Notes: Here's the start of actual, new, content. I hope you enjoy. I'll be trying to update this regularly, hopefully once a week, but I can't promise that I'll be able to stick to that.
When the helicopter landed Chris was the first to stand. Helping Jill to her feet he addressed the survivors and her, because he didn't know that she was dead. Not getting up from the floor, Rebecca listened as he talked about how they had to report what had happened, reveal what Umbrella was up to. Jill nodded her head, agreeing with what he was saying, but looking too tired to add anything of her own.
"You can do that," the third Alpha Team member, Barry, shook his head, "I'm going home. I need to be with Kathy and the girls now."
"You-" Chris began, but Jill interrupted.
"It's okay," Jill said softly, putting a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, "Take care of them and then deal with everything else."
Barry nodded in silent thanks, Chris shrugged. Then Jill turned her attention to her. Rebecca stared up at her, wondering if she actually expected her to do something. How could she thought?
The sun was too bright for the leeches. She could feel them squirming on her arms, under her skin, trying to get away from it while still maintaining the illusion that she was fine. Except she wasn't and their mimicry was starting to fail. The edges of her injuries were visible now, little flecks of blood along the ragged lines that marked where she ended and the leeches began. Everywhere they were hurt, while everything else was completely numb. Pressing her arms against her chest, as though she could hide what had happened, she rolled over so that her back was to Jill.
The ones inside her, in her chest, had mostly finished cleaning things up, clearing things out? She shuddered and tried to take a breath, just to test. It was possible, but it wasn't easy, the leeches working together to help her pull in the air.
"I can't," she said, surprising herself with how normal her voice sounded. She wasn't sure what she'd expected, a moan? A growl? The wet sliding of leeches moving against each other? Hearing her own voice, the same as ever was a shock.
"Why not?" Jill sounded confused, "What's wrong? Were you injured?"
She could hear all three of them backing away now, because they knew what her being injured meant, that she was infected with the Tyrant virus, that she might turn into a zombie attack them at any moment.
But she wouldn't, because she was still in control, or maybe the leeches were. She certainly didn't feel in control of anything right now.
"Were you?" Chris' voice grew hard.
She tried taking another breath. It was easier this time, the leeches were getting the hang of things, "No, I…I wasn't injured, I just…"
Because they didn't know she was dead, that everything she'd done from the start was wrong, that her whole team was dead because of her, that she'd let an escaped convict, a murderer get away because she was too frightened to even try and stop him, she'd followed a madman without question and in the end, instead of even trying to help, she'd hidden away and died. Afterwards she'd tried to help, but that didn't really count, especially not when, in the end, she stood there and let Captain Wesker shoot her without even trying.
Before she could stop herself she was sobbing again. People were dead because of badly she'd screwed up, she was dead because of it. Joining STARS was supposed to have just been an ordinary job in a small, not too crazy city where the pharmaceutical giant Umbrella had a research center. If things hadn't gone wrong it would have been a way for her to build a résumé and get a job at Umbrella. They were so picky about who they hired, so specific about the kinds of people they wanted, and now that it was too late for it to matter, she knew why.
She didn't feel Barry's hand on her shoulder until he was rolling her over, trying to help her to her feet.
Agitated by the light, the leeches writhed.
"No!" Rebecca tried to pull away from him, "Let go! The leeches might…"
Backing away from Barry before they could attack him, she looked helplessly back and forth between him and the others. They'd been worried that she might turn into a zombie, what would happen if they found out about the leeches? Despite being members of the same organization, she realized that she didn't know any of the members of Alpha Team well enough to be sure.
Jill looked like she was about to ask a question, but Chris silenced her with a small shake of his head.
"Maybe you should just go home," Chris suggested, "Rest and take some time to get things straight before you make a report."
Again Jill looked like she wanted to say something, but held her tongue because of the way Chris was looking at her.
Rebecca knew what it was about, Chris thought she was crazy, and, looking back she realized that her explanation of things hadn't been the most coherent. If she was going to have anyone believe her she was going to have to think of a better way of explaining what she'd been through, one that left out the leeches and director Marcus and Billy and pretty much everything that had happened. Chris and Jill would back her up on the zombies, she was sure of that, but everything else?
"Do you have a car?" Jill asked, apparently agreeing with Chris' suggestion that she go home.
Rebecca shook her head, "I take the bus."
And in the state she was in that wouldn't be an option. She didn't even know where the nearest bus stop was and if she had it wasn't like she'd be able to make it there, not with how bright the sun was. There was no telling what would happen to the leeches. Their mimicry wouldn't hold up, that much she was sure of. On her arms the line between leech and her was clear, if only because she knew what she was looking for, a patchwork of normal looking skin and pale, mottled areas, broken by reddish lines where blood mixed with the leeches' slime. At the border between her and the leeches she caught sight of the occasional line of black, marking when one leech moved to get out of the sun and another took its place. All of them wanted to get away from the light at once, but at the same time they were struggling to maintain their mimicry.
