|Dante "Inferno" Zaragoza - Death'll find you... (xolotl) wrote in repose,|
@ 2020-02-04 10:22:00
|Entry tags:||*log, dante zaragoza, hector zaragoza, leena bertolini|
[Log: Dante/Hector/Leena - Part 2 of 2 - COMPLETE]
Who: Dante, Hector & Leena
When: BACKDATED:Dec 8th
Where: Repose - Dante’s new place
Ratings/Warnings: language. Always language.
An old woman nagged in the back of Hector’s head. When the dinner plans were made, Dante had insisted that he not bring anything, a fact that that little piece of conscience seemed to be rabidly ignoring. His mother had taken after his grandmother more and more as she aged, a fact that she vehemently denied, but simply having her old voice telling him how bad of a person he was for not bringing anything proved that denial to be false. What kind of man doesn’t bring their child a housewarming gift, let alone something for dinner? The Spanish reverberated through his mind as he adjusted his shirt slightly.
He wasn’t dressed up, per se, but he was at least in a new polo, hunter green, and a new pair of dark blue jeans. The shirt was, of course, tucked in, his black belt and black sneakers with navy accents completing the look. He’d briefly considered slathering on a painful amount of cologne, but decided against that, instead wearing one that provided a light, sweet and spicy flair. His hair was combed over appropriately, showing the freshly faded sides and back. A stylish look that he enjoyed. He wouldn’t have chosen it, but his barber said it was the kind of look that didn’t look ridiculous on older men like one of the flashier ones would. It was time for a change anyways, considering the new life circumstances both he and his daughter found themselves in.
Pushing away the voice again, Hector briefly glanced at his dash-mounted phone. He should be arriving any minute now, thankful that he wouldn’t have to spend much more time in the rental car. It wasn’t a bad one, but it wasn’t his truck, which he’d left back east to be picked up when he finished finalizing the packing and moving company. He would drive it back instead of having it delivered, not willing to pay what it would cost to have it shipped. Plus, it would be more relaxing to drive back than it would be to deal with flying and flight schedules, albeit slower. If Dante weren’t so busy, he would have asked her to join him for a wonder Father-Daughter Road Trip, but she definitely didn’t have the time, what with having her own shop and everything.
Finally the voice from his GPS said his destination was on the right, at which point he pulled to the side of the road to park in front of the house. He hoped the directions were correct. He didn’t want to knock on some stranger’s door. Stepping out of the car after turning it off, Hector managed to not stumble, finally getting used to not having to step down when getting out of a vehicle he’s driving. Adjusting the waist of his pants, he began walking toward the door, continuing to ignore his mother’s voice berating him for being a bad father and son.
In his excitement for the dinner, he reached the door and was already knocking before realizing it. He also didn’t knock very gently. Part of him thanked whomever was listening that he was never gifted super strength, else the door may have flown off the handles. Instead, it just sounded like someone was a step away from impatiently banging on the door. He stepped back slightly, making sure that Dante would be able to see his face and upper half in the door’s peephole. His hands were shoved in his pocket while he waited, as if trying to hide the offending objects used to bang on the door so loud.
The water would be boiled for tea and tea bags would be dropped into two cups. Honestly, Dante wasn’t even sure she wanted tea but it would be good to do this thing with Leena. Level the playing field a little and it would make it appear like they were just having a nice quiet cup of tea together when her father got there. The apron would be snatched off the floor on one of her passes back and forth around the kitchen between fetching the mugs, dumping the water over the teabags and bringing the mugs back over to the kitchen table. One mug would be handed to Leena while Dante’s fingers delicately wrapped around her own mug before her left leg would fold underneath her and she’d sit with Leena at the kitchen table. Air would be blown over the top of the mug briefly before she’d sigh, eyes searching out the nearest clock.
“My dad should be here soon.” She’d offer to Leena and just as she spoke ears faintly caught a car engine driving up. “I do think we should talk more.” These words were gentle, inclusive and sincerely interested in having the conversation she’d just suggested. “You wanna stay after my dad leaves? We can chat?” The question sought mutual agreement and her demeanor made it obvious Dante would be willing to compromise if that’s what was needed too.
At the pounding on her front door though? Dante startled slightly. While she had been expecting the knock she hadn’t expected it to be quite that loud.
“Bet that’s him now.” She’d say with a soft smile offered to Leena as she stood from her seat. “He’s great. I promise. Super talkative so, like, just know.” The look offered was almost apologetic before Dante would absently pat the kitchen table near Leena - an attempt at offering some nearby comfort - before she’d move towards the door.
Shifting to look out the peephole Hector’s face came into view and Dante couldn’t help a little squeal of joy that erupted as she opened the door to him.
