The Question Being

All disclaimers apply.

Author's Note: This is just a bit of preperation for where I'm hoping to go with these two. Dysfuction abounds. God, I love demons.

BIG, HUGE, MUNDUS-SIZED thanks to all who reviewed "Bathtime." I squealed. Seriously. Like a fangirl on crack. You are all teh coolness.

I suppose you could call this a bit of a prequel to Bathtime. Sequel(s) are in the works. Also, yes, I know, Trish is not a weak girl (most people who heft motorcycles don't tend to be) but Dante is not a small guy, either. There's also the added weight of his weapons; lots and lots of weapons. And after about two hours wearing down a mythical beast, Trish is just plain old tired and achy and pissed. Otherwise, she'd just toss him over her shoulder and whistle her way home. This is my logic. I don't have much, so please be tolerant of it.

All reviews would be appreciated.

Two hundred thirty. He couldn't weigh more than two-hundred thirty. Factoring in a height of six feet, three inches, and his sleekly muscular build with practically no superfluous fat . . . even with the added burden of several pounds of leather, gun steel, and whatever a demonic lightning sword happened to be made of, he couldn't possibly weigh more than two-hundred thirty pounds.
So why the HELL was he so damned heavy?!

"This is exactly what I get for bringing you anywhere near a hydra," Trish grated through clenched teeth as she continued to drag the carcass of her partner through the darkened European forest. "Normal people fight from a distance. Sane people know to stay away from giant poisonous serpent heads. But YOU, oh, no, YOU had to jump on the thing's back and get yourself thoroughly poisoned. Now I--" Drag. "--have to haul--" Tug. "--your heavy--" Strain. "--ass--" Slouch. "--home!"

Exhausted, she unceremoniously deposited her partner against a tree. His skull made a satisfying cracking sound against the trunk. Fortunately for him and unfortunately for her, his head was as impenetrable as ever, so it would take more than a little impact like that to take him out for any amount of time. The thought of the raging headache--and everything-else-ache--he was going to have in the morning made her feel better, but only a little.

Trish dropped to her knees in front of Dante, lifted one leather-gloved hand, and slapped him soundly across the face. "Wake up, asshole!"

Nothing. Not even a twitch. He might as well have been dead. Most people would have, after getting pumped with half a gallon of mystical poison. She could still see the huge puncture marks in the front of his suit where the fangs had gone in, spanning his torso. Thank God for devil blood, oxymoron that it was--it had taken three transformations, some bloodletting, and a lot of cursing to nullify the poison.

But it had been nullified. Dante would live. He'd feel like shit warmed over for awhile, but he would be fine.

Now, if only he would wake up.

It wasn't as if Trish herself hadn't suffered damage. Getting pinned and nearly crushed under the hydra's enormous claws had done nothing for her bone structure, and the fire-breathing aspect of the beast hadn't been loads of fun, either. Everything was going to hurt for a few days. Hell, it hurt a lot now. So it really would have helped if she didn't have to drag her partner several miles back to the distortion portal through which they had arrived in Greece.

But this day wouldn't be so kind to her, it seemed.

More out of petulance than any real belief it would help, the young devil pinched Dante's cheeks in her fingers as hard as she could, forming his face into grotesque parodies of itself and yanking his head around.

"You sleep like a fucking corpse, Sparda!" she snapped. She gave him one final jerk, then sighed and abandoned her childishness to stand back up, haul his arm over her shoulders, and continue her trek to the portal. To take her mind off how heavy he was, she kept talking, though she knew he couldn't hear her.

"I always warn you," she muttered. "I always say 'Dante, be a little more careful.' Or 'Dante, you can't do everything alone.' Or 'Dante, maybe the best way to beat that enormous demon is NOT to let it impale you.' Do you ever listen? Of course not, because you're Dante Sparda, you're immortal. Actually, genius, you can be alive a long time and still end up very dead when something rips out your entrails."

Granted, Dante was extraordinarily hard to kill. Nothing short of absolute annihilation could destroy his body. But still, devil blood had to contend with his human vulnerability. Just a few weeks ago, the idiot had caught a stomach virus and spent half of their job in New Orleans throwing up.

Trish was the only full-fledged devil in this pair. She never had to worry about human sicknesses and poison did little to her. If she had been the one bitten, she would still be conscious, even able to walk, to an extent. He had far more sheer power than she did, but when it came to regeneration, his mortal blood flawed him. It was ridiculous for him to be so overprotective of her, when in reality, she was less likely to be killed than he was.

But that didn't matter. He had to be the hero, no matter what. Moron.

"This is supposed to be the other way around, isn't it?" she wondered rhetorically. "Hero carting the unconscious damsel to safety? There has to be a rule somewhere: Female falls unconscious somehow or other, big, burly, male scoops her up and clutches her to his chest in concern or some crap. That's how romance novels go. The girl never has to carry the hero home. He's the freaking hero, he's supposed to do the heavy lifting. She's just supposed get in danger and wear tight dresses. Oh, and soften his heart."

Trish snorted loudly at that concept, and the effort to do so almost made her fall over.

"Well, I've got the tight clothes part down, right? And I'm good at getting in trouble. Never was much of a victim, but you save my ass a lot. So, do I soften your heart, devil boy?" The one in question didn't offer a reply, due to unconsciousness. "Yeah, right. You're about as soft as you are light."

That wasn't really true. Dante played the hard-ass rebel like a pro, but underneath it all he really was a softie. She knew for a fact he used his two-headed coin to cheat his clients into thinking he did them favors only by chance. Then there was his closely-guarded love for kids. And she bet he inwardly sobbed like a baby when Mufasa died.

Okay. That last one was pushing it. But her partner was no cold-hearted killer. If he was, she never would have lived past her attempt to kill him, mild resemblance to his mother or no.

