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Piers reads the entirety of the dictionary to find his words.

The only word he cannot say is ‘what’.

That’s it. Just one word. He tries saying it, but it lodges in his throat. It sticks to his tongue, gluing it to the roof of his mouth and he gags if he tries to force it out. No matter how hard it tries, it won’t come. The word isn’t his. Not yet, at least.

He’s lucky, his mother says, because it’s only the one word. She lost entire sentences. So many words slipping through her fingers and she’d learned sign language to fill in the gaps. Even after she met his father, she kept it up – having already adjusted to a life in which so many words kept slipping through her fingers.

Piers learns too, because even though it’s only the one word that chokes his voice, it’s a valuable one.

Growing older, he thinks very little of it if only because the word never comes. He hears it spoken, bandied about like candy and it hurts because it’s not his word it’s theirs and he will never have it till they come into his life.

He’s not bitter at all.

But it bubbles up inside of him.

Sometimes, he stands in front of the mirror and mouths the word. He wonders what it would sound like; wonders what his soulmate will sound like. He tries to create a mental image of them, but he can never settle on anything. But, most of all, he wants to know how he’ll know it’s them. So many times, he’s heard the word, but he never can say it for himself.

His asks his mother.

“Like?”

She blinks, and wipes her hands on her apron. “To hear the words?”

“Word,” Piers corrects.

His mother smiles at him, “It’s like… well, sort of like something in you has… popped.”

“Popped?”

She nods, “You know how when we fly, you have that popping in your ears? It’s a little bit like that. Or, at least, it was for me. You could ask your father. Maybe it was different for him.”

But his father gives him much the same answer.

Piers waits and waits and waits. He watches as the people around him learn their words, meet their soulmates, and he’s left behind. He’s aware that it’s unusual for him to be without for so long; it causes problems for him later on, when there’s this assumption that he’ll simply have the words. But he can’t even write the word, much less speak it.

There’s a part of him that hopes, perhaps foolishly, that all he needs is to see more of the world. Growing up, his grandfather was his idol. Piers wanted to be a soldier, just like him – like his father. Maybe, he thought, just maybe he’d meet his soulmate.

But not even on his most far-flung tour of duty does he find the one who holds his word in their throat.

By the time he meets Chris Redfield, he believes he’s a lost cause.

Maybe they’re dead. Maybe they’re somewhere he’ll never go. Or maybe he should have made different choices to find them. He refuses to think that he made the wrong choices, because despite never finding the word, never finding them, he’s happy.

And he meets Chris Redfield and, for a time, everything feels right.

He was born to do this. To hunt down B.O.W.s and keep the world safe from bioterrorism. His parents smile and his father tells him how proud he is of him and Piers swells with the approval, smiling and saying that he hopes he continues to make them feel that.

His mother kisses his cheek.

“I hope you meet them some day,” she murmurs into his ear.

Piers smiles sadly, and nods. Even after so long, he hopes that he’ll find them. The B.S.A.A. travels the world. He’s bound to find them sometime soon.

It’s a secret little hope that he keeps deep inside of himself. It’s what keeps him going, what keeps him fighting. He needs to survive for them, so that he can give them whatever words they need. His one may pale in comparison to the words he’s kept safe for them.

Captain Redfield’s a good man. Piers strives to be as good a captain as him one day.

But it’s Captain Redfield who teaches him that soulmates do not always end well.

The captain has all his words, speaks soft and fluent but you always listen to him because Captain Redfield is a hero. He’s a survivor. He’s the one who took down Albert Wesker.

At the cost of his own soul.

Piers learns about it in pieces, and never from the man himself. It’s in whispers about headquarters, the dark circles under the captain’s eyes, and the way that Jill Valentine lays a gentle hand on his shoulder when neither think anyone’s looking.

“You did what you had to do,” she tells him, softly.

And Piers ducks behind the file cabinet, his voice caught in his throat and heart hammering against his Adam’s apple.

“He wasn’t the man you... knew. Not anymore,” Jill continues.

“I know,” Chris replies, voice cracking. “But he…”

“I know.”

Neither of them speak after that, and Piers stays where he is, too afraid to move and let them know what he heard. He swallows down the words, locks them away, and keeps his head down.

He does most of the paperwork, taking what he can from his captain and completing it for him.

Piers knows a thing or two about being alone.

He says nothing about how red Chris’ eyes look some days. That he speaks of his S.T.A.R.S. days with a mix of fondness and a heart-wrenching sadness that has Piers’ throat swelling in sympathy. He can’t imagine outliving his soulmate – despite the fear that maybe, just maybe he has – and it’s impossible to even consider pulling the trigger on his own.

Chris Redfield is the bravest man that Piers has ever known.

He is also the saddest. For good reason.

But Piers says nothing, instead trying to be the solid support that he feels that Chris needs. He takes care of much of the day-to-day operations that their team needs as Chris’ second, and he acts as a buffer whenever need be. When there’s drunken chats about soulmates, he knows how Chris stiffens and looks away.

Instead, Piers steers conversation to a safer subject.

He doesn’t talk about his own pain. About the word that chokes him, that steals away his voice. He can see it in their faces.

“Do you ever think you’re going to meet them?” Chris asks, quietly.

“I hope so, sir,” Piers replies, blinking.

“You might be better off without them. Without knowing,” Chris says, bitterness heavy on his tongue. He takes a drink. “Avoid all that heartbreak and shit.”

Piers swallows, hard. “I… want to give them back their words. Anything that happens after, happens.”

Chris snorts, “Sometimes I forget how young you are.”

Piers says nothing, and returns to sorting reports.

His heart hammers in his throat. He wonders if he said something wrong, but he was honest with Chris. All he wants is to give his soulmate their words; whatever they may be. Even as his thoughts stutter over the word.

As bitter as Chris is, as much as Piers refuses to give into the growing hopelessness inside of him, he holds onto the hope that one day sometime he’ll meet them. That he’ll finally have that one word spoken, know that it’s his now, and give to them the words that he’s held for them.

He keeps going with that thought in mind. He refuses to give in to the nagging thoughts that maybe his soulmate died without ever meeting him, that he’ll forever be without that one word and his throat swells closed at the thought. Or simply never meeting them; never knowing what could have been.

Because nothing can be worse than the not knowing.

Then comes Edonia.

 

 

 

 

Jake learns through pain.

“The words ain’t yours,” he tells him, bleeding out across the ground. “S’why you say can’t it. You gotta wait till it’s given to you.”

He scowls.

Jake remembers his mother, struggling through words and resorting to sign language when they wouldn’t come. But he had never had that problem. He could speak fluently, had no problem picking languages up as though it was easy and she took pride in that. Even as she lay, wasting away, she’d been so proud of him and he couldn’t tell her that there was nothing in him worth it.

After all, he couldn’t save her.

“Given?”

“Soulmate,” he chokes on the blood, foam bubbling up past his lips. It won’t be long now. His words are strained, eyes clouding over. “They… give it to… you.”

Jake crushes his hand under foot. Just because his can.

It’s not like it matters, anyway. He has the words in other languages.

He doesn’t need them in this one.

English is, after all, only his third language. He doesn’t really need it and he doesn’t really need to be fluent in it – but he is. He mimics the accents of the Americans he meets, that he works with, and learns to always be guarding for that knife in the back.

That day, Jake learned that you only have yourself to count on.

A soulmate would only get in the way.

If he’s going to have one, they had better be loyal – but Jake knows better, loyalty’s a fickle thing, it’s easily bought and sold. He knows better than to simply accept that they’ll be loyal and true and all that bullshit. Moment someone offers them something better, they’ll be long gone.

It’s not like he’s got anything worthwhile to offer.

He’s learned his lesson.

The only one he can count on is himself. No such thing as true love.

Everyone’s out for themselves.

That gets him through five difficult years. He gets stronger, he fights. He gets paid. In the end, that’s all that matters: getting paid. If there’s no reward in it, it’s not worthwhile. The money may be worth shit to him now – it’s never been about the money, it was about her, about his mother and her damn sickness – but it’s the principle that matters.

He’s in it for himself. Nothing else.

By now, it’s too late. Merc work is all he knows and he’s good at it, so why stop now? There’s no one to mourn him if he dies; no one to go back to. All that’s left is a small stone with little more than her name carved into it. The money came too late to save her, but at least he saw that she got a proper burial. The money was good enough for that.

Who gives a flying fuck if there’s words crawling under his skin, waiting to be spoken? Jake doesn’t give a shit and no one else should. He doesn’t need whoever’s got those words of his locked up inside of them. He doesn’t need them.

Jake’s grown past wanting someone to tuck him in. He had to. He grew up because he had to. Who needs someone who’ll just slow him down?

If his soulmate’s out there, then he hopes that they’re fucking hot.

Besides that, he gives his soulmate little thought. He’s a little too preoccupied with survival. There’s no room for luxuries in the life that he leads. And he doesn’t need them. There’s no point.

He hopes they know to stay the hell away from him, because he doesn’t need the baggage. The last thing he needs is a weakness and that’s what a soulmate is: a weakness. He doesn’t need that; he has to be strong because strength’s all that matters. Strength is what stands between surviving and being killed.

And Jake sticks to that. He keeps on believing that he’s perfectly fine the way he is; that he doesn’t need anyone else.

Then there’s Sherry Birkin.

 

 

 

The injection was supposed to do something.

At least, he thinks it was. Jake doesn’t feel much different.

He rolls the syringe between his fingers, watching it catch the light, calls out when he hears someone, “This stuff do anything yet? Supposed to be some kind of energy booster, but I don’t feel any different.”

He flicks the syringe across the room, smirking when he hears it clatter against the rubble. He climbs to his feet, picking up the apple he’d brought with him.

“Just between us, I think we should’ve asked for more money.”

Something’s off.

For one, the man shouldn’t have that many eyes. No one should have that many eyes.

He jerks back, out of the way of the knife, which cleaves his apple in two.

Too slow, asshole.

“A lot more,” Jake comments. He crunches the rest of apple to pulp, tossing it to the side. He catches the knife before it can come down into his shoulder, his chest. Huh, should’ve seen this one coming.

The man grunts, multiple eyes bulging, but Jake’s not even breaking a sweat as he holds him off. Maybe there was something to that ‘energy booster’ bullshit after all.

“I’m pretty sure this wasn’t part of the contract.”

Disarming him is laughably easy. The man moves too slow. Jake crushes his jaw in hand, smirking, “But I am willing to renegotiate.”

It’s a laughably easy fight. But hey, a fight’s a fight and so long as he’s paid at the end of it, it doesn’t much matter to him. But this? Freaky multi-eyed people? That wasn’t in the contract. His eyes flick to the discarded syringe, lying too innocently in a pile of rubble.

Well, guess there was more to it.

“Did you take your dose?”

He’s got this to say: For an American, she’s awfully pretty. Not his type, but she’s petite and blond; a quick glance over says that she’s got a lot of power in those legs of hers.

“Yeah,” Jake replies. He shrugs, jerks his head, “See the lady downstairs for a hit.”

He remembers the lady clearly; dark haired, dressed in a fine blue dress that left little to the imagination, and a deep red scarf. She hadn’t said much, except to offer them quite a lot of money in exchange for testing her company’s new ‘energy booster’.

When the man he beat the shit out of disintegrates into ash, Jake knows that shit’s up.

“Wouldn’t recommend it, though,” he finishes.

