They were throwing around the names Birkin and Ashford like they were newly discovered contributors to the Bible. Leon was tired of these people who were never going to die; tired of hearing the same words over and over until they became foreign and utterly meaningless.
They needed him, so he came, or they told him to come, so he obeyed. It was better for the world when things were quiet, but when they were quiet he was unneeded, wasted, skills rotting away providing security at county fairs and news interviews. Leon took pride in his niche of monster killer and zombie expert because not everyone lived through what he lived through and not everyone was rewarded for it if they did.
Three stories underground told him the concern may be warranted when he arrived at one of the more secure facilities. The hallways were always blindingly white and he hated them; decided when he died and had to head towards the light he would simply refuse to do so. He’d had enough of it on earth.
“Here’s your paperwork.”
A middle-aged man in a button-down shirt and freshly pressed slacks shoved a clipboard into Leon’s chest. He studied the tiny print and chicken scratched notes filling the margins. There were questions and there were answers, and Leon looked incredulous when he asked, “What’s this? It’s talking?”
“The man is infected - has been for a while, at least long enough to know his own strengths and weaknesses and use them to his advantage.”
It didn’t matter how large or powerful an infected organism was. The ones that could think and reason were the most dangerous; the ones that understood and justified their actions the most frightening. Leon shifted to his other foot, thought, Human beings, basically.
“They believe he’s like that Ashford woman, and you’ve had contact with the Birkin girl. Observe his appearance, his movements; use your experience to pry some info out of him.”
The scientists spent more time studying Sherry than Leon. To him she had just been a little girl; alone and afraid like any other little girl. There was nothing to observe.
“I assumed I was called to escort the subject to a containment unit.” Leon expected an apology but received silence, and stated, more forcefully, “I’m not an interrogator. I don’t know anything about psychology.”
The man offered a black pen which was ignored.
“I’m a field agent, sir. This isn’t my job.”
They were at a standstill and he had no choice but to do as told. Leon reached for the pen and felt his blood boil when his superior jerked it away.
“Agent,” he addressed, and Leon kept his back straight and mouth shut. The man lowered the pen again, voice dipping into something more dangerous. “Don’t tell me what your job is.”
The man’s stare bore into him, burned a hole in his back, and Leon slipped through the heavy metal door as soon as he could. Already agitated, he buried his face in the notes and greeted, “Mr…Redgrave,” with the same air of indifference as a doctor addressing another faceless patient. “I’m Agent Leon Kennedy.”
A hand searched for the empty plastic chair set next to the table which separated him from the suspect, and only when Leon was snug in his seat did he look upwards. He caught himself staring at the man’s face longer than intended when his white hair wasn’t an indicator to his age. He seemed clean enough, with a strong build good for physical labor, and perhaps it was growing up in the Midwest that made Leon judge people on whether or not they knew how to work with their hands and said Please and Thank You.
Eyebrows raised and the other’s lips curled teasingly. “Like what you see?”
The response was a tart, “Not sure yet,” as Leon was snapped from his thoughts and hastily redirected his attention.
“You can call me Dante.”
Leon flipped through the papers, brow knit. “The name you gave the other agent was Anthony Redgrave.”
“I didn’t wanna hear my name on his lips. Your voice is nice, like a lullaby in a mental ward.” He performed jazz hands, said, “You can have the great privilege of calling me by my real name.”
“Do you believe you’re two people, Mr. Redgrave?”
“You gotta follow that paper, huh? Even when I’m sitting here telling you to your face that’s not who I am.”
Leon dipped his chin, responded calmly, “Alright, Dante.”
“Leon Kennedy.” The name rolled slowly off the man’s tongue and stuck in the air, and the following silence made even Leon uncomfortable. “Been a lot of famous Kennedys. When do you suppose your luck’s gonna run out?” Dante leaned forward, forearms on the table, giving Leon a good look at ice-blue eyes when he smirked. “Do you think it’s today?”
The younger man sighed through his nose. “Do you know why you’re here?”
Dante slumped back in his chair, legs spread and elbows spilling over the arms, and Leon silently criticized his lack of poise. “The cops who arrested me said something about murder.”
“They weren’t cops, they were SWAT, which is far more serious.”
“They looked like cops. You look like a kindergarten cop. Have you seen that movie?”
Leon regarded him wordlessly, watched as neck stretched and tongue darted over his lips.
“I get it; you’re the one asking the questions.” Dante waved him on. “Alright, alright – go on.”
