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Hell wavered.

From the top of its eternally sunless sky to its deepest pits and ravines. It shuddered with a painful exclamation. With thin, gangly fingers, its creeping darkness reached up to catch the dangling prey, a feast they could present before their King with hungry stares and eager grins. Give him, give him! The demons gave an ear-piercing screech. Their words were a cold hiss against a sweltering metal surface, a grinding of two hateful swords sliding across each other. Drop him! Let him go, Dante!

Dante tightened his grip in retaliation. Hell couldn’t have him, it couldn’t take his only family from him. Blood seeped out between Dante’s fingers, slick and slippery as he held tight to Vergil’s arm. His heart pounded against his ribcage and against the rock on which he anchored himself.

Shock painted Vergil’s expression, pallor and sunken as perpetual fear showed through the chinks in his carefully crafted facade. A searing sense of shame and anger filled the empty space around Vergil and his face contorted into that of crackling rage. 

“Dante, release me.” He seethed out, voice soft yet threatening like the shivering rattle of a serpent in the grass. A warning. One chance only, Dante. Get out now.

“No.” The word was harsh and final, a protest and a command all at once. Vergil opened his mouth to retort but was cut off. “There’s no way I’m letting you go.”

Hesitance and sorrow not his own replaced the shivering animosity Vergil had built up. If it was because of the scratchy crack in Dante’s voice or the thin stream of tears that trickled down his face, he couldn’t say. A smile pulled at Dante’s lips. With a bracing inhale, he heaved Vergil—who maneuvered comfortably, lithely—upward until both of them found purchase on solid ground. Vergil got in a single breath before Dante slung an arm around his shoulders and encouraged him to follow the light of the gate home.


Lady brushed her hand up against the side of a hefty piece of rubble. Her fingers dug into the lines of an arrangement of carefully engraved runes, words only people like she or her father would recognize in its ancient, underworldly dialect. Her eyes followed her nails as they traced over each graceless symbol, jagged and rough, worn out after 2000 years worth of weathered sealing at the hands of the Dark Knight Sparda. 

“Light blinds the path, only in darkness will you find your way.”

It was a riddle to a puzzle deep inside the confines of Temen-Ni-Gru, an irritably simple one that Lady solved by turning off her motorcycle’s headlight. She speculated about whether or not it was more refined and more of an allusion in any Hellish lexicon, if something other than a human could solve the puzzle and traverse the hungry caverns of the underworld's most complex masterpiece, something that might have made it more of a challenge for some highway entertainment on her way to kill dear old daddy.

“You imbecile!” A bitter, enraged voice rose above the grunge and the debris. Lady had only heard it once but she had no doubt of its owner. She tensed, hand fumbling for the jagged blade strapped to her calf. White-hot rage severed against her skin, traveling up along her arms and shoulders, suffocating her, blinding her. She wanted more than anything to hold her pretty little knife close to her heart.

“Hey, let’s not go calling each other names, Vergil.” Lady recognized that voice for sure. The tension in her muscles loosened and she slipped the knife back into its sheath. As much of an ass as Dante made himself out to be, he was unrelenting, strong, her earlier brawl with him had all but confirmed that.

“You should have left me.”

“Wasn’t gonna happen. Not one for letting my family do stupid things.”

“Oh, now we’re a family?”

As she rounded the corner, Lady didn’t need to see Dante’s wince to know that the barbs on that utterance stung. He shifted from his left foot to his right, Kalina-Ann rested comfortably on his shoulders, secured by his hold. His clothes, and Vergil’s for that matter were torn and soaked through with what she hoped was water. By the looks of things, they had been run ragged through hell and back, literally. Taking in a calming breath while the rubble crumbled underfoot, she made her way toward them, eager to get her hands back on her prized weapon. She needed to have a conversation with Red Devil McLeather about Blue Doom & Gloom anyway.

“Hey, look who’s alive and kicking!” Dante crooned as soon as he saw her, flashing her a fanged grin. God, what a snarky shitshow. Two could play at that game.

“Yeah, kicking your ass,” Lady said smoothly. “So, it’s over?”

“Yep, all over!” Dante exclaimed. “No more surprise hell towers rising from the ground. Right?”

Lady didn’t miss the warning glare Dante shot his twin or the apathetic eye roll Vergil returned it with.

“Right…” Vergil didn’t even bother trying to sound convincing. Lady almost shot him right then and there.

“Good,” Lady replied. She gestured to her bazooka. “By the way, I want that back.”

Dante shrugged and hefted Kalina-Ann off his shoulders. Before he could change his mind on how excellent quality of a weapon it was, Lady took it and placed it at her side, guarding it like it was her most precious treasure. With its name and significance, it might as well have been. “Now, what about him ?” Lady gestured again, this time to Vergil. 

If Vergil was annoyed by such acknowledgment, he gave no indication of it.

“What about him?” Dante asked, tilting his head like an adorable puppy.

Lady resisted the urge to maim him. If he was playing dumb on purpose, she might not have to hold back. “Don’t pretend you don’t know, jackass. You’re not just gonna let him go, are you?”

“Well…” Dante trailed off, only leaving enough time for someone to consider the possibility. “I was thinking about taking him somewhere off the West coast to retire. I hear Paris Island is lovely this time of year. White sandy beaches, lots of sunshine, boozy piña coladas-“

“Is this some kind of joke to you?” Lady snapped, leaning forward and tapping Kalina-Ann impatiently.

“What do you expect me to do with him?” Dante inquired and if Lady didn't know better, she would have said his tone was admonishing, cold and guarded even. He was irritated now. She could see it in all his features, in his furrowed eyebrows, pointed frown, and stiff shoulders. He was winding back like a spring or perhaps a ferocious animal, ready to protect his territory and everything that fell underneath it, even if those things didn't particularly deserve it. 

“Turn him in to the authorities at the very least,” Lady said. A part of her knew she was being a bit unfair. But she wouldn’t blame herself for wanting to see Blue Ribbon Apocalypse pay for his crimes.

Dante threw his head back where he released a mocking, raucous laugh. “And then what? You want me to catch him every time he escapes after that? No way, I don’t have the time for that and regular prisons aren’t designed to contain us.”

Us. He’d said it so simply that Lady had to fight the double-take she wanted to do. He’d never said it out loud, Lady didn’t think he ever would. They were twins, connected through the blood of their parents and the inevitable violence that followed suit. But Dante had never aligned himself with Vergil until now. Lady figured that Being Concerned was a reasonable starting point for wherever this might go. If she had to go hunting again, then she’d steel her resolve.

“Do something about him!” Lady burst out. She didn’t say the word on her mind, she knew better than to. He had a name and he wasn’t some creature to ogle and gawk at or even run the bladed tip of Kalina-Ann through. However, when she looked up into his ice-blue eyes, it felt as though he could sense what it was she wanted to call him. Demon. Devil.

“Listen, I didn’t stick my nose into your family business,” Dante said in annoyance. He placed his hands on his hips. “Not until you asked me to, anyway. Besides, it’s not like your father is any better.”

My Father is dead,” Lady bit out, jabbing her finger against Dante’s chest accusingly. “And we're not talking about my family anymore. We’re discussing what to do with him–“ Lady’s voice and pointing stopped short. “Wh- where’d he go?”

Dante did a quick three-sixty. “Oh, shit.”

Vergil had disappeared.


His feet pounded against the rubble in rapid repetition, bolting in the direction that called his name as the memories chased behind him. Memories came to him, of him and Dante—racing, lightfooted and fleeting, sprinting through forests and meadows, upstairs and downstairs, between the pillars and elegant, velvety curtains. Phantoms their father had called them; in his native, hellish language. A beautiful, haunting word for which there was no enunciable equivalent, referring to their nimble movements, how they melted into the shadows and reappeared elsewhere, sneaking about, giggling echoes following them wherever they went. 

Vergil had always been faster than his brother. First for everything. First for dinner, first for bed, first when their mother sought them out, first to sneak up on their father and to be greeted by him, happily squealing, being lifted into the air, to be asked whether or not he had been good today, little phantom.

And yet, somehow, despite all the fighting, training, the adamant, endless prodding in his screaming soul to run, escape. Somehow, somehow...

Vergil only made it three steps past the city line when Dante tackled him. His face came closer to the ground than he would have liked as they rolled over each other repeatedly in a cluster of limbs and weapons too sharp to be doing anything of the sort. As soon as Dante had his bearings and Vergil, he began the long struggle of a trek back to his shop.

“Let go of me!” Vergil demanded, struggling to shimmy out of Dante’s grasp. 

“No can do, bro!” Dante retorted cheerfully. The skill of out-jackassing his brother was a feat Dante held in high regard and the reward usually went to himself, usually as a token of cheer and bragging rights. Such accomplishments didn’t last long, however victorious he momentarily had been. “No. Nononononono! Don’t you go boneless on me!!”

