Winding Roads.

Pen pushers. The lot of them.

That was all Jake could think about as he sat with his shirt lifted partially over his body, revealing the ever-expanding blackening bruise across his ribs and hip. The doctor examining him eyed them warily.

"Perhaps, Mr Muller, you should have your injuries seen to first?"

Jake waved a hand dismissively in the air and shrugged. "Nah. Just get this over with."

The needle pierced the skin of him arm with a slight sting. Jake hissed, his fingers digging into the filth soaked material of his combats. He shot the doctor a dark look as blood began to flow freely through the needle and into the empty, clear bag being held aloft by one of the nurses. Her mouth was pulled into a thin line as her eyes flickered from the red liquid to Jake, and back again. Jake shook his head slightly and stared into the distance. Did all these people know why he had been rushed through security, given an armed guard and kicked straight into the awaiting arms of the man watching the quickly filling bag with greed? From the way the nurse tied off the bag and handed over to the waiting Doc, as if were either something precious... or very, very dangerous, told him yes. All these pen pushing, desk hugging, paper humping sons of-

"That's enough." Jake snapped, making to pull the needle from his arm. The doctor grabbed his hand, a stupid move by any standard Jake thought. The urge to knock the guy clean out for touching him came to mind, but with a newly learnt sense of self control Jake merely bared his teeth threateningly and pulled his arm away.

"We can take more!" the doctor explained, as if it were obvious.

Jake smiled. A smile of pure, unadulterated threat. "You fucking think so?"

"Perhaps," piped up the nurse, "We should let Mr Muller rest and be seen by the medical team before we extract any more blood."

Jake rose one thin eyebrow, his smile fading into something slightly more genuine. "Perhaps we should." he drawled. "Now, if you don't mind..." he continued, nodding at his arm pointedly.

Fifteen minutes later Jake found himself being handed a change of clothes and ushered behind a blue screen. His eyes examined the contents of the tent he was in. Basic medical equipment lay strewn over tables and in boxes. They'd obviously set the camp up in a hurry. From what he could tell, since no one seemed to find five damn minutes to explain where they were or what was going on, this was some kind of refugee centre for those who survived the outbreak in China. He'd seen their faces as he'd been led passed the gun-toting soldiers and weaponised vehicles parked in a tight circle around the many large tents filling the camp. It reminded him of the things he'd seen in papers or on the news following natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Those places had always looked so miserable and oppressive.

His observations had been correct.

About an hour later and after much poking and prodding, Jake was told what he already knew. His ribs were cracked, he had a lot of bruising that stretched from what felt like the top of his scalp all the way down to his toes, and a couple of scratches and small burns that were quickly cleaned, stitched and bandaged. Jake let the doctors do their thing without a word. He was... tired, all of a sudden. The ache of his limps began to grow more and more noticable now the adrenaline rush from their escape of the underwater facility was over. The many distractions, from the incessant questions he'd as of yet not answered to the sight of the hopeless, lost faces of those who's homes had been destroyed and their loved ones missing or killed, were no longer proving to be enough to keep his mind occupied. His thoughts wandered back to Sherry. Sherry, who had saved his life. Sherry, who's perfect, unblemished skin had shown no signs of the hell they'd been through when the rescue team finally found them. Sherry, who'd been ushered off without so much as a "see you later" into a separate car and disappeared behind the blacked out glass with no more than one, hurried look back over her shoulder and an encouraging smile.

Jake sighed as he pulled on the hooded jumper and zipped it half way up his chest. The clothes were basic. A pair of dark jeans, a white shirt and socks. No underwear though, he'd noticed. He'd shrugged it off. It wasn't the first time he'd gone commando.

