The River

~ 'At night on them banks I'd lie awake, and pull her close just to feel each breath she'd take, now those memories come back to haunt me'

Title and the lyrics are from The River by Bruce Springsteen. Due to popular demand, here you go, PiersxClaire story. It was blooming difficult to do, and as a warning, it is not my best and it may be full of cheese and a little sadness… Enjoy!

Artichoke xxx

Pulling himself up onto a barstool, Piers rested his elbows onto the counter, bringing his glass of beer up to his lips. His eyes solely focused on the man next to him. His Captain wasn't particularly talkative today it seemed.

The room was dull, uninspiring. Dimly lit, and the concoction of smoke and stale alcohol filled Piers' nostrils. It was his partner's favourite bar, though he was yet to figure out why. It wasn't the nicest environment.

The silence between the two men was odd. Since joining the BSAA, the young man was partnered under Chris Redfield, and their relationship had hit it off. Piers saw Chris as a close friend, reliable. He was taken under his wing; he had the upmost respect for his Captain.

Clearly something was on the older man's mind, something Piers was yet to find out. He busied himself, continuing to take sips from his glass, and fiddling with the paper coaster seated beneath it.

"So you and Claire seem to have gotten pretty close…" Chris finally spoke. Piers flicked his head up, eyes casting onto Chris'. He was introduced to the younger Redfield at a BSAA dinner, the two immediately got along. Obviously this was what was on his Captain's mind. Subconsciously, Piers ran a nervous hand through his light brown tresses.

"Yeah, she's really nice… We get along well." Piers answered very carefully, cautious to ensure his words wouldn't be taken the wrong way.

It was no secret Chris was a very protective brother, the young man knew to be weary. Chris stared into his eyes, scrutinising him. He tried his hardest to hide the fear, and hide his true feelings from Chris. However the look in the older man's eyes told him Chris already could tell.

"Stay away from her." His eyes widened at the threatening tone in Chris' voice, his brow furrowing.

Both he and Claire were grown adults; they could make their own decisions without the consent of Chris. The Captain saw the confusion in Piers' face.

"You're a good guy Piers. But Claire's vulnerable…She isn't exactly lucky in love, she's been prone to throw herself in head first. And besides, I know you…"

Piers' eyes narrowed in on Chris at his words.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You're not exactly one for long lasting relationships…" Piers frowned, letting out a sigh.

Granted he didn't have the best track record. He was still young; he figured it was easier having a couple of flings here and there. But he would never do that to Claire. There was something mesmerising about her, he had genuine feelings towards her. Something he knew his Captain would find difficult to believe.

"It wouldn't be like that with her…" Chris' eyes widened at his words, and immediately Piers regretted saying them. If Chris didn't know his true feelings towards Claire, he certainly did now.

"She deserves better." Piers heart stung at the words of his superior. "She deserves someone who's always going to be there for her. Piers whenever we're out on missions we can be gone for months. That isn't fair on her. Please, I'm asking you to stay away from her."

Piers slung his head down, a defeated sigh escaping his lips. His Captain was right; she did deserve more than he could give her. The job always would get in the way. And if these feelings Piers had was mere physical attraction, it wasn't fair to play on her emotions. As hard as he tried to suppress the feelings, he couldn't let her go.

"What's on your mind? You seem distant…" Piers' eyes opened as he snapped out of his thoughts.

Her voice was as soft as ever, sweet and compassionate. Everything he had begun to love about her. He tugged her closer to him, making her body press up against his chest until he could feel every gentle breath she took. The two lay perfectly, like each body was made for the other.

"Just thinking…about Chris." He replied, his voice seeming still distant. He glanced upwards, staring intently at the clear night sky before him, the twinkling stars lighting up his eyes.

"Well how about you think about the other Redfield for a while?" She reached her delicate fingers out to move his face and sight towards her. A small playful smile teased her lips, as she propped herself up, resting her lower arms onto his chest, allowing the two to stare into each other's eyes.

