Piers Nivans had only been a member of the BSAA for year, and it had been the legendary Chris Redfield who had approached him about joining. Nivans had been feeling that he needed to use his sniping talents to answer to a higher calling from the U.S.’s Special Armed Forces. He had heard of the BSAA, and felt that was where he belonged. He remembered the test of his skills that Captain Redfield had put him through, seeming to pass with ease from the outside onlooker, but Nivans had felt himself sweating profusely. In general, Piers had considered himself a hard person to impress; where as he respected his superior officers in the Armed Forces, the level of respect he had was only born from duty. However, even upon his first meeting of Redfield, he was inspired by the man. When joining the BSAA, Nivans did all he could to be worthy of joining Chris’ alpha team, and based a lot of personal pride on being promoted to the Captain’s second-in-command.
Piers was feeling that same pride right now, as he made his way to Captain Redfield’s office. His presence had been requested for a personal meeting, which was nothing new, as this kind of thing was typical right before Tactics Training. Nivans assumed that this meeting would be just like the others, as the unit was preparing for another round the next day. He played the training specifics over in his head to prepare. It wouldn’t be long after he entered Redfield’s office and was ordered to have a seat at the chair across from the desk, that he would realize that for all his mental preparation, this was not to be the typical meeting.
Captain Redfield sat in his chair behind the desk with his back toward Nivans, staring at the large window, but could not possibly be seeing anything, as the blinds weren’t open enough to allow much through beyond sunlight. It took him a few moments to say anything else to the young man after he had ordered him to sit down. Piers nearly addressed the Captain again, before Chris finally spoke.
“I want you to tell me a story, Nivans.”
“How did your parents meet?”
Piers blinked a few times in surprise at the question. This was not what he had been expecting at all. He quickly had to change thinking gears to answer his superior’s question. His mind raced; he knew his mother had at least once told him the story, but he had never listened to it that closely. He decided to half wing it. “Uh . . . high school, I believe . . . sir.”
“Hm,” was all the Captain had said at first, and then was quiet again. Piers heard Redfield sigh heavily.
“You know who Agent Valentine is, right Piers?”
“Your old partner? Of course, sir. You can’t be a member of the BSAA without knowing who you or she is. You’re legends often mentioned in the same breath.”
“Are we?” Redfield sounded hopeful.
“. . . Are you what, sir?”
“Mentioned in the same breath?”
Piers gave an uneasy sigh, but only because this situation was becoming so unusual, not having any idea what the Captain was looking for and not wanting to say the wrong thing. “Yes, sir.”
Chris finally turned the chair to face Piers from across the desk. “You know what happened, don’t you? Why we’re not partners anymore.”
“It was my understanding that Agent Valentine was transferred to bio-weapons advisory after she was no longer able to perform satisfactorily in the field tests from complications due to experimentation she experienced from 2006 to 2009.”
“That’s right,” replied Chris. “She was able to perform every task with exemplary skill, only she continued to experience random fainting spells. It was then afterward the BSAA felt she would be of more use to our goals to transfer her, thereby breaking our partnership for good. As you can imagine, that’s how I became a captain.”
Piers only nodded, still not knowing where this was going or why any of this was important. But he couldn’t help but notice that Captain Redfield seemed distressed. He waited until his superior officer started talking again.
“We were partners for over ten years. We were assigned each other back in the late nineties in Raccoon City’s special operations team, called STARS. Together we brought down Umbrella and helped found the BSAA.” He paused before he could continue, with a somber mien invading his tone. “As difficult as those times were, Piers, those were the best years of my life.”
Piers could only nod again.
Chris was suddenly far away as he spoke, reminiscing. “I remember that day she flung herself at Albert Wesker, crashing through a window, and falling over a cliff to save my life, and feeling that my heart had been ripped out of my chest.” He swallowed back some emotion. “And that was the beginning of the end.”
Nivans had to shift in his seat, feeling uncomfortable at seeing the nearly invulnerable Captain Redfield need to force back emotion.
“That was also the same day I realized that I had made a very grievous mistake, Piers.”
Chris looked down at his desk. “That I never had the courage to tell her that I loved her.”
Piers hoped that he had hidden his shock at hearing this statement. He realized that he wasn’t as much shocked at the statement itself as he had heard talk here and there, murmurings and musings amongst other agents regarding the relationship between Redfield and Valentine, as he was that he now had it from the horse’s mouth confirmation that there were indeed romantic feelings involved – at least from Chris’ side.
“But that wasn’t the worst thing,” started Redfield again. “After I had found her and we returned home from Africa, she moved in with me for a time so I could help her recover from the trauma of the experimentation. And do you know, I still couldn’t tell her then? My partner of over ten years, and my best friend, and having been lucky enough to have her come back to me after the fall from the Spencer Estate, and surviving three years of torture, and I still couldn’t tell her.”
