AN: So my mind wandered to the possibility of Rebecca not having told anyone about the events she went through during 0 and after Chris invites her out for a simple night out for drinks between friends, post the events of 6, she is finally driven to do so. Emotional confessions arise from both sides during this fic and I plan on it being multi chapter, I hope you guys enjoy!
Rebecca Chambers habitually pats down the pockets on her corduroy jeans once, twice, three times before remembering that there were no medical supplies in them and- with any luck- tonight she wouldn't have need of them. She had long grown accustomed to pockets jam packed with gauze, sutures and thread for stitches, and Ace bandages plus accompanying sprinkles of lint that to just have her keys and wallet occupying them felt a little odd.
The absence of her first aid belt, so often secured around her waist, meant that her medical gloves, CPR mask, and antiseptic wipes were out of reach. Without the tools that so heavily defined her life Rebecca felt a little lost, but with that sense of confusion came a little bit of freedom. For at least one night in her life she didn't have to worry about bio hazardous materials or outbreaks of new viruses.
"Well, at least until the phone starts ringing," Rebecca says aloud to no one in particular, sighing in resignation as warm summer wind ruffled her hair. The sky is mostly starless, the moon waning to a crescent sliver, night humid but not swelteringly so, and for a panicky, heart stopping moment Rebecca is reminded of Arklay.
Just as quickly as the panic threatens to overwhelm her ,the whir of traffic and the comforting presence of streetlights populating the expanse of Connecticut Avenue yank her thoughts away from shadows and withered corpses stumbling within them.
She sighs and shakes her head, exasperated at her jumpy disposition. "Get a hold of yourself, Rebecca," she self admonishes, eyes flickering to the wristwatch that adorned her right wrist since her days in S.T.A.R.S. 8:55 p.m., the display blinks, and though Rebecca knows she is close to her destination she speeds her steps a little, dark thoughts of ragged hands in corner shadows hastening her steps a little more than she'd like to admit.
Rebecca's free time was often consumed taking up volunteer hours at BSAA clinics- when she was available Rebecca would assist in inoculating BSAA squad members and civilians alike with the latest vaccines or training individual squad medics and schooling them in the practices of field medicine. Her schedule- and therefore her pockets- were so often filled with activities and implements of the life saving, urgent variety.
But tonight was a night for fun and relaxation, away from the pile of paperwork that currently occupied living space on her desk or from BSAA emergency field hospitals filled with the moans of the wounded and dying.
Rebecca checks her cell phone- 9:00 pm, right on time- as she pushes open the doors to Nanny O'Briens pub in Washington, DC. Soft lighting and inaudible chattering from the pubs customers quickly made her feel accommodated as she scans the booths for her date- or dates, as the case might be.
As it were, when Chris Redfield invited someone out for drinks it usually resulted in an extended family outing- even if Jill Valentine and the rest of Chris' varied and sundry colleagues- like the handsome young sniper Piers Nivans- weren't blood related like his treasured sister Claire, they were as close as family.
"Welcome to Nanny O'Briens! Looking for someone?" A blonde waitress with a winsome smile asks, ponytail swishing as she expertly balances a tray plated with frothing mugs of beer.
Rebecca takes a second to read her nametag- Cindy- and, after scanning the woman's soft, kind features, could swear somewhere in the back of her mind that this waitress was familiar.
"Ah, hold on a second- you're with the BSAA group aren't you? Chris mentioned a woman with short brown hair and a round face coming in- we had to pull together a few tables, right this way."
Rebecca follows Cindy, who circumnavigates with practiced ease the crowded tables and her coworkers rushing out trays of food. She eventually leads Rebecca to a hastily arranged crowd of chairs and tables, and over the blur of faces and noise- some readily identifiable and some new- Rebecca spots Chris Redfield.
"Chris!" She calls and has to fight the urge to wave at him like a giddy schoolgirl. He looks up at her, breaking out in a grin as he beckons her over with the warmth and sincerity of an old friend. Even though it'd been a few days since they'd talked Chris always had the capability of making it seem like just hours ago.