Vergil turned to jello in Dante’s arms. It a last-ditch effort he’d never resort to unless he absolutely had to, was something ludicrous and childish and Dante knew childish. He had to begrudgingly admit his brother was tenacious if nothing else. But so was Dante and he had a counter for this in the form of a wintry three-headed weapon.

Vergil didn’t squeak. He would swear it up and down for the rest of his life, stretched out over the expanses of heaven and hell and everything in between. He had trained himself every possible scenario, with every twist and turn weaved into it. None of that included being chained up and slung over his brother’s shoulder like a sack of potatoes but he'd still deny it to kingdom come. As much didn’t stop Dante from cackling regardless of Vergil’s protests. 

“Whatever you say,” Dante said. He set off in the exact opposite direction that his brother wanted to go, cheeky and knowing and hiding sarcasm only someone like Vergil could detect.

In the sheer panache of it all, Vergil was left wondering how he let himself get into this mess.

Chapter Text

Soft rock music floated above the ruins of what used to be Dante’s shop. Warm sunlight shone through the holes in the ceiling and walls, casting a soft, firefly-esque glow on the dust that danced and mingled with the crunch of the bassline. 

“You brought this on yourself, you know!” Dante yelled through a mouthful of pizza. 

Vergil, who had gathered as much of his broken dignity as he could, opted not to offer up a response and instead sat in silence. Being chained to one of the many fallen, splintered rafters on the floor, he didn’t have many vantage points over his brother, and certainly not one that would allow for a bit of cocky repartee between siblings. He could hardly gather a shred of energy to shoot back regardless, he'd rather save his reserves.  

Dante sighed and leaned back in his chair, absently moving his foot to the beat. ‘Quiet, huh? Can’t say I blame him.’

He shouldn’t have been so troubled over Vergil; tough as nails and patient enough to wait for him at the top of the tower, no doubt patient enough to wait this out. Hopefully. Dante shoved down the urge to groan and reeled his currently nomadic mind back into place. He was supposed to be working on his shop, not lounging around on his extremely comfortable chair, consuming junk food like a vortex, and pretending he wasn’t somewhat worried about his brooding twin. He could mask such concern by watching his brother like a hawk but he couldn’t mask the fact that his emergency fund was running out quickly and he still needed more hardwood to finish backing the north wall. Lady sure was taking her sweet time, wasn’t she? 

“Hey, Dante!” 

Speaking of the soul-sucking queen.

“I got that damn wood you wanted!” 

Dante practically leaped out of his chair on his way to greet her. Despite her cold exterior and her need to tease him relentlessly since they’d gotten on good terms, Lady had been a pleasant distraction from the horrendously uneventful day. The suffocating silence he’d received whenever he’d tried to open up a channel of communication to his brother, as well as the lack of demons was enough to make his brain do mental Wall Hikes (and if it got started on Sky Stars, everyone was doomed.) To make matters worse, Dante hadn’t seen a single person in the city since before Temen-Ni-Gru had risen up to unleash hell. 

“Sweet!” Dante fist-pumped. They fumbled a bit on the transfer but as soon as he had the planks in his grasp, Dante cheerfully toted them over to the wall, ignoring the way Lady’s fascinated stare bore into the back of his skull. He knew a curious soul when he saw one, there was no doubt Lady had countless questions for him that would take Dante several cans worth of intoxication to get through and was glad for her respectful distance. It wasn’t every day he met someone who had the decency to not invade his privacy, especially since the tower had let him know things about her she probably didn’t want him to know and vice versa. 

Lady cleared her throat. 

“So, how long are you going to keep him there?” She asked, settling her weight and jabbing her thumb in their captive’s direction. It’d been less than twelve hours since Vergil had been captured by the oh-so-brilliant Dante and while it was plain as day he didn’t really have a plan, it didn’t help any to hear it out loud. 

“Uuuuuuh…” Dante faltered, already biting into another slice of pizza. “I don’t know. Reforming someone is a lengthy process, can never make an accurate prediction on this stuff.” 

Though no one paid him any mind, Vergil scoffed. 

Lady crossed her arms and stared at him with a disapproving mien while Dante continued to pretend he didn’t care. When he refused to yield, Lady sauntered over to him and perched herself on his desk like some ornery cockatoo, snatching up a slice of pizza for herself, despite Dante’s complaints. The gooey cheese strung itself between her mouth and fingers and she hummed, it’d been a while since she’d had any real food and she’d gladly take a few pieces of Dante’s as payment for running that errand for him. 

“You know, I hear Devil’s Prison is known to take in some pretty heinous people,” Lady said offhandedly. 

Dante snorted. “I already told you, I’m not putting him in a prison somewhere. Besides, wouldn’t I have to give the officials proof he was the one behind all... this?” He indicated out to his shop and the disaster that shrouded the city. “Too much of a hassle. Makes for unnecessary work.” Dante’s nose crinkled suddenly. “‘Heinous?’ Really? What is that, are you some kind of officer of the law, upholder of justice and righteousness now?” 

Lady glared at him, though with her cheeks stuffed with food, she looked less like a threat and more like an angry chipmunk. She swallowed, loudly, and pressed her fingers to the side of her head. “You know what, memo to me , destroy you after you decide if you want to come with me.” 

Dante cocked his head with an inquisitive look. 

“I found someone in town who’s having some demon trouble,” Lady explained. “Doesn’t seem to be too bad but I wouldn’t mind some company or insurance, and… you look like you could use the cash. What do you say, wanna join me?” 

Dante blinked a few times, the gears in his brain ticked together in tandem as he tried to process the question and the implications behind it. 

“Wait, wait, wait, you… Oooooh~” Dante couldn’t help the shit-eating grin that overtook him when it clicked. “Are you being nice to me? That’s sweet of you.” 

He wanted to snap a photo of and frame the face Lady made, lips pressed together, gaze absolutely scathing, eyebrows knitted downward in irritation. 

“Shut up!” Lady half-shrieked. Her ears turned a lovely shade of carnation pink while her eyes went wider than a pair of saucers. Her hand shot out, eager to punch him or perhaps shove a rifle where the sun didn’t shine and landed a few blows to Dante’s chest while he crowed like a mockingbird. “Shut up! Just shut up! Fine, if you don’t want to go, then don’t!” 

She hopped off the desk and stomped away, absently kicking up dust as she went. She was already out the door by the time Dante composed himself. 

“Wait, shit, Lady!!” He called after her, jumping into his coat and harness and giving himself just enough time to point an imposing finger at Vergil. “Behave.” He said firmly. 

He didn’t wait for Vergil to reply, though he doubted his twin would humor him anyway. 


As soon as the door slammed shut, Vergil allowed himself a shaky breath. The biting cold of Cerberus’ chains gnawed at his wrists and a chilling sickness slithered through his body, up and down the curve of his shoulders and arms like a serpent whet with hunger, seeking out prey. Its jaws threatened to swallow him whole, not unlike the crystal clear reflections of his past. They seemed to ripple across the floor of his brother’s wreckage, disturbed by some invisible stone. It sloshed around him, water in a flooded well, rising up past his chest, shoulders, chin, until it overwhelmed him completely and he couldn’t breathe. 

“Daddy!” 

“Hello, little phantom! Were you good today?” 

Vergil giggled as Sparda nuzzled his cheek, squirming and inadvertently kicking his resistant, patient father. “Yeah, I was good! Dante wasn’t though!” 

“Oh? Now, what trouble did you both get into, hm?” Sparda asked, heading deeper into the old house in search of his beloved and other child. One hand was all it took to carry his tiny son, his other could freely use the banister however he pleased. “Tell me all about it.” 

All that had been left to Vergil once the flames had died out was the Yamato—his sole companion through the lonely, downcast years he’d spent wandering from city to city, chasing the legacy his father had left behind. Yamato, who gave him strength, power, and the silent promise that one day he’d be able to live a good life, one free of the stench of fear and blood and violence. Yamato, who had never betrayed him, remained by his side regardless of the pools of ichor he’d had to swim through to survive. 


Lady’s motorcycle roared over a demon's tormented scream. The tires screeched against the pavement, smoking, burning rubber steamed into the air as she gifted the Pride the sweet taste of gunpowder and lead. It twitched slightly - like a ticking clock - before dissolving into a sizzling puddle beneath her boots. Just as a Gluttony came to call, she sent her bike careening into a small army, tore the pin from a grenade, and shoved it down its trachea. The resulting explosion swallowed up the vicinity just as she bounced out of range. 

Dante wasn’t far behind her, unleashing Ebony and Ivory on an explosive Wrath. He whooped and wailed excitedly, moving a taunting limb just out of reach of a nearby Hell. It lunged at him and was met with an entourage of bullets.

“Aw, come on!” He shouted. “You can do better than that!!” 

Lady shook her head, unable to fight the soft smile crossing her features. Without looking, she turned her firearm backward and blasted another Pride to pieces and stood up from her nimble crouch, sending the fiery blaze that consumed her motorcycle a wistful glance. 

