A/N: A little bit of Resident Evil: Damnation AU. And since it's AU, I took some liberties with Plaga extraction, without going into too much detail. Next (and final) chapter should be up in a couple of days.
Drinks Are on Me
To Buddy's surprise, the pub was crowded.
People jostled each other to get to the bar, slurring Russian and English between them. Some bore wounds from the recent fighting, bandages wrapped around limbs and bruises raised in ugly purple welts. There was even a group of American soldiers in one corner, and as Buddy watched, they called out to those around them in a kind of friendly arrogance. Their table had accumulated a large amount of drinks, most bought for them by the locals. Everyone was glad the war was more or less over.
He tapped the top of the unopened vodka bottle. The chair opposite sat empty, all attempts by others to take it or occupy it thwarted with a growl or hissed curses from him. The past hour he had been sitting, waiting. Disappointment dropped his stomach even further with every second that passed.
Where are you?
A sharp pain in his chest made him cough. Panic, then calm. They said this might happen. Faceless aliens with American voices, Leon's voice beside them, begging – to him, or them, he didn't know. Chest pains, spinal pain. Normal. But if he started coughing blood he was in big trouble. Call this number, go and find this person, stay calm, don't antagonise it –
The stiches itched. He grimaced, scratched the back of his neck instead. Five more minutes, he would wait five more minutes… just like he had promised himself forty-five minutes ago.
Five more minutes, and he would walk back to the small bunker in the abandoned rebel base, open the bottle of vodka, swallow it down in one go and hope it killed him.
A burst of raucous laughter swivelled his head in the direction of the soldier's table. One had started singing something about a woman, plenty of English curses present.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement. Someone had dropped down into the chair. He curled his lips away from his teeth, opened his mouth and prepared to tell them to go away, he was saving that seat for someone else.
He was saving it for the man that was sitting in it.
Buddy's mouth stayed open. Leon watched him, one eye hidden behind his hair and a smile teasing. His stubble had grown a little longer over ten days, and purple smears under his eyes almost made Buddy yawn.
"You're late." The words came from his own lips, but his brain had barely processed them. Leon laughed, and Buddy fought from sobbing. The tips of his fingers felt numb against the bottle.
"Yeah, sorry. We were up in the north with the Russians, still trying to smooth some stuff over. Few groups up there weren't too happy with our involvement. I think we managed to convince them we weren't coming to enslave them. You don't seem to have that kind of problem here," he said, gaze shifting to the soldiers as they started up another bawdy verse.
"No… everyone's been… fine."
"And how have you been?"
Buddy looked down at the table, pretended to consider the way the wood worked under his fingernail, and thought about telling Leon everything.
I've been hoping every time I go out that someone will put a gun to my head and kill me for the food in my hand. I've been trying to drink myself to death. And I'm –
"I've been fine."
The long pause contradicted him, mocked him. And Leon was anything but an idiot. Buddy sneaked a glance up at him from the table. Leon had stopped smiling, and reached across to grab one of the small glasses. He took the bottle without asking, opened it and poured each of them a generous amount. "Yeah?" The vodka vanished as quickly as it had come. "I've been fine too."
Buddy had to smile. "So, we're both fine." He knocked his own drink back, refilled them both and held his glass up. "A toast?"
Leon nodded, and then he was the one staring at the table. Buddy paused, faces flashing through his mind. Irina. JD. "To… to –"
"— everyone," Leon said, clinking their glasses together. His smile had not returned.
"Everyone." His repeat was barely more than a whisper. The alcohol spread in his stomach, sent warmth to his fingers. He cleared his throat, and Leon looked up with a frown when he started to cough.
"The Plaga –"
"Gone. So they say. The coughing is just irritation. It should… it should go, eventually."
"Good." Leon took another drink and Buddy considered telling him to slow down. No, damn it, there was a reason they were in a pub with a bottle of alcohol, and it wasn't to moderate themselves. Sometimes, people needed to lose control to help them stay sane.
I've been losing control a lot lately.
"Why the scowling?" he said. Leon tilted his head even as he poured another glass.
"You stopped smiling. It looks – I mean… you should do it again."
He bared his teeth, exaggerated. Leon snorted, but his lips twitched up in reply. Buddy's own smile became a little more genuine. The vodka nudged his confidence forward, and he took a deep breath, ignoring the tickling in his lungs.
"There's a… lake."
"There's a lot of lakes."
"Shut up, let me talk!"
