A/n's: Oh God, ya'll...where do I start?
Shoutouts first I suppose, to make sure they're front, center, and visiable: DenaHoshigaki – you've been there since the very first chapter. You were my very first reviewer. Everyone who has enjoyed this story on FF dot net has you to thank. Without your support early on this story probably would have been regulated to the dusty confines of some notebook on my bookshelf/forgotten file on my desktop. Onitsu Blackfeather – Man, girl...you got it. Here I was, wibbling and meebling, uncertain and unsure and you showed up with comments that proved what I was writing was making sense – somebody was getting it! I wasn't just seeing the forest for the trees. You'll never know how much of relief you brought me and how much support and motivation your comments and reviews brought. Deathcrest and -lover – You two may not know it, but you two have been/have become some like benchmarks. Whenever I post a chapter, I look for your reviews and know, once I've recieved your "well done" seal of approval that chances are, everybody will enjoy it as well. Beta – Last, but certainly not least. My super awesome Beta. Without her, no one would have this story to enjoy. Thank you for putting up with my endless whinging and meebling and 1 a.m. "puhleeease, just look at this real quick for me" emails. *love*
Wow, okay, getting long. Everyone else, reviewers and silent readers alike – thank you, thank you, thank you!
Now, this chapter specifically...shit, I'm nervous. I hope you all enjoy. God, you have no idea. But, even if you hate it, hate it with the firey passion of a thousand suns, thank you at least for sticking with it and giving this story a shot.
Sequel? *shifty eyes*
Warnings: Swearing, sexual situations.
"Originally, this card was just called 'love;' and that's actually more apt than 'lovers' as the card is ruled not by an emotional water sign but by airy Gemini. Gemini is the communications sign and is all about messages and making contact; also, as is it the sign of the twins, it's about finding your other self, about finding something your soul requires. When this card appears, you are being told to trust your instincts, to surrender your control to a higher power, and choose that career, challenge, person or thing you're so strongly drawn to, no matter how scary, how difficult, irrational or troublesome – as without it, you will never be wholly you; you will never be complete. It's sudden and unexpected, and it means a complete change of plans; but this is love. True love. Go for it!"
-Thirteen, Aeclectic Tarot
His eyes – adapted for shadow and the dead of night – could only handle the white-hot glare of the high noon day sun for so long…but, for her, he flirted with the edges of his tolerance. Ducking into a small, out of the way room reeking of mildew and rodent droppings, he squared himself in the corner with the darkest shade, suppressed a weary sigh at the rank odor wafting up from the moss-grown carpet squishing beneath his boots, and eavesdropped through the dirty, broken window.
A floor below, lounging in the shade, she sat with that other – the dark-haired one with the bust and the penchant for batting her eyelashes - watching with mild disinterest as – if the splashing and shouting was anything to go by – several others worked at hauling in the drift nets they'd cast across the river.
"I'm just saying, Phil's got a point. I mean, don't you think it's a little odd the man won't tell us his name?"
She sighed. A soft, whispering noise through barely parted lips.
He wondered if she knew she made that exact sound often in her sleep.
He wondered how breathlessly she would gasp and sigh when he had her beneath him….
"His name is Wesker."
He'd always found loyalty to be a uselessly overrated trait in the past, but, for reasons he was still puzzling out, it pleased him to hear it from her. Perhaps it was because she held this little band of backwater survivors in the palms of her nimble hands and if he had any real hope of keeping the doubters – that miserable Daryl for one – off his back long enough to see his plan to fruition he needed her to convince them of his seemingly honest, mild mannered intentions….Or perhaps it had something to do with the images that, even now, were still rolling around in the back of his mind; those dark, heated fantasies conjured by the simplest of things – a sigh, a quick slide of tongue over parted lips, clever…nimble hands….
His hands fisted, knuckles cracking as they whitened, and he forced a measured, deep breath into his lungs, beginning a slow, deliberate count backward from ten as he exhaled.
"Where I come from, people have two names – first and last. Sometimes the real fancy folk even go for three."
"Maybe Wesker is his first name, ever consider that?"
