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Vergil remembered Dante calling out for him moments before pain ripped through him. Blinking away the distortion of his senses, it was an oddly eerie moment of quiet, deja vu as the world came into focus. He could see the gigantic creature, with a face like a glowing effervescent hole with teeth surrounding the edges of the light. The tentacles let go of something, it wasn’t Vergil, it was something else. Something on the corner of his mind, nagging.

When he blinked it he was being lifted, the thing that the creature had left discarded on the ground, bloody and broken. Something about it... Vergil turned his gaze toward the creature, vaguely aware he couldn’t feel his legs. The light above him was brilliant, entrancing, he could not stop staring. Even as pain ripped through his chest, nearly biting through his sternum in one go. His head fell back in a silent scream, and he is dizzy again, yet he could see the bloody discarded thing on the ground.

it...

He...

Pain ripped through him again, and along with it, rage. He clawed at the creature above him, spotting Yamato embedded into its neck. Grasping her tightly, he sliced its throat, and finally, it released him. He landed hard on his back and twisted there on the ground in the agony. Keep moving. Get away. His gaze settled on the discarded body. Forcing himself up, past the pain of his back and chest, his legs woefully inadequate for the job. Still, he persevered, forcing himself forward. Not looking back; his vision swimming. He could feel the tread of the creature behind him, it was coming up fast.

Keep going.

It was closer.

Keep going.

The next thing he knows he’s stepping onto nothing, clutching his brother to him as they fell. Turning, slashing at the tentacles coming down at them. There was an inhuman howl. The air is rushing around them, the light is swallowed as they descend.

It goes dark.


 

“How have you managed so long being so incompetent, brother,” His tone was teasing as he glances sidelong to Dante, who returns his jab with a full forced grin.

“Well, what can I say? I get by on my good looks and irresistible charms,” Dante winks at him, and the ridiculousness of his statement earns a balked chuckle.

Dante’s elation is palpable.

It’s nice.

 


 

 

Vergil opened his eyes, or one eye, the other eye is submerged with half of his face. Turning to his back, he stares up at the source of light high above them. It wasn’t too dark down here, enough to give an eerie air. He could feel the throb of broken bones, and for a moment he wonders what happened. Where was the smell of blood coming from?

As he turns to his side, still unable to sit up, he sees Dante’s back facing him. Dante...


 

“Look, I ain’t stupid, alright?” He refused to look toward Dante when he got like this, so Dante was forced to put himself in the physical trajectory of Vergil’s path. Vergil stops in his tracks, setting his gaze square on his brother, cold and unfeeling. “I know you got the whole, cold and collected shtick going on, and that’s cool. You do you. But we came down here for a reason, yeah?”

“To sever the Qliphoth and seal the portal,” Vergil responds quickly, factually, bored.

“No, no-no.” What was he on about, now? “I’m down here cause I care about you Verge, and someone's--”

“--Has to monitor me; yes you said that.” Vergil interrupted, his tone dry and tired of the rhetoric already.

Dante looked offended, of course, he would. His expression goes to his amicable neutrality, “You know what, when you’re done being a sourpuss, we’ll talk about this.”

 


 

Vergil pulls himself over to Dante, “Dante,” He murmurs softly, taking a moment to catch his breath before turning his brother to his ba...


 

“Heh, you really think that?” Dante didn’t seem perturbed by his admission, just surprised. It's puzzling enough that Vergil looks towards him, “Is it not the truth? You don’t truly care for the state of humanity as a whole, your motivations are solely driven by familial propriety.”

Dante laughed, shaking his head, “Humans don’t need me going on crusades for them. Alright, I’ll give you that. But,” He squared his posture, spreading his hands as if to explain. “You don’t actually hate humans like you pretend to, nor do you hate what they represent.”

“That being?”

“Compassion of the soul.”

“Compassion. The act of putting the woes of others before yourself, to hold sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others.”

Dante crossed his arms like he’d hit the nail. “Yeah, that.”

Vergil tilted his head, raising a brow at his brother. Sometimes Dante could be a real idiot, “Dear brother, I believe you are grasping to find a truth that isn’t there.”

“Nah, here me out... You got it, yunno.”

“I have compassion?” Vergil’s tone was dry and lacking amusement to his brother’s misguided psychological assessments.

