Fifty American Dollars is good for a lot of burgers. The krauts didn't make burgers as good as the Americans did, of course. Too small, not enough cheese. Say what you will but Yankees sure as hell knew how to make a burger.
America, land of freedom, liberty, blowing the shit out of brown people...
and Sherry's home.
Jake took another swig of his beer. Germans might not know shit about burgers but they knew a hell of a lot more about beer, that was for sure. This was the third good meal he had on that fifty dollars He had four bucks left. He could probably get another good beer on that... or a bunch of lousy beers.
Shit, he already had spent it on rare steaks and fancy food. No point in saving it now.
"Hey barkeep, another Pilsner." Jake said. "...And an apple."
"An apple?" the bartender answer, not even bothering to hide his disdain. "This ain't no grocery store, buddy."
"Jesus, fine." Jake said. "Just the beer then."
Dinner was washed down with another beer and, leaving in the cash on the table, he headed back to his crummy hostel, ready to make a full trek down to England, doing whatever odd job could get him food and gas.
Shit, on fifty million he might have been able to afford a plane ticket.
Why did he refuse that again?
Oh right. Because of her, because of a pretty face that came bopping into his life, with short blonde hair and a pert little ass. Big eyes, smooth legs, and a voice that just made you want to hold and protect her. A A girl who was like him in all the ways that didn't matter, but more different in the ways that did. Two children of monsters, and one that had kept the other human.
Damn it, he always got faux poetic when he had a few beers.
Sherry had infected him as surely as Wesker had, almost like the two of them were fighting inside his head for control. Even when he wasn't thinking about them, he was. In an odd way both of them provided their own kind of solace and torture. Wesker gave him a place to belong. It was a terrible place, just right above being the antichrist but a place nonetheless. Then there was Sherry. Sherry offered Jake no comfort. On the other hand, she offered him a lot more. She offered him freedom. To be something other than he was.
No wonder he ran away from her as fast as he could.
Jake stood up with an uncomfortable grunt, grabbed his duffel bag and his made his way to the public showers with the full intent of using the cold water.
The cold water didn't feel good, but it did accomplish its goal of calming certain parts of his body down. He could even focus on how much it stung, the danger of hypothermia, the fact that he was probably pissing other people off by taking so long, and other inconsequential things that pushed those two further to the back of his mind.
But then it all would be ruined. His mind would flash to the way her voice sounded, the feel of her hand in his, that glorious nanosecond of cleavage he saw...
Nothing seemed to do any good. She was always in his mind.
Jake had never had a girlfriend in his life. Oh sure he had bedded some cute girls, paid some whores, and even had some one-night stands with some fellow mercenaries. He had touched them in ways far more intense than he'd probably ever touch Sherry. So why was it this blonde American he couldn't get out his head? Why was it her touch he still felt, almost like a burn?
….But a balm at the same time?
Jake had spent his life believing women were far more simple than most men thought. They all wanted something and you just had to figure out what it was. Maybe cash or maybe an ear to bend. Dealing with women was just like dealing with any other person.
Not Sherry though. Sherry made Jake realize those idiots might have known more than they let on.
He dried off and went back to his cot, having the exact same problem as before.
It had only been a few days. Good time for a motorcycle ride across a continent.
Countries like England weren't exactly good for his work. Oh, the governments would pay him to kill all the time sure, but usually to kill people in other countries. When you did it in their country they tended not to like it quite so much. The fact that he had good assurances of it being government work was the only thing that kept him from turning away right away.
They were going to meet in a dingy pub that was a bit too much like the one in Germany, except the food was significantly worse. Everything was boiled or fried and covered in so much grease that even Americans probably wouldn't eat it.
But hey, it was London so how could he not have some fish and chips while he was here?
He sat in the back of the bar, waiting for his contact. He was pretty tall and most of the people here had more hair than him so he would be pretty easy to find.
"Mr. Muller." said a familiar voice.
Jake took a second before looking up from his food He looked up to see large, familiar eyes staring down.
She had let her hair grow out a bit and she was dressed a bit more fashionably now that she was neither in the middle of subzero temperatures or being experimented on by Neo-Umbrella cronies. It was her though, that girl that shared the same past with him.