If she tried to walk to the bus it would fail. They'd be moving too much, too agitated to properly blend it and if she tried to ignore it and keep going, what would happen then? Would they turn on her, eat everything that was left and then slither off to find a new victim? The last thing she wanted was for anyone to be hurt because of her.
The sun hurt them, maybe it hurt them badly enough to kill them, and then what would happen to her? She was dead but somehow still up and walking around, so if the leeches died she might just drop dead herself. Except she might be infected with the Tyrant virus, if not from the leeches, from the zombies that had attacked her. So without the leeches she might end up a zombie and then she'd hurt people for sure.
What was she supposed to do?
She watched the leeches twitch. They weren't even eating now because of how agitated they were.
The normal looking skin was where they were, everywhere else was pale.
She was dead.
Realizing that she'd been staring blankly at her arms for who knew how long she looked up at the others, "I don't know what to do."
Chris and Jill exchanged a look, one that made Rebecca cringe. She'd become a problem, one they had to deal with before they could do anything important. It wouldn't have bothered her if not for everything else. As the rookie on Bravo Team she was used to being dead weight, useless in most situations and a burden until her far too specialized knowledge became useful. Now she wasn't just useless, she might be dangerous and it was no one's fault but her own.
"I'll give you a ride home," Barry offered.
Refusing would only make things worse, so she nodded and meekly followed Barry to where his car was parked.
He opened the door for her, got in and waited for her to buckle her seatbelt before starting down the road away from the airport. She appreciated that he didn't even try to talk to her until they reached the end of the road leading from the airport to the highway and then it was only to ask her for directions to get her home. She told him where she lived and they spent the rest of the ride in silence. Barry was lost in his own thoughts, whatever they might have been and she slumped down in her seat, trying to keep out of the sun as best as she could.
Arriving at her apartment he parked the car, got out and opened the door for her, then walked her to the door of the building.
As she fumbled with her keys Barry cleared his throat.
She ignored him, knowing that whatever he was about to say wasn't going to help, not when it took all of her effort not to drop the keys. The leeches hadn't made it down to her fingers yet, leaving her unable to feel what she was doing and the slime coating them had dried to a clinging, itching film that she couldn't wait to wash off. Add all to that to the fact that she was thirstier than she'd been in her entire life, which at least made sense since she hadn't drank anything in a day or more. Hunger would probably come later, when she wasn't dehydrated and that was what had her worried. What would happen when she got hungry?
"If you need anything, or even just need to talk, give me a call. I'm not going to be going back to work after…" he was silent for a long while, making Rebecca think that was the end of it, but eventually he continued, unaware that the reason she hadn't opened the door wasn't because she was waiting for him, but because she still couldn't get the key to turn, "I don't know what you went through, but if it was anything like…"
The key finally turned and she nearly fell into her apartment. When her keys fell to the ground she didn't even bother trying to pick them up, she just kicked them into the front hall. Later, when she could, she'd pick them up.
Barry was still standing there, looking as lost and helpless as she felt. He'd been through the impossible, and she wanted to feel bad for him, did feel bad for him, but at least he'd made it. He was still alive, there was a chance for him to recover, move past whatever he'd been through. She didn't know how much more time she had, what would happen when the leeches were done.
Director Marcus had said that she was supposed to end up like him, but he'd also said that all his previous attempts at replicating what the leeches had done with him had been failures. How soon would it be before she knew?
Which would be worse?
Barry was still standing there.
"Thanks for the ride," she offered, hoping that it would be enough. There wasn't really anything else she could say. If she needed help it wasn't going to be any sort that he could give. Unless she had some warning that things were going to go bad for her, that she was going to end up a monster. Then maybe she could call him to come and finish her off before she hurt anyone.
"Here," he handed her a folded piece of paper.
If he noticed how cold her fingers were when she took it he didn't say anything.
Each of them having said their part, done what was necessary, Barry left.
Rebecca waited until his car was out of sight before closing the door. Ignoring the keys on the floor she looked at the paper Barry had left her. His phone number, written in crayon. The piece of paper was a receipt from a fast-food restaurant. Two kids meals. Right, he had a family, Kathy and the girls.
If the leeches started taking over she wouldn't call him after all.
Locking the front door behind her she staggered into the kitchen, got herself a glass of water and drank it in one gulp. Still thirsty, she had another and then another. Halfway through the fourth she found herself unable to swallow.
A leech slid into the glass in a cloud of brownish fluid.
