A Rose by Any Other Name

For Every Dark Night

Miranda hadn't moved in hours. She'd been sitting in the same chair staring out the window. She hadn't spoken to anyone in days. Albert Wesker stood behind her, watching her. They'd been back at the HCF headquarters for a week now and Miranda was steadily growing worse. It was almost as if she'd given up. Her grief for Sherry was overwhelming her and there was nothing he could do or say to make her feel any better. But even if he did have the right words, it wouldn't change anything. Sherry would still be dead. Never in all his life had he ever felt so helpless.

He ran his hand through the hair at the base of her neck. She didn't react to it. He followed her gaze out the window and was surprised to see that it was snowing. It had been quite a while since he'd seen snow.

Her soft hair looped through his fingers and he looked back down at it. Miranda had always had beautiful hair. He'd spent many nights marveling at its silky texture.

"Harley," he whispered softly. He ran a thumb across the soft skin of her cheek. She closed her eyes for a brief moment and a tear slid down and dropped onto his fingers. She made no other gesture of acknowledgement. Wesker sighed heavily and turned to leave. Things were bound to get worse before they got any better.

For Riley Davis the week had gone by in a blur. He was glad to be back in the lab where he felt safe. He'd been forcing himself to forget the whole incident with Raccoon City, but every night like clockwork, as soon as he closed his eyes he saw the woe-begotten city. He saw every terror that the normal world knew nothing about. Every night he relived hell.

Albert Wesker had been in a rage since they'd arrived. He was just as angry as the Head Office that they had not retrieved the G-virus before Umbrella. Nothing would appease him and Miranda Harley's withdrawal had not helped anything.

Riley anguished for her. He'd seen the look on her face as the train tunnel had exploded, but he couldn't possibly know what it was like to lose a child. She was not the same and he hated it. Just when Miranda had seemed to get over her fears, her world had been shattered.

Robert Jacks had been just as angry as Wesker. He'd been acting as if something were bothering him. But no matter how much Riley tried to get him to talk, the less he actually did. He was hiding something from all of them and Riley was willing to bet it wasn't just his past.

"You remember that movie where they put that guy in a tank filled with jelly?" He was sitting on a metal table that was almost unbearably cold. A young man with short red hair was staring at the leather sown into his leg. After this doctor made his report, Riley, Wesker, and Jacks would talk to the Corporates about the possibilities of repairing the damage done. Of course that depended on how bad it really was.

Jacks was across the room sharpening his hunting knife on a whetting stone. Miranda sat curled into a chair on the other side of him, staring out the nearby window. She'd recently come into the room, but like usual hadn't acknowledged their existence. Riley suspected that even though she didn't feel like talking to them she didn't want to be alone.

"What?" Jacks raised his head and glared at Riley.

"You know…where he got attacked or something and they put him in that jelly to revive him..." Riley waved a hand in the air, nearly slapping the red headed doctor in the face.

"I don't watch movies." Jacks snapped. He returned to the stone, dragging the blade slowly across. The noise was unsettling. Only Miranda seemed unaffected by it.

"Why not?" Riley scratched absently at his knee as the doctor sighed in exasperation.

"It's a waste of valuable time." Jacks held the knife up to the light to inspect it.

"Two hours? Oh come on. It's not a waste. It's entertainment."

"Entertainment would be to feed you to those lousy Hunters you keep playing with." Jacks slid the blade across the leg of his pants.

"It would not." Riley whined with a mock sniffle. "It was a really good movie. You should have seen it."

"What was it called?" The red headed doctor asked. He reached for the scalpel in his chest pocket.

Riley scowled at him. "I don't know. I was hoping Jacks did."

"It was a good movie but you don't know what it's called? You're full of shit." Jacks rolled his eyes.

"I am not." Riley sneered. He looked toward Miranda but she was still staring out the window as if she didn't realize they were alive.

"I've never heard of a movie where they put a guy in jelly." The red head doctor said, slicing the stitching around the leather on Riley's leg.

"Sounds like a porno to me." Jacks stopped sharpening the knife and grinned widely.

Riley fought the urge to use his middle finger as a means of communication. Finally his finger won and Jacks laughed uproariously. "Well thanks for nothing. Now I'll have to sit here all day and try to think of it and all you can think of is pornography." Riley snapped. Jacks grabbed his sides and doubled over, his rich laughter filling the room. "You won't even bother to help!" Riley shouted throwing his pillow at Jacks. His cheeks were red. Jacks laughed harder.

"Empire Strikes Back." Miranda's voice was barely audible. Nevertheless, everyone in the room turned to look at her. She didn't return their stares.

"Yeah!" Riley cried excitedly. "Yeah!"

"Sounds like a porno to me." Jacks words sounded as if they were forced. A few seconds later he burst out laughing again. Riley cracked up as well.

The red headed doctor stared at them as if they were all crazy. "Who did this?" He asked as the laughter subsided.

"Why?" Jacks voice was still full of mirth.

"This is the worst stitch job I've ever seen." The doctor answered.

"Well, at least no one could accuse you of being a woman." Riley burst out laughing again.

"At least it kept it from completely deteriorating. Your Captain was right when he told you that you were going to lose that leg." The doctor had pulled away the upper layer of leather and was removing the stuffing. "Even though the sewing was bad, this was a pretty good idea. However, you probably will lose the leg."

"Isn't there something you can do?" Riley asked tiredly.

"We'll have to see what the Head office says, Mr. Davis." The doctor replied. He pulled the last layer of the leather off and gagged. Beneath the leather coating, the skin was gray and defunct. At the doctor's touch a clump of the muscle fell away.