"Who name's their kid, 'Wesker?' That's something I'd saddle a dog with - maybe - not the fruit of my loins."
"Maybe the same kind that thought 'Christiana' was a good idea."
In the midst of the marked moment of silence that followed, he found himself smiling…and quickly twisted it into a sneer. He took another breath, and started another count, back from thirty this time.
"You're a horrible person."
It was said flatly, but without any real malice that he could perceive. And he did consider himself something of an expert on the subject.
A heartbeat later, her soft laughter floated up to him and he suddenly forgot what came before twenty-four.
"In the old stories…" she began, then suddenly trailed off hesitantly. "That is, the ones my father used to tell, names had power – were magic. They could…transform beasts into men – and vice versa. Chase off witches and demons…bring gods to their knees."
The pause was so long this time he actually leaned to glance outside – and found her right below the window, the part in her glossy, earth-colored hair staring up at him. A tiny, fragile, yellow butterfly floated past, fluttering between the two women as Christiana – Christy – leaned over and let their shoulders bump gently. He saw her flinch, pulling away just slightly, but she covered it well, standing smoothly and swiping at the backside of her jeans idly as she jerked her head toward the water.
"Come on, let's go see what the big, strong menfolk have managed to provide for us wee, delicate flowers."
"Mastodon, or no dice, says 'Discerning Female Monthly.'"
Another laugh - bright, but fading as they moved away, footsteps crunching over grass and stone.
Idly, as he shifted back, the image of the little red journal drifted up to the forefront of his mind and, unbidden, he wondered if perhaps…just maybe…he should return it….
A sigh. The feathery slide of hair over his trouser leg. The jerk of smooth, soft skin beneath his absently stroking thumb.
Wesker's eyes immediately peeled from the window, memory slipping away like water through cupped hands, and flicked down to the head pillowed in his lap just in time to see her lips twitch, her eyelids flutter and grant him a flash of dark, distant eyes. His fingers curled around the back of her neck, lifted and tipped her head…but she was already slipping back under, drifting away from him as her lashes dropped against her cheek once more.
And for not the first time, nor the last either he was beginning to suspect, she caused a storm in him – a seething rush of emotions: rage, frustration, impatience, longing, desire…confusion and helplessness.
As the fingers of one hand tightened in her hair, he lashed out with the other, metal groaning and bending where his fist contacted. "How much longer?"
The pilots were smart…and determined to keep their heads as there wasn't a doubt between them that the Chairman would indeed sending them rolling if they so much as dared to breathe in the direction of the pale, still woman he cradled.
Right replied quickly, "E.T.A. at the New York Facility is thirty minutes…and counting," while Left, added hardly a breath later, "We've already made contact. Medical will be standing by."
Lip curling at the back of their heads, Wesker said nothing, settling slowly,…as his thumb took up easy, small circles over the pulse beating softly in her throat once more.
He had her.
She would be his again.
He wouldn't accept anything less.
They had miles to go yet, hours left to travel, before they would reach the rendezvous coordinates and be reunited with other survivors of the Arcadia battle, but as soon as they were clear, as soon as they finally lost the tail that had been doggedly following them for the better part of what remained of the night, Alice had Chris and Luther put their jet down. They needed time – if only a few moments – to regroup, to pull themselves together…to cool the tensions that simmered unhealthily within the plane's cramped quarters.
While Claire and the others tended the varied collection of wounds, sustained by both human and machine, Alice stood quietly in the deep shadows cast by the jet's sleek, metal body, watching; her stormy eyes carefully minding the trio of figures that had broken off from the main group to huddle together.
The man – Bill – had slumped, face haggard and drawn, to the ground, his shoulders hunching as he bent over and into himself, almost as if he was trying to ward off some physical blow.
She wished it could be that simple.
Christy, as she'd been informed the curly-haired woman's name was, kept pacing – frantic and jerky – with twin expressions of rage and sorrow warring on her face, twisting her mouth one way, then another. The other - the little one that Alice had to keep reminding herself was Sarah no matter what the haunting memories of another small, redheaded child tried to tell her - was the only one aware of her; those bright blue eyes spearing across the distance to burn into her soul.
