Chapter 1: ≠.
In retrospect, this whole situation Nero found himself in was completely Dante’s fault. It wasn’t Nero’s concern that his freshly discovered but still pointedly absentee father had just appeared from Hell a month after the Qliphoth tree fell. Said absentee father returned with Dante and, having nowhere else to go but Devil May Cry, made arrangements to stay at aforementioned brother’s establishment. In fact, Nero had barely spoken to his father since they had returned except when Dante called to noisily announce their comeback in the human realm.
Why did it matter to Nero that, in Dante’s words, Vergil was bored at the shop and had nothing to do but read, and wouldn’t it be nice if dear old dad stayed with Nero for a while?
“He’s your brother,” Nero retorted. “You have a duty to keep him there.”
“And he’s your father, but I’m just pointing that out.” Dante’s voice was statickey over the phone, but it was evident he was exhausted arguing with his nephew despite just starting the conversation.
“I didn’t ask to be born,” Nero said crossly, but that earned him a deep frown from Kyrie, who happened to overhear. Unfortunately for Nero, the only phone in the house was a landline that was firmly stuck to the wall adjacent to the living room area where Kyrie currently set up her needle and thread to a pair of worn pants.
“Anyway,” he continued, lowering his voice and turning away from Kyrie, “what would I even do with him here? Kyrie… the kids… even Nico is still in the house!”
“I dunno, kid,” Dante sniffed. “Ever since we got back from Hell it’s been like I’ve been living in a fucking Gothic tomb in here. Nothing I say gets through to him, and he doesn’t want to do anything but read. Even the girls don’t come around anymore. I need you to just keep him for a week and maybe cheer him up a little. You’ll get to see him for a while, and I’ll bring back some life to this place.” He paused. “Would be nice, right? I thought we’d be stuck in Hell for much longer.”
Nero felt himself giving in. But Nero had to stay strong in Dante’s eyes and not fully commit. “Let me ask Kyrie,” he acquiesced.
“No need, Nero,” Dante said, and Nero could picture his shitty, fortysomething boomer shit eating grin on his face over the phone. “It’s been done.”
Nero’s eyes darkened. “The hell you mean done!”
“Nero,” Kyrie called, a warning in her voice. She had moved to the kitchen to scrub something but her superhuman hearing had picked up on Nero’s sailor talk instantly.
“Me and Kyrie had a long talk a few days ago about Vergil coming up for a visit. Even my big bro got in on the phone call. Of course, as soon as he knew I was on the line, he tried to slice my head off, but you know me…”
Nero wanted to slam his head on the wall, maybe even destroy the landline phone in the process. But Kyrie would definitely make him fix it, and if Nico got her hands on the contraption, they would no longer have a landline but a weapon. He didn’t like how Dante was suddenly orchestrating this whole playdate behind his back, even getting his precious Kyrie involved in his mess… but most of all, he was dreading a week just being with Vergil. The father he never knew, and the one almost wished he didn’t know about.
“You still there?” Dante’s voice crackled through the mouthpiece. Nero wanted to hang up so badly and maybe scream into a couch pillow.
“Just tell me when he’s coming,” Nero muttered petulantly. “Obviously I have no say in this whole thing.”
“Kid,” Dante began, and Nero braced himself for a lecture. “If you don’t want Vergil to come, then say so. But Kyrie and I…” he hesitated, pausing. “Here’s what you should do. Talk to her and if you still want him to stay here, just call me back. But if he stays, I might be converted to a boring stick-up-the-ass bookworm.”
“Fine. Bye.” Before Nero put the phone back on its cradle, he swore he heard a new, nasally voice on the other line saying something that sounded like “I heard that”.
Nero traipsed into the kitchen, where Kyrie was now watering the succulents crowded on the small windowsill above the sink. He eyed a mountain of slowly accumulating plates soaking in soapy water, making a mental note to tackle it once Kyrie left the room. Nero stood next to her; saying nothing, and instead watched the tiny droplets cling to the small but sturdy plants.
“Kyrie, I was just on the phone with Dante.”
Kyrie hummed. “How’s Mr. Dante?”
She moved the child sized elephant shaped watering can to the next succulent, which was taller and slightly more faded than the first one.
“He’s all right.” A pause. “He told me he talked you about my da—Vergil visiting.”
Kyrie pursed her lips, but didn’t take her eyes off the plants. “I did. He said Mr. Vergil was lonely, and thought a visit might do him some good. Returning from Hell sounds like an awful thing,” she commented, clucking her tongue reproachfully, as if she would never let Nero within feet of it.
“Lonely, my ass,” Nero said scathingly. He hated to feel like a sullen child thinking about Vergil, but even if their first—and last— meeting was just over a month ago, the reality of what had happened still stung. “He should have thought about being so lonely when he abandoned my mom, like, twenty years ago.”
Kyrie set down the watering can and finally looked at him. Her eyes were absent of the usual annoyance she had when he swore, and instead, seemed to be very sad.
“Nero, I understand you’re still angry with him. You have every right to be angry and disappointed, because what he did wasn’t right. But when Mr. Dante called me and explained that your father was lonely… I don’t think its just loneliness that he’s experiencing. I think he’s disappointed in himself, too.” Kyrie took Nero’s hands in her own. “Maybe all he needs is a little push to try to make things right. This visit could be that push.”
Nero frowned. He hated that this sounded like a good idea. He wanted to say, I have a dad already, but he died a long time ago. Your dad was my dad. He wanted to argue, Kyrie, you just don’t get it. Nero wanted to yell and throw a tantrum like the orphans they raised, and tell Kyrie she was dead wrong and Dante didn’t know shit. What do you guys fucking know how I feel!
He took a deep breath to steady himself. Kyrie squeezed his hands a little tighter.
“I hope you’re not angry with me or Mr. Dante about discussing this,” she said, her voice low but strong and steady. “It’s okay if you don’t want to see him. But even though Mr. Dante might say otherwise, he loves his brother and he loves you. He wants to see you both happy.” She paused. “And I… I want to get to know the person that gave me you.”
That took Nero out of his sulking. “Huh?”
“Look at it this way—without your father, you would have never come to me.” Kyrie absently drew circles into Nero’s right hand with her thumb. “It’s not a lot, but it’s something, right?”
“Just think about it,” Kyrie said firmly. She gave his hands another squeeze and released them. “I’ve gotta find Nico and tell her to pick up some groceries. Tell me your decision once you’ve made up your mind.”
With that, she left the kitchen. Nero watched her go, and turned toward the freshly watered succulents behind him. Stems arched, reaching toward the windowpane for the rays of the sunlight, Nero wondered if they cared about what garden they had been uprooted from to sit in their kitchen and yearn for nutrition. Maybe it didn’t even matter, because the succulents lived in the present and couldn’t worry about the past or the future. They could not touch what they really wanted and could only soak in the light available to them. At the end of the day, they were just simply plants.
Maybe Nero needed to be more like the succulents. Say fuck it and just reach out, no matter what the past was and the future could hold. Don’t bend to anybody’s will, and just be Nero, not an abandoned son.
He crossed the kitchen and walked into the connecting living room, making a beeline for the landline phone. Picking up the phone as if it was a precious object, he punched in a few numbers on the worn keypad and held the receiver to his ear, listening to the phone ring. Nero held his breath, half hoping it would just ring on forever.
Click. “Hello?” said a voice. It was a man’s voice, but not one Nero recognized right away.
“Hi,” Nero answered, though his voice sounded tinny and unnatural to his ears.
“Hello,” the voice repeated.
“...Can I help you?” The man asked, doing little to mask the annoyance in his voice.
“Um, I thought I called Devil May Cry. I’m looking for Dante.”
“You have called the correct number, but he’s not here at he moment.”
“Okay, just tell him Nero called,” Nero responded. “Bye.”
