Jake had collapsed on to the first available bunk and fallen into a sleep deep enough one could almost mistake him for a coma patient. For ten solid hours he slept, one hand resting against his chest as the other cradled the back of his head. It was unusual for him to sleep so easily, his mind surprisingly at rest in his slumber as the sheer exhaustion of the last few days overcame years worth of bad sleeping habits. Perhaps this was why, when he was finally shaken awake by a rough hand on his shoulder, his initial instinct was not to lash out at the unknown person trying to force him back into consciousness but to slur a few choice curses and roll away.
"It's like trying to wake the dead..." he heard a voice say.
"Let him sleep," added a second. A voice that made Jake picture blue eyes and an unsure smile as he fought his way back to happy obliviousness. Against his better judgement he cracked one eye open and peered over his shoulder. Two blurred figures came into view. A man no longer smeared with dirt and blood was leaning over him, his focus on the woman standing further away with her arms crossed tightly over her chest as she turned from them.
"He won't talk to anyone until he wants to anyway."
"She still pissed?" Jake thought to himself as Sherry began to walk away. Her voice had been unnaturally flat and expressionless, reminding him of how she'd apologised for letting him down. For trusting Simmons and walking into his trap. Jake groaned as the last vestiges of sleep escaped his clutches. "I'm up, I'm up." he grumbled, rolling on his back and making Leon start. The older man quickly smothered a look of puzzled concern as Sherry hesitated before turning to face them.
"That's what I like to see," Jake continued, swinging his feet over the side of the bunk as he rolled the stiffness from his neck and shoulders, "a hot blonde waiting eagerly at my beside when I wake."
Sherry rolled her eyes heavenward just as Jake looked at Leon's pained expression and smirked. "Oh, and it's good to see you too Sherry."
Leon's brows shot up as Sherry's turned inward into a deep scowl. "You're wanted." she told him bluntly, her arms remaining firmly fixed around her small body, which Jake now noticed was wearing a new set of clothes. Momentarily, inexplicably, he wondered if she too had been denied the luxury of new underwear.
The image of her standing half concealed behind a locker door, her hospital gown falling to the floor and revealing long legs attached to the tightest ass he'd ever seen beneath white cotton-
"Did you hear me?" Sherry repeated as Jake's eyes glazed over. Was he mocking her, she wondered? Maybe now he didn't need her to watch his back or bargain for money his interest in playing nice with her was disappearing. "Jake?"
Jake shook his head sharply as her voice quickly brought him back to reality, "Yeah?"
"I said you're wanted for debriefing. Can you pay attention long enough to handle it?"
Even Leon flinched a little at the icy chill in her voice. Jake fought the urge to cock one eyebrow sarcastically at her and flip her the bird. He was tired, he ached all over and the sudden loud growl from his stomach told him he was long overdue a decent breakfast. Whatever her problem was, he wasn't in the mood to deal with it right now.
"I can do my best." he replied, impressing himself with this newfound control that had already stopped him marching from the tent and disappearing without a word. "But if it's okay with you, I'd like to find some decent grub first."
Sherry opened her mouth before quickly closing it again, her fingers digging into the sleeves of her dark blue blouse before she merely nodded and gestured for him to follow. "Leon, you coming?" she asked, walking past both men without so much as a backward glance.
"I think I'll sit this one out... I ate about three days ago..."
Jake was sure the last part of his sentence had been caught by his ears only. Leon offered him a look of both pity and annoyance as Jake passed silently, working hard to keep his expression blanked out. He wondered what Leon made of Sherry's new attitude toward him since their conversation, no doubt he was already blaming Jake for Sherry's foul temper.
Sherry disappeared behind the curtain of the tent, letting it fall back, effectively slamming the door in Jake's face. "Screw this." Jake hissed, pushing the material aside with enough vigour that he was certain he heard it tear. Sherry was already walking ahead, pointedly not waiting for him.
"Hey!" he barked sharply, closing the gap between them with a few large strides. His hand landed on Sherry's shoulder and he spun her round to face him, his mouth already pulling back into an angry snarl as he prepared to let her know in no uncertain terms what he thought of her newly discovered inner bitch. His words died in his throat however as she stumbled, a hand coming out to grab his forearm as she caught her balance and looked up at him with her eyes blue eyes shocked and unguarded as his touch startled her out of her thoughts. The silent judgment and frustration Jake was sure he'd seen filling those large orbs melted away when his free hand came up to steady her by placing itself firmly against her waste.
