Two Days Later,
Back at the CC
Helena touched the glass behind which her sister lay. At a slight angle, Deborah rest in an air-tight, cryogenic case, her state catatonic, just barely out of reach, but so far gone from Helena. It'd be a long time before she could see her sister again.
"It's time for me to take responsibility," Helena told her quietly, giving Deborah her last goodbye. She looked through that clear glass to her beautiful, flawless face inside, eyes closed and gently resting. Helena had that face memorized; it was what would carry her in prison.
Hand dropping from the glass, she turned back to Leon and Hunnigan who'd helped her through all of this, the reason her sister had been saved. "Thank you." She bowed her head respectfully and waited for him. "I'm ready."
Leon exchanged a glance with Hunnigan before stepping forward and taking her hand to cuff. Something heavy was placed in her hand. She squinted at the sight of her gun, lifting her eyes to Leon in shock. "What? But I assisted in the attack." Had he not understood her? She'd been responsible for the president's death.
But Leon only glanced back to Hunnigan with a small, shared little smile. Hunnigan stepped forward to explain. "The investigating committee have reviewed the evidence, and feel it unjust to hold you liable for Simmon's crime. They will also not be disclosing their findings to the public."
Helena shook her head. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. She wasn't supposed to get off on murder scot-free. "But I— "
Leon interrupted. "The president would have done the same."
Helena lowered her head, hard-pressed to believe this. Did this mean… she'd get to see her sister again? She didn't know what to say. Leon didn't appear to either. Thankfully, Hunnigan seemed to have more people-grace. "Do you need another moment with Deborah?"
"All right," Hunnigan nodded, "should we go join the team?"
Helena cast one last glance at her sister. She wouldn't rest until she was safe.
Cain Lawson flashed his clearance in a typical dour mood, made only further so by the situation surrounding this visit to the CC. The scanner accepted his specialized CIA clearance and let him pass. It was only what appeared to be a normal guest-passing unit, but Cain knew if his card had failed to get clearance, trained gunmen and snipers would be escorting him in a second.
He was glad to see his presence had aroused no unusual suspicion thus far. He hadn't been quite sure his identification would get him this far already.
Not that it mattered. Even if Cain had been escorted out by gunmen, he'd have come back for this later under nightfall with a break in entry. It just made it easier that he could walk right in.
His daughter was inside. Nothing would stop Cain from reaching her this time. Not even Claire.
Deborah had been taken captive by one of the most dangerous men in the world, recently identified villain Derek Simmons, the previous presidential aide. Cain didn't have enough clearance with the FOS to know exactly what'd happened, but the tabs he kept on his long lost children with Claire had alerted her disappearance almost immediately. From there, he and Claire had worked to pick up bits and pieces in hopes of helping their eldest daughter, Helena Harper, rescue and safely return Deborah back home. The fact that she'd been moved to this facility didn't bode well, sparking a terrible certainty in Cain that his daughter had been subjected to the new C-virus.
Cryogenics centers had opened up all over the country since the first outbreak of different virus strands. It'd been identified early that sub-freezing an individual who'd been infected proved an efficient way to slow the progression of the virus almost to a stop. Though the process was expensive in sustaining, it was the only truly efficient way they had of slowing the C-virus while scientist teams worked on new cures for the outbreaks. That process should at least be sped along with the discovery of Jake, the immune son of the late Wesker, but Cain made no mistake about how long that could take, about how long his daughter could remain a frozen husk in this center.
Jaw tight and fingers clenching, Cain stopped at the secretary's information desk and tried to keep from punching through the marble of her circular center. "Deborah Harper." The secretary glanced up from her computer at the sound of his voice, not having noticed with that headset probably rattling off into her head. "I'm here to see her."
"Do you have an appointment?" The secretary asked, scanning through files to check their recent visitor.
Cain wordlessly slid his CIA identification her way and hoped for the best. The woman paused, took that in, checked something on her computer, then stood. "Right this way, Mr. Lawson. I'll escort you to Dr. Holtz, who can show you to her cell block."
