from here on
Disclaimer: It hasn't changed, folks.
A/N: A little oneshot inspired by the current RP with notanotherfanficauthor, delving into the angst point of view that follows RE5. Sometimes happy endings are a long time coming.
They were flying into a sunset like a proverbial fairtaile ending. The chopper blades hummed rhythmically and the scenery of Kijuju's wasteland passed beneath them in fast forward, replaying all locations they had so strenuously waded through in the past 48 hours. Chris didn't bother to look out of the window. Sheva had fallen asleep beside him, head propped against the wall in a very uncomfortable looking fashion, reminding him just that little bit too much of young Rebecca Chambers on their flight back from Arklay.
But that was ten years ago, where, no matter what horrors, they had each other and knew they could pull through it together. Ten years ago he knew Jill Valentine would be there to watch his back no matter what happened. Raccoon City had scraped them together, had taught them how important a team was and that trustworthy people were the most precious thing in the world.
Two years ago Jill had lived up to the task, that invisible responsibility of protecting each other. It had always been a silent agreement, something both of them had come to accept as normal, but never thought was going to come true. It was like an insurance policy you conducted against water damage when you were living in a desert. The chance of a tsunami destroying your life was ridiculously small. And then, boom, God squashes you with His mighty hand.
Chris had never been able to forgive himself for what had happened that day. His sister wasn't the only one to tell him that it hadn't been his fault, but none of his friends could convince him of the opposite. Jill Valentine, his Jill, had died because he insisted on pursuing his nemesis without heading any warnings.
For two years Chris had been haunted by guilt, the blame painfully eating away at him. He had tried to make up by throwing himself into work, putting all his efforts into locating Wesker, pushing his body to the limits so he stood a chance and carefully planning out every possible situation he could be engaged in with the former STARS captain.
And then one day he'd been pushed a stack of papers into his hands, rumors of a new company that strived to take Umbrella's place. But that hadn't been what had led Chris all the way the godforsaken regions of Africa. Rumors of his former partner. He got nothing else but a picture, much too fuzzy to recognize any detail. Saying it was Jill was a guess as good as any other, but it was that small hope in his heart that kept dying a little more each passing day. She wasn't dead. He'd never truly given up, the coincidence that neither her nor Wesker's bodies had been found after the fall just too big to believe. He thought that he knew the man better than anyone else and Wesker had never been one to underestimate, not even in his human days.
So he set out to Africa to defeat evil in the world and transform his little spark of hope into a full-blown flame. 48 hours later, although he had succeeded in his quests, the fire was far from searing.
Jill Valentine sat across from him, pale blue orbs lost somewhere in the distance. Her face was littered with scratches and Chris felt himself taken over by shame whenever he looked at her. He'd inflicted most of those injuries with his own hands, after Wesker had started the uneven battle down in the ruins. That blossoming bruise under Jill's left eye – a hook aimed to merely bring her out of balance, ending in a lucky shot at almost crushing her cheekbone.
The gash on her shoulder coloring her clothes a deep red – it was where his machete had cruelly dug into her arm, its sharp teeth biting through skin and muscle. That blow had been intended for Wesker, to rip out his throat in an attempt to finally stop the nightmare. Wesker had easily evaded the strike and Chris thought he could remember that sly smirk on the man's lips as he sidestepped, Chris' attack already too advanced to stop or deflect it. Jill had stood behind her captor and as the blade hit her he had felt the way it lodged into her flesh. Her cry of pain would haunt him to the end of his nightmares.
And then her chest, bruised, bloody, burst. Some of the wounds were clotting, others were too deep to get over the abuse so quickly. The surrounding skin was a mixture of colors, red, black, purple. He noticed the way she breathed – flat, slow puffs – a clear indication for how much his brutal administrations pained. Had he known how deep the device had been lodged, he wouldn't have been so careless about it. He should have stopped when it started to malfunction, when every fibre of her body cramped at its untimed initiation. Before his departure Wesker had upped the dose on whatever he kept pumping into her. Had it been too much for her to take?
Was that why he'd insisted on removing the device right then and there, ignoring all risks? Sheva had been doubtful, but Chris, in his hatred for Wesker and what he had done to Jill, had put all his force into it, ripping the tubes out of her body carelessly. He still saw it perfectly before his inner eye, the way her spine arched during the final extraction to the point he feared it would snap.
And when she'd finally regained her wits she told him to go, that she'd be alright, that he had to stop Wesker because that was all that counted. It had been the second time she had sacrificed for him and the second time he'd abandoned her for the sake of something else. He knew it had been the right thing to do, Wesker had to be stopped at all costs. But that didn't stop the guilt from quelling inside Chris' chest.
