Author's note: Characters are all CAPCOM's, not mine. Alright, something to keep my hands busy with while I brainstorm for some more interesting things to write about.

Degrading Conscience

1. I Love You No Less

The day Sherry Birkin's funeral was held wasn't one of those sunny days. Rain pounded mercilessly on the people gathered around her grave as the casket was lowered. It wasn't that of a big event either. Claire Redfield had always had a special connection with that girl, even as she wept, she could not bring herself to look at her close friend standing beside her. The day she had met Sherry played in her head like a broken record. The brave young girl who had put the two people who had saved her as an example. Claire had remembered how proud she had felt when Sherry had called her to announce that she had made it to the DSO. A week later, they met up and had a good time. They were more than friends. Sherry was almost her sister.

"This isn't right, there isn't even a body", Claire said mostly to herself but he had heard her.

Leon Kennedy had lost some people before. He was no stranger to lost. This time, things were different. He regretted the day he had to bury someone he'd known for a long while, even if it was an empty casket. Word was that what's left of Agent Birkin weren't even ashes as she was presumed to be blown to bits but some samples taken from the scene had identified to be her DNA. Hunnigan had done the right thing when she had called him immediately when she heard of the mission gone awry. Leon didn't care about himself at the moment, he would allow himself time to grief but it would always be later. In fact, he was worried of Claire's reaction the day he had gotten the news of Sherry's death. He'd wanted to check on Jake Muller but the other man wasn't taking any of his calls.

People deal with grief in many ways. The way he dealt with it was in silent anguish. People died all the time, Leon thought to himself, what a shame it had to be her.

Even as the funeral had come to an end and with the small crowd dispersing, Leon found himself standing next to Claire. The whole time, he had been the one who held a black umbrella over her head, so it was no surprise that he was soaking wet.

He didn't know what else he could say to Claire. There were no words that could describe his friend's tragedy. During raccoon City, Claire had been the one who was closer to Sherry.

"Claire, I'm so sorry", he mumbled, giving her a hug. "Why don't you stay at my place for a couple of days?"

The only reply he gets was a small nod.

Later that night, he was finishing up on his report on something he had to do over last weekend when Ada Wong came over. It was one of those days when she'd visit him, the vacation time she would spend with only him when she wasn't busy with her spy work. It took them months for them to get use to their relationship. He would always be here waiting . As for Ada, she would always come back, she had made him a promise that she would no longer disappear for more than a month without word. This was the only way for them to take on a higher degree of their relationship without having to give up a big chunk of any of their old lives.

"Hey, handsome", she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and gave him a kiss. "Wanna tell me why there's another woman in our place?"

When he didn't reply her, she sensed immediately that something was wrong.

In a much more serious tone, she whispered, "What is it?"

"It's nothing", he mumbled. "Claire's just coping".

Then, he didn't say anything else.

Ada knew that asking him more questions would get her no further answers. She ran herself through the shower and got dinner ready. The last time she had Leon cook, they had ended up eating spaghetti out of the can, so she had agreed that cooking would be something she would definitely be doing if she was around. Dinner carried was carried on with more silence between the three of them. Claire had just stared lifelessly at the food in front of her. Minutes later, she started sobbing silently.

She had barely touched anything in the end. Ada noticed Leon ate but he did that in the most mechanized way possible. He helped out with the dishes but remained quiet the whole while.

Something was definitely up.

By the time Claire was fast asleep in the guestroom, it was almost the next day. Ada spotted Leon on the couch, his head in his palms as if he was fighting off a bad headache. His shoulders that were hunched in defeat, moved a little. It took her time to notice that he was crying.

"Leon", she whispered softly, taking a seat beside him.

"She's gone, just gone", he sobbed. "Sherry's dead".

"Oh, sweetheart", she murmured.

She had gotten to know Sherry after the whole Carla wreaking havoc to the world thing. The young girl was bright and constantly buzzing with energy, reminding Ada of herself way before she had met Leon. It dawned on her how upset Claire had been would be connected to the loss of that particular young girl given the fact of the Raccoon City incident had strengthened their bond. Which explained why Leon would be crying now. He was also quite fond of that girl. Ada knew that even she could not heal this wound that was inflicted on the two people in the world that she had cared the most. She could do nothing.

"It's going to be okay", she whispered, laying a hand on her lover's shoulder. "Because I'm going to kill whoever who did this".

Leon stared at her for a moment. Initially, he was shocked not at the fact that he was reminded that Ada was capable of killing but he was surprised that she'd actually cared. He believed that Sherry would want him to take up her offer. A little avenging sounded good.

"No", he said, stroking her cheek. "We will".

She gave him a wry smile and a sure nod.

They sat together in silence comforted by the fact that they were able to do something now.

TWO DAYS LATER

"She's not dead", Jake Muller said those words with full confidence. "She can't die".

