A Rose by Any Other Name

Curiosity Killed the Mice

"Wesker." Miranda's legs nearly buckled beneath her. Something was wrong. She could feel it in the pit of her stomach. She braced herself against the wall and willed her body to sit. Closing her eyes, she saw the metal skeleton of a plane on fire… Her skin burned at the thought. She put a hand to her stomach as a wave of nausea hit her like a head on collision.

"Miranda!" Riley's hobbling footsteps echoed down the hall. She opened her eyes to him, glad for the sudden distraction. She didn't like what she saw. It couldn't bode well. "You alright, M?" She nodded without answering. She was all right, but she couldn't say the same for Wesker. "You're not…" Riley dropped down beside her and patted her leg. "You know…uh…are you?" Miranda and Riley's eyes met with an unexpected flicker of alarm. Quickly, Miranda laughed. "Me?" She reached out and ruffled his hair. "Very funny."

Riley grabbed her wrist and looked into her eyes. "Its good to have you back." He was so serious Miranda had to laugh again.

"Sure." She got to her feet and helped him up. "Have they found a donor for you yet?" They walked along a hallway that Miranda had seen a dozen times before. She wasn't too interested in what was behind the doors here. She was, however, interested in the immense wooden door hidden in a dark corner of the hallway. She'd never been inside, and her curious cat side was just as willing to investigate as she was. Luckily Wesker wasn't around. He didn't always see things the way she did.

Feeling giddy for some unknown reason, Miranda gripped Riley's arm. "I've got it!" She cried. The distressing thoughts of Wesker had begun to dissipate.

Riley looked at her as if she'd just grown an extra head. "Why is it that I'm getting left in the dark about everything?" He stuck out his lower lip in a mock pout. "Wesker…Jacks…and now you? Oh what is this world coming to?" He put a hand to his forehead and sighed. "Do I have some sort of disease…?"

"Riley," Miranda interrupted, her voice shaking. "I've found a donor for you."

Robert Jacks had been to New York plenty of times in the past, but never to infiltrate a military base. This particular base, abandoned by the U.S. now belonged to a small group of anti-Umbrella soldiers. It seemed that they'd been sending out secret operatives from the base since the destruction of the Spencer Mansion.

Why did Leon S. Kennedy think bringing an eight-year old girl to this specific location was safe? Surely he knew that Sherry was a valuable asset considering her background. Hell, for all they knew, Birkin could have been refining a new sort of virus inside his daughter's body. She was a ticking time bomb bound to do all who were involved more harm than good. He was right to say that she should have died. She would eventually be the death of them all.

Checking the various concealed weapons on his person, Jacks adjusted the lab coat he'd gotten from Riley and prepared to gain access into the world of anti-Umbrella. Smiling ruefully, Jacks wondered how they would feel when they learned they had been out gunned by a man who'd also been burned by Umbrella.

The twisted wreckage that had once been an F-15 fighter jet had finally begun to smolder. The rain that was suddenly sweeping across the ravaged island had put out most of the flames. Slowly, a single hand that showed from beneath the bulk of the debris began to move. A deep moan reverberated from somewhere deep within. The earth trembled violently as if anticipating the next diablerie.

For Albert Wesker, May twentieth would be imprinted on his memory forever. It was the night they'd found the body of that woman hiker in the woods of the Arklay Mountains. It was also the night he'd begun to truly hate Chris Redfield. But most importantly, it was the last night that he'd held Miranda in his arms as a human. Not that it had affected his ultimate decision. He'd had no other choice in the end.

It had been raining hellishly since early afternoon. For that time of year it was strange to have such a downpour, but the residents of Raccoon City welcomed fervently.

Wesker had never cared much for smoking but sitting alone in the pitch-blackness of his home it seemed almost tempting. Ten years ago he'd sat inside the Arklay mansion and discussed his fate with other Umbrella researchers and Corporates. Ten years ago, he'd moved to the outskirts of Raccoon City and created the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad. Even then he'd known that someday he would betray them. All he'd needed was the right crew and the completion of the "Harley" Tyrant. Now all these conditions had fallen into place with an eerie sort of finality.

Wesker was so lost in his thoughts he almost didn't hear the knock at the door. He opened it to find Miranda Harley standing in the darkness. She was soaked through to the skin and her clothes clung to her curves suggestively. Her hair hung limply around her face. It did nothing but enhance her unearthly beauty. She shivered visibly. "Wesker." Her voice was almost too soft in the thundering rain. "I'm sorry…" She'd never come to his home before. For ten years they'd met at Grady's Inn for their personal business.

Holding the door open, Wesker gestured for her to come inside. "I couldn't…" She paused again, unable to talk through a shiver. He rested his hands on her shoulders and looked down at her. Even in the darkness her sea green eyes glimmered.

