January 8, 2003
Written for a circle quote challenge. Many thanks to Hal for alpha, beta, and everything else; and Jintian for being grammar nazi on crack. For Te, who provided the quote (lyrics at end).

Sex, zombies, and good fun.

Love Song

by Kest

Now the floor of heaven is laid
the stars are bright as gold


Jill woke to the drip of water and a dim flicker of green light. The tiles of the bathroom floor had left marks like criss-crossed gouges on the surface of her skin, and she rubbed them until they faded, until she felt once again alive and real.

There was blood on her wrist. It wasn't her blood--she peeled back her uniform to check for marks, but her skin was smooth and unbroken; surprisingly so, when she thought about it. She tried not to think about it. She washed her wrist and scooped water over her face. The mirror above the sink was dusty, and there was a crack running down the edge of it. Her reflection was that of a ghost.

The house was full of ghosts. The house was full of something.

There was half a clip left in the beretta, two clips in reserve. She tried the radio, but it gave out only static when she dialed the frequencies of the rest of the team, the thin whine of one connection morphing into a burst of white noise when she switched to others.

She turned it off and pocketed it. There was a small window in the corner of the bathroom, and she cupped her hands on the glass. She saw statues standing bowed and still in the night shadows of the mansion, a courtyard slicked down with wet leaves. Through stone and brick and wood, she felt the silence of the storm's passing.

There was a creak of floorboards. She crossed to the bathroom door and stood listening. The house settling. Not footsteps.

The door opened onto a wood-paneled hallway, its hinges loud in the house's emptiness, and the hallway stretched like a long arm beckoning her forward. She let the beretta lead the way.

She couldn't remember how she'd ended up there. As she mazed through the house, the rooms and hallways felt familiar. She remembered them. But there was a blank spot in her memory, and she pushed away the thought of that vast emptiness; the not-knowing was worse than this house, even, that led her along its doors and hallways as if reeling her in.

There was a gunshot somewhere to her left. Three more in quick succession.

God damn it. Her heart was beating loud and fast, and her legs were frozen. She forced herself to breathe, and---

god damn it, she couldn't breathe, she couldn't move

---then she was running across the room into a vast space, whose ceiling was lost in shadows, a broad stairway leading upward and up, until she couldn't see the top of it.

The gunshots had come from Chris. And the room was full of...things.

When she saw them, she remembered.

Her legs moved forward. Chris was backing up toward the stairway, firing a shotgun he must have picked up somewhere in the house. She grabbed his arm and ducked as he whirled and leveled the gun at her. "Up here," she said, and she was suddenly calm. He met her eyes, his own eyes wide and bloodshot, and nodded. She pulled him up the stairs and into the first doorway she saw. She barred the door.

"What the fuck, Jill." Chris was breathing hard. "What the fuck is going on in this place?"

"I don't know," she said, looking around the room for something to block the door. It was a bedroom, its carpet and bedspread still rich and unfaded. There were paintings on the wall. She pushed and pulled at a bookcase until it crashed in front of the door, spilling forth leather-bound heaps. She stared at the door and waited.

"Shit," she heard. Turning, she saw Chris in the glow of light from a bathroom opening up from the other side of the bed. He was peeling back the sleeve of his uniform; it was thick with blood.

"You're hurt."

"One of those dogs outside," he said. He winced and swore as he ran water over his arm. "It's not bad."

She stripped back the cover on the bed. White sheets were tucked neatly in at the corners. The sheets wouldn't tear, so she got out her knife and cut a few strips.

"Here," she said, tossing them to Chris. He'd stripped off his uniform jacket and shirt to bandage his arm, and held the end of the bandage awkwardly in his teeth in an attempt to tie it.

Jill went over, and he gave her a cool look. She ignored it. He smelled like blood and sweat; a familiar smell, just as his arm was familiar, and his skin.

She pulled the strip tight and knotted it. Chris stepped back, away from her, and his expression was closed. She sighed and returned to her watch at the door.

"How many shells do you have left?" she asked.

"Not many," he said, after a pause. "Three or four."

"Damn," she said. She realized that she wanted to survive this. That she could, perhaps, survive. "Have you had any contact with Barry or Wesker?"

"Not in the last two hours," he said, coming out the bathroom and pulling his shirt back on. His arm was stiff and white with the bandages. "You?"

"The same, more or less." She stopped when Chris froze on his way past the bed.

"There's a door over here," he said softly.

"Shit." Fear tightened her throat. She saw the door then, masked to blend in with the paneling. "Wait here."

