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A/N: Just a teeny little oneshot written with love on an idea of an AU world where Chris is the one who dies so Jill can live. A little dedication to Xaori and my first attempt with Claire as my heroine since Saoirse (still on hiatus as I gather up the resolve to tackle it again.)

You want SAMBKS to see how beautiful his art is. Look at this picture...lord...it's perfection.


Keys


Life After Death


For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one. -Kahlil Gibran


2006


The keys to the truck were the only thing in her hand.

She waited, breathing quietly, for the things to turn hot as if she'd extracted a smoldering coal from a bed of flames and placed it in the palm of her hand. The keys were quiet. The keys were the only thing left of him.

He'd dove from a window to save his partner. Like a hero in a story he'd once read to her as a girl, he'd died to spare the love of his life from her own demise. The dark fall of all that chestnut hair hid the lowered countenance of the woman in question.

She'd always been his Valentine.

He'd died to make it clear she was his heart.

The voice of the lawyer droned. Claire studied the key ring with a numb acceptance. He'd spent his life fighting. He'd spent his life pushing. He'd spent his life driving toward the end of fear.

He'd died clutching his greatest nemesis until the moment they'd struck the ground in an epic battle of good versus evil. There was no more Wesker. There was no more lies. There was no more evil.

There was no more Chris.

The statement echoed in her head. It rolled and stung. It clung and coveted space where happiness had once lingered.

Claire ignored the hammer of a headache beating at her temples in triumphant announcement. She stared at the keys in her palm and pictured the last time she'd seen him. He'd stood in the dying sun to show her the ring.

The little wink of sapphire and starlight white diamonds. A ring made of sea and sky to compliment the eyes and the favorite shades of his partner. He'd been so nervous. She'd never seen him nervous, but he'd been so eager.

Quietly, Claire had asked, "Does she even know you love her?"

Chris had shrugged and remarked, "Does it matter? I've waited all this time. This thing with Spencer...if he's there, Claire...the answers we'll find...it could open a door to the kind of intel that might bind us all together in a fight against bioterror. It could mean support from all sides of the globe. If we can prove that the T-Virus is just one stage of it...we can finally get the battle back in our court. Maybe..."

He'd trailed off. He'd stared into the horizon and laughed softly, "Maybe she'd like to have a couple kids with me. Maybe she'd like to...see the house Dad and Mom left us in Colorado. Maybe she'd like that."

Claire had felt her throat close up as she encouraged, "Yeah...yeah, maybe she'd like that. She's a fucking idiot if she doesn't."

"I'm gonna ask her...when we get back...I'm gonna ask."

He'd never asked.

He'd taken that ring with him to the grave.

After his funeral, she'd never found it. She had to assume it was on him when he died. She had to assume he'd died with the promise of Jill Valentine in his pocket. He'd died so she could live.

It was the only way Chris Redfield knew how to be.

Claire closed her fingers over the keys and turned away from the lawyer. She was done listening. She was done hearing. She didn't want platitudes and sympathy and courtesy offers of condolences.

She was done.

She just wanted her brother.

And he was dead.

She passed by Jill and paused. Teeth clenched, she told the brunette, "...you better be worth it."

Jill shivered in grief and murmured, "I'm not. I've never been."

"He thought you were...so get your ass out there and prove it."

Claire opened the door on the big black Dodge Ram. It was littered with his things. He had a scattering of change in the ashtray. There was a half empty bottle of Mountain Dew on the floorboard. The visor was pulled down with a pair of Oakleys in black tucked over it. A pair of boots were tossed negligently in the back seat, scuffed and well loved. Dogs tagged dangled from the rear view mirror and a lighter lay uselessly on the dash.

Claire touched the button on the glove box and wasn't failed by her brother even in death. A half smoked pack of Marlboro Reds greeted her along with a wad of papers of bills that he'd left unpaid. Claire pulled one of the carcinogenic sticks and put it between her lips. She struck it up with S.T.A.R.S. zippo on the dash and inhaled sharply.

Her gaze traveled to the center console. Her hand touched it to open it up and show a wadded up B.S.A.A. t-shirt. She pulled it free, relatively sure he'd worn it before work one day before he'd changed into his uniform. She lifted it to her nose and inhaled.

The scent of him surrounded her like a ghost. The cigarette plumbed smoke into the air as she clutched the soft fabric to her face and curled her body forward around it. She hadn't cried once since they'd put him in the ground.

Not a single tear.

The smell of him made her chest seize worse than her lungs inhaling the smoke. She made a small sound of grief and loss.

She cried clinging to the scent of her brother in the cab of the only thing in the world left that she had of him.

She would mourn him for the rest of her life.

She wasn't sure how she went on without him.

