Dante has a bad day.
I know, what an obscure summary, but he really is having a bad day. I'm feeling gloomy. Dante was bound to suffer by my hand sometime.
He'd known it was going to be one of those days.
The moment before he opened his eyes in bed that morning, he'd known. He'd woken with her voice in his mind, clear and yet distant, and knew he'd been dreaming of her again. The rigged old wound in the hollow of his chest had come undone during the small hours of sleep. Searing loss and throbbing sorrow bled out from its opened chambers. It reminded him just how damaged he was.
He swung his long legs over the side of his bed, groggily ran his hands across his face with a tired sigh. A shower would do him good - chase away the lingering fingers of restless slumber. He dragged himself into the bathroom, feet kicking up static across the plain carpet. He flicked the switch on and blinked painfully in the sharp fluorescent light.
Dante stretched leisurely, smoothing out his lazy muscles, and bent down beside the sink to reach for the clean clothing folded neatly on top of the laundry hamper. He straightened with a grunt, shaking out the white shirt, and caught his reflection in the mirror beside him. He looked a mess with his frost white hair tousled and creases from his pillow still etched across one side of his face. A handsome mess, but still a mess. He dropped the shirt and leaned closer to the mirror, rubbing and slapping his cheeks, a faint scowl knitting his eyebrows together. He paused when he noticed the red rims of his eyes, the fine spider veins in the whites making the blue irises a deeper, brilliant colour. His gaze locked within itself, and he could see the reflection of her blue eyes looking back at him. He ripped away from the sink and threw himself into the shower.
The water was cold, shocking his body wide awake with icy beats, yet it only seemed to amplify the burning ache consuming him on the inside. He pushed aside memories of her; beat them down with a mental fist until they lay rumpled and limp at the bottom of his core.
He jarred his toe against the ceramic cubicle when he finally emerged from the shower and jumped on the spot, clutching his foot in agony. "Damn it!"
He waited until the worst of the ache faded before reaching for a towel and pulling it across his head. He took hold of another and wrapped it loosely around his waist. Brushing his teeth helped clear his mind a bit, if only because he really hated brushing his teeth. He spat into the sink, splashed his face with cool water, and straightened up to inspect the pearly whites in the mirror.
And froze. The towel draped over his head had smoothed his wild hair back, and the narrowed gaze looking back at him steadily was cool and assessing. The eyes turned darker and unhappy at the sight. He pulled back his fist, and the mirror cracked when his knuckles made contact with its glossy surface, splitting the image that looked far too much like his brother. He snatched his clothes off the floor and staggered back into his room, condemning himself for overreacting.
Everything else just seemed to snowball from there on.
He took up his usual pose downstairs, unwinding behind his desk with legs crossed and elevated, a magazine he'd already paged through spread out on his chest. He kept glancing at the antique phone, waiting for it to call out to him. If he was lucky, he'd hear the password upon answering.
The phone remained silent. The only sounds in the shop were the unsteady whir from the ceiling fans, and the persistent ticking from the grandfather clock Patty had convinced him to purchase not too long ago. The rest was quiet. It screamed out his solitude. He turned back to his magazine with a drawn out sigh. It wasn't long before his attention trailed back to the phone. Its silence was becoming mocking. The question he occasionally deliberated over surfaced from the darker depths of his heart. Was he searching – or was he waiting?
The old grandfather clock's sudden clear chiming coincided with bitter sweet recollection of a past he'd rather not dwell on, and he silenced it with a powerful spit from Coyote-A. He slowly lowered the gun, glaring at the now broken and silent thing despondently. He never should have bought the damn thing anyway. The framed photograph on the desk caught his eye, and he sat lifeless for a long time before he knocked it flat to hide the image it contained. He hated days like these, when it felt like he was a kid again. A torn, wrecked, bleeding boy with nowhere to go and no one to go too.
When Lady made her expected graceful yet intimidating entrance later that morning to make demand on the debt he owed her, he didn't fumble for excuses or come back at her with a witty remark. The spark to do that was doused by the cold, ruthless memories thrashing about inside his mind. He simply pulled out a wad of dollars from his stash beneath the desk and shoved it at her across the desk without a word. It didn't matter that it was his pizza money. He had no appetite.
