Disclaimer: I own nothing having to do with the Resident Evil brand in any way, shape or form, nor do I have any fiscal stake in writing this story. It is all for my creative enjoyment. The only things I own are my original story ideas and my own characters.
Author's Note: So... First, thanks for stopping bye my little story. Just a few quick things and then my first chapter. I've been a Resident Evil fan for a while now, and I've always loved Chris, and Leon was always pretty cool too, and then Resident Evil 6 came out and my whole world got flipped upside down. I honest to God thought that I would hate Jake Muller's character/storyline in the game, but it was by far my favorite. Completely. He was just so surprising to me. I love the whit and the humor. I love that he and Sherry were put together because they're just such a great match. Birkin and Wesker's kids... perfect. And their journey... ugh. Just loved it. Of course I wished for more romance, because let's be honest, if you're reading this you felt the same way I did about it. They're kind of perfect for each other.
Ok, just one or two more little details, I promise. (SPOILER ALERT) This story takes place post Resident Evil 6, approx. 3 years post. I can't imagine anyone who didn't finish the game would be reading this story, but if by chance you you have, this may contain spoilers. Also, I hated Chris' and Piers's ending. I mean, it was super emotional and sad, and completely showed off Piers's amazing selflessness while serving as the pivotal plot point of keeping Chris with B.S.A.A., but we're going to pretend things didn't end that way, at least in my little universe. Piers lived, is in this story and Chris is still in the B.S.A.A.
This story is rated M. Most likely for the language because let's be real, they're adults and adults speak however they want. There may be an attempt at some lovin scenes later, but probably not very descriptive. Last but certainly not least, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my story. I know it's super annoying to have people begging for reviews, so I won't. I will say, however, that if this story is something you like and you want me to keep posting chapters up here, please review and let me know. Without a doubt I love this story and will keep writing it, it's just a matter of whether or not I'll bother uploading it here. So if you like it, just let me know. :) Thanks, and I hope you like it!
Oh yeah! Also, I do my best to edit/write this well, but if you catch something I missed, just let me know and I'll fix it ASAP. Thanks so much!
*** As of 4:54 EST on 10-16-12, this chapter was re-edited and updated, so hopefully all errors are now gone and it's a bit better. :)
"Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had."
-Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones
"You saved me, Sherry. You know that, right?"
With her head propped up on her hand, Agent Sherry Birkin stared at the old case file pulled up on her computer. Sparing a quick glance over her shoulder, Sherry minimized the window and clicked on a folder on her desktop labeled "Personal". Her mouse hovered over the file she wanted to open, what Sherry had been thinking about, or specifically whom she had been thinking about all day long.
Sherry's heartbeat sped up as she double clicked and an all too familiar set of grey eyes was staring back at her. Sighing, she nibbled on her bottom lip as she looked at the photograph. It was a picture taken from her cell phone before Sherry had departed after she had survived the final attack from the Ustanak BOW. More importantly, it was the last time she had seen him. Jake Muller.
Jake pulled his motorcycle onto the tarmac, slowing before finally rolling to a stop. Placing both feet firmly onto the ground, he kicked out the kickstand as Sherry unwound her arms from around his stomach. When she did so, sitting back, Jake felt his heart drop at the loss of her warmth against him. Of course the real warmth he knew he was going to miss was everything about her and what she brought to his life. Sherry Birkin was about to get onto a plane and fly home to the United States and he once again found himself alone.
Sighing, Jake swung his leg to the side and in one fluid motion stood, holding out his hand for Sherry. Helping her get off the bike, Jake watched her sadly as she pulled her bag onto her shoulder.
"So," Jake muttered, his eyes sweeping her face carefully as he reached out his right hand, his fingers to lightly brushing against her cheek. "You sure you have to get on that plane?" he asked quietly.
Swallowing, Sherry allowed herself the momentary pleasure of leaning into his touch. "I have to get back. So much has happened and I'm sure there's a lot of work to do. I can just see the piles of paperwork on my desk already."
Nodding, Jake's hand fell to his side as he moved to lean against the motorcycle. "With all the shit you just went through for those idiots, you better be getting at least a few shinny medals and a promotion."
"Me?" Sherry asked, disbelief heavy in her tone. "You're the one who saved the planet, Jake. On top of those billions of people, you saved my ass more times than I can count! You're the one who deserves all the medals, not me."
