Being in close quarters with V is nerve-racking. V is an exercise in contrasts: a stranger, at first sight, who’s almost everything Dante’s lost and, in some ways, more than that.
Dante longs to touch him. Dante never wants to see him again.
He hates him for showing up here, years after Dante has made his peace with what happened to Vergil (lies, he knows, but necessary lies keeping him from falling to pieces), telling him to go and kill his brother again. He is grateful beyond words that V sought him out at all.
“You seem restless,” V comments, setting his book down on the recently-cleaned coffee table.
“What, me?” Dante makes a show of looking around for other people, but of course it’s just them, inside a small room like some exquisite torture. He could go upstairs to his bedroom or out on a walk, but he doesn’t dare to, too scared V will be gone when Dante comes back. “I’m fine. Dandy. Can’t wait to kick your ass again.”
“Is that so?” V rises from the sofa and walks to stand next to where Dante’s sitting behind his desk. He leans against the wall next to his chair. “I did not think you’d care, considering.”
“Considering what?” Dante grits out, turning to face him.
“It is hardly the first time.” V’s looking at Dante, years of history reflected in his dark eyes. “One could say we were born to compete.”
“That’s very Vergil of you,” Dante snaps.
“I don’t deny who I used to be,” V says, true emotion in his voice for one. True pain—but Dante has to assume it’s an act. “The kind of a man I was.”
“Was,” Dante quotes, standing up. “Because you’re a powerless human now with no means to reach for your goals?” he taunts.
“Truth can never be told so as to be understood and not be believed.”
Dante wants to believe V is different. He shouldn’t. “Spare me.”
“You asked.” V shrugs one thin shoulder.
“So forthcoming with the answers,” Dante says. “Then why—”
“Do you think you’re not like me?” V doesn’t raise his voice, but he speaks over Dante all the same.
Dante knows he isn’t. That’s the bloody point of their existence: two reflections in a distorting mirror, too corrupt to ever fit together; one dark where the other is light. Counterpoints, but not partners. V is the best proof of that: Vergil had to split his own soul in half for a part of him to come to Dante.
And only because he needed him for a job.
“You never boast about your strength,” V continues. “You don’t like pressing your advantage. Never weigh just what you’re truly capable of against what’s right and find yourself wanting.”
“I don’t cross the line,” Dante says through clenched teeth.
“I know,” V says. “That was my role.”
“Is there a point to this?” Dante asks.
“Power is important. It lets you protect people you care about.” V looks at him through his lashes. “You certainly never simply enjoy it, do you? All that might inside you—you never hope for an excuse to use it and let out.”
No one could push his buttons like Vergil. Dante punches the wall next to V’s head, hard enough to make a hole in it. The skin on his knuckles breaks and heals almost immediately. He’s breathing too fast, and he’s shaking with the urge to hurt something, someone, to hurt V.
“Stop it,” Dante growls.
“Make me.” V raises his chin.
Dante sees red.
He’s always been the one to step back from the edge, but this isn’t an innocent human in front of him at all, and Dante doesn’t care about proving him right as long as he can shut him up, and he is tired of not letting go—
The last thread of his self-control snaps as the devil inside him wakes.
V laughs at him. “How very curious to see you as the more demonic one, brother,” he mocks.
He shouldn’t do that. He’s so fragile, so breakable, so human like this; Dante’s uncontainable power is coursing through his veins, every sense heightened, every sensation stronger, and it’s like the world goes faster and slower at once. The fluttering of V’s lashes, his mouth parting slightly as he exhales, his pulse beating in his neck—
Dante grabs him, claws of one hand curling around V’s naked arm, second hand forcing V’s head to the side for a better access, leans in and bites. The taste overcomes all his senses, sweet and powerful like only human blood is—Dante has no idea how he knows that, but he does, deep in his soul. There’s a bitter tinge to it that he shouldn’t like, but that just makes everything better, like a sharp reminder of the time he tasted Vergil’s blood in battle.
This isn’t a battle (but to his devil self, everything is) and this isn’t Vergil (except for how it is) and Dante has more power than he knows what to do with, but V’s blood gives him more and he can’t say no.
A sharp pain penetrates his thoughts. He squeezes V’s arm harder, breaking the skin, but it doesn’t go away, and Dante finally lets him go, morphing back into human, confusion taking place of bloodlust. The source of pain finally registers: V stabbed him with his cane like it’s the fucking Yamato. It’s immediately obvious why, too, and a wave of shame goes through Dante as he realises his hand still wrapped around V’s now bloodied arm and the wall behind his back are pretty much the only things keeping him upright now.
V’s eyes are surprisingly clear when Dante finally looks him in the face again. “Nature or nurture,” he says, weirdly self-satisfied for his state.
“Is that supposed to mean anything?” Dante asks. He winces as V pulls the cane from his chest in one motion and leans on it instead of relying on Dante’s strength to stand.
Dante’s wound heals. The one on V’s neck is still bleeding.
Devil enough to survive, not enough to heal.
“Were you never curious, brother, what the true difference between us was?” V asks idly. He sounds calm, but he’s paler than ever and his voice is raspy.
Dante spent more time wondering what he could’ve done differently, really, so he just raises his eyebrows. “Me not being a power-obsessed jackass is one, don’t you think?”
V raises one corner of his mouth in a parody of a smile. He touches two fingers to his neck. They come away red, and he reaches out and presses them to Dante’s lips. Dante licks them clean almost instinctively.
“Is it?” V asks, never taking his hand away, and Dante hears the other question hidden behind it: can you still claim you’d have taken different steps on my road?
V’s blood still on his tongue, he can’t answer.