“Wait.” The man’s voice changed entirely from bored to awake within seconds. “Nero?”
“Who is this?” Now Nero was the one who was getting annoyed.
For a few long seconds, there was complete silence from the other end. He thought the person currently sitting in Dante’s office had hung up, but—
“Nero, it’s me. Vergil.”
It was Nero’s turn to wake up. “Huh?”
That explained why the voice sounded so familiar.
“Your… er, uncle is out grocery shopping right now. He told me to stay and answer the phone.”
Both of them fell silent.
“Did you… want me to leave a message for my brother?” Vergil finally asked.
“No, um, actually, I wanted to talk. To you.” Nero surprised himself with a bold statement. It wasn’t exactly the truth, but it would save him face to avoid speaking to Dante again.
“To me?” Vergil sounded surprised as Nero felt, but tried to smooth it over with indifference. “About… what, exactly.”
Nero gripped the phone cord to steady himself. This is your chance, Nero told himself. He remembered what Kyrie said. You can give each other a chance to make things right. It's a push in the right direction.
“I was wondering if, um, you’d like to come over? To my house?” Oh god, he knew with his super demon powers Vergil knew he was sweating over the phone. His mouth felt clammy and suddenly his thin, holey sweater just felt way too hot for the decent June weather they’ve been having.
Vergil was silent. “Come… over?”
“To meet Kyrie, and the kids, and just see where we’re living,” Nero babbled. “Maybe show you some sights? It’s probably been a long time since you’ve been to Fortuna, and Nico’s here too—”
“Wait,” Vergil interrupted. “Children?”
“Yeah, childr—I mean, kids! But not, y’know, my kids. I don’t have kids… I mean: Kyrie and I don’t have kids!”
“Then…” Vergil began slowly, trying to comprehend. “Whom do the children belong to?”
“They’re orphans,” Nero explained. “Kyrie and I take care of them.”
This seemed to settle with Vergil. “Orphans… hmm. Very well. I can arrange to visit whenever you wish.”
“How about next week?”
“That sounds agreeable. I shall see you in seven days’ time.”
Nero was about to put the phone down until he heard a click.
“Hey, bro,” said a familiar voice.
“Dante!” Vergil fumed. “Put the phone down! I’m going to destroy both these contraptions!”
“Dante?” Nero asked. He switched the phone to his other ear, not sure if he was hearing things.
“Hey-o!” It was unmistakably Dante’s gleeful voice. Again, Nero envisioned that smug grin gracing Dante’s lips as he successfully eavesdropped their conversation. “Three way calling is the best, right? I installed a phone upstairs in the bedroom when I came back from Hell. Vergil’s used it too!”
“You’re a fool,” Vergil muttered. “That time was an accident. I’m coming up to destroy that phone right away. Goodbye, Nero.”
A click punctured his statement, and Dante laughed. “He says it was an accident, but I know him too well. Anyway, thanks for calling back, kid. I’ll talk to you later.”
Dante hung up, leaving Nero with the dial tone in his ears. Setting the phone down, he stared at it, hoping he made the right decision. He was afraid of the various unknowns that loomed in his near future of seven days. A huge, impossible change in his life that he had dreamed of many times as a child was suddenly in his grasp, set to arrive in a week, and most likely destroying his uncle’s phone at this time.
“Kyrie,” he called, tearing himself from the phone and other cosmic anxieties. “Kyrie! I gotta tell you something--!!”
In the meantime, he’ll seek comfort in someone stable; familiar. Someone that he can trust to keep him stable.
Chapter 2: 5.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. …So it is written.
Or that’s what a certain person would probably say in this instance.
Seven days ago Nero phoned Vergil to ask him to come by, and in almost no time at all the elder son of Sparda himself was found on their doorstep, Yamato sheathed and strapped to his body. Vergil certainly looked the part as a formidable opponent if not for a small suitcase clutched in his hand, which was beginning to sweat from the overpowering sun. Today he felt less like a final boss you’d go toe-to-toe to and more of an anxious relative awaiting the invitation of an unfamiliar family to enter their home. After a few soft knocks on the door and no response Vergil was seriously contemplating an about face.
“Coming,” a voice said from within. Vergil shifted uncomfortably. He blamed the unrelenting sun on his thick coat. He could as well just left it at the shop, but he wanted to make a statement. Dress to impress, Dante had advised him. That was the last time he would ever take his advice.
The door opened, and Nero stood in the threshold. Father and son sized each other up with their equally frosty blue eyes, as if daring the other to speak first.
“Hello,” Vergil said. “Son,” he added, mentally cringing. It still didn’t sound right to him. He had practiced secretly for the last week trying to mimic Sparda, but it never seemed to land as regally as his father addressed him and Dante.
“Hello Dad,” Nero replied in mock reverence. “Long flight?”
Before Vergil was about to respond no, actually, I just went through time and space with Yamato, Kyrie burst in the doorway with two children hanging off her shoulders.
“Welcome!” Kyrie said breathlessly, trying to stand upright. Nero casually picked the bigger boy off her as she straightened herself, though her hair was completely stuck up in different directions. “I’m Kyrie. This is Carlo, and this little one is—”
“I’m Kyle!” the bigger boy yelled. “And I’m not little!”
“Where’s Julio?” Nero asked Kyrie.
“With Nico in the back,” Kyrie responded patiently, “but Nero, shouldn’t you show your father in?”
Nero blinked, his attention now on Vergil, who was now sweating bullets. “Right. Come in, Dad.”
Vergil followed the pair inside, closing the door. Their living space was small and overrun by toys underfoot, but seemed cozy enough. Kyrie managed to detach herself from the smallest child to return to Vergil and reached for his bags.
“I’ll take them to your room,” she offered. “If you don’t mind, can you please leave your sword in the umbrella stand?”
Vergil blinked. Kyrie gestured to an innocuous umbrella stand by the welcome mat, crowded with tiny pairs of shoes and colorful umbrellas. Hanging on the wall next to the stand was a keyhook, but instead of keys hanging off it, an array of Devil Breakers had been set up for easy access.
“We have a strict no weapon policy here,” Kyrie explained. “I understand your sword is precious, sir, but I have to child proof the house somehow. I’ll take your bags, and Nero will settle you down.”
Vergil nodded slowly. Why rock the boat over something like this, he thought ruefully. He made a mental note to cast a spell over this house. He didn’t want just anybody coming in and stealing his precious sword… again. He gave up his bag to Kyrie, and carefully placed the scabbard in the umbrella stand. He took a step back and looked at it for a minute. It looked awfully out of place, but whatever. It wasn’t like Dante’s shop, the ultimate bachelor’s pad. He actually had to follow the rules here, no matter how silly he thought of them.
“Hey, c’mere,” a voice said. Vergil looked down to see an unfamiliar boy tugging at his coat. “Nero’s looking for you!”
“Very well,” Vergil said. In all his musings he hadn’t realized Nero had disappeared. “Lead the way.”
The boy broke into a huge smile. “We’re all in the backyard! Let’s go!”
Vergil was lead through the tiny house’s kitchen to a screen door. Presumably, this is where Vergil assumed the backyard was located. When the boy opened the door, they stepped on a small, bare patio that was low to the ground and had a connecting set of low stairs. Vergil saw Nero leaning on the patio’s railing, yelling something intelligible to the boys on the wide expand of grass.
“I’m comin’, Nico!” he yelled, scampering down the stairs. Vergil stood there for a second, unsure what to do, approached the railing to see what the fuss was about.
Apparently, they were conducting some sort of experiment with a remote controlled toy rocket. An older woman – Vergil inferred it was this Nico the boy had just been talking about – was holding the remote, making the rocket zigzag over their heads. The boys were shouting happily at it, requesting Nico to make it loop around or go into a tree. Nico seemed just as thrilled as the children to comply with their requests.
