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Rebirth

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Vergil wished severing the Qliphoth roots had taken longer, that his presence in Hell with Dante had been prolonged. He didn’t mind the place, the demons constantly attacking, the absence of days and nights, how hunger and sleepiness vanished and time distorted into a blur. He liked it there--he could fight Dante endlessly, counting hits, bending his mind towards nothing but their rivalry and his lifelong struggle to dominate. One up. Even. One down. Even again. On and on they went, fighting restlessly.

He could forget the constant pain drilling in his mind and body as it had rebuilt in the depths of Hell, where all demons regenerated and where he’d fought Mundus’ corruption every step of the way.

He could forget V’s memories, slippery as they were, sometimes hot and vivid, sometimes faint echoes.

He could forget Nero’s existence, his power, his desire and demand for them to stop fighting, stop killing each other.

He could try, anyway. None of it ever really disappeared.

Still. He had been better at keeping them at bay as the Yamato and the Devil Sword clashed together in a flurry of strikes and parries, the rapid-fire rhythm of their battles a music filling Vergil’s mind and chasing away everything. He knew this--the battle, how to move within it, to lose himself into the steps, the bursts of devil power, the quick rush of victory as Yamato slid past Dante’s defenses. The spike of frustration when Dante caught him off-guard. It was familiar-- grounding--and Vergil would have kept going forever and enjoyed himself immensely if, after another headlong clash that forced them both to jump backward, Dante hadn’t thrown his sword over his shoulder and declared, “I’m bored. Let’s get dinner instead.”

Vergil straightened slowly, his fingers burning from catching himself in a long slide. How could Dante be bored? No one else fought like they did--or almost no one, a small voice reminded him. But he didn’t want to think of Nero. “Don’t mock me, Dante. We finally have all the time in the world to settle this.” He lifted Yamato and fell back into a fighting stance. “You cannot quit without a three-point headway. Those are our rules of engagement.”

Dante laughed, then, and let the Devil Sword vanish into thin air. “That'd never end, and I'm craving some pizza.” He spread his arms as he started walking backward, away from Vergil and their fighting area. “Sorry, brother, but my entire life doesn't revolve around kicking your ass.”

The words neither does mine formed in his mind and immediately died there. Vergil’s fingers tightened around the Yamato. Dante couldn't stop. Not like this, without a clear winner. When Dante turned his back on him, something jolted through Vergil.

“Then you forfeit,” he declared, ice calm and smug, hoping Dante wasn't listening hard enough to hear the slight crack at the end. He didn't want Dante to forfeit; he wanted him to lose.

Dante cocked his head to the side, a sure sign he'd heard him. Vergil tensed, readying himself. Any moment now, Dante would spring back into an attack, Devil Sword in hand. Just. Any moment… now… “Have you ever had Fredi’s strawberry sundae, Vergil?” Dante asked. “They really give you a new perspective on life. You should try it.”

And he walked off, leaving Vergil hanging, Yamato poised to fight, his entire mind focused on a first parry that would never happen. Dante had almost jumped off their flat knot of Qliphoth roots by the time Vergil accepted he wouldn't turn around. He really was quitting, even if only for now. The Yamato's tip touched the ground as he let it droop.

“Dante.”

He'd meant to call out, but instead the name emerged rough and cracked, as if stripped from any strength and smoothness. Dante either didn't hear or ignore it. He leaped off, leaving Vergil alone.

Again.

Vergil didn’t move, disbelief creeping through him. Dante wouldn't walk out on him. They never backed down on a fight--never! No one was interfering, so he had no reason to quit. Why would he? He stayed put, as rooted as the remnants of Qliphoth beneath his feet, his grip ever-tighter on the Yamato. Dante wished to return to the human world, to Devil May Cry , demon hunting, and … and Nero. A life outside of kicking your ass. Vergil stared at the empty spot where Dante had stood, unable to bring himself to follow. How pointless would such an endeavour be? He had no desire to waste time with human futilities and integrate their pitiful lives. None at all.

Vergil stood in the middle of the Qliphoth platform, chin raised and Yamato in hand. His eyes hadn’t moved from Dante’s now empty spot. His stomach had tightened, his palms grown sweaty, his heart sped up. In an instant of unusual clarity, Vergil put a name on the feeling welling inside of him: fear.

He scoffed at himself, smirked, and sprinted after his brother.


