The floor above rattled, sending particles of dust, wood chips and old paint past Jill’s face and into her hair. It sounded as though as any moment the boards would crack and break, let the massive mutant’s body fall through. Maybe it would crush her, maybe he would punch through and drag her through the ceiling, long tentacles and all. All because instead of getting out, Jill was running a frantic search through Rebecca Chamber’s heavily disorganized desk. There was spilled snacks, bottles of water with varying amounts left in them and papers strewn about.
She remembered Rebecca’s static filled, panicked voice over the phone, full of guilt and gratitude. “Navy blue manila folder, with sticky notes all over it, taped shut. I— Jill, I know this is so much to ask, but please, I need it. I do. You have no idea how important it is to me.” She had sounded so anxious, so guilty and fearful and Jill sighed internally, the girl had a way of making anyone do anything. “B-but don’t you dare do anything that’d get you hurt! You need to come back alive, you have to! Even if I have to come there myself…”
Pushing aside dull reports, notes from her online classes and whatever knick-knacky things she had accumulated over her short time there, Jill grew more frantic. If it wasn’t here, she was going to kill her. Not really, Jill would never, but as heavy steps pounded and paced over head she knew she was really pushing her luck here.
Just as Jill opens the topmost drawer of the aged oak desk, sides of the wood full of doodles and sketches that if he weren’t an evil treacherous bastard, Wesker would’ve scolded her for doing, she finds it. Supplies and papers all stacked too neatly for Rebecca’s chaotic self, all deliberately placed to cover it. She was hiding something, and Jill’s gut turned both from the secrecy of it and the fact she could hear the stairs down the hall creaking, breaking under his weight. When she grabs it, papers and notes fly out but she doesn’t pay more mind than picking them all up. Time is running out, but she pulls a plastic sleeve out of her desk to contain them all. The steps grew closer, and yet, for a moment, Jill let herself be weak and opened her own drawer.
She pulls out the photos of Bravo team, of Alpha team, of her and Chris training at the gym, of a summer barbecue with Barry and his girls. She was already here, she was already risking life and limb for something she hadn’t even know Rebecca had until her frantic call, she may as well preserve what she could of the life they’re never getting back.
“ S.T.A.R.S ”
The hairs on Jill’s neck stand, and she rolls to duck behind her desk, taking the moment to reload her magnum, sticking the plastic sleeve into her jacket around her waist, secure as she could manage with her arms free.
She hears the footsteps quicken to a run, a roar rumbling the walls and rattling the furnishings.
She owes me big time. She thinks before running out with a yell, finger on the trigger and ready to make Nemesis bleed .
The next time Jill sees Rebecca, it’s when she wakes up and can’t tell if her eyes are open or not. The world around her is dim. Last they had opened, she was in a helicopter as the nuke behind them rocked it in the air, her and Carlos holding each other down through the turbulence as Barry shouted something she couldn’t hear. As they flew, she couldn’t help slipping into a deep sleep. She was exhausted, she was injured, she was starved and dehydrated and had lost so much blood. But she knew she was stable, she was safe high above the ground where zombies couldn’t reach, with a trusted comrade and a man who, while unfamiliar, had risked himself as well to save her. To stop her from turning, because even as a stranger, he refused to put a gun to her head.
Before she went under, she vaguely heard him joke about how this isn’t how he wanted a pretty woman to fall asleep on him, and had she not been exhausted she would have rolled her eyes, threatened to toss him from the copter. The hospital bed is warm, but he had been warmer, all adrenaline and exertion. It’d felt nice, but at least the blanket on her, while thin, was heated. Jill sits up a little, eyes adjusting but making out little more than the faint white walls, of the resounding and firm beeps of machines monitoring her vitals. Immediately, however, nausea runs over her and she feels her throat clench, trying to prevent the acid rising from her stomach.
She wildly moved her hand among the floor and side table, trying to find anything to retch in. She didn’t, and so she stomached, forced it back down. Disgusting, but probably the least nasty thing to occur in the last four days. She swears she can feel the ghosts of blood, guts, fluids on her skin. But she’s been cleaned, and all that’s left is her bandaged wounds. Bites, scratches, burns.