“Papa!” Would be all the warning he got as the door opened and Dante half launched herself into hugging him while being sure to not overpower or knock poor Hector off his feet. The hug was tight and lasted longer than most would expect, the smile across her face the widest and brightest it had been since before Repose. There was a split second mental correction to make sure she didn’t launch into speaking Spanish to him on the spot. Instead her words would come out muffled as they were spoken into his shoulder from the tight, close hug.
“Ohhh, I’ve missed you so much.” She really didn’t want to let go of the hug but after a minute of holding it with a slight rock back and forth paired with a tighter squeeze on the end Dante would loop her arm through Hector’s before turning and walking them both into the house. The door being kicked closed absently behind them.
“This is the house. It’s a disaster and I hate it but I also love it.” There was humor in the words as she spoke to him but the cheer present that happened instantly from Hector arriving at all? It was immediate and obvious. “Do you need the bathroom? Are you hungry? Can I get you something to drink? I’ve got some snacks out.” The questions were somewhat rapid but clearly out of excitement and nothing else. Throughout the talking she’d lead him through the hall, past the living room and into the kitchen where Leena still sat.
“Papa, this is my friend Leena.” A smile was offered to her dad before being turned to Leena. “And Leena, this is my dad. I’ll let him decide what he wants you to call him. Go on, sit.” Dante would unhook their arms and wave, shooing Hector to a seat at the table.
“Did you want some tea, papa? We were having a nice cup while waiting for you. The water’s probably still warm.” A finger would be pointed towards the stove before she’d pause, waiting for him to confirm or deny whatever he might want.
Strong arms returned the hug with as much love and warmth as could be conveyed with a simple hug. He had missed his little girl so much, even if she wasn’t so little anymore. Although it hadn’t really been that long in the grand scheme of things, it still felt like far too long to the older man. Which was part of the reason why he was here now, but he would leave that until much later in the evening, after food had been served and company enjoyed. Now was one of the few times that Hector was glad that he worked in a field with an overwhelming masculine energy, else he may not have been able to prevent the tears of joy from coming out. Normally not one for hiding his emotions, Hector didn’t want to make too much of a spectacle in front of his daughter’s friend. At least, not yet.
“Mija,” he breathed out, a wide smile on his face, eyes shining. “It’s so good to see you.” He noted the use of English, which was understandable since there was company. He would make sure to stay away from speaking Spanish as much as he could, but he for sure would not be speaking Mexican foods with a New York accent.
Following her in, he took in as much of the home as he could. Hector had always enjoyed Dante’s design sense. She had so many different talents that she could probably be anything else she wanted to if she decided being a mechanic was no longer for her. The colors and the paintings blended and contrasted so well that Hector wondered if perhaps she would one day go into interior design. There was an almost imperceptible falter in his gait as he noticed the spot he was subconsciously looking for. He’d have to stop by there before dinner.
“I love it, and no, I don’t need the bathroom right now. Before dinner, yes, but not at the moment.” He was fairly certain she knew what he would be doing, considering he did it every time he visited her home in Brooklyn, so he didn’t expand upon it. Moving to put an arm around her shoulder, loving the positivity and happiness that was radiating off of her, Hector smiled. “Let’s see what you have and I’ll let you know, okay?”
He knew it would likely be easy to satiate any thirst or hunger that he may have later, but right now he was excited to be seeing his daughter again, and meeting a new friend of hers. As they entered the kitchen, his eyes immediately zoned in on the young woman sitting at the table. His gaze was inquisitive, excited, open. As introductions were made, Hector moved nearer, holding out his hand to shake well before reaching Leena, giving her plenty of time to deny the handshake or move away if it made her uncomfortable..
“Please, call me Hector. Or, if that makes you uncomfortable, Mr. Z is fine as well.” To his daughter, he said, “Tea would be great,” while keeping a steady, friendly gaze on Leena, his shoulders hunched slightly to seem less threatening. One never knew what kind of trauma people may have suffered, so Hector always tried to keep an open and welcoming air so that people would feel comfortable around him.
Hector being here was like fresh air in an old musty closet. It was like tension leaving her muscles she hadn’t known was there. It was like…. Finally being able to fucking breath easy again after trying to hold her composure and appear to be the best new citizen of Repose for the last month. The fact that this relief was written all across her body language also couldn’t be helped. Sure, Dante could stand on her own two feet, could fight any battle that wanted to come her way, but with her dad here? Now? Maybe… Maybe this town wouldn’t be so bad. He could come for visits. The house she had was big enough for him to stay for a while here and there and while she couldn’t go to him as easily anymore… They’d still need to take a yearly trip to the grave together at the very least.
As his arm rested around her shoulders, Dante’s hand would come up to leisurely hold onto his arm. It was a comfortable motion, a comfortable position and it showed.
