Author's Note: Sorry this one has taken so long, you guys. But, I'm somewhat lacking in the muse area as of late. I blame Lost Girl and the stupid decisions they've been making with my favorite Doctor. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this one. I also had one of my friends take a little time to Beta read it. Thanks Cara.

Chapter 9

Darkness can be the one of the most efficient forms of fear imaginable. It is, after all, where we've been told the monsters dwell. It is cold, unpredictable, and all encompassing, even though it is merely the absence of a common comfort in which we all share; light. But darkness can also be a blessing. It is a resting place for weary souls; an escape from the brightness of life when witnessing it simply becomes too much. Darkness is sometimes the permission we seek to stop fighting; stop willing. A forgiving mistress when the weight of all things bears down to heavily.

For Kara Thrace, and the few people who cared for her, darkness was a savior.

"Turn it off!"

"Kill the fucking grid!"

"Turn it off, Jones, she's dead! Turn off the Goddamn countermeasure!"

Screams pelted the frenzied technician as he worked quickly to stop the oncoming laser. Fingers furiously danced across a keyboard as the room descended into chaos. Rain was beating on the door to the death tunnel as if the force of her blows alone could save her friend. It was a testament to the tech's skill that he was even able to type his own name, let alone the code that would cease the deathtrap. But finally, just in the very nick of time, the room holding their fearless leader went dark and all shouting finally ceased.

When the door hissed open from the deactivation of the lock, everyone clamored over to the opening but did not pull the large frame back. They didn't know whether or not they'd be witnessing one or two piles of chunked human flesh. It was Rain who finally reached for the handle and steeled herself for the sight that awaited her. When she finally pulled back, a breath she didn't even know she'd been holding escaped with rapidity and she moved forward to fiercely clutch the solid body that stood before her; wearing a sad smile.

"Uggh," Thrace grunted with the force of the hug. "Take it easy, I'm still getting used to the idea that I'm all here."

The words brought Rain out of her elation almost instantly and the rage that had been building within the dark haired recruit overloaded everything else she'd been feeling. Pulling away quickly, she grasped her superior by the collar and threw her against the frame on the outside of the door.

"You stupid, self-loathing, unbelievable fucking freak!" she raged in the blonde's face. "Your dumb ass could have died in there. You should have left and let us figure out a way to turn on the laser from the outside! Why the fuck did you have to play the Goddamn hero? Huh?"

Happy to be there to get yelled at by the feisty clone, Kara couldn't help the laugh that escaped her even as she was being accosted, "I guess I didn't have time to think that far ahead. It's good to see you too, you little ingrate."

Rain growled, "You know what? I have half a mind to beat the shit out of you right now for pulling a stupid stunt like that, but I'm going to hold off because I don't want Claire Redfield feeling bad for you for one second when she gets her hands on you. I have a feeling the ass whoopin' she has in mind right about now is going to be epic."

"Oh, she has no idea," Claire agreed from the com station. "Can we send audio yet?"

"Not yet," Alice answered. "We still need them to take control of the mainframe before sending any kind of signal in. They're damn close to being out of the woods, but it's not over yet."

"Fine," she huffed. "I'd rather save it untill I see the little shit in person anyway."

A smile crossed Alice's face as she gave the woman a pat on the back, "I certainly pity 'the little shit'. Now, let's try to stay focused for this last bit."

They all watched silently on the monitors as the team proceeded with the last leg of their journey. Filing into the mainframe, Kara directed Jones to cut the power and start reconfiguration. Once they were sure the satellite link was broken, she gave the order to headquarters to open communication.

"Houston, we do not, repeat, do not have a problem. Operation Infiltration is successful. Awaiting final orders to gas the hive."

The com room erupted in cries of victory and claps of success.

"Quiet..." Alice chuckled from her own delight. "Quiet the fuck down and act like professionals, you guys. I need to be able to talk to them."

The final few 'yeahs' and 'woo hoos' ceased and she composed herself enough to address her crew.

"Excellent job team, we're all very proud of what you were able to accomplish. Permission to release nerve gas granted. Pump the fucker full of that shit, I'm sending in the clean-up crew to help you clear it."

"Affirmative, Houston," Thrace answered. "We'll get started and wait for the cavalry."

"Tell her once the smoke has cleared she needs to get her ass back here for immediate debrief," Claire demanded of Alice.

"Do you really need to yell at her at the earliest possible moment?" the leader inquired.

