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Phoenix

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~ Albert Wesker ~

Thinking back, it was so easy to see where things had gone wrong. So easy to recall every instance where he could have acted differently. Hubris had been his downfall, as humiliating as it was to admit it. At no point had there ever been any doubt in his mind that his plan would be successful. At no point had he accounted for the possibility that he might fail.

But failed he had, and what an embarrassing failure at that – wading through the magmatic vomit of an active volcano.

That had been one of his follies; opting for the more scenic route instead of flying around it. But then Wesker hadn’t exactly been counting on having company aboard his voyage. Another err: relying on Excella not to prove herself useless in eliminating their enemies. Had she only done away with Chris and that other one, as she had been designed to, the volcano would have never been an issue to begin with. Or, more precisely, if only some imbecile hadn’t armed them with a goddamned satellite laser to use against her, things would have turned out all right. Why that thing had even been there was a complete mystery. He sure hadn’t requested its existence, and if Excella had perhaps she deserved her fate.

Either way, its presence had made sure she hadn’t even managed to distract them long enough for Wesker to get away. Although their overall incompetence suggested that shouldn’t have made much of a difference…

But that wasn’t even his earliest misstep. He had also underestimated Jill. And, mayhap, seven minutes ought to have been extended to at least ten, but even then he had never expected Jill to break free from his will. Nor could he have possibly accounted for Chris lugging around a rocket launcher, as though those things were just lying around in the marshlands for anyone to pick up. He very much doubted he would have had the wherewithal to save it for so long as to have had it since his arrival in Africa, so surely he had picked it up somewhere along the way. It was impossible that Chris had somehow bought it since Wesker had explicitly forbidden any and all dodgy looking individuals wearing trench coats from nearing the vicinity of the labs.

As much as this all irked him, none of it got him quite as infuriated as the more obvious faults in his deterring actions against Chris. Yes, the volcano had been a poor choice. Yes, Excella had failed to deliver. Yes, his foes had proved more cunning than he had initially anticipated…

But even as this was all true, Chris was only human. All those times when Wesker had held a gun to his face, if only he had pulled the trigger his ultimate failure would have been averted. Instead he had allowed sentimental drivel to cloud his judgement. It had been the very same reason he had allowed Jill to live after she had lunged them both out of that widow at the Spencer Estate. Saving her, of course, had proven imperative to his research on the Uroboros virus, but he hadn’t known that when he had decided to whisk away her broken body that fateful night. No, instead his mind had only been filled with thoughts of how outraged Chris would be when he found out she was still alive and in Wesker’s clutches.

Therein lay the problem. He wanted Chris to be there. He wanted for Chris to watch as his whole world fell apart around him, powerless to stop it, while Wesker gloated about having been right all along. He wanted Chris to suffer, and he wanted to watch as he did.

A wish that, obviously, wouldn’t be realized if Chris was dead. Not to mention a part of him (albeit a very small one) wanted Chris to understand. Wesker was right, after all. The world was falling apart and humanity was doing nothing to stop it from happening. In fact, humanity itself was the very cause of the destruction. It was a naïve mind that thought that nearly seven billion people would be able to coexist in any possibly progressive manner. The world was like a few sets of rope, all tied together and with a number of people pulling at each end – no one managing to move the middle knot in any one direction. All Wesker had wanted to do was take out a few of those people pulling, removing the world from a state of stagnation into something a little less dull.

But of course Chris would never understand this, much less agree with it. His ridiculous notions of “right” and “wrong” always got the better of him. It was ludicrous of him to treat the occurrence of death as something inherently bad. It happened to everyone, sooner or later. Most people were fodder, anyway, only living to consume and reproduce, never doing anything meaningful with their existence. As much as people liked to pretend, there was no virtue in preserving life only for the sake of adhering to some imagined moral coding.

Chris was obviously too pigheaded to see it that way. The yearning to make him understand was stupid beyond belief, but it had been there none the less and it had made him hesitate; a hesitation that had cost him everything.

 

After the surface of the lava had cooled Wesker had managed to break free from its blackened crust and had then spent a considerable amount of time swimming until he finally reached land, naked and charred. One day had passed since then and his physical state had improved only marginally. The burns had mostly healed, although his eyes had not. Ever since having been administered a forceful overdose of PG67A/W his whole world had contorted into a hazy mist of misshapen forms in murky reds and yellows. It hadn’t bothered him so much when he had been surrounded by fire and lava – coupled with an equally blazing thirst for vengeance – but after having left all that behind, as well as having calmed down a fair bit, his vision was starting to appear rather affronting to him.

Not to mention the migraine and the incessant ringing in his ears that he had assumed would abate with time but that so far had not.

His body would recover soon enough, and even though it hurt, his state didn’t concern him. Not in the face of the bigger ache that had been caused by the hands of his enemies.

Throughout its creation, Wesker had noted that the Uroboros virus possessed a certain sensitivity to heat, but had hoped this would diminish once it bonded with its host. And maybe it would have; only it hadn’t actually bonded with him at all. Not properly, anyhow. Perhaps it had only needed more time, after all it hadn’t outright consumed him the way it had so many before him… but the fact that it hadn’t immediately incorporated itself within him had been worrying. At least until his body found itself blanketed by molten rock and the virus was burned from his being, destroying everything he had worked so hard to achieve.

Part of him wanted to make his way back to the labs to salvage anything that he could, but the rest of him knew that to be folly. No doubt the labs were already swarming with BSAA agents, if not completely obliterated by now. And, as much as it pained him to admit it, he was in no fighting condition. Uroboros would have to wait. There were more pressing matters to attend to, anyway, like the acquisition of clothes. And vengeance.

Humanity was in a dire need of some purging – from one particular human being more so than the rest. Chris Redfield had foiled his plans for the last time.

 

~ Chris Redfield ~

Two weeks had passed since his return from Africa and things had been mostly quiet. At first he’d gone through the standard health checkups to make sure he wasn’t infected, but then he had been left on his own to recover. There had been a few phone calls – good job, man; you did it – but other than that things had more or less instantly gone back to normal.

Well, with one key difference. Three years ago he had lost Jill, and with time he’d grown sure he’d never see her again. Having her back would take some getting used to.

‘Are you okay?’ she asked as she uncrossed her legs to lean in closer. They were alone, sitting opposite one another in one of the facility’s smaller lounge rooms, each with a cup of still steaming decaf waiting on the round table in-between them.

‘Yeah,’ Chris said, then sighed. ‘I’m just… tired. That’s all.’

‘It’s all right if you need a break, you know,’ she told him. This earned her a humorless chuckle.

‘A break? Are you kidding? I just got back from a nice vacation abroad, I don’t need another break.’

Jill breathed out slowly, seemingly contemplating his words – but he could see the strain on her face. She reached out for her cup but left it sitting on the table and instead just enclosed her hands around it as she stared at a spot on the floor. Jill took her coffee mostly black, occasionally with a bit of sugar. Chris never bothered; he’d need a substantial amount of anything to really tell a difference, and chemistry had never been his strong suit anyway. He’d gladly leave the art of coffee magic to the professionals if he could help it.

‘Chris,’ Jill said, breaking the short silence that had grown between them, ‘I’m serious. What you did… you deserve to take it easy for a while.’

‘It’s not about deserving. There are still more Umbrella facilities hidden away that we have no way of knowing whether or not they’re still in use. This is no time for me to be resting. The bad guys won’t be.’

‘Then let me take care of things for a change. We can’t have you running on an empty tank, and besides I’ve been gone for so long. I want to make things right.’

She had looked up briefly while she spoke, but had then gone back to staring into nothing. Chris didn’t care if she couldn’t see it; he still frowned at her and defensively crossed his arms over his chest.

‘You being gone was not your fault,’ he said pointedly. He would have started on a lecture about that hadn’t she quickly cut him off.

‘I know,’ she said, ‘but I still feel like I’ve missed out. And I want to repay you. After all, you did save us. You saved me.’

‘You sure didn’t make it easy to, either.’ Just thinking back was enough to give him grey hairs. The first time Sheva had pounced on her and grabbed her head by her thighs Chris had almost had a heart attack. Really, he’d been meaning to ask her about that particular move ever since, but the opportunity hadn’t ever presented itself… It must have been weird for Jill, too, seeing how she had apparently been awake as her body moved about on its own accord. It wasn’t everyday someone came around and shoved their crotch in your face, especially not as a means of attack.

‘You’re making a face,’ Jill commented.

‘Hm? Oh, I was just thinking about… stuff.’

She seemed to have read him wrong because she craned her head to the side, sighing sympathetically.

‘You did good, Chris. You actually saved the world. You’re a hero. Not to mention you took down Wesker, which I didn’t think was possible.’

A hero? Sure, whatever. He’d stopped protesting after the fiftieth time someone had called him that. It didn’t mean he’d started agreeing with them, but people could think whatever they wanted. He hadn’t done it for the prestige. He’d done it because it was the right thing to do, and because Wesker was- had been- a total basket case. Not to mention that if the world ended, so did he. And probably all his favorite TV shows.

So he didn’t comment on the hero bit, but that last thing about Wesker? Yeah, right.

‘Uh-huh, yeah, I’m sure that’s the last we’ve seen of him. Again. Ya’know, I just can’t wait ‘til the next time he pops up on us – do you think he’ll start off gloating or just go straight to throwing threats around this time?’

‘You don’t think he’s actually dead?’ Jill asked incredulously. ‘Chris, he-’

I know. I just also know that he’s been dead before. It doesn’t really seem to stick.’

To distract himself, or possibly to put up another barrier between them, Chris finally reached for his coffee and took a first large gulp. It was still much too hot, but since he’d only just recently been running around amidst actual molten lava he figured he could handle it.

‘He’s dead,’ Jill assured him. ‘Trust me, there’s no way anyone could come back from that. Not even him.’

‘Yeah, well, I thought the same thing about you. I’m happy I was wrong. Guess maybe I’m luckier than I thought, huh?’ Even to his own ears he sounded sappy as all hell, but he wasn’t going to care about that. Not with Jill. Not anymore.

She smiled at him, and then shook her head so that all her now blonde hair swayed with the motion. She’d left it out after a shower and it made her look much more laid back than usual. The color didn’t suit her as well as her regular hair, but he hadn’t pointed that out to her.

‘I guess so,’ Jill chuckled softly. ‘Unless you’re actually right about Wesker.’

Chris took another sip, less this time. “Right about” – yeah no, he wasn’t actually serious about thinking him still alive. Not entirely, at least. ‘Yeah, I suppose,’ he said, putting the cup down at last. Why did their coffee machine make the coffee so scalding hot, anyway? As far as he’d been able to tell, there were no temperature settings on the thing – heck, there weren’t even different cup sizes! He’d have to look into getting them a new one. Maybe that could be his next big mission.

‘… you almost sound like you miss him.’

That caught him off guard. She was joking, right? He looked up; no, that was her “I’m here if you want to talk” kind of look she had on. What kind of crazy-ass masochist did she think he was?

Chris snorted loudly, indignant. ‘No way,’ he told her, but then sighed in frustration. ‘I’m just- I dunno, I guess I’m still a little miffed that I never saw it coming. Like, Christ, Jill, I had beers with the guy! I actually thought I knew him.’

He didn’t know why he’d brought that up again. They’d had this conversation countless times. Maybe that was why, it was common territory. That and, since his dual-rocket-plus-volcano induced death, Chris hadn’t really gotten a chance to talk about him. He wasn’t even sure why he wanted to. To pay his respects? Why? The guy had been a total nut job. Still, weren’t you supposed to talk about people after they kicked the bucket? They had been friends once, even if it hadn’t been for real.

‘Don’t be too hard on yourself. He tricked us all, you know.’

‘Yeah, well.’

They were both quiet for a while. Chris didn’t know what to say and Jill looked like she was contemplating something. Things had used to be so easy back at S.T.A.R.S. So straight forward. A world that wasn’t riddled with monsters and betrayal. They’d all trusted one another, trusted they’d all still be together the next day, as well as the one after that. Everything changed that night at the mansion, and it hadn’t stopped changing since.