Jake smirked to himself as he looked past her towards the plane, watching for prying eyes. "Yeah, well… it was worth it. It's a great ass." Looking back to Sherry, Jake was pleased to see a blush spreading across her cheeks. "Of course, the body attached isn't half bad either. So much so that I don't even think I could pick a favorite part."
"I suppose I walked right into that, didn't I?" Sherry asked, rolling her eyes.
"Absolutely," Jake chuckled. From beyond Sherry, he could see the plane had finished fueling and was ready for take off. "Looks like they're just waiting on you, Supergirl," he murmured, nodding his head towards the aircraft.
Nervously, Sherry glanced behind her. "Yeah, it looks like it. I should probably get going before they take off without me."
"Absolutely," Jake repeated absentmindedly, unashamed as his eyes openly scanned every inch of the female in front of him.
"Jake Muller, stop looking at me like that," Sherry hissed, taking a step towards him to swat as his arm.
Jake laughed, easily deflecting her playful attempt at an attack, his hand wrapping around her arm to pull her flush against him. "I had to do it," he muttered, his eyes drifting between Sherry's lips and eyes wistfully. "I don't know when I'll see you again, and I don't want to forget a single thing about you." Again, Sherry's cheeks heated up at his words as Jake moved to place her arms around his neck before wrapping his around her body. "I'm going to miss you, Agent Birkin."
Feeling her throat close up as tears formed in her eyes, Sherry opened her mouth to reply but no words would come out. After Raccoon City, Sherry spent most of her life being tested to try and come up with advances and discover the secret behind her abilities. As much as all the tests and experiments hurt and dehumanized her, Sherry refused to complain because she hoped that something good would come from it. That she through her pain, she was helping people. When she finally came to age she was permitted to withdrawal herself from the testing programs, Sherry requested to be trained in the hopes of becoming a field agent for the United States in some capacity. After a year of devoting herself to that, Sherry was offered a job under her legal guardian, Derek Simmons who later became a special advisor to the president. Sherry reported directly to him, going on special assignments all over the world making it her own personal mission to help the world. And now she finally found someone who made her happy, as unlikely the circumstances and as strange as it was, and she had to leave him. Duty and responsibility are two things she was unwilling to compromise on.
"Don't cry, Sherry," Jake begged, moving his hands to wipe away her tears. "Please don't cry. Everything is going to be fine."
Sherry nodded, burying her head into the crook of his neck as Jake's arms hugged her close. "I'm going to miss you," she murmured against his skin, sniffling. "Every single day."
A quiet chuckle shook Jake's chest as Sherry leaned back to stare into his eyes. "You can't say stuff like that to a guy like me, Sherry," he mumbled, carefully brushing strands of hair out of her eyes. "Someone special like you…" Sighing, Jake leaned forward to rest his forehead against hers, his eyes slipping shut. "I will think about you every second, every single time I breathe. You- you're the best person I've ever known. I need you to know that you made me better. You make me better. But I can't ask you to wait for me. As much as I want to, as much as it kills me not to, I can't. You deserve better than that. You deserve so much better than me," he mumbled regretfully under his breath.
Sherry's hands slowly slid down from around his neck to rest on either side of Jake's face, gently tilting it up to look at her, his eyes opening. "I don't care what you think I deserve. I know what I want." Sherry was so nervous her stomach was doing back flips, but she forced herself to continue. "You don't have to ask me, Jake, because I want to."
"Sherry," Jake sighed, his face full of turmoil.
"No," she whispered quickly, silencing him as she crushed her lips to his, catching him off guard.
From their places around her waist, Jake's arms constricted, bringing her closer still to him as their lips brushed against each other's passionately. Leaning back, Sherry breathed heavily as Jake began trailing feather light kisses across her jaw line and down to her neck, stopping his ministrations to trace his nose against her skin, breathing in her scent. "You're so perfect," he whispered, kissing back up her neck, his lips finding their way to hers once again.
This time, their kiss was tender, slow and meaningful. Regretfully, Jake leaned back, quickly pecking her on the lips. "Ok, now you're really late," he grumbled, his eyes sliding over to the intrusive man watching them from the steps that led inside the plane.
"I don't want to go," Sherry whispered sadly, snuggling against his chest.
"I don't want you to go," Jake frowned, looking down at her as he placed a kiss atop her head. "But you have to. You've got some cleaning up to do, remember? Saving the world is pretty messy."
Nodding, Sherry forced herself to stand, leaving the comfort and safety of his arms. "You're right. The longer we draw this out, the harder it will be, right?"
