Fandom: Resident Evil
Series: these ink-stained memories
Warnings: so much pining
Word Count: 4567
Disclaimer: If I owned it, Leon would get a hug
Summary: Chris gains new perspective on Leon Kennedy.
Chris never thought he'd see his name on Leon Kennedy.
Sure they know each other; the two of them have worked together several times throughout the years and he usually sees the agent at Claire’s impromptu get-togethers. But it's not as though they've talked beyond the basics and something about the other man has always seemed untouchable.
He's Leon Kennedy, government agent, a bona fide action hero by the stories people tell. Honestly, given what Chris saw here in New York, the stories don’t do Leon justice. Although he'd known the other man was skilled – he had to be to survive fighting B.O.W.s this long – their last clash with Arias was something else entirely. Chris hadn’t known that humans could even move like that and he wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Leon was a cyborg after all.
However, the agent doesn’t look invincible right now. He mostly just looks tired as he sits on a bench outside the showers, his shirt dangling limply from his hands. Chris is only here because Rebecca told him to find Leon and make him see a doctor; everyone else had already been examined and she was worried that the other man had collapsed somewhere.
Her worries aren't unfounded; Leon is still conscious but it seems like a close thing. He doesn't even react to Chris' entrance and so the captain takes a moment to examine the other man for injuries. The massive bruises stretching up the agent’s sides are impossible to miss and Chris is surprised his ribs aren’t broken. But as far as he can tell, Leon is breathing easily.
Still, a doctor would know better and he fully intends to bring the DSO agent to the infirmary. However, before Chris can get the other man's attention, his eyes catch on Leon's back. On his name scrawled in dark block letters between the agent's shoulder blades.
As soon as he sees the words, Chris wants to touch them. He wants to press his hand against Leon's spine to prove his name is real. But even in his shock, he knows that startling the other man would be a very bad idea. Common sense stops his feet from moving but nothing can halt the words that spill out of his mouth.
“My name is on your back,” the captain says, his voice echoing loudly in the empty locker room. He's not sure what he's expecting: probably anger or denial, but Leon doesn't even turn around.
“I've got a lot of names; don't take it personal,” the agent tells him with a strange quiet resignation that Chris doesn't understand. He gets the feeling Leon didn't know his mark was there and yet he doesn't sound surprised. The man just shrugs as though having a colleague's name upon his skin is completely normal and then promises to avenge Chris if he dies.
“But you hate me. Don't you?” the captain asks. He's always respected Leon – how could he not? – but the other man has never seemed to like him very much. Even when they've worked together, there's always arguing.
“Why would I hate you?” Leon answers, sounding utterly confused as he turns to look Chris in the eye. “We're in the same damn business, aren't we? And you're Claire's older brother. She still thinks you hung the moon.”
The BSAA agent hears the words, but they just don't compute. Lots of people hate their colleagues or their friend's older siblings, particularly when they've butted heads as much as he and Leon do.
“What about China? Or, hell, this whole damn mission? It seems like all I've done is yell at you for days.”
Chris is feeling guilty about Colorado. He'd just been so damn angry when he’d seen Leon drinking and perhaps a little terrified. The captain knows how tempting it is to fall into a bottle when the struggle gets too hard; if not for Piers, he'd probably be there now and he still gets the urge sometimes.
But Leon Kennedy was supposed to be better. He was the DSO's golden boy who’d never failed a mission, the rookie kid who called a total stranger just to tell him about his sister, and the guy who talked epic shit at cornhole with zero modesty. That man wasn't supposed to be drinking in a hotel bar all by himself, morose and fatalistic about his future and the fight.
Looking back now, Chris thinks the loss of his illusions is what really set him off. He'd reacted badly to the realization that Leon Kennedy was human and he feels like he should apologize.
Except the man's not angry. He doesn’t seem to realize that he should be mad at all.
Leon just asks the BSAA agent if they can postpone the lecture until he gets some sleep. He says it like he expects Chris to refuse, like he thinks it’s perfectly in character for the captain to corner him while he's injured and exhausted and read him the riot act for everything that he did wrong.
The question feels like a sucker punch and Chris barely manages to stop himself from shouting as he exclaims, “Jesus, Leon, I'm not gonna lecture you.”
