Title: Strange and Beautiful

Author: Janine

Fandom: Resident Evil

Pairing: Alice/Claire

Rating: R (overall rating)

Disclaimer: I don't own them.

Summary: A look at what life might be like for Alice and Claire and the others onboard the Arcadia if they had been able to sail the ship to Alaska.

Note: The story uses the same timeline as Pull My Heart. This is really only relevant during the parts of the story that reference how Alice and Claire first got together, so it is not necessary to have read Pull My Heart in order to follow this story.

xxx

Alice closed her eyes against the sudden rush of cold air that flowed over her skin as she pushed the back door of the cabin open. A fleece blanket was draped loosely over her shoulders and Alice reached for the edges and pulled the blanket more tightly around her to help ward off the cold, then she stepped outside onto the deck. A light dusting of snow covered the wooden planks beneath her feet and Alice smiled, allowing her eyes to roam over the snow capped trees that lined the back yard.

Snow fluttered lightly around Alice as she stood on the deck and she closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, taking in a lungful of crisp, clean air. They had settled on Kodiak Island four months before, but she was still awed by the tranquility that surrounded her. For years on end she had never thought that she would see beauty or feel peace again, and the contentment she now felt sometimes threatened to overwhelm her. Life on the Island, especially now that it was caught in winter's icy grip, wasn't easy, but it was life, it was living as opposed to merely surviving, and it was sort of magnificent.

"It is far too cold out for you to look so happy."

Alice's smile grew as Claire's sleep rough voice drew her from her thoughts and she turned from the perfection of nature to lay her eyes on perfection made flesh.

"You could come out here and warm me up," Alice responded playfully, drawing the blanket from around her and then holding her arms out invitingly to Claire.

Claire tilted her head to the side observing Alice for a moment in her jeans, fur-lined boots, and heavy sweater, and then she dropped her head to take in her sock-clad feet, thin draw string pants and t-shirt. She looked back over at Alice, held her eyes for a second, and then without a word she turned around and headed back into the warmth of the cabin leaving Alice to the frigid wonders of nature.

Alice's lips twitched with amusement as she watched Claire walk away from her, and then before the redhead disappeared from her view entirely she moved towards the sliding doors and stepped back into the cabin. The snow capped tree around the cabin provided a breathtaking view, but there was nothing in the world more awe inspiring than Claire.

"Is that tea you're making?" Alice asked, drawing the fleece blanket from around her shoulders before tossing it over a nearby chair.

"It's what passes for tea these days," Claire replied turning from the old wood burning stove to face Alice, a smile touching her lips as she watched the brunette draw her right hand quickly through her hair, brushing away the flecks of snow that had fallen onto her dark locks while she was out on the deck. "I thought you might need some warming up."

"The waters not boiling yet," Alice noted glancing over at the stove. "Why don't you keep me warm while we wait?" she continued smiling invitingly over at the redhead.

"That's cute," Claire drawled smirking at Alice, "But you better pick that blanket back up because you're not getting anywhere near me until you've warmed up."

"You're mean," Alice replied mildly as she moved over to the stove and held her hands over it, hoping to warm them up enough that Claire would allow her to put them on her body.

"You'll never learn unless I'm firm with you," Claire replied, ignoring the suggestive way Alice's lips curved up.

"You're right," Alice agreed drawing her hands from over the stove. "I'm incorrigible. Come over here and teach me a lesson," she continued holding her hands out towards Claire, encouraging the redhead to come closer to her. "I promise, I'm toasty to the touch now," she added wiggling her fingers.

"You better be," Claire grumbled though a smile played across her lips as she took a step towards Alice, unable to deny the lure of her lover's arms.

Knowing that she had won, Alice moved towards Claire, meeting the redhead halfway to her, and immediately enveloped the other woman in her arms, nuzzling her face into Claire's neck as she laid soft, sweet kisses along the deliciously warm flesh she found there.

"You're still cold," Claire murmured as she lifted her hand to run her fingers lazily through dark hair that now fell to Alice's shoulders.

"You don't care," Alice breathed out against Claire's jaw as she kissed her way towards the redhead's mouth.

"I really don't," Claire agreed contentedly, tilting her head up the slightest bit to meet Alice's lips.

The first contact between them was impossibly soft, just the slightest brushing of lips against lips as Alice's hand found purchase on Claire's hips and Claire's right hand wound its way behind Alice's neck, both supporting the brunette and holding her in place. Soon the light contact wasn't enough for either of them however, and when Alice's tongue peaked out from between her lips to play against Claire's, the redhead opened her mouth to her lover, and Alice slipped inside, deepening the kiss with a long, low moan that warmed Claire more than any fire could ever hope to.

