Antarctica-or-bust (rata_toskr) wrote,
Antarctica-or-bust
rata_toskr

bound to find that pot of gold - part 2

Title: bound to find that pot of gold - part 2
Fandom: Resident Evil
Series: these ink-stained memories
Pairings: Chris/Leon
Rating/Warnings: ridiculousness :), NC-17 overall
Word Count: 9401  (~18000 total)
Disclaimer: If I owned it, Leon would get a hug
Summary: Scenes from the life. They don’t plan that far ahead.

Part I


Leon is more nervous than expected as he leads Chris into the DSO facility. He's been planning this for weeks – that's how long it took to get permission – so he feels like he should be ready. But being here in person has his stomach tightening. The agent has never told anyone about this place or about the deals he's made, and maybe this will be the thing that sends Chris running for the hills.

“Where are we anyway?” the captain asks. He sounds a bit on edge and Leon can't really blame him. The DSO must have used the same interior decorators as Umbrella since this hallway is stark white from wall-to-wall.

“The DSO calls it their 'rehabilitation center' but everyone knows that it's a lab,” the agent answers.

“A lab?” Chris echoes, his fingers twitching at the word.

“They had to research the virus to cure the virus,” Leon says. He knows these halls are bugged so he repeats the party line, though he can't quite keep the bitterness from his voice. “No monsters yet, don't worry; I’ve kept my eye on them. This is where Sherry spent most of her time after Raccoon City after all. But we’re not here about the lab. There’s someone I want you to meet and Sherry said she'd join us if she can.”

Hopefully that's enough for Chris to read between the lines. He's been asking about Leon's job lately, offering to get him a position with the BSAA instead and he deserves an explanation. The agent needs the captain to understand why he keeps saying no.

“Come on, she's just through here,” Leon continues, his stomach full of butterflies as he slides his key card through the last lock. He's not sure what he'll do if Chris hates Manuela or decides that she's a monster for the virus in her blood.

But he thinks the man will get it. The captain loves his sister unconditionally and he's been more than understanding about Leon's past so far. Chris always listens without prying, allowing the agent to spill his pain at his own pace.

It's honestly a little strange. He isn't used to dating someone who always takes his side and isn't even jealous. Possessive, yes, but Leon rather likes that, like being wanted openly.

All right. Moment of truth, he thinks, squaring his shoulders before opening the door. When they pass over the threshold, they find themselves in a lush garden, greenery and flowers as far as he can see. Leon knows they're still inside but it feels like he's walked back into the Amazon and he hears Chris gasp.

“Leon!”

He turns toward the cry, bracing himself just in time as Manuela slams into his arms. He sweeps the woman into a hug and spins her around before setting her back down on her feet.

“It's been too long, hermano,” she says with a delighted smile and Leon returns the expression helplessly.

“I know, little sis. I've missed you too,” he tells her. The agent lets Manuela go, looping one arm around her shoulders and pressing a kiss against her forehead. Leon means the words. She always makes the world seem brighter, her spirit strong as ever, and he sometimes can't believe that his girl grew up so well. She's come a long way from the frightened teenager that he met in South America and it’s good to see her happy even if his heart still aches for the moments that he’s missed.

“I'm sorry I didn't come back sooner,” he continues but she simply pats his cheek.

“It's not your fault, I know that. It's these hijos de puta,” Manuela tells him and Leon is caught between laughter and embarrassment at hearing the young woman curse. “Now, are you going to introduce me?”

“Oh right,” the agent starts. He didn't forget about his partner; he just got a bit distracted. But when he looks back at Chris, the other man is watching them with a soft smile that warms Leon from head to toe.

“Okay, um…. Manuela, meet Chris Redfield, my uh…. boyfriend?” Leon stutters, trying the word out on his tongue. He's never introduced Chris as anything to anyone before. “Chris, this is Manuela Hidalgo, my sister.”

Leon sees a brief flash of recognition on the other man's face – he's obviously placed the name – but the captain doesn't ask even though he must have questions. He just reaches out to shake her hand.

“Boyfriend, huh? You've got good taste, hermano,” Manuela says, looking his partner up and down. “It's nice to finally meet you, Chris. I've heard so many things.”

“Oh. From Leon?” the older man asks. He’s frowning slightly, probably wondering why Leon told Manuela about him and not the other way around. However, before the agent can explain that no, he really didn't, his little sister laughs.

“Of course not. This one never talks about anything personal,” Manuela giggles. “Sherry called me. Leon hasn't dated anyone seriously in years so this is large news. I'm pretty sure the entire chain knows of you by now.”

Manuela!” the agent groans.

“It's only because we care about you,” she retorts before turning back to Chris. “Come on, boyfriend. I'll give you a tour of my garden while you tell me everything.”

Manuela links her arm with the captain's and sweeps him along through sheer personality. Leon follows after them, tucking his hands into his pockets and watching their conversation with a smile on his face. His sister looks tiny compared to the muscled soldier but what she lacks in size, she makes up in vivacity. Manuela's eyes sparkle as she talks about her garden and all the work she’s done. This place is both project and safe haven and Leon has enjoyed watching her plants grow throughout the years even as he hated seeing her trapped here.

Chris makes all the right noises, admiring the plants and asking about Manuela’s life, and she tells him what she can. The other man has his serious face on, the one that says: “Don't fuck this up,” and Leon falls in love a little more. The captain isn't stupid. He must know there's something off here but he's going with the flow for now.