“Well, there goes my other bike,” She mourned. Her eyes closed, lashes becoming a fallen curtain between the acts of a drama, the cue for a short-termed intermission. It almost felt like a funeral march was playing in the echoes of a vast theater hall and the flames were licking at the actors and the orchestra. She snapped out of her melancholy. It was a bike. She’d recover. “Dammit, I really liked that one too.” 

“Other bike? Dante asked, stepping up next to her. He hadn’t put his twin pistols away yet and Lady suspected the reason had to do with Dante’s undoubtedly heightened senses. There were probably more demons lurking about. He didn’t say anything about her sudden stillness or how long she’d been standing there and Lady was more than glad to chalk it up to how well she hid her darkness. “You had more than one?” 

“Only two,” Lady rectified with a shrug. She knew she probably shouldn’t own two of the damn things, especially at her age but she had to get around and she had to make her transportation last. “You destroyed my first one yesterday, dumbass.” 

“Okay, first of all, I did not destroy your bike, demons did and you cannot prove otherwise,” Dante explained. Common sense and logic told Lady other things that she trusted more than him. He was definitely lying. “Also I saved you from falling to your death, so it’s fair payback-” Lady shot him a murderous glare at that. He wasn’t wrong and that was the worst part. “Second of all, if you’re going to insult me, at least use something flashier than dumbass.

“Like what? It means brainless,” The remark was out in the air before she could decide whether or not it was a good idea. “Knowing what I know about you now, it sounds about right.” 

“Hey!” Dante protested. 

“Save it for later, I’m sure you can come up with some clever insults to throw at me as revenge,” Lady said quickly. “Let’s just finish up here and get going.”


Vergil hissed out vows of retribution as he struggled almost vehemently against Cerberus’ increasingly frigid chains. He wanted out, he needed to go. To run, to feel the pavement beneath his feet and the familiar comfort of Yamato’s hilt pressed into his palm again so he could bolt free of the weighted fear that strung itself around his entire body and rooted back at his wrists. But the filthy mutt mooring him in this damned shop, in this infested city was hellbent on keeping him here on Dante’s orders. 

Dante, his twin brother. Dante, who’d never understand. Dante, who always came for a fight and nothing else. 

“Yamato, come!” He barked. It refused him. It stood, still as a statue, tucked in the corner Dante had placed it in as if frozen in time. The temperature of the chains at his wrists dropped harshly again. Ice rocketed up his arms, and he let out a raspy grunt. He willed Yamato into his grasp once more. 

It gave no sign of warping. It said nothing. Vergil could recall its muted sibilation when it wanted him to know something imperative that might later come back later. At the top of the tower, when the buildings around him crumbled into nothing but ash and dust, so had its hesitation. It had never been more powerful, more cooperative than it had during the rise and fall Temen-Ni-Gru. Now, however, it seemed content to ignore him. 

After a while, Vergil sighed. ‘I should have known. It’s punishing me, just like Dante is. And just like him, it doesn’t even know why.’ Neither of them had a true reason to bother. Vergil suppressed the bitter laugh rising in his body. It sunk downward in his fight, sullen and morose and resentful because despite the white-hot loathing he’d always claimed to have for his brother, Yamato agreed with Dante. 

Since childhood, Vergil had been the plaything of whatever demon he’d haplessly caught the eye of. It had taken him years to start pushing them back with the same vicious force they’d used against him. Yet his brother, who had fought with the same ferocity as him, who had done everything within his power to keep the Underworld beneath his feet, as if that’s where Dante believed it was supposed to be, was more of their father’s son than he would ever be. 

Sparda’s Son. 

Salt and lemon juice scalded his wounds. 

Vergil let out a defeated sigh. ‘I wonder… between Dante and I, who is the real fool?” 


 “MORON!!!” 

“What the fuck, Lady?!” 

“Are you out of your mind?!”

“You shot me!” 

“Just because you have demonic powers doesn’t mean you should flaunt them without a warning!” 

“You. Fucking. Shot me!” 

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to shoot you. I kill demons, dammit, I thought you were one of my targets!” 

Finishing up turned out to be easier said than done. Demons came for them in endless waves, especially as the rotting corpse of the Leviathan Dante had so gracefully eviscerated the night before made the most potent and foul-smelling demon magnet in history. To spread the icing on the cake, the Hell’s Vanguards Dante was faced with weren’t picky enough to turn up their nose to demon guts. They shrieked and cackled, driving themselves through rippling empty spaces, gleefully showing off as they swung their scythes in swift, grand arcs. A brisk swipe of the largest Vanguard’s blade sent him flying into the god-beast’s carcass. 

“Oh, come on!” Dante yowled, stepping off of what he hoped was a giant liver or lung and not something much less appealing. He splashed into a puddle of slimy, sickly green residue that’d he no doubt have to hose off later and lunged at the Vanguard, piercing it all the way through. It let out a shrill scream then dissipated into a heavy cloud of smog. “Sadistic piece of shit,” Dante muttered out. 

“That’s one way to handle things,” Lady said. Dante’s eyes slid over to where she was dragging a Vanguard with a pretty pathetic look on its face through the mud. Despite the fact that it was here and making a confused warbling sound, Dante wasn’t sure if it was still alive. At least, not until she put a few shotgun shells through it. It left no trace of its existence except for the black mildew coating the ground where it once lied. Why did fighting demons always have to be so messy? 

“Can we go collect our pay now?” Dante asked, stretching skyward, letting out a pleased groan when the bones in his spine cracked. Devil hunting was one of the few things that Dante was absolutely crazy about. He enjoyed the addiction to a fight and the satisfaction of coming down from an adrenaline rush, even the exhaustion that usually found a nice home in his body afterward. Right now, however, his nerves were shot through, jittery, and not in a good way. 

He probably should have warned Lady about his Devil Trigger before she lodged a bullet in his skull. It was no doubt the reason for the overstrung feeling in his stomach. 

Lady’s eyebrows raised, probably due to a lack of being impressed. Though to be fair, she didn’t seem all that impressed by anything. She adjusted the strap for Kalina-Ann. “Sure, let’s get going.” 

Dante breathes out, ambling side by side with her down a ruined street. Since he’d known her, he’d learned that working with her was like drinking from a glass filled to the brim with contradictories while driving down an outback road. One second she could feign a pleasant smile, the next she radiated killing intent while firing down demons with a pack of revolvers. On what he guessed were going to be rare occasions, she became solemn, her mind distant, as if remembering something from long ago. She was young, younger than him but her eyes were ancient like they’d witnessed horrors beyond her lifetime. Dante didn’t need to wonder then what she must have been thinking about. His heart ached for familiar things the same way hers did. 

But he wouldn’t bother her, after all, Lady had decidedly respected the stranger’s distance that still lingered between them. He was better off doing the same for her while they slowly eased into a friendship

“Hey, did you hear me?” 

Dante snapped out of his thoughts, turning so quickly he almost got whiplash. “What?” 

Lady didn’t do a swell job of hiding her annoyance. “I said, your shoes are melting.” 

Dante looked down and behind him. Lo and behold, the soles of his beloved boots were slowly liquefying into sticky, sludgy goo and leaving rubbery footprints behind on the asphalt. 

“Are you kidding me?” Dante hissed. Suddenly, he was beginning to realize what he stepped in back near the evil god-beast. Fuck this entire day, honestly. “Great, just when I didn’t already have other things to do.” 

“Quit whining,” Lady scolded. She looked about a hair pull away from clotheslining him through the neck. “I’ll buy you a new pair as soon as we get our pay.” She paused, taking in Dante’s startled reaction. Jeez, he really did believe she was incapable of anything nice, didn’t he? “Don’t look at me like that. Your entire style is ridiculous.” 

“Since when were you a fashionista?” 

“Since I met you.” 

Okay, Dante had to admit, that was a little funny. Probably a lie but funny nonetheless. At least Lady had a sense of humor and the patience to go back and forth with him. No one had done as much since his days crowding around Nell, gawking at her gunsmithing, nestling in the alleyways with the other homeless orphans and stealing away in the dead of night to raid food and water and blankets to shield themselves from the harsh city. He'd been raised by other people his age and forced to grow up too quickly. The ache of their absence when he'd arrived in Capulet City stuck like a shadow to his lonesome body. 

“This comes with a price, though.”

He glanced at her and almost regretted it. Her simper was mischievous and unforgiving. Ah, ulterior motive, his old friend. 

“I want you to pay me back for the bike.”

Dante grumbled, rolling his shoulders and head back so he didn’t have to keep dealing with her. 

“Fine.”


The Malebranche huffed and snorted next to him, bursting out puffs of red and orange smoke. It’s chest rose and fell in erratic patterns, unable to hold back the snarls scratching at the back of its gullet and threading through its lung and intestines. 