Sherry Goddamn Birkin.
Jake had managed to keep himself from stuttering out her name in surprise. It didn't matter whether you were in a fight with fists or with words: You never let the other party know you were afraid.
"Another job for me?" he asked. "And of all the people they sent they decided to send you."
"The B.S.A.A. decided that you'd be more cooperative with a familiar face." Sherry said, almost business-like. "So I've been temporarily transferred from the DSO."
"Just couldn't stay away, could you?" Jake said, and let a smarmy grin cross his face, even as he was cursing himself for saying that at that moment.
Sherry just rolled her eyes at the coming and pulled out a tablet for Jake to see. "We've been distributing synthesized versions of the vaccine created from your blood. However there's been a complication." she pulled up a video on the tablet.
It could have been the Estonia incident or the disaster in China except for a few of the telltale signs in English. People being transformed into zombies, as well as the 'chosen' ones who turned into something worse. One disaster after another, almost as though this was a world hellbent on its own destruction. Maybe his old man was on to something after all.
"There was a minor outbreak in Cardiff." she explained, breaking Jake out of his train of thought. "We managed to contain the outbreak and distribute the cure, but something happened... maybe an allergic reaction, maybe an immunity. We don't know, but we need your blood for sampling and testing again. We're prepared to pay of course, especially since you decided to forgo payment last time."
Sherry was all business and Jake wanted to shatter that right away. He wanted to ask her how she'd been, if she was lonely, if she found his choice to forgo the payment charming or romantic...
But what would the response be? Did Sherry feel the same way about him? Hell, did they even spend enough time to count as friends? His eyes darted to her hand, and he wanted to touch it, hold her hand, feel it rest in his. Except he couldn't do that, not without breaking that wall they both saw between each other.
She was two feet away from him, and Jake felt the sense of the uncanny valley come upon him. She had never felt further away than now. She had been close to him in his dreams, in his stray thoughts, but when she was here in reality she may as well have been on Pluto.
"Five thousand." he finally said. "It's my basic fee and I think it's pretty generous all things considered."
Sherry nodded. "That's in the budget I was given." she reached out her hand to him.
Jake took and shook it. Her handshake felt cold.
Jake took his motorcycle and followed Sherry's limo with it. It felt significantly less awkward than having to share a backseat that probably had alcohol with her while that particular elephant made itself comfortable.
After about twenty security checks they made it to a B.S.A.A research facility. There were a number of labcoats walking around, various T-virus victims trapped in transparent plastic cells which sometimes reflected on all the pure white walls and floors, giving an antiseptic feeling that always put Jake off.
While most of the people here were unfamiliar there was one person here he did recognize.
Redfield turned from his conversation with a random whitecoat to look him in the eye. The last time they had look at each other like this Jake had a pistol to the man's head. It was a stupid reason that at the same time wasn't stupid. Redfield had killed Albert Wesker, a monster bent on destroying the world for some supervillain vision of ruling the ashes of it.
That was one way of looking at it.
The other was that Chris Redfield had killed his father. Wesker probably would have been a terrible father, egomaniacal and controlling. Jake probably would have been much worse off if Jake hadn't been dropped off at an orphanage or however the bastard had decided to get rid of him.
But thanks to Redfield, Jake would never know for sure.
"Redfield." he said. "Long time no see. Weird to see you without your life partner around."
Redfield's chiseled American good looks faltered for a fraction of a second. "Piers didn't make it." he said. "He went out like a soldier and he wouldn't even have gotten that far if it weren't for the help you had provided."
God damn, did Redfield have to be that much of a fucking boy scout? Jake could feel the first unprofessional look Sherry had given him and it made him feel like horseshit.
"Oh..." he said, his attempt at smugness completely destroyed. "Sorry. I didn't know."
He hoped he didn't sound as sorry as he actually was.
"There's no way you could have." Redfield said. "You've helped save the world once before. As far as I'm concerned that makes us friends." Redfield extended a hand.
Jake really didn't have a choice but to accept the handshake. His grip felt a lot warmer than Sherry's did. There wasn't an insincere bone in Redfield's body, was there?
