to be at its sharpest in the coming months.
"What will happen if the taskforce is officially sanctioned?" she wondered aloud. She had been curious since the day they had proposed the idea.
"I guess we go back to the way things were," he suggested. "Can't say I'm looking forward to the end of this reprieve, but I miss it all. It will be good to get back out into the field...with you as my partner. If you'll have me, that is."
Jill smiled secretively. Of course she would. Despite the many other comrades she had worked alongside over the years, she had never worked quite so well with anyone as she did with Chris. Their partnership was natural; they complimented each other perfectly. Loathe though she was to offer praise to their former captain, he sure as hell knew what he was doing when he placed them together.
"I wouldn't dream of saying no," she revealed, and bumped her shoulder against a much larger one to her left.
"Partners?" Chris smiled, offering his fist to her. Jill laughed and knocked her knuckles against his.
"To the end."
It was not without pain that she spoke these three words. Partners. That was all they would ever be.
Perhaps it was for the best? If the tentatively-named Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance was ever cleared for combat, a relationship could prove problematic in securing their partnership.
"I need to talk to you, Jill," Chris announced. He pushed his hand into his pocket, pulling out a lone cigarette. "Well, I need to tell you something, it's entirely up to you if you talk back."
His mind seemed far away from the moment, and he picked at the end of the cigarette, making no attempt to light it. Jill smiled inwardly, believing that he had taken one step closer to quitting. She had tried to persuade him into ceasing his habits for many years, but none had proved fruitful. It was not only a disgusting habit; she worried about his health.
"I'm listening," she let him know.
The cigarette fell to the grass. From out of the silence drifted the laughter of their friends, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the two were missing.
"Can we...take a walk?" he asked. Jill raised her head to take in the garden that encircled them; though the Burtons' house was large and spacious, the garden was modestly sized. There was nowhere to walk to. Yet somehow she knew that his desire was not to walk, but to move away from ears that could possibly overhear what he was about to say.
All she could do was oblige. He had been much more open with his feelings since the last catastrophic misunderstanding between the two. Enough pain had been inflicted to push both into avoiding similar circumstances. Though, while he had begun to trust her with his thoughts, he had still not warmed to the idea of sharing them with the others.
"I'm not even sure if I should do this," he admitted as they began to slowly make their way towards the far corner of the garden, a small area obscured by overgrown flowers and a particularly large apple tree. "Part of me wishes that I didn't mean it because, well...these past five years have been great, Jill. I have enjoyed working with you so much; you are amazing at what you do, I can barely keep up with you."
She was unsure of what his compliment meant, but accepted it all the same. The feeling had been mutual; she had been equally in awe of his prowess and working alongside him had been perhaps the greatest pleasure she had indulged in, in recent years.
As they reached the looming apple tree, he pulled her to a sudden stop, looking her in the eyes before he continued to speak.
"I don't know what effect this will have on our partnership, but I made a promise," he explained in a confident and rehearsed tone. "If the BSAA takes off, we will be working together for a very long time, and I need to say this before we have any chance of working together again."
He paused for breath and Jill found that hers had evaporated, sucked from her lungs before she registered its absence. She struggled to find meaning in his words, but each search turned up the same answer. It was unlikely, perhaps impossible; her mind was playing tricks on her again. Still, her hopes soared and she had to fight to keep her smile hidden.
"Jill..." Chris breathed. He fought with his own mind, battling to put words to his thoughts. As though to offer encouragement, she reached for his arm, placed her fingers against tanned skin. They were so different these days; more toned, with a deeper tan than he had possessed in his early twenties. Now approaching thirty, he had matured into the man she always knew he could be, both physically and emotionally.
It seemed that her touch was all that he needed.
"I love you," he rushed, words almost fused together. Panic flashed in his eyes, and in that moment he reverted to the mentality of a shy teenager.
Jill blinked. Slowly. The moment was too surreal to process, his words registering in her mind but meaning far from reach. Then, slowly, it trickled into her realm of understanding and something spectacular flourished in her chest. But she did not move, simply remained perfectly still to stare dumbstruck into his fearfully expectant eyes.
