A Rose by Any Other Name

Pookie and the Common Goal

Outside the head office Riley Davis sat waiting for Albert Wesker to emerge. He'd been out there half the morning and planned to wait all day if he had to. The Ladies and Gentleman of the H.C.F. Organization were undoubtedly reprimanding Wesker for the events that took place a mere week ago.

Riley sat back and sighed loudly. The week had gone by in such a blur he barley remembered it. It had somehow ended up a silent agreement from the three of them that nothing would be said about the death of Marcus Baker. Nothing had been.

He and Wesker had discussed the possibilities of finding the grave of Oswell Spencer and digging it up. However, he hadn't been able to come across its exact location. All he knew was that he was supposed to be buried under a head stone that read "George Trevor." From what he gathered however, George Trevor was the man who had originally designed the lavish house with all of its secret rooms and hallways. Moreover, the farther he dug into the history and design of the mansion, the more he found out about its financier's dark and murky past. It also seemed that the mysterious Oswell Spencer might have had a child.

Miranda Harley was a mystery all her own. He'd spent a good part of the week trying to make her laugh, which turned out to be about as easy as it was to make Wesker laugh. What had happened between the two of them? Aside from being nosy, Riley was a history nut. He liked to find out why things turned out the way they did. Digging into the pasts of people like those two was a dream come true.

He did have fun scaring Miranda with the zombie that was contained in a side lab. He had discovered that she was deathly afraid of the T-virus monsters and that fact made Albert Wesker furious.

His mind was clicking with a new way to play a prank on Miranda when the Office door swung open and Wesker strode out into the hallway.

"So?" Riley stood quickly and followed an already disappearing Wesker.

"So?" Wesker repeated.

"What did they say? I'm dying here."

Wesker stopped in mid-stride and turned to stare at him. "They have given us clearance to create the bio-monsters I have supplied DNA for and they have given us a month of grace to search for the Spencer grave."

"All right! We bad…we bad…" Riley commenced to doing a strange dance while Wesker watched with titled glasses. "Jeez…Wesker. Don't look at me like that. Besides, I'm not the only one that ever did a dance of celebration. Ever watch the Super Bowl?"

"No, I'm afraid I have not. And by the looks of things, it doesn't seem like I've missed much." Wesker retorted.

"Just great commercials…the beer…the babes." Riley waved his hands in the air. "You haven't lived until you've been to one of my Super Bowl parties."

"Well, I'm not alive anyway. So I assume..."

"You assume too much." Riley interrupted, "Lighten up Wesker. Jeez…what a grouch." Riley mumbled. "Maybe we should call Miranda and…" Before he could finish his sentence Wesker had grabbed him under the chin and hauled him into the air.

"Whatever you were about to say, forget it. Leave Harley out of our conversations unless she is present." He growled through gritted teeth.

"Oww…Jeez…Owww." Riley muttered.

"Wesker." Her voice was so soft and calm. Without another word, Wesker let go and turned toward her, his anger subsiding.

Miranda was afraid of Wesker. She was afraid to get too close to him for fear that he would turn on her. He'd acted a little different toward her as of late and she found herself wondering why. Every morning she found a single red rose on her nightstand. What exactly was he up to?

Wesker took her hand and kissed the knuckles, Riley mock gagging in the background. "You and I have to talk." He said in a low voice. For a fleeting moment Miranda started to tell him that they both had better things to do, but the way he was looking at her changed her mind. All she managed was a nod. "Riley, get started on your Hunter project. I want them operational in two days. I don't want to the risk of running into any unexpected guests." Riley nodded and turned away, heading for the lab where he'd been working on the Hunter DNA for months.

The plant room was Miranda's favorite place to go. She'd been sneaking off a lot during the past week to sit beside the rose bushes and think. They hadn't been together in this room since that horrible day.

Wesker took her arm and gently turned her to face him. Before she could say a word, his lowered his lips to hers in a passionate kiss. When she had lost her breath he let her go, running his fingers through her hair and watching it fall in waves down her back.

Reaching over, Wesker pulled one if the roses out of the bush and twirled it in between his fingers. "Harley…" He was trying to think of an exact way to pry out of her what he wanted to know. At last he decided it would be best to simply ask her. "Do you know who Ozwell Spencer was?"

Miranda eyed him suspiciously. Why would he want to know something like that? She knew that Spencer had once tested different forms of the T-Virus on himself. Could Wesker be interested in finding out the truth? She nodded, but said nothing.

"I need to find his body. His remains may be the key to unlocking the G-virus code." So that was why. Leave it to Wesker. He didn't even have respect for the dead if it meant he could profit from it. "Do you know where we could uncover it?" His face was expressionless, his eyes a dark image of her reflection in his sunglasses.

"I'll only tell you if you promise to let me help. I want to come with you." As she spoke these words, Umbrella's condemning fax appeared in her mind, "Miranda Harley's failure to follow orders and have a back-up copy of the DNA stored in a safe place".

"I've already asked you to, Harley." Wesker said calmly, his voice deep and melodic as usual. Inside she shivered.

"Well it's settled then." She answered with a grin. Handing her the rose, Wesker raised an eyebrow in expectation. "Spencer is buried…" Before she could finish, Riley burst into the room.

"Oh Jeez…oh Jeez…" Breathing heavily he stumbled toward them. Wesker turned to him, an unhappy look spreading over his face like wildfire.

"What?" He growled.

"It's Fruit Loop. He's out of his cage." Riley panted.

"Fruit Loop?" Wesker and Miranda chorused.

"Fruit Loop is one of the Hunters I've been working with. He tore out his cage when I had my back turned. I don't know where he's at." Riley swallowed hard. He knew Wesker wasn't going to be happy.

