Leaves made a crunching sound when they were crushed by light feet, clad in gently used black combat boots. The woman sighed loudly as she stopped, not three feet away from a tombstone. Her bright blue eyes read over the epitaph, tears burning at her eyes.
In loving memory
She held her breath, then exhaled. It came out jagged, clearly the woman was close to tears. She inhaled sharply, then held it in until it hurt, then let it out again. A breathing technique she developed to stop her from crying. It worked- most of the time, anyway.
She kneeled down, touching the gravestone delicately. She wore a long sleeved black T-shirt with a gray, sleeveless jacket over top of it, the inside soft and fluffy. She matched it with a pair of worn jeans. They were faded and had holes on them, but she didn't care. She never wore bright colors on days like these.
The sound of rough footsteps was behind her, but she didn't move, didn't look away.
"Claire," A gentle hand was placed on her shoulder comfortingly. "How'd I know you'd be here again?"
"Because you always do, Barry," She smiled softly, looking up at him. He wore a button-up white shirt and black dress pants. His hair had a few gray hairs popping in here and there, and he was still in good shape.
"You're not the only one who misses her," Barry stated. "We all do."
Claire sighed, looking at the ground. "Believe me, I know. Have you seen Chris lately? He's not taking it so well."
"None of us are, Claire," Barry chuckled humorlessly. "Kathy's been pouring herself into her work. Jill was like a daughter to her. And Polly and Moira miss their Aunt Jill." Barry smiled, recalling when Jill first met the kids back in 1996. Moira was only 4 and Polly was about to turn 6. They loved her immediately, declaring her their new Aunt. They called her that ever since.
"Chris went back to his drinking," Claire mumbled, remembering that after he was kicked out of the Air Force, he would get drunk on a daily basis to numb the pain. Only now it was much worse. "It's not fair, Barry. Why the hell does this have to happen to us?"
Barry leaned down, gathering her in his arms. "I don't know, but, if it wasn't for Jill, you'd be mourning Chris right now. Or worse yet- both of them."
Pulling away, she sobbed quietly. "But why? After eight years of not knowing where he was, why did Wesker have to be there that night? It's unfair!"
"I wish I had answers for you, kiddo." Barry sighed, sitting down in the grass next to her.
"So, how was work today?" Claire suddenly asked, changing the subject.
Barry shrugged. "Normal. Polished the guns, prepared the ammo."
After Raccoon City, Barry decided not to fight against Umbrella because he wanted to protect his family. However, he helped Chris and Jill track leads and gather weaponry. They remained close, visiting each other frequently. After the B.S.A.A. was reformed in 2005, Chris and Jill recruited him. He worked in the North American branch, preparing weapons for the soldiers.
Claire, on the other hand, worked in TerraSave, helping out survivors of biohazard outbreaks. She frequently visited Sherry Birkin, the little girl she'd saved in Raccoon City, who'd grown-up way too fast. She stayed with Sherry as they performed daily tests on her to try and create a G-Vaccine.
A sweet, yet sad voice called behind them. "Hey guys," A young woman, only a year younger than Claire, walked over to them. She wore a light green tank top with tan capris and combat boots.
"Good to see you, Rebecca. How have you been?" Barry stood up and hugged the young woman.
"Decent. Been having a hard time dealing with... you know," she said quietly. Rebecca's hair was similar to what it was during her time in S.T.A.R.S., except it was longer and she moved part of her bangs in front of her face.
"You're not alone," Claire replied. "But how's work?"
Rebecca smiled. "I love it. The soldiers are really nice to me and they tell me interesting stories. It's the best job ever."
Like Barry and Claire, Rebecca decided not to return to the fight. She went back to college, earning her Doctorate degree within 4 years. She acted as Chris and Jill's personal doctor during their fights against Umbrella, and remained close to them. Much like Barry, they asked her to join the B.S.A.A.. She jumped at the offer, first starting out as a medic in the North American branch. Soon, they promoted her to the head doctor at the European Headquarters. In 2002, she also rekindled with Billy Coen, and the two married in 2004. With Barry's help, Billy's name was also cleared.
Claire smiled. "That's sweet, Becky."
"Yeah, thanks. So, Claire, did you hear the news?"
She raised an eyebrow. "What news?"
"About Carlos? Carlos Oliveira?"
Barry and Claire shook their heads. "No. Last I heard he joined the South American branch of the B.S.A.A. after Jill died. She kept asking him to join but he always said no," Claire spoke.
"Did something happen to him?" Barry asked, concerned. No one kept close contact with him, yet he would help with Umbrella whenever they needed it.
"Nothing bad, I promise." Rebecca reassured. "You know that girl he was dating? Michele, I think it was. Well, turns out he proposed to her last week. He wants us to come to the wedding."
