That said, this is 99.9% canon compliant with the game-verse, except for the fact that it takes place in an AU where the people whom you love are written on your skin. Just because.
Title: spend your last heartbeat
Fandom: Resident Evil
Series: these ink-stained memories
Pairings: Leon/Everyone.[Specifically...]Leon/his canonical ex-girlfriend. Leon/Ada. Leon/Claire. Leon & Sherry.
Warnings: so much pining and canonical violence
Word Count: 3123
Disclaimer: If I owned it, Leon would get laid.
Summary: Leon always gets attached too easily.
Sarah is the first. She's Leon's high school sweetheart, the girl he plans to marry, and her name curls across his hip in a swirl of gold when he buys that wedding ring.
He thinks the mark is a good omen for their new life in Raccoon City. But before he even shows her, Sarah tells him that it's over, that she has bigger dreams than being some small town copper's wife. Leon tries to change her mind. He says that he'll do better but Sarah will not listen. She dumps him in that coffee shop without a moment's hesitation, the ring he planned to give her burning a hole inside his pocket as she leaves his life for good. Leon couldn't afford anything too fancy, not with his meager savings, but the ring buys a lot of whiskey once he pawns the thing away.
The first bottle makes him angry but the second numbs the pain. So he drinks himself unconscious and then sleeps straight through his alarm. He wakes up seven hours after he was supposed to leave for Raccoon City and he curses Sarah fiercely when he scrambles to his car.
Leon thinks that he might hate her now as much as he still loves her and he wishes he could burn her name right off his skin. She could have told him earlier instead of choosing the worst moment to break his fucking heart. Now he's marked forever and he doesn't know how he's going to forget her. Leon doesn't know if he'll ever be able to see her name there on his hip without feeling like a fool.
The young man speeds to Raccoon City, prepared to do a lot of begging to keep his brand-new job. Leon is expecting to get fired or at least put on probation. But he drives straight into Hell instead and suddenly survival is his top priority.
The rookie is out of his depth, so far beyond his training that it's almost laughable. Indeed, he's tired and hungover, grieving and completely terrified. There’s no strategy at first, just adrenaline and panic as he shoots the shambling corpses that should have been his friends. Eventually he figures out the best ways to kill the monsters but when he has a chance to breathe, Leon can't stop himself from shaking, his rest broken by the warning sounds of footsteps in the dark.
He’s alone. Utterly alone. But when the young man thinks he might go crazy, Sarah’s name burns on his hip and the reminder keeps him focused when he wants to fall apart.
Sarah will always be his first love, the first name to grace his skin. She's the first person Leon ever loved enough to hurt him and he doubts she even cares that she stomped upon his heart.
And yet... her actions saved him. If Sarah hadn't dumped him, he wouldn't have gone drinking and the rookies knows that he'd be dead now if he'd gone to work on time. So maybe her mark was a good omen after all. Maybe good can come from bad. There are still survivors here in Raccoon City, people who might need him, and Leon is determined to save everyone he can.
Himself included, just to spite her. Sarah may have been his first love, be Leon will be damned if she's gonna be the last.
Ada is the second.
The first time Leon meets her, he can't deny that she's suspicious. Although the woman saves his life, she's cryptic and uncaring, distanced from his nightmare by dark glasses and a badge. She won't tell him what's going on, just orders him to help her like she has some kind of right. FBI or not, Leon only goes along with her because he has no better options and the rookie needs every ally he can get if he’s going to survive.
Things don't get much better when they manage to escape from the police station. Ada's expression barely changes when the two of them run into Kendo and see his daughter’s plight. She wants to shoot the girl and Leon can't believe that Ada is so heartless. Who could see this family’s pain and feel no sympathy?
And yet, the rookie cannot hate her. Not when Ada finally tells him the truth about Umbrella and gives him a new reason to make it out alive. Together the two of them can see Umbrella punished even if no sentence could ever truly fix the horror those people wrought. Leon has to try – he has to believe that there’s still justice – and so he ignores the warning signs.
Ada isn't heartless. She seemed that way at first, but over the course of their long nightmare, he starts to see her softer side. There is a woman underneath the stone-cold agent, one who’s afraid to need him but does it all the same. For her Leon will risk his life. For her he’ll take a bullet and their first kiss is all the sweeter for the threats that they have faced. Indeed, the pain in his shoulder seems to fade at the feel of Ada’s lips and though the rookie barely knows her, he trusts her all the same.
That trust doesn't fade when Annette Birkin says that Ada has been lying from the start. Leon can believe that she's a mercenary. There were parts of her story that seemed a little odd. He can even believe that Ada used him, although he doesn’t want to. But Leon refuses to accept that she doesn’t care at all.
Maybe he’s being foolish. Maybe the woman saw an easy mark, his desperation for a friendly face amidst the horrors of Raccoon City making him easy to control.
