"Are you okay?”
Claire’s voice is feather-soft through the phone lines, and Leon wants to wrap himself in it. He’s aching all over and goggle-eyed from exhaustion, and finally he says, “Yeah, of course.”
“I wish I was there.”
He doesn’t. She’s safer at a distance, and anyway, he’s still got blood under his fingernails, mud from the swap in his hair. He should be in the shower and not on the phone. One look at him and she would probably just break down and cry.
He tries, “You might see some stuff on the news in the next couple of days...”
Then again, she might not. Leon’s already been debriefed within an inch of his life, Ashley too. He’s silently proud of how well she held up. She’s probably on her way home now, back to the loving arms of her father and the suffocating embrace of CIA security. Leon has to write up his report within forty-eight hours, but otherwise his job is essentially done. His handler mentioned something about a commendation, not that Leon cares.
Claire takes a short little breath, a hitch of worry she probably thinks he doesn’t notice, and says, “What kind of things?”
“Whatever you see,” Leon pinches the bridge of his nose, breathes hard against the handset. His head has been pounding for hours – maybe days. He needs to chew a whole bottle of Excedrin and fall into bed. “It’s not going to be the truth.”
“Spin doctors.” She says this with the casual certainty of Chris Redfield’s sister. She’s jaded and beautiful, and Leon wishes suddenly, intensely, that she was there, because if nothing else it would make his apartment – clinically clean and barely lived in – seem less empty. “Is Chris going to get the real story?”
“Yeah, the BSAA will get my report.”
Leon really, desperately hopes his phone isn’t tapped – he wouldn’t put it past anyone in his department to keep ears as well as eyes on him, and Claire isn’t supposed to know any of this. TerraSave is strictly a need-to-know organization, and if anyone found out that Leon breathed a word to her, or that Chris is essentially feeding her every bit of Umbrella-related information that comes into his possession, they’d all be in deep, deep shit. The sort of shit that makes people disappear forever. It doesn’t matter that Chris wants her in the BSAA – can’t live peacefully without keeping eyes on his little sister – right now she’s still only two steps up from a civilian and there’s no one to watch her back.
“Are you really sure you’re okay, Leon?”
“Yeah,” he thinks it might even be true, more or less.
“I could call Chris...”
“No,” he manages a don’t worry about me laugh. “He’s busy, I’m sure. And I’m not BSAA, really. Not his problem.”
“What are you?”
It’s an answer she’s been trying to get out of him for a while. Sometimes, Leon thinks it’s amazing that they didn’t fly apart like a bomb when he disappeared for nearly two whole years without a word; that he can still find her every time he surfaces from underneath whatever insanity his handler throws him into; that she’s always right by the phone when he calls.
Someday, if he's lucky, they might crash back together, like planets colliding in space. Until then, he's just paying his dues.
“Really, really tired,” he says finally.
She says goodnight, tells him to take care of himself, to call if he needs anything even though she’s miles away, and Leon says things he thinks will comfort her without lying too much.
When he goes to hang up the phone there’s an unmarked white envelope pushed into the gap under his apartment door – his next assignment.
No rest for the wicked.