Ashley was roused from her sleep by the sound of a typing keyboard, but in her half-asleep state, she was unable to figure out what was happening. She stirred slightly and slowly opened her eyes. Lying on her side, she immediately noticed that she was in an unfamiliar place.
She was trying to remember where she was for a second, and it occurred to her that she was attending a party before she blacked out. Although, she found it odd that instead of music and people chattering, all she could hear was the sound of tapping on the keyboard. The source of the sound was too close to her, suggesting that there was someone nearby. Sitting upright, she immediately felt the stabbing pain in her head. "Ow!" she winced, holding her head.
Claire got up from her desk and immediately rushed to Ashley's side. "Are you okay?"
Instead of answering, Ashley just stared at the red head in front of her. She was trying to figure out who the stranger in front of her was, and she couldn't come up with anything. She didn't remember meeting her at the party either.
Claire smiled at her kindly, sensing what was going through her head. "You poor thing, you look confused. Spit it out."
"I don't know who's 'everyone', but you're in my apartment. Don't worry, you're safe here."
Ashley displayed a more confused facial expression. "I still don't understand."
Claire watched her and displayed sympathy. "You don't remember what happened to you? At all?"
Lowering her gaze, Ashley tried to remember what happened. "All I know is that Leon dropped me off at Eric's party, I met with Sara and joined our friends… I realized I was hungry and I started eating brownies… after that I felt really weird, and light, and sick…" Ashley narrated.
"What else do you remember?"
Ashley just shrugged her shoulders. "That's all I got."
Claire sighed. "You ingested laced brownies. I heard you ingested quite a lot."
Horrified, she looked up. "Those were laced brownies?" She remained speechless for a moment, as if trying to digest this information. "Oh my God…" she muttered with panic on her face, "I ate drugs?!"
Watching her reaction, Claire decided to calm her down, even though she was secretly amused. "Well, yes, but don't worry, the effect will wear off soon. You're gonna be okay. I promise."
Looking up, Ashley met her gaze and smiled slightly. Ashley felt comfortable with her right away. Whoever this person was, she exuded kindness. There was something about her that made her feel safe.
"You are…?" Ashley asked, trying to recall if she met this woman at the party.
"I'm Claire, I'm a friend of Leon's. He brought you here so someone can look after you."
Upon hearing Leon's name, Ashley became enthusiastic suddenly. "Leon? He brought me here?"
Claire nodded. "He told me what happened. He was really concerned, but he couldn't stay."
She's too pretty to just be his friend, Ashley thought.
"Where is he?"
"He is off to do something. He left in a hurry but he said he'll get in touch with you soon."
Although disappointed, Ashley tried to refrain from asking if he was coming back. She glanced at her wristwatch, and it read 12:45 am. Already? How long have I been out? She wondered and decided that it was time to go.
"I probably should go. I'm sorry for bothering you." As she was trying to stand, she felt so nauseous that she wanted to throw up. She closed her eyes and sat still. "Oh God," she muttered.
"You should probably stay for a little bit. In fact, I insist." Claire placed her palm on Ashley's forehead to see if she had fever. Luckily, her temperature was normal. "Let me get you something, I'll be right back." Claire came back with aspirin and a glass of water. "Take this. It'll make you feel better."
She took the medicine, praying that it would take effect soon.
"Are you hungry?"
Claire stood up and extended her hand to help her up. "C'mon then."
Ashley reached out and got up. She followed Claire to the kitchen. "Is cereal okay?"
Ashley let out a small smile. "I love cereal."
"Great. Have a seat! I'm sorry I didn't have anything prepared."
"I am the one who owes you an apology, Claire. Having a guest at this ungodly hour-" that prompted her to look at the wall clock on Claire's kitchen.
"It's okay. It's not every day that I get a famous person in my apartment," she glanced at her and winked.
Ashley let out a small laugh and started to work on her food. Her eyes quickly scanned the kitchen. It wasn't big, but it was perfect for one person. She noticed a picture on the refrigerator of Claire with Leon and some big guy. Could be her boyfriend, or brother.
Claire pulled up a chair right on the opposite side of the table. "Leon told me what happened in Spain. I am so sorry you had to go through that."
Leon told her? She thought it was supposed to be a top secret. Claire continued before Ashley could reply. "I work for Terra Save. These are the kinds of situations that we deal with. How are you holding up?"
That re-assurance made her feel comfortable to open up. "Not really doing so good lately. I don't think the flashbacks are gonna stop anytime soon."
Claire gave her a sympathetic look. She knew too well what this poor girl was going through. "Are you seeing a therapist?"
"I am. I hope she can help me."
Claire gave her a quick smile. "I'm sure you will be just fine."
"Let me get you something to drink. Do you like hot chocolate?"
