Here eet ees, the first installment to my bloated 'little' still-in-progress serial. Hope everybody likes and doesn't run screaming after me with pitchforks, because they're painful and not very clean.

Beta readers include Chris Angelini, Diane Damiani, Matthew Gerber, and my multiple personality disorder. Writing style by way of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams (RIP). Drink by Coca-Cola. Ice Cream by Kroger's Chocolate Almond Indulgence.

Dante, Trish, Devil May Cry, Devil Never Cry, so on so forth blah blah blah is property of Capcom and I'm borrowing, dang it. Leamealone. Though if you let me have Dante I'll not mind. At all. Please? I'm asking you nicely.
Anybody else not Capcom's property in this story is mine. Mine, damn you, MINE! AHAHAHAHHA-- (is hit on the side of a head with a rock and falls down, burbling)


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RAKE AT THE GATES OF ANNWN:
A Story of Devil May Cry
by
Amy Borden


Mother's eyes are sparkling diamonds,
Still the moon shows no light
This rose is withered, may God deliver
The rake at the gates of Hell tonight!
--The Pogues, "Rake at the Gates of Hell"

He knew something was wrong ten yards from the door.

The coppery, chemical stink that hit his nose and made portions of his psyche kick in and snarl...blood. Ignoring them, he all but bashed down the doors trying to get in, lurid scenarios playing out in his mind. Some of them were rewarded by the scene that first hit his eyes--the beautiful blond struggling with something thrashing and making incoherent noises. After the initial mode of near-panic, he realized his partner was not being attacked, but trying to hold something down. Someone, matter of fact, and they were moaning incoherently and bleeding all over his office couch.

"Trish, what the--"

Trish looked up a moment, gritting teeth in effort--that being no small thing, as Trish was no weakling. "Pardon me, busy, Dante. Found a couple of Sin Scythes trying to dice her several blocks away. Be nice if you helped."

"Crap." He dashed over. "How bad?"

Trish tried again to stanch the blood from the stranger's wounds, getting more of her hands and the makeshift bandages turned scarlet. "Damn deep. I think a lung's punctured and a few arteries, and she's--nnnngh!--out of it. She's gonna go into shock soon if the blood loss doesn't kill her first. Dammit, *stay still*!" This was to the attack victim, who was in no state to pay attention. Dante got a brief impression of chalky skin and pitch-black hair from around Trish before he leaned in to hold the woman down, closing his eyes a second in an effort to tell his demonic half to Back Down, Already. The flailing wrist he was trying to pin down was clammy...a bad, bad sign.

"Damn. She's going down. You called paramedics?"

"I didn't have *time* to, Dante!"

"Right." He screwed his eyes shut again, in mixed feelings. "Guess what time it is?"

Trish grunted again against an arm that gave her a bloody handprint on the shoulder of what had once been a white tee shirt. "That hoodoo you do so well? Do it already."

Dante nodded, grabbing the woman's wrists, tapping inside himself. Power ran wild and violet from him, through his gloved hands, into the dying woman. Before his eyes, the slices on her face and wrists closed and sealed shut under the blood, the dire blue tint bled out of the pale features, and the fighting sagged into a healthier unconsciousness.

Dante sagged to his knees, panting, all but tapped out of energy, Trish moving in to check the newcomer again, though there shouldn't have been a need. She was nowhere near healed, but she was out of danger, would live. It seemed miraculous.

Dante Sparda smiled a bit bitterly to himself.

Pity it wasn't a miracle sourced in powers most major religions liked.



Trish knocked on Dante's bedroom door the next morning, after a largely boring night of watching their patient alternated with trying to get the blood out of the office couch combined with the occasional doze. His apartment above Devil Never Cry was the only logical place they had to take her to, so said patient was on the secondhand couch in the living room, intermittently stirring in restless dreams and mumbling to herself.