He searched her eyes, tried to draw her gaze to him, if only to offer a silent promise to her that he was going to stand by her side from now on, no matter what happened. But Jill's stare was absent and he wasn't able to guess what was going on behind those azure eyes.
He didn't know what he'd hoped for. Jill had been dead for two years, swept off the surface of the earth for all intents and purposes. And then this incidental mission in Africa that led him right down to the heart of evil, where he discovered she guarded it with her life. Where he discovered that she was still alive, held captive by his worst enemy for, if nothing else, what seemed like personal mockery.
He had saved her and the world should be right again, but Chris didn't even have to look at her to know it wasn't. Two years of captivity had changed Jill Valentine, stripped her of so many the qualities he had loved about her.
"Hey," he suddenly said and her head shot up. She didn't answer, waiting instead for him to continue.
He wanted to say 'Snap out of it!', 'Wake up!', or simply make one of his bad jokes that usually eased the tension between them. Truth was, he didn't know how to approach the situation and suddenly striking up a conversation was the dumbest thing he could have done.
"We're going home," he settled for in the end, scanning her features for some kind of reaction.
Jill smiled, but it was fake and she didn't even bother to hide it. It set off a flurry of emotions. Rage, hate, despair. He looked at Jill and he thought of Wesker, and he hated himself for what he had let happen to her all this time.
"God, Jill," he continued, trying to fill the awkward silence. She just looked at him, making no move to help him out.
"God, I'm so sorry… for everything."
The words should have brought some kind of relief to him, but instead they did the opposite. Being sorry didn't change what she went through, what she had to endure and what she had been forced to do. He didn't even want to start thinking what Wesker had done to her. The possibilities were endless, one more sinister than the other. And all of it was his fault.
He had insisted on that mission to Spencer's Estate. Jill had been against it from the start. They had been unprepared and badly equipped and had underestimated Umbrella yet again. With fatal consequences.
"Wesker's dead," Jill said, her voice flat and weary. "That's all that matters."
He looked her over, resisted the impulse to pull her into an embrace, hold her close to him and never let her go again. Instead he said what had been on his mind ever since he found out she was still alive.
"…what did he do to you, Jill?"
Her eyes darted to the floor instantly, but he didn't need to see them. Her whole body evaporated it. Shame, disgust, fear, hatred. In that moment Chris wished Wesker was still alive. Suddenly the way he died didn't seem appropriate anymore. Not even being devoured by Uroboros was a fair punishment for all the wrongs he'd committed.
"I'm never, never going to let anything happen to you."
"I don't think a lot more can happen."
"I'm going to be there for you." He gripped her clammy hands, squeezed tightly. He didn't know what he should say. She'd given his life for him. He couldn't think of anything he could give her in return for that, to make up for what she'd done for him. He wanted to take the burden she carried, to free her of the horrors she had faced. He wanted to turn back time and stop her from jumping out of that window. He wanted the impossible. "I'm not going to leave you alone anymore."
Jill didn't pull her small hands from his and he took that as the answer she couldn't give in words.
He stood up and settled beside her, not failing to notice how she initially flinched, a short moment of lost control she tried to put up before him.
"I don't want to hurt you," he said and pulled her closer, careful not to touch any of her wounds. There was resistance at first, then she sagged against him. He brushed his fingers over her familiar form, closing his eyes and wishing them back when actions like these brought blissful reassurance and comfort instead of tensed bodies and strain.
But his mind was troubled and Wesker still towered mightily even beyond death. He couldn't help but wonder how it must have been for her. Had she fought against him? Had she resisted his attempts at controlling her? And how much had he made her pay for her defiance, what means had been required to break her in to his will?
Jill propped her head against his shoulder, quietly, and he played along and pretended he didn't notice. It seemed like such a déjà vu, like time had catapulted them ten years into the past, where they had narrowly escaped death with their bare lives.
He thought he could smell the stink of the Spencer Mansion burning, the crackling of wood as the forest around it caught up in the flames. They had lost many good friends that day and flew home in the false belief that they had woken up from the nightmare and defeated its horrors.
Ten years later, Chris felt just the same and he knew it was just as wrong. The smell of fire did not belong to an ancient decaying mansion, but to his own scorched skin and the volcanic ash on his clothes. More good men had left their lives for a cause that was long not won yet.
And although he held her in his arms, now like ten years ago, Chris realized that, in the end, he had lost to his worst enemy, that Wesker had dealt him a blow he would never recuperate from. He might have freed Jill from the Devil's grasp,
but had he saved her in time?
you are not wrong who deem,
that my days have been a dream;
yet if hope has flown away,
in a night, or in a day,
in a vision, or in none,
is it therefore the less gone?
- Edgar Allen Poe