"You're all set Mr Muller. I'm supposed to ask you to check in with Doctor Goodwing for more samples-"

Jake snorted. Striding past the man holding his clip board aloft like it held the ten commandments and left the tent, pushing the heavy folds of material clear of his path he stepped out onto the muddy ground and looked around. He could hear protests behind him, the man stammering as he insisted Jake required a guard to escort him across the camp. Jake silenced him with one look, the man shrank back and quietly muttered something about reporting his results to HQ before sliding out of sight. Jake sighed. These people were already getting on his nerves. He'd never liked their type. Following orders, ticking boxes. They bored and irritated him. He needed to find his way out of there, and soon. He'd held up his end of the deal and given them a sample of his blood. They'd fixed him up well in return. All that was left was the matter of his payment... and saying goodbye to Sherry.

Jake stopped mid-stride as the two thoughts together made something uncomfortable squirm in his stomach. Up until just then he'd forgotten about the deal, the fifty million dollars that would ensure he never had to pick up a gun again in his life if he didn't want to. He'd been so caught up in everything that he'd actually found himself running through bullets and dodging BOWs for something other than the cash reward at the end of it all. After all, hadn't that been what he'd told Sherry after Redfield and his puppy had shown up and saved them?

The memory came back to him loud and clear. Sherry's face as she looked frantically at the closing door behind them.

"There is no way they can take that thing!" she'd cried, her blue eyes pleading with him.

"We are not going back!" Jake told her, emphasising each word. Going back meant one thing and one thing only. Death. He turned to leave, pushing all thoughts of the two men from his mind.

"But they're gonna get killed!"

Jake rounded on her, closing the gap with one step and leaning in close. "Then that's their choice," he shouted, feeling a sharp stab of regret when Sherry visibly flinched at the harshness of his voice. Her face quickly set into a look he knew well, one he knew he had to stop. Taking a short, deep breath Jake calmed himself, trying to ignore the swirling mix of fear, anger, regret, panic...

"It's a sacrifice they're willing to make... and we can't stop them." he told her plainly, breaking the gaze as her face softened from determination to realisation, sadness... loss. Jake turned his back. He didn't care for Redfield in the slightest. In fact, after what he'd just learned, he wasn't sure if he should be celebrating the man's impending demise. Except, he thought, slowly coming to a halt as Sherry called his name, almost begging, he knew there was more to it than that. He was about to walk away from the only chance he would have to get the truth about his father. Jake had known, as soon as he lifted his gun to Chris' impassive face, that the man spoke nothing but the truth. If there were anything Jake wanted to know, Redfield held the answers that wouldn't be censored with red-tape or filled with bullshit.

And the man was going to die... because of him. For him. For the secrets held within his blood. "Just promise me you'll survive. The world depends on it."

He sighed, throwing his arms out as the strangest urge to laugh overcame him. "You know what," he started, glancing over his shoulder, "I'm not my father..."

Jake turned, the mix of feelings raging within him finally settling as a sense of calm, of knowing, overcame them. "And I'm gonna make damn sure it stays that way. We're getting out of here... and you're going to save the world."

Sherry stared at him, her eyes narrowing as she watched his lips turn into a smile that was neither arrogant, nor a smirk or mocking. It was honest.

Jake pulled his gun from its holster and waited. Waited for her to step forward, to return that smile, and lead the way.

Jake felt the small drops of liquid falling on his face, pulling him from his memories as he looked up at the grey sky. That must have been the first time he'd thought of something other than saving his own ass or how much money would soon be lining his pockets. And who had inspired this touching little moment?

Closing his eyes, Jake tilted his face to the rain now beginning to fall in thick droplets onto the already slick and muddy grass. Sure, Sherry had helped save his life on many occasions. They'd shared blood, sweat and tears - the first two quite literally - in the short time they'd spent together. But it wasn't all to her credit that Jake noticed the tiniest of changes within him. No. Someone else had a hand in making him realise the truth he'd been fighting ever since his mother had died four years ago. That maybe, just maybe, doing the right thing everyone now again was called for.

Not too often, Jake told himself as he continued on his path to wander amongst the many tents. After all, his life-style suited him just fine. But just this once he'd give a little something back to the world he'd once hated for chewing him up and spitting him out onto the cold, uncaring path of blood and money.