"Yes," the answer was issued with neither humility nor acceptance of argument.

Alice exhaled and rolled her eyes, "Thrace, we will also need you back to base for immediate debriefing as soon as the gas has dissipated."

"Jesus," she replied. "I storm the castle and I don't even get a chance to raid it?"

"Your presence is urgently requested," Alice elaborated.

"I can only guess by whom," the blonde shook her head. "I'll scurry back as quickly as I can, sir. Now if you'll excuse me I have to get to work so I can be home in time for supper. Thrace-out."

"Good job, Thrace. Houston-out."

Claire filed out of the room; most likely to light-up atop the building and prepare the tongue lashing she'd later be issuing.

Alice rolled her eyes and started prepping the cleanup assignments. Before she had a chance to put pen to paper an eager brunette was sidling up to her with expectant eyes.

"Yes?" she prompted Jill.

"I'd like to head up the outgoing cleanup crew."

Alice gritted her teeth before writing fiercely on her note pad "Cleanup Crew: Headed by Jill Valentine" and shoved it over to the annoying Agent.

"Fine, but after all of the dust settles on this very important assignment, I am going to call a meeting about the clusterfuck that is the interpersonal relationships going on within these ranks. You and Claire both should prepare yourselves for a very uncomfortable line of questioning."

"Noted," Jill said with a quick salute before leaving the room without further comment.

"Are any of the rest of you fucking each other?" Alice addressed the remaining Agents.

Nearly every eye in the room averted her gaze as the entire group decided all at once that it was also time for them to disperse.

"It gives them something to live for, you know," Wesker's droll tone unexpectedly expressed. "These ridiculous obsessions with love."

"If I didn't know you better, I'd say you were going soft."

"I'm only part monster, you know," he started to make his exit as well.

She shook her head, assuming it was his weird way of making a joke. Then furrowed her brow and called out before he'd cleared the room.

"You're not fucking someone around here, are you?"

He turned slightly so all she could see was half of his face and answered with nothing more than a smirk before continuing with his steps.

Alice planted a palm against her forehead, "Oh my god, I could have gone my entire life not knowing that."

"Ok, you know the drill," Kara explained to Rain as she prepared for departure. "You've got at least 24 hours before anything wakes up from the gas. Start with the big mama jamas: bioweapons, lickers, dragons; whatever the fuck they've got going on in here. Nothing lacking communication skills lives. It needs to be shot... multiple times... in the head and fed through the incinerator." Her face turned sour as she thought through the entire process. "You may have to have a few people tasked with hacking them up before tossing them into the fire. Anyway, that's all up to you. Cleanup crew should be here soon to help."

"What about the clones?" Rain asked hesitantly.

"The clones are to be restrained and housed within the detention facility for questioning," Thrace said looking at her seriously. "Under absolutely NO circumstances are you to let ANY of them out. Is that perfectly clear?"

"Yes sir. No freedom for the clones. You have my word."

"I mean it, Rain. I know how your mind works and the soft spot you tend to have for this issue, but they are still the enemy until proven otherwise and they will kill you in a heartbeat. Do not fuck this up."

"Chill out, I won't! I promise."

"Alright, I've got to go and try to placate a grown-ass woman. Take care."

"Hey, what's up with you and Claire anyway?" Rain asked. "Sometimes you play nice, sometimes you don't."

"Isn't it obvious? She's enraptured by my wily charms."

"I'm not so sure it's that simple," The brunette smirked. "What about you? Do you like her?"

"Sometimes..." Kara's gaze took on a faraway element for only a few seconds before she recalled it. "Whatever, maybe we'll talk about it at our upcoming slumber party where you dish the details about you and Jill."

"Alright, be careful on the trip back."

"Have fun being in charge for five minutes," She said, while giving the girl a sincere salute. "You've earned it."

"Dork," The word was said with sarcasm, but the return salute was stiff and regulation.

It was as if in that moment they'd both figured out that they were the future of the resistance. And also that, at some point, they'd have to start acting like it.

Once the convoy had unloaded everyone on the cleanup crew, Jill wasted no time issuing her orders. A small portion of the team was tasked with clearing and conditioning the outer structure. There were probably a lot of useful items left laying around within the mall and, once converted; the building could be used for security, storage and possible housing.

