The world was saved, and life went on. People moved on, sometimes just because they had no choice in the matter.
Sherry was one such person. Saving the world had resulted in her being left adrift, in the end. She'd muddled on as best she could, trying to construct a semblance of a life on her own for the first time in her life.
She wanted to be out there, cleaning up the world, fighting the good fight against the lingering threat of bioterrorism, administering the C virus vaccine to places that needed it most.
With Simmons revealed to have been a part of the entire disaster, however, his entire staff had been investigated. And she, Sherry, who had been Simmons' ward for nearly half her life, had been deemed irreparably compromised and given a polite, but firm farewell.
She thought she did a decent enough job for herself after that. Even if being a night watchman for a museum wasn't where she wanted to be, it was better than waiting tables, she was good at it, and it was something at least passingly worthwhile. Even the late nights, with her shift ending sometime around sunrise, didn't bother her much. She had her own car, and she'd covertly kept her stun rod.
But it wasn't where she wanted to be, and when she found Jake lingering out in the parking lot outside the museum, her first thought was for the months they'd spent together. The sight of him made her smile until her cheeks hurt. The fact that he smiled back and waved her over made her feel more alive than she had in months.
"Jake!" she cried, hurrying over. "How are you?"
After everything they'd been through, and how long it had been, she didn't hesitate to throw her arms around him. It let her be absolutely certain that he was really here, and that she hadn't started hallucinating out of desperation.
She briefly thought she must be when he hugged her back. But, it had been a long time, the world was still a dangerous place, and they were both fairly danger prone people at the best of times. Maybe he was just glad to see her. Under those circumstances. It would certainly have been easy enough for them to never meet again.
Sherry let herself enjoy the moment before she pulled away. She looked up at him, searching his face for any sign of…well, anything. How he was, or what he was doing here.
"How are you? What are you doing here?"
He looked well enough – no new scars, and she could feel through his shirt that he'd at least been eating enough. And she saw in his eyes that he looked…at ease. Content, maybe. Happy where he was.
She asked him out loud just to see if he'd tell her that himself, and in an effort to focus on him so she didn't focus on herself, and give in to the all too easy jealousy.
"Right now, I'm just happy to have finally found the right museum." said Jake. "D.C. has way too many."
"Why were you looking for museums?"
"I wasn't looking for museums. I was looking for you. Is your shift over?"
"Yeah, it just ended. Why?"
"Because I knew a straight shooter like you wouldn't even skip out on a night shift. Since you don't have to, come on. I'll buy you dinner and fill you in."
"Fill me in? On what?" She knew that she was going to follow him anyway. Just the chance to catch up was too good to pass up. Curiosity, however, made her ask anyway. "Has something happened?"
"Long story and I'm hungry," said Jake, maddeningly vague and completely aware of it. "I'll bring you back for your car later. Do you want to come with or not?"
"Of course I do! Just let me get some things out of my car."
Jake waited until she'd turned away and walked a few steps before he added, "Oh, and since you're stalling…you might want to run back in and tell whoever's taking your place that the thief who's been hanging around is making his move around by the west entrance."
"What? Damn it!"
He tried to hide his laughter as she dashed back to the museum to sound the alarm, but at least he'd told her. Absolutely nothing, it seemed, could knock the wiseass out of Jake Muller.
Sherry knew she wouldn't have him any other way.
One hour later saw the thief in question arrested, and Sherry was more than happy to duck out with Jake to delay having to wrestle with the paperwork. She rode away with Jake, leaving her car there just so she would have to come back and handle it before her next shift.
In the meantime, Jake drove them both to a restaurant-slash-diner a good ways downtown, the sun rising behind them. It was enough of a drive that the place was just starting to open when they arrived.
"And thank god for that," he said, pushing open the door to the sound of a bell above the door. "I may not have been in the country long, but I think the food says enough about the place."
"What's wrong with American food?"
"As an acceptable form of torture? Not a damn thing."
It turned out that the place specialized in Slavic food, instead. It made sense, she supposed, since Jake had grown up on it. She got the impression that he was trying to sell her on his favorite style of food as much as whatever plan he'd come up with, and Sherry didn't mind. She certainly hadn't hated Edonian food the last time she'd had a chance to try it, even if she didn't share Jake's views on the quality of American food.
They waited, making small talk, while the food arrived. Then Sherry waited a little more, mentally revising her assessment on Jake having eaten enough. He dug into the goulash like he hadn't eaten in a week.