Sarah had not taken the truth well.
Alice regretted their pain…but not what she'd told them. They needed to know.
Footsteps padded up beside her and she sighed softly, shifting her arms across her chest. "They'll never accept it – not until they see it for themselves. See her with him."
Claire tipped her head, brushed a comforting hand over Alice's shoulder lightly, and asked gently, "Can you blame them? They were family, the same way we are. Each other was all they had left."
"No," Alice replied quietly with a shake of her head. "No, I don't." She looked down at her boots, scuffed one lightly in the dirt. "In fact…I'm honestly hoping they'll use it. Umbrella is still out there, they still need to be made to pay for what they've done, and hopefully the fact that one of their own has now sided with that enemy, has betrayed them, will push them to join us in the fight. They should want to see Umbrella and Wesker come down just as badly as we do."
"Why did she do it, do you think?" Claire asked. "How could she, how could anyone for that matter, choose to…be with someone, something, like Wesker? The man is pure evil, she had to know that. She can't honestly think he cares anything about her…could she?"
"He did save her," Alice murmured helplessly, at a loss. "He could have come for me…but took her instead."
"Maybe he wants to experiment on her, like the other survivors they took."
"Maybe he'll turn her into a puppet, program her like he did-"
"Ladies," as if on cue, Luther deep smooth voice called out to them and both women turned to where he stood in the jet's open doorway – half in, half out. "Sleeping Beauty's starting to come around."
Alice and Claire looked at each other, a shared thought leaping between the two sets of blue, and then they moved, turning their backs almost as one on the grieving trio outside in favor of heading in to try and put Jill Valentine back together again.
Maybe, just maybe, if they succeeded, she'd be able to help them understand.
He'd had her, not once, but several times over the course of the night. He'd gotten what he wanted. He knew now what her passion flushed, sweat-slickened skin tasted like; what color her eyes darkened too when he ran his hands over her, when he dipped his mouth into those soft, sensitive places; what her body felt like writhing beneath – arching against – his own. He should have been satisfied, should have, finally, been able to cast her aside – his desires filled, his curiosities assuaged…and yet….
He remained. Even as she slept. Even as he had things that needed attending; those niggling loose ends that needed tying before he gave the awaiting strike team permission to launch.
He didn't like it. Didn't understand it. Didn't want it.
Didn't want to want her. Not like this.
But still…he found his fingers dancing beneath the tangle of sheets netted around them to drift over her skin, to curl around the slim ankle of the leg cast wantonly across his thighs to work, absently, at the small knob of bone there.
The sudden trip of her heartbeat, that quick stutter as she shifted from sleep to waking gave her away even before the dryly murmured, "Fiend. Can't a girl get some sleep?"
"You did sleep," he told her, watching with more interest than he should have as she stretched languidly, her back arching, breasts thrusting upward.
His fingers tightened.
A smile pulled at the corners of her mouth as she twisted just enough to look at him. "For what, five minutes?"
"Ten. I was feeling generous."
"Oh my." A lazy hand flopped over her chest, patted her heart as she smirked at him. "I'm touched. Sincerely."
Yes. She was.
His other hand joined the first, fingertips trailing up her calf, kneading muscle, toying with the sensitive cord along the back of her knee. He watched her drowsy eyes come alive, watched her tongue flick over her lower lip.
"I want you." He let himself say it – accept it – as he tugged on her trapped ankle and hauled her into his embrace, pulled her into his lap.
With her body sliding over his, her lips parting beneath his own…the unaddressed question as to why didn't seem to matter-
-and it didn't matter. Not anymore. Not to Wesker.
He had long accepted that he couldn't explain it, couldn't come up with any single, definitive reason. It was enough for him that he did...but as the memory flitted through his mind, teasing and tormenting him with the phantom brush of her skin against his, of the dark, mischievously eager glint of her eyes as she arched over him, of the taste of wild, uninhabited laughter crushed beneath his mouth, he could see the questions, the uncertainties, on the faces of the doctors as they tended her still unconscious form – as they poked and prodded at her, working through the battery of tests he'd ordered.
