: Cold In the Desert [4/?]Author
: Resident EvilRating
: PG (for an attempt at violence and grossness)Word Count
: Nothing is mine. Except the story idea. A/N
: This is my first attempt at any kind of 'fight scene', so bear with me. I'm hoping i'll get better with practise. I give credit for the idea of the assailants in this chapter to my girlfriend. I was trying to come up with something cool and she helped. A lot. Thanks, babe. ;) Summary
: Claire Redfield leads her convoy across the sun-scorched land, feeling cold despite the heat. Alice enters their camp under a blanket of fire and finds a kindred spirit. Maybe warmth will find them together.
The only light touching the room is that of the moon framing their forms in the doorway, blackness hangs in a thick blanket over everything else. Claire feels it pressing in on her, heavy and suffocating, so she takes a quiet breath and fumbles her way into one of the pouches on her belt. She pulls out a pocket flashlight, but doesn’t turn it on. Instead she waits, and listens. She can’t hear her, but she can feel Alice beside her. Charging the air between them. There’s a dull thud, then a familiar moaning sound that’s punctuated by a noise similar to teeth grinding against one another. And it’s what Claire was waiting for. Her upper body shifts to the left, hand holding the flashlight rocketing upwards, and then a beam of light bursts into existence, shattering the near darkness.
The carpeted floor is littered with indiscernible objects and it appears to be just as grime-covered as the kitchen, but a track has been cleared through the middle of the room and Claire’s light rests on the cause. He’d probably been a ranch worker, maybe even the owner, at one point but now all that’s left of him is an upper body leaking entrails and a foul stench. Thick blackish-red puddles trail behind him, soaking into the dusty carpet as he drags himself by grey, bloodied fingers across it. He had been crawling away from them, but as the beam from Claire’s flashlight catches his lifeless and milky pale blue eyes, his head snaps back into an unnatural angle so he can see them. And then with a guttural, wet-sounding screech, he swings his arms around and with broken fingertips, starts crawling towards them.
Unconsciously, Claire takes a step backwards and Alice is powerless against the urge to shift ever so slightly in front of her. It’s barely noticeable and she’s fairly certain Claire doesn’t register the movement, but it happens, and Alice feels simultaneously more at ease in her new position and altogether more uptight. The skeletal figure, now nothing more than a shadow of his former self, claws his ways forward gnashing his teeth and spitting toxic looking sludge as he shrieks and groans, arms reaching out for them and dead eyes seeing only fresh flesh.
"Your bullet or mine?" Claire asks, voice at normal volume now, and Alice’s eyes flicker to meet hers. Claire can’t pinpoint the emotion in them, but she doesn’t have time to because the blonde’s lips twitch and slide into a half smile and Claire forgets to do everything but watch as Alice speaks.
"Neither." The stoic fighter breathes, and then in a split second she has holstered her guns and produced the twin kukri knives from their sheathes at her lower back. With a deft efficiency and blinding speed, Alice flips the blades around in her hand and closes the distance between herself and the gaunt infected. There’s a distant rumbling of thunder and it reaches Claire’s ears just as Alice lifts a heavy boot and plants it against the side of his rotting face, holding him in place. A flash of glimmering silver arcs with a practised ease, a sickening wet crunching sound, and it’s done. His head comes off clean, rolling a few inches with the momentum, and a pool of dark red blood leaks from his neck. Alice backs away before it reaches the toe of her boot, face twisted into a grimace of revulsion. She turns to look at Claire, who is staring at her with wide eyes, flashlight still lifted and gun gripped loosely in her hand now dangling by her side.
"Thank you." Alice isn’t sure why Claire is saying it, as far as she can tell there’s no need to be thankful, but whatever the reason the way the redhead says the words jars something in Alice. Claire means it. Still, it’s been so long since she’s heard them or felt justified in hearing them that their meaning had worn thin. She’d forgotten the full impact they can have. Until now. And now Alice is entirely unsure of how to respond. So she holds eye contact for a few more heartbeats, feels the words slide under her skin and settle with a comfortable weight somewhere inside her chest, and then drops her head. She lifts her hands to inspect the blades she holds in them, watches the tar-like blood run off of them in thick rivulets and angles one of them so it drips onto the carpet in intermittent blobs. Claire wonders what she’s thinking as she watches Alice watch the blood, but she doesn’t ask. Knows she more than likely wouldn’t get an answer anyway.
"You’re welcome." Alice’s gravely voice surprises them both, but she doesn’t give either of them time to react before she’s speaking again. "Maybe we should give this place a once over before we really start looking around." Claire nods mutely, unsure of how else to respond, and she moves the beam of light emanating from her flashlight away from where it had come to rest on Alice’s face, shining it around the room. There’s very little furniture; a threadbare couch that had been turned onto its back and more than likely had been home to a family of mice at one point, judging by the various holes littering the material.