"Oh, and he said he loved Jill. My ass..." Claire said bitterly.
"You're only mad because you wanted Chris and Jill to get married," Rebecca spoke in a matter-of-fact tone.
"So? I know I joked about it a lot, but you know they loved each other," Claire retorted.
"That's true. I've never seen him as happy as he was with her, married or not," Barry chuckled.
"Speaking of Chris, where is he?" Rebecca asked.
"Not coming," Claire answered sadly. "He usually comes by here, though. A little too much."
Rebecca sighed. "He's taking it that bad, huh?"
Barry shook his head. "You have no idea."
"Do you think we could go see him?"
Claire rubbed her temple. "Trust me, you wouldn't want to see him right now."
Rebecca sighed, closing her eyes. "I could understand why he's taking it so hard. He feels guilty, doesn't he?"
"Yes, but he won't even listen to me anymore," Claire said. "I've been trying to get through to him, but nothing."
"For Chris, that's saying something," Barry pointed out. The Redfield siblings would always help each other out. Claire helped Chris after getting kicked out of the Air Force. Chris practically raised Claire, and helped her out after Steve's death, which hit her pretty hard.
"Jill was like a sister to me," Claire spoke softly.
"Me too," Rebecca added.
They all fell silent, just staring at the empty tombstone.
After a few moments, Barry spoke up. "What time is it?"
Rebecca checked the clock on her phone. "Almost 5:30."
"Hey, maybe Kathy could cook up something for us to eat? It would help take her mind off things," Barry suggested.
"That sounds great!" Claire exclaimed, getting up. "Let's go!"
Rebecca smiled, "Would you mind if I invite Billy, too?"
Barry shook his head. "It's no problem."
The three of them piled into Barry's car, chatting on the way there. Barry, Claire, Rebecca, Billy, Polly, Moira, Kathy, and even Chris sat and enjoyed dinner together. They did this at least once a month together, catching up and spending quality time with the friends they still had left.
However, they couldn't help but feel like there was still a missing piece, lost, gone, until one day it would be found again.
I will not die, I'll wait here for you
I feel alive, when you're beside me
I will not die, I'll wait here for you
In my time of dying
~ Time of Dying, three Days Grace
March 7, 2009
Inside an active Volcano
Kijuju, West Africa
Wesker growled in agony and anger as he stumbled backwards. Chris and Sheva kept their eyes on him, as well as their aim. The rock beneath them started to shake as the lava bubbled, causing all three of them to lose their balance.
A piece of the rock under Wesker broke off, then it became too weak to support his weight, and split into smaller pieces. As a result, Wesker tumbled into the lava, his screams heightening.
The sound of helicopter blades overhead caused the B.S.A.A. agents to look up. As predicted, a helicopter was flying above them. They could just barely see Josh Stone staring at them through the cockpit, and Jill Valentine in the back.
Relief fell over Chris, seeing the beautiful newly-blonde had come to save him.
Someday I'm going to repay you, Jill...
"Grab on!" She screamed as she shoved a ladder out so the two could climb up.
The rock they were on was slowly being enveloped by the lava, soon to be completely eaten up.
Chris grabbed the side of the ladder, steadying it so Sheva could get up. She began to climb up as the rock shook again, causing Chris to stumble. Regaining his balance quickly, he jumps up and grabs the bottom of the ladder just before the rock below him disappears, and hurries to climb up.
Sheva reaches the top, grabbing unto Jill's hand that was outstretched to help her in. They looked at each other briefly, Jill nodding her head inside the chopper as if to invite her in.
The women peer over the side, grabbing Chris's arms and heaving him in. He lands on his stomach, and Jill helps him sit upright, as Sheva looks out into the lava one more time...
"CHRIS!" Wesker screamed out in pure, blind rage. He no longer cared about his own life, or his goals or ambitions, only getting his revenge on his hated nemesis. His infected left arm shot out, the lengthy tentacles latching onto the landing skid of the chopper. He pulled with all his strength, shuffling around in the lava.
The force caused Chris, Jill, and Sheva to tumble over inside the helicopter, groans of pain erupting from all.
"Hang on!" Chris warned.
Wesker's pulling was relentless, trying to pull them down with them, and they continued to roll around.
"Chris, Sheva- use those!" Jill breathed, pointing to a wall on the other side of them where two RPG's were mounted.
Sheva stands up, moving over to them. She takes one from the wall and hands it over to Chris, who peered over at Jill, a feeling of unease in his heart.
"Jill, take this," He offered, handing the rocket over to her.
"What?" Jill questioned, a look of confusion crossing her face.
"You've been in this as long as I have, Jill," He explained, taking her hand. "You deserve to end this as much as I do."
Another jolt shook the chopper, and Chris grabbed her to make sure she didn't fall.