It seemed as surprised as she was, climbing up and clinging to the rim to try and reach for her.
Terrified, she dropped the glass.
The fall didn't hurt the leech, it was hardly bothered by what had happened, more confused than anything.
Her stomach churned as she fought back nausea. Inside her she could feel the leeches moving, shifting in her chest and abdominal cavity. They were agitated, not at all happy with the cold water she'd just drank and left them swimming in.
She coughed again.
They were trying to get away from the cold.
Knowing what was about to happen she bent over the sink and closed her eyes.
She could feel them crawling up, making her cough to help push them along faster than they could have managed on their own.
In the warm air they relaxed, the dishes in the sink were something interesting for them to explore.
When it was over she didn't look down into the sink. There was nothing in the world that could make her do that.
Her ordeal wasn't over yet, despite how much she had drank she was still desperately thirsty.
Swallowing hard she went to the cabinet for another glass and this time she let the water get warm first. She knew when it was good because the leeches in the sink started investigating it, letting the falling water slide them across the dishes. Staring fixedly at the wall as she felt several leeches emerged to investigate, strings of slime clinging to them.
They reared up, mouths open, drinking. Some of them reached too far into the stream of water and were knocked off her arm and into the sink below, landing amidst the dirty dishes that she'd left there two days ago, joining the swarm that was already there. Had it really been two days ago that everything had gone wrong?
It felt like longer.
The leeches swam in the dirty water, investigating the remains of her last meal clinging to the plates and pans.
She could feel as the leaches that were drinking grew fat and then dragged their bloated bodies back to the others and rejoined them, disgorging the water that they'd drank to melt away the slime.
The sense of relief was immediate.
Of course, she wasn't thirsty, the leeches were.
Turning off the kitchen sink she went to the bathroom, rust tinted water dripping form her arm as the leeches cleaned the dried blood and slime off of each other.
She stripped out of her blood and slime covered uniform, leaving it in a heap in the corner as the tub filled.
Once the water was the right temperature she dipped her arms in, watching as the leeches rippled and flowed, abandoning their mimicry in their excitement and relief, leaving her arms covered in undulating greenish-black patches.
A number of them broke free to let themselves be tumbled around by the water, just like they had back at the mansion. She could feel their movements, the dizzying feeling of falling end over end, the exhilaration that came with it. Twice now she was experiencing proof that they were playful, she could feel it through whatever connection they shared with her, with each other.
Except was it the leeches that enjoyed it or was it her? How much could they actually experience and how much of it was in response to signals sent by her?
She'd gotten thirsty because they needed water, she wasn't hungry because they still had plenty to eat, so that implied that they were running things. But if they were playful because she enjoyed the sensation and they were acting in response to her, that meant that she had some degree of control. The difference was important, possibly the most important aspect of her situation.
Climbing into the tub she let the water wash over her. The leeches swam around the tub, exploring, relaxing. Being in the water made her feel better because it made the leeches feel better. The pain from earlier was fading, but the numbness remained. She could only feel the water because of the leeches, she couldn't feel herself laying in the tub, but she could feel leeches clinging to the sides and bottom.
When the water was deep enough she turned it off. The last thing she needed was to pass out or fall asleep and flood the place. The other tenants would come to complain or get the building's manager and then they'd find the leeches. She couldn't let that happen, not when she didn't know what the leeches would do, when she still hadn't figured out if she was still in control. She'd need to come up with a test, one she could perform safely and in the apartment. It was something for her to worry about later though, right now she was tired. The last time she'd slept had been when she'd died and she'd been through a lot since then.
Laying back, she submerged her head, a strange sensation since she couldn't actually feel the water over her face. It made what she did next easier.
Opening her mouth she inhaled, the leeches inside her responding to the idea without hesitation. Her lungs flooded with water, but there was no pain, just a sensation of relaxation as the leeches found themselves floating.
How easy it had been should have frightened her, but with so much else to worry about she'd run out of fear to waste on little things like that.
While she lay there the leeches swam and explored and ate.
She could tell because the numbness was fading. Feeling was returning to her hands and everywhere else the leeches were latching onto.
Tired, but unable to truly fall asleep she found herself in a dream-like state, focused on the sensation of countless small, undulation forms floating in the water, moving together in slow, lazy circles. Rising and sinking as they took turns eating and investigating their surroundings. She was aware of it all, albeit in a strange, diffuse state. Reaching out in all directions she could feel up the wall, over the edge of the tub and onto the tile floor. Her uniform stank of blood and dirt and her own death. Where the sink met the wall there was a gap, a sliver of darkness and new smells to investigate, safely out of the light. The shower curtain swung gently from the weight of all the leeches climbing up it.
The day drew to a close, night fell and in the darkness leeches explored.