Whether it was his wife's good clearance on the name or they didn't know of him or his record with the CIA personally, Cain was just grateful he wouldn't have to find her himself. It would be a lot easier getting answers this way. With every step after the aide, his heart seemed to pick up another beat as they went.
He was going to see his youngest daughter again after twenty years.
Cain couldn't control the rising anxiety inside him. He wasn't good at containing his emotions the way Claire, his almost-divorced wife, was. Cain represented almost an exact opposite to Claire's diligence and rational. It'd brought them together in the beginning, but since the forfeit of their children for their own safety, it'd torn their marriage to bloody shambles and minute pieces.
None of that really mattered right now; it didn't matter that Claire would have a fit when he finally got home or probably divorce him after their long-estranged marriage, not even held with a thread so much as Claire's rationale, nor did he care what enemies might be remotely watching him make this visit. Cain had to see his daughter and nothing would get in his way.
The secretary introduced the doctor and set them off. Cain only nodded silently and walked along behind Dr. Holtz. They traveled for quite some time and went down a few flights of stairs, passing medical, technical, and all sorts of equipment Cain didn't care to recognize before they reached what seemed to be a bottom floor of upright, technical caskets. Cain memorized the route without thinking much about it. Dr. Holtz took him down the row for a long moment until they reached one twenty-two caskets down. Cords and hookups fed into the air tight machine with a glass plating. Behind it rested Cain's daughter, Deborah Harper, in her sleep.
The building in Cain's chest seemed to culminate at the sight of her until he let out a small puff of breath. He'd seen pictures, of course. They were one of the only things that kept his life worth living now, and Cain had spied before. On two very rare accounts, when he'd been able to get close enough with excuse for being there, Cain had watched each of his daughters just once before, but he'd never been this close. Never been near enough to exact the dimensions of her cheek, to see the blonde coloring from mom in her light brown hair, nor know the exact curve of her jaw in a manner like this. Cain had seen none of these things in person before.
They took his breath away as sure as the day when he'd first married Claire.
Cain stared for a long while, drinking in every sight, every angle of the beautiful woman his youngest had become. Not a moment passed that he didn't memorize, hard-wiring the sight of her into his brain for later reflection to help the living nightmare of a shattered life. The picture of her so still, just beyond the glass stilled Cain in a way he hadn't felt for years of turmoil and a roiling heart.
He wished Claire could be here to see her too.
But that wouldn't happen. That'd never happen. When Claire found out he'd been here, she'd go crazy with the knowledge that he'd jeopardized twenty years of hiding them for one glimpse of his daughter. Worse than that, she'd call him selfish and stupid, endangering their lives in violation of a decision he hadn't agreed with all those years ago, one he'd been pushed to that'd lost his children forever.
Sometimes, Cain wondered if she had a heart behind all her logic and rationale. Cain could never be the machine she demanded him to become. It was what'd broken them in the first place; why Cain had been miserable the past twenty long years.
Slowly, the doctor recounted everything he knew. Every word burned Cain's mind like a fresh scar. If Helena hadn't killed Simmons, Cain would've burned the man alive thrice over for his crimes.
As it was, he could do nothing. So he listened and stared.
Claire was unsurprisingly at the computer when Cain finally poked back in. She turned at the sound of the door, spikey blonde head turning to face him with a hand on her gun. Crystal blue eyes actually widened at the sight of him, a rare display of surprise from her. "Cain," Claire released her gun, "Where have you been?" She glanced to the computer. "You've been gone for hours. I was just about to track you." She rose from the chair.
Good. She hadn't yet. She would tomorrow, Cain knew, especially without an answer, but Cain had plans to be selfish tonight. His reunion with his daughter had touched him so, Cain only wanted a few hours. With it, he could just pretend. Claire hadn't gotten to share the sight of her youngest with him. Cain wanted her to feel as good as it'd made him.
Claire inhaled when he touched her mouth with lips almost unfamiliar, it'd been so long. He wound a strong arm around her shoulders where it rested like it belonged. She dipped back over the table slightly as Cain's body pressed to hers, hardened merely by her touch that wasn't fighting him off. Cain clicked a key on her keyboard that shut the screen off. He wrapped that other arm around her back in support. When he pulled away for a breath, confusion was the least of things radiating from Claire.
