It had been the latter for some time. She drifted through Hell, fighting off lesser demons here and there, but mostly just... wandering. Aimlessly.
She did not realize she was bound for the divide until she saw it, shimmering before her. Purgatory, just out of her reach. She stared at it.
Also for a time.
The passage of time had been...hard for the shade that now knew itself--herself--to be Kathy. Before she'd remembered her self and her identity, one moment was much like another, content to drift along like so much kelp on the waves.
But now she knew and remembered and could tell one minute from the next as they slowly ticked by. And each minute was long and frustrating, an agony of waiting for a girl who had never slowed down in life. She almost started to wonder if she was mad, if she'd dreamed up the woman with long red hair and wings like a bird. In this place, it would be easy to go mad, locked in eternal sameness.
In this place, who could tell?
Still, that didn't stop her from making her way to the barrier every...amount of time. It was hard to keep track, here. But it was a plan, a goal, something to do and so regular intervals could find Kathy at the edge of Purgatory, the one shade that moved with purpose amongst the drifting, peering through the walls in an attempt to see whatever it was she could see.
There was something moving just beyond the barrier. Eva could not hear her jailer screaming in the back of her head just yet, and so she was bold, moved closer. "Who's there?" she called, a note of desperation in her voice. "Is that you...?"
What had the shade's name been?
Immediately, Kathy was up against the barrier, palms flat against it. If she got any closer, her nose would be pressed against it, like a puppy at a window. "Eva?" she called, trying to push her way through. "Eva!"
She was real! She existed!
And that was it. Eva dashed forward, her bare feet slamming against the warm rocks at unnatural speeds. "Kathy, no," she snapped. "Stay where you are!"
Kathy stopped, freezing in place before slowly eeling backwards, away from the barrier. "Right," she said softly. "This is Hell. You're trapped in Hell." She frowned. "If you're in Hell, where am I? This certainly doesn't seem like Heaven."
Seriously, if this were Heaven, she'd need to have a talk with all her Christian friends about not believing in somewhere better.
...Not that she could talk to much of anyone outside of her dreams.
"Why are you in Hell?" she asked. "You're...you're an angel, aren't you?"
Eva's gait slowed, then stopped entirely as she came close to the barrier. She tilted her head, trying to catch the fullness of Kathy's features through the shimmering energy. "Yes," she said quietly. "But I did something no angel was supposed to do. So they branded me a traitor and threw me in here."
"What isn't an angel supposed to--" Kathy paused. Turned a few things over in her mind. Her eyes widened as she put it all together. "Dante. You weren't supposed to have Dante. You feel like Dante does. But so does Hell--and in a different way that you do."
She took a step backwards, trying to deny what her brain was telling her was the last piece of the puzzle. The last leap of logic that was more like a hop by this point. "Who was Dante's father?"
A Reaver Lord, according to the way Max talked about them. Reaver Lord was easier for her mind to accept than demon.
Eva couldn't help it. Just saying the name caused a mixture of affection and deep sorrow to pass over her face, her mouth twisting into a small smile.
"My beautiful demon," she said. "Kinder than any angel I've ever known."
"So what happened?" Kathy asked, pressing close again, but not pushing through. "How did you end up here? How did Dante go from being the son of an angel and a demon to having no idea who he is, living in an orphanage with nuns that eat children? He has no idea of his family or his heritage or even his last name!"
"We had to keep our boys safe," Eva said.
She reached out, her hand hovering near Kathy's, bare inches away. "When the demons found out what Sparda-- what we had done, they came after us. They had to be hidden. I didn't want them to-- they had to be." She frowned. "What do you know--?"
Nuns that ate children?
"Boys?" Kathy asked, stunned again. Plural? Dante had a brother? She felt almost dizzy with the amount of information she had now. So many holes in Dante's background that she could fill in for him, so many questions she could answer...
...And here she was. Dead and useless.
"I've spoken to Dante," she said dully. "Both now and as the little boy he once was. He spent time in Saint Lamia Orphanage and children would disappear. The other children thought they we adopted, but Dante could see into Limbo, knew what was happening."
"No," Eva said. She shut her eyes, bringing her hands back to her face. She had to shield her expression from view. "I."
She dragged in a breath of air she had no need for.
"Twin boys," she said, answering the question first. "Dante and Vergil. You don't know-- Dante's still alive, yes?"