“Sure thing, Papa.” The sentence was easily volleyed back at wanting to see what she had for drinks. Admittedly, it wasn’t a lot - she mostly drank water, coffee, energy drinks and wine - but there was some milk, the tea, a bit of orange juice, and a couple cans of soda - intended for mixers - in the fridge so they likely would be fine.
As he accepted the offer for Tea she’d rise up on her toes to give his cheek a quick kiss before slipping his arm and moving back to turn the stove on again and reheat the water some. They could have a few seconds to chat while she took care of this. Though, knowing her father, Hector likely would duck the room shortly for a few minutes to… She’d just have to have Leena help her set the dinner table to give him that time after depositing his tea on the table.
“Dinner should be done in about five minutes.” A glance was cast back to them both with a warm smile. “Hope you’re hungry.”
The nod was absent of thought. Sure, after. Seeing as how the evening had gone already, she was fairly sure that if this were a town, she was going to leave it on fire. Taking the mug in unfeeling fingers, she watched as Dante went to answer the door, heard her exclaiming, and a man's voice -- she could run. Back door. Window. Anything. She could, but her feet remained still on the floor.
She sipped her tea instead, the liquid sloshing against the sides when her hands shook. On the third time, she felt the skin between her shoulder blades go numb, like there was cotton draped over her skin that dulled the whole world and knew what was happening. She breathed out. As long as it didn't continue, as long as it didn't get worse -- her hands were still human went she looked down at them. But they were steady now.
The worst of the self sabotage went quiet, and she even managed a small smile when Hector came in the room. Shaking hands wasn't threatening in this instance, and so she did, firmly, but mindful to not be too hard since this was Dante's father. "Hello, Hector. Nice to finally meet you," and it wasn't even a lie. The accent on his words was too different from the growl of Czech, and more like Dante's when the Brooklyn dropped off.
It made her think of comfort.
Her gaze swapped to Dante as she took a step back. "Is there anything I can do to help?" Maybe tonight wouldn't be an entire shit show courtesy of her presence.
Dante would offer a bright smile to Leena.
“Sure, wanna help me set the table?” A gesture would be made back to the table they’d been having tea at as the kitchen was a large open space, much like the living room. “The cutlery is in the third draw over there, grab us all a fork, knife and spoon?” Even as she spoke Dante was moving over to another cupboard to retrieve some plates.
"Yeah, sure." That spot between her shoulders was still numb and she knew what it would look like if anyone saw it so she kept her body angled to Dante as much as she could, which -- okay yeah it might make her look bizarre, but probably not any more than she had already.
Stepping over to the indicated drawer, she turned, keeping them both in front of her as she picked out the silverware. "Napkins too?"
His grip matched the firmness Leena applied. He could have squeezed harder, but there's nothing like an injurious handshake to ruin a meeting. "The pleasure is all mine," he stated, grinning. He was genuinely pleased to meet someone Dante was calling a friend. Her being alone was one of the things that he thought about often. "Maybe now Dante won't get too jealous if we tour the town without her." There was a friendly wink following that, hopefully indicating it was a joke to Leena.
As she stepped back and offered assistance, Hector looked toward the living room, not noticing how Leena was walking. "Normally I would offer to help, but I need to wash my hands first. Rental car, you know? Could be anything on that steering wheel! I'll be back in a few moments."
With that, he stepped out of the room, heading toward the photo and flowers he'd noticed on the way in. He would go to the bathroom to wash his hands after, but first he wanted to pay his respects.
Dante couldn’t help an amusedly exasperated sigh and an eye roll at Hector’s bad joke about jealousy. Sure, she’d gotten jealous about other people and Hector before but… This didn’t feel like that would be an issue here. If Hector could help handle some of the damage she was worried about Leena having, all the better.
“Don’t steal him away too late, his bedtime is about 8.” It was a quick quip back, the conversational tone aimed at Leena while the words themselves were clearly about Hector. Which any self respecting Mexican would scoff at that bedtime as far as Dante was concerned.
The movement was… Kinda fucking weird. Dante wouldn’t call attention to it any more than a brief look of concern that was quickly tucked away for later.
“Yeah, napkins too.” Was the answer to Leena and a nod was given to her dad.
“Good idea.” Dante would encourage Hector already knowing what he was about to do. “Don’t take too long, we should have everything on the table in about eight minutes.” There’d be a brief - sympathetic, understanding - smile flashed at him before her attention turned back to Leena.
“Wanna grab the salad out of the fridge for me?” She’d make sure to keep Leena busy so that her father had plenty of time to pay his respects.
She frowned, just a little, because germs on the rental car wheel? What? But she didn't think about things like that, not after she'd lived in a fucking cave for years after she arrived here, and she watched him for a minute, curious, but whatever.