“Easy,” Its master said. He placed a hand on the Malebranche’s flank, quietly assuring that it would get a chance at some worthy prey soon. “I know your impatience, we’ve waited a long time for this. It looks like the tower’s rising has worked in our favor, they’re both recovering from their injuries. We should continue our strike.” 

The master brought a spyglass up to his eye, gazing through to the devil hunters traipsing down the street with their good-natured jabs. The Malebranche ground out a restrained, gruff noise, despising the distance between it and the hunt. It yearned for the gore, desired to feed upon it so much it drowned out every other bit of its instincts. Its master snapped the spyglass shut, a thoughtful smirk on his lips. 

“But first, let’s pay our Son of Sparda a visit, hm?”

Chapter Text

Vergil was writhing in his chains by the time Dante and Lady came back, snarling and snapping like a panic-stricken dog. The chains strained against his wrists, the split rafters creaked and groaned, barely moving as he drew his body as far away from his restraints as possible. 

“The hell’s gotten into you?” Dante quipped, clumping by on bare feet. 

“Give me the Yamato,” Vergil commanded shortly. The rafters gave another keening grouse as he relocated his stance. He narrowed his eyes in his best rendition of a death-defying scowl. He’d looked into the cold, soulless eyes of plenty a Grim Reaper, Dante looked like a Maltese puppy in comparison. Although, Vergil conceded that it made a good illusion for Dante’s fighting spirit. 

Dante made a noise that sounded halfway between a laugh and a wet cough. He cracked his best smile, one that just reached up to the dark circles forming underneath his eyes. “What makes you think I’m gonna do that?” 

“It belongs to a Son of Sparda,” Vergil said. 

“Yeah, that’s a real convincing argument,” Dante replied, rifling around underneath his desk. He swore for a second before letting out a triumphant cheer and reappearing to slide a pair of boots on. “I do fit the criteria, though. So by your logic, it belongs to me.” 

Devils loved to take a romp around a helpless quarry, mock them, leave their sickening odor over everything they touched to make the rules of the game. Vergil hadn’t imagined the masked freak that had appeared in Dante’s shop mere minutes ago and he hadn’t imagined the horned, winged demon that prowled around behind it. He’d called Yamato to him then and yet it still didn’t respond to his curt resolution to take both of them down. He was powerless without it. 

Vergil flashed his teeth. “It’s just like you to act like this. Childish, trivializing, arrogant-”

“At least,” Dante interrupted. The clipped end of his words hung in the air with a chilling pause. “I didn’t raise a Hell Tower for, quite literally, the hell of it. I think the world is just fine with the non-demonic version in Pisa, Italy anyway.”

Vergil glared at him with the most bloodthirsty purpose he could manage. A quiet rage stirred in the pit of his stomach, keeling and wallowing like the white water rapids that surged through his veins, roaring in his ears louder than the dogging fear that always bayed in the distance and nipped at his heels. A piercing sibilation slipped free from between his lips, rivulets of steam sluiced into the air. His eyes turned a silvery shade of green, a sliver of metal cut between each of his irises like the pupils of a dragon. Serrated fangs began poking out from his gums, moving the bones in his jaw around with a skin-slicing fervor as a menacing growl scraped furiously against the back of his throat. He opened his mouth-

The force of a waterfall crashed onto him and an ear-splitting crack shattered the air, forcing him to stagger down onto one knee and revert back to normal. Ragged breaths tore from his chest and his eyes burned with something. From the desk, he could feel Dante rise to the challenge and his blood orange gaze take him down a notch. 

“Calm the fuck down, Verge,” Dante retorted, kicking his feet up lazily. “I have other problems to deal with outside of you, yanno. I need to finish the shop you demolished and Lady and I’s client stiffed us, so I’m running a little short.” Whether it was on cash or on patience, Dante didn’t elaborate. 

“He didn’t stiff us,” Lady said. It was then that Vergil remembered she had been standing there. She didn’t seem in the least bit shaken by his out of his control display of demonic power and she walked right past him, no sign of hesitation anywhere in her countenance. She plopped down onto one of Dante’s couches. “We only have half of what we’re owed, he’s gonna give us the rest of our pay tomorrow morning.” 

“He better,” Dante muttered. 

Vergil remained silenced, glowering at the hardwood floor as if it were the thing that had wronged him this whole time and not the living creature that made up his annoying brother. With the way he’d nearly come loose just now, he couldn’t bring himself to meet his brother halfway anymore. Never had he come so close to losing himself, never had he been so ashamed of such a performance. Through discipline alone, he had made a habit of controlling most of his emotions, of keeping collected when situations heated up past the threshold with the exception of anger, this time set off by Dante’s ignorance. 

The hell of it? He never made decisions with long-term consequences without proper thought, despite what his brother had gathered from him. The power of his birthright passed down indirectly from his father would have been more than enough to chase the demons and nightmares away, to finally take the constant buzz of anxiety and paranoia off his back, to protect himself and…

Vergil decisively left the rest of that thought unfinished. 

Truthfully, could he ever lay his confidence out bare to his twin? Could he ever stand on the same playing field as him without any need for a fight? Could he choose to let his demon’s heart show the soft, tender parts of himself to someone that’d been a stranger to him since he was eight-years-old? Could he, hardened by the brand of devil hunting and losing the people he’d cherished, from his mother to his master, be vulnerable to his brother? To someone who’d put away his own pride for the sake of helping him? Could he ever relinquish these weighted secrets to Dante? 

He didn’t know. 

Right now, his capabilities extended solely to keeping stock and cataloging his surroundings to soothe his nerves, a skill he’d learned as a kid, and nothing more. Every once and awhile he would catch a tell of annoyance from either his brother or Lady. Dante would carp or cavil wordlessly every few minutes from his reposing chair and let his head fall back while his mind drifted to something unreadable. Lady chanced a dark look at him when she thought he wasn’t paying attention to her. Four times Lady clicked her gun while cleaning it, six times Dante checked the chorded telephone for a call that might not come. 

And his brother cracked first.

He reached for the phone. “I’m gonna call for pizza.” 

“Or you could work on your shop,” Lady suggested with just a hint of passive-aggressive spite. “I didn’t get you all that wood just for it to go to waste.” 

“Yeah, yeah, don’t worry, I will. I’ll do it while I wait.” And just like that, Dante kept true to his word, ordered local, hung up, and picked up a hammer to nail away at the back wall. 

“Do you only ever eat pizza?” Lady snarked. 

“What? It’s delicious. And cheap,” Dante said. He’d never looked like he’d had to defend his tastes against anyone ever. With his light-hearted jabs and nonchalant attitude to life, perhaps no one had challenged him. “Besides, it’s my shop. I’ll eat whatever I want.” 

Lady blew out a puff of air in exasperation, turning away from the exchange. 

“Hey, Milady of the Loveseat!” Dante shouted out to her. He reached for a box of nails, securing a couple between his teeth.  “Mind helping me out?”

“Why? So you can owe me more?” 

“Just offering,” Dante shrugged, making the nails in his mouth move up and down teasingly. “Wouldn’t want you to just sit there and be a pretty face. Unless, of course, you want to stay there and admit that you like what you see.” 

“Shut up.”

Vergil watched as Lady sprung off the couch and marched over to Dante, bickering with him the entire way. Curiosity consumed him. Why did she stay by his side? Her task had been completed the second Arkham hit the pavement and started pushing up daisies for good. It was obvious to him, in the way she indulged him, let him befriend her, that she had a soft spot for him or at least some semblance of one. But even attachment had its limits. She didn’t feel obligated to keep an eye on both him and his brother, right? Vergil sincerely hoped not. He already had Dante to deal with, any further than that and he might blow. 

An abrupt wave of nausea slammed into Vergil and his vision spun. He inhaled and exhaled quickly, trying to get the oxygen to and from his burning lungs. ‘Don’t tell me-’ Had Dante’s attempts to disorient him do more damage than either of them originally thought? Was Vergil still so weakened from their fight in the Underworld? The air undulated up and down, jiggling like a bowl of jello aboard a ship in a stormy sea. The Jukebox lined up against the far wall wiggled like it was dancing to the music it produced. The floor swayed and for a moment, it looked so… comfortable...

Thunk!

The world faded to black. In the distance, Vergil could hear his brother calling out to him.

Chapter Text

The world is shrouded in a blanket of mist, crawling silently and swiftly to blanket every surface in a light, falling cloud. Blinding, endless, barren. A sweet melody composed of ebonies and ivories rings out in the distance, muffled but embellishing, growing more and more fortissimo and ethereal in its mellifluous delight. The sudden curves and sharp angles of a magnificent grand piano materialize on the plush floor. A child’s laughter shrills in the air as he dashes in a circle around the piano, past colorful arrays of drawings and paintings scattered about with a scarlet ribbon dancing behind him. He runs past the pianist, a woman garbed in a red shawl. 

“Mom, mom!” The boy shouts. He bounces up and down at one end of the bench. “MOM!!”