Piers couldn’t help but be mildly intrigued by this story now, which was what helped him lose his fear of saying the wrong thing. He was now bold enough to ask, “Why couldn’t you, sir?”
“Have you ever been in love, Piers?”
The other shrugged, being under the impression that he had felt that way once in grade school, but now being so removed from the sensation after the duration of several years that he couldn’t be sure if it had really happened.
“It’s the most frightening thing for any man to face in the world – including the worst bio-weapons. All at once you realize how small and meaningless you are. You are totally powerless. Before you stands this woman that means everything to you – she inspires you to be everything you didn’t have the ability to be before, and yet, no matter what you do, you’re still just a stupid man.”
“Yeah,” said Chris, wiping his brow with a broad hand. “Jill made the choice to move out of my apartment and live on her own about a year ago. Since she transferred, I haven’t seen much of her, but I still think about her everyday.”
“But . . . why tell me this, Captain?”
“I don’t know,” said Chris slumping into his chair. “I guess because I needed to confess to someone. It’s been tearing at me for a long time.”
“I’ll say,” rejoined Nivans. “But forgiving my forwardness, why don’t you just tell her, Captain? What if she feels the same way? And even if she doesn’t, once you finally know, you can move on instead letting this eat away at you. . . . I mean, she’s a beautiful, intelligent, caring woman, sir. She could date anyone in the BSAA and yet she never seems to be interested in anyone. Couldn’t it be possible that a part of her has been hoping you would make a move?”
Chris blinked and thought for a second. “She could date anyone she wanted,” he reiterated thoughtfully.
“She’s older than me, but I’d hit that.”
Redfield gave the younger man a hard glare.
Piers immediately recognized his tongue had gotten too lose from the subject matter. “With all due respect, of course. Forgive me, sir.”
Chris released his gaze. “I suppose you’re right. I’ll have to think about it.”
“No thinking, sir. You’ve done too much of that for the past ten plus years. You just have to do it now.”
“I . . . no, I can’t. We have that Tactics Training tomorrow. We all have to concentrate on that right now.”
“Will there ever be a good time?” Piers questioned pointedly. “Just get it over with. Tell her.”
Chris nodded soberly. “Thanks, Nivans. Dismissed.”
“You’re welcome, sir.” Piers stood, gave a salute, and let himself out of Captain Redfield’s office feeling that he had done something much more important than reviewing training specifics.
Still, he found the conversation eating at him when he entered Alpha Team’s locker room. Absently, he opened his locker, and didn’t remember to do what he was going to. He had also forgotten that the rest of Alpha Team were used to this ritual by now: that the day before rigorous training, Captain Redfield went over the course and specifics as if they were about to go out on a mission with Nivans, and Nivans would return to help prepare them with what they were to be faced with the next day. Here was the second-in-command now, but instead of blustering orders and so forth, there he was, silent, standing with his locker door open, saying and doing nothing.
The other three men looked at themselves, and again at Piers, clearly confused.
Ben Airhart, who was rarely ever afraid to open his big mouth, ended the silence. “Uh . . . Piers?”
Suddenly, Piers Nivans slammed his locker door, and hollered, “MEN,” causing his three compatriots to jump and have near fatal heart attacks simultaneously.
“Where?!” cried Andy, frightfully.
“I HAVE DECIDED OUR NEXT MISSION!”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Ben was more irritated now. “We have a big tactics training thing tomorrow, and you come in here all slamming things and screaming. How could we go on a mission? When the hell was this decided, and by who? You can’t decide these things!”
Carl and Andy who were still recovering their breaths both nodded in unison. They were thankful for Ben’s big mouth, as it was the only thing that sometimes kept Piers’ ego in check when Captain Redfield wasn’t around.
Nivans whirled around to face them. “I have just been in a meeting with Captain Redfield, and I’ve personally made the decision to our next move.”
“You can’t do that!” Ben turned to Carl and asked, “Can he do that?” He turned back to Piers, and shook his finger at him accusingly. “You can’t do that!”
“Is the Captain allowing you to make these decisions?” asked Carl. “Like, is this part of the tactics training?”
“No,” quipped Piers. “It’s the Captain that needs our help.”
“Is he sick?” asked Andy with his eyes growing bigger.
“In a way,” replied Piers. “But we’re going to do something about it.”
“My sister’s a nurse!” piped Andy.
“It’s not that kind of an illness. This is a matter of the heart.”
“Wait,” said Carl pensively, “are you saying that the Captain . . . is in love?”
“Ooooooh,” whispered the other three agents. This was certainly different than shooting and exploding things, or even setting them on fire.
“With who?” asked Ben.
Carl began excitedly clapping his hands together. “Oh, I bet I know who it is!!!”
“With Agent Jill Valentine.”
Carl nearly squealed like a schoolgirl with delight.
“Hot damn!” exclaimed Ben. “I knew the Captain had good taste! I’d hit that!”
