Devil May Cry © Capcom
Picking Out the Feet
Jason M. Lee
Vergil didn't think he could be ever surprised again, but the sight before him prompted a sense of childish awe that he hadn't felt in years. "Moeru..."
Dark-rimmed nostrils flared as the demonic horse sniffed at Vergil's direction, ears flicking forward before the Timesteed slowly trotted towards him, nickering softly. Feeling like he was a child again, the older twin offered up a gloved hand. He held still as the enormous nose came close, warm air blowing briefly and then inhaling. For several moments, glowing white eyes studied him before Moeru gently nudged his enormous muzzle into his chest, nickering again.
Unbidden, his other hand also reached up to scratch a particular spot under Moeru's chin, resulting in the horse letting out a low pleased rumble. Vergil briefly closed his eyes, resting his forehead against the cool leather, remembering how excited (even if he barely hid it) and happy he and his brother were on the days of all four of them either romping around or lazing in the grass. While Eva was displeased at first after Sparda had gifted them the Timesteeds, she was glad that the demonic colts taught the twins some sense of responsibility in caring for another being's life.
Vergil could remember how skittish Moeru was at the start, and how he gradually earned the young colt's trust with many apple slices. (Destroyinator, on the other hand, immediately got along with Dante after the younger twin offered a handful of his precious strawberries.) Sparda's lessons of feeding noted that Timesteeds were omnivores, although their preferred diet tend to lean more carnivore-based. The memory of sheer delight when Moeru eagerly came up to the older twin out of the colt's own volition one day was something Vergil thought he had thrown away after the attack. But there it was, just a little dusty.
He was also studiously trying to ignore Dante excitedly whooping and Destroyinator neighing loudly in the background, both acting as if they were at a rodeo. Every once in awhile, demonic energy would flare as time in their vicinity would stop, slow, sped up, or go back to normal.
"Well, at least they're having fun," Nero commented, walking up to his father. He still warily looked at the other Timesteed. "Sure he won't bite you?"
Vergil's lips twitched into something of a smirk, having smelled his brother's blood when the younger duo had returned with the horses following. They couldn't meet at the motel uncle and nephew were staying at obviously, so they met up not far from the glen where the horses had been found. "Quite sure."
"Right." Nero forced himself to not lean back when Moeru's ears suddenly flicked in his direction, head moving towards him. "Uh..."
"No sudden movements," Vergil spoke softly, stepping to the side but keeping one hand on the side of Moeru's head. He tilted his head when the large nuzzle nosed around a pocket of the blue jacket, nickering curiously. "Unless you're carrying something edible?"
Cautiously, Nero pulled out an apple that he had hastily grabbed from the mini-fridge earlier, having missed breakfast. He quickly pulled his arm back when Moeru made to move, one foot also instinctively stepping back to brace.
"Palm flat, fingers straight," the older part-devil instructed, Eva's words echoing in his mind. He wondered what had Moeru and Destroyinator been subsisting on - probably a combination of both Human World plants and animals, and demons that had slipped through the cracks. Their blue-white manes were burning bright and neither showed signs of malnourishment, from what little he could remember, so that meant both had been feeding well enough.
Nero's wings flickered briefly into existence before disappearing as the muzzle drew close, sniffing the apple for a moment before Moeru delicately took the apple with his teeth and happily crunched away on the fruit. Snacked consumed, he sniffed the younger part-devil's palm again and after releasing a disappointed snort of no more treats, nuzzled against Nero's hand.
Surprise and barely hidden childish delight in Nero's face - so similar to his own - as he gradually relaxed brought another glimmer of warmth to Vergil. The harsh reality of losing so much over the years had been so ingrained in him, the older twin hadn't thought of the possibility of regaining anything back since returning from the Demon World.
The thought of having created something new that wouldn't cause the end of the Human World hadn't even entered his mind.
(And yet... here was Nero, his son whose wild attitude was more akin to his uncle, yet also occasionally echoing his own aloofness.)
"How good is their control over time?" Nero asked, now scratching Moeru's right side, much to the demonic horse's delight going by the soft crooning. "I mean, Nico did a real good job with Ragtime, but that was with just a fragment."
Vergil tilted his head thoughtfully, the impression of the young weaponsmith snatching up the piece of the defeated Geryon from his other's hand flitting through. "If Destoryinator's control is of any indicator-"
"WOAH!" Dante somersaulted when time around him slowed after he was tossed into the air, forcing him to use Quicksilver to help readjust his landing with something of a spin and back-step. Straightening, he mock glared at his Timesteed with hands on hips. "You haven't been sneaking any type of caffeine behind me, have you, old boy?"
A whinny and a snort that sounded suspiciously like laughter, Destroyinator tossing his head almost coyly.
"-possibly quite reasonable, although it is likely that we'll need to see how they perform under stress," he finished. Vergil furrowed his brow a bit, realizing on the possibility of needing to stable both demonic horses and finding a location where no civilian could accidentally stumble on to. The alternative would be that he and Dante let both equines to their own devices, but he had to admit that was just asking for trouble down the line, and a part of him twisted in discomfort on having to be separated again.
As if reading his mind, Nero frowned. "Although, where the hell are they going to stay? We can't just let them roam about, because there's always the lunatics that like experiments or those in crazy cults. Not my place obviously, and I bet the city would lose their marbles if Dante tried to build a stable for them next to the shop with them looking like this."
