Pairing: Alice/Claire (for real this time)
Rating: T-M (I dunno, I'm terrible at ratings)
Summary: Claire had a long time to think about things on the journey to Alaska; Alice struggles to overcome her guilt.
Disclaimer: I own many things; Resident Evil, sadly enough, is not one of them.
A/N: Here is the final part. 'But it's so short!' you say. I know, and I'm sorry. But when I was writing this, I realized I had nothing more to say beyond what is expressed here, and anything further would just be padding. I figured it was better for everything in it to be important; however, fear not, as this is not the last fic I will be writing. And while it may be short, I think you're very much going to enjoy this. Thank you again for all the wonderful comments (you are heartily encouraged to leave more, should you desire to), and above all - enjoy!
For Hope I Would Give Everything
Five: More Than This
It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
May 14th: Arcadia.
It was dusk; the water beneath the Arcadia was calm as the ship floated up the North Pacific Coast, bearing toward Alaska. If its pace remained constant, they would arrive in just a few more days' travel. Then they would begin a new life in the frozen paradise: a life without infection; without fear. They were on the verge of perhaps the greatest Renaissance humanity had ever known; the resulting excitement aboard the Arcadia was such that a sort of palpable energy seemed to linger in the air.
Alice stood at the helm of the ship, making sure that they kept on course. In a few hours they would set anchor and someone else would come up to relieve her: Out of safety concerns, one of the more trusted adults always remained in the control room to make sure nothing went wrong.
The sense of anticipation that the others were feeling was not lost on Alice. For once things finally seemed to be going right, and she had the people she cared about here with her; safe. It had been six years in the making, and as far as she was concerned, was long past due.
The door opened, interrupting her musings, and she smiled at the new arrival. Her timing was quite appropriate.
"Hey," Alice said; surprise was evident in her tone. "I thought Chris had the next shift."
"He does, but I was bored," Claire replied with a shrug. She crossed the room and casually hopped up onto a counter beside Alice, rolling her eyes as she went on: "Luther was reminiscing about the 'glory days.' That's not really my idea of a good time."
Alice laughed. "You still don't like him, huh?"
Claire stared evenly back at her. "No. I just don't like the way he looks at you."
Intrigued, Alice asked, "Are you jealous?"
"Should I be?"
It was a loaded question and not at all what she had expected. As she looked into blue eyes, she wondered exactly how much Claire remembered. After their arrival on the Arcadia, the redhead had seemed more like her old self with every day that passed; as more time went by, it became increasingly evident that Claire was attracted to Alice, and was aware of Alice's own attraction, but she had made no reference to what happened between them in Nevada. The expression that she wore now suggested, however, that she did remember. The question was, when had the memory returned?
Alice moved to lean against the counter, close to her but not touching.
"No. He isn't my type," she replied, a slow grin forming on her lips. She nudged Claire with her elbow and arched an eyebrow. "I prefer pissed off redheads."
Claire shook her head at that and laughed softly, but her features soon shifted to a look of remorse. "Alice... I just want to say that I'm sorry. I was going through so much shit back then; you were a convenient target and it was easy to take it out on you."
"No, you were right. It was my fault."
The younger woman reached out, gently tracing her fingers over Alice's arm. She said, "It wasn't, and neither was Alaska."
This caught Alice completely off guard, and her eyes widened. "What?"
"I think you figured I was asleep, but I heard you; you said, 'I'm sorry I let this happen to you.' But you had no way of knowing that Arcadia was a trap; at worst, we figured we would find nothing but snow and ice. None of us could have dreamed of what Umbrella was doing."
Inside, she knew this was the truth, but there were so many 'what if?'s that her mind refused to relinquish the belief that there would have been something that she could have done.
"Still, I should have gone with you," Alice insisted vehemently. "Protected you."
Claire laced their fingers together and gave her hand a light squeeze. "Look, Alice, I had a very long time to think about it on the way to Alaska; to tell you the truth, it's pretty much all I thought about. And the more I did, the more I regretted the way I treated you. I realized that sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, and there's no sense hating yourself or someone else for something you can't change. You need to just let it go. I did."
Alice glanced away for a moment. If only her guilt were as easy to get over.
She muttered, "Easier said than done."
When she looked back up at Claire, there was no judgement in her cobalt eyes: just gentle warmth and something else, something that made Alice's heart beat a little harder in her chest.
"Come here," Claire beckoned, and she did as asked. The redhead spread her knees, and Alice took this as an invitation to step between them, bringing their bodies impossibly close. The timbre of her voice was deeper as she added, "Maybe I can help you."
The level of the counter was such that Alice still maintained her slight height advantage over the younger woman; when Claire wrapped her arms around Alice's neck and drew her closer still, she had to lean up just that little bit to kiss her.
Alice hummed low in her throat as she felt Claire scratch her nails lightly at the back of her neck. Unlike their first kiss in Nevada, she was able to take her time, to revel in the soft caress of the redhead's lips on her own.
As it went on, the kiss became harder; hungrier. Alice curled her hands under Claire's knees and pulled her tighter against her body, and when Alice's tongue flicked against the redhead's lips, her mouth opened immediately to accept it. The first touch of Claire's tongue against hers was electric; it was all Alice could do not to ravish her right there on the counter. But as much as she wanted to drop to her knees and fuck Claire into oblivion, the idea of any one of two thousands survivors on board catching them in a compromising position was enough to grant her a modicum of restraint.
Claire smiled against her lips and broke away for air. "Feel better?"
"Mm, almost," Alice replied and stole another kiss; another soon became several; those several soon became as deep and insatiable as before.
It was the sound of someone outside the door that finally caused them to part, and they hurried to make themselves appear nonchalant. Alice stepped back to the controls of the ship, pretending to check that they were on course.
The door opened, revealing Chris.
"Hey, Claire, K-Mart needs your help down in the galley," he said.
"Uh, sure," the redhead replied, hopping down from her perch. "Give me a minute?"
He nodded, seeming to think nothing of the request. "No problem."
When Chris was gone, Claire crossed the short distance between herself and Alice.
She pressed close for one final kiss and said, "See you later?"
Alice grinned, her eyes sparkling. "You know where to find me."
Claire turned to leave but paused at the door. "Be sure to wait up."
When she was alone once again, Alice could not help but shake her head and laugh at how life works itself out sometimes.
And later that night when they fell into bed, lips and hands roaming over new territory, she decided that she could not hope for anything more than this.
So in this timeline, obviously, Umbrella doesn't attack the Arcadia with 40 Ospreys. On a separate note, I chose specifically not to tell you when Claire remembered the bit about Nevada, so that when you read back over part 3, you start to wonder if Claire behaved that way toward Alice because she is naturally attracted to her - memory or not - or if she did it because she remembered something (going based off that "nothing that makes any sense" line of Claire's in Afterlife). And no, I really won't tell you the answer. That's part of the fun of a fragmentary text like this: you get to fill in the blanks for yourself. I encourage you, if you liked it, to read back over the entire story now, as a lot of things should seem to fall into place (and I hope that they won't contradict themselves too much). And so for now I bid you adieu. Thanks for reading!