The city was bigger, by far bigger than Fortuna, which Credo had always thought of as a rather large city at nearly three thousand people. But this place – it was huge. Huge and dirty. The scents seemed to strike of Credo's newly enhanced sense of smell. He resisted the urge to cover it with his sleeve, staring over the mass of grey cement, smoke stacks, and red brick buildings.
For a moment he was completely overwhelmed, completely at a loss of how to find Nero in this place. Yet Credo was determined to find him, he knew he was here, somewhere hidden in the towering spires and eves of Capulet city. He had to be. Credo had sent him here nearly a year ago and he wondered what life his little brother had found. The relative's (a whore, a madam, Credo had sent Nero to a brothel, and the part of him that had once been Scantus most religious supporter cringed and seethed at the idea) home he had sent Nero to was burnt to the ground, nothing but ash and rubble.
There were no casualties, but also no record of a boy who had resided there. And the Aunt, a cold woman, had no words to give him about what she called 'a half-demon bastard.' Just what had he sent his baby brother too? Credo had to find him – he had too. He had too. No matter how long or how impossible it seemed now, standing in the fading light of the evening. The sound of footsteps caught his attention, but Credo did not turn to face whoever approached him. The cadence of the steps was that of a child, perhaps a teenager.
"Oi. Watcha doin' up there?"
The voice was almost caustic, the accent so rough and untrained to his educated mind. Credo was balanced up on the crest of a roof eve. He turned to stare at the young boy behind him; he was a dirty moppet of a thing, perhaps eleven or twelve. He was utterly dirty, his clothing mismatched and oversized, nearly every inch of skin streaked or coated with grime.
"What do you want, child?"
"You're gonna fall."
"I will not."
"Yeah, yeah ya will."
"I will not be harmed regardless." Credo said, turning to eye the boy. "What is it you wish from me?"
"…just wonderin' what ya were doin.'" The boy said slowly, eyeing him critically. "Ya too clean fer Capulet. You new? I could show ya where to go for some cash. Or food. Where not ta go too. All clean like that, even with tha' swords, you'll get picked clean."
Credo stepped from the roof top, landing on the flat shingles loudly. "As it stands, I am seeking information. I am looking for a boy, around your age. You would know him by a distinctive mark on his hand, or by his white hair."
The boy's eyes narrowed. "Whatcha want with him?"
"So you do know him?" Credo felt hope kindle him, focusing on the boy intently.
"Maybe I do, may I don't. Whatcha want with him?" The boy repeated, not so subtlety moving towards the fire escape he'd come up.
"I wish him now harm, Nero is my brother. I only want to find him." Credo shook his head. "I already know that he is here, I have already sent him a message through another child, one who called himself 'Bets.' But this was months ago, and I can't find that boy again."
The street child stared hard at him, suspicious. "…you got any money?"
Credo sighed, reaching into his pocket and drawing out three golden coins. They were hardly enough for a market trip back home, but Credo could only hope they would be enough to sate the boy's greed. To his surprise, the street child's eyes widened to the size of saucers.
"I can have all o' that?"
"If you can tell me where my brother, yes."
The boy's hand darted out, lighting fast, the gold coins disappearing from his hand as if never there. "Look for a big building with a neon sign, 'Devil May Cry.' He lives there with his Da now."
"His…" Credo words failed him; eye wide.
The thing about school, Nero discovered, was that he was super behind. It was more interesting then the one back in Fortuna, 'cause they learned about all kinds of stuff, not just maths and reading and Sparda. But it was a lot harder because everyone else already seemed to know all kinds of stuff that Nero didn't. In short, school was hell and he did everything in his power to escape it.
Which was why he was currently wandering about the city when he was definitely supposed to be in class. His dad would tan his hide if he found out about it, but eh. Worth it. He was in the slums again, way more comfortable with them then any other part of the city. No one ever stared or commented on his arm like the posher places Dante sometimes took him.
