Everything seemed alright in the early days. She was back, and that was what was important for Chris Redfield. She was finally there in the flesh. If she didn't speak much, or stared into space more often than not, he chalked it up to what she's gone through. Anyone who went through hell and back like she did had more than enough reason to. What was important was that she was back. Jill Valentine was home. Chris told himself that that was enough, and for a while, it was. He found himself making excuses for her. Smiles, which were already rare prior to the second Spencer mansion incident and which Chris took pleasure in drawing out, hardly passed on her lips anymore, if they actually ever did after Kijuju. Her eyes, which burned with fire and determination, alternated between being flat and dead to haunted, the eyes of a helpless animal before it got slaughtered by a much more powerful predator. Her movements, which were graceful but strong, became erratic, and there were moments when she would just stay in one corner without movement for hours at a time. It came to the point that Chris didn't feel he was being pushed out, but rather, Jill was pulling in on herself, and she didn't want anyone else to accompany her in that state. He worried, but he reasoned that it was normal, that she needed time to recover, and he sure as hell wasn't the one who would push her, not after all the crap that they went through.
It only took one moment for him to be awakened to the situation, but by then, it was almost too late. He'd dropped by in her apartment two hours ahead of schedule, lugging groceries which he took upon himself to bring to his partner while she "sorted things out" with herself. He planned on surprising her by cooking her dinner, but he was the one who ended up in shock when he opened the door and found her sprawled on the white carpet, the vivid scarlet staining the pristine color of the runner. Instinct took over then, the intrinsic drive for survival that he'd developed over the years of fighting against the undead and horrifying creatures that no person should ever had to encounter once, let alone several times. After he patched her up as fast and as best as he could, he picked her up and rushed to the hospital, driving as the though the hounds of hell were on his heels.
The drive back a few days later was more sedate. Occasionally, he would glance at the white strips tightly wrapped around Jill's wrists, and he would again remember how her blood had spilled on the carpet when he found her. Or perhaps he recalled an event much earlier than that, when she sacrificed her own life in exchange for his by throwing herself and their mortal enemy out the window. His memory might even have gone back even further than that, at the time when they were only a little more trained than cops and became trapped in a mansion in the middle of a forest, where their nightmares began. In any case, his hands tightened around the steering wheel and his jaw set, movements that Jill Valentine didn't fail to catch. The drive back was devoid of speech, but more words were spoken then than the month after they returned from Africa.
It was only when they got back to the apartment that the first words were finally uttered.
"Are you going to be alright?" Chris asked Jill, as he opened the door for her. She simply nodded, and stood in her doorway, looking down on the floor. When Jill swayed, Chris automatically tried to extend a hand to steady her, but she shied away from his touch. It was all Chris could do to grit his teeth. "I'm not going to hurt you, you know." A pause. And then she spoke up. "I know," she murmured.
They stood there awkwardly for a few minutes in awkward silence, before Chris spoke up again.
"Can I come in for a minute?" Again, she nodded, stepping aside to let him in but still not lifting her head. Chris strode over to the couch and sat down, holding his hands together, trying to avoid looking at the angry red stain in the carpet. After a minute, Jill walked over and sat in the chair on his left side, unconsciously rubbing her thumbs over the bandages. Awkward silence hung in the air, as the two adults, who have known each other for more than a decade but seemingly even longer, struggled with themselves over what they were going to say.
It was Chris again who broke the silence. "Talk to me, Jill."
It took several moments before she spoke up. "You're angry."
Whatever Chris was expecting her to say, this was certainly not it. "What?"
Jill finally looked up then, and Chris was struck again by the haunted look in her eyes. "You're angry," she repeated, holding his gaze. "I know you, Chris."
"I wish I could say the same thing now," Chris muttered, and immediately felt sorry when he saw Jill wince. "Why won't you talk to me, Jill?" He asked quietly. "You're right, I'm angry. I'm angry because you did that," and he gestured towards her wrist. "I'm angry that you didn't even think of talking to me about what's going on with you. I'm angry and I'm scared and I don't know what to do to help you out."
"There's nothing you can do."
This time, it was Chris who winced. "Why won't you tell me then?" His question was half-challenging, half-pleading. "Maybe if we talked it over, maybe get some help…"
Jill snapped. "And what? Get some shrink to tell me how insane I am? How worthless I am? I don't need someone to tell me things that I already know! No one can help me, Chris!"
Chris pulled back when he saw the anger in Jill. This was the first time that she'd shown any emotion since they got back, and for him, it was a good sign. He risked her ire. "You're not worthless."
"Oh?" Jill gave a sardonic laugh, devoid of humor. "You have no idea what you're talking about, Christopher Redfield."
"Look, I know how you feel, but…"
"No, you don't know how I feel!" Jill hissed at him. "You don't know the hell that I've been through. You don't know the shit that Wesker put me through."
"Then tell me!"
"Alright, what do you want to hear? How I aided in infecting villagers with Las Plagas? How I held their heads in place to keep them from spitting those out? Or how about the quaint little story of the man I injected with Uroboros and watched as the creature ate him from the inside?"
"I thought you wanted me to tell you what happened," Jill's voice practically dripped with venom.
"That wasn't you!"
"Oh? Those acts were done by my hands, Chris, and I was aware of me doing it."
"You were under control!"
"I saw myself do those things. As far as I'm concerned, it was me, Chris. I can't continue making excuses for myself. I could have done something."