She delicately scoots into the unoccupied seat across from him and settles in. Next to him, face slightly ruddy and hair slightly disheveled as if she'd been running her hands through it, is Jill, nursing a clear drink with a wedge of lime artfully balanced on the rim. Rebecca inwardly grimaces at the thought of the flavor of her friend's Gin and Tonic, but she knows Jill is more than capable of handling herself, and that extends to her liquor.
"Rebecca! It's so great to see you, glad you could make it!" Jill is almost bubbly and she covers her mouth with the hand not holding her drink in an almost coy manner. She seems to be holding back a few giggles- the sight of the normally cerebral, mission focused Jill Valentine being able to relax and enjoy a few drinks makes Rebecca smile.
"Likewise," she earnestly replies, glad to see two of her closest friends. Rebecca's eyes scan the rest of the assembled party as Cindy clears away a few empty shot glasses and pitchers. Sitting to Jill's left is a woman with brown skin and a warm, approachable aura in her hazel eyes that matches well with her black hair styled into two girlish pigtails.
"Merah Biji," the woman offers with a hint of an accent Rebecca can't quite place, but her voice is friendly and smooth and Rebecca cannot help but feel like they areold friends. Next to Merah is Chris' partner throughout Edonia and China, Piers Nivans.
Rebecca had been personally unable to accompany the BSAA retrieval squads as they had searched the depths of the Chinese ocean and the ruins of the oil plant for any remains of the presumed deceased young sniper. But official reports read that instead they had found a miraculously intact chrysalid among the collapsed rubble- the chitinous like substance had encased Piers, body coursing hot with the enhanced C-Virus, in airtight, armor like casing. Though the squad was keen to destroy the chrysalid on the account that it could hatch a B.O.W. or it might even be another cocoon of Carla's HAOS weapon, it was instead retrieved and brought to BSAA field labs for further study.
Through the same scientific and biological impossibility that came with the territory of Neo-Umbrella and it's viruses, Piers Nivans had somehow survived. And while his right arm is now a prosthetic and half of his head is still recovering, swathed in bandages, Piers appears jovial, healthy, and above all, human-more than anyone could ask for. He demurs any and all alcohol offered his way with a sincere laugh and a wave, whether it was Cindy asking if he was sure he wouldn't like some of their freshest lager or Merah good naturedly elbowing him and tipping her own drink to him with a wink.
Rebecca notices Barry a few seats down from Piers, still bear like and gruff on the outside but with the warm, easily approachable manner of a family man. He is muttering something to his wife Kathy as his two near grown daughters, Moira and Polly, sit with matching expressions of those who had become well adjusted to BSAA extended family gatherings and their father's subsequent promises of "It'll only last a little while!" only to end up at Nanny O'Brien's for four unbearable hours.
A flash of reddish-brown hair appears in the corner of Rebecca's eye and she recognizes Claire Redfield seated next to her, attired in a red leather jacket, the Queen design emblazoned on the back practically her trademark. Claire absentmindedly rearranges her ponytail and chatters animatedly with Leon S. Kennedy, mentioning TerraSave, and Rebecca catches something about seminars concerning the inoculation and awareness in regards to treatment and recognition of the C-Virus.
Claire takes a sip of her own drink as Leon nods his assent. The DSO Agent, so normally dour with a grim half smile on his face, is nursing a glass of amber gold- Rebecca thinks it might be scotch and has to restrain herself from gagging- and the corners of his lips are pulling upward the way a persons does before they are about to laugh.
"Did you make it here alright Rebecca? No trouble with time or directions or anything?" Rebecca is called away from Claire and Leon's conversation and her focus is now on Jill's nearly imperceptibly slurred words as she takes another sip of her gin and tonic.
"No trouble at all! I worried at first some business might turn up at the last second like it almost always does, I kinda wanted to turn off my phone so no one could interrupt our night."