Piers shot Airhart a hard glare.
“I’m confused,” said Andy.
“Quit the chatter, team,” ordered Nivans. “I have a mind to use tomorrow’s Tactics Training for our mission objectives, but it will require our best efforts – no slacking off.”
“I mean, this sounds all well and good,” started Airhart again, “But isn’t this kinda intrusive. Maybe we should keep our noses out of it. The Captain seems to like to keep his personal life off the table.”
Carl Alfonso quickly looked to Piers with hope, while Andy Walker kept being confused.
And Piers thought for a moment on how to answer Airhart. Yes, what they were doing was invading Captain Redfield’s privacy. Yes, they shouldn’t mess in his personal affairs . . . but this was different, and this was their captain. “In the year, 1998, Captain Redfield had uncovered the mass murdering and zombie infection of the Umbrella Company. And where were we? Still in grade school. A few years later, and the Captain had killed Alexia Ashford, creator of the t-Veronica virus, and destroyed another one of Umbrella’s hidden facilities. In 2003, the Captain and Ms. Valentine finally bring down the last Umbrella facility in Russia. They found the BSAA, and in 2005 they uncover the truth behind the Terragrigia Panic and the FBC as well as neutralizing the t-Abyss virus. In 2009, Chris destroys the Uroboros project and kills Albert Wesker. This is just a highlight of the accomplishments and adversity our Captain has had to face, keeping the world safe from a total bio-terror apocalypse. And where were we during all this time? Having no clue there was a man out there putting his life on the line to keep us safe. Having no idea these things even existed. He’s served humankind more than those Nobel Peace Prize winners probably have, but there are no awards like that for him. Most people on the street have no idea what he’s done for them.
‘Now, I can’t speak for all you, but I’ve become a better sniper, a better soldier, and a better human being because of his guidance – guidance from a man who’s accomplished so much he doesn’t need to give any of us the consideration he does, but we’ve all received it. He gives us help when we need it. Discipline when we’ve been too rebellious or lazy to care. He inspires us to be the men he believes we are. And he is proud of every single one of us, but by our own merits – not even what he’s shaped us to be.”
“He’s like my dad!” interrupted Andy.
“He’s not old enough to be your dad, Walker,” corrected an annoyed Ben Airhart.
“Whatever!” interjected Piers. “My point is, is that he’s done so much for everyone else, and now there’s this one thing he wants yet can’t get for himself, but we might be able to help. Doesn’t the Captain deserve the effort?”
Inspiration moved Carl Alfonso, who loved the idea to begin with, to stand up broadly and bellow, “WHO HAS A BETTER CAPTAIN THAN WE DO?”
He was answered by the remaining three: “NO ONE!”
Soon Piers Nivans was issuing orders to the rest of the team to obtain maps and information, and within the next hour a plan was in place to be executed the following day.
“All right, team, are we sure this plan is going to work? I don’t want any screw ups.”
“Not to worry,” rejoined a confident Carl. “Walker and I will talk with the medics and security right now. I can’t imagine anyone who isn’t at least curious of the Captain’s relationship with Ms. Valentine. People are dying to see them together, and the men that aren’t wouldn’t dare mess with Captain Redfield.”
“All right, fine,” said Piers. “But like I said, we need cracker-jack timing on this. We’ll call it, Operation: Florence Nightingale.”
“Okay, okay, okay,” piped Alfonso again, “But since we’re calling the mission ‘Florence Nightingale’, just this one time, instead of Alpha Team, can we call ourselves, ‘Cupid Team’ . . . please?”
Nivans groaned a little, but conceded. “All right. Since we’re not under Captain Redfield’s orders and for the nature of the mission, we’ll call ourselves . . .” he hesitated, then grumbled, “Cupid Team.”
The other three compatriots, leapt to their feet in excitement, and joined their hands in a celebratory, communal high-five, cheering, “GO CUPID TEAM!”
Piers Nivans just sighed.
The next day, Chris Redfield had never seen Training Tactics go so poorly. It was as though his men had never handled their weapons before nor seen most of the challenges placed before them. Practically from the start of the event, he witnessed them scramble like newly be-headed chickens, and half-disregarding his orders. They even acted as though well-known formations were brand new to them. Things had gone so badly, that Chris Redfield found himself taking damage and receiving injuries just to push one or more of his men out of the way of some kind of hazard. Even Piers Nivans’ reliable sniping was off most of the time, and he was heard repeating orders to the men that were slightly off from the ones Redfield was giving him. Chris’ head was spinning, and he was covered in bruises, freshly bleeding cuts, and scrapes, and nursing a limp from one of his many injuries when they returned to the locker room.
“Take a knee, men,” he said, his tone heavy with seriousness.
The remaining three soldiers did as they were told; Andy Walker was not with them.
“Now, will someone please tell me what the hell happened out there just now?!”
