A Rose by Any Other Name

Dangerous Liaisons

Wesker took to her to a room on the sixth floor. Mumbling something about keeping the lights low he set up candles in the bathroom so she could take a shower. Miranda agreed that a shower was a great idea. She was beginning to think she looked like zombie herself.

She was thankful for the warm and inviting water. She stood underneath the showerhead and let the water gently caress her skin like a lover's touch.

She thought of Riley's idea that imagining a far away place could make you feel safe. Her father had always told her to think of a time when she was truly happy. Being truly happy, to him, meant being with the people you loved. She wondered if he had thought of his "happy time" when he died.

The very thought of her father made her sad. She missed him so badly. She'd wanted him to be there when she got her first job at Umbrella and when Sherry had been born. But due to circumstances beyond his control he was not.

Miranda had never been able to think of her own happy time. If she were forced to answer she'd have to have said that finding Wesker alive came as close as she would ever get. Hugging her arms to her chest she hunched down and let the water cascade over her back.

For years she and Wesker had seen one another. But to what end? She'd never quite figured out their attraction to one another. Wesker was not the type to give his affections to any woman so what had his interest been in her? And why did he leave her after she'd gone to sleep? What was it about her that would not allow him to remain with her? She had never been able to comprehend it all.

Wesker was a dark and enigmatic a man. He was also self-centered and cruel. He frightened her. He always had.

She had no doubt that he would do anything to get what he wanted, even if it meant using her. She secretly wondered if she'd end up being right about all these musings. Never the less, she loved him and she knew there was something that tied them together no matter how invisible it seemed. He had been her heart and soul almost from the moment she met him.

Miranda had been given a job at Umbrella's Arklay Mountain Research lab straight out of college. She'd come home to the cold mid-western town of Raccoon City from Connecticut where she'd spent four years at Yale. She, unfortunately, did not have the resources that Alexia Ashford had had.

She'd spent her senior graduation party trying to cope with severe sunburns and a bad boyfriend and was no mood to date for a long while.

She and Albert Wesker had met when her car had broken down just outside the city limits. In his days as a researcher Wesker had been prone to taking long drives. His temper was mostly to blame. He'd seen her and stopped. After he helped chain her vehicle to his, she climbed into the passenger side and talked to him all the way back to Raccoon City. As night fell she had agreed to go on a date with him despite her earlier resolve. It was only later that she would learn never to talk to Wesker when he was driving.

The shower water began to run cold and Miranda turned it off, sighing loudly. Wesker's black shirt was laid neatly on the counter. The material swayed invitingly as Miranda picked it up. She held it to her nose and inhaled the scent that was unmistakably Wesker's. She'd always loved his smell.

The hotel room was dark as Miranda eased open the door. She could barley make out the form of Albert Wesker lying stiffly on the bed. Silently she tiptoed to the bed and lay down beside him. Leaning up she kissed him on the cheek. "Goodnight." She whispered softly. Then she laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes assuming he was asleep…

Albert Wesker lay on the bed in darkness and listened as the water ran softly across Miranda's body. He could hear every tiny sigh that escaped from her lips. Closing his eyes he groaned. He wasn't sure how well he could handle this situation.

Just when he thought he could take no more he heard the bathroom door open and Miranda pad toward the bed. He never realized how extraordinarily gorgeous she looked in his shirt. She seemed to think he was asleep.

She had lain next to him and kissed his cheek murmuring in his ear. Laying her head on his shoulder, she sighed melodiously. Wesker could not help himself. Turning his head, he kissed her tenderly on the forehead. For a moment it appeared that she was snuggling closer to him. But then she bent down and began to kiss his stomach, her lips leaving a trail of fire in their wake. He arched his back as she continued upward, ending the torture at the base of his neck. Then she did something that surprised him. It wasn't like Miranda Harley to nibble on his ear. Sensations slammed into him, as they never had before.

Like a wildfire raging out of control his senses swam with her scent, which was becoming overwhelming and dangerously seductive. Her soft skin and warm lips were tantalizing. The soft curve of her breasts hidden beneath his shirt suddenly made it impossible to control himself any longer. He slid his hand through her silky hair, grabbed hold, and maneuvered her beneath him. He kissed her passionately parting her lips with his tongue. He placed his hand on her inner thigh and felt her shudder.