‘Honestly?’ Jill asked eventually, her voice quiet, uncertain. ‘I used to really look up to him back on the day. I actually wanted to be like him, as crazy as it sounds now. Point is: I never saw it coming either. It’s easy to look back and regret things you could have done differently. That’s just life.’

‘I guess you’re right. Still, you’d think we would have at least had an inkling, just based on the way he talked.’

Jill laughed. It was nice to be able to hear it again after so long.

‘Hindsight is one hell of a thing, Chris,’ she said.

‘Yeah? But man, just his face in general. And the dumb shades that he always wore. Not to mention his creepy fascination with bringing up ways I might hurt myself. We should remove this nail from the wall or Chris might accidentally trip and poke his eye out. You shouldn’t eat so fast, Chris, or you may well choke on it and die. Stop leaning back in your chair, Chris, or you’ll end up cracking your head open. I used to think he was just concerned, but I’m pretty sure he was just having fun imagining it.’

Jill hummed in consideration. She still had a smile playing on her lips, but it had gone from being humorous to pitying. Which, hey, was probably fair enough. Chris was starting to feel the same way. He’d been such an idiot.

‘I always thought,’ he began, pausing to clear his throat. ‘I always thought I knew how to read people, ya’know? I actually thought… I dunno, I wouldn’t call it friendship, but I always felt there was some sort of mutual understanding. Or respect, at least. Like we- like something. I dunno.’

‘Don’t tell me you actually miss him.’

He shot her a look. Of course he didn’t miss him. It just felt weird knowing he was gone, even though that was obviously a great thing for the world as a whole. And it was. It was a great thing for Chris too, since now he had one less person around that wanted him dead. If anything he missed simplicity. Hopefully there’d be more of that now when Wesker was finally gone.

‘Hell no,’ he scoffed wearily, ‘I’m just… tired. Like I said. Ya’know, from vacationing.’

‘You really should think about taking a break, Chris. It’ll do you good.’

‘Alright, I’ll give it a think, okay? But right now I think I’ll be hitting the hay. See you tomorrow?’

Jill nodded, standing up from her seat with her fingers still clutching the cup. Chris followed suit but left his coffee standing on the table. He really was tired; someone else would take care of it.

‘Around lunch?’ she asked.

They started heading towards the hallway where they’d part ways. Ever since his return he’d been spending the majority of his nights at the BSAA building, mostly to keep Jill company as she was still under supervision. It was there to be used, and the small apartment he rented was close by, anyway, so if he ever needed anything from there it wasn’t hard to fetch.

‘Sounds good,’ he said, slowing to a stop as they reached the hall, ‘You rest up now.’

He couldn’t help but glance down at her chest where the contraption that had been used to control her had been sitting. She noticed, of course, and raised her hand to gently rub at the spot where the wound was healing under her shirt. It’d leave a scar, no doubt. Not that Jill was one to get hung up on stuff like that, she was just happy to be back.

‘You too, Chris,’ she said, moving her free hand to pat him on his shoulder. A smile quickly grew onto her face as she did and the patting soon turned into squeezes.

Good god,’ she laughed, ‘You sure didn’t slack off while I was away. You look like Arnold.’

‘You having fun with that?’ he asked, looking down at her hand as it kept prodding, working its way down to his bicep.

‘I’m not sure if I should be impressed or worried,’ she continued, apparently done with her scrutiny. She took a step back, shaking her head at him.

‘Both?’

‘Well, that’ll be easy. That’s how I always feel.’

‘Uh-huh? Good night, Jill.’

‘Good night, Chris.’

She ducked her head, taking another few steps away before stopping to frown at how he was dumbly staring after her. He shrugged.

‘I’m just… glad to have you back, partner. I really mean it.’

The frown dissolved and she smiled at him a final time. ‘Go to sleep, okay? See you at lunch.’

Jill tuned around and walked away down the hall. Eventually, Chris did the same, returning to the room he’d been using as his own. It really would take some time getting used to, but he wouldn’t trade it for anything. He knew he’d missed Jill, but actually seeing her again really hit that point home. If he truly was lucky, he wouldn’t have to part with her again anytime soon.

Chapter Text

~ Chris Redfield ~

Turns out he wasn’t lucky after all. The very next morning he had gotten a call from the BSAA West African division and before lunch had even been conceived of, he had found himself already on his way back to Kijuju. Josh Stone had been the one to call him. He hadn’t gone into too much detail about what was going on, but what had been said had been enough to get Chris moving immediately.

That had been nine hours ago and he had finally arrived at the coordinates Josh had given him. Africa was big, and driving anywhere took ages, especially as the roads leading to his destination were little more than unkempt dirt paths. It was a nice change for his aching backside when he was allowed to stop the engine and step out of the sand colored hummer.

Chris arrived at a small camp by the seaside that by the looks of it must have just recently been thrown together. There were tents, beige and moss colored, scattered about with two large metal crates in their midst acting as a makeshift table. Around it stood a handful of people, two of which Chris recognized.

‘Sheva!’ he called out and picked up his pace to join her and Josh by the crates. She waved at him, giving him a quick hug once he reached them. Josh instead gave him a pat on the back and a tight smile. He looked a little grim, which he probably had cause for. It didn’t look like this would be too happy of a reunion.

‘Welcome back,’ Sheva said and then gave the three strangers a nod. They took some things from atop the crates and then left, leaving Chris, Sheva, and Josh alone to talk more privately. Apparently, they were trying to keep the lid on whatever was going on.

‘Didn’t think it’d be so soon, but it’s good to see you,’ Chris said. ‘Now what exactly are we dealing with here?’

Josh took a step closer, looking over his shoulder, and then began speaking in a hushed tone. ‘Yesterday, Sheva and I took a helicopter back to where you guys took out Wesker. We’ve been returning there a few times since the eruption stopped, mostly to make sure no parts of Uroboros survived.’ He turned to Sheva with a hesitant look. She nodded and fished up a phone from her utility belt, tapping and swiping a few times on the screen before holding up a picture to Chris.

‘Something appears to have broken out. Or in,’ she told him. Chris leaned closer, taking in the picture. The island looked very different without all the fire.

Just as she had said, the image depicted what indeed looked like a crater created by something or someone. His heart sunk as he looked at it. Africa just wasn’t done with him yet, was it?

‘We’ve been keeping the perimeter clear,’ Josh argued, more so to Sheva than Chris. ‘No outside vessels have gotten near the volcano. It’s much more likely the virus, or parts of it, survived the eruption and escaped underwater.’

Chris shook his head. ‘No, see, we fought this thing- it didn’t survive a burner, it definitely wouldn’t survive a volcano. Whatever it is, it isn’t Uroboros.’

Sheva nodded by his side, but Josh didn’t look convinced. But then, he hadn’t seen what they had. He’d done his part, and he’d gotten them out of a number of sticky situations, but he hadn’t been there when they took down Wesker. He hadn’t been there to take part in whittling him down, and he didn’t know what lengths they’d gone to in order to best him. There were only so many rocket launchers a guy could take to the face before it got ridiculous.

‘Sheva,’ Chris said, nodding at the phone in her hand. ‘I’d like you to take me to where this picture was taken.’

 

~ Albert Wesker ~

If there was a silver lining (which there was not) it was that at least he wouldn’t be getting any tan lines. Wherever he had managed to swim ashore it certainly had been far from any human settlements. Minutes had stretched into hours, and hours into… eons, it felt like. The unforgiving sun was still blazing high in the sky as though the notion of evening and night-time had become a thing of the past and the idea was incredibly tiring if nothing else. Throughout his tedious meanderings through the barren landscapes surrounding him all he had managed to come upon were a few abandoned canisters and some old pots, inexplicably containing an herb and some handgun ammo. The items were now his, although he really had nowhere to keep them.

Now and then he’d imagine seeing a building in the distance, a mirage created by his blasted vision, and every time he’d near it enough to properly discern its nature a feeling of wrath overcame him. Criiiiissss. If it hadn’ been for him, Wesker wouldn’t have ended up in such an incredibly inconvenient state. Never before had his eyes failed him, nor his body’s regenerative powers worked so tardily since his rebirth. “Maddening” didn’t begin to describe it. Presumably, he was still under the influence of the overdose and so as soon as his body managed to work it out of his system, he would start feeling better.

His body. Yes. His mind? Never. There were some things he deemed truly unforgivable, and being tossed into and left to burn inside a raging volcano was one of them. Upon Chris, he would extract a most agonizing vengeance – a death so slow and torturous that he’d beg and beg for its sweet release. He’d have him watch as Wesker wiped out the entirety of the BSAA, a worthless organization that had been left unchecked for far too long. There’d be no more of that. Then he’d make him witness as poor little Jill got her head ripped from that delicate neck of hers, each limb pulled form its socket and her guts spilled on the floor-

The thought was enough to brighten his mood, even as the world around him shifted and distorted, leaving his head aching even further. Another mirage got his hopes up, but this time it didn’t matter. His mind was filled with death and in these trying times at least he still had his imagination. Chris coughing up blood, face bruised nearly beyond recognition, a few teeth missing, perhaps, an arm or two discarded on the floor. Would he still talk back in such a state? Would he still feign courage? Or would he crumble and weep at last? Either notion was amusing. It wasn’t a serious pondering; he knew Chris well enough, knew he’d never give up that well-constructed façade he’d built up. He’d spit and hiss until the very end, an angry little kitten tied inside a sinking bag.

The good mood evaporated. He’d been so stupid. Trying to make Chris understand… what had he been thinking? It never would have worked; that was part of his charm, after all. He was truly an imbecile, but he was an honest one. A dedicated one. Never anything done half-heartedly. To try and bend Chris any which way was the pastime of a madman. He’d insist on walking his own path until the day death took him, and so death was the only thing Wesker had to offer him. It was all so clear now when it should have been all along. Stupid. So very, incredibly, stupid.

 

Another forty minutes (or lifetimes) passed. Nothing but sand and dirt and desolate tufts of dry turf as far as his limited eyes could see. Eventually he would have to run into something that wasn’t absolute nothing, he knew, but the outlook so far was bleak to say the least. At this pace, Chris might yet live to see another year dawn and the thought was grating on his nerves. Patience had always been a virtue of his, but the way he body was feeling it was hard to keep his feelings of frustration in check. It had been the same fighting Chris and the anger he had felt back then had surprised even him. In the past he’d been so good at keeping his cool.

Suddenly, fate finally relented. Not in the visage of civilization, but rather the unbecoming sound of it slowly surpassing the ringing in his ears as it came moving towards him. In fact, he didn’t even notice it until it was already close by, at which point Wesker quickly turned to face the approaching vehicle. It was an old and worn red pickup truck with various knick-knack overflowing the cargo bed from underneath a grey tarp. The driver, a man possibly in his late twenties, was staring at him with an owl-eyed expression.

The car stopped a fair bit away. The man did not step outside; he only sat there and stared, allowing his eyes to dart unabashedly up and down Wesker’s still unclothed body. The look on his face was, he supposed, adequately perplexed. Then the front door was swung open and the man came tumbling out, rounding the hood while gesturing frantically at Wesker.

‘Euh!’ was the first, somewhat inarticulate, thing the man said, followed by a sting of hurried syllables that meant nothing to Wesker. Swahili, most likely, although he wasn’t actually familiar enough with the language to be able to tell. This was apparently evident after a moment, for the man then suddenly smacked his forehead before giving communication a second attempt.

You okay?’ he asked in a very thick accent. The answer was obvious, but Wesker wasn’t given any time to snark before the other man spoke again, this time waving for him to follow.

‘Come!’ he urged. ‘You burn like this. Let me help.’

Strictly speaking, it went against his principles, but Wesker did as he was told and went along with the man to the back of the car, stopping by the cargo bed to watch as he began looking for something underneath the tarp.

‘You need ride? I take you to town, no problem,’ the man went on, still rummaging. Soon he produced a pair of blue jeans and a short-sleeved button-up from amongst the many pieces of garbage within. Not entirely on par with Wesker’s usual style of clothing, but evidently better than nothing.