"Right," Jake nodded, agreeing. Nibbling on the inside of her lip, Sherry pulled out her phone. Flipping it open, she turned around and leaned back against Jake. Naturally his arms found their way around her body, holding her to him as he gently rested his chin against her shoulder to watch what she was doing with interest. "What are you doing?"
"Smile," Sherry chirped, pressing a button as a small light flashed. Jake grunted in annoyance as Sherry pulled the phone back to her to review the picture. "Oh, it's perfect," she grinned down at the screen, her fingers lightly tracing the captured image.
Jake's eyes narrowed as he looked down at it critically. "I look stupid," he complained, nudging her head with his.
"You look handsome," Sherry countered, gently nudging back.
Jake rolled his eyes as Sherry stood up, typing something quickly before shutting her phone and sliding it back into her pocket. "I send it to you so that neither of us will forget a single thing about each other while we're apart."
Nodding, all trace of his former smile gone from his face, Jake pushed off of the bike to stand himself. "Well, I guess this is goodbye," he grumbled, downcast. "For now," he added seriously.
"For now," Sherry agreed, moving to hug him.
"Let me know when you're home safe," Jake whispered against her hair, not wanting to let her go.
"I will," Sherry promised, nodding against him.
"Good." The pair separated, Sherry readjusting the bag on her shoulder. She took steps away from him backwards, not wanting to lose sight of him until she had to. "Watch where you're going," he chuckled, grinning as she flashed him a quick wink before spinning around.
Watching Sherry walk away made his heart skin. Jake sighed, crossing his arms over his chest. "Hey, Supergirl!" Jake called, causing Sherry to spin back around. "Can you do something for me?" Seeing Sherry nod in confirmation made Jake chuckle. "Make a list of the names of every guy that hits on you and send it to me."
"What?" Sherry asked, her face scrunching in confusion.
"I want a list of all the guys who hit on you so that I can hunt them down and cut off their balls. You know, to make me feel better about the distance," Jake yelled, a smirk playing on his lips despite the fact that he was being completely serious. "I've heard long distance relationships are hard, and that compromise is key."
Sherry rolled her eyes. "Yeah, sure. That will happen."
"I'm serious," Jake said, his smile falling. "Or just email me names at the end of every week. I'd say month but that'd be too many to deal with at one time."
Snorting, Sherry waved him off. "You're crazy, Jake," she laughed, turning and jogging off towards the plane with a smile on her face.
"Crazy about you!" he retorted playfully, trying to distract himself from the feeling of loneliness settling into his bones. Feeling his pocket vibrate, Jake pulled out his phone. Opening the message from Sherry, he was greeted by the photograph she had just taken and the message 'missing you already'. Grinning Jake closed his phone, slipping it back into his pocket as he started his motorcycle. "Safe flight, Supergirl," he murmured quietly to himself before speeding away.
That had day had been almost three years ago and Sherry hadn't seen Jake since, at least not in person. In the beginning they would text, call and email each other as much as they could and even video chatted on occasion. But after the first handful of months had come and gone, Sherry started hearing from him less and less. Of course she was busy with work and Jake was taking on new clients and contracts, so communication wasn't always possible for either of them, but she kept true to her promise. Not a day went by that she didn't think about him; where he was, what he was doing… if he was safe.
After Jake's contact faltered, Sherry began sending him weekly emails. Just saying how she was doing, if anything exciting happened and asking what was new with him. Sometimes she would hear back, but most times she didn't. Now she kept a folder of her own that held all the emails she didn't send. Almost nightly, Sherry would sit with her laptop before bed and type out an email to Jake of everything that she would say given the chance and telling him how much she missed him. Sherry rarely sent those anymore, but she saved every single one. She was beginning to think of them more as diary entries rather than emails.
Sherry sat and stared at the picture, something she did at least three times a day, wondering where in the world he was now. Had he stayed a mercenary or was he doing something new with his life? Was he seeing someone else? Perhaps that why he hadn't emailed her in seven months... Sighing, she exited the photograph and pulled up her email. Frowning, she clicked on the new message in her inbox. It was from the new Director of Homeland Security and her new superior, Richard Fields.
Reading through it quickly, Sherry logged off her email, grabbing her phone and dashed from her cubical.
"Good afternoon Agent Birkin," the secretary greeted. "You're right on time."