"I need you, Wesker." She gasped against his mouth.

"I know." He answered softly returning his lips to hers.

"You just love it that I'm powerless against you." Miranda teased breathlessly.

"You have no idea." Wesker told her with a dark smile.

Riley closed his eyes and tried to sleep but for some reason he found this impossible. He hadn't told Wesker at the time but he was starving. He'd never get to sleep if his stomach continued rumbling so loudly.

Sitting up, Riley took his magnum from the nightstand drawer and checked to see that it was still loaded. Wesker had sent a new operative uniform for him to wear. He fumbled to put it on in the dark. Lucky for him he'd seen the suit often enough to know where all the zips and buttons were.

It seemed like the best thing to do was to search out something to eat. His only disadvantage lay in the fact that he didn't know the city too well. However, that wouldn't stop him when he was starving.

He'd be the most terrible zombie he snickered to himself. He'd never get enough to eat. He opened the door as quietly as he could and prayed that Wesker couldn't hear him. Wherever Wesker was he hoped, at least for the moment, it was far away from him…

Downstairs, three of the HCF operatives were lounging around in the lobby smoking cigarettes and talking softly. Riley was not surprised to see Jacks standing alone at the hotel's double glass doors cleaning his gun.

"Machine gun?" Riley asked. He was hoping to trick Jacks into letting him outside. Jacks glared at him with dark green eyes as if he were a moron.

"It's an AK-47." He answered with a growl.

"So…ah…you're the big cheese next to Captain Wesker?" Riley ventured. Robert Jacks was fairly tall with black stubble for hair. He was also famous for his bad attitude. Riley longed to make fun of him for all of these things.

"Big cheese? I am not a food product and neither is Captain Wesker." He snarled.

"Meow." Riley hissed like a cat. "Do you know what fun is?" He asked the question very slowly as Jacks features fell into an angry sneer.

"Fun would be to knock your smart-ass teeth down your throat." Jacks snapped.

"Okay. Okay. Jeez." Riley held his hands in the air. "Listen. Wesker asked me to let you know that you needed to canvas the hotel again. He wants to make doubly sure there aren't any more zombies here."

"Damn." Jacks growled audibly. "How many times do we have to go through this?" He stood and threw up his hands. "Karman stay here. You two come with me." He motioned to the three lounging in the lobby and they disappeared up the stairs leaving a giant dark skinned man behind.

"So…you're ah…Karman right?" Riley asked with a frown. This was going according to his plan.

Karman was so tall Riley had to lean his head back to look into the man's face. The man glared down at him but said nothing in return. "Big strong silent type huh? We've got a lot of those running around, don't we? Except those zombies...Man, are those things loud. Sounds like my last girlfriend." The big man chuckled but remained silent. "Don't you ever talk?" Riley whined. The big man nodded. "I'll bet you fifty bucks I can make you talk." Karman shook his head. "Okay how about we up the stakes? I make you talk and you don't tell anyone you saw me leave. Deal?"

"What do I get if I win?" Karman's voice was a deep drone. Riley started to laugh. He tried to make it sound like Wesker's, but instead it came out an absurd squeak.

"You didn't win, now did you?" Riley turned toward the glass entrance doors and opened them, walking out as if he were the big cheese.

The air outside had turned unexpectedly cold. The breeze carried with it a chill and the stench of death. Riley imagined that it was what the inside of a coffin would smell like. He patted the gun in his pocket suddenly glad his father had believed in the importance of a man protecting his family.

He listened for zombies, recognizing the sounds they made from his many encounters with them but heard nothing. All was silent save the occasional moan echoing through out the city streets. Nothing was in the immediate vicinity.

He saw a grocery store up ahead but decided not to risk it. The big one story building was bound to be loaded with the ghoulish monsters. He shivered at the thought.

What he and Miranda had been through earlier that night was bad enough. He just wanted to find a few snacks, get back into the hotel, and get some sleep. He didn't want to deal with zombies or Wesker and he couldn't decide which would be worse.