Finally, however, she was able to seize a moment where his mouth wasn't full. "Jake, it's nice of you to take me out to dinner like this, but there's more to it than that, isn't there? What did you want to tell me?"
Amazingly and frustratingly enough, his response was to stall again. "I was surprised to hear you aren't with the NSA anymore. What happened with that? Had your fill of B.O.W's and viruses, super girl?"
"Of course not! I wanted to stay on with the NSA, but…"
"I guess so. Because I'd worked with Simmons, they decided I couldn't be trusted anymore. Not so much that they wanted to arrest me, or put me on trial. But…not enough to let me stay."
"That's rough, Sherry. If I'd known, I would have put in a good word for you."
"I know you would have. But…you weren't here. And they probably wouldn't have listened, anyway. So I'm just trying to keep going. Maybe I can't fight bioterrorism anymore, but protecting artwork and history…that's important too, right?"
"Sure it is." He was trying to hide a smile, but she could hear it in his voice. He didn't believe her, probably because she was having to fight to believe herself. "Well, if you're so happy where you are, maybe you don't want to hear what I've got to say at all."
"Jake!" She reached across the table and swatted him on the arm. "Quit beating around the bush! Of course I do!"
"Ow." He rubbed ruefully at the spot she'd just slapped. "Maybe you should stay where you are. Obviously, it's got you working out. Anyway," he added hastily, as she raised a hand threateningly. "I've actually been doing some work, signed on with the DSO. Ring a bell?"
"Yeah. The BSAA, too." A shadow briefly passed over his face, and Sherry knew very well why. She was grateful to see it pass in less than a second, and then Jake was back to business. "Neo-Umbrella might finally be gone, but they've done a lot of damage, and there's still a lot of virus around. Relief workers need protection, J'avo cells need exterminating, C-virus caches need finding…I've been busy. So busy I've been thinking of…well, maybe taking on a partner."
"A partner?" Sherry was scarcely daring to breathe. She managed, however, to gesture to herself. "You mean me?"
"You know any other blonde badasses I should be hitting up?"
"Well, no, but…" Suddenly coming up against yet another fork in the road of her life had thrown her for a wide loop. Sherry felt dizzy.
"But nothing. It's what you want to do, right? Travel around the world delivering the vaccine to the poor and the downtrodden? Well, I want to fight bad guys, and I want to get paid. The way the world is shaping up, I think we can both get what we want for a good long while if we team up. The government wouldn't have to trust your loyalty, when we even bothered to work with them. They'd just have to trust you could get the job done. And you and I both know you can."
Even couched in Jake's usual cynical, smartass terms, it sounded like what she'd been wanting since the government had sent her on her way.
"That sounds wonderful, Jake." She stuck her arm out across the table, elated and made bold with finally having the promise of a future. A dangerous future, but one she could face with a friend by her side. "Partners?"
He shook her hand with a pretense at solemnity that did absolutely nothing to hide the happiness in his eyes. "Partners."
They celebrated by ordering more food, which Jake insisted on paying for. Talk turned to the future, the past, to plans and potential contacts and weaponry comparisons. All told, hashing out where they would go from here, together, lasted them through three courses and two hours. Sherry only realized how much time had passed when she looked up to order some dessert, and realized they were no longer the only people in the restaurant.
The knowledge, the realization that the world was still turning around them, prompted her to ask one more time as she motioned the waitress over.
"Jake…why me? I mean, I guess I was always hopping for something like this, but I thought you'd prefer to work alone."
Jake leaned back in his seat, his hands folded behind his head. This time, he didn't bother to hide his smile, and the fact that he was perfectly at ease with the world and perfectly content to wait until she was as well. "I always thought so, too. But the way I see it, you saved my life back then, super girl. I'm just returning the favor."
This one was definitely the hardest to write, because it's the only one written outside the framework of the game. And it was definitely the most...peaceful. Continuing my attempt at gender equality, girl power, and role flipping, I wanted Jake's bit to be with him taking the traditionally feminine "emotional center" role. Just, you know, being Jake. This is definitely how I hope they wound up after the dust settled, honestly, so if nothing else, I love this one just because it's my favorite headcanon. I hope you enjoyed! I also hope you forgave that cheesy title drop at the end but, mostly, I hope you enjoyed. And I hope to write more of these two in the future along similar lines.