The way Klaus talked about Dave, that sort of melancholy sentimentality, reminded Diego of someone he hadn’t thought about, that he had refused to think about, in years. Because he had lost so many people over the years. Because before Eudora, there had been Tony.
Diego left Klaus and shut himself in his room, sliding to the floor, his head leaning back against the door, and he let the memories come.
Diego stood outside the gates of the Umbrella Academy, suitcase in hand, completely unsure of where to go. He had said his tearful goodbyes. In his wallet, he had two photographs: one of Five and one of Ben. But standing on that sidewalk, a world and a half of memories shut behind those gates, more than any seventeen year old should have had, more death and loss and pain, but also more camaraderie and friendship and love. Could he really turn his back on all of that? Could he really be the first to say ‘I’m done’?
He would have to, he knew. Going back wasn’t an option. So that just left him with everywhere else in the world. He started to walk down the street, completely aware of the fact that he was still wearing his Umbrella Academy uniform. The shorts and blazer that had been so comfortable his whole life suddenly stifled him in a prison of his own making, and he wished he could use one of his knives to cut his way out of the dark shield that seemed to have descended over him.
Then, all of a sudden, a light. A ‘HELP WANTED’ sign in a window. He glanced up at the sign above. ‘FIGHTING LION BOXING’ was spelled out in red spray paint. A man inside noticed Diego staring up at the sign and poked his head out the door.
“Can I help you, kid?” Diego pointed at the sign.
“Depends. Can you fight?”
“Yeah- I mean, I think so.”
“It’s throwing a punch, kid, either you can or you can’t.”
“Good. We need someone to mop the floors.”
“I thought you said I needed to be able to fight.”
“I just asked if you could. Never said it was a part of the job. Still, I’m always looking for new fighters. Whadya say? I’ll give you ten bucks an hour, fifty bucks a fight.” Diego hesitated. He had swiped quite a bit of cash from his father’s office before leaving, but even combined with this, he wasn’t sure he could afford anywhere to stay.
“Actually, do you have a back room or something? Somewhere I can stay? I don’t need the ten bucks an hour if I can take that.”
“Why the hell not? We got a back room. You’ll have to do the decorating, though.”
“Fine by me.” The guy held the door open.
“Come on in, kid. What’s your name?”
“Diego. Diego Hargreeves.” The guy took in his clothes.
“Hargreeves? You mean like those freaky Umbrella School kids?”
“Umbrella Academy. Yeah.” The guy hesitated, and Diego feared he’d lose his first job before he even started. But he just held the door open a little wider.
“I’m Al. Welcome to Fighting Lion, Diego.” The inside of the gym was nothing special. Concrete floors and walls. A boxing ring set up in the middle with some punching bags hanging here and there. A large Cuban flag hung from the ceiling. Al led Diego through the main gym and into a back hallway. “Here we are.” He pushes open an inconspicuous gray door and held out an arm.
“It’s not much, but it’s yours if you still want-“
“I do. I definitely do.”
“Then I’ll leave you to get settled. Once you’re ready to go, come find me out in the gym, and we’ll get you started fighting.”
Diego dropped his suitcase at the base of the stairs. The room was effectively bare, with the exception of a cot in one corner and a few shelves on the walls. But it was his. It was entirely free from the touch of his father, or his siblings. He tossed his suitcase on the mattress and opened it. He didn’t have much, just his school and mission uniforms and a few miscellaneous items. On the top was his most prized possession in the world: the needlepoint made for him by his mother. He hung the framed piece on a loose nail in the wall and stepped back. He’d miss his siblings, he knew, but there wasn’t nobody he’d miss more than his mother. She had taken care of him all those years. She had raised him. As his father had taught him to fight, she had taught him not to stutter. As he put a knife in his hand and told him that was all he was good for, she showed him the whole world.
Al was waiting for him in front of the ring when Diego came back out.
“You ready to fight?”
“What, you mean, right now?”
“Hell yeah, I mean right now. If you’re gonna fight here, you’re gonna start right now. Show me what you got.”
“Tony! Over here!” And that’s when Diego saw him. Preposterously attractive, all muscles on his six-foot-eight frame. He moved with a grace that shouldn’t have been possible for someone of his size. Even more striking about him, though, were his eyes, a stormy gray-blue. And his smile, broad and brilliant white. He held out a stocky, callused hand to Diego.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Tony Sullivan.”