He was eyeing a fresh made bagel at a bread stand, trying to figure out if he had enough pocket cash on hand to buy it when a feeling washed over him. It was like ice cubes down his spine, every hair on his body standing on edge, his arm throbbing underneath its wrappings. Nero spun around, eyes wide as he searched, but could see nothing.
He'd only ever felt anything like that once before; when the Modeus' brother had come and nearly beat the life out of him. Without much thought, Nero turned on his heel and ran-walk towards the nearest alleyway. The moment he reached its shadows, Nero began to sprint at full speed back towards the shop. He'd wandered far away from it, worried his father would catch him, and he was regretting that now.
Why didn't I just stay in school!
The feeling waxed and waned and it didn't take long for Nero to figure out he wanted to stay on the waning side of it. He figured that meant he was further away from whatever demon was nearby. He was out of breath by the time the shop came into view, eyes lighting up in excitement and Nero didn't even hesitate to call out when he saw his father's legs sticking out from underneath Dante's car's body.
The legs kicked, a muffled curse heard and then Dante was rolling out, an annoyed look on his face. "Nero, what the hell? Don't tell me you – Nero!"
The preteen eye's widened in alarm at the cry, spinning around when he heard something heavy land behind him. A shout died on his lips, mouth dropping open and eyes wide as he took in the sight of his brother. Credo looked more than a little rough, his normally pristine uniform stained and torn, his hair ragged in a loose ponytail and – most alarmingly – he wore an eye patch over one eye.
Nero barely had time to question before he was roughly being pulled out of the way, a massive knife suddenly at his brother's neck, Credo pinned roughly against a brick wall. "Get the fuck away from my kid."
"Dad, wait!" Nero cried out, jumping between his brother and father's livid form. "Wait, he's not going to hurt anyone! He's my brother!"
Dante froze, glancing down wearily at Nero. "What? This is –"
"Credo." Nero finished, voice quiet. He never talked about his family back home much, but he had mention Credo and Kyrie to his dad before.
"But he –"
"I don't know, but he really is my brother, okay!" Nero shouted defensively, "I know he is, so will you please stop trying to gut him?"
"He smells like a demon, Nero. That's not your brother, not anymore."
"Yes, he is." Nero grit out, "you think I don't know my own brother? I don't know why he smells like a demon, but that's Credo!"
"Or something wearing his skin. You don't know –"
"He," Credo interrupted, voice even, "is right here. And I can answer your questions, sir, if you would so kindly remove your blade." The bickering two fell silent abruptly.
"Oh yeah," Nero said with a strained laugh, "that's totally Credo."
Dante glanced at him once more, then Credo again wearily, before pulling away. "Try anything funny and I'll skin you like a fish, understand?"
"Completely." Credo said quietly. His eye softened as he turned to look at Nero again. "Hello, little brother."
Nero let out a choked sound, eyes stinging, and moved to launch himself at his brother, only to be caught by Dante. "No."
"Why are you a demon?" Dante's voice was stern, dark even, his expression closed off.
Credo face went completely unreadable, all warmness gone. "That is a story better told in a setting less…public."
Dante leaned against the upstairs hallway wall; expression troubled. The sound of the shower was heard, Credo requesting a shower after he'd demolished a entire pizza by himself. The speed of which he'd scarfed down the food was troubling, because despite his polish and maturity, Credo was still a boy of hardly sixteen. And if his story was to believe (which, honestly, after hearing about Fortuna through Nero and what Trish and Lady knew about the place, was not that hard to believe) he'd spent the past year going through hell.
The half-devil let out a sigh, running a hand over his face in exhaustion. Nero had made him a friggin' softy.
The shower shut off, the door opening a moment later to reveal Credo in a towel and nothing else. His chest was bruised and littered with slowly healing scars and cuts – all of which must have been intensely deep to stay for so long with the boy's demonic healing.
"Come on," Dante said gruffly, ignoring the way the teen stiffened as he took him by his arm, leading him back into the bathroom and setting him down on the closed toilet seat. "Let me take a look at those."