‘Thanks,’ he muttered as the clothes were pushed into his arms rather forcefully.

‘Thank you. You need doctor?’

‘No… I’m fine.’

The man nodded but looked wholly unconvinced. But whatever was going through his mind he didn’t share it as he instead waited for Wesker to get dressed. They fit surprisingly well, considering how he towered over the stranger. Obviously, they were not his clothes, but rather belonged to someone much taller and with a sturdier built. Or had belonged to, at least.

The man nodded to himself once Wesker had finished. ‘Good. Okay. Get in the car, I drive you. You need anything, just say,’ he said and began escorting him to the left side of the truck and opening the door for him. Either he was by nature a very polite person, or he’d been put under the impression that Wesker needed assistance. Being alone and naked on the plains of Kijuju was perhaps an indication of that, but by the way he kept looking at his face a feeling of unease settled in his stomach. How bad did he actually look at this point? He sat down inside the truck and ran a hand over his face while the stranger went around the front to the driver’s seat. No wounds caught his fingers, although his face did feel considerably swollen in some areas. Not to mention sore. It was with some trepidation that he flipped down the sun visor, just as the other man closed the door on his side.

A piece of paper fell out from inside it, but he didn’t care. He looked dreadful. His eyes were bloodshot and bruised, and deep purple colored veins were protruding in large all over his face – predominantly his forehead, it too miscolored on account of what he assumed must have been the RPGs. His left brow looked twice the size of what was normal, and the eye underneath appeared as though it was nestled inside a black pit. With the state of his vision, as well as with how beat up his face was, Wesker barely recognized the man staring back at him. He must have looked every bit as distraught as he felt for the stranger winced beside him, his eyes travelling between the mirror and Wesker’s face several times.

‘You want doctor now?’ he asked, letting out a short, cautious, laugh.

‘No, I’m fine. Just drive.’

The engine started. This certainly put a few dents in his plan. The idea had been to head straight for Chris, snagging him up while he still had the element of surprised on his side… but he couldn’t very well do that, looking the way he did. If Chris saw him like this, he wouldn’t be filled with dread he’d just laugh. Like he had laughed at his Tyrant. The encounter would still end with Chris dying, but it would be considerably less dramatic if what did him in ended up being his own horrifying sense of humor rather than Wesker’s aforementioned months of tireless torture. It just wouldn’t do.

Somehow, before getting Chris into his unkind care, he’d have to recuperate some. If only he could find another herb to combine with the one he already had, his recovery might yet be a speedy one. Then, and only then, would he set out to find Chris. It would hardly prove very difficult as the man was a far cry from discreet; had he once been on a continent people were sure to have noticed… and Wesker knew how to make people talk.

A minor change of plans, but patience was one of his virtues. He could wait just a little bit longer.

 

~ Chris Redfield ~

‘He’s not dead, is he?’

They were in a helicopter, on their way back from having examined the crater. Sheva was sitting next to him, staring blankly at the gun she kept turning in her hands. Chris recognized it; it was the magnum they had found in the marshlands – the one left behind by one of their fellow BSAA soldiers. A lot of people had died for this mission.

‘I don’t know,’ she spoke softly, ‘but I remember shooting him in the head with this, and he barely flinched.’

She weighed the gun in her hand before sighing and putting it back in its holster. It had only been a rhetorical question; even if Sheva said she didn’t know, Chris sure felt like he did. He’d felt it ever since leaving Africa. At first, he had just passed it off as being that feeling you get after finishing something big that you’d been working on for a long time; feelings of restlessness and uncertainty. Then he had started thinking back to things and the paranoia had kicked it. He had tried to brush it off, but the sinking feeling of unease had kept gnawing at him.

Chris has blasted him with a rocket launcher after Wesker’s pompous seven-minutes-speech and yeah, that had thrown him off balance for a few seconds… but hardly more than that. Then Sheva had continuously shot him in the head with a magnum, but that hadn’t made much of a dent in him either. Not even after they’d injected him with what was supposed to have been a poison (twice!) did he seem that much worse for wear. Then there was the lava that, while it did seem to have hurt him, hadn’t outright burst him into flames upon contact like it would have practically anything else. He’d been pretty vocal, even, right up until the point when Chris and Sheva shot him a final time with two more rockets. They hadn’t stuck around to see what happened afterwards, because how was anyone supposed to have survived all that?

But of course he had. The guy was a grade A asshole; if he could make Chris’ life more miserable by defying death itself, he would find a way to do it.

‘He can’t have gotten far. Hopefully, at least. Either way, we need to deploy a search team ASAP. Do you have people in the nearby towns?’ Chris asked.

‘Yes, we do. I’ll send a message to keep an eye out for anything suspicious,’ Sheva told him, immediately reaching a hand up to touch her ear piece.

‘They’re not to engage. Anyone find anything and we need to know immediately.’

She nodded and relayed the information to Josh on the other end. The rest of the flight was spent in silence.

 

Once they landed back at the outpost Sheva, per his request, led Chris to where they kept their arsenal. If they were really going up against Wesker again, he’d need something more potent than the measly handgun he’d brought along.

She took him to a small tent, holding the entry open for him as he walked in. Gun racks and cases lined the inside and Sheva instantly turned her attention to the assortment of rifles on one of two makeshift wooden walls while Chris made a move to where he spotted the sleek barrel of a shotgun. He felt more at home with something that had a bit more kickback to it; he’d leave the LDR:s to Sheva, he’d always been too physical for that stuff anyway. Or too impatient, maybe.

‘Take a look in the chest to your left,’ Sheva said, only briefly looking away from the S75 she was eyeing in her hands. ‘I took the liberty of putting it away for you, once I heard you’d be coming back. You two got quite friendly, as I recall.’

Chris knelt down to where the chest sat and opened it, already having a hunch of what might hide inside. Sheva really was a saint; within was a, nay his, fully upgraded M3 shotgun, the very same one he’d been carrying around on his mission to rescue Jill and take down Wesker. Damn, he’d grown way too fond of that thing. This time, he’d make sure to bring it with him once he finally went back home.

‘What are you two doing in here?’

Chris threw a look over his shoulder to see Josh just entering the tent.

‘We’re heading out,’ Sheva informed him. She put the rifle down and took a leisurely step closer to Chris, who in turn stood up from where he had been hunching.

‘Out? We have choppers searching the shores and people scouting the villages. If something shows up, we’ll know about it.’

‘Yeah, well, I don’t like sitting idle. If Wesker’s really alive then-’ Chris started.

Wesker? Have you gone mad? You saw what happened to him,’ Josh said, then turned to Sheva, ‘You were what happened to him. I commend the enthusiasm, I really do, but you can’t be serious right now.’

Chris took a step forward, feeling Sheva’s hand instinctively land on his shoulder to hold him back. ‘Yeah, we are. There’s no way anything else could have survived and something sure broke out,’ Chris bit off. He wasn’t in the mood for arguments, especially when there were things their time could be better spent on. Sitting around camp, twiddling their thumbs, wouldn’t do them any good, and it certainly wouldn’t prepare them for whatever monster they ended up facing – Wesker or not.

Sheva shook her head, putting herself in-between them before she spoke. ‘Chris is right,’ she said, ‘Uroboros couldn’t have survived the heat. If not Wesker, then something external must have made that crater.’

‘That’s impossible. No aircrafts have gotten near the volcano – and certainly no boats.’

‘Maybe something slipped by?’ she offered, but Josh just shook his head. Chris did the same.

‘It’s Wesker!’ he barked. ‘That sub-human piece of shit one-upped us again, and pretending otherwise is just stupid! Not to mention dangerous!’

Despite Sheva trying her best to keep them apart, Josh still managed to get up in his face.

‘Stupid? For crying out loud, the man was submerged in lava! Human or no, that kills you.’

‘You didn’t see what led up to that! He was toying with us up until the end, and whatever we thought at the time we clearly didn’t finish the job!’

Grabbing a hold of his shoulder, Sheva pulled Josh away from him. He went willingly along with her tug, but didn’t waver in the glare he was fixing Chris with – which was just as well, since Chris wasn’t about to stop either.

In the end, Josh was the first to cave, casting his eyes down and letting out a huff of frustration. He shrugged, settling for glowering at Chris’ gun rather than him.

‘… then maybe he was right,’ Josh grit out. At first, Chris thought he must have misheard. Right? Wesker!? He has half a mind to punch his lights out for saying something so reckless. Turning yourself into a literal freak of nature was not worth it, whatever powers it gave you. Especially not at the cost of innocent lives. And that had always been the cost whenever Wesker was involved.

‘What are you saying?’ Chris asked, giving his friend a chance to retract the statement. It was a chance he was quick to take.

‘I’m saying he’s dead. There’s no other option,’ Josh sighed, exasperation clear in his voice.

‘You just don’t like the other option. I’m not gonna let him get away. I’m ending this, once and for all.’

Not only Wesker, but also the conversation. He pushed past Josh, heading outside into the blazing sun. If he had to do this on his own, he would. There wasn’t a chance in hell that SOB would get to run off to hurt any more people. Besides, if Wesker was alive they’d find one another. If he wasn’t, Chris would have to owe Josh an apology. Whichever it ended up being, he would rather be safe than sorry.

 

~ Sheva Alomar ~

As soon as Chris has stomped outside the air inside the tent shifted. Immediately, Josh’s shoulders slumped, and Sheva could feel herself deflating too. The aftermath has been stressful, more emotionally so than physically. Combing through Kijuju, killing and burning anyone infected with the virus… it was a different kind of struggle to the one she had experienced when in the thick of it. It felt more personal, somehow. Shooting people in the dozens when you were racing against the clock, head full of “the bigger picture”, was taxing and certainly got the heart pounding more frequently than going into towns looking for people coughing a little too violently. But it hurt less. They’d had to quarantine five villages so far, pointing their guns at civilians and shooting anyone who got too close to leaving without permission. The first time it had happened, she had been outraged – but the virus was too dangerous for them to be able to take any risks. It wasn’t strange that Josh wanted it all to be over.

‘We just want to make sure,’ she told him. They had to, after all.

‘And then what?’ he asked. ‘Say the freak is really alive? Then what? How do we defeat something like that?’

‘We’ll figure it out.’

Josh’s features twisted into contempt. ‘Will we? Short of blasting him into space, I have no idea how we could even begin to fight him.’

‘I do like rockets,’ Sheva said, trying to insert some sort of humor into the conversation. It fell flat. If anything, Josh just looked even more dreary.

‘If you find him, he will kill you,’ he said, and he was probably right.

‘But we can’t just ignore this.’

Josh nodded. He wasn’t unreasonable, she knew; just worried. She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t as well. But she’d been in this situation before, and while it apparently hadn’t panned out as well as they had thought, at least she was still alive. There were a lot of people the same couldn’t be said for, and that was why she had to keep going. All those people couldn’t have died in vain. If there was any justice in the world, they’d come out on top.

‘Promise me…’ Josh said then, quietly, ‘if you do find him, you’ll call for me?’ He looked at her with a pained expression, knowing her too well to realize such promises meant little.

‘I promise,’ she said, despite the hollowness of the statement. Josh was a good man. Dying didn’t suit him.

She brushed her hand quickly over his chin and then headed out to follow Chris.

 

Chapter Text

~ Albert Wesker ~

Driving had been slow and tedious, made even more so by the stranger’s ceaseless blabber. It was a grating experience, but at least the man didn’t seem to mind Wesker’s lack of wholehearted participation. Instead, he appeared wholly content carrying most of the conversation on his own.

‘I’m building a radio,’ the man informed him. Kayin, he had said his name was and tinkering was apparently a passion of his. It was the reason for all the junk underneath the tarp as, apparently, he made a habit of combing the wasteland for bits and pieces he could use to build various what-nots. Nothing impressive, obviously. ‘A third one,’ Kayin went on, his voice very much like a radio itself in that it seemed to just go on unhindered with nothing particularly worthwhile to add. ‘I don’t listen, but they are good gifts. Fun, too, when not too busy. Something to do, you know?’

