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What Dreams May Come

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This was all Dante’s fault; it had been his idea.

The damned grown-ass man had demanded to come along and then thrown a tantrum until he got his way. As irritated as Nero had been with the display it was not irritation that had made him give into Dante’s demands. Instead, Nero had let him have his way mostly out of obligation and pity. It was obvious Dante was bored and Nero had had the sneaking suspicion for a long time now that he was lonely. Deeply lonely, for the kind of companionship he couldn’t get from the girls he shared his business with. So, he had been making more of an effort to spend time with the old man, especially after Trish had commented that Nero’s company seemed to make Dante happier.

Besides this was supposed to be a straightforward enough job, a low-level infestation with some potential higher power pulling the strings. Though after arriving and seeing the low level of the underlings Nero had not held out any hope of a challenge regarding the supposed higher power.

Instead, he’d entertained himself by trying to steal Dante’s kills.

He’d started to suspect something was wrong when they found the humans. They were not dead or injured in any way. Every one of them was sleeping, peacefully at that. Nero had tried to rose them, but when his gentle nudging didn’t work, Dante had fired off a couple of rounds at the ceiling, because he could be an asshole when he wanted to be. But even Dante’s asshole methods didn’t work to rose the sleeping humans.

“Succubus,” Dante muttered.

“Oh …ok,” Nero said. “Not what I expected to find, might be interesting.”

“Succubus’ aren’t sexy babes,” Dante snorted. “They’re pretty gross actually. They lull you to sleep, keep you there with ‘good’ dreams and feed on you at their leisure.”

“Like a spider,” Nero muttered. Dante snorted again but didn’t argue.

They continued, taking out the low-level demons as they went. As expected, it was dull. Dante tried to spice things up by introducing an element of competition into the job but while Dante was stronger, Nero was quicker, and he soon took a decent lead which made them both lose interest and Nero went back to trying to steal Dante’s kills. He started to feel a pang of concern when he noticed that some of the low-level demons were joining the humans in sleep. But his concern reached new heights when they found significantly more powerful demons also asleep.

“Looks like your ‘higher power’ is taking a nap,” Dante said.

“Succubus can mess with demons too?” Nero said. Dante laughed.

“Of course, they can, no honour among demons,” Dante had stopped before a door that reeked of power. “But it means our main event might be a bit stronger than anticipated.” Smirking Dante raised a leg and kicked the door. Had Nero done that it would have taken a couple of blows, had a human done it their leg would have shattered. But Dante was powerful, and the door broke apart revealing the biggest, foul-smelling slug that Nero had ever seen.

“Eww, what the fuck!” Nero couldn’t help his exclamation. Dante all but howled with laughter at his disgust.

The creature reared up while they were distracted and screeched at them. Dante turned to face it and looked ready to fire off a typical quip, but Nero didn’t hear it.
There was something about the sound it made.

Overwhelming in the best of ways.

Like sinking into a warm bath.

Safe.

He was safe.

He could rest.

Everything was fine, and he was so tired.

•••••

Nero opened his eyes in a strange place.

The ground wasn’t behaving itself; it was floating in bits all over the damned place. The motion was enough to make his stomach roll as he tried to keep his balance while simultaneously track the land fragments around him. He staggered forward, suddenly dizzy, and stumbled, fortunately, a strong arm caught him around the chest.

“Careful there,” Dante smirked at him. “Limbo takes some getting used to.”

“You sound like you’ve been here before,” Nero muttered trying to not throw up his lunch.

“Not the first succubus I’ve dealt with,” Dante sounded nonchalant, not that that meant anything, he always sounded like that. “They always bring you here while they ransack your deepest darkest secrets. Gotta build a good dream, that stuff takes time.” The older hunter grinned. “First time I’ve shared one of these dreams with someone, can’t wait to see what it cooks up for ya.”

“What’s are you talking about?” Nero said. “Actually, never mind, how do we get out?”

“Usually, I find the part of the dream that’s the core, destroy it.”

“Great,” Nero said. “Where’s that?” Dante shrugged.

“Gotta wait for it to craft your dream first,” he said.

“Why mine?” Nero snapped. Dante laughed.

“Cause I’m a bit more of a mouthful than you kid, it’s gotta pick you.”

“Why the hell did you let us get sucked in here?” Nero yelled when the world swirled sickeningly.

“Destroying the dream weakens the succubus, really pisses them off and makes the fight more fun. Gotta have a good main event, don’t we?”

“You did this for shits and giggles!” Nero all but screamed, he lunged forward to clock Dante on the jaw, but everything swirled harder. The world around them faded. Nero fell to his knees and hit hard cobbles. Everything came into focus all at once, the sudden realness of everything was almost as nauseating as the instability of Limbo had been.