Blowing messy strands of hair out of her eyes, the blonde devil said aloud, "But the question here, my catatonic friend, is whether or not I hold a 'special' place in that half-human heart of yours. A girl has to wonder, hm? After almost a year of this, you and me and whatever stumbles into our target range, something has to cement."

Flirting constantly back and forth, mock sword battles that turned into serious fights, strange conversations that started about what to eat for dinner and ended with the philosophies of life and death, risking their respective hides on a weekly basis just because no one else would, arguing over every childish topic under the sun, racing midnight streets in the rain . . . a motorcycle could never go fast enough for either of them . . .

Maybe nothing--something? She was humanlike enough to know humans, but human knowledge had yet to understand the human heart. And devils weren't supposed to have those horrid things in the first place.

How the hell was she supposed to figure this out?

Her shoulders were going to give out. Any minute now. She was just going to collapse in the dirt and stay there for a few hours, days, whatever. With her luck, a certain heavy-ass halfbreed was going to fall right on top of her.

"First thing we're going to do," Trish growled, still bravely lugging on, "when we get home, is put you on a diet. Trade in all that leather for some nice polyester. Maybe get you some plastic guns. That'd be real useful in battle, huh? Pop a Blood Goat with a rubber dart and say 'Play dead!'" The image made her want to laugh, but if she started, no way she'd be able to stay upright, so she choked back the impulse.

She knew she cared about him. There was no denying that. She was dragging his clocked corpse through the woods, wasn't she? She risked her life for him all the time, didn't she? She fed him pizza, right? Not because she had to. If she'd picked up and went for the sunset after leaving Mallet Island, he wouldn't have chased after. Not even, she knew, to get Sparda back. A sword which was also not exactly light, in addition to her fellow devil hunter.

"But nooooo," she snarled aloud again. "I stayed. Got comfortable, got attached. If I pulled a disappearing act now, Sparda or no Sparda, you'd hunt me down and make me explain. We're that far, at least."

But the question is . . .

Trish paused on the edge of the woods, staring at the glittering blue-purple portal swirling in the center of the clearing. She looked down at her partner, studying his tousled white hair, chiseled features . . . the eyes she couldn't see that, if he had been awake, would have been studying her in return with all the silver-blue fierceness the world had to offer . . .

She heaved a sigh of defeat. "You're a pain, you know that, Sparda? Just a constant pain in my everything."

With that, she finished her trek by stepping into the light of the portal and disappearing, heavy partner and all.
On a scale of one to ten, ten being incredibly graceful, Trish figured the landing she made on the concrete sidewalk upon exiting the portal was a pretty lousy two. But the somersault she performed probably got her a three for creative effort.

"Chiropractor," she muttered, staying where she was sprawled on the sidewalk. "Masseuse. Surgeon."

"And a shitload of painkillers," a gruff, pained voice added.

She jerked up into a sitting position, staring with wide eyes. Dante was using the wall of Devil Never Cry as leverage to get himself to his feet, making all a manner of grimaces and pained grunts as the full extent of his injuries became apparent.

"When did you wake up?" Trish demanded. She got to her feet as well in order to go over and help him stand.

He mustered a grin. "Around the time you started rambling about romance novels."

Promptly, she left him to hold himself up, and he nearly fell back over. "You were conscious all that time and you didn't SAY anything?!"

"I could barely feel my body, let alone tell you what a bang-up job you were doing hauling me around. All I could do was hear, and guess what? All I heard was you. Talking."

Her. Talking. Talking . . . oh, hell.

She didn't have much of an oppurtunity to be mortified because Dante took an experimental step forward. His legs quickly buckled and she had to catch him. At least this time, he was holding some of those two-hundred pounds up himself, so now she had all the time in the world to think up a way to fix this.

Nothing was forthcoming, so she just prepared herself for the onslaught of demon hunter scorn. Her partner wasn't as tough as he liked to think he was, but he wasn't big on emotions, either. Neither was she, originally, but the change was all his fault. Bastard.

They walked--okay, limped--to the front door in silence, until Trish couldn't stand it anymore and finally said, "Well?"

Dante looked at her with half-masted, weary silver eyes. "Well?" he echoed.

"Go on. Say it. I know you want to."

"Say what? 'I told you so'? I didn't tell you anything."

"You know what I mean, smart-ass." Trish started fishing the keys out of her pocket to unlock the door. "Tell me I'm being stupid and sentimental. Tell me to get over it and stick to business."

He said nothing as she finally discovered the keys and opened the office. They trudged into the darkness of Devil Never Cry and made it as far as the stairs leading to the apartment on the second floor before they both fell on the steps, exhausted.

Beside her and two steps higher, Dante slumped back, sucked in a breath, released it slowly, and said, "Two-hundred and twenty."

Trish tilted back her head to frown at him. "What?"

"I weigh two-twenty. More with the weapons."

She considered this information. "Okay."

Another silence.

"Trish?" he began, nudging her with his knee.

She didn't bother to say anything, just nodded her head as she ran her fingers through her hair and closed her eyes.

"Yes," he told her.

Her eyes shot open. She looked back at Dante in disbelief. Her partner's gaze, though beyond tired, never wavered from hers. His lips twitched in a smile, then he grabbed the bannister and hauled himself up.

"Now, if you don't mind," he said, "I'd like to sleep. For a couple of months."

Trish laughed and got up as well, slipping an arm around his waist as they continued up the stairs. "Sounds like a plan to me."


Author's Note: So Dante walks into this bar, right? He's carrying two live roosters, a wheel of expensive cheese, a horse whip in his teeth, and he's buck naked, so . . . not a stitch of clothing on him . . . rippling with muscle . . . perfect in all his Adonis glory and . . . uh--what was I saying?