She glances up from her watch, “No question, you’ve got the antibodies.”

He wonders how it is that she’s got so many words. Then shrugs it off. Hopefully, she gives him her name sometime soon, cause otherwise he’s making one up for her. He can’t exactly go around shouting ‘hey you’ – even if he wanted to.

“Thanks very much.”

She strides past him, yanking a door open.

“Wait, what?”

“You could be the key to saving this world, Jake Muller.”

Footsteps. He glances back. There’s more of them now.

“Better save myself first.”

And, without much more thought, he launches himself straight into the garbage chute.

Behind him, he hears the echo of gunshots. Then a thud as the girl leaps into the chute after him.

Really, this isn’t how he saw his day going. At all.

Landing in ankle deep sewage and floating trash isn’t his idea of a good welcome. And is it just him, or did the smell just get about ten times worse? He can feel the water soaking into the seams of his boots, feet getting wet and it’s not a pleasant sensation. Jake can’t wait to get out of here.

At least he landed on his feet. The girl’s not so lucky.

“Lose something?”

“Just my balance,” she replies brightly. “I’m fine.”

Honestly, he doesn’t understand how someone could be so cheerful given the circumstances.

She fumbles about in her pockets, then pulls out an official looking badge. “Sherry Birkin, the United States–”

“Good job,” he cuts her off, pointing up at the chute. “But now’s not really the time.”

They need to keep moving. Jake makes for the wide, sweeping sewer. It’s gotta be a relic of the Cold War, this network of underground tunnels, because nothing else makes sense. Not that he particularly cares; that shit was over long before he was born.

“Comin’?”

He can practically hear her rolling her eyes. “After you.”

 

 

 

Death is something that Piers has gotten frighteningly used to over the years. It’s simply part of the job; he knows that it’s chance, luck, and skill that have kept him alive for so long. Sometime, all of that could simply run out. One day, he might not be fast enough, strong enough.

It’s something that they all live with.

But it’s never easy.

“He was running recon,” Piers says. “Alone.”

Since he joined the B.S.A.A., he’s been at Chris Redfield’s side. He impressed him; it’s part of what led him to rise up the ranks as quickly as he has. And he’s damn proud to serve as the man’s second-in-command, even if he’s still so young.

“Listen up!” Chris’ voice carries, loud and strong, and they all crowd in to listen. Here’s someone who’s seen it all, survived more than any of them could ever dream of. “In the B.S.A.A., our job is to rid the world of bioterrorism, and the only way we’re gonna do that is by sticking together.”

“Nobody’s expendable,” Piers says.

Chris smiles, only half of one, but a smile nonetheless, “Exactly. Now, each and every one of you may be ready to die for our cause, but it’s my job to make sure we all get through this alive.”

He’s never regretted the choice to join up. Even if it means dealing with newbies all the damn time. Chris gets the lot of them, usually. And Edonia is supposed to be simple. Intel is that the insurgents are using a new strand of B.O.W.s in their fight and their job’s to take them down.

Piers has been there before. He knows what it’s like. But sometimes he’s gotta remind the others that they need to be disciplined. Or else they get dead.

Finn, of course, is sniffling at the speech.

“Suck it up, Finn,” he says, elbowing him gently.

Finn snaps to attention, “Sorry, sir!”

“No one gets left behind, not on my watch. Understood?”

And that’s why Chris gets all the newbies. They need someone to look up to, someone who’ll show them the ropes and keep them alive; someone determined enough to not leave a man behind.

He’s never been prouder to be a member of the B.S.A.A. than he is when standing next to his captain.

Piers has met a couple other survivors. He’s only met Jill Valentine the once and the woman scared the living shit out of him. There was just something about the look in her eyes that told you she would easily put a bullet between your eyes if she felt you were a threat to world safety. She’s seen a lot and, as far as Piers knows, only recently been reinstated as an active field agent.

She’s off somewhere in Canada now; top secret, need to know basis only.

And then there’s Sheva Alomar. Piers has met her a couple times around headquarters. She’s got an easy smile and a friendly personality; she’ll drop by the office he shares with Chris sometimes, taking the man out for drinks or dinner.

“So you’re Chris’ new partner?”

She perched on his desk, bit like a bird, and watched as Piers sorted through a stack of reports.

“I’m not really his partner.”

“He probably considers you one, even though he’ll never admit it,” Sheva replied. Her smile was a little sad, he remembered that much. “We might all be little more than replacements sometimes, but he cares in his own way.”

“You–”

“Don’t worry about it.” Sheva shook her head, “We’re dealing with it. Chris is… still mourning. You’re still young; just keep doing what you’re doing. It helps to see that we’re making a difference, that it wasn’t all for nothing.”

Sheva was Chris’ partner for that fateful mission in Kijuju. The one that resulted in the death in Wesker’s death; the Wesker that Piers now knows was Chris’ soulmate. Despite his own loneliness, the gaping hole that’s inside of him and the word that crawls under his skin, he doesn’t know what Chris is going through.

“Alright. I’ll keep it up.”

Sheva smiled, nodded, “Good.”

Staying with Chris, staying at his side, seemed the right decision. It was the right one, Piers tells himself. And Edonia is just the most recent in a long list of bioterrorism threats that they’ve dealt with over the years that Piers has served with the B.S.A.A. He doesn’t see how it will be any different from those he’s handled before.

“Finn, give us the update.”

“R-right.” He clears his throat, “The guerillas are using a new species of B.O.W. Command is calling them ‘J’avo’. They are extremely intelligent, incredibly strong, and have the ability to mutate in response to physical trauma.”

“Alright,” Chris stands. “You know the drill. We split into three teams. Move out!”

It’s all incredibly routine. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Piers should’ve known better.

 

 

 

“Those things up there were J’avo,” Sherry explains. “They’re the B.O.W.s the insurgents are using.”

“Explains why there’s a shitload of B.S.A.A. troops here.”

Sherry nods, “We need to get out of the country without drawing either party’s attention.”

“Should be easy enough. Just get lost in the chaos of a warzone. What could go wrong?”

That earns him a sharp glare from Sherry. He shrugs it off.

She’s got places to be and he’s along for the ride. If she works for the U.S. government, then the money should be good at the very least. What’s he got to lose?

His life, most likely.

When they emerge from the subterranean tunnels, it’s to a hail of gunfire from a hovering helicopter. He and Sherry have to repeatedly duck, taking cover wherever they can find it. Eventually, they’re left out in the open, with nothing but dilapidated buildings to duck into.

“Damn B.S.A.A.! What the hell are you guys shooting at?!” Jake swears, under his breath, and keeps his gun at the ready. It’s not just the fucking B.S.A.A. that they have to keep their eyes on; it’s his former employers’ damn side, too.

“Everyone in your platoon is one of those J’avo now! And you’re dressed just like them. Come on,” Sherry explains. “We have to get out of here!”

“Don’t need to be told twice!”

Really, he’d love to stay and watch the show, but even he knows when to get his ass in gear and run. And the only reason, he tells himself, that he hasn’t ditched the blond yet is cause she: a) seems to have a pretty good idea of what the hell’s going on; and b) she hasn’t taken a shot at him yet.

Once they’re out of the hell hole and somewhere relatively safe, he’ll sort out the not-so-small matter of payment then.

“Right, first things first,” he says, the moment they reach somewhere that people aren’t trying to shoot them. “I want 200,000 up front, another 200 when this is over. Oh, and B.O.W.s? Those are extra. An additional grand. Each.”

Sherry stares at him blankly, “I’m not here to hire you.”

He blinks, “What?” He frowns, “So, why?”

“Your blood,” she sighs.

“The Red Cross getting that desperate, huh?”

“No, listen, those… things that attacked us, they were all exposed to a new virus called the C-Virus. The same strain that you just took a dose of. It didn’t affect you because you have the antibodies.”

Jake stops, presses a hand to the side of his neck. The ‘energy booster’. The woman in blue.

“Right now, we’re racing against a global bioterrorist attack, and we needed a vaccine yesterday.” Her eyes are earnest, honest, and painfully young. The world hasn’t had time to grind down all her edges yet. “We need you, Jake.”

Huh, he’s not used to being needed. That’s new.

“We need your blood.”

‘Course they don’t need him. They need his blood. That’s it. That’s all it’s ever been about.

Well, he thinks, two can play at this game.

“Fifty million dollars.”

“What?” “Cash. Non-negotiable. That’ll get… one pint.” He holds up a finger for emphasis.

Sherry sighs, pinches the bridge of her nose, “Alright. I’ll… have to talk with my boss. But we can work something out. I’m sure.”

He grins, “Don’t worry; I’m not running till I get my money.”

 

 

 

“Sherry Birkin! National Security!”

“Sherry Birkin?”

There’s recognition in Chris’ voice, his face. He looks at the young blond woman – identified by her official badge as, she said, Sherry Birkin – and smiles, “You were in Raccoon City.”

“How do you know that?”

“Claire,” Chris replies. And it’s the first real smile that Piers has seen on his captain’s face in all the time that they’ve known each other.

He’s never met Claire Redfield. Only emailed her status reports on her brother. All he knows is limited to that she works for TerraSave and is a survivor of the Raccoon City incident.

“Wait,” Sherry says, stepping forward. “Are you Chris?”

“My sister’s told me all about you.”

Sherry might have legitimate reasons for being here and not a threat, but the man with her is an entirely different story.

He’s tall, lanky, and scowling hard enough that Piers thinks he could kill with it. Even with the distance between them, Piers can see the scar on his face and that his eyes are a soul-piercing shade of blue-grey. He’s dressed plainly, but the patches on his jacket reveal his allegiance.

“Chris,” he says. “That man is a wanted insurgent.”

Sherry glances behind her, “Yes, he’s a mercenary. But right now he’s under the protection of the U.S. government. He’s no threat to the B.S.A.A.”

“Unless someone pays me to be,” he mutters.

Piers eyes narrow. There’s a heavy, beating pressure growing behind his ears. Like he’s dived straight into the deep end of the pool; squeezing down on his sinuses, feeling as though his ears are about to burst.

“... did you just say?”

He pushes away from the car, glacial eyes narrowing and focusing on Piers. He says one word.

“What?”

The pressure pops.

His ears ring.

All of the air’s been punched out of his lungs. He wheezes, gasping, trying to catch his breath.

Piers hadn’t been aware that he’d stumbled back until he feels Chris’ hand on his shoulder, hears him asking over the screaming ring in his ears, “–alright?”

He has to blink, suck in air, and it takes a few seconds before he can straighten up. He doesn’t look at Chris, instead staring at the mercenary – ears still ringing and struggling to believe that this man is his soulmate. The person that he’s been searching for his entire life is standing right in front of him.

Everything about him from the scar on his face, to the severe set of his mouth, to the eyes that seem to stare straight through him impress themselves right into Piers’ memory. He’d know this man anywhere; his eyes follow every movement Piers makes.

He sucks in a breath, opens his mouth–

“So… you’re the one, huh?”

It must click for everyone else, because Piers hears the collective murmurs from the team behind him. So much for it being personal.

Still, it’s deeply intimate to feel his eyes on him. Piers feels rather naked; despite the tactical gear, his scarf, his boots. He’s being undressed by those piercing eyes and Piers finds himself desperately hoping that he’s not found wanting.

“Guess so,” Piers says. His voice doesn’t tremble, he doesn’t sound breathless. But he feels it.