Her shoulder screams in pain, and the memory of Nemesis’ appendage piercing flesh, filling her blood with toxins is still vivid. Her stomach turns again, fists clenched at her sides she fights it.
Assess where you are, Valentine . It was a good enough tactic to cope, map her surroundings like she was on a mission, like she was gathering intel. She did it everywhere regardless, not quite able to ever relax fully after the mansion. But she managed, she made it out once, she made it out again.
There was an IV in her arm, and from the look of the light bruising in the crook of her elbow, she must have had blood drawn too. Worrying, but expected, she supposed. She was in a hospital gown, bare back comforted by the soft material of the sheets. The window curtain was partially drawn, light filtered in everytime a car passed by. She was on a first floor.
From the temporary illumination of headlights, Jill can make out the furnishings of the tiny room. Two chairs in the corner, a desk and rolling chair, a computer to her other side. The table at the end of her bed is crowded, the faint silhouettes of bouquets and mildly patronizing get well soon! balloons. She bets Chris did that, smug asshole, though it brings the faintest smile to her face.
Most importantly though is the soft sigh, and Jill immediately tenses again, preparing to rip out that IV and bound from her rather comfortable resting place. She hadn’t heard the soft breaths before, but now they were all she could hear. Shifting, Jill feels her leg hit something, limp.
When she looks down, there isn’t some zombie, some creature, or someone pointing a gun to her. Just a slightly messed head of brunette curls, and the telltale round cheeks and freckles of Rebecca Chambers.
Jill lets herself fall back against the best, sighing in relief. Shit, she could see her pulse spike on the monitor at her side. Rest had done her senses well, but it only helped work her up when it would otherwise be met with an apathetic of course and the cock of a gun, all auto-pilot and instinct for survival.
The kick hadn’t bothered the girl in the slightest, Rebecca’s arms were crossed on the edge of the hospital bed, leaning over in her chair in a way that couldn’t have been comfortable. She was out cold, breaths even and low, sunk into her own arms. All the mild anger and lectures Jill had been preparing the entire incident for when they met died in her at the sight. The room was empty otherwise, and she knew that before it all Rebecca had been out of state to visit her relatives and friends. Her birthday.
She had come all this way just to make sure she was alright, the files too but it wasn’t her priority, Jill knew that. And she stayed when others went home. She could never be mad at Rebecca, the girl had a heart almost as big as her brain and wore it on her sleeve, brought out the protectiveness Jill didn’t want to admit came from a maternal source she’d mostly suppressed.
Jill wonders how long she’s been here, been asleep, but she wasn’t about to press the help button and bother anyone. It was clearly late, she felt no immediate need to get up. Her body hurts, her stomach was too numb to be hungry and the IV was dutiful in giving her fluids, the bathroom could wait. She didn’t want to see what she looked like.
Instead, Jill simply turns onto her side, tucking one arm under the pillow and closing her eyes. She should get rest while she can, she can’t imagine the absolute clusterfuck that’s going to follow this disaster. She would try not to think about it.
When she moves, something else does too, the small sound of metal hitting itself like coins in a pocket. When she lifts herself to look up, something has slipped onto the cover beside her, glints in another passing break of light. Looking closer, it was...a necklace? The dainty, silver chain of tiny beads was clutched tightly as could be in Rebecca’s sleepy grasp. Jill’s eyes follow the chain until finding the source of the noise, reaching out to pick it up.
It dangles in her fingers, slipping from Rebecca’s and clattering loudly in the otherwise silent surroundings. Jill might have flinched, but she was too focused on the object in front of her. Dog tags…? S.T.A.R.S agents didn’t have those, and as far as she knew, neither of Rebecca’s parents were a veteran...
Then she runs her eyes over the embossed words, catching in the red glow of a streetlight, bold and clear.
Eyes wide, Jill looks from the tags, to Rebecca, back to the tags, to Rebecca again.
She...She tried to think logically, she must have taken them as proof of Coen’s death. But why did she still have them? Rebecca wasn’t the type to take... trophies . It couldn’t have been that, she wouldn’t treat a dead person’s, murderer or not, personal possession the same she treated the novelties from university, the little things she got in toy dispensers, keepsakes from her childhood.
