His nightmares were always the same. They took turns, a different day, a different memory replayed from the worst moments of his life. They were memorized by heart now. He knew the reflection on the window panes of their house, how many birds took flight towards the east at which particular moment, which type of demon broke down their front door, the number of spikes on the head of the one who grabbed him, the direction in which the smoke floated from their burning home, the smell of the grimy, human waste-caked floor of his cage, the rattling sound that the bars made and the grunts of those who transported him.
He knew where the bruises would form before the strikes hit, when and how he discovered the limits of his healing abilities, the touch of Mundus on his mind and his body, cold, thick and oily, now when he would try to grab the arms, they would catch nothing, the arms disappearing like smoke, but the touch was still there and they never really go away and oh how cold and how they burned, searing everything they touched, and the pain, the pain, the pain- How it contaminated everything: his feelings, his memories, his body, turning everything that wasn't shit into a swirling oily mess of black hatred.
Oh how he wished for the cycle to stop.
Then came his favorite memory. If only because Dante was in it, reaching for him as he fell.
It was the best because of his brother trying to stop him from falling. It could only mean that he still cared despite the years that had passed, despite the fact that he had just undone all of their fathers' hard work and that he'd tried to take Dante's amulet. Dante still cared.
It was the worst because of the realization that his own actions tore them apart yet again. Also because of the crippling realization that no one was coming to save him. The current him knew this but the younger him did not. Each violent reunion with Dante renewed this hope, because his brother had proven stronger each time, but the question "Why didn't you come save me?" Rang loud and unanswered. These wounds were ripped open time and time again.
In a much later memory, when he'd died by Dante's hand, he was almost grateful that it was the end. But alas, all he got from the experience was the grand experience of dying that his brain could replay at leisure for nearly two decades.
His nightmares had manifested into living breathing beings that kept him company and kept him alive. They gave him reason and the strength to go on. They became his wall, his defense against the world, yet despite that, effortlessly and without fail, they still hurt him every single time.
He'd tried so hard to cast away all that which made him weak. Family-connections, hope and love - emotions, his nightmares - all that which made him feel safe, so that all that he had left was himself.
He answered to no one, worried for no one, and had the freedom to do whatever he wanted to seize power.
Why did he want power so badly anyways?
To get revenge on those who ruined his childhood? Dante finished that.
To beat Dante? Each defeat he suffered was a huge blow to his-nonexistent pride. Especially after Mundus. And yet Dante had even taken care of Mundus for him. How dare Dante solve his problems for him? Where was Dante when Vergil needed him the most?
How could he be so weak that he needed his little brother to save him from himself and clean up his mess after he'd destroyed everything he'd ever touched?
Did he need power to catch up to Dante perhaps? Since when did his entire world revolve around Dante?
The answer to that question was clear the moment they left the womb.
But the nightmares - the nightmares, they were all he had when he didn't have anything else-when he needed Dante, but he wasnt there. How could he ever let anyone else in again?
The answer came in the worst time from two of the best and worst people - the only ones who could have possibly given it to him.
Violence was a language he understood very well. It was the only language used with him after the tender age of eight. Oh how this frustrated him - he had loved books so much as a child and he was deprived of them growing up. Their words were bruises and cuts embedded on his flesh. And even though they weren't physically there anymore, scars remained - not the visible ones.
And if he wanted to let people in, he would have to reveal these scars that no one else but him could see, the ones that he could still feel festering under the surface. Would they have the patience and heart to understand him that way?
They were both so ready to kill him, yet the moment he lost, all the animosity melted away. It might have helped that he’d motioned to do the right thing after all that was said and done.
But still, how could they possibly be so forgiving?
Dante as far as he'd known was always soft, but his son, at the knowledge that Vergil was his father, had suddenly decided that he was worth saving.
Nero even wanted them to stop fighting - him and Dante, who had been settling their differences through violence since before Nero himself was born. How precocious. He even tried to stop them from leaving.
Good grief. He was softer than Dante. How could this person - his son, this young boy, be stronger than him, and yet be so soft at the same time? Where did Nero get it from?
Dante had seemed all too happy to help him clean up his mess once again, going even so far as to use Nero as an excuse to join him.
Wait, could it be, that he was just waiting for someone to replace him as earth's guardian? Now, with the knowledge that Vergil was alive and that Nero would take care of things, Dante could finally follow Vergil around like he used to when they were children?
Could Dante really be so simple?
It was so easy for them to fall back in sync. They needed no words. Dante still really was too easy on him.
Nero seemed satisfied to wait with the promise that he would not lose next time. There was a defiant, but expectant look on his son's face as Vergil struggled to spit out a sort of not-goodbye message. His boy even ran to watch him as he dived back into hell, where his younger brother was waiting for him. The notion of it stirred something in his chest.
Everything had shifted for him. Could it really be so simple?
Was it finally time to cast away the shadows and let the walls down?
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