Leon's phone buzzes, cutting off that train of thought. The agent pulls out his phone and sees a text from Sherry, one that makes him frown.

“Sorry to interrupt,” he tells the other two. “But I've got to go get Sherry.”

“Is she all right?” Manuela asks, concern in her dark eyes. Worry and a hint of fire, the woman always ready to come to her sister's aid. But there's no need for that and Leon doesn't want his girls to lose what freedom they have gained.

“Just a new guy giving her shit about her clearance,” he explains. “I'll take care of it.”

“Okay. But if you need me….” Manuela lets the silence speaks for itself as Chris watches them intently, trying to parse the meaning underneath.

“I'll be back in a few minutes, I promise,” the agent says, kissing them both on the cheek before walking toward the door.

“We'll meet you by the pond,” his sister calls after him. Leon acknowledges her words with a quick wave and then heads out of the garden to bring his daughter in. He retraces his steps and finds Sherry at the security checkpoint, her expression irritated as she argues with a guard.

“What is going on here?” Leon snaps in his best commanding growl. He always feels ridiculous when he tries this outside of missions but the guard jumps to attention speedily enough.

“This man is refusing me entrance. He claims I don't have clearance but I have my pass right here,” his daughter explains, waving her ID card.

“Then what's the problem?” Leon asks. “Everything seems to be in order.”

“Well, sir…. it's just…. the pass says Agent Birkin but she's listed in the system as an asset,” the man tells him, staring at the agent with something much like wonder in his eyes. Leon isn't sure why some of the younger men treat him like a legend for surviving but he's not above using their awe to his advantage now and then. If this nonsense had to happen, at least he has a fan.

“Look, Agent…. Johnson is it?” Leon starts. He's just reading the man's name-tag, but Johnson brightens anyway. “This is a brave new world we live in. A person can be both an agent and an asset and Birkin here has been part of the fight against B.O.W.s for longer than you've probably been alive.”

“But the clearance doesn't match,” Johnson answers stubbornly. “What if she's trying to escape?”

Jesus Christ. Do they train these kids at all? the DSO agent wonders, trying not to lose his cool. “You think she might be trying to escape into this facility by giving you her name and telling you she's here.”

“Exactly, sir. I'm so glad you understand,” Johnson says and it takes everything Leon has not to laugh hysterically.

“Right…. well, you've clearly got all the angles covered, but I need to talk to Agent Birkin. Would you please release her into my custody? I promise that I'll send her back where she belongs afterward.”

Senior agent or not, Leon doesn't actually have that kind of clout. But thankfully this overzealous guard dog is too star-struck to even ask for his ID.

“Of course, sir. Right away, sir,” Johnson tells him before buzzing the door open and waving them both through. Once they're out of earshot, Leon and Sherry look at each other and immediately start cackling.

“Is it just me or was that needlessly complicated?” the agent asks when he can finally breathe again. “Seriously, remind me to sic Hunnigan on whoever trains these idiots. At this point she's probably got the contacts to do some cleaning house.”

“Hey, it's better than it used to be,” Sherry tells him. “Especially now that Simmons is long gone. Remember when you had to apply for permission three months in advance just to bring me a birthday cake?”

“Poked the damn thing full of holes, too, like they thought I was trying to smuggle in some contraband,” Leon grumbles, too annoyed to watch his tongue. “I can't believe Claire told you. It was supposed to be a surprise.”

“She thought it was sweet,” his daughter answers. “It was sweet. I still can't believe you did that every year despite the paperwork.”

“Why wouldn't I?” the agent asks indignantly but Sherry just pats him on the shoulder with a grin.

“You're something else, you know that?” she says, shaking her head in disbelief. “Chris had better realize that he's one lucky bastard. Speaking of which, where is he anyway?”

“I left him with Manuela. They seemed to be enjoying themselves and I didn't think I'd need armed backup to deal with one stubborn guard.”

“Are you sure that was wise? The two of them alone?” Sherry questions, raising one eyebrow.

She actually has a point. But when Leon listens for a moment, he doesn't hear explosions so he figures they'll be fine. “Consider it a trial by fire. Chris will have to get along with both of you if he's going to stick around.”

“You think he will?”

“I hope so,” Leon tells her honestly. “I haven't managed to scare him off so far.”

“I wish I could say the same,” she says with a despondent sigh and he snaps alert.

“Hey, what is it?” the agent asks. “I thought you and Jake were doing well. Do I need to kick his ass?”

“No!” Sherry snaps back instantly. “Things with Jake are good. Mostly. I mean, I love him and I know he loves me, but sometimes I wish I had something more tangible. It's been almost six years now, off and on; shouldn't we be married? I thought he was going to propose about a week ago – it was the most romantic date – but then he got called off on a mission and I'm just afraid we'll miss our chance.”

Her voice breaks on the last word, eyes damp and shining as Leon pulls her into a hug.

“It's going to be all right,” he promises his daughter. “That boy is head over heels for you, has been from the beginning. He's probably waiting for the perfect moment and you know what? If he takes too long, nothing says that you can't ask instead.”

He's rewarded with a chuckle even as Sherry sniffs and wipes her eyes. Leon would normally be wary of making those sorts of promises – he's always tried to be honest with his girl – but he knows something that she doesn't. Two weeks ago, Jake came to see him and asked for his blessing, ring in hand.

“Who else would I ask?” the kid had scoffed when Leon couldn't hold back his surprise. Jake had seemed a bit embarrassed but he'd pressed on anyway. “Sherry thinks the world of you and I'm not gonna make her choose. So, you good with this?”