“That’s it!” Nero shouted, gesturing excitedly at the toy. “Now make it nose dive!”
“I gotcha!” Nico affirmed, pulling at the joystick on her remote to enact three consecutive midair loops. The rocket suddenly took a sharp nosedive toward the grass, and shifted up at the very last second; earning cries of excitement from the three boys and Nero.
Within all the commotion Vergil had the sinking and overwhelming feeling of being unmistakably wrong standing here. The unbridled joy of these young people compared to his unenthusiastic reaction for this toy made Vergil feel like the odd one out. But to his surprise, Nero turned to him, smiling widely—and without a hint of distain that he saw at the door. “Hey, Dad. Check out Nico’s rocket!”
“Is that what it is?” Vergil said, squinting down at the toy, which was now chasing one of the boys. “I admit I have never seen one before.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool. She took an engine from one of my Devil Breakers and stuck it on Kyle’s rocket,” he said, pride evident in his voice. “Nico might have a foul mouth, but she’s a beast at inventing.”
They turned back to watching Nico and the kids chase each other, the youngest one clapping excitedly at all the noise.
“Did she also make your sword?”
“Sword? Oh, you mean Red Queen,” Nero said, glancing at Vergil. “Nah. That was her dad. I knew Nico’s dad before I knew her.” He paused, collecting his thoughts. “But he wasn’t a good guy. Dante ended up doing him in.”
How quaint, Vergil wanted to sneer. Both of you can bond over Uncle Dante beating up not one, but two deadbeat fathers in his lifetime.
But Vergil held his tongue. He recognized at this place, he was just a guest; someone who was less than welcome, considering the way he treated his own son within the past months. Not even just one or two months – Nero lacked any knowledge of a father since the time he was Even if Vergil said he had a hazy memory of the time—which was true—it didn’t excuse that his own flesh and blood had been born, raised, and created a life for himself without Vergil. Nero didn’t deserve cruel and biting words in a place where he was actually happy.
“You okay, Vergil?”
Nero’s voice interrupted his brooding, concern palpable in his eyes. The same eyes Vergil had. It was almost like looking into a mirror. The children and Nico had long stopped yelling, and had gathered around the grounded toy rocket to inspect it. Vergil did not have Yamato, but felt as if time was moving in slow motion.
“Yes. My apologies, Nero. …The sun may just be too strong for me at the moment.”
Nero nodded, looking slightly confused but concerned. “Kyrie’s still inside; if you need anything you can ask her. I’m staying out here just ‘cause I don’t want that toy to hurt any of the kids. Just sit inside and rest for a little while. I’ll be in soon.”
Vergil bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement, and turned around to leave. Nero watched his figure retreat into the house, wondering if being in Hell for so long made your constitution weak.
Vergil felt sick. Something was clawing at his stomach, making waves of nausea pulse through him. It had been a long time since he felt this feeling… guilt. Worry. Failure. And at worst, powerlessness. This time, no amount of demonic energy could quell the disgust at himself building up in his throat. He staggered into the house, hoping he could just lie on the floor for the rest of the day. He made it halfway through the tiny kitchen until he brushed up against something.
“Vergil!” Kyrie’s voice rang through his ears. “Oh my… you don’t look well. Come here.”
A thin but warm arm led him to the couch, where he let himself be lowered. He opened his eyes blearily, a headache threatening to take root in his temple.
Kyrie was sitting next to him, obviously concerned. She had began massaging his back, rubbing circles that he hated to admit felt quite pleasant.
“I’m Kyrie,” she corrected. “Don’t talk, sir. Just relax.”
They sat there for a good while. Vergil kept his eyes closed and Kyrie continued her ministrations, letting him rest. At one point Vergil felt her presence disappear from his side, and minutes later, felt the dip of the couch as she sat back down again.
“Vergil, when you’re ready, drink this.” She pressed the cold glass in his hand, perspiration already forming on the smooth surface. Vergil cracked open one eye to find a shot glass in hand; inside, a tawny brown liquid reflected back at him.
“It’s coke and rum, but don’t tell Nero,” Kyrie said. “He won’t be pleased that I’m offering alcohol in the middle of the day.”
Vergil gave a halfhearted smirk, and downed the alcohol in a single gulp. The sting felt good on his parched throat, allowing the warmth to settle in his belly. How long had it been since he had a drop of liquor, he mused. It may have been the night Nero was conceived.
“Feeling better?” Kyrie pressed, looking rather anxious.
“I feel adequate.” Vergil handed the shot glass back to her, feeling less groggy.
She set it down on a nearby table and faced Vergil, her eyes still filled with worry.
“Vergil, if something is bothering you, please tell me. I understand that this may not be easy for you or Nero…” Kyrie wrung her hands in her lap. “Ever since you came inside, you’ve looked as if you were about to faint.”
Vergil carefully surveyed the girl—nay, woman, before him. Her hair had been smoothed out into a ponytail, emphasizing her round face and almond shaped eyes. He sensed nothing demonic nor angelic from Kyrie, but for some reason found her presence calming to him. Just like… no; Mother is different…
“What I disclose to you must be kept absolutely secret. From Nero, from Dante, and the other woman with the tattoos.”
Kyrie blinked. “Nico?”
“Whatever her name is,” Vergil dismissed.
“I’m all ears,” Kyrie prompted. “If you have something to say, I’ll help you as best I can.”
Vergil crossed his legs. He folded his arms. He patted his tousled hair back into place. Kyrie mentally braced herself for what he could divulge to her.
“Perhaps when I agreed to come visit, I underestimated the gravity of the living situation here. From what I understand, you and Nero are… happy.” He hesitated before he said happy, unsure what word to describe the joy he perceived.
“I agree with that sentiment,” Kyrie acknowledged cautiously. “We don’t have much, but I think the children are happy as well.”
“Exactly. If I stay here, I am an adverse entity to that happiness. Happiness was not a luxury I could afford at his age… so it is best that I vacate myself.”
“W-wait!” Kyrie panicked as Vergil motioned to get up. “Vergil, you mustn’t give up so easily on yourself and Nero!”
Vergil frowned. “But—”
“I understand you want to get closer to make things right with Nero. Or… well, make things better, perhaps. Am I wrong?”
Vergil was silent. This woman was much more perceptive than she let on.
“If you leave now, it will be so much harder to reconnect with him.” Kyrie patted his hands comfortingly. “I know you think it will be best for everyone, but give yourself a chance. And…” she turned toward the same lamp table to reach for a thick book. “I have something I’d like to show you.”
The thick book in question was actually a very dusty, antique looking photograph album. Though the album was unmarked, pale roses with even paler green vines were engraved on the front. Vergil studied it with piqued interest.
“What is this?”
“It’s our family album.” Kyrie scooted over close to Vergil and cracked it open, releasing a small cloud of dust. “Phew. Should have aired it out before you came.”
She turned a page, revealing a portrait of three people: a tall man with a short, cropped beard and hair; a young looking girl with short, auburn hair; and—
“Nero,” Vergil muttered.
Kyrie smiled fondly. “We posed for this portrait when Nero and I were inducted into the Order. I think we were about six. Credo was twelve.”
Vergil stared at his son, all bright blue eyes and silver hair that brushed his chubby cheeks, clothed in silver and white. He didn’t believe in Heaven, not by a long shot. But if angels existed, this is what one would undoubtedly look like. Something clenched at his heart.
Kyrie turned more pages, revealing more pictures of both her and Nero. “Here’s Nero’s first day of Sunday school. Oh, in this picture, Nero was chosen to be an alter server—his first and last time. But this is the first day I was a choir girl, so we had our portrait painted, again.”