"Thanks," Lady said, seizing the cash in her hand before leaning across the table toward him. She tipped the tinted sunglasses down the bridge of her nose with a finger, and concern flashed back at him through her blue and red orbs. "You okay?"
He shrugged and gave a dismissive wave with his hand. Still, it took him a moment before he trusted his voice. "Same ol', same ol'. You know."
"All right." Lady said uncertainly. "How's business?"
"Been quiet. How about you?"
Lady arched her eyebrows and slid the glasses from her face. Something was very wrong. Dante never asked about her, and Lady wasn't naive enough to believe he cared for an answer.
He was diverting the subject away from himself. Clearly, it was one of those days.
"Fine. Want to go get a drink or something?"
"I'm good." Dante shook his head. He spread the magazine over his face and leaned back against his arms, signalling the end of the conversation.
He peeked at the empty room when the front door shut, and dropped his legs on the ground with a tyrannical mass of emotion clutching at his innards. He sat unsure for a moment, wondering if he should have taken Lady up on her offer, and ended up slumped with his head on his arms instead.
His body was a prison and he was its captive, drowning in floods of conflicting emotions and tender memories that renewed faded bruises. He had to get out of here. Maybe a walk would help clear his mind.
It didn't. He knew it wouldn't. With his guard broken down he was vulnerable, to memory, and to his own torturous thoughts.
Stopping by his favourite hangouts did nothing to ease him. He knew no matter how many bottles of beer he downed, or how many pizzas he added to his tab, it wasn't going to take away this feeling. It was on impulse that he decided to head in the direction of a specific neighbourhood, the part of town he never really got to see all that much. Not because he stayed away from it purposely – life just seemed to keep him at bay; mission after mission, day after busy damn day.
He got lost when he left the more familiar parts of town behind, but his feet knew the way. It was a happy neighbourhood – tidy green gardens, well kept average houses, clean cars parked in the driveways, kids laughing and chasing one another with careless innocence across the white washed sidewalks.
He drew to a halt across the street from a simple red brick house. Single story, black shingled roof, white painted window frames. Blue and yellow flowers sprouted along the driveway, a straw welcome mat laid outside the dark cherry wood front door. The brass bell mounted beside the door – he'd been sitting on the doorstep, watching his mother fix it to the wall after it had dropped off for the sixth time since they'd moved into the house.
And the acacia thorn tree – that enormous green thing that jutted out in the middle of the yard and cast shade across the evergreen grass – his small hands had dug up the soil to make the hole, and Vergil had been the one to plant it. It had been a young tree back then – reaching up to their chests, its bark thinner than their arms. They'd thought it was going to die, their first attempt at gardening without Eva's careful supervision. "It grew huge." Dante muttered to himself, and let out a weak, bitter chuckle. If only Vergil could have seen their handiwork. But then, he couldn't be sure that Vergil would have given a damn. Too bad he was no longer around to ask.
He shuddered with suppressed emotion, and clenched his fist to his forehead in a helpless gesture. It shouldn't be possible for his heart to still beat when it was this broken.
He was falling apart, and right that moment he didn't care. He was deprived of his beloved; they were a loss that could never be replaced. He had every reason to break down and cry, but he stood solid, quiet, watching.
The taunting memories of their passing were overshadowed by priceless reminders being thrown at him now. His favourite hiding place beneath the green berry hedge – it didn't matter that Vergil always found him there when they were playing hide-and-seek, because all the other hiding spots his brother sought out sucked in his childish opinion. The flower beds Eva used to keep outside their bedroom windows were gone now, substituted with grass, but he remembered the medley of perfumes that would waft in through his window when the wind blew a certain course.
The pain writhing inside of him melted from callous injury to a different kind of pain. He crossed the street cautiously, approached the yard with slow, calculated steps. The holes above the garage door where his basketball hoop used to be were still there. Here, now, in this place, he could find healing in the pain.
He didn't have anything to hang onto but memories.
He was the only one left behind – and some days it hurt, like today. It hurt so much he could barely breathe. But the memory of his misguided brother, the memory of his mother and what she'd taught him in the few years he'd been given to share with her; that was enough. Enough to keep him going, enough to give his life meaning.
Enough to give him a purpose to fulfil.