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Had some difficulty uploading the last few chapters (goddamned computer!), so I reposted the whole story, and decided to redo the last few chapters while I was at it, go through them for typos and the like. (Nothing worse than reading a fic and stumbling on twenty misspellings and bad punctuation, right?) And now, here they are! Admittedly, they probably still have typos, but the worst of 'em are gone.Moonlight Sonata
Jill walked into the drawing room, the floorboards beneath her feet creaking out a symphony. A thin Oriental carpet covered the wood, but other than that the room was pretty much empty. There was an aging grand piano in one corner, black and sleek in the fading light. The tall windows on the opposite wall showed nothing but silent woods and falling snow. The room was quiet and peaceful, but Jill's mind was not at rest.
She stepped towards the piano, each step making unearthly groaning noises. The bench was dusty, and she brushed off the coat of grime before taking a seat. Jill was six when she first started to play the piano, and she'd fallen completely in love. The black-and-white keys seemed to beckon and call, but she resisted as best she could. How long had it been since she'd last been brought to this room…? An hour? Two?
Playing the piano soothed her angry soul, partly because she loved to play, but mostly because she had to concentrate and work to make the notes flow together. She placed her hands in their starting positions and gently tapped out the opening to "Für Elise". No, that wasn't right – she always screwed up those opening notes…
She tried again, and then once more, but to no avail. The notes came out warped and angry, not sweet and gentle, as they were meant to be. Frustrated, she turned and stared defiantly out the window. So much snow…Jill hadn't stayed in Raccoon City long enough to see a Midwest winter, and before Raccoon she'd lived in the southwest, where it never really snowed much. The only time she'd seen it was a trip up to the mountains in Colorado. It made everything so pure, so pretty…and then it went away. Everything beautiful melted away, eventually. Jill knew all about that.
She turned back to the piano and, through eyes blurred by tears, played the opening to one of Beethoven's masterpieces, "Moonlight Sonata". It always came to this. Always. Jill would start out with something smooth and comforting, and it would end up blurring into the Sonata. She wasn't quite sure why, really – she'd love the piece as child, adored it, and learned it by heart. She still knew it now, and didn't need the aid of sheet music. Jill was always better at playing by ear.
But when she'd played it at the Spencer Estate, it had taken on new meaning. It was now less of a childhood memory and more of an outlandish nightmare, played over and over again until Jill felt as if she'd break down and die if she heard it one more time…but she always played it. Always.
Now it stood for much, much more than laughter and games of stickball in the street. It was an ode, an ode to hate, a prelude to a nightmare, a concerto for violence…a sonata. An endless, beautiful, despairing sonata…
Chris Redfield, in the parlor next to the drawing room, could hear Jill in the room nearby. "Für Elise". He shook his head and closed his eyes. She always butchered those first notes. The music stopped and Chris waited for it to start again. It might take a few minutes, but she'd play again. And Chris knew exactly what Jill would play.
He didn't know why, but she always resorted to the "Moonlight Sonata" in the end. As if on cue, the first dreary notes of the Sonata poured out from the keys of the piano next door. He set down the pen he was clutching in his hand and glanced towards the window seat, where his sister Claire sat. She spoke, suddenly, breaking the silence.
"She's playing again…"
Chris looked at her closely. Ever since they'd returned from Antarctica, she'd been quieter than he'd ever seen Claire. It just wasn't like her to be this resigned, this…submissive, almost. Her face looked pale in the white light reflecting off the snow outside. France was colder than any of them had expected, but they were doing better than could be expected. Leon, Sherry, Carlos, Rebecca and Barry would be arriving soon, and then, Chris hoped, Claire would cheer up. They'd have a belated Christmas party, and Leon would flirt with her and Sherry would be cute and kiddy and bring out her maternal side. He hoped it would be enough, and even though it hurt that he couldn't help her, he knew that what he couldn't do, the others could. He and Claire were close, but some things even a brother couldn't fix.
Standing, he stretched out his aching back and cracked his neck. Claire didn't even turn from the window. In the other room, the Sonata was getting louder, more emotional. Chris licked his lips. Maybe he should go check on her…he decided not to. Last time, she'd been crying, and to Chris, crying was a very personal thing. He didn't want to interrupt her.
So instead, he walked over to Claire and rested his hand on her shoulder. She jumped a little, and looked over her shoulder, her eyes wide and fearful. She recognized her brother, and the fear drained out of her eyes. A weak smile tried to crawl across her face, but ultimately failed.
"You want some hot chocolate, Claire? I was gonna go make some. I could make it with marshmallows, like when we were little." He grinned at her.
"Yeah," she replied. Her voice broke a little, but didn't sound too terribly bad. "I remember…"
"We'd come in from a snowball fight, and drink it at the table."