His only real option would have to be a gas station. It wasn't likely to have a whole lot of zombies inside. Plus, there was bound to be a whole stash of snacks that would normally be much too expensive.

Not too far ahead Riley saw the very gas station he was hoping for. The Taxago was dark and silent and that never made for a good combination. Wrecked cars were piled around the gas tanks. Some of them were empty; some of them were filled with half-eaten victims. The sight was almost too much for Riley. If he hadn't been so hungry he would have headed back immediately and went to bed. He looked back toward the hotel and wondered if Karman had told them he was gone yet. For his own sake he hoped not. Wesker was bound to be very unhappy with him.

He eased over to the broken glass of the door and slid his hand in just enough to release the lock on the other side. He'd never been a very good sleuth, but in his younger days he'd spent a lot of time pretending he was Sherlock Holmes.

The inside of the store was immersed in blackness. Riley searched his pockets and found an economic sized flashlight. Leave it to Wesker, ever prepared for the worst. The light broke through the thickness and nearly blinded him with its suddenness. He swung the light in the direction of a long row of shelves. "Now to find something to eat..." He muttered. In his haste to find the food, Riley failed to hear a sound like wet shoes making their way ever closer to the now open gas station doors...

Jacks stood at the entrance to the laundry room on the third floor with his head cocked, listening for anything unusual. He'd been getting used to the sounds the zombies made and had no trouble spotting them, even in the dark. He only wished that he had Captain Wesker's ability to see through the blackness. Not hearing what he wanted he unlocked the door and went inside. His two underlings followed closely behind.

He made his way through the laundry room with ease. He'd been in enough hotels in his lifetime to know the layout of every one. In high school he'd worked as a desk clerk nights and weekends just to make ends meat for his two younger sisters.

After his parents had been killed in an automobile accident he'd taken it upon himself to care for his family. And he had, right up until the day operatives from Umbrella had burst into his home and forced him to watch as they shot his two teenage sisters in the forehead and blasted a shotgun into his stomach. He'd never understood why they'd made his sisters suffer.

His sisters had no idea that he'd hacked into Umbrella's mainframe computer and stole some of their research. In desperation he had sold it to an opposing Corporation for an obscene amount of money. So why had they had to pay for his mistakes? He wasn't sure why he was thinking of that. He'd learned that no matter how much he thought about something, it would not change the past.

"Come on, Boss. We was smoking down there." One of the men whined.

"Shut up." He barked. After he'd been shot, he'd gone to the hospital in Raccoon City but the doctor's refused to help him. If it hadn't been for Albert Wesker he would have died in the middle of the street. Captain Wesker had taken him in and mended his wounds. With injuries so devastating he didn't know how he'd survived. But somehow he had. In return, Jacks had promised he would follow Wesker to the ends of the earth.

Captain Wesker had told him that he would come looking for him if and when he needed him. That was why he was here now. He owed his life, whatever it was worth, to Albert Wesker.

Jacks opened the door to the maintenance stairwell and the three and stepped inside. Hours had passed since they'd been down in the lobby. They had no idea that their comrade Karman was already dead…

The anthill was at least a hundred feet tall. It seemed absurd to her that an anthill could possibly be that big. The ants, which scurried around the hill, were nearly as big as a normal sized man.

Miranda Harley stood on the platform overlooking the anthill and leaned over the railing stunned by what she was seeing. It was only then that she heard footsteps clamoring up the stairway behind her. A brown haired woman appeared at the top of the stairs gasping, followed closely by…Chris Redfield. Miranda whirled on instinct and pointed her gun at Chris's head. The thing that stopped her from doing so was the heavy footsteps of something else walking straight toward her.

She turned again, catching a glimpse of a woman with gray skin, just before the woman reached out her arm and slapped Miranda so hard she fell over the railing and tumbled downward slamming into the anthill and rolling the rest of the way down.

When she landed, the pain was almost tangible. It gripped at her insides and overwhelmed her thoughts. She couldn't breathe. Her attempt to move only made matters worse. She felt as if her entire body was broken in pieces. "Wesker." She gasped. She pushed herself up with the palms of her hands the move bringing forth a coughing fight. Blood dripped from her mouth and pooled on the floor. "Wesker."