The second phase involved a bottom's up clearance of all unconscious bodies within the facility. This would have to be done fast, given the time frame involved. The nerve gas would only hold out for so long and they couldn't have a bunch of threats roaming around the hive. She'd have to get with the intelligence officer on the inside to clearly map out what they were up against.

Once off the train, Jill tossed out orders effortlessly. Too effortlessly, actually. Once she'd finished she thought about her tone and remembered its origination. She'd always been driven and assertive, but there was something about the mechanical nature of the 'Umbrella Jill' that was certainly coming through. She made it a point to change that. She would start by being less stiff and rigid in both her stance and words. So odd that certain things stuck with her even after the bug was removed.

I guess there's something to be said about settling into habits. She thought to herself. Time to make some new ones.

"Thanks everyone," she said to the crew. "Be careful. These things may be out, but they're still alive. Take every precaution for your own safety."

As they scurried to get started, she smiled a little to herself. That wasn't hard at all.

She headed to the mainframe hold as that is where Rain had decided to set up shop. The young recruit was only working with one technician and wanted to be there for whatever he needed. Jill had brought three more with her to help work out all of the computer-based issues. A heavily armed resistance guard stood watch outside the door.

"Agent Valentine to see recruit Ocampo," she stated with a smile.

With a quick salute he stood aside and opened the door.

"Thank you," she said softly.

Upon entering the room her eyes immediately scanned for the woman she'd been aching to see all day. She expected the rush of joy consuming her body as she saw, in person, that Rain truly was safe. She also knew to expect the butterflies that had been present ever since she met the girl. What she didn't anticipate was the sense of pride that would overwhelm her senses at watching the young recruit take charge.

Rain was both working to support Jones with the file transference, as well as issuing orders for the cleanup of the Las Plagas clone, and handling concerns on her radio. It was almost as if this girl would never cease to surprise her in the most positive ways.

One of the techs behind her cleared his throat. "Um, Agent Valentine, would you like us to get started?"

"Yes, sorry, I was busy..."

Admiring the view, she thought to herself.

"... thinking of where to start. Why don't we ask recruit Ocampo?"

As they moved closer Rain finally caught her eye and halted all of her duties to address the new arrivals.

"Agent Valentine," she moved closer. "It's good to see you here. Have you come to take command?"

"Not quite yet, actually," she looked around. "I'd like to see what you've got going on here. It seems like you may have a better idea than me on how to negotiate all of this given your time on the scene."

The smile that broke out across the clone's face was enchanting. It was worth all the stars in the sky and more; and all it had cost her was a single sentence of sincere praise.

"I absolutely can do that. Follow me."

They walked over to a table set up with multiple monitors and hard copy schematics. The Hive was truly an incredible innovation in the history of mankind. This one was even further notable due to the extreme circumstances they'd been living in.

The upper levels were devoted to occupant housing and a medical facility, but most of the quarters were vacant due to little need for onsite staff. Any 'soldier' clones were usually made as needed and shipped out on missions. The rest of the clones hanging about were there for security detail or scientific research. Not to mention the ones laying about unconscious, waiting to be detained.

The Hive had everything they could ever possibly need to sustain and destroy life. On top of all of the amenities, there also existed within the unit a highly advanced research facility set up for the study and creation of both bio and mechanical weapons. There was an armory with more weapons and armor than they truly needed at the moment.

"We've already started dispatching the more dangerous bioweapons and will move down the list from there," Rain explained pointing to certain areas of the security cameras. "It's my suggestion that your team split up in to thirds. One group assigned to shooting and gathering the rest of the bioweapons, one for incineration, and one for rounding up and guarding the clones."

Standing next to the clone as she leaned over the desk, she spoke with such confidence that it instilled even more admiration within Jill Valentine. It also served to stir up a few other feelings of a less professional nature. Ever since their brief, romantic encounter, she'd been busy with thoughts of worry and fear. Now, standing next to Rain as she confidently controlled a very important situation, Jill knew she should be focused on nurturing her skills. But in reality, it was taking nearly every ounce of her self control not to throw the girl on the desk, pull her close and kiss her passionately.

"Then that's what we'll do," Jill agreed. "Excellent job, Ocampo."

As Jill raised her hand to her communicator and ordered her crew to their duties, Rain found herself fighting feelings very similar to those of her counterpart. She'd been thinking of nothing more than survival in the last few hours, but now the rush of helping guide a successful mission coupled with the obvious admiration she was receiving from Jill was sending her hormones into a frenzy. She pushed her urges down as much as she could. There were important things that needed to be done right now; Jill obviously knew that. She needed to keep focus so that she could continue to prove her ability.