Wesker let out a curt scoff. ‘Why yes; fun is infinitely significant to the human experience,’ he drawled. People’s obsession with fun had always baffled him – as though their own minds couldn’t entertain them well enough on its own. Boredom was but the bane of the uninspired, and as such Wesker never felt of it.

Kayin smiled and patted him much too casually on the shoulder. He’d done it a number of times throughout their drive already and by now Wesker couldn’t even muster up enough ill-will to sneer at him. ‘So,’ his new companion said, ‘what you do for fun? Play sports?’

As “thinking up new ways to murder Chris” sounded like it might be just a tad bit incriminating, Wesker decided to simply go along with the suggestion. Sports? A meaningless pastime, but hardly a lie made difficult to believe. Most athletic men enjoyed it to some degree, he wagered, even though Wesker himself was thoroughly of the idea that exercise was to be endured in solitude and that being a “team player” was vastly overrated.

‘Sometimes, yes,’ he said with a shrug. He knew wishing that to be the end of the conversation to be naïve, but he had too much of a headache to care.

‘What you play? Football? Tennis?’

‘Yes, sure.’

Kayin nodded slowly, ignoring the non-existent road in favor of giving Wesker a long appraising look. ‘You professional? Look like you could be,’ he said.

‘No, just for fun.’

Tennis he had played before, although not very willingly, but football had never interested him in the least. He imagined it wouldn’t prove difficult to him, all the same; his kicks were always very precise – something Chris’ face could well attest to.

‘I’m interested,’ Kayin went on, ‘explain to me offside rule.’

Wesker glanced sideways at the other man who was looking at him expectantly. Well, shit. He’d heard the term, of course, but had never paid it enough attention to figure out what it meant. When searching the recesses of his mind, he could recall an evening he had been forced to suffer through with his fellow STARS members, but while it was all he had it wasn’t very helpful. Back then, they’d been holed up in a common room, watching television and drinking. Obviously he hadn’t been paying attention to the screen, but he did remember Chris giving it a go at discussing the game with him. Whatever he had been saying, Wesker hadn’t deemed it important at the time as Chris was anything but a source of intelligent commentary.

The silence in the car began to drag on, and while it in theory was a nice change, the incessant staring was ruining the atmosphere. Once it became clear that Wesker wasn’t going to answer him, Kayin immediately broke into throaty laugh.

I kid, I kid!’ he howled, again with patting. ‘I get it – you not much for talking, yeah? It’s okay, you tired. Take a rest. Once we get home, I take a look at you, help with your face.’

‘Thank you,’ Wesker muttered back, closing his eyes. If resting would shut Kayin up, he would gladly enter a coma for the remainder of the drive. It was soothing for his eyes, anyway. Strangely enough, the deep hum from the engine helped as well in taking the edge off the ringing in his ears. If only the same could have been said for Kayin’s gratuitous prattling, perhaps the drive wouldn’t have been quite so torturous thus far. But even had the man possessed a soothing timbre his inevitable end would have found him all the same. Disposing of his benefactor would prove necessary, obviously, but only once he had granted Wesker all that he had to offer.

As the BSAA were likely still active in the zone, making plans for his immediate future would likely serve no purpose. He’d try to keep a low profile for as long as his recovery demanded, but if wherever Kayin was taking him was swarming with soldiers he might not be given that options. There was also the risk of running into Chris right away. Unless his dear enemy had already returned to Europe, or possibly even America.

The thought irked him. Chris had been allowed his existence for too long already, and Wesker wasn’t about to let that continue. There was no point in sticking around in Africa if not to get to Chris; if not to hunt him down and finally rip that heart from its cage and press his fingers into that abnormally thick neck until something broke inside.

But not before he got to Jill, and Barry, and that cretin Kennedy too – just for good measure. He’d save little Miss Chambers for last, simply because the possibility of her dying on her own from heartbreak or something equally ridiculous was entirely too plausible to ignore. That’d save him time. Once done, once Chris had seen what had become of his dearest friends, Wesker would finally hold that gallant heart in his hand. The satisfaction would be indescribable.

Then, at last, would his plans for complete global saturation commence… and this time, there would be no one around to stop him!

‘We don’t get many outsiders in town,’ Kayin told him, despite his implied promise to keep quiet. ‘Most doesn’t like you, but don’t worry. Keep close, I look after you.’

Wesker couldn’t help but scoff but otherwise remained silent. Obviously, he could look after himself perfectly well on his own – the engine coughed at him, as if to refute his thinking, and he squinted his eyes open to glare at the hood of the car.

Ahead of them, the faint outline of buildings could be seen in the near distance. At last. He didn’t want to admit it but he was tired. More so than he had been in years. Probably even since before Arklay… Fine, then. If Kayin wanted to nurse him back to health, Wesker wouldn’t complain. Well, yes he would, but he’d allow it. For a day, at least.

Then, finally, he would find Chris.

 

~ Chris Redfield ~

Sheva was driving, which was just as well. She knew the area, and anyway Chris could use a break from the wheel. They hadn’t said much to one another after she had caught up to him by the hummer. He had known Josh wouldn’t be able to convince her of staying behind, but seeing her approach had still filled him with a sense of relief. They’d quietly loaded the back with supplies and had then swiftly departed. Whereto he had no idea. Driving around aimlessly seemed about as productive as anything, although he was sure Sheva knew where she was taking them. Unless Wesker had though it a good idea to take a really long swim, he would have had to find someplace to leave Kijuju from. Sheva had told Chris earlier that they had the port towns under surveillance, as well as the nearest airport. Wesker wouldn’t be able to leave the zone without them at least knowing about it.

For the first time during their drive, Chris turned away from the window. He liked Sheva… but, as much as he had wanted to get back into action again, this was not how he had pictured it happening. If nothing else, he would have liked to have spent some more time with Jill now that she was finally back.

But it wasn’t like he was the only one. He couldn’t imagine Sheva was any more thrilled about the situation than he was. She looked tired; lost in thought. At least he had been given two weeks away from it all.

‘I, uh,’ he cleared his throat, ‘I mean, don’t take this the wrong way now, but have you got some kind of Simpsons deal going on with that shirt?’

What?’ She looked at him, then down at her body, then back up at him. Finally, she returned her eyes to the road, brow furrowed.

‘The Simpsons,’ Chris clarified. ‘It’s a TV show, animated. They’re like the typical nuclear family, but they’re yellow.’

‘I know what it is. I don’t know what you’re referring to.’

Chris scratched the back of his head. ‘Oh, well, I mean… last time I saw you, you were wearing the exact same shirt. Just wondering if you have a whole bunch of them or if it’s just, you know, a coincidence. I don’t want to imply anything about your personal hygiene, but I really hope you’ve changed a few times since I left.’

She snorted lightly, breaking into a smile, broad and toothy. ‘Just be glad you didn’t catch me on one of my laundry days. The rest of my closet is pretty wild.’

‘Really?’

Anyway,’ she said evenly, almost managing to mask a smirk. ‘I don’t see you doing much better.’

‘BSAA standards. You’ve got nothing on me.’

Sheva laughed again, taking a moment to glance over. ‘Perhaps not,’ she said, ‘though, to be clear, I have changed in the last two weeks. Probably not as often as I should have, but it definitely did happen.’

‘Good. If we ever have to lay low, we don’t want us to get exposed from the reek of you of all things.’

Sheva huffed indignantly and smacked him over the head without her eyes ever leaving the road. He made a show of rubbing the spot, more to appease her than it actually having hurt. She mumbled a quiet ‘Serves you right’, but then it went quiet again.

At first, the silence was pleasant – well, not pressing, at least – but soon the weariness that had been hanging over them returned. Sheva’s idle smile faded and she went back to looking distant. Chris felt himself sinking into a similar state. They were right to be worried. Whatever became of them, none of it would be pleasant. If they found Wesker, he wouldn’t go down easy. If they didn’t, they’d have to keep looking. No matter what, they weren’t about to have a nice day.

A nice day. That had been the plan. He would have gone for a jog in the morning, had lunch with Jill, maybe convinced her to play Uncharted while he watched and ate popcorn. He wasn’t big into games, but the building where they kept Jill had a PlayStation in one of the common rooms that someone must have left there at some point. He’d seen it on his first day there, and eventually it had piqued his interest. He’d tried it himself at first, with Jill joining him on the couch an hour into the game. He didn’t know when or how it happened, but eventually she had taken over and he found that he didn’t mind at all. She was better at it, anyway, and it left his hands free to snack. They’d already made plans to play the second game once it came out, even as they still hadn’t even finished the first.

If they ever would. If the mission ever ended, if it didn’t end up killing him. Obviously, that was the risk every time. The past three years it hadn’t mattered so much; he was still somewhat in that headspace, if he didn’t think about it too much. But… the times when he did, when he sat down to really think about just how lucky he was to actually have her back, forgetting all about Wesker and moving on with his life seemed like a pretty good idea. This wasn’t the kind of chance you got twice. If he lost her again, that’d be it. Dying didn’t seem as appealing anymore, knowing that.

He shook his head, wanting to break up his thoughts. He had to stay focused.

‘Where are we heading?’ he asked.

Sheva shrugged and sighed, then clicked her tongue in consideration, before eventually giving him a hesitant answer. ‘We don’t have so many people that we can cover all our bases, so we’ve focused on the more liable areas. The docks, airport. The quarantined villages. We have a few choppers on the lookout for the rest, but the region is big. There are some villages scattered about where we have set up cameras, but that’s more or less all the presence we have there. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be too difficult to bypass for someone with a keen eye. We assumed this wouldn’t be an issue with the Majini, but with Wesker…’

‘I hear you. We’ll investigate, ask around. He doesn’t exactly blend in, so if someone’s seen him, they’ve seen him,’ Chris agreed. Wesker wouldn’t blend in anywhere if he tried, the showy bastard. Maybe at a rich folk’s cocktail party.

‘He can’t hide forever,’ Sheva said then, and Chris couldn’t help but snort, louder than he had meant to. Oh, how the tables had turned.

‘Right- he’s merely postponing the inevitable,’ he chuckled, trying to mimic the drawl but failing miserably as always.

‘What?’ She shot him a sideways glance, looking confused again.

‘Oh, you weren’t…?’

‘No? Weren’t what?’

‘Just- never mind. I thought we were doing a thing.’ Maybe Sheva had managed to suppress those encounters with Wesker better than he had, or maybe Chris just better remembered his words because they had reminded him of how much he hated the guy. He could still hear them when things got too quiet. ‘Yeah, anyway, so how long do you think it’ll take?’

‘Another half an hour at least.’

‘Good. Great.’

He let out a deep breath, returning back to staring out the window at the passing scenery. Wesker couldn’t have gotten far, especially not if he was trying to be discreet. Which was something they had to assume he was, as they still hadn’t actually caught sight of him yet. Chris knew, though; he could feel it. As much as he wanted it not to be, and as much as life would have been made easier if it wasn’t, Wesker was still alive. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind. Next time, he wouldn’t believe he was gone so easily. Next time, he would make sure the bastard crumbled to dust or dissolved into pudding before he left him for dead.

Which reminded him of another game he wanted to play with Jill. It felt silly to make plans like that, but he needed something to look forward to. He’d promised Claire he’d invite her over once Jill was green-lit for outside visitors, so maybe they could even make an event of it. He didn’t know if Claire liked games, he’d never discussed it with her, but she was competitive enough that he thought she’d at least take him up on the challenge. It’d be fun. They’d all hang out and talk about bullshit for a few hours, just like the old days. Yeah, that was something to look forward to.

Chris sank deeper into his seat, closing his eyes and letting his mind wander to better days. To nice days. Chances were they wouldn’t get any more quiet moments like this pretty soon, and so he’d allow himself to settle down for just a little bit. To get some rest, before the inevitable storm hit them.

 

~ Albert Wesker ~

They didn’t drive far into the town, Kayin’s home thankfully enough being located on the outskirts of the community. His was one of three, built inside a wide depression in the ground that made the already small dwelling appear even more so. There was no garage, and so they instead parked the car as close to the entrance as they could without driving down the ditch.