"Cain…" those blue eyes danced, finding him in their curiosity in wonderment what this was.
"Give me tonight," Cain asked, begged, begging his wife to please her in a way any man was supposed by silent permission. Claire touched his clean-shaven chin and rubbed fingers along his cheek, the question there in her precious eyes. "Please." Cain held her so tight, wanting to murmur words he hadn't in twenty years.
Claire seemed to be trying to determine what caused this sudden need in him. Instead of asking like he half-feared, she leaned towards him and kissed him gently, lips soft and tender in their press. "Okay," she murmured, seeming to take mercy on his weakness here. She probably thought this had to do with the recent abduction of Deborah and her release. She wasn't entirely wrong. Cain wanted to pretend for one night that it'd be okay. She could go back to that cold logical side tomorrow, and she would. But he needed to share this moment with her tonight. "My bedroom."
Cain picked her up without effort and carried her to her bedroom that night; hers, not theirs. He made love to her in a way that made her gasp and cream. The condom was a hurtful reminder, but Cain didn't protest when she slipped it out of the drawer and covered him with it. When he was inside, he barely felt it at all with his name on Claire's lips, tasting him like she hadn't done for over a year now. Cain came with her, beautifully spent in the warm arms of his estranged wife.
Claire gave him a generous few moments of silence, where they just breathed together, Claire on top of him now. She smelled better to his sensitive senses than any woman had in his life. Cain thought he might be lucky enough that she'd fallen asleep.
Reality was much too cruel for that.
"Can I stay?" Cain asked quickly, not wanting to get kicked out to his own lonely room again tonight.
Claire's wholesome breasts swelled to his with every breath, keeping him warm underneath her. She took another moment to respond. "I've forwarded Deborah on the priority list of cure administrations. As soon as they devise one with better results, she'll be one of the top recipients."
It was chilling and heartwarming all at once to Cain. Such a very reasonable, logical response for her to share after they'd just made love for the first time this year. Claire had easily read that this need was about Deborah; hearing the measures she'd taken to hack their daughter up on the priority list both warmed Cain and broke his heart. It was all Claire would ever consider doing for their children: helping from a distance.
Cain wished she could love them as he loved them instead, with a heart instead of a mind. Claire didn't operate like that.
"Good," was all he said, cuddled in spooning need to his wife.
For one night, before she knew, Cain could take comfort in this.
Claire woke first, but didn't attempt to move yet. She was warm, comforted in Cain's loving arms. It wouldn't last, she knew, so she had to take what she could get. Claire basked in the warmth of his grip around her now, that hot press of his body to the flat of her back, where his arm rested and heated up her belly. She missed sharing this.
But Cain didn't provide this warmth anymore. He hadn't for twenty years. Last night had been a fluke and nothing more, borne out of a warped concern for their youngest daughter they both shared over the years. Claire didn't want this moment to pass, but it inevitably would when he woke.
Cain could never forgive her for taking their children from him.
It'd been twenty long years ago when the situation had struck. Lightning had always feared it at the back of her mind, but thought she could protect them. It proved untrue. They'd almost lost both their children that day. In a measured decision for their safety, Claire had had their children taken away, given new names and families, and put into a witness protection custody. It all had to be legit; in honesty, she and Cain shouldn't even know who their children were at this point, but knowing was the one allowance Claire had allowed them both. It helped her and Cain to protect them, she rationalized, by keeping tabs at a distance.
The men who'd hunted them then still hadn't been overthrown. They were part of a larger operation who, Lightning believed, would never completely fall and thus, her children would never be completely safe with a connection always tied to her and Cain.
Cain hadn't wanted it then and he hadn't forgiven her for it yet. Claire understood. She couldn't blame Cain for it, but it made for an especially tense marriage after their leave.