And yet, when the rookie tests his theory, Ada doesn't prove him wrong.
She has every chance to shoot him. Leon practically dares her to pull the trigger, swearing that she won’t get her virus sample otherwise. But given the choice between his death and the failure of her mission, Ada spares his life.
So when the whole place starts coming down and the floor drops out beneath her, Leon doesn’t hesitate. He throws himself forward, barely managing to grab hold of Ada's hand before she plummets out of sight. His shoulder throbs as he slams onto the surviving walkway and his drip on the metal grating is the only think that stops them both from falling to their deaths.
“I've got you,” Leon swears, his teeth gritted against the pain. Ada may have lied about her job; she may have used him to get the virus, but she wasn't bad at heart. Somewhere beneath the mask, there is a person who's worth saving and he will not turn away. The thought makes his shoulder burn and he slips a little further, too injured to lift her but too stubborn to let go.
Leon would have fallen with her before he broke his promise. Together or not at all; they’re getting out of Raccoon City. But Ada makes the choice that he cannot. She says goodbye and then lets go, falling down into the dark as he watches helplessly.
The young man wants to scream. He wants to weep and crumble but he can't waste her sacrifice. So Leon drags himself back to his feet and throws away the virus that started everything.
He doesn't have the time to mourn. He just shoves the pain aside and focuses on living as a robotic voice counts down to self-destruct. Monsters, zombies, fucking Trenchy, this whole place wants to kill him and he honestly isn't sure how he manages to reach the train in time. But Leon does. He reunites with Claire, is introduced to Sherry, and takes out William Birkin with a massive fireball.
It’s almost surreal to see the sunrise and know that they survived. Honestly, Leon isn’t sure if he wants to laugh or cry when some trucker flips him off instead of stopping and the three of them are forced to walk to the next town. They find a small rundown motel, one that shouldn't care about appearances, and the clerk barely even looks up when Leon rents them a twin room. This kid has no idea what happened in Raccoon City. He’s living next to Hell on Earth and the rookie wants to warn him, but he probably wouldn’t believe their story anyway.
By now Leon is running on empty. He doesn't have the energy to think about his losses or the horror that he's been through. Indeed, Claire and Sherry aren’t much better and as soon as the door is locked, all three of them just crash. Leon feels like he could sleep for a week but he wakes up a few short hours later, his voice choked on a scream. He can't remember the whole nightmare, but what he does is bad enough, and he stumbles to the bathroom to splash some water on his face.
His reflection looks like hell. Leon’s eyes are haunted, bites and bruises down his neck, and his clothes are covered in things that he doesn't want to think about. Honestly, he’s probably a walking bio-hazard and if he isn't going back to sleep, he might as well clean up.
So the man strips off his filthy shirt and starts unwrapping Ada's bandage, focusing on the moment to keep from cracking utterly. Leon doesn't know how he's supposed to continue after this. If companies like Umbrella can just destroy a city, then what's the fucking point? What's the point of fighting if he can't save anyone?
These doubts run through his mind and threaten to overwhelm him, a downward spiral that Leon can’t seem to escape. Not until he pulls the last bandage from his shoulder and stops thinking utterly.
Because Ada Wong is scrawled upon his skin in shining scarlet, a red as deep as blood straight across his bullet wound. He's not surprised to see her name; the rookie knows he loved her. But the color of the name means everything.
Red means that she's still living. Red means that she survived the fall and escaped the lab before destruction. Leon didn't fight for nothing after all. The man has no idea how Ada could have made it, but suddenly the future doesn’t seem so miserable.
Leon doesn't need her to love him back. He just needs to know that his actions made a difference, that someone is still living because of him.
So he's grateful for her name even though he doubts the two of them will ever meet again. Leon can live with that. At least he’ll always know she’s out there somewhere; that’s enough to give him hope and he’s determined not to lose that spark again. After all, Ada is like the moon: beautiful and distant. She's not for the likes of him.
In contrast, Claire is like the sun. She smiles at him the morning after Raccoon City – filthy, bruised and battered but so beautifully alive – and his heart just skips a beat. This woman is amazing: strong, determined, and so brave, far braver than he feels.
Claire walked into that nightmare a civilian without all of Leon's training and she came out the other side. Not only that, but she managed to save Sherry when he could barely save himself. She’s everything that he admires and cute as hell besides.
When they go out clothes shopping, Claire understands Leon’s paranoia, the way he twitches at the shadows and strangers walking by. The young woman doesn’t judge him; she simply takes over his blind spot and works on keeping Sherry happy and relaxed. He could have loved Claire for that alone and she returns his interest that night in their hotel. He never would have made a move – he's not that great at reading signals – but when she leans up to kiss him, it's fairly obvious.
They keep quiet due to Sherry passed out in the next bed. Leon and Claire don't want to disturb her so they fumble in the dark, laughing quietly when they bang their knees or elbows on the wall. The awkwardness simply makes the moment sweeter, the warmth and touch of skin on skin a comfort for them both.
