The three of them stumble down the slope. At one point, Dante jokingly requests a sled from Elsa, and is momentarily taken aback when she whisks one up in a moment. Ever one to roll with the punches, he bows low before the queen, then stamps loudly on the end, flipping his new toy up into the air. He catches it with an upraised arm and uses the other to snap her a salute before strolling on ahead in search of a slope. Elsa is somewhat surprised at the fondness of the smile that spreads across her face as she watches him go. "He has quite a...way...about him" is all she can think of saying.

"That's one way of putting it." Vergil says. He neglects to inform Elsa of his brother's peculiar taste in music. And women. And firearms; though he's not sure she would know what a firearm is. Something froze this land in time over two hundred years ago. Only the darkest forms of magic would be capable of doing that. But the power required to anchor such a spell is unfathomable. What could possibly be worth guarding for all that time? He can certainly think of something, or rather someone. But that road is no longer for him. He's afraid for a moment that he might be tempted when Elsa is old and gray. Once again, he decides he'll cross that bridge when the time comes.

Elsa notices Vergil's absent expression. She also notices the careless ease with which he traverses the terrain, even while his thoughts are occupied. There's a sense of rigidity about the way he moves however, like he's holding himself back. She wonders what he would be like if he let himself loose, then wonders what she would be like in the same situation. A vision comes to mind, that curious sort of vision where one feels instead of sees. Her dress is hard and jagged, the curves and beauty she had been so enamored with her whole life replaced by merciless and unyielding majesty. No loving hugs for this witch of the northern sea. She would cover the world in snow; the people she'd been afraid of for so long would be made to worship her, their hearts as icy and lifeless as her own.

Suddenly, Elsa is aware of herself, the real her, and her clenched and trembling fists, and the ice that runs like solid blood from her fingertips. Can she bleed? Can she feel? It's hard to tell. Her thoughts race toward Anna, asleep at home in the castle, probably with the iceman of flesh and bone by her side. Her heartbeat slows. She can feel. She can bleed. If her sister can, so can she.

The mountains have begun to subside. Dante is still nowhere in sight, though every now and then, a sound comes drifting with the wind: a sound of laughter, heartfelt and hearty. Same old Dante, Vergil thinks. He'd never thought of Dante as strong. He WAS a Son of Sparda, true, but he'd always seemed the human to Vergil's devil. Warm, caring, jovial, always ready with a wisecrack or a slap on the back, but never capable of getting things done. Not when it came to things that mattered. Vergil's memories of his days of darkness, even before the fall, are somewhat muddled. It was always one scheme after another, one more ancient artifact to plunder, one more demon to slay. He can hardly remember what he was fighting for. It was something to do with family... Maybe he thought the ends justified the means, that even stabbing his brother through the heart was a part of a whole. Once he had his power, he could share, he'd never share it. He would use it justly, like his father, to protect the innocents that he'd killed so many times before... Vergil curses to himself. There's no sense to be had there.

Then again, there's hardly any sense to be had here and now. It must be close to 3 o'clock in the morning, and here he is, on the way back to a castle he seems to have every intention of making his home, with a woman he'd only just met the other week and who he's already convinced himself he's fallen in love with. Is it really love? He hardly remembers what it feels like to love. It's been so long since his parents had gone. He can't even be sure he loved them to begin with, and not some idealized cardboard cutouts he created in his mind after they died. Of course he would never ask DANTE. It's not the sort of conversation twin brothers have. "What were our parents like?" What were our parents like indeed...

And there he is, standing easily at the bottom of the hill Vergil and Elsa have been struggling down for the past few minutes, looking for all the world like he's just completed one of his usual acrobatic feats. Perhaps he has; the sled is nowhere in sight. "You took your time." Dante observes, his hands on his hips. "Weren't trying any funny business, I hope?" Elsa restrains a blush and sweeps past him, choosing not to dignify that with a response. "All right, fine." Dante says, turning to watch her go. "Let's see how long you can keep up that silent treatment..." Vergil makes as if to elbow his brother in the side again as he passes. Dante is ready, but so is he; as Dante takes a half step back, bringing his body just out of range, Vergil takes a step forward, whirling his body around, his other fist clenched and raised and ready to wipe that smirk off his brother's idiot face. Dante leans backward just in time and grabs Vergil by his outstretched arm. He tries to swing his brother around, but Vergil grits his teeth and yanks his whole body forward. His feet connect squarely with Dante's chest, sending him tumbling down the hill. Elsa lets out a gasp as Dante rolls past her. "Heads up!" he shouts, somewhat belatedly. He skids to a halt, somehow still on his feet, and glares up at his older brother. "You're getting slow!" he calls. "Time was, you'd have followed that backhand up with a good old roundhouse kick to the face!"