As she flipped pages, there was one that caught his eye specifically—instead of a painted portrait made for album size glossy photograph was in the slipcover. The caption underneath read: “Summer at the beach.” No longer a child, a silver haired young man in a hoodie and beach trunks was posing with a sandcastle half his height. A half smile, half frown graced his features, as if he wasn’t quite sure what to do with his face.
The photograph was slightly faded, but Vergil unmistakably identified the blue, shiny skin peeking out of Nero’s arm.
“Ah…” Kyrie noticed him staring. “That was a long time after his arm changed. Credo got us a camera so we took pictures at the beach one summer. I really had to convince him to take a picture,” she recalled, melancholy coloring her voice. “He didn’t want anybody to see it.”
“I see…” Vergil murmured. He was more or less taking in Nero’s arm and transfixed on his face. Vergil barely remembered how he himself looked as a child, but the features Nero had felt If that made sense. Vergil felt like nothing really made sense anymore.
The uncertain look on older Nero’s face contrasted with the downturned childlike frown in his younger portraits sparked something within Vergil’s cold, dusty heart. It had a long time since had felt… affection for something. Or someone.
“May I peruse this,” Vergil asked.
Kyrie smiled and carefully lifted the heavy album into Vergil’s lap. “Take all the time you need. I’m going to check on the kids outside.”
She left the living room, and Vergil paged through the album with renewed interest. Nero at his first fencing lesson. Nero and Kyrie posing at a church service with the order. Nero in his best Sunday school clothes… Nero’s broad, mischievous grin filling up the frame… Nero, Nero, Nero. Vergil’s heart clenched.
Something whispered in his ear, a phantom with no name. This is your child’s proof of his existence. An absolute proof he exists, and continues to exist, and will exist. You have a burden of twenty years to carry, forevermore.
Vergil shooed the phantom away. Maybe twenty years lost would take a lifetime, he answered. So I’ll start here.
Chapter 3: 4.
Whatever had conspired between Kyrie and Vergil the previous day had changed Kyrie, because early the next morning Nero heard scuffling sounds from the garage. He initially assumed it was Nico, but soon a triumphant Kyrie had emerged into the living room with an old shoebox while Nero polished a spare Devil Breaker. She had unearthed an old disposable camera from when they were teenagers. Nero remembered Credo brought it back from a pilgrimage from the mainland and the two of them had used it for seemingly months on end. Unfortunately, such a thing was contraband in the olden days and had hastily been buried behind religious tomes back when they still lived in the Order sponsored house.
“Oh, wow, I remember this,” Nero said fondly, putting down his weapon and turning the old camera over in his fingers. The black and yellow color scheme brought back memories of them snapping photos of everything they could possibly find, including themselves. If he remembered correctly, Nero himself had some questionable (but undeveloped) rolls of film hidden in their room. “What’s the occasion?”
Kyrie smiled broadly, linking her fingers behind her back. “Something reminded me of it yesterday, so I woke up extra early to find it.”
“Whoa, is the film still good in this?” He popped open the back, inspecting the black film stock. “I haven’t seen this in like, fifteen years, babe.”
“Nico bought some for me last time you both went to the mainland,” Kyrie explained. “I have a huge stock of ‘em now.”
Nero returned the camera to Kyrie. “I’m just saying this, but you should definitely start taking candids of me now. Let’s do this pose first.” He twisted his face into a scowl reminiscent of a teenage delinquent and put a middle finger up. Kyrie giggled and held the camera steady, snapping a photo. Some things never change, she thought fondly.
“Okay, next one,” Nero beamed. “For the next pic I’ll bust out my Devil Trigger and—”
“Actually,” Kyrie interrupted, “I didn’t just get it to take photos of you, Mr. Vanity. I wanted to start taking pictures of you and Vergil—together!”
Nero visibly deflated, his cockiness dissipating. “Oh. With him?”
“Yes,” Kyrie said, a hint of exasperation clouding her face. “With your father. I thought you wanted to get closer to him. Taking pictures is a perfect type of bonding. Remember when we used to take pictures with Credo all the time? Even when he wasn’t expecting it?”
“But that was with Credo,” Nero whined. “I don’t even know if Vergil likes getting his picture taken.” He paused. “Would he even show up in a picture?”
Kyrie laughed. “Aren’t you also half-demon? I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of something else. You showed up in your baby pictures, so I’m sure Vergil will appear.”
Still, even as Kyrie left the room to gather the rest for photographic opportunities, Nero had his doubts. Come to think of it, he had never seen Dante in a photograph. What made Kyrie so sure?
“Nero, that face is unbecoming of you.”
Nero spun around in his chair to see Vergil himself entering through the patio door, Yamato in hand. It occurred to Nero he had never seen him without his royal blue coat before; he had donned a sleeveless indigo tunic that seemed to sport a scale-like texture and matching fencing pants. Judging from the sweat gathered on his forehead and upper biceps, he must have been awake long before Nero and Kyrie; Nero guessed training with the spare dummies he kept in the garage. To be honest, Nero was a little taken aback to be too angry at the jab at his expression—this guy was really handsome. Although, Nero noted, with his hair slightly drooping from the humidity, he resembled Dante more than ever.
“I’d say the same for you, ‘cause you’re looking a lot like Uncle Dante right now after five minutes of exercising,” Nero prodded. Vergil just gave him the stink eye. (Or in Nero’s opinion, how he always looks at him.)
“Foolish brat,” he said instead. “Your verbal jabs require skill to even scratch me.”
“That’s why you’re here, Dad,” Nero smirked. “So I can get in some training next time I have to trash talk some demons.”
Vergil opened his mouth to reply when suddenly a blinding light filled the kitchen. Both father and son attempted to shield their eyes from the surprise attack.
“What the -- ??!” Nero yelped.
Vergil grunted, clutching onto Yamato tightly for protection.
When the light faded, it was Nico that stood before them in the kitchen’s doorway, holding Kyrie’s camera in her tattooed hands. Vergil was reminded of a jack o’lantern with how big and toothy she smiled at her unsuspecting victims.
“Surprise!” Nico singsonged. “Guess who has camera privileges!”
Vergil clucked his tongue in disapproval. “Sneak attacks are reserved for the lowest of the low.”
Nico smiled. Nero was too busy rubbing his eyes, also distraught.
“Fucking… did you really have to turn on the flash,” he grumbled. “And why’d Kyrie give you the camera!”
“For your information,” Nico began, putting her hands on her hips defensively, “Kyrie gave me the privilege of taking pics for y’all as long as yer daddy is visiting! And she knows I’m a pro at lighting and angles an’ all that!”
Nero would argue otherwise, but he was still uncomfortably blinking out sunspots to pursue the matter. “Whatever. Just tell me next time you’re taking a picture!”
“Of course. An’ Vergil,” Nico continued, rounding on him, “just let me know what side of the face ye like best!”
Vergil stiffened. “I’ve never had my picture taken before… ever. Leave me out of this foolishness, or I’ll break that machinery in half. Excuse me.”
He left the room, making a beeline for the umbrella stand. Nero hoped that Vergil would do good on that promise.
But that incident was not the end of Nico’s paparazzi career.
“Say cheese!” she chortled, snapping a picture of Nero bending over, and getting a perfectly framed shot of his curved ass.
“I’m going to kill you!”
Click, click, click went Nico’s shutter in the backyard, in the kitchen, and pointed at Vergil sitting on the couch perusing an old Sparda religious text.
“Lookin’ good, papi,” she tittered, giving him a thumbs up.
Vergil ignored her. Think of Nero, think of Nero, think of Nero… he forced himself to chant over and over inside his head.
Later that day, it took several hours and much haranguing from Kyrie to gather the kids, Nero, and Vergil in the same space—which was, Kyrie decided, the patio for maximum sunlight.
“It’s called golden hour, Nero,” she argued, pushing him closer to Vergil. “It’ll make the group picture look so much better.” She looked him up and down as a sculptor would scrutinize a sculpture that didn’t seem quite right. “Maybe it’ll finally give you some color in your features for once.”