"Yeah, sorry," Sherry breathed heavily, nodding. "I hadn't checked my emails since this morning, so I just read it a few minutes ago. Silly me," she smiled.
"You can just go right in. Director Fields and Lieutenant Nivans are waiting for you."
"Who?" Sherry whispered to herself, lightly knocking on her boss's door before pushing it open.
The man behind the desk halted his speech, a small smile coming to his face. "Ah, Agent Birkin, welcome. You are familiar with Lieutenant Nivans."
As her boss held out his arm, gesturing to the man sitting opposite him with his back to Sherry. He quickly stood, his right hand extending out in a greeting while the other snapped behind his back in a respectful fashion. "Agent Birkin," he greeted formally. "Good to see you again."
"Oh, Lieutenant Piers Nivans," Sherry chuckled, shaking his outstretched hand. "I'm sorry, at first I didn't recognize your last name."
"That's alright, ma'am," Piers nodded, the traces of a small smile twitching through the military formality. Piers and Sherry had run into each other a few times since China, usually in Washington D.C. Sometimes Sherry and Claire would meet for drinks after work and if Chris and Piers were on leave or in town, they'd swing by. Sherry didn't know him very well, but she enjoyed his company and they had fought alongside each other in China, so he had her respect.
The Director looked between the two of them, shrugging. "If you both would sit, I would like to go over a few things with you both." Both Sherry and Piers' faces became serious as Sherry moved to take a seat, Pierce following suit. "Excellent. Well, you both know why I called you here today, and as always, what I am about to disclose is not to leave this room. I hardly think that is something I need to tell either of you."
Pulling out a drawer on his right side, Director Fields picked up two folders and handed one to Piers and the other to Sherry. "Lieutenant Nivans is on loan to us from the B.S.A.A. for this mission in an attempt to create more synergy between the offices. He comes highly recommended by everyone I've spoken to and your superior officer Captain Redfield had nothing but praise for you. All of that along with your outstanding service record puts my mind at ease that you are the man for the job."
"Thank you, sir," Nivans nodded respectfully as he glanced up from the folder in his hands.
"As you both can see, this is a retrieval mission from the Middle Easter country of Maldonia. Normally our extractions are done alone as to not draw attention to our operative or target, but this mission is very… delicate."
Sherry's eyebrows knitted together as she read through the briefing description. "It says here that our scientist, Raya Falk, has inside information on Neo-Umbrella's development of a new virus," Piers read aloud, glancing up from his file. "We can assume they've sent operatives after her, correct?"
"Yes," Field's muttered, his hands folding comfortably in front of him. "Agent Walker was assigned to her when initial contact was made, but since he was lost in the field two weeks ago, we had not heard from Ms. Falk since. Late last night we received a transmission from Ms. Falk that she feared for her and her son's life and fled. They crossed into Maldonia in the early hours of this morning. You both leave within the hour."
Sherry's face fell as she flipped to the next page, finding a picture of the woman and her son. "Do we know if they're interested in retrieval or tying up loose ends?" she asked, closing the file. She'd have plenty of time to familiarize herself with its contents on the long flight to Europe.
"We don't know," Fields shrugged, leaning forward to readjust himself in his chair. "But at this point, that's not important because you two will not fail. Am I understood?" Fields mumbled, his face very serious. "The president has made it clear that obtaining this woman and the knowledge she possesses is our highest priority."
"Understood," Nivans nodded, closing his folder as well.
The pair stood, followed by Director Fields who shook both their hands. "I can only pray that you make it in time."
"So we are flying to Turkey and than we take a military chopper to the drop sight," Piers explained quietly, leaning forward to pull out a paper from the folder contents sprawled out on the table in front of him. He and Sherry had an hour left before they landed and they had been quizing each other on the contents of their folders. Yawning, Sherry nodded, snuggling back into her seat. "Are you sure you slept long enough?" Piers questioned, concern slipping onto his face. "Because once we land, we may not sleep for a while."
"Yeah, I'm good. This isn't my first rodeo," Sherry said, her voice sure as she wiped the sleep from her eyes. "Did you get enough sleep?"
Piers chuckled to himself as he turned his attention back to the information in front of him. "I'll be fine." He studied the page in front of him for a few moments before sighing, leaning back in his seat to stare across the table at Sherry.
Narrowing her eyes in a playful way, Sherry crossed her arms over her chest. "I think we know the information backwards and forwards. So, Lieutenant Nivans... tell me about yourself."
