AN - Things have been hectic but I finally found time to update. I will admit (as I have to several people already) that I am just not feeling this story at the moment and so writing it has been a little bit of a chore lately, which I guess contributed to the delay. To be perfectly honest, I almost pulled the plug on this but I am determined to press on. I know that some people aren't too happy with what is happening and where this is heading, but this isn't my usual angst-fest...I wrote this purely as a piece of light-hearted fun, so it really isn't meant to be taken too seriously (do I think that Chris and Jill would hop straight into bed with one another? No, I don't...I just thought it would be a fun idea to play with ^_^). Although I think it's obvious that I don't do humour very well! Never have :(.
Thank you all again for the reviews/favourites! Your support really does mean a lot, and I will try and pull this together :). I am having issues with my laptop and need to send it away to be fixed, so there may be another delay with the next update but I will keep writing whenever I have the opportunity.
At Eternity's Gate
Chapter Four - Learning to Live With You
July 17, 1996. 10:38pm. Raccoon City Town Hall.
He was heavy, but she never seemed to mind. It was af nice weight; a warm weight. And the things that he did to her as it pressed down upon her made all else irrelevant. Because somehow, she had never felt as good about herself as she did when she was with him.
Jill gripped Chris's arm, tighter as she gasped in an attempt to suppress a vocal manifestation of her ecstasy. And then the feeling ebbed, and his lips pressed to the curve of her neck. The grunt told her that he had reached a similar point, yet he did not pull away, merely continued to kiss across her clavicle and down onto her chest.
"Stop it," she gasped, thoroughly exhausted. "Remember the rules."
He chuckled quietly, moving up once again to press a kiss to her nose.
"Rules are unfair," he whispered. And so was she, because she moved a hand between their lips, refused to let his meet their target.
"No kisses after sex," she reminded him. The corners of her lips twitched as she said this; she enjoyed the sway that she had over him, enjoyed it even more when he realised just how powerless he was. Because the game was his but the rules were hers; no kisses outside of sex, no affection, no acknowledging one another in a suspicious way outside of the bedroom, and no pretending that this was anything more than what it was.
"There are no rules about kisses before sex."
She sighed, banging her head lightly against the car door as she moved. It was a sordid enough position to be in without the threat of a round two.
"I've had my thrill," she reminded him. "The stress is gone, game over."
"Baby, I'm hurt."
"One more rule: don't call me baby."
"Sure thing, doll," he laughed with a wink as he moved back and began to search for his pants.
It was the annual R.P.D. appreciation dinner, hosted by none other than Mayor Warren himself. Wesker was on her back even on what was supposed to be a night off, and Irons' gaze seemed to be continually lost somewhere down her cleavage. It would not have bothered her so much had she actually been wearing a low-cut dress. The man was a pervert, and the more whiskey that passed his lips, the more lecherous he became. It had gotten to the point where she had actually become afraid of his advances and sought Chris out simply because she trusted him more than the Chief. That in itself disturbed her greatly.
A mutual rant about the disaster the night had become led them both to the back of his car, to steaming up the windows and admitting that they found one another the most pleasant company there that night.
She hated to admit that he was right; their partnership had become infinitely more tolerable since their arrangement began, and somehow work seemed less stressful. When bickering began to escalate, they would take their problems to the bedroom and somehow they would work themselves out. Quite frankly, this was the smartest move she had made in quite some time.
She was already willing to admit that there was something empowering about a sex life on demand. With Chris, she reaped all of the benefits of a relationship without the mess that emotions always caused. And strangely, she felt comfortable with him. The way that he had leapt to her defence when Irons' behaviour became lecherous touched her...he had even walked her to the bathroom and waited outside when she appeared truly nervous.
But that was Chris; he took care of those around him. There was so much about him that she did not understand, and she could see that now. The Chris that she knew was too generic, too stereotypical. There had to be more to him, and there had to be a reason why he felt that he could not show that.
'Rule number one: don't get attached,' she reminded herself.
There was a squeak as Chris attempted to wipe condensation from the windows. The car was out of view, around the back of the building. As luck would have it, there had been no space in the car park when he arrived.
"You want me to drive you home?"
"If you do it now," she chuckled. But she no longer worried; there was no way that Irons or Wesker could wipe the smile from her face.
The cool night air was soothing as it hit her skin. A quick brush of the hair and an even quicker squirt of perfume later, and she was ready to return. The click of a lighter was heard behind her and she rolled her eyes as she turned. It was a bad habit, and perhaps one that was not good to have in a line of work that relied so heavily on physical capabilities.
