The same unwelcome nostalgia that had hit him when Wesker first said his full name came again as Chris watched him go through the forms of his fighting style. They weren't kata, because Wesker apparently practiced a form of taekwondo which meant the Korean word was used instead, but it was the same basic principle. Wesker moved with a strange sort of grace that was lost when they were fighting. When they were at each other's throats, everything got lumped together into the word 'attack' and Chris never really considered what that entailed – all he knew was that it was dangerous and coming at him fast. But to see him moving so slow was out of the ordinary, and it only became weirder when he could see familiarity in the motions. He tried not to think about it too hard.
But as his eyes scanned over Wesker, he was doing his best to attempt genuine interest. Wesker was still dressed as he usually was, though the shirt looked a bit looser than the ones he usually wore to allow for movement. The sleeves were pushed up and Chris easily noted that the purple splotches on his arm had receded even more since the last time he'd paid attention to them. Now they were little more than a few visible edges poking out from the bunched, black material around his elbows. His face still looked pretty messed up, however, like the skin had been peeled back to expose red-violet layers underneath it. But, even then, he was fairly certain it was healing too.
He sighed and leaned back against the wall, forcing his eyes away from Wesker as if that would help his head to become something understandable again. He was trying not to think about any of it too hard, really, but every day the line between them was starting to get a little less clear. Wesker had always been an inhuman monster that he needed to destroy, and Chris never considered him anything more than that – he never needed to. But living together, even if they didn't see each other every day, was starting to make him realize that his thoughts weren't so solid. Wesker lived like he was human, as far as Chris could tell, and that was a scary thought. It almost put them on the same level, in that aspect, and the last thing he ever thought he would be to Albert Wesker was a roommate. But, somehow, their relationship had slipped seamlessly into that definition.
They didn't hang out excessively, occasionally talked, shared a living space, and would eat together once in a while, so he was left up to his imagination on what the tyrant did when they weren't simultaneously in the same room. But since that first meal Chris had eaten food prepared by Wesker at least three times without worry that it was poisoned, though he didn't always stay in the kitchen. He had recently, however, and they shared something close to a civil conversation – which was how he found out that he'd been here for little over a month and that Wesker practiced his taekwondo forms five days a week in the room they were now both occupying. Originally it had been off-limits but, as if knowing Chris would be curious, Wesker had programmed the door to accept his key-code. Now he was sitting at the base of the wall nearest the door, cross-legged, following the movements half-heartedly as his mind reeled with thoughts he couldn't turn off.
If he was honest, it was impressive how high Wesker could bring his leg up before dropping a sharp heel down at blurred speeds. Somehow he managed to stop it before it collided with the floor where it probably would have left a small crater. The motions were so fluid, like Wesker himself was an unbreakable stream of motion. It was surreal how he could be so solid and unyielding, yet able to flow like that. Chris wasn't sure what made him shudder – the realization of how much he attention he was paying to Wesker's body and movements or reaffirmation of how dangerous he was.
He wasn't even sure why he was watching, but it seemed to fit in with the consistent routine of "weird" that his stay had become. Since their meal together almost a week ago, the entire atmosphere seemed to shift between them and Chris was too confused to decide if he should be fighting against it or not. He had never been the type of person to be violent for no reason, but with Wesker there had always been a reason. Suddenly there wasn't one; he wasn't attacking unless provoked and he hadn't brought up any plans of world annihilation. Admittedly Chris could be a confrontational person, his temper sometimes got the best of him, but Wesker wasn't even doing anything to get him riled up.
As if to further discourage him, his attention was drawn back to Wesker when he grunted in a rare display of effort. Chris had missed the majority of the motion, but he recognized it as the other landed from a gesture of jumping followed by thrusting his knee up into his invisible enemy's chest or possibly head if they were short enough. He then brought his elbow down, so quick that it looked like it could have cracked someone's spine.
Thinking on it now, he wasn't here because he was curious so much as he'd come to comprehend that spending time alone left him prone to thinking too much on the situation. Everything about this arrangement was messed up and he knew it, he should have been trying to kill Wesker before he had another stupid plan to destroy the world, but he wasn't. More and more he found himself making excuses for it and even though they were logical they still felt like excuses. He didn't have the means to defeat Wesker and pissing him off to the point he just decided to kill him seemed like a stupid way to go. Especially if he had the chance to survive by doing something as easy as playing nice.
