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Seven seconds and a half

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He does something to me, that boy. Every time.

It’s his only detriment. He steps on my heart.

In retrospect, her problems start when she saves him from that dog in the parking lot.

It all goes downhill from there.

---

It's not like Ada goes out of her way to help him—she has more important things to do, but the rookie keeps crossing her path. She is angrier at herself for the time she's wasting on saving his ass than at him for the way he keeps getting himself into danger.

She tells herself she has no choice, but that's only a little white lie to justify her actions.

The truth is, Ada was annoyed at him, but only at first. The deepest truth is she finds his naivety and his desire to do good endearing in a way that makes her accept his help, especially after they find themselves in the street, a shotgun aimed at them.

Leon must know the manual of the good cop by heart, because he follows it to a T: he keeps his arms half-raised in a non-threatening stance, speaks in a calm voice and, to his credit, doesn't even blink when he sees the little girl. But there's only one way the situation can end, though, and surprisingly Ada finds herself shuddering when the echo of the shot reverberates in the dark alley.

Damn Umbrella and their playing God.

Under the rain, bangs of hair plastered against his forehead and looking awfully young, Leon asks, demands, to help. She warns him one more time, but her words fall on deaf ears, and Ada wonders how it must be to feel that passionate about something.

She's not sure letting him join her is the best course of action—she allows it anyway.

---

Ada's starting to think that she will never get that smell (blood, garbage, and who knows what else) off her. That no matter how many hot showers she takes when this is over, or how many times she scrubs her skin clean until it's red and raw, the stench will accompany her forever wherever she goes.

Closing her eyes and breathing through the mouth helps a little, at least. Then she exhales and, again, tries to take out the piece of metal piercing her leg. The pain is sudden and so intense that she blacks out for a moment.

"Shit," she whispers after coming to herself, and curses her bad luck, a frustrated groan escaping her lips.

Ada should've waited for Leon to recover, she knows that. It wouldn't have taken long–it was the blood loss that made him lose consciousness, not the severity of the wound, which was nowhere near-fatal, the bullet going through his shoulder cleanly. And yet she lost precious minutes cleaning the zone the best she could and bandaging him up, because when faced with the choice of going in pursuit of Annette Birkin or helping him, she couldn't bring herself to leave him like that.

That bullet was meant for her, after all.

It feels alien to her, to be in someone's debt like that. Ada can't remember something like that happening before, and she doesn't like it. It's dangerous and complicated, and if she's so good at what she does, that's because she doesn't need anyone when there are problems and manages well enough by herself. And yet there she is, fully aware that this time she will require Leon's help if she wants to finish the job (and something twists inside her at the thought of keeping on lying to him).

As if Ada had summoned him, the automatic door leading to the waste deposit starts opening, and she can hear his voice, urgent and worried.

“Ada! Ada, where are you?”

“Over here!” Leon runs to her, and if someone had told her a few hours ago that she would be that relieved at seeing him, she would have laughed. How the mighty have fallen.

Now it's his turn to bandage her up—she doesn't even dare to look at him while he works, his fingers barely grazing the tender skin in her thigh, careful as if she were made of crystal. It really, really hurts, but Ada swallows her pain, clenches her fists, and once again asks him to leave, even though she knows what his answer will be. And yet she says the words, desperate for him to take that chance, to get him away from here, from her. She needs the space, needs to clear her head, to distance herself from this weird attachment she feels to him.

He refuses, of course. "You protected me. Now it's my turn."

That puts a smile on her face, despite Ada working so hard to avoid it.

“Didn’t realize we were keeping score.”

(She is well and truly fucked up)

---

She kisses him.

She is not planning to, at first. But then Leon starts babbling about not wanting to leave her alone, and Ada just wants him to shut up, because he's way too nice, and caring, and he shouldn't be here, trapped with her in this city of monsters and darkness and rotting flesh.

So she kisses him and he shuts up all right, but with his silence the voice inside her head now screams louder and louder (fraud, liar), and it's getting increasingly difficult to ignore it. She manages to, somehow, because Leon is warm and very much alive and soft under her fingers, despite the grime and blood clinging to his skin, and kissing him gives her a moment of respite amidst the craziness.

All for the mission , she thinks (liar), and then there's her hand on his cheek, and his breath on her lips, and Ada tells him she wants to see him again.

(She’s not lying.)

---

All Leon needs to disarm her is the truth he shoots at her like a well-aimed bullet.

“I don’t think you can,” he says, and well. Shit.