Damn, Claire Redfield was beautiful. He knew he was in trouble. He reached to caress her hair, moving to the back of her head, he removed the bobble holding her ponytail. Her long locks of auburn hair fell from its constraints, framing her face. Her piercing blue azures were locked on his, twinkling like the finest crystal. Then his eyes fell to her mouth. That perfect mouth. Her lips twitched into a smile, and he couldn't help but watch as she gently nibbled on her bottom lip.

But she was so much more than the outer appearance. Something Piers began to realise as they got closer. She was witty and smart. And although she didn't see it, she was strong. She was independent, but yet there was a certain vulnerability that lay beneath the façade. The closer they got, the more he learnt about her. She was full of surprises. But yet there was something that held Piers back. He hadn't given everything to her. Chris' words held him back.

"I think we should tell him…about us." He said softly. Claire tilted her head to the side; a smile remained on her lips, one which he couldn't read.

The two had been sneaking around behind Chris' back for nearly six months now. At the beginning it was just a bit of fun, but steadily it became more serious. And although they wanted to tell him, it just never seemed the right time.

"Well we're both consenting adults, I suppose we should…" She let out a slight laugh, making his lips twitch upwards. "Enough secrecy…"

She shuffled herself up his body, bringing their faces next to each other. She brushed her nose against his, making him laugh slightly. She had a look on her face, she was smiling but there was something else there. It made him give her an inquisitive look.

"It's just…do you think that's part of it?" Her voice was a whisper, her brow slightly furrowing as she asked.

"What's part of what?" She laughed at his confusion, placing a small kiss onto his nose.

"Part of the attraction. You know the sneaking around. Maybe that's where our feelings are coming from…" His eyes averted hers, his mind wandering. He knew how he felt about her, but maybe she was right. Maybe he liked the idea of her. He was unsure. He let out a small sigh.

"Dance with me." It was a statement, not a question. Claire looked at him, her eyebrows raised. She looked at him with disbelief, but his face remained serious. She let out a humourless laugh.

"What? Why?" She pushed herself upright, sitting on her knees in between his legs while he stayed lying on the grass.

"Doesn't have to be a reason." He brought his torso upwards, allowing himself to look at her once more.

She still had confusion plastered over her face, something which made him let out a laugh. He could tell she thought he was teasing. He was serious. He stood upright, holding out his hand to her. She complied, slipping her hand into his. He brought her gently onto her feet.

"There's not even any music…" She scoffed, still shocked by his random actions. There was little noise at all; an empty field at night was silent. The only sound came from the gentle flow of the river next to them.

"We don't need music to dance."

Piers brought her small body against his. He snaked one hand around her defined waist, the other slipped its fingers into hers. She rested her head into his neck, her free hand holding onto his back. Once she was settled, he pulled on her waist, bringing the two closer. Their chests pressed up against the other, and he felt every soft breath she took tickle his neck. Slowly, he began to move them, swaying to the silence.

Claire giggled the situation so bizarre to her. He certainly was romantic, all be it a little cheesy.

They moved perfectly together. And that was all the conformation he needed. Their relationship wasn't built on the secrecy or the excitement of getting caught. He had genuine feelings for her. Her smile was enough to make his heart flutter, her laugh like music to his ears, and her smell so intoxicating it drew him closer to her. The night was perfect for him. She was perfect for him. He knew he was about to ruin it all, as much as he didn't want to.

"I have to leave on a mission tomorrow…" His voice was a whisper into her hair. Immediately she stopped moving. She placed her hand onto his chest, and pushed him away from her, her fingers slipping out of his.

"What?" She sounded heartbroken. And it was difficult to tell, but in the moonlight, he swore he saw her eyes glisten with tears as she stared up to him.

"The BSAA are being deployed into Edonia." He spoke softly, reaching out for her. She took a step back from his hand, worrying this was all just a fling for him.

For a moment they continued to stare at each other, neither knowing exactly what to say. It was Piers' job, he couldn't help that. There was nothing he could do about it.

"How long will you be gone?" His heart ached hearing her voice tremble.