Leon smirked, slid further down in his chair and then crossed his feet on the table.
"Anyway. There's a lake, about three miles outside the city. We… Irina and I… we used to go there. Sometimes took JD. It's usually deserted, especially now. Old trees everywhere, an abandoned shack we used to sit in if it was raining."
The liquid courage retreated as Leon met his eyes. Blue. Long lashes. Almost feminine. "I thought, if you wanted, we could go there. A little tourist thing for you. It's a kind of landmark here. At this time of year, the trees –"
"Buddy," Leon said, his voice soft, "I'm going back to America tomorrow."
Each word kicked him in the stomach.
"Oh. Of course."
He pressed a hand to his mouth as the vodka threatened to sluice back up his throat. Everything around him blurred.
Leon's hand was on his shoulder, fingers squeezing. Even through his jacket he could feel their warmth. He opened his eyes to Leon's face close to his.
"Get off me."
Leon's hand squeezed again and Buddy smacked it off his shoulder. His cheeks felt hot, and the corners of his eyes began to sting. Leon's frown of concern made him take a step back, fists clenched. "Go then, American," he said, the words coming out as a hiss. "Go back to your precious country. We don't need you. I don't need you. Just do what Americans do best – make a mess and then leave someone else to clear it up. Don't worry about me, I'll be fine."
The shot glass was back in Leon's hand, brimming. And then not. Hair formed a shield over an eye. "You've had too much to drink, Buddy."
Glass bounced as his fist hit the table. "You want to go, right? What are you waiting for? Go!"
A heartbeat's worth of silence rippled around them. Heads turned in their direction, but he didn't care. Questions and pleas formed, but none made it out of his mouth.
Leon said nothing.
Something snapped in Buddy's head. One quick movement, and his chair was on its side. Another, and the wood of the door was under his hand, then slammed open –
The cold hit him like an icy pickaxe to his chest. He took several deep breaths, staggered across the street and leaned against a brick wall, under the light of a streetlamp. Nausea swirled. He bent his head, braced himself with one hand, waited for the vodka to make a reappearance.
If I hadn't done what I did… would he have wanted to stay?
Leon. Damn him. Damn his morals. Damn his face, and the way that he walked, and hisself-righteous whining –
"You going to throw up?"
And his fucking concern.
Brick against his forehead. Freezing. Good, gave his body some distraction from the curling in his stomach. "Get out of here."
"Ah, come on, Buddy. I couldn't live with myself if you fell over your own feet and smacked your head on the ground. Not unless I was there to take a picture, anyway."
"Do you always have make such stupid jokes?"
He closed his eyes. "Svetlana got away."
"No one knows where she is."
The air threatened snow. He braced his arm against the wall and turned. The streetlight stretched the shadows of Leon's hair over his face. "And what am I supposed to do now, Leon? Just move on with my life, forget about Irina, JD, Ataman?
"You live. And letting revenge eat at you isn't living, believe me."
"Everyone I know is dead! They didn't leave, or walk away. They're not coming back. I have nothing!"
Hands pushed him against the wall so hard the breath ripped from his lungs. Fingers bunched in the front of his jacket, tight with fury. Leon's mouth sneered an inch away from his face, voice colder than the air.
"I didn't save your life so you could wallow in self-pity. If you want to die so badly, I'll leave you here in the gutter. You can drink yourself to death, put a bullet in your head, whatever. I'm not going to waste my time trying to help someone who'll just throw it all away because he's too selfish to carry on!" The wall bumped against the back of his head as Leon shook him. "Fuck it, Buddy, what the hell would they think of you? Huh? JD, and Irina – you really think they'd want you to just give up on everything? And why?"
"Because I'm scared." His hands closed over Leon's. They were warm, far warmer than they should have been. Fingers relaxed against his, but he didn't let them go. "The last thing that's tethering me is leaving tomorrow. And I… will never see it again." He squeezed his hands, and the others twitched in return. "I'm not going to lie to myself. You won't come back here, will you?"
Leon's eyes found the floor. All the answer he needed.
"I don't blame you."
Leon tilted his face down and guilt crawled instead of nausea in Buddy's stomach. He was selfish. Did he really expect Leon to throw everything away and stay here, just because Buddy was afraid to be alone?
He let go of Leon's hands, and a lump formed in his throat. The apology he wanted to give came out as a silent white plume. Leon wasn't moving. His fingers wanted to curl under his chin, stroke against the stubble there and tilt his head up. The alcohol whispered in the back of his mind. It wouldn't just be for his attention. Buddy wanted to kiss him.