"I came outside for a smoke," he explained when her disgusted glance caught his eye. "Don't you think it would be a little suspicious if they couldn't smell it on me?"
Jill shrugged. She was sure that Wesker did not care what they did in their spare time, even if it happened to be one another.
Chris approached her, perhaps because he knew that she hated him smoking.
"So I take it I'm not sleeping at yours tonight?" he wanted to know.
"I never said that."
He laughed, amused.
"Let's just see how drunk you get," he said. "You know you can't resist me after a glass of wine."
"What can I say? We make most of our mistakes when intoxicated."
"Now you've said a lot of things about our...time spent together. But I've never heard the word 'mistake'. In fact, I don't think I've heard a single complaint pass those lips."
He smirked because he knew that he was right. And she no longer saw any shame in admitting that she liked their arrangement. They worked better together, rifts at work were few and far between and somehow, just somehow, she was beginning to sense that there was something a little deeper to a man she had once assumed to be a vacuum of emotion.
She still longed to enquire about Claire, but knew that it would be pushing it. No interference in one another's personal lives; rule number two.
"Just remember that your appetite is bigger than mine," she reminded him kindly. "The sex is a bonus for me, and I have no qualms with using it as a weapon."
"Oh?" he chuckled deeply, but she sensed intrigue in his eyes. He seemed far more interested in talking to her these days. "Is that so?"
"Yes," she said with a wink. "And now you can watch me walk away."
It was with a slight swagger to her step that she made her way back towards the building, smiling to herself. She did not look back to confirm her suspicion; she did not need to.
July 18, 1996. 8:15am. Raccoon City Airport.
Chris waited by the arrivals gate, hands deep in the pockets of his jeans. The flight had landed some time ago, but she was always the last through the gate. He was anxious, though he did not know why.
And then he saw her, glancing from side to side as she stepped through the glass door. She knew where he was, she just liked to be dramatic. Her small suitcase rumbled behind her as she ran to him, releasing the handle to throw her arms around his neck as soon as she drew close enough.
"Whoa there, sis," he laughed. Though he held her back equally as tight, reluctant to let go. How long had it been since he had seen her? Truthfully, he did not remember. Her hair seemed a little longer, her frame a little slimmer. But she still seemed as carefree as always, still smelled of their mom's favourite perfume.
All of a sudden, he missed home.
"I missed you so much!" Claire said, grinning from ear to ear. "But look at you - you look great!"
"Wish I could say the same for you."
She whacked him lightly on the arm, but knew better than to take him seriously.
"Seriously though, it's good to see you again." Perhaps he said this a little too sincerely. Neither sibling doubted the strength of their bond, but neither openly admitted it; it was how it had always been. But Claire picked up on the forlorn nature of the statement, somehow knew that it was not merely the time apart that motivated such an admission.
What could he say? Did he stick with the simple truth of missing her so much the thought of asking her to move in had crossed his mind many times? Or did he delve into the murkier truth of his exploits with Jill?
The friends with benefits arrangement may have been his idea, but he cold not for the life of him think of what had caused him to actually suggest such a thing. Claire would doubtlessly accuse him of having no respect for his partner; it was an accusation he had brought against himself many times since their first night together. But there was something about her that overrode his morals and brought him to think of nothing but how it felt to be with her - the woman was poison.
Claire frowned but decided to drop it and reached once again for her suitcase.
"You seriously have to work today?"
Regretfully, he did; there was a lot for him to catch up on if he wanted the weekend free to spend with her.
"You gonna be okay on your own?"
She laughed and elbowed him lightly as they turned to leave.
"You know me. I'll just pass the time at the mall, find us something to watch tonight. Oh, and I want to cook for you - apparently, I make a mean lasagne."
Laughing with her came easily to him. Every time that she smiled, he could not help but mirror the emotion. The majority of his teenage years had been spent ensuring that she was happy, giving her everything that she needed in the wake of the death of their parents. Now that happiness came so naturally to her, he felt superfluous and it pained him sometimes. Sure, he still sent her money every now and then but it wasn't the same.
He sighed, then smiled to himself.
"I really miss you, Claire."
July 18, 1996. 12:45pm. Raccoon City Police Department.
Jill fired her weapon, once again missing the centre of the target...by almost six inches.
"Get your act together," she told herself. "You're better than this."