"Alright, let's get this over with." Jake said after the handshake ended. "And if you're gonna stick me with needles don't skimp on the morphine."
As it turned out they were going to stick him with a whole bunch of needles and they were indeed going to skimp on the morphine. It wasn't pleasant. The doctors all had the bedside manner of a fiddler crab during mating season. After about one hour of being stabbed and poked, Sherry finally came into the room, wearing a labcoat, gloves, and protective eyewear.
"The test are inconclusive so far." she said. "We'll have to take some more tomorrow."
"Fine by me." said Jake. "Easiest five grand I've made. You guys sure seem to relaxed about this."
"We can only do so much with only one person the extract testable samples from." Sherry explained. "Besides we've got a bunch of experienced agents handling containment so it's under control for now."
At the word 'Agent' Jake's brain stirred into a uncontrollable fit of pettiness. "Yeah, I bet Kennedy's one of 'em, huh? How is Agent Vidal-Sasoon?"
Sherry let out a another frustrated sigh. "Busy. He's been throwing himself into his work more lately." she said. "Claire said he gets like this after certain missions."
Jake had no idea who Claire was and suspected that Sherry hadn't said it for his benefit. Hoping to save face he added. "Guy's damn good at his job."
"One of the best." Sherry said, and for the first time it seemed like he wasn't the source of her irritation.
Jake realized that if he kept being smarmy he wasn't going to get anywhere. Time to try a more gentle approach.
He was doomed.
"So... uh... I don't have a hotel room yet." he said. "I've also never been to this country. I could uh... use a guide."
Jake thought he saw a flicker of something in Sherry's eyes. What was it? Happiness? More annoyance? Some female emotion he couldn't understand?
Finally she said. "I get off in half-an-hour if you can wait." It was much softer than anything she had said before.
"I-I can." Jake said, hoping he didn't sound too eager. "I'll wait in the lobby."
Jake began to wonder if Sherry had been making him wait on purpose. Of course earlier, he was worried she wouldn't come at all and would laugh at his dumb ass for believing her. She had come though, out of her labcoat and back into more general clothing. She actually looked really good.
Jake looked to his faded jeans and his dusty leather jacket over a sweatshirt. He very rarely cared about how well-dressed he was. In fact, he had a few jackets still riddled with bullet holes he kept around as trophies. With Sherry though, he wished he had a few nicer shirts at least.
"Are you hungry?" she asked.
"Kinda yeah..." Jake admitted. "But I already ate out today and I'm a little low on cash and I need a hotel room anyways and I kinda doubt the brits take IOUs from a guy whose never had a credit line in his life."
"Provided you don't try to get a room at Buckingham or something, the B.S.A.A. has you covered." Sherry said. "As for dinner, it's my treat."
The part of Jake that was far too prideful and the part of him that was sick to death of meals coming out of a cup were at war. His next, eloquent response reflected this.
"I... uh... are you sure?"
"I'm pretty sure I get paid better than you." Sherry said wryly. "Don't worry about it. I know a Thai place pretty close to here."
"Alright then." Jake said, giving his best friendly smile, mostly to hide the fact that he had no idea what Thai food was.
It turned out that Thai food was very spicy.
Jake was trying to be best behavior. He felt out of place, clearly looking like someone who didn't belong in such a nice place.
No one seemed to be looking at him though.
"What'll you have then?" asked a dark-skinned waitress with just enough of an accent to sound foreign but not enough of one to sound scary to the middle-class white people coming here.
"Oh I'll have the uh..." Jake looked at the strange dish he had no idea how to pronounce. There was a helpful description but he just pointed to the dish that looked the least alien and the waitress wrote it down. Sherry ordered her meal with a lot more comfort than he did, listing off the dish easily. Jake wondered how often she had come here, and if she had ever come here with Kennedy.
Jake scowled internally at himself. This wasn't the time to get jealous again. Sherry had decided to spend dinner with him. It was something he had wanted since they parted ways.
"So uh... this is nice." he said. "It's a lot calmer than... well, pretty much all of the last time we met."
Sherry nodded. "I think calm is good, personally."
"Yeah, not being shot at is nice." Jake agreed. "I guess you've had your hands full with cleanup then?"