###

 

Dante stared at the beautiful Devil May Cry neon sign above his home, and a line of knots unwound along his shoulders. Home. For all that he often left days or months at a time, Dante loved the wide, spare space he called a house and office, with its peculiar smell of stale-air-and-pizza and the jittering, oft-repaired jukebox. He couldn’t wait to spread out in his sofa and put some goddamn music on. The sounds of Hell--whispers of demons, the strange squish of blood-filled Qliphoth, the repeated clang of swords clashing in repeated fights--those had grown boring. He missed the rhythms of rock, played by others or by his own hand.

So he’d returned. Nothing had trapped him in Hell except his endless duels with Vergil. And man, how fun those had been for a while. Just the two of them, strikes, parries, and taunts, without the fate of the world in their balance. Dante had burned through so much pent-up frustration, he might never be angry again! Except, most assuredly, at Vergil. Vergil would always draw the deepest, most powerful emotions out of him, from love and hatred both. That motherfucker had imprinted himself on Dante’s heart and stabbed it through several times over. And yet, and yet…

Vergil stood three steps behind Dante, hood pulled over his head, a hand on the Yamato’s pommel. Brooding. He hadn’t said much since they’d reached the human world, collapsing back into himself and withholding the slicing remarks that had sprinkled their time in Hell, the casual, deadly humour lodging itself into Dante’s soul and warming it. Damn, but he could be funny when he wasn’t moralizing about true power!

“Well, here we are. Welcome to your new home.”

He strode forward, set his hands against the double doors, and shoved them inward. Vergil's only response was a pensive hmm , but he followed Dante into the dump he'd proudly called home for thirty years. The wooden desk, old rotary phone, and multiple artificial house plants welcomed him inside, as did the wacky motifs of the wallpaper that he’d never gone around to change, and which had grown on him. Yet while his furniture remained unchanged, Dante didn't miss the signs of temporary occupancy: the half-finished pool game, the new magazines on top of the one he'd been reading, the handful of strewn white jacket near the couch, and the fact the lights turned on at all when he flicked them up. Someone had kept coming here, using Devil May Cry's office, and he thought he knew who: the magazine was all about big guns, and the jacket looked like Lady's. Dante half laughed, half sighed.

“That shark will have put all the maintenance bills on my debt.”

“You still owe money?” Vergil had stayed near the door, hovering there. “I thought I cleared those when I hired you.”

Dante laughed at that. “No one's ever clear of a Lady's debt.”

“Ah.” The hint of a smile tugged at Vergil's lips. “I'll keep that in mind for any further dealings with her.”

Silence returned while Dante picked up the jacket and gun magazine, throwing them together in a pile for Lady's next visit. Then he vaulted over the desk, landed in the large chair, and flicked the telephone up with the tip of his toes, having it land straight into his hands. The chair espoused his ass and that? That was true home.

“I'm calling the pizza. Make yourself at home.”

Vergil swept his gaze across the room, eyebrows shooting up. “I'm expected to live here?”

“That's right, Vergil. Right where I can keep an eye on you.”

Vergil ran his hand along the length of the Yamato, then sighed. Dante stared at him, fingers hovering over the rotary phone. When they were fighting together, they fell in complete sync, sensing each other's strategies and movements. Dante knew Vergil's fighting stances as well as his own--even better, perhaps. But if he had to guess what was going on in his brother's head now? What he would do next? Hard to say. Vergil probably didn’t know either and considering Dante had spent most of his life waiting on the next job from Morrisson, he couldn't fault him. Maybe that’d be their life now: two brothers napping on couches until their agent strolled through with another demon to hunt. Dante allowed the daydream to linger then spun the dial and called for his pizza.

As the familiar ring filled Dante’s ears, Vergil advanced into the wide office. He grimaced at the posters on the wall, trailed his finger through the gathered dust, and eventually reached the pool table. He tapped the border of the table with his fingers, clearly considering a game. There was something painful in watching Vergil move through Dante’s space. How often had he imagined this in the decades since first defeating him? How often had he startled awake from a couch nap, certain he’d heard his name called, certain it had been Vergil saying it, with his specific inflexion at the end, like the name was so much more than just a name. And always, he’d opened his eyes to disappointing emptiness and the boring reality of his life.

How can I help you? ” The girl on the phone startled him.

“Please send four large pizzas to Devil May Cry . All dressed, but skip the olives.”

Vergil’s head snapped up. He tilted it to the side, eyebrows raised, his entire expression a silent really, Dante? that had somehow stayed the exact same since they were kids. Dante rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t help the spike of warmth through him. Back then, he would always give his olives to Vergil.

“On second thought,” Dante said, “keep the olives on one pizza. I have a very special guest.”

Vergil’s lips parted at the mention of ‘special guest’, but he changed his mind and didn’t add anything. A light smile hovered on them still, and he strode to the desk as Dante hung up the phone. His fingers trailed on it but he didn’t sit, still standing straight with his shoulders thrown back like their father would pass by and tell them to stop slouching the moment he relaxed.