A rare, bright smile broke through Piers's generally serious exterior. "What would you like to know?"
"Whatever you don't mind sharing with a nosy person like me," Sherry grinned warmly, pulling the blanket on her lap up higher as she snuggled deeper into her chair.
Chuckling quietly to himself, Piers rubbed his chin in thought. "Alright. Well… I am currently married to my job," he laughed openly. "B.S.A.A. is something I've wanted to do since I was little, so it's completely worth it despite my mother's objections to her lack of grandchildren or daughter-in-law."
"Why B.S.A.A. though?" Sherry inquired, her head tilting to the side in thought. "You are known for being one of the best marksmen, so why not the Navy Seals or Green Barrettes?"
"My older sister was in Raccoon City when the T-Virus outbreak happened," he said quietly, his eyes distant.
Sherry's smile fell, guilt overcoming her. "Oh, Piers, I-I'm so sorry," she apologized.
Piers shook his head, a small smile turning up the ends of his lips. "No, don't apologize. You didn't do anything. Besides, you were there. You know what it was like. Hardly anyone made it out alive. I just- I hope she didn't suffer too much. Anyway, that's why B.S.A.A. is so important to me, to all of us, really. You're hard pressed to find anyone involved with what we do who hasn't been personally effected in some way."
Nodding, Sherry shrugged. "So you weren't an only child," she stated, grinning shyly. "I always wished I had a sibling."
"No brothers or sisters?" he asked, stretching his legs out in front of him casually as he got more comfortable.
"Unfortunately, no," Sherry muttered. "It's just me, quite literally." Glancing down at her fingernails, Sherry remembered a conversation she had overheard a few weeks ago when she was at B.S.A.A. headquarters. "As I hear it, you have a pretty intimidating service record. The boys down at the B.S.A.A. have quite the nickname for you."
Raising an eyebrow quizzically, Piers smirked. "Oh yeah?"
"They call you the man who never misses his target," Sherry whispered conspiratorially, leaning forwards slightly.
"Yeah, about that," he laughed, shaking his head. "That's slightly embarrassing. It kinda creates the highest expectations for me. So far it's been fine because I have yet to screw up, but that moment is out there. No one's perfect," he chuckled to himself. "You know, this is probably going to sound really strange, but you remind me of a lot of Claire. She's a bit more outspoken than you, but the resemblance is definitely there."
Sherry nodded, her smile growing at the mention of the younger Redfield. "Honestly, that's probably the best complement I think I could receive. Claire is my idol, you know? After she saved me in Raccoon City... I've always wanted to be just like her. To live by her example. So thank you."
"I'm just being honest, but you're welcome, I guess," Piers shrugged, his eyes sweeping Sherry's face carefully. "Claire's one tough woman, and from what I saw in China and Edonia both, you've got a lot of fight in you, too," he murmured. "Even with Wesker's cocky kid, you managed to survive. I heard you two had to deal with a real son-of-a-bitch BOW, too."
Feeling slightly uncomfortable at his comment about Jake, Sherry bit the inside of her cheek as she nodded. "Yeah, it was definitely an experience, that's for sure. I can't tell you how many times I thought I was going to die."
Piers' mouth opened slightly, but it closed almost as quickly as it opened. He blinked a few times as he contemplated his next words while Sherry waited patiently. "I don't mean to be rude and pry, but I've read your file in the B.S.A.A. database," he murmured quietly, glancing across the aisle to make sure no one was listening in on their conversation. "You were exposed to the G-embryo as a child and it's left you with abnormal abilities, right?"
"Yes," Sherry admitted. "Really just the healing though. Other than that I'm pretty average."
"Huh," Piers mumbled, his eyes drifting to the window.
Sherry watched him as he stared out of the plane, his face unreadable again. An idea coming to her, Sherry smiled to herself. "What's your favorite color?"
Piers turned back to her, a lopsided grin on his face. "Green. You?"
"Blue," Sherry smiled, the pair laughing at each other merrily, doing their best to enjoy the calm before the storm.
"God, I fucking love this job." Jake frowned over at the loudmouth kid he was hired on with. Jake's most recent job brought him to a small, decrepit country called Maldonia in the Middle East. It wasn't the best job he had ever taken, but the pay wasn't bad and it was simple enough. Plus it allowed him to continue his work with disposing of BOW's which satisfied the pull of his moral compass.