She fought her way to her feet, the pain intense. Above her she heard the sound of gunfire and a strange humming like a fly or a bee. Yet she couldn't stop. She had to get to Wesker. A small part of her told her she was dying, but she didn't want to face it. If she could only make it to Wesker everything would be all right. He would take care of her.

She collapsed in the hallway, her whole body on fire. Another coughing it gripped her and more blood dripped to the floor at her feet. There was no doubt that she was going to die.

Chris Redfield burst through the door behind her She wavered as she got her feet. She tried desperately to stay standing. Surely he would take her to Wesker despite their dramatic differences. She reached out for him, unaware that blood was seeping out of her mouth and her eyes were clouding over abnormally.

Miranda hardly felt the pain as the gunshot ripped into her chest. "Wesker!" She screamed. She fell forward and didn't try to brace her self as she hit the ground.

Albert Wesker had been lying on his back with Miranda in his arms. His mind was filled with plans for the mission. He'd been trying to figure out a way to make sure Miranda remained safe when she began to toss and turn violently. He stared at her, his eyes narrowed. He wondered what kind of dream she was having. Reaching over, he pushed the hair away from her face. Her features told him it wasn't a pleasant one.

"Wesker." She murmured. He kissed her forehead and continued to watch her. Miranda had always been prone to bad dreams. She'd been that way as long as he could remember. He guessed her dreams dealt with zombies that she had encountered that day and returned to his own thoughts.

"Wesker." Her unnatural coughing brought his attention back to her. She was starting to shake erratically. Wesker reached for her shoulders intent on waking her.

"Wesker!" Miranda's scream caught him off guard. She bolted upright in the bed and screamed again. The eerie sound echoed off the walls around them. She woke up then and turned to look at Wesker who was now sitting up beside her. She choked and threw her arms around him. Burying her face in his chest she sobbed, the motion rocking her whole body. Wesker put his arms around her and stroked her hair.

Miranda wasn't sure whether she was crying because of her dream or because Wesker was still with her. Either way her emotions were too strong. She couldn't control them any better than she'd been able to control the Tyrant.

It was the worst nightmare she'd ever had. Although she was glad it was only a dream she knew it wasn't the last time she'd be having it. She closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of Wesker, almost falling apart when she realized how gently he was stroking her hair.

"Wesker...I..." She wanted to explain to him how she was feeling inside but the words weren't coming. She would just have to be content to lay her head against his chest and listen to his heartbeat.

Every part of Wesker was strong even the beat of his heart. It was one of the things she loved about him. As if sensing her thoughts, Wesker tipped her chin up with his forefinger and kissed her.

"Rest, Miranda. I've got you." He whispered. She closed her eyes and took in a heavy breath. He had her all right. She nodded wordlessly.

"I'll be all right." She told him. It was strange for him to hold her this way. In all the years they'd been together he'd never done that. She didn't know how much longer she could go on this way. Mercifully, Wesker's arms disappeared from around her and he got up. He put on his pants silently and moved to the window. His handsome features were illuminated in the eerie light. It was not hard to tell that he had changed. Wesker was a monster. Albeit it beautiful he was dangerous and wicked. Miranda watched him, wandering how one man could be so wise and yet so evil. Ozwell Spencer said that men like him were one in a million but they were the worst kind.

"Umbrella's handy work. Beautiful isn't it?" He said mockingly. Miranda hated the sharp tone to his voice. "Who would have ever thought one simple little virus could do so much damage."

"You would." Miranda said aloud. Her voice was no more than a whisper.

"I did." he nodded. Wesker tipped his head to the side as if listening for something. "Gunfire." He said at last…

Riley had just dug into a box of Cracker Jacks, laughing at the irony of the name, when he heard the crunching of glass. He grabbed for his gun, the box falling to the floor. Squinting, he searched for the source of the noise and saw a lone zombie lumbering towards him. He held up the gun and prepared to fire, unaware that there were two more of the undead behind him…reaching for him...