A bad, bad feeling blooms in Jill’s chest the same way it does when she knows something deadly is around the corner. When she knows she’s in immediate danger. When something’s wrong .
You’d have to be the cruelest person on earth to wake a sleeping Rebecca, but come morning, she had some explaining to do. She couldn’t worm her way out of this with her charm, not when Jill didn’t know what was in that folder. She would make sure of it.
Regardless, Jill had still fallen back asleep, tags tucked secretively under her pillow. When she awoke, it was light, the room displaying its wall were actually a light green, lavender window sills and white tile ceiling and floor. She can truly see the extent of the flowers crowding the room, and she was flattered but didn’t pay it too much mind, not when her mind was still focused on the metal tags beneath her pillow.
She hadn’t returned them, so she wasn’t surprised when Rebecca was still the only one in her room, bedhead unsorted and clothing ruffled from sleep. She was clearly trying to keep calm despite her frantic searching, checking all her pockets. On the floor, under the bed, even picking up the vases to check.
Then she accidentally makes eye contact with Jill, and breaks into a relieved smile.
“Jill!” Whether or not Rebecca had already been teary, Jill didn’t know, but with a loud sniffle the smaller girl launches herself and nearly tackles her in a hug. You’d think a medic would know to not manhandle an injured person, but Rebecca was impulsive at the worst of times. “You’re okay!”
“ Shoulder— ” Jill rasps, voice failing her at the rush of pain. Her painkillers were wearing off.
“S-sorry! Sorry! I’m just...you’re awake!”
“How long…?” Jill clears her throat, feels the muscles in her neck strain. That she did consider a little more important than last night’s find.
“Just a day...I knew you would fine, but,” Rebecca grasps her arm nervously, tensing. “You know.”
At the least, it didn’t hurt as much when Jill pulled herself up. It was more a resounding soreness than outright pain. Nothing she can’t handle. “...How are things?”
“Chaotic, to say the least.” Rebecca sighs. “You weren’t the only victim. Claire is here too, and some guy and his little girl.”
“Claire?” Jill freezes for the first time since her last scare. “Is she okay?”
“Same as you, beaten but alive, broken arm though. She’s up and walking.”
“And the others?”
“Officer Leon Kennedy. Remember they said there was gonna be a new rookie?” Rebecca was maybe too delighted she would no longer be the freshmeat of the department, even if she was trying to refrain. And newbie or not, he was still older than her. “He’s in pretty bad shape, he was shot and has a concussion. The little girl is fine though, they took good care of her.”
“....I don’t think so,” she whispers, like he could hear from the adjacent room. “They don’t look alike. She won’t tell me her last name, just that she’s Sherry. And he’s pretty young.”
Says the girl who graduated at eighteen. Jill thinks, but doesn’t say. So there was nothing left other than to figure out what next .
S.T.A.R.S lost their leader (for the better, really) and their headquarters, all but Rebecca lived in Raccoon city as well. Their homes, destroyed, everything gone with nowhere to go. Jill had tried to retrieve all the data they had collected, but it was— it was so much, all in different places and carefully protected through layers of secrecy. She had some files, some disks, but it was only a fraction of what they had gathered. They'll be going almost entirely off memory. Not to mention the missile wiped out all of Umbrella’s tracks…
At that moment, the door opened slowly. In walked Claire, arm carefully wrapped in a cast and secure in a sling. “Hey, you’re up!”
“Thank goodness you’re okay,” Jill chuckles, though she means it. “If I had known, I would’ve looked for you.”
“Please, we were on opposite ends of the city. It’s all over and done with, you know a Redfield won’t go down just like that!”
“Of course not, dumb luck runs in your blood.”
Claire giggles, “how are you? No offense, but you look awful.”
“Sore, tired, irritated. Mostly hungry, though.” The numbness in her stomach had worn away, leaving hunger in its wake.
“Oh, I’ll get you something!! What do you want, breakfast? A sandwich? Something sweet?”
Rebecca stood, but Claire shook her head. “Nah, let me get it, I have to walk around or I’m gonna lose my mind, sitting in a white room all day.”
