They had kicked her out. In the harsh light of day she had seen their true faces and where their loyalties lay; apparently with the new girl, the new leader. The one who suddenly knew what was best for the small group of survivors. After the many months of protecting and encouraging hope in the convoy, it hurt to be thrown out of what she had thought was a tightly knit faction. To be shunned from her own vehicle, the SUV she had contributed as the first piece of the convoy, just the thought angered her and fueled her need for the object which had been the cause of her banishment.
Claire Redfield struggled to rein in her irritation as she inhaled deeply the sweet thick fumes of the cigarette she gripped with only her lips. Her hands were too busy being threaded through her own strawberry hair. Acute hair loss due to stress was a new growing worry to Claire ever since she came in the picture. Alice.
Alice had suggested that they stop the convoy on the side of the road when Claire had lit up one of her delicious cancerous friends in the SUV. Alice thought it was a bad idea to expose those who didn't smoke to the toxic fumes, saying that their chances of survival were already short enough, and Claire's filthy habit didn't need to add to that ever-increasing chance of death. The side glances thrown by Alice at the teenager, Kmart, were enough to convince Carlos that she was right.
And so here Claire was, sitting on the side of the road in the hot Nevada daylight, condemned to feel guilt over making the convoy stop so she could have her nicotine fix. Ridiculous, she thought, shaking her head to herself.
She heard a car door open and, as a force of habit and muscle memory reaction, her hand flew to her Glock tucked safely yet conveniently loose into a holster at her side. Claire had to struggle not to pull the gun out and aim as she saw Alice walking towards her from the car.
"You smoke slow."
Claire gritted her teeth, took another long drag off the cigarette, and removed it from her mouth. "I like to make them last. Who knows when there won't be any more of them?"
"Hmm. I guess that's true."
Alice was next to the redhead now, who refused to look at the newcomer. As a result, Claire's peripheral vision picked up only Alice's long legs and thighs, covered at the top by faded black fabric and bare halfway above the knees. Something about the sight made Claire uneasy. She turned her head a bit to the left and inhaled smoke once more.
"So were your parents the kind that didn't teach you how to share?" The blonde asked, a half smirk playing on her hardened features. Claire started, looking the other in the face with and astonished expression.
"Excuse the fuck out of me?" She asked with a snarl, replacing the cigarette in its rightful place between her lips again.
Alice's smirk grew into a full blown grin as she reached over purposefully and with two delicate fingers plucked the dangling cigarette from Claire's mouth to wrap her own lips around it. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, savoring the rich taste of the red label smoke.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," Claire exclaimed with an exasperated face. "You were the one who went on that whole spiel about how smoking was bad for our remaining youth and how I should go outside of the car to do it."
Alice drained a bit more of the chemicals from the stick and then pulled it out of her mouth, expelling smoke from her nose like some sort of cigarette stealing dragon. Her grin remained as she said "Like you said, who knows when there won't be any more of them," and then carefully reached over and placed the almost finished butt back between the redhead's slightly parted lips.
As her hand pulled away, the back of Alice's index finger softly brushed against Claire's jaw for a fraction of a second; barely noticeable.
Claire shuddered, and then confusing want turned to anger at the rudeness of the other woman, who was striding back towards the SUV. Claire jumped up, stomping out the last bit of cigarette beneath her boot, and jogged over to Alice as she was halfway to the car.
"Hey!" She grabbed the blonde's shoulder and spun her around to face the simmering glare of Claire's own face. "Why the hell can't you act like a normal civilized person? If you have a problem with me, just tell me to my face. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's-"
"Passive aggressive games?" Alice finished for her. Claire blinked, and Alice took the moment of silence to step a foot closer to the redhead. "I don't have any problem with you, Claire." The smirk had returned. Claire wished she had something to cover it up with.
"Then please, explain why the hell it is you've chosen to annoy only me? Oh, everyone loves the new girl! She can create fiery skies from nothing and is impossible to even scrape in a fight. Well I'm on to you, new girl. There's something way off about you and I'm going to find out what it is. It's my job to keep these people safe, and I will stop at nothing to do it." Claire hadn't realized she had stepped forward as well, leaving only a few inches between the two of them.
Alice's face was unreadable now, all signs of the smirk gone, replaced by a stern yet wistful expression Claire couldn't figure out. Alice's stare burned into Claire's own eyes, making her shiver once more. The blonde leaned forward slowly, closing the space between them. Claire was frozen, except for her eyes, which she shut now that they were freed from the intense stare of those light ocean blue orbs.
Alice's lips stopped barely a centimeter from Claire's own, and then the blonde smoothly moved her mouth around to the side of Claire, stopping at her ear, and whispered with force "All I want is to keep these people safe; including you. Don't forget that."