"No time to argue! Just do it!" Sheva yelled at them, handing the second rocket launcher over at Chris.
Jill sighed as they placed it over their shoulders and got ready to end their former captain's life.
Chris looks over to her with half a smile on his face. "Ready, partner?"
She smiled back, "I'm ready, Chris."
With that, they looked through the scope, finding Wesker swimming in lava.
"Take this, Wesker!" Jill said, locking onto him.
With a simultaneous pull of the trigger, the rockets propelled from the launcher, colliding fatally with Wesker's head, decapitating him. The lava surrounding him exploded in a fiery blast, causing Chris and Jill to shield their eyes.
Sheva smiled slightly, before stating, "That was for our fallen brothers." She turned to look at Chris and Jill, who stared down into the lava together.
"That was for S.T.A.R.S.," Jill muttered happily.
Falling into their seats, the chopper took off, heading for the B.S.A.A. base in London.
Jill couldn't help but give an adoring look towards Chris when he wasn't looking.
You did it, Redfield. You saved me. You saved the world.
It all started with the shaking. That was how it always started.
Someone was gently shaking her shoulder, whispering her name over and over. She knew the voice and she knew who she would find standing above her if she resolved to open her eyes. The aching disappointment she would feel later, when she awoke, that tore her heart in half as easily as if it were made of flimsy paper.
She did it anyways because any glimpse of him, unreal or not, was better than nothing.
Annabeth peeled her eyes open. She peered up through her slit eyelids, felt her chest tighten; there he was, within touching distance, standing above her in all his glory.
A thought registered in the depths of her half-awake mind, and with it came surprise. He was much clearer than the image her mind usually conjured up in the dreams. She was not complaining, however, no matter how much she was sure the visualization would cost her later.
She focused on his face. A face she thought that was as beautiful as any god's, though she would never tell him that. His mouth was slightly pulled up at the corners in a small, yet kind smile. His eyesa color she still had yet to pinpoint exactly for they were much more than just greenglistened with tears.
She stared at him in wonder and fought the exhaustion trying to force her under. She would keep her eyes open because if she shut them, lost sight of him, and woke up, he would be gone. She would make this figment of her strained imagination last as long as she possibly could.
Amazingly, the only thing she could mutter to her beautiful illusion was, "Are you crying?"
He reached one hand up, the hand not resting on her shoulder, almost absently, and wiped at the corner of his eye, brushing his thick lashes as he did so.
He choked on a laugh. "I
guess so." He spoke softly. "I really missed you."
She sighed. "I miss you, too."
His eyebrows scrunched together in that adorable way she loved and her chest tightened. He knelt down so that he was eye level with her. "Miss me?" He sounded bewildered.
She nodded sleepily. "Mmhm, I can't wait to see you again."
He stared at her in confusion. "IbutAnnabeth, I'm standing right here." He felt her forehead. "Are you feeling OK?"
She frowned; her dream boyfriend had never acted like this before.
"I'm fine," she murmured. And she was, she was better than fine. She could actually feel the warmth radiating off of his skin, his soft hand brushing the hair from her forehead. There was only one factor that kept pulling her down
"but, you're not real."
He cocked his head to the side. "What?"
She felt a pang of irritation. Did she have to keep repeating herself?
She forced her eyes to open a bit wider. "You're not real," she said insistently.
When he just kept looking at her she felt herself begin to get angry. The frustration helped keep her from slipping into the clutches of awareness that were desperately trying to force her awake.
She sat up and looked him in the eye. He stared at her, wary and incredulous. "You're a figment of my imagination, a generation caused by images stored in the memory," she recited the definition of a dream slowly. "Not real."
He opened his mouth to speak but she cut him off quickly. Seized with panic, fueled by her exasperation, she grabbed him by the arms and hefted him on to the bed with everything her drowsy body had.
He grunted in surprise. She had somehow spun him so that his back faced her and then crushed him to her, her arms locking around his waist like metal bars.
If she held on to him, she reasoned, then surely she could keep him from slipping through her grasp again, from disappearing once more.
He began to struggle, but that only made her tighten her grip. She felt a deep sadness descend over her.
"You're only a dream
" she could hear the dazed sorrow in her voice. She buried her face in his hair, the soft strands tickling her nose in a familiar manner. "My favorite dream," she sighed, "And my worst."
She yawned and relaxed against him, as if he was a child's teddy bear. She was vaguely aware of someone flailing underneath of her.
"Not a dream" he gasped. She felt him prying at her fingers. "andyou'recrushing me!"
She frowned. "What are you talking about?" She squeezed him. "Stop moving."
He wheezed, "I'mreal!"
The reality of the situation crashed down on her then, like a bucket of ice water thrown at her body, drenching her from head to toe.