"Oh, come on you guys! You have a room now. Use it!" K-Mart complained, flinging her head back in exasperation before she spun around so that her back was facing them as she hovered in the doorway of the kitchen. "Chris!" she called out as Alice reluctantly drew away from Claire's lips. "Alice is molesting your sister again."

A deep chuckle filtered into the kitchen from the sitting room beyond, and then a few seconds later Chris's bulky form appeared in the doorway behind K-Mart.

"You should know by now that after raindrops on roses, Kukri knives and shotguns, taking liberties with my sister is Alice's favourite thing," Chris declared smiling as he reached out to ruffle K-Mart's hair affectionately, only to have her gruffly bat his hand away. "Is that tea?" Chris asked pushing past K-Mart into the kitchen, his eyes on the dark kettle sitting on the stove. "I got a fire started in the other room, but it's still freezing in there. I wouldn't mind something warm."

"Right now it's lukewarm water, but it'll be something that very closely resembles tea soon," Claire replied, watching with amusement as Chris reached out and shoved Alice on the shoulder, and then as Alice reached out and shoved him back before they grinned at each other.

"You're lucky they're bros," K-Mart whispered as she moved past Claire to hop up onto the kitchen counter.

Claire watched her progress, still smiling faintly and then inclined her head, acknowledging the truthfulness of K-Mart's statement once the girl was settled on the counter. Chris had taken great pleasure in being a threatening, hostile jerk to every boyfriend she'd had ever had. As much as she loved and adored her brother, he had been a perfect asshole anytime he had met someone she was dating. Alice's dedication to her safety from the moment Chris had encountered her, coupled with Alice's impressive ability to slaughter infected who were hell bent on eating their brains, had allowed Alice to bypass Chris's trial-by-fire initiation phase and skip straight to 'bro' status, however.

"Are you up for some fishing after breakfast?" Chris asked directing his gaze towards Alice for a second before he focused on opening cabinet doors until he found the one with where they kept the dried meat.

"That depends, are you up to actually catching some this time?" Alice asked, smiling at Chris winsomely when he turned his head in her direction and levelled her with an unimpressed glare.

"The bears had been down at the water earlier. The fish were spooked," Chris grumbled darkly holding Alice's eyes challengingly.

"Play nice," Claire murmured under her breath to Alice as she brushed by the brunette on her way to the stove to remove the kettle. The last time they had gone fishing, Alice had come back with a string lined with fish, while Chris had only managed to snag two. Chris had then processed to fall into a sulk for the rest of the day, and Claire had no desire to suffer through that again. "Or you'll be playing by yourself tonight," Claire added softly in Alice's ear as she reached up to open the cabinet door beside the brunette's head to pull out four mugs.

"I was out on the deck earlier. The forest was pretty still. The fish should be lulled into a false sense of security when we get down there," Alice responded directing her attention towards Chris. She knew for a fact that Claire would withhold if she upset her enough, and on cold winter nights like the ones they had been dealing with she didn't want to end up anywhere but wrapped around Claire's warm, nude body at night.

"Can I come too?" K-Mart asked, reaching out her hand to make a 'grabby grabby' motion at Chris who was holding a container full of jerky.

"You have lessons this morning," Claire reminded K-Mart as she began to pour steaming hot water into the mugs she had lined up on the counter.

"But," K-Mart started to complain, really not seeing the point in reading Lord of the Flies, and The Great Gatsby and Hamlet when the majority of the planet was overrun with zombies and humanity had been reduced to an endangered species.

Claire turned her head in K-Mart's direction and caught the blonde's eyes warningly, which immediately quieted the girl down. Claire knew that K-Mart didn't really see the point in school when the world was the way it was, but Claire felt that it was important that K-Mart and the other teenagers from the Arcadia kept their minds sharp and agile. And though she hadn't admitted to this reason out loud, Claire also thought that it was also important that the young ones be exposed to the beauty and wonder that humanity was capable of, in the face of all of the horror they had seen mankind create.

"Don't worry, K," Alice piped up, slapping a friendly hand on K-Mart's thigh. "The way Chris fishes we'll still be out there long after your lessons are over. You can meet up with us after."

K-Mart smirked at that and Alice met her grin with one of her own, sharing an easy moment of camaraderie with the blonde, at least until her eyes tracked to the side and met Claire's unenthusiastic gaze that was.