Why, exactly, he wasn't too sure. Fifty million or no, the right people now had his blood to do with what they will. Save lives and all that crap. Accepting the money would make no difference to that fact.

"I see your father in you..."

"You know what... I'm not my father..."

The words echoed back to him within his own mind. Jake shook them from his head only for Sherry's big, blue eyes filled for the first time since they'd met with a hint of... respect? Pride?

He rounded a corner and spotted the blonde haired agent looking exhausted and flustered as she ducked out of sight of a group of men and women heading toward the tent she'd just exited. Jake chuckled to himself, keeping out of sight himself as he made his way toward her.

She was still dressed in her clothes from their escape and, as expected, didn't have a single mark upon her. The dirt and blood began to run as the rain fell harder upon them.

"What's up, super girl?" Jake smirked when he finally reached her. Sherry shot him a tired look, yet her mouth crept up at the edges when he stopped at her side.

"Are you okay?" was the first thing she asked. Jake rolled his eyes and nodded.

"Are you sure these people are doctors, or sadists?" he asked jokingly.

Sherry's eyes narrowed as the smile dropped from her face, "What did they do?" she asked, her hands twitching at her sides before coming to rest on her hips.

Jake shook his head, "Nothing. Really. They just seem to be very enthusiastic about sticking sharp things in my veins. No big deal."

Sherry's shoulders dropped as the tension left her. She'd been about ready to march over to the medical tents and start wailing on whatever inconsiderate idiot was trying to use Jake as a human guinea pig. He'd been through enough. They both had.

"Just be careful what you agree to," she told him warningly, "they can be kind of..."

"Dicks." Jake finished helpfully for her, making Sherry laugh. It surprised him. She was usually so serious, so focused. The sound of her laughter made him smile too. "Anyway, I won't be around here long enough for them to go all Dracula on my ass. I figure I'm about done here, right?"

"Oh," Sherry breathed, all laughter drained from her body now as she looked at him with surprise. "So soon... I mean... there's still the debriefing and everything..."

Jake shrugged his shoulders and peered around him at the nameless faces passing by. "They're not my bosses. This isn't my government. I gave them what they needed, that's all I'm here for."

"That's all?" Sherry asked suddenly, her cheeks flushing a gentle hue of pink as she found herself unable to hold his gaze.

"What else is there?" Jake asked. The way he saw it, this mission was over. There was no more reason for him to be in China, it was time to go get back to his old life. Or start a new one.

"Of course." Sherry replied sharply, her arms coming up to cross over her chest as she stared hard at the ground and then at everything around her. Everything but him.

"Hey," Jake frowned, moving to step in front of her and force her eyes on his. "What's your problem?"

The blue of Sherry's eyes darkened as anger began to rise, hidden behind the tight pull of her lips and the arms holding her own body tightly. "Nothing." she snapped, feeling her frustration beginning to bubble over. His casual dismissal of her job, of all that had happened... of her... it hurt. It stabbed deep at something that had been growing slowly, bit by bit, since their first escape from the Chinese laboratory. Something she'd refused to pay any attention to or even acknowledge until that moment not twelve hours ago when Jake had fixed her with the first open, honest look he'd ever given her and told her she'd saved him. Her hand had pressed over his... and something finally broke. Her hold over the feelings she held toward him disappeared in one, tiny moment.

But she'd been wrong, she realised now as she glared at Jake's confused expression. So she'd saved his life. Clearly it didn't mean what she'd thought it had.

"I'm sure you're eager to spend your millions," she continued dryly as she turned to leave, suddenly desperate to get back to the mountain of paper-work and phone-calls that had been plagueing her since her rescue. "Don't let me hold you back."