It didn't feel malicious. Weird, but not malicious, and she practically had that shit pinged to a half block radius. Her gaze switched back to Dante, eyebrow scooting up. "Eight -- at night?" She asked, and the first grin began to pull her mouth upwards cause she didn't believe that for a half a second.
No directive was given on napkins, so she grabbed some paper towels and folded them up to go with the silverware when another odd thing happened. Don't take too long? Washing one's hands? What the hell? "Is he-- is he doing something else in there?" She asked, brows drawn up as she tried to figure out the whole damn added weirdness to this evening.
Even as she was trying to get the answer though, she was moving, getting out the bowl of salad from the fridge, body still moving oddly, but it didn't appear to be hindering her any. Leena didn't wait to be asked to grab the two big salad forks out of the drawer as well.
"Do we need dressing or is there some already layered in?"
“You bet.” Clearly it was a tease surrounding the bedtime.
Dante would give it a minute, letting Hector get moved well away from them before tossing Leena a glance. There was a brief sadness that emerged in the smile. “He’s paying respects to mama.” The words were offered, low, quiet enough for her father to not hear as she passed by Leena to place the plates on the table. She’d thought for a moment to say Hector was saying ‘hello’ but Leena probably hadn’t seen the alter and that would just require more explanation.
Each plate was placed at the table before Dante turned, moving over to the stove and offering Leena another soft spoken insight - as to not alert her father - as she checked on the warmer. “My mother passed when I was eight. It’s just been me and him since.” The oven would be clicked off and she’d fetch up pot holders that had The Scream printed on them to pull out the main course of their meal that evening. It’d be left on the stove top for the moment to cool.
“I always keep a picture of her in the house.” Maybe that would help tie the story together, maybe Leena still wouldn’t get it, but either way Leena has asked about the dressing.
“There’s a container in the fridge, I made dressing for tonight.” And with that she’d move to fetch the dressing out of the fridge. “Didn’t want the salad getting soggy.”
That furrow appeared between her brows at the first comment. Maybe -- she hadn't sensed anyone else in the house and if she had somehow missed that -- she'd be chewing her own ass out later. Especially for that.
But then came the second statement. Maybe it was an urn? That would make sense, but the comment about the picture just threw her for a loop again. She was going to have to research that later. "I'm sorry to hear that. I'm sure it was hard on the both of you," she said quietly, but didn't dwell on it, and didn't offer up her own history with Bruce and Selina. It seemed wrong, like she was impinging on the other woman's sorrow.
Instead she crossed to the fridge again and opened the door, peering until she found the container of what looked to be like salad dressing. "This?" She held it up before standing. "Soggy salad is the worst, but some people do what they wanna do."
Conversational subtlety was not Hector’s strong suit. Written was better by far. Some quick steps carried him to the photo. He sat on the floor, gaze on the glass encased image. He missed her. A lot. Every day. A sad smile, a tear that wouldn’t quite fall, and a quick train of mental conversation sent upward. Wiping away the moisture, Hector stood. His left leg was a bit tingly, having begun to fall asleep in the five minutes he was sitting there talking.
The Hispanic man moved to the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. The sink was turned on to slightly below too hot, and his hands were scrubbed with the nearby hand soap. He also slapped some water on his face to wash away any dirt and clear up his eyes. Once dried, Hector left the bathroom and returned to the kitchen.
“So what did I miss? Anything I can still help with?” The smile on his face was wide, and he was ready to jump in wherever.
“We made it work.” The words weren’t cheerful, but they were trying to be positive at least. What had been said was undoubtedly personally emotionally dismissive of the information she’d just given Leena though. She didn’t need to bring the mood of the evening down by talking about the dead. Leena would beat her to retrieving the container with the salad dressing “That’s the one.” Would confirm the selection and she’d turn taking a glance across the kitchen. The plates and utensils were out, the salad and dressing, the main course was cooling and the compote was- Should she throw that in the fridge? Her ears listened in attempts to figure out where Hector was in the house for a second.
“Soggy salad is so gross.” It was an easy agreement - accompanied by a face that could only be read as ‘Ew’ - and Dante moved to start transferring the compote from the pan on the stove where it had been resting to a large glass bowl she’d snatched from the counter on her way by it.
“Nope, timed it perfectly to get out of everything.” The affectionately teasing quip was tossed back to Hector’s inquiry as she moved to cover the bowl and tuck it into the fridge. From there she’d fetch up both of The Scream pot holders to grab the pan holding their main course and bring it to the table - one pot holder being slid under the pan - to settle it down with everything else already set on the table. They were all ready for dinner it would seem.
“Oh drinks!” The look across her face was one that was internally berating - how could she have forgotten drinks? “Or is everyone still working on their tea?”