The door opened, though that was a mild term for the sudden *wham* of movement it made. A looming, boxer-clad image topped by a tangled mop of ice-colored hair looked at her blearily and went "Nnggh."

"Breakfast?" Trish inquired cheerfully, offering a plate of waffles with syrup.

The apparition looked at her with muzzy, undiluted pure murder in its glacier green eyes. Trish just smiled brightly back at it.

The late unlamented Devil Emperor Mundus hadn't been very informative on who or what Trish was, other than bait, a trap, and ultimately disposable. She could be fully demonic, she could be a chimera of human and demon, she could be a magical construct, she could be--God forbid--some of the last fragments of Dante's human mother's soul, given flesh. That last had given Dante a lot of pause. He had enough issues on his plate without adding anything Oedipal to them as was. He wasn't dead, no, but the unfortunate family resemblance was more than enough of a healthy dose of saltpeter for their relationship getting anywhere past business partnership and kinship.

God only knew what she was.

But that wasn't the problem.

No, it was worse. Much much worse. Infinitely worse.

Trish was....a Morning Person.

Dante looked at the scene through eyes veiled by a mess of rumpled silver bangs, and said something that sounded vaguely like "Mglph." With that erudite phrase, he turned around and stomped back into his bedroom, not quite slamming the door behind him.

"What, no waffles?" She rapped on the door again.

"Flock off and die, Trish," came the muffled response.

"They'll get cold."

"I'll eat them later."

"Love you too."

There was a muffled thud from the door, as if someone had thrown a cushion at it. Trish rolled her eyes and laid the plate by the door for whenever the sleeping Dante rose from the dead.

"What does he *mean* he needs six hours of sleep a night after work? The heck..." Shaking her head, she turned and went to check on their visitor.

Said visitor was still completely out of it herself. The bandages no longer seemed to be showing blood. Her complexion was still dreadfully pale under the dark hair, however; Trish had no idea whether that was from blood loss or something else entirely. She shifted and whimpered uncomfortably, but showed no sign of wanting to wake up just yet. Trish opted for grabbing the paper and eating breakfast while she waited for some change in development from either the couch or the bedroom.

It was almost noon before Dante stomped out again, still looking half-asleep but somewhat more decently dressed in his usual 'work pants' and white tee. "Gnnaaaaaaargh." He stretched his mouth again into another yawn. "Arrrgh. Hrnornk. Nrrrgh."

Trish looked up and pondered a smart remark, thought better of it, and waited while he slouched into the bathroom and took care of necessary business there. Some time later, after various abolutions, he slouched out again, still not looking terribly awake but at least a bit less like something the cat threw up.

"Joined the human race yet?" she inquired. He grunted.

"Gah. Halfway. Shit, what, not noon yet? I can still taste the toothpaste."

"You just brushed."

"Details, details."

"I guess halfway is all we can hope for at the moment?"

"Halfway is what we usually *get* most of the time, so heck. How's beautiful over there doing?"

Trish looked wry, putting down the gun she was cleaning. "Still out like a light. No longer bleeding as far as I can tell, so I suppose what you did took."

"Gosh, what, someone who doesn't survive a Sin Scythe being run through them swimmingly? Who'da thunk."

"Most people can't, Dante."

"Sarcasm, Trish."

"Says the kebab."

"Hey, babe, I get swords run through me all the time. You when we met, Alastor, random idiots on the street...what can I say, I get inured."

"Hmph." Trish shifted the paper by her. "Nothing remarkable with demonic activity, yet. I think taking down Mundus took the vinegar out of a lot of them. Couple leads we might want to look into, though, if we get a 'job'."

Dante nodded, taking the *Post* and starting to slurp coffee, pale eyes flickering over the text as he did so. After coming up for air, he commented, "You're right, no joy. That was a off occurrence last night." He licked his lips. "Now, granted, taking Mundie down was no end of relief and joy for me, but this hurt the business. We may need to start branching out into other lines of work if this keeps up. And between you, me, and the wall, I don't want to get any warmer with the Mob than we already are."

