The Devil Hunter scanned his surroundings. Sure, they may have killed the Tyrant, but they'd had plenty of surprises already. It'd be just their luck if something snuck up behind.

But two whole minutes went by without anything happening, and he couldn't sense or smell anything approaching. He shrugged, walking back to the others, who had descended into conversation already.

"-and out of nowhere, this giant snake-" "-man made out of leeches singing opera-" "-spear floating in mid-air, and then this knight shows up-" "-sharks out of a summer horror movie-" "-I was so worried about you, Kyrie-" "-rescued me again; I might have to start asking you for weapons training-"

"Well, that's that," he said, watching the horizon as a suspiciously chopper-like form drew closer. "Listen, Jill…I'm sorry about all that from before. Oh, and…not sure if I apologized earlier, but sorry about getting stuff all over your shirt in the bathroom."

She sighed. "No need to apologize; I got a little too excited myself."

"Huh. Didn't think you'd take it so well; most girls get kinda squeamish about that stuff."

"It's been a crazy night; getting your mess on my shirt is pretty low on the list."

"'My' mess? Oh, whatever." Dante shrugged, and then saw the stare Lady was giving him. "There was a zombie hiding in a full bathtub. It was a little soggy, and-"

"Okay, okay, I get it," she said testily. The helicopter was getting close now, and her mental countdown wasn't doing much to cheer her up. "Let's just get out of this place; we've got about five minutes left."

As the chopper landed, Chris jumped in and hurriedly explained the situation to Brad. The threat of immediate explosion made him jump in his seat, and he shouted at everyone else to get in the helicopter so they could get the hell out of there.

They piled aboard the chopper, Dante holding Nero and Lady back so that their weapons wouldn't get in the way. Once they'd got on board, it was a tight fit, but they took off, the mansion dwindling behind them. Once it was visually the size of a small car, a huge fireball went up, engulfing the mansion and a good portion of the forest immediately around it. Jill breathed a sigh of relief. "It's finally…over…" And, too exhausted to fend off rest any longer, she fell asleep next to Chris, her head drooping to rest on his shoulder. He smiled softly at her, pulling her beret off and setting it in her lap.

Rebecca had fallen asleep in her seat as well, snoring softly into Kyrie's lap. Hesitantly, Kyrie patted her on the head as Nero watched with a bemused smirk.

Enrico was sitting up in the cockpit with Brad, the two discussing how to handle debriefing once they got back to Raccoon City. With Wesker a traitor and dead to boot, Enrico was the de facto leader of S.T.A.R.S., but he wasn't too thrilled about it. Maybe if he framed it the right way, he could convince Chris to be the leader...

Barry and Lady were inspecting their weapons. He had set the safety on his revolver, and was giving it a once-over for wear and tear. He gently removed the cylinder to double-check that it was unloaded; satisfied, he started making mental notes on what to clean when he got back to R.P.D. Lady, meanwhile, was doing inventory on her remaining ammunition. Two handgun clips and a tiny box of six shotgun shells; that didn't bode well. Hopefully they wouldn't be thrown into another full-scale battle against zombies and monsters any time soon.

Dante, meanwhile, stretched out as much as possible in the cramped helicopter interior. He watched Chris pull out a pack of cigarettes, rattle it, then pull one out. Dante rolled his eyes as Chris lit it up and took a long drag, but said nothing.

Chris held out his pack to Dante. "Smoke?"

Dante shook his head. "Nah. Smoking's for cops, people on hazard pay, or wannabe posers. I'm good."

He shrugged. "Suit yourself." Now this is just what I need to cool down after that craziness; a smoke, a seat, and Jill by my side. He was glad Jill was asleep; she always hated when he smoked. Still, as she was laying against him, he had to be careful not to move around too much. "Phew…talk about an ordeal."

"Heh, you said it." His face grew a bit more somber. "You lost too many."

Chris sighed, nodding. "Kept a lot of us alive, though, thanks to you guys. I won't forget it."

He shook his head. "Don't thank me. It's what we're here to do. If we're ever in town again, I'll buy you a cold one and we can catch up."

He grinned. "I'll hold you to that."

"I can be your witness," Lady called over her shoulder.

"Seconded," Nero piped up.

"Haha, laugh it up," Dante grumbled, but found himself smiling all the same.

Chris took another long, calming drag to collect his thoughts. "You know…something tells me that's not the last we'll see of those creatures. Umbrella's still around, after all. Truth is, well…we could use friends like you."

"I'm listening."

"Maybe it might be T-Virus zombies, or maybe it's low-level demons, or maybe something different all together. But we should be prepared. You guys could help us put together a unit that would be ready for stuff like that."