The woman quietly shushes him. She reaches over to run a gentle hand through his hair, giving him a tender smile. “You don’t want to wake up your brother, do you?” 

The boy shakes his head quickly. His mother is something quite magical and beautiful and it shows in the way she stands and walks away, the abandoned piano still playing in her absence. Sunshine pours through a window framed by soft, white curtains and a fresh Spring breeze comes into the room. Another boy lies on the patch of light cast from outside, sleeping soundly and wound up in a blue ribbon. 

The woman kneels on the floor and leans over her other son, pressing a loving kiss to his cheek while she hums with a honeyed voice. He grumbles and frowns and his face scrunches up as he rouses from sleep to take in his mother’s song. 

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…” 

Vergil snapped awake with a start, his head exploding with pain. He let out a guttural lament and reached a hand up toward his head. A gelid rattle resonated in his ears as he pressed the pads of his fingertips against his temple and a shock of realization rushed through him. Of course, he was still tied up. He’d be a fool to think Dante would allow him free reign, especially if he had left the shop unattended and by the lack of presence in the vicinity, demon or human otherwise, he had. 

With a struggling push outward, Vergil let himself receive the room. His senses were always sharper in the early hours of morning before the sun had even begun to rise. They murmured quietly, encompassing the office. His back was pressed down against the fuzzy surface of a billiards table. The shop was still as trashed as the last time Vergil had seen it, so not much time had passed. However, instead of the usual reak of grease and sawdust that polluted the air, a new mask of smells covered it. Medicinal items, chalk, the steely tang of disinfectant mixed with blood, burnt cinnamon, and… alcohol? Vergil only drank on seldom occasions, he had tasted both wine and vodka but whatever resided in the shop he couldn’t identify. It was just as Vergil’s sense of smell was returning that he could suddenly taste the back of his mouth, which had the strong flavor of mouthwash and arugula, a leafy green he only recognized due to his mother’s use of it in cooking and magic. His brother must have crammed a few vital stars down his throat while he was asleep. 

Sleep. 

His mind absently drifted to it. How long had it been since he’d allowed himself a restful night? Surely years. A harsh ringing sounded off in his ears and a bright mist encroached upon his vision again. He squeezed his eyes shut, silently trying to send it away. 

The woman steps into the room filled with music, balancing a platter on her hand. Her boys giggle and make jabs at each other and cling tightly to crimson and silver and gold amulets—their first gift of the day. With a quick performance, she removes the lid from the platter and reveals a triad of beautifully designed cakes: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. 

“Dante, Vergil,” She says. “Happy birthday.” 

“Whoa, cool!” Dante shouts out. He reaches out for the chocolate one when Vergil wrenches his hand away. 

“I want chocolate!” 

“No, I want chocolate!” 

They let out the tiniest, most high-pitched growls at one another, staring each other down with icy blues. 

“You know,” The mother interrupts. There’s a clever twinkle in her eyes as she gestures to the pink one, where a big, red berry sits on the very top, enclosed in a ring of pink decor. “I think the strawberry one tastes best.” 

“Stop, please. Don’t make me look at anymore.” 


Morrison had no idea what to expect as he approached the nameless establishment. He’d heard of the many magnificent things Tony Redgrave had supposedly done, he’d also heard of things he’d done that were not so magnificent. A thousand scenarios flipped through his head, some ending well and others ending with a bullet in his skull. He internally cursed out the entire Montague City counsel for making him come all the way out here. He should have put his foot down and made Enzo do this instead.

With a deep breath, he walked the stone steps and slowly pushed the door open. He popped his head in. Seeing no immediate sign of danger, he walked all the way inside and was unceremoniously greeted with the sight of some poor, shut-eyed son of a bitch restrained on a pool table. An entirely new string of swears ran through Morrison’s head at lightning speed and at that moment, he seriously considered turning around and telling the counsel to go fuck themselves. He pushed down his fear and called out. 

“Hey, buddy,” He said loudly. “Are you okay?” 

The stranger’s eyes flicked open and slipped over to him. His chest rose and fell. “What do you want?”

Well, at least he seemed friendly, considering the dictionary’s definition of sarcasm. 

“Is- Is this Tony Redgrave’s residence?” Morrison wanted to hit himself. Really? He was just worried about the stranger’s state a second ago and now he was asking about Redgrave? Christ. 

“I’ve never even heard of that name.” The stranger’s eyes didn’t meet him that time, so Morrison pretended to believe him. 

“O-kay, must be in the wrong place then,” Morrison said. He rocked back and forth on his feet, hands clasped in front of him before finally working up the courage to speak again. “Er… do you need some help there, buddy? Someone to untie you, perhaps?”

“No, I don’t need you to untie me,” The stranger replied. He made a low droning noise that Morrison wasn’t even sure he’d heard. “Could you bring me that sword though?”

Morrison followed the stranger’s gaze to a thin, sheathed katana resting in the corner. He shrugged.

“Uh, sure…” 


 The October sky nipped at Dante’s cheeks, briskly flying by, unstopped by anything in the world. He blew out a breath, ignoring the way it visibly rose into the sky in favor of the grocery bags that heavily swung back and forth in his hands. He shot a glance at his carrying partner then broke the ice. 

“Thanks for the help,” He muttered. He didn’t mention it but the thanks were for a lot of things. The food, the new boots, among other things that made Dante’s life slightly easier. 

“Don’t mention it,” Lady replied quickly. “I wanted to help out. Besides, if I left you alone, you’d just order pizza again. You need to add some variety to your diet, learn how to cook.”

“Hey, I can take care of myself!” Dante protested although the look on Lady’s face suggested that she didn’t believe him. “I can!” He insisted.  

“Dante, you have a busted up fridge,” Lady pointed out. “It only just survived Temen-Ni-Gru and the temp control on it needs to be fixed.” 

“How could you possibly know all that?” Dante asked. He shot her a smart-assed smirk, watching her as if trying to catch her red-handed. “Did you snack on my stuff?”

“All you had was a six-pack of beer, which I don’t even know how you managed to get,” Lady explained and the expression on her face made a good point of telling him that she didn’t want to know. Fine by him. “and a block of cheese. So no.” 

“Keep out of my stuff, will ya?” Dante said, huffily turning back to the street that led to his shop. He squinted as the sun shone in his eyes, blocking out the silhouette of a man waiting at the front. He could have sworn he’d seen that guy before. “I need to conserve energy and…” Dante trailed off, wracking his brain for something to say about the new fellow now that Lady had slipped from his thoughts. “Y… Morrison, right?” 

“That’s me,” The man piped, straightening out his jacket. He was ridiculously tall and dressed for Beverly Hills. Sitting atop his head was a patterned fedora. His trenchcoat stopped just before his knees and the scarf wrapped around his neck was easily worth more than Dante had ever held in his hands. In a place like this, he was just begging to get mugged. “And you’re Tony Redgrave, right?”

“Dante,” Dante blurted out. He put a nervous cough into his fist. “Actually, it’s Dante. Tony is an old name that I don’t use anymore.” 

“Right, of course.” Morrison gestured to the shop interior. “May I…”

“Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Dante said quickly. He marched up the steps and allowed Morrison in first, not thinking much of the guy as he set the groceries down. Lady shoved her way past quickly, pretending Morrison didn’t even exist as she went deeper into the shop. “So, what brings you here?” 

“Straight to the point,” Morrison replied. He clapped his hands together once. “Just the way I like it. First things first-” He reached into his coat pocket to remove an envelope and waved it around. “The rest of your pay courtesy of your most recent client. I think you might have scared ‘em a little yesterday.”

Dante grabbed the envelope, giving out a sheepish look. He remembered yesterday all too well. “Well, the business flood around here is a little low. So, sorry if my partner and I come across as… intimidating.”

Morrison snorted but Dante didn’t hear a word of what he said next. His eyes were distracted by the abandoned pool table where he was three hundred percent sure he’d secured his passed out brother the night before.

Watching Vergil go catatonic on the ground had sent a frenzied shot of horror through Dante and it had only been soothed by the cognizance that his brother was fine––exhausted from a lack of sleep, worn out from the endless spars and tussles on Temen-Ni-Gru, and a little dehydrated but otherwise fine. However, that surge of panic was slowly returning. He walked past Morrison until he stood at the very edge of the table, hands wrapping around Cerberus’ handles. A single, chilling pulse of energy emanated from Cerberus and a sound like apologetic whimpering came with it. He spared a look at Lady, who had her arms crossed and her face contorted into annoyance then he turned to look at Morrison. 

“Hey… did you let this guy go?”

“I gave him the sword he wanted,” Morrison said cautiously. Dante whirled around to look at the corner. Yamato wasn’t there.

“So, he’s gone?” Dante asked. 

“Well-”

“Oh, no.” Anxiety rocketed through him. “HE’S LOOSE!!!” 