"You'd always let me win, Chris. You're such a good brother." She turned back to the window. "Such a good brother," she repeated. Chris stood still, unsure of what to do. Jill's mournful tune continued on. Christ, would she ever stop playing…!?
"Alright. I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Wait…" Chris hesitated. "Chris…"
"…Never mind." Chris waited a few minutes more, and then left the room. The kitchen was down the stairs and in the other wing. It was dark and cold when he stepped in – the heat only worked on the bottom floor one out of every ten times. After a moment's deliberation, Chris made a third cup of rich chocolate for Jill, but, as always, he made Claire's special. She liked her hot chocolate with whipped cream and mint and marshmallows, and that's exactly how he made it. He knew about Steve, and wasn't exactly sure what had happened, but he was sure that it was the cause of Claire's depression. He wished they could chance taking her to a real doctor for medication, but it was still too dangerous. In a few months, though, things would be different.
Until then, he would just have to be there for her, and make sure she knew he loved her. It took a few minutes to heat up the mugs of steaming chocolate, and then Chris started to trudge back up the freezing stairs to the warm, cozy parlor. As a matter of fact, those corridors were reminiscent of the Spencer Mansion…his face hardened and he forced himself to think of other things.
What had happened was over, and they were taking Umbrella down. That was all that mattered now.
Claire sighed as she heard Chris leave. He left the door open, and a chilly draft from the belly of the house slithered into the room. She shivered, and looked at the door. Was it worth getting up to close it…? No. It wasn't worth it.
She turned back to the window. As a little kid she'd loved the snow, loved to play in it and lay in its virgin white masses, but now…what had changed? What was so different that she couldn't even enjoy the simple pleasure of making a snow angel? It wasn't Steve. It wasn't, she was sure. He might be part of it – but not all. Steve was a great guy, attractive, nice, considerate, but she didn't love him. She knew that now, and was resigned to it. She mourned his loss as a friend mourns another, but nothing more.
Claire loved Leon.
And that was what was irking her. She knew about Ada, as much as Leon had told her in the dingy hotel a few miles south of the smoldering ruins of Raccoon City, and knew that Leon had liked Ada…or had he loved her? Claire didn't know. But Leon would be arriving soon, and she could ask him, and if he didn't love the Umbrella spy, it would be safe to pour out her soul to him. If she was rejected, it didn't matter. She still had Umbrella to worry about, and until Steve's restless soul had its revenge, she wouldn't think about dying. It was her duty to make Umbrella pay, her duty as a survivor.
Restlessly, she shifted position. A flicker of movement in a tree nearby caught her eye. She turned slowly, and saw a squirrel race up the tree and leap onto a branch. Why wasn't it in hibernation, or whatever cute little forest animals did in the winter? Claire pressed her forehead up against the windowpane. The glass was cool against the warm flesh of her face, cool enough to send a shiver down her spine, but she didn't mind. It was soothing, in a way.
The piano from the drawing room shifted from the original form of the "Moonlight Sonata" to the presto agitato form. The music became angrier, more sullen. Claire snorted, irritated. Why was she always playing that goddamned song? It was beautiful, yeah, but it was also getting old, fast. It grated on one's nerves to hear it repeated, day in and day out. And hearing Jill play anything else was vexing, because in the middle of the song she'd suddenly slip back into the "Moonlight Sonata". The echoes in the house made it impossible to avoid the piano's notes in any of the rooms on the floor, and the third and first floors had dysfunctional heating. So it was either freeze in blessed silence, or stay warm and comfortable with the hellish sonata in the background.
Claire watched the squirrel a little more. It chattered a little – Claire could see its mouth working, but heard no sound – and raced back down the tree, to disappear into the forest. White, powdery snowflakes were still falling from the sky, streaked gold and grey as the sun fell below the horizon. Claire watched it go, and when it was gone, watched the snow fall to the floor below.
She grew bored after a minute or so, and swung her legs over the edge of the window seat, stretching out her long, slender limbs. Claire stood and walked over to the table where Chris had sat until a few minutes ago. A piece of paper, completely blank, and an uncapped ballpoint pen lay on the table. Near it, an envelope and some French stamps sat unobtrusively.
Claire stopped for a moment and thought – really, really thought – about her situation. She could die. Umbrella could find them at any minute, and kill them all. Did she want to die like this, all sad and bitter inside? Not really. And all the dead she'd encountered wouldn't want her to, either, except maybe Chief Irons, but he was crazy, and didn't really count. A smile, slow and easy, crossed her face, as she picked up the pen on the table and scratched out a note to Chris. Then, without a sound, she left the room.
And still, the endless sonata played on…