"Alright, that's taken care of," the Agent stated. "Why don't you show me some of the spaces you've already cleared so that I can get a better idea of what we're working with?"

"Absolutely," she replied professionally. "We'll start with the armory and the gun range. They're right around the corner. Follow me."

They walked in silence down the hall, both lost in their own thoughts. Once they'd reached their destination, Rain pulled a small notebook from her back pocket and referenced it before punching in the code to the door, followed by her retinal and thumbprint scan.

"You're quite the important character around here, given all of that security clearance," Jill joked, trying to lighten the mood.

"Yeah, we're working on getting that fixed," the clone smiled as she moved in and held the door. "But for now, I'm kind of the go-to girl for bypassing some of these locks."

As they moved along rows and rows of firearms of every shape and size, Jill wondered if Rain would make a move; she didn't. The girl was busy rattling off the specs of the space and contents of the racks as they walked among them.

Is she nervous around me right now? Has she changed her mind about the whole kissing thing? Jill wondered. Maybe she's scared we'll get caught.

"So, as you can see, we're pretty damn well-stocked," the clone said as she moved to open the next door, which lead to the shooting range. "Any questions so far?"

"No, I think the guns are pretty self-explanatory," Jill replied. "And I'd assume they're pretty secure given you're the only one who can access them for now, right?"

"Exactly," she answered. "I'd like to see someone try to get through that door right now."

"I wouldn't," Jill muttered under her breath. Deciding, since they were alone, to try to push the physical proximity and see how Rain responded. She moved to one of the target stands and swiftly pulled her side arm from its holster and fired off a few rounds into the target down the lane.

Rain was startled a bit by the unexpected gunfire, then quickly composed herself moving closer to see how Jill had faired. As the target glided swiftly to its destination, it became evident just how refined her skills were with a firearm. Two large holes eroded the surface area of the printed form: one in the middle of the head, another straight through the heart. And the holes weren't just from single shots either. It was obvious a few bullets had passed through each destination. Further amplifying the Agents accuracy and prowess.

"Wanna give it a shot?" she asked casually.

The clone chuckled, "After you? Sure, I imagine I could use a little humility after such an epic win today."

She pulled her own handgun from its holster and waited for the target to settle, then took aim and fired off five staggered shots. They were nowhere near as fast as Jill's and almost definitely less accurate, but she felt she should have pulled off a respectable score. As Jill moved in closer to press the retrieval button, she could see that wasn't the case.

"Hmm," the Agent squinted and tried to keep her comments to herself.

Unless the clone had threaded two of Jill's shots, which was highly unlikely, she only managed to hit the target three times. Once in the neck, once in the shoulder and once in the stomach.

"Well, that's just depressing," she admitted, taking the paper down and staring in awe at her level of suck.

Jill smiled at one more thing she found endearing about Rain; her absolute lack of defensive posturing.

"Let's try it again," the Agent replaced the target and sent it down the lane. "I'll even let you in on one of my secrets."

"I'll take all the help I can get," was the reply.

"Good," Jill's smile took a mischievous turn as she closed in on her prey. "Let's make sure we start with the basics that they probably already taught you back at the base.

"Tight grip," she instructed as she encircled the girl's arms with her own and allowed the rest of their bodies to mingle.

"Right arm straight," she moved her mouth just close enough to the girl's ear that her lips brushed it with certain syllables. Her hand glided on the underside of the arm in question and ever so lightly brushed the side of her breast as it made its way back.

Rain's breathing was becoming labored at this point and it hadn't gone unnoticed by her sneaky tormentor.

What the hell is her secret? Sexual arousal? The clone wondered to herself.

"Right leg slightly behind the left, for a braced position," as she spoke her hand continued its torturous path down the girls side and to the front of her hip before moving lower to the front of her thigh and pressing it back.

Is she doing this on purpose?

"Your breathing seems to be a little labored, Rain. Try to calm it down," she moved her left hand to the clone's abdomen, serving only to pull them closer together as she spoke in soft and sultry tones. "Breathe out against my hand: slow and deep."

Rain tried desperately to do as she was told, but she wasn't sure how much longer she could keep it up, "Ok, I think I've got the basics, now what's this secret?"