"What?" Wesker shouted. Under his breath Riley began counting. "What's wrong with you?"

"Ten…" Riley muttered. Back stiff, Wesker grabbed Riley around the throat. "Say goodbye to your precious "Fruit Loop". I'll have to kill him before he does any damage around here."

"But…" Riley gagged.

"But nothing. He dies!" Wesker tossed Riley aside and stormed to the door. "Don't be a fool, Harley. Stay right here. Do not move." Miranda nodded mutely then turned to Riley as the door slammed behind her.

"What kind of stupid name is Fruit Loop?" She asked, helping Riley to his feet.

Albert Wesker walked stealthily down the dark hallway. He'd evacuated the lab sometime ago and was now hunting down a Hunter. He'd shut off the lights in hopes of keeping others out of the area until the matter had been resolved. He was not surprised to learn that he saw just as well in the dark as he did in the light.

Hunters, he had read from Riley's notes, were hard to spot because they liked to hang around in high places such as air ducts and chandeliers. Because of their abnormally large leg muscles they were able to leap high distances with ease. They were easily heard because of the mammoth talons on their feet and hands. He was listening now, but heard nothing save a small rat that was crawling around in its cage.

Then all at once a clicking noise began, starting at the rear of the room and advancing slowly in his direction. Although Hunters had great agility and speed, they liked to stalk their prey at a leisurely pace.

Wesker had also learned that Hunters gave out a high-pitched scream after they had overtaken their quarry. Smiling wolfishly, he hoisted the gun to his shoulder and watched as the inquisitive Hunter made its way toward him. This poor Hunter wouldn't even get the chance to scream…

Riley glared at Wesker indignantly his lower lip puckered. He turned to the Hunter lying on the table and ran a hand over its scaly nose. "Jeez Wesker. Why didn't you just bring him back in pieces?"

"You're lucky I didn't, Riley." Wesker said lightly. He was watching Miranda as she stared at the tall cages. Each of the Hunters stared back, the white eyes shinning. "Stay back." He warned her. Miranda looked toward him and smiled, her sea green eyes brilliant. Something strange shot through him but immediately he forced it away.

"Who's this one?" Miranda asked, pointing at a cage on the floor. The Hunter inside snapped, it's sharp talons reaching for her through the bars.

Riley smiled proudly and patted the top. "This is Sugar Bear." He pointed to a nearby cage, where another white-eyed monster was snarling. "That's Gummy Butt."

"Not very friendly are they?" Miranda frowned, glancing once again at Wesker.

"They're just shy." Riley waved her off and pointed to a cage at the far end of the room. This time, there were two growling beasts in the same cage. "We put these two together to study their social skills. They are Scooby and Scrappy Doo. They're twins you know." He once again smiled proudly.

"They all look the same to me." Wesker cracked. "How do you know those two are twins?" He choked before bursting into genuine laughter.

"Mind what you say. These are delicate bio-monsters. I've told you that before." With that, Wesker who had just quieted down burst out laughing again. Miranda smiled broadly. This was a much better laugh than the one she'd heard a week ago.

"And that…well…that's…" Riley scratched his head. Miranda leaned closer to the cage and narrowed her eyes.

"Pookie." She told them. Wesker exploded with laughter.

"Pookie?" Riley shot back. "What kind of stupid name is Pookie?" Behind them Wesker was gasping for breath.

"He's got a brown spot on his forehead…" Wesker wheezed, doubling over and grabbing his sides. Miranda and Riley stared at him, not sure of what to make of the laughter.

"He does not." Riley informed him.

"It's not a he. It's a she." Miranda snapped.

"How can you tell?" Fresh laughter broke free and Wesker stumbled back to a chair still holding his sides.

"We're women." Miranda said. "We know these things."

"All right. You win. This one's Pookie then." Riley muttered. "Don't say I never done anything for you." Wesker's chair fell backward, the two of them staring at him as he laughed harder.

Finally, as Wesker stood up and dusted himself off. Fruit Loop began to wake up, growling as it did so. Miranda and Riley didn't seem to notice; they had turned back to one another and were arguing profusely. The Hunter sat up on the table, and projected itself with its powerful legs straight toward Miranda. Without realizing it, Wesker leapt in front of it, catching the monster in mid-leap and tackling it to the ground.

"Hey!" Riley shouted as Wesker strong armed the creature into a cage and slammed the door.

Wesker whirled to face him his mirth all at once gone. "I want these things under control, Riley. No more escapes or outages. I will not fight these monsters during my missions. Is that clear? Get them under control or I'll exterminate the whole lot of them! Pookie or not!"

"Glad to have you back, Wesker, we were worried for a second there." Riley retorted. Miranda snickered in spite of herself.

"Listen closely, both of you. We have very little room for mistakes. I do not have the time or the patience to play games." Wesker scowled at Riley. "Now, if you both are finished, we need to discuss what we know of Ozwell Spencer's grave. For the moment, Miranda will head up the operation." Miranda sighed audibly. Wesker had always been the same way. He'd go from one extreme to the next without waiting for others to catch up with him. Glancing toward her, Wesker gave her a look that told her he knew what she was thinking. She frowned at him. So many things were running through her mind and she had nowhere to put them all. Telling Wesker the truth about Spencer's grave would at least ease some of the tension. "Riley, have three Hunter's ready to go by morning. I want them in those Transport Cages and fully responsive to commands. Am I understood?" As Riley nodded, Wesker turned back to Miranda. "But first, Harley will tell me everything I want to know…"

Over the next three hours Miranda Harley told Albert Wesker and Riley Davis secrets that she had never told another living soul. She broke promises to Umbrella and untied every bind she had with them. For the first time in their lives Miranda and Wesker were working together for a common goal.

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