“You do. You like to pretend you don’t. Truth is, you hold it too close to your heart, but that’s where I come in,” Dante winked, “I got you, brother.”


 

Vergil had no words for the sight in his arms, but the memories did come rushing back to him. The eldritch horror that had lied in wait like a stonefish in the sand, its demonic aura so small neither of them could pinpoint that itch in the back of their senses. It had attacked them-- him. He’d fought against it, could have killed it, until he saw its dead-lights. His body had gone limp then, his mind swallowed by its ever encompassing veil of light.

He remembered hearing Dante shout his name. He remembers falling to the ground, limp. Useless.

He remembers seeing what happened to Dante, it had been in his peripheral, but he’d seen it. Now he held the result of his idleness in his arms. His brother’s chest broke open, his heart was eaten while still beating, just as the creature nearly did to him.

He remembers what had happened.

He can’t unsee it.


 

“Hey, do you remember mom’s rhubarb and strawberry pie?” Dante kept asking these mundane questions, it would get annoying if not for the mental hoops he had to take to answer some of them. Some truly took a great deal of thinking to dredge up the memory.

“I do not,” This time, no luck.

“Aw, shucks. I’ll get a recipe sometime. Won’t be the same, but I make a mean pie crust,” Dante smiles casually, to him the time here in the hell is a cakewalk. Almost boring.

“I can’t wait,” Vergil answer’s dryly, but the words were sincere, regardless of his inflection.

“Your gonna love it,” He winks.


 

Vergil finally broke, and once he did the tears did not stop. He stroked his brother’s face, his hair, clutching desperately at his body and clothes. The cries, the begging...

Oh did he beg.

He begged incessantly to some unknown god that this wasn’t real, that Dante would heal, that anything was happening besides this.

He begged until his voice went raw.

He begged until he had no more tears.

He begged for forgiveness.

He begged that it would have been him instead.

He begged until he could no longer believe.

When he could no longer beg, shed tears, or scream out in anguish, Vergil stayed still with Dante’s stiffening body in his arms.


 

“What are you doing?” Vergil watched as his brother began to strip at the hot-spring.

“It’s a hot-spring, right?”

“A sulfuric hot-spring,” Vergil raised a brow, Dante just spread his arms at Vergil. Beckoning him to join him. “Dante, we shouldn’t carelessly be out in the open like this.”

“Bitch, get in here,” Dante retorted as he settled himself naked into the spring, leaving Vergil to give him a classic ‘excuse me?’ expression. “While the water’s hot, nerd.”

With a heavy sigh, Vergil stripped, folding his clothes neatly before joining him in the spring. Okay, it was fantastic.


 

Yamato was nearby, he could feel her hum. He should grab her... he should keep moving.

He doesn’t.


 

“See, this isn’t so bad,” Dante remarked as he stretched out in the hot spring. Vergil cleaned himself diligently before turning to grab their clothes. It was a chance he couldn’t pass up, to clean up some of the blood and gore from their clothes so that they were relatively fresh when they put them back on.

“Verge?” Dante had swum closer, Vergil was using the smaller of the springs for their clothes, “Seriously? Your doing chores?”

Vergil shot his glare, “I’m taking advantage of a present commodity.”

“You're wasting your time washing laundry when you should be in here,” Dante slapped the top of the steaming water.

“I bathed,” Vergil informed him, he was clean.

“Yeah okay, whatever. When your done doing that, get your ass back in here,” Dante had a grin on his face that he couldn’t place.


 

Vergil doesn’t know how long its been, his body pangs with pain, he knows its not from injury. Maybe the figurative hole in his chest was growing bigger...


 

Dante ended their water wrestling by pinning Vergil against the wall of the spring, grinning like an idiot. Vergil was pissed, so he avoided Dante’s gaze. “Aw, don’t be like that, Verge.” The tone was starkly different than what he’d ever heard Dante use on him. As he turned his attention back to Dante, his brother leans in close.

They shared a soul soaring kiss.


 

There is a smell coming from Dante that would likely start attracting carrion and scavengers of all types. He knows what the pain is now, it’s starvation. His body has lost mass since... he couldn’t remember. He should move...

He doesn’t.


 

He doesn’t like giving up control. He hadn’t liked it ever since control was ripped from him. Yet he did so with Dante.

For Dante.