The moment didn't last long. Sherry jumped back as if burnt by his touch, her expression quickly returning to one of hardened aloofness as Jake's hands fell to his sides.
"Well aren't you queen of the mood-swing." he said with a condescending tilt of his head.
Sherry's eyes narrowed, "Do you want to eat or not? Because I've got a lot of work to do today and babysitting you isn't high on my list of priorties."
Jake almost flinched as her words stabbed painfully in his chest, only to be quickly replaced however, but hot anger bubbling beneath his skin. His mouth turned into a cruel snarl as he unknowingly took a step toward her. "So get lost then," he hissed, "I didn't ask you to come wake me, and I certainly never asked you to babysit me. You got what you wanted, so why don't you all just leave me the fuck alone!"
His boots left deep imprints in the mud behind him as he stormed away, the image of Sherry's open mouth and wide eyes burning in his head. Who the hell did she think she was? Was this the way it was now then? Whatever bond they'd apparently forged after everything they'd been through had apparently been nothing but a farce. For all he knew Sherry had faked the whole thing. He'd actually been stupid enough to think she'd started to care about him when all she was interested in was getting him back to her bosses in one piece.
He was an idiot. Leon was full of shit. Of course Sherry hadn't seen anything in him other then the vaccine that could be made from his blood, and no doubt the big pat on the back she was getting now for keeping his ass alive.
Jake stopped when he realised he didn't know where he was going. He glared at the few who passed him by, shooting him nervous glances, until he heard a voice calling his name, quickly approaching from behind. Jake clenched his fists and jammed them in his pockets as he continued walking, not stopping once the footsteps finally reached his side and Leon pressed a hand against his shoulder. Jake swore at him loudly, pulling away from the older man and continuing on his way.
"Jake, calm down!" Leon demanded, matching Jake's stride.
"Get lost." Jake snapped.
His next step was stopped abrubtly as a hand fisted itself in the material of his jacket, forcing him to stumble and turn slightly as Leon closed the space between them and stood nose to nose with Jake, staring hard at him as Jake slowly removed his fists from his pockets.
"I've had just about enough of your bullshit Muller," Leon told him, keeping his voice low enough that the passers-by who had stopped to witness the tense exchange couldn't hear his words. "When are you going to grow up and see there are more important things in this world than you and your damn tantrums."
Jake could feel his hands trembling as he refused to step back, refused to give Leon the upper hand. He hadn't pinned Leon as the type to get down and dirty, but if it was a fight he was after then Jake would gladly oblige. It was just the release he needed after all the shit he'd been through.
"Fuck you Kennedy," he bit, feeling his rage finally beginning to seep through the wall of his control, "And you know what. Fuck your government. Fuck your bosses and your fuck your damn vaccine." The words tumbled from his mouth before he could stop them. "And just for good measure, fuck Sherry too-"
The fist that struck his jaw was stronger then he'd anticipated, sending him reeling backwards into the mud as voices erupted around them. He was half-way to pulling himself upright when Leon suddenly kicked him back into the mud, his fist coming back a second time and aiming right for Jake's face. With a strength unlike any man he'd ever met before, Jake's foot lashed out and struck him on his thigh, dangerously close to what Jake had intended as his target. Leon stumbled back, ignoring the shouts and approaching figures as Jake leapt to his feet and charged, wrapping his arms around Leon's waste as they both fell back against the ground. The wind being knocked from Leon's lungs as Jake landed blow after blow on his face and chest. Blood spurted from Leon's nose as he managed to take hold of Jake's fist with both of his own. Still, that left Jake with one free hand. A hand that was suddenly caught around the wrist by someone stupid enough to try and pull apart their fight. Not thinking, not even bothering to look, Jake pulled his wrist free and struck the body standing ridiculously close to him.
His very blood froze as the cry met his ears. A breathless shout that sounded all too familiar.
Leon lay forgotten as Jake turned and paled as Sherry stared at him from her slightly curled position in the wet grass and mud, one arm wrapped around her middle where Jake's fist had made contact. He barely had time to utter her name, let alone begin the apology already forming on his lips when he was wrenched from where he sat astride Leon and thrown face down on the ground. His arms were pulled behind him painfully as something cold and metal sealed themselves around his wrists.