Dante pounded up the stairs in search of Ebony and Ivory, hurling a litany of swears and insults at himself for being so stupid. He shouldn’t have left the Yamato where Vergil would have inevitably been able to get ahold of it, fuck, he shouldn’t have left Vergil alone at all. What was he thinking, that it’d be fine? That it wouldn’t matter if he took the risk because the chances of Vergil getting loose were low? Now that risk was coming back to bite him. 

“Dammit, dammit, dammit! ” He shouted, coming back down the stairs and jamming his pistols into his holsters at the same time. Rebellion appeared on his back with a single command. “Lady, man the fort. I gotta go after him before someone gets killed or worse.” 

“Or worse?” She asked, raising an eyebrow. “Dante-”

“Yes, or worse!” He pointed an accusatory finger at Morrison. “You. Stay here until I get back. Preferably do not call the police.”

“Dante,” Lady said again. “Calm down.” 

“Calm down?” Dante asked incredulously. With measured, leisurely steps he walked across the floor until he stood over her. “Lady, you were there when the tower went up, you agreed that he couldn’t be left alone.” 

Lady didn’t answer, she didn’t make eye contact with him, rather seeming to favor the comfy couch area situated underneath the stairs. Dante scoffed and turned away. “I can’t believe this. This fucking suuuuuuuuuucks!” 

“Dante.”

“Wha- ha- hat?” Dante groaned. He didn’t have time for this. Deity knew where his brother was at the moment and what havoc he’d wreaked in the past couple minutes alone. - wait.  

Just then, his brain caught up with the identity of the person calling his name. It hadn’t been Lady. He whipped around, perhaps too hopeful for someone who’d been through the strain and upheaval his life had constantly seen fit to chuck at his feet. There, sitting on the largest couch, legs folded criss-cross with Yamato lying flat across his lap, was Vergil, acting like he didn’t just pretend to commit the greatest vanishing act in existence since Harry Houdini with sexy assistant Morrison on hand. 

Dante took two seconds to decide that he wanted to launch himself at his brother. 

“What the fuck, Vergil!?” They collapsed on the ground in an undignified pile of flailing limbs as Dante made a grab for whatever part of Vergil was in reach. “What is wrong with you? I can’t- You-” Dante resorted to a low grinding sound in order to express his emotions, completely at a loss for words anyway. 

“Get off me!” Vergil said sharply. He rolled his body and just like magic, Dante flopped onto the floor like a loose ragdoll. However, instead of taking the opportunity to do any damage or even make a run for it again, he fell back down onto the couch. 

Dante huffed, getting back onto his feet. “Why the hell did you stay?”

“There was a demon in your shop,” Vergil replied without missing a beat. Dante frowned, listening intently for the rest of the excuse. “Back before you expended your demonic energy and forced me to sleep. It’s why I wanted the Yamato.”

That was the biggest load of bullshit Dante had ever heard. His demonic instincts inattentively reached out, feeling for the numbing barrier and throb of insubordinate energy being exuded from Yamato’s blade. She was defying Vergil for some reason or another and he refused to admit to it, which unfortunately was something Dante understood. He didn’t push it, though. If fighting demons was the justification Vergil wanted to use, then Dante would deal. Vergil wouldn’t go anywhere without Yamato’s full cooperation. 

“Are you done having a meltdown?” Lady inquired. 

Dante resisted the urge to glare at her, taking a seat at his desk. “What do you think?”

“We can get down to business then?” Morrison asked. 

“Sure,” Dante replied, putting an immediate one-eighty spin on his attitude. He gestured to the busted and rickety chair situated in front of him. “Please, sit. Let’s discuss… stuff.” 

Vergil snorted. 

A few moments later found Dante relaxed at his desk, face to face with Morrison, hands clasped in front of him like a little kid waiting on some exciting news. Lady had made herself comfortable standing behind Dante’s chair, arms crossed and attention focused, simply observing. The office was far too messy and incomplete to be conducting such professional-level business so soon but Dante wasn’t exactly in a position to be choosey with whatever situations came his way. Turning away potential clients before hearing them out was a damn good method to ensure a hard time getting any business in the future. 

“So, what brings you here?” 

“Enzo told me about this here demon-hunting place,” Morrison started off, scooting his chair forward. “I’d heard good things about you in the past, I thought I’d give it a shot, see what you’re made of.” He paused for a moment as if carefully considering his next words. “You’ve heard of Montague City, right?”

Dante nodded. As far as classic tragedies go, it wasn’t much of a mystery as to why Capulet’s neighboring city held its name, especially with the huge sports rivalry between their respective schools. Some Shakespeare enthusiast out there thought it appropriate, possibly comedic at the time and was now most likely cackling from beyond the grave at the mayhem they’d caused. It sounded exactly like something someone in his family would have done based on their chaotic sense of humor. Dante motioned for him to continue. 

“Rumor has it there’s a demon running amok and city council is getting antsy. They don’t like it, not one bit,” Morrison explained. “They want to dispatch someone to take care of the problem, whether that’s making mincemeat out of something supernatural, turning some kids into the authorities, or simply debunking the rumors. The huge rivalry game is coming up soon, so I think you can see why the higher-ups want this dealt with.” 

“And they sent you to me,” Dante finished. “Sounds boring as hell.” 

“Hey, this was on Enzo’s recommendation, remember?”

“I recall.” Dante narrowed his eyes and leaned forward. “What do you got on this demon?”

“There’s not much,” Morrison said. “Whatever it is, though, is either literate enough to write its own name in blood or it has something under it that can. It calls itself the Heartbreaker.”

“The- the what?” Dante tried not to let his amusement show. He bit his tongue, holding back the smile that pulled at him. “The Heart-” He bit down on the words so harshly he nearly choked on them. A hasty kick was delivered to his chair via one vexed Lady. “The Heartbreaker. And it breaks hearts?

“Supposedly, yes. There have been reports of human remains showing up in public places, particularly mutilated hearts.” 

Dante whistled, more out of distressed amazement than admiration. Any demon that killed humans didn’t deserve an ounce of respect from him, regardless of how showy or hardcore they tried to be. 

“Well, technically my shop isn’t open just yet-” Lady kicked his chair again. “- But I don’t really have anything better to do at the moment. Sounds like a good opportunity. Alright, I’ll help out.” He sat back on his chair, staring almost impishly. “But don’t be surprised if I bring an accessory along with me." 

By the look on Morrison’s face, he had no idea what he meant. All the better for Dante. 

On the couch, Vergil flopped face down with grace. 


 The shop was too quiet to be comfortable. What was once teeming with life had fallen still, the bustling and cracked jokes and the smell of spices from improvised cooking had given way for Lady’s need to retire to her motel room. Dante ached for something to fill the empty space. He had a plate of leftovers in one hand, a mug of chamomile tea in the other (because Lady had insisted upon it), and a half-baked plan somewhere in a spectral hand far away. There were ten feet between him and his brother. Such a small gap to be crossed that felt like a vast ravine, swarmed by unseen, unsensed demons, insurmountable and eternal. 

Dante gritted his teeth and shoved the feeling of inadequacy down into a locked box. If he could fight countless demons, unlock his Devil Trigger, and travel a whole dimension to defeat a sociopath wielding the power of Sparda in a night, then he could do something as simple as delivering some food to his brother. 

“Hey,” He said quietly. “I brought you something.” 

Vergil was gracious enough to spare him some attention, unimpressed as he was. “I don’t need it.” 

“You fainted yesterday,” Dante pointed out. “Don’t tell me you don’t need it.” 

“Leave me.” 

Dante gave out an agonized sigh. He placed the plate on top of the couchside table, trying his best to keep cool. 

“Listen, I know you’re pissed off about this whole thing,” He said, training his eyes anywhere else but the couch. He had tried unsuccessfully for the past couple of days to get Vergil to talk to him on even ground and each time Vergil had shut him out. But Dante refused to become acquainted with the concept of forfeiting, especially to his thick-headed brother. He wanted to make this work, he wanted his family back. “But I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think I had to. Trust me.” 

“Trust you?” Vergil asked, making sure Dante didn’t miss the unbelieving tone he used. “You’ve never given me a reason to trust you before. Why should I now?”

“Because this time I’m trying really hard not to be an ass,” Dante replied. He held onto the mug as tightly as his inhuman strength would allow and plopped down next to Vergil. He held it out to him, nudging oh, so subtly for Vergil to take it and with reluctance, he did. “I don’t exactly know what goes on inside your head but maybe I’d like to.” 

“You really want to have this heart to heart?” Vergil inquired. 

Dante sucked in a breath. He hadn’t been expecting that. Truthfully, yes he did because even if it wasn’t a pleasant talk, it was a talk nonetheless. A rock formed in Dante’s throat and he couldn’t force the words out. He felt like a little kid again, trying to start an argument he knew he wouldn’t win. He wanted to speak so badly but did he want to get into it so deeply right now? When the wounds of their fight and their mother’s memory were still fresh? Dante’s hand absently drifted to his amulet. 