The other two houses looked older, more dilapidated, which wasn’t really saying much given the state of all three. Even though Kayin had made it abundantly clear that he enjoyed wasting his time fiddling with machinery and woodwork, apparently this interest did not extend, or otherwise lend itself, to home renovations. It was just as well; this way it didn’t look like the sort of place people would come snooping around – if there still happened to be anyone left alive to do so in this end of town.

They got out, Kaying quickly locking the car and ushering Wesker towards the house and then inside. From all of Kayin’s prattle he would have expected the house to be filled with gizmos and tools; but while the place looked far from tidy there seemed to be none of that around. What instead appeared all over were empty tin cans and glass jars, as well as an abundance of dust covering almost every surface. It didn’t look too lived in, apart from the small kitchen area, separated from the rest of the room by a set of counters, and the green sofa next to it. In front of the sofa stood a low table with a few more cans on top, but at least the dust had been mostly wiped off from its surface.

‘So sorry, it’s dirty,’ Kayin said and rubbed at his nose with his whole hand. ‘Been away, did not expect visitors.’ He went over to the rugged sofa, gesturing for Wesker to sit down, ‘Please,’ he said, and then walked into the cramped kitchen to start rummaging through the drawers.

Wesker, again reluctantly, did as he was told. At least the piece of furniture seemed clean enough, although it was far from comfortable.

Kayin continued searching for a bit, until he seemingly found what he was looking for. He rounded the counters, in his hand a small vial filled with a green substance. Herbs. Kayin handed it over, then pointed at the exit with his thumb.

‘Have to unload car. You rest, okay?’ he said.

Wesker nodded, attempting to comply even though the sofa was far too short to properly fit him. Kayin seemed pleased with his half-hearted effort none the less and soon left by the same door through which they had previously entered. It went awfully quiet.

The armrest aligned with the innermost counter ended up acting as his pillow and despite its itchy nature against his neck Wesker managed to relax somewhat. How the mighty had fallen. There really was no point dwelling on it – he knew that, and anyway he’d soon recover – but knowing where he could have been instead, hadn’t he been so careless, was forcing a growl out from between his clenched teeth. Oh well, he told himself, wholly sarcastically; soon enough he’d be back on track. Or something. He’d be lying if he claimed his enthusiasm for the Uroboros Project hadn’t dwindled somewhat the last few days. His mind was mostly elsewhere, anyway, busying itself with imagining ways in which he’d torture Chris the next time they met.

The though dragged his attention to the herb in his hand. Years had passed since he’d last been forced to use one, and in a sense it felt like admitting defeat to do so. It was near disgusting how soothing it was when the cool mist hit his face; a nice reprieve from the ever-present heat of Kijuju. Begrudgingly, it also seemed to ease tensions in his face that he’d barely even been aware of. Perhaps he would even be able to make his host proud and actually fall asleep for a bit – even with the crushing ineptitude of his surroundings.

 

Chapter Text

~ Chris Redfield ~

They’d already crossed one village off the list. It had been a small one, the smallest within the outbreak’s perimeter according to Sheva, so their stay hadn’t been very long. They were heading further north now, towards their second stop; this one apparently with a bit more supervision. Cameras had been put up by a squadron that had been stationed to monitor the area, but they weren’t nearly enough manpower to cover the entire town. It mostly made Chris feel bad about leaving, listening to Sheva talk about their lack of able bodies. He hadn’t even entertained the thought of staying, having felt too mixed up back then. There was something to be said about the feeling that filled you once you managed to get away from the battlefield. Relief, of course, but also a kind of emptiness, probably brought on by the sudden stillness, the silence, that followed. Hours had felt like mere minutes, and before he’d had a chance to settle his mind, he’d already boarded a plane back to Europe.

He didn’t regret it. He couldn’t. Sure, had he stayed he would have been able to help out, but he was just one guy. At the time, getting Jill back safely had been more important, even through the post-battle-haze of his mind. He couldn’t regret having stayed by her side, no matter how crappy it made him feel to see it that way. Maybe he was overprotective – she knew how to handle herself – but she’d been gone for too long for him to lose her again.

Either way, he was back now. In a way, it kind of felt like he’d never left at all, if not for how much clearer his head felt. More focused, similar to how things had been when he had first met Sheva. Chris glanced to where she sat behind the wheel, humming some simple tune beneath her breath. They’d come a long way since then. He’d been skeptical of her at first, but she had proved herself more than capable along the way. Far more. Not that it was a requirement for him to consider someone a friend, but it sure helped. He’d stick around this time, make sure Kijuju was under control before he left again. Maybe she’d come with him then, make a visit to the UK. They could hang out under less stressful circumstances – hell, maybe she could even join them for that gaming evening. They could probably use a good marksman on the team.

‘You look happy,’ Sheva said, breaking his musings.

‘Oh? I mean, yeah. Daydreaming, I guess. Not much else to do out here.’

‘Do you want to talk?’ she asked.

Chris scratched his neck. Yeah, sure, they could talk. So long as it wasn’t doom’s talk, he’d be up for anything.

‘What were you daydreaming about?’ she continued when Chris didn’t respond beyond a short hum. He laughed.

‘Was thinking about how great it would be if they sold ice cream out here. I could go for something strawberry flavored right about now,’ he answered, rubbing sweat from his brow for emphasis.

‘That would be wonderful,’ Sheva agreed.

‘And soda! A read cold one. Or, fuck it, beer. Not the best idea when you’re on a dangerous mission to take down an evil maniac hell-bent on destroying the world, but I think I could make it work.’

‘I haven’t had a beer in years,’ Sheva confessed with a chuckle.

You’re kidding?’ Chris gasped. ‘Okay, well, once we’re done here, you’re having one. On me. That’s no way to live.’

She just laughed at him, shaking her head. If she thought he wasn’t being serious, he’d implore her to think again. After everything they’d been through, at the very least they deserved a drink for their efforts. Chris had already had a few himself back at the headquarters, but another wouldn’t hurt. Especially not in good company.

‘So what are your plans?’ Chris asked, because he was genuinely curious. He knew she didn’t exactly have a family to return to, but maybe there were friends, other than Josh, that she’d want to reunite with.

‘You mean after the beer?’

‘Yeah, and ice cream.’

She hummed contently. ‘I haven’t thought about it,’ she said, ‘but I suppose I’d like to go abroad again, maybe back to America. I could take a few courses, I don’t know. How about you?’

‘Me? I guess I’ll take a short break, then head back out. Hopefully by then Jill will have recovered enough to come with me. I’m not a big fan of solo missions, and I missed working with her.’

Sheva nodded. He hoped she hadn’t taken that the wrong way… she made a great partner, but Jill was Jill and there was no replacing that.

‘How’s she doing?’ she asked, luckily showing no sign of being perturbed.

‘She’d doing fine, actually, but HQ is paranoid. They’re still keeping tabs on her and I don’t see them stopping any time soon. She’s taking it well- better than me, at least.’

‘You must understand their reasoning. She’d been gone a long time, hadn’t she? It’s always better to be safe than sorry.’

‘Sure. Yeah, I get that.’

As much as he did, keeping her locked up like a circus animal was still insulting. But there was no talking to them, and Jill had asked him to be patient, so he tried. She’d been through enough and so if that was how she wanted to deal with it then fine. He wasn’t about to cause her any more grief.

‘… speaking of Jill,’ Chris started, a thought suddenly having entered his head, ‘do you remember when we fought her? In the ruins?’

‘Of course.’

‘Yeah, so, about that, uh.’ He looked her way just as she looked his, and they ended up staring at one another for longer than was probably necessary.

‘Yes?’ she urged, her form tensing up by the second. Was he making a face?

‘Just, uh, you handled that great, good job.’

‘Thank you-’

‘But also why did you decide to slam your junk in her face?’

Sheva blinked at him, her expression carefully balanced between confusion and concern. ‘My what?’ she asked after another moment.

‘I mean, I can’t jump that high, so that’s very impressive, obviously, and it worked, too, which, you know, great, but…’ He trailed off, not actually knowing what part he wanted to know most. How, when, why, all rang pretty evenly inside his head.

‘Oh,’ Sheva said, having apparently recovered from the inquiry. ‘That was just… I had to immobilize her, and so I figured that was a good way. My legs are stronger than my arms, and Josh always taught me to use my assets.’

Josh taught you that move?’

‘Well, yes.’

No.

Fuck! Abort mission, that just made it way worse! The mental image was sure to stick with him for life and he’d never be able to look the man in the eye ever again. There were just certain things you didn’t do as a man, and weaponizing your privates sure as hell was one of them. He’d have to have balls of steel to pull that off uninjured- which, great, now he was thinking about that. He rubbed roughly at his face and let out a pained groan.

‘For the record,’ Sheva said wryly, ‘I didn’t “slam my junk” in her face; I grabbed her head with my thighs and threw her.’

‘That’s not what it looked like, but okay.’

‘She was trying to kill us. I didn’t want to shoot her.’

‘Well, if it ever comes to that, I’ll have you know I already carry a number of scars I got from bullet wounds, so feel free to add to that if necessary.’

‘I’ll remember that.’

Her lips had been pressed into a thin line and her brows drawn together into a poorly held-together scowl. A flush had crept itself onto her cheeks, which was endearing – made even more so by the short glares she sent his way as she drove.

‘Although, to be fair, I’d much rather have your junk in my face than Josh’s- for various reasons.’

Shut up,’ Sheva wheezed, her façade breaking in an instant.

‘Imagine that being the last thing you saw. Fucking terrifying.’

She shoved him, managing to actually look offended on Josh’s behalf even through her snickers. He shoved back and they nearly swerved off the dirt road. Not that it would have made a difference.

‘Watch it!’ she laughed, ‘or I’ll start kicking!’

‘And how are you going to drive like that?’

She made a show of not answering him, so after a few seconds he decided to change the subject.

‘You two are pretty close, huh? You and Josh, I mean.’

She frowned again, evidently privy to his line of thought. ‘He’s a good friend,’ she said pointedly.

‘Uh-huh? Take it from me, they way he looks at you I’m pretty sure he’d like to be something more than that,’ Chris told her and instantly felt shitty about it. He sounded like Barry after one too many beers, talking about how Chris should make a move on Jill already, not accepting that they weren’t like that. He didn’t get a chance to apologize, as Sheva answered him quickly.

‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not what I want.’

He winced. Yeah, that sounded about right. He cleared his throat. ‘And what do you want then?’ he asked, steering the conversation away from any relationship talk. It wasn’t like it was a smart move starting those up anyway, in their line of work.

Sheva seemed to consider his question a fair bit, before she gave a decisive nod. ‘Unlimited ammo. That’s all I want.’

Chris laughed. Sure, that sounded like a dream. A pretty messed up one, granted, but damn if he wouldn’t welcome it.

‘Really? Hey, maybe if you didn’t spend so much on cutesy figurines, you know-’

She cut him off. ‘Completely irrelevant.’

‘Sure, whatever you say,’ Chris chuckled. ‘So, you have no dreams of leading a different life, then? Of becoming, oh I dunno, a Rockstar?’

‘No. Nothing like that.’

Chris shook his head. Even he’d had some unrealistic dreams back when he’d been her age. Honesty, he’d probably had them for too long, and that was the reason why he’d ended up where he had… but still. There was nothing wrong with having dreams. Maybe she was just pragmatic by nature, but he kind of doubted it. He’d have to talk some sense out of her later, when they were safe and sipping those beers. He hoped it wouldn’t be too long till then.

 

~ Albert Wesker ~

He awoke to the sound of hollow metal rustling behind him. Slowly, his mind registered the sounds; pots, he noted. In the kitchen behind. The reality of his situation came back to him and he sank himself deeper into the couch. Clank, clonk – a loud thud. It was most likely Kayin; that, or the man was being robbed. Wesker didn’t bother checking. Instead he made an attempt to go back to sleep, but this proved to be an exercise in futility. The noise didn’t cease and he found himself unable to shut it out. Yet, he felt strangely lethargic; almost at ease.