Leena smiled a little at the face, because it was true and she couldn't disagree even a little bit with Dante on the subject of soggy salad. The container of dressing went down on the table next to the salad, the lid popped for easy access.
The numbness between her shoulder blades began to fade, but she still angled her body to face Hector when he came back into the room. He might be Dante's dad, and not provoke any of her other alarms, but he was still a man, and he still bore watching.
She held up her cup of tea that was only missing a few sips. "Yes on tea, but water would be good too. I can get it though. You've done everything else," she said, waving Dante off from getting it for her. "Does anyone else want anything?" Since she was going to be up, she might as well.
”Perfect, then it’s just like old times!” Hector was referring back to all the times that he would come home late and find dinner ready and waiting, or alternatively wake up late and find breakfast also waiting. There would always be a sliver somewhere within that would berate Hector for having to put his daughter through that. His income had always seemed like a nice bonus on top of his wife’s, but then she was gone, and suddenly he had to carry everything. It was hard. It was very hard. If Dante hadn’t stepped up the way she had, it is possible that one or both of them may have begun suffering from malnutrition, and if Hector had had anything to say about that, it would have been him.
He would wait for the other two to sit down before he did, but still gestured at his still full cup of tea. “I haven’t had a chance to have mine yet, so I’ll be fine until later. Thank you, Dante, Leena.” He nodded at each of them in turn. There were odd moments where Hector slipped into more formal speech patterns, likely brought about by having to do so when inspectors came by the factory. He hoped to break that habit, because it never sounded quite natural. Something he was sure some of the higher-ups got a kick out of.
“I’m sure you’ve already told me, but I’m an old man and my memory is failing,” his tone was playful self-degradation with the grin on his face. “But what’s for dinner tonight?” There was consideration for making a needing the bathroom later joke, but it was ultimately brushed off. No need to embarrass Dante in front of her friend. Yet.
“Ha ha.” The words were flat and accompanied a roll of eyes but Dante couldn’t help the smile that quickly rose at her father’s quip. Though at Leena beating her to the drinks too… She… The other woman really was a helper type. Interesting. “A glass of water too, please?” There’d be a quick smile offered before she’d settle into the table as well. There’d be a passing ‘you’re welcome papa’ given before he’d launch into his next question even. How did he talk so fast some days?
“There’s a garden salad with homemade dressing, then Chili Rellenos and a Tres Leches cake with a strawberry compote and coffee for dessert.” The paper towel was slipped into her lap without much thought given to the action. “If anyone’s still hungry after that I’ll have to start cooking something else.” It was a passive sort of joke, sincere in its passing offer at the same time though.
If anyone was hungry after that, Leena would probably keep on eating even if she was full. Nodding to Dante, she grabbed the other woman a glass of water and one for herself and brought them back to the table carefully and sat again. The motions here were easier, and if she felt a little sharp pang from getting to watch Dante with her father, it didn't show as the dinner was served out and everyone dug in.
She really didn't shovel food in her face to keep from talking, but she did add little things here and there as Hector and Dante talked. It was -- it was good, even if it was a little bittersweet because all she had left of her family now was Damian. Or he was the only one that was still here and something weird was going on with him anyway.
The tea she finished off between sips of water, and the tension between her shoulder blades began to ease until she could feel between them again, no interruption. "You're a fantastic cook," she said as polished off her Chili Rellenos. "Thank you."
While he didn’t exactly eatbefore coming over, Hector had taken advantage of a few of the snacks he kept in his hotel room. He ate considerably more than most people these days, his body having gotten used to the increased caloric intake from his extracurricular activities, and with three people splitting the food, Hector was slightly worried that there wouldn’t be enough to satiate the hunger he often felt. It was a good thing he did, as even though a normal person would find the meal that his daughter cooked to be more than satisfying, Hector had a feeling he would have still needed more at the end. He didn’t want to make Dante cook any more than she already had, so he was glad that he’d had those snacks prior. Still, he acknowledged the menu for the night with yet another wide smile and a nod. If this kept up, he’d have a permanent smile on his face.
The meal was delicious, as expected. It was unfortunate that Dante had had to learn to cook so young, but Hector didn’t mind reaping the benefits of his daughter’s capabilities. The company was just as good as the food, with Hector cracking jokes every now and then, and trying especially hard at any point when the conversation may start to fizzle. The last thing he wanted was for the night to end too soon. With as much as he talked, about work, the weather, how the neighbor down the street back home was, basically whatever came to mind, it was a wonder that his food ever actually made it to his mouth.
He did what he could to remember to include Leena in the conversation as well, but more often than not he found himself getting lost in conversation with his daughter. Even though it hadn’t been that long in the grand scheme of things since they had last seen each other, it still felt like too long, which is why he was planning to move to Repose. He’d have to remember to apologize to Leena later for not trying harder to keep her in the loop.
