Log: Dante and Chris at Christmas Who: Dante and Chris What: Talking about Dante's shrine to her mother Where: Dante's place When: During Dante's Christmas gathering Warnings/Rating: Language at best
It was a quiet moment in a lull of strangers and questions and attempts at being a proper hostess without ever really having hosted a house party before. She’d done research but research wasn’t experience. Though this wasn’t really a real house party anyway. Not like the ones in the movies or the ones the news made reports about. The day - aside from a couple small bumps in the road - had largely been going well. No one was crying, no one was screaming, no one was freaking out from what Dante could tell, and from the cameras hidden all over the house that she kept tapping her brain into all those conclusions seemed safe enough to feel comfortable in.
That was why when the newest film playing seemed to enrapture the attention of those about Dante would move to the back of the room. It’d be easy to slip around and to stand in front of the small altar that she always kept in the house to her mother. Perhaps it was a testament to how Dante had never gotten over grieving her mother, maybe it was tradition, maybe it was the respect she felt for her mother that pushed her to maintain the altar day after day.
Today, Christmas, was particularly hard. It had never been the same after she’d passed but at least it wasn’t Three Kings Day. The grief settled into Dante’s bones and heart in a way that could never be explained, only felt. The weight in her chest, the lead feelings of feet as she stood there, the longing for another day, another smile, the wish to hear her mother speak once more ‘Mija, come help, the smell of the flowers and planets her mother kept that lingered on the woman’s skin, the feel of warmth that came-
A hand darted up to quickly wipe away any moisture that had begun to threaten at the corners of her eyes.
Holidays were hard.
“Merry Christmas, Mama.”
Chris had been lingering at the edge of the living room by the kitchen performing refill duty. She didn't mind going back and forth between the two rooms when supplies dwindled; it allowed her to move freely without having to cross over the various people sprawled throughout the living room or interrupt what was otherwise an engrossing film.
At least it was engrossing to most of the people there. Chris's mind had picked that day to mull over a thousand different anxieties and had added in a good dose of nostalgic grief for good measure. It wasn't so long ago that she had celebrated Christmas in a house filled with sibling squabbles, familial affection, and (despite Mother's best tries) raucous laughter; this year it was just Heath and her in the morning and now this room full of mostly strangers. She had thought that surrounding herself with another kind of noise would have kept the memories at bay, but she had thought wrong.
They were halfway (maybe more? Maybe less?) through the movie when the twitchiness in her bones got overwhelming and Chris rose to her feet with a burning need to move. She spotted Dante across the way by the small altar for her mother. Chris was aware of the altar from her previous visits, but she didn't think she'd ever seen Dante stand in front of it before, not like this.
But of course. It was Christmas, and Dante had lost so much too.
Chris moved quietly towards Dante, stopping far enough away to not be intruding, but close enough to where Dante would know that she was there if Dante needed her.
The glass of the frame remained decorated with a lipstick smear from when Dante had visited the altar before everyone had arrived. There was sorrow here, one that would leave Dante in tears if she let it sit in her bones for too long, but that wouldn’t be seen today. Movement would be caught in her peripheral vision and Dante would shift, taking a look back to fully acknowledge Chris.
“Hey.” Her voice came off soft, a sound Chris had only heard a few times before when their talks had ventured to more delicate places. “Wanna say hi to my mother?” The smile offered with the words was a sad one, but still Dante would step to the side to make more room and a hand waved Chris to step forward and stand by her side before the altar.
Chris nodded, a small brief smile on her face as she stepped forward next to Dante. "Hi, Mrs. Zaragoza," she said softly, placing her hand on Dante's shoulder, "Merry Christmas, and thank you for giving the world - and me - the present that is your brilliant daughter."
She fell silent, falling into her own contemplations as she looked at the altar, the sound of the television and the engaged spectators falling away to a dull din. After a moment, she leaned her head against Dante's, her hand reaching to grasp Dante's in a solid squeeze. Some days her heart felt so full of grief and love and longing for the family she had lost. Today was definitely one of those days.
It was... strange. To introduce someone to her dead mother like this. Sure her father said hello every time he came to visit, and Dante generally tried to swing by the altar after she’d gotten home and before she went to bed most nights but…
This was different. The hand on her shoulder earned Chris a soft smile, even if it was one that held hurt. A huff of a laugh couldn’t be helped at the other woman’s compliments and the offered hand was taken, tightly. Almost as if it was a lifeline that Dante clung to in the moment.
“She would have liked you.” It was true too, even as the words were perhaps just a little too softly spoken. Not soft enough to be unheard, but enough to show the emotion she struggled with for the moment. Chris was smart, kept her shit together, had goals, tired to do good in a world that was often not so kind. It was the highest compliment Dante could pay to someone and out of everyone she knew right now? Chris most definitely deserved that compliment.
Chris smiled, understanding full well the weight of Dante's soft statement. Chris had always worked to present herself well, to do her family justice, but she knew that Dante's words went past that. She hoped it would have been true - that if Mrs. Zaragoza had been here today she would have been happy that Chris and Dante were friends. Chris knew that Mother would have hated Dante just as much as her Mama would have gotten a kick out of her, and that made her love her friend all the more.
Dante and Chris hadn't met until Chris had already moved to the Capital, far enough from Mother's prying eyes. Would Chris have allowed herself to get as close if she'd still lived at home? She'd hoped so, but she couldn't be sure. Mother had had a way of pushing people out of their lives if she found them even remotely objectionable.
"I hope you're right. Because that only runs true for one of us." Chris bumped Dante's shoulder gently, still holding her hand tightly. "Rachel Fairchild would have called you the spawn of Satan. But hey, you're my spawn of Satan."