Ashley smiled coyly. "Sure."
"Perfect," she replied, getting up.
Watching Claire prepare her drink, Ashley wondered if she and Leon were more than friends. It did not seem impossible for the two of them to get attracted to each other, she thought. She wanted to laugh at herself for having such thoughts despite her condition.
After the initial bite, Ashley started a conversation. "I don't mean to pry but, are you and Leon…"
At first, Claire didn't understand what Ashley meant. But after a few moments, it finally clicked and she couldn't help but let out a hearty laugh. "Oh no, no, no, no. Leon's my best friend."
This obviously sparked Ashley's interest. "Best friend?"
Carefully placing the hot chocolate in front of Ashley, Claire replied. "Yes. We go way back. He's like a family to me."
"How did you know each other?" Ashley asked casually.
Claire contemplated for a second before speaking. "I met him when he was still a new cop, and I was still in college. I may be revealing my age here, but that was six years ago. He was on duty, and I was looking for my brother. We were caught in chaos and escaped the city."
Ashley didn't hide the look of wonder and amazement on her face. "You are a Raccoon City survivor as well?"
"I am," she replied, preparing a warm glass of milk for herself. She then pulled a chair across Ashley and sat down.
"So… what happened to your brother? Did you ever find him?"
"Yes I did." Ashley displayed a look of relief on her face. "In fact, I'm going to see him tomorrow."
Ashley darted her eyes to the picture on the refrigerator once again. She noticed the BSAA logo on the other guy's uniform. "Is that your brother in the BSAA uniform?"
Claire looked over her shoulder to take a quick glimpse of the picture and confirmed. "Yup, that's my big brother."
"I've always wanted a big brother. You're lucky, Claire," she said, taking another spoonful.
"I love him but I've always wanted a little brother or sister."
"I have a little brother. Anytime you want to trade," Ashley smiled, and felt a little sad when she realized that she missed her little brother.
"I'll definitely keep that in mind," Claire shot back.
"So, tell me, are you and Leon really just friends all along?"
"What do you mean?"
"You said you've been friends for seven years. Did you at least go out on a date?"
Claire glared at her like she had heard the most ridiculous thing ever. "Absolutely not. We hang out, sure, but I never really consider those as dates. I think I'm speaking for both of us when I say that we're better off as friends."
"How could you know that?"
"There was just no romantic connection. It would be like dating my brother."
"I see." She commented. "Here I am thinking I just found a perfect match for him. I guess I'm gonna have to keep looking."
Claire couldn't help but smile. She thought it was cute, and innocent in a way. "Is Leon's love life making you sad as well?" She joked.
Ashley showed no trace of humor, on the other hand. "I really do want to help him to find someone. I figured that's the least I could do after he went through all that trouble to save my life." She met Claire's gaze again and appealed to her. "Come on, don't you find him attractive?"
She found it amusing that someone who was suffering from effects of laced brownies could still think of such things. "Of course I do!"
"He's brave, he's smart, he's funny… did I miss anything?"
Finally sensing what Ashley meant, Claire teased her. "Sounds like someone's got a crush on Leon..."
Embarrassed, Ashley bowed to hide the rush of blood in her face. "I'm just telling the truth."
"You like him; I can see it in your eyes. I don't blame you. A lot of women do."
"And you don't?"
Claire laughed. "Ashley, I don't have feelings for Leon, if that's what you mean. I have a boyfriend, thank you very much."
Ashley sighed in defeat. "I guess I'm just gonna have to make him an online profile."
"Yes. You see, I am thinking of setting up an online profile for him on a dating site. What do you think? Is that too much?"
Claire couldn't help but giggle. "Are you serious?"
Ashley showed no trace of humor in her face. "I am serious. I'd like to think I can pull it off."
Claire pursed her lips, still trying to stifle her laughter. "It's not a bad idea, but I don't think he needs online dating to find someone. Trust me, he would not be able to log in to his account even if it saved his life. He's too busy."
"Well, why don't we convince him to try it? I couldn't hurt, right? 4 out of 5 relationships start online. I may have heard that somewhere."
"And I don't doubt that. It's just that… Leon's a special case," Claire pointed out, resting her chin on her palm.
"It's not that he can't find someone. Leon has more prospects than any guy I know. You see, finding a girl is not the issue."
"Then, what is?"
"It's finding someone who is willing to put up with his lifestyle."
"Or maybe he's just picky."
"Picky? He's not picky, at least not any more picky than your average guy. In fact, he falls in love with a girl way too quickly," Claire revealed about her best friend. "Fun fact - if you can believe this - he has never broken up with a girl. He is always the one being dumped."
Ashley did not know whether Claire was joking or she was being serious. "I don't know if I can believe that."