Jill nods in the understanding, long suffering manner of one long ago accustomed to having what little personal time she could squirrel away often being interrupted by the necessity of their work. Off days and personal time were necessary for the maintenance of both physical and mental welfare, yet bioterrorism scarce took notice of that fact.
Beside her, Chris' eyes seemed to flicker back and forth to the lime wedge perched on the rim of Jill's glass. The burly BSAA captains hands seem to constantly fidget and his gaze darts around the room trying to look anywhere but at the drink, and failing, and Rebecca senses a feeling of shame from her old friend.
Without a word or a judgmental look, Jill carefully takes the gin and tonic and deposits it in her partners hand and as Chris furtively, almost shamefully takes a quick drink, Rebecca notices with a pang of sadness that his hands are shaking. Jill's hand lingers in the air above that of Chris' before she squeezes it reassuringly and Rebecca thinks she sees his shoulders shake, too.
The bar in Edonia, Rebecca thinks, at a loss for words as she remembers the stories of Chris hunched over a filled ashtray and innumerable empty glasses of scotch. I'm so sorry, Chris.
Yet despite the quiet struggle of two of her best friends, the overall general atmosphere is a collective one of animated, earnest conversation and happiness and Rebecca for one is glad for it, even if the root of several of the dialogues she has overheard are inevitably grounded in the work she and her friends do.
She manages to overhear someone calling for a "blowjob shot" and Rebecca turns her head to the bar, where she sees a petite blonde woman in white, a blue scarf contrasting against the pink blush illuminating her cheeks. She is trying and failing to suppress her laughter by covering her mouth with her hands. The man next to her is tall and well built, red hair sheared short and Rebecca sees a sharp, prominent nose and catches a glimpse of a scar decorating his high cheekbones. Between his plump lips is a shot glass, and as he holds his arms behind his back and downs the shot with just his mouth his partner bursts into laughter, light and soft like music.
The young man's intelligent, hawk like blue eyes catch the petite woman's own and his grin is a mile wide and the girl reaches across with a napkin to wipe whipped cream away from his face, and Rebecca cannot help but smile even as something in the pit of her stomach worries at her brain and makes her think of Albert Wesker.
Chris' blue eyes flit over to the pair at the bar and leans closer to Rebecca, "It's hard not to think of him as Albert Wesker's son, isn't it?"
Rebecca brushes her bangs to the side out of habit as Cindy heads towards the bar to prepare her drink. She rests her chin on her right hand, searching for words to articulate how she felt concerning the intel that was classified except for among the ranks of the highest echelons of the BSAA- and their friends.
"It's not like he was the one who shot me in the chest, you know? I can hardly blame Jake for what Capt- " she catches herself and quickly crushes the instinct to refer to him by rank that had become second nature in her days with S.T.A.R.S.- "for what Wesker did. But at the same time…" she falters briefly, saved from awkward silence as Cindy places a Frozen Midori Sour in front of her.
"You look at him and Wesker is who you see." Chris says, and his voice is unexpectedly small, somewhere between ruefulness and regret and his eyes are downcast and almost sad.
Rebecca casts her gaze over to Sherry and Jake again. Sherry is sipping a frothy reddish orange drink topped with a maraschino cherry, her cheeks warm and smile giddy and honest. Rebecca sees Jake, fingerless gloved hands clasped tightly around a glass filled with a drink red as rubies topped with grenadine and he is smiling too, the left side of his face tugging upward into almost a half smirk. His light blue eyes, the color reminding Rebecca of the icy surface of a lake in winter, are lit up as well.
Rebecca thinks of his father and does not once recall those thin, pursed lips of his ever smiling, his expression unreadable due to the dark shades always obscuring his eyes.
"The eyes, and the nose, definitely," she concedes to Chris, swirling her drink around a little as her thoughts wander. "He has that same hawk like quality to his face, that he's always watching you and seeing more than he lets on."
Chris eyes her, an unreadable expression on his face. Rebecca continues after a moment, the taste of melon on her tongue.