“No, I guess not,” He finally answered. He quietly got up and moved to the other side of the lounge then promptly flumped right into the cushions, exhaling pleasantly. “Try to get some shut-eye, we leave pretty early tomorrow.” 

Dante closed his eyes and curled up, willing himself into his best impression of slumber. Behind him, he could hear Vergil take a sip from the mug and let that reassure him as rested.

Chapter Text

A hearty whistle squalled above the sweeping crowd and with a sluggard chug- chug- chug- an old fashioned locomotive pulled out of the station, spurting behind a tail of coal smoke. Dante sent the train off with a salute and a smile, even knowing that no one who could see him would care or wave back. He made an awkward turn, heading into the hustle, keenly aware of his brother’s presence at one side and Lady’s at the other. 

“According to Morrison, the city council building is at the east end of the main road,” Lady said. She trotted ahead, nose buried in a large map. “It looks like it’s close enough to walk. If we hurry, we’ll make it there by early afternoon. Dante, you-” she cut herself off, grimacing at her partner and the stupid face he made. “Will you knock it off?!”

Dante beamed. “Oh, come on, Lady, you’re being too serious. We’ll have this wrapped up in less than an hour.” 

“Really?” Lady asked, crossing her arms as she walked backwards. “You’re that confident in yourself? Think you’re funny?”

“I think I’m hilarious,” Dante replied. “Pretty too.”

Lady tsked. “Yeah, pretty annoying.” 

“Ah, but the word pretty was in there,” Dante pointed out. He kept his strides as leisurely as possible, trying not to trip over his or Vergil’s feet. “So you do think I’m good looking. It’s okay, you’re pretty good looking yourself, especially when you’re annoyed.” 

“Then you’re about to think I’m drop-dead gorgeous through a sea of blood.” 

“Annoyed and angry is not the same thing.”

“Do you two ever not bicker?” Vergil cut in. “It’s starting to get on my nerves.” 

Lady looked like she wanted to retort but couldn’t. It was as if she knew that if she clapped back, she’d only be answering to him. So far, no. Most of her’s and Dante’s conversations were comprised of bickering, nothing so far had changed that and a heavy doubt suggested it never would. Dante could almost see the electric sparks crackling around her and half expected her to shoot a hand out to smack him. His thoughts jumped to the Yamato, dysfunctional and obstinate but still so deadly, and Vergil, still gifted with swordsmanship, even without her full cooperation. It didn’t require magic powers to send her through Lady’s flesh. 

“Whatever,” Lady finally settled on saying. She jogged up further, only keeping herself visible long enough to finish speaking. “I’m gonna go on ahead, meet up with Morrison. If you want to drag your brother around to goof off, Dante, I won’t stop you. Just meet me there soon.” 

Dante watched her depart into the stream, hanging onto her every movement until she was gone for good. All work and no play, she was. Dante had to wonder if she’d ever had fun a day in her life and, if not, then to drag her out to an amusement park as soon as he had the time. Maybe a shooting range. Something to cater to both of them. 

“Welp, you heard her,” Dante said, sauntering along cheerfully. “We’ve got a few minutes to wander about. This place is more than just a train station, you know.” 

“Oh, really?” Vergil asked. 

“Really.” Dante gestured out to the stalls and shouting vendors. The walls were lined both with ticket takers and crystalline display cases for anything anyone could dream of—garments, jewelry, accessories, sweets and toys. “I had to pass through Montague City on my way to check out space for my shop. I didn’t get a chance to look around here even though I wanted to. Now I do!” 

“Dante,” Vergil said. Dante looked to him, noting the way Vergil’s fist tightened against his own. “I understand you want to keep watching me but were the chains really necessary?” 

A brief cold burst around his wrist, reminiscent of a playful bark. Light-heartedness took Dante by the face as he flexed his fingers through Cerberus’ chains. It had been a spur of the moment choice, tying himself to Vergil, and justification for it had come to him on the train. Keep him close. In a crowd, he’ll slip away. You can’t wager he won’t disappear again. You can’t lose him. Not when he came so close to plunging into eternal darkness. Dante did his best to withstand the shudder that menaced his spine and shoulders. 

“Would you believe me if I said ‘yes?’” Dante asked. 

“Probably not,” Vergil replied. For the sake of keeping control of his body, he signaled as little as possible for Dante to try convincing him anyway. 

“Uh… It’s a thing,” Dante said lamely, leading Vergil along the kiosks and stores. “You see, sometimes people have different levels of knowing different people. For example, my current job broker is at a level seven, we go way back. Lady is at a level three, she’s a friend.” 

Vergil seemed to understand, although not excessively happy about it. 

“So I’m at a level one?” He deduced.

“Eh, you’re more at a level zero.”

A severe silence intercepted them, bare and shaking and pained. A scared animal herded and caged into a corner. Vulnerable. An untrusting illness budding between it and the shadow that loomed over it, presaging the potential lashing from a pair of terrified claws. 

“Back at your shop,” Vergil started. He passively pressed the back of his hand against Dante’s, venturing out to mimic the softness from yesterday; the warmth of the tea as it washed into him. “You told me to trust you, to be more open to you. You’re not doing a good job of giving me the chance.” 

“Hey, I’m starving, are you starving? Let’s go get some churros!”

Okay, so maybe he wasn’t. Maybe Dante had his paranoid thoughts, maybe he held his resistance close to his overflowing heart, maybe trust was something meant to go both ways, and maybe, just maybe, Dante considered all of this while exchanging cash for churros. He handed one to his brother, hinting at the possibility of dropping it, then he returned the vendor’s Spanish thank you with his own politeness. He bit into the top of it, indulging in cinnamony goodness and tugging his brother back into the fray. 

Vergil was strangely silent as he chewed on his churro. He’d never had as much of a sweet tooth as his sibling. On the rare occasions he did, he preferred sweets that were less powdery, less messy, and not liable to make him look like a slob or, even more dreadful, Dante. But he wasn’t about to shuck away something bought for him. Despite the thoughts that circulated him from others, he didn’t appreciate littering. 

He let his brother keep to himself, however, drawing up the metaphorical drawbridge that Dante didn’t take the chance to cross after his incessant prodding to let it down. He couldn’t say he didn’t give Dante a chance. 

The sun beat down on them, surprisingly warm for a day in Autumn, as they exited the station. People and families of all sorts strolled up and down the sidewalk—a couple passed by with a bawling child, two children giggled and darted around Dante and Vergil’s legs, a heedless, murmuring crowd gathered around a stray area, gawking at an object of attention. 

It felt like the first time Dante had ever really seen people, saw humanity for what it was. Eager and passionate and brimming with a social crux that connected everyone through the littlest touches, the slightest acknowledgments, as if something as little as a single nod or a pressed smile, even one-word greetings and nothing more could relay the biggest messages. An invisible needle and thread that strung each person together through their beating, thrumming bodies, the very lifeblood of their being. And Dante was just now beginning to realize how half of that blood was his own while the other half belonged to the intense, intuitive nature his father passed down to him.

It had never truly settled in during the heat of the tower how important it was, how the rejection of one side of him was a rejection of the other. Strange how his parents’ legacies worked like that. Now if only he could hammer the idea into his brother’s head. 

Speaking of. 

Vergil halted his pace abruptly, nearly causing Dante to trip.

“Hey, what gives?” 

“Do you smell that?”

No, Dante most certainly did not. At first. His brows creased downward in concentration, his eyes closed, gradually his power unfurled itself, feather by feather, scale by scale, creating capillaries out to absorb information. There, for a just a brief second, a coppery edge brushed in front of him. He opened his eyes, turning to the stirring crowd. With one shared look between him and Vergil, they pursued the feeling. Neither cared for the rude stares or insults thrown at them as they shoved their way through the people, rather more fixed on the increasing smell of blood. With a collective, decisive breath, they shouldered their way into the center, where a field of carnage assaulted their noses with salt and metal. Assorted organs––intestines, liver, spleen––were splayed on the concrete ground, blood leaking out in an ever-growing pool. But the thing that caught their eyes foremost was the lifeless heart surrounded in sanguinary text. 

 

SPARDA

 

Dante didn’t get a chance to register what they’d just glimpsed, Vergil was already pulling him back through the throng of people and towards the station again. Dante planted his feet into the ground, halting them in place again. 

“Where the hell are you going?” 

“Back inside, where else do you think?” 

"What- why the fuck would you-" 

Vergil gave a short laugh and a shake of the head. Dante tensed. “You shouldn’t get cocky just because you can access your trigger now. Open your eyes, Dante. Think!” Vergil snapped. A flare of energy rose up in his figure. “The thing that did this is still here and last I checked, it’s your job to hunt it down.” 

“Can we take a minute to step back first?” 

“No.” 