Annabeth's drooping eyelids snapped open. She immediately released her strangling hold over him.
He rolled away, between her arms, and coughed and gasped, taking in great gulps full of air. She watched, with a tinge of embarrassment, as his purple face faded back to its normal shade.
"Geez, Wise Girl," he took a breath, "'thought you were gonna kill me for a second."
It was as if the ice water had been absorbed into her body, turning it numb. She could only stare.
It could not be possible. Percy could not be here. They had not reached the Roman camp yet
or had they?
Her head swirled with all of this and more. She forced her lips to move. "You're here," she whispered. "You're seriously here."
"Yes," he smiled. "That's what I've been trying to tell you." He reached out hesitantly and stroked the side of her face.
"I don't believe it," her voice was no more than a whisper. She pulled her eyebrows together. "Why didn't anyone wake me up?"
He chuckled and suddenly she knew that it was true. As if his laughter had been the key, she could truly see him there, lying in front of her. She felt it in her heart. Her throat began to burn.
"They tried; at least that's what they told me." He grinned that irresistible grin of his that made Annabeth either want to hit him until he was black and blue or kiss him until speaking in complete sentences became a challenge. "Personally, I think they were just scared. You're not always the happiest person when you get woken up."
Something tugged at the corner of her lips, something she had not felt in what could have been a lifetime. A smile. He was here, he remembered her, he was sitting her joking with her as if nothing had ever happened.
Perhaps, nothing really did happennothing that truly mattered. It was not awkward between them unlike what she had been bracing herself for. He was still her best friend, her boyfriend, she could see it in his eyes.
He still loved her.
She had never felt such elation. "At least I don't drool when I sleep, unlike a certain Seaweed Brain I know."
His face lit up when he hear the old nickname, like how a firework brightens the night sky.
She attempted to close the short distance between them, but was stopped gently, her lips barely an inch away from his.
"I'm surprised." The words come out in breaths, warm and recognizable. "You didn't even ask if I remembered you or not."
She smirked, she had a feeling he was going to ask that. "That's because I already know," she stated simply. "Do you honestly think I'd kiss you if I thought you didn't?"
"Probably not," he agreed. He leaned in, close to her ear, as if they were sharing a secret. "Here's something I'm sure you don't know." she held her breath, waiting to hear the rest."I never forgot you."
The whispery words sent a shock through her system. A shiver made its way up her spine, and then she found herself kissing him with every emotion she held inside of her. Anger, shock, disbelief, loneliness, relief, love, ecstasy
Too soon, she had to break away as a yawn forced its way up her throat. When she looked over again, she could see her boyfriend appeared mildly insulted.
"Nice to know I'm a good kisser," he grumbled, though she knew he was not really upset. He was practically bouncing with excitement. Annabeth envied his energy.
"Oh, quit whining," she muttered as her head fell against a pillow. She closed her eyes. "You know I missed you as much as you missed me."
She felt him reach out and begin playing with a stray lock of her hair, twisting and untwisting it around his finger over and over.
"I know you're tired," he began quietly. She opened one eye, dreading the but that was sure to come. "But they're all waiting for us out there." She heaved a sigh as he began shifting away from her so that he could stand.
And there it was, responsibility, they had a duty to go out there and start preparing for whatever was to come in the following months. It was not fair, she deserved to have a few hours spent with her boyfriend.
"Hey," she said quickly, tugging him back on to the bed. "I'm sure they won't care if I took a quick nap." She looked up through her lashes. "Mind keeping me company?"
She could see the indecision plain on his face, two warring choices fighting to be made. He bit his lip, glanced at the door, then back at her.
Annabeth was suddenly filled with an inexplicable amount of fury. She hated whoever was making him nervous, hesitant to stay with her when she just got him back.
She tried to inflict as much emotion as possible into her voice. "It's
been awhile since I've had a good night's sleep."
She ignored the wince that came from him after that, but it was true and anyone could see it. Dark circles stood out like bruises beneath her eyes, the skin around the edges pulled taut. It was the result of many sleepless nights spent planning, stressing, and sometimes, even crying. It was why she had collapsed asleep just hours before, and why she was desperate for rest now.
She watched her side win out over the other. He swallowed, looking as if he were drowning in guilt. "Iyou know what, they probably won't mind."
He sank back down and wrapped his arms around her waist. She snuggled against his chest, smiling smugly to no one in particular.
"They can handle things," he muttered. It sounded as if he were trying to convince himself.
A sigh escaped her lips. Sleep, in his arms, it was all she wanted right now.
Just as she was on the verge of unconsciousness, he spoke up again. "So
your favorite dream, huh?" She felt him smiling into her hair.
This was usually the moment where she punched him and told him to keep his mouth shut. She resolved that she would still punch him.
AFTER her nap.