The warm breath on her ear made a strange jolt of electric current shoot through Claire's body quickly, immobilizing her further. She searched her brain for something to reply with, but came up blank. Opening her eyes, she saw Alice's right boot disappearing into the front passenger seat of the SUV, and heard the door shut loudly in the quiet desert.
Suddenly feeling stripped and exposed, Claire hurried to the car, climbing into the back seat next to Kmart, who had stuck a pair of headphones in and was pushing buttons on an old Sony walkman. The teenager glanced up at Claire and offered her an ear bud. Claire shook her head and turned her attention to the window, replaying what had just happened over in her head until the sun retreated over the hills and with it, her will to stay awake.
As Claire dreamed, she was back outside the SUV, standing halfway between the car and the road, as she was earlier when the confrontation happened. Alice was there, staring at the smoking cigarette dangling from Claire's mouth.
She walked forward, plucked the cigarette from between the other woman's lips, and tossed it over her shoulder fluidly. She leaned in and touched Claire's shoulder lightly with her gloved hand, fingertips exposed. Her cold fingers felt good on Claire's naked shoulder, and she wished that the blonde would slip her hand under the strap of her brown tank top. She was burning up.
Alice whispered something in Claire's ear, but the blood pounding in her head was too loud, and the sound overpowered Alice's soft yet strong voice. Alice pulled back to stare into green eyes and, like before, leaned in until she was less than inches away from Claire's lips. Claire could feel the heat surging from her own face, and Alice's cold skin repelled it back towards her like a shield. Claire wanted to penetrate that shield, but didn't know how.
Confusion swelled deep within the redhead's brain. Enticing pieces of fantasies or memories of Alice danced behind her eyelids with rapid speed, puzzling reality with imagination. Alice walking towards her outside, Alice standing protectively in front of her with an aimed gun, Alice with that damned smirk on her face, Alice taking a drag from her stolen cigarette.
The pieces became more intense, more personal moments that Claire, in her dream state, couldn't remember if they were real or imagined. Alice whispering in her ear, pulling Claire's shirt up just above the bellybutton, brushing a strand of red hair from her eyes, pulling her closer, wrapping her in her strong arms…
Then suddenly, just one image stuck like a bug in the spider web of Claire's mind. Piercing deep blue eyes. Flecks of green placed delicately around the center. Eyes like that were unforgettable. They stared at Claire, intensely, following her when she tried to move. They made her feel uneasy, yet safe. Protected. Cared for. Maybe even lov-
"Claire." Carlos. Sitting in the driver's seat of the SUV, turned to face Claire in the back seat. "We need to get this perimeter set up before we make camp for the night."
She shook her head to try and clear the images from her dream out of her mind. Those eyes; she could still feel them on her, prying into her. She almost didn't mind.
"Right. Get the others. I'll start scoping out the area." She said mechanically. She opened the door and stepped out into the cold Nevada desert night. Closing the door behind her, she turned, and found herself face to face with the deep blue colored orbs from her dream, staring at her in reality.
"Want some help?" Alice asked. She was perched on one of the dune buggy's the convoy carried to make perimeter set up faster and more efficient.
"Only if I can drive." Claire replied, and raised her eyebrows expectantly.
"I think maybe I should. You don't look fully awake yet, and I don't even know how to get those cameras stuck into the ground and started up properly." The corner of Alice's mouth turned up, threatening the return of the smirk. Damn her.
"Fine," Claire said shortly, and reluctantly climbed onto the buggy behind Alice.
"You might want to hold on. I drive fast." Alice warned her, humor playing in the tone of her voice.
Claire placed her hands delicately on Alice's waist, trying to keep her distance from the other woman on the back seat. She felt Alice chuckle as she revved the engine, and then they were flying through the desert, sand kicking up in two tracks on either side of the vehicle. Claire was propelled forward with the force of the buggy's rough start, and slammed into Alice's backside. She immediately flung her arms all the way around the blonde's midsection to keep from falling off.
The wind had pried both of their clothing a few inches up from their stomachs, and Claire gasped at the feeling of her bare stomach on Alice's back. She quickly regained control of herself and let go of Alice with one arm, pulling her shirt back down and tucking it inside her pants to keep it down. She decided to replace her arm around the other woman, reassuring herself it was for safety reasons rather than indulging some sick fantasy she may or may not have had in a dream.
This being in the hot sun all day is really starting to mess with my head, she thought to herself, as she reached around to grab the first camera to shove into the cool sand of the desert. She would secure this perimeter, grab some quick dinner, take first watch, then go to sleep, ALONE, hopefully having a dreamless slumber and no attacks from the infected.
Although, as she thought about it, Claire decided that maybe another dream like the last wouldn't be such a bad thing.