“But your arm—”
Jill had to wonder if somehow, Claire had caught on that she wanted to have a... chat with Rebecca. Probably not, she was just being headstrong self. If there was something she and her brother shared, it was an inability to sit still for too long, and not letting themselves be cared for. They cared for others, whether domestic or on a battlefield. She merely gave Claire a request for some OJ and a breakfast sandwich, the girl giving a thumbs up and bolting down the hall before she could be stopped.
There was a peaceful few moments of silence, only bird calls and the sound of cars. She hated to ruin it, she really did.
“Rebecca, could you close the door?”
“...Jill?” Her voice is quiet, Jill hadn’t tried to sound too serious. She wasn’t mad— at least, she didn’t think she was. But something was up, and Rebecca had a habit of getting herself in trouble. Best she figure it out before something goes bad. “Is something wrong?”
“I want to talk to you about something, just you.”
Looking like she had been scolded, Rebecca gets back up and shuffles to the door, closing it gently as if it would alert her presence. She sits back down, posture perfect, hands folded in her lap. “What is it?”
Without looking away, Jill puts a hand under her pillow and pulls out the dog tags by the chain, lets it shift until it sways in her hand. “This yours?”
Rebecca goes pale.
“Ah, um, yes, it’s—” She laughs, nervous, faltering. Jill feels bad, maybe she could have done this with more tact, but her gut tended to be right when something was urgent. The dog tags practically radiated wrongness. “Guess it slipped off my neck or something, haha...ha…”
Jill couldn’t help the look of pity. Rebecca stares, then sighs, averting her gaze, voice small.
“...Please give it back.”
When she reaches to hand it over, Rebecca cups it in both hands like it would shatter, like it was something precious. The air is tense, fragile, like they could shatter at any moment, the jovial mood minutes ago long gone.
“I read the name on it, Becca.”
“Why do you have those? He’s dead.”
The girl flinches, eyes glossy. Jill might lose her appetite with the way her inside roll with unease. She was acting strange, too strange.
“Becca, I’m sorry, but I need to know what’s going on. You can trust me. Whatever it is, I won’t judge you.” Jill is walking on eggshells, even laid up in bed. Something was hurting her, she could tell. Call it instinct, call it knowing her colleague. “There’s a lot going on, and a lot of things need to be figured out. If we’re going to do that, we can’t let ourselves be distracted. I know you had me get those files for a reason, so it must be important.
...I won’t force you to say anything, but if you’re in some kind of trouble—”
“Legally, Billy Coen is dead.” Her thumb runs along the engravings in the metal, like a worry stone. “I wrote that report, I presented these as proof…”
“...He’s not dead, is he?”
“That’s just it...I-I don’t know. We got separated after escaping the facility and….I don’t know what happened to him, I went to the mansion and didn’t look back.”
“Rebecca,” Jill sighed. It all made sense. She’d taken it on herself to catch the escaped convict, and she failed. Was she scared of losing her job? They wouldn’t of let that happen, it hadn’t been what she was sent to do. She was new, they all made mistakes. Given the circumstances, they would have been surprised if she did bring him dead or alive. “It wasn’t your mission. If he managed to get past all the mutants on his own, I doubt we’d be able to arrest him.”
Her soft smile returned, leave it to Rebecca to get hung up on the small things, though Jill had been much the same at first.
“If he was still in the city, he’s long gone now. It’s okay, Reb—”
“It’s not okay!” Rebecca gasps, maybe a little too loud in such a peaceful building. If she weren’t in pure shock, Jill would wonder if the surrounding rooms heard. The girl stands, fists balled, angry tears rolling down her cheeks. Jill had no idea what went wrong.
“Uh, sorry to interrupt,” both girls snapped to their gaze to the door, where Claire was standing sheepishly. “I got your sandwich.”
“...Thank you.” Jill says as she places the bag down, smelling amazing through the thin wrapping. “You didn’t have to.”
“Eh, got nothing else to do but wait. And there’s a Dunkin’ across the street. Everyone wants to discuss what to do next when Leon wakes up, so um...I’ll leave you guys to…” She bites her lip. “This.”
When Jill looks back to Rebecca, she wipes lightly at her eyes, red-rimmed, gaze towards the window.
“I’m going to assume I’m missing something here.”
“...You...You can’t let anyone know,” Rebecca says through whimpers, “and you have to believe me. Promise you’ll believe.”