"He was when I died," Kathy said, her expression shuttering. She and Anders had made a kind of peace before then--tentative and fragile, but still a peace. She and Dante had not. "He...he wasn't with me. He wasn't even in the same world as I was."
He'd made it very clear he'd wanted nothing more to do with her.
"He was alive. But the demons are still trying to kill him. I saw them try, once. Or, rather, I saw the effects in the real world while they dragged him into Limbo and tried to kill him there."
"So they found him," Eva said, a tremor in her voice. "I'd hoped... Sparda could have found a way to keep them together. So they'd be able to keep each other safe."
But apparently not.
"He remembers nothing about Vergil?"
Sorry, Kathy. She'd eventually remember you were here for another purpose besides telling her everything.
Was she? Maybe Eva would be so kind as to tell her what it was, then? Because as far as Kathy could tell, she was only here to drift.
"He remembers nothing about nothing," Kathy said, ignoring the double negative. "He had...meningitis, I think. When he was seven. Forgot everything from before then."
She gave Eva a wry look. "Except it wasn't meningitis, was it? How old was he when the demons came?"
"Seven," Eva said softly.
Color Kathy vastly unsurprised.
"How much did he see?" she asked, just as softly.
Eva's hand slid to her chest, right over where her heart should have been. "Everything," she said.
When she pulled her hand away, it was red, and the cavity in her chest was blatantly visible.
Kathy had seen worse injuries before she'd died. Exes weren't the type to be neat when they ate and as Banzai and even more as Regenerator's assistant, she'd seen the horrors they'd left behind.
But none of the people she'd ever seen had been people she'd known or at least had a connection to. And looking at the gaping wound where Eva's heart should be hurt. Especially knowing that little boy she'd met and fed and supplied with comic books had watched it happen.
"It bought them time," Eva said.
Her voice was still soft, but there was a vehemence to it.
"I understand." Kathy tugged on her garment--whatever it was, it wasn't her gi. Or anything else she'd ever worn in life--exposing her shoulder and the gouged hole where the ex had taken its bite. "Maybe if I'd listened to Raven, 'Genny would have gotten to me in time. But I didn't. I kept fighting, kept keeping the living out of the jaws of the dead."
The difference between them was that she regretted it. And would have changed a lot, if she had the chance. She didn't want to be dead at eighteen.
And Eva was a mother. Her criteria for a worthy end were entirely different from Kathy's.
"How did you die?" she asked. Her fingers touched the barrier, but gently, so it didn't set off any alarms.
"I was stupidity and selfishness masquerading as bravery," Kathy said bitterly. Dying had a way of exposing the lies one tells oneself--often brutally. "Somehow, the undead came to Los Angeles. Exes--zombies, rather. And I thought I could stop them. Help stop them, I mean. I knew I wasn't anything more than a second-stringer. A Saturday morning cartoon, all dressed in rainbows and the belief in my own happy ending." Her mouth twisted and she looked away, hands balled into fists and she struggled not to cry.
"We were patrolling and I got bit. We had someone who could heal bites, stop the bitten from turning, but we got the timeframe wrong. I'm fast. Really fast. Faster than Dante." Or, well, she had been. "And that's all of me. So he stuck me at the end of the line and went off to take a nap. By the time he woke up, I was too far gone. I don't remember much of the end, but I remember it hurting and I j-just wah-hanted the pain to stop and--"
She was sobbing now. Sobbing over her own death and all the dreams that had died with her.
"I'm so sorry," Eva said. She wished she could risk it again - passing through, giving this girl the hug she clearly needed. But she couldn't. It'd be too risky for both of them, if her jailer decided to take an interest in the little spirit that kept spooking past his prison walls.
"I'm sorry, Kathy," she said again, soothing now. The girl was barely more than a child, she realized. She pressed her other hand up against the barrier as well. "You're in purgatory. There'll be no more pain."
It was the best she had. She knew it wasn't enough.
If pressed, Kathy would say she didn't deserve the comfort anyway. It was her fault she was here, after all. It wouldn't be fair to put Eva in more danger just because Kathy was lying in a bed of her own making.
But damn. There was no way she would have turned the comfort down.
She wanted a hug. She wanted her sister. She wanted all the friends she'd left behind. She even wanted the cool hug and peck on the forehead her mother used to offer before bed and the bear hug her father used to give when she was a very little girl.