He didn't argue; his arm must be worse than he was letting on. Already she could see some blood seeping through the white as she brushed by him to stand by the door. There was no sound from the other side. She found the knob to open it, and after a few seconds of waiting, she let it drift open.

There was another hallway. Empty.

She caught his eyes, and he nodded. He picked up the shotgun where he'd propped it against the bathroom door, and stood behind her in the room. She eased out into the hallway, gun raised in front of her.

There was only silence. She turned to Chris. "We may be able to find a way out down here." She gestured him forward, and stepped back against the wall.

"Jill, watch it!"

She whirled, and there was--something--a few feet away from her, shuffling forward as if pulled by strings. Human. A god damned human, bloated and engorged with death, its eyes looking out from emptiness--she pulled the trigger and watched the shock of the bullet rip through it. It staggered back. She shot again, and still it pushed forward. So she pulled the trigger until her hands were numb from the aftershocks and blood splattered the rug and the walls, until the thing coming toward her crumpled forward and lay still.

She took a breath, and breathed out slowly. Her arms were stiff. She didn't jump when Chris put a hand on her shoulder. "They're breaking through the other door." She nodded, and lowered her gun. She heard wood splintering in the room behind her.

"Come on," she said, and led the way down the hall.

There were three doors at the end of the hall, and she chose one at random. It opened up into another hallway of shadowed walls and a jagged carpet of green and red. It was shorter, and there were more doors at the end of it. She chose one that looked sturdy. It opened into an office.

"We need to regroup," she said. "We need to get a hold of the others."

"I know," Chris said. "Let me see if I can extend the frequency range of the radios."

She realized that she was shaking. They secured the room and locked the door; it had two heavy padlocks, which gave her pause, but she locked them anyway. She was still shaking, so she sat on the edge of the dark wooden desk in the center of the room. She handed Chris her radio, and he took it and his own to the couch that flanked one wall. She watched him for a while, fiddling with the knobs.

"We're not getting out of here," she said.

Chris looked up. "Jill---"

"I'm serious, Chris. Let's be realistic here. We don't even know where we are in this house."

She'd stopped shaking. She could hear the faint howling of dogs through the thick walls. Even if they made it out of the house, they wouldn't get far.

"Jill," said Chris. "We can't do this shit now." He turned back to the radios.

Jill laid the beretta on the desk and slid down from her perch. The room was small, with a thick oriental rug that muffled her footsteps. There were no hidden doors this time; no bathroom, either, which would be a problem if they were stuck here for long. The walls were paneled with strips of honey-colored wood and unadorned. It was suffocating.

One of the radios emitted a loud shriek. She glanced over, and Chris had a pained look on his face, sweat lighting his forehead. He dropped the radio in disgust.

"I upped the range, but we're not getting through," he said.

She nodded. "How's the arm?"

"It hurts," he said shortly.

She went over to the couch. There were dark circles under his eyes. He used to look that way nights in training camp when they were both too tired to do anything else but sleep, curled up together in a hard, narrow bed.

The white of his bandages were spotted with red; not a bright healthy red but dark and sickly looking. She glanced around the room. "I don't think there's anything here we can use."

He shrugged. "It doesn't matter. It's fine."

"Yeah, it looks great," she said.

His eyes narrowed. "I said it's fine."

"I have a stake in this too, you know. You're not much use to me hurt."

"I was never much use to you at all."

His eyes dared her to disagree. She didn't answer, but she lifted the beretta from the desk and tossed it to him. "Here. While you're feeling sorry for yourself."

"You are such a bitch." He jumped up from the couch and backed her up against the desk, and she remembered why she had joined S.T.A.R.S. in the first place. She kissed him. He resisted at first but then gave in, his mouth hard and accusing. She bit his lip. His thigh was wedged between her legs, and she twisted against it, finding the spot with an intake of breath. Chris kissed her harder.

The sex had never been great, but it had been good. As he traced the gun down her side then abandoned it to the desk, resting his hand on her waist in the next motion, her body told her that it wanted this. She suspected she wasn't thinking very clearly. She told her brain to back off.

"Hang on," she muttered, fumbling with the buttons of Chris's uniform pants. She maneuvered out of her own pants, and it was a relief to kick them out of the way, as if she were discarding the reality around her. None of this is real, she told herself, as Chris slid into her. There was some pain, the angle was all wrong, but then she shifted and it was right.

Chris buried his face in her neck, and she cupped the back of his head gently, moving slowly against him. His hand tightened on her hip until she felt it bruise, and he jerked inside of her; once, then twice, and then he was still.