The ringing in his ears had stopped, he suddenly realized, and perhaps that was it. His head still ached with a rhythmic pounding against his temples, but somehow it now felt more bearable. Blinking away the sleep from his eyes revealed to him that his vision had improved as well. It wasn’t entirely back to normal yet, but at least the strange discolorations had mostly subsided and what little blurriness remained was easy enough to ignore.

He let out a sigh, sounding far more content than he had meant to, and despite his body urging him to remain, Wesker forced himself to sit up. There was a kink in his neck that hadn’t been there before, but other than that the uncomfortable couch had served him well. The sounds were still being made and Wesker turned to look over the counter to where Kayin was standing, staring hesitantly into the contents of a can. He soon noticed Wesker looking.

‘Good morning-’ he began, but then cut himself off and started again. ‘Good evening, I should say. You look better.’

‘Good. What are you doing?’

Kayin glanced back down into his can, wincing as be looked up again. ‘Stew? I don’t cook much. Usually, I eat with Bibi,’ he explained. His shoulders slumped and he put the can down on the counter, giving the rest of his collection a dejected look.

‘I would have though cooking to be a fundamental skill for one living on their own,’ Wesker commented.

‘I haven’t always lived alone. It’s a new arrangement,’ Kayin told him. Wesker turned to look at the room once more. That’d explain the chaos, then – if the young man was used to others taking care of him, perhaps that was why his home looked the way it did. Wesker, himself, had always favored keeping his space thoroughly organized but knew too well how others seldom shared his penchant for the extreme. Kayin, however, was entirely in a class of his own.

‘Who did you live with prior?’ Wesker asked. This was apparently surprising, for whatever reason, judging by the look he received.

‘You interested?’ Kayin asked, seemingly almost amused by the prospect.

‘Sure. Why not.’

Kayin stared at him for a second, but then smiled and grabbed another one of the tin cans to pour into the tall pot atop the stove. He dug around inside one of the drawers for a large spoon before answering.

‘I lived with my grandparents and older sister. Mother died when I was very small and my father and brother were both claimed by the war. I moved here a few weeks ago, just to see how I’d do. Try my wings, you know?’

Wesker hummed in response. No, he did not know. Very seldom did he do things so aimlessly – the idea did not sit well with him.

‘I still visit them every day, they live on other side of the village so it’s no problem,’ Kayin went on, then frowned into his pot. ‘Thought I’d cook today but… it don’t look so good.’

Wesker slowly rolled his shoulder and stood, then circled the counter to join Kayin by the stove. He leaned away when Wesker approached, giving him room to peer into the pot as well and… yes. Yes, it did indeed look awful.

‘Move aside,’ Wesker ordered. ‘Tell me where to find the essentials and I’ll deal with this mess.’

‘You can cook?’ Kayin asked incredulously.

‘Of course I can cook; it’s just chemistry.’ Not to mention a stipulation for survival. Relying on others to keep you fed was dangerous as well as stupid. More so if there was a real chance people might actually try to poison you, so perhaps Kayin had never had to deal with that.

Soon enough they’d completely switched places; Wesker seizing control over the kitchen and Kaying retreating back to the sofa where he peered over the counter to watch. It was annoying having an audience, but at least he was keeping his distance. Unlike Excella. She had been most infuriating throughout the duration of their coalition, leaving him with little time to himself. Handsy, as well, and that, at least, they seemed to have in common. The trait itself was not a positive one by any stretch of the imagination, but at least Kayin’s penchant for it was not in an attempt to seduce. Thankfully. Obviously, he’d meet the same fate as her in the end, regardless of intention; Wesker wasn’t about to leave any loose ends – but he’d make sure to make it quick, if for no other reason than to spite Excella. To think she has though he’d make her his queen. The very thought was intrinsically absurd; he was to become a god, he didn’t need a queen.

He sighed discreetly. As much as it really was just chemistry, his work was made difficult by the state of the kitchen. Or, more precisely, by the general lack of supplies. On the counter there were a number of cans containing beans and tomato products and in a small, possibly homemade, fridge he found half a packet of ketchup. Two cans with ripped off labels were stored in one of the cupboards; one filled with pickles and the other something murky. Spices were less than scarce. For all his searching he only found salt – a bare minimum as far as seasoning went. Kayin wasn’t particularly helpful either, only shrugging or vaguely pointing whenever he was asked to locate something in particular.

When the concoction was finally finished, the two of them wasted no time getting settled. Kayin stayed in the sofa, and Wesker remained standing by the stove while they ate. Somehow it had ended up edible, although Wesker suspected he would have been of another opinion given different circumstances. As it was, he hadn’t eaten in… well, days, at least. He hadn’t realized it, but he was a fair bit hungrier than his body had let on. Thirstier, too.

Kayin stretched long and hard where he sat on the sofa, looking about as content as one could inside such a hovel. Then he got up. ‘I need to go over to Bibi,’ he explained with a drawn-out yawn. ‘I will be gone for only thirty minutes or so. You should sleep more. Get your strength back.’

Wesker nodded, absently picking at one of the buttons on his borrowed shirt.

‘I will bring more medicine,’ Kayin continued. ‘You will be well in no time, just take it easy here, okay?’

‘Of course.’

Of course not. He’d taken enough orders for one day! If Kayin was going out then that’d give Wesker time to scout the area. More medicine sounded like it would do him good, but after that final favor time would be just about ripe to get rid of his new acquaintance. Wesker had stuck around for too long already and it would be a great inconvenience if Chris managed to leave Africa before their reunion. In case he hadn’t already.

He spared no time after Kayin left, quickly finding the backdoor exit. If he could find any information regarding Chris, that would help him decide on a course of action.

 

~ Chris Redfield ~

When they finally reached their second destination, they were greeted by a Captain LaCroix, originally from the European Division, that had been charged with overseeing the location. According to her the perimeter was safe and relatively quiet, and there had been no sightings of any Majini since the initial outbreak and subsequent quarantine. Their conversation had been brief; she’d told them they were free to check out the camera footage, but Chris had politely declined. He’d had half a mind to leave right away, but then Sheva had insisted they take a look themselves first. She was right, of course. Just because it didn’t seem likely didn’t mean the freak wasn’t lurking about like a rat in hiding. And if he didn’t want to be found, they’d have to employ some coercion. Not the kind of coercion he would have traditionally liked, but if he knew Wesker right the guy would come running the moment he learned that Chris was nearby.

As much as he hated playing bait, it seemed the only feasible way to be sure they wouldn’t somehow miss Wesker. There was no way they’d risk him getting away again.

 

~ Albert Wesker ~

The light of day had at first concerned him, as moving about unnoticed might have been made difficult under the blazing sun, but the density of the buildings had reassured him, as well as the general lack of people. If this was on account of the virus or the war he didn’t know, but the emptiness left the area feeling incredibly still and quiet. The only sound that could be heard were the occasional clucking of chickens that seemed prevalent throughout all of Kijuju, as well as the soft crunching of dirt beneath his still naked feet.

As he ventured further into the town, the state of the place became clear to him. Some sort of fighting must have transpired, for the buildings to have been left in such a state of disrepair. Walls were torn from the houses and sheds and broken barrels and crates were scattered about all over. Scorch marks and bullet holes decorated what few doors hadn’t been bashed in, and the smell of fire and (for some reason) rotten eggs filled the air.

But no bodies. There had to still be people, then, for someone to have moved the corpses that should have been lining the streets. Either that, or the BSAA had done their rounds burning what evidence they could find of the infected inhabitants. If their job was done so thoroughly, perhaps they had already moved on to greener pastures. Part of him was pleased by the thought, but another found the idea grating. Chris was unlikely to be anywhere the BSAA was not, and even though he did not feel ready to face him yet, the urge to do so bubbled loudly; barely contained beneath the lid of his will.

Although their early departure was worrying for different reasons as well. Rounding up and burning bodies took time, so if the BSAA had finished such a task already, perhaps he had been out of it for longer than he had thought. That, or he had drifter much further away during his swim than he had initially thought. Neither boded well for a swift reunion with Chris. If Wesker had been stewing in that lava for much longer than previously assumed, maybe Chris had already left Africa altogether. The thought had struck him before, but at that time it had seemed more like a passing notion, a prospect to keep in mind, than it had a possible reality. How was he to know? His head still throbbed and it made it difficult for him to focus. His feet, too, felt heavy and despite his greatest attempts to ignore it, walking around barefoot wasn’t the most comfortable pastime he’d ever attempted. That he even noticed was grating enough on its own.

A small marketplace situated inside a crossroad came into view up ahead. One of the houses, the last on the left side before the square, had its front door missing and Wesker entered it, head buzzing with questions. The furniture inside was about as broken as everything else, but he did manage to find a chair to sit down on. He had to collect himself; had to figure out what to do next. Find Chris, obviously. How? Did he still need more time to recover? He wasn’t yet at peak performance, but perhaps Chris not expecting him would be enough to take him down. If Chris had already left Africa, rushing things wouldn’t serve a purpose anyway. He couldn’t return to his labs, and he had no one to contact for supplies, or even ways in which he could contact them. But he did need supplies.

As if placed there by some higher power, in front of him atop a counter stood two easily breakable crates of the type that typically contained things. He made his way over. If he could find a red herb, he’d be set. They broke easily, in one swift swing of his fist, leaving him feeling content in that at least his box crushing proficiency had not been tarnished by the volcano. However, as unfortunate as it was, all the crates contained were some machine gun ammo and a lonesome hand grenade. Obviously he took the both of them, even though he currently didn’t know what to do with either.

It was then that he heard it; the faint sound of a voice outside. He stilled, listening. The voice was drawing nearer, but without any urgency. Whoever it belonged to, they did not seem to have noticed him yet. Quietly, Wesker placed himself behind one of the sturdier walls of the building and waited.

Chapter Text

~ Sheva Alomar ~

‘I’m not sure it’s a good idea,’ she said, but he was adamant.

‘We have to move fast. If he’s not here, then we need to get going as quickly as possible.’

She agreed, in theory, but they’d barely managed to take down Wesker together; splitting up could prove fatal if one of them did in fact run into him.

‘We’ll keep contact,’ Chris went on. ‘Every step of the way. Wesker is not likely to take us down without monologuing so that’ll give us time to get back together.’

‘Are you sure about this?’ she asked.

‘Positive.’

Sheva nodded, feeling in the back of her mind that this was wrong. But Chris had more experience – as an agent and with Wesker. Besides, it was unlikely that they’d actually find him. As much as she didn’t want to discourage Chris, it didn’t really seem like he had fully grasped just how big Kijuju truly was. The likelihood of them running into Wesker was miniscule, at best; they’d have to be tremendously lucky if they were to locate him, much less actually catch him.

‘I’ll take the east side,’ she decided, ‘Any sign of something wrong and you’ll let me know.’

‘Of course.’

Sheva watched as he turned around, heading down the path. The feeling of unease deepened, but she brushed it off. Chris knew what he was doing.

She began walking in the opposite direction. On her map, she could see a larger structure up ahead and set it as her destination. If she could get some high ground, she’d be able to scope things out more efficiently. Hopefully Chris wouldn’t barge headfirst into danger in the meantime.

 

~ Albert Wesker ~

He was injured, unarmed, and wholly unfamiliar with his surroundings; to anyone else these might have proven themselves deterring factors when faced with an opponent who possessed none of the same disadvantages. But not to Wesker. He was not ‘anyone else’, and the soldier carelessly approaching the crossroad from the eastern side had his neck snapped before he even had time to reach for his radio – much less form the idea in his head that he should. His body fell unceremoniously into a lifeless lump at Wesker’s feet.

A BSAA soldier. Dark, near black hair and deep-set eyes staring blankly at a random spot on the ground. He appeared young, probably in his early twenties. Not quite as tall as Wesker, and stockier at his core. It’s wasn’t a perfect match, but anything would be better than prancing around Kijuju looking like a tourist.