And with that, Vergil was off, hauling Dante back inside the station and not allowing him a moment to steady his footing. Dante did his best to scrape against the pavement, hold Vergil back but it was in vain. He'd regained his strength since yesterday and the implications of that did not play out nicely in Dante’s head. Since when had his brother been so reckless? Since when had he ever been so eager to get into a fight? 

He protested, hissing out angry reproaches in hopes to get Vergil to slow down. But today had more surprises in store for him than he’d thought. A desolate wave struck him as the doors clattered shut. The station was completely barren. The floor was vacated, the stalls and kiosks abandoned, stores shut down without any notice. Dante reflected to mere moments ago when there were people, alive and thriving, going about their business here. 

“Where did everybody go?” 

The answer came from a source he least expected.

“Who knows?” 

Dante half turned towards the newcomer's voice, still constricted by Cerberus. The beat of his heart slowed in his chest, his vision wheeled around, blurry and disoriented. He extended an arm, trying to grapple onto his brother. The feel of velour followed him into the darkness.

Chapter Text

An angry hiss of steel sliding across steel, the wicked stench of blood, the pulse of hard-wired adrenaline. If Heaven and Hell are places that simultaneously exist together somewhere topside, then Dante is sure this is it. 

Nothing ever matches the sweet, savory decadence of meeting your equal on the battlefield and the feeling never fades, not after the first time nor the second, nor anytime after that. For every billowing rush that shadows Dante’s attack, a thin thwip matches it. For his heat and bluster, there’s his opponent’s frigidity. To his fiery, passionate red, there’s a cool blue sweeping by. 

He still remembers their introduction to each other, knows their kinship as brothers better than he knows the blurry image he has of their mother in his memories. Eight years after the blaze, Tony Redgrave is still picking up the pieces Dante left behind when he slunk from the wardrobe and tiptoed around the charred remains of a beautiful woman garnished in silk. 

“It’s a shame, Dante,” Vergil said, his palm hovering over the braided handle of the Yamato. “I expected better of you this time. Yet I’m disappointed by how little of a fight you’ve put up.”

“How little of a fight-” Dante allows himself the most tumultuous, deriding guffaw he can manage and pretends to not notice the brief crease that passes on his brother’s guise. “ Me? I’m not fighting hard enough for you? Maybe I would if you weren’t holding back.” 

“You’re mistaken.” The accusation is as sharp and perforating as his brother’s blade. “I imply only that the full strength you currently possess is an insult to my prowess, even if I am holding back.”

Dante almost cusses at him. Almost. 

The only reason he doesn’t is that he’d rather let Rebellion’s next sweep speak for him instead. Vergil guards against it, a flash of movement that Dante can’t even see when it goes from relaxed to tense. He bears his teeth to accompany the frustrated growl he directs at the opposition. He eyes the oak barrels full of liquor in the corner of the bar—not the classiest venue for their row but Dante’s enjoying it and he’s more than tempted to try hurling his brother into them for shits and giggles. 

His lightweight of a brother fighting while inebriated after accidentally taking a swallow is a thought that’s too entertaining to put down. Nevertheless, Dante does eventually cast it aside, preferring the clashing blades.


  Rebellion. Cerberus. Ebony and Ivory. 

Dante rattled off the names of his weapons aloud, suffering the grounded feeling their repetition gave him as he went like a bloodgoyle out of hell. For all their absurdity and sentimental hopelessness, they were the only things keeping him from floating away into the void long enough to figure out where he was. The towering aisles of wooden crates and stuffed plastic he kept darting between belonged to the warehouse neighborhood a block south of the Montague Train Station, so he hadn’t gone far, a good sign he wasn’t entirely screwed. All that was left to do was figure out the location of three other things. 

First off, Lady. She was tough, capable, and if Dante were honest, absolutely terrifying with the gunpowder contraption known as Kalina-Ann on her back. Even without taking into account the mounds of other guns and explosives she kept hidden on herself, she was still resourceful. Sometimes it felt like she possessed concealed pocket dimensions all around her person just for the sake of carrying weapons to go as far as a Plan Z. He didn’t have to dwell on her status. 

Next off, would be all the people that vanished from the train station. Whatshisname- The Heartbreaker, no doubt, was the culprit behind switching things around like some fuck off omniscient god. Dante swore that if any of those innocents were dead, he would maim and maul the Heartbreaker. He was a long shot from being anywhere near worthy of protecting humanity and it had taken a long time to figure out why he’d want to kill demons for their sake instead of his ambitions. The world was a good place and it’d suck if he couldn’t come back here for more churros. 

Finally, his brother. Now that was someone to be worried about. Startled awake by the realization that the Heartbreaker had separated them, Dante had started on a mad search to locate Vergil before anything bad could happen. Between the “what if’s” and the “maybe’s,” he didn’t want to think about every dark turn this could take. All that mattered was that he couldn’t see Vergil and that left the very real and hollow prospect that he’d stolen away and left Dante to his own devices. 

A part of Dante nagged at him for being so willfully faithful and optimistic. Of course, his brother wouldn’t stick around. Only a true halfwit would see the way out and choose not to escape. He suffocated that thought. The job was more important.  

As he sprinted past a door, a sign and the tugging, overwhelming sensation of demon blood made him skid to a stop.

“Security, huh?” Dante snapped Cerberus out and kicked the door open, all too pleased to see the demon who’d screwed him over. “So, you’re the Heartbreaker.” 

The demon shrugged. It took on the appearance of something far too human. It was apparelled in sweeping layers of a lavish fabric that Dante didn’t recognize. Its scarlet orange eyes peeked out from behind an intricate, twined mask that covered the top half of its face. Settled on his head was a simple, clean hat with a massive, fluffy feather poking out the top. The aesthetic completed made him look like he had just walked out of a masquerade ball. 

“Humans gifted me this name long ago,” It said, its voice like rich, syrupy liquor, sweet and flowing. “If that is what you wish to call me, then you may.” 

“Whatever the case,” Dante said blithely. A smile pulled at the corner of his lips. The party was about to start. “You know why I’m here?” 

“Obviously,” The Heartbreaker drolled. It rolled its head, pulled its bottom lip out from beneath its sharp canines. It raised its fingers to his lips and whistled. From the depths of hell, a stream of smoke flooded the room and a pair of eyes glared from behind the screen. 

Dante had two seconds to clear the area when the demon launched itself at him. He rolled to his feet, scrambling to a stop. The newcomer stood at the size of a large horse. It held the disposition of a snarling wolf from the middle up, horns poised elegantly on its head. Its lower half was comprised of something reptilian. Spines jutted out along the center of it’s back to the very tip of its thrashing tail. A pair of bat-like wings rested at its sides. 

“Hey, way to spoil the party before it starts,” Dante said, twirling Cerberus around. “You won’t even tell me what you did with my brother?”

The Heartbreaker strode from the security room, trails of mist sticking to its coat. “Your brother? Ah, yes, the man in blue, am I correct?” Dante made no note to acknowledge its guess. “I did nothing to him. As soon I separated the two of you, he fled. Like a weak-willed coward.” 

“LIES!” The word was out of Dante’s mouth before he could nail down some semblance of restraint. He couldn’t help it, the accusation hung so blatantly insulting in the air that he had to call out the stupidity of it. If there was one thing he knew about his brother, it was that Vergil never ran from a fight. He faced every challenge head-on, regardless of the difficulty. His sense of honor would allow no less. “What did you do with him?” 

It would have been one thing if Vergil had fought, defeated the Heartbreaker, and then ran. But such wasn’t the case. Even if Dante had little trust in his brother, he still believed in his integrity. 

“Is that all you have to say?” The Heartbreaker sighed out. “I grow weary of this conversation. Alichino, finish this, won’t you?” 

The wolfish demon bared its teeth and growled, plumes of orange and red puffing from its jaws. Dante slid into fighting position, blocking its lunge with Cerberus. 


 

Lady sprinted from city hall, boots pounding against the steps and onto the street, her head still ringing with the news from the secretary. 

“Sir! There’s been an attack on the station district.” 

“By the same person?”

“By the same person.”

She hadn’t stuck around to gather the details of the situation, all she cared about was getting to Dante first and making sure things hadn’t fallen apart on his end. Despite befriending him, she didn’t know him that well. For all she knew, people could be dying in the streets while he was on the job. 

A thundering roar shook the skies and rattled the ground underneath her. A moment later, a demon charged into existence, all fur and spines and teeth. If Arkham were any less of a creeptastic father who hadn’t read demonic encyclopedias to her at night, she might not have been able to name it off as a Malebranche but alas. It pawed at the ground with a furious snort, pacing back and forth in icily jagged movements, solely there to block her path and nothing else. 

Lady whipped Kalina-Ann out, unable to help the smirk on her lips. “This oughta be interesting.” She whistled out to the demon, harsh and loud. “Hey, ugly! You’re a little on the nose for a demon, you know that?” 

It made a strangled, gargling noise and charged for her. Lady pushed down on the trigger.