"I love you," Chris repeated, clearly this time. He voice trembled; a trait that was uncharacteristic for the usually confident man. "I have for years. I- I don't even care any more if you don't love me back. I just...wanted you to know."
It was then that she realised his words were not simply an admission; they were an offer. He loved her, and he was offering everything she had longed for with no strings attached.
She processed this thought several times, still unable to accept that the moment was true, and not a dream that she would be cruelly ripped from in a matter of minutes. He loved her? Though she had once suspected that this was true, hearing him speak the words still caught her off guard in a rather wonderful manner.
A hand rose to her mouth as somewhat of an instinctive reaction. Her eyes fluttered shut and she tried desperately to construct a reply. The initial, dazed urge to say "thank you" was luckily suppressed.
"Oh God," he gasped, fingers suddenly buried in his hair. "You're crying. Jill-"
"No," she laughed, using the hand that had previously covered her lips to grip the fabric of his T-shirt. "I'm not crying. You just-"
It transpired that she was in fact crying, there were simply no tears coming forth. It was a strange sensation, but she could describe it only as crying without tears; she squinted in the moonlight, her lips twitched temptingly and she could feel herself choking on the words she chose to speak.
"I...I love you too," she admitted. A weight was immediately lifted from her chest, words that had been left to decompose for more years than she would like to count suddenly finding their meaning and conveying what she had known all along.
The new silence that fell was a silence of stunned disbelief. Neither was sure of how to react to each admission; it was evident that not much thought had been put into the aftermath of the moment.
Jill waited patiently, just waited for the weight of her words to hit him. She saw the light slowly flicker into existence and suddenly his smile matched hers and he reached out to touch even the most tangible piece of her. Allowing his fingers to lay to rest on her cheek, she closed the final distance, craned her neck and closed her eyes in anticipation of the acceptance of her invite.
She felt his breath upon her skin before his thin lips touched hers. The back of his fingers brushed tenderly against her cheek and she found that both of her hands now clutched fabric, the heat that radiated from them both almost choking her. His nose touched gently against hers, fingertips drawing back until he cupped her jaw, the sensation of sparks touching upon her skin emanating from each pressure point. She drifted in and out of delirium as the world spun around her, the supporting hand at her waist all that kept her upright when the moment began to overwhelm. There was little doubt that this was love, she could feel it in the nervous passion of his movements, restrained though she knew they both wanted so much more.
There was no rush this time, no reason to separate. This was so much more than she could remember. She was older, wiser, and knew exactly what to expect from the moment and how to control the emotion that spurred it. They had freedom ahead; no Umbrella, no running and hiding...
Slowly, she parted her lips and released him prematurely from the kiss. Chris smiled down at her, failing to pick up on the sudden doubt that had crept its way into her mind.
"Damn," he whispered, suspended in punch-drunk love.
She did not wish to feel so detached from the moment, but it came naturally with the thoughts that descended upon her.
"What about Wesker?" she asked, finding that her lips continued to tingle. It was perhaps not the best idea to mention his name in the midst of an expression of love, but his continued existence troubled her. "Don't think that I don't want this because God, Chris, I do. But we swore that we would wait until this was all over before we let anything happen. It won't change how I feel about you, but...he's still out there. It's not over."
The smile that answered her worry told her that it was a point he had already considered. His smile became contagious and somehow the way that he held her, and brushed wind-swept hair from her eyes, reassured her that there was no question of what they were and what they could be.
"There will always be something or someone out there," he explained in a voice that was perhaps softer than she had ever heard from his lips. "Wesker is personal, and as of this moment he is not as big a threat as Umbrella were. Look, the time we enjoyed as friends was amazing and did us both good, but I don't want to look back in ten years and regret wasting time that should have been spent with you. I love you, Jill; no amount of distance between us could ever change that."
Whether it was his honesty or sudden abandonment of excuses that caused her worry to evaporate, she did not know. The only problematic thoughts that remained pertained to the years that had seen a coat of rust form on her practice of relationships and all that came with them. It felt as though she was starting from scratch, and this was one relationship she knew that she could not screw up.
'You are both in the same position,' she reminded herself. A journey lay ahead, but she knew that she would not be the only one to ride that rocky road.