But why did Wesker go through the trouble of getting him to play nice? More than that, if he wasn't being a threat then why was Chris still running in frustrated circles waiting for him to mess up so they had an excuse to fight?
His attention drifted back to Wesker, though this time he was frowning without realizing it. A tension had seeped across him as he stumbled onto more questions that he knew wouldn't get answers. Unfortunately, as with any person that ends up watching someone for an extended period of time, he forgot that Wesker might have noticed it.
"It's rude to stare, Christopher."
It was more the sound of his name than what was said that snapped him out of it, but it was evident by Wesker's voice that whatever he had said wasn't meant to be responded to.
"I told you to stop calling me that."
"You also claim that it does no harm." His voice wasn't at all fazed by the rather rigorous pattern of forms he had been practicing for the past half-hour. "I see no reason to stop."
"Oh, that's right," Chris replied in mock realization, "Common courtesy would probably make your head explode."
"Common courtesy has nothing to do with using your full name."
"It has everything to do with knocking something off when I tell you to," he snapped. It would have been easy to let the conversation go, hearing Wesker use his full name didn't even bother him anymore, but it was something to push at.
Wesker hesitated for a moment, cocking his head slightly to look at him as if considering his words for the first time, before looking forward again.
He felt like the rug had been pulled out from under him as their potential argument so seamlessly slipped into nothing. What could he say to that - "No, start using my full name again so I can be pissed at you and we can fight?" That didn't even make sense. For a few seconds he was left just gaping at Wesker as the other went back to what he was doing, seeming entirely uninhibited by the fact he'd just given in to what Chris wanted.
He finally settled on, "What do you mean fine?"
"I mean that it's fine. If you would rather I use your shortened name then- "
"Since when do you do anything that I want you to?" Chris pushed himself to his feet, starting forward and almost getting swiped with an attack as Wesker made it clear he wasn't going to stop for a scuffle. He settled just out of range of his forms unhappily, his expression still intense.
"We've discussed this," Wesker sighed, "I do not go out of my way to antagonize you. The case is often that you give me a reason to do it."
They had discussed that.
While the conversation hadn't been particularly revealing, Chris came to realize that, when it came to the actual fighting part, it was often his own fault. Even by way of the fact he was doing his job – Wesker had never actually sought him out the way Chris had over the years. When they clashed it was because Chris had made it so, though he felt no regret for it. At the end of the day Wesker was still a megalomaniac that wanted to kill a lot of people, and Chris was always going to throw himself in the way to stop him. But for some reason, prior to that discussion, it hadn't really sunk in how true it was that Wesker rarely, in his recollection, made the first move. It seemed hard to believe, but more evidence had been provided for Wesker's side than he could think of for his own. While he had a hard time believing that any of their past confrontations would have ended with both of them walking away in good health, now he'd actually started to question it.
"It doesn't matter. In the end it's the fact you're an asshole that makes me confront you, so it's still your fault."
"What, exactly, is my fault?" Wesker's eyebrow perked, dropping his new form to turn towards Chris.
"Is that so?" Wesker shook his head in a manner that looked like it should have come with the distinct 'tsk tsk tsk' of disappointment. "Chris, I thought we'd reached an understanding. You continue to throw yourself in the way of my plans and I'll-"
Again Chris cut him off.
"I'm not talking about your stupid plans, Wesker! I'm talking about all of it."
"All of what?"
He frowned, fixing the other with a hard stare as he hesitated, trying to piece together an answer for a statement he hadn't thought through. A small voice in the back of his head told him he was being baited, that something wasn't right in the tone of Wesker's voice. The thoughts of hating him for wanting to destroy the world and kill people had dissipated – he'd been forced to see his reasons were more personal than that.
"Come now, Chris, all this talk of you provoking me being my own fault, you must have a reason for it."
The voice was paying attention where Chris couldn't and trying to warn him when he'd already buried it under so much thought. Wesker's voice interrupting his attempts at finding an explanation wasn't helping either. He noticed him moving closer and naturally backed away, though his movements felt disjointed. They were programmed responses. Not needing to think for them allowed thoughts of dead S.T.A.R.S members to flash through his mind. He groped for an escape, almost instantly he feeling the onset of panic, like lifting up a rock to see a sleeping snake beneath it. His reasons were more personal than S.T.A.R.S. – he'd been forced to see that too.
"What did I do to attract such hostility?"