Elsa approaches Dante and is about to ask if he's all right when a sudden noise makes her look back up at Vergil. He jumps high into the air, and lands squarely behind Dante, who'd clearly been expecting this. He makes no effort to defend himself. He doesn't even bother to look over his shoulder as his brother says, "You're just jealous because you fell for the oldest trick in the book."

Dante snorts. "You just made that one up." he says accusingly.

"And you still fell for it." Vergil smirks. Dante turns around to deliver a retort when they both notice the chill in the air. Vergil turns as well. Elsa has taken a step back. Her eyes are wide with fear. "Elsa?" Vergil asks her quietly.

She looks at him. "Please don't do that again." she says, her voice trembling.

Vergil nods reassuringly. "At least not for a while," he says. "I AM a Son of Sparda."

"It's kind of our thing." Dante adds. "Well, that and sword fighting."

"But since neither of us happened to bring our swords..." Vergil says, with a meaningful glare at Dante. "...we'll refrain from that as well." Elsa gulps, but nods a little. She waits for her two companions to join her before she heads off into the forest. She still doesn't want to be alone, though the memory of what Dante had said awaited them at Oaken's trading post is enough to make her wish she was.

Later, Dante falls behind to give the two lovers a chance to talk. Naturally, they refuse, instead walking along side by side, casting lingering glances at one other, hoping they'll be the one to break the silence. This time it's Vergil. He too has been thinking about the sauna his brother promised them, and the anxiety one of their last even remotely intimate encounters had provoked. "Are you sure about this?" he asks, forgetting for a moment they don't share the same mind; but she knows what he means.

"I don't know." Elsa mutters. "I've never been in one before... I-I don't know how it'd feel; I-"

He stops and turns to face her. "Do you trust me?" he asks. Elsa has to think about it for a moment, but yes, she does. She nods. He takes a step closer. She shivers, as if she knows what he's about to do. He walks slowly around behind her. Dante shakes his head and runs on ahead. This is one mental image he can do without. Vergil puts his arms around her. Her breath catches in her throat. "What about now?" he says in a low quiet tone. Elsa nods again. Her shivering has grown stronger. He lowers his lips to the crook of her neck. "Now?" he murmurs. Elsa has goosebumps. Elsa never has goosebumps. Her lips are parted. Her breathing is hard and ragged, like it was down by the docks, but in a good way this time. Vergil's hands move lower, and lower, until they finally come to rest. One is splayed across her stomach, the other lies flat against her hip. Those hips. Those wonderful wonderful hips, the hips he realizes he's adored from the moment he laid eyes on them; them and everything they're attached to. Elsa is, ironically, as still as ice in his arms. Even her trembling seems to have stopped. They're waiting for someone else to make the first move.

At last, Vergil speaks. "If you made it through that, well... that was nothing like a sauna." he says. She can feel him smile against her skin.

Somehow, Elsa manages to speak. "I don't think I could take much more of that." she whispers.

"Truth be told, neither can I." Vergil says, then he straightens up and pulls his arms back to his sides. "So we'd better hurry."

The rest of the trip is agony. Vergil is torn between thinking of what happened as a mistake and thinking of it as the best thing he's done since he got here. Elsa is trying to think of ways to repay his 'kindness' from earlier. For once however, time is not on their side. Soon they see the familiar wooden building in the distance, and their anxiety grows. Elsa clutches her hands to her chest, stealing awkward sidelong looks at Vergil. He wishes he could do something to help her relax, but all he can think of is to ask her again, "Are you sure about this?"

Elsa starts a little and refuses to look him in the eye. "I think so. I have to learn some time, right?" she says.

"You don't HAVE to do anything." Dante says from in front. "You're the queen, aren't you?"

Elsa tries to explain. In order to do so, she has to breathe deeply and push away her anxiety about the encounter that's still to come. It's easier said than done. "If we are going to be...courting-" she starts to say. The word dredges up one of her oldest and most potent fears: being alone. She still carries it with her to some extent, lessened by the Great Thaw of several months ago, but it is still there. She wonders how many people she'll need to love her before she feels normal, assuming she ever can. She realizes they're both staring at her, waiting for her to continue, so she stammers on. "I-uh... If we are going to be courting, we should take time to...familiarize ourselves with physical," Elsa is trying desperately not to blush by the time she finishes.