"But look at that smile, Chris." Rebecca's own face lights up as she sees how earnest the mercenary is with the petite blonde next to him, a girlish giggle slipping into her voice and she doesn't quite know if it's the infectious atmosphere or the alcohol- probably both. "I don't think it was ever in Wesker to smile like that."
Rebecca threads her fingers together and puts them under her chin as she waits for Chris to respond and after a moment, his blue eyes hesitant and searching, he speaks.
"Rebecca…" at first his voice is small and lost, his tone uneven and fumbling. He stops and starts as several times as if the enormity of what he is about to admit is too much. Finally he breathes deep, shoulders rising and falling, then he continues, blue eyes heavy with emotion and locked with Rebecca's own, "I see him and all I think of is Wesker's hands around my throat, Jill plunging into the darkness and the sound of shattered glass."
"I stared into his eyes as he aimed a gun at my head, finger tight on the trigger just like his father."
His former S.T.A.R.S. compatriot pauses, her open mouth hovering centimeters from the tip of her straw, drink momentarily forgotten. For the first time Rebecca notices a ridged, thin, white scar streaking the expanse of Chris' left cheekbone.
Chris' gaze is heavy and weighted with sadness, grief, and confusion and he is on the verge of saying more but he is interrupted by the clink of glass on the tabletop and the tinkling of ice.
"Chris." Jill's hand reaches across the table and her smaller one rests atop his and she grasps it firmly, reassuringly, her fingers intertwining with those of the man who has been her partner for fifteen years. Her voice is low key so as not to intrude and gentle with sympathy.
At Jill's touch, Chris' blue eyes linger anywhere but his partner's as if he is ashamed to look her in the eyes. But Jill is resolute and cerebral and Jill, and her expression is compassionate and understanding.
No words are exchanged, yet the silence between two of Rebecca's oldest friends spoke volumes.
Rebecca realizes that some walls between the two of them- Jill's years of captivity, her protesting mind hapless to the whims of her body as she carried out the very crimes she swore to stop; the death of Chris' squadmates as he could only helplessly watch and the encompassing agony of watching another partner sacrifice themselves for him- would always be difficult to breach even with the strength of their bond.
Like the son of the man who made our lives hell for ten years. Rebecca thinks, unable to completely bury the sudden worried gnawing at the pit of her stomach and for a paranoid moment that she knows is also a ridiculous one, it feels like her former superior's golden red eyes, cold and scientifically curious, are upon her back and she cannot suppress a shiver as she takes another drink.
Chris puts a hand to his brow and kneads, sighing in frustration at himself before he speaks, "Dammit, Rebecca, I'm sorry. This must hardly be the kind of talk you wanted to hear. Supposed to be a relaxing evening and here I am bringing up all this repressed shit." The hand not worrying his forehead is gripping his glass a little too tightly.
"You know you don't have to apologize for that, Chris. Carrying around the weight of all we've seen and done in our life without letting it go at some point is sure to kill us as any biological weapon."
Chris swallows and scratches at the neckline of his t-shirt, searching for an appropriate response. He opens his mouth as if to speak- but instead he just gutturally croaks. Rebecca patiently waits for the words to come but he just waves his muscular arm as if to ward the words away, scoffing instead.
Rebecca hears the scraping sound of a chair moving across the floor next to her and Claire is standing up and moving to her brother's side, her eyes rolling preemptively at her brother as she speaks. "Well, Chris, I for one think you should be grateful to have people in your life willing to listen to your problems that aren't on the BSAA's bankroll, regardless if it happens to be on a friendly night out."
She deftly pins something behind his ear before returning to her seat, her ponytail swishing as she shakes her head with the fond resignation of one long accustomed to dealing with stubborn, emotionally guarded older brothers, and Rebecca cannot help but grin as she sees Chris Redfield adorned with a tiny cocktail umbrella.
Chris looks slightly bemused at first, a grin tugging at his lips and his eyes crinkling at upwards at the corners as he realizes how silly he looks, a possibility he is not bothered by. "I know it's not quite what you signed up for tonight, but… thanks for listening all the same."