Jake watched her walked away, the rain now falling hard enough that he struggled to keep his eyes open against the stinging moisture. "What the hell?" he muttered to himself. What was up with the sudden mood swing? He wondered. Running his hand over his shortly cropped hair, Jake hissed as the stretching of his upper body made his ribs ache. He needed to rest, he decided. He was too tired to be dealing with all this shit. He didn't have a clue what he'd said to upset Sherry. What he did, or didn't do as he was contemplating, was no one's business but his own.

Jake doubled back on himself, trying to recall the list of names and such that he'd been told during his examinations. There was some guy around here in charge of organising the refugee's, given them a place to sleep and eat until further notice. Jake grumbled under his breath as he wound through the clumsily set out paths, his mood plummeting with every passing minute. So when he felt a hand press against his shoulder and a voice call his name, he lashed out without thinking. Without caring who would be on the receiving end of his balled up fist. He was tired of people touching him, prodding him, trying to control him.

"Hey!" the voice snapped as Jake's fist missed by inches, swiping at air.

Jake's eyes widened as his gaze fell upon a mop of wet blonde hair, a dirt-smeared face pulled tight across annoyed features. "You're ah..."

"Leon." the man said warily, eyeing Jake's hands as if waiting for another attack.

"Right. Sorry, dude." Jake told him, not sounding in the least but remorseful at all. "Kind of jumpy. You know how it is." he lied.

Leon shrugged and offered a half-smile. Possibly the fakest half-smile Jake had ever seen that wasn't glued to his own face. Something eased a little in him when Leon indicated the tent beside them and held the material back, gesturing for Jake to enter.

"I've been looking for you. I was hoping we could talk."

Jake rose his eyebrows questioningly. "I ain't got time for any Brokeback Mountain shit. Just 'cause you got the pretty blonde hair don't mean you're exactly my type."

Surprisingly Leon laughed at Jake's quip. Still he waited for him to walk inside. "Me too. But I know another pretty blonde around here who I think is more your tastes. And that's what I want to talk to you about."

Jake's brows dropped. Of course. Sherry had told him about Leon, about the time he'd saved her life... how special he was, how important. And after the somewhat tense introduction the two had shared Jake could guess what it was about Sherry Leon felt the need to discuss.

"Sure." Jake smirked, suddenly feeling the urge to have a little fun. "Let's go talk about our girl."

He didn't miss the twitch in Leon's eye as he passed. The upside of being a merc since he was sixteen had meant he'd always avoided the run-ins with fathers and big brothers with the girls he'd hooked up with. He had liked it that way. But now he was bored, wet and cold. Besides, this might have been Jake's chance to find out a little more about Sherry.

Not to mention... his father. Leon had been involved with BOWs since Raccoon City, or so Sherry had told him. With Redfield still M.I.A, it was either Kennedy or some big-wig clipboard lover he had to rely on for answers.

"Where's you partner?" Jake asked, eyeing the tent which consisted of one small table covered in pens and papers and a few discarded chairs. Homey. "The brunette with the great a-"

Leon glared.

"I was going to say aim." Jake smirked, fanning out both hands in an open gesture as Leon pressed two fingers against the corners of his eyes, rubbing tiredly over the bridge of his nose before stepping inside and pulling out a chair. He sat with his elbows resting on his knees, leaning forward slightly as Jake stood with his hands in his pockets. "I'm disappointed." he admitted quietly. Jake continued to watch, trying to look bored as he rammed both hands inside his jacket. "I've already heard a lot about you, Wesker's son. I can't say I'm impressed..."

Jake's face twisted into a scowl. "What makes you think I give a fuck about what you think?" he spat, his hands clenching in his pockets.

Leon shook his head slowly as his hand began to rub over his stubbled chin. "I know you don't care what I think, or what any of the people outside of this tent think either for that matter. I've seen dozens of rookies like you in the D.S.O. Cocky, self-assured, arrogant-"

"Stop. You're flattering me." Jake crooned, fighting away the urge the take a second attempt at that punch.

"But Sherry sees something else in you Jake. Considering all she's been through, she's always been able to trust people. Sometimes... people who don't deserve it."