Trish nodded, thoughtful.

"Security work?"

Dante snorted. "They won't let me keep the coat."

"You and your coat."

"We got a good working relationship going, me and my coat."

"Gosh, I feel jealous."

"Don't worry, it's just seniority."

The invalid provided some input into things by tossing around and then whimpering in pain when that did things to her only semi-healed injuries. Dante looked over and wrinkled his nose a bit. "Phew. I *still* can smell the blood on her."

Trish said quietly, "I can't."

Dante looked over, expression softening. There was a wealth of unexpressed meaning in those two words, and judging from the regret in Trish's blue eyes, he figured what it was.

Trish still retained the preternatural strength and agility from when she was nothing more than another demonic servant of Mundus's...but since she'd poured all her power into the one dual-handgun shot that had sent the so-called Devil Emperor back to Hell, that had been all she had retained. It was unknown whether it would ever come back, but after all this time Dante was privately not optimistic.

What price gaining a soul? he wondered.

Trish, however, had covered up any reaction to his expression, going over to check on the woman. Dante shoved a bite of waffle into his mouth and wandered after, chewing. Trish frowned at something.

"...Clay and dust? Weird fever dream..." Dante's ears perked up, his acute hearing grasping at the mumble.

A soft, lyrical soprano...that of a singer's, if it wasn't hoarsened and blurred with something alien in delirium, running wild and distracted.

"....wings of birds, in the darkness....clay for food, dust for drink..."

He looked down at her, her lips still moving though voice now unheard beyond even his diabolically-inherited hearing. She was still wearing the bloody rags of a tee shirt and loose pants, which Trish had cut away at last night to get to her wounds. Even chalky and wan with blood loss, the fine bone structure and catlike, compact delicacy of her face was striking, making her seem a broken porcelain doll. Dante stared for a minute at it. It was difficult not to, especially when you were a healthy straight male under thirty. The portion of his mind not indulging his testosterone count was churning away, however, taking note both of her weakened state and those words.

"Hel-lo. Trish...something's weird there. You have that funky laptop of yours around somewhere?"

Trish said distractedly, wiping a clammy forehead with a washcloth, "The Powerbook? Back at my place, why?"

"May need it at least to get some leads online. I'm interested all of a sudden."

Trish looked up, frowning. "You too? I'm getting a sense of deja vu all of a sudden."

"Me too. You're going to have to do the search. That flocking computer hates me."

"You just don't work with it enough."

"No, it hates me."



Voices....

A clear soprano...."Luddite." It was rather close. There was something damp and rough being rubbed on her temples. Cloth.

Second voice, male, tenor, slightly roughened, from cigarettes or unuse or just life, though didn't sound that old...."Hey, I'm good at what I do. Computers are *not* among 'em."

"Or answering machines. Or decent cellphones...or...."

"They hate me too."

"I repeat again: Luddite. And you're depending on *me* to do the online research?"

"After you throwing a sword through me, it's small change, innit?"

"Touche."

Absently, she asked... "...swords?" It took some work getting all the vocal apparatus under control.

There was a lot of quiet after that, so she opened her eyes, focusing hazily. There seemed to be two blue objects not far above her field of vision that seemed eyelike. They were surrounded by something facelike, and then something hairlike, which looked blondlike. She pondered this in abstract fascination, plus the stunned expression on the face.

"...She's awake."

The male voice again. "You win the Obvious Award. Hey there, beautiful. No moving, you still got holes in you." A second pair of eyes hove into view, further up and annoyingly upside down. They were a strange pale uncertain shade, opting for what seemed to be a greenish silver at the moment. The shaggy bangs above them were even paler, a silver-white, although her absent note of the face was that it didn't seem particularly lined.

She pondered things, then solemnly stated, "I seem to have a craving for applesauce."

Then she passed out again.