There’s words on the tip of his tongue. So many questions that he wants to ask, so much that he wants to know.

He doesn’t get that chance.

“HQ to Alpha Team,” blares over their earpieces. “Reinforcements are unable to land due to anti-aircraft artillery. Take them out.”

“Alpha Team copy,” Chris replies.

“We’re picking up a large bogey on radar. It’s headed right for you!”

“Shit,” Piers mutters.

Seconds later, Piers spots the B.O.W. being towed in. It’s another one of those giant ones; being hoisted in by the insurgents’ helicopters. He has to pause a moment and wonder, just how far and deep the pockets of this Neo-Umbrella run.

It’s dropped to the ground ahead of them, the cable pulling free and leaving behind a long, fleshy tail that extends out from the creature’s back. It’s pink and flush with blood, at odds with the greyish white flesh.

Maybe it’s unconscious, but the mercenary bounces on his feet and moves to put himself between the B.O.W. and Piers and Sherry. Piers gives himself a harsh, mental shake; he can’t afford to let himself get caught up in such silly romantic notions. Not now, not when their lives are on the line and there’s a B.O.W. roaring at them, ready to taste their blood.

“We’ll talk later,” Chris says, glancing at Sherry, then to Piers and the mercenary. “Right now, you need to find cover.”

The mercenary scowls, “Hey, I don’t take orders from–”

“We’ll lend you a hand,” Sherry interrupts, drawing her gun. “I’m not the scared little girl I once was.”

“Whatever,” the mercenary says. Then, his mouth tugs up in a small grin and he elbows Piers none-too-gently. “No way I’m gonna let you have all the fun, cowboy.”

His own name is lodged in his throat.

He wonders what it would sound like coming from him.

 

 

 

It’s just his luck that his soulmate’s a damn American.

And not just an American, but in the fucking B.S.A.A. too. Terminally unlikely Jake Muller, that’s him.

Of course, that doesn’t stop him from keeping an eye on him. And Sherry. The two of them just give off that hero-vibe; like they’re about to do something stupid if it means that they’ll save the world. They’re prepared to sacrifice themselves if it’s for the good of the mission or the world. Some stupid ass shit like that.

Of fucking course he’s got what amounts to an overgrown puppy for a soulmate. With too pretty pale green eyes like the grass in the spring. And just fucking great, he’s getting sentimental already.

Jake takes note of a couple things.

For one, his soulmate bites his lip when he concentrates on taking a shot.

Two, he’s a damn good sniper.

Turns out, he doesn’t really need to watch over his idiot soulmate. He proves perfectly capable of taking down the J’avo with very little help from Jake. Though, Jake takes care to make sure to guard what he establishes as his sniper’s nest. He snaps the neck of one J’avo, before using the wall as a springboard to launch himself at another.

“Show-off,” Sherry mutters, taking potshots at the huge hulking creature above them.

He fake preens, “Y’know, gotta make a good first impression.”

“I think you’ve moved past that stage.”

He can hear the recoil of the sniper rifle, see two J’avo go down – blood and brain blossoming behind them.

He shoots his soulmate a half-mocking salute, before diving straight back into the fight.

His blood’s pumping in his veins, the thrill of a good fight. Absolutely nothing compares.

Except maybe phenomenal sex.

He shoves that thought to the background, focuses on the fight.

Jake lies to himself – it’s a tiny, little lie, almost inconsequential – but his heart jumps into his throat and hammers away wildly when he spots his soulmate leap from his little sniper’s nest onto the creature’s back. He seizes one of those spikes that emerge from its spine, yanking it free before shoving it into the fleshy sack that protrudes from its back. He leaps free before it can get a hold of him.

He whistles, the sound low, because damn the cowboy’s got a nice ass on him.

Of course, no sooner do they take one down, than another one shows up.

“Oh, you have got to be kidding me,” Jake mutters.

“Need a moment to catch your breath?”

He’s right beside him, reloading his rifle. He grins, though it doesn’t quite reach his eyes.

Jake cocks his head to the side, glances at the B.O.W., then back to his soulmate and grins, “So… you got a name to go with that ass or not?”

He sputters, nearly drops the clip he’s got in his hands, “I – what?”

“Name, gorgeous.”

And oh, he’s going to have fun with this, because his soulmate turns red right to his ears – the tips of which must be flaming hot with how much blood has rushed to them. It’s adorable and appealing, all at the same time.

Well, he thinks, his soulmate’s hot. That wish of his was granted at least.

He swallows, “It’s Piers, asshole.”

“Whatever you say, gorgeous. I’m Jake, by the way, in case you wanna scream it later.”

Piers chokes on air. If possible, his face goes even redder.

“Are your really flirting with me? Now?”

“Why not?” Jake says, flipping a J’avo and slamming its head into the pavement. “Might not get the chance to later. That a problem?”

“... no.”

“Keep it in your pants, you two,” Chris admonishes over the radio.

Jake scowls.

“I’m–”

Jake.”

Huh, it sounds good when he says it, too. It would sound better screamed, but Jake’s not got the time to be picky right now.

“Alright, alright. I’ll lay off. For now. But you owe me, gorgeous.”

Piers cocks his head to the side for a moment, as though pondering something, then says, “Alright. You take out that B.O.W. and I’m all yours.”

Jake grins, lecherously. “Oh, babe, you got yourself a deal.”

 

 

 

Piers is still shocked he said that. What the hell was he thinking? They only just met. He knows next to nothing about Jake, and here he is promising to let the man fuck him if he takes down a B.O.W.? He’s lost his fucking mind.

But he can’t find the thrill in his veins at the thought. There’s power coiled in that frame of Jake’s. He doubts that it would be a letdown, fucking him. It’s probably going to be the best sex he’s ever had in his life.

And he gets the feeling he’ll wake up the next morning, alone.

That hurts. Because despite the rocky start, he wants to know more about the man who’s held his word for so long. Piers has been building up to this day his whole life. He’s been waiting and wanting since he first learned to read and learned what his word was. And Jake is so much more than he could have ever imagined and nothing that he could’ve ever pictured.

He’s… something else.

Jake’s wicked fast, despite his height, and deadly. Piers follows him with the scope of his rifle, watching him vault and swing across the ruin of the battlefield towards the B.O.W. He bites his lip, fighting back the flush of heat when he spots him flipping through the air as though it’s easy.

“Show-off,” he mutters, under his breath.

Now’s not the time to get distracted.

Piers sucks in a long, slow breath, steadying himself and his hand, crushing down all those inappropriate thoughts and focusing on the fight at hand. He needs to survive to do any of things that he’s thinking of.

The fight’s easier than it was earlier.

Jake takes down the B.O.W., striding down the street after with a swagger in his step. Piers swallows down the knot of anxiety in his chest, falling easily into step with Chris as he always does.

“Yeah, those coordinates,” Chris says. “Three passengers.”

Piers blinks, “Captain?”

“He’s your soulmate. You’ll wanna get to know him a little better. And who knows, you might not get another chance.” Chris slaps him on the shoulder, “Don’t worry about us; we got Echo with us. Everything will be fine. Your job is to see Agent Birkin and her… friend, to safety.”

Piers swallows down the butterflies in his throat, “Thank you, sir.”

Chris smiles, sadly, and they rejoin Sherry and Jake.

“I already gave the pilot the coordinates,” he tells Sherry, shaking her hand.

Sherry smiles, bright and cheery, “Thank you so much for your help.”

There’s a pinched look on Chris’ face as he looks at Jake, “I don’t know you, do I? You look...”

“Nah, you don’t.” He jerks a thumb at Piers, “I’d remember a face like that anywhere.”

His ears are burning. He ducks his head, hearing the chuckles from his team behind him. They’re going to be telling stories about this for years: about how Piers found his soulmate in the middle of the battlefield, like something out of some epic ballad or something. He’s about to become water cooler conversation.

He really doesn’t give a shit.

“Have a safe flight,” Chris tells them, shoving Piers forward. “Be careful.”

“Always am,” Piers replies.

 

 

 

Once they’re airborne, Sherry settles in and calls her boss.

Jake watches the city fall away, replaced by the sunset cresting over the mountains. It’s all very scenic and romantic. One of those vistas that should be shared with someone special, or some shit like that. He remembers those books his mother used to read – and that he used to read to her, when her illness progressed and she became too weak to hold the book – where soulmates met and rode off into the sunset together. They always faded out, then, leaving what happened next up to the imagination.

His life is absolutely not like one of those novels. Jake knows this to be fact. Those books were little more than glorified fantasies; they weren’t anything like reality. No matter how much he might have dreamed them to be as a child.

He glances over his shoulder, at Piers, who has seated himself across from Sherry. Piers isn’t looking at him, but is completely focused on cleaning his rifle, putting it together again.

Jake watches him. There’s a strange little spark of warmth deep within him.

The last thing that Jake expected to find was his soulmate. He’d become convinced, the moment he picked up a gun the first time, that a soulmate wasn’t necessary; he certainly didn’t need one. To hell with the words he was missing; he didn’t need them. English hadn’t been his first language anyway.

Strange how quickly things change.

Piers is one of those do-gooders. He can tell from one look at the man, what he’s decided to do with his life. People like Jake don’t join up with the B.S.A.A. no, but people like Piers do.

Maybe he feels Jake’s eyes on him, but Piers looks up from reassembling his rifle. His eyes are softer in this light, warmer, and Jake finds himself mesmerized.

He hadn’t thought he wanted this. He’s still convinced he doesn’t need it, wants be damned. They’ve only just met and all he knows about the man is that he’s a B.S.A.A. sniper, a goody-two-shoes, and that he’s got a great ass. The first and the last are, in Jake’s book, great assets. His soulmate isn’t helpless.

“Yes,” Sherry says, quietly, breaking the trance. “Yes, I understand. I’ll let him know.”

Jake pulls away from the window, walks over to Piers, and flops down onto the seat beside him. He slings an arm almost casually around Piers’ shoulders and feels how he shivers at the touch, tenses. There’s a small moment of hesitation, and then Piers leans into it – just a little.

“So,” Jake says, when Sherry hangs up. “We got a deal?”

Piers blinks, “Deal for what?”

“It’s a… long story,” Sherry replies. She turns to Jake, “Yes, we have a deal.”

“Well, that was easy.”

Though he’s loath to pull away from the warmth of his newly found soulmate, Jake removes his arm long enough to tear the patch from his shoulder and toss it to the ground; won’t be needing that anymore. He returns his arm to its place about Piers’ shoulders, ignoring the knowing smile that Sherry gives him.

She’s only known him a few hours. He’s not so shallow that she’d know him that well by now.

“I’m starting to feel like I’m intruding,” Sherry says, smiling. “Maybe I should leave you two alone?”

Piers flushes, “You – you don’t have to...”

“You two only just met. I’m certain you have lots to talk about. I’ll just be… over here.” Sherry stands up and moves further down the helicopter, giving them as much space as she’s able. “Don’t mind me! Just pretend I’m not here! But do keep it PG!”

Piers’ ears flush red.

Jake’s curious to see just how far down that flush goes. He hooks a finger in the scarf, tugs gently and tries his best to take a peek down Piers’ shirt.

“H-hey!” Piers catches his hand, but they’re close now, breath mingling, and Piers’ breath smells faintly like mint. His hand lands on Jake’s thigh and his eyes flick down, back up, lingering on Jake’s lips. “You…”

“I can think of better things to do than talk,” Jake says, smirking. “But I’m guessing you’ve got a few questions. So, shoot.”