A coffee table, an old tube television complete with rabbit ears, and an overturned bookcase - the contents of which were littered across the floor, covered in sand - are the only real items of interest, the rest are stepped over as Claire and Alice make their way through the room. Olive-green eyes follow the beam of light as it scans the peeling walls, a floral patterned wallpaper just visible beneath the grime, and find dusty pictures of the once occupants of the house. Looking happy, full of life. They remind her of the photos that used to line the walls of her own home, the single one she keeps in her otherwise empty wallet, and the memories force her eyes away.
"Upstairs?" She turns suddenly to speak to Alice, but finds the blonde closer than she expected and Alice has to take a step back to avoid a collision. But there’s a second before Alice can move and before Claire can register what she’s doing in which the redhead involuntarily reaches forward to steady herself and presses a flat palm to an equally flat stomach. And Claire feels fire shoot along every nerve ending in her arm. It spreads quickly, far too quickly to slap any kind of mental block on it, and then her entire body is silently screaming. But then Alice steps back and the contact is broken, and Claire is too confused and flustered to even register that she should stop and take a second to think about what she’d felt.
"Sorry." Alice murmurs, feet rustling against some newspaper littering the floor. The noise sounds so loud to Claire, as though it echoes in the room and is competing against the thudding of her heart that races in her ears. "Yeah, let’s check upstairs." Alice walks a few paces from her until she’s level with the only other door leading out of the room and then she stops, glancing back towards Claire. And it takes the redhead a minute of staring to realise, to calm her breathing enough for her to remember how to think, that Alice is waiting for her and her flashlight. Her hair sways as she shakes her head to clear it and she starts forward, bringing the flashlight back up to light the way. The door is open and Claire only hesitates briefly before stepping through it and into a narrow hallway.
Alice slides her kukri blades, wiped clean of any blood, back into their sheaths and frees one of her pistols. She follows Claire, finding a staircase and little else in the room beyond. It’s dark, but Alice’s eyes adjust quickly and she scans the parts of the room the other woman’s flashlight doesn’t reach. There’s a door at one end the end of the hallway that, Alice presumes, leads to the back of the property and the other is a dead end. An old coat stand lies tilted against the wall, a forgotten jacket hanging from one of the pegs, but that’s it. Alice can still smell the blood from the infected in the other room, so she doesn’t register the trail leading from the foot of the stairs until her boot come down on top of a thick streak of it. She wrinkles her noise and makes a noise in the back of her throat, drawing Claire’s light back to her.
"Looks like our friend used to have a room upstairs." In the dimness, Alice can see Claire’s mouth turn down in a look of disgust as she shakes her foot, wet blobs swinging free and landing against the hardwood with a sodden splat.
"Oh god." Alice’s is sure she can hear Claire’s stomach churning. "That’s so gross." And there’s something about the redhead’s discomfort, the slight whine to her voice, that amuses Alice. So she shakes her foot again, a little more vigorously, and tracks every loosened speck of coagulated blood as it sails through the air and comes to land dangerously close to Claire. "Hey! Watch where you’re shaking that shit!" Alice’s laughter is little more than a rumbling in her chest, but Claire feels the vibrations from it, and she isn’t sure that she can legitimately blame the sudden rush of heat to her face on rage, but she’s going to anyway.
"Sorry." Claire rolls her eyes at the rough apology and turns to make her way up the stairs, but stalls. She can’t explain it, but she can feel her gut pulling her towards the door leading outside and she rarely fights against her instinct. "Let’s check out back first. Make sure there’s nothing out there that can sneak in on us." With a ghost of a smile still playing across her lips, Alice inclines her head in agreement and follows Claire as she reaches for the handle of the door and pulls it open. It almost feels like it’s going to tear right off its hinges and the screen door rattles in her grip, but they make it to the back of the house without anything falling in on them.
There’s an outbuilding that looks as though a strong wind might blow it over; Claire isn’t entirely sure how with the storms rolling in as of late its managed to survive. A gnarled, leafless tree towers behind it, stretching twisted limbs out to provide an eerie backdrop to this section of the ranch and almost touching the sides of the twin metal silos sat to the far right of the outbuilding. A miniature vehicle graveyard has been set up to their left; rusting shells of farm equipment that are unidentifiable to the untrained eye, ancient-looking automobiles and a single motorbike that looks like it has seen far better days. Corroded by the sun and weather, paint stripped and bitten by sandstorms, they had been left to die quiet deaths, doomed never to fulfil another purpose. Looking at them made something in Claire ache. Various tarp-covered mounds are stacked side by side here and there as are tarnished metal barrels, but she doesn’t get a chance to ponder of what might be inside.