Leon had said yes, of course. The agent wasn't going to deny his daughter's happiness. So he'd slapped Jake on the shoulder and told him, “Welcome to the family, kid. Just remember that if you hurt her, I've killed much worse than you.”

Leon gave the young man his best slasher smile and he seemed suitable cowed as he swore he never would.

“Seriously, congratulations. You two are good together and I was wondering if you'd ever have the nerve.”

“Screw you, old man,” was the answer and thus all was right in the world. Jake left after a few more rounds of insults, looking nervous and excited at the same time. The kid might be rough around the edges but he had a good heart and Leon could only laugh when he found a new name on his skin that evening. Jake Muller punched across his shoulder like a bruise.

So Leon knows that his promise is the truth. “Try not to worry so much. I plan to dance at your wedding before I'm done.”

“Thank you,” Sherry mumbles against his chest. She hugs him tighter for a moment before pulling back again. “Do you think…. if he does ask, or I do…. would you…. would you walkmedowntheaisle?”

The words come out in one long rush and it takes Leon a second to parse her meaning out. But when he does, the agent feels a rush of happiness.

“I'd be honored,” Leon tells her.

“Really? I mean, I know you're not that much older than me but I've always thought of you like a father and-”

“Sherry, it's okay,” he interrupts firmly to stop the nervous rambling. “I feel the same way. I always have. You and Manuela are my family and that's never gonna change. So I will be glad to walk you down the aisle whenever that day comes.”

“I…. thanks, dad,” his girl whispers, darting in to hug him one more time. “Now, we should find my sister and your man before they get bored and blow this place.”

“Probably not a bad idea,” Leon agrees. “Shall we?”

He holds out his hand for Sherry and they walk back to Manuela's garden hand in hand. Thankfully nothing is on fire when they arrive at the small pond near the center of the room. In fact, Chris and Manuela are chatting pleasantly over tea and sandwiches.

“I was starting to wonder if we should send out a search party,” the other man calls out.

“Sorry, love, just bureaucracy,” Leon sighs. He gives Chris a quick kiss before sitting down next to him.

“Here, you've got to try these.” The captain hands him a plate of tiny sandwiches and the agent pops one into his mouth.

“Holy crap, these are amazing,” Leon exclaims as delicate flavors melt across his tongue. “Where did you get them? I know the kitchens here do not make food this good.”

“I asked one of my handlers to get me something special,” Manuela tells him. “We have a pretty good relationship these days.”

“I bet you do,” Sherry snorts. “Are they cute?”

“She is a lovely woman and that's all you need to know,” her sister answers archly before they both break into laughter. Leon watches fondly as they hang off each other snickering. His girls are usually so serious but like this they can relax. Together Sherry and Manuela can be young women instead of assets on a page.

Indeed, the afternoon passes quickly in teasing conversation and all too soon the four of them are saying their farewells.

“I'll visit again as soon as I can,” Leon swears as he hugs Manuela tight.

“I know, you always do,” she tells him, returning his embrace. “Take care of yourself, hermano. Don't let them overwork you.”

“I'll do my best,” he answers before stepping away to give the others room.

Manuela hugs Sherry and Chris in turn, leaning up to whisper something in his boyfriend's ear. Leon is too far away to hear her but he trusts the other man to tell him if it matters. So he just wraps an arm around his daughter's shoulders and starts walking toward the door. Chris slides in next to him and they make their way outside without further incident.

Sherry promises to call him later before climbing on her motorcycle and roaring off into the night. Leon gave her the bike on her last birthday – his hazard pay is good for something besides medical expenses – and he smiles at the memory of teaching her to drive. His luck with vehicles isn't nearly as bad when he's not on a mission and Sherry took to the bike like a natural, leaning into the curves without fear.

“Come on, we should head home,” Chris says, nudging the agent from his thoughts. They drive for about five minutes before his boyfriend finally asks, “Manuela is infected, isn't she? T-Veronica?”

“Yeah. How'd you know?”

“She told me she'd burn me alive if I ever hurt you and well, I met Alexia. But she seems…. how is she still so in control?”

“No one knows,” Leon tells him. “Manuela is a miracle. It's been fifteen years now, more or less, and she's never once hurt anyone by accident. I know her blood was invaluable for some of the vaccines but I should have done better than I did.”

“What do you mean?” the captain asks.

“She was sixteen when I met her, the same age as Sherry. Just a kid, really, and her own father gave her T-Veronica in an attempt to save her life. He was a drug lord and bought the virus on the black market. For her, originally, but things got out of hand. When Krauser and I were sent to investigate the rumors, Manuela helped the two of us take her father down. And I... I couldn't leave her there after that: infected and alone in South America.

“So I brought her to USSTRATCOM and it took everything I had to keep them from killing her outright. Manuela was in control by then but the bastards didn't care. That's why I can't join the BSAA. I'd love to, don't get me wrong, but between Sherry and Manuela, I just can't risk it. I've sold my soul too far.”

“Leon, what are you talking about?” Chris asks. He sounds faintly horrified, like he can guess but doesn't want to, and Leon hesitates. The only person he's ever told the truth was Krauser and that relationship hadn't exactly ended well. Even Sherry and Manuela were always told he volunteered, though his girls are probably suspicious after all these years.

But he doesn't want to lie to Chris. This may be the truth that breaks them, but he's tired of white-washing the DSO's dark history. So Leon slumps down in his seat and shuts his eyes; this will be easier if he doesn't have to see the other man's expression while he talks.

