The landline began to ring, jolting Nero awake.
He'd fallen asleep on the couch yet again, arms crossed against his chest and head hanging low. His whole body felt stiff, and the dull headache that had pestered him for the last couple of days returned as soon as he opened his eyes, eating away the little sanity he had left.
Nero's mind went on high alert, pushing the irritating pain away as he walked towards the phone. The fire he'd started long ago had already died out, leaving nothing but a trace of ash in its wake. The light in the living room was still on, illuminating the wooden clock on the wall that showed it was far too early to call unless it was an emergency.
He answered the phone on the third ring with a coarse voice, and felt all traces of sleep leave his body as soon as he heard the voice at the other end of the line.
"Hey, kid. We're home. Thought you'd like to know."
Nero kept a steady gaze on the road in front of him, occasionally getting one hand off the steering wheel to take long chugs off of the energy drink he kept on the cup holder.
Sleep had been a luxury the last couple of weeks. Lesser demons were spawning all across Fortuna, and there was only so much he could do to try to eradicate them while also working full time at the mobile division of Devil May Cry and helping Kyrie take care of the kids at the orphanage.
He could only hope she wouldn't be too upset when she found the sticky note outside of the bedroom door that simply said: 'Going to Dante's. I'll explain later.'
The shop looked the same as it did the last time he was there: inconspicuous, dark and bleak. A couple of spiders had made the windows their homes, covering them with a thin layer of scattered cobwebs. The stairs that lead to the door were cluttered with a colorful assortment of trash and dried leaves that crunched under his boots as he made his way up. He had a spare key for the shop somewhere on his key chain, but the door was unlocked, which wasn't surprising at all. Inside, a bunch of bottles, magazines, and papers were strewn all across the floor, and the lingering smell of dust, mold and rot made his nose wrinkle in disgust.
Dante was fast asleep at his usual spot with his arms crossed against his chest and his mud-caked boots propped on the desk. A questionable magazine was placed on top of his face, and it shifted ever so slightly every time he snored. No other sounds could be heard besides Dante's pointed snores and the constant buzzing coming from the Devil May Cry sign. It seemed that no one else was there, even if Nero was certain that Dante had said 'we' over the phone. The young hunter quickly discarded the thought, opting to focus on the sleeping man in front of him.
Said hunter stirred lazily as he tore the magazine off his face. He muttered a groggy, yet surprised greeting as he opened his eyes, wincing at the bright light seeping in through the windows.
Nero remained at the same spot in the middle of the room, staring at him with a strange intensity that Dante had only seen a couple of times before. A clear sign that things were going to get nasty pretty soon.
"You told me you were going to be stuck in the underworld!" Nero spat, feeling the anger on his chest rising with every second that passed. Dante looked so damn calm, as if nothing had happened at all. As if he hadn't called him in the wee hours of the morning and hung up the phone without explanations.
"No, you said that. You forgot your old man loves opening portals." Dante replied as he took his feet off the desk to walk over to Nero, feeling his sore muscles immediately protesting at the action. Nero didn't like the hint of humor in his voice, and the small smile on Dante's lips faltered as he let out a low sigh. "I didn't know if getting out was part of the plan, Nero."
"Bullshit." Nero sneered. "Do you have any idea how hard it's been to clean up the mess he left behind?!"
He'd seen the aftermath of the Qliphoth. The destruction. The pain. The thousands of graves scattered across cities. He couldn't pretend that it didn't affect him after the adrenaline wore off, or that he felt ready to take the burden off of Dante's shoulders and accept that he'd lost what he'd just found.
"I do," Dante replied, "and I'm sorry; I know I should've done things differently." His apology was sincere and went beyond their little stint in hell. He'd never had the chance, or the guts, to truly apologize for his faults. It was unfair to do it now, but it never seemed to be the right time to do it, did it?
"You fucking should have."
The red clad devil simply stared as Nero walked over to him, mentally preparing himself for another one of the kid's bitch slaps that would, most certainly, knock out some of his teeth if it landed in the wrong place. Nero looked so worn and tired, almost aged by the whole ordeal, and Dante knew that almost all of his anger was rightfully directed towards him.