A brief, but devious chuckle escaped from Jill's mouth and she regrouped quickly to continue with her lesson. Honestly, she was just as ready for it to end as Rain was. Being this close to her without acting was no easy task.

"The trick is to let your mind wander," she instructed as she backed away just enough to give her some space. "Let it go as far away from that target as possible and allow your body to go on autopilot and then fire."

It wasn't that difficult. As soon as the physical connection was lost, all Rain could think of was getting it back. As the realization flitted through her mind she just squeezed the trigger and gave in to her instincts. Once the last shot was fired she engaged the safety on the gun and slammed it back into its holster before turning to Jill with fire in her eyes.

She didn't waste another second wondering if it was right or wrong to seem professional in the other woman's eyes. She knew what she was doing when she instigated her little training session and Rain would be damned if Jill thought she wasn't going to act on it. In a fierce moment, she moved in and grabbed the Agent by the hip, sliding her hand around to the small of her back as she roughly pulled her in. Simultaneously her right hand raked its fingers through the short, dark hair and pulled eager lips into a kiss filled with the same passion they'd managed to inspire that very morning.

A desperate moan escaped Jill's mouth as the onslaught ensued and she countered vigorously with one of her own; grasping her left hand against Rain's shoulder and sending the left to clutch at the back of her neck. A strong thumb moving forcefully back against a wondrous jaw line.

Their tongues dueled for dominance as teeth and lips backed them up. And though mutual passions rose in the heat of the moment, Jill pulled it back to look directly into the eyes she'd longed to see all day.

She didn't need to say anything. The 'I was so scared you wouldn't make it' and 'I'm so happy you're still here' came through perfectly in her endeared gaze. And as the breaths passed between them Rain heard every word she wasn't saying. So, this time when their lips met the moment was full of softness and relief. A gentle revisiting of lands in which they'd both become so enamored. Arms moved to hold each other close, not direct each other in dominant passions.

It was Rain who pulled back this time.

"I'm glad you're here... even though I'm pretty sure you just punished me for all of my infractions with that bullshit little shooting lesson of yours."

Jill giggled... Like literally giggled and shut it off quickly once she realized what she was doing. Then moved to the lane.

"Oh yeah? Let's see how you did," she pushed the button to bring back Rain's target.

Every single bullet hit: three in various parts of the head and two piercing the heart. Jill pulled it from its frame and moved closer to the aggressor.

"I'd say my lesson was not only apt, but a complete success."

The clone was about to offer a different perspective, but was interrupted by static tones of her radio.

"Recruit Ocampo, we need you down in research to open some of these doors," a male voice said.

"10-4. I'm on my way," she answered, then let go of the talk button and regarded Jill. "We're supposed to break for food and sleep in a few hours. There's something I want to show you."

"Getting awfully used to tossing out those orders aren't ya?" Jill tilted her head and raised her eyebrows. "I didn't hear a single 'please' in any of those sentences."

Rain moved in closer and quirked her features, "Maybe, if you're lucky, I'll say please for you later," she turned without a look back to make her exit. "For now, Agent Valentine, let's get back to work."

With a smile and a shake of her head, the love struck brunette did as she was told.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Kara Thrace was finishing up her debriefing to the remaining Agent crew. She knew that it was really nothing more than a formality rushed by one Claire Redfield, but still, she spoke with both professionalism and authority as she closed her statements.

"The housing available to the hive is enough to sustain the current population and more, but it is my recommendation that we do not send everyone over. Putting all of our eggs in one basket would make our location even more of a target and place us back in the same situation we're in now. It is also my suggestion that we start the process of building a tunnel between the two bases. Air and land travel will be ok for now, but Umbrella is sure to come sniffing around once they realize that location is off the grid. We need to be both stealth and mobile," she moved her hands behind her back as she delivered her final statements.

"In conclusion, we have gained not only more real estate on the playing field, but greater tactical advantage. You also now have resources exclusive to Umbrella that will finally put us on equal footing. They may have us by the balls in the area of numbers right now but, as of today, we're all playing with the same toys. Thank you."

Everyone in the room clapped in congratulations for the young prodigy. Even Claire put her hands together for a slow smack as her eyes shot daggers.

"Well done, Operative Thrace," Alice stood to speak. "The acquirement of the Hive is the most ambitious mission success we've had since the extraction of myself from the Russian Facility and an even bigger step toward winning the fight against Umbrella. Because of your involvement from top to bottom on this monumental task, we feel you've shown the leadership, skills and initiative required to join the ranks of the Agents. Welcome aboard."