It was his heart that stopped beating, but it was hers that was in the grave beside him.


"If you listen...you can hear them sometimes."

He knelt beside her as the blanket of stars twinkled happily in a velvety sky. "Yeah?"

"Oh, yeah. You don't have to use your ears, Chris. You just...you use your heart."

"My heart has ears?"

Claire giggled sweetly, "Of course it does, silly. Your heart has everything. Eyes, ears, fingers...and it remembers how they felt and how they sounded...and how they smelled...it never forgets. Your heart has a brain too."

She felt his cheek lay on the top of her head. She felt his hands tremble and his voice was hoarse as he answered, "C-Bear...you just might be the smartest girl in the world sometimes."

"I know...I get that from them too. You know what you got?"

"...black hair?"

She laughed and hugged him, "...me."

She felt the wet plop of tears on her hair as he squeezed her so tight it made her squirm a little, "Yeah, I did. Maybe they'll tell me how to make sure I never forget it."

"Just use your heart...it will always remember."

"...promise me you'll do it for me if I ever forget."

Claire lifted her head. She smiled while two pairs of the same eyes held on to each other. "...I promise. Whenever you can't...I'll always remember."


The field kicked up chunks of mud and snow. She whipped the wheel and plowed through the ravaged earth. The sun peaked cleanly through the winter clouds. It watched her madness with a kind of quiet judgment.

It was the same kind shared by the man who emerged from the tree line as she jerked the truck to a halt with a squeal of tires. The engine ticked as she threw open the door and climbed out. The cold slapped her face with frigid palms as she called, "What do you want, Kennedy?! You come out here looking for a truck to wreck? This ones taken."

He tilted his head at her. The navy peacoat he wore was fashionably him. It was topped by a scarf in pretty red that made his blonde hair look gold in the dim winter light. The naked trees over his shoulder highlighted the beauty of that perfect face as he mused, "Only one of us on a path of destruction here, kid. You planning to survive the fallout?"

Claire shrugged and stuck a cigarette in her mouth. "Who cares? I'm alone right? I'm repellent for anyone who matters. My parents, men, my brother...they all die and leave me...or they betray me. So will anyone even notice?"

The corner of his mouth quirked, "You been hanging around inside my head lately, CB? Those sound suspiciously like my thoughts and not yours."

She scoffed and accepted the deft flick of the zippo he pulled from his pocket. She inhaled and let him pluck the smoke from her lips to help himself to it. They shared it in silence until she mused, "You see they made Valentine a Captain?"

"...I did." Quietly. No judgment. There seldom was with Leon. He was just that guy. He didn't judge. He just listened.

Claire laughed harshly, "And they awarded my brother a Medal of Bravery. A medal...posthumously. What fucking good is a piece of useless metal? He can't wear it. He's rotting in the ground. They think I'll pin it to his bones?"

Leon shrugged a shoulder, "You do what you want with it. It's yours. It's just an honor, Claire, not an insult to his memory."

She barked out a laugh, "Honor. He dies, she lives, and she takes his command, his company, and his fucking place. He loved her. He loved her and she never loved him back! "

Softly, Leon mused, "...that's rough stuff there."

"Yeah, it is! He was so stupid! Why did he do it!? She mattered more than me!? She's fine! She's fine! But what about me!? Huh? What about me..." Her voice trailed off as the anger hummed around them, "...what about me...you son of a bitch..."

Quietly, Leon soothed, "Redfield's are pretty stupidly stubborn sometimes."

Claire laughed angrily, "No shit. Blind as he was brave."

"Hmm. I think he thought what we all do."

She turned her ravaged gaze to him, imploring, "What? What was he thinking?"

"...that you're the strongest woman he's ever known. That he'd made sure of that. That you took what he taught you and became a warrior. He knew you'd survive him, Claire, because he knew you'd never forget him."

She was so quiet watching him, that he finally added, "He knew you'd keep on living...because that's what we do."

"It's not enough. I need more than that."

His head tilted, "...what do you need?"

The wind rolled around them. It was cold and painful. It was bitter. Like she was.

Leon watched her so gently that she kinda hated him. She envied his tranquility. She wanted it. She wanted anything to alleviate the rage and the loss that ate around her belly with teeth made of regret.

She'd heard the whispers about Leon. She knew what people said. He was cold. He was cut off. He didn't get involved. He didn't date women.

But he sure did fuck them.

She'd steered clear of him all these years because she'd felt something that first night in Raccoon. She'd felt it and she'd gone after Chris and made her choice. She knew she'd burned that bridge back to him. He'd remained her friend, but the idea of lover had been crossed off the moment she'd picked family over him.

She'd heard he was a guy who was really, really good at the one night stand.

