A/N: Since those who reviewed mentioned Leon's gun, I thought I could include a little trivia. In Sin City, the character of Marv (portrayed by Mickey Rourke) has a gun named Gladys. His wiki profile states he named his gun after a nun who was kind to him when he was child.
Ch 2: Taste
These aren't exactly the eyes of a killer.
Hell, she doesn't even seem to have a clear idea of what a gun is.
She swishes her head to one side so she can see his face better, but the bore of the gun follows and stares right back. The other side. The same thing. She's perplexed by it.
"How did you get away from the hospital? Why did you follow me?"
He grunts underneath his breath. One question at a time, Leon. Don't want to overwhelm her. Then he remembers. She doesn't know English. Fuck. How they're supposed to communicate is beyond him.
She's got universal language down pat – that of a smile, a stupid one, considering she doesn't know she's being held at gunpoint. She must really have not been out much at all.
He sighs, lowers the gun again.
She holds the jacket up to him by the arms. She wants him to take it and wear it again.
…Is that how she found him? Through the jacket?
Might as well introduce himself.
He places a hand on his chest plate. "Leon."
She follows suit, placing her hand on her chest. Except she doesn't say anything. Not at first.
"Ursoola." The 'r', rolls in minute precision; the 'oo' sounds like the coo of a dove. "Leeohn."
He can spare a chuckle at that, even if it's a pained one. Luis pronounced his name in much the same way, emphasizing the 'on' and making it sound more exotic than it really was. An Americano, white as a washboard, named Leon? Comico.
Luis would laugh at the little Tarzan moment they just had, too.
He sits by the bedside. She gestures to the jacket.
"Jacket," he affirms.
It's gonna be a long night.
"I don't think she's dangerous. Or if she is, I don't think she knows that she is."
"There's more than meets the eye."
"You're telling me. I still don't know how she found me."
"She came back with something that was yours. My guess is that she tracked you – like a wolf would track its prey."
"You mean she followed my scent?"
"You know what Hunnigan said happened in the hospital. How could a normal girl jump from a 3 story window?"
"…Abashed, the devil stood, and felt how awful goodness is, and saw virtue in her shape, how lovely… and pined his loss…" he reads, from an old book a college friend had loaned him and has since slept ruefully in his basement. She won't let it go now.
"So he can never have her?"
She returns his stare.
The girl isn't inclined toward humor. Anything is a subject of solemnity, and she studies everything with quiet reverence. It could be the wisdom of ages. Or just the simple humility of a child, even though she clearly isn't one.
While her English has gotten better, she speaks very little. Questions only lead to dead-ends.
She doesn't know where she's from. No memory of anything she's ever seen, anyone she's ever met. She didn't even recognize the bodies of the men who were transporting her to wherever she was going to be presumably sold.
Leon thinks of these things as he rolls his shirts lengthwise into tight bundles and stuffs them into the suitcase. All the while she lies on his bed, stark naked underneath that jacket, wearing only a black velvet choker. It is fixed with a gold, oval cameo locket etched in a woman's 19th century profile.
The girl's chestnut hair is curt and wavy, shorter than even his hair, and curls up toward the sides of her head and the ceiling. It waxes whimsical and cherubic. Her eyes are like those of a Siamese cat, glossed blue marble. Her patience is infinite, almost oracular.
There's dirt under her nails and the mud on her cracked soles have dried to a caked, soily primrose color.
"Ursula." He says. "Cute name."
Leon feels better now that he's home again.
It was a little awkward to be standing around with the girl in Customs, but they just assumed she was his younger sister and he hadn't spotted anyone suspicious while they were there. A person or two took a double take at her clothes, though. He couldn't really help that he's never gone shopping for a girl before, and he was pretty in the dark as to what other girls think are fashionable. Aside from that he didn't want any attention on her, so he tried to keep it as frumpy as possible. He favors wearing darker, somber colors himself; it's easier to fade in with the crowd. Black is his shade of comfort. He's thankfully past that cringe-worthy metrosexual phase he was going through at the time of the Los Illuminados incident.
Right now she has on a Fruit of the Loom t-shirt that is 3 sizes too big for her, a pair of Spider-Man boxer shorts and polka dot fuzzy socks (he bought them from a discount bin in Kid Gap because she wouldn't let them go).
The ignored TV airs old Seinfeld episodes. His cell phone sits on the marble tabletop and there are no missed calls as of yet.
Sherry's a bit tied up in current projects right now, but she has promised him that she'll be checking in the first chance she gets. He hopes Ursula won't be too spooked by another face. She's made it clear that she doesn't like hospitals.
He slides the pizza box on the kitchen counter and opens the refrigerator to get the Iced Tea and what's left of the Pepsi.
"Ursula, come and eat."