Airhart and Alfonso exchanged sidelong glances, while Nivans kept his head down. “We’re sorry, sir,” he stated. “I guess we’re all just having an ‘off day’.”
“There are no ‘off days’ out there on the field,” returned the Captain grimly. “So you all better learn to work through it – keep the distractions out of your head, I don’t care what’s going on. Your lives and innocent civilians depend on that.” Chris sighed heavily. “But I suppose it’s my fault. I didn’t have Nivans go over the specifics with you yesterday because I thought you all would be ready to be able to make more autonomous decisions without me. I guess I misjudged you.”
Piers grimaced at hearing this. It was only because it was necessary for Objective: Florence Nightingale that his pride could stomach a comment like that from Captain Redfield.
“But still,” the other continued, “your conduct was so appalling today you leave me no choice but to have all of you, including Walker when he’s recovered, to be doing triple drills until I have faith in your skills again.”
Airhart and Alfonso hid their disgust at hearing this. Drills were nobody’s favorite activity, and to be doing triple the amount of them for some indefinite length of time meant for arduous, painstaking days ahead.
But Captain Redfield was still bothered by something as he looked at the three younger men before him. He still found it hard to believe in what he had witnessed earlier that day. These men were Alpha Team – the best of the best the BSAA had to offer; every single one of them were near geniuses at their specialty. Redfield may have been the captain, and he had a job to do in making sure that these men were trained and molded into proper BSAA operatives, but that didn’t mean there was anything inhuman about the way he handled them or felt it necessary to be that way. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Now are you all really okay? Is something going on that I need to know about?”
But the only answer he received was them mumbling that nothing was out of the ordinary.
“Is Walker’s sister okay? Did she get a boyfriend, or something?” Redfield had been made aware months ago from a smaller altercation that the men of Alpha Team, excepting Andy for obvious reasons, all had a crush on Walker’s hot, nurse sister. He thought maybe it had something to do with her based on that much smaller altercation. But again, the men just looked to each other and shook their heads.
The Captain sighed again. “All right. . . . Airhart, Alfonso – you have the next half-hour free. Nivans I need to speak with you.”
Ben and Carl made themselves visually scarce, but remained physically poised and kept their ears open for the next phase.
Nivans made his was over to the Captain. “Sir?”
“I need a report on Walker from the medics as soon as they have anything. I’ve never heard him scream like that.”
Piers just nodded.
“He’s just a little guy,” said Redfield slowly shaking his head. “And with the way he kept screaming ‘Happy New Year’ in Chinese . . . I think he acquired a head injury.”
Piers tried his best to hide his grimace. The previous day, when it was decided that Andy Walker should act like he had sustained a bad enough injury to be taken off the field by paramedics, Walker had been concerned that he wouldn’t be able to provide a convincing enough performance for the Captain to not suspect anything was amiss. The other men, had offered their personal acting advice, but Walker insisted that he felt that he could only sound authentically in pain if he screamed in Chinese, and the only Chinese he knew was the Cantonese dialect of “Happy New Year”. And so this resulted in Andy Walker screaming “Gong Hay Fat Choy” in varying resonances from the time he sustained his “injury” throughout the time he was carried away on the stretcher. Piers was not happy about this particular aspect of the plan, but it seemed to have worked at least.
“I’m going to the infirmary to check on him.”
“Uh, actually, Captain, why don’t you let me do that,” interjected Piers. “I think it would be best if you stayed here and bandaged yourself up.”
Chris thought a moment. “Yeah. They seemed oddly short-staffed in the infirmary today, and I’d rather they look after Walker right now than bother with all this,” he said looking down himself. “But we’re also out of First Aid kits, which is also strange.”
“I saw that someone had left small stack of First Aid supplies in the auxiliary ER, Captain.”
“Oh yeah? . . . Hm. I guess it won’t matter if I use one of those.”
“I’ll go check on Walker, and tell Airhart and Alfonso to prepare to start drills as soon as their break is over. Is that all right, Captain?”
“Sure. I’ll be back as soon as I’m done.”
“Yes, sir.” Piers watched Chris leave the locker room, and waited thirty seconds before he pulled out his communicator. “Okay, men, the hawk has left. Time to implement phase two: Release the Nightingale.”
Ben Airhart and Carl Alfonso quickly left the immediate premises. Within the infirmary, a very whole and pain-free Andy Walker, put away his communicator, jumped from his bed, high-fived the paramedics, and left the wing. He made his way through the corridors and stopped at the office of Agent Jill Valentine. He knocked on the door.
“Come in,” came the feminine tones from within.
Andy casually made his way into the office. “Good Afternoon, Ms. Valentine.”
“Oh, hello, Andy.” Jill knew the names of all the men in Chris’ unit. “What can I do for you?”
