Chapter X.

Sleep came like undiluted morphine that night, like a hammer I had no time to feel. And I dreamed, o my brother, of things I had not dreamed since childhood, since the nightmares we spoke of in our lust.

It was not a nightmare, however- not as I remember them.

No visceral carnage, no ground cracking and falling away beneath our feet. No. Nothing like that.

In the dreams I always saw us plainly, but it was never so clear upon waking.

I was looking at you. For some time, only looking. Wanting you, as I did tonight, wanting you, beyond all else.

Face to face, we stood. There was shock in your eyes as I stepped forward, as if you hadn't actually realized I was there. The disbelief written there, as if you were seeing the impossible.

How could that be? You'd been looking right at me, right into my eyes.

It's only me, Dante. I thought you'd be glad.

It was my bedroom, after all, that we stood in. Who else had you come looking for, if not me?

Who did you expect to find, brother?

I took you into my bed, and then I took you, hearing your curses and moans, and it might have been tonight, save for the fact that I was fucking you. Something wasn't quite organic, however. Something bittersweet that was almost worse than a nightmare. There was something surreal in the desperate way you held me, how you could not tear your eyes from my face the entire time as I touched you, o my brother, and pushed myself inside your body.

You feel real, you said, in my dream.

What else would I be?

It would not become clear to me for many years.

Abruptly, the scenery shifted, as will happen in dreams, and we were facing each other once more in a flowing river, on a great platform, in a dark, domed room. And then we were standing together, my hand braced over yours, but I could not tell what it was I held. It felt alien and cold in my grasp, but everything else felt right. I heard you laugh.

Feels like old times, you said.

I have begun to dream again, but these dreams I keep locked down tight inside my mind. It's a deep place, Dante, as you well know.

They make no sense to me, a series of disjointed pictures, moments out of context- excerpts from a book that has yet to be published. But there is you. Of that I am sure.

Night restores me to you, o my brother, even if I don't understand its language.

Dreams are not much different in the Netherworld, clearer perhaps. Drawn with a finer instrument, colored with a better grade of pigment.

What I could never extract from my dreams before was a concrete image of you. You were older, I knew that, but I could never hold that picture upon waking- you always reverted to the Dante I knew in my youth. I could not carry you out of the dream, as you were in the dream, as you would be, in time.

But I see you now, brother, and I hold you in mind with disconcerting clarity, a memory without history, so real and complete that I wonder if you flicker like a light-bulb every time I recall it, as a piece of your soul is borrowed to illume the picture in my mind.

You are leaner, harder, deadlier. Your face has narrowed to beautiful planes and angles, and though I am bothered by the hollowness behind your eyes, I can hardly refuse the appeal of the compelling man in red, this stranger with the serious expression and rare, bitter smile.

Your hair is an improvement. Stylish and sharp, I quite approve. It suits you, as you are now. As- dare I say it? An adult.

So this is your final form, and here is mine.

The same men, more finely made. Like dreams in the Netherworld. Clearer, perhaps.

I would like to see you through untainted eyes once more.

I sit here now, on the edge of a precipice, not unlike the one I so impassively departed when I fell away from you, and shunned your outstretched hand. I think of it now, and it seems impossibly dramatic. Spoiled and histrionic, those young Sons of Sparda. It makes me laugh softly and shake my head.

What a Greek tragedy we've made of us, Dante. The kind found only in the books you'll never read.

And as you don't, you'll know nothing of the trials of Prometheus, or what became of Icarus when he plummeted. Nothing of Gods.

But you know of monsters, don't you?

And indeed, there was one, monster or god, to complete that arc of the legend and make it whole through suffering.

"In vinculis etiam audax," I remember whispering to Tricia, my head in her lap and her tears on my brow, just before losing my mind. In chains, yet still bold.

I may have rejected her as a proxy mother, but I accepted her as an ally. I was always cordial, if removed.

"Just let him mold you, Vergil," she whispered brokenly, with the desperation of someone who can do nothing else, and though Mother would never say such a thing, in that moment, and only that moment, I could have believed she was Eva. "He can make it feel good, I promise. It won't hurt at all."

The feeling he chose was your lips. Your warmth. Your touch.

And it did hurt, Dante. More than you will ever know.

However, with all the darkest parts of my psyche isolated and magnified, I came to realize that Nero Angelo did not care.

Or remember.

It will be some time before I can laugh at that moment, the way I laugh at our misspent youth.

But I am autonomous, brother.

I no longer wear Mundus' collar, or walk beneath his poison, for Mundus is dead, as you know.

I have you to thank for that- you and your inadvertent chivalry. If Mother sent you to the store for milk, she could count on getting eggs. How very like you that seems, that you set out for vengeance and achieved salvation, missing, as you always had, every subtle hint of where I truly stood- metaphorically or otherwise.

Wrath has just exploded all over the horizon. I watched a Hell Pride shrieking and thrashing, pinned beneath it, giving me that ludicrously beseeching look they manage to have, despite their propensity for heedless evisceration.

Sometimes I think we are like Wrath, o my brother- stubbornly holding onto a heavy and precarious hatred that will ultimately destroy us both. No matter which one implodes, he will take the other with him. So Atlas held the world on the broad spread of his shoulders, and so we too hold our loathing upon our backs, in a far less noble emulation of his task.

But I have also held your body across my back. In time, you also held mine.

In the past, we have put down Wrath. That should not be forgotten.

I am wondering if you have forgotten me. Now that you have all of mommy's pretty baubles, of course, you have no reason to remember.

But I think, Dante, that you do.

When I looked at you through the eyes of Nero Angelo, I saw a ruthless, changed man. Not the spoiled brat I knew so well, who would risk any consequence on a whim, not the careless and self-indulgent younger brother who would cut off his nose to spite his face, truly believing he would never regret it later.

Cetera desunt, o my brother. The rest is lost.

I wish I could remember more of what transpired between us that day. But the bitterness in your eyes spoke volumes about loss and suffering.

I'd like to think I put it there.

As it was, so it is. As it is, so it shall be?