Jake turned his face, smearing mud over his jaw to see Leon pulling Sherry to her feet. The woman staring from Leon's bloodied nose to Jake. Her hand pressing to her middle as she stood, bending a little at the tenderness in her abdomen.
She looked away as Jake was pulled to his feet. A dozen armed soldiers dragging him away from the growing crowd.
Jake didn't fight back, as he would usually have done. He had gone unusually limp in the soldier's grasp.
The heat of his anger had been replaced by something cold and unpleasant. A nasty taste in his mouth that had nothing to do with the grime marring his skin. The soldiers were saying something to him, but he didn't hear them as he was led inside yet another featureless tent and thrown onto a metal chair. More cuffs kept his hands and feet fixed to the chair, leaving him unable to move as he was suddenly made breathless by a fist colliding with his own stomach.
"Mercenary scum," spat the man in disgust.
Jake kept his eyes fixed firmly in front of him, ignoring the shapes moving around him. All he could see was Sherry lying on the ground, her face filled with such confusion and pain. Pain he'd caused, because he'd lost control. Jake had never hurt someone who couldn't defend themselves before. It had been the very last moral he'd held on to after his mother had died. Not that Sherry was helpless in any way, but still... Jake hadn't just hit a woman, he'd hit Sherry.
It was then he knew the anger he'd felt toward her before had been entirely false. He closed his eyes against the images in his head, only making them stronger as he recalled the countless times he'd thrown himself in front of harm's way for her. All erased, because of one dick move on his part.
He wasn't sure how long he sat there, silent and unmoving as he ignored the soldier's spitting insults and dark looks his way. All he knew was that his body was beginning to ache with the way his arms and legs had been restrained, no doubt done on purpose by his guards to cause him maximum discomfort. He let the growing pain wash over him, accepting it, wishing it was more...
A woman entered the tent. A woman dressed in a well fitted, black pencil skirt, a red silk blouse beneath a buttoned black blazer and ridiculous heels. Jake watched her blankly as she ushered the soliders from their positions and pulled up a chair of her own. A slight frown appared on Jake's face as he took in the woman's features. A small, straight nose above a thin, severe mouth. The woman was dressed as if preparing for a day in the office. Her eyes, a dark brown surrounded by lashes weighed down by heavy mascara, looked him over expectedly.
"So," she began lightly, crossing one leg over the other as her hands rested upon her knee, "You're Jake Wesker."
"Muller." Jake corrected her. "I don't know any Wesker."
The woman tilted her head to one side, her mouth still thin and unsmiling. Jake guessed she had to at least be in her thirties, perhaps older if the reason for her fixed expression was a couple of thousand dollars worth of surgery.
"Of course you don't. I've already been briefed on your history, Mr Muller."
"Well, goody for you." Jake said with a roll of his eyes, mild annoyance finally pricking at the numbness he'd been layering himself with from the moment he'd been cuffed to his seat.
"The psychological profile was at least accurate..." the woman told him, the slightest twitch of her mouth hinting at a smile.
So he'd been analysed, no doubt labelled some kind of violent nut, he guessed.
"Although Miss Birkin had a few things to say to the contrary of our assessments," the woman continued, reaching up to tuck a strand of loose honey-brown hair behind her ear, "That's why I'm here. After your little outburst just now there are those of us who think you to be a security risk."
Jake tried to summon his usual trademark smirk, and failed. Instead he sighed heavily, shifting as best he could in his chair so his arms pulled at the restraints now rubbing sorely against his skin. So Sherry had defended him? He wondered if she regretted it now...
"Then I would completely understand if you asked me to leave," Jake replied, sarcasm dripping from his voice, "Just stick me on a plane and fly me back to Edonia."
"Is that what you want?" the woman asked, lifting her eyebrows questioningly. "To return to that... place. What will you do?"
Jake shrugged, uneasy all of a sudden under the woman's intense gaze."Same thing I always do, lady. Keep on surviving."
"I see... and what about the fifty million you requested. Would you still like that in cash?"
Jake didn't respond as his unease turned into suspicion. He had the strangest feeling that this was some kind of test. "Who the hell are you?" he asked.
The woman drummed her fingers against her knee as she peered over her shoulder. The shape of two soldiers could be seen waiting patiently just outside, just out of earshot. "I'm the person who's assessment of your mental state could grant you your freedom, or..."
