The pleasant scent of fresh pinewood coiled softly in the shadowy room, brushing past the senses of a man sitting silently in a comfortable chair; mercifully pushing out the stubborn, dark thoughts that lingered so tenaciously in the shallows of his mind. At long last, his restless gaze settled on the bright flames, entrapped by the lure of their hellish dance. The soft crackling of burning wood slowly replaced the constant turmoil whirling in his head, hushing it into comfortable numbness. He leaned back deeper into the chair, welcoming the sublime serenity that settled around him like some spiritual entity.
The rigid, austere features he tended to wear like a symbiotic being on his face started to loosen up, the deep, hard lines born of a troubled past began to smooth out, revealing a visage that was once his own, content and torture free. Now a memory so distant, so unreal even he wouldn't be able to recall it, or even believe it.
Without blinking, his inhumanly pale moonstone eyes laced with delicate patterns of ice at the edges watched with detached fascination the battle for supremacy the fiery flames engaged in so relentlessly. Struggling to survive, ruthlessly consuming their rivals to gain more power, pushing with all they had, with all they could give, devouring all that stood in their path without discrimination or a hint of a remorse, without looking back, dying only to be reborn…a way of life so familiar to him, a way of life he so despised.
The cold glass felt warm in his icy hand, he swirled the smooth drink absently, his blue gaze shifting to the slender sword lying peacefully in his lap. His hand lifted the glass, the warm contents slid down his throat. For a moment his eyes closed as he prayed the alcohol would push back the rising grievance. It worked for now, just barely, how much longer would he be able to dull the pain with alcohol, he didn't know. What more was there to call upon when even his solid steel will and resolve, once so reliable, so dependable, were now failing, crumbling like a withering old tree? He leaned to the side, elbow propped on the arm of the chair, chin resting lightly in the palm of his hand, eyes open, unblinking, yet again reflecting the orange glow of the burning fire.
He let himself fall to numbness, his one last defence left, remaining completely motionless until the bitter cold threatened to crawl under his pallid skin, yet the threat went unanswered, unnoticed. It must have been at least an hour before his eyes, unwilling to move from the steadily dying fire slowly shifted to the side. But he felt the distant footsteps vibrate through the hard ground, heard the rustling of the frozen leaves, recognised the presence approaching his door, a presence he had no intention of inviting inside.
Still his peace was severed like a vital organ with a sharp knife, and with a bitter annoyance he straightened up his posture, sternness once again enfolded his body, face moulded into a rigid expression. Dark shadow passed through his steely eyes that settled back onto the nearly extinguished flames. It was a losing battle, the flames were running out of power, the oxygen was plentiful but no fuel to feed on, starved, entangled in hopelessness, they would soon breathe their last breath if something didn't happen soon, very soon…
A moment of silence ensued, his sharp, trained senses picked up the deep exhale of breath that created a frozen cloud in the late autumn air outside his door. A second later a booted foot connected with the sturdy door, wrenching the iron lock square out of the solid wooden frame with a terrible din of wood tearing apart, the hinges moaning under the strain yet by some miracle they remained seated as the door flew inward.
Not a single flinch or twitch of a muscle in acknowledgement of the unwelcomed intrusion, the man dressed in a large midnight-black trench coat placed the empty glass leisurely on the small table beside him. A blast of cold air preceded the confident, assured, irritating steps that followed in the hallway. A blur of red moved across his line of glazed vision and remained standing in front of him, if slightly to the side, eyes as bright and blue as a clear sky silently boring into his own.
Seemingly unappreciative of being ignored after what appeared like minutes of uncomfortable silence the tall man frowned, finally addressing his unwilling host in an urgent tone that demanded attention.
The response came a whole moment later in the form of a low growl, then as a steady, monotone flow of words escaping from barely moving lips.
"That's a third frame you have so inconsiderably destroyed with your unfathomable resistance to learn even the simplest of manners. Would you at least care to learn to knock, a habit you have no doubt heard of before?" Vergil spoke clearly, in a snappy tone, his dulled eyes never leaving the smouldering black cinders that were all that was left of the once brightly burning fire. The battle was lost now, the flames all dead, only the dark smoke remained as a bitter proof of their existence. Only smoke, no fire. He blinked absently.