Eventually, even the deepest grief wears itself out. Kathy's tears dried and she pushed herself back up, barely aware that she'd sunk to her knees in the first place. "Sorry," she said, voice hoarse and eyes red. Sarah had been a pretty crier. That gene had skipped Kathy. "I just--this was the first time I'd really thought about everything."
"Where do you roam, that you're having such trouble finding peace?" Eva asked, her head tilted. "Those who die protecting others... we usually found a place for them, above."
She smiled faintly. She'd stopped thinking of above as home a long time ago, but she knew it well.
"Maybe because I never believed in an up there?" Kathy answered tentatively. She felt distinctly odd admitting this to an angel. "My family was Buddhist, but I never really believed in anything."
She'd tried, of course. Tried to believe because she was supposed to, because her parents did. But you can't force faith no matter how hard you try.
"So now I'm here, I guess. Trapped in the endless sameness of here."
Eva sighed softly.
"You need to find some way to move on, since you can't sustain this forever," she said. "Religion can guide you humans, yes. But belief comes in more shapes than one."
She felt it now, the slight tension at the back of her neck. Her jailer was not alarmed, but he was searching for her.
"The stuff I did believe in is what landed me here," Kathy said, bitterly. A part of her resonated with the truth of Eva's words. If she stayed in this place too long, she'd go mad. "Any suggestions?"
"I wish I had some," Eva said quietly. "You have to come to terms with that which is making you restless... or build up your power to become something more than what you are now."
She took a few steps away from the barrier.
"I should go."
"Build up my power?" Kathy asked. She wasn't even going to touch the 'coming to terms' thing. Just accepting she was dead and everything was over. That still hurt. She wasn't sure she would ever come to terms with it. "I wouldn't know the first thing about how to do that."
Even alive, her 'superpowers' hadn't been all that impressive. Incredible balance. Speed. Bounciness. She couldn't fling electricity like Anders or shapeshift like Raven or even approach the tank Dante was. She'd been a superball, that was it.
Superball. Ouch. Dammit, Dante.
"Must you?" She tried not to sound plaintive, but Eva was the only real person here. The only one she could talk to.
"I wish I could stay."</span>
The tingling at the back of her neck was growing stronger. Eva cast a glance over her shoulder, and caught the tell-tale glimpse of enormous muscle and empty masks.
"But I am a prisoner here," she said, "And my jailer is coming for me. I'd rather he not find you, little shade."
It was unfortunate. She still wanted to know so much about her boys. But-- they were alive. Or Dante, at least. That was a comfort.
Kathy tried to peer through the barrier again, attempting to spot the Eva's jailer. If she had even a little power like the kind Eva said she needed to make herself something more, maybe she could have done something. Maybe being dead wouldn't have been such a fuckingwaste if she could save Dante's mom.
But she didn't. She couldn't. All she could do was wander around, as listless as any of the other shades but with far more presence of mind.
"I hope I can see you again," she said, drawing away from the barrier a bit. She wasn't afraid of the jailer exactly--even if the idea of a confrontation with a demon was terrifying, at least it would be something--but she knew Eva would get involved. Maybe even hurt. If nothing else, the visits would stop. "Talk more."
She had a ton of Dante stories, some she'd even be able to share with his mother. But it seemed wrong to use her friendship with Eva's son as bait.
Eva threw Kathy a small smile over her shoulder, though she wondered if the girl could even see it. "Please come by again," she called.
Then she was gone, her bare feet thudding against the ground once more. The jailer was terrifying, and down here, she was powerless. She had to run, and hope it grew disinterested again.
Kathy lingered by the barrier for a long time afterwards, hoping that Eva would be able to lose her jailer and come back. It wasn't like she had anything better to do and waiting here was at least different than waiting elsewhere in the unchanging beige of Purgatory.
At one point, she saw movement in the distance. She cupped her hands over her eyes and leaned in to try to see through the barrier better. She couldn't, but the weight of her body caused the barrier to shift and her face sunk into it and pressed through the other side. Her first unfiltered glimpse of Hell made her gasp, and she flung herself backwards into Purgatory proper. Where it was boring. Where it was safe.
But she could get through if she wanted to. And wasn't that interesting?
[Preplayed with the delightful rebelseekspizza. NFI, NFB, OOC is love]