It was exhilarating, and it was frightening.

Dante was a good lover, he always had the right words to calm the panic and anxiety. The right touches, kisses; the right tempo that sent his mind in a tailspin of pure euphoria.


 

He doesn’t notice the brilliant glow of the bio-luminescent roots until he felt Dante shift in his arms. The shock of such a thing woke him from the stupor of incoherence brought by insomnia and starvation. Before he could react the roots have yanked Dante from him, and he gasps in desperation, his voice cracking from disuse as he speaks. “No-no-no!”

Vergil’s legs are so stiff they crack and creak when he bolts to his feet, chasing after the vines that took his brother from him.


 

“So what are you gonna do when we get back topside,” Dante is draped on Vergil’s stomach, clinging to him like a kitten to warmth.

“About Nero?” Vergil shook his head, giving a non-committal shrug. He doesn’t know what he is going to do.

“You gonna be my partner? We’d be the best demon-hunting duo.” Dante has that lilt to his voice like he’s teasing again.

“We would be too efficient,” Vergil teased back, “You might be put on unsavory, chivalrous crusades as jobs.”

“Agh, no. Okay, you aren’t gonna be a hunter with me,” Dropping the idea so soon?

“Perhaps on occasion, I could join you.” That earned a smile from Dante that made Vergil feel light.


 

When the water get so deep? It was calf height now as he chased the glowing roots to its source. Vergil struggled through the water till he goes to the edge of the demon tree, pulling himself up onto the roots and scant landmass. The tree had slowly been pulling his brother’s body into its trunk, he was almost all the way in now. Vergil desperately reached into the trunk, catching hold of his brother’s arm.

“Don’t,” He rasped, fresh tears falling he didn’t know he could shed, “Please, don’t.” As if begging a demon tree would give him his brother back. Vergil stays flush with the trunk, wincing as his arm was wrapped in vines and roots inside the tree. The barbs of the roots likely acted as teeth, and he gasps as the barbs rend his flesh.


 

“I love you,” Dante says once again. This is the fortieth time he’s said it since they started their courtship.

This is the fortieth time Vergil cannot bring himself to respond.


 

He’s flush with the trunk long enough that it begins opening once again. Vergil gives a heavy sound of relief, but he can’t seem to pull his brother from the vines. Howling in his frustration, and though his form shifted to his devil, it took so much out of him to do so that the form didn’t last nearly long enough to complete pulling him out of there.

With his arm caught, with Dante caught inside Vergil grits his teeth. He feels Yamato calling out to him from where he’d left her, desperately wanting to save him. Vergil ignores her call. If he moved, Dante was lost to him forever. Just a bit of time and he could pull him free of this fucking demon tree. He could bring him home.

Vergil let out a scream when his arm was broken in its confines, “I didn’t even... I didn’t say it,” He calls out to no one that could hear.


 

Sensing his anxiety, Dante gave him a pat on the shoulder, leaning in to kiss along the side of his neck. “You don’t even have to say it, alright?”


 

Vergil hung his head, grimacing against the pain, it was only then that he realized that he was being pulled into the trunk as well. Its strong roots breaking his ailed body like a twig, and he let out another scream.


 

“You know why I came down here with you, don’t you?” This again? Vergil raised his brow at his brother, and just as he was about to answer with the same dryness as last time, Dante interrupts him.

“Its because I can’t go through that again. I couldn’t let you come down here alone, after what happened last time.”

“Dante,” Vergil began, but his brother’s hand waved him off.

“Yeah, but its deeper than that. I missed ya, I was worried... but mostly?” Dante looked at him, his expression so raw now, “Its cause I wanted to be closer. I didn’t want to be alone anymore, and I didn’t want that for you either.”

Vergil’s brows softened, it was the softest expression he had ever given to Dante. Drawing up his courage, he squares his shoulders. Even if he wasn’t ready to say it, he wanted to, “... Dante, I lov--”

“VERGIL!”


 

He was within its confines. The window for escape was gone. Blood is pouring from his lips ever since it crushed his rib cage. He wouldn’t be conscious for much longer, lifting his head, his gaze settling on Dante’s bloody body.

“I love you, Dante.” He murmurs between the coughs of blood and the hisses of pain. “I love you,” He whispers between the tears.

Like a mantra, he repeats it.

Till he could no more.