“I had just passed Agent Biggs in the hallway a moment ago, and he asked me if I would pass on the message that he’d like to briefly meet you in the Western Wing near the auxiliary ER. He had some information for you on the ‘Linklater’ bioweapon, but he can’t come down all the way to you ‘cause he’s on his lunch break, so he’d thought he’d meet you half-way.”
Jill looked slightly confused, but wasn’t suspicious enough of one of Chris’ men to think much of it. “Oh. Okay. Thank you, Andy.”
She looked back to her computer monitor for a moment. “Hey Andy, how’s the Capt-“ But Walker had already left before she could finish and look up again. She shrugged, and quickly finished her typing.
From inside the West Wing’s security room, Piers Nivans somewhat nervously leaned over the shoulder of Carl Alfonso who was adjusting the cameras facing the auxiliary ER remotely from the room.
“This is the weakest part of the plan,” he grumbled. “How do we know Valentine will go inside the ER when she sees Chris?”
“Oh, she’ll go in,” replied Carl confidently.
“How can you know?”
“Have you ever seen her desk? She has that same picture of her and the Captain from STARS that the Captain has on his desk.”
“Well . . . so?”
Carl turned the chair around to face Piers, revealing that he also had a bag of popcorn on his lap, which he was occasionally munching on as he talked and worked. “Have you ever looked at that picture?”
“It’s got the Captain sitting in front of her, wearing her beret with her arms around his neck. They’re both smiling. It’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. When she sees the Captain with fresh injuries, she won’t be able to help herself.” He turned back around to face the screens. They both witnessed Jill Valentine appear in the corner of the screen as she entered the West Wing. “Oh! Wait! Here we go.”
Ben quickly entered the security room. “Are the bugs working properly?”
“We don’t know yet,” answered Nivans. “Jill just arrived.”
With bated breath all three men continued to watch as they saw the figure of Valentine notice movement through the window in the doors in the auxiliary ER. She walked closer to inspect, and then something inspired her to go inside.
“Quickly, bring camera three on the big monitor,” order Piers.
“I know, I know!” Carl crunched on some popcorn, and flicked a few switches and the image of the inside of the ER flipped onto the larger screen. They saw their Captain reaching for a First Aid kit that was precariously perched with several other kits on a very high shelf. Then Jill Valentine entered.
“It’s up to you now, Captain,” whispered Piers, nearly wishing the other could hear him.
Alfonso crossed his fingers. Ben turned up the volume on the sound they were receiving from the bugs he had placed in the room yesterday.
“Well, if it isn’t Captain Chris Redfield of Alpha Team,” said Jill coyly as she casually crossed the room. She stopped several feet from Chris and folded her arms beneath her chest.
Chris turned to look at her over his shoulder almost abashedly. Being more conscious of his banged up appearance right now, he did not feel presentable in her presence. “Hey, Jill. It’s been a while.”
“Too long,” rejoined Jill as she came much closer. She took his chin in her hand and looked him over. “Those boys sure have been giving you a run for your money, haven’t they?”
Chris was very conscious of her touch and found it hard to look her in the eye. “It was . . . kind of a strange day today.”
She let go of his face, and allowed her eyes to peruse his body gently, which he also became very aware of. “And now you’re in here by yourself for first aid?”
“Well . . . yeah.”
“They gave you four men to replace me, and they still can’t do the job right.”
“Oh, c’mon, Jill,” came Chris in defense of his team. “They’re great at what they do, they just need a little time.”
“I’m not talking about their skills, Redfield. I’m talking about someone to look after you.”
“I’m a grown man; I don’t need someone to look after me.”
“Just by looking at what a mess you are, I beg to differ.” She opened one of the kits he had brought down. “Now take your shirt and pants off.”
“Jill! I’m not taking my pants off in front of you.”
“Oh really?” she returned incredulously. “You and I have showered together, I’ve dressed your wounds on the field, and not to mention that I lived with you for a whole year and have seen you walk around your apartment in your underwear. When did you become such a prude, Chris?”
“Well . . . it was different then,” he replied somewhat dourly. “You . . . you were my partner.” He looked away from her. “And the ONE time we showered together was in the STARS shower room right after the mansion incident in 1998, where we were both traumatized and covered in decayed human remains.”
“That doesn’t erase the fact that I’ve seen what I’ve seen. Now strip down to those BSAA-issued boxer briefs, soldier, before I take those pants off myself.”
“You know I will too,” she threatened as she walked over to the nearby sink and washed her hands.
From inside the security room, all of Cupid Team, recently joined by Andy Walker, were eating popcorn and enjoying the eavesdropped conversation immensely. They were all very silent, waiting for more with all the unbreakable focus of bored housewives watching their favorite soap opera.
Chris Redfield stripped down as he was ordered to, and Jill Valentine inspected him again. He found himself so nervous, as she was looking him over, he felt compelled to cover himself with his arms and hands as best he could. Every time Jill reached up to touch him to help see the wounds better, he jumped.