Vergil opens his mouth to say something, but Dante beats him to it. "Look, your sister and I've done some talking. I think she's given me an idea about the kind of life you've led." He steps forward, putting a comforting hand on Elsa's shoulder. His voice is soft, maybe even kind. "What I'm saying is, you don't have to rush into anything. Just stop worrying about what you HAVE to do, and focus on what you WANT to do for a change. It's not gonna make the world end!" As reassurances go, it isn't particularly memorable; in fact it could and probably has been better said. But it is from the heart. Sometimes that's all that matters.

Elsa might have responded, but a flash of a familiar red peeking around the corner of the trading post catches her eye. "Anna..." she calls in pretend anger. A giggle is heard. The brothers watch in amusement, though Vergil quickly wipes the smile off his face when he sees that Dante is also wearing one.

Anna stumbles into view, like someone's just pushed her out from behind (or in front of) the building. "Um...hi Elsa." she says nervously. Elsa folds her arms and glowers. Or she tries to. "It-it's a nice night for a walk!" Anna adds. She grins awkwardly, and toothily.

"At 3 o'clock in the morning." Elsa says flatly.

"More like 4..." Anna's voice trails off as the town bells toll in agreement. One... two... three... four... Anna seems to shrink with every chime. As the last one disappears into the night, Elsa can hold back no longer. She breaks into an enormous smile and gives her sister an equally enormous hug. Anna's shoulders stiffen, but she recovers quickly from the shock and hugs Elsa back hard. "You're not...mad at me?" she asks.

Elsa's response is to tighten the hug. "Of course I'm not!" she says, with a warmth in her voice that makes even Dante a little envious. "Why would I be?" She pulls back to look her sister in the eye. "I heard you've been entertaining visitors all on your own!" she adds.

Anna goes as red as her hair. "It's not like that, honest! Kristoff's been on his own for so long, and he just wanted some company- not THAT kind of company, just, you know, HUMAN company instead of TROLLS-"

"I meant Dante." Elsa says with a laugh.

"Oh. Oh!" Anna's blush starts to recede. "Yeah, he came in a couple of days ago and he's been kind of hiding out ever since."

Elsa looks over at Dante. "What; don't I get a hug?" he asks. She shakes her head in disbelief and returns to her sister.

"Were you planning on introducing me, or were you hoping I wouldn't die of fright if I ran into him?" Elsa asks.

"He said he wanted to make a big dramatic entrance, so I just kind of let him do his own thing!" Anna says. Her face falls suddenly. "I didn't think about what it would do to you. You'd...been gone for so long, I just thought- I guess I was going back to the way things used to be..."

Elsa hugs her again. The whole forest is quiet now. Dante gives Vergil a nudge. "Let's give 'em a minute." he mutters. Vergil nods. The twin brothers walk quietly around the two sisters. As they make their way to the front of the store, Dante stops for a moment in front of Kristoff, who's watching the sisters like he's in a trance. "Gonna go start the sauna." he says matter-of-factly. Kristoff doesn't respond. " gonna help?" Dante asks.

Kristoff looks up. "Huh? Yeah, sure, I just-" He gets to his feet, but can't stop staring at the sisters, still locked in their loving embrace.

"Pretty cute huh?" Dante says. That's an understatement. The lantern makes Anna's hair almost glow in the dim light, and the occasional sparkles it elicits from Elsa's dress does strange things to all of their hearts. "You did good kid. She's gonna be happy with the two of you around." he adds after a while.

"Kid?" Kristoff asks as he follows the brothers into the store. "I'm no kid."

"You are where we're concerned." Vergil says while Dante shows him how to get things started.

"Speaking of old are you guys exactly?" Kristoff asks.

Dante gives him an amused sidelong look. "Old enough you oughta know better then to ask something like that." he says.

Kristoff is embarrassed. "Sorry. I uh, I don't know much about...people..."

"Neither do I." Vergil says. He's pleasantly surprised at his own honesty.

"For the record, I just turned 30." Dante says to Kristoff, with a reassuring grin on his face. He works with the hot water valves for a moment and frowns. "When the hell'd I get so old?" he asks.

There's a pause, during which Kristoff realizes he hasn't been doing anything. "Wait, why did you want me in here when you already had everything covered?" he asks suspiciously.

"He just wanted someone else to bother." Vergil says. "The last of the valves is outside. It won't take long." He stops, his hand already on the handle. "Dante. I am almost ten years older than the woman I've been courting."

Dante shrugs. "Love is crazy; what'd you expect?" he says. Vergil doesn't know what to say, so he heads outside. The sisters are still talking. Elsa does notice when he comes out of the building, but the thought of what's to come makes her focus on her sister. Yet somehow, that's as it should be. Family first. They're not family yet; they hardly even know one another. But there will be time for that in the weeks and months (if not years) to come.

