This one is actually less cracky, less of a Daydream… And more a general telling of Renault's story. Because it is here, though, it won't necessarily fit into the canon… Which is just fine. As long as you get the idea, right?
Renault's story deserves a proper telling.
And, since Renault isn't the kind to tell you, himself, I'll tell you here, in his stead.
D . Gray-man is owned by Katsura Hoshino, meaning it does not belong to me. I am in no way, shape, and/or form claiming to be the owner/creator of these concepts, though I do claim any characters not apart of the original D . Gray-man storyline (such as Gracia) mine. As such, I would appreciate fellow authors and readers to give credit where credit is due and not steal any of my characters and/or concepts. Thank you, and have a pleasant day.
Though the actual raid that lead to the fall of the Curtiss crime family only took a few hours, the buildup had taken months.
So many months that, by the time the police finally closed in on them, most of the members had fled.
Solomon Curtiss, the prideful man he was, had refused to believe that the police would dare try to take them down after what the Cox family, the crime family that had become the Curtiss family after Solomon had taken charge of it, had done to them thirty years earlier.
He had been warned, over and over, that something strange had been going on… That lesser members of the family were slowly being picked off, one by one, that someone was trying to alert them, make them feel pressure and fear…
Someone had it out for them.
The fact that the police had done nothing about the brutal murders of the Curtiss family's lesser members should have been enough of a warning. Solomon Curtiss, however, had refused to yield to fear tactics; he only upped the ante, his efforts to secure his territory and get the loyalties of the other families and gangs in his pocket getting more and more violent.
And, with the pressure building and the fear swelling, other members of the family didn't so much quit as they simply skipped town and fled to mainland Europe; no one resigned from the Curtiss family. You lived and died "loyal."
That was why Solomon had those who fled hunted down and killed; so they could die with at least some "dignity" rather than be seen as "cowards."
When one of Solomon's own right-hand men, who had also been his advisor and friend for years, expressed his desire to take his wife and children to Switzerland, hoping that his friendship with Solomon would allow for some slack to be cut, Solomon ordered the first open execution that had been held since the family had been the Cox family.
Solomon had been the one to stand before William and his wife and daughters as they had been lined up, sobbing and begging, in a firing line.
Well… William hadn't protested, Renault remembered. The man had simply gone to where he was pushed, knelt when told to, and stared off into space with grim shock, his mouth pressed into a thin line and his face ashen.
The four shots had rang through the air in patient succession, William's wife sobbing hysterically as her children were shot before all went silent as she was shot, as well. When it had come to be William's turn, he had stayed silent, his eyes finally trailing up in an attempt to meet Solomon's cold gaze.
Before their eyes could meet, though, William had been shot in the back of the head, blood and bits of skull and gray matter spraying the ground before he slumped over.
Solomon had sneered, growling a complaint about getting "traitor's blood" on his shoes, then had kicked William off of his feet before walking around the courtyard of his home slowly, delivering an impassioned, resounding speech to his men and their families about loyalty.
Renault, stoic even at that young age, had simply stood by his stepmother's side quietly, letting her squeeze his hand until her nails had made his palm bleed.
Still, for the small, weak, empathic thing she was, she hadn't cried. Though she was weak in body, Samantha Curtiss had been an emotionally strong woman, able to keep it together and seem as stoic as Renault was naturally as long as she could hold his hand and let out her fear and pain through that one shared bit of contact.
As long as she had someone by her side, Samantha could be strong. Initially, Solomon had been the one to give her that strength. As the years had passed, though, and Solomon's personality had soured, Samantha had turned to her stepson, who had grown from a boy who had openly hated her into a lumbering, powerful young man who would gladly hold her hand as long as she didn't cry in front of his father and get herself in trouble.
No, after seeing Samantha get in trouble with his father the first time, Renault doubted he could let his father hit her again without lashing out at the man and get in trouble, himself. And Samantha had known that.
So, he had let her close and become a pillar for her, and Samantha had done her best to protect him in her own way, in return. And then, after they were done being Solomon's family in public, when they could go to a room of the house far away from him and be alone, only then would Samantha break down against her stepson's chest.