The king of Maldonia had hired around a hundred odd mercenaries to help with the clean up of his country. BOW's were running wild throughout the region and being a small country that it was, Maldonia's army wasn't capable of disposing of them or even properly fighting them off. Based on his research, Jake found that the army had literally been cut in half by the BOW wipe out initiative since it began last year. So while the pay wasn't as high as he'd like it to be for as much work as he was doing, it was a noble cause.
If only his team didn't include a man Jake guessed was officially the most annoying human being currently in existence. His name was Gregor Dontes and Jake despised him with every fiber of his being. Possibly because he reminded Jake a little of how he used to be, but he refused to acknowledge that fact out loud. He was a lanky, cocky kid with smart mouth who had a special talent of pissing Jake off. While Jake had his moments and could still be that way, he prided himself on mellowing out a bit. That and he was no longer as lean as he used to be. In the past few years Jake had put on about fifteen pounds of muscle and become even stronger.
The other two members of his group he had worked with before. Cliff Bennet was a 40-year-old ex-marine who took jobs to keep himself busy in retirement and Fredrick Daniels was the son of a duke from England who did it for the excitement of it all. Cliff didn't talk much and Fredrick talked more than enough for both of them, but Jake usually got along with both men well. They were probably the only people he could call friends.
"I can't wait for the bullets to start flying," Gregor murmured happily, cleaning his gun by the firelight. From his place next to Cliff, Jake furrowed his brow, shaking his head to himself as he spooned more soup into his mouth silently. "Really gets me off, you know?"
"You're twisted, mate," Fredrick mumbled, biting a hunk of bread unceremoniously. "Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good rumble as much as the next bloke, but the only way to deal with being randy is the warm, supple body of a good gal."
Cliff let out a small snort, causing Jake to grin widely, pulling his spoon out of his mouth. "Who's Randy?" Gregor scoffed, critically eyeing Fredrick.
"Being randy, not Randy," Fredrick sighed, pointing across the fire towards Gregor in annoyance. "Is when you have an itch that you gotta scrath."
Jake could already see Gregor questioning it further with some stupid comment, being the idiot that he was, so Jake cut him off before anyone had to hear it. "Horny, dip shit. Freddy's saying you're a freak because you jerk off to shooting people."
Nodding, Fredrick grinned merrily as a very gruff chuckle slipped from Cliff's lips. "Whatever," Gregor hissed, standing. "Enjoy your soup, assholes."
"Thank God," Jake sighed in relief, stretching his body out as they watched the retreating form of their young teammate. "What a douche, right? How'd we get stuck with this kid again?"
Cliff shrugged, choosing to focus on his food rather than participate in conversation. "Definitely an annoying little toad, that one," Fredrick smirked. "But aren't we all to some extent?"
"I'm not," Cliff mumbled quietly between spoonfuls.
"True," Fredrick shouted cheerfully, pointing to Cliff who now looked up from his food, a small smile on his face as Jake openly laughed. "Very true, Clifford. I mustn't lump you in with us scourge of the underworld. You, sir, are a good man while Jake and I are undoubtedly dicks. Do you wish to disagree, sir?"
Jake shrugged, his lower lip sticking out as he chuckled. "Not really, no."
"And there you have it," Fredrick smiled, leaning back again to get comfortable. "Now that that odd bugger is gone, let's catch up, shall we? Clifford, you first mate. How's therapy treating you?"
Cliff shrugged, placing his empty bowl on the ground. "Still having issues controlling my temper. Doctor says I need to focus on the root of my anxiety and anger, then I can channel my energy into those things in positive ways."
"Makes sense," Jake nodded, finishing off his soup.
"And the farm is good?" Fredrick inquired, tossing a piece of bread into the air before catching it in his mouth.
"S'alright," Cliff mumbled, his hands folding together in front of him formally. "It's a nice contrast from work, but after a while it gets too quiet."
Fredrick smiled, nodding to himself. "I know the feeling, mate. I know the feeling." Turning his sights on Jake, Fredrick eyed him expectantly. "And what about you, lover boy? How's your lady Stateside? The last few times we saw each other you hadn't spoken to her and you were being a bit of a Nancy Boy about it. You man up yet or still maintaining radio silence?"
Clenching his jaw in agitation, Jake shook his head. "Listen man, just let it go."
Seeing he had struck a nerve, Fredrick's grin became malicious. "You didn't, did you? My goodness, that poor girl. Well, I hope for her sake that wherever she is right now, she's got her legs firmly wrapped around some other chap having the ride of her life."