"It's hard to know. Could be a couple of weeks, could be a couple of months…"

She stayed quiet. Her eyes fluttered from his to the ground. He frowned, unable to read her expression. Her gaze flicked back up to his olive eyes, locking their eyes together. Her gaze so strong it made his hands shake. She was trying to understand him. She'd been tricked by men before; they pretend to care, use her and then leave. She couldn't tell if he was different or not. She prayed he was different because she was in heaven for the last couple of months they had spent together. They had fun, and they connected. What more did she need?

"I don't want you to go…" A tear trickled along her cheek as she spoke, slinging her head down. She allowed him to delicately wipe it away.

He pulled her into his body once more, holding her close. His body warmth brought her more comfort than words ever could.

He felt his shirt dampen slightly with her salty tears. He was swarmed with guilt. This was the exact reason Chris never wanted them to be together. Undoubtedly the day was going to come when Piers would have to leave, and she would be left a wreck, perhaps even heartbroken. He should have listened to his Captain; it was so unfair to her. He cared too much for her; he never wanted to hurt her like this. Chris was right, he wasn't good enough for her, he never would be.

"I love you." His voice was a whisper, the words ghosting into her ears.

He could have sworn he felt her heartbeat increase, loudly thumping against his chest. She tensed in his arms, and he immediately regretted admitting his true feelings. Gently she plucked her head up, moving out of his chest. Her brow was furrowed; he thought she looked almost angry.

"Don't say that unless you mean it." Her voice shook.

"I mean it…" He reached out, tucking a piece of auburn hair behind her ear. He was going to show it to her, prove he meant his words.

Placing his thumb and finger on her chin, he raised her head. Gently he swooped down and tentatively grazed his lips against hers. She gently closed her eyes, his delicate kiss sending electric through her body. He placed his hands either side of her face, continuing to leave the softest of kisses onto her mouth. Her lips trembled under his touch, her heart aching for more. Eventually he deepened the embrace. His tongue slipped out tracing slowly along her lips. She was hesitant to kiss back, but parted her lips slightly allowing him more access. He slid his tongue into her mouth teasing her carefully. She glided her tongue across his and the two danced in unison across one another. Regrettably he pulled back, needing to catch air.

Piers kept their faces close, foreheads together, noses rubbing occasionally. Every warm breath she took landing on his cheek. He wished they could stay like that for eternity. If only.

"I'll wait for you."

"I could never ask you to do that." He pulled his head back slightly as he spoke. It wasn't fair for her to have to wait on him. She had a life to lead; his job shouldn't have had to affect her life. She gave a small smile, one that melted his heart. Carefully she moved her hand to rest upon his chest, over his heart.

"I love you too. I'll be right here waiting whenever you come home…" Piers let out a smile, as his heart raced, thankful she felt the same. She reached up to leave a peck on his cheek, "I promise."

Edonia was worse than Piers could have ever imagined, by far the most terrible outbreak he'd had to go through. He lost all his teammates, his friends. He was a soldier, used to causalities on the battlefield. But never this many. Just thinking about it brought him to tears once more.

And what was worse was his Captain had gone astray. The deaths seemed to affect him even more; after all they were his men under his command. The Director of the BSAA made some comment after the mission and Chris went off the rails. No matter how much Piers tried to calm him, it was useless. The man was heartbroken. He, nor the BSAA, had heard from Chris since then.

Certainly these were the darkest days for Piers; he had little faith in him, definitely no hope. The only thing that kept him sane was knowing she was waiting for him. He knew she would be the only person able to heal him.

He let out a deep sigh, glancing over the river which flowed steadily past him. Leafless trees arched over it, light sprinkling of snow dotted along the branches. He gazed upwards noticing more speckles of snow were beginning to fall. The area had become his favourite place; it held with it his favourite memory of the two of them.

He turned, his eyes catching hers. Immediately she ran up to him, throwing her arms around his shoulders. He held her tight, breathing in the scent he had missed for months. She felt just as perfect as before. He left a soft kiss onto her cheek.

"I've missed you so much, Claire." He breathed into her neck, holding her warm body into his. Tears threatened to fill his eyes whenever he thought of everything he had lost. At least he still had her.

"I'm so glad you're okay, Piers."

She pulled away from the embrace earlier than he would have liked. She let out a smile, but he didn't return it. The smile was different, it worried him. Something was different, she wasn't the same. She didn't look at him the same way she used too.