Vergil took a look at him too, analyzing his face with those frosty blue eyes. “She’s right,” he said.
“You’re just as pale as me,” Nero snipped. “I have your genes, remember!”
“Just put your arm around Vergil’s shoulders and stay quiet,” Kyrie ordered, gathering Carlo from Julio’s arms. “And smile! Kyle, come here and stand in front of Uncle Vergil… Julio, you stand next to me.” Settling herself between Julio and Kyle, Kyrie turned her gaze toward Nico, who was sizing up the unlucky participants.
“Ready?” Nico asked, clearly itching to waste as much camera film as possible.
“I think so.” Kyrie glanced at the two boys beside her, and then toward Nero and Vergil, who were clearly avoiding each other’s gazes. “Nero,” she hissed. “Shoulder!”
Nero scowled. Nico unfortunately noticed this.
“Nero, I see your face! Fix it!”
Vergil looked at Nero. Nero turned to Vergil. Both of them stared at each other, unimpressed at this photo op. The sun was definitely getting in their eyes. Luckily Kyrie was too busy trying to settle the boys to ask Nero if he was ready.
“Well?” Vergil asked, almost as if he challenging Nero in the battlefield.
“I have only sat for portraits before, but I suggest we settle… this so it will be over as quickly as possible,” Vergil said, trying to blink away the sun and be as serious about this situation as he could.
“Okay, ready!” Kyrie announced. She was holding the littlest boy on her lap while Julio and Kyle flanked her sides, throwing up peace signs.
This was Nero’s cue, and as much as he hated it now, well, he’ll do it so they won’t have to do it again. Before Nico could go trigger-happy on the shutter button, he cautiously flung an arm around Vergil’s bare shoulders. Dammit, he was still wearing that ugly sleeveless thing and in the direct sun, he wasn’t even breaking a sweat!
“Say cheese!” Nico announced, and before the boys could chant “Cheeeeeese,” she began snapping photo after photo until she announced the counter had gone all the way down to zero.
“Great job everyone,” she cheered, and the spell was broken. The kids fled the scene and Nero and Vergil took one, two, three steps apart, as if they’d been burned. Kyrie excitedly went over to Nico, babbling excitedly about the photos, making promises up and down they’d be developed as soon as possible.
Nero felt sweaty and blinded by this so-called golden hour. Not exactly a winning combination.
A few hours later, at the dinner table, everyone was present except Nico.
“Where’s Auntie Nico?” Kyle asked. It was a miracle he could be understood because a chunk of bread was peeking out of his mouth.
“Developing the photos she took today, and don’t talk with your mouth full,” Kyrie said, spooning more pasta onto Julio’s plate. “She’ll be here soon.”
Nero gave a satisfied sigh as he pushed away his plate. Nero always ate Kyrie’s dinners to the point he could just fall asleep at the dinner table. She always made way too much food but Nero never minded. When Nico began staying with them, she gushed on about marrying Kyrie and snatching her up for herself, which definitely didn’t sit right with Nero at first—how could somebody just come in and try to steal his Kyrie?! He had come to peace with Nico’s personality long ago, but now… he took a sidelong glance at Vergil, who was diligently chewing his food. If Kyrie’s cute, smart, and bright personality didn’t win Vergil over, her cooking definitely could. And what if he had the same idea as Nico, back then…?
Nero imagined fighting Vergil in a heated battle over Kyrie in their backyard in his post meal haze. “I’ll kill you, old man,” he’d say, summoning his Devil Bringer. “You went too far this time…”
He was so sleepy he almost missed Vergil asking Kyrie if she could pass the salad.
“Here you go,” Kyrie said, handing the bowl to Vergil. “May I ask how you’re enjoying the food?” she added, a little shyly.
Vergil spooned some spinach and tomato on his plate, and then looked directly at Kyrie. “This meal is more than satisfactory.”
A smile blossomed on her face. “I’m honored...! Thank you so much, Vergil. Hearing that from Nero’s own father, well… I’ll work twice as hard tomorrow,” she promised.
Vergil nodded. “I look forward to it.”
Nero leaned forward in his chair and scowled at the both of them. Before he had a chance to open his big mouth, Nico burst into the room excitedly, clutching a small envelope. “Hey y’all! Look what I got! Sorry I’m late for dinner, Kyrie.”
“Oh!” Kyrie exclaimed. “You developed the pictures already?”
“You bet,” Nico said, puffing her chest proudly. “I had some leftover demon blood in my reserves to get a few of them to show! And lookit this one,” she said, handing the envelope over to Kyrie. “I’m gonna wash up and be right back,” she said, and left the room. Kyrie eagerly opened the envelope and pulled out a glossy photograph.
“How’s it look?” Nero asked, craning his neck to look over Kyrie’s shoulder.
Kyrie scanned it and her face instantly fell.
“What? I can’t look that bad,” Nero joked.
“It’s not you… well… see for yourself,” Kyrie said, obviously disappointed. She handed the photograph to Nero, who wiped his hands carefully with his napkin and accepted the glossy print.
It seemed fairly normal, and much of it he already expected. The kids were standing by Kyrie, who was kneeling with baby Carlo. Behind them stood Vergil and Nero, with his arm slung around Vergil’s broad shoulders. While Kyrie and the kids were smiling from ear to ear, their features accentuated in the sun, Nero was definitely squinting, a mixture of a grimace and a smile plastered on his face. And Vergil—
He couldn’t see Vergil’s face at all. It was completely bleached out by the sunlight, leaving only a fit body with its arms hanging at its sides. Not even his coiffed hair survived the golden hour.
“Did Nico put the flash on?” Nero asked, trying to study what exactly happened that caused this phenomenon.
“No, I made sure it was off…” Kyrie bit her lip. “I’m so disappointed. Your first picture together and this happens!” She lowered her voice. “Don’t show him this, or he’ll be just as upset.”
“You’re worrying too much,” Nero assured her, dropping his voice as well. “I didn’t think he’d show in the picture, anyway.”
Kyrie rolled her eyes. “He’s not a vampire!”
“That we know of,” Nero reasoned.
Kyrie stabbed her pasta with her fork. This wouldn’t end here, not by a long shot.
Chapter 4: 3.
“Uncle,” Julio said, “I’d really like some ice cream.”
Vergil stares at the kid over his morning Earl Grey. “It is ten a.m. on a Saturday,” is his terse response.
Translation: it’s too early for this shit. He’s not exactly fond of being called “uncle” either, and hopes it dies off fast. He’s barely forty, and he doesn’t look that old… well, the fact Dante was sporting shaggy hair and a five o’clock shadow when he saw his mug might be indicative of something he won’t acknowledge.
“Nero says that on weekends, we can have ice cream whenever we want,” Julio explains. He stares at his cup of water and looks at Vergil’s teacup. “I have bigger,” he proclaims to no one. “Bigger than Uncle Vergil!”
Vergil ignores this. “It is ten a.m. You can wait a few hours.”
Julio pouts. “Nico gave me ice cream at eight o’clock once. In the morning.”
Vergil puts his cup to his lips and drinks deeply. “Foolishness,” he muttered under his breath. “Ice cream isn’t a breakfast food… it’s a dessert.”
Vergil clears his throat, ready to educate this poor child. “You must learn patience,” he said audibly. “You are but yet a child.”
Julio’s face contorts. “I’m not a baby. Kyrie says I’m a big boy.” As if to prove his, he chugs his glass of water until nothing is left.
“Then act like a big boy,” Vergil snips, and downs his tea as well. On cue, Kyrie walks in, still very drowsy. Her hair is sticking up and she’s still wearing her floral pajama bottoms with a long shirt. Vergil suddenly finds his empty teacup very interesting.