Claire just stared at her with an amused facial expression. "I have no reason to lie."
"Really?" Ashley replied in disbelief.
"Don't let his muscles fool you, he is a big softie at heart."
Ashley immediately flashbacked to the night when Leon told her about the girl named Ada. That's when she first witnessed Leon's soft side.
"He mentioned this girl named Ada. Do you know her?"
"He told you about Ada?"
"He did. He said he loved her, but she betrayed him, or something like that."
"Wow. I can't believe he told you that."
"Is it bad?"
"No, no it's not. It's just that, he rarely opens up like that."
"Oh. Well, we were in the middle of nowhere, and we weren't sure if we were going to live, so I guess that helped." Why she was making excuses, she wasn't sure. "So do you know anything about Ada?"
Everytime Ada's name was brought up, Claire automatically had this feeling of intense dislike. "What can I say, he really did like her."
"What was she like?"
"I don't really know her that much. But Leon spoke highly of her. You should have met her in Spain, she was there.
"That's not possible, Ada is dead according to Leon…" Ashley recalled the pretty Asian girl that helped them escape. She put two and two together and it finally clicked. Ashley's widened in shock. "That's Ada?"
"Yes. She didn't die. It was all a part of her plan. Leon thought she was dead until she showed up in Spain."
Ashley hated the idea that this Ada person might be trying to lead Leon on again. She was definitely out of the equation.
Sighing, Ashley leaned back against her chair. "You're not in love with him, he can't do online dating, Ada is not to be trusted... What am I going to do? What do you suggest?"
Claire shrugged and shook her head. "I got nothing. I've introduced him to some of my friends, but they all didn't work out. Leon's situation is really tricky. But I don't doubt that he will meet his match."
Ashley fell silent, trying to absorb all of the information that she just gathered.
She decided that it was time to go. "This was fun, but think I better go. I don't want to take more of your time than I already do."
"Are you sure you're okay? If I let you go and you're not feeling well, Leon is not going to be happy."
Something about that last sentence made Ashley feel slightly giddy. "I'll be fine. Thanks for looking out for me, Claire," She said, getting up.
Claire got up as well and walked towards Ashley. "Don't mention it!"
"I had a great time. I'm so glad we met." Ashley said, beaming.
"I had a great time as well." Claire smiled genuinely.
Ashley stepped forward and gave her a hug. Claire hugged back and pulled away gently. She walked her to the door and watched her make her way to the black limousine.
Ashley turned around upon hearing her name.
"You don't need to look too far. That would be my only suggestion."
Although she was confused by this, she gave Claire a smile and a small nod before continuing to head towards the limo.
She was going to face another battle tomorrow, but all she wanted to do at the moment is getting rid of the drug in her system.
Hi there! Do I still have readers left? Sorry once again, this took so long! I really spend a lot of time editing and editing and editing... I am never ever satisfied, but here you go! This is one of those chapters where it's either good or really bad. I don't know, but I put a lot of effort in it. :) I really want to thank you for reading and leaving reviews! That is amazing to me, I will never not get excited when I read your comments! :)
So Ashley and Claire met! Yay! I really like these two characters. I've always wondered how they would interact when they meet, and this is how I picture them together. I hope you like it!
Please allow me to respond to your wonderful comments. I hope it's okay :-)
Antrxx: Yes, poor thing. Never eat brownies at a frat's party. Smh. I guess she learned it the hard way.
Madame Noize: Wow, really? That's so cool, thanks for saying that. That is such a big compliment. :)
James: Thank you so much!
nounbeast: Yeah, no kidding! Those are not fun at all... I wrote that chapter based on personal experience (not mine haha), but yes, it's not fun. Yeah. seriously, Claire is awesome! I really want them to meet. I really do appreciate your comment! It is always my goal to stick to canon, and I'm glad it's working out. Seriously, thank you :)
Gwenniegirl Kennedy: Aww thank you so much! I kind of based it on a real life event haha :)
dartsangel: Thank you so very much! :) You don't know how much that makes me happy :)
ashleyXleon: Thank you so so so much! :) I am really happy to know that! Haha I love writing Leon as a dense character, it's just funny!
Guest: Aww I'm so happy to know that you like what I write! That's so freaking cool. :) I hope this chapter will make you like me, since I put CLaire and a little bit of Chris. :)
Meinos Kaen: WOW! Hi There! Thank you so much! :) I did read your detailed review and I am really thankful that you took the time to write an extensive review! :) Thank you for your pointers, I will keep them in mind. That was amazing. I enjoyed reading that! :) I'm so happy, you don't even know
Blademaster88: Thank you, master! I will try my very best :)
Hermes tonsils: Thank you so much!
Haalyle : Thank you so much! Hope you like this one! :)