She needed anything to take the edge off the misery pooled in her heart. So, she just threw it at him like a bullet, "Take me home."

He studied her. The wind kicked up. It curled up snow around their boots. He could have said no. She had no clue where his car was. She had no idea how he'd gotten there. He could have said no.

Instead, he said, "Give me the keys."

And she gave those keys of her brother's to the only other man in her world she trusted to drive his truck.

He had a reputation for wrecking things.

She was hoping he'd wreck her.


She figured he'd come to his senses before he went through with it. After all, all these years and they'd never touched each other like that. He'd tell her no and talk her down.

He didn't.

She tossed Chris' keys on the table in the living room and backed into her bedroom. He followed her, a predator, shedding clothes as he walked. Her heart, aching like it had been, started to pound painfully behind her breast.

She whispered, "Where do you want me?"

He tilted his head. She licked her dry lips and cleared her throat. She tossed her clothing as she turned on the shower and joined him again in the bedroom. All she wore now was her undershirt and panties.

Naked, he was somehow more beautiful than clothed. She warned, hoarsely, "You aren't gonna tell me I'm grieving?"

"...no."

"You think this is a mistake?"

His head tilted again, "Do you?"

"...fuck no."

"Then tell me how you want it."

Claire felt her breath hitch and her body go wet just waiting for him. "...take me."

"...and?"

"Make it hurt."

"My pleasure."

He came toward her like a lion stalking a gazelle.

The shower was pumping steam into the quiet room. His hands tossed her over his shoulder like she was nothing. He walked them both into it while quaked above him.

What words were there in this moment?

He almost threw her against the wall to kiss her. She grabbed handfuls of his ass to rub him against her belly like a pervert.

He grunted with pleasure and ripped the tiny shirt she wore. He ripped it, right down the middle like it was nothing, it came apart in his hands like flimsy paper. She started to bicycle her legs to get her panties off and he didn't bother to wait for her to finish, he speared his hand into her panties and crudely thrust two fingers into her. She was ready but not ready. Her body clamped around his invading digits even after a cry ripped from her throat in surprise.

He didn't give her a chance to say no, to fight him off, to do anything. He finger fucked her so mercilessly as she tried to get her panties off her lower legs but they were wet and stuck to her ankles like glue. She grabbed at his arms to try to hold herself up? To try to make him wait until she was ready? She had no fucking idea what was happening. She knew only that he drove those fingers into her, cupping his palm against her groin, his thumb shifting to sweep between the damp lips of her sex and brush back and forth over the apex of her body.

His free hand lifted to settle around her throat, his thumb driving against the soft underside of her chin, angling her face back to take more of his tongue. She couldn't get her eyes to close, they were rapturously fastened to his face as he slammed her against the tiled wall and forced himself on her. Forced? No. Force implied a lack of want on her part. She'd not only wanted him, she was dying with it. He simple poured that desperate passion over the top of the both of them until they were drowning.

He ruthlessly drove her body to the peak of pleasure and just when she was about to go over, he shifted. His hand grabbed at her hips and jerked. Her lower body humped forward from the force of it.

He dropped to his knees in the humid, heated, wonderful water. She couldn't think, didn't think. He put his mouth to her and she tried to fall down. He didn't let her, he shifted both her thighs until they were over his shoulders. Her hands scrambled to find something to grab above her and settled on the shelf where the shampoo set.

It fell with a clatter to the ground as she knocked it down in her haste. He jerked her groin to him and feasted on her. Undone she could do nothing but hold on to that shelf and cum. She came, bowing, bucking against his face. His left hand was at her breasts, mounding and taunting, pulling and teasing and taking. His mouth was merciless; it joined his right hand in thrusting into her, over her, through her. Her thighs quivered, pressed against the sides of his head while he ripped her apart one clever, wonderful thrust and bite at a time.

She came screaming while he drowned them both in need.

She could barely stand as he rose. Her thighs tried to snap together and he turned her, roughly, forcing her hands to splay on the wet tile. Her clothes were ripped and useless on her skin. The undershirt still around her shoulders like some kind of flimsy jacket. Her hand snapped back behind her to join his on the length of his dick as he smeared it over her back almost playfully.

He set his teeth into her shoulder as he moved behind her and ran the hard, aching length of himself over the curve of her ass. She shuddered, threw the other hand back and drove her nails into his flank, encouraging him.

His voice was rough, "Condom?"

She shook her head desperately, "No. No. God, no. Just like that. I wanna feel it."

He grunted, "Put me in you, Claire."

She obeyed, angling him into the needy oval of her body as the thunderous spill of water cocooned them.

Christ..how long had they waited?

Too long.

Why hadn't she fucked him after Raccoon? She couldn't think. She couldn't feel anything but the want he shoved into her like he'd shove his dick.

