and so it follows: who was beside dante through purgatory? (YAOI) third in the trilogy.
Or so Vergil said. Dante had never once seen his brother actively looking in a mirror, and so he drew his own conclusions.
Not that Vergil alone was not reason enough to make him walk the perimeter of a room, his back to a mirror, his eyes trained on anything but the movement of himself in the corner of his vision. Vergil had been very different, of course; the two of them standing side by side might have seemed more dissimilar than not. But mirrors do not lie, and the shine of silver hair and the tightness across the eyes would be impossible to ignore. It had been hard enough to endure the memory of a night of blood, and flame. Dante could not imagine seeking out the image of his brother's face.
No small wonder, then, that Dante found himself eyeing his own reflection with a tightening knot in his stomach. There was really nothing else for it, though; he'd been everywhere, tried every door, all of them dead ends. And against all reason, something beyond that silvery surface was beckoning him-- something more than the sea-change uncertainty of his chiral image, something more than the promise of an identical world through the looking glass. Nothing he could put his finger on, nothing his mind could form into words.
His reflection seemed almost to smile, though by all rights it ought not to have. A trick of the shifting light, a flash of lightning from the storm buffeting the castle walls? Again, a levity he did not feel flickered across those lips, while at the same time a darkness fell over that brow, a crease of worry or care-- something somber that struck him as like nothing so much as Vergil.
But it couldn't be Vergil; Vergil was twenty years gone. His eyes were never quite so hardened... He never would have held a sword like that, light and deadly in his hands.
Who, then, the man in the mirror?
Twenty years of spilling blood in her name, and his mother seemed to have returned of him, regardless of vengeance sworn and all that Dante thought he knew. Apparently, these days, his world was intent on turning itself on its head. Better by far if he not try to understand. He lifted a hand, as though to slide his glove against its mirror image, to test the texture and the warmth.
Dante-in-the-mirror narrowed his eyes.
The polished silver surface yielded, like a film over water, just a little, and Dante shivered at the unexpected heat. Easy enough, he tried to tell himself. Just a matter of penetration, then, to make it to the other side. Even a haunted castle has its rules; he simply had to find a way in. And then, if he was successful, a way back out again.
Seeming to hear this thought, the other Dante smiled. Unmistakable this time, for a trick of the weather, that slow unpleasant curve spreading pale across those nearly familiar lips. Too late to be quite properly mirrored, Dante found a grim smile of his own. What had he to fear, after all? Facing only himself, alone on Mallet Isle with only his guns for company. Another Dante had nothing he didn't have. Right?
He lay both hands against the surface of the mirror, now, wanting to shout defiance-- but if he did, the sound was instantly swallowed into an eerie silence that seemed to emanate from the heart of the room. Other Dante, making no pretense now of imitating his actions as a proper mirror-double should, caught his hands and drew him in.
Dante's first instinct was to fight, but because he knew that, Mirror-Dante was prepared for the surge of energy and the sudden movement. His grip did not falter.
Swiftness of thought had ever been Vergil's forte, but Dante grasped the situation quickly enough, energy abating under the other's touch. The adrenaline buzzing in his ears made it difficult to think; he heard himself panting quietly. He blinked, at himself, feeling the oddly familiar shape of his own hands and the weight of himself.
"What do you want?" he asked-- or at least, he was fairly certain he asked, though Dante-in-the-mirror said it too, at the same time. He scowled. The voice was recognizably his own, though somehow opposite, as though that demon mirror had bent and reflected more than light, but sound and soul as well.
Determined not to answer the question before himself getting a response, Dante looked his doppelganger in the eye. A part of him flailed, angry and uncertain, knowing that if it were an enemy that he himself held, that foe would stand very little chance. He tried not to think on it, but he was giving himself a very unnerving look and he found it difficult to concentrate. The music of the other Dante's breathing sang jarringly against his nerves.
"Don't know what you want," he gritted through his teeth, "But I know you're not really me."
His mirror-opposite said, conversationally, "The last time you touched a mirror, you were barely old enough to talk. I've waited a long time for this day."
A shudder crawled over his spine. It didn't help his rapidly ravelling peace of mind, knowing that, all along, his suspicions had not been unfounded. "Nice," he said. "So now you've got my attention." Experimentally he flexed his wrists, finding himself still held fast, his captor unfooled by the trained stillness of his poise. "What next?"