"Yeah, it's been a real headache. Leon and Helena are working on finding any other Neo-Umbrella hideouts or insurgents. Chris and I have been working cleanup crew."
Jake nodded. "Guess it's a lot easier than fighting crazy monsters with chainsaw arms, huh?"
"Yeah." Sherry agreed. "Not quite the same though."
"It couldn't be." Jake agreed. "You're assured to have all your limbs."
Sherry gave a breath. "I wonder if it's going to happen again." she said. "The world in danger like that... I mean there have been so many incidents, and each time they just get bigger and bigger. More people in danger, more lives lost... I wonder if it'll ever be too big for us..."
"Nah." said Jake. "Worse comes to worst, we have two kids of mad scientists that'll punch more monsters into pits of lava."
To Jake's surprise, Sherry gave a small giggle. "Guess you'll be around for the next zombie apocalypse then?"
"I might ask for double though to make up for the missed cash." Jake said.
He must have said the wrong thing because Sherry's smile faded. "Jake... why did you turn down the fifty million?"
Jake hadn't expected to be asked that question. Shouldn't it be obvious to anyone why he had done it? Was she actually going to make him say it?
"For you." he said, his throat suddenly very dry.
"For me?" Sherry answered. "How is it for me? How does it help me?"
"It... It was because it wasn't about the money anymore."
"And instead it was about saving the world?" Sherry asked.
At first Jake thought about confirming that statement, but when it came to Sherry Birkin, Jake had to be completely honest to her.
And to himself.
"No, not really..." he said. "I've never really gave a damn about the world. Hell, I'm sure I don't need to tell you that when I heard I could save the world the first thing I thought about was what cut of American cash I could."
"You had a change of heart though."
"Yeah." Jake said. God, was she going to make him say it again? "Honestly, I still don't give a damn about the world at all. But the idea of something happening to you... I've been hurt something fierce, Sherry. Stabbed, beaten, set on fire, the works. None of that hurt as much as it would if you were gone."
Sherry paused. She was looking right into Jake's eyes and he had no idea what those eyes meant.
"Jake," she asked quietly, almost as though she was praying. "what do you want from me?"
Well, that was a hell of a question. Jake thought back to those weeks he had spent thinking of her. Various fantasies -both carnal and mundane- went through his head. He couldn't answer with any of those though and not just because a good deal of them were indecent. It was because the answer was actually pretty easy to give.
"Dammit Sherry, I just want you be happy."
Sherry's eyes widened for a second. Maybe she wasn't expecting that or maybe she was. It had gotten a reaction at least.
"And... you want to be the one who does that? Makes me happy?"
"Yeah, yeah I do." Jake said, dreading what was coming next.
"Do you think you can?" she asked quietly.
Jake felt tired. Running across Chinese rooftops from monsters with chainsaw arms tired. That question sapped all hope and energy from him. Of course he couldn't. Jake Muller, the man who did all sorts of pathetic and terrible things for money. Jake Muller in his faded coat with his inability to keep from being a smarmy ass.
Jake Wesker, the son of a monster. The child of the man whose deeds were so evil the world was still suffering years after his death.
"No..." he said, letting the agony of defeat creep into his voice. "I don't think I can."
Sherry sighed. It almost sounded like the disappointed sigh of a teacher. "Jake... what do you want?"
"I just tol-"
"That's not what I meant." she said, her voice now getting terse. "I mean what do you want from yourself?"
Jake remained silent. He had a hard time even looking her in the eye now.
"I see." she said. "Maybe when you figure that out we can talk again. I'm going to get my stuff to go. You can have as much as you want on my tab."
"Right." Jake said, his voice letting out an edge of irritation. Right then he had to ask. "Sherry, wait. Don't tell me it's because of Kennedy."
Sherry paused. "It... might have been. I mean I didn't even know if I was ever going to see you again, and he was there. I... I brought it up and he started talking about our age difference and things like that... Helena still thinks it's because of that Wong woman... but no. There's nothing between the two of us."
"Okay then." the answer brought Jake less comfort than he thought it would have.
"If he had taken me up on it..." Sherry said. "You wouldn't hated him for it, would you? ...or me?"