Does the other man really think that badly of him? Leon has always been combative but Chris thought they had an understanding; they’ve always pulled together when it mattered after all. He thought there was trust between them and yet now he's questioning. Because the DSO agent apparently thinks that he's a total asshole who would kick a guy while he was down. If not for his name, the captain would assume that Leon hates him but the mark can't be denied.
Unless he thinks I hate him and he just loves me anyway? Chris wonders, rubbing his hand across his face. How the hell did he and Leon get their wires crossed this badly? How is he supposed to fix this now?
“All right, how about brunch?” the other man asks suddenly. Which is just…. What?
The question comes out of left field but the agent seems sincere about his offer and Chris wouldn't mind some time to think. This whole conversation has been weird and that's coming from someone who fights zombies for a living. He feels like he's walking through a minefield and he'd rather do it rested; he really doesn't want to fuck this up.
“Yeah, okay, I can do that,” the captain agrees. “It's about midnight now so how about 2pm? That'll give us both a chance to rest.”
He's half-expecting the other man to change his mind but Leon gives in almost too easily. He must be crashing hard and his casual assumption that the DSO might cut short his vacation doesn't sit right with Chris at all.
Leon doesn’t even ask for help when he starts to pull his shirt on. However, with bruises like that, there’s no way he should be lifting up his arms and Chris moves to aid him without thinking. Thankfully the other man allows it and the captain tries to get it over with as fast as possible.
He doesn’t touch the mark on purpose. At least that’s what he tells himself. The name draws him like a magnet and Chris feels both protective and possessive when Leon shivers at his touch. The other man really is unfairly attractive – all lean muscles, endless legs, and stupidly nice hair. Even when his stubbornness made the captain want to shake him, he wasn't blind to Leon’s charms.
However, Chris never planned to do anything about it. He's always thought of the DSO agent like an expensive art piece: gorgeous but untouchable till now.
Now exhaustion has softened the other man's sharp edges into something more approachable. Tired as he is, Leon seems almost fragile and Chris just wants to hold him. He wants to wrap the agent up and hide him from the world.
But that urge is crazy. Leon does not need rescuing.
Yet even though the captain tries to focus on his task, he can’t stop his eyes from wandering. When he tugs Leon’s shirt down, Chris sees a flash of scarlet on his shoulder. Normal tattoos don’t shine like that and he’s sure that it’s a name. However, before he can read the mark, the other man smooths down his collar and hides it out of sight.
Although the move doesn't seem intentional, it makes the BSAA agent realize that Leon has been keeping his skin hidden this whole time. The man even puts his gloves on before he turns around and he's obviously so tired that he can barely stand upright.
How many marks must Leon have for that to be a habit? Chris wonders, the thought making him both curious and sad. Because as far as he knows, the agent has no family and if he were in a relationship, he wouldn't have been drinking alone in Colorado. So perhaps the more that Leon’s loved, the more he's lost as well.
Well, he's not alone right now, Chris tells himself decisively. He escorts Leon to the infirmary despite the agent's protests, waiting in the hall outside so that he actually gets checked out. The other man exits with a clean bill of health about ten minutes later – at least that's what he claims – but he isn't exactly steady on his feet.
So Chris walks him to one of the BSAA's spare rooms to make sure he gets there safely and then seeks out his own bed. He puts his phone on the nightstand and his knife beneath his pillow before letting himself crash.
Chris wakes up to the blare of his alarm. He fumbles for his phone until he can turn the damn noise off and then flops down onto his back with a groan. The BSAA agent doesn't usually set an alarm the day after a mission and it takes him a second to remember why he bothered to this time. When it all comes flooding back: New York, Arias, Leon, and his name, Chris scrambles for his phone again.
He needs advice and he needs it desperately so the captain calls his sister. Although he’d texted her yesterday to say the mission was successful, she still sounds concerned when she picks up.
“Chris? Is everything okay?”
“What the hell is brunch, Claire? What am I gonna do?”
“It's a meal between lunch and breakfast,” his sister answers instantly. “How do you not know that? And why are you calling me about brunch anyway?”
“I'm supposed to go with Leon in about…. an hour,” Chris explains, looking at his clock to check the time. “But fuck, does anyone even serve brunch at 2pm? Do you think he'd be all right with I-Hop? That's kind of the same thing.”