A swell of pride flooded her chest as she reached out to accept the hand being offered by Alice. Again, the room softly applauded her advancement and she couldn't help the smile that forced itself fully across her face.

"Thank you very much," she tried to keep the glee from showing through in her tone.

"Your first order of business will be the full organization of Hive number one: codename Starbuck," Alice explained. "Rest up tonight. You've earned it and you're going to need it for when you head back out tomorrow."

"Yes sir," she gave a quick salute to Alice and waited for everyone to file out of the room in hopes of a one on one with Claire who, not surprisingly, took her time gathering her things.

Once they were finally alone in the large, cold conference room Thrace finally opened up the dialogue.

"So," she moved closer to lean against the table directly next to where Claire was standing. "I'm an Agent now. Guess we can finally be friends."

"Do you have any idea what you did back there?"

"Yeah, I made a massive breakthrough in the survival of the human race, while drastically increasing my chances to be promoted to Agent status. All in all, I'd call it a win."

"So that's what this is about. You moving up in the ranks and looking like a hero?"

"I love how you completely negate the first part of my sentence by unrealistically highlighting the last."

"You could have died!" Claire stood firm, her jaw tight and angry as she breathed hard through her teeth.

"No, I should have died," the blonde's tone was defiant. "That laser was so close to my face I could feel the heat coming off of it. There was no reason I should have made it out of that room alive, but I did! And any coulda, shoulda, wouldas are just words now because I'm here; a living, breathing being delivering the future of the human race at your feet. Now, are you going to kiss me, like you know you want to, or are you going to continue to put up this tired, stubborn act just because you're still holding on to the fear of what might have happened but didn't?"

"I do not want to kiss you," the redhead punctuated her statement by stalking around the left side of the table toward the door.

Thrace followed suit on the opposite side and stopped her with strong hands on her arms.

"Yes you do," she barked forcefully. "You don't want to admit it, but I've seen it in your eyes. And, newsflash Einstein, I want to kiss you too. The first thought that even entered my mind after the lights went out in that chamber, and I knew I was still alive, was that I'd get to see you again. That maybe we'd finally get to do this thing we've wanted to do for so long. And I know you felt the same fucking thing."

"How dare you presume to know what I want!"

She tried to pull away, but was unsuccessful, anger blazing in her eyes.

"I do know what you want, Claire," Thrace held tight as she spoke through gritted teeth. "You waffle between being the hero you can be and the suicidal waste that you think you owe to some girl long since dead. You walk around here playing hero to the misfits because of this need to make yourself feel something... anything worthy of life. When the real truth is you're more worthy than you know. If that girl loved you, and I know she did, she'd kick your ass right now for being so goddamn blind to your own potential."

Claire had had enough. She threw all of her muscle and weight into a full-on run, grabbing Kara by the collar and finally landing her back harshly against the wall.

"You're so good at throwing your little Psycho Babble 101 at me, why don't you take a good look at yourself, Kara! You traipse around here proud to be the only 'untouchable' on the roster. You're so in love with this desperate need to have nothing to hold onto because deep down you're scared of being hurt. So scared that you actually get off on the idea of going out in a blaze of glory just so you feel some sense of self worth in those last few moments. And then you dare to talk about me being the ambassador of the misfits? At least I try to make friends and encourage people. You push people away every chance you get because you're a Goddamn coward."

It stung.

It all stung. The barbs thrown by both antagonists were seeping in painfully to their targets. It was Kara who finally lowered her shield and laid herself bare.

"Then why am I not pushing you away?"

The muscles in the redhead's face loosened and her eyes began to mist over. Giving Thrace the smallest inkling of a sign that it was ok to press forward.

"Why am I so happy to be alive, and near you, that I don't even care that we're fighting?"

A sad chuckle escaped her mouth as her own orbs started to fill with confused tears.

And as much as Claire wanted to keep fighting; as scared as she was to even contemplate the closeness that existed between them, she couldn't combat the strength of the connection she had to the woman in front of her.

"You crazy, stupid, insubordinate freak."

The words were spoken with surrender and followed by hands that reached up to grasp a face and guide it toward her lips. The movements were accepted by arms wrapping around her waist and pulling her close.

One would have thought the kiss would be rough; lips crashing into each other. Bruising, commanding and owning.