“...I can’t promise anything, but I’ll try.”
Grounding herself, she tilts her head up and breathes deeply, willing her tears to stop. In and out, in and out. And like that, she falls back forward, knees drawn up onto the chair and against her chin. “I let him go, Jill. It’s not that I couldn’t arrest him, I didn’t arrest him, I let him be a free man.”
Time froze, the silence tangible, able to break and be cut.
“You...Rebecca, you...let a convict— a murderer go…”
“No,” When she looked back up, Jill’s heart could’ve shattered, incredulous. “Jill...He was innocent.”
“...You...don’t believe me…”
And yet, the look in Rebecca’s eyes were so desperate, so resolute.
“How do you know?”
“What makes you think he was innocent.” Jill says, unrelenting. “If you think so, then you must have proof.”
“...It’s...it’s easier if I just...come clean….huh? I’ll tell you it...all of it…”
“There was no unidentified corpse at the crash, just the drivers. When I made to the train...he was there, Billy Coen. He pointed a gun at me, I thought I was done for...But then, he said we should work together. For our mutual safety. I couldn’t believe I was working with a criminal, my first mission on the force...But what choice did I have? Bravo team...my friends were dying around me. I’m just a medic. I can handle a gun, sure, b-but…”
Rebecca shook her head.
“We crashed the train, we were in the training facility. There was creatures everywhere, horrifying, disgusting...And we worked together. And then…It had me, this giant... disgusting insect grabbed and I...I couldn’t break free. He could have run, he could have just let me die but he didn’t. He stayed and fought and got hurt and...he saved me, Jill.”
“...He was insuring his own safety. You were an extra gun.”
“ No ,” was her stubborn reply. “Later on...when we were investigating the floor crumbled beneath me. I barely had a grip and was just, hanging...a-and there was these...these apes. I didn’t know where he was, he heard me on our radios and just...came for me. He fought them hand-to-hand, he pulled me up...I asked him about it, you know. He— he got all tense, and then he just, he looked so sad .” Her hand wraps tightly around a tag, protectively. “They gave his team false info, his superior got angry and he— he demanded they kill the villagers. He wouldn’t say if it he participated or not but…” She sobbed. “Jill, I know he didn’t do it, I just know…”
“But you can’t know for sure.”
“Then why did he let me go, Jill? Maybe he kept me around for survival, but why then…? I knew he was alive, I was the only one who would know and if he eliminated me, he would never have to worry about covering his tracks. He’d be assumed dead, my death would be expected, given the conditions. But I could’ve gone and told everyone he was alive, if he let me go. But he did anyways.
I could’ve betrayed him just as much as he could’ve betrayed me. ...But we didn’t.”
Jill wasn’t sure how much of this she could process, how much she could believe. Rebecca was— she was optimistic, she saw the good in everything, in people. Always assumed the best. The experienced, slightly cynical part of herself wanted to say Rebecca was being deceived, that her good faith was being taken advantage of.
But she also knew Rebecca wasn't stupid. Everything but.
"If he is alive, if, " Jill makes sure to emphasize. "Would you know where he is?"
"That's just it, I don't know if he's even alive...Last I saw, I took these and wished him luck. He told me to be safe. We were in the mountains...Did he get out? Did...did something in the forest get him…"
Rebecca's gaze turns glossy, another more heavy tear rolls down her cheek. "Or was he...was he...He wouldn't of stayed in R.C...right? He...he got out before the missile hit, I'm sure of it…"
“...What are you asking of me, Rebecca? Do you just want to know if he’s alive or not? We can figure something out, we can have someone go undercover—”
“I want to find him. I...I need to know if he’s alive, but...I want to see him again. I have to.”
“I know, I must sound like an idiot.” Rebecca laughs, though it sounds more like a sigh. “We helped each other live, that’s all. But...You know, he got knocked off a platform, at the plant. He got swept up in the water system and I...I could’ve just gone off and left him, Enrico found me, I had someone to protect me. But I looked him in the eye and told him I was going back to find Billy...If I had gone, maybe he’d be alive—”
“Or Wesker would have shot you too.”
Rebecca winces. “I found him, I treated his injuries and...I realized I’d been scared, I was terrified that he would die, that he would drown before I could reach him or that something would drag him under in the water.