He dragged the body into the building that he had previously acquainted himself with and began removing the alabaster uniform from the dead man. The pant legs proved to be a bit short, but once tucked into the boots this was not visible. The same was true for the sleeves of the hooded shirt, and so he rolled them up to keep them from annoying him by riding up his forearms. He took the vest as well and with it, more importantly, the radio. Obviously, he hadn’t killed the man only to appease his own sense of self-image (blue jeans were not part of it), but rather the predominant reason for the swift execution had been for Wesker to gain access to the BSAA’s communication system. With it, he might be able to learn of Chris’ whereabouts. He put in the earpiece, hearing nothing from it as he fastened all the buckles and secured the holster of his new handgun.

Finding the dead man’s navigational device revealed a small map of the area; it did not look familiar to him, but at least it gave him an overview. Further to the southwest, he noticed a small blue triangle moving northward. A partner of the deceased, most likely, and one he had broken protocol along with, for them to be so far apart. Stupid, but useful in that. The BSAA were clearly still active in the area, lending credence to the idea that Chris was still around. What somewhat squandered this happy revelation was the small black display positioned above the map that apparently depicted the current date. Two and a half weeks had passed since the Volcano incident, as opposed to the approximately two and a half days Wesker had estimated. Had it really been that long? It wasn’t devastating news by any means, but Chris having stuck around for that long seemed… moderately unlikely.

Wesker rubbed at his face and groaned. He didn’t feel like making himself known to the BSAA already (or at all, preferably) but by the way things were going that seemed to be where he was heading in this. If he could find where they had set up camp nearby maybe he could get some answers out of any temporary survivors. It wasn’t the most discreet course of action, but it was effective. Even if they’d tell him nothing, Chris was always more likely to show up wherever the body count was the highest.

Suddenly, there was a short click in the earpiece. Wesker tensed. At first he only heard a soft buzz, then the sound of an intake of air followed by a man’s voice.

So, anyway,’ it started, conversationally, ‘if you’re done with your route we can start heading back to base now. If we hurry, maybe we can make it there before they leave. I know you’d love an autograph.

Wesker glanced at the lump on the ground, discarded by a kitchen counter. He’d merely heard the man’s voice briefly, and then only from a ways off. What little he had been able to make out had made it seem as though he had been agitated by something, and his answers to the radio had come out short and reserved. Wesker switched on the mic.

‘Yeah,’ he said, hoping that was enough of a response. If it wasn’t, at least it seemed to amuse the man on the other end.

All right! Acceptance is a move in the right direction,’ he laughed. ‘Hey, maybe you’ll even get a picture?’ A short pause, silent if not for the chuckles. ‘But, ya’know, try not to piss him off, okay? I hear he’s not a big fan of groupies.’

Without any context it was difficult deciding what response would be appropriate. By the sound of the other’s words and tone, the dead man by Wesker’s feet was apparently being mocked over something. Something embarrassing that he had been unwilling to discuss.

Wesker ran his tongue over his teeth. These two seemed chummy enough. ‘Shut up,’ he said, trying to sound indignant without straying from his imitation too much. It seemed to have been enough.

Oh, I’m sorry!’ the man said, laughing even more now. Somehow it grated on him, even though the jeering wasn’t truly directed towards him. ‘Did I hurt your little feelings? Just hang in there, man, I’m sure you’ll manage to woo him in no time. Love at first sight and all that, I believe in you.

He didn’t know what to say to that. Part of him felt that this whole conversation was very out of line; back when he had been captain of S.T.A.R.S there had been no frivolous relationship talk over the com unit. If there had, the people involved would have been thoroughly reprimanded and discouraged from repeating the offence through janitorial duties. Whoever their superior was, their disciplinary tactics were atrocious. It was almost offensive, really. Not to mention the two had deviated from BSAA directives by splitting up. In all likelihood he was doing their captain a favor by getting rid of them – brief as their imagined gratitude would be once he got to them as well.

Time dragged on, and before Wesker could come up with an appropriate (or, strictly speaking, inappropriate) response, the earpiece crackled to life again.

Are you ignoring me?’ the voice asked.

Wesker didn’t respond. Obviously, he had very little experience with “playful banter”, but he could tell the other man found the prospect amusing. Another beat of silence passed before the radio clicked and his pretend partner let out another laugh.

Hey, I get it! I’m sorry, okay? I’ll let up. What say you we meet up by the west road and head on back to camp from there? If we’re quick, maybe we can catch Mr. Redfield before he’s off again; LaCroix said he seems to be in a hurry.’

A toothy smile creeped its way onto Wesker’s features. Mr. Redfield, eh? What an opportunity! The stars had aligned, no doubt, and now not only was Chris still in Africa, he was in the very same village as Wesker! Full recovery be damned, this was too perfect to pass up.

‘I’ll be there,’ he spoke into the mic, glancing back at the map in his hand. The little blue triangle was still heading north not too far from where he was. He would be easily intercepted.

Wesker took one last look at the man who had unwittingly given him this chance of vengeance, and then left the building to harvest more information from whoever his soon to be new late partner was. Excitement sparked underneath his skin, almost elevating his mind to a state of euphoria. This time, he would not fail.

 

~ Chris Redfield ~

Ignoring the main road, Chris decided to check out some of the more secluded areas. The entire northern portion of the town had been quarantined, and the rest was completely deserted and monitored only through the use of LaCroix’s cameras. It was still enough to be a deterring factor, enough for Chris not to feel too passionate about his search- but if Wesker was around, at least there would be plenty of nooks and crannies to hide in amongst the rubble.

Most of the buildings had been bombed to hell and it was probably dangerous moving through the crumbled remains. He did it anyway, because he didn’t have time to worry about stuff like that. The day crashing through some floorboards fazed him would be the day he put his gun away for good. He’d been through it too many times at this point to care. Besides, crashing through floorboards usually got him where he wanted to be. In a way he almost hoped it would happen, if only to break up the monotony and give him something more palpable to deal with. Chasing shadows had never been his thing.

Fifteen minutes he spent tensely moving from house to house. He found some crates with gold in them and a red herb in a pot he accidentally wasted a bullet on. The only company he had was that of the occasional rat running along a wall or one of the chickens he sometimes came across clucking at him as he walked by. They really seemed to be all over the place, for whatever reason. At one point he had thought he’d heard footsteps, but when he went to check it had turned out to be just another rat.

‘Find anything yet?’ he asked into his mic. Sheva didn’t hesitate to answer.

Not yet,’ she told him. ‘I think maybe we should move out.’

‘I hear you.’ He kicked at a pebble, sending it flying for a short bit before it hit one of the caved in walls.

Another twenty minutes, all right? Then we leave.’

‘Roger that. Watch your back, okay?’

You too.’

Chris continued on, more and more certain they were in the wrong place each second ticking by. They were wasting their time.

After the twenty minutes had passed, Chris began on his way back to the outpost. He was just about to contact Sheva again, to complain about his lack of findings, when he heard what sounded like a scream coming from some ways off to his left. It had sounded like a man, but had been so abrupt that Chris thought that maybe he had just imagined it. A long block of buildings separated him from where he thought the sound had come from, and while it was a bit of a detour if someone really was in danger he couldn’t just keep walking. So he went into a jog and pummeled a couple of windows to try to get there as fast as possible. The buildings were so broken in between the narrow passages separating them that in most places he could just step straight through what previously must have been an impenetrable wall of housings. All of Kijuju seemed to be built to resemble a maze and a lot of the time he wondered how the people there had managed to get anywhere without constantly trespassing. Maybe they didn’t care about that kind of stuff. He kept the pace up and soon all that separated him from one of the (relatively) large roads was a barred door that probably took longer than strictly necessary for him to lift the bar off of. Beyond this point was where he thought the sound might have come from. He was just about to exit onto the road, when he remembered his promise to Sheva. She had wanted him to contact her.

‘Sheva,’ he spoke quickly into the mic, wanting to get going, wanting to help whoever needed it, ‘I heard signs of a struggle. I’m heading towards it.’

Again, she was quick to respond. ‘Chris, be careful. Do you need me to back you up?’

‘I don’t know yet. I’ll keep you updated.’

Chris switched it off, readied his gun, and kicked open the door leading outside. It was silent now, so still that it almost made him think he really had imagined the scream. He took a few steps further into the open, scanning the area until his eyes fell on a dark spot on the ground up ahead. He moved closer, kneeling down once he reached it. Blood. Fresh, too, by the look of it.

Suddenly, he caught sight of something in his peripheral- a shadow, some ways off down the road to his left, close to what looked to be a passage. Chris approached carefully, thinking it might yet be another rat or a crow playing tricks on him. The passage was closed off; one side with a metal fence, and the other with the wall of a building. Balconies, most of them broken in some way, lined the path, granting some shade from the sun. The whole situation was sending him seriously bad vibes, like he was walking straight into a trap. He tried to ignore the feeling, like he always did, and hesitantly pressed on.

He couldn’t hear any sign of life, nor see it. The only sounds around were made by his shoes crunching against the dry dirt road, and his controlled breaths coming out a little too shallow. It was still much too quiet by the time he reached the end of the passage.

The fence stopped in one of two concrete walls. The other connected with the building lining the passage, creating an enclosure with the only existing exits being either going back from where he came, or entering into the house through were there must have once been a door leading out into the area. An old table with a crate on top of it was standing next to the doorway, but other than that the enclosure was empty. Well… near empty, at least.

A man was lying face down on the ground, a BSAA soldier, blood pooling around his head- blood also visible high on the concrete wall next to the body. He wasn’t moving.

‘Hey,’ Chris said, putting his gun away in its holster and hurrying over to the man. ‘Are you okay?’

He placed a hand on the man’s neck, searching for a pulse. There was none; the man was dead. His skin still felt hot to the touch, but then everything did in Kijuju. Chris shifted the man onto his side to get a better look at him, but his face was completely busted. Bashed in. Chris wouldn’t have been able to identify him even if he’d known him. His eyes left the man, travelling up the wall to where they landed on the blood-soaked dent. Whatever had done this to him, it would have had to be really strong to crack the wall like that. It looked a little too sloppy to be Wesker – a little too indiscreet. Unless it really was a trap. He brought his hand up to his ear piece, ready to call it in.

‘Come in Sheva, I found a-’

But that was as far as he got. He heard Sheva say something on the other end, but switched off the connection. She’d get the point.

A gun had cocked behind him and the sound of footsteps had soon followed. Then the snicker. Now that was a sound he had never wanted to hear again. Chris lowered his hand and turned, confirming what he already knew. What he had know ever since returning to Africa, maybe even before then.

Wesker emerged from the doorway, one hand raised and the other lazily stuffed into his pocket; a wide, shit-eating grin plastered on his stupid face. His left eye had a prominent dark shade to it, and parts of his eyebrow was missing as well – but other than that he did not look like he had been splashing around inside an active volcano only two weeks prior.

Well fuck. He should have known it was a trap- he had known it was a trap! Why did he always walk into traps!? He was getting too old for this shit. Getting too old for goddamn Wesker and his inability to grasp the concept of dying and staying dead. Unfortunately, Chris understood it all too well, and it looked a whole lot like the gloved finger waiting by the trigger of the gun pointed at his face. There was no way he’d be able to take him on mano-a-mano, and Wesker wasn’t likely to miss without a distraction so booking it wasn’t really an option.

Chris,’ Wesker drawled, sounding too much like a smug cat about to tip your favorite cup off of the counter for Chris’ liking. ‘I’m sure you must be very surprised to see me here,’ he went on, leering through every word. ‘Joyous, I’m sure, to see me alive and well after our little… altercation.’

‘No and no,’ Chris spat, hoping that wasn’t the last thing he ever said, ‘Not surprised and definitely not happy.’

‘Always so self-assured, even now. It would be admirable if only it wasn’t so gratuitous.’

Chris shrugged and tried to think of something witty to say. His mind was drawing a blank; the gun was too distracting. He had to play it cool, had to buy himself some time until Sheva got there. Briefly, he thought of Jill. The idea of her learning of his death sunk like a rock through his core, and he had to will it away to focus on the situation at hand. He wouldn’t let Wesker do to Jill what he had done to Chris three years ago. If he could at all help it, he wouldn’t give her reason to mourn.