And to that Jake told the first lie of the night.
"All's fair in love and war right?" Jake answered. "We've both just seen a lot more of the second."
Sherry gave him a soft smile. "Thanks, Jake. You're a good man. I just hope you realize that soon."
Jake let her leave.
Jake was torn between spite and not actually wanting to take advantage of Sherry's kindness. He settled with getting another meal for later and a few shots of whiskey. There was a pretty cheap hotel nearby as well as a place where he could get himself an additional six pack of Newcastle.
Alcohol was always a bit of a roulette wheel. Sometimes it let you think things through more clearly, sometimes it just left you stuck on the same few thoughts.
Tonight it was a little bit of both.
Jake leaned against the back of the bed, polishing off the third bottle, unable to stop thinking of the question that Sherry had asked.
What did he want of himself?
Well, he wanted to make Sherry happy, he guessed. He did want to be that person who did. It wasn't just that, though. He wanted to be a person capable of making her happy, but why wasn't he? Well, because he was a mercenary, a criminal. He couldn't stay put, he couldn't be the guy that stayed.
But why couldn't he?
One word flashed across his mind at that: Wesker.
The Wesker legacy haunted him even before he had any idea who his father was. Jake had never had any illusions about his parents being particularly normal. He had known at a young age that he was a genetic freak. It wasn't all bad. After all, he had used the abilities he had gotten in them to get money in street fights, wasting other dudes...
He protected Sherry with them...
Hell, come to think of it, Sherry had her own Supergirl abilities. He wondered if anyone had looked at her the way he'd been looked at. They probably had. They probably called her a weirdo and a freak and she was probably poked and proded for a zombie cure and then told she just wasn't good enough. She would have to go find some jackoff in the middle of nowhere who hadn't accomplish a tenth of what he had done.
Sherry might have insisted Jake was a good person, but she was an amazing one. If you needed any proof you only needed to look at the people she surrounded herself with.
Maybe that was why Redfield and Kennedy pissed him off so much. Maybe it wasn't him waving his dick out of some primal desire for Sherry, or at least it wasn't just that. Maybe he just couldn't stand seeing men who had way less than him who had done so much more.
Sherry deserved someone as good as Kennedy. Maybe that was the answer. If he hoped to deserve her, he'd have to be as good as Kennedy.
And maybe there was a way to do that.
Jake decided to finish his beer and sleep on it.
Redfield was there today but Sherry was mercifully nowhere to be seen.
"Mr. Muller." Redfield said. "Hope you slept alright. I've been told to warn you that some of the tests will be a little bit more intense today."
"Actually, on that subject I was hoping to go over the payment again." Jake replied.
Chris gave a friendly smile. "Probably too much hope for you going down to fifty bucks again isn't it?"
Jake did his best to smile at the joke. He was also pretty sure he succeeded. "Actually, I uh was going to ask about the possibility of getting a job with the B.S.A.A."
Chris looked stunned: It was the most emotion he had ever seen the man give. After a moment he said. "What brought this on?"
"A good meal last night made me realize how fucking tired I am of Ramen noodles." Jake answered. "Besides, I've been wanting a good way to stick a nice long finger to my old man and I figure what way than to be part of the eternal thorn in his side?"
"Sure you won't mind working with the man who killed your father?" Chris asked, quite serious.
"My head wasn't quite fully screwed on that day." Jake said. "I've still got a few issues with that. I figure this would be the best way to get over that." he paused. "So long as you don't mind having the kid of your archenemy around."
"As I told you, my squad has been short a man recently." Chris explained. "I can't think of a better victory over Wesker than having his son working side by side with me." Chris extended a hand. "I warn you that especially now being on the B.S.A.A. is full-time, taxing work. Are you sure this is what you want?"
Jake's mind went to Sherry quite briefly. Was he just doing this to impress her? To convince her rather than to actually improve?
Did it really matter?
Jake took Chris' hand and shook it firmly. "Yeah, I'm sure I do."
"Well then, there's some paperwork to get through," Chris said "but let me just say unofficially, welcome aboard Agent Muller."
Jake gave out a wolfish grin. "Actually, I think Agent Wesker has a better ring to it, don't you?"