They didn't understand.
"Why all this fuss?"
He didn't care. They could think, believe, whatever the hell they wanted – she was his, not theirs.
All he needed from them were the words he wanted to hear.
"Sir?" Doctor Brooks was even meeker than usual, going so far as to actually flinch when Wesker rounded on him, the hand holding a plastic clipboard jerking as if he thought he might be able to use it as a shield. "I have the test results...and if I may say, she's a tough one. Scans revealed, besides the obvious injuries to her arm and face, an old fracture in the left sixth rib - perhaps a month old, must have been quite painful, that she survived at all out there with such an injury is quite-"
A hard, sharp exhale saved him from giving in to the temptation of impatient frustration and wrap his hands around the good Doctor's throat. Barely.
"Get on with it, Doctor." he snarled through gritted teeth.
The folder fluttered, papers trembling as Brooks rifled through them. "Ah...yes, of course, Sir. The M.R.I. showed some swelling, but no hemorrhaging. She'll have one whopper of a headache, but there shouldn't be any permanent damage-" he paused. Glanced up. "...That said we would like to keep her for observation-"
"No." His answer was quick, decisive, and not be argued with. "She goes with me."
Her clothes were ruined – stained with blood and stiff with salt.
He yanked on them, peeling them from her pliant, cool body with strong – lingering – hands. Her boots tumbled loudly, her jeans slapped, the stubborn vest went in ribbons, the shirt whispered…all into a jumbled pile on the floor. He'd see them disposed of later, and make sure they were replaced with something suitable….But for now he stayed, her head lolling back into his palm as he shifted her from his arms and laid her back into the soft embrace of his bed.
His bed. His quarters.
He'd refused to leave her in the labs – even understanding why Brooks wanted him to – because this was where she belonged. She needed to awaken here, amongst his things, in his space, surrounded by his scent and his presence. She needed to understand from the moment her eyes opened, from her first waking breath, that whatever she'd had before – whatever she'd hoped to have in the future – was gone.
Her life was his now. One with his.
His fingers brushed across the bruise running over her cheekbone and threaded into her hair, curling…crushing the silken strands in his fist.
There would be no escape.
He leaned, touched his mouth to her chest, felt her heart thundering beneath his lips, and moved up to the pulse beating in time against the thin, delicate skin of her throat.
He'd accepted it – the rewriting of his destiny.
His eyes slipped closed. He breathed deep, dragging in the scent of her.
So would she.
The word flitted across his mind before he was even aware of where his thoughts were taking him, the idea taking a startlingly firm hold before he had even begun to decide if he agreed with it or not - if he liked it or not.
She was his, he'd decided that. He knew that...but - was he...hers? Did that - would that - make a difference? Would it matter if she fought him? Refused him? Would anything really change?
No. No, I will have her. Regardless...
...but he couldn't deny the pleasure he had known before. Before she knew who - and what - he was.
Hot and willing, passionate and...loyal. In-spite of her fear. Despite her uncertainty.
So brave. So bold, my dear huntress.
He couldn't argue that it made him want, made him hope that-
Wesker stiffened, eyes snapping open as his body shifted automatically, instinctively dropping over hers – shielding her even though he knew full well the Red Knight couldn't see her…couldn't see them.
Even if the Red Queen hadn't gone homicidal back in Raccoon, and the White Queen hadn't betrayed the company by aiding Project Alice, he still wouldn't have allowed their brother computer to project itself in his quarters. They were his, and his alon-
-he stopped mid-thought, considered the implications of the soft body molded against his, and dropped his lips slowly to her shoulder, doting a quick, almost absent kiss over the faint curving bruise - his mark - there.
Something else he would learn to accept for her…if the payoff was keeping her close, keeping her where she belonged.
"What is it?" he replied finally, lifting his head enough to glance back.
The facility's A.I. couldn't take it's humanoid form here, but it could still access the monitor set in the far wall and through that it spoke, an Umbrella logo spinning in slow time to its lazy, unhurried speech.