“Dante,” Leon continued, resting a finger above his mouth. “Italian?”
“Do I look Italian, kid?”
Leon made a face as he wasn’t entirely sure and quickly moved on.
“Got a surname?”
“You'll remember me.”
The empty spaces on the interrogation sheet irritated him, more so than leaving crosswords blank, if that was even possible. Leon said, with as much wisdom and authority as could be mustered never having been in this position before, “Prints didn’t turn up anything…no prior record…this is a pretty big offense for your first crime,” and immediately felt stupid for stating the obvious.
“Mmm.” Dante raised a hand and the other followed, chains clanking against each other as he wagged a finger. “Innocent until proven guilty.”
“Fifteen dead men and twenty-five eye-witnesses…I think we’re past that.”
“Did you see it yourself?” he asked. “You always listen to what people tell you?”
“At the moment, listening to what you tell me is my job.”
Dante grunted, “Shitty job,” and all Leon could do was shrug.
“Where are you from?”
“Bit up north.”
“New York?” When no answer came, he pressed, “Canada? …Canada?” and Dante twisted to glance behind him, searching for whomever the other was yelling at.
Leon’s head tilted and he tried a different approach. “Where’s your family from?”
“My father was from Hell and my mother was a saint.”
He scribbled something down, said, with surprising sympathy, “Unfortunately many people’s stories.”
“Are you illegal?”
“Been legal for hundreds of years.”
“Have you entered this country illegally?”
Eyes rolled to the ceiling. “You border patrol now? Professionals do this shit, not you. You were trained to be a killer – you’d rather shoot me in the face.” Dante grinned, teeth white and perfect, and not what most would expect of a monster at all. He encouraged sweetly, “You wanna shoot me in the face?”
Leon realized he wouldn’t object; naturally felt more secure with a gun than a stack of papers. He wondered briefly if that was shameful and mindless; knew no matter how great his ability he would always be a chess piece moved around the board by someone else.
He was quiet a moment, then answered humbly, “I help where I can.”
“Shouldn’t you be protecting the president? You’re that agent he loves so much. I’ve seen you on TV.”
Leon peered over clasped hands resting under his nose as he waited to hear how well the stranger knew him.
“Survived Raccoon City, right? Dealt with that mess at the airport.” Dante shrugged, lips downturned. “Pretty skinny for a one-man army. And short. They let you keep that hair in your face?”
“This picture makes it look like you came in wearing enough leather for three dead cows,” he retorted, holding up the other’s mug shot. Leon straightened the papers against the table when they didn’t need straightening. “You’re no slave to fashion.”
“When do I get my stuff back?”
Leon looked up then back down, ignoring the question completely.
Dante fussed with the neon orange fabric of the jumper, groaned, “I feel like the 80’s puked on me. …Somebody skinned a crossing guard.”
There was a hint of a smile before Leon’s lips pursed and he announced gravely, “This report is concerning.”
“Yeah, you look concerned.”
“Gunshot wounds, lacerations, but it’s worse; limbs all over the place, heads that look as if they literally exploded -”
“I didn’t do it.”
“They pulled two guns and a broadsword off you…a broadsword.” He’d seen plenty of oddities in decrepit castles but not so many in modern buildings in the middle of downtown metropolises.
Dante shrugged, suggested, “Must have been the other guy with the broadsword.”
“There are witnesses, more evidence than I’ve ever seen in all my years -”
“Which is what - two?” Dante straightened in his chair, presence menacing; basked in the look of annoyance that painted the agent’s face. “How old are you, like, twelve?”
Leon snapped, “You should answer the questions and make this easier on everyone,” and by everyone he meant himself because he was already over being treated like a rent-a-cop. He didn’t consider himself above any duty, but this was ludicrous, time wasted being someone else’s joke.
“You gonna torture me till you hear what you want?”
The accusation made Leon still; made him feel somehow that he had to defend his honor. He answered, in a voice smaller than intended, “I don’t torture people.”
“You’re torturing me right now with this inane bullshit. I’m ready to go home and have pizza and a beer, so what do you want, kid? Maybe I’ll give it to you.”
The pen tapped rhythmically against the cold surface of the table, five times before the offer was accepted.
“Who do you work for?”
“Who gives you contracts?”
“Scantily clad women with big guns.” Dante paused for effect, added, “If you know what I mean.”
Leon’s eyes narrowed as he continued.
“Does the name Spencer mean anything to you?”
“There was a kid in second grade – total loser. Looked like you, actually.”
“Like the cat food?”