Not even threads still held them together now. It was only logic that prevailed there. Cain needed her credentials to operate in CIA. No one trusted him otherwise. Claire kept him out of prison every day and everyone knew it. She did this because she still loved him, deeper than his misunderstanding. For all Cain's emotionally-driven pursuits, he could not and would never understand why they had to give them up, even with the clear logic pounding him straight on the nose. Claire wouldn't give him up for something she'd forced for their children's safety; and Cain didn't have it in him to divorce.
So they lay, an estranged couple, bound to burst into fighting as soon as he opened his eyes. Claire tried not to think about it. She tried not to think about anything but his arms, warm and firm around her like she was loved.
They didn't often sleep together anymore. Claire couldn't remember a time this past year that they'd weakened enough to succumb, but she should've guessed Deborah's kidnapping would break something inside Cain. He wasn't a hard sort, barely built for the CIA but for excellent field performance. She'd been too busy predicting his next rash move when they'd heard to think he'd come down to this too, but it made sense. She only wished this could last a moment longer for her indulgence.
Reality wasn't so kind as that.
Claire closed her eyes. Her name sounded so right on his lips, but only chaos would follow this, no matter how level-headed they tried to be with each other.
"I'm awake," Claire confirmed softly, not wanting to rouse from this dream-like state.
Cain waited a long moment, perhaps trying to stall the inevitable fight too. Or maybe just wondering how he'd gotten there that morning. With how loving he had acted, Claire wouldn't excuse the possibility that he'd been drunk, even if he hadn't seemed so. Claire hoped he hadn't been. She'd felt loved last night. Why couldn't it just be that?
"I have something to tell you. Something you won't like." Cain admitted, making her heart sink more with every word. Had his loving just been that, a way to ease her up to dump on the bad news? Claire would've rather believed it a spot of weakness, that small part of him that still cared.
"What'd you do?" Claire asked, because she sadly knew this being his fault. She'd wondered what trouble he'd get into after the news. She was about to find out, it seemed. When Cain hesitated to speak, she added. "I'll try not to be mad."
Cain was quiet for another long moment. Claire wondered if he ever might say. It took quite a few breaths after that, then, "I went to the Cryogenics Center to see Deborah."
Claire went cold. Stiff as a sheen of metal, she stared at the wall ahead in mute disbelief, not processing those words. She couldn't process because they couldn't be. In the height of his worst emotionally-driven moments, Cain would never be so stupid or selfish as that, to throw twenty years of estranged marriage misery and the safety of their children away with one thoughtless, fleeting urge. There was no way.
But then Cain's hot breath released near her ear, a whisper escaping. "I'm sorry."
Gone went Claire's promise that she'd try to keep a cool head, along with everything else that could process in a conscious mind. A mind-numbing fear blanketed Claire in her disbelief. Twenty years of a broken marriage, longing for her husband and babies, but knowing they were safer away; all of that obliterated in an instant of Cain's selfish need.
"Get out," and when it came, it was a hateful hiss, fear and anger beyond anything lacing the words like venom. Claire said them because she didn't know what she'd do to Cain if he stayed, because she loved him and hated him and understood his selfishness completely, but was in utter disbelief, all coated with an unveiled fear and rage that shook her to her very core. Cain had beheld their child in person, risking everything they'd suffered for a glimpse of their baby girl.
Claire honestly couldn't tell if the anger was more directed at the act, or that he'd risk such a selfish thing without her, without letting her behold her baby. Not that she'd have let him; and with exact certainty, that was why he'd gone alone, sneaking it past her, then returned to make love to her in the most caring of ways, like he hadn't jeopardized every bit of their daughters' lives for one glimpse. Claire couldn't tell if she envied or hated him more in this moment.
Cain did possibly the smartest thing he'd done in all their time together. His heavy arm left her, warmth already far gone. Clothes rustled about on the floor as he picked them up. Then Cain's strong hand appeared, putting down his phone with picture of Deborah laying at a slant in a cryogenics tube. Without another word, he left and closed the door.
Claire couldn't decide if it was the kindest or the cruelest thing he'd ever done. Grabbing up his phone, she stared at her daughter inside, the closest she'd ever gotten to see either of her baby girls, through distant pictures. Cradling the phone to her breast, the first tear in twenty years gently slid down her cheek.