After that first execution, such events became a regular occurrence, Solomon quickly taking care of anyone who was rumored to be planning on fleeing.
When the police raid came four months after the tensions had begun to rise, Solomon had only had five loyal men left.
That had also included his son, who had been fully inducted into the family out of Solomon's growing need for more manpower, though Solomon would say that it was about time his son joined, anyway.
It was during this hard, tense time that Renault would learn how to fight and, more importantly, how to capitalize on his stoicism; first, he had learned to be oblivious to fists and feet, then pipes and clubs, then blades, and, finally, then gunshot wounds. It was during this hard, tense time that Renault became "Ironhide."
Still, when the police raid came, Renault… wasn't there for it.
Samantha had made sure of that.
The moment she had heard the banging on the front door, the angry shouts and demands for entrance in the name of the Crown and the Law, she had hurried her stepson down into the cellar, where she had all but commanded that he hide in the ash pit of the giant fireplace the house sported.
…It would be the first time in his life Renault would beg.
Samantha had smiled at him softly, assured him she would be just fine, but that she needed to stay on the outside to make sure the door shut, and then locked him inside of the pitch-black, ash-filled room by himself.
Not forcing her into that cramped, claustrophobia-inducing space with him would become the greatest regret of Renault's life.
He stayed in the ash dump for nine hours, struggling to breathe, to stay calm, to keep himself from going against his stepmother's wishes and busting out so he could tuck her away in there. Yes, she would probably have an asthma attack, but at least he would know that she was safe.
Nine hours of being trapped in that space, with no light, no sound, no feeling…
Why had he stayed in there for so long?
Though he hadn't known why back then, Renault… would later come to the conclusion that he had been waiting for Samantha to open the door and let him out, that he had been waiting for her to give him a guilty smile and apologize for stuffing him into that small space, waiting for her to fret over how dirty and ill he looked, waiting to be presented with the opportunity to fret over her, himself, in his own, stoic way, and then she would smile softly at his guarded concerns, hug him and tell him that she lov—
…When he finally couldn't take it anymore, Renault had used his size and strength to simply break the heavy metal door off of its bolted hinges and, his legs having long since gone numb, his lungs weak from breathing so much ash, and his eyes flaring with pain in an attempt to adjust to even the dim lighting of the cellar, he'd simply fallen with the door and collapsed on top of it with a pained thud, struggling to breathe and shaking violently.
Once he'd recovered enough, Renault had staggered to his feet and run around the house as quickly as he could, hardly noticing when he nearly slipped and fell over and over again that it was because there were pools of blood everywhere. He had been far too focused on searching all of the other potential hiding places for his stepmother.
But there was no one.
The house was empty.
…It hadn't taken much after that for Renault to realize that he had to leave. Wherever the police had gone, it wouldn't be long before they came back, and his stepmother… No… his mother… He wouldn't let whatever sacrifice she had made be in vain by letting himself get caught.
When he had gone to pack a few things, he had come across another puddle of blood and, for the first time, really registered its presence, staring down at it and the smears he had left in it in his scramblings…
The idea of it being Samantha's blood had made him leave the house without taking anything with him.
After that, for the first time in his life, Renault hadn't had someone around to tell him what to do.
His entire life, he had been taught to obey the orders of his father, taught to obey the orders of his fathers advisors, taught to wait to be told to do every little thing.
And now, he had no one.
So, he hadn't done much of anything. He hadn't known what to do, where to go, how to live… So he wandered.
And, in his shock and confusion, he hadn't paid much attention to where.
And then, one day—
"If you want to die so badly, why not simply turn yourself in?"
The question had snapped him out of his daze, and it was in that moment that Renault had laid eyes on the critical, derisive Mathilda Solidor for the first time.
"You have been wandering in circles for four days, and you have looped by the police station twenty-two times. Frankly, I'm surprised you haven't been caught. Still, whatever you're planning, if anything, it won't do you any good. Every last member of the Curtiss crime syndicate, other than yourself, is dead."
…It wasn't as if he was suicidal; Renault was too… impassive to ever become depressed enough to be suicidal.
Still, Renault had been born and raised into a crime family, where he had been taught that "familial" ties meant everything, and that men who didn't have a "family" didn't have a reason to live.