"Boyfriend," she spoke suddenly, provoking a small reaction of surprise within him. The word did not sound absurd to her; in fact, it sounded completely natural, as though it were a title nature itself had endowed him with. She already knew him inside out, knew his likes and dislikes, which nerves provoked which reactions and what each level of silence meant. It was not so much a significant change to her life or to their relationship, more an extension of what already existed.
"I like how that sounds," she explained when his quizzical eyes met hers.
Her words, it seemed, were taken as an admission of want, and acceptance of his silent offer. The kiss was more forceful this time, relief expressed through passion. All the while his hands held her body to his, gentle yet firm in their insistence.
"Chris?" Rebecca's voice called out from what seemed like a mile away. "Jill?"
He let out a soft groan of irritation that she was sure she was never intended to hear. His bottom lip was trapped teasingly between her teeth as they reluctantly separated, bodies obscured from view by the well-placed apple tree.
"What?" he called, impatient down to the tone.
"The pizza just arrived," Rebecca called out, obviously making no attempt to step out into the garden.
"Alright," he responded. "Just let me...finish this cigarette. We'll be a few minutes."
Jill found his earlobe with her teeth, grazing it lightly in a move pulled directly from the memories of a night they had avoided for almost five years. It seemed that it was a move that drove him crazy even to this day as he reacted in kind, bending to place a series of brief kisses along her jaw line.
The intimacy struck her as strange for a couple in the early moments of their relationship, but she then considered the thought that they were far from a normal couple. Intimacy was no stranger to them; it had simply never before found its way into an appropriate situation.
"What are we going to tell them?" she breathed when his forehead rested against hers. She found that she was breathless, reacting to a kiss as she did to a five-mile run.
"Can we...have some time?" he requested. "They will never leave us alone when they find out and I...well, I just want to spend some time with you without the usual drama."
Jill agreed, but laughed all the same. Their lives were never short of drama, especially where interactions with one another were concerned. But something about the thrill of hiding their romance injected an extra measure of appeal into the idea and she nodded to signal her agreement.
"I love you," she felt the need to repeat.
And then, the moment was over and reality found its way back to the secluded corner of the garden. Their smiles remained as his hand rested on the small of her back and he guided her towards the gathering they had almost forgotten.
There was so much changing in their lives; the end of Umbrella, moving to a new State, the beginning of the BSAA, and now a relationship she had not, in all honesty, expected to enter.
Of all the changes, they both agreed that this was by far the most intriguing.
AN - I know that I said I would take a break before posting this, but nature struck me down and I've effectively been confined to the sofa. Boredom soon took over and I decided to finish off the prologue. As many of you will know, this is the sequel to Strength Through Wounding. Newcomers, please do not be put off; it is entirely possible to read this without having read the prequel (though there may be some confusion, but what isn't cleared up in-story I'll be happy to explain in a PM).
The story follows Chris, Jill, Leon and Claire in the early days of the BSAA. The genre I was a little stuck on, because it covers pretty much everything: romance, drama, horror, action, suspense (maybe, I'm not sure how good I am with that lol). Yes, there will be zombies, there will be blood and a couple of game characters you may not be expecting will return.
That is all I am saying for now ^_^. The rating may change. I am leaving it as T for now, because the first part of the story should not exceed 'T', but I won't know what the second half will push it to until I write it.
I actually have to admit that I've been toying with the idea of a trilogy. I pulled ideas from a few scrapped storylines I had in mind when planning this, and a few would also work well into a sequel to this. I've always wanted to do a trilogy, but have never made the commitment. I already have an idea of what I would like it to be about, but I am committing myself to nothing. Let's just see how I fare with this and whether or not I have any creative energy left at the end ^_^.
I'll say a huge, huge thank you here to everyone who supported me through Strength Through Wounding. You are all amazing, and this story would not be here if it was not for your continued support and reviews. You know who you are...this story is dedicated to all of you. I hope it does not disappoint.
Disclaimer: If you recognise it, I don't own it. Resident Evil and all affiliated characters/locations/creatures belong to Capcom. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only, and no copyright infringement is intended.