He's honestly freaking out the more he thinks about it but Claire just starts to laugh. She laughs for at least a minute before she finally speaks, the words broken up by giggling, “So you finally got your heads out of your asses?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You and Leon. I always thought you'd be great friends if you just gave it a chance,” his sister tells him. “But you've both been too damn stubborn all these years.”
Thinking back, Claire had been excited about introducing him to Leon and she often shoved them together when she threw her barbecues. But Chris hadn't been that welcoming; he can admit that now. He hadn’t wanted to meet and greet with his sister’s new best friend.
“So tell me, bro,” Claire continues, her tone turning conspiratorial. “Which of you finally bit the bullet? I've got twenty bucks on Leon since you did say brunch and all.”
“That's a fixed bet and you know it,” the captain retorts. Bantering with his sister has him grinning, but thinking about earlier makes him frown again. He doesn't want to admit how badly he's messed up with the agent, but this is the whole reason that he called Claire after all. “Leon asked me to get brunch, yeah, but I'm not sure he meant it. I think he just wanted to stave off a lecture until he'd had a chance to sleep. Do I really seem like such a dick that I'd kick him while he's down?”
His sister is silent for a moment before she asks quietly, “Chris, what's going on? You've never cared how people see you. Why are you worried about Leon now?”
“I- my name is on his back, Claire. I saw it yesterday.”
“Oh. That…. that explains this phone call,” is the soft reply.
“You don't sound surprised. Why isn't anyone surprised?” Chris demands, his voice rising a bit hysterically. His whole world shifted sideways last night and it doesn't seem fair that he's the only person freaking out.
“I didn't know he loved you, Chris,” Claire tells him and finally hearing the words aloud stops the captain cold. He sits there in stunned silence as his sister gathers up her thoughts. She may be brash at times, but when it really matters, she's always spoken carefully.
“I didn't know he loved you, but I've known Leon a long time and no, I'm not surprised,” Claire continues. “He's the most loyal man I've ever met and the most self-sacrificing. Even in Raccoon City, out of his depth and terrified, all Leon wanted was to save everyone he could. That's all he still wants now. The man cares Chris. He acts cocky but he cares so much that I'm afraid it's killing him sometimes.”
Chris listens spellbound to her words. His sister has never talked about the agent quite like this and he can't explain the disconnect between her Leon and the one he thought he knew.
“That man is one of the best friends I've ever had,” Claire tells him. “And I know he would have loved me if I'd given him the chance. Instead, I walked away. I broke his heart, Chris, but Leon would still die for me without a second thought.”
“Why did you?” the captain has to ask. “I've always known you cared about him and I was surprised you never dated.”
“I was young,” Claire tells him with a sigh. “I had to find you and I thought…. I saw his mark and I thought the fact that he loved Ada meant he couldn't love me too. But that's just how Leon is. He gives his heart away freely without thought to his own pain.”
“If you still love him, you should tell him,” the captain answers. While he's certainly attracted to Leon, he doesn't love the agent yet. Even if he did, Claire's happiness comes first. “Neither of you are seeing anyone.”
“We're not those people anymore,” Claire replies and Chris is man enough to admit that he's a tiny bit relieved. “I love the man, I always will, but that chance passed years ago. So you don't need to worry about stepping on my toes. Just be careful, will you? I don't know if Leon loves you as a friend or something more, but he doesn't need another Redfield messing with his heart.”
“What about me?” the captain says, the words a little sharp. Claire is his sister; shouldn't she be warning the agent off of him, not the other way around?
But his sister simply laughs.
“I know you, you'll be fine,” Claire tells him without remorse. “Sure you're interested; who wouldn't be? The man is hot as hell. But you don't fall in love that easily. You've got five names that I know of and that includes our parents. It's not a bad thing; you're different people. But Leon is more likely to get hurt here and the poor guy has already spent two decades getting jerked around by Ada. I'm not saying you shouldn't go for it, but there's no need to rush.”
“So you're saying I should date him?” Chris asks, not entirely sure if he has his sister's blessing.
“Yes, brother, that's probably a decent place to start,” Claire snorts. She sounds amused again and he's pretty sure that's a good sign. “Take the man to brunch, tell him that you're an emotionally-constipated idiot but you actually do like him and then let things develop naturally.”