Jake didn't need to hear what came after "or". His eyes narrowed into glowing slits as he bared his teeth. "Is that a threat?" he growled.
"It's a fact." the woman pointed out with a wave of her hand, "After your attack on two of our agents just now, not to mention your colourful past as a mercenary and your run ins with the BSAA, we're not going to just let you wander freely about the place if you pose any risk to our proceedings."
Jake held back the string of curses threatening to escape him. "Kennedy threw the first punch." he pointed out, "I was defending myself."
He didn't give a damn if he got Kennedy into some kind of trouble. He knew he'd provoked the hit, he'd been purposefully pushing his buttons, trying to get a reaction out of good old Saint Leon.
"And Miss Birkin...?" the woman asked, her eyes growing more curious, more watchful, as Jake froze.
The sound of Sherry's cry echoed in his ears, sending a jolt of regret and self-loathing through him as he broke the woman's gaze. "An accident. I didn't know it was her..."
"So you just blindly attacked the people who saved your life."
Jake knew the woman wasn't asking a question, but making a point. "What do you want me to say? You want an apology? Fine. Kennedy threw the first punch, but it's in my nature to hit back twice as hard. Sherry... shouldn't have got involved." Jake began ranting, unable to stop himself as his frustrations began to overflow. He'd been an idiot, he knew it. But he didn't know why. Why he was being such an ass, so difficult and resentful. He closed his eyes tiredly. He never thought he'd admit it, but he was missing his old, simple life. Eat, sleep, kill, collect your pay. Repeat until you have enough cash to squander it away, then start again.
"Mr Muller," the woman interrupted his thoughts, her voice now surprisingly gentle as Jake opened his eyes and looked into hers. The tightness around her mouth had faded somewhat, and her own dark brown eyes had lightened to a golden hue. Jake grunted to let her know he was paying attention even as his eyes moved to stare at the feet of her chair. "Mr Muller... I came here to decide whether or not to make you an offer. An offer that could very well change your life."
Jake didn't respond. What was it, more money in exchange for his cooperation with more tests? He doubted it. Surely they'd just take whatever it was they wanted from him, permission or no.
So the woman's next words took a few seconds to sink in as he tried to fathom the reason behind her offer. After all, she couldn't have just asked him if he would consider a role within the D.S.O, could she?
Jake blinked up at the woman's amused expression. "What?" he breathed.
"I said," she repeated, "after all the evidence and testimony from agents Birkin and Kennedy, we at the D.S.O see a great deal of potential in you as a special agent, predominantly as an operative in the field of bioterrorism."
"Cut the crap," Jake hissed, "And tell me what you really want. There's no way you'd just hand me a job, no strings attached."
"Correct." the woman nodded, uncrossing her knees and leaning forward. For some reason Jake had the urge to pull away, her slight smile reminding him of the perpetual grin he'd always seen on the snakes in the Edonian wilds. A deep sense of mistrust towards this woman began to make itself known as he forced himself to remain still. "For starters, you won't receive your fifty million dollars. It would be... unseemly, to pay one of our agents such a substantial sum."
Jake tsked loudly and shrugged his shoulders, "Damn. Well, there goes the private jet and speedboat I had on order."
"Not to mention, we'd require complete and utter loyalty to our organisation and country. You would have to cut all ties with your previous life."
Easy, Jake thought. He had none. Not that it mattered. Not that he would even consider taking her up on her ridiculous offer. "Listen, sweetheart, you might as well walk your pretty little self out of this tent now since I have no intention of ever joining up with your band of merry soldiers. Got it?"
The woman sat back in her chair, looking genuinely disappointed. "Shame. You showed much promise. Our surveillance showed you seemed to exert far more potential in the field than your father ever did-"
She stopped when Jake's head snapped up at the mention of his father. So, Albert Wesker had been an agent as well as a crazy-assed scientist. Go figure.
"Ah. But of course, you couldn't have known that. Albert Wesker's files are completely and utterly confidential. There are only a select few who know all there is to know about your father, Mr Muller."
Jake choked out a low laugh. Bribery now, was it? He sat back in his chair and smirked as he wondered what it was that was making this woman so desperate to have him accept the offer. Honestly, ever since he'd began learning the truth about his father, it had opened a wound that never seemed to have really healed. A hole within his own heart yearning to know more, no matter the horror or disgust he felt. The sense of self-hatred it fuelled after so many years of pushing that darkness down.