"The board has asked me to remind you, Sir, that they are still awaiting your presence at the conference. They are eager to hear the results of the Arcadia campaign."
Wesker's lip curled in distaste.
The Board of Directors – sniveling, whining mouth pieces who smiled to his face, groveled at his feet, and hissed behind his back. If it weren't for the fact that he could not, physically, be present at all of Umbrella's remaining facilities and needed their eyes and ears, he'd have taken great pleasure in turning each and every one of them over to the science division for experimentation.
The mental image of that prick Saunders from Umbrella Paris being turned into something resembling a giant, neon cockroach had his hateful sneer sliding into a cruel smirk.
Unwinding his fingers from the fall of dark hair stretching across his pillow, he yanked the blanket up and covered her carefully before shifting away and standing.
"Very well," he told the A.I. "Inform them that I'll be there shortly."
"Aye, Sir," the Red Knight replied as Wesker quickly shrugged out his own blood stained clothes and tossed them into the pile on the floor with other, smaller set.
"In the meantime," he added, moving to his closet as he spoke and fetching clean garments. "No one is to enter this room but me – for any reason – and I am to be informed the moment she wakes."
"Of course, Sir."
With that, the monitor clicked off, and Wesker was left to the silence of his quarters – a quiet broken only by the rustle of his clothes as he dressed, the rapid turning of his own thoughts…and the gently whispered breath and softly drumming heartbeat of the woman cocooned in his bed.
It wasn't until after he'd fished the Umbrella lapel pin out of the candy dish on his desk, stuck it to his coat, and was moving through to the next room that he realized his own heart had slowed to match the rhythm of hers.
Consciousness came in slow, varying degrees; and I swam through the thick, foggy layers, confused, my mind whirling.
I hurt. I knew that immediately. Pain was everywhere, every muscle, every joint, my very bones seeming to ache…but it was worst in my head. There it was piercing. Inescapable. It made movement impossible, made coherent thought unreachable….
I was warm, and dry, I could tell that much, but realizing it just brought more confusion as I remembered water, I remembered being wet...remembered gagging and choking on dirty, bitter salt-water….
Memories surfaced - bright, chaotic flashes of color and sound that painted themselves on the insides of my eyelids. Running through dark, yellow-hued shadows…shifting, treacherous floors beneath my feet…screams, the crack of gunfire…blood, hot and thick, cool and sticky…strong, hot hands moving against my skin….
My breath caught, and a vague, uncertain tingle ran across my skin. I tried to focus on it, tried to make sense of it…and more hazy images danced through my brain; memories of strong hands tugging off my jeans, leaving imprints of fire where they connected with my flesh. Lingering hands, unbuttoning my vest, pulling at it…a muttered curse hissed against my throat as the sound of tearing fabric echoed.
My eyes popped open…and my head spun and pounded with new intensity at the rush of new stimuli. Everything was too bright, too big, moving too quickly for me to keep up with….
And I had to squeeze my eyes shut again, swallowing back my rising gorge as I took a slow, deep breath…before carefully peeling my eyelids open once more. This time the ceiling above slid neatly into focus, but besides being dark and smooth, it gave nothing away and I realized with a dull stab of dread that I was going to have to work up the strength to move, to at the very least turn my head if I had any hope of figuring out where I was.
Okay. Moving…right. I can do this.
My fingers twitched obediently when I sought them, my toes as well, rustling softly against the soft stretch of sheet and blanket I was wrapped in. Encouraged when mind-breaking pain didn't immediately set in, I let curiosity and my need to know, to understand and make sense of the images in my head, fuel me, give me strength.
My elbows found their way beneath me and jammed into the plush softness of the mattress to give me the leverage I needed to slowly prop myself up – slowly, haltingly, as the room began to spin again and I had to pause, more than once, to let myself adjust, to give myself time to process.
There was a lamp glowing across the way, sitting on a heavy, modern interpretation of a desk – all angles and curves, metal and glass – and while the light illuminated brightly the immediate area, it cast deep shadows into the corners of the room. I had only impressions, and educated guesses, to go by.