“Fuck, brunch!” the captain curses. “Where the hell-?”
“Just Google it,” his sister interrupts. “You're in New York City, aren't you? There's bound to be a restaurant that serves the stuff all day. And if not, just go get pizza. As long as he can eat, I doubt he'll really care.”
“But what if he does? What if I say something to piss him off again?” Chris asks and yeah, he might be panicking. He can't remember the last time he actually dated anyone. High school, maybe, but even then, his priority had been taking care of Claire.
“Trust me, I've seen Leon flirting and you can't be worse than that,” Claire tells him. “Now, I've got to go and you need to get ready. So good luck, I love you, you'll be fine. Sweep Leon off his feet with that old Redfield charm.”
“I'll do my best,” her brother promises. “And I love you too, little sister. I'll call you later on.”
“You'd better,” she replies. “I want to hear every detail afterward.”
Claire hangs up, leaving Chris with twenty minutes to get his shit together. He googles “all day brunch in New York City” and someone upstairs must like him because he finds what he's looking for just six short blocks away. The restaurant doesn't take reservations but somehow it's still open despite the outbreak yesterday.
So Chris calls Leon at precisely two o'clock and he's half expecting the other man to cancel. However, the agent agrees to meet him in five minutes and he looks miles better when he walks down the stairs, obviously still tired but no longer stumbling. Leon is quiet on their way to the restaurant but he perks up a little when Chris ushers him inside.
“As requested: brunch,” the captain tells him with a sweeping wave. “You're lucky that we're in New York. Otherwise, we would have had to settle for a waffle house instead.”
Chris is glad to see that there's no shortage of free tables and the hostess seats the men immediately. The brunch buffet looks even better in person than it did on the website and his stomach grumbles at the sight.
Both of them load up their plates before returning to their table and for a few minutes neither man says much of anything. Chris tucks in with relish, but once the edge is off his hunger, he finds himself watching Leon as he eats. The other man must be starving since he finishes his first plate and goes back for another without showing any signs of slowing down.
His grocery bill must be ridiculous, Chris muses as Leon cleans his second plate. He's honestly not sure where all that food is going since the agent has never been that bulky.
Muscles and adrenaline, probably, or maybe that shield around his hair. I don't know how he keeps it perfect otherwise, he decides with a faint grin. There's something very domestic about eating brunch with Leon Kennedy and Chris is glad to be here even if the other man didn't ask him for the reason he'd prefer.
The captain knows they still need to have that conversation but for now he's content to try a dozen kinds of cream cheese and make small talk about the weather until Leon finishes. It seems impolite to interrupt him while he's eating, but eventually the other man puts down his fork and looks Chris in the eye.
“Look, you don't have to keep me company or be so…. so nice,” Leon says, his tone an odd mixture of irritated and resigned. “This doesn't have to make things weird. I'm a grown man and I know this doesn’t make you obligated; I don't expect anything from you.”
He expects me to reject him, the captain realizes. Leon thinks Chris brought him here to dump him publicly and yet he isn't arguing. The other man just plans to accept it and that makes him kind of mad. Even if the agent only loves Chris as family or a friend, he shouldn't be afraid to demand that he be better than he has been in the past.
“Maybe you should. If you consider me a friend, you should expect me to be decent,” Chris says as Leon just stares blankly. The thought of expecting anything seems to completely baffle him.
Man, someone really did a number on you, didn't they? the captain thinks and he wonders guiltily how much of that was him.
“I really do admire you, Leon. I know I've been crap at showing it but I want to do better in the future,” he tells the agent. “So we should get coffee sometime. Or maybe just go bowling? It seems like we only ever meet up when the world's about to end or at Claire's crazy barbecues.”
“Seriously, bowling?” Leon asks. He sounds skeptical but at least he's snapped out of his shock and his posture isn't as defensive as it was before. Then he smiles, his eyes bright with amusement, and Chris feels his breath catch.
Fuck, he's gorgeous when he's happy, the captain thinks. More importantly, Leon looks like that because of him.
“Hey, there's nothing wrong with bowling. It’s a classic,” Chris replies, grinning back at Leon. This banter feels different from their usual arguments. It feels comfortable, like a joke that they're both in on, and so he teases a bit more. “Or is the great Agent Kennedy afraid to admit that he's uncoordinated? I bet you throw all gutter balls.”