"And what use would that be," the man in front of him sighed. "You see, if you actually bothered to come to the door and open it once, just once, then maybe I wouldn't need to kick it in," he continued in a slightly reproachful tone that was etched with sarcasm, arms folded defiantly on his chest.
"You would be surprised to discover how far a bit of common courtesy and decorum can get you, Dante," Vergil kept his tone cold and monotone, the black smoke reflecting in his unmoving eyes like shards of tattered dark shadows. The name of his guest was a whispered breath, dark and sardonic.
"So far all I have discovered is that brute force can get me even further," his guest smirked sheepishly as for a moment his mounting frustration subsided at the sad irony in his words, and the absurdity in Vergil's. Common courtesy his ass! It would only get him killed before he even figured out what it meant.
"Would it be so terribly inconvenient for you to abstain from disregarding everything I say and refrain from engaging in methods more suitable for a breed of a savage beast deprived of all contact with civilisation?"
Dante rolled his eyes. "In English?"
"And you would simply come to open the door if I did?" Dante remarked arguably, raising his silver brow in doubt.
"No," Vergil snapped with a note of irritation after a short, breathless pause.
"I rest my case," the man wrapped in a shiny crimson coat grinned widely, hoping that Vergil would see the funny side of their meaningless argument, only succeeding in adding to Vergil's bitterness.
"The usual reason for ignoring ones presence at the door is that the occupant is not in a favour of the company wishing to gain entrance," the older looking man, sitting painfully straight in his chair snarled critically, the hard tone of his voice hinting that his tolerance of the intruder in red was now on a short timer.
The other stared blankly, apparently used to this kind of cold, short fused treatment but still completely befuddled by the contradicting patience and tiresome habit of his host to turn what could be a simple statement into something utterly incomprehensible, using ten times as many words than was necessary. "Meaning?"
Vergil blinked away the sudden urge to strangle something with his silently clenching hand. "Would you prefer the polite version or the short…"
"I take the shortest possible," the other interjected eagerly.
"You are not welcome here, Dante," only now did Vergil raise his glacial eyes to look directly and deeply at his self invited guest. It didn't faze the other man at all; he was more disappointed not to hear Vergil simply say 'fuck off'.
"Had it not occurred to you that maybe that is the reason why I keep coming here?" Dante threw his hands in the air, the increased level of frustration revealed by his woeful grin.
"It had indeed. You always enjoyed annoying me, dear brother," Vergil kept his voice habitually polite but the line of his mouth tightened with growing irritation, eyes slipping to look to his right. He picked up the decanter that sat conveniently on the coffee table and calmly refilled his glass. Despite the well maintained composure, Dante could see the barely visible shake of his brother's hand, a hand that never used to falter even in the direst of life threatening situations.
"Dammit Vergil! I am worried about you. What happened to you man!" Dante snapped, unable to keep his cool any longer, his equally pale blues, only missing the hardness and ice, peered at the worn out image that used to resemble him so closely. Now his twin brother, older only by minutes, appeared older by years and there was a frightening hollowness to his eyes that so starkly counteracted the beauty of his face that still remained there.
"That is not something I wish to discuss with you," he said quietly, staring blankly at the dead fire as the last curl of inky smoke dissipated into the cold air. The only illumination left in the dim room came from a set of sable candles placed on the mantelpiece, their flickering radiance casting even more shadows over his pale and tired skin.
"Look at yourself, you drink…," Dante made an involuntary grimace as it was a habit he himself indulged in yet his brother never did, "…you barely eat, you don't seem to leave this place, why the hell do you live here anyway?" The younger man paced in front of the fireplace, gesturing around with his hands peevishly.
"I can't even bear to be here for a few minutes! It will eat you up until there is shit left," Dante fumed in exasperation, his voice gaining in volume. Harshly, he snatched the glass that was about to be brought up to his brother's stern lips in angry disappointment. Some of the contents splashed out. "You don't even look like me anymore," he added mournfully, nearly shouting. That probably hurt him the most as he was always so excited, ever since he was little to have an identical twin brother, the possibilities were endless then.