"You're cold." He whispered. Leaning down his lips brushed hers. "Let's get you out of those clothes." Miranda shivered once again but nodded soundlessly.

He carried her to the bed and sat her on the edge, taking time to remove each article of clothing effortlessly. Miranda watched him silently, still shaking. Wesker leaned forward and kissed her lips again, this time pressing her body to the mattress. Miranda's small sigh gave him all the incentive he needed to move closer to her and his lithe fingers to drift over the length of her beautiful body. He paused for a moment at the curve of her breast and smiled to himself. Languidly, his lips touched dark circle at its center. Her intake of breath told him just what he needed to know. Lifting his head, he met her solemn gaze.

"Wesker…" Her voice held a strange note of fear, but even that couldn't stop him. He needed her, no matter what her reasons were for coming to his residence. Miranda closed her eyes and slid her arms around him as he positioned himself above her.

"Miranda." Very rarely had he spoken her name in the midst of their liaisons, but this time he couldn't stop it. Her legs locked around his waist and Wesker lost the control he'd been so carefully holding back. He had to take her and now…

At the resonating sound of the phone, Wesker's eyes shut tightly and he growled. Pausing for a moment, he frowned to think of the reasons that someone might have for calling him at this hour. Beneath him, Miranda sighed audibly. Finally Wesker roused himself and got to his feet, reaching for the phone on the night table.

"What?" He barked. He could hear Miranda shifting around behind him.

"Sir?" At the sound of Chris Redfield's voice, Wesker became incensed. "We've…that is…the RPD found something a few minutes ago."

"And?" his annoyance was tangible.

"They found a woman…You remember that woman who went missing a few weeks ago?" Chris' voice was halting, as if he were fighting back revulsion.


Wesker moved to slam the phone back into its cradle when Chris spoke again. "It looks as if she was…eaten, Captain."

"Eaten?" The sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach had grown steadily worse. It was happening at last. Somehow the T-virus had gotten loose from the basement laboratories. This knowledge might explain Miranda's appearance as well. Wesker paced as far as the cord would allow him to.

"I really think you should come take a look at this, sir." Sirens were beginning to sound in the background. "This isn't normal. Something isn't right…" Even though Chris couldn't see him, he nodded. To keep up appearances, he'd have to show up and at least look interested. Otherwise, he'd lose credibility when he needed it the most.

"I'll be there within the hour." Wesker turned back to the night table keeping his eyes away from Miranda. "And Chris?"

"Sir?" The rain was pounding so loudly it was hard to hear him.

"I should kill you." Chris laughed thinking Wesker's words a joke. It would take a little more than two months to learn that the Captain was not joking at all.

Laying the phone down more gently than he wanted to, Wesker turned back to Miranda. She was sitting up with the sheet to her chin, quivering violently. He sat down beside her. He'd decided whatever was bothering her couldn't wait any longer.

"There was an accident in the basement lab." She whispered. He felt as if her words had physically slammed into him. "The T-virus…" He moved a piece of hair out of her face and caught sight of a tear slipping down her cheek. "It's loose in the mansion." Her voice wavered.

"How long?" His soft tone cut through the suddenly eerie silence.

"Last Monday." She answered quietly. "Scott and Alias came and woke everyone up. Pete Adams was the main researcher that night. He said he didn't know what went wrong. He's…oh god, he's dead." The tears were coming faster and Miranda wasn't trying to stop them. Wesker remained silent. He needed to hear the entire story. Its ending would effect the beginning of his plan. "And Plant 42…You remember?" She waited for him to nod before continuing. "Somehow it was saturated with the T-virus. It's grown out of control…" She looked away from him. "It's enormous. It moves on it's own like some sort of animal I've never seen anything like it. It only feeds on blood and… I guess flesh." Her shaking accelerated. "I saw it eat one of the dogs, Wesker. It just ripped it to pieces. God…if the plants could can do that…

"Scott told Rykerson about what happened and he went crazy. We were all in the Aqua Ring sector when he just started screaming and beating at his head…I've never heard anything…He demolished the tank…" Miranda pulled her knees to her chest and laid her head on them. "Neptune and his sons are loose in the Aqua Ring. They've been infected with the T-virus." She dragged in a ragged breath. "I thought the virus was supposed to help save lives. What the hell is happening?" She choked. "There are zombies, for god sake. I've seen them roaming around in the courtyard."

Wesker stood, turned on the bedside lamp, and moved to the closet. He pulled out a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt. "Don't go back to that mansion, Harley."

"I have to, Wesker." Miranda stayed where she was, watching him intently. "It's my home."