“Really, Chris?” she said in frustration. “You sure know how to make a girl feel unwelcome. Guess I should just get this over with.” She quickly reached past him to grab spray, gauze, and adhesive strips.
“I’m sorry, Jill. It’s just been a while.”
“After all we’ve been through, and you’ve stopped trusting me?” She began spraying and taping the more minor wounds with quick efficiency.
“No . . . it’s not that.” Chris desperately tried to find the words. “It’s just . . . now that we’re not partners anymore, I don’t want you to feel obligated to . . . take care of me.”
Jill stopped and looked up at him. “Obligated? I don’t feel obligated. You’re a member of the BSAA, who has injuries, and I’m here, and I know how to dress them. No different than anyone else who’d be injured that I could help.”
Chris gave a faint, downcast sigh. “Yeah, that’s right,” he said in a low tone. “I am no different than anyone else to you.”
The statement with its saddened tone arrested Jill Valentine from her work for a moment before she continued again. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing,” he replied quietly. He cast his gaze to the side of the floor to not watch her dress his injuries. He didn’t want to confuse himself any longer about feelings of tender concern for him he had only imagined were coming from her with the purely platonic feelings she actually only had.
Jill began wrapping bandaging around his bicep, which had sustained several abrasions. She pulled herself very close to him, much closer than she needed to be, to do this. She looked up into his troubled countenance again, but he refused to meet her gaze. “Chris? Are you mad at me?” she asked softly.
He returned her tone but not eye contact, “No. . . . I think I’m just . . . mad at myself.”
“A lot of things.”
“The way everything turned out. You, sacrificing yourself for me at the Spencer Estate, leading up to it not being possible for us to be partners anymore, then you moving out of my apartment, so now I rarely see you.”
Jill put her head down, realizing that Chris was coming very close to saying something, but she wasn’t sure if he meant it. She wasn’t sure if her blushing was warranted or not. She didn’t want him to see it. She found herself so flustered, she couldn’t continue patching him up.
“But I guess, in a way,” he stated in a sigh, “it was all for the best.”
“How so?” she asked, still keeping her flushed cheeks a secret.
“Now I don’t have to be confused anymore – wondering if you meant those mildly flirtatious things you’d say to me, or if they were just innocent mistakes. Wondering if they were an invitation, or if you were just being playful with someone you felt comfortable who you knew wouldn’t take advantage of it.”
She looked up at him. This time, feeling more like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders after his near confession of his feelings, Chris met her eyes with a tender look of forgiveness, telling her that he was a fool for thinking those things, and he knew it, and he knew she didn’t mean to hurt him through his own idiocy, but it was all okay now. Jill didn’t like that look. As gentle as it was, it was hurtful. “But . . . what if all those things I said were actual invitations?” she said softly.
The look in his eyes changed then – a very slight shift, from one of serene acceptance of defeat to one of renewed hope. She felt his heartbeat quicken, his breathing become ever so slightly heavier. She saw his pupils dilate and focus on her as though she were the only object in the room. Jill felt the heat build up in her cheeks, which the sight of seemed to influence the changes in Chris to increase. Heat suddenly built up between them, and she felt very hot just standing so close. Jill realized what she had caused by her words, and although she meant those words, she suddenly became afraid of the reaction. She pulled away, and grabbed a first aid spray, needing an action to bring her away from the heat that usurped all her thoughts. “Um . . . first aid spray?” she offered timidly, her voice quavering from her own body’s trembling.
But it had been too close for Chris to let it go. Something inside just wouldn’t let him back down now, but he was sensitive to her reaction to the biological change that they had both just allowed to happen.
“You’re pulling away, Jill?” he asked quietly. “After all we’ve been through, you’ve never trusted me?”
Jill felt particularly muddled right now, squeezing the can of First Aid spray within her hands, being lost between her personal fears and his pleading eyes. She couldn’t help but recognize how much colder and unpleasant it was not being as physically close to him. A place of wisdom and courage she rarely let speak to him, finally did. “I do trust you, but I could just never be sure I was anything you wanted.”
Chris Redfield knew that he had never known what he wanted until he met Jill Valentine. Before she had any time to react, he deftly swept her up into his arms, pressing her into him for an ardently, passionate kiss that had spent over a decade waiting. Jill accepted him eagerly. He held her too close and he was too warm to allow her trembling to continue, and she was emboldened by his affection to act on her own as she reached up, placing a hand in his hair to pull him even closer to her.
No one on Cupid Team could speak, but some of them sniffled and tried to swallow back some unmanly tears before the others would see, but even if any of the others could bring themselves to look away from the monitor, no one would have judged them for those tears.