But apparently, she was not. Another shot impacted closer to the centre but still not close enough. And she cried out in frustration, flinging the ear defenders aside.
How many years had she thought that she was competent, that she was ahead of her game even? Admittedly, she had perhaps been a little too self-assured...and now she was paying the price. She could barely keep herself together beneath the pressure, did not even feel like herself these days. Though she blamed Chris, she knew that there was something deeper to it but ran from it, scared as she always was about matters of emotion.
"You put too much weight on your forward foot."
She jumped, though recognised the voice.
"Dammit, Chris," she swore, hand pressed flat against her chest. "You almost gave me a heart attack."
He did not smile, but stepped towards her, turned her back towards the target.
"The recoil pulls your aim up," he explained. "And this is a really easy firearm to handle. You lean forward too much, which makes you pull back a little more when you fire, resulting in...well, that."
He gestured towards the target. A sarcastic reply formed on her lips but before it could fall his hands were at her waist, pulling her back half a step.
"Keep one leg in front of the other, keep your back straight, breathe in and lean back. You need to place more weight on your right leg."
Confused, she followed his instructions, gasped when he placed a hand flat against her stomach and pulled her body into his. It had been a while since they had been in this position...fully clothed, that was. Her mind could not help but drift to one of their secret moments.
"Keep your back straight!"
He then moved her arms again, placed his hands over hers. It was strange how comfortably her body fit into his, how easily his arms went around her. And he smelled different today - fresh, without the usual stench of tobacco. He also seemed to be in a far better mood than usual.
"Okay, now fire."
The fresh hole in the paper could not have been more than half an inch from the centre of the target. And she frowned, knowing that she was not capable of such a feat without Chris positioning her. It was hardly something that could be done in the midst of a violent confrontation.
"See; you can do it." The assurance warmed her, gave her the boost of confidence that she needed. She was not sure that she truly understood every level that it was appreciated on.
Chris stepped back and she fired again, holding the same position. Three, maybe four inches separated the centre of the target from her shot.
"It's getting better."
"But it's not good enough!" Optimism failed her, shoulders sinking.
"You expect to get better overnight?" he asked. "You're not that good, babe. Nobody is."
Babe. The word infuriated her but she said nothing. She was unsure just how much rage was directed at him and how much was directed at herself - it was unfair to take her bad mood out on him, especially on the one occasion where he was not truly responsible for it.
"I need to get better," she said. "I know that I suck, I really do. But I have been practising every day and if anything, I'm getting worse. I can't be a part of a team when I'm this bad - not only am I letting everyone down, if we faced a live fire situation I would be putting their lives at risk...I would be putting your life at risk."
She gazed down at her trembling hands. Because truthfully, she sensed reason behind her incompetence.
"I wasn't always this bad," she chuckled humourlessly, speaking more to herself than to her partner. "I don't know what happened, but after the accident…I just haven't been the same. Physically and emotionally. The doctors said that I made a full recovery, that nothing is wrong with me...but I can feel it. Maybe it's a psychological thing, but I just can't seem to break past this barrier."
Breathing deeply, she willed the memories from her mind. Smoke, the smell of gasoline, the inability to move...
She did not know why she brought it up, and in front of Chris, of all people. Admitting weakness was not something that came easily to her. And perhaps that was her greatest flaw – never admitting, never asking for help.
It was not a chapter of her life that she particularly enjoyed reliving. It was a time of weakness, of helplessness…it was a time that she should have grown beyond by now.
She did not know if it was the gentle curiosity in his voice or the pull of the moment, but suddenly she found that the words formed themselves.
"I was driving home from lunch with family," she explained. "And...one minute, I was on the road, the next I was in hospital and a fortnight had passed. Apparently some idiot had gotten drunk in the middle of the day and decided to rob a bank...when fleeing the scene he cut a red light, clipped another car and slammed straight into mine. I don't remember much about the accident. Just pain, smells, and looking down at the roof of my car. I couldn't remember my own name for almost a day...the doctors said I was lucky not to have suffered any permanent damage."
A warm hand on her shoulder prevented her from elaborating. She wanted to thank him, even if the comfort was instinctive or merely perceived obligation, but found that she could not speak.
"What happened to the other driver?"
"He didn't make it."
"Were you glad?"
It was a strange question, but it seemed genuine. So she shook away her doubts and reached deep into her soul.