Warmth slid down her thigh when he slipped out. She shivered, her body still toned and tensed. When he kissed her, in a sleepy, nuzzling sort of way, she felt his hand slide down her stomach, his finger pressed against her. She closed her eyes. He knew her well enough that his hand was almost as good as her own, and she had to clench her jaw together when she came.

When she opened her eyes, he was pulling his uniform pants back on, awkwardly with just his one good arm. He handed her her own. She felt stiff and sticky, and wished that she'd found them a room with a bathroom attached.

Chris wasn't looking at her. She tried to catch his eye when he brushed by her, but his mouth was set. "Hey," she said. His eyes flicked to hers then away. She sighed.

"You should try to get a couple of hours sleep," she said. "We can try the rest of the team again later."

He didn't answer right away. Finally, he nodded. "I could use some sleep." He looked more relaxed now, if nothing else, but the circles under his eyes still stood out sharply against his pale skin. He leaned back on the couch. Jill finished buttoning her pants, and went over to the door. She couldn't hear anything on the other side. She thought about doing some scouting, but Chris's eyes were already closed, and she didn't want to leave him. They could see about finding a way out of this house once he'd gotten some rest.

She retrieved her gun and curled up in the chair behind the desk. It was leather and cold, and she shifted to get a comfortable position. She felt sore and a little numb. The house was silent around her, the only sound the light rasp of Chris's breathing.

Her own eyelids were heavy, and she felt rooted to the chair; she tightened her grip on the gun and closed her eyes, just briefly.

"Jill," she heard. She opened her eyes with a start. She couldn't tell if she'd been asleep. She looked over at Chris, who was sitting up on the couch. His eyes met hers, very wide. He looked down at his arm.

"Shit," she whispered. His arm had turned a sickly yellow around the bandages, the veins of his hand bulging unnaturally. She went over to the couch slowly. His eyes were black sockets in his face, and a light sheen of panic covered his skin.

"Jill, I---" He doubled over. Jill saw with horror that the back of his neck was rippling. Veins spread out over his neck and his good arm in thick rivulets; his skin was turning yellow then grey in front of her. She backed away.

When he looked up, his eyes were glassy black. There was no recognition there.

She hit her hip on the edge of the desk and stumbled back. Chris--the thing that was Chris--lurched up from the couch, holding a hand out to her. Mumbled words came from his lips, and she thought she heard her name spoken; but her hand was already on the door, fumbling with the locks. She couldn't turn them.

She realized she still had the gun in her hand.

She leveled it at him. "I'm sorry," she told the thing shuffling toward her. Her hand shook, and she tried to force it steady. This isn't Chris, she told herself. Chris is dead. This is….

She didn't know what it was.

The bullet hit his shoulder, and he staggered back a step. When he started forward again, she aimed for his throat. Blood burst in a crimson flower, and the thing was still for a moment then fell heavily to his knees. She leaned back against the door and shot him again in the chest. The body fell forward, blood pooling around it.

The gun dropped from her hand. She felt numb. She closed her eyes and leaned against the door, waiting for something to happen. She thought she might be sick.

Chris stared at her with empty eyes. That was easy, wasn't it, he said.

She shook her head.

Come on now, Jill, he said. You didn't hesitate, did you. You're telling me that wasn't easy?

It's never easy.

There was a faint shuffling sound on the other side of the door. She opened her eyes, listening. It came again, then silence. She held her breath, ticking the seconds off in her head. There was nothing. Then--again. Closer now.

She slid down the door. A few feet from her, Chris lay still and staring. Not Chris, she repeated to herself, not Chris. Not…anything. She looked down at her hands, wondering if she were going to change, too. The dragging footsteps were louder now.

She didn't think she was getting out of here alive.

Annie Lennox: "Love Song For A Vampire"

Love Song For A Vampire

Come into these arms again
and lay your body down
The rhythm of this trembling heart
is beating like a drum
It beats for you it bleeds for you
it knows not how it sounds
For it is the drum of drums
it is the song of songs

Once I had the rarest rose
that ever deigned to bloom
Cruel winter chilled the bud
and stole my flower too soon
Oh loneliness, oh hopelessness
to search the ends of time
For there is in all the world
no greater love than mine.

Love o love o .... still falls the rain (still falls the rain)
Love o love o .... still falls the night (still falls the night)
Love o love o .... be mine forever (damned forever)

Let me be the only one
to keep you from the cold
Now the floor of heaven is laid
the stars are bright as gold
They shine for you they shine for you
they burn for all to see
Come into these arms again
and set this spirit free...