The steak was slightly cold and definitely not cooked to any definition of the health code that Chris knew of, but he knew what he was getting into when he ordered it. Piers had warned him, after all – decent was hardly delicious. Still, he ate. It was a little harder to swallow than he would've liked to admit, whether it be because of the lack-luster taste or the bug he figured must be making his throat so tight, although he didn't remember having any trouble with it this morning.
The door to the dim bar opened, filtering in a halo of bright light as a figure appeared in the doorway. From the bulkiness of the silhouette, he knew the shadow was one of his. Confident footfalls trailed their way up to Chris' table and plunked down solidly to stand before him.
"Captain," the B.S.A.A. soldier said, "We've received new orders."
Chris looked up at him from over his meal. The man wasn't so much a man as he was the beginnings of one – his face still round with youth. He looked familiar, like him, but so did all the young recruits these days. The soldier was wearing a faded green scarf tucked into the neck of his uniform. The scarf of a Second-in-Command, Chris thought, this must be Piers' replacement. The thought made his food taste even more foreign.
"Right. Let's not keep them waiting, then," he said. As he stood, the younger man already began the process of walking back to the door, which had still not closed. His other men were holding those doors open, illuminating the bar for what it really was. Grey, dusty – a piece of his past to leave behind.
He threw a few bills onto the table beside his plate and made sure to leave a generous tip for the curvy waitress who kept shooting him filthy looks. She probably spat in his food given the venom in those glares, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what he had done to make his way onto her spit list. He threw another two dollars down on top of the already generous tip, just to be safe.
When he looked up, his new Second was looking back at him from the doorway. His stance was not impatient – the soldier was still too new to feel comfortable being impatient with him – but he definitely seemed excited to be out onto the field in his new position. Chris could sympathize, he had had that feeling once, too.
He allowed his fingers to trail idly along the rough wood of the table before taking his first few steps away from it. Away from the bar and from the past, and into the future he had promised to maintain and protect. Each step away made him feel more solid, more in control as he made amends with what he was leaving behind. Seeing the eager faces of his new team – young men and women ready to prove themselves to him and to humanity – confirmed in him what Piers had known all along. The B.S.A.A. needed him for whatever reason he couldn't fathom. His very presence seemed to make a difference. If that was all they needed, he'd make sure his presence was as strong as he could bare to make it be.
Halfway to the door, his pocket rumbled agitatedly. He paused and pulled out his phone. The screen displayed 'Unidentified Number' in large, blocky text. Chris studied those two words for a moment before answering the phone.
"Chris Redfield, B.S.A.A."
There was a breathy pause, and then, "You stayed?"
It sounded more like a relieved observation than a question, and that coupled with the voice made his blood run colder than his steak he had been served.
"Who is this?" Chris said. He could feel his blood thumping thickly in his neck, pulsing through his veins painfully. Anger made his blood boil – if this was some sort of prank or cruel trick...
"Captain, I... It's me. Piers."
Chris nearly snarled, but bit his cheek before the savage sound could escape his lips in front of his new recruits. They needed a composed leader, not an easily provoked one. He couldn't be what he had been anymore.
He took two deep breathes through his nose before speaking. "Piers Nivans died two weeks ago. He died bravely, so if you're trying to strip even an ounce of honor away from his name with this sick joke, so help me—"
"Ask me anything, Captain. I swear it's me."
"I'm not playing this game with you. He was killed by God knows how much pressure, among other things. He's dead, you're not him."
"Captain Redfield?" Came a hesitant call from the doorway. His Second-in-Command looked concerned. Chris placed his hand over the mouthpiece of his phone as he spoke to him.
"Take the men to the vehicle and let HQ know we're mounting up. I'll wrap this up and be there shortly."
The sudden emergence of an order put his team at ease. Eager to obey, they left the bar and closed the door behind them, taking the light from outside with them. The bar was suddenly several shades darker than he ever could remember it being.
"You have a new team."
"That's none of your concern," Chris said, "I am. What're you playing at?"
"I'm not playing at anything. Please, just hear me out. I woke up on a fisherman's boat. They didn't speak English, so I don't know how or when they found me. They took me with them back to shore and this really nice ol—gentlemen let me borrow his phone," Piers said quickly, then added under his breath so that the owner of the phone wouldn't hear, "Thank God everything looks normal now, they probably would've just thrown me back overboard if I had looked the way I did, you know… before."
And that made Chris' boiling blood creep to a standstill. Nowhere in his reports had he mentioned Piers' infection. Being the only one to have witnessed it, Chris didn't want that decision, no matter how noble, to slander his name or reputation. The higher-ups tended to get caught up on minute details like that. Keeping that information a secret was the difference between Piers' getting buried with full honors and a Purple Heart, and Piers never having existed in the B.S.A.A. at all. After everything, Chris' couldn't bear to think of that happening on top of everything else. A person who devoted his all and died for his country should in turn be honored by his country.
So no one knew. Not even Jill.
Chris swallowed. "What did you say?"
"I said these fishermen found me and brought me to shore—"
Chris cut him off. "—What did you give me when you died?"
"If you want to prove that you're who you claim you are, then answer me. What did you give me?"
"My patch," the other man said after a short, stunned pause, "From my sleeve."
"Don't hang up the phone," Chris ordered as he pulled back to look at the screen of his own. The B.S.A.A. kept assigning him new phones with newer and fancier functions, each one more fragile than the last. Whenever budget cuts came up in meetings, Chris was always the first one to mention the frivolous contraptions because, honestly, what soldier has time to play Angry Pigeons, or whatever it was called, while shooting a Licker? No one alive, that much he was certain of. But after this moment, Chris swore he would never complain about his inability to keep one in one piece for longer than one mission ever again.
He put the phone on speaker and pressed the small icon on the screen that allowed agents to back trace their calls. A program popped up and Chris watched as the loading bar slowly tracked his formerly dead partner down.
Then the program pinged, and as his partner's location appeared on the screen, Chris took his first breath in a world where Piers Nivans was not dead.
"I have your location," Chris said, "Stay where you are, I'm coming for you."
A/N: Sorry it's short. I work, among other things, so all chapters will probably be short, but I endeavor to update often so hopefully that makes up for it. Just a few things I couldn't fit in the summary - there will probably be no pairings. That might change in later chapters (there may be some hints of JillxChris and JakexSherry). Otherwise, this is just for fun and to help me practice up for NANOWRIMO. :)