He slowly made to stand, almost sure it’d be the last thing he did. It wasn’t. Wesker just stood there, watching with that sardonic look in his eye.

‘Should I take it you don’t intend to barter, then? Or beg?’ he mocked, his armed hand rising along with Chris.

‘You’re even crazies than I thought if that’s what you were expecting,’ Chris said, mostly to keep him talking. He knew that he had just found exactly what he had been looking for, knew that he should be pleased that it went as quick as it did – he’d known Wesker was alive, this wasn’t confirming a thing – yet, somehow, actually finding him made Chris feel like total shit. He wasn’t ready yet, not mentally in any case. In his mind, he had kind of settled for the fact that Wesker had gotten away, that it would take months, maybe even years, until they met again. He had hated the thought just as much as it had given him comfort.

‘I wasn’t,’ Wesker chuckled. ‘I know you better than that, Chris, although I did imagine you’d at least curse me out.’

Chris allowed himself to laugh, hollow as it was. ‘It won’t end with me. There’s no way the world will just sit back and watch as you destroy it. We’ll find a way to take you down, no matter the cost… you absolute shithead.’

He made a point of spitting out the last bit, granting the wish of a curse just for the sake of it. Just because it felt good to do. But Wesker just smiled, not at all fazed by Chris’ words. He hadn’t thought he would be; he just looked about as smarmy as always, which in this case was better than fazed. Wesker liked to talk. Especially, he liked going on long tirades about- whatever it was he was talking about most of the time. Chris didn’t typically bother to listen after a certain point. But if playing therapist would be what it took to give Sheva the time she needed, he’d gladly do it.

Chris took a step to the side, watching as Wesker’s smile grew wider at his movement. He wasn’t being very subtle, he knew.

‘I told you already, Chris; it’s not my intention to destroy the world,’ Wesker said. He mimicked Chris’s movement, almost mockingly.

‘That’s not exactly what it looks like from where I’m standing. You do realize that killing off two thirds of the human population is pretty destructive, right? By definition.’

Wesker laughed. Good, then he was taking the bait. ‘Humanity itself is destructive. The world is better off without its constant meddling.’

‘Says the guy whose main hobby is meddling. If you really think humanity is so shit with its destructive behavior, shouldn’t you be out planting trees or something?’ Chris took another step, as did Wesker. The passage back from where he came held no shelter for him to duck behind, so the safest exit was by far the doorway. Evidently, it was also the one furthest away, and closest to Wesker. Unless he somehow managed to dance around him, an escape would be dangerous to risk. Didn’t gain him anything to stand still, though, so he took another couple of steps in the direction of the passage. Obviously Wesker followed suit.

‘I am, in a way,’ he said and Chris couldn’t help but scoff at the bizarre mental image. It didn’t deter Wesker; it only seemed to amuse him again. ‘Why try to modify the planet when it’s so obvious where the problem lies?’ he continued. ‘It’s much better to modify humans. If most of them perish in the process all the better. Only a select few are fit for evolution.’

‘We don’t need to evolve. We’re already at the top of the food chain,’ Chris grunted, suddenly feeling more agitated than he really wanted to let on. The blabber about evolution had a way of getting on his nerves, and he could tell Wesker noticed – could see it in the mocking arch of his brow at Chris’ tone of voice.

‘When you stop striving for more you effectively kill yourself,’ Wesker leered, taking a step closer to Chris. Almost instinctively, Chris stepped back, hearing his back scrape against the metal fence now directly behind him. He steeled himself, forcing his hands to still – he needed to keep the freak talking at all cost.

‘Is that why you did it?’ he asked. ‘Tried to become a god?’

‘I did it because it was my right to. Because I have the credentials.’

‘That’s it? You “have the credentials”? Sorry, but I don’t see it. If there’s a god, I’m pretty sure you’re the last person he’s anything like. Something about not being so full of shit, I think.’

Anyone else, and it might not have been a good idea to try pissing them off. But this was Wesker, and at this point Chris knew no other way to interact with him. It didn’t work anyway, because the asshole seemed way too pleased with himself at the moment to rise to his taunts.

If?’ Wesker asked mockingly, seemingly having ignored everything before and after that point. It was probably for the best.

Wesker rolled his shoulders, craning his neck while looking Chris up – evaluating. For all his talk of wanting Chris dead he sure was taking his sweet time. Unless he, too, was stalling. Chris’ eyes fell on the gun. Maybe it was empty? But why would that matter? Last they’d fought, Wesker hadn’t exactly needed much in ways of weaponry in order to kick his ass. Maybe he was worried gunshots would attract attention… but then why hadn’t he just smashed his head against the wall like he had that other man? Was the gun just a threat? A reminder of how screwed Chris was? He didn’t need it. Was Wesker really just toying with him again? The man seriously needed a new hobby.

Wesker fueled this thesis by letting out a low snicker while taking yet another step towards Chris who still hadn’t moved from where he stood by the fence. The bastard was actually having fun.

‘If?’ Wesker repeated. ‘How interesting. Not such a model American, after all? Good for you.’

Chris clenched his jaw, pulling his eyes away from the gun to meet Wesker’s. He looked so full of himself. Just like he always did. He wished he could just punch that smug look off of his face… if he came any closer, maybe he would.

‘I just don’t think God and monsters like you can exist in the same world,’ Chris bit off. ‘If there was a god, he would have dealt with you a long time ago. I know I would have.’

For some reason that caught his interest, and Wesker’s face lit up with something akin to glee, like Chris had finally said something that made sense to him. ‘Oh? What else then?’ he asked, clearly not being ambiguous as all hell.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean what else would you do, Chris? If you were a god.’

Chris rolled his eyes. Was that the name of the game, then? He didn’t have much of a choice, so he played along. ‘Oh, I dunno,’ he said dryly, throwing a look around – still no sign of Sheva. ‘End suffering? War, hunger… disease. I sure wouldn’t dress up like some Matric reject and start hurling projectiles at people, if that’s what you’re asking.’

Still just that condescending smirk, the look of glee in his eye now replaced by an almost… affectionate look. Like he was looking at a small child trying to learn how to walk, but also like part of him wanted to see said child fall and crack their head open. It made his stomach turn.

‘Really, Chris? End suffering? How endearing. If naïve.’

Chris wasn’t prepared when Wesker suddenly lowered the gun, inspecting it only briefly before throwing it aside. He then closed the distance between them, with his now free hand shooting up faster than Chris’ eyes could register to enclose around his neck. He gasped violently at the pressure, which then slowly eased to the sound of Wesker’s low chuckle. Chris clenched his fist and tried getting a hit into his side, but Wesker barely flinched. He tried again, knowing full well how futile it was. Again, it had virtually no effect; unless you counted Wesker’s laughing growing louder.

‘No,’ he said simply. ‘No, Chris, that is something you would do precisely because you are human. You know no other existence, and therefore it is absolutely redundant of you to speculate on what you would do if you were anything but.’

Do you have a point?’ Chris wheezed. At once, the smirk shifted into a sneer and the fingers around his throat tightened in their grip.

‘You are what you are, and you can’t stop being what you are. You have to work with what potential you have, just like I have to do the same. My potential just happens to be of an entirely different caliber.’

You weren’t… always a freak, you know.’

‘It’s in my DNA, Chris. It is my right, and as such my obligation, to use this to my advantage. That is how we evolve.’

You’re full of shit!’ He gasped, pulling at the unrelenting fingers digging into his flesh. Black spots were beginning to form in front of his vision, clouding up his view of the doorway behind Wesker’s shoulder. He willed Sheva to appear there, but reality did not bend to his will.

‘I’m simply ahead of you,’ Wesker growled, moving his hand to grip Chris’ jaw and forcefully angling his face away from his escape. He wheezed, both hands clinging to Wesker’s wrist as his mind caught up with him through harsh intakes of much too dry air. ‘But you’re not completely without virtue, Chris,’ Wesker continued, low and much too close. ‘You could still have your own potential to see realized.’

What the hell was that supposed to mean? ‘My potential?’ Chris spat, his voice hoarse and aching. ‘As far as I’m concerned, my “potential” is kicking your high-and-mighty ass! You think you’re hot shit, but I still beat you! So whatever! Nothing you say mean anything, because I’ve already proven you wrong!’

‘You’ve proven nothing but your ability to stall my progress.’ His fingers dug deeper into Chris’ jaw and he just barely kept himself from wincing at the pain of it.

‘Then I’ll keep stalling,’ Chris grit out. Thankfully, this was apparently amusing enough to get Wesker to lessen his hold. He chuckled deeply, so close that Chris could feel his breath on his cheek. He tried to turn away further, but wasn’t allowed to by the hand still gripping him.

‘Only if I let you,’ Wesker purred straight into his ear. He felt a shiver of revulsion creep down his neck but could do nothing to deny his words. It was true, anyway; Chris couldn’t very well claim that Wesker didn’t have the upper hand, that it wouldn’t be easy for him do to Chris was he had already done to the dead soldier a few feet away. Why hadn’t he? What was he doing? What was he waiting for? He heard Wesker breathe in deeply in front of him, could feel the tip of his nose grace his cheekbone by how close he was. If he was trying to unnerve him, it was definitely working.

‘Are you going to kill me or not?’ Chris blurted out. It wasn’t a smart question, but at least it seemed to please Wesker to a degree.

‘You always were so impatient,’ he mumbled, letting his hand pointedly travel back down to Chris’ neck. There was no pressure, though, no squeeze against his jugular or fingers digging into his flesh. He just left his hand lingering there as a reminder that he could. ‘I do so like that defiant look of yours,’ he continued. ‘Do you honestly think I don’t see through your bravado? That I don’t see the sweat on your brow- the fear you tuck away under that scowl? Pretend all you like that you’re some intrepid hero on the verge of turning the tables, but you’ll be fooling no one but yourself.’

Chris grit his teeth, glaring as best he could without smashing his face into Wesker’s. ‘I’m so sick of you running your goddamned mouth. Honestly, at this point I’d rather eat that bullet than listen to any more of your blabbering.’

A pang of guilt immediately followed his words. He wasn’t supposed to die here, he had to get home to Jill. He still hadn’t told her about everything that had happened, about all the things she’d missed. They were supposed to play video games, goddamnit!

‘And you will, trust me,’ Wesker growled, “but not before I make you pay.’

The hand around his neck tightened again, pushing his head back into the fence. Chris cried out. Only when he was sure he was about to pass out did the pressure stop, but it was quickly followed by a hard punch to his stomach. He keened, falling to his knees where a hand quickly found his hair and yanked his head back- a second returned to gripping his jaw painfully.

‘Uroboros was to be my magnum opus!’ Wesker spat. ‘I put years of work into that project and you spoiled it for me!’

Chris gasped for air, managing to compose himself enough to speak. ‘Cry me a river, Wesker,’ he forced out of his lungs. It was almost worth it, knowing that he had managed to piss him off. Almost.

‘You won’t feel so inclined to banter when I’m through with you.’

He was tossed aside, feeling his face scrape against the sand as he hit the ground. He felt disoriented, but still managed to locate the door without having to look twice. Before he had a chance to run, or even crawl, or get up beyond an unbalanced crouch, Wesker’s foot connected with his torso and he fell back. He tried to breathe, tried to steady his gaze, tried to do anything other than just lie there pathetically, but Wesker was set on not giving him any openings. As soon as he found himself on his back, the same foot that had put him there came to sit atop his chest, pressing him hard into the ground beneath him.

‘I like watching you squirm, Chris,’ Wesker said calmly, the same way one might comment on the weather – his previous vitriol evaporated. Chris wanted to say something back, wanted to at least punch him with his words, but his mind was too hazy to properly function. Instead he just breathed heavily while halfheartedly clawing at the foot holding him down.

‘I will miss this,’ Wesker went on. ‘I’ve had fun playing with you. I hope you will forgive me dragging it out… this final time.’