A Rose by Any Other Name

Fresh Air

Riley and Ada stumbled into the open air both squinting against the bright morning sun. Had the last few days passed so quickly? Ada coughed and sat down, her back still bleeding. Wesker hadn't even bothered to patch her wound after saving her from her fate.

Riley was no longer cared about. He realized that as he stared at her. He'd seen the love scene that had occurred between her and Leon and he understood at last that she had been using him to get a drop on Wesker. He would not make a mistake like her again.

He wondered if Miranda was ok. When he left, Wesker had been mad enough to kill her. Riley hoped he'd seen past that and was bringing her out with him.

The sun was shinning brightly and Riley breathed it in. Surprisingly, this air was clean and fresh. Jacks appeared at the opening to the tunnel as an explosion rocked the ground beneath them. In less than a second, Jacks was standing next to him.

"Well, well," Jacks snorted, not even out of breath. "I see the King of Zombies made it out safely."

"You don't have to thank me, Jacks. I would have saved you anyway."

"You did nothing of the sort." Jacks stretched and Riley was shocked to find that he was bleeding profusely.

"I would start an argument about that, but...what happened?" He pointed to Jacks' arms and chest.

"Your subjects decided that I looked like a delectable treat." Jacks frowned. Until now, Riley had missed the fact that Jacks had been carrying a large black bag.

"They usually know things like that." Riley shrugged. "Guns?" Jacks looked down at the bag as if seeing it for the first time.

"Body parts."

"What?" He and Ada asked simultaneously.

"Am I to guess you didn't get the G-virus?" Riley raised an eyebrow. Once again, they had something that Wesker going to be angry about.

"Well, not exactly." Jacks looked toward the bag. Blood was seeping from it and pooling in the dirt.

"And you didn't kill the Salvage team did you?" Riley looked toward the bag as well.

"There was only one left and no." Jacks didn't seem pleased with his answer. But before he could say more Wesker appeared before them. He hadn't even broken a sweat and he wasn't out of breath either. He plopped Miranda down on the ground next to Ada.

"Jacks," He and Jacks nodded a greeting. "Did you get the G-virus?"

"You okay?" Riley knelt next to Miranda and smiled.

"Claire killed Birkin. I think Sherry's okay." She whispered.

Riley winked. "Of course she is." All the while, Jacks and Wesker had been talking in heated tones.

"You didn't get the G-virus much less kill Hunk! What the hell did you do?"

"I saved my own ass...Captain." Jacks ground the words out slowly as he spoke angrily.

"I should have let you die!" Wesker shouted, shoving Jacks. Jacks tripped over the black bag and fell to the ground. Angrily, Jacks stood and shoved Wesker back. The two men stood facing each other but nothing else was done.

"Somebody's panties are in a bunch." Riley smirked, shaking his head.

It took him quite a while, but Jacks finally managed to calm himself down. He made better use of his time by listening to communications going up about the city.

"Captain," Jacks said, breaking the heavy silence. "The Air Force has been ordered to destroy Raccoon City. We'd better go."

Wesker nodded then looked toward Miranda. She was staring hopefully at the entrance to the train tunnel. After a few moments, a fireball came rolling out of the opening and his insides felt like rubber.

"Sherry!" Miranda cried so loudly, the words seemed to tear her throat raw.

Wesker grabbed her by the arm before she could run towards the tunnel. "No." His voice was even and cool. Slowly Miranda turned to stare at him. "There's nothing we can do for her." Wesker wished that he felt as nonchalant as he sounded. He could see something in Miranda's eyes smoldering. She was getting angry.

"This is all your fault!" Miranda hit Wesker on the side of the face with her fist clenched, snapping his head to the side. "You son of a bitch!" She dropped to her knees and put her head in her hands. Her shoulders began shaking violently. Wesker turned his head back slowly and looked down at her.

"Jacks, take Ada to the treatment facility north of here. Riley go with them." He told them without looking up. His eyes were still trained on Miranda who was sobbing uncontrollably.

"But Captain, the Air Force is going to annihilate Raccoon City in less than an hour…" Jacks interjected.

"I know!" Wesker shouted, his shoulders bunched as his voice rose. "Just go!"

Jacks nodded with a frown and picked up Ada, no more affectionately than Wesker had. "Pick up that bag and come on, Riley." Riley made a move toward Miranda but was stopped short by Wesker. The thought crossed his mind that he hadn't even blinked before Wesker had seized his arm.

"Leave us!" Wesker shouted, thrusting him toward the black bag. Miranda continued to weep, not even noticing the events surrounding her. Reluctantly, Riley picked up the bag and once more looked toward Miranda. Wesker had turned his back on them and was watching her as well. "Go before I lose my patience." His voice was a low growl. Jacks took hold of Riley's arm and turned him away. After a few moments they were gone from sight.

Albert Wesker knelt next to Miranda and put his arms around her. Her whole body was shaking as she laid her head on his chest. "She was just a little girl, Wesker…" her words were gasping sobs. He looked down at her, the feeling deep inside of him strange and unfamiliar. Gently, he ran a hand over her head. He couldn't force himself to speak. For some reason Miranda was making him feel guilty for a decision he knew had had to be made. No matter how hard he might try, he couldn't make the mother of his child know that he had let Sherry die to save her. Wesker had lost a lot of things over the past few months, but he was not going to lose Miranda. Of that and only that was he certain.

"I'm sorry, Harley, but we have to go." Not for the first time, Wesker noted that his voice was dry and unemotional. Miranda raised her head to stare at him, tears streaking down her cheeks.

"I can't leave her," she gasped. Wesker gazed into her eyes, which reflected the morning sun. "I can't go."

"This is not a discussion." Wesker answered lifting her into his arms. Laying her head on his chest again, Miranda took in a gasping breath. She looked back to the tunnel but all she saw was the black smoke still billowing from the entrance. She closed her eyes and listened to Wesker's even breathing. He wasn't even bothered by the fact that his daughter was dead. Why should he be? She'd never told him the truth about Sherry. And now, he would never know her as anything but another casualty.

Turning his back on the tunnel, Wesker walked away from it. Overhead, three F-15 fighter jets rushed past them into the heart of the ill-fated Raccoon City.

Not for the first time in her life, Miranda Harley felt utterly helpless. It was outlandish, but true, everyone she'd ever loved had somehow ended up dead. Only one of them had ever come back to her.

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