So, if he was the last Curtiss… then the Curtiss' were dead.
He was alone.
He had nowhere to go.
And for a man of his upbringing, his limited training and skills, his antisocial and violent tendencies… the only logical option, in his view, was death.
Maybe he should turn himself in, he had thought.
After all, it was only a matter of time before the police—
"Do you want a job?"
…With those five words, Renault had ceased to be a Curtiss.
After she had brought Renault back with her, Mathilda had immediately had him spar with her other bodyguards to determine his strong and weak points.
As soon as she had learned of the reasoning behind Renault's nickname of "Ironhide," Mathilda had suddenly approached Renault and told him that she knew exactly where she would be using him.
Renault hadn't been entirely surprised when she had told him he would be a bodyguard.
He had, though, been stunned when he had met the one he would be charged with guarding.
Gracia had been a terribly small, weak thing when he had met her, and when he was told her age and figured out she was several years younger than him, she had only seemed even smaller.
He had almost refused to take up the position; putting the care of someone that small, that weak, that sickly in his hands was just irresponsible.
She would probably just hurt herself out of some fear-induced reaction as soon as she saw—
…She had smiled at him.
A weak smile, yes, but Gracia had smiled and given him a polite little curtsy, and as soon as Mathilda had told her he would be his bodyguard, Gracia had walked over to him and taken his hand, looking it over wonderingly, all barriers falling down in the face of her new and only bodyguard.
Both of her palms had fit in one of his. He absently remembered thinking that one of his fingers was almost as thick as one of her delicate little wrists.
When Mathilda had left them momentarily to tend to something, Gracia continued studying his hand intently, and Renault had passively wondered if she could see the blood staining his hand.
Then, she had looked up at him, smiled again, and told him he was tall enough to help her reach her doll, who had accidentally been put up high in a closet by a maid while the room had been cleaned.
He had silently given in and retrieved the doll for her… and she had hugged his leg.
After that… he had given in.
Renault had let Mathilda place Gracia in his bloodstained hands, feeling that her purity, so much like his stepmother's, would keep her from being sullied. When Mathilda had told him that being Gracia's bodyguard would be easier for him if he had some knowledge of medicine, he had let her send him to classes, not realizing until some time into his education that she planned on him becoming a fully licensed medical practitioner.
As the years went by with Renault serving as Gracia's bodyguard, he grew larger, more powerful, wiser, and he came to appreciate what Mathilda had done for him… what Gracia had given him.
With Mathilda, he had always felt pushed to do better, be stronger, become more capable, and to succeed on his own. She had made him independent.
With Gracia, he never felt feared, and he felt that he, once again, was a pillar for someone in a way that no one else could be. She had given him the trust and acceptance that only a handful of others had.
There wasn't a day that went by that he didn't remember who he had been, what he had done, and who he had done it with, but there also wasn't a day when he ever thought of himself as a Curtiss.
He also never thought of himself as "Ironhide."
Still, there were times when he looked in on the Solidor family… and saw his own.
He saw Solomon in Mathilda. Mathilda, the one who would push until it hurt and not care.
He saw Samantha in Silas. Silas, the one who took all of the blows that came because, after so much time, there simply wasn't an alternative.
He saw himself in Gracia. Gracia, the one who… didn't particularly want the future she had been born with, but wasn't about to complain.
As time passed, Renault's loyalties slowly swayed to Gracia and Gracia alone. Yes, he would never be able to repay Mathilda for what she had done for him, but Gracia…
…It wasn't that he felt he was meant to protect her, it was the fact that he had chosen to, and the fact that she had accepted him.
A bodyguard was fated to die for the one they were contracted to, and Renault had made the decision to give his life to Gracia.
She and she alone was his Mistress.
And he would stand by her side until the end.
As more time passed and Renault was forced to watch her live through Vincent, forced to sit back and do nothing when she disappeared, forced to watch her stumble awkwardly around Komui Lee because he was what she wanted… this decision only became more and more concrete.
She and she alone was his Mistress.
He would stay by he side until the end.
…Though he was getting the feeling that, with Komui around, the end… wasn't as far off as it had once seemed.