"Is Chris okay?" Piers frowned at her question.

"What do you mean? He didn't come home?" He asked, his voice laced with urgency.

"No, I can't get through to him; I figured he wasn't home yet."

"We lost our men…" He saw the worry that cast over her face. She immediately reached around, pulling him into a comforting hug, whispering her apologies to him. He nodded, not particularly wanting to talk about his comrades, it hurt too much. He saw the fear in her eyes; obviously she was worried for Chris. He was too. Nevertheless he fed her false hope. "He'll come home soon, don't worry."

Claire nodded, pulling away. Piers leaned forward in attempt to kiss her. Regrettably, she turned her head from him. And at that moment, he knew it had all changed. Never to be the same again.

"We need to talk…"

Immediately a lump appeared in Piers' throat from her words. This couldn't be good. Her eyes didn't seem to gleam the same way they used too. She didn't have the same innocence behind them, the playful look. She didn't look at him with love anymore.

"Okay." His voice broke as he spoke, seemed all he could say.

"I am so thankful you're here, Piers…But things have changed…" Her voice was as soft as ever, her lips trembling as she spoke. Her blue eyes filled with tears as she spoke. And he knew what was coming next; he knew what her words meant. It felt like a dagger through the heart. Maybe she wouldn't be there to heal him after all. "You were gone for so long…"

"You told me you loved me…" His eyes averted hers, knowing if they were to cross paths, tears would fill his.

The tears trickled down her cheeks.

"I did….I do." She quickly corrected herself. His hands remained still; instead she wiped the tears away herself.

"Is there someone else?" His voice was calm, but she detected the tremble that coursed through it.

"Maybe…I don't know."

He slung his head, sheltering the pain she inflicted on him away from her. He was gone for four months, he could understand it. Understanding didn't stop the pain.

"I would never do anything with him, Piers…" She continued to speak, reaching out for his hand. She grasped it tightly, holding it up to her chest.

"But you have feelings for him?" His hand shook in hers. His chest tightening as he asked.

"I think so. He was there for me…"

"…When I wasn't." He finished her sentence, finally bringing his eyes up to hers. She gave a slight nod, the tears continuing to flow.

"It probably doesn't even mean anything, but… I just need to know…" Regrettably he nodded. He wouldn't want her to stay with him for the sake of it. If they weren't meant to be, then somehow he would just have to try and find a way to get over it.

"I want you to be happy…" It took all he had to force the words out, his heart shattering as he spoke. "And if that's with him then fine. And if it's not…I'll be right here waiting for you."

"I just thought if what we had was true love, I wouldn't feel like this. It wouldn't be this difficult." She brought one hand to cup his face, locking her eyes with his, she continued to cry. The situation as hard on her as it was on him.

"I'll never love anyone as much as I love you…"

His eyes pricked with the pain, moisture filling the corners. The rest went in a blur. He had nothing to say, he wasn't going to beg. And anything he would say would just have made him cry. He felt her press herself against him, leaving a soothing kiss onto his cheek. He felt numb, barely feeling her lips. She whispered something about always loving him no matter what, but his mind was fuzzy. Her words passed over him. And with that, she was gone. All that was left was the faint smell of her perfume. His favourite perfume.

Stray tears trickled down his cheeks, his eyes casting back over the river. He had to focus on something; he would focus on the one thing he had left. He would find his Captain. And do the only thing he could, fight. He would stop at nothing until he found Chris, and perhaps they could find peace amongst the madness.

Piers pushed his hand into his pocket, rummaging through it. His hand shook, he was unsure if it was from the cold or just the shock. Glancing over the river the memories of her he had loved flashed before him. He had ruined everything. She needed him and he wasn't there. It was over.

He retrieved the small black velvet box from his pocket. He refused to open it. He knew what was hidden beneath. It was hers; it belonged to her, along with his heart. She would never see it. Clutching it tight in his hand, he threw it into the river. He watched as it bobbed on the surface, slowly carried along by the water. Eventually it began to fall to the bottom, everything he had ever loved sinking away with it.