Bam! Actually posted before the deadline! Go me!
Tweak was up and showered the next morning before either Dante or Dympna had stirred from their beds. Dante woke up, rolled over, and saw his friend about to leave.
“What’s going on, man?”
“Got some shit I need to take care of. I’ll be back in a couple hours. You guys do whatever. Relax. Go exploring. Get back together in an extremely ill-advised fashion.” Tweak grinned and left. Dante stared at the door in silence for a few moments before turning away and falling back asleep.
* * *
“Wake up. I’m bored.”
Dympna was sitting on the edge of Dante’s bed, poking him in the ribs through the thin comforter of his bed.
“Oh, God. Fuck off.” She just laughed.
“Come on, shithead! I’m bored!”
“Go read a book.” Dante pulled the covers over his head. Dympna pulled them off of him, and he groaned in mock agony.
“Come on! It’s almost noon! Let’s go get lunch! I’ll even treat!”
Dante scowled at her. “Aren’t you supposed to hate me or something?”
Dympna simply smiled. “If I liked you, don’t you think I’d let you sleep in?” Dante muttered under his breath and pushed himself out of bed. Dympna threw his jeans and a shirt at him. “That’s the spirit! Come on!”
A short while later, Dante found himself walking down the street grumbling at the sun and the surprising warmth of the fall day, Dympna a few steps ahead of him and cheerful. “What’s got you in such a good mood anyway?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, were you not there last night for our stirring stand against the forces of oppression and tyranny?”
“Well, maybe you should have been paying closer attention.” She smiled. “Think about how many people must have seen us last night. There were news crews there. There were people recording everything on their phones and cameras. And we didn’t have to burn anything, we didn’t have to break anything. All we had to do was stand there and stare in silent judgment.” She shrugged. “Not that burning and breaking stuff isn’t fun, but maybe this is a war we can win without having to fire a shot.”
Dante snorted. “This is a war now?”
“It’s always been a war. Weren’t you paying attention?” Dante opened his mouth to respond, but Dympna pointed at a cafe. “Let’s try that place. It’s got a good crowd.”
“Sure. Why not?”
They placed their orders and sat down at a table outside, making small talk until Dympna noticed a woman sitting alone, her features obscured by dark sunglasses and a scarf tied around her hair. “Hey, check out the 1950s starlet,” she said.
Dante turned in his seat and examined the woman, trying to guess at her features. “I think that’s the Chancellor,” he said softly.
Dympna squinted, examined the woman more closely. “Oh, yeah. Huh. What do you think she’s doing here?”
“A woman’s got to eat.”
“But what’s with the outfit?”
“She probably doesn’t want to be bothered after what’s happened this week. Although you’d think she’d either work from home or eat in her office or something.” Dante was silent for a moment. He watched as she picked half-heartedly at a salad. “I’m going to go talk to her,” he said with an air of determination.
“I need to talk to her.”
Dympna smirked. “Going to rub that scared little look she gave us in her face?”
“Something like that,” Dante said softly. He stood up from his chair and walked over to her table.
She looked up from her meal as Dante approached, frowned when he sat down at her table. They stared at each other for a moment, Dante trying to keep his expression neutral, she with a decidedly sour look on her face.
“Can I help you?” she said.
“Yeah, hi. I’m one of the guys that was wearing a gas mask last night.” He held his hand out. She did not shake it.
“What do you want?”
Dante took a deep breath, leaned back in his seat. Opened his mouth to speak, shut it again. “I don’t really know how to say this,” he finally began. “You saw it last night didn’t you? That thing.That man. With the suit and the newspaper.”
The corner of the woman’s mouth twitched. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said before looking down and poking at her salad again.
“Have you seen him before last night? Have you seen him on campus?”
“I said I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Dante frowned. “I saw that look on your face. You looked goddamn terrified, and I don’t think it was because you saw a couple of people in gas masks.”
She slammed her fork against the table and looked Dante in the eyes. Even behind the glasses she was wearing, the anger was writ plain across her face. “And you think I was scared of some asshole in a suit? Is that it?”
“Yeah, I do. Because that thing scares me, too.”
The Chancellor took a deep breath and leaned back in her seat, crossed her arms. “Is that so?”
Dante nodded. “I was at the march a few days ago, and there were pictures of him there. I have friends that should have seen him, but didn’t. I’ve seen pictures of him at other demonstrations and protests. Is it the same guy? I don’t know. I can’t prove it. Hell, I haven’t even seen his face. But what are the fucking odds of someone different showing up to each of these things dressed and acting the same way.”
The Chancellor sat in silence for a few moments. “Are you kidding me?” she finally said. “How many of these things have you been to? You people love to dress up in your little outfits. Solidarity and all that, right?”
“You don’t believe that,” Dante said. “You’re just telling yourself that so you don’t have to think about it. I know; I was doing the same thing.”
“Is that so?”
Dante leaned forward across the table and put his hand over hers. “Look, I need to know that I’m not alone. I need to know that you saw it too. I’ve seen things before, okay? Things that weren’t there, and I mean figuratively and literally. I need to know that you saw it. And maybe you need to know that you’re not alone, too. Maybe you need to know that you’re not losing your mind either. So, tell me. Did you see it, or didn’t you?”
The Chancellor said nothing. She looked down at the table, sniffed. She nodded her head.
Dante held her hand, squeezed it gently. She squeezed back. “Do you know what it is?” he asked.
“The end of things,” she said, her voice about to break. “It’s the end of us.”
Dante walked back to the table where his own sandwich sat half-eaten and Dympna sat annoyed. “Well. That took a little while,” she said, but Dante paid her no mind. There was a faint smile on his face, and she watched as it turned into a smirk and finally a full grin. “Huh,” she said. “I can’t remember the last time I saw you smile like that. What the hell did you two talk about for so long?”
Dante chuckled. “We’ve got our own guardian angel, Dympna,” he said. “We’re winning.”