His guns were too far, a world away, belted at his hips and under his coat. Alastor was closer, if he could just maneuver his shoulders only a little... but that fierce hold was not to be broken. He knew that. It was devil trigger or nothing, unless he really wanted to be locked in a staring contest with himself until Kingdom Come.
Which, despite mumbled rumors among the demons, wasn't honestly expected to happen any time soon.
No sooner had he freed his wings with a flex of muscle and a shudder of unfurling blood than his opposite had done so as well, demon and double thrashing soundlessly against one another in the void between two worlds.
"Little wonder that Vergil was always so impatient with you," the other laughed, freeing one hand to brush the side of Dante's face.
Too startled by this gesture, and unnerved by these words, Dante only barely managed to catch that hand, his knuckles going white as he clung to himself. "What do you know?" he spat.
"Everything," he heard that voice say, with a touch of amusement, breath warm against his ear and words sounding in that dimness like a tolling bell. "You've forgotten that I live inside."
"Don't like the sound of that." Dante ignored the rush of disconcerting heat that blossomed beneath his skin, a wave of something other that pulsed through him in stuttered harmony, the heartbeat of his other self. He lifted his left hand, groping against nothing in the hopes of finding the mirror's other side... with no success.
Thus trapped, looking at the not-quite-familiar image of himself, he was reminded of the breathless adolescent ache of looking at his twin-- Vergil the same, but always somehow better. And that made him think: What if things had happened differently? What, those years ago, if it had been Dante to fall-- Dante's form bowed, sheltering, over their mother's broken body; Vergil swinging a useless sword to drive back the devil?
Would Vergil now be wrestling with a negative of himself, fighting his way towards Mundus, struggling to unmake again the empire of the Underworld? What would Vergil do, faced with these odds? Faced with this conundrum, Dante tried to concentrate, but he had always preferred action to thinking too hard about things.
...Don't you think there are more elegant ways to fight?
The sigh, the voice resounding in his head, were Vergil's; the face in his mind's eye the familiar visage of his older brother: half-frowning, half-amused. Wearing the glasses that had been their father's, the mother-gift pendant that they shared, strung around his neck. Dante swallowed, trying to focus.
But Verge/, he started to think, before he heard a quiet: /Don't argue, you two. Life's too short. His mother's voice, longsuffering, and kind. Suddenly he wanted to laugh out loud. Both of them now, in his head-- two things his mirror-double could not have. He'd never let himself believe that he was outmatched, but now something like victory tightened his chest, burning through him from the balls of his feet to the farthest stretches of his wings.
Other-Dante hissed when a searching hand made careless contact with his side, his muscles tensing as though the touch had burned.
Dante was never one to ignore a sudden advantage, albeit one he didn't completely understand.
Still reaching blind, he arched his head back, baring his throat and his heart. His doppelganger tried to close the distance between them, his hands seeking, his eyes predatory, but the mirror-world grew dark and close about them both, every movement taking twice the effort.
Giving up, just because it's difficult? His mother, he thought dimly, the tone too teasing and gentle to be his brother.
Dante's clothes were too tight, his lungs on fire. "Easy for you to say," he managed, with a grimace that turned into a smile, seeing the confusion sparking in his nemesis' eyes.
Something has to give. Definitely Vergil, and he thought he could feel ghosts of fingertips playing on his face, the way his brother would touch him... Make sure it isn't you.
Dante-in-the-mirror caught his breath enough to say, "Maybe you're going mad."
"So what if I am?" Giving over strategy to that squeezing, engulfing darkness, he /shouted/; more than just noise, skirling up through him, the release of it took all the heat and essence of himself that he could give.
If it had been a word, it might have been: Sparda!
Helpless but to mirror him, other Dante cried out, his resistance evaporating in that wave of shared sensation--
The mirror cracked.
Later, that would be all Dante would remember, the heat of devil-hands and the feel of straining leather against his skin-- and then the visceral, shivering sound of shattering demon glass.
His breath was coming hard; when he swiped at his mouth, his hand came away with a smear of blood. Around him, the world pitched and spun, curtains and carpet and broad four-poster bed all dizzyingly out of focus.
He aimed for a smile, but it hurt. He had come to the other side.
and the more people thitherward aspire,
more are there to love well, and more they love there,
and, as a mirror, one reflects the other.
and if my reasoning appease thee not,
thou shalt see Beatrice; and she will fully
take from thee this and every other longing.