Dark, warmly masculine walls. A pair of doorways, one to the left, one to the right, both sitting open, but what lay beyond unknowable from my position in the bed. A sleek, gleaming face of glass winked at me from across the room – my own hazy reflection flashing back at me as I shifted in front of it. A monitor of some kind - a TV? Maybe a computer.
There were nightstands to either side of me, a lamp resting on each, and I reached for the closest one, stretching slowly to find the switch with fumbling fingers. With a soft click, more light burst into the room and as I blinked, staring down at the floor as I waited for the black spots to fade from my vision, I noted a jumbled, frantic pile of clothes.
Boots, pants, the tattered remains of what had been a vest…I felt myself frown. I knew those clothes. Those were my clothes….
The strange, erotic images from before swept through my mind again.
I hadn't imagined them. They weren't a part of some weird – and wonderful – dream. They had actually happened…but how? Who...
My eyes flicked to the others pieces resting in the pile. Bigger, longer…obviously cut for a strong, muscled form….
A strong, muscled form that turned to me in the flickering dark, his strange red and gold eyes – like ancient coins stained with blood – burning as he lifted a hand and held it out to me…as the inhuman, monstrous mutation that spewed from his mouth twitched and curled, gleaming wet with spittle under the emergency lights….
I knew it. Instantly. Instinctively.
Those clothes were Wesker's…and this was Wesker's room.
As the truth of it washed over me, I found myself picking up on the details I'd missed before: the familiar scent staining the sheets, the pillowcases…the inherent similarity of the design and set of the room itself. Hell, there was even a painting on the wall beside me - an abstract thing of red, black, and gray paint splattered and splotched across a canvas.
It couldn't have screamed Wesker louder unless the walls themselves cracked open and said it.
But…knowing that, accepting it, only brought more questions. How had I gotten here; and where was here, exactly? Was this still the Arcadia?
No…even as that possibility arose, I rejected it. Something had happened on the Arcadia…something Wesker had done, something I had done, meant we could never go back. Meant things...would never be the same...
But what exactly, I couldn't remember.
A scream of rage and despair…the crack of a gun, a glint of a knife…pain, all-consuming, heavy in my chest…blood pooling dark and thick….
My heart skipped a beat, ratcheted up in speed.
What had happened? What had I done?
I shook my head, trying to clear it, wanting it to stop pounding so I could think straight, and pushed at the blanket covering me, shoving them away as I suddenly found myself too warm….
Too tight. Can't breathe.
My feet found the floor – plush, thick…carpet – and I pushed up, staggering as everything spun around me. I threw out an arm, tumbling against the wall hard enough to rattle the painting where it hung. Bracing myself, digging my shoulders in against the cold, hard expanse, I grabbed at my hair, pulling on it in frustration.
I tried to tell myself to calm down, to just breathe, and let it come…but I couldn't. My heart was careening in my chest, my breathe coming in ragged pants.
I had done something awful…something horrible…but somehow, something I had had to do, something I would have never forgiven myself for if I hadn't done it….
I knew it…but it didn't make sense. I didn't understand….
What had happened aboard the Arcadia? Where were the others? Where was Wesker?
What had I done?
"And what of the reports on Project Alice, Chairman? Is there any truth to the rumors that the T-virus serum she was injected with during her assault of the Tokyo facility was ineffective? Is that how she managed to escape despite your assurances that-"
"Or perhaps the other rumors are true."
Samuel Barns, the Director of the South African facility, blinked, his mouth still hanging have open as the Paris Director, seated across the table, shifted in his chair and smoothly interrupted, hurling the statement daringly at the coolly detached chairman, who, after giving them a flat recount of the events aboard the Arcadia had had very little to say since.
"Is it true," he continued, probably completely unaware of the way the Chairman shifted, the way a small muscle suddenly jerked in his jaw as his head turned to stare at him, "that Project Alice escaped because you instead decided to bring back a worthless survivor instead? As if any experiments we might run on her will have any value without Project Alice. She is the key to the T-virus' undoing, not some dirty, little-"
"And the key to your continued survival," the Chairman interrupted, voice dangerously soft. "Is my good graces. If you wish to stay in them, Mr. Saunders, I suggest you stop worrying yourself over matters that do not concern you."