He didn't need a first aid kit often, but he kept a hospital grade one on hand anyway. He washed his hands, scrubbing at them before patting them dry before turning with a tube of antibiotic and began work on the various cuts. It didn't take long, though Credo resembled something like a patch work quilt once all the bandages had been applied.
"There." Dante said, clearing his throat. "I've got some clothing you can borrow. You need anything else."
Credo looked away, biting his lip, and sitting there, his missing eye red and shiny, the lid sinking somewhat into the empty socket, Credo looked far younger then he actually was. "Some more food, if you have it? Though I do not wish to be a bother or burden."
Dante sighed, running a hand through his hair in frustration. "Gods, kid. Of course, I'll feed you. Get dressed and I'll make something up."
A huge ass softy.
He told himself it was because the kid was Nero's adopted brother, but in truth, the burgeoning parent in Dante couldn't help but imagine Nero in Credo's place, cut up to hell and with sunken ribs, made into something he never asked for.
"Just…come downstairs when you're ready."
Nero all but leapt from the couch when Dante came downstairs, expression wrought with worry. "Is he okay? I mean, I know he's not okay – you have no idea what this could do to him, Credo never liked demons that weren't me, I mean – man, you have no idea, he was so passionate about the Order and they just – to do that to him! And my family? No man, he can't be okay, but I mean –"
Dante gave a quiet laugh, reaching out and stroking his kid's bangs from his forehead. Nero all but leant into the touch, which was the most telling about how worried he really was. "Relax, kid. His demonic healing will kick in once we get some calories in him and he'll heal right up. Feels kind of like he's got a Frost or something in him, maybe a Blitz, something like that. They're hardy. He'll be fine."
Nero's shoulders dropped in relief. "Um. Dante?"
"Can we – will you let him stay? Credo? He…he doesn't have anywhere else to go and he's…he's my…he's my brother."
Dante stared at his son, mind flying off into different directions. But Nero's face was so earnest, his eyes so hopeful, and really…what would Dante do if it was Vergil? Even now, after everything…
"Yeah, Nero. He can stay."
Nero's smile was bright, and he shot forward, hugging Dante tightly around the waist. "Thanks, Dad. Credo's great, you're going to like him."
"We'll see. But Nero, have you thought about the fact that he may not want to stay?"
But Dante honestly didn't know if that was an option either. Someone needed to teach the kid about his demon side, how to control it and bring it to heel. Alone and untrained, Credo was a disaster just waiting to happen. And honestly –
"Why would he not want to?" Nero asked, voice confused. "Where would he even go?"
– he couldn't imagine Credo leaving. As Nero said, where else could he possibly go?
"But Dad, what are we going to do about Fortuna? If they're really turning people into demons because of g-grandpa," Nero stumbled over the name and the sound of it made Dante still, the boy never using it before. Grandpa. Good lord, this was Dante's life now. How odd. Grandpa Sparda, "shouldn't we stop him?"
"Not we, kiddo. Me. I'll stop them."
And you bet your ass Dante would. That shit, to be done in his family's name? No way in hell.
The sound of footsteps on the stairs had Nero jumping away from him, cheeks bright red. Despite how close they'd grown over the last few months, Nero still got embarrassed so easily by displays of affection. That being said, he didn't hesitate to launch himself at Credo, hugging the older boy tightly.
Credo laughed, the lines on his face melting away, gentle in a way that Dante hadn't seen before. He ran his hand soothingly over Nero's back, his son's face hidden in the taller boy's chest. "It's alright, Nero."
"You got hurt. And your eye…"
"I'm fine, Nero. I will heal."
Dante sighed, his mind thinking about where he could possibly move all the crap in the basement to and find another bedroom set to make it even remotely habitable. Because, as he watched his son beam up at his older brother's face, Dante knew without doubt that Credo would be staying.
He turned on his heel, heading into the kitchen, a bang on the counter sending the cordless phone flipping into the air. He thumbed the first auto dial, waiting for Lady to pick up as he rummage through the fridge for something he could make that was remotely edible, and hoped she'd given him a decent interest rate on the loan.