"Shut up, Fredrick," Jake growled in warning. "You don't know what the hell you're talking about, and this is the only warning I'm going to give you."
"Just because you aren't going to give it to her, why shouldn't little Cindy find her happiness?"
"Sherry," Jake corrected venomously.
"Sherry, Cindy, who cares? You had what can be arguably the crazies near death experience imaginable with this person and you're practically cut from the same cloth, but you let it all just go to shit because you're too lazy to email the poor girl back once a month. I mean, you can't tell me that's not destiny mate," he challenged, his eyes narrowing in debate. "I would understand if you weren't interested or something but-"
"Don't go there, Daniels."
"You're mad at me because I'm talking about your chick, Muller?" Fredrick contested. "You stare at your phone for hours at night either drooling over that old picture of you two or you type out a novel of an email to her but can't cough up the stones to send it. It's downright sad." Jake glowered at his 'friend' across the flames, trying to mentally talk himself out of getting up and strangling him. "Am I wrong?" Fredrick asked.
Usually Cliff didn't have any interest in other people's conversations, choosing to mind his own business or quietly listening, never commenting, but today his head was up and his eyes moved between his two companions with interest. "Am I wrong, Jake?" Fredrick repeated.
Running his tongue over his teeth in a predatory way, Jake let out a humorless chuckle. "Yeah, like you don't already know the answer to that."
Shrugging, Fredrick looked smug. "So what's the problem then?" he asked, leaning forward, his hands folding casually in front of him. "Clifford and I are going to help you sort things out right here, right now. We have a vested interest in your happiness, so spit it out."
"I'm not talking to you two about this," Jake hissed, crossing his arms defiantly over his chest.
"Why the fuck not?" Fredrick challenged angrily. "We not good enough for you? Cause I know for a fact that you have no friends. We're the only people who can stand your arrogant ass."
Cliff chuckled quietly, flashing Jake a small grin as he looked over at the older man. "Talk," Cliff mumbled in a jokingly threatening way.
Sighing, Jake shook his head, dismayed. "I don't like to talk about her."
"Why?" Fredrick instantly challenged.
Scowling, Jake let out a growl. "Because it hurts too much. Is that what you wanted to hear, you stupid asshole? That I spend all my time suppressing everything because letting myself feel what I feel for her… it's overwhelming."
"Feelings, nothing more than feelings," Fredrick mocked in a singing voice, ducking as Jake threw his spoon at his head. Laughing, Fredrick held up his hands in surrender. "Sorry, that was low. I apologize. Continue, please."
"No," Jake grumbled, glancing away into the darkness that surrounded them. "I didn't want to say anything in the first place, but you wouldn't shut up about it."
"Still won't until you actually say something of value here," Fredrick shrugged, trying not to smile. There was no way he could be his cheeky self and get Jake to actually open up.
"Of course you won't," Jake mumbled, letting out a strangled laugh. "Fine, Fred. What will shut you up and make you happy?"
Rubbing his chin as he contemplated what to ask, Fredrick shrewdly looked Jake over. While he knew Jake wouldn't answer anything he didn't want to, he also had given him the most open invitation he would ever get to ask whatever he wanted. "Why did you stop responding to her email's?"
Jake stared long and hard at Fredrick's unwavering eyes, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides in aggravation. Shaking his head in defeat, Jake let out an exasperated breath. "There isn't a simple answer."
"Bull," Fredrick challenged.
Chuckling, Jake held up his hands, giving up. "Fine, it's simple, alright. I couldn't keep stringing her along like that. It was selfish. I hadn't seen her in over two years and I didn't have a clue as to when I would ever get to see her. It wasn't fair to her. I chose to stay here and keep taking contracts and she had to go back to the United States and her job." Shrugging, Jake raised his eyebrows at the explanation. "She never asked me when I'd be done, when we'd see each other, but I knew that's what she wanted. It was between the lines, you know?"
"And you didn't want to see her? To be with her?" Cliff inquired quietly, his eyes pensive.
His frown deepening, Jake felt his stomach drop at the usually silent man's question. "I-" he faltered, unable to lie. He had lied about so much in his life, had so many black marks on his ledger, but he refused to lie now. Not about her. Never about her. Sherry was the best thing that had ever happened to him, plain and simple. Lying about her would be wrong. "Of course I did. I still do," he admitted, defeated. "Every minute of every day, just like I said I would."