"I told you, you stunk, King Zombie." Jacks snorted. Riley turned his head fighting revulsion. Miranda sighed audibly but said nothing.

"I'll go and give them my report." The doctor said through his teeth. "I'll just…" He reached over to the nearby tray and pulled out a large trash bag. Wrapping it around Riley's leg, he groaned.

"Thanks a lot doc, now how am I supposed to walk?" Riley grumbled.

"You're not. I'll give you a wheel chair and your friend here can take you to the…"

"Friend?" Riley and Jacks echoed.

"No." Jacks said loudly.

Riley turned toward Jacks. "You're not my friend?"

"Not hardly, smart-ass. I'm no one's friend."

"Let me guess, friends are a waste of time." This time Riley sighed.

"Absolutely." Jacks snapped.

"I saved your life, you asshole." Riley shouted.

"I think not. I would have been fine." Jacks answered evenly.

"Yeah right. That monster was going to kill you!" Riley shouted louder.

"I don't think so." Jacks voice was quiet.

"Okay, sure. Whatever you say." Riley crossed his arms over his chest and scowled. Before any of them could react, Jacks shot across the room and lifted Riley into the air. The thought ran through Riley's mind that the speed nearly matched Wesker's.

"You listen here, smart-ass. I fell out a six-story window and landed on my back. Yet I am not dead, nor do I have any broken bones. Explain that." Jacks was grinding his teeth as he tightened his grip around Riley's throat. Riley didn't answer. "I was shot in the stomach with a Benelli M3S Shotgun at close range and yet I live. Don't ever tell me whether or not I would have died."

"No one lives forever," Riley wheezed.

"Enough!" Wesker roared from the doorway. Jacks dropped Riley with a snarl and turned toward the Captain. "As usual, you two find it necessary to act like children." Wesker walked into the room with an air of animosity.

Riley took in a labored breath and stared at him. Wesker glanced toward Miranda but she didn't seem to notice his grand entrance. The red head doctor cowered in fear. "Do you have your assessment ready yet, doctor?" Wesker's gaze fell on the doctor as he whimpered.

"I…I do." The red haired man answered. "I was just trying to…ah…"

Wesker adjusted his dark glasses. "Jacks take Riley to the meeting room." He pointed at the doctor "You sir, will follow them."

Angrily, Jacks nodded and picked up Riley. "Why Rhet, you do care." Riley said in his best southern accent, throwing his arms around Jacks' neck. Jacks ignored him and walked out the door. The red headed man followed quickly behind.

After the door closed, Wesker turned back to Miranda and knelt beside her chair. "I have something for you." His voice, as usual, was filled with elemental music. He was darkness wrapped in moonlight. He held out his upturned fist and laid it in her lap. Miranda looked toward Wesker who was eye level with her then down toward his hand. As he unfolded his fingers a tiny dark lilac blossom appeared. "It's called a Dark Night Lilac." Miranda gave him a faint smile and turned back to the window. Wesker took her hand and enclosed the lilac blossom inside it. "Remember Harley, for every dark night, there is a brighter day." Standing, he walked away from her and out the door. He failed to see the tears that had begun to slowly slip down her cheeks.

"It would have to be living tissue, Mr. Davis." One of the men said. As usual, the Head Office was dark, revealing only the shapes of the three people in charge. The red headed doctor sat closest to the group and, as best Riley could tell, nodded his head. Albert Wesker and Robert Jacks sat next to him. Jacks leaned forward with his elbows on the table. Wesker leaned back and propped up his feet. Only Riley remained perfectly still.

"I understand living tissue, sirs and madam, but what kind of tissue are we talking about?" His voice was confident and cool. Riley was proud of that.

"With the rapid deterioration of the muscle and bone, there is only one tissue likely to restore the damage done." The female voice answered. Her voice was always soft spoken, but she was not one to cross. Marcus Baker had learned that the hard way.

"Human tissue, Mr. Davis." The man said.

"So that means Wesker is out of the question." Riley snickered.

"Your humor is neither appreciated nor desired." The woman said angrily. Riley frowned. These three didn't know how to take a joke.

"So what do I do? Where am I supposed to find someone willing to donate their tissue?" Riley asked quietly. In all his life, he'd never met anyone who'd been willing to give up anything for him. He didn't expect to find anyone now.

"That is entirely up to you, Mr. Davis. However," the deepest male voice spoke up at last. "You have a very small window of opportunity in which to find a donor and replace the tissue. Once the retrogression begins in your bone, it will spread through the marrow and destroy your entire bone structure. "

"We suggest removing the leg and saving valuable time." The female added.

"But I…" Riley stuttered. The disappointment in his words was almost tangible. "Okay. Does it…"

"Oh for heaven's sake." Jacks said loudly, he pushed back from the conference table and threw his hands into the air. "I'll do it."

"You would?" Riley asked, confused.

"Just to get you to quit whining, smart-ass." Jacks snorted. "What do we have to do?"

Wesker planted his legs back on the floor and leaned forward, slamming a fist on the table. "Absolutely not." Both Jacks and Riley turned to stare at him incredulously.

"Why not?" Jacks snarled. "What am I going to need it for?"

"Yeah." Riley added.

"No. I will not hear another word about it." Wesker snarled back. "I don't have to give you a reason for anything I do. Now get out." His eyes glowed red in the darkness. "Now!"

Without another word, Riley, Jacks, and the red headed doctor left the room. As soon as the door closed, Jacks threw his fist into the wall, the plaster collapsing around his wrist. "What the hell is going on around here?"

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