"Like what?" Chris argued. "Wesker had you under his control. I saw you with that device, remember? You struggled. That's enough for me."
"But not for me," Jill whispered, the fight going out of her. She put her face in her hands.
"Is that why you tried to kill yourself?" Jill's right hand unconsciously cupped her left wrist, stroking the bandages again, but she kept her face down. She said nothing. "Dying won't bring them back. You know that as well as I do," Chris continued, looking in her eyes, willing her to believe him. "That's why we fight every day. That's why we…"
Jill shook her head, stopping Chris in mid-sentence. She took a deep shuddering breath. "It's… I can't do this anymore, Chris. I'm tired of the fighting. Every time we stop one company, two, three, or five take its place. I'm tired of being part of the battle that I'm sure we're losing."
Jill's head rose up, her eyes wide with incredulity. "What did you say?"
"You heard me," Chris said. "You're trying to take the coward's way out. That's not something the Jill Valentine I know would do."
"The Jill Valentine you know is dead," Jill murmured, but without much energy.
"No, she isn't," and Chris crouched down beside Jill and took her hands in his, gently running his thumbs over the bandages. "She's right here in front of me, and I won't give up until she sees her own worth. C'mon," and sliding his hands to her elbows, he helped her up.
Jill looked up at him questioningly. "Close your eyes," Chris requested quietly. He saw the doubt in her eyes. Giving her a crooked grin, he spoke again. "Don't you trust your partner?" Giving a ghost of a smile, Jill did, murmuring, "Always," drawing a genuine grin on Chris's face.
Jill felt Chris slide his hands back into hers, and then the gentle tug. She sucked in a breath when she felt them being slid down Chris's chest, to a point where an unsteady beat pulsed. "Feel that?" Chris whispered, and Jill nodded. "That's what I feel for you, Jill. If you're not the Jill Valentine I knew back then, then you wouldn't affect me this much. I know you said that I think more with my heart than with my head, but the good thing about it is that it makes me aware of what my emotions are, and definitely know what I'm feeling for you." Jill felt her hands slide on his body again, this time lower, and she sucked in a breath again when it stopped, the sound of which was barely audible over Chris's groan. There was no mistaking where her hands were. "Feel that?" Chris growled out, his voice raspy. Jill nodded again, not trusting her voice to speak. "This is what you do to me, Jill, and I think that you knew this, even before. You've affected me more than any woman I know, and I wouldn't change that for the world. You have power over me." For the third time, Jill felt her hands moving again, reaching for his face, and she was surprised to find that, along with the roughness of his unshaken cheeks was moisture. Her hands were let go then.
"Open your eyes, Jill." When she did, her eyes confirmed what her hands had told her a moment ago. Chris Redfield, the man who hadn't wept at his comrades' funeral services and had claimed to have run out of tears after his and Claire's parents' deaths when they were kids, was crying silently in front of her. Unconsciously, she reached and wiped the tears with her thumbs, and Chris captured her hands again and brought them to his lips for a gentle kiss.
"I know we promised each other after STARS that we wouldn't fall for each other because it gets in the way of our jobs, but I'll be damned if I don't tell you now. I love you, Jill. Don't ever say you're worthless, because you mean the world to me. Please don't ever do that again. I can't lose you, not again, not after all that's happened."
"I love you too."
"I said I love you too, you big lummox," Jill said, laughing for the first time in years at seeing Chris's flabbergasted expression. To prove her point, she raised herself on tiptoe and kissed him on the lips. "I love you," she said, smiling gently.
It took Chris several seconds to recover, but when he did, he grinned broadly and kissed Jill soundly. She actually loves me! He wrapped his arms around her and twirled her around the room, causing her to giggle and admonish him to put her down. When he did, he placed another gentle kiss on her lips.
"How long?" They spoke simultaneously, and then laughed.
"You first," Chris said, still grinning.
"I think it was the time when I was captured by Wesker," and a shadow passed across Jill's face. "Maybe I have, even before that, or else I wouldn't have done what I did. Whenever I regained consciousness, all I could think of was your face, and that I wouldn't ever see you again, and argue about the stupidest things, like coffee and the way you drive." She was rewarded with Chris chuckling. "You?"
"Let's see… I think it was about the time when we were going through drills and you popped me in the head and said for me to get my butt moving or you'll leave all the paperwork to me."
Jill's nose crinkled in confusion. "But that was when we were still in STARS and…" Her face suddenly turned bright red at the implication, causing Chris to grin wider.
"What can I say? I told you that you've affected me more than anyone I know," he said, still chuckling.
"You've been in love with me for years and you didn't say anything," Jill said softly, her voice mildly accusing.
"I was scared," Chris said, shrugging. "We made our promise, and I didn't want to lose our friendship. Besides, what if I did say something and you felt the same way, and I died. How would you deal with it then?" He chuckled again, and caught Jill's expression, and stopped laughing. "I was just joking."
"I know, but… I'm sorry for pushing you away, Chris. I was scared."
"I know. Me too. Still am, actually. I don't know what tomorrow will bring. But we'll get through this." He took Jill's hands again. "Don't ever scare me like that again, Jill." Instead of answering, Jill pulled Chris in for another kiss, a task which he happily attended to.
For the first time since she came back, Jill Valentine finally felt she was really home.
Hope you like it. It's been a plot that's been hanging over my head for quite some time now. This is my first non-goofy story I've written in months, so if it's lousy, do let me know. Reviews are much appreciated.:)