It has been more than a decade since I last saw my brother, Vergil reflects as he turns on the last of the valves out back. He can hear the hot water start to flow in from the volcanic spring somewhere nearby. When did both of us get so old? Dante at least had gotten to live; he won, in fact. He defeated the demon king. Vergil had gotten nothing. Those ten years are almost blank for him, with only vague and hellish memories when he tries to think of them. He may never know what he did, or who he killed. No matter how hard he tries, he can't seem to separate his own actions from those of Nelo Angelo. A wave of self-pity and self-hatred washes over him. You have the woman of your dreams. Why can't you be happy with that? he demands of himself.

"You all right back there?" his brother calls from in front.

Vergil takes a moment to compose himself. "I'm on my way." he calls back. He'll have to work that out later. For now, Elsa is waiting.

Everyone is gathered beneath the signs above the porch. Elsa smiles as he joins them. He smiles back. "Madame et monsieur..." Dante says in a horrific French accent. "Your sauna awaits." He bows low. Anna takes this as her cue and hauls the front door open. The queen and the devil awkwardly step forward. Anna notices her sister's gentle trembling and puts a hand upon her shoulder. "You'll be fine Elsa." she tells her. Elsa smiles bravely, but as the door begins to close, she finds it's all she can do to keep the ice at bay.

Vergil offers her his hand. He isn't sure if it's the right thing to do. Nevertheless, he holds it out for a good five seconds before realizing she doesn't want to take it. She can hardly even look at him. "Let's get this over with." she says. She walks toward the sauna, her shoulders hunched, her hands wringing. Vergil follows closely behind. He puts a hand on the door as she moves to open it. "You don't have to do this." he reminds her. Elsa hesitates, torn between her perception of duty and her unusual upbringing. Ice starts to form under her feet, though it's already struggling against the heat that emanates from the next room. "We have- we have to try, we have to-" she murmurs frantically.

Vergil takes her by the hands. She jumps and looks up at him. "No we don't." he says. "We've already spent the night together. Two nights in fact. We can leave it at that for a while." His body is wishing he would shut up and open the door.

Elsa's still unsure, so he kisses her. Her lips are cool and damp. It tastes as though she's been crying. "Yes...?" he asks. He kisses her again, a little more urgently this time, but not too much. "...or no?" he asks, kissing her on her furrowed brow.

Elsa opens her eyes slowly. "Ask me again." she says, almost smiling. Vergil does as he's told.

"Yes..." He kisses behind her ear. "Or no?" He kisses her on her cheek. Elsa is definitely smiling now. "Yes..." He kisses her on her neck. "Or no?" He kisses her on the mouth. It's a long time before they break away. When they do, Elsa's yes is so faint he can hardly believe his ears. He waits a moment to be sure.

"Yes." she whispers again. Her voice is low and quiet. It sends shivers down his spine, more powerful than anything he's ever felt. It takes everything he has to let her go and not begin ravishing her once more. Instead, he straightens up and opens the door. She smiles at him before lowering her gaze as she crosses the threshold.

It's not quite as boiling hot as Vergil had it imagined it would be. It's almost, dare he say, perfect: that special kind of warmth that seems to creep into your bones and warm you up from the inside out. Elsa sits on one of the wooden benches, grateful for the towels someone thought to leave them. She tries wrapping a blanket of cold around herself to keep her dress from melting, but it's harder than she thought. No matter how tightly she weaves the spell, it still seems to keep on melting. She grabs a handful of towels and hides behind them so as not to leave them wet and slimy while her dress dissolves. Vergil has already started to get undressed. "We should've brought a change of clothes." she says, immensely thankful that the towels also conceal her blush.

"I'm sure we'll think of something." Vergil says as he wraps a towel around his waist. Elsa waves away the last clinging remnants of her dress and hastens to do the same. She looks away, hoping he hasn't noticed how red her cheeks have turned, and tenses a little when he lays a hand on top of hers. "Did I ever tell you you're beautiful?" he asks.

She thinks back over the course of their relationship. "No," she says hesitantly. "No you haven't."

"Well..." He draws it out as long as he can. Finally he says, "You're beautiful."

"That's it?" Elsa asks, wishing she didn't sound so needy.

"You didn't fall in love with me for my poetry." Vergil says dryly.

"I didn't know you wrote any." Elsa says with a teasing smile.

"Well played" he admits, smiling back at her. He's a little bit surprised when she leans forward and kisses him; usually it's up to him to initiate it; but he doesn't mind. Nor does he mind when she begins to move closer to him on the bench, her lips still pressed against his.