Jacks ran down the main stairwell, his senses screaming. Something was wrong. Jumping off the railing on the third floor he landed easily on the first. He hadn't even thought about the feat he'd just accomplished. His men continued on the stairs above him, speechless.

Jacks looked toward the entrance to the hotel and found that all the glass had been broken out. The body of Karman was laid out in several pieces near the check-in desk, blood splattered on the walls. He knew that he needed to report the situation to Captain Wesker but he also knew he needed more information before attempting it.

Something dripped down from the ceiling and splattered on the toe of his boot. It looked too dark to be water. "What the..." Looking up, Jacks saw the answer to his question. A creature the size of a human man was above him its tongue stretched out to touch his cheek. It was slobbering hungrily. "Lickers!" He shouted a warning to the two underlings that did not hear him and would never make it down the stairs.

He pulled the trigger on his AK-47, succeeding only anger the creature. It fell off the ceiling and headed straight toward him. Jacks held down the trigger, the gunfire peppering into the walls and the Licker. It screeched deafeningly and flipped backward kicking and writhing until all at once it was still.

"Heyman...Richt…Answer me." He pushed at the com-link on his ear but got no response. Most likely there were more Lickers in the area and his men were dead. He sent a warning signal to the crew in the basement and waited for a response.

"Fine here, sir. We'll be on the look out." The answer came quickly, much to his relief. Looking back toward the doorway, he wondered where that smart-ass scientist had gone. Surely he was smart enough to go back up stairs and not outside. Turning back to the stairs, he reluctantly sent the com-link message to Captain Wesker.

The zombie fell to its knees and groaned loudly as Riley sighed with relief. Before he could react, however, a zombie grabbed him by the waist and began to drag him to the floor. Riley couldn't maneuver himself to point the gun at the monster. Shouting an obscenity he kicked at another zombie who was grabbing for his leg. He felt it sink its teeth into him and he screamed, kicking harder. The other zombie pushed its weight on him and he stumbled and fell. The zombie fell on top of him heavily. Riley could feel the nearness of its teeth as it gnashed at him. The other zombie was beginning to chew on his leg and he suddenly realized that he was going to die. He cried out desperately. Hoping that if he couldn't be saved someone would kill him before he ended up like these two.

Gunshots rang out. One of the bullets catching the zombie in the forehead, just as it knelt to have his neck as a snack. It fell on top of the one already on him and Riley choked, the air rushing out of him quicker than he wanted it to. The zombie at his leg was still chewing and the pain was becoming excruciating. Another volley of bullets erupted around him and the zombie at his leg fell dead. Riley wasn't so hungry anymore.

His conscious was fading quickly as his savior leaned over him. She was beautiful with short dark hair and wonderful full lips. "Ada." He ground out before the darkness overtook him.

The com-link in Wesker's ear beeped loudly and he answered instantly. Miranda wasn't sure but he didn't look happy about what he was hearing. "Where are they?" his voice was laden with anger. "Stay there. I'm on my way." he turned to Miranda and sneered, picking up his shirt from the floor and dressing quickly.

"Wesker," Miranda didn't know what had possessed her to confront him when he was looking at her the way he was now. "We need to find Sherry. She must be so..."

"No!" Wesker roared suddenly. "You will stay here." Miranda gathered the sheet around her and stood.

"I can't, Wesker..."She started.

Wesker shot towards her and grabbed her by the elbows. "You will listen to me closely, Harley." He told her through gritted teeth. "You will stay in this room until I return. No matter what you hear you will not leave this room. And get Sherry out of your mind. The little girl is most likely dead. Leave it be!" He tossed her to the floor and stormed to the door. "Do not leave this room, Harley." With that he was gone the slam of the door still ringing in her ears.

Determinedly, Miranda stood and got dressed. If Wesker wouldn't help her find her daughter she'd do it on her own. She glanced at herself in the mirror as she reached for her gun. She had to admit that she didn't look too bad in the HCF uniform. Her dark hair fit the outfit perfectly. She slipped the gun into the holster at her hip and made sure she had extra ammunition. She left the hotel room and slipped down the hallway to the fire escape on the far widow. "I'm coming, baby." She said softly, slipping off into the grayness of Raccoon City's dawn.

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