“So this is where you’ve lived for the last twenty years,” he said.

Was that meant as an insult? Dante loved his dump and wouldn’t trade it for any fancy office with big windows and whatever new-fangled tech was supposed to impress clients these days.

“Yep. Welcome to my palace, brother!” He spread his arm out and kicked his feet upon the desk. “I'm not very into big towers that destroy city landscapes, I'm afraid. You'll have to make do with the view from the roof, if you want height.”

Vergil glanced at the windows and responded with a slight shake of his head. Silence stretched again, long and awkward. Dante was debating between a nap and a quip when Vergil spoke again.

“It's… quiet.”

The tightness in his voice caught Dante off guard. Vergil pressed his lips together and tapped the desk slowly, filling the silence with a discreet cadence. He'd have expected his brother to enjoy the calm, but instead it was obviously bothering him. Too much going on in his head, huh? Dante sure had been there before.

“Now, that, I can fix for you.”

He pushed himself off the chair, striding to the old jukebox sitting in a corner. A quick punch on top brought back the neon colours and 8-bit beeps. Dante patted it and turned to Vergil.

“This here is a state of the art machine, brother, and it plays only the best music. You’re about to be blown away.”

“Allow me to express a modicum of doubts.”

“You’ll see.”

Dante leaned forward to examine his choices of songs. After a moment of indecision, he pressed the button for Rock You Like A Hurricane and let the familiar beats fill his ears and wash away some of the weirdness tied to Vergil's presence here. Putting his music on, even if it was for Vergil, felt like reclaiming his space.

“So. What do you--”

He never finished the question. Vergil was holding their mother’s portrait, staring at it so intently Dante knew the rest of the world had faded away. His expression was unreadable, a blunt mask betrayed only by the subtle twitch of his right eyes--a lockdown when Dante would’ve forced a grin.

“You know …” Dante started, and Vergil’s head snapped up at the first words. He hurriedly slammed down the portrait back on the desk. Dante crossed his arms and leaned on the jukebox. “I think she’d be happy. About us being here together.”

“You think … even though I--” He stopped, but it wasn’t hard to see where those words had led.

“Dunno ‘bout that, brother. Maybe if you stay here long enough, you can apologize to it more often than I have over the years.”

Vergil became ramrod straight, like he’d needed to slam control over his body before he fought or fled. He stared at Dante, chin raised slightly, a thread of arrogance covering the shake of his voice. “What did you have to apologize for?”

Ah, yes, what indeed? He, who’d found this portrait as a child while running out of their burning house but could never find his brother again. He, who’d fought with Vergil over and over, and failed to stop him from going to Hell. He, who’d had to destroy Nelo Angelo and, he’d thought, the last shreds of Vergil left in this world. And he’d been ready to do it again, atop the Qliphoth, had seen his last hopes of Vergil ever turning away from power crushed as V plunged his cane into Urizen. What did Vergil believe, exactly? That he celebrated each victory with pride? Dante rolled his eyes, stuffing his desire to shatter that illusion deep down and instead replying with a wide grin.

“Why, because you’re still an idiot.”

They were saved by the screeching of tires outside the door. Pizza, at last! Dante pushed himself off the jukebox and crossed the room to pick up the delivery. A delicious aroma emanated from the boxes, and he peeked into the first box. As soon as he spotted the olives, he flung it across the room at Vergil, boomerang-style.

“Here’s your dinner, brother, delivered with extra unwanted advice: you’re going to have a lot of time on your hands to overthink your mistakes. Naps just feel way better.”

Vergil caught the pizza box with a sharp, quick laugh. “How bold. You assume I have mistakes to overthink.”

Dante rolled his eyes and flung himself into the closest couch, popping open the top of his pizza box. He knew a dodge when he witnessed one, and he didn’t care to ask Vergil about any of this either. If they started going over the last twenty years, they’d be fighting again before the meal was over.

“What can I say? You eat your pizza with olives, and that’s all the proof I need.”

This time, Vergil’s laugh surged out loud and honest. He settled on the desk and opened the top of the pizza box. “Foolishness, Dante. Olives are excellent.”

“You’re welcome to mine the next time they forget them on.”

It would happen, sooner or later, and he usually didn’t bother to pick them out despite the acrid taste they left on the otherwise perfect pizza. For now, he intended to enjoy the delicious, greasy slices before him for the first time in months. Dante closed his eyes, setting aside all thoughts of Vergil’s new presence, and devoured his meal.