Ursula peeks from behind the arched doorway that leads into the kitchen, as if suspecting a ruse. But no. Only a pizza box and Leon taking out plates from the cabinet.
She tentatively approaches. The tiles feel like something her feet have been on once. But the flash is gone as soon as it came.
"This is what?"
Her sentences come out of order sometimes. It's funny but he tries not to laugh. He appreciates that she's trying.
Ever since he found her two nights ago (and she found him right back) she hasn't been showing any interest in food. He's tried giving her water and juice, crackers and half-sandwiches, but she turns away from it. As he suspects, the opened box earns less than 10 seconds of her attention, and she starts to make for the bed again, where her precious books are. She skims over the words all day to decipher the code but always waits until he returns to read to her.
"Wait up, girl." He turns her around. "You've gotta eat or you're going to collapse. Now let me get you a plate."
She stands there as he serves her.
The slice stares back. Like a monkey with a Rubik's Cube, she hardly knows what to do with the thing. She looks to Leon for direction. He shakes his head, folding his slice and bringing the tip to his mouth.
She copies, and takes a timid bite.
Leon strokes her soft, brief curls as she hurls into a mop bucket that smells like dirty water and Lysol. The first time always burns the most. Must've been bad pizza.
The third time, nothing comes out but a few drips, and she burps painfully. Coughing, idling over the bucket, she smells the paprika and tomato sauce. The teary slits of her eyes catch the detestable conglomerate of color. She clutches her stomach in fear that it will happen again.
Leon murmurs something about a stomach virus as he rubs her shoulders. "It's over now."
He rips off a sheet from the roll of paper towels and wipes her mouth. She still has her eyes closed. Focusing, for the moment, on just breathing.
By 3AM that night, watching old reruns of the Twilight Zone and pacing back and forth waiting for Sherry to call him back is working on his last nerve.
She's still alive. That much is discernible from the weak thumping of her pulse. But she's beginning to lose color and her eyes won't open. She can't get up.
She vomits everything. Water. Oatmeal. The medicine. Nothing is working.
Leon's sure it's because she pushes away everything he gives her, and she doesn't know how important it is that she eats. But when she does, it only comes back up. Among his guesses are the stomach virus he considered first, the flu, and even dysentery.
He sits on the bed. The creak doesn't stir her. His fingers run through her hair again, pressing the back of his hand to her forehead to gauge a fever. She doesn't have one. His brows knit. That's even stranger. No fever, no evidence she has any of those things.
Slowly, Ursula lifts her head to his palm. Her nose presses against it. She licks it. And bites.
He flinches and draws back like a spring. He turns his hand over to see that she's drawn blood.
"Let me kiss it.. good." she whispers. Her voice is a squeak across old floorboards.
"You bit me. You're not kissing anything." He sidles the edge of the bed, watching her sit up lazily, a corpse brought to stand. Her eyes are still heavy with exhaustion—the weariness of death.
"Please come… come here."
"Why did you bite me?"
"I'm, I am…sorry."
"You bit just hard enough to break the skin."
"It hurts… much?"
On a hunch, he approaches again, offering his palm. She laps it once before he pulls back again. Her eyes close, savoring. She lies back again. For the rest of the night, she's as sound and uncomplaining as a lamb.
When he's in the mood to read long and strenuous texts, Class A clearance leaves room for research more open than when the Red Sea was parted. But it's not helping much right now. Unsurprisingly, he's not allowed to print any of these finds, and instead has to leaf through digital databases, pulling up hundreds of windows, closing and rearranging them, writing names and dates and places on sticky notes. Reentering his pass code is really starting to get on his nerves.
Three hours of searching has yielded no fruit.
No documented B.O.W., virus or other pathogen even gives him a clue as to what she is, or what she has. As a blind shot, Leon starts cross-referencing female cases of infection.
Nothing relevant in Lisa Trevor's files, or Alexia Ashford's. The standards of their mutations were wholly different.
Leon scratches his stubble for the sake of scratching it, narrowing his eyes in particular at three words that will not stop making him itch.
The Wesker Project.
Thirteen documented children. Eleven who died before their 20th birthday. Most of them died before he was even born. Albert and Alex Wesker were the only survivors. Albert Wesker died in 2009. Alex Wesker, for the time being, is just as much of a ghost, if he ever really existed.
When Albert was alive, he had Progenitor in his veins. That enabled him with brute strength, blinding speed, advanced healing, among other things. True to his analytic nature, Wesker documented the ailments that would befall him if his injections weren't regular, but he never documented a need to consume blood. Moreover, no mention of anyone who ever had. None of those freaks except Wesker managed these augmentations while retaining a human form, either. Ursula shows no outward signs of mutation. There is nothing distinguishing her from a normal girl, at least on the outside.