“I didn't exactly join USSTRATCOM willingly,” the agent admits and these first words are the hardest. “Sherry and I were picked up by government agents a few weeks after Raccoon City. Claire was gone by then, off to Europe chasing you, and they said…. Simmons said that they would murder Sherry if I didn't work for them, carve her into pieces for science and the cure. So I said yes. I became their agent to keep my girl alive.

“I should have gotten Sherry out but there were just too many guards. She grew up there, Chris, in labs and research centers. She never got to be a child because I brought her to a prison. And then I did the same thing to Manuela four years later. Any mission, any time, that's the deal I made. But I kept them both alive and the cost was worth it. I'd make that choice again.”

There's silence when he finishes, filling the space between them. When Leon can't take it can't take it any longer, he glances over at Chris and he's not expecting what he sees. His boyfriend looks completely devastated, his knuckles white around the wheel.

“What the fuck did you just say?” Chris bites out, pulling the car over. “You've been fighting B.O.W.s for decades and you didn't even volunteer?”

“None of us asked for this, Chris. We all just stumbled into outbreaks and had the good luck to survive,” Leon tells him. “So I'm not complaining. I've made my peace with the situation. I just wanted you to understand. I mean, I should have done better for my family but at least I'm helping people. Someone has to save the world and at least I've got the skills.”

“You know I fucking love you,” the other man bursts out and Leon startles, staring at the captain in surprise. “You're just the most amazing, selfless…. ridiculous…. I don't care if I don't have your name yet. I love you and I will.

No one has ever told him that. But Chris speaks with such conviction. He truly seems to mean it and the agent doesn't know how to react.

“I don't…. you…. me?” he stutters before words fail him utterly.

So Leon leans over the center console and kisses Chris with everything he has. Because he's starting to believe that the older man is serious, that he's truly going to stay no matter what. So maybe he can have this. He sold his life away to save his daughters and he can't regret that, but maybe he can be happy with the remnants he has left.

---
---

Learning that Leon was essentially conscripted throws Chris for a loop. He can't believe he didn't notice. How did the captain never realize what kind of assholes ran USSTRATCOM? How could he not realize that the agent needed help? Thinking about their conversations now, it seems so obvious; it’s not like Leon ever tried to hide his weariness.

Chris wants to fix this. Now that he knows the truth, he has to help somehow. But Leon won't talk about it. He changes the subject every time Chris brings up the DSO, becoming defensive when the captain tries to push. The agent doesn’t seem to realize that he deserves so much better and they get so little time together that Chris doesn’t want to fight. So he lets Leon distract him with sex instead; that at least is still fantastic even though the man’s willingness to settle for the status quo is driving him insane.

He assumes that the agent just isn’t listening. But then Leon hands him a phone number one Sunday afternoon.

“If you really want to help the girls, you should start with Hunnigan,” the other man says softly. “I don't have the leverage to change their situation but Hunnigan knows everyone.”

“You trust her?”

“With my life. I probably should have told her the truth years ago. But I didn’t want to drag her down when I’ve always been expendable. Simmons and his ilk made that very clear and I couldn't risk my girls losing their only ally. At least this way Claire still gets to visit periodically.”

Leon says this like a fact of life, not angry but resigned, and as usual, Chris is torn between hugging the man and smacking him upside the head. If he's learned anything over the last seven months, it's that the agent is ridiculously self-sacrificing. He'll put everything on the line for total strangers without a moment's hesitation but beyond the basics of survival, Leon can’t be bothered to take care of himself.

Even now, Chris isn't sure the other man believes that the BSAA can help him; he’s probably just surrendered to Chris’ pleading for his adopted family's sake. But that just makes him more determined to see this mission through.

So the captain calls up Hunnigan as soon as his date is over and arranges to meet her the next day. Chris is expecting someone severe and uncompromising: some kind of perfect handler without a human heart. But he's met at the cafe by a smiling woman who's obviously dressed for comfort and gives him a once-over without an ounce of shame.

“So you're the reason that I've lost my drinking buddy,” Hunnigan says in greeting. “I suppose that I can't blame him. From what I hear, you're dynamite in bed.”

“I'm sorry?” Chris asks blankly.

“Don't be sorry. That man has needed to get laid by someone nice for years. And you should hear him wax poetic about your dick when he's punch-drunk from a mission. That shit's hilarious,” she tells him, her smirk growing wider at the captain's awkward blush. “But you seem to be sticking around so I figured I should meet you. Leon is head over heels, you know, and before you hurt him – if you hurt him – I want you to remember that I know where your sister lives.”

Hunnigan doesn't change her expression but Chris recognizes a threat when he hears one and strangely, it makes him feel on even ground again.

“Don't worry. I've gotten that lecture from about five different people – including my own sister – and I have no intention of breaking Leon's heart. In fact, I'm here because I want your help for him.”

“Well, color me intrigued, Redfield,” the woman replies. “Let's get ourselves a table and then you can explain what's going on. No promises, but I'll listen. You've earned that much at least.”

The two of them pick a spot in the back corner where no one is likely to overhear their conversation. They order tea and coffee before Chris tells her about Leon’s situation. He tries to stick to the facts but he’s not entirely able to keep the anger from his voice. Hunnigan listens in silence, not asking any questions until the captain finishes.

“That explains some things,” she murmurs quietly and Chris sees a cold fury in her eyes. “I've had my suspicions for a while. No one else gets sent on as many missions without a break and I've had to fight for every inch of backup. I wish he'd told me earlier but Leon has never been the type to ask for help.”