There was a soft huff at the first statement. Dante didn’t know a lot but… If everything she knew of Chris was any indication, Dante figured she knew enough to have opinions on the fact that she likely wouldn’t have liked Chris’ ‘Mother’ either, but that was people with money. She tended not to like them as they often were too busy sticking their noses in the air to care about how all the world was hurting around them.
“I might have given her a heart attack with my evil spawn of satan powers.” Dante volleyed back with a slight smile that reeked of trouble but the statement didn’t hold the strength it normally would. If their lives were normal, Chris could be someone that Dante saw herself staying around for the long haul and that included pissing off over controlling family to help her friend out. Sure, Dante knew what acting proper and cultured was like and was supposed to look like. Hell, she’d even practiced acting through it for missions that were now long past. Fuck she’d make a great super spy, it was too bad there was no feasible or even remotely safe market.
Surely, they would have driven each other insane but for now? They’d never know.
“My mother was so smart.” Dante’s voice was distant with the recollection. “She’d run circles around all of us.” There was a soft, pained soft of fond laugh at the rememberance. Eyes drifted over the picture and she gave Chris’ hand a squeeze. “I miss her every holiday.” Finally Dante’s gaze would rise to look at Chris a sad sort of commiseration ever present, a sympathy because certainly Chris was struggling too. “I bet you do too. Guess we’ll just have to embarrass and pick on each other to make up for it.”
"You might have. Though my brothers seemed to try plenty, and it never happened. So you would have had a challenge on your hands." It was truly unfortunate they would never get to know how it might have all turned out; Chris knew that her statement would have been far from a deterrent for her friend. She had a soft spot in her heart for people who never backed down for challenges, which may explain why she had taken to Dante so quickly.
"I would have loved to see that." Dante was blisteringly intelligent, and Chris had a hard time imagining someone so much smarter. "I'm not sure how it would even look, you not being the smartest person in the room."
Chris nodded, bringing their joined hands up to her chest. "I miss them both, and I think I always will." She cocked her head to the side in an attempt to lighten the sadness that she saw mirrored on Dante's face. "Oh, really? Is that the secret to our success? Well, it's a good thing that's never been a problem for us."
Voices rose from the couch in the living room, and Chris reluctantly dragged her eyes away from Dante to see what the commotion was about. Something dramatic and unexpected had happened, judging from the shocked expressions of the actors on the screen. Chris squeezed the hand she was still holding, turning back to Dante. "Should we get back in there and be merry and bright?"
“Yeah, but it’s me and I love challenges.” The bright grin given to Chris couldn’t be helped and Dante let out a deep exhale, seeming to relax some with the breath. Chris’s next statement? That earned a soft laugh. Dante was used to being the smartest person in the room and also used to people not knowing that and not expecting it. The number of times she’d had to put someone in their place for trying to talk down to her in her life so far alone had to be in the hundreds if not thousands. Her mother though? There were only some minor doubts in her mind about her mother’s ability to run circles around her if the other woman had still been around. Dante would probably get tech better than her mom, but otherwise…
“I would have loved to see it too.” Dante offered back with a bit of sad fondness in her tone. An eyebrow quirked at Chris's statement of missing them, her face starting to turn a bit thoughtful. “Do you have anything to honor them?” But there was Chris sassing her back and noise from behind them and…
A glance was cast back to the guests before she’d turn a soft smile on Chris once more.
“They can wait another minute or two.” There was a squeeze of Chris’ hand and a sympathetic smile offered. “Think we both might need a moment to breathe.”
"Honor them?" Chris looked at Dante, puzzled. "I mean the entire mansion is more or less a shrine to Mother and the way she liked things if that's what you mean. And as for Mama, I have a couple of faded pictures, but that's it. They got kind of trashed when I was in the system, what with all the moving." Chris sighed. She had tried to search for things related to Olivia James a few years ago, but since her birth mother had died before the electronic era, there wasn't much to be found. "I wish I had more of Mama to keep with me, but it was so long ago and we were so poor."
There was a nodding pensiveness as Chris spoke. It was a wordless way to confirm that she was listening. The idea of the pictures having been messed up earned a sympathetic frown, and a mild look of concern.
“A house is one way to do it.” Her own eyes fell down to the small altar. “For me?” She’d try to catch Chris’ gaze, to make sure they were both still mentally in the room. “I keep things that I connected to her on it.” Her freehand absently gestured to the altar. “She’s gone and I don’t know if I believe in an afterlife, but having her picture and her favorite flowers and leaving some pan dulce for her? Or keeping a copy of her favorite book? It makes her feel a little more here. For me.” The words were fond and solemn all at once.
“You don’t have to have her things to have her in your life, but.” There was a tender smile here, one a little unsure though too. “Lemme see what I can do. Got a couple friends good with computers and things. I can always ask, see what they can find? For pictures and things.” The offer was made easily even if it was her that would be doing the footwork and not ‘a friend’ at all.
Chris was quiet for a long minute, her thoughts carefully considering the implications of Dante's suggestions. "I've never thought of it that way. The things that remind me of her instead of things of hers. I think," she paused, falling quiet for another moment. "I think it would be nice to have something like that for them."
Chris's eyes grew wide at the offer that followed. "Really? Do you think your friends would be willing to do that? Do you think it could work?" Dante knew how willing Chris was to pay for any good service, and Chris didn't feel the need to mention it and insult her friend. "Just let me know what they'll need for me."
With a deep sigh, Chris smiled. A small space for her mothers would be nice. And maybe, just maybe, it would alleviate the guilt she always felt for not missing those who had passed enough.