He was the one that had kept things from the kid, opting to drown the guilt away with cheap whiskey and malt beer. Being around Vergil again brought some sort of long forgotten peace and happiness in his life, but Nero couldn't share the sentiment. The kid had to deal with one loss after another, and Dante couldn't help but to feel selfish after seeing how hard he'd taken his absence.
Nero stopped right in front of him, regarding him with hardened eyes. He took one good look at the caked dirt and blood that was still on Dante's face, the lines of age, and the evident guilt and resignation on his eyes. The young hunter let out a low exhale, feeling the frown on his face deepening as he closed the distance between them to wrap his arms around his uncle in a tight embrace. He didn't care that Dante smelled like the Qliphoth still, or that he hesitated slightly before returning the gesture. His hazy mind needed that type of reassurance in a childish sort of way, and maybe Dante did so too.
Devil May Cry was exactly how Vergil remembered it: a filthy pigpen that resembled a teenager's room instead of a serious business. The room Dante offered him was slightly better than the office, even if it only had the bare necessities: a bed with questionable yellow covers, a dresser, and a small wooden desk by the curtainless window, all riddled with a thick layer of dust and adorned with small critters that scurried away when he got close to them. Clearly unremarkable, but Vergil couldn't remember the last time he'd actually laid down on a bed –a proper one with a mattress and all, and not some bundled up pieces of cloth strewn across hard floors.
He would be lying if he said he didn't enjoy his time in the Underworld with Dante, but he craved solitude, even if his body demanded more rest than the couple of hours of sleep he'd gotten throughout the morning.
It was almost surreal to roam the streets without a clear motive in mind – and as himself, nonetheless. The city was buzzing with the sounds of people and cars rapidly passing him by on the busy streets. The wind smelled pure and almost sweet, a welcoming contrast to the fetid and dry winds of hell. The residential area had been rebuilt many years ago, but Temen-ni-gru still stood proud in the middle, like a titan overseeing the adjoining businesses and houses. That cursed tower had been the first of many horrid mistakes he'd made and the beginning of his inevitable downfall; the sole thought of that was enough to sour his mood for the rest of his walk.
He didn't expect to see Nero when he got back.
He was aware that Dante had gotten in touch with him, but he didn't anticipate seeing the child sprawled on the couch just like that. He was far too big for it, and his feet had to hang off the armrest so the rest of his body could be in a somewhat comfortable position. His forearm was draped over his eyes, shielding them from light coming from the neon sign Dante kept beside the fridge.
Vergil walked over to the irksome Devil May Cry sign and unplugged it, letting the power cord fall to the floor with a small thud. Now that the shop was quieter, he could hear Dante humming an unknown tune as he showered upstairs.
He focused his attention back on Nero, feeling a frown forming on his face. He was still coming to terms with the fact that he had a son, yet he couldn't deny that the thought of having a child made him feel something deep inside. He dryly though that, perhaps, it was what he'd once referred to as pesky fatherly love.
They were so different yet so similar all together. He could clearly see their physical resemblance now –something that, surprisingly, went over V's head, no matter how obvious it was. He'd tried to rationalize that Nero was his brother's son at one point or another. Cutting his nephew's arm for power seemed far less…ludicrous than the harsh reality, and it would've probably lessened the guilt and regret that plagued his mind. But, of course, that was something that he wasn't ready to admit just yet.
He had to take responsibility for his actions. To make amends. He'd already done so with Dante. The fact that he was there, willingly, in his filthy shop to honor their agreement was a clear sign of it. Making amends with Nero would be harder than promising 'to be around', but the least Vergil could do was try to capitulate.
Still, he would let the child rest for now; it seemed that he needed it –and he needed it too.
That matter would have to wait until they were both lucid.
I'm a little late to the party, eh?
This is going to be a series of non chronological one-shots that focus on the wonderful adventures of everyone's favorite dysfunctional family.
Thank you so much for reading!