“So you're in?”

“Yeah, Redfield, I'm in. This bullshit has been going on long enough. The DSO won't know what hit it when I'm through.”

Over the next few hours, Hunnigan proves that she does indeed know everyone. She and Chris work out a plan of attack, noting which people she can lean on and which they should avoid, and by the time they've finished, he is deeply grateful for Ingrid Hunnigan. More than that, the captain understands why Leon loves her and considers her a friend. Because this woman is ruthlessly competent, no-nonsense and straightforward, and willing to go out on a limb for the ones she cares about.

So Chris bids her farewell with a smile on his face, feeling far more optimistic than before. Although he’d been determined to help Leon, now he truly thinks that they can win. Hunnigan promises to call as soon as she knows more and with her on the case, it’s just a matter of time before the DSO is forced to treat Leon and his family like people instead of prisoners.

The woman calls a few days later and to his surprise, she’s decided that Sherry will be the easiest to free. Chris would have expected the DSO to be less attached to Leon than its so-called “assets” but Hunnigan seems sure.

“The G-Virus isn't considered a major threat compared to other strains these days,” she explains. “It doesn't spread like the zombie viruses and as an agent, Sherry doesn't have Leon's track record. She's good but she's not the best and after China, the DSO has never given her a proper chance to shine. As long as we make it seem like his idea, the Director will see transferring Sherry to the BSAA as a good way to help his budget instead of as letting a dangerous asset out of sight.”

“And you can do that?”

“Of course. I know where he goes golfing and I know his buddy's wife.”

“You know, that's kind of terrifying. I'm glad you're on our side,” Chris tells Hunnigan and he swears he hears her smirk right through the phone. “Will the same trick work for Leon?”

“Unfortunately, releasing him will be much harder. The current group in charge wasn't part of his recruitment – those bastards are all dead or retired – but they don't see him as a person. He's just their one-man-army and they won't want to let him go. Honestly, the Director and his colleagues have gotten complacent,” the woman says as her tone grows more sarcastic. “Weird attack of B.O.W.s? Just send in Agent Kennedy. For the price of a few guns and helicopters, he'll clean up the problem or at least flush out the culprits. After all, he's never failed before. He's the perfect agent, expendable but too damn good to die.”

“Are you saying it's impossible?”

“I'm saying it's gonna take some time, Redfield. And maybe a bit of blackmail. We'll see how things play out,” she tells him. “Seriously, if your main goal is just better support and real vacations then unionizing the DSO might be our best strategy.”

“Really?” Chris asks, but Hunnigan's not even listening.

“Actually, that's not a bad idea,” she mutters, speaking over him. “Never going to get OSHA compliance but the rest would follow Leon; most of his colleagues think he hung the moon. Hammer out a better contract... We could definitely improve the training regimen and I know our man isn't the only one who's starting to burn out. Trial by fire has never been the greatest plan. I'll have to get the girls out first but as long as the BSAA backs our play, I think it's doable.”

“Of course, anything you need,” the captain promises before he leaves her to her plotting. He thinks he may have accidentally started a revolution, but give how the US government has acted, he really doesn't care.

Not when he gets to tell Leon about Sherry's transfer only a few weeks later. The DSO signed her over just like Hunnigan predicted and Chris has already drawn up the paperwork to give her back her life. If Sherry still wants to be an agent, he could use her experience in vetting Blue Umbrella but he plans to give her a real choice and if she wants to leave, the captain will ensure that she's protected either way. The BSAA does not hold hostages.

“I can't believe you really did it,” Leon says when Chris shows him the papers and he doesn't think he's ever heard the man sound more relieved. He's even standing straighter like a weight that he's grown used to has finally disappeared.

“It's all official as of Tuesday,” the captain tells him. “And honestly, I didn't do much. It was mostly Hunnigan. She's the one who made this happen,”

“Maybe, but you're the one who asked,” the younger man replies before his lips twist bitterly. “I should have told her. Should've asked for help but I was too damn used to getting by alone. If I had, Sherry might have had a real life years ago.”

“Hey, this isn't your fault. You did the best you could and you got her this far. That's nothing to be ashamed of,” Chris says, wanting to take that pained look off Leon's face. “And who knows what would have happened if you'd tried this before. From what I saw, Simmons was a real piece of work. You’ve got us now and that’s what matters. Hunnigan is working on a plan for Manuela and then you afterward. She thinks that-”

“Don't tell me the details!” the agent cuts him off. “Unless you need me to do something, it's best if I don't know. Plausible deniability if the suits start sniffing around. I know that you’ll do everything you can and even if you can’t get me transferred, this is enough. This is already more than I ever thought we’d get. So I’m going to say thank you and then we’ll talk about other things.”

The captain opens his mouth to protest – he has every intention of helping Leon too – but he gets a bit distracted when the man drops to his knees. His boyfriend proceeds to show him just how grateful he can be and Chris is pretty sure that he'll never be able to look at his office the same way.

Even three months later, the memory still makes him smile and he finds himself thinking about Leon instead of his paperwork. Forcing his mind back to the present takes some effort and Chris rubs at the bridge of his nose, trying to ease the headache that's lodged behind his eyes. All he wants to do is go collapse before it turns into a migraine but he needs to finish this.

It took a lot of digging and the judicious use of blackmail but Hunnigan worked her magic and he’s looking at the contract to transfer Manuela Hidalgo into BSAA custody. They can work out her future later; the first step is getting her out of that damn lab and while she may miss her garden, a message passed through Sherry proved that she's more than ready to be free.