Fredrick nodded, no trace of happiness of his friend's sad admittance. "Why can't you? Why don't you? After this job is done, go to her! You owe it to yourself to give it a shot."
"I don't owe myself anything," Jake scowled, shaking his head. "Trust me. I've spent my life taking things from other people out of some misguided sense of self-righteousness. I owe Sherry more than…" his voice trailing off, Jake sighed. "I owe Sherry everything."
"Screw yourself then!" Fredrick shouted, earning a grin from the two other men. "Go for her. Go sweep her off her adorable little feet. God knows she probably deserves a hell of a lot better than you, but love is love, mate."
"You don't even know what Sherry looks like," Jake laughed.
A wicked grin spread across Fredrick's face. "Yes I do."
Snorting, Jake rolled his eyes. "No, you don't. And just consider yourself warned that if you make some joke about screwing her or something sick like that, I will get up right now and kick your ass."
"The thought had crossed my mind, but I wasn't going to take advantage of your delicate state," he laughed openly, tilting his head to the side in thought. "No, but in all honesty, I have seen your gal. Remember back in Somalia when you would slink off to your corner of the ship and get all weird and stare at your phone?" Pulling out his own device, Fredrick clicked through a few things before smiling at what he found, turning his phone around to show the other men.
"Where the fuck did you get that?" Jake growled, jumping to his feet.
His grin growing, Fredrick turned the photo of Jake and Sherry back so he could look himself. Zooming in on Sherry's face, he smirked down at it. "Quite a pretty little lamb."
"Fredrick," Jake's voice was low and serious as he took a few steps towards him. "Where did you get that?"
Standing himself, Fredrick retreated slightly, putting Cliff directly between them. "I stole it from your phone when you conked out," he explained merrily, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. "I have to admit Jake, I didn't peg you for the blonde innocent type. I always pictured you with a dark and mysterious temptress. Then again, it's always the innocent ones that surprise you and get really freaky."
Growling, Jake moved to grab for Fredrick but he got out of the way fast enough, emanating taunting sounds as he did. "Stand still so I can kill you, you little prick," Jake hissed, jumping across the fire pit to tackle the English mercenary to the ground. Grabbing his phone, Jake deleted the photo. "Here," he grumbled tossing the phone onto the ground beside them, punching him with everything he had in the arm.
"Jesus Christ mate!" Fredrick howled, rolling around on the ground in pain. "I think you broke my bloody arm."
"Good," Jake smiled triumphantly, resting his arms on his knees as he settled against a log. "You're lucky I didn't break both of them and your legs."
"You deleted the photograph?" Jake nodded, staring into the fire. "Doesn't matter. I'll never forget those supple pink-" Letting out a pained laugh, Fredrick turned on his side as Jake proceeded to punch him mercilessly in the arm several times. "Lips!" Fredrick laughed, tears streaming down his face. "I was going to say lips!"
Scowling, Jake stood, dusting himself off. "I don't give a fuck what you were talking about. Don't ever talk about Sherry again, got it?"
Snorting, Fredrick pushed the pain down and sat up, rubbing his arm. "I refuse to promise such a thing. She's a goddess, and if given the opportunity I will woo her with my English charm," he joked.
"Good luck with that," Jake chuckled, moving to his tent. "You've got as much charm as little toady Gregor over there."
"Ouch. I'll have you know that I'm royalty and demand you respect me!" Fredrick yelled after him as Jake stepped into his tent, zipping the door closed himself him as both his friend's laughter became drowned out.
Once alone, Jake unzipped and shrugged off his jacket, tossing it onto the floor as he settled himself atop his sleeping bag. Crossing his legs leisurely, Jake stared at the ceiling of his small nylon home blankly as he tried in vain to clear his mind of the blonde girl from the photograph. Letting out a noise of aggravation, Jake wrenched his hand into his pocket and pulled out his phone. Turning the screen on, his pass code entry pad appeared. Punching in his password, Jake let out a small sound of relief as he was greeted by the face he gazed at every single night before falling asleep.
Jake didn't even know why he bothered to look at it anymore; it was essentially burned into his mind after looking at it so often for so long. Taking a deep, calming breath, Jake tucked his right arm under his head as he got comfortable. The last thing he saw that night, like every night for the past three years, were those crystal clear blue eyes attached to the face of the most beautiful woman in the world. Jake Muller wasn't a religious or spiritual person, but he was positive that if heaven existed, Sherry Birkin had somehow escaped from it.