"You're a fool, Harley." Tucking in his shirt, he reached for the gun on the dresser and slid it into the back of his belt.

"Where am I supposed to go?"

"You mean too much to…" Pausing he realized he'd almost said something he'd sworn never to tell her. "Umbrella…They can't afford to lose you." Her sigh had ended the conversation and he'd gone to examine the body of the hiker with Chris and Jill. When he returned, Miranda was gone.

It would be two months until the sickening feeling that she was a beautiful zombie lost somewhere in the mansion left him. It would be two months until the two of them were reunited and he lost his soul…

The rubble shifted and groaned as Albert Wesker pushed himself out of his would-be grave. His vision was swimming strangely. He stood motionless for a second or two and let the ground beneath his feet return to normal. "What the…?"

Dusting himself off, he growled and looked back at the wreckage. Narrowing his eyes, he turned his back on the plane. He'd lost most of his equipment in the crash, but that wouldn't stop him from completing his mission, much less from killing Vincent Goldman.

"Davis?" He touched the com-link at his ear. "Can you hear me?" He waited a few moments but only static answered him.

"You can't be serious." Riley raised an eyebrow and looked at her suspiciously. "You'd do that for me?"

Miranda nodded. "Wesker said that Jacks couldn't give you his tissue, but he didn't say anything about me."

"I'm all for that, M, but frankly I'd rather lose my leg than my head." The two of them had been standing in the same spot arguing the fate of Riley's leg for nearly half an hour. Neither had any inkling that something had gone awry with Wesker.

"I want to talk to them." Miranda gestured to the large wooden door not far from where they were standing. "If they agree, then that's all the authorization we need. Riley, please Let me do this for you."

"But why?" Riley eyed her even more suspiciously.

"You helped me, so I'm returning the favor. Besides," she cracked an exuberant smile. "It's no skin off my hide." The two of them laughed until they were holding their sides.

"Now you're learning." Riley gasped. "What happened to you anyway?" He took in a deep breath and stared at her. Miranda blushed. She couldn't tell him what had happened the night before. Besides, it wasn't anyone else's business.

Never the less, he winked at her. "If you're sure you want to do this. " He said limping to the massive door.

"Wait!" She caught his arm. "What if they're not in there?"

"Oh they're in there, M. They 're always there."

Robert Jacks smiled wolfishly as the burly man that held his arm pressed against his backbone shoved him down a dark hallway. The door at the end opened as they reached it and Jacks was shoved inside. Finding his footing instantly, he braced himself for an instant death.

He'd meant to get caught. This abandoned base was a myriad of rooms and hallways and he wasn't about to search every room for Sherry Birkin. He didn't have the time to waste and aside from that he became bored easily.

"I assume you're a solider?" A thin man who sat behind a long metal table leaned forward and tilted his glasses to look at him. Jacks remained motionless. "Name and identification, sir?"

"Robert Jacks. 3rd infantry division. U.S. Army." Jacks answer was direct. He wasn't technically lying. All except the Army part, it was the truth.

"Why are you here?" The burly man spoke from behind him. Jacks narrowed his eyes and waited for them to adjust to the semi-darkness. As always, he wished for Wesker's abilities.

"Curiosity." Jacks muttered. Once again, it was only a partial lie.

"Who sent you?" he recognized the voice that was speaking now, but only vaguely.

"I'm not sure that's any of your business." He snapped.

"Umbrella." The familiar voice spoke softly. "It's written all over him."

The mist drew away from his mind and all at once he knew. "Leon S. Kennedy. It's a pleasure to meet you face to face." Jacks words were mocking.

Leon stepped into the light and glared at him. "Who are you?"

"Robert Jacks." He answered with an exasperated sigh. "I've encountered your precious Ada Wong." The uncomfortable shuffling in the room stopped instantaneously and Jacks had the feeling everyone in the room knew Leon's story.

"Ada's dead." Leon answered curtly.

"Is that so?" Jacks kept his tone light, no need to upset them all just yet.

Leon moved forward despite the protests and spit in Jacks' face. Raising an eyebrow, Jacks smiled at him. "Now that wasn't very nice, Officer Kennedy. Or should I say ex-officer. Or how about never been an Officer?" His wicked laughter filled the room. The fist in his face sent him sprawling. He lay back and closed his eyes, pretending to be injured. Leon stood over him and glowered. "You shouldn't have done that." Jacks growled. He slammed the butt of his gun against the side of Leon's head and jumped up as the former "officer's" body slumped forward.

The gunfire erupted around him, the bullets catching him in the mid-section and sending him back to the floor. The pain hit Jacks like a brick wall. He closed his eyes and heaved a suffering sigh. Then, he breathed no more…

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