His old friend cannot help but smile in response, elated at the boost in her friend mood. "It's no problem at all, Chris. If I were in the same position I know that you'd listen without saying a word." She leans across the table and grins conspiratorially over the rim of her glass, "The drinks are a plus."
Chris snorts good naturedly in her direction and almost rolls his eyes if it were not for an elbow in the ribs from Jill. He then clears his throat and mumbles, "Well, thanks. Again." His clenched hands rest on the center of the table as Chris looks at his sister, who is chatting pleasantly with Sherry and Jake at the barstools.
Rebecca notices the slight, almost indiscernible trembling of his hands and her face falls. She is about to open her mouth to speak, maybe offer words of comfort, and failing that, a drink to ease his nerves, but her mouth snaps shut as the tall mercenary and his petite blonde partner are suddenly approaching their table.
"You used to be part of the military?"
Jake Muller's voice is different from his father's- not cold and calculating with manipulative pretense just bubbling under the surface like a flask of chemicals. He is straightforward and honest, his intentions as plain as the scar on his face.
Rebecca's face tinges pink and she splutters for an answer as her hands rush habitually to the dogtags around her neck, scuffed and faded underneath her clothes. Rebecca's eyes meet Sherry's and the blonde has a mortified, apologetic expression on her face apparent even through the warm aura blanketing her cheeks.
"I am so sorry," Sherry interrupts before Rebecca's slightly muddled mind can put an answer into words. The young woman steps forward and puts hands on her hips as she glares disapprovingly at her much taller partner. Sherry does not even say a thing and a pout is already apparent on Jake's face.
"What? I've noticed she's been fiddling with the necklace throughout the night and I saw a pair of dogtags. She looked a little bit like she was piningand I thought 'well that's no way for a girl to be on a night out with her friends' and since Redfield over there got all soul baring," a scoff from Chris punctuates Jake's words, and if Jake is bothered by the fact that Chris had a few choice words regarding the mercenary it certainly doesn't show," I thought maybe she needed to clear her head."
"Jake." And though the top of Sherry's blonde bob barely reaches Jake's adam apple he is thoroughly cowed by just the utterance of his name. "That might be information she doesn't want to share, and you had no right to pry."
"Sherry, she looked sad enough to where I don't even think a kamsia would cheer her up," Jake says earnestly and Rebecca is touched by his concern for a complete stranger even if his manner of acting upon it was a bit… forward.
Jill gives Rebecca a knowing look over her gin and tonic and Rebecca thumbs her dog tags, a reassuring presence in her hand as she traces Billy's name printed onto the stainless steel.
"I think you're using that term wrong." She says, a quiet correction not particularly aimed at Jake, the words slipping out of her mouth almost too inaudible for her own ears to hear.
Through a sudden haze of memory of Marine terminology- punctuated with curses- and tipsiness she can hear Sherry berating her partner about his habit of "always seeing and hearing everything even when it isn't needed" and Jake crossing his arms with a "hmph!" in a manner highly reminiscent of a petulant child .
"What is the story behind those dog tags, exactly?" Rebecca is startled from her reverie by Chris' question. His blue eyes hold her gaze, curious, but not pryingly so.
Rebecca reaches underneath her shirt to withdraw the two dog tags and let them rest in the palm of her right hand, a comfortable weight, warm from the ministrations of her fingers and, perhaps, from her fond memories.
"In the helicopter, after the Spencer Mansion, you were wearing them too," Chris states, not a question but a mere admission of fact, his own eyes dark, lost in the memory of their escape from the brutal terrors of that night fifteen years ago, "but never around the S.T.A.R.S. office."
"If you're willing to share, I'm willing to listen. Who did they belong to?"
Rebecca pauses, her fingers fiddling with the chain to occupy her hands while her mind searched for the proper words. Giving his name would be simple enough- Billy Coen, former U.S. Marine, Lieutenant rank, wrongfully convicted of the murder of 23 African non combatants and sentenced to death July 22nd, 1998. But such a brief summary didn't capture the enormity of what they lived through together and just describing him as a court case was a disservice to him as well as her friends.