“Dante’s one of the best cooks I know, but this is nothing compared to her best dish.” He gestured towards Dante, indicating that she should share that tidbit of information. A chance to have a moment of pride in her own capabilities.
“Thanks.” And a quick soft smile was given to Leena at the retrieval of the glass of water. Otherwise? Dinner was dinner. Dante had intentionally tripled the recipe and there was plenty of food. With how her father ate, how she’d seen Leena eat, and quite frankly how she could eat on a heavy activity day meant just one of them could probably clean that pan if they’d had a hard enough day. However, anything discussion wise that Dante thought Leena might not be comfortable with Dante would attempt to deflect and just as expected her father talked and talked and talked. There would be an occasional apologetic smile slipped to Leena when Hector wasn’t looking and while her father might get caught up in the conversation Dante was quick to play the balancing act as much as it might seem appropriate in their dynamic for the night. Fair was fair.
“I’m not that good, but you’re welcome.” There was another smile given to Leena this one a bit charmed by the compliment but also attempting to shrug it off. Noting the empty plates Dante was already moving, fetching them up with silverware to start clearing the table as everyone seemed done.
“He’s biased.” Dante would retort over her shoulder to her father’s compliments about her cooking as she’d walk what she’d taken off the table over to the sink. “Why don’t you two go settle in the living room?” She’d turn, leaning back against the sink for a moment to catch them both in her line of sight. “I’ll bring in some coffee and cake soon as the coffee is brewed.”
She was content to listen to them talk, and she interjected when there was space, but mostly shoved food into her face and listened. She'd flash a quick smile to Dante's apologetic ones to let her know it was okay, she wasn't hurt by getting to watch them interact as they emptied the bowls and trays of food.
"Oh, yes you are," Leena spun back as she finished off her tea, and then the last sip of her water. "Your dad and I both agree," she said sagely, as if these were the only two opinions needed. And maybe there was a little cheek in the grin.
"Besides, he's your dad, he's allowed to be biased if you're good at something. If you were bad, then that's not so good, but you aren't. You're good at it, and the food is delicious, and yes, coffee and cake," she said as if completely distracted by the mention of food as she stood up.
"Let's go into the living room, Hector. You can tell me what else she's good at cooking. I haven't tasted her best dish yet, but you have, so I need to be prepared with what it is."
His lips pursed to the side playfully when Dante brushed off his compliment. She knew he was proud of everything that she did, regardless of what it was, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t aware of when mistakes may have happened. Mistakes were just learning opportunities for whomever made them, though, an idea he had been fond of pushing when she was growing up. He did smile, though, when Leena spoke, both contradicting Dante’s humility and agreeing with what Hector had said.
“See? She knows how this works!” Tossing a thumbs up to his daughter’s friend, he downed the rest of his tea, making a bit of a face at how cold it had become. It seemed he really hadn’t noticed how much time had passed since dinner began, evident by the empty dishes everywhere. Right as he was about to offer to clean the dishes, Dante beat him to it, ushering them verbally to the living room, and Leena was agreeing.
He gave Dante a nod and turned to Leena, smiling. “I would, but where’s the fun in letting you be prepared for what she can make? Though,” he paused, thinking for a moment. “You may want to let her know of any food allergies you may have. Mexican cooking can sometimes have ingredients that Americans may not be used to having to avoid due to allergic reactions.” With that, he stood up and waited for Leena to walk out with him.
"Sometimes it's good to be prepared!" She exclaimed, and grinned, understanding that there was a game to this. It wasn't one that hurt, and it wasn't one that required losses or humiliation.
The grin softened into a warm smile and she shook her head. "No allergies to food. I have yet to meet a food I don't like." Except porridge. She hated porridge, but going into why would mean explaining some things she wasn't ready to do yet. Standing, the spot between her shoulders no longer numb, she walked up beside him without that weird positioning from earlier.
"I do appreciate the warning though. I'd hate to gorge myself on something Dante made only to get sick from it. That's just a waste of good cooking," she said as they walked into the living room and chatted. Nothing serious, but it wasn't quite the fake shit that people talked about when they were making small talk, for which she was grateful.
They were still talking when Dante came out with the Tres Leches cake and strawberry compote and she was maybe a little glad that she could listen to Dante and her dad banter through dessert again, interjecting only at a few places and mostly laughing with them as she polished off her dessert, and scraped the plate clean with her spoon.
First? She’d fetch the cake and compote out of the fridge and place them on the stop top to gently warm. Setting the coffee to brew was quick work and while the machine worked Dante would clear the table, Tupperware the leftovers - with two containers having special care taken as these containers would be sent home with her guests - and then fetch up the plates and serving utensils.