Whoever worked on her worked long and hard. It's just a question of what pharmaceutical house of horrors she came from.
There is no mention of any girl named Ursula in relation to Umbrella Corp, dead or alive, in any of the databases—which comprise millions of articles of research from scientists the world over, including volumes of work authored by Spencer himself. Nada for Tricell and Wilpharma as well.
They all say about as much as she does.
He glances up from the blue computer screen. Hell, he might as well keep trying.
"Ursula… do you remember anything before those men?"
She turns from admiring an old painting on his wall, chin in her hands.
"No. No men."
"I mean, do you think you lived with other people, but you just don't remember it?"
She smiles. "I don't know."
Leon grunts, dragging the mouse around as comfortably as a bar of soap on dry skin.
Sherry Birkin, the only other person who knows the girl's with him, calls her a Chupacabra.
He also has a feeling that whatever she is, she's incomplete, which is why she's so vulnerable despite all her power. Ursula might be unaware, but he knows people are looking for her. No doubt someone's been alerted that their cargo has been confiscated. She's a stolen asset—both to the government and the men who created her.
'I did love you… once.'
'Indeed, my lord. You made me believe so.'
'You should not have believed me; I loved you not.'
Whispers reach his ears, and he takes his eyes off the screen again to study her.
'Get thee to a nunnery…' she pronounces, in secluded fervor. '…Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow…' the book's pages flip fast, her murmurings dying and starting up again.
He has never been much enamored of literature. Words were arduous things to consider all throughout middle and high school. He was 'no great orator' and an even poorer writer. He thought it'd be much easier to contribute to society by becoming a cop. Life, as it were, had other plans.
'…Thou shall not escape calumny. Or if thou wilt need marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them.'
The quotes crawl along the wall. When their eyes meet, she stops.
She is learning at an advanced rate. It's been 4 days, and Ursula is fluent.
It's not normal, Leon thinks.
His phone rings. He presses the green button before it can even finish.
"Did you tell Hunnigan? Anyone?"
There's a slight pause that tells Leon she disapproves. When he's dodgy or secretive, she tends to believe it's never for as good as reason as it he wants it to be.
"Sher, let me ask you something."
"Did you like your time in U.S custody?"
Her response hitches, and then dies off with a sigh.
"You know Wesker had eyes on the inside as you were growing up, and I doubt anything's changed. Terrorists have contacts in every nook and cranny, especially in the places people tend to place their faith in the most. I'm not taking any chances."
It's true enough that she's got nowhere to go. He won't consider giving her to Benford. He might be buddy-buddy with the President, but that's hardly a reason to give anyone else the benefit of the doubt. Their first instinct will be tests, some of which will be painful. He doesn't want her falling into the wrong hands and becoming another Lisa Trevor, either.
So for the time being, it appears that his only option is to keep her for a while longer, while she's demure, innocent and most of all, blissfully ignorant of her true nature.
The real issue is how long he can keep this up. His stomach wants to curl in on itself because he knows these aren't the types of situations that end well.
"…You should have her live here, at the facility, until we dig up what we need to know."
"I'm not exactly in love with the idea, Sherry."
"I want to take a look at her. Well, my colleague and I do. His name is Dr. Hugo."
"This doctor someone we can trust?"
"He's my most distinguished researcher. If anything happens to me, he's the one who'll take my place. He's always been rather… disquieted about the can of worms scientific inquiry opens up, especially in light of the increasing rate of bioterrorism in the past decades. At any rate, he's very conscience driven."
A scientist and a conscience are a rare pair these days. Leon is still skeptical, but at the very least, he trusts Sherry. But it might not be the wisest choice right now. Not until Ursula comes to understand some things about how the world works.
"I don't think it's a good idea to let her go so soon. She trusts me. If she's in a facility like that, surrounded by unfamiliar things, she might try to escape again."
"I never had any intention of separating you two. You're the one who'll keep her docile while we run the necessary tests."
Tests. Not the winning word.
"She won't be staying there."
"You're honestly not going to keep her in your apartment."
"You know what they say. Home is where the heart is."
"Who's to say she won't jump out of the window one day when she's bored?"
"She doesn't like it out there. Lots of eyes, loud noises, and the white place with the tall men and sharp fingers that stick in."
He can almost see Sherry's face on the other side. Wry, perhaps agitated she hasn't gotten her way as soon as she'd hoped. "Don't think you've won just yet, Leon. We still have much to discuss. 'Til then."
The dial tone sounds as he turns his head slightly to study her. Her eyes are bright and youthful, full of a fool's wonder, ignorant as to exactly how much trouble she's in. The trouble they're both in, more like.
All he's sure of right now is that he wants to protect her, even given that he has no clue who, or more importantly, what she is.