He felt the his back bump against the wall, disrupting his instinct enough to make him stop but not quite snapping him to reality. Wesker was close, within his personal bubble but not doing anything to trigger his reflexes. If his movements weren't slow, then they seemed slow, hindered by Chris's mind juggled flashbacks and looking for an answer to a question he'd forgotten. The little voice was still talking to him, but it sounded like it was speaking in a different language and he couldn't decipher it anymore. If he thought about it much, he might have realized that the 'small voice' was actually the one that used to be in charge and somewhere along the line it had gotten covered by so much more.
He squeezed his eyes shut to make the images stop.
When he opened them he realized how close Wesker had gotten – his arm was braced against the wall right beside his head and though he wasn't leaning in, he was still close. Close enough for Chris to feel that his temperature was too high for a human, and close enough to remember their slight height difference. Wesker's presence was solid and controlling, he didn't need to lean in close to be intimidating but that's exactly what he was. Chris had forgotten the feeling of real intimidation. BOWs and war zones were scary, they made his heart race and his adrenaline kick in so he could do what he needed to in order to survive, but they weren't intimidating. Not this way and not like Wesker.
BOWs had the power and mind to kill him, to make sure that he never got up again. But that was where their abilities and intentions ended. Wesker had the power and mind to dominate him, which entailed so much more and brought with it an abundance of uncertainty. And yet the most terrifying thing about the feeling was that, in his seconds of hesitation, some part of him knew that he was so close to doing nearly anything Wesker asked of him in that instant. The feeling flooding his senses now was the most basic of things that had compelled him to listen to Wesker back then.
Its familiarity was horrifying in the security it brought.
He didn't say anything before his fist connected with the side of Wesker's jaw; knocking him off balance and making him stumble a little ways away. More than that, he didn't stick around to follow it up and immediately ran, as if he were a child that had swore at an adult for the first time. His thoughts were going too fast with images and disconnected realizations to risk staying near the other for any longer. He'd never been claustrophobic, but suddenly he couldn't seem to breathe.
- x - x - x -
The scariest thing about Lisa was hearing her before he could see her. The entire mansion was much like that – he could hear the groans of zombies or the barks of Cerberus before they were even within his sights. After so many hours in, seeing them just equated to having a target and he blocked out how terrifying the creatures were. But when he could only hear them it filled him with a sense of panic and dread, letting his mind teeter off into ideas of a gruesome death while simultaneously trying to find the thing making the noise. Lisa was just the worst because she was the most horrific to see and nothing he fired at her had done any noticeable damage. It was like she absorbed the bullets. In addition to that she was fast enough to make shaking her off difficult, unlike the slow lumbering of the zombies.
He ducked around a corner, moving away from the all too familiar sound of the monster and trying to keep from being too loud. Zombies were pretty easy to sneak by even when he ran as long as they didn't see him, but Lisa had already displayed an ability to stop and listen for movement. It was probably how she had followed him back to the mansion from that shack on the grounds – or at least, that's what he told himself. The idea that she followed him based on scent was the last thing he needed to consider because that meant that running from her wouldn't make a difference.
Chris's heart was pounding so fast in his ears that it was difficult to listen beyond it, his grip tight on the shotgun he'd found a while back. Even if she did absorb the bullets, enough of a blast could knock her away long enough to make a break for it and his handgun just didn't have that type of power. His pace slowed a little bit, keeping his back to the wall and his eyes flickering at every shadow potentially housing a threat. As he came to a corner he hesitated, looking back the way he came before peering around it to make sure there was no threat waiting to jump out at him. When it looked clear, he moved along.
Continuing through the mansion only seemed to make him cross paths with monsters more dangerous than the last, which was less than inspiring. But despite his hours of wandering, he hadn't seen a sign of anyone else on his team. After stumbling across Forest he was starting to lose hope that any of them were still alive. The dogs had been bad enough, but there was no way any of them were prepared to deal with the kind of things he'd seen. He was surprised he'd made it this far, but he shook the thought from his mind. Staying as silent as possible, he moved through the halls, listening for the signs of any other monsters. Lisa had apparently lost interest in him or had found something else to occupy her – Chris only hoped it wasn't one of the members of his team. Despite that, there were still other threats wandering around that he had to be equally as cautious of.
Like the sudden ravenous sounds of a Crimson Head as it quickly rounded the turn ahead of him and spotted the S.T.A.R.S marksman.