He had seen the footage. Sherry aiming a gun at someone off the camera, then a bright flash. She looks behind and runs off camera. Then an explosion of flames that wrecked everything even the connection. Then, Sherry was gone like the wind.

But she wasn't dead.

There was no concrete proof that she was dead even if the whole place was reported to be wrecked beyond recognition. She could have managed to escape.

He knew she can't die. She had told him herself when she had a large piece of shrapnel stuck to her back. Pull it out, she'd told him. He did. And she healed up fine.

So, she can never die.

And she wasn't dead.

She certainly doesn't feel dead to him.

He didn't know where he was. This room felt somewhat similar to the one in Lanshiang when he and Sherry had been captured by the people who called themselves Neo-Umbrella, when they had been taken by the woman who called herself Ada Wong. He remembered Ada, the real one, and wondered where she was at the moment. They had worked together later when he had joined the BSAA where in one occasion, she had taken a hit that was meant for him. Even from his mercenary days, he had never encountered a woman so efficient and versatile in her work before. If only she was close, maybe he had a chance of her busting him out at the moment.

Then, maybe they could go rescue Sherry afterwards.

He suddenly felt as if he was being watched. He looked over his shoulder and saw Sherry standing by the door. She was dressed just as she had from the short footage. He looked away.

"Jake", she murmured, her voice still cheerful. "Give up. It's over".

He shook his head.

"No, you're not her! Sherry wouldn't say something like that", he snarled. "You're just something my sick head made up".

"Well, what would your real Sherry say then?" she asked humorously.

"She would tell me to keep fighting", he said. "This room is probably gassed or something".

"I am real, Jake", she frowned at him. "Maybe I'm ghost now".

"Great, don't you have someone else to haunt?" he muttered. "I'm a little busy trying to think of a way to escape".

Sherry folded her arms. "Alright, someone's coming any moment now. That'll be your chance".

"What do you mean?" he asked but there was no reply.

He glanced her way and she wasn't there. It was just him. Alone.

"Told you you're not real", he snorted.

Just as she had told him, there was someone on the other side of the secured door. Jake move swiftly to the side of the door, pressing his back flat against the white wall. Just as the door slid open, he had the person in a chokehold.

"Ready to get out of here, Muller?" a very familiar voice asked in amusement.

He immediately released Ada. The spy didn't look like she had minded the fact that he had nearly took her out. She offered him a coy smile, tossing him a duffel bag.

"What took you so long, Miss Wong?" he grinned, pulling out a tactical vest and two handguns from the duffel. "You alone?"

"Oh, please, it's just Ada, not Miss Wong or whatever else. Leon's here", she told him while she peered at the room. She noticed the camera at the corner and gave it a wave. "Well, he's somewhere. My best bet is the security room".

"What's this place?" he asked out of interest.

"Some kind of Neo-Umbrella branch, we're in Brazil", Ada flicked off the safety of her gun. "In a place like this, I'd expect to encounter that cheap knock-off bitch again".

"Huh. You're sexier, by the way", Jake pointed out. They made their way to a series of levels. Given the way the structure was designed, it looked like it might be built underground. The facility was quiet, nobody seemed to be around at all which creeped Jake out a little. True to her word, they found Leon in the security room, destroying a bunch of footage on Jake (after he'd gotten a copy, of course).

"Good to see you, old man", Jake smirked in greeting.

"Jake", Leon gave him a manly thump on the back.

"Now that we're all here, it would be a shame if we didn't take a complete tour", Ada perched on the table near the screens, flipping through a stack of files with Jake's name on it.

"Fine with me. Now, tell me honestly. What brings you here?" Jake asked.

Pain flashed through Leon's expression. "Jake, there's something …I'm sorry, Sherry's gone".

"Naw, it's alright. We'll find her", Jake shrugged, walking off.

Leon watched the younger man walked away, a little shocked by Jake's statement.

He glanced at Ada and caught her looking worried too. Maybe Jake probably didn't know about Sherry yet, or had he assumed that she was just missing and not actually dead. He pained the day that he would have to tell Jake the truth about why they were here.

"We'll have to watch out for that one", Ada remarked, shaking her head. "He might lose it".

"Yeah, I know. No telling what he's capable of ", Leon muttered.

Jake strolled along the hallway he and Ada had taken a moment ago. He wasn't straying far from the other two, he just needed some time to think alone. He reached into the pocket of his worn-out pants, retrieving a photograph of Sherry. He traced the side of her face, feeling enlightened that now she would be alright. He was able to get to her now.

"Just hold on. We're coming Sherry. I love you", he whispered.

Author's note: Is Sherry really gone? And Neo-Umbrella again? Curious? Stick around and find out. Oh and reviews, please and thank you. I really need to have some feedback to this so I can find a reason to write more often. : D