It takes her seven seconds and a half to consider all the possibilities. The most obvious one (shot to the head, he drops dead, she gets the sample, problem solved), she doesn't even want to think about. Shooting him on the leg is another option she dismisses almost as soon as it enters her mind. In this place, that would mean a death sentence, and Ada doesn't want him to die (she chooses not to ponder why his death would matter to her). Her grip on the gun tightens—Leon's eyes never leave hers, and really , this shouldn't be so difficult.

She had it all planned. They would escape the lab after securing the sample. Then, once they were safe, she would spin a story about needing to leave immediately to analyze the virus and start working on an antidote. He would buy it, of course—they would go their separate ways, Leon feeling good after doing something heroic, she having completed her mission once more.

It almost makes her laugh when she realizes the irony of it all. Because, in the few hours since they have met, the tables have turned.

The first time she saw him, so young and fresh-faced, Ada thought there was no way he would get out of that nightmare alive, that he would surely make a mistake that would result in a painful death. But he proved to be resilient, and resourceful, and way cleverer than she initially gave him credit for.

And now the joke's on her because, in the end, she was the one making the biggest mistake. She let herself care.

She told Leon too many truths between the lies, enough for him to be able to read her like an open book and get the upper hand. Enough for him to face her with nothing but the challenge in his words (I don't think you can), and that badly misplaced trust in her. Because somehow he knew, even before Ada did, that she would not be able to take the shot.

Damn him.

It takes her seven seconds and a half to lower the gun, and surrender.

His gaze softens, and his mouth is drawn back into a smirk, which looks kind of out of place in that ridiculously pretty face, and Ada, for the first time in a long, long time, doesn't know what to say. She feels naked, all her secrets exposed, in a way they have never been before.

She can't even blame Leon (good, kind-hearted Leon) because the guilt for her current predicament falls solely on her shoulders. She chose to save his life, to go out of her way to help him, to drop her defenses and let him in. She underestimated him and the way he'd make her feel, so now she's paying the price for her severe lack of judgment.

And Ada doesn't know what to do, where this leaves them. She doesn't know if she wants to hit him, kiss him, or ask him to leave without her and never look back. She doesn't know how to act, how to counter this confusing feeling of being truly known.

She thinks What now and just when she's about to ask it out loud there's a piercing pain in her shoulder, and the floor under her feet disappears.

And she falls.


---

Her whole body aches. Her shoulder and thigh are on fire, and breathing is getting increasingly hard by the second (the smoke, the goddamn awful smell, the more than probable broken ribs). Ada leans against the wall and exhales, feeling light-headed—just for a moment, though, then urges herself to keep moving, because everything is falling apart around her and she still has a long way to go before reaching the surface.

She clutches the gun in her right hand and the vial in her left—had to leave the grappling hook behind, since she wouldn't be able to carry everything in her state (she really, really hopes she doesn't fall again from such a great height in the near future).

The ground shakes again, violent tremors that make her lose her footing.

Quicker .

Her step falters when a stab of pain shoots through her and forces her to stop to catch her breath. Then she sees him.

Leon is a few floors below her, on a slow-moving elevator. He raises his arm and shoots at something, and when Ada follows his line of fire, she swears. Not only the monster (the tyrant, according to the files she could access, and that name suits him perfectly) refuses to die, now he's even more terrifying, and the way he strides towards Leon speaks clearly of his intentions of finishing his mission this time.

Ada doesn't think twice before turning back and running as fast as her injured leg will allow her. She turns one, two corners. There it is, the control room where she took the vial with the virus sample from the soldier—she races towards the door in the back and enters the security room.

It's mostly destroyed at this point, but there are still lots of weapons here, the ones Umbrella stores to keep their monsters at bay and that were left behind when the lab workers evacuated the place (or died and came back as those rotten, gurgling things).

She takes the box she's looking for and after checking it (four rockets, they will have to be enough) goes back to where she last saw Leon. She makes her way painfully, swaying forth and back, and once again, she's annoyed at her unwillingness to let him die. It would be so much easier just to let him go, but she can't. She owes him, and that's something Ada doesn't like—but if she's honest with herself, it goes beyond that.

The desperation in his face when her hand slipped from his grip will be forever etched in her heart. The way he just trusted her to do the right thing, even though faced with her lies, even though they were mostly strangers who happened to share the worst night in their lives. Someone having that kind of faith on her is not something Ada is used to—she doesn't encounter many good men in her line of work, and it would be a shame to let this one die.

There's fire and explosions, and rubble everywhere, but she manages to slip the rocket launcher to him.

"We'll call it even," Ada mutters, and leaves, though the temptation to get to him is big (but the need to put some distance between them is bigger).

It's up to him now, but she is not worried. Leon has proved time after time he has what it takes to survive: a mixture of skill, luck, and refusal to give up. He will get this done, she is sure of it.

Ada supposes that means she has a little bit of faith in him, too.