He certainly doesn't mind when she climbs into his lap, forgetting for once how close to naked they both are.

He doesn't even mind when she ends up pushing him over so he's lying flat on the bench. A lifetime's desire for physical contact has to be expressed somehow. And right now, Vergil would say Elsa is doing just fine.

It isn't long before Elsa is content to just lie there on top of the man she loves. Only a small part of her is capable of realizing how inappropriate this is. The rest is full of this blissful contentment that's still so foreign to her. The lovers drape their arms around each other; not hugging, just holding. They're too tired to hug. It might be hours before they're ready to leave. Elsa is not looking forward to having to explain herself when she gets back. Then she realizes she doesn't have to. Every once in a while, it's good to be the queen.

Vergil is hardly thinking of anything at all. The ice queen snuggling up against him is provoking strange, if unfortunately natural, responses in his lower body. He tries to keep his hands still and his mind empty; easier said than done. She's just so soft in all the perfect places... He presses his lips to the top of her head, and on a whim begins to run his fingers through her hair. Elsa looks up at him. Suddenly it's very important that he sees her with her hair down. "Can I...?" he asks. She nods curiously and gets up. She sits with her back to him, facing the wall, letting him finish what he started. They're in a trance until it is over. Though he's never had the chance or the desire to do this before, Vergil manages to untangle her hair without pulling too hard and hurting her. When it's done, he puts a hand upon her bare shoulder. Elsa turns to face him, slowly, achingly slowly.

Once again, words fail him. He starts to open his mouth, "I-", then he thinks better of it and kisses her. Their hearts are pounding. Their breathing is rough. Somehow, Elsa gathers the foresight needed to scatter the towels upon the stone floor to cushion their fall before they tumble off the bench. Now it's Vergil's turn. He plants a trail of burning kisses along Elsa's neck. She whimpers. He pauses, not sure how far he should push the situation. She whimpers again, this time in frustration. "We should probably...hold off on that." he pants.

Elsa knows he's right, but that doesn't make it any easier. "You shouldn't start something you aren't willing to finish." she murmurs.

Vergil props himself up on his arms, the better to look into her eyes as he tells her, "You have no idea how much I would like to finish that." Elsa blushes. "But it's not something we should try until we're both ready for it."

Elsa continues to blush. "I think know." she says softly.

Vergil freezes. All at once, he rolls off of her. He keeps saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" over and over again, though he really isn't sure he is. Elsa puts her hand on his shoulder, trying to let him know that it's okay. They sit in silence while he tries to force his body to relax. After a while, Elsa struggles to her feet. "I'll be outside," she tells him. "Not outside, the store." Vergil nods. He doesn't trust himself to watch her go. Several minutes pass before he feels calm enough to join her. He takes his time getting dressed, and takes a deep breath before stepping out of the sauna.

The sudden shock of the cold night air rips into his lungs. He ignores it and looks around for Elsa. She's pacing the shop, and looks up gratefully as he comes out. She's made herself a brand new dress, exactly like the old one, but she's left her hair down. Perhaps it takes too long to redo. "I've been thinking." she says. "Once we get back to the castle, I think I'd like to have another dress made. I don't think this-" She holds up her arms. "-suits me any more..." It's a symbol of her past, of her isolation, but she's not alone any more.

Vergil's grown rather fond of it, but he agrees. "It isn't the most comfortable thing to hug. Not like you."

Elsa smiles and holds out a hand. "Shall we?" she asks.

Vergil takes it. "We shall." he says. He looks back at the sauna. "Let's leave the cleaning up for Dante. I'm sure he won't mind." He's lying, of course.

She laughs and opens the door to their future.

And now I have finally seen the end.
I'm not expecting you to care
That I have finally seen the light,
And I have finally realized:
I need to love...
I need to love...

Come to me,
Just in a dream.
Come on and rescue me.
Yes I know, I can be wrong.
Maybe I'm too headstrong...
Our love is

Madness - Muse

Author's Note:

There's a lot of myself in this story. A lot of advice I wish I could take, and a desire for things to be simple and clear-cut when they seldom are.

If you enjoyed this, and a quite frankly staggering number of people appear to, keep an eye out for the as-yet untitled sequel involving Nero, where I'll try to wrap things up and give everyone a change to shine.

Frozen, as well as all the characters and places associated with it, is owned by Disney Animation (all hail, please don't sue etc).

Devil May Cry, as well as all the characters and places associated with it, is owned by Capcom.

None of the songs or other works of art referenced in the chapter openings are owned by me. I own nothing except the way the words are arranged. (And possibly not even that.)