So Chris signs the last few pages before resting his elbows on the desk and rubbing at his eyes. He just needs a moment before he starts on his next task.

“Are you all right, babe? You look like shit.”

When he glances up, Leon is leaning against the door frame, his expression a mix of fondness and concern.

“What are you doing here?” he asks, wondering if he's dreaming. The captain has had dreams like this. But his boyfriend is usually a lot more naked instead of frowning worriedly.

“I was in the area so I thought we'd go get lunch. I texted you an hour ago, Chris, and you agreed. You don't remember?”

“Really? Are you sure?” Chris says as he pulls his phone out of his pocket but when he looks, he sees Leon's message clear as day. He even sees his own reply, though for the life of him he can't remember writing it.

“Huh, that's weird,” he mumbles. The captain stares at his phone in confusion until Leon walks over and takes it from his hand. The younger man sits on the edge of the desk and presses his palm to Chris' forehead.

“Jesus, babe, you're burning up,” the agent exclaims. “Forget about lunch; I'm taking you home.”

“But I have so much work to do,” Chris protests.

“It'll wait until tomorrow. You're in no state to do anything but rest.”

Leon accepts no arguments. He simply bundles Chris out of the office and into his car before he can even blink. The captain isn’t sure when his boyfriend grabbed his keys, but he doesn’t protest when Leon settles in the driver’s seat. He just rest rests his aching head against the window and dozes until his boyfriend nudges him again.

“Come on, love. Let's get you to bed,” the agent says, strong hands helping Chris out of the car. Leon supports most of his weight on their way into the house before sitting him down at the kitchen table. The agent moves around the room with confidence as he puts on a pot of water and the sight warms the captain’s heart. He likes seeing Leon comfortable, so domestic in his house.

“Here, swallow these,” his boyfriend says, handing him two pills and a glass of water. His hand shakes a little as he drinks, each swallow stabbing at his throat. Chris is crashing hard and it takes him a second to realize that Leon has called his name again.

“Are you up for a shower or do you just want to sleep?” the younger man asks gently.

“Sleep sounds good,” the captain manages with effort. He honestly doesn't have the energy for anything else right now.

“All right. Let's get you into something comfortable.”

With Leon's help, Chris makes it to his bedroom, though it's slow going on the stairs. He almost never gets sick and he can't remember the last time he felt this awful. Chris could power through if he had to but it's nice to let his boyfriend take care of him instead. Leon’s hands are sure and steady as he strips the captain from his clothes and then tucks him into bed.

“I'll be back in a minute, babe,” the agent tells him, stroking damp hair off his face. “I'm just going to get you some tea and medicine.”

“But then you'll leave and I don't want that,” Chris mumbles. He can feel exhaustion tugging at him but he's determined to get his point across. “You should move in with me.”

“Are you serious?” the other man sounds surprised even though he shouldn’t. Chris has hardly kept quiet about his feelings and he even has a mark now just like he said he would: Leon S. Kennedy wrapped around his neck where the agent tends to hold him when they kiss.

“Of course, I'm serious. I want you to drink coffee in my kitchen and stash your guns around the house. I want us to sleep wrapped around each other when we're not off on missions and have this be where you come home to when your work is done. You can have half the closet or just take the whole damn thing; I tend to wear the same three outfits anyway. You don't even have to pay me rent unless you want to. In which case, thanks, cause my mortgage kind of bites.

“Come on, Leon. I know you hate your apartment. You keep telling me it’s bugged and we could move your stuff next week. What do you say, sweetheart? Let's get domestic.”

“And you think I'm bad at this,” the agent says instead of answering. But his tone is fond and his smile soft as he leans down to kiss Chris on the forehead. “I'm going to get the tea. If you still want me to move in when you're not running a massive fever, we can talk about it then.”

Leon slips away from the bed and walks toward the door as Chris calls after him, “That wasn't a no.”

“You're right. It wasn't,” his boyfriend agrees with an impish grin before disappearing down the stairs and the captain is pretty sure that he's the luckiest guy in the whole world. Because he's going to get better. He's going to ask Leon to move in with him again and he’s sure that the answer will be positive.

So Chris will get to show the agent the joys of domesticity while Hunnigan moves onto phase three of her grand plan. They’ve freed the girls already and when that woman’s finished, the DSO won’t have its claws in Leon anymore. Those bastards will be lucky to have any men at all.

The captain doesn’t expect his boyfriend to stop fighting monsters. But if he’s working for the BSAA, at least he won’t be run into the ground. Leon will actually have time for a life between his missions and they’ll make that life together if Chris has any say.

So he lets himself drift off, stirring just enough to pull the agent closer when Leon slips in next to him.

---
---

“Are you ready? It's almost time,” Leon says, knocking on Claire’s bedroom door.

“Come on in,” is the reply and so the agent slips inside.

“What do you think?” Claire asks with a wide smile and Leon’s breath catches when Sherry turns around. Her ivory dress is the picture of elegance, a smooth drape across her body with hints of lace to draw the eye.

“You look beautiful,” he tells his daughter honestly. “Our little girl, all grown up and getting married. I never thought I'd live this long but I'm happy that I did.”

“I'm so glad that you could make it,” Sherry says. “My wedding wouldn't feel right without you here.”