“Ashford,” came quicker, louder, as patience wore thin.
The suspect was quiet, and Leon found himself leaning closer in anticipation. Fingers touched the man’s lips and he decided, “I got nothing clever for that one.”
“I’m disappointed, seeing as this is the best comedy club I’ve been to.”
Dante blew hair from his eyes. “Thanks, people don’t usually get my jokes.”
“What’s your relationship to the victims?”
“They were demons and I hunt demons.”
“Yes…” Leon drawled, checking the papers again, obviously unimpressed. “Occupation says devil hunter.”
The answer was smug - “That’s right” - and Leon huffed, opened his mouth to ask again. He was interrupted with, “Isn't that how you'd describe your job, Kennedy?” and then his anger quelled and eyebrows rose because yeah, maybe he would.
“What do you mean by devils?”
Dante shrugged, repeated, “Devils,” which Leon immediately countered with, “Infected.”
“They're devils; Hellspawn with the wings and the horns,” and he made fluttering motions with his hands and pointed index fingers above his head. “I don't know how to simplify it for you."
“So when you burst into that bar and massacred fifteen innocent people, that was devil hunting.” It was a statement more than a question, recited in monotone, and Dante got the impression his interrogator wasn’t being sincere.
“Those weren’t human beings, and I don’t think you’d be the one questioning me if they were.”
Leon considered this a moment.
“Tell me about the virus. When was it contracted?”
“Whoa, hey, I’m clean, alright? Don’t be spreading rumors like that. My sex life suffers as is.” He jerked forward suddenly, added in a whisper, “That stays between us…and all these cameras and the guys in the next room.”
“There are accounts here of superhuman strength and agility. You’re certainly not normal.”
“Or I’m an Olympic gymnast - did you bother asking me that? Did you bother asking me that before you tased and drugged me and brought me here against my will?”
“You killed fifteen people.”
“According to that paper. Maybe someday they’ll write one about you.”
Leon looked lost again and Dante’s expression softened.
“Look, you’re a smart kid so I’ll admit you’re partly right.” He leaned closer as if sharing secrets then said, “I am half demon,” in a rasp loud enough to be heard across the room.
“Which half?” came out blandly, and it took Dante a second to register the joke and crack a smile.
“Kennedy – Leon.”
“Agent Kennedy is fine.”
“Leon,” he insisted, “since we’re friends now. I’ve been hunting demons most of my life – I’m very good at it. Understand?”
“How’d you end up here?” he inquired, voice light enough to be mocking. “You have a bad day?”
“This place is pretty secure. It’s like a fucking bomb shelter.” Dante clicked his tongue, asked, “You keep monsters here?” and the question had Leon sitting at attention.
“I bet you have some you can’t identify; DNA unlike any creature on earth. They’re not experiments – they’re demons. You don’t need to observe or dissect ‘em, they just need to die.”
Cold dripped down his spine and his expression grew severe when Leon confirmed, “You intend to wipe them out.”
“I decimated fifteen of those things in less than a minute. You think anything is protecting you from me right now?”
“Those chains have been tested on creatures much larger than you.”
He replied, “Like what, the Hulk? Mass doesn’t always equate to power,” and Leon found himself reluctantly agreeing.
“Why don't you escape?”
“I was thinking about it. Then you walked through the door -”
“And that changed your mind.”
“You’re big shit. I trust you’ve seen a lot and know what you’re talking about. I trust, also, that people listen to you - important people.”
Leon shook his head. “I can’t help you.”
“You can’t keep them here – do you get me? More and more come each day. They’re not killed off by natural selection, they’re kept at bay by me. You’re keeping their numbers up. You’re harboring an army.”
Leon knew already it was him against scientists and the government and people in power who just enjoyed being right, and whether this man told the truth or not wouldn’t matter. It was another burden and another weight on his conscience that Leon didn’t need when he couldn’t buy into unproven facts; not in front of his superiors and not on camera.
He stressed, “You know I can’t help you,” and Dante slid down in his chair, drummed fingers on the table.
The older man sat in silence and in thought before announcing, “I like you, kid. I'll be as nice as I can when the time comes.”
“I don’t recommend threats.”
“No threat; it’s a favor.” He straightened again and pointed past Leon’s head. “That door opens and I’m gone. Better make sure you’re happy with your decisions. Better make sure you got what you wanted.”
There was little time to process the warning before a clack resounded from behind and light flooded the room. Leon involuntarily stiffened, fixated on the man before him who nodded slightly with eyes bright and smile handsome, completely comfortable and unafraid.