Chris didn't even have time to curse as he backpedaled, having already taken out one of the enhanced creatures before and having a vague idea of what to do. Bringing the shotgun to bear, he aimed carefully at the creature's head and fired just as a claw came swiping towards him. Fortunately, the creature was knocked back, but the spray of blood wasn't mixed with decaying brain matter which meant that Chris hadn't gotten its head. Keeping his ground he brought the shotgun up again, but his opportunity to shoot was cut off as arms slid under his own and locked behind him. The weapon clattered uselessly to the ground as Chris struggled with the new threat, his adrenaline cutting through his brain in a painful panic.
Crimson Heads, however, were fast – particularly when they lunged. Chris hadn't anticipated the sudden swell of undeniable pain as its claws cut into his side and tore through muscle and flesh. The creature's enhanced strength easily allowed it to rip him open with one swipe and he tried not to think about his insides spilling to the floor at his feet. It was difficult to say what caused his screaming – the pain or the complete terror at the fact that the swipe wasn't fatal and the creature had no interest in hesitating to let him suffer. He couldn't decide if the area was hot with pain or cold with the onset of inevitably dead cells and blood loss.
His vision was blurred, though he couldn't sense whether it was tears or simply fear that was causing it, as he watched the monster pull his arm back to try again. He continued to struggle, to throw his elbow against whatever was holding him or knock it off balance, but it seemed completely immobile. As though a tree had grown branches specifically for the purpose of keeping him still as he died. Chris turned his face away from the oncoming attack; no matter how much gore he had seen throughout his life, he had no interest in watching some monster rip him apart.
But the blow didn't land and the instant when it should have was replaced with a familiar, commanding voice that made his chest tighten.
He didn't sit upright, a faint weight on his chest prevented him from doing that, but he did wake up suddenly with a sharp gasp that he almost choked on. His fingers were clenched in the sheets but immediately released, groping for the wound he so vividly remembered and finding an immense comfort in the fact it wasn't there. No pain, no sticky blood or horrifying creatures – just him and Wesker in his dimly lit room.
He didn't notice Wesker right away, particularly after he'd moved his hand when he confirmed Chris was awake and not thrashing around in the thorns of his nightmare. Wesker was standing over him, barely within arm's reach, and looking over him the way a doctor might look over a patient that just had a serious coughing fit but insisted they were fine. Though he'd just woken from a nightmare, the previous sleepless nights hadn't endowed Chris with the ability to be as alert as he should have despite the circumstances. His vision was off, a combination of being unused to the light and the faint traces of sweat that were left over from the psychological ordeal, but it didn't take much to recognize Wesker.
A wave of uninhibited relief went through him, mixed with a slight fear that he brushed off as being a remnant of the nightmare. His voice was tired, little over a mumble when he tried to speak, "Captain, I-"
An impossibly warm, large hand found his shoulder and pressed him back to the bed, keeping him from moving beyond the shift it took to find his place again. He looked to Wesker's face again, questioning, but was only met with the usual stoic lines.
"Go back to sleep." It was an order, simple and clean. A small part of Chris wanted to rebel against it, to shove his hand away and say he was fine, but it was buried under the heavy weight of exhaustion. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd fallen asleep. Still, he frowned, his brain acknowledging the fact that they weren't in the mansion but unable to piece together much beyond that. All it could close in on was the fact his captain was giving him an order – an order that, like usual, was the right call.
Wesker's hand pulled away again but he didn't move from his place beside the bed. Chris's dropped his head to the side, his attention finding the door just beyond the edges of his vision. There was still a tension in him, and an unwillingness to listen to the command. He wasn't in the mansion, but his tired brain knew at least that he wasn't somewhere safe. Wesker wouldn't stick around after he fell asleep; he both knew that and didn't want him to anyway. It was creepy to have one's superior looming over them while they were unconscious – though his mind neglected to point out that Wesker must have been doing it anyway if he'd been there to wake him.
"You're safe, Chris." He jerked his head up towards Wesker's again, catching sight of himself in the reflection of his sunglasses. "Go to sleep."
Chris still wanted to argue with him, but he'd be damned if the offer wasn't tempting. It was like the words had flipped a switch in his head that enabled him to find some security and now his brain was all too willing to go back to sleep. There was a small tug at the back of his mind that wanted to fight it, to stay awake just to defy Wesker, but it seemed so stupid. He was tired and Wesker was telling him to sleep, why resist it? More than that, he'd said Chris was safe - what reason did he have to doubt his captain?