“Are you serious? I've kicked your ass at cornhole ten years straight; I can kick your ass at bowling too,” the other man replies. He's always been competitive and given everything that Chris has learned in the last day, it's nice to see that hasn't changed. He hasn't read the agent wrong entirely.
“Then it's a date. We'll see who wins this time.”
“You'll be eating those words, Redfield. Wait…. a date?” Leon asks, his eyes widening.
This is the moment of truth and Chris is surprised to feel no hesitation. Claire was right. If he's going to date Leon, he needs to lay his cards out on the table and so he does exactly that.
“Only if you want to,” he tells the agent gently. “Maybe it will work out, maybe it won't, but I'd like to give this thing a shot. What do you say, Leon? From what I've heard, you make a habit of jumping off tall places. Want to take another leap?”
Despite the agent's mark, Chris isn't sure what he'll decide. But he's definitely expecting a yes or no. He's not expecting Leon to blurt out, “I slept with your sister once,” and then immediately look horrified.
The other man blushes scarlet, clapping a hand over his mouth as Chris just gapes at him in shock. This Leon is a far cry from the suave secret agent in all his colleague’s stories and yet, this may be the cutest thing that the captain has ever seen.
Chris starts to laugh; he just can't help it. Claire said the man was bad at flirting but this is something else. He laughs until he's gasping, his shoulders shaking as he leans on the table and guffaws into his hands.
However, when he finally recovers enough to look at Leon, his mirth dies instantly. The other man is no longer smiling. Instead, he's curled in on himself, defensive and uncomfortable, and the captain never meant to make the agent feel like that.
He feels like a total asshole and it only gets worse when Leon speaks, “I'm sorry, I just thought that you should know. If we do this, you'll probably see her name and I didn't want you to flip out.”
The words are bitter, almost biting and Chris needs to do some damage control STAT. Otherwise, the other man is going to break up with him before they go on their first date.
“Hey, no, it's okay. I didn't mean it like that,” the captain says. He takes Leon's hand and when the agent doesn't pull away, he thinks he might still have a chance. “I don't care about your past, Leon. I want to date the man you are, not the guy you used to be.”
Sure Chris is curious about Leon's names but they're nothing to be ashamed of and whomever the man has loved, he's not with them right now.
“Unless you're still pining after Claire?” That might be a bit too weird and if Leon and his sister both still love each other, Chris should probably bow out.
“Of course not. I love your sister and I don’t regret that memory but we're better off as friends,” the other man replies. “She has her own life now, far away from all this death, and anyway she's much too good for me.”
The older brother inside of Chris agrees with this last statement while the rest of him just wonders at this insecurity. Indeed, Leon sounds strangely hesitant when he continues, “Are you sure that you don't mind? It's not just Claire; I have a lot of names, Chris, and most people think it's weird.”
“Even the ones who love you?” he asks gently. There's probably a story here, a reason for the vulnerability that he sees in Leon's eyes.
“I wouldn’t know. No one has ever had my name before,” the agent tells him and Chris can only shake his head in disbelief.
He's seen the way that people look at Leon – civilians and hardened soldiers of both genders watching him starry-eyed and even Ada always seems to come through in the end. Chris may hate the woman, but he can admit that she's helped Leon and he highly doubts she does it from the goodness of her heart.
Has no one ever told him? the captain wonders. Has every single person who loves Leon let him slip through their fingers without saying anything? The idea seems impossible and yet that would explain a lot.
The other man must know that he's attractive if he's ever looked in a damn mirror but maybe he thinks that's all it is. Maybe no one has ever told him that he's fucking wonderful.
Idiots the lot of them but their loss is Chris' gain. Because he's the one who gets to sit here holding hands with Leon Kennedy. He's the one who gets to watch the agent softening, a cautious smile spreading across his face.
“All right, Chris, let's try it,” Leon says. “You can take me bowling and once I crush your high score, I get to pick date number two.”
He still sounds a little nervous, a little bit unsure, but his expression is determined when he leans across the table to kiss the captain tenderly. Afraid or not, Leon is prepared to jump in wholeheartedly and Chris is determined not to waste this second chance. Despite their past disagreements, he knows now that this is a man he could fall for easily.