But it wasn't. Two individuals that strived so hard to remain strong, especially against each other, broke once there was nothing left to do but come together.

Claire softly stroked the blonde's face as lips tried to convey every 'I'm sorry' and 'I'm glad you aren't pushing me away' that her voice could not. And it was returned in kind as Kara pulled her close moved her lips with gentle purpose.

It wasn't exploration, but more of a resurrection of something both of them thought long since dead. The wonder of actually feeling good again. The majesty of something to actually look forward to. All encapsulated in the diminished space between two lips.

Desperation serves as a massive canvas for hope once the opportunity to experience the latter comes along. And as they pulled away they realized all of that. So, they stood there; both experiencing the same wonder and not knowing how to verbalize it.

Jill wasn't sure what Rain had in mind as she walked the unfamiliar corridors of the hive looking for room 222. Upon finding it she awaited the arrival of her friend. The hiss of the opening door startled her a bit as she turned to see the dark haired clone waiting inside with a smile.

"C'mon in, you're right on time," she held out her hand.

As Jill took it and walked curiously into the room her eyes filled with wonder. Sights and smells she hadn't experienced in months captivated her senses. She was standing in what was basically a human constructed Garden of Eden. Fruits, vegetables, grass... you name it, all confined within the giant room.

After eating nothing but gruel for over three months, her mouth watered at the thought of even the smallest berry. Her features grew damn near predatory when Rain dangled an apple in front of her face. With cat-like reflexes Jill snatched it away and crunched right into it. The snap was like music, the smell like perfume and the juicy, grainy texture like spring time.

It took a few seconds after she swallowed to actually open her eyes and regard her onlooker with the affection she so rightfully deserved.

"That was amazing," she beamed.

"That was just the beginning," Rain tried to restrain the giddiness she herself felt over the discovery of the garden, but her grin gave her away as she lead Jill to a blanket littered with an array of different treats. "This place is full of fruits and vegetables AND we think that it's also serving as an air circulation hub for the entire hive. So, if something were to go wrong on the surface, we'd be completely sustainable down here."

"It's amazing," Jill said, her green eyes still so far off in wonderment that she just now looked down to notice the beautiful gesture before her. "And so are you."

"Nah," Rain said humbly as she took a seat. "I just rustled up a blanket and some fruit. It's no big."

"You created a romantic dinner for two, during the apocalypse, after taking over one of the most hostile environments imaginable," Jill corrected her as she too sat down. "If you don't think that's amazing I'd say your standards for the word itself are pretty fucking ambitious."

"Just enjoy it," the clone chuckled and popped a grape into her mouth. "Once everybody gets here we probably won't be able to have a lot more moments like this."

"I honestly think if I were enjoying myself any more right now I'd probably explode from too many feelings."

And it was true. They'd all been through so much for so long. Even small things like food, friendship and a silent moment seemed like the stuff of dreams. Nothing actually possible in real life.

"I guess making out is gonna have to wait for more dire times then," Rain joked. "Wouldn't want you to explode."

The Agent felt her face warm at the thought as she took in the other woman. As soon as Rain made the joke she averted her eyes and became very interested in peeling one of the oranges. As if she was embarrassed by her attempt at flirtation.

It was then that it hit her; it was probably the clone's first actual attempt at flirtation. Every time they'd come together before this had been serious, volatile and direct. She seemed insecure, and Jill wanted to make sure she understood that there was no reason to be.

"Some explosions aren't so bad," she smiled softly and moved closer. Her gaze was far from the predatory heat she emoted earlier. It wasn't about that right now. "Rain, are you ok with everything that's developed between us? I know that there have been a lot of firsts for you in the past few days regarding us."

"I wouldn't necessarily call that a bad thing," she re-established connection. "Honestly, it's kind of exhilarating. Doing all of these new things... with you. I trust you."

The words melted her heart, "I promise I'll do everything I can to keep things that way."

"Then shut up and kiss me before you start making me nervous," she smirked, causing a brief laugh to escape Jill's mouth before she leaned in to otherwise occupy it.

As their lips came together they simply allowed the world around them to be temporarily perfect. With slow, savoring movements the two women forced all of the darkness of their past away. There was nothing but each other and the lightness the garden provided. They knew it wouldn't last, nothing ever does. But still,lthey sat there enjoying the moment together. Because, really, the present is all we ever have. And right now their present was complete, beautiful and perfect.