“Diego. Hargreeves.” They shook, and Diego somehow didn’t feel dwarfed by Tony, despite being almost a foot shorter.
“Alright, ladies, are we gonna stand here chattin’ or are we gonna fight?”
“You’re doing the most chatting, Al.” Tony grinned good-naturedly, the dimples in his cheeks deepening into craters. He took a pair of red boxing gloves off a hook on the wall and slipped them on. “Come on, Hargreeves. Let’s go.” He jumped over the ropes in one leap. “You comin’ or what?”
“Yeah. I’m coming.” Diego ducked between the ropes, just barely catching the gloves that Al tossed his way. He and Tony circled each other, hands up. This, unfortunately, left Diego woefully unprepared when Tony finally lunges at him, landing a punch squarely in the middle of Diego’s jaw. Diego stumbles backwards, reeling.
“Oh my god, are you okay?” Tony reached out, suddenly concerned.
“I’m-“ Diego swung back, hitting Tony with a gut punch. “-fine.” Tony laughed, a warm baritone sound that was basically the vocal equivalent of sunshine.
“Not for long.” He ducked under Diego’s next swing and came up behind him, hitting him with a half-dozen kidney punches. Another blow to the ribs and Diego went down, hitting the floor hard. He rolled onto his back and let his arms flop by his sides.
“Oof. You’ve bested me. I’m beaten.”
“Really? You’re gonna give up that easy?” Diego shrugged limply.
“I did the best I could. You’re just too good.” Tony held out a hand, which Diego tool, and pulled him up off the floor.
“You’ll get there. But for now, can I make it up to you?”
“What were you thinking?”
“A movie. Tonight.”
“I haven’t been to the movies- in a while, I mean,” Diego adjusted.
“All the more reason for us to go. How about the theater next door? Meet me there at seven.”
“I...” What could he say? “Yeah. Sounds great.”
They met at the theater at seven on the dot. Tony was just as intimidatingly handsome with a shirt on as he had been without one. His toothy grin stood in stark contrast to his dark skin, which was the same color as the coffee that he, Luther, and Five used to get when they would sneak out to Griddy’s. Tony bought popcorn and sodas, and they sat in the far back of the theater, in the very darkest corner.
“I love the movies,” Tony whispered as the lights dimmed. “For about five years, I wanted to be a movie star.”
“My parents told me I needed a real job. Something I could make money on.”
“So you became a boxer? That seems counterintuitive.”
“Not as much as you’d think. I mean, I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m pretty big for a nineteen year old. I’ve only lost two fights in my life.”
“Two? I’ve never lost.”
“And fighting bad guys with five other superpowered kids doesn’t count.”
“You know about that?” Diego asked sheepishly.
“You said your name was Hargreeves. I thought it sounded familiar, so I looked you up.”
"You're a world-famous child superhero. It's not like I showed up outside your house in the middle of the night."
"Actually, you kinda did."
"Al's letting me stay in the back room of the gym. So you were actually in my house."
"I got there first."
"Fair enough." Diego popped a couple of kernels of popcorn into his mouth, unable to keep from smiling.
"What?" Tony asked, hardly audible over the soaring music in the movie, which neither one of them was paying any attention to.
"I don't know, I just... why are you so nice to me?" Tony shrugged.
"You seem like you need it. This'll probably sound weird, but... I can see it in your eyes. Like you're totally alone in the world, and you don't know whether that's exciting or terrifying." He leaned in just slightly, but far enough that Diego could smell the faint scent of cologne that wafted off of him. "And I understand that, more than you know." And before Diego knew what was happening, his lips were on Tony's, and they were melting into each other like popsicles on a warm day. Tony's wide hands were everywhere, in his hair, on his back, even sliding up a little bit under his shirt, his touch cold against Diego's warm body. It was like the air was being sucked from Diego's body, like if he and Tony got any closer together they might fuse into one person but was that such a bad thing and oh god, Diego had never felt like this before in his life. When they finally separated, panting and in total disarray, Tony looked uncharacteristically bashful. "Shit, that was- ah, that was probably a mistake."
"It was perfect."
"It... was?" Diego didn't bother to answer, just leaned forward to kiss him again. They spent the rest of the movie in the darkness of that back corner, so close together it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began. To this day, Diego couldn't tell anyone what the movie was about or how it ended, because it didn't matter. Tony was all that mattered.