Dante seriously considered the offer. It sounded like a solid plan; they wouldn't be around forever, after all. But then…that was the problem, wasn't it? They'd won their battle; sooner or later, that smug bastard was going to cart them off again. Maybe it would even be to home this time.

"…Thanks, but we can't." Strange; he hadn't thought it would be so hard to say.

"Look, we don't care whether you're demon, human, both or neither. We just need your advice."

"You made it out all right, and you've been holding your own beside us. You guys stick together and keep fighting, and you won't need us at all."

He sighed. "Well, it was worth a try." He squashed out his cigarette, and then settled in to rest. His head drooped ever-so-gently to rest on Jill's.

"A wise move."

Everything around them had gone silent; the helicopter, Enrico's conversation with Brad, Rebecca's snores. And the voice was one Dante had been expecting.

"Well, look who it is."

Mar inclined his head. "My thanks for making things less complicated. As helpful as you might be to the remnant of S.T.A.R.S., your time with them has come to an end."

He gave a look at Jill, leaning against Chris with her hair frozen in mid-swing. "We can't stay even a little longer, can we?"

Lady glared at the man. "We've been fighting our hardest to get through that damn place, and we don't even get to enjoy the peace we won? You can't give us the decency of a good night's sleep?!"

He actually looked ashamed at that. "…I'm sorry."

Nero gave him a furious look of his own. "You took Kyrie. You should know that's not a very smart thing to do."

"Would you rather I'd left her with you? To be attacked by half-rotted dogs and the like?"

He glanced at her, thinking. "…It wasn't right."

"I thought it would work out better that way; it would keep her safe and provide you with motivation. But if you want her to be by your side and in equal danger, so be it. I won't hide her away next time."

Kyrie was looking at the man now as well, though not with fury like the others; she was watching his face closely. "Why bring us here in the first place? What purpose did we serve?"

He frowned, choosing his words carefully. "…You were a relief force and a supplementary attention diverting element."

"We were backup that acted as a distraction?" Nero asked, irritated. "A distraction for what?"

"This." The man held up something very familiar to Nero. A small piece of what looked like flat blue fire. It was almost as if the flames were an image on glass… "It's for you, Nero."

He frowned, not understanding what he was supposed to be seeing. And then the memory leapt back into his mind. "That's…"

Mar nodded. "Your reward. A little bit more power; all the better to cut down demons with."

He wasn't sure at first whether he should, given the trouble that black-cloaked maniac had caused them. But…if he was just giving away power, no sense wasting it. Better to stockpile it and then, when his guard was down, use every ounce of it to make him sorry that he'd ever crossed paths with them.

Nero held out the Devil Bringer; the strange object floated over to it. On contact, there was a burst of blue-white light, and then it was gone.

Mar smiled. "Very good."

"I dunno if that was the smartest," Dante said, giving Nero a look of concern, "but as long as you're here, I want some answers."

Mar gave a shrug. "I'll try, but I can't make…any…" He trailed off, looking at the cockpit. "Enrico? What's he doing here?"

"Isn't it obvious? We saved everyone in this helicopter. Except Brad."

The man's eyes went wide and he gave such a start that he nearly fell. It was the first time Dante had ever seen him surprised. "You…y-you saved Enrico?!"

It put a smile on his face. "Damn right we did. I took a bullet from him, thanks to blondie." The man gaped at him, his mouth hanging open slightly. "So you do shut up? Sheesh, I'll have to save more people next time."

The man shook his head to clear out the cobwebs. "Well…that's an…unexpected turn of events, but…well done."

"You know what else is unexpected?" Dante continued, focused on the bastard's reaction. "Demons popping up outta the blue."

He smirked. "Oh, very funny. Ever the joker, aren't you, Dante?"

"If you call ten Mephistos, a Blitz, a Devil Arm, and four…what was the name of those, again?" he asked Nero.

"Bianco Angelos," he supplied. "Not to mention the Order member that somehow got here."

"And that's not even counting those fake Blades. But yeah, if those are a joke to you, your sense of humor is almost as messed up as you."

The man rolled his eyes. "Honestly, the things you'd come up with to distract me. It won't work."

Dante opened his mouth to argue, but got a tired shake of the head from Nero. "Fine, don't listen. We'll just keep killing them like we have. But why did you send us to places like this in the first place? What's your master plan?"

The man rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Well…that's the big question, isn't it? I obviously can't tell you the full story, but…" He smiled. "I think you've earned a hint." He mouthed a single word.

Dante's eyes widened in shock.

And then suddenly, the four of them found themselves falling through portals that had opened beneath them…

And our story finally draws to a close. Hope you enjoyed reading this one as much as I enjoyed writing it, and as always, I welcome and encourage all feedback!

Next time...

Resident DEvil...2