She made a small sound of want and gasped, "Use me. Ok? Use me."

Bracing both hands on the wall beside her, he pushed himself into her body. She gasped, bowed against him, and he sheathed himself into the heat of her to the hilt. He held himself there, spitting her on his body while he gained enough control to not pound her to death against the wall.

She felt him put his forehead against the place where her neck and shoulder met, felt him gather his resolve. Claire turned her head, nuzzled at his face, and took his mouth in a long, wet, tongue thrusting kiss. She rocked back against him, encouraging. She didn't think she'd ever know anything more wonderful than what it felt to feel him thick and deep inside her.

She moved her hips and pulled herself nearly off before pushing herself back on him. His hands moved down and jerked her hips back. He lifted her to her tip toes, angled himself better, and rode her. It was slow and torturous. He went out, he rode in, he caused them both to nearly die with the aching slowness of it.

She humped back against him, desperate. He shook his head and kept the pace slow and steady. She was nearly undone when she pulled away from him. She turned and leaped on him. He caught her, easily, and she took his face and raped his mouth with hers. He was laughing delightedly at her as he pressed her back against the wall and speared her with himself.

They clashed together now, desperate and fast. They ended up across the floor of the shower with her atop him and the water trying to drown them both. She stole his sanity, blanketed them both in that humbling, skin stealing, soul raping rush of greed she felt for him. She held him down now with his arms over his head as she fucked him, forcing his body into hers fast and deep and constant. He was making some sound in his throat, trapped beneath her; a willing victim. He felt her tighten, felt her orgasm as it ripped through her body, and out of her mouth in a desperate cry.

He lifted his upper body off the ground and wrapped his arms around her waist. He surged twice more against her and pressed their mouths together hard enough to bruise if she didn't open for him. She did and his tongue surged inside. He filled her mouth with his desperate gasp and jerked her hard down on him. The slap of skin was musical in the pounding water.

Her wet clothing slapped obscenely.

It felt like they'd waited a life time for a handful of moments together.

It felt like her heart could hear the life inside of both of them.

She wasn't dead. She was just dying and Kennedy was a hero. He saved girls.

He was saving her by fucking her back to life.


The keys in her hand were heavy. She clenched her palm around them as the nurse gave her a beautiful smile.

"Is that to your truck?"

Quietly, Claire whispered, "My brother's...my brother's truck...well...I guess it's mine now."

The nurse smiled happily, "Well, I sure hope it has a back seat."

Claire nodded numbly, "...I-yes. Yes it does...yes."

"Good. It's not safe to put a baby seat in the front...the air bags, ya know? Dangerous."

Claire stared at the thing in her other hand beside the keys. The little blob of white on a black background. The nurse leaned over and touched the picture, "See that? That's the heart. You can see it beating."

The heart. The heart beating.

The heart of her baby.

She touched the tiny white blob and clutched the keys.

She'd always wanted children. Always. The timing had never been right. The world...it hadn't allowed it. She'd always wanted them. She'd nursed baby dolls while other girls had planned their weddings.

She'd never needed a man...but she'd always wanted a child. She'd tell Leon. If he didn't want...well...that didn't matter either. She wanted. She wanted him and this baby...but she'd survive if he didn't feel the same.

She'd carry her child in her brother's truck. The only thing in the world that mattered inside the only thing in the world she had left of the man who'd been her world once. Her world inside her world...inside her womb.

Jesus.

The heart never forgot.

And neither would the baby she'd raise to remember.

She paused on the steps of the hospital with the truck waiting for her to drive it and remember.

Leon Kennedy waited in that coat in the cold. He tilted his head at the picture in her hand. "...what do you need, kid?"

Claire clutched the keys in her fist and smiled, shakily, "...I don't wanna be blind anymore. You sure you wanna take me on?"

His teeth flashed, "You're the one who left that night...all you had to do was look back once..."

"And?"

"...and I'd have gone out a window for you."

Her heart stuttered. She felt her eyes swim with tears. "I wanna name him Chris."

Leon heaved out a heavy breath and a laugh, "...god help us all. The Redfield lineage continues."

She clutched her keys so tight she was afraid they'd pierce her palm. "Yeah...it and never forgets."

She came down the stairs. She climbed into her brother's truck beside the man who'd climbed into a nightmare beside her. She took his hand to place it on her belly as she drove.

Chris' shirt was folded in the back seat. His dog tags jingled on the rearview mirror. He was all around her. Him, their parents, their love...it was all pieces of her she'd never forget.

With the man beside her and that hope inside her, it was the first time since Raccoon City she knew there was life after death.

All because he'd given her the keys to his truck...and allowed her drive into her future.