Devil May Cry © Capcom
Hear the Signs Calling Out
Jason M. Lee
Years of being constantly paranoid had wrecked havoc on his sleep cycle, yet Vergil made the effort of trying to regain some human habits. Dante's teasing remarks of him being a night owl had been mixed with what sounded like advice, knowledge of sleeping in strange places while being on the run. (Part of the older twin tried to ignore that nagging feeling of guilt upon hearing Dante blithely comment how "comfortable" fire escapes and concrete steps could get after a few weeks.) He spent several nights sleeping on the hard floor instead of the bed, given the Demon World's lack of reasonable accommodations, although the pillows were helping him readjust to softer materials.
He still hadn't figured out how Kyrie's gentle insistence was able to get him to properly sleep on the guest bed after the first night at their home. Although the "just roll with it" look from Nero behind her smile gave the older part-devil an idea of how effective she was able to herd three rambunctious boys, one mad engineer, and a hot-blooded hunter into listening to her - a bit like Eva, in a way.
(The softness almost reminded him of a larger bed that could swallow two small rambunctious half-devils.)
Even though his room was at the far end of the hall, Vergil could just make out the soft weeping coming from Carlo's room. Ready to be resigned to a sleepless night, he tilted his head at the light footsteps headed towards the youngest boy's domain. Crying was replaced with sniffling, and a faint low humming.
Curiosity piqued, Vergil slipped out of his room and followed the familiar melody to the crack in the door. Scent and sense indicated it was Nero, and not wanting to intrude, he stayed in the shadows of the hallway.
"Nightmares again, Carlo?"
"...sì, Nero. Scary!"
A soft chuckle, having noticed the hesitation. "Nothing wrong with being scared of nightmares."
"But, but... they say boys should not be scared!"
Old traditional mindset, Vergil granted, given Fortuna's culture.
This time a contemptuous snort. "That's silly thinking." Nero's voiced dropped almost conspiratorially. "Wanna know a secret?"
Vergil could almost imagine brown eyes widening. "Sì, Nero! Tell, tell! I keep!"
"I sometimes get scared of my nightmares, too."
A likely gaping expression. "But, but... Nero è un cacciatore di demoni!"
"Sì, but like you-" Giggles erupted from Carlo, Nero obviously tickling the boy. "-I used to be a little boy who also got scared of my nightmares."
"Even now, still sometimes scared?"
The solemness seemed to assuage the boy, probably giving him some ease to know that someone he looked up to wasn't completely that different. (The intonation briefly reminded Vergil of how Sparda sometimes spoke.) Silence, save the sounds of the house creaking as it settled, and the rain pattering outside.
"Nero not tell I have nightmare?"
"Only if you say so."
"...Nero told nightmares to others?"
The pause was extremely telling, and while Vergil had expected it, it still lanced something fierce through his chest.
(Would things had been different if he had stayed with her? Would it be different if he had learned of Nero before raising the tower? Accepting Dante's hand and discovering his son after? How far from the path would he had stepped away?
How much time would he had not lost?
He knew Dante and V knew about his - their - own lingering nightmares from that day, never spoken. And yet, his little brothers never asked, simply with melancholic smiles in the morning and leaving a dark blue mug on the kitchen table before bed, the invitation to talk always there.
Maybe he should take it one of these nights.)
"...no. I didn't tell my nightmares to others. Not until much later."
"Oh." Another pause, as if the child was aware of touching something painful but unsure of exactly what.
"Want some warm milk, kiddo?"
"No. ...canta di più, per favore?"
Another soft chuckle, and Nero's low musical humming resumed.
Once assure that Carlo was sleeping peacefully again, Nero's smile all but dropped upon seeing the older part-devil and a gray eyebrow rose as he closed the door behind him. "What, you want a drink, too?"
"No need." Vergil tilted his head, studying the younger man before him.
Nero's eyebrows furrowed, wary at how he still wasn't quite able to read his father save a few glimpses. "What?"
Calloused fingers cupping the younger hunter's face without warning had Nero freezing in place, one foot skidding back out of reflex. Not blinking at his son's reaction, Vergil slowly threaded fingers through the loose hair and took in the slight pinking that showed up as he stroked a thumb over Nero's cheek, visible in spite of the shadows. He was used to the chill - of his own words, of Yamato's edge, of how he applied logic, of his own powers.