The sentencing of a crime he was not guilty of was a verdict that went up in the flames of Raccoon City.
"A friend?" She mistakenly thinks aloud, eyes narrowing in frustration. A friend was someone more than a person whom you spent the night fighting for your life with half a lifetime ago. Someone you got to talk to regularly, make phone calls discussing the most mundane details of your life with, someone who you could go to dinner with.
"Someone who wasn't legally declared dead," she declares aloud, the barrier between her thoughts and words completely ignored, her voice bitter with regret. Chris gives her a look of concern.
Labeling Billy Coen as an "acquaintance" seemed to discredit all he'd done to help her that dark July evening. And a partner… he was her partner in the sense that they worked together, watched each other's backs, but that ended as soon as she tore the dog tags from his neck and Rebecca took the path that Billy could not follow.
Someone she loved? She savagely shook her head- schoolgirl fantasies of the tall, dark, and handsome Marine sweeping her off her feet and carrying her to safety, to a world free from the terrors they had witnessed together, to a place where they could explore each other's bodies, every dimple, every scar. Those thoughts belonged to a lovestruck, whimsical eighteen year old full of optimism and idealism, a Rebecca that hadn't had to shoot Edward Dewey between the eyes.
"They belonged to…" she thinks, pauses, hefts the enormity of what she is trying to say with her mind as she desperately wants to explain what Billy Coen means to her, to sum up the entirety of who Billy Coen was- is she corrects herself fiercely, because even after fifteen years and the last image of him vanishing into the dark forests of Arklay she does not, cannot believe that he is dead.
She wonders if she can ever adequately describe the all consuming wild terror that caused her heart to hammer against her chest as that fateful first passenger on the Ecliptic Express rose from its seat with a ravaged face, marred hands reaching for her throat- and how that fear dissipated into incredulity as the first words Billy Coen had ever said to her were, "So, you seem to know me. Been fantasizing about me, have you?" How his dark gaze was careful, guarded, wary but still tinged with hope at finding another survivor even as he gazed down the sights of his 9mm aimed at her head.
How the handcuff dangled constantly from his left hand and tingled in time with the steps of his feet, how his slicked back hair save for two short, dark strands gave him an almost wild look. The whoop of joy he let out when he found ammunition when they were running dry, the snarls of rage he let out as he fired at the large centipede that had held Rebecca captive in its grip. His easy stride and confidence with weapons, his determined assuredness, how his hand surged forward like lightning and grabbed hold of her wrist as her strength failed and she began to fall.
The pure, unabashed relief she saw on his face as he pulled her close and held her tight, the gently thudding beat of his heart calming her own. The abrasions that littered his chest and arms after he fell into the surging waters of the Treatment Facility and the way he clenched his teeth and hissed as she tended to his injuries, the way his skin tensed, then relaxed, under her touch, her own skittish nerves calmed by the gentle rise and fall of his chest and by the fact that he was alive.
The way her cheeks burned crimson red at his bare chest and the silencing of the butterflies fluttering in her stomach as she projected her veneer of focused professional tending to his wounds. The nicknames- "honey, princess, dollface, Miss Do-It-Yourself," and how as the night wore on she became slowly endeared to each and every one. How he had opened up and told her the events of the year before that had weighed heavily on his chest, sure as any death sentence.
The jagged edges and stylized circles of the Mother Love tattoo that snaked across his right arm, branding him a Queen fan. Her fingertips dancing across his collarbone as she took his dog tags and felt the faint beating of his heart. The complete earnesty of his voice, grateful and tinged with a little sadness as he told her, "Thank you, Rebecca," and her last memory of him, turning on his heel and vanishing into the forest, one that was still emblazoned into the core of her being fifteen years later.
She is opened up and hollowed out and the tears spring to her cheeks. Rebecca does not wipe them away as they fall and she grasps Billy Coen's dog tags in her palm a little too tight.
"They belong to someone very important to me."