Jake made a hissing sound through his teeth as he realised what Leon was getting at. "You're saying I'm untrust-worthy? I just let some guy stick me with a needle and drain my blood for your damn government. What do you think I was going to do?"

"This isn't about your blood Jake. It's not even about your father-"

Jake's eyes narrowed, but he remained silent.

"It's about protecting Sherry. From herself, if needs be."

"Get to the fucking point." Jake snapped, suddenly regretting his decision to have this little talk.

"Okay. I was trying to avoid an old cliché here, but, if you insist." Leon stood, standing at his tallest Jake realised they were about the same height. He also noticed the gun Leon still had tucked into its holster at his side. "If you hurt Sherry, in any way, I don't care how much protection you get from the BSAA or any other organisation for that matter. I will make you pay."

Jake's eyebrows shot up once again as Leon stepped closer. Seriously? He was threatening him for something he had no intention of doing. "I've never laid a hand on Sherry-"

"I'm not talking about that." Leon interrupted, his own blue eyes now a steely grey. "Sherry sees something good in you. I know her, she'll dedicate herself to bringing it out in you. She'll... grow attached."

Jake almost laughed at the insinuation. "Oh, so you're telling me not to sleep with her. That's it?"

Leon looked almost ready to explode as he thought of the young woman he'd once tried to protect... and failed. It seemed bizarre in his mind. Jake was the son of the man who'd started all of this, who'd had a hand in Sherry losing her parents and becoming a science experiment. But he'd watched when Jake saved her from the exploding plane, had pulled her to her feet and held her just that little bit too long, he'd even thrown himself in front of bullets for her. He saw the connection between them.

"That's none of my business," he said tightly, uncomfortable for the first time since he'd pulled Jake aside, "but what I mean is... don't disappoint her. You might not care what anyone thinks of you and who you are, but she's the only one not assuming you're of the same brand of crazy your father came from."

Jake remained silent, shifting agitatedly from foot to foot. The fact that he had been the hot topic of conversation didn't surprise him. Leon crossed the room, stopping only for a second to look back over his shoulder before he left and Jake stubbornly ignored him. "By the way... don't tell Sherry about this. She's grown into a pretty feisty woman, I've got enough of those to deal with without adding her to the list."

He was gone before Jake could come up with one of his usual smart-mouthed come-backs.

He sat, giving in to his tired and aching limbs. It had to have been at least two days since he slept. No doubt he'd pass out for a solid twelve hours as soon as he found a bed. Jake pressed his hands into his eyes, wishing he could carry on through to his racing brain and push every thought and memory of the past day from his head. Jake didn't know what to make of Leon's "observations." So Sherry thought well of him. That was understandable. They'd been through a lot. But that didn't mean Jake owed her anything. He'd never made her any promises. Well, except the one where he would run if Simmons turned out to be a double-crossing bastard. And she hadn't spotted the obvious lie... but that just made her a little naive, right?

Because Sherry wasn't attached to him. They were just... well, not friends. Not comrades or partners. Allies? They'd been fighting for the same cause... eventually. When Jake stopped thinking about his money and more about the rest of the world falling victim to the C-Virus-

Jake practically felt the penny drop as he realised... Sherry's anger earlier, she must have assumed he didn't care about the damage the Virus could do. About everything she'd been fighting against. Jake sighed heavily. She must still think he was the same arrogant money-grabber who'd bargained for cash in exchange for his blood back in Edonia.

He'd have to find her. Explain he'd done it for more than the money. She really had pulled him out of some tights spots over the last couple of months and she deserved a pat on the back for her help.

Jake stood from the table and made for the exit, telling himself all the while that he wasn't doing this for any other reason then to thank her. It wasn't like he really cared if he'd let her down in some way. Disappointed her even.

He owed her.

That was all.


AN: Another Jake/Sherry fic. I can't help myself. Where will this lead?

For those of you reading my other works, Self Sabotage chapter 12 is about 80 percent complete.