"No. I lost two weeks of my life, but he lost so much more. I'm not even angry...maybe I would have been if he had survived, but...isn't that strange?"
Chris shook his head slowly, sadness seeming to overcome him. Did he truly care about her experience?
"I think you're right," he said. "I think that this is a psychological thing. I think that you are a strong woman, and that the accident and the aftermath scared you into doubting yourself and your abilities. You just need to learn to regain what you lost."
Jill blinked, and smiled appreciatively. They were the words she had unknowingly been waiting to hear for so long...and somehow, she did not think that they would have meant half as much coming from any other person.
"I can help you with this," he offered, signalling to the target. "We work pretty much the same hours, so how about an hour every night after work?"
"Thank you. I would really appreciate that."
For the briefest of moments, their eyes met. And she sensed true understanding beyond his cool blue irises, sensed genuine empathy. It piqued her curiosity, but she knew better than to press the matter. For once, he was showing a different side to himself, one not overrun with stupid machismo.
"Just not tonight," she requested. "I have the afternoon off and I don't want to wait around all day."
"Busy tonight anyway," he said, turning her again as he began to alter her posture. "But I have ten minutes left for lunch."
Busy? This was news to her.
"So I can't show my appreciation tonight?"
"Trust you to turn a nice conversation nasty."
An elbow to the ribs drew breath from his lungs, but Jill smiled. Because somehow, it was okay.
July 18, 1996. 2:00pm. Central Mall, Raccoon City.
For an entire hour's worth of shopping, Claire was rather impressed that she only held two bags. Restraint was a word she did not normally know the meaning of. But she had been careful lately, saving wages from her previous job to pay not only for this trip but for days out with the brother she saw far too infrequently these days. In fact, one of the bags contained the new CD by his favourite band and a DVD for them both to watch that night.
Placing the dress back onto the rack from which she had plucked it, she glanced to the face of her watch. As much as she loved Raccoon City and all of the shopping it had to offer, she was growing impatient.
'Married to his job, as always,' she sighed inwardly.
A grumbling stomach cut through her thoughts and she pressed a hand to her abdomen, frowning at the sound. Perhaps it was time for lunch.
As she stepped out of the warm confines of the store, a shrill alarm rang out, blared for a few seconds and then quietened again. She paused where she stood, glancing to the bags in her hands and then to the inside of the store. No staff rushed towards her; none seemed to even care. So she shrugged and took another step outside, barely noticing the figure that crept towards her.
A rough hand grabbed her arm, held her in place.
"Come with me, young lady."
It was a security guard, tall and surly as they always were. And he glared at her with contempt in his eyes, tightening her grip when she wriggled in discomfort.
"What the hell?" she questioned. "Let go of me!"
"You teenagers think you're so clever, don't you?" he chastised. "Think you don't have to pay for anything."
Her skin burned, the friction of his grip becoming painful.
"Stop it! You're hurting me!"
His grip did not loosen at the sound of a third voice, but he ceased his tugging, and she ceased her fighting. A woman - no, a girl, perhaps only a few years older than she - approached, adjusting the strap of her purse in a frighteningly professional manner.
"This doesn't concern you, ma'am," the security officer advised. A flash of fury in the woman's eyes suggested that it was the wrong way to address her. "Mall security." He gestured to a badge on his chest. "This girl has been caught shoplifting."
No protest fell from her lips; not even a gasp. Incredulous was too much of an understatement to describe her state of mind.
The woman glanced from the officer to the girl, blue eyes seeming to scrutinise every inch of them. She was pretty, though not classically so - hers was not the face Claire would have matched to such a personality.
"In that case, this does concern me," the woman told the officer. She then reached quickly into her purse, withdrew a small leather wallet. "R.P.D."
The light caught the reflective surface of the badge and Claire flinched. Just what she needed - a run in with the law. She had not even been here a day!
'Chris is going to love this.'
It took a few moments for the direction of her gaze to register - Claire had simply assumed that she was addressing the security guard.
"I was shopping," she explained hurriedly. "I step out of the store, the alarm goes off and this ape-" she wrenched her arm free of his grip "-grabs me."
"Did you steal anything?"
Her jaw dropped, hand gently rubbing an area of skin she could already feel bruising.
"Of course not! My brother is a cop! Do you think I would risk jeopardising his career for the sake of a cheap thrill?"