“I… I don’t even know where to begin,” Piers says. “How old are you?”

Jake cocks his head to the side, “Twenty. I’ll be twenty-one in… two months. What’s that look for?”

“I’m older than you,” Piers replies. “I just thought… nevermind. I’m twenty-five. I thought you’d be my age – or older.”

“Don’t be so surprised,” Jake scoffs. He’s flying blind now, no idea what he’s supposed to do next. None of the mercs he knew had a soulmate – and if they did, they kept that locked up tight. You don’t exactly go about advertising that you’ve got a prime weakness ready for exploitation.

His mother never met hers. She dreamed about it, had hopes that she’d find him in America. But from all accounts, she never met the man. She’d died alone, with only her son to show that she’d been alive. And look how he turned out.

Jake’s well aware that he’s not exactly soulmate material. He’d have been better off never finding his; he’s not the sort of person you bring home to meet the parents. But now that he’s found himself with one – and it feels jarringly right, to be having this conversation so intimately – he’s remarkably loath to let him go. A possessive streak is not something Jake ever expected from himself.

Well shit. This is not something he needs. Not with his lifestyle. And that’s just the thing: It’s all Jake knows; it’s not like he can just start over. It’s not that easy.

Jake grunts and cuts off that train of thought, “So, what are you gonna do now?”

“Stay with you,” Piers replies, blinking. “I – unless you’d rather that I didn’t.”

“You’re–”

The helicopter jerks, suddenly, sending Sherry and Piers stumbling to the ground. Jake’s the only one who manages to keep his footing, but it’s a close call.

“What was that?!” Piers barks, stumbling back to his feet. He’s got his rifle at the ready.

“My gut’s going for something bad. Here it comes!”

Jake withdraws Elephant Killer; it packs a much bigger punch than his handgun and in the short time he’s had it, he’s grown quite fond of it. A bit like Piers, actually.

And he figures that whatever’s coming? He’s gonna need all the punch he can get.

 

 

 

Being dumped out on the side of a mountain to survive isn’t exactly how Piers imagined his day going. Then again, he hadn’t expected to meet his soulmate in the middle of a warzone, either. Today’s just full of surprises.

Out of the three of them, Sherry’s the only one even remotely dressed for the cold weather. Piers is already shivering, sweat cooling and making the situation worse. He can only hope they find somewhere to hole away for the night. And pray that none of the J’avo that seem to have infested the mountain find them.

“If we can make it till morning, I can get off a signal and another chopper sent for us,” Piers explains, forcing his teeth not to chatter.

“My boss should be tracking my signal,” Sherry says. “If not, he’ll have someone on standby to collect us. There shouldn’t be a problem with one more person coming along.”

“Sure about that?” Jake asks. Though his breath clouds the air in front of him, he doesn’t seem to care much for the cold. Either he’s hiding it real damn well or that jacket of his is deceptively warmer than it looks. Or maybe he’s just used to the cold.

“He’s a B.S.A.A. agent, Jake. We can’t just leave him – and he’s your soulmate, too. My boss will understand.”

 

 

 

Jake’s got no idea what he’s done to deserve this, sandwiched in between two people who are leeching off of his body heat. The small fire they’ve got going is barely warm and large enough to stave off the chill that’s crept into the shack they’ve taken shelter in.

He’s got a soulmate now and a girl who reminds him of a little sister. If he ever had one. He’s starting to suspect, however, that there has to be something programmed into the two of them, because they shouldn’t have been able to worm their way into him so easily. Yet here he is, letting them cuddle up to him and not even complaining about the entire thing.

Shit, he’s gone soft.

And that’s a weakness. But, at the same time, he can’t quite bring himself to regret it. Sherry looks like a particularly hard wind might blow her over, but he saw her heal from shrapnel piercing straight through her – as though it was nothing.

Even then, his first thought had not been ‘great’ it had been panic.

Panic that had grown till he spotted Piers groaning and peeling himself out of the snow; bruised, but miraculously alive and in one piece.

“You’re thinking too loudly,” Piers mumbles, poking him in the thigh.

“Am not.”

“It’s alright to care, y’know. M’not gonna hurt you.”

Jake ruffles Piers’ hair, “Go back to sleep.”

“Wasn’t sleeping,” Piers replies, jaw cracking on a yawn. “Just dozing.”

“Uh huh, sure. Keep telling yourself that, babe.”

“I can’t fall asleep,” Piers murmurs. “I might not wake up again. Hypothermia.”

“Dunno about you, but supergirl’s managed just fine.”

Piers sticks out his tongue, bright pink and soft and Jake’s gotta bite back the urge to lean down and nip it.

“She’s special, though. I’m not.”

“Aw, don’t go selling yourself short. You’re plenty special.”

“Flatterer.”

“Trying my best. Is it working?”

Piers snorts, “Flattery doesn’t actually get you everywhere.”

“Dunno, it’s always worked for me before.”

“Oh, so I wouldn’t… nevermind.”

“Be the first? Sorry, babe. You’re a couple years late for that one.” Jake shrugs, careful not to jarr Sherry too much and wake her.

But she simply slumbers on, blissfully unaware of the conversation going on right beside her. All she does is curl closer to Jake, her grip around his arm tightening. She’s got a good grip on her, that much Jake does know.

“I figured,” Piers says. “It was stupid.”

“What about you? Babe, you must’ve had ‘em lined up outside your door.”

Piers shakes his head, “No. No, I hadn’t… I’ve kissed someone, but I haven’t…”

Shit. That shouldn’t be such a turn-on. Heat burns low and hot in his belly.

If Sherry weren’t here, if it was just the two of them, he’d have Piers on his back. Cliché as hell as it might be, he’d fuck the cold right out of him.

But Sherry’s there, and he can’t. So he settles for ruffling Piers’ hair again, tucking him up against his chest and under his chin.

“Get some rest, babe. I’ll make it good for you.”

 

 

 

They make it to the cave exit.

The tree closest to them erupts, gunfire echoing loudly. All three of them drop to the ground, hands going for their weapons.

The gunfire covers the grunts from the creature at their backs.

With a great sweep of its clawed arm, it sends Sherry flying. Then, it aims a great backhanded blow at Piers.

Jake throws himself between them, tackling Piers out of the way and taking the blow for himself. It hurts like a bitch. But he’s not down yet.

He starts pushing himself up, planning to leap right back into the fight – and he can still fight, he tells himself, even as his limbs ache and his joints shriek with a pain he’s never known. It’s like his entire body’s been put through a blender and tossed on the sidewalk.

The creature slams its foot onto his back, pinning him to the ground and knocking the wind out of him.

“Jake!”

He rolls his head, and there’s Piers, trying to fight off the four J’avo it takes to pin him down. He elbows one in the face, clawing a hand free, trying to drag himself over to Jake.

It’s useless. They’ve been outplayed.

There’s the crunch of heels on snow.

Jake glances up, spots the woman in blue he remembers from yesterday. Before his life got turned upside down into a confusing hellhole of B.O.W.s and soulmates.

“Y’know,” Jake says, straining to get the words out. “Those shots of yours pack one hell of a punch, lady.”

She crouches down in front of him, mouth turned up in a thoughtful smile, “So, you’re Wesker Junior.”

“Wesker?” He shrugs. “You lost me.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Piers tense.

“Albert Wesker was a colossal imbecile,” she states, waving her hand as though dismissing a particularly annoying insect. “A fool who tried to destroy the world.” She pauses, as though she needs the dramatic timing before she drops her next bombshell, “He was also your father.”

... what?!”

She points to him, “Which makes you heir to a very special bloodtype.”

As she stands, she gestures at the creature behind him. It removes its foot from his back, rearing up, and slamming it into him; knocking him out cold.

The last thing before darkness seizes hold that he knows is Piers screaming his name.

 

 

 

It stings that he’s little more than a reward for good behaviour.

There’s a chance, however slim, that he’s just as much a guinea pig as the rest of them. Piers doesn’t doubt that they might be slipping something into all those injections he’s been given. It makes his blood chill to think that this is what his life has come down to: being little more than a rewarding pet and experiment.

He’s lost count of the amount of blood that’s been taken. He counts the steps from his cell to the lab, from the lab to Jake’s cell. He tries to keep his observations as subtle as possible; to not let his captors know that he’s been looking for a way out. Thus far, the treatment he’s been subjected to hasn’t been gentle, but there’s been no active harm done to him.

Probably because Jake might go on a massacre through the facility if they actively harm him.

But they can’t hide the bruises around his wrists or the bandages wrapped around them. Even with the thick, gauze bandages wrapped around them, the cuffs still dig into the flesh underneath with every little tug. And it’s not like they’ve been treating him gently. He’s yanked around by his bound wrists, shocked by the collar about his neck when he doesn’t respond to a command or order fast enough.

Piers is aware that he looks like shit. He’s seen his reflection in the glass of his room. There’s dark circles under his eyes and he’s lost weight and muscle mass from the months of confinement. He’s only vaguely aware of the passage of time; counting the days based on the clock that glows from the monitor in his small room.

His only human contact is when he’s marched to Jake’s cell – forty-two steps from his own – and unceremoniously shoved inside.

He hopes that Sherry’s treatment is gentler than his own.

But one thing he notices is that Jake is not bound. Even when he’s shoved into Jake’s cell, his hands remain tightly bound together. When he’s returned to his room, either from the lab or his visits to Jake’s cell, his cuffs are attached to a long chain that’s anchored to the floor of his cell. It isn’t long enough for him to wander far from the bed at its centre.

He’s shoved into Jake’s cell, bare feet slapping against the tile floor. Without his hands to balance himself, he nearly topples over.

Jake catches him, warm large hands at his shoulders.

“You alright, babe? You look like shit.”

Piers smiles, “I always look like shit.”

“Well, yeah,” Jake answers. He lowers the both of them to the floor, leaning against the wall and tugging Piers into his lap. He sprawls out, Piers curling up in the cradle of his thighs and pressing his shackled hands against his chest. “You holding up okay, though?”

“As well as can be expected,” Piers murmurs. He mouths and murmurs information into Jake’s shoulder; a system that they quickly worked out. Anything and everything he’s noticed and seen. “You?”

“They’ve taken a shit load of blood,” Jake replies. “Dunno what they need all of it for. ‘Sides that, there’ve been tests. Apparently there’ve been side-effects or some shit that they weren’t expecting.”

Piers blinks, “How–”

Jake taps the side of his head, “Been listening to them.”

He closes his mouth and nods, burying his face into Jake’s neck and breathing deeply. Jake smells like disinfectant, soap, and detergent, and something else that he thinks is unique to the man himself. Piers curls closer, just soaking in the warmth of Jake’s presence.

“We should go on a date,” Piers says quietly. “After everything. I wanna take you to my favourite restaurant; it serves the best steak.”

Jake grunts, “Never had steak before.”

“Nothing compares. You’ll love it.”

“Dunno about that, babe. Food’s gotta compare to you, after all.”

“Smooth, Jake.”

He smiles, kisses the top of Piers’ head, “I try, babe, I try.”

 

 

 

There’s needles and tissue tests.

Much of the talk is about healing factors and infection rates. None of them think he knows what they’re saying, but he does. He’s always been good with languages. What’s one more?