"I fail to see how any of that is your concern," Vergil hissed out between his clenched teeth, hinting the timer on his patience had just run out or was wearing very thin.
Dante regarded his twin with startled disbelief, his frustration turning into a throbbing ache that stabbed at his heart. How could Vergil be so cruel, so callous, so ignorant…
"My family is my concern," Dante yelled in desperation, jabbing his thumb at his chest to accentuate that he indeed was family in case Vergil failed to notice.
"Your point is?" the older twin said in an uncaring manner, pulling out a clean tissue to wipe the spilled brown liquid from his hand impassively, only a trembling lower lip an indication that his composure was ruffled.
"My point?!" Dante exclaimed in utter astonishment, nearly choking as he turned away, raking his hand through his platinum hair, then turned back to face Vergil, breathing hard. "Is there still any part of you that wants to join the living? Because if you do, sometime this century would be nice." he asked in a darker tone, lowering his voice in a manner that surprised even him.
The lethargy and finality in his brother's stone cold tone crawled over Dante's skin. He felt a disturbing sense of déjà vu; it was like spinning in a circle that had no way out, round and round.
"You said that the last time," Dante exhaled in a defeated sigh, his hands dropping helplessly by his side. He put the glass back on the table.
Vergil spoke no more. He never did after he had asked him to leave.
"All right," Dante rubbed his chin grimly in reluctant resignation. "But you better get a supply of spare door parts cause I will keep coming and help me god I will make you alive again, even if I have to drag you out of that deep shit hole of yours kicking and screaming," he didn't wait for a response that he knew would never come and made a move for the exit. The door slammed behind him, sending a waft of cold draft through the already chilly room.
The silence dropped on him like the ugly lid of a coffin. The calmness brought out by the crackling of the burning wood became entombed together with the soothing scent of pinewood that no longer hung in the air, leaving nothing but an empty stillness in the shady room.
Vergil took the glass from where his unwelcomed guest had left it and brought it to his lips to down its contents quietly, then stared at the empty glass absently for some time before placing it gently back on the table. His moonstone eyes traversed down to become fixated on the exposed sliver of metal sleeping peacefully across his knees, catching a strange shimmer of light from the polished blade.
The empty, distorted, hollow reflection caught in the cold, deadly steel whispered back darkly, daring him to oppose it, to wipe its ugly, deformed face from its miserable existence. As if in obedience his thumb moved, and pressed ever so slightly into the razor sharp edge, his dulled eyes watching a bead of his blood traverse the shiny steel, and spill over the reflected image of himself that he didn't recognise. His long, slender fingers tightened around the ornate hilt, one by one, wrist turned toward his chest an inch at a time.
He didn't know if Dante was right about how he looked. It wasn't as if there were any mirrors to look into, they were all broken, not that he had the need, or any reason to check his visage, not anymore. Some years ago he would have been pleased that he no longer resembled his twin, his lips twitched with bitter sarcasm at the thought, if only briefly. Only now, it didn't matter anymore, nothing mattered as the unstoppable emptiness threatened to swallow his mind again and drag him under, each time further and deeper, and he found himself falling into its dark, bottomless, pulsating bowels, ever so slowly driven to insanity…
Give me the strength…
…to stop it, to slow it down, to withstand its insuperable pull, give me more time…
But the fire was dead, the insides burnt out, leaving nothing but an empty shell that could crumble to dust at the lightest of touches, at any moment. The oxygen was plentiful in the air yet he struggled to breathe, in the cold and dark as if lying in a coffin, in a confined space, the walls were caving in again, crushing him, yet the screams didn't come out, no one could hear, and so he welcomed the abysmal darkness, when the remaining candlelight flickered its last breath away.
His eyes fell shut tight, the cold steel pressing invitingly into the pale skin of his pulsing neck, he too would breathe his last breath, he would set himself free from the wasting madness, if something didn't happen soon, very soon…
If he couldn't find it…
Was that…how my father felt…