Chris grabbed the first aid spray from Jill’s other hand and threw it away because, not only did it keep a part of her from touching him, but also because she was the only unguent that could heal this particular ailment, and he needed more of her spread over his skin. He moved his arms and hands underneath whatever clothing he could and pressed her closer. Through their many years of partnership, he inexplicably knew things about her like a sixth sense, and had often used that ability to take care of her, and right now he felt she needed to take a breath, so Chris moved his lips from hers, and placed them on her neck not wanting to lose any of the connection she allowed him to find. She took a deep inhale, and thanked him nearly breathlessly.
“Uh . . . whoa,” said Ben, breaking the stillness in the security room as the scene before them continued. He covered Andy Walker’s eyes. “Um . . . this is kinda getting beyond a PG-13 rating here now.”
The rest of Cupid Team broke their hypnotized gazes from the screen. But the audio almost seemed to bring them back in. Piers Nivans shook the fog from his head forcefully, and starting talking too loudly with the intent to block the passionate sounds coming through the bugs. “OKAY! OKAY! We need to give the Captain and Ms. Valentine some privacy!”
“I think I need a shower,” said the unapologetic Ben.
“Me too,” agreed Carl.
“All right fine!” said Piers. “We all need a shower. Let’s go.”
But something from the audio called their attention back to the monitor, demanding their wide-eyed stares.
Nivans quickly summed up the last ounce of discipline he had before it could be swept away by the soft, blue-green glow of pixilated love-making coming through on the monitor, and sloppily ran hurried hands over all the switches and dials to turn off the monitor and their audio set-up, screaming, “OUT!” Like a spell that had been broken, the rest of Cupid Team felt they could move freely, and quickly extricated themselves from the security room.
“Okay,” barked Nivans, “I think it best, considering the circumstances that we all shower in separate locations! Dismissed!” The four young men split in all directions, some of them nearly colliding into one another, before they found their way around to run off into distant unforeseen shower room facilities.
As Jill Valentine looked up at the tiled ceiling of the auxiliary ER, she caught herself thinking it strange how a person like her could fall into something out of character, but depending on the person one fell into it with, could make it seem so natural. There was this profound feeling of peace that had come over her that she rarely remembered ever feeling that was all the more poignant as it came in the wake of something once considered intimidating that she’d never done before. She was aware that she and her partner were going to have to get up soon - partially because the beds in the ER were only meant for one, and this one was being occupied by two, however, she really didn’t want to relinquish the closeness to him after having waited for it for so long. So she kept leisurely stroking his fingers from the hand of the arm that was still cradling her, basking in the serenity.
“So that was a long time coming,” she nearly purred.
“Too long,” replied Chris, rubbing his temples with his free hand. “But it’s been waiting for like thirteen years.”
“I wasn’t talking about that!” Jill chided.
“What are you talking about?”
She didn’t know how to put it in words. “You know. How it’s weird that doing this didn’t seem weird – like it should’ve happened years ago if we had just been more – I don’t know – less afraid of rejection from each other.”
Chris was confused. “Well, that’s what I was talking about. What did you think I was talking about?”
Jill blushed profusely and turned her head away. “Oh!. . . Nothing!”
Silence and serenity prevailed again for the next several minutes. Chris gently kissed Jill on the head, and then invaded the silence. “So, I hate to break it do you, Valentine, but now that we’ve finally done this, I have to inform you that we need to get married as soon as possible.”
She abruptly stopped stroking his fingers.
“It’s under the code of ethics . . . of the,” he was searching for words, “ . . . BSAA . . . charter. That is unless, you . . . really, really, really, really don’t want to. In which case, you might be subjected to seeing a grown man cry.” He was almost being facetious, but honestly didn’t know what he would do with himself if she did refuse him.
“Geez, Chris!” she exclaimed in mild frustration as she let go of his hand. She rolled over on top of him, but only so she could reach the medical supplies that were on the steel cart next to the bed. She grabbed a bandage and rather roughly slapped it on an abrasion she had noticed earlier on his chest that she had made a clear mental note of because she needed to be so careful not to touch it during their previous activity. He jumped at the flash of pain it caused.
“Ow, Jill –“
“You don’t have to make up weird rules and things, like you have to trap me into something. I would’ve married you a long time ago if you’d asked me!” She reached for another bandage, as she remembered another cut she’d noticed earlier.
“I was half-kidding! . . . Unless you want to marry me, then I was serious about it.”
She slapped the second bandage on.
“Ow . . . Jill! Ten minutes ago you were all warm and loving, now you’re abusing me. Can’t we just rewind to the beginning? I liked that much better than this.”
“You’re so dense, Chris Redfield!” she huffed and set her chin down on his chest over her folded hands. She scowled.
“Well – why are you mad? And why am I dense?”
“’Cause you’re making jokes, and it kinda feels like you don’t seem to understand that I never would have even done something like this unless I had been unable to express my feelings for you for the past thirteen years!”