Breath stopped. His mind blanked out for a moment as his body encouraged him. He could slide his hands across Leon's hips, lean forward that tempting inch and press their lips together. What would be the worst that could happen?
He could hit you. He could shoot you. He could turn around, walk off into the night hating you.
And then –
You would never get over him.
The agony would haunt him, as it did with Irina. But at least he knew where Irina was – quietly rotting in a churchyard on the edge of town. Leon would slip from him, and he would wonder until the day he died –
"You're a bastard."
Blue eyes blazed up at him, the red around them turned them to a bright azure. The passion there paralysed everything except his heart, which thudded loud in his ears. He couldn't speak. He wanted to run. He wanted to remain frozen where he was. He wanted to crush Leon close, take him against the wall, stay with their bodies wrapped around each other forever.
"Leave, Leon," he whispered. "Please. Just go."
Those eyes came closer. Held him there.
"Or what?" A vice of flesh wrapped around each wrist, constricted. He hoped there would be bruises. The next two words were hard, deliberate, and not rhetorical. "Or what, Buddy?"
He slammed their mouths together in a painful clash of teeth.
It took a moment for his brain to catch up with what his body was doing. Hair tangled in his fingers and one hand pressed hard into the small of Leon's back. God, the man felt so damn hot, like a blazing ember in the middle of snow. And fuck, the scent of him, the taste – it was almost enough for Buddy to forget… everything. Including the fact that Leon was an American agent, and Buddy was kissing him under a streetlamp in the middle of a city.
Hands bunched the front of his shirt. He broke the kiss, panting, eyes closed. Leon was going to kill him, Buddy was fairly sure of that. He hadn't asked, but the man probably had a wife, a girlfriend at the very least. Maybe even kids. He didn't want to open his eyes and see disgust or rage. But now at least he had let Leon know how he felt.
Lips brushed his ear, and he flinched from the expected threats.
"I can stay for the night."
His eyes snapped open. Not only had that been the furthest thing from a threat, it had also headed in a completely different direction. Did he mean that in a sexual way, or was it a companion kind of thing?
He opened his mouth, no idea on how to phrase that question, but then a voice from behind Leon made him close it fast. Russian. He peered around Leon to see two guards watching, and the cold penetrated his stomach. Damn.
"I said, what's going on?"
Buddy swallowed, glanced at Leon. He doubted he was even aware of the danger. The guards came closer, guns rising in suspicion. Leon turned then, his hands releasing Buddy. Panic rose in a silent wave. Shit, if they thought Leon was going to reach for his gun –
"Hi there. I'm American. And I'm really, really drunk," said Leon, throwing an arm around Buddy's shoulders. A slur slipped around his words that hadn't been there a moment ago. "Buddy, tell them I'm drunk."
The words stumbled from his mouth. "My friend is drunk. And American. He apologises."
The guards said nothing, raised their eyebrows.
"Tell them you're taking me home." A thumb slid up the back of his neck, made the hair there stand on end. Leon's voice dropped to almost a purr. "Tell them, Buddy."
"I- I'm going to take him home so he can't cause any more trouble."
One of the guards grunted, gestured with his gun. "Move on, then. Quickly."
Buddy nodded, tugged at Leon who was waving at the guards. Once they had disappeared around the corner, he clenched his jaw, anger more directed at himself. What a fool.
"If they had seen that, they would have arrested us."
"You started it."
"I… made a mistake. Forgot myself." He couldn't look at Leon.
"Glad I managed to have that effect." A hand stroked down his back. "Want to forget a little more?"
"We should wait. There'll be more guards."
"How far away is your place anyway?"
"My… where I'm staying. It's on the edge of the city, near the river. Not too far to walk."
Leon said nothing more, but bowed his head against the sudden wind that whipped his hair around his face. It nipped Buddy's skin, and he remembered how that time last year he had a scarf, a nice one, cashmere, one that Irina had bought him, how it had been stolen in the middle of the night by one of his fellow rebels –
Warm fingers slid around his. He looked to the side, saw Leon watching him with a smile, but those eyes, oh God. So, so sad.
"I wish you could come back to America with me."
"Don't say that."
The fingers squeezed and those sad eyes looked away. Then Leon's voice, tight with desperation.
"I always get too attached."
He squeezed back. "I know."
And he did.
As they walked, it began to snow.