Of losing Eva and Sparda.
He once had parents who had loved and protected him and Dante (and V, by proxy), before Sparda disappeared and Eva died that day. Even when orphaned, he never spoke of the fears that had arisen as he survived alone over the years, until meeting Rachel. (Romantic love? He wasn't sure. Platonic was certainly there, but thinking back on it a little more, he couldn't deny that small bit of affection he surprisingly held for her, just that bit.) Rachel had brought back that small flicker before it was brusquely buried, further dampened when Arkham approached him with knowledge of Temen-ni-gru.
And then those lost years.
Nero might not had spoken much of his time in the orphanage, but Kyrie wasn't as tight-lipped.
"The other children and adults thought I wasn't paying attention back then, but..." She bit her lip, pausing on washing the plates before resuming. "...I think if it wasn't for Mother and Father fostering Nero, as well Credo's suggestion of joining the Knights, he might've turned out far worse. While the bullies there also went after some of the other orphans, Nero was the one they usually picked on almost daily, from what I remember overhearing. Even though he always won the fights, they still continued to do so."
Vergil remembered how he dealt with bullies once he had gained a better understanding of Yamato as he dried the dishes, always resulting in blood running the ground. He didn't know how Dante handled his tormentors, but some form of violence would've been rather obvious as well.
"I think they feared him. More than just because of his hair like the adults out of superstition, but also possibly in part of that..." Kyrie furrowed her eyebrows. "...aura, I suppose, that devils in disguise and part-devils sometimes put out. Like they knew he was a more powerful predator than they were, even if he was younger than some of them, and they just couldn't understand why."
He supposed that it was a somewhat rapt comparison, given Sparda's most well-known accomplishments and having experienced similar reactions from others, devils and humans both. Although a thought did give him pause. "And what of you, Kyrie? Do you find Nero, Dante, or I frightening?"
The slight flush on her cheeks wasn't something he had expected. "Quite the opposite, in fact. I've always felt... safe around him, even when we were children. I still do now, and then you two."
Shock and uncertainty swirled within him in some odd dance at that admission. "Ah."
Kyrie turned back to the suds, as if searching for something in the ever shifting iridescence on the bubbles before looking back at him. Pink still tinted her face, but he could see the determination in her eyes. "Any fear that I feel... is fear for all of your health and safety."
Warmth blended into his chest, turning back to the slightly damp towel.
"He'll never say it out loud, but when you two were in the Underworld..." Her voice dropped to a whisper, ducking her head. "...I believe - I know - he was afraid for you two as well."
For all of his own chill and mental comparison of how fiery Nero could be to Dante, Vergil recognized the hot-blooded impulsiveness within himself. He couldn't help smile a bit as pink started deepening to red.
"W-what, old man? Something on my face?"
Such a moniker, although lacking any real sting or the taunting sense whenever Nero applied it to Dante. It wasn't like the sarcastic "father" during their fight on top of the Qliphoth, nor was it the barely coherent "dad" under a fever that Nero apparently couldn't remember saying.
But it was still a step forward.
"No. Simply... have pleasant dreams, Nero." One more stroke before he reluctantly withdrew his hand, heading back to his room silently.
Unsure of what prompted that kind of display, Nero couldn't help but rub the side of his nose, trying to work through the emotions that was a mess inside him. Giving up, he went back to his and Kyrie's bedroom with a blush still on his face, rubbing the back of his head. "...you, too, f-father."
It was barely audible, yet Vergil paused at the threshold. After a moment, he let out a soft laugh, and closed the door behind him, small smile still on his face.
A/N: For Dadgil Week 2019, "fear" and "orphan".
Follows "Pattern Welding and Annealing".
Given that Fortuna was based off of the Vatican City, which is located in Rome, why the heck not with Italian. (Latin being the other official language.) :V Apologies for any butchered Italian as I was limited to machine translators and dictionary examples, so do please correct me!
Title from the song "Ashes" as sung by Gemie and composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, from the anime film Promare.