“Looks like our puppeteer picked a story,” Dante said. Nero looked up at Dante frowning, the older hunter had lost his nonchalant tone, he sounded worried. Looking around Nero saw they were on the street outside Devil May Cry at night. “Strange, I figured with you being all young and virile your ‘desires’ would be easier for it.”

“The fuck are you on about?” Nero hissed, willing his stomach to still and clambering to his feet. Dante swallowed hard before speaking, he was sweating.

“Figured you’d be easier,” Dante said. “You’re young, hell I was looking forward to finding ourselves in Loveplanet with that girl of yours on the dance floor.”

“The fuck,” Nero felt himself turn beat red. “You did this on purpose, you though that slug thing would get inside my head and …” he trailed off. Dante grinned at him, a flash of his usual humour returning before fading instantly.

“I’d never have thought it would go for me,” Dante muttered very quietly. “Would not have done this if I’d thought that.”

“You never think,” Nero huffed. “and why the hell is it cool for you to come poking around in my head to laugh but when it’s you ‘oh no!’ fuck you, Dante.”

“Kid,” Dante held up his hands in the face of Nero’s rage. “Look if my deepest desire was one of the babes then I’d be happy to have you here but …it’s not.”

“Screw you,” Nero said, trying to ignore how unsettled he was by Dante’s sudden mood shift. “So, to get out of here we what? Find the core and smash it.” Dante nodded. “Well come on then.” Nero stalked towards Devil May Cry and kicked the door open, Dante following behind him.

Inside it was quiet and tidy.

Really tidy.

“Your deepest desire is to get a cleaner?” Nero said, he sniffed. “Even smells nice,” Dante said nothing, Nero frowned at him, the usually relaxed devil hunter was tense, curling in on himself as if trying to be as small as possible. Nero shook his head and headed inside properly, determined to find the ‘core’ destroy it and get out so he could kick Dante’s ass.

He marched through the surprisingly clean and sweet-smelling office. It wasn’t just clean, it was in good repair, the lights all had working bulbs, the cracks in the floor were all fixed, the mould was gone and the holes in the ceiling had been fixed. Was Dante’s deepest desire really to fix up the office? That was lame, no wonder he was embarrassed. He went into the small kitchen and snorted, not only was it in good working order, something it really wasn’t in the real world, but there was a dinner plate on the side with a meal, waiting. A note sat next to it.

“Put this in the oven for five minutes to reheat, I’m in the shower. V.”

Nero didn’t say anything, it was starting to make more sense now, Dante lived alone in a dump, so his deepest desire was to live in a nice place with someone else, maybe a wife? The thought made Nero’s chest clench a little, it was pretty sad in a pathetic kind of way. Poor lonely Dante. His pity however shrivelled when he instantly remembered who had trapped them in this dream of domesticity. He turned out of the kitchen towards the stairs to hunt out the core, which was probably this wife Dante had dreamed up. He barged past Dante on his way, the hunter reached out and grabbed his arm tightly. Nero pulled hard to free himself but stopped struggling when he saw Dante’s face.

“Look, kid,” Dante said, his voice cracking. “If this is what I think it is then I need to ask you something.”

“What?” Nero said, his anger fading under the confusion and a measure of pity for the pain on Dante’s face.

“I need you to be the one to destroy the core,” he said slowly. “I …I can’t do it, not again.” Nero felt uncomfortable, Dante’s eyes were wet, his fingers shaking where he gripped Nero’s arm. This was really affecting him, Dante who brushed everything off was nearly in tears because of some dream? “I can’t, not again, not again.” He was whispering now. Nero reached out awkwardly and patted the older man’s shoulders.

“Uh sure,” he said. “I got this. You can wait down here if you like.” Dante nodded and all but collapsed onto the sofa, right next to a long blue coat. Nero frowned, Dante never wore blue, he reached for it. Dante’s eyes followed his reach and he jerked back to his feet as if he’d been burned.

“What,” Nero held his hands up. Dante coughed and looked distressed.

“Sorry,” Dante mumbled, his own hand reaching out to pick up the coat. To Nero’s surprise and continued uncomfortableness Dante put the coat to his face and took a slow deep breath.

“Uhh,” Nero said. Dante turned to look at him, the hurt on his face getting more intense.

“Ok,” he said putting the coat down, his voice cracking. “let’s …let’s just get this over with. He’ll be upstairs.”

“He?” Nero said, Dante, didn’t respond. Nero let the matter lie and turned heading up the stairs, this was hardly the time to start questioning Dante’s preferences. Surprisingly he heard Dante following him up, he didn’t comment, not on the fact the older hunter was coming upstairs after showing such distress or the fact that he was hiding behind Nero like a kid on its first day at school.

On the top landing, Nero could hear the upstairs shower running so didn’t bother searching the other rooms. Though as he passed Dante’s bedroom he glanced inside, noting the well-made oversized bed and a mishmash of belongings.