"I was just ..." Alice began haltingly, but Claire's expression did not change, in fact the redhead did not even blink, and Alice's words trailed off. In the face of Claire's glare, Alice's eyes tracked over to K-Mart for some support, but the girl was suddenly fascinated by the non-existent lint on her pants. Foolishly, Alice then looked over at Chris, and found him watching her with an amused half-grin on his lips. Recognizing defeat when she saw it, Alice then sighed softly and reached out for one of the mugs Claire had just filled.

"Tea?" she offered holding one out to Chris chummily.

"I'd love some," Chris responded in similarly bright tone of voice as he extended a hand towards Alice from his spot behind Claire, mouthing 'whipped 'to the brunette as he reached for the tea.

Alice's eyes narrowed as Chris took the mug from her hand and Chris grinned.

"Meet you out front, 0:900," the elder Redfield said, lifting the mug triumphantly in Alice's direction before he plucked a few more dried pieces of meat from the container on the counter and then headed for the door.

K-Mart reached out and placed a supportive hand on Alice's shoulder as Chris left the room. Having been in front of Claire along with Alice she had seen what Chris had mouthed to Alice before his departure.

"Sometimes the truth hurts," the blonde said squeezing Alice's shoulder playfully before she grinned at the brunette and then hopped down off of the counter. "I'm going to get dressed," K-Mart continued directing her attention towards Claire as Alice glowered at her.

Claire nodded.

"When you're done, go and round up the others. We've got to get an early start today because Luther's taking a group out into the woods for some wood-chopping. If anyone hasn't eaten yet let them know there'll be some soup here for breakfast."

"Will do," K-Mart replied saluting, and then she too made her way out of the kitchen.

"Aw, don't pout," Claire cooed when K-Mart's footsteps had faded, closing the small distance that existed between her and Alice so that she could take her lover's face into her hands. She knew that she had missed part of the exchange between Chris and Alice and whatever had gotten by her had clearly offended Alice.

"I'm not pouting, I'm brooding," Alice grumbled, though her eyes lit up as she lifted her gaze to meet Claire's.

"Mm," Claire hummed, stroking Alice's cheek affectionately with her thumb. "I can see that now," she breathed out, her eyes focused on Alice's tantalizingly full lips. "And you do it so well," she murmured playfully before leaning forward to bring their lips together in a sweet kiss.

"So, you're going to tease me now too," Alice whispered against Claire's lips, arching forward a second after she spoke to place a gentle kiss across the redhead's lips.

"I thought you liked it when I teased you," Claire exhaled roughly as she dropped her hand and brought it up between Alice's legs so that she was cupping the brunette through the layers of her clothes.

"If you keep that up, Chris isn't going to have anyone to go fishing with and the kiddies aren't going to have any soup for breakfast, because I'm going to drag you upstairs and have my wicked way with you," Alice rasped unsteadily, her voice hitching slightly as arousal thundered through her.

Claire smiled as she leaned in to press her lips against Alice's neck, and withdrew her hand from between her lover's legs, drawing a resigned sigh from the brunette.

"I was hoping that you'd go with 'drag you upstairs' option," Alice murmured roughly, smiling a little when she felt Claire's laughter vibrate against her skin where the redhead's lips were still gently exploring her flesh.

"You know they'd come banging on the door," Claire breathed out, finally pulling away from Alice's skin so that she could see the brunette's face. "And we can't have that," she continued, lifting her hand to cradle Alice's jaw so that she could draw her thumb across the brunette's plump bottom lip, "When you get my clothes off, I don't want anything distracting me from you having your wicked way with me."

A rough exhalation of air escaped from Alice at Claire's words and she tilted her head longingly into the redhead's warm palm.

"It's a good thing I'm going outside in a few minutes," Alice rasped as she shifted uncomfortably due the pressure that had built up between her legs. "I'm going to need all the cold air in Alaska to calm down."

"Poor baby," Claire sighed, leaning forward to kiss Alice's lips chastely one last time before she stepped away from the brunette, knowing that she really couldn't tease Alice any longer. "Drink your tea first," Claire continued smiling sweetly, a mug in her outstretched hand as Alice's eyes narrowed at her. "And eat something before you go," she added ignoring Alice's look. "Low blood sugar makes you grumpy, then you'll pick on Chris, and I cannot deal with one of his sulks today."

That drew a smile from Alice and after taking the mug from Claire's hand, Alice reached for the jerky Chris had abandoned earlier and snagged a piece from it, holding it up to Claire in a toast.

"Oh, get out of here," Claire replied, smiling good naturedly despite her words.

"Yes ma'am," Alice declared, and with one last winsome smile she popped the end of the jerky into her mouth and headed out of the kitchen to get ready to meet Chris.

To be continued ...