"Something’s not right." But Alice’s voice draws her attention away from the sad sight, eyebrows knitting together as she looks up from her position one step down from where the blonde stands. Alice’s eyes are wide, flickering from every surface but never lingering too long, taking in every tiny detail. The sudden rolling growl of thunder makes Claire start and tilt her head skyward, where she scans the star-speckled darkness and deepens her frown.
"No lightening." Alice shifts in her periphery. Her entire body goes tight and she whips her gun up so fast that Claire’s sure she’d have whiplash if she’d been quick enough to follow the movement. The blonde’s face is shadowed and set with grim determination and her eyes hold a gleam Claire can’t quite put a name to.
"That’s because that wasn’t thunder." They turn in unison when they hear it; the sound of something sharp scratching across metal. Claire thinks she’s hallucinating at first, too much time in the desert. Alice wonders if she maybe never woke up from her impromptu nap after the roasting of the crows and is still dreaming. Two giant, hulking white tigers stand atop the rusting car tops, their fur a deep red around their maws and their eyes a sightless pale blue. The fur about their bodies is pristine, looking somehow undamaged by weather, and they don’t appear as gaunt as one might think they would after so long with food; not that they need it. If it weren’t for their eyes, at first glance you might not think they’d been affected by the virus Alice can smell running through them, but to her it’s undeniable. They are thick with it. Both woman take in the sight before them in a second. Neither of them has time to produce a ‘why’ or ‘how’. Before they can blink, and with the same sound they can now identify as razor-sharp claws against steel, the tigers leap for them.
Alice shifts her aim just before her finger squeezes the trigger, firing off three shots in rapid succession. The first misses, but the second two sink into the neck of the tiger gunning for Claire just as she falls under the weight of the one who has its sights set on her. She falls awkwardly against the concrete steps and hears a sickening crack as her head hits the edge of one, but she pushes the pain and dizziness away. Blackening teeth that look as sharp as knives fill her vision as the tiger tries to get a grip on her face, but Alice manages to get her hands - freed of her gun during the impact - up in time to grip the animal’s muscled neck. She holds on long enough to slide her left forearm into place as a brace, holding the dangerous jaws of the tiger away so she can search the ground nearby for her gun with her right. The beast’s breath is hot against her face and in between its snarls of hunger and rage she can hear Claire panting, but the tiger’s body is pinning her in a way that obscure her view and she can’t see the other woman.
"Claire!" Alice grunts, desperately grasping for her weapon that is nowhere to be found. She grits her teeth as the weight of the tiger bears down on her, pressing closer until she can feel the thick dried strands of the fur around its muzzle touching her cheek, and her muscles burn in silent protest as she flexes them to force it just that little bit further away. The sound of a gunshot slices through the air, and Alice isn’t sure if the beast above her is startled or if its coincidence, but the searing sensation of claws sinking into the flesh above her hipbone suddenly rips through her like a hot knife through butter. She grits her teeth once more and resists the urge to scream. "Claire! Answer me!" Her voice is raspy, broken by desperation and urgency, and when she gets no response tendrils of worry and anger set her blood boiling. She senses the now familiar sensation of her head swelling, blazing heat behind her eyes and all the breath in her body being taken from her with a rush of strength and adrenalin. And she welcomes it. Her pupils dilate, she can feel it, and all she has to do is think it. With a growl of dissatisfaction, the tiger is torn from her as if pulled by an unearthly unseen force. Her vision is blurred long enough that she doesn’t see it land, but she hears its crumpled form smash through a wall of metal, hears the echo of its neck snapping inside her head, and knows.
Without pausing to catch her breath, she rolls into a standing position and finds Claire lying a few yards away, a motionless tiger almost covering her entirely. Her eyes are closed and Alice can see that she’s stopped struggling against the huge cat. Something grips her, something that feels a lot like a forgotten memory resurfacing for the first time in aeons, and it’s only once she’s closed the distance between them and is bending to haul the tiger off the convoy leader that she realises what it is. It’s fear, and it’s thick and heavy and she isn’t used to feeling it for anyone other than herself. When she moves around to better grip the beast, she sees the gruesome, messy hole the gunshot made through its skull and kneels to roll the tiger to the side, freeing Claire’s slightly battered form. The redhead doesn’t move. Alice lifts two trembling fingers, not wanting to believe that there is another layer of blood to coat her already scarlet hands, and presses them to the pulse point in Claire’s neck. There’s a second or two of contact before Alice registers a heartbeat. Before a gasp fills the suddenly startlingly quiet night and green eyes fly open. Alice’s own almost close in relief.
"Alice." Claire rasps, fingers curling around the wrist of the arm close to her in a death grip. Their eyes meet and the blonde feels some turbulent force inside her settle. "Where the fuck
did those things come from?"