So shut your mouth, you ignorant cretin.
Of course, he didn't say that, but Barns swore for a second he could see it – not in the Chairman's eyes, of course – but in the tilt of his head, in the set of his shoulders, in the hidden, menacing promise of his words. It almost made Barns want to smile.
Saunders paused, eyes narrowing, then turned his head away, nose going into the air as he sat back in his chair once more.
Dismissed and forgotten that easily, the Chairman turned from him and addressed the board at large. "Yes, it is true that Project Alice evaded capture once more; but I am unconcerned. She has been dealt a major blow. The Arcadia is gone and she once again has no where safe to run. Her followers, what remain of them, are scattered and broken. I am confident her need to avenge them, coupled with a lack of options, will undoubtedly drive her back to us once more, and when she comes, we will be-"
With a soft crackle, pop, and shimmering of red-colored air, the Red Knight hummed into being just off the Chairman's left shoulder and without missing a beat, the sleek blonde head turned, "What is it?"
"She is awake, Sir, and my sensors tell me quite distressed. Her heart rate is-"
Whatever the reading was, it was lost under the sharp, suddenly squealing of the Chairman's chair as he shoved it back. He stood, nodded, and said simply, "This meeting is adjourned."
And with that he walked away, the Red Knight – sneakered feet not quite touching the floor – as it fell into pace beside him.
With little they could do without him, the directors looked around at each other and, with a sort of collective shrug, shimmered out of existence one by one as they disconnected from their holo-projectors.
"How long as she been awake?"
"A few moments, Sir. I deferred in informing you just long enough to track her vital life-signs. They are quite high, but I don't believe-"
It was unusual for the A.I. to break off mid-thought, but not unheard of. Wesker didn't bother stopping. Whatever glitch the program had just run through didn't concern him.
He had only one thing on his mind.
"Sir…she is no longer in your quarters."
That, on the other hand, did give him pause. He turned on the A.I. so fast the walls around him blurred. "What? Where is she?"
"Checking…" The Red Knight's head tipped, eyes closing for a moment…before snapping open again. "Elevator two. Moving down."
"All the way, Sir."
The hot labs.
It was like some bizarre, wildly unfunny funhouse.
Long, twisted corridors lit with bright, blinding lights. Endless doors, some that breezed open like ghosts as I passed, others that stayed firmly, resolutely shut.
And not a soul in sight.
I began to wonder if maybe I was dreaming…or if maybe I was dead, and this was hell. And my eternal punishment was to wander alone forever, seeking that which I would never find. Tormented by shattered, fragmented, memories of what I'd had, lost, and would never have again.
Chilled, I padded barefoot down the corridor the elevator deposited me in, wishing I had thought to steal more than a dress shirt and a pair of boxer-briefs from the closet I'd stumbled across back in the bedroom. Ahead, as I neared it, a door whispered open, revealing a dark room bathed in a soft, white-blue glow, and I paused, chewing my lip uncertainly.
Should I go in…or just go back to the elevator…try a different floor, or maybe try to find my way back to where I'd started…?
Before I'd even consciously made a decision, my feet were moving, carrying me toward it and across the threshold.
The room was small, and furnished with a pair of heavy, comfortable looking chairs and a low coffee table…but I paid those little mind because across the way, on side the chairs faced, instead of a normal wall, glass had been set instead and that was were the light was coming from – from the other side of the glass wall, where masked figures in white moved, busy, working and paying me absolutely no mind as I walked up; drawn not so much by them, but by the still, prone figure amongst them.
A figure I recognized despite the pale, drawn quality to his features. Despite the hair that had gone light and thin.
I had last seen him at the lumber mill, fighting for his life, going down in a twitching, quivering mass as a taser dart hit him in the back.