Every night since the mansion incident, I’ve felt that way, not knowing where he is or if he made it out. I know we only knew each other for that night, but...I like to think he’s my friend.”
And Jill knew if there was one thing Rebecca would protect with her life, that she valued above all, it was her friends.
“I want to see him again.”
“We’ll do something about it. I’m still not entirely convinced, but…” Jill sighs. “If it’s important to you, it’s important to me.”
“R-really?” She was crying again, for an entirely different reason. “You’d do that…?”
“Of course, we need to figure ourselves out first And we’re going to need to convince everyone of it, you’re going to have to come clean.” Feeling it was finally appropriate to do so, Jill pulls the bottle of orange juice and the sandwich out of the bag. “But I’ll do it.”
“Thank you...Jill! Thank you!” Rebecca moves to hug her, then stops. “Oh, right, shoulder.”
“I’m going to assume those files were about him, too?”
“Yeah...I felt like such a brat asking you to get those for me, but the trouble I went through to get those…”
“The trouble you went through?”
“...Well, the trouble Barry went through to get them to me.”
Jill wondered what it was, that made Rebecca so hard to say no to, when asking things like this. Illegal things, mind you.
“Briefcase over there, in a plastic sleeve.”
Rebecca smiles, though her face was still blotchy and red, and tosses her a thumbs-up as Jill takes the first bite of her sandwich, she’d had food those days holed up in her apartment but everything in her fridge spoiled, something warm and moderately fresh that wasn’t crackers or granola felt like heaven on her tongue.
Dabbing at her lips with a napkin, she watches as the other girl carefully lifts the folder and other papers out of the sleeve, not noticing when an orange tinted, rectangle of cardstock slips from her grip and flutters to the floor.
“Dropped something.” She chuckles. “Didn’t really have much time to pack it in neatly when I was running for my life.”
Perhaps the juice wasn’t the best option, burning slightly on Jill’s rather dry and scratchy throat, but she was sure her body would appreciate it.
She doesn’t realize Rebecca’s confused, focused glare on the offending piece of paper until a moment later, when the girl doesn’t respond. “What is it?”
A postcard? “You’ve been?”
“No.” Rebecca turns the paper over in her hand, shocked to see writing on the back. “I’ve never been out of the country.”
Her eyes roam over neat cursive, heavy strokes of a dying pen. Her heart stops in her chest.
Mexico’s lovely this time of year.
You should see it sometime, dollface.
Over and over again she reads it, wondering if her eyes were seeing correctly, if she were only imagining it.
“This was on my desk?”
“Yes. Whose it from?”
“W-when did it get there? Who put it there?”
“I’m not sure, I was out of the office. Maybe it was while you were visiting your friends?”
“...Who was at the office?”
“Well, Barry had gotten back from Canada not too long before. Chris hadn’t left for Europe yet… Perhaps it was them?”
“What? What’s on it?”
Rebecca hands it over to her, almost seeming reluctant to let it go.
“...’Dollface’? You have a secret admirer?”
“Jill.” Her voice was serious, deadly serious. “That’s what Billy called me.”
Again, the air around them froze, only the still constant beeping of the hospital machinery and passing of nearby cars.
“...It’s from him?”
Rebecca takes it back, turns it over. The side with the writing is an off white, soft material with little more than a map view of Veracruz. The front was a desaturated, low-contrast panorama of a rural farm village, all trees and dirt roads.
In the corner, the same quick, thick letters in black ink. Rebecca C., RPD.
No return address, much to her immediate disappointment. It would have been more upsetting if not for the fact the postcard was there at all.
“How would he…”
“He knew my name, he knew I’m with S.T.A.R.S. It...It must’ve been sent right to the station.”
Jill couldn’t read the expression on Rebecca’s face. She wondered if anyone knew Rebecca enough to pull of this kind of prank (and judging by how much this topic affected the girl, how such a joke would hurt, whether or not they would survive Jill’s fist colliding with their face).
“I’m the only one you’ve told all this to?”
Rebecca nods slowly.
Jill sighs from the deepest part of her chest, pinches the bridge of her nose. She was going on a long, long vacation one of these days. “Guess we better get talking, then.”