"Let me guess, I'm sure there would be something you could do about that... as long as I come and work for you..."
Jake was beginning to guess exactly who this woman was. It should have been obvious, the way the soldiers left without hesitating, the apparent fact that she knew everything about the last few months, and more, perhaps. Although he was surprised by the haste in which they'd managed to replace Derek Simmons. That in itself spelled "fishy" in about a hundred different ways.
"Well, Mr Muller... do I have your interest now?"
Jake tilted his head to one side and eyed the woman, his usual cocky arrogance flooding back with vengeance. He paused, drawing out the wait as her fingers once again began to tap impatiently against her knee. He opened his mouth to reply-
The sound of an explosion that rocked the very ground beneath his feet, sending his chair and he along with it, crashing to the ground. His head struck the earth hard enough to send his vision spinning as the room was suddenly flooded with voices and bodies. The woman was circled, protected instantly. Jake felt himself being pulled upright again and had to fight the urge to vomit into his lap. He tried to ask what had happened as he heard guns being loaded, orders being shouted.
Two words stood out clearly in the chaos that quickly escalated.
Jake's heart skipped a beat in his chest as he began to pull frantically at his cuffs, his mouth forming the name of the only thing he could think about as screams began to tear through the air.
He felt something hit him square in the mouth as a voice told him to shut up and stay still. Jake cursed, struggling to get free. He had to go. Why didn't they understand? He couldn't just sit here when Sherry was in danger. She'd be at the forefront of the defense, putting herself between the BOWs and the civilians taking refuge, he just knew it. She was stupidly brave like that.
"Get these things off me, now!" Jake shouted, the solider at his side glancing nervously at the shadows running by the tent door to Jake's scowling face. "You want to wait here watching me, or do you want to stop those things?"
He could see the drip of sweat trailing its way over the soldiers jaw line just as voice piped up from between the close circle of guards holding their rifles aloft. "Let him go!" the nameless woman instructed, "And for god's sake give him a gun!"
Jake didn't bother to wonder why she was suddenly granting him his freedom, for all she knew he was going to make a run for it and use the BOW attack as a distraction. Except, he realised, she had probably heard him shouting for Sherry. His hands were released and a handgun pressed into his hands along with refills. He didn't have time to mull over the woman's decision or even throw a thank you in her direction as he ran from the rent, straight into the stampeding mass of panicking bodies running toward him.
Diving into the crowd Jake pushed his way through until the sound of gunfire and inhuman shrieks met his ears. His lips turned up into a heartless smile as his eyes fell upon the first BOW being mowed down, blood and guts sliding over the wet grass. There were no more civilians blocking his way, only soldiers running, shouting orders, bringing in more ammunition. Jake searched frantically for that familiar mess of blonde hair, making his way back to the refugee tent he'd last seen her by. Leaping up onto the bonnet of one of the armoured cars he stood and looked amongst the madness, only for his attention to be pulled away from the various groups of soldiers toward the oncoming threat in the distance, growing closer as the seconds sped by. His mouth dropped as he swore, his brows lifting in disbelief. He'd seen monsters before, creatures mutated and turned into something ugly and inhuman. But the wave of groaning, staggering bodies moving with a speed that surprised him was new.
Jake watched as the soldiers emptied their rounds into the oncoming tide. Some of the bodies fell to the ground, their limbs being torn from them and their insides spilling onto the earth. Yet still they ambled forward, hands reaching out before them as their mouths snarled and frothed. Jake felt a fear in him then like none he'd felt before. It was the eyes. The wide, white emptiness of their eyes. Even as the mutated creatures swept amongst them and crashed through the barriers, Jake couldn't tear his gaze away.
This couldn't be a random attack, he thought darkly. There were too many of them, the were too... organised, if that were the word.
Jake leapt from the vehicle and started up his search again, real panic beginning to make itself at home in his chest. This was going to be bad, he thought to himself. Worse then anything he'd seen so far. And yet he couldn't just high-tail it out of there like he usually would have. His fear wasn't for himself, but for the blonde agent who, only hours previously, he'd insisted he didn't give a fuck about.
"Damn it Sherry," he shouted over the gunfire, "Where are you?"
Disclaimer: I own no rights to the resident evil franchise.