“That’s all, agent. We’re taking him down for testing.”
If they said his name, he didn’t recognize it, and only looked down dumbly as the papers lifted off the table, seemingly of their own accord. He was entranced by Dante, by how calm and smug, and he waited; waited for something horrible.
“Kennedy, you’re done for the day. Do you hear me?” The man at his side was agitated, speech reduced to dealing with him like an obnoxious child. “Leave.”
Another agent prepared a syringe which barely brushed Dante’s neck before the man flew into the two-way mirror. Sirens blared as the people on the other side of the glass undoubtedly scrambled, and no matter how many times Leon heard them ring, they made his stomach churn; took him back to Raccoon City, always to disaster and chaos and death. Even in the pristine room he could smell burning bodies and rotted flesh, and thought what a shame it would be to have fought around the world only to die in such an empty place.
Leon leapt to his feet, sending the chair skidding across the room. The other agent was in a choke hold and then he too was on the floor, unmoving.
Leon took the shot when he could. It was dodged with ease, Dante turning just enough for it to miss – just enough to mock him. He shot again but the other was quick, and Leon found himself attempting to predict his movements and failing miserably.
He counted bullets and knew before it happened that he was in trouble. The second he went for another clip he was dead, and as he reached into his jacket, prepared for the inevitable.
The door was shutting slowly, impossibly heavy and thick. Dante kicked the bodies into the doorway and they compacted until bones broke and shattered but succeeded in preventing it from latching.
He said, “Tough shit, but they’ll live,” as if it was supposed to be consoling.
The gun came up again, now fully loaded, but the bullet hit the wall and ricocheted. Dante appeared behind him, elbow whipping down on his back, sending Leon face first into the table. Pain seared up his spine and he groaned when the other’s weight pressed into him as Dante pinned Leon down with his own body.
“You smell pretty good. That must be some fancy department store cologne.”
A hand slipped down Leon’s waist and over his belt, lower until he was between his legs, gripping at his thigh. Leon jerked and Dante rocked against him to keep him still, warm fingers brushing his crotch, pulling at his pants and patting near pockets before digging inside.
Hot breath was in his ear, and Leon could feel Dante’s lips curve against his skin. “What is this? Is this an access key?”
Leon spit, “The facility’s on lockdown. You’re not going anywhere.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
Leon’s grip was viselike, but Dante pried the gun from his hand with ease. He said, “You wanted to know which half was demon,” and it was one of the few times Leon regretted making a terrible joke. Fingers tangled in his hair and pulled tight to lift his gaze to the mirror. He struggled when he felt them grow like claws until they were long and sharp, and Dante’s reflection became monstrous.
“It’s this half,” was spoken in a warped voice like a million people screaming in his head about things he didn’t want to hear, making Leon ill. The gun shattered and Leon waited for the same to happen to his skull.
Heavy footsteps clattered towards them and the armored scales faded, cracks of light pouring from Dante’s chest dimming until he was nothing but a man. He gave Leon a good-natured pat on the back which only irritated the young agent more.
“Sorry if I’m making you look bad.”
He turned to take care of the first person through the door, and with back turned, Leon was on him again. Dante’s arm cut through the air, pounding Leon in the chest and sending him once again onto the table and down to his knees. He swiped the gun dropped by Dante’s latest victim but it was promptly roundhouse kicked from his grip and into the face of the second man charging into the room.
Leon rushed him and Dante dodged, throwing up a forearm to redirect a punch before thrusting his heel into Leon’s stomach and putting him on the ground once more.
The younger man groaned as he got to one knee and Dante couldn’t help but give him praise. “You got balls, kid, but let it go.”
The noise came again, commands muffled under masks. Dante saluted before announcing, “I’m out.”
As soon as someone threw a gas grenade, Dante was dashing towards them, fist connecting with their head, sending them and whoever was unlucky enough to be behind them into a wall. Smoke filled the room and Leon covered his face with his arm as he stumbled over bodies and out the door. The second unit was already down, limping and groaning and completely useless. Leon practically fell over himself trying to run down the hall, cursing at himself and anything he saw, stringing together adjectives and nouns that didn’t even make sense.
The hallway stretched forever with doors blown off their hinges. Men and debris littered the floor and guns were left behind. Leon grabbed what he could and followed, ignoring the voice in his head telling him the demon was already gone. He couldn’t accept failure. It choked him and burned his skin and Leon wouldn’t let it go. It was his hunt now.