Devil May Cry © Capcom

Cohortes Praetoriae

Jason M. Lee

Lady might not have hearing as sharp as either Nero or Dante, yet she could still tell by the slight flinching from Nero at certain whispers. Dante obviously ignored it, but there was always that brief hard gleam if she was fast enough to catch it. Usually it was from those that lived outside of his territory, be they from out of town, the opposite end of the city, or those that couldn't accept anything not "normal". She herself was no stranger to disparaging words either, either directed at her eyes, occupation, or her living with "the freaks". Like Dante, she ignored the whispers, but both adults had exchanged certain looks as they watched Nero's reactions.

"Why does she stay with them?" a male voice drifted over from the next aisle over. "She could find some better partner with a more stable life."

"I'm wondering why does he stay with her," the man's female companion answered back, scorn practically dripping. "He could find someone better for him and his child."

"Oh, please. Him and his boy? With their hair color and their overall attitude? It'd be a miracle for him to find someone else! Haven't you heard those rumors?" a second woman's voice entered.

"Which one?"

"How they supposedly have demon blood! Like, just this week, his boy apparently broke one of his classmates' hands without provocation during recess! My son wouldn't stop talking about it!"

"Who started the fight?"

"He says it was Nero, and that it also included a visit to the nurse's office because of how badly hurt some got, not just the vice principal."

"Really?!" Disbelief colored the voice.

"My girl said that out of the whole group, Nero was the only one who came out with minor bruising," a fourth voice conspiratorially added in a hushed tone. "The other boys had scrapes, black eyes, a few apparently had bloody noses, and I think one even had a sprained wrist, not a broken hand."

Nero's ear tips burned, glaring at his shoes as they walked down the frozen goods lane, although he did relax minutely at Lady's reassuring head pat. Vice Principal Jizo had been apoplectic after Lady had shown up, sharp words directed at the original instigators' parents because of their children not leaving the bullied students alone after Nero's multiple warnings. Aunt and nephew internally absorbed the schadenfreude of the other parents trying not to wilt under the grandmotherly school administrator's tongue lashing. The extra cherry was Jizo praising on how well-raised Nero was to know what was morally right to protect the real victims, Lady trying not to puff up in pride and ignoring the dirty looks.

"Either way, even if that rumor of Nero and his uncle having demon blood was just somebody's idea of a bad joke, the chance of them finding anyone else willing to stay with them is low. She's definitely having his baby, and I didn't even see rings on either of them."

"Because rings outside of magic is terrific for gun users," Dante quietly snarked under his breath, rolling his eyes. "Unless you're used to it. Although they do make for decent impromptu brass knuckles if you're wearing the heavy ones."

Lady snorted as she opened the freezer doors and grabbed several bags of frozen fruits and vegetables, tossing them into their cart. Just as she touched the box for boysenberry bars (her craving had struck again), she paused before smirking a bit. "Think we should try a different flavor, Dante?" the huntress deliberately spoke just loud enough.

A gray eyebrow raised up, wondering what his mate was doing and deciding to play along. "What, finally admitting that strawberry is the superior fruit, Lady?"

"As if! Baby and I will never give up boysenberry." Lady instead moved to a different shelf and plucked two paper cartons labeled by a new artisan maker, not hiding her smile at Nero's eyes widening. "I was thinking it was Nero's turn to have black currant dominate our freezer for a little while. Your grades have been quite good lately, although there's always room for improvement."

Dante grinned with a hint of fangs, his devil purring smugly on enjoying the shocked silence coming from the tea and coffee aisle as he gently ruffled his nephew's hair. "Not to mention of how well your teacher's been praising you on helping out your classmates. And just in time for summer, Nero. Next chance we get, we're going to visit that battleship museum you've been asking about."

Nero didn't bother hiding his fierce blush, grinning just as toothily as his uncle upon hearing shoes and carts hastily shuffle away.

A/N: For DantexLady Week 2019 over at dxlpartyboat's Tumblr, "bodyguard". Follows "Nibble, Nibble", after "Waraizome".

Title is Latin for the Praetorian Guard that was an elite unit for the Roman Imperial Army, the members serving as personal bodyguards and intelligence for Roman emperors. And besides, Nero's name would also be a reference to Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.

Per Merriam-Webster Dictionary's definition of "bodyguard": "a usually armed attendant or group of attendants whose duty is to protect a person". Lady and Dante armed? Check. Their duty to protect smol Nero? Check!

The "battleship museum" could refer to several real world battleship museums, but my point of reference was the USS Iowa Museum in San Pedro, CA, where USS Iowa (BB-61) is moored in the Port of Los Angeles. I've visited her several times, and seeing one of the largest battleships ever in service always takes my breath away.