"Hm." The image of a somewhat disgruntled King Cerberus disguised as a normal dog laying in front of Dante's desk, courtesy of a gentle nudge from his other. "There is an idea to consider..."
Mischief from Dante, Nero could handle. That particular glint barely visible in his father's eyes? It made him want to max out the Exceed on Red Queen and reach for Blue Rose while Triggering.
Morrison's later cursing at "Hell-spawned twins who need better comprehension of what counts as reasonable animals to work with because demon horses that can influence time don't count" proved the younger hunter right.
At least Epona, the stable master (apparently either a full devil or part-devil judging by her scent), seemed to be enjoying herself, marveling at the now disguised steel-gray stallions - Moeru calmly drinking from a water trough, and Destroyinator rolling about in the grass with delighted whinnying. Nearby, Vergil was hashing out the details with one of the assistants on what would be required from the twins as well what the ranch would provide. Dante was wandering up and down the stable that the Timesteeds were going to be staying at, occasionally poking his head into the various stalls like a curious child and cheerfully greeting the occupied ones.
"What is this place?" Nero muttered. His senses had been twitching at feeling the occasional dampened demonic presence ever since they had pulled up close in the rented truck with trailer in tow. Every once in awhile, he'd catch suspicious flickers glinting off of horseshoes and other decorations scattered throughout the place out of the corner of his eyes.
"A sanctuary for the likes of us and them," Epona answered with a quiet drawl, leaning on the fence next to him. The smile on the stable master's face didn't quite reach her eyes, even as Destoryinator came close and took the celery stick she held out before bolting away to roll in the grass again. "Some of the horses we also stable here are those of the Human World, but they're in their own sections."
"Because they wouldn't react that well to other 'horses' like these two," he followed. He remembered how some of the Order's own steeds tended to shy away from him whenever it came to equestrian lessons (be it from one of the Order's trainers or Credo), as well some of the farmers' draft horses when he passed by their stalls in the open market. Nero could also remember how much longer it took for him to win over his assigned ride through a mix of both coaxing and plenty of carrots, all the while ignoring the disparaging whispers.
Wariness that Vergil might be proud of. "You also mentioned... 'the likes of us.'"
Epona simply scraped her boot on the fence's bottom rung, slapping her battered hat against her thigh before placing it back over wild red curls with another wan smile. Various emotions danced across her eyes, light brown edging to honey glittering under the shade of her hat. "Exactly what I meant."
She left him with a two-fingered salute when her assistant waved for her attention.
Nero barely twitched when Vergil ghosted up next to him at the fence some time later, apparently done negotiating for the moment. For several minutes, father and son silently watched both Timesteeds go about the field, Moeru cautiously nibbling on some tree leaves while Destoryinator was playing with Dante again. In the distance, they could hear the sounds of other horses, heavy farm equipment moving about, and calls between the staff as they went about their tasks.
"Sure you two are okay with them being here?" The younger hunter glanced at the older man without turning his head. "They are still demon horses that have influence over an area of time."
A thoughtful pause, one hand reaching out to scratch Moeru's muzzle as he trotted up to them. "They'll be in better hands that have the proper knowledge."
'Probably as close to admitting that this would be beyond either of their capabilities, not to mention the extra work they might not be able to handle,' Nero mused, soaking in the calm peace from his father. Vergil had shared less than Dante, but the younger part-devil could still pick up the wistfulness and melancholy in his tones on what was as close to a normal childhood before it had been violently ripped away. He then tilted his head. "Come to think of it, what's behind the story of naming your horse literally 'burn'?"
"Their manes, like small flames on a log before flaring to life." Vergil's lips quirked up into a ghost of a nostalgic smile. "Mother was also teaching some Japanese at the time. I wanted some... practice."
Nero bit back a bark of laughter, wondering if Vergil knew how incredibly dorky that made him sound. He also wondered if it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring Kyrie to meet the Timesteeds, pulling out another apple as Moeru swung his head towards him. It might be a good way to introduce the boys to devils that weren't out to eat humans - Julio and Carlos had been begging on wanting to spend more time with "Nonno Vergil" and "Zio Dante".
(Hearing all three boys tacking those labels on to his blood relatives still made him feel strangely warm and fuzzy every once in awhile and occasionally speechless whenever he'd hear them say it. Kyrie would simply smile and brush against him gently, not bothering to correct the boys while carrying on with whatever she was working on.)
'Yeah, that kinda does sound like a decent idea...' He smiled, calloused fingers continuing on drawing out more delighted wuffling.
They eventually went inside as the sun started to set. In Destroyinator's stall, Dante whistled a jaunty tune as he groomed his horse, occasionally slipping in a lyric or two. Even though Vergil didn't really say anything, Nero enjoyed the barely hidden glimpse of happiness from his father as they went about brushing Moeru.
A/N: Follows "No Need for Tack".
Epona isn't just referencing the horse associated with Link from the Legend of Zelda series, but more so her origins, the Celtic/Gallo-Roman protector-goddess of horses, donkeys, ponies, and mules. Also referencing Applejack and Big McIntosh from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
"Picking out the feet" is obviously hoof care.
Obviously, the original inspiration by creepyscritches's Tumblr posts of Dante and Nero meeting two Geryon horses, and young Dante and Vergil with Geryon colts.