They haven’t figured out that he knows.

Jake hasn’t seen Sherry since they were first captured. He doesn’t even know if she’s been kept in the same facility. All he knows is the stark, near blinding white of his prison and the lab beyond. But Jake listens and waits, and bides his time. The time’s not right yet, he knows; he needs more information.

He hears little about Piers.

If he behaves well, if the tests go well, then Piers is shoved into his room and they get a few stolen moments together. He hates having to let the other go; not knowing how he’ll look the next time he sees him.

His room is basically a vault. It wouldn’t do for their prized specimen to escape.

Not when he carries the same ‘gift’ that his father had.

And that’s what it all comes down to; he’s little more than a replacement for his father. A man that he never knew. They speak of his father a lot. Albert Wesker.

Jake’s heard of the man before. Who hasn’t? A bioterrorist who tried to destroy the world.

He isn’t supposed to see the video. But he does. Video of black tentacles, pulsing through bodies and turning them into monstrosities.

“Albert Wesker was a monster.”

“Turned himself into one, at the end. And for what? He ended up dead and useless.”

“Good thing we have his son. He has the antibodies. She will be pleased; our progress has never been faster.”

“The virus is adapting well. We will have something new to show her.”

“She will be so proud.”

It churns his stomach. To know that all his worth comes down to his connection to his father – his connection to a monster.

And what does that make him?

He’s a monster too.

After all, he survived injecting himself with the C-Virus. A virus that turned everyone else he had worked with into those monstrous J’avo. But he’d been perfectly fine; there’d been no side-effects. He hadn’t suddenly sprouted four new pairs of eyes.

No. He’s perfectly fine.

In the time he spends alone, staring at the ceiling, Jake wonders about his father. Wonders how much of himself has been shaped by this man he’s never known. All that he’s done… he’s just as much of a monster as his father was.

Then Piers is there.

Piers curls up in his arms, and whispers what he knows into Jake’s neck. His lips and breath are warm against Jake’s skin, making him shiver and causing his skin to break out into gooseflesh. He wraps his arms around him and holds him close.

He feels… human, when Piers is there.

 

 

 

The first time he kisses Piers, it’s in his vault.

It’s little more than a quick press of lips. It makes Jake shiver, sets something alight deep inside of him.

He can hear the door being opened, knows that their time is limited, and knows that their time is running out. Piers’ time is running out.

More than that, though, it feels right.

“Don’t worry, babe; this’ll all be over soon.”

For a moment, he sees the confusion in Piers’ eyes, than understanding. He nods, once. And doesn’t fight when he’s pulled to his feet and escorted from Jake’s vault. The door rolls back into place behind him with a whoosh and a loud clicking noise as the locks engage.

Time’s ticking.

 

 

 

Cuddling with Jake becomes all he looks forward to.

Piers wonders if this is part of the experiment: conditioning him until all he has is Jake.

It’s possible. Or it could simply be a side-effect of how Jake is all he has; the only human contact that he’s allowed. Jake is the only one that shows him kindness. It’s more than a soulmate bond between them, now, it’s so much more than that, because of this… experience between them.

He has no idea if Sherry’s alive.

Jake is alive. He knows that. He sometimes dozes, listening to the beat of his heart. It’s all the peace that he gets.

Alone, in his cell, Piers is rarely allowed to sleep longer than a few hours; it’s impossible to find a position that’s comfortable with his hands bound tightly together in front of him and chained to the floor. Only to be awoken by the harsh shock of the collar about his neck.

He’ll be dragged from his bed and, if he doesn’t move fast enough, shocked again. There’s been a number of times that it’s been so bad that it’s knocked him out.

Sometimes, he wakes up. But everything is so fuzzy that Piers doesn’t know if he’s awake or dreaming.

He never recalls the details when he wakes, later, back in his cell.

Whatever they’re doing to him, they clearly don’t want him to know. Occasionally, when he cooperates, he walks to the lab; but for the most part, he’s knocked out and taken there while unconscious, then returned to his cell. The few times that he’s awake, the J’avo and few humans there speak in what Piers recognizes as fluent Chinese.

His name is nowhere in there. To them, he’s little more than a subject to be experimented on. Maybe a control, who knows. Piers certainly doesn’t.

And the only time he feels at rest, where he can let his guard down, is when he’s with Jake.

Jake’s warm, and wraps his arms around Piers, holding him tightly. And Piers curls close, whispering what he’s learned and seen into Jake’s ear, too softly for the cameras to hear.

Once, Jake sings softly to him.

And Piers sleeps.

 

 

 

Sherry’s here. It’s just a matter of finding her.

He finds Piers first, exactly where the man said he’d be. Exactly forty-two steps from his own vault. Having already cut the power, the door’s unlocked.

There’s a dead guard on the floor, who disintegrates into ash as Jake elbows the door open, but Piers is still shackled in place. A long chain connects his shackles to a ring anchored to the centre of the room’s floor, just under the bed.

“He didn’t have a key on him,” Piers says.

“Luckily, I do.”

Blood has soaked through the gauze wrapped around Piers’ wrists. It’s in lines that match up with the restraints, and bruises extend up his arms. Jake’s hands linger on them, careful not to grip them too tightly for fear of causing pain. As for the collar, he simply rips it – tears it from Piers’ neck.

There’s burn marks. A long red line of angry, blistered flesh that circles around Piers’ throat.

With his hands are free, Piers pulls him down for a quick peck on the lips, than liberates a gun from the guard he killed. He checks the chamber, the magazine, and nods when he deems it worthwhile.

“You lead, I’ll cover.”

“Gotcha.”

 

 

 

“Jake! Piers!”

Both men avert their eyes. Sherry’s one wrong move away from a nip slip.

The three of them break apart, raiding the lockers for supplies and proper clothes. Piers is the first to strike gold, immediately stripping down to change into the clothes he finds.

Jake’s not seen Piers naked before and he’s curious, so he peeks as he strips and changes. That’s how he notices the thin, web-like silver scars that criss-cross Piers’ back, right as he’s about to pull a shirt on.

“Where’d you get these?” Jake asks, pressing his fingers against the the web of scars. They’re hard, under his fingers, like the chitinous exoskeletons of insects right under Piers’ skin.

Sherry glances over, “What did they do to you?”

Piers, twists around, trying to see, “I don’t know. They usually knocked me out when they took me to the lab. I was… unconscious for most of it. They took a lot of blood, though.”

No.

He sucks in a breath, “Looks like we might need that cure a lot faster than we thought.”

Piers whips around, eyes wide, “What?”

“You mean–”

There’s similar lines on Piers’ right arm, now that Jake knows what he’s looking for. He traces the lines of them down – easy, since Jake’s wearing little more than a wifebeater. The markings spread down to his elbow and there’s a snaking line of them about his shoulder.

“Dunno what they were doing to you, babe, but we gotta get out of here. Now.”

Sherry nods, staring at Piers with sympathy in her eyes, “First, we need to figure out where we are.”

“China,” Jake replies, returning to the locker and pulling on a shirt of his own. There’s no belt for the pants his finds, but there are a pair of suspenders; they’re oddly comfortable. And he likes them.

“Obviously,” Sherry says, rolling her eyes. “But where in China?”

“Don’t know, don’t care. All I know is that they were using my blood to modify the C-Virus – make it stronger.”

“They say anything else?”

Jake pauses, then, “You know anything about an… Albert Wesker?”

The reaction is immediate. Sherry tenses, stares at the ground, then goes, “What?”

Piers looks shocked, like he’s swallowed something sour.

Jake snorts, “Take that as a yes.” He pulls the gloves on he finds harder than he should, the seams protesting at the rough treatment. “They talked about him. A lot. I guess he had an antibody that could fight off any virus. Apparently, he abused his gift. Took it for granted. And ended up turning himself into some kind of monster.”

He plunks down on the bench, back to both of them, roughly pooling on the boots he found. “And here I thought dear old dad was just a deadbeat who skipped out on us. No, no, no. He was actually a freaking nutjob who almost destroyed the world!”

Soft footsteps behind him, and there’s rough, trigger callused hands on his shoulders. Piers sits down behind him, wraps his arms wordlessly around his shoulders.

“Your father’s actions have nothing to do with you,” Sherry protests.

Jake shrugs off PIers arms, roughly, “Yeah, but his blood does! It’s the whole reason why we’re even here! I mean, you really think that crazy doesn’t run in the family?! That nothing of who my father was didn’t somehow get passed on down to me?!” He scoffs, “You of all people should know that’s true.”

His shoulders droop as he checks the handgun he finds, chambering a round. “Just saying… man that I am? Things that I’ve done? At least it all makes a little bit more sense now.”

He slams the locker closed, plants his hand against it, and scowls.

He doesn’t get much chance to mope.

Hands on his hips, hard, near bruising, and he’s whirled around. His back slams up against the lockers, nearly knocking the wind out of him. Piers has his hands fisted in his shirt, glaring murder at him.

“What your father did had nothing to do with you,” Piers says forcefully. “You’re a better man than Albert Wesker ever was. You made your own choices. Not him.”

“You–”

I’m not finished.” Piers sucks in an angry breath through his nose, “You give a damn. About me. About Sherry. You’re not your father. You’re better than him. You’re more than him.”

And then he kisses him, hard angry, bites at his lower lip and growls as he does.

It’s gotten Jake harder than he ever remembers being in his life.

But it’s over before he can do a damn thing about it.

“And don’t you fucking forget it!” Piers hisses, slamming him up against the lockers again for good measure.

Sherry clears her throat delicately.

Slowly, Piers pulls away, still scowling. Jake rolls his shoulders, trying to work some of the tension out of them. He doesn’t remember Piers being that strong.

An awkward silence falls over the room.

“I have to let my superiors know I’m okay,” Sherry says, at last. She strides over to the door, opening it, and peering into the hallway beyond. “But first we need a way to contact them.”

Before they follow Sherry out, Jake catches Piers by the wrist.

“... thanks.”

 

 

 

Finding an empty communications room is easy enough. Once they’ve fought their way through a small army of J’avo.

While Sherry taps away, logging through screen after screen of data on the experiments done to the three of them over the past… six months, Piers realizes, looking at the date displayed on the screen, Jake raids the rest of the room for anything useful.

Piers stares at the date. Six months.

Strangely, it’s felt much, much longer. He could’ve sworn that it had been years that he’d spent locked away in that lab, being shocked, prodded, and knocked out. It feels so weird to be out, to move freely, and without the familiar tension of a collar about his neck. He rubs his throat, still able to feel the line of half-healed blisters there.

He shivers, remembering the strength when Jake had torn it off.

That strength hadn’t been human – it wasn’t natural.

But, Pers thinks as he glances down at the web of lines along his arm, there’s nothing human about either of them. Not anymore.

Jake strides over from the cabinets, interrupting Piers’ train of thought. He’s got Sherry’ phone in hand.

“Why don’t you call your boss?”

 

 

 

Luckily, the infection seems to be spreading slowly.

But it’s still spreading, twining long, hard lines of silver up and down Piers’ arm, snaking across his chest and up his neck. The fingers on his right arm are beginning to show signs of turning into claws, the skin hardening and the scars turning from white to dark grey.

There’s pain now. A constant ache that occasionally shoots up his arm and makes him stumble. It burns under his skin constantly, but Piers ignores it and focuses on the mission – on surviving. According to Sherry, they need to rendezvous with her superior, that he’ll be able to get them out of here and to safety.