This wasn’t… It wasn’t going badly. The beginning had been kind of rough but things seemed to have steadied with just a little gentle care. It was a relief but this sure as hell wasn't the night she had planned or expected. There was Leena, fucking up her plans again. Yet, the minor passing irritation wasn’t even a blip on the radar at this point. Really, aside from some minor hesitation, things were fine.
Cutting the cake and ladling the compote over the top with some slices of strawberry was easy. Hell, it wouldn’t even look half bad on the plates. Loading them onto a small tray she’d add a container of sugar and one of cream before pouring three mugs of coffee and bringing the whole tray out to the three of them.
While they seemed to have settled in Dante would smile and once more let her father lead the conversation some. This wasn’t without some level of guidance being passive used in chatting, a gentle topic change, a slight nudge to discuss one thing over another when given the option, and making sure to ask Leena her thoughts on whatever topic her father might be carrying on about. Inclusion was important.
As plates started to be cleaned Dante’s eyes would roam about, attempting to decipher if it was time for her to clear the table once again.
“How long will be you staying, papa?” As much as she missed him? This town had too much weird for her to want him to stay close for long. Plus, it would help her to determine if she could get the guest room prepped for him to stay in before he might leave once more.
“It certainly would be!” Hector agreed with Leena about it being a waste of good food. “But, also a waste of a good life if it was a lethal allergy.” He threw a look of fatherly concern at her before grinning again. “Now, how about we talk about how you two met…” He continued talking to Leena about whatever came to mind while his daughter finished up and got the dessert ready.
This evening had been nice. The dinner just as delicious as he had hoped, and the company even better. He couldn’t remember the last time he and Dante had had a meal with a friend, even if he did offer any time he happened to show up at her old place when someone was leaving. He did still feel bad about not including Leena in the conversation more when Dante was around, but he couldn’t stop his bad habit of conversation domination. The cake was delicious, too. Even though he didn’t possess a major sweet tooth, cake never seemed to be too sweet for him.
As everything wound down for the evening, his stomach quite satisfied with the heavy assault it had received throughout the evening, Hector continued to relax. There was nothing like a full belly to get him to settle in for the night. He was careful to not get too relaxed, however, as he did still have to drive back to the motel before he could go to sleep. From what he understood, Dante hadn’t been in the house long, so he didn’t think she had the guest room ready yet. Especially since he surprised her with showing up out of the blue.
At the question he knew was coming eventually, a hand found its way up to his chin, scratching the scruff there ever so slightly.
“Well, I never did tell you how I managed to get the time off to come see you at this time of year, did I?” His tone suggested there was more to the situation than just putting in a simple time off request. Hector was going to continue, but didn’t, believing that his daughter was more than intelligent enough to figure out exactly what he had done to have time off, especially when it was a question in return instead of a straight answer of how long he’d be there.
Dante fucking hated when people answered a question with a question when it came to matters of importance. She even hated it when she did it. However, she’d never explicitly stated that to Hector as he seemed to get such joy from these simple little games and he’d done so much for her all her life… It seemed like biting back some anger over a stupid little phrasing was the least she could do for him. Instead, she’d get an anticipatory, unsure - worried, but she’d bank that in her head for now - look over her father and offer a click of her tongue.
“How papa?” He needed to say it.
There was really only one way to handle this situation if Dante wasn’t going to be the one to dramatically react to what Hector was implying. Rip off the bandaid and hope it hurts less than if you’d slowly pulled on it. Dropping his hand from his chin, back into his lap, Hector leaned forward enough to no longer be relaxing.
“Well, they’re going to need to find someone to take more than just Shawn’s place.” While letting that sink in for a second, having more pulled the edge of the bandage up slightly, Hector adjusted his positioning in the chair slightly, trying to get more comfortable since he wasn’t leaning back anymore.
“I quit my job.” He ripped off the bandaid.
“Do you have another offer lined up?” The words were out of her mouth before she could think about them. They’d always had money problems and while it’d gotten easier in the last few years with both of them having incomes to deal with issues, it didn’t change the fact that Hector either needed to work, or needed a plan.
“Not a single one.” Hector’s statement was followed up with a shrug. Normally he wasn’t as lackadaisical when it came to employment and money, but he had enough saved up to survive without worrying too much, plus he had a plan to make it all work out.
“I’ve been thinking about going into radio, like I did in college. That was fun and rewarding. I have enough saved up to last a couple months without worrying, and I’m planning on renting out the house while I’m out here. I’ll have someone check up on it to make sure it’s still standing every once in a while, so between renting the house and the radio hosting, if I go that route, I’ll have plenty of money coming in.” Especially considering the cost of living out here was almost guaranteed to be significantly cheaper than back in New York, but he didn’t say that outright just yet. One revelation at a time was good enough. Although, that was more like three, he realized, but they were all part of one overarching topic.