“So,” he muttered after a second, “this is your deepest desire,” he tried to keep his tone light. “A nice house and someone to live with? Why the hell were you so mortified outside? That’s a pretty normal thing to want.”

“It’s not what you think kid,” Dante said as they reached the bathroom. “Go on.” He pushed Nero to open the door.

Steam filled Nero’s vision when the door opened.

“Dante?” a male voice called, “You home? What are you doing in here? Use the downstairs bathroom if you need to go, oaf.” Nero hardly heard the words, to busy dealing with the fact that Dante’s legs had just gone out from under him putting him on his knees on the floor.

“Dante!” he knelt next to him, Dante was on his elbows and knees, a sound not unlike a sob escaped him.

“Dante!” the unknown voice said. Nero heard the shower curtain recede and felt a presence behind him. A wet hand closed on Dante’s shoulder. “What’s wrong with you? Nero move a moment.” Nero stepped back and allowed, the very naked wet stranger to access Dante.

“Who…” he trailed off taking stock of the stranger.

He looked like Dante, a tidier, slightly slimmer version of Dante and he was currently Lifting the real Dante to his feet.

“It’s alright,” the stranger said to Dante. He glanced at Nero and Nero couldn’t help but flinch under the intensely familiar but strange gaze. It was like someone else looking out from Dante’s face. “Nero, tell me what happened.”

“Who are you?” Nero said the stranger frowned.

“Vergil,” Dante croaked, his voice a complete wreck.

“Tell me what happened,” the stranger, Vergil, said now glaring at Nero, the ferocity of his gaze made Nero’s blood run cold. “Who did this to my brother?”

“Brother,” Nero rasped.

“It’s not,” Dante said looking at Nero. “It’s not him.”

“Of course, it’s me, fool,” Vergil snapped. “What’s wrong with you? Did you stab another plant? I’ve told you about demonic pollen.” While ranting Vergil moved Dante to sit on the edge of the bathtub, Nero moved to shut off the shower. When he turned back Dante had reached out to cup the side of Vergil’s face.

“This isn’t real,” he was saying over and over again. “This never happened, you fell, you didn’t come back with me, it’s not real.”

“This again,” Vergil sighed. “Dante, I didn’t fall. Mundus tricked you. I raised Temen-Ni-Gru, you fell when we were fighting, I followed you. We fought and defeated Mundus, together.”

“What are you talking about?” Nero said.

“Mundus poisoned Dante during the fight,” Vergil said without looking at Nero. “I told you this before, Nero. What’s wrong with the two of you?”

“There was a succubus,” Nero mumbled.

“It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real,” Dante was still repeating.

“A succubus?” Vergil said. “That might have done this to him, what the hell were you doing fighting a succubus without me, Dante!” Nero shook his head, still trying to ignore the fact that a naked replica of Dante was both growling at them and fussing over a distressed Dante.

“It’s not real,” Dante said one last time, slowing his breathing and visibly pulling himself together. He lifted his head and looked at Vergil. “You were never like this, not after the fire. When you came back you were hard, cold. You would never have tried to comfort me. The real Vergil would have told me to stop being a wimp and stabbed me.”

“Dante,” Vergil said flinching as if Dante had wounded him. His entire posture changed from the firm if sympathetic stance he had a moment ago to one of extreme supplication. Crouching on his knees before Dante, looking suddenly like his entire world had ended. “I’m sorry, I never should have left. Forgive me, please brother.”

“No,” Dante snapped. “You’re just saying what I wanted him to say.”

“Dante,” Vergil said his expression crumpling in hurt. “Don’t hurt me again, please not again.”

“Nero,” Dante lunged forwards, wrapping arms around Vergil in an imprisoning hold, that might have been a hug had his grip not been so obviously tight. “Now, do it now.”

Without thinking, Nero lifted the Blue Rose and fired. He hit dead on and the world around them shattered.

The scream of the succubus didn’t affect him this time and he let out his anger and frustration on the foul demon. About a third of the way through its dismemberment he noticed he was working alone; Dante was sitting on the floor his head between his knees, he was screaming, a violent sound of anger and grief.

By the time the succubus was dead Dante was getting to his feet.

“We done here?” Dante said, his voice still sounding like his throat had been sandpapered. Nero nodded.

“You ok?” he asked expecting a flippant response. Dante looked for a moment like he would do as expected but stopped.

“Not really,” he admitted. “Didn’t need that. But I’ll be fine with a bottle of Jack or six.”

“Dante,” Nero frowned, aware of Dante’s drinking problem. Dante forced a weak smile.

“Come on, I need to not be here anymore.”

“Fair nuff,” Nero said as they started heading out. “I didn’t know you have a brother. You guys fall out or something? That why he’s not around?”

Dante didn’t respond.

End

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