Piers isn’t so sure that he’s safe to be around.

“You’re going to be okay, babe,” Jake reassures him, hand warm against the back of his neck. “Don’t worry; I’ll make sure they fix you up. No matter what it takes.”

There’s guilt in his voice and Piers wonders after it.

He doesn’t have much time to think on it.

 

 

 

The lingering thrill from racing through the streets with Piers comes to a stuttering halt.

“Redfield’s here,” Jake says, scowling. He spots the B.S.A.A. agent easily, along with the rest of his squad. “Looks like he brought company.”

Piers blinks, looks to where Jake points, and immediately steps up behind him, “We got bigger things to worry about.”

“You’re not about to run off after your captain?”

“And leave you? No chance.”

He won’t lie, his heart does a strange little flip-flop in his chest. He’d assumed that Piers would run off first chance he got; go after someone who doesn’t have a monster for a father. Because words are great and all, but Jake knows better.

He finds that he likes it when he’s proven wrong.

“Piers’ right.” Sherry draws her gun, flicking off the safety. “We have company.”

With the helicopter’s searchlight blaring down on them, they’re a sitting target. The three of them stand, back to back, guns drawn and ready, as a small group of J’avo encircle them. Jake smirks; this many will be a cakewalk.

Jake’s not entirely sure who fires the first shot. But it’s a firefight. It’s fisticuffs. It’s kicking a J’avo straight in the dick. He doesn’t give a shit; he’ll fight dirty if he has to, anything to stay alive.

Anything to make sure Piers makes it through this.

“Chris’ team will cover us!” Sherry shouts.

Jake snorts, “We don’t need their help! I didn’t ask for it, either!”

Piers tackles him out of the way of the helicopter’s guns.

“What do you have against the captain, anyway?”

He’s not really thought about that before. “I don’t like being indebted to people; they don’t just help for no reason. I just don’t know what his angle is.”

Or why he looks at me like he’s seeing someone else.

Jake wonders if Redfield knew his father. It’s entirely possible; the B.S.A.A.’s job is fighting bioterrorism and his dad was the biggest threat this side of the century. There’s bitterness in his mouth; that he never got the chance to punch out his own old man, not even once. No, someone else got that honour and he’s stuck with dealing with the fallout.

It was easier when he thought he was just a deadbeat who abandoned them.

“Now’s not really the time for you two to be having a moment!” Sherry yells.

Jake rolls back to his feet, slamming the head of an incoming J’avo against the wall. It splinters under his hands, spraying the wall red and black. He’s glad for the gloves, at least.

The helicopter complicates things. They have to keep on the move.

Well, Jake has to keep himself on the move. Since he’s apparently the primary target.

He only stops long enough to boost Piers up into a convenient location for sniping. Piers’ll provide cover, while Jake keeps the helicopter and J’avo on the ground busy. That’s the plan, anyway. Jake’s pretty sure that it’s going to go to hell quickly.

Nothing ever goes right for him.

 

 

 

“Does he know that Wesker was my father?”

“I don’t think so,” Sherry replies, absently. “Why?”

“No reason. Maybe I just rubbed him the wrong way.”

In the quiet between running for their lives and taking down mutated J’avo, Piers lays a hand on Jake’s arm.

Sherry’s a little ways ahead of them, so he pitches his voice low.

“I don’t know everything,” Piers says, softly. “But he probably sees your father in you.”

“Huh, so he did know my father.”

Piers winces and nods, “He did. It was… before my time, though.”

“Alright, babe. Spill.”

“I overheard him and Agent Valentine once,” Piers sighs, shoulders drooping. Jake deserves to know, though Chris, ultimately, should be the one to tell him. But there’s no way of knowing if they’ll survive this, if they’ll meet Chris again. “They were, um, soulmates. From what I gather. Chris… well, he was the one who killed him.”

There’s long silence. Tense, and Piers wonder if he said the wrong thing. He opens his mouth, but there’s no words to take back what he’s just said.

“Shit, that’s fucked up.”

“I’m sorry, I should have told you before, but I didn’t… think it was the right time,” Piers shifts his grip on his rifle. “I never knew Wesker. I joined the B.S.A.A. after, so all I’ve heard is rumours.”

“And eavesdropping.”

“That too.” Piers bites his lip, “You’re not angry, are you?”

“Wish I’d gotten to punch the bastard myself. Or pulled the trigger,” Jake replies, shoulders stiff. He rolls them, then flashes a grin at Piers that doesn’t reach his eyes. “But, y’know, I never knew the scumbag. I guess it’s better this way, right?”

“If… that’s what you think.”

“Hey, look, babe. I’ll make you a promise: I won’t punch the bastard out next time I see him.” Jake grabs his hand, squeezes it. “I can’t promise I won’t cuss him out, but I think I’m allowed that, yeah?”

“You really don’t like him, do you?”

Jake’s nose wrinkles, “He looks at me like he’s seeing someone else. You don’t. And neither does Sherry.”

“You’re Jake Muller,” Piers says. They pause for a moment, long enough for him to cup Jake’s face between his hands, force him to look at Piers. “You’re a mercenary, a smartass, and a huge pain in my fucking ass. But you’re my soulmate. And that’s all that matters to me.”

Jake grins, small but genuine, “Aw babe, you sure know the way to a man’s heart.”

“Shut up and kiss me.”

 

 

 

The woman with Leon is the one that spots Piers’ arm.

“Leon, he’s infected.”

Immediately, Jake steps in front of Piers and even Sherry moves to stand protectively in front of him. Piers himself shifts, trying to cover his arm.

“He’s not a threat,” Sherry states. “Look, Jake’s – it’s a long story, but we can cure him. It’s not too late.”

“What–”

“Thought you said your orders were to avoid contact… with anyone,” Jake mutters.

Sherry looks at him, wide-eyed, “Leon’s not just anyone. He saved my life back in Raccoon City.”

Piers lays a hand on Jake’s shoulder, “Jake.”

“Fair enough,” Jake says, at last. He relaxes, but only somewhat, and the tension in the air eases. But he doesn’t step away from Piers, keeping himself between Piers and the newcomers. Very different from Sherry, who seems happy enough to commiserate and speak with Leon – catching up on everything that she’s missed.

The woman seems more suspicious, her hand resting on the holster at her side. Piers can’t blame her; he’d be suspicious of an infected person, too.

Squeezing Jake’s shoulder, he tries to smile, “It’s alright.”

“You’re not a monster. We’ll get you help, don’t worry.”

“I know,” Piers murmurs. “I know.”

 

 

 

“You think that thing’ll come back for more?”

“It’s followed us this far,” Piers replies. “We know it survived Edonia. Somehow.”

Jake cracks his knuckles and rolls his shoulders, “Well, gotta say I’m looking forward to the next match.”

“You’re… enjoying this?”

“Always enjoy a good fight,” Jake replies, grinning. “Don’t worry, though, babe. You got nothing to worry about.”

 

 

 

“Y’know, we’ve spent an awful lot of time tied up together, haven’t we?”

“Is now really the time for this?” Sherry asks.

She’s been shackled into a chair anchored into the floor, while Jake and Piers are strapped into some kind of double-sided restraining device. Testing the cuffs reveals no give, which sucks, because Jake’s pretty sure he could get them out of here quickly if he could just get his hands free.

They’re running out of time.

At his back, Piers’ breathing is ragged, the scarring on his arm becoming more and more prominent. The infection is spreading and becoming serious; there’s a chance that, even with a cure, he won’t be the same.

Jake refuses to think like that.

He blames Sherry for it. Well, Sherry and Piers. It’s all their fault that he’s mixed up in this, believing that they’re doing the right thing; that they were gonna save the world. He slams his head back against the headrest, lets out a breath.

“I thought you were doing the right thing. Find the vaccine, save the world and all that.”

Sherry stares at the ground. He can see her, at least. But he wishes that he was looking at Piers.

The restraints give without any warning. Jake catches himself on the ground, but Piers collapses, clinging to his arm and making a noise of pain.

“What the hell just happened?!” Jake snaps, striding to Piers’ side and pulling him up, into his arms. “And you alright?”

One of Piers’ eyes has changed colour, going a cloudy shade of silver, and bruises around his eyes have darkened, turning black. There’s a long gash along his face, from where he fell and hit his head, but it’s already begun to heal, though the edges of it look more like infected flesh than his own.

They are running out of time.

“Piers?” Jake asks, softly. “Babe, you still with me?”

“I hear you,” Piers says, blinking. His single, unaffected eye focuses on Jake. “I’m here. You should–”

“If the words out of your mouth are gonna be about leaving you behind, you’re fucking lying,” Jake snaps. “I’m not leaving you behind, alright? Not now, not ever.”

He doesn’t care about the infection. He presses his hand to the heavily infected side of Piers’ face, forces him to look at him, “You hear me, babe? I’m not leaving without you. Where I go, you go. Got it?”

Piers has a habit of biting his lip. Jake leans in and kisses him, “You got it?”

“... got it.”

“Good,” Jake says. He smiles, first one in a while. “‘Cause if I’m gonna save anyone, babe, it’s gonna be you.”

 

 

 

“Chris!”

“Glad to see you’re alright, Sherry,” Chris says.

It’s an automatic reaction by this point. Piers shifts, tucking the infected arm behind him, and tries to keep his captain from noticing just what he’s become.

It’s too late, though.

“Piers? I thought you – what happened to you?”

He flinches, can’t hide it, and Jake’s there in the next moment, standing between the two of them. That Jake’s shielding him from Chris of all people is shocking enough. But Piers hopes, somewhere deep inside, that Chris would be brave where Jake isn’t – that if it comes down to it, Chris will pull the trigger and put an end to him.

He doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Much less Jake.

Laying his uninfected hand on Jake’s shoulder, he murmurs, “Jake, it’s–”

“Don’t say it’s alright!” Jake snarls. “You’re not a monster! It’s not – damn it! It’s not your fault that this happened. You never asked for this. And I’m gonna be damned if I stand by and let him, what? Shoot you?!”

Sheva’s with Chris, watching the entire exchange closely. It’s Sheva who says, “So… you’re Wesker’s kid.”

Jake tenses, grunts, “What of it?”

Tightening his hand on Jake’s shoulder, Piers shifts closer, pressing up against his back. He’d told Jake, because it was the right thing to do. Maybe he shouldn’t have, but he did. He can only hope that Jake won’t do anything reckless, anything stupid.

Who’s he kidding? This is Jake he’s talking about.

Piers bites his lip, and then wraps both arms tightly around Jake’s waist.

“What’re you – I’m not gonna do anything stupid, babe.”

“Babe?” Sheva blinks, then there’s realization dawning in her eyes. “Oh, they’re…?”

“Soulmates, yeah,” Chris says. “I… in Edonia, I sent Piers with him. It… seemed the right thing to do, at the time. I had no idea… I thought you were dead, Piers. Or worse.”

Worse hangs in the air. No one looks at Piers.

But Piers doesn’t try to hide his infected arm, keeping it tightly around Jake’s waist. He hides his face behind Jake’s shoulder, “I probably should be. Dead, that is.”

“Piers, you–”

Jake kicks him in the shin. Hard.

“Ow! Why–”

“Asshole!” Jake snaps, breaking free and grabbing the collar of Piers’ shirt. “What’d I say to you before, huh?”