“I promised, didn't I? I wouldn't miss this for the world,” Leon answers. If he wasn’t afraid of wrinkling her dress, he would hug his girl right now. “And we've got two dozen volunteers to take care of any outbreaks from now through your honeymoon so you don't need to worry about anything. There are a lot of folks who love you, Sherry, never doubt that.”

“I could say the same about you,” she replies, sounding a bit exasperated, but Leon simply shrugs. He's still a little baffled by how many people who took his side when Hunnigan made the truth of his past known. Instead of letting the DSO make him disappear, agents that he'd barely even talked to stood up to say that wasn’t right. His colleagues had threatened to quit en masse and join either the BSAA or Blue Umbrella unless things changed radically. Sure Leon's coworkers had had their own grievances – apparently he wasn't the only person who'd never gotten overtime – but they'd still defended him.

The agent hadn't expected that. He hadn't expected anything. He'd been willing to quit if necessary once his girls were protected. But when Hunnigan told him that most of the DSO was leaning in his favor, that's when he realized Chris might have been right when he said that Leon had more allies than he knew. He had gotten so used to being abandoned that he'd stopped trying to reach out and it's still weird to think that he's not alone, that he has people to support him through rough patches now.

But Leon isn't stupid enough to question his good fortune. He's just so fucking grateful. The agent never thought he'd get to attend his daughter's wedding, neither of them free enough to make that possible. Over the last year, his whole life has changed for the better because of Chris and Hunnigan and he owes them both more than he ever could repay.

“Thinking too hard again?” Claire asks, elbowing Leon gently in the side.

“Just glad to be here,” he replies, shaking off the past.

“Yeah, can you believe it? Our little girl is older than we were when we first met,” the woman tells him with a grin. “Who ever thought we'd make it here?”

“Now who's thinking too much?” the agent teases, though it's nice to know she understands. Of course she does; Claire is the reason that Sherry made it out alive.

“I know, I know, bad habit. I just wonder what would have happened sometimes…” Claire starts before trailing off again. “It doesn't matter. Come on, I hear the music. Let's give our girl away.”

She clips a white flower to his suit and then helps Sherry with her veil. Once she looks perfect, Claire and Leon each take one of their daughter’s arms.

“You've got this,” the agent murmurs.

“I've got you,” Sherry replies and Leon sees her put her nerves aside. “Let's go get my husband.”

The trio walks out the door and into Claire's backyard. There's no church, no high stone arches or priest waiting at the end of a long aisle. Instead Manuela has left her touch all across the garden, blooming flowers painting a winding path through friends and family.

Everyone is here: Jill and Chris and Hunnigan, Helena and Rebecca; all the people who have come to love his daughter through the years. They stand along the path of flower petals in groups of two and three and at the end, there's Barry, his suit somehow looking rumpled even now. Manuela stands at his side, beaming widely with more blossoms in her hair, and Jake is in the center, looking straight at Sherry like no one else is there.

The kid cleans up nice but it's the expression on his face that tells Leon that his girl made a good choice. Jake and Sherry are staring at each other with looks of such devotion that his chest aches with happiness. His daughter deserves someone who'll put her before the world and he knows they'll keep each other safe no matter what the future holds.

So Leon walks down the path and puts Sherry's hand in Jake's without any hesitation, giving the woman one last hug before he stands aside.

“All right, let's get this show on the road,” Barry says, clapping his hands together. “We've gathered here today to celebrate the love of these too young'ins and I figure they've waited long enough so I'll keep this short and sweet. Sherry, Jake, you got anything you want to say?”

“She already knows I'd die for her,” the young man replies with a loose shrug. “I can’t add much more than that.”

“As long as you remember that I'd prefer you live instead,” Sherry tells him, reaching out to squeeze his hand. “I want us to grow old together.”

“That sounds good to me,” Jake answers, still smiling at his fiancée dopily. It's really rather sweet and Barry gives them a moment before he speaks again.

“All right then, that'll do. Take care of each other and things will work out fine,” Barry says. He pulls the rings out of his coat and hands the first to Sherry. “Do you, Sherry Birkin, take this fine young man as your lawfully-wedded husband in sickness, health, and zombie outbreaks, wherever you shall roam?”

“I do,” she answers, sliding the ring onto Jake's fingers. Sherry doesn't sound surprised by Barry's additions to the usual vows so she must have done some editing; Leon's daughter has never been one to swear obedience.

“And do you, Jake Muller, take this woman as your lawfully-wedded wife, to have and to hold; supporting each other through adversity, struggle, and any more kidnappings until death do you part? Hopefully many joyous years from now.”

“I do.”

“Then with the power vested in me by this great state of Illinois, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

Leon can't stop himself from beaming as Jake dips Sherry dramatically and the whole crowd gives a cheer. The agent looks for Chris and the other man is smiling just as widely; his cheeks will probably hurt before the day is done.

“I give you Mr. and Mrs. Muller,” Barry pronounces when the young couple finally separates. “Let's send these kids off right.”

The newlyweds cut the cake to start off their reception, which is really just another zombie-hunter barbecue. The biggest difference from the others Claire has thrown throughout the years is that Leon actually feels like he belongs here instead of skirting around the edges awkwardly. So he joins Chris at his table and leans in to kiss his boyfriend, flipping Hunnigan off when she walks by wolf-whistling.

Leon notices Helena lurking on the sidelines so he waves the woman over, wanting to make his former partner feel more comfortable. He flags Carlos down as well and soon the two are deep in a discussion of the best bad films on Netflix; they don’t even notice when Chris and Leon head off to get some food.

