We are frozen for a moment.
His pale eyes stare into mine. There are chips of paint and plaster on his shoulders, his hair. He dusts himself off with a few flicks of his hand, as minimal and effective as his swordsmanship, and then he is immaculate once more, my brother.
"Then end this façade, Dante," he says, in a voice that's low and tempered within an inch of its life; measured out in teaspoons in the quiet of the room. "Tell me what you came for. All you need do is part your lips, and admit…"
"I can't take this." I'm shuddering. It's involuntary, like I'm in the grip of some unnamed affliction. "I can't bear this place."
Vergil stares, rapt, then he moves toward me.
I draw Ebony and Ivory, throwing them out before me and training them at the chevrons on his leather-clad chest. It does not check him. If I'm honest, I didn't expect it to.
Without breaking stride, he pulls out Yamato and knocks my hands aside with the flat of the blade, then presses in, mercilessly invading my personal space, reversing our positions so that it's my back against the wall now, me that's pressed up against the ancient plaster and weathered paneling of our dead home.
"That's not what you came for."
His voice is soft, tarnished silver, at odds with the cool and brutal economy of his actions.
My pulse is thrumming beneath my skin. My lips part in silent protest, but my body flexes against his at once, immediate and involuntary. I close my eyes, resisting his arctic gaze, unable to bear its indecent accusation.
Vergil grasps the red leather of my coat and leans into me with tender violence. I feel his breath on my neck as he turns his face toward my ear.
"Frankly I'm at a loss to comprehend your mercurial turn against me, brother." He finesses the words, and I envy them the lingering adulation of his mouth. "We were so close."
I can't separate lust from anger from anguish anymore, as he shoves the lapels of my red coat apart and jerks it down my arms, forcing my to drop my guns.
Forcing me. Fuck, no, I drop them gladly.
I lower my head, closing my eyes, trying to block everything out, as if Vergil and I are not standing in some sick similacrum of a ribcage where a heart once was, where a hearth once lay. "How could you do this? Why did you bring this monstrosity here? Isn't it enough to know it's out there, decaying in the mortal world, and we can never go home?"
I find myself sinking, knees bending, back slipping down the weathered wall. There's a prickling heat behind my eyes, strange and foreboding and rare. Vergil notices. I see the alarm in his gaze.
"Dante." There's something almost like panic in his voice, but not quite. Never quite. I feel Vergil's hand on my face, taking hold of my jaw, forcing me to look into his eyes. "Don't you see, Dante? The difference is that here I can do anything I desire." His voice drops to an urgent, rasping lullaby. "I can resurrect it for you."
He pulls Yamato from her sheath and draws his arm back in a single, smooth stroke, never leaving my proximity. For a moment I think he's going to run me through, but instead he plunges her straight into the plaster at my side. He shudders at the thrust, as if channeling some power, either from her or to her. I can't tell which.
The wall behind me seems to come alive. I can feel it vibrating, like a holy relic. I watch, taken aback, as the ballroom begins to slowly reassemble itself, fragment by fragment, piece by piece, like the sand in an hourglass running backward, like snow falling upward, colors rebrightening, fabric unrotting, tatters regrowing. The massive chandelier turns slowly on the parquet floor as its shattered crystals reform and draw to it once more, like a litter to its mother. It lurches upright and ascends, clanking as it reengages with the ceiling, some eighty feet above. Wallpaper unpeels and unfurls new leaves, mildew and blackness is driven back into corners, where it disappears. Sconces that dangle by their wires suck back onto the walls and flare into warm light. Debris filters back up to wherever it came from, dust uncrumbling to be whole. Mirrors unbreak, windows restore.
I am stunned into silence. Vergil's brow rests against the wall over my shoulder, his weight pressed against me. "Do you see why I brought it here?" he intones. His voice is quietly labored. His gloved fingers still grip Yamato's hilt, but now he jerks her back, and the wall heals around her incursion.
Slowly, he raises his head and sheathes the katana.
The ballroom is pristine now, just as I remember it, the wall I lean against gilded and paneled and solid, the ceiling vaulted and frescoed and whole. There is no evidence of tragedy, no clawmarks, no scorching, no sign of trauma; everything is as it once was, down to the smallest detail.
He cages me, his hands planted on either side of my head, his strong, lithe body skimming my own. Our blood is calling out once more, his to mine and mine to his. An endless circuit, perfect, unbroken. As it was always meant to be.
"It's all here, Dante. The library, the conservatory, the study. Every room, intact. Even mine. Even yours."
My heart thuds, jacknifing sideways in my chest. I stare, conflicted, disbelieving, like someone who has just been offered a very expensive present they want to accept but know they shouldn't.
"It's what you came for. To make love to the past." Vergil whispers in his throaty, raw-silken way. "Let me make it right between us again, like I always do."