“... I know.”

“I meant it.”

“Meant what?” Sheva interrupts.

“Jake’s blood is the key to curing the C-Virus,” Sherry interjects. “It’s his antibodies. The one’s he… inherited from his father.”

Silence falls, long and tense. Piers glances down, stares at his feet.

It’s Chris who breaks it, at last.

“I can see your father in you,” Chris says, soft and sad. “But… you’re nothing like him, are you?”

“I’m not my father,” Jake spits out.

“I can see that too.” Chris glances between Piers and Jake, smile sad and eyes glittering with tears. “He’d never have called me ‘babe’.”

“Jake, don’t.”

There’s a loud bang and the entire complex begins to shake. Violently.

“We need to move,” Sherry says.

“I know.”

Above them, trembles a huge cocoon, hanging from the ceiling of the facility.

Before they go their separate ways, Piers with Sherry and Jake, and Sheva with Chris, Sheva calls after him, “You’re sure about this?”

The scars have spread and darkened. It’s like a chitinous exoskeleton that’s spread out across his arm and face. There’s no way to deny now that he’s infected. He can feel it, even now, stretching his skin and tearing at his mind.

“I am.”

And it’s true: about the only thing he’s certain of is Jake. Jake, who has been there through the experiments and their aftermath; who held and sang to him when the pain and loneliness became too much. Jake’s been his rock in the storm of all of this and there’s no way that he’s leaving him; not now.

He tucks his infected arm behind him, electricity sparking between the fingers. Even now, with Sheva and Chris, he can see the fear and worry in their eyes.

“He’s all I have,” Piers says, softly.

 

 

 

Jake grabs Piers by the collar of his shirt, tucks him under him, and shouts, “Hold on!”

Absolutely no fucking way he’s leaving the asshole behind, because he’s his stupid self-sacrificing asshole. But like hell is he going to let Piers sacrifice himself out of some misguided notion that Jake’s better off without him.

He’s relieved when Piers wraps both arms tightly around his neck, though he hesitates with his infected arm.

Jake clings to the cart with one hand and wraps the other around Piers’ waist, just to make sure that he doesn’t do something stupid. Like let go.

“Fucking hell! I’m not losing you here, asshole!”

 

 

 

Jake doesn’t care about the scars.

Even with the cure, there’s long spider-webs of raised white scars that run along Piers’ arm, up his neck, across his face, and touching the corner of his eye. He’s not so much cured as the virus is dormant, Piers knows; the virus will always be there, coursing through his veins. By all definitions, he’s a low level B.O.W.

Same as Sherry. As Jake.

Piers doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do with himself next. The B.S.A.A., he knows, will always be open to him; Chris said as much, but he doubts that the men would accept him again. The scars tell a story of infection and the possibility that he might still be dangerous. No one, even with Chris’ endorsement, would trust him to lead men into combat against B.O.W.s. Not anymore.

“You alright, babe?” Jake says. “You’re spacing out again.”

Piers sits on the edge of the hotel bed, staring at his hand, turning it over, and watching the light catch the silvery lines of his scars.

“I don’t know what to do with myself anymore.”

Jake snorts, “Lemme tell you: You go back to what you did before. That’s who you are.”

“But I…”

“Aren’t you always the one telling me I’m not a monster cause of my dad?” Jake snaps. He jabs a finger into Piers’ chest, not gently. “You’re not a threat to anyone. And if they think you are, well, they can answer to me.”

“You – what?”

Jake looks away, rubs the back of his head, “Look, I know we haven’t talked about this. About what happens next, but Sherry was – urgh, I’m fucking this up already.” He takes a deep breath, puts his hands on Piers’ shoulders and squeezes, “I go where you go, got it?”

“Does that work the other way too?”

Jake grins, soft and sweet, “Yeah, babe, it does.”

 

 

 

“Y’know, I’d almost convinced myself I didn’t need a soulmate,” Jake says.

He’s stretched out on the hotel bed, Piers resting against him and Jake’s just running his hand through his hair. The entire thing is disgustingly sweet and domestic, almost enough to make him gag, but there’s nowhere else he’d rather be. Cause that’s the thing: he’s oddly comfortable where he is. It’s such a strange feeling.

He almost doesn’t know what to do with it.

“Really? Why?”

Jake shrugs, “Just how I grew up, y’know? It wasn’t easy and, well, like I told Sherry. When the people around you could sell you out at any moment, you learn that a soulmate’s just another weakness you can’t afford.”

Piers props his chin on Jake’s chest, “That how you feel now?”

“Nope. Though, you could never kick my ass. But I’m confident that you’d not go down without a fight.” Jake pauses, then grins, and ruffles Piers’ hair like he’s a dog, “Plus, you’re too much of a damn puppy to even consider betraying me, aren’t ya?”

Puppy?!”

Jake laughs, ignoring the glare he’s getting, “Well yeah! When you aren’t following Redfield around, you’re following me! Like a little lost puppy!”

Eyebrow twitching, Piers pushes himself up, “That right?”

“It’s a compliment, babe!”

Jake’s still laughing when he’s shoved out of the bed.

 

 

 

Piers feels a lot like he just swallowed an entire can of butterflies. That can’t escape because his throat has swollen closed.

It’s not even that big a deal, he tells himself. People sleep with their soulmates all the time.

It’s just… strangely intimate. Because after everything that they’ve been through, life and death situations, his infection, being cured… simply sharing a bed seems so… intimate. It’s what his parents do; it’s the domestic intimacy of the entire thing that’s making him pause and stare at his reflection in the bathroom mirror.

The last time he was on American soil, everything was simple. He was just another person without their soulmate. Maybe unusual, but he had his career; he was confident that he knew how his life was going to go.

Now, everything’s been flipped and he’s been left off-balance.

It’s not that he regrets anything – though he certainly could’ve lived without the infection. He can still, sometimes, feel the itch of the virus under his skin and there are nightmares now. He’d woken up on the plane, a scream lodged in his throat, and Jake had to coax him back down.

He almost misses the buffer that Sherry provided. Nothing got more intimate with her around than a simple peck on the lips.

There’s a knock at the bathroom door, Jake’s voice impatient, “You nearly done in there or are you trying to drown yourself in the toilet?”

Piers lets out a long breath, “I’ll be out shortly.”

For good measure, he flushes the toilet before he leaves. Just to give his hands something to do, something to stop the trembling.

He doesn’t even know why he’s so nervous. It’s stupid.

The sheets and comforter have already been turned down, but Jake’s not on the bed like he expected. No, instead he’s suddenly right there, invading Piers’ space and pinning him to the wall; hands on either side of his face and a stern frown. His eyes are chilly, ice-grey.

“What’s up?”

“Nothing.”

“If it were nothing, you wouldn’t have been in the bathroom for twenty fucking minutes. So spill.”

It feels stupid to admit, now, but Piers sighs and looks down at their bare feet. “I dunno. Sleeping just seems… intimate, is all. It feels like it should be a big step; like we’re doing this all out of order.”

Jake’s head tips to the side, “Huh, didn’t peg you for a traditionalist.”

“I’m not,” Piers replies. “I’m being stupid and I know it.”

“Yeah, but it’s fine.” Jake leans in, kisses him, a little longer than the chaste pecks that they’ve exchanged before. His lips linger against Piers’, as though he can’t quite get enough of him. “I think it’s cute.”

“M’not cute,” Piers protests.”

“You are, babe. You and your ass are fucking adorable.”

“Can we… stay like this? Just for a little.”

Jake blinks, confused, but he says “Sure.”

He remembers to breathe, counting in his head as he does. The tremble in his hands is gone as he raises them, remembering what it’s like to hold his rifle steady for a shot and concentrates on that feeling as he cups Jake’s face between his hands. He watches the way that Jake’s lips part, just slightly, and the way his eyes drift to half-mast.

Slowly, the nerves start to fade.

This is, after all, Jake who he’s been through hell and back with. He remember curling up, half-asleep and feeling mostly dead with the man – shirtless even – and just letting him hold him. It’s only a single step; they won’t actually get around to doing anything.

Unless they do, in which case his heart flutters. But it doesn’t feel wrong.

If it happens, it happens. To hell with the consequences. He’s done with thinking about those.

He pulls Jake down, kisses him, slips his tongue past his parted lips.

Jake freezes, but only for a brief second, then he’s moving.

Piers has never heard another man moan before, but that’s the noise that Jake makes as he practically melts into the kiss. Piers is pinned firmly to the wall; there’s hands on his hips and one of them’s already slipping up under the thin fabric of his shirt, pressing against the bare skin of his back. He arches up against Jake, dragging nails along his neck.

The hand at his back presses him closer, as though trying to pull him in and Piers follows. He’s powerless not to.

It feels like coming together. It feels right; like nothing else in the world. As a matter of fact, it’s as though the entire world has fallen away and all that matters is right here, in his arms.

The need for air wins out in the end.

Jake’s grinning when he pulls away, resting his forehead against Piers’, “Wow.”

He laughs, soft and breathlessly, “Yeah.”

They sleep that night; legs tangled together and with Piers tucked up against Jake.

 

 

 

He expects to be woken in the dead of night by another nightmare.

Not one of his own, though, but one of Piers’. They scared the shit out of some poor lady on the plane – first time that Jake can actually remember flying, and that’s the memory he takes away from it. Jake knows it’s weird that he didn’t have them, but Piers is, but he’s used to compartmentalizing the shit that he’s done and seen.

That doesn’t stop the dreams from coming. He just wakes up in a cold sweat. There’s no kicking, no screaming, no talking in his sleep, just that chilling realization of all his fears come to taunt him.

That’s why he’s surprised to wake up, feeling fully rested for the first time in months and warm.

The warmth is easy enough to explain. Piers has wormed his way underneath him, their legs still tangled together from the night before. He peels himself off of Piers’ back, watches as he curls into the warmth, and flops down beside him, content to watch him sleep for a little while longer.

It’s so strange to realize that it’s over now.

Well, the fight’s not over – Jake knows that much. But he feels more… centred now. More grounded. He meant what he said to Sherry.

“You saved me. You both did. And I didn’t even realize it till now.”

He runs a finger absently down the web of scars on Piers’ cheek, wondering how he could feel so at peace now after something so simple as sharing a bed. He’s slept with other people before, but this feels… different and if he wasn’t feeling so damn content, he’d be a little worried about it. But after all the hell that they’ve been through together, they deserve whatever peace they can scrounge together.

Least now they match. Kind of. They’ve both got scars.

Soft green eyes crack open, “What’re you doing?”

“Just thinking.”

“‘Bout what?”

Jake shrugs, leans in closer and presses his forehead against Piers’, “That I’m feeling pretty good right now.”

“I know what you mean.”

Piers pecks a kiss to the tip of his nose, then laughs when Jake goes cross-eyed.

“You look ridiculous when you do that.”

“Don’t know anyone who doesn’t, babe.”

“So…” Piers’ hands are warm against his bare chest, absent in their intent as he strokes his thumbs across the skin. “What do we do now?”

Jake grins, “I can think of lots of things we could do.”

“That – alright.”

He thinks it’s adorable how Piers’ cheeks flush pink when he says that. It’s sweet and Jake’s still reeling a little that he’s actually thinking that. Man, he’s really gone soft.

He doesn’t give a shit.