For a bunch of government agents and free-lance B.O.W. hunters, their little group has some surprisingly good cooks. So Leon sits down and digs in, content to listen to other people’s conversations while he works on finishing his plate. Chris is doing much the same as he talks to Jill across the table, his free hand resting against Leon’s lower back. The agent clears his plate in record time and is contemplating seconds when Manuela settles next to him.

“Well, hermano, how's it feel to see my sister married?” she asks with a grin. “Missing the empty nest?”

“No, this has been a long time coming and I'm just happy for her,” Leon answers. “I'll be happy for you too, whatever choice you make.”

“You never know. That might be me someday if I ever meet the perfect girl. At least I've got a chance now thanks to you.”

“You don't owe me anything, sis. It was mostly Chris and Hunnigan,” he says with a half shrug.

“Maybe, but they did that work for you,” Manuela tells him before taking pity on the agent and changing the subject. “What do you think of the decorations? I took all the best seeds from my garden when I left and I think it turned out well.”

“Everything looks beautiful and I know Sherry was overjoyed to have you here.”

“I couldn't let my sister get married by herself. I would have found a way no matter what,” she says fiercely and Leon doesn't doubt it. Manuela has always been the brave one. But then her grin turns playful and she asks, “What about you, hermano? I want to plan your wedding too. Can we expect the big announcement soon?”

“You know, I haven't really thought about it,” Leon answers honestly. But he looks at his daughter and the family that they've gained. He looks at Chris, still blithely eating Barry’s slow-cooked barbecue, and he figures, What the hell?

“Hey, babe. You want to marry me?”

The other man clearly wasn't paying attention to their conversation because he startles at the question, glancing up at Leon with his fork still in his mouth. But then Chris gulps down his current mouthful, taking the agent’s hand as he nods emphatically.

“Yes. Always, anything, anywhere you want,” his boyfriend says and Leon has to chuckle, his heart light with happiness.

“I'd have Barry do it now but this is Sherry's moment. Plus I think our friends might kill us if we actually eloped,” the agent tells him and hears Manuela mutter, “Yes, we would.”

“We can talk about it later,” he continues. “Knowing that you want to is enough for now.”

“Of course I want to,” Chris answers and the two of them grin at each other until Manuela can't resist the urge to hug them anymore. She launches herself half across the table in her enthusiasm and Leon barely manages to move his plate in time.

“This is wonderful! I’m so pleased!” Manuela exclaims, her arms tight around his neck. “You'd better let me decorate.”

“I wouldn't dare do otherwise,” the agent laughs, returning her hug as he tries to keep them all upright.

“What is going on here?” an amused voice says and Leon turns around to see Jake and Sherry standing there. They're still in their wedding outfits but have gone a bit more casual, the white veil and long suit jacket nowhere to be seen.

“Why are you mauling both my dads?” Sherry asks and Chris makes a choked off noise. But when the agent glances over, his boyfriend is smiling even wider than before.

“I'll explain later,” Manuela tells her sister as she sits back in her chair. “What brings you here, hermana? Do you want to escape already? Because I have an exit plan.”

“I'll keep that in mind. But no, Jake promised he would make nice for the whole day and I intend to hold him to that,” Sherry answers. “I was just looking for a cornhole rematch from our champion over here. Leon said that we’d play next time when I missed Claire's last barbecue.”

“Ah, yes, cornhole. I have heard many stories,” Manuela says, her eyes lighting up. “May I watch or, ooh, can I be the referee?”

“Sure, why not?” Leon laughs. “What do you say, babe? Want to be my partner?”

“Of course,” Chris replies, letting the agent pull him from his seat. “At least this way I'll have a chance of winning. I still don't know how you're so damn good at this.”

“Don't worry. I'll show you all my tricks,” the agent promises. “Gotta keep my title after all.”

“You won't go easy on us?” Jake asks with a pout. “It is our wedding day.”

“Not a chance,” Leon replies. “You want to win; you’ve gotta earn it.”

“I could have told you that,” Chris and Sherry say in tandem before trading amused grins.

“You’re family now and Leon here would die for you,” his daughter tells her husband. “But he's all about tough love for minor problems. Says that it builds character. You should have heard me whine when I was learning algebra.”

“But don't worry, I’m really bad at cornhole,” the captain adds, looping one arm around Leon's shoulders. “With me on the team, that's practically a major handicap. And hey, if you give me the right incentive, maybe I could be convinced to throw a round or two.”

“Don't you dare!” Leon orders, jabbing his finger into his boyfriend’s side. “We are not teaching our children to get ahead with bribery.”

“All right, all right, no cheating,” Chris chuckles. He takes the declaration in stride and god the agent loves this man. “Lead the way, kids. Let's see if your father here can teach me how to throw a beanbag properly.”

“Good luck with that, old man,” Jake scoffs. “Prepare to get wrecked.”

With that, the conversation quickly devolves into trash-talking while they set up the game. But every joking insult simply makes Leon laugh delightedly. Because these people are his family, belligerence and all, and having them all here together is a dream come true.

The agent never thought he'd get this when Chris first saw his name. Leon was all hidden marks and loneliness back then, throwing himself into danger without truly caring whether he survived. But he can't regret the heartache when those choices led him here.

So Leon smirks at his children as he picks up his first beanbag and prepares to kick some ass. This is the future that he bled and fought for and he's going to embrace it with everything he has.


End

Tags: fic, leon-ship, poignant, post-series, resident evil, these ink-stained memories*
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