How could he be so flippant with that? Dante had never known her father to be an irresponsible sort. Was this a midlife crisis? Renting… Out…. the house… Was he….
“Papa.” Her tone was flat, unsure, not seeming as if she was certain the answer was something she wanted. “What do you mean ‘renting out the house while I’m out here’?” The question was pointed, no nonsense, and clearly sought a direct answer and anything short of a direct answer would not be responded to well.
“Well,” he started, looking directly at his daughter. It was unfortunate that this was a conversation being had in front of a guest, especially one so seemingly happy to be there, because it meant that Hector had to focus entirely on Dante due to how serious it was, but it had to happen sooner or later. Most people would probably have thought out exactly how they wanted to have a conversation like this. Most people would probably have prepared some sort of short speech during which they would say exactly everything they could possibly want to say without being interrupted. Hector was not one of them, instead deciding to say the basic gist of what he was planning.
“I’ve really missed you since you left the city, mija, and since I don’t have any family tying me to Brooklyn and you just bought a shop, I decided it was time for a change. I’m getting older and the city is getting to be a little too much right now at my age with no one else to connect with. I didn’t even love my job.” His hands came up in a ‘let me explain’ manner. “I liked my job. I enjoyed it. But I didn’t love it. It’s not like how you are with cars and machines. There’s a passion there for you that I never felt for my job, but when...certain events took place, it was an enjoyable enough job where I could take on as much overtime as possible.” He intentionally dodged around saying exactly what those events were, preferring not to have either of them tear up.
“So...here I am!” Hector gave his daughter a warm smile. He hadn’t planned to give a speech, but it seemed as though he did exactly that.
The look that crossed her face - apology, sorrow, guilt and an attempt to assure none were too strong - as Hector spoke was something she wished didn’t happen. Dante hated having her heart on her sleeve and that happened often when Hector was around. Now was no exception to that rule. She really had been failing him as a daughter.
Why the fuck had Hector ever thought this was an appropriate place and time to have this conversation when a guest was involved Dante would never know.
Yet, as Hector talked and gestured Dante listened. She refrained from speaking until he had everything he seemed to want to say out. It was how she had to handle him to not have knee jerk reactions constantly, it wasn’t healthy for her to respond to everything that way and with how Hector liked to have big shows of announcements or games it had always worn against her mental health but… She’d learned. Even if his delays made her panicky because it could mean something was wrong, that something was happening, that something could be on them any second and she wouldn’t be prepared and…
“So you’re here.” Dante would nod as her insides twisted and lurched and knotted with fear and anger and rage. “And you’re planning on staying here?” But there wasn’t any remote inkling of anger or rage or panic in her posture or tone. Hands folded in her lap.
“Where are you thinking of staying?”
He caught the look on Dante’s face, but didn’t address it. That was definitely more of a private conversation. Even more than the one that they were already having. Announcing one’s plans to stay should be private, but it wouldn’t be near the same level of faux pas as it would be if he were to try to talk to Dante about her current feelings.
“Yes, I’m planning to stay. For a while at least. Or until you get tired of me. Whichever happens first.” A small smile was cracked, followed by, “I don’t know yet. That’s part of why I was hoping to tour the town a bit. See where the good places to live are, see what would be comfortable. But definitely not anywhere in the middle of town.” The idea of moving from one crowded location to another, albeit less so, was not appealing. It would be nice to have a house still. Apartment living had never been enticing for Hector.
“But don’t worry. I’ll stay at the hotel until I find a place. I know that you like your privacy and I don’t want to cramp your style or get in the way of any friends visiting.”
“I’ll never get tired of you papa.” It was immediate, and heartfelt and true, maybe she’d need a break here or there but Dante loved Hector enough to know that any break she needed would never be for long. Though as he spoke she nodded along. Dante could understand not wanting to be around people, hell she’d gone for a house decidedly not near people for that reason. There would be consideration to debate him before it was shucked off with a slight worried smile and a sigh.
“That is a lot of things to talk about and I’m not sure any of them are for tonight.” Dante would offer a bit wary of everything that would encompass. “How about we just enjoy each other’s company for tonight, talk about the weather and the local sports team and then we can arrange all the tours and housing viewings you could want, but starting tomorrow.” Her voice was firm on the last bit, one of that would be had here this evening and Dante would make sure of it.
The first step to that? Well, it was getting them on a different topic of conversation.
“I’m sure between Leena and I, we can fill in everything you might want to know and I’ll even give you all of tonight to make your list of questions.” There was a brief, semi-apologetic, smile shot over to Leena. Before her gaze would turn back to her father. Hopefully, all his big declarations were done for now.
“Now, let's just enjoy tonight.”
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