Piers is warm against him and that’s all that matters. He’s alive; they’re both alive and maybe not whole, but that’s fine. They’ve got each other. It might not be love but that doesn’t matter. Jake thinks it’s pretty damn close.

He enjoys the way that Piers arches into him, pressing their bodies tightly together when he slips his hands up under the back of his shirt. Under his fingers, he can feel the spider-web of raised scars from the infection and doesn’t give a shit. It doesn’t matter to him.

They’re survivors; it figures that they’ll come out with scars.

He slides the shirt from Piers’ chest and tosses it to the side. The flush in Piers’ cheeks extends down his neck to his chest, turning the skin a delightful shade of bright pink. It makes Jake smirk to see.

“C’mon now, babe, nothing to be embarrassed about.”

“I’m not embarrassed,” Piers protests.

“Sure, babe, sure.”

He trails his fingers along the lines of muscles, the hard raised tissue of scars. He keeps his touch light, exploratory. For now, he’s curious; there’s no rush. He wants, for once, to take his time; he wants to learn what makes Piers shiver, what will make him cry out, where he’s sensitive.

But, at the same time, he wants there to be no illusions that Piers is his.

Leaning in, Jake sucks and bites Piers’ neck, listening to the noises that he makes as he does. He finds that if he sinks his teeth into the side of it, that Piers makes a delightful little choked noise and claws at his back, then begs for more.

He continues his exploration further down, leaving rapidly darkening bruises and imprints of his teeth in his wake. It sends a thrill down his spine, as his fingers trail along the waistband of Piers’ underwear, to see the marks, to know that he left them there.

“You doing alright?” Jake asks, peeling off Piers’ boxers as he does. He tosses them aside, grinning.

Piers nods, shifts, then his grip on Jake’s shoulders tightens, “Come here.”

“Something up?”

“Pants. Off.”

Jake laughs, “Bossy, aren’t we?”

“If I’ve gotta be naked, so do you.”

It doesn’t take much to convince Jake that pants are overrated. But Piers nearly rips them in his effort to get them off of Jake as fast as possible.

“Someone’s impatient.”

Piers glares at him, grinding against him and grinning when Jake makes a noise in response.

Jake’s pretty sure that he’s going to leave bruises on Piers hips the exact same size and shape of his fingers, what with the way that he’s holding them. He pulls him closer, grinding back and the friction of their cocks rubbing together is amazing.

“You’ve been teasing me about this for months,” Piers hisses. “You’d better deliver.”

“That’s a tall order. But I think I can manage.”

“You’d better.”

He’d stashed the lube in the nightstand the night before, while Piers had been having his little bathroom crisis. There’d been the niggling little worry that he wouldn’t be what Piers would want – not this way, at least – and the fear that it would be too soon, that he might push him into something he doesn’t want. He’s not his father; he’s not going to be an asshole.

But he really wants Piers. In every way.

And he usually gets what he wants.

There’s an art to seduction, but he’s tossed that out the window for Piers. This isn’t some one-night stand with someone he’s never gonna see again; it’s not a tumble to relieve some stress and have a little bit of fun. No, it’s different and that means all bets are off.

Jake’s not at all ashamed that he’s been with others before Piers. The way he looks at it, all the better; at least one of them knows what they’re doing. Besides which, he can make it really, really good for him.

“Nervous?” Jake asks, hands massaging Piers’ thighs as he eases them open.

“Nope. I trust you.”

And doesn’t that send shivers down his spine?

Not helping matters is the easy way that Piers spreads his legs for him. His thighs tremble, though from excitement Jake thinks and not fear. Those green eyes bore into him, watching his every move and Jake’s got no doubt that Piers is a quick study.

“Might be a little uncomfortable,” he warns.

“I know.” Piers wiggles a little, making himself comfortable. “I might not have done this before, but I know what happens.”

“Been doing some research?”

“I’m not a kid, Jake.”

“True enough.”

He cracks the lube open, works it into his hand to warm it up. Steadying Piers with a hand on his hip, Jake leans in, kisses the tip of his dick, then swallows it down to the root.

“Fucking shit!”

If he could grin, he would. Instead he hums and that inspires some truly awe-inspiring swearing. He hadn’t thought Piers had it in him; the man’s truly full of surprises.

Once he’s deemed the lube warm enough, he carefully presses the first finger against Piers’ ass. Slowly circles it, before pressing in. He remembers the pain and discomfort from his first time, rough and quick in an alley somewhere in Edonia, and goes slow. Piers deserves better; he wants this to be good, wants him to come back for more.

The heat’s enough to have him moaning.

Piers is tight, which is to be expected. But the lube helps and he keeps him distracted, pulling back on his dick and tonguing the head.

Shit.”

He pulls off with a pop, “You doing okay?”

Piers nods, face scrunched up, “Yes,” the word drawn out in a hiss, “But if you keep doing that, I dunno how much longer I can last.”

Jake grins, fisting Piers’ cock tightly around the base. Slowly, he presses in another finger, watches the way that Piers bites down on his lip – turning it red and swollen and shit, but that’s a good look on him.

“We can always go for another round.”

Piers nods, head thrown back on the pillow, “Yeah, but… I-I want this to last.”

“I can do that.”

He keeps his grip, even as he crooks his fingers. It should be…

Piers arches up, a noise that sounds like a strangled version of Jake’s name on his lips.

Right there.

He smirks, stroking his fingers across Piers’ prostate again and watching as he shivers.

What he doesn’t expect is for Piers to thrust back down, onto his fingers and demand, “Do it again.”

Jake does. And adds a third fingers.

Piers hisses, but nods his head in response to Jake’s unasked question. He arches up, off the bed, pushing down on his fingers, “Fuck that… feels good.”

“Bet my dick feels better.”

Wiggling, Piers grins, though it’s a breathless one, “Prove it.”

Jake groans, pulling his fingers out. Though he doesn’t miss the way that Piers’ face falls when he does.

It’s a little embarrassing that he has to grope for the lube, which has gotten itself tangled up in the sheets while they were preoccupied. But he finds it eventually. His hands are trembling slightly as he squeezes more out into his hand. It takes all the self-control he’s got not to fuck into his own hand, even a little, as he slicks his cock up.

Piers is remarkably helpful, wrapping his legs around Jake’s hips and that position cannot be comfortable for his back, but he doesn’t complain at all as Jake slowly pushes his dick in.

Fuck.”

If he thought that Piers was tight before, that’s nothing to the feeling of him around his dick. He’s tight and hot and Jake groans. He wants to go slow, really he does, but it’s hard to remember that when Piers jams his heels into the small of his back and pushes.

The heat’s unbelievable and they’re both panting when Jake bottoms out inside of Piers.

Piers is sweating, hair sticking to his forehead, and Jake can’t believe that he’s able to be tender enough to brush it aside and kiss his forehead. Damn, but he’s a sap.

“You good?” he manages.

Piers nods, “Feels… different. Not bad, though.”

“Wait till I start moving. It’ll feel real good.”

“Someone’s feeling cocky.”

“It’s not cockiness if I can back it up.”

Piers shifts a little, pushing back against Jake, “Prove it.”

Shit, but that’s what he’s been waiting for.

And Piers feels so fucking good wrapped around his cock the way he is, that the idea of slow, gentle fucking goes straight out the window. It’s not rough, though, because Jake’s still got enough of his head screwed on right to know that Piers deserves better for his first time.

God, though, he wouldn’t mind fucking him up against a wall, all rough and hard and just take him like nothing else matters.

Piers doesn’t help matters. He’s making these noises and Jake’s pretty sure that he hears his name somewhere in there, and he’s clawing up Jake’s back as though he’s trying to find purchase and failing.

“Jake… Jake!”

And fuck, does his name sound good on those lips.

He almost misses the cry of his name, so focused on thrusting into that tight, clinging heat, but he hears it and it does things to him like nothing else. It’s probably that combined with how Piers’ muscles clamp down around him that causes him to come undone.

Fuck, probably should’ve thought about condoms. Too late for that, though.

Jake doesn’t pull out immediately, content to just lie there on top of Piers, with his head buried in his shoulder. They’re both sticky with sweat and cum, which is probably why Piers starts pushing at him lightly.

“C’mon,” Piers says, breathlessly. “We should… get cleaned up.”

Jake grunts, slowly pulls away, and winces as he pulls free. God, though, that heat’s gonna be addicting.

“Think you can walk?” he asks.

It earns him a pillow to the face.

 

 

 

Jake’s well aware that he and Redfield need to have a long overdue talk.

He just really doesn’t want to have it. But they really need to talk without the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

Jake’s pretty… content with the idea that his father ended up being a megalomaniac with delusions of godhood. Or, at least, he’s had the chance to come to terms with it. Somewhat. There’s still that niggling part of him that worries that he might have inherited more from his father than just some world-saving antibodies and looks.

Content is actually the wrong fucking word. He’s come to terms with the fact that his father was the villain in a Saturday-morning cartoon. He’s accepted that; doesn’t make it any easier to swallow, but he knows now and that’s good enough for him. All those unanswered questions be damned.

He’s reminded of this when Piers rolls over, covered from neck to hip in hickeys and bites, and peers up at him with those too sweet green eyes of his.

“Do you want me to come with you?”

Part of Jake wants to say yes, because he’s a coward and he doesn’t want to face this alone. But he knows that this is something he has to face if he ever wants to put it completely behind him.

He leans down, presses a kiss to Piers’ lips and murmurs, “Nah, I’ll be fine.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.” Jake kisses his forehead, “This is… just something I gotta do alone.”

Piers nods, “I understand. I’ll be here. If you need me, call?”

He kisses him one last time as he climbs out of bed, “Always.”

 

 

 

It’s fucking awkward. And that’s an understatement.

Jake sits there, across the desk from Redfield, who is staring at his own damn hands. Neither of them have said anything since Jake walked into his office. Ten minutes ago.

Finally, Jake can’t take it anymore, “Was my old man always such a dick?”

Chris blinks, then laughs, the sound low and husky, “Not always, no. He was… well, brilliant. The best man I ever knew. Or… thought I did. I don’t know anymore whether I ever knew the real Albert Wesker, but I like to think that I did.”

“You love him?”

There’s another long stretch of silence.

“I did,” Chris murmurs, voice cracking. “I do.”

And, somehow, that explains everything.

 

 

 

He ends up stumbling back to the hotel late that evening.

Piers is up, waiting for him, the sheets tangled around his waist. There’s an empty tray of room service on the table at the foot of the bed and the TV is turned on, but the volume low. He perks up almost immediately when Jake walks in.

“How’d it go?”

Jake strips off his gloves, shrugs out of the suspenders, “Went well. I mean… weird talking to my dad’s soulmate. But I know now.”

Stepping out of his boots, Jake slips out of his pants and tosses them and his shirt to the side. Really, he doesn’t want to rehash the entire awkward conversation with Redfield, full of wishful reminiscing and old scars. He thinks he’d be better off seeking out Valentine; she might give him a better, less biased opinion of his old man.

But he shoves those thoughts to the side as Piers presses up against him. He’s warm, pliant, and tugs Jake down into a soft, lingering sort of kiss that’s got his toes curling and his dick twitching in interest.

Damn, though, Piers is good with his mouth.

“Sleep?” Piers asks.

Jake grunts, tugging him down into bed. Much as his dick might like to be sheathed in that tight heat once again, he’s too exhausted and emotionally strung out to manage an erection.

In the morning, he thinks. They’ve got time.