It was not only his status as a cop that was at risk - and she acknowledged now that it was fear for her brother that riled her so. Ever since his discharge from the Air Force, Chris found it difficult to find employment. It was his own fault, really, for freely admitting the reasons for his discharge. But even when he stopped, when he refused to disclose the specifics or outright lied, the truth would eventually come out. She had lost count of the precincts that had turned him down, and he had found that he could not even train as a commercial pilot. Sure, he had taken on a few small hard labour jobs, but S.T.A.R.S. was his big break, was the secure job that he needed. His Captain did not seem to care about his past, seemed interested in it even.
"Did you check her bags?"
The officer sighed and shook his head.
Claire did not protest, handed her bags - and purse - over immediately. The woman returned to the doorway of the store, asked her first to step through and then swung each bag in turn until she found the one that triggered that awful alarm.
One by one, she removed the few items, held each one out. It was a VHS cassette that set off the alarm.
"I have a receipt for that!" she insisted. Indeed, the cop reached into the bag and checked each item against the crumpled piece of paper.
"All paid for," she declared. "And look - the security tag is still attached."
She tugged until it came free, taking a small fragment of the case with it. Claire did not care - she would have done it herself to prevent a repeat of this mess.
"Next time you feel the need to exercise your limited authority," the cop warned, edging closer to the security guard - he shrank back, evidently witnessing something in her eyes that was hidden from the younger girl, "you should think twice. Don't take your own issues out on an innocent teenager by lumping her with the bad kids. Now, I want you to apologise to this girl, promise to me that you will do your damn job and assure me that you can be trusted not to go renegade on some poor kid if I drop this matter."
Claire exhaled slowly as a sense of relief washed through her. One less explanation to make to her brother, one more disaster averted.
Her hands still trembled, even as she retrieved her bags from the kind lady cop. An insincere apology was offered by the security guard but she let it pass...she just wanted to leave the rather frightening incident behind her.
"Are you okay?" the cop asked once they were alone. Her voice was a lot softer now, her concern genuine. "Pay no attention to him - they have had a lot of trouble with teenage shoplifters in the past. It's not right to harbour such prejudice but I guess it's just the way they are around here."
A weak grin found its way to her lips, hypothetical scenarios flashing through her mind.
"Thank you," she said. "Seriously. Nobody has ever stood up for me before...well, outside of my family."
The cop patted her on the shoulder.
"It's no problem. I can tell you're not from around here. Just be careful next time, okay - make sure they remove all the tags before you leave a store."
Oh, she would. Already, she was mentally chastising the sales associate who had failed to disarm her VHS. But it was warmth that overpowered her, rather than anger. Because the situation could have been messy, and Chris could have spent the beginning of her trip furious at her...or at the poor security guard. She owed the cop more than she could express.
"Seriously, thank you," she repeated. "You know, my brother works for the R.P.D. too...the S.T.A.R.S. unit, actually. Maybe you know him? Chris Redfield?"
The woman's eyes darkened, a dry, humourless laugh escaping her lips.
"Sure I know Chris Redfield," she admitted, though Claire noted that it was with a certain amount of trepidation. "He's my partner."
Shock wiped her expression blank, moments before the corners of her lips twisted, her subconscious evidently finding the revelation quite hilarious.
"You're...his partner? You're...you're Jill?"
Somehow, she had pictured something a lot more frightening than this slight brunette woman, something a little more intimidating than a young adult with an obvious penchant for Banana Republic. But she knew better than to allow appearances to fool her; the woman she had witnessed defend her so professionally was strong, and took no nonsense. It was strange, because every facet of her personality that Claire could detect painted a picture of Chris's perfect girl.
Perhaps the incident with his ex had turned him away from personality? Jill was undoubtedly pretty, but hardly seemed like his type.
"He hasn't been kind with his words where I'm concerned, huh?" Jill joked wryly.
"Not exactly," Claire admitted. "But I'm beginning to think that I should be forming my own opinion here."
She glanced down to her watch, another rumble of the stomach bringing about a damn good idea.
"Say, do you want to get some coffee?" she asked, smirk almost distorting her words. Chris would be furious if he ever found out. Perhaps that was where the thrill lay, where the sense of danger that she felt stemmed from? "I was going to grab some food anyway, and it would be great to get to know you on my own terms."
Jill appeared frightened, chewed upon her lower lip. She glanced around, as though expecting her partner to jump from the shadows and wave an accusatory finger in her face.
"Okay," she decided. A smirk of her own appeared, her fears seeming to calm as the idea settled in. "I would like that."
AN - Please review :)