Leon wakes up with Claire's fingers stroking across his shoulder. He smiles up at her, feeling well-rested and content, happier than he's been in several days. He may not have her name yet but he's certain that he will; he's certain that he'll love her soon enough.
However, Claire starts to pull away from Leon after that. He doesn't know what he did, doesn't understand it. The man just feels her slipping through his fingers as she talks more and more about Umbrella and the need to track her brother down. Leon wants to go with her – he doesn't want to lose her – but when he starts to offer, the words die in his throat. Because someone has to stay with Sherry and he’s afraid Claire will resent him if he tries to hold her back.
So Leon lets her go instead. He tells Claire to call him if she ever needs his help, promising to keep Sherry safe while she is gone. The day she leaves, he hugs her tightly, trying to memorize the feeling of her body in his arms. Leon’s skin is burning by the time that Claire steps back and he doesn't need to look to know that her name is on his heart. Instead, he stands with Sherry and waves at Claire until she’s gone.
Leon loves her and he misses her but as the weeks pass, the ache of separation begins to fade eventually. Not that he forgets her; there's little chance of that. Indeed, when Claire sends him an SOS from some secret Umbrella prison, his initial instinct is to drop everything. But Leon has his own responsibilities – he still can’t leave Sherry – so instead he calls Claire’s brother as she asked.
Although he's never met Chris Redfield, Leon kind of hates him. If the man had bothered to call his sister, she never would have gone to Raccoon City. She never would have left to find him and she wouldn't have been imprisoned on some deadly piece of rock.
But at least Chris seems to care. Leon can hear the other man's concern when he passes on Claire’s message and from everything he's heard, Redfield has the skill to see his sister home. So Leon tries not to worry after Chris hangs up, though he can’t stop himself from checking on his marking regularly.
As long as Claire's name shines green across his heart, he knows that she’s all right. And even though she left him, Leon loves her. The world is a better place as long as she’s alive.
He loves Sherry differently. She's so young when they first meet, a scared child trying to be brave, and Leon wants to protect her instantly. He wants to keep her safe and Sherry seems to sense that. The girl latches on to him and Claire after escaping Raccoon City and he can hardly blame her after all that she’s been through.
If anything, Leon is impressed by her resilience. Sherry has seen more horrors than some battle-hardened soldiers; she was attacked by her own father, but somehow she has the strength to keep on trusting anyway. When he tells her about her mother, the girl asks for a hug without a second’s hesitation and Leon can’t refuse her. He simply opens up his arms and holds her as she cries.
Leon didn't plan to gain a child when he joined the RPD. But he didn’t plan to spend his first day fighting monsters either and as long as Sherry needs him, he can’t abandon her.
That's part of why he stays when Claire leaves to find Umbrella. Sherry needs stability and Leon is all she has. There’s no one else to step up so he’s going to give her what he can. So he holds onto Sherry’s hand as Claire’s bus drives away and when she starts to sniffle, Leon lifts her in his arms. The girl falls asleep on the way back to their hotel, her head upon his shoulder and her face still damp with tears. He tucks her into bed and kisses her cheek gently, making himself a promise to see her safe and fed. This may not have been the future that Leon was expecting, but as far as he’s concerned, he has a daughter now.
So the young man finds a cheap apartment on the edge of town. He works part-time while looking for a better job and a new school for Sherry, his slim savings dwindling fast as the days fly by. But as long as his girl is smiling, he doesn’t mind the cost.
The agents come for him a month after Raccoon City, not long after he gets word that Chris and Claire both made it out. Stern-faced men in dark glasses knock on his door one evening and he should have run with Sherry, gone out the bathroom window and simply never stopped. But Leon is naive. He still trusts his government to protect the innocent. So the young man goes without a fight and once they threaten Sherry, it’s too late to back out now.
Leon can only take the deal he's offered, hoping that his daughter will get to have a normal life. As long as she's protected, at least she'll have the chance.
For Sherry, he’ll do anything. He agrees to tell these faceless suits what he learned in Raccoon City and to become an agent for the US government. Leon agrees to be their soldier and go anywhere he’s needed in the fight to cleanse the world. In truth, they want his life in exchange for Sherry's safety but it's not as though Umbrella doesn't need destroying and she's worth the sacrifice.
The young man will follow orders as long as his handlers keep their promise in return. Sherry may not be his blood, but he considers her his daughter and she’s the only one that he’ll probably ever have. It's not as though a zombie hunter will have much time to settle down.
So when Leon is taken off to start his training, he makes himself another promise. He’s going to see his daughter as often as he can. She’s going to know that he still loves her despite their separation and if these people ever hurt her, if the name on his heart ever fades because of them, there won’t be a place these men can hide. He’ll destroy their organization from the inside out.
Part II: Agent