Who was now strapped down to a metal examining table, strung up to so many machines he might have been a member of the Borg. Who's slow, steady heartbeat I could see displayed in a ghostly green wave on a monitor hanging above him – in a monitor one of the figures in white stopped to look at before turning away and reaching for a tray offered by another.
As I watched them, as it dawned me what I was about to see happen, everything finally fell back into place…I finally remembered.
The blood, the pain…what I had done, and why I had done it…why I would never be forgiven….
How clearly my destiny stretched out before me.
"You can't help them."
I didn't have to turn. I'd know it anywhere.
"Him, or any of the others."
I raised a hand to the glass, fingers splaying over the blurred reflection I could just make out while, on the other side, one of the doctors lifted a syringe and popped off the cap.
"What are they doing to him?"
Wesker shifted, moved, and though he didn't touch me, I knew he was close. I could smell him - that wild, untameable, inherently male scent. I could feel him - the heat that rolled off his body, the weight of his eyes.
"Giving his life purpose."
"By experimenting on him…killing him."
Flick, flick, flick, the doctor snapped his fingers against the syringe, then moved to plunge the long needle into Phil's upturned arm.
"By giving him a part to play in the saving of the world."
I took a breath, held it, telling myself I was ready for what would come next, that I was ready for a truth that might not equal up to the need pounding in my heart as I slowly exhaled. "And me?" I murmured, voice dropping as Phil's heartbeat slowed…stuttered…stopped. "Did you bring me here to play the same part?"
A beat. A pause. A quick, shuttering heartbeat that had my gut twisting, had my soul crying out.
"No." He moved again, and this time I couldn't not look - my gaze snapping away from the lab next door to find him, to search his face, uncertain if I could believe the word echoing in my ears. "No, I think not." He reached up, removed his sunglasses, and our eyes met - gold and red against green and brown - as he slipped them into the pocket in his coat…and pulled something else out and extended it to me. Offering.
A little red book with blood-stained pages.
Andrew's blood. My blood. His blood. And somewhere inside, on a page I had never read, my father's blood.
My father's journal...the legacy of my past. Of the life I used to have, of the woman I used to be...
"I want you," he told me. Direct. Simple.
He waited. Watching. Noting every little shift of her eyes, every little twitch of muscle in her face.
It wouldn't matter what she said, what she did. Her fate was sealed.
…But he still found himself wanting her to say it…wanting to hear her say she chose him willingly.
She stared back him – those eyes that had followed him ever since the fiasco at the mill steady on his – and then, slowly, finally, reached out,…but instead of taking the journal, pushed it back toward him.
"Keep it. I don't need it anymore."
He blinked, caught off guard...then snarled, his empty hand shooting out, catching her, dragging her to him. They collided, hands joined by the book trapped between them as his other hand pushed into her hair, held her head still, his fingers winding into the silk.
It wasn't enough. Not nearly enough.
"Damn you - say it," he demanded.
Needed to hear it. "Tell me."
His lips brushed her cheek, her fingers twitched against his…and her laugh ghosted across his skin.
He heard it. Dipped his mouth to taste it. "Again."
"I'm yours." She tasted of promise. Of loyalty. Passion...his for the taking, his for molding.
He took her mouth, fiercely, possessively, something inside him roaring in pleasured response.
Holding hard, he forced himself to surface, to speak. "Come." The eyes that looked up at him, met his, were cloudy...but not with fear, or uncertainty. Her lips curved, and his body tightened. Eager. "There is much to discuss...much to do."
Oh, the things he would teach her. Show her.
The things he would do...with her.
Hand slipping from her hair, he sought, found her hand, and gripped tight, turning her away from the lab; his mind already leaping ahead to the gift he had hidden away in his quarters - that sweeping curve of carbon and metal that he had seen her wield in his dreams, his fantasies - and how he wanted to present it to her now, right now, and watch her eyes dance and darken with glee...
Confidently, he led her away; boldly, she followed, falling into place at his side as if she were meant to be there...had always been there.
Neither one of them stopped to look back when, just on the other side of the glass, the test subject twitched back to life with an empty, mindless moan of hunger.