“Well, that makes two of us,” he said, petting her head. “I’m still not really sure how the hell this happened, but I’m glad it did . . . that is if you’re not planning on jilting me at an alter somewhere.”
She propped herself up on her forearms while still on his chest to look him in the eye better. “You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?”
He placed his hands on her back and looked steadily into her eyes. “Yeah.”
“You better be!” She dropped her head onto his chest and clung onto him.
“I am! And you don’t seem to realize how much I’ve missed you being around me all the time, not to mention the kind of toll it takes on a man when he’s afraid to tell a woman he loves her because he’s not sure if he’s good enough.”
Jill picked her head up again to look at him incredulously. “Afraid?”
“Any time I had an opportunity, or we had a moment, you’d either run or push me away. And you almost did it again just earlier. What’s a man supposed to think?”
“I did not!! When did I do that?”
“Oh let’s see,” he sarcastically, when he knew the list very well. “In the ruins in Kijuju, all those times I had to comfort you and take care of you after you moved in with me, then you moving out altogether . . . .”
“I didn’t know you were trying to create a moment!”
“Sometimes, I wasn’t. Sometimes the moment was just there, and you’d push me away! You wear me out, Valentine.”
“Well . . . you never picked up on me flirting with you – or what about the fact that I came looking for you after you left Raccoon City, or me flinging myself at Wesker out a window to save you? You wear me out, Redfield!”
“All right fine. Before you have another second to run away again, I want to change your last name and your address so it’ll be easy to find you if you try.”
“Chris! I’m not going to run away!” Jill was still a little irritated that he was making jokes as though she had ever intended to keep herself away from him or would continue consciously trying especially after this.
But he paid her protesting no mind as he was already shifting from underneath her, grabbing their clothes.
The next morning, silence prevailed in the Alpha Team’s locker room. There were a few mumbled good mornings, but everyone knew that no one knew the answer to the question running through everyone’s mind. All any of them knew was that after they all had returned to the locker room, Captain Redfield didn’t return for the rest of the day, and no one had seen hide nor hair of him. The team checked the auxiliary ER and found nothing; the only evidence of the Captain being there were that the first aid kits had been moved, but everything else was orderly.
“Has anyone seen the Captain?” asked Ben finally, after every one of the team was accounted for.
But no one had an answer.
Ben came over to Piers, who was still putting his things away from just entering to start his day. “So what should we do, Commander?”
Piers shrugged. “I guess we should just get geared up and get ready to do our drills, and see if he shows up.”
“What do you think happened?” came Carl.
“I honestly don’t know,” Piers replied. “I just hope it-“
But he was interrupted by the appearance of the man in question. The Captain was much later than usual, but he was there, and seemingly in a much better spirits than he was the last time they’d interacted with him. “Good Morning, men!”
“Captain!” They all stood at attention.
“At ease, men.”
“What’s on the agenda for today, sir?” asked Piers.
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Redfield more casually than they’d ever seen him. “Didn’t we have something planned yesterday?”
“We were going to do drills, Captain.”
“Yeah? How many?”
“You ordered triple.”
Chris was about to respond, but Andy Walker innocently walked up to him with something in his hands. Before Redfield had a moment to question the quickness of his discharge from the infirmary, Walker handed him the object.
“Excuse me, Captain. But I made this for you.”
Chris looked down and took the orange piece of construction paper that was heavy from the mass amount of macaroni glued to it. There were four macaroni people in a boxed-shaped area formed of macaroni, and two other macaroni figures placed on the other side of the paper that were doing something together, but it was difficult to tell what. One of those two figures had long hair drawn on it in pencil, and both of the figures had large, drawn-on smiles. In letters formed in macaroni at the top it read: Congratulations!
Chris looked down at Walker. “Thank you, Andy.”
“I got the macaroni from my mom’s house,” the other replied, and walked back to his locker.
Captain Redfield looked back up at his team, and realized. The longer he looked at them, the more they seemed to be trying to hide their hopeful smiles. And as the Captain kept holding onto the macaroni artwork, Piers Nivans noticed a gold band flashing on the ring finger of the Captain’s left hand.
“How many drills, Piers?”
“That’s too many,” said the Captain. “Your guys’ skills far surpass doing drills. Let’s run through that last Training Tactics course again. Meet me on the field at oh nine-hundred.”
“Yessir!” chimed Alpha Team with a salute in unison.
Moments later, out on the field before the exercise could begin, Piers Nivans ran sidelong up to Captain Redfield.
“I just wanted to give my own congratulations, sir,” he said. “We’re all very happy for you.”
Redfield clapped Piers on the shoulder, and gave him a knowing look. “You can tell them, ‘thank you’ for me. You all are the best team around. Now let’s do this, Nivans.”
“Yessir!” Piers Nivans trotted away to join the rest of the team. Within the hour, all of Alpha Team would have the Training Tactics course aced in the fastest recorded time in the history of the BSAA.