“Good morning,” she yawns. “Where is everybody?”
Julio scampers out of his chair and runs to Kyrie, hugging her legs. “Kyrie,” he whines. “Uncle said I’m a baby!”
“Oh,” Kyrie yawns again, reaching for the teapot. “Why would he say that?”
“Because…” Julio glances at Vergil before he continues, “I don’t know.”
“Let’s ask him, then,” she acquiesces. “Uncle Vergil?”
Vergil looks up, mentally bracing himself for foolishness. “Yes?”
“Would you like some more Earl Grey?”
Or maybe not. “Perhaps just a little.”
Kyrie pours the hot water in his teacup and glances at Julio. “By the way, Julio told me you called him a child. Is that true?”
“I did,” Vergil admitted.
“Oh? Could you explain why?”
“I informed him that ice cream is not to be consumed so early,” Vergil said, feeling a bit childish. He was getting a sense of déjà vu ratting out Julio, almost like he used to do with Dante to Eva.
“Hmm,” Kyrie said, pretending to be deep in thought. She turned to Julio, who was at this point, caught in his tracks. “This sounds familiar. I remember the rule here being ice cream is okay after seven p.m. on weekends. Did Nero change the rules?”
Julio shook his head. “Nico said she changed the rules,” he admitted.
Kyrie’s eyes glittered. “I suppose that means it’s Nico’s turn to buy ice cream.”
Julio cheered, giving the air a fist pump. “Yay! With Uncle Vergil!”
Vergil, who had mostly tuned out of the conversation, almost spit out the dredges of his tea.
“Oh, Julio, I don’t know. Uncle Vergil is still resting from his long trip,” Kyrie explained, fully registering Vergil’s surprise. “Remember I told everyone Uncle Vergil was gone for a long time, and he might be tired?”
“Yeah, but…” Julio pouted. “I know Uncle Vergil can give Auntie Nico some money—”
“Julio,” Kyrie warned, but Vergil had already overheard. She grimaced, apologetic. “I’m sorry, Vergil.”
“It is no need to worry,” Vergil said, surprising himself for speaking up. “I have a little pocket money for ice cream.”
Kyrie’s eyes widened as Julio cheered. “Are you sure? While it’s a nice gesture, I don’t want to put you on the spot like that.”
“It’s fine,” Vergil said, reaching for his tea. “I suppose it would be a nice surprise.”
“I’ll tell Nico you’ll go out to the market later,” Kyrie said. “And thank you,” she added. “Say thank you too, Julio!”
“Thank you Uncle Vergil,” Julio singsonged. “And my favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate!”
He drank his tea deeply. Vergil wondered if that’s how the children saw him: a mysterious, expensive looking man sweeping into town, pulling out his wallet for luxurious their caretakers could rarely afford. He did have a little money saved from a time he couldn’t remember, and Dante had even forced a couple bills on him before he left. “For the kids,” he had said, but Vergil had no idea which kids he had been referring to at the time—his biological child, or the orphans Nero had mentioned over the phone. In this case, he supposed both fit the bill.
“Okay, so that’s vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, and chocolate chip cookie dough,” Nico ticked off from Kyrie’s grocery list later that day. Vergil was in her van, sitting in the passenger’s seat. “All pints. No tubs!” she glanced at Vergil. “I doubt you could afford one, anyway.”
Vergil glared. “What exactly does that mean?”
“’Cause you look broke, V,” Nico said snottily. “I can smell how broke you are.”
“Let’s just go,” Vergil grumped, feeling too much like Dante at the moment.
“Say,” Nico said, revving up the van. “Can you split in two again? I always wanted to ask. But I betcha Kyrie’d be mad if I said anythin’.”
Vergil looked out the window as they drove down to the busy Fortuna market. It had been a long, long time since he had been here… seemed like absolutely nothing had changed. But what he remembered was very little.
“If I did, it wouldn’t be my choice,” came his terse reply.
Nico rummaged around for a cigarette. “Hmmmmm,” was all she said. Soon Vergil could smell tobacco filtering through the van.
“Repugnant,” Vergil muttered, the scent filling his nostrils. “How do I open the window,” he asked.
“Just press that little black button right there,” Nico said, pointing to it without taking her eyes off the road. “Man. Like son, like father, huh? Can’t smoke nowhere without complaining.”
Vergil pressed it, and watched as the glass came down and a rush of cool summer air filtered into the car.
“Smoking is a hazard,” Vergil answered snippily.
“So’s taking a fuckin sword to go shopping, old man.”
Vergil snorted. “You never know what may happen.”
“Yeah, whatever.” Nico made sure a plume of smoke blew in Vergil’s direction as they pulled up to the foreign goods market. According to Kyrie and Nico, it was one of the few places in Fortuna that sold ice cream the kids liked.
They piled out of the van, Nico stomping out her cigarette underheel as soon as she locks the car. “Ready, V?”
“Lead the way,” Vergil nodded. Nico gave a humph and walked away, Vergil trailing after her.
If there was a few things he remembered about this port city, it was that there were hardly any stores in Fortuna; the “market” was composed of open air stalls. Many foreign merchants had set up their wares in the foreign goods market, advertising (and hiking up the prices of) various wares that couldn’t be easily obtained in Fortuna. And just as he vaguly remembered, it was very crowded. His left hand traveled to Yamato protectively. He refused to leave home without it, no matter how trivial the matter.
“Here’s the one,” Nico said, stopping at a stall that had erected a canopy over its wares. A cartoonish ice cream with a winking face adorned the sign, which Vergil could roughly make out to say “Ice cream”. Coolers littered behind the merchant, who was busy fanning himself.
“Hiya,” Nico said. “Can I have…” she rattled off the list Kyrie gave her.
The merchant nodded. “For all of that, it’ll be fifty.”
“Fifty!” Nico exclaimed. She turned to Vergil, who was trying to will himself not to burn in the sun. “Did ya hear that?” she lowered her voice. “You got enough? I have twenty.” She pulled out a fistful of bills and began counting.
“Fifty… that’s quite a bit for ice cream.” Vergil frowned.
Nico shrugged. “You can try haggling, but these merchants aren’t very kind to that. Just best to shut up and pony up.”
Vergil gritted his teeth, giving in to the inevitable. He pulled out his wallet, counting exactly forty bills, including the money Dante had leant him. “Give me ten and I’ll pay.”
“Thanks papi V,” Nico said sweetly.
“Don’t call me that,” Vergil said, accepting the money and handing it over. The merchant counted the bills twice and ducked under his stall for a paper bag. After the merchant deposited the ice cream pints in the bag, he handed it over to Vergil.
“Thank you,” Vergil said, and turned on his heel.
“Oh hey, wait for me!” Nico jogged to catch up with Vergil, who began walking briskly through the throngs of people. “Jeez, you never waste time, huh? Done and done with everything.”
“If we linger, the ice cream will melt,” he pointed out. He could feel a pleasant chill through the paper bag, and held it a little closer to his chest.
“I got a fridge, but you’re right,” Nico panted. “It’s hot as balls out here.”
They walked briskly back to the van, which upon arriving, Vergil noticed for the first time was parked in the middle of the street.
“What?” Nico asked, noticing the dark expression on Vergil’s face. “Aw, don’t be mad. Fortuna don’t got cops anyway! I can’t get a ticket! C’mon in, the A/C still works.”
Vergil climbed in, making a beeline for the mini fridge. It was full of beer, but he carefully made room for the tiny ice cream pints. One for Julio, Kyle, Carlo, Nero, and Nico. Kyrie had said she didn’t want any, but Vergil had a feeling everyone would be falling over themselves to give her a bite.
“Lets gooooo,” Nico droned, revving the engine to annoy him.
“I’m coming,” Vergil said, and walked briskly into the passenger seat. Nico revved the engine a third time, and finally the van came to life.
They rode back in near silence, Vergil watching the blurry sameness of downtown Fortuna pass by him as Nico chain-smoked in eagerness on his left. He tried to conjure anything substantial at all of his time here, but his memories were as tangible as Nico’s cigarette’s smoke lifting lazily through the enclosed space.
“Hey, V. I gotta question for you,” Nico’s voice drifted into his ear. “About your sword. Yamato, right? I read about it a few months ago.”
“What about it?” Vergil discreetly opened the window again. His eyes were watering.
“My daddy wrote about it in his notes. He used to work for the Order. Did a bit of research on it.” Nico stubbed out her cigarette.
This stirred something in Vergil’s memory. Something Nero had mentioned to him the other day. “Your father… the same one that made Nero’s sword?”
“Yeap. Agnus was his name. He did a few experiments on your sword there… but he didn’t last very long doin’ that.” Nico gave a short, cold laugh.
“Yamato remembers,” Vergil said automatically. He could feel Yamato pulsate under his fingertips, talking to him; speaking in a language only he could understand. “Yes… your father, the one-eyed scientist. But then my brother defeated him.”
“He sure did,” Nico agreed, speeding over a pothole. “Damn road,” she cursed. “Anyway… what I been meaning to ask if I could take a look at her. That sword’s got a long history behind it!”
Vergil glanced at her. “You’re joking.”
“Nah, I’m serious,” Nico insisted. “My daddy didn’t do a single thing right by me but leave me his research, and even that wasn’t a present. All those papers was stuff Nero gave me!”
Vergil turned toward the window again, wind tousling his perfectly coiffed hair (though the sun had already did a number on it). He and Agnus, despite never meeting him, had too much in common for him that he also didn’t want to acknowledge. But Vergil was given a second chance in a way: here he was, heading back to his son’s house in breakneck speed in a van that definitely wasn’t up to known safety codes.
“What’dya say Vergil? I promise I’ll treat her right,” Nico assured him.
“I think I’ll pass,” Vergil said sullenly.
“What if I gave you Nero’s ice cream?” she bribed.
“If I wanted it I would have ate it already. And yours.”
“Damn… you’re really a final boss kinda guy.” Nico clicked her tongue. “No remorse for your baby boy!”
“Don’t refer to him as a baby.” That made him feel even worse.
When they got back to the house and brought in the ice cream, Nero and the kids cheered. For a second, as Nico passed out the pints from Vergil’s shopping bag, he felt inexplicably—happy? Wanted? Acknowledged?
When a chorus of thank yous rang out from the kids, Nero gave him a clap on the shoulder.
“Thanks, Dad,” he said.
“It is no trouble,” Vergil said, but his heart felt lighter than it had in Nico’s van.
He thought about what he and Nico discussed, how Agnus had left her with virtually nothing upon his death, but it was Nero that bequeathed her his research. He watched as Nero spoonfed a blushing and giggly Kyrie his chocolate chip ice cream, thinking about something he could give Nero. Yamato was out of the question. Vergil virtually had no earthly possessions.
This required the input of a Nero expert.
Chapter 5: 2.
“Kyrie, I have a run into a problem.”
A day later, Vergil sat down next Kyrie, who was flipping through a magazine Nero had procured the last time he was on the mainland. It was a rare moment where no one was home; Nero and Nico had taken the kids on some excursion.
But Kyrie had forgotten one thing: her bumbling in-law was still in the house, lurking just out of earshot. And was now interrupting her me-time. Her don’t-disturb-me-for-anything time.
“Hi, Vergil,” Kyrie says, hoping this problem isn’t going to require her to leave the couch. She was even planning on catnapping today. “What’s going on?”
Vergil looked like he was about to break into what Nero would call “a freak out”: an aggravated state of being in which one is pensive, nervous, and looking ready to fight someone at any time.
“I have a problem,” he repeated. “It concerns Nero.”
“Okay,” Kyrie began uncertainly. “Is everything okay with him?”
“It’s not about Nero’s state of being,” he explained. “It’s about our relationship.”
Kyrie hummed in understanding. In the days she had known this man, and the years she had known his son, she felt like she was beginning to understand their extremely dysfunctional relationship. It was a pity Credo wasn’t around to see Nero’s flesh and blood sitting on a couch, wringing his hands over his long lost adult son.
“I would like to give Nero a gift. But what should I give him? I have not known him but two months.” Vergil seemed deeply disturbed at this self-revelation. “Dante told me to bring a housewarming gift, but at the time I had nothing to give anyone. Now… I’m feeling… inadequate. As a guest. And a father.”
Kyrie studied him closely. Normally, Vergil had an annoyed to neutral expression permanently stuck on his face. This was the first time he seemed genuinely perturbed about, well, anything. “Okay. Well. I’ve given him clothes before, and he liked that.” She thought about this for a second. “But he’s always liked all my presents.”
“I think there is an implicit bias here,” Vergil pointed out.
“You’re right,” Kyrie agreed. “For instance, I’ve never tried to rip his arm off. I think that would put me in his good favor.”
She knew she wasn’t making this easier for him, but it gave her a kind of sick pleasure to see Vergil suffer under her gaze.
“You are correct, but I require advice.” Vergil said tersely. “Anything.” He paused. “Please.”
Kyrie looked at him almost sympathetically. She closed her magazine and faced Vergil directly. “I’ll give you some honest advice, Vergil. I believe anything you give Nero from the heart will be something he will cherish. I agree it’s hard to give him gifts, but think about your own childhood. Is there something your father gave you you’ve never forgotten? Perhaps it’s best to start there.”
Vergil mulled over her words. There seemed to be something on the tip of Vergil’s tongue after a while, but he pulled back. “There… is something that comes to mind. Although it was not exactly from my father, it’s a memory I have cherished.”
“There you go,” Kyrie said encouragingly. “Start from there. Think about that something special and how it made you feel. Think of whatever you’ll give Nero as a vessel you want to communicate your feelings with.”
Vergil nodded, mostly to himself, as he rose from the couch. “Thank you for your advice, Kyrie. I shall step out for the time being, and return with a present.”
“Good luck,” Kyrie said, already settling back with her magazine. She heard Vergil retrieve his sword and the click of the door closing. Kyrie breathed a long, deep sigh. When she met Nero all those years ago, it had never really occurred to her that she would one day actually meet his family. It seemed Nero’s mother was completely out of the picture; Vergil had never mentioned her once, and Nero never seemed to push the subject. Dante was an entirely different beast on his own: Vergil’s polar opposite, he seemed to want to chat endlessly on the phone about the most mundane subjects. But it certainly made her life more interesting.
Kyrie flipped a page, but she wasn’t reading anymore. Vergil and his quest for a present was firmly on her mind. He couldn’t imagine what he could bring home, especially if it happened to be alive… when Nico and Nero returned from their most recent adventure, Nico proudly showed her a field book of all the demons, creatures, and other weird beings Nero had encountered. Needless to say, she was pretty disgusted.
“And look at this one,” Nico said, tapping a picture of a small, shell like creature with pink tentacles flailing from its belly. “It’s called a Nidhogg hatchling! Ain’t this critter cute?”
“Um…” Kyrie studied the picture, trying to find where the cute part of it was. “No.”
“Awww,” Nico whined. “You and Nero are both stick in the muds, I tell ya. I told him to bring me home some, but he said ‘hell no’!”
Kyrie shivered just at the thought of those critters crawling around their house, tentacles feeling up every surface they creeped along the floor. For some reason, she had a feeling Vergil would bring home something just as ghastly and offer it to Nero as a pet. Sure, she was taught from an early age the teachings of Sparda, but the fact Vergil was his living, breathing, son… who knew what sort of “presents” Sparda could have dug up from Hell to entertain his children?
She closed the magazine in defeat. Fuck it; she wasn’t getting any reading done today. Vergil had ruined her mood and clouded her thoughts with all those whatifs. It was time for a well-deserved nap. Kyrie tossed the magazine on the floor and found a blanket thrown over the couch. Settling in with the cleanest throw pillow she could find, Kyrie pulled the blanket up to her chin and closed her eyes. Finally.
Time seemed to pass very slowly. Kyrie hadn’t set an alarm or anything. In this house, a catnap was a luxury she often couldn’t afford, even though Nero helped out with what he could. Kyrie fell asleep thinking about what they could do tomorrow together. Vergil had mentioned yesterday he would be going back soon. Shall they have a picnic together? That might be nice. Get the kids out of the house and let them run around. Maybe sneak in a few more pictures.
Kyrie was dreaming about Nero feeding her a very creamy piece of cheesecake when a little hand started shaking her awake.
“…rie… Ky… Kyrie!”
Kyrie opened her eyes blearily. She could almost taste that cheesecake. “Mm…?”
Kyle was there, his eyes wide. Julio was holding Carlo, equally wide-eyed. “Kyrie! You gotta come outside!” he insisted.
“What happened?” she asked, stretching her arms.
“It’s Uncle Vergil,” Julio said. That got Kyrie’s attention right away. “He’s back.”
Oh no. Visions of disgusting hatchlings crawling on Nico’s van flashed before her eyes. She slipped on her shoes and got up from the couch.
“Let’s go see what Uncle Vergil brought, huh?” she said, plastering on her best smile.
Don’t screw this up, Uncle Vergil.
Chapter 6: 1.
Nero was speechless. Nico was laughing, tears threatening to run down her face. The kids had bounded into the house, eager to retrieve Kyrie. And Vergil – fucking Vergil, with that shit eating grin on his face, so fucking proud of what he had brought home, when Nero and Nico and the kids had only been gone a couple hours. Nero’s brain conjured his eternal image of a smug Dante he’s had for so long and compared it to Vergil’s current expression. Now, he realized, they were definitely related.
“What do you think, Nero? This is for you! All for you!”
Nero stared. The tricycle seemed to glint in the sun. With a royal blue paint job complete with a white seat, white tires, and blue pedals, Nero wondered if Vergil had shapeshifted and was projecting his corporeal body just to embarrass him in front of everybody.
“I think it’s a fucking tricycle, Vergil.”
Vergil nodded, still proud. “Rejoice, my son. It is a tricycle, and in your favorite color.”
Nico had fallen to the ground in hysterics.
“Vergil…” How to say this as nicely as possible? It fucking sucks, my guy.
“Yes, my son?” Vergil said. His eyes, stance, everything oozed regality. “I shall fully accept your accolades.”
“Vergil, this is a bicycle for a child.” Nero coughed. “A literal child. A small child!”
Now the smile had faded from his father’s face. “Is that a problem? I was informed you do not possess the ability to ride a bicycle. As a young child, I learned to ride a bicycle with three wheels until my parents deemed me ready for a two-wheel bike. This—” he gestured grandly to the tricycle sitting before them “—will increase your skillset until you master the balance of a two wheel bicycle. You are so lucky to have me, who will train you until you are ready.”
Nero stared. Senility was hitting this guy hard. Even worse, Nero could understand what he was saying.
“I’m not riding a fucking tricycle,” Nero huffed, crossing his arms. “I’d rather ride a motorcycle like Dante. Have you seen it? It’s pretty cool.”
This only served to deepen Vergil’s frown. “Dante’s motorcycle… yes, I’ve seen it. A truly inelegant mode of transportation. A bicycle – nay, in this case, a tricycle – is much more efficient. In olden days, the most noble of rulers enjoyed cycling.”
“I am. Not. Riding this tricycle!”
Oh no. The kids managed to get Kyrie involved in this… whatever the fuck this was. He turned in horror to Kyrie, who had now approached the offending tricycle with guarded interest… but as she stood by it, examining the blue and silver steamers that hung like pigtails off the handlebars, her expression changed.
“Oh… oh,” was all she said. Nero couldn’t exactly pinpoint her expression: it was a mix of uncertainty and bemusement tinged with relief.
Vergil approached the tricycle as well, placing a hand proudly on the seat. “Look, Kyrie. Is it not a present fit for the scion of the Sparda lineage?”
“I would say…” Kyrie paused, collecting her words. “I would say that it’s a unique present. I assume you took this inspiration from your childhood?”
“Certainly,” Vergil responded. “I was four years old when my father gifted me an irreplaceable tricycle. I practiced day in and day out to master the tripedal centrifugal force of such an exquisite complex machine. My mother would watch me practice pushing the pedals, while my father would survey my progress atop the roof. Of course, my brother also was gifted one, though he used it for more nefarious purposes.”
“Hit and runs, maybe?” Nico sniggered. Kyrie’s descent upon the gift had revitalized her and she too approached the tricycle, checking the tires and prodding the pedals with her boot. Nero felt his soul slowly rise from his body. He couldn’t believe everyone had fallen under Vergil’s ridiculous spell—over a fucking child’s bicycle.
“Dante often tried to crash into me with his tricycle, upheaving me from my training. In retaliation, I tried to puncture his tires. But he found me out before I could deflate even one, so we fought.” Vergil smiled fondly at the memory. “Mother hid the tricycles, but we were back to practicing in a few days’ time.”
“That’s a great story and all,” Nero interrupted, “but I’m still lost on the whole tricycle thing? Has anybody realized I’m a grown ass man?”
Vergil glared. His hand had begun to move down to his waist, hovering dangerously over his scabbard. “You are but a boy, and boys need training to become men. Summoning your inner demonic strength is child’s play compared to mastering the cadence of cycling.”
“I’ll teach you something new,” Nero hissed, narrowing his eyes. “I’ve been playing the part all week, but now—”
“Nero!” Kyrie exclaimed, eyes flashing in a panic. “Come here,” she pulled on his arm.
“Vergil, could you give us a minute,” Kyrie said quickly, dragging Nero off near Nico’s van. Nero tried to protest, but settled for glaring at his father from afar.
“Nero,” Kyrie began, rubbing his arm consolingly, “I need you to take a few deep breaths and calm down. I don’t want any fighting today.”
Nero was still huffy but obliged, the color draining from his face.
“Okay. You good?”
“No,” Nero said, still irritated. “Kyrie, he got me a fucking kid’s bike as a present. How am I supposed to fit on that thing!”
“Nero, look at it this way—were you listening to what he said? Vergil said that he had a bicycle like that too.” Kyrie’s eyes grew wide, hopeful. “He gave you something he cherished when he was a kid, something his parents gave him and Dante.”
“But…” Nero lowered his voice. “But it’s so embarrassing. I’m already in my twenties and he wants me to sit on that? I’m gonna break it.”
Kyrie rolled her eyes. “Your butt is a lot smaller than you think,” she said. “Listen, I know you’re embarrassed and put off by the tricycle but just see it as it is: a gift. From your father. He came to me for advice. He said ‘please’. He’s putting effort into this, no matter how juvenile it is. It’s your choice to accept it or not.”
Nero was silent, absorbing her words. He understood it was a present for him, but Vergil had gone to Kyrie, spoken to her, asked her what he should do about getting something for Nero? That Vergil didn’t seem to exist in Nero’s world. Yet here Kyrie stood, vouching for Vergil’s sincerity. Nero trusted Kyrie with his whole world.
“…I’ll sit on it,” Nero said finally. “But only to make him happy.”
“All right,” Kyrie nodded. She squeezed his upper arm encouragingly. “Let’s go.”
They returned to the small crowd around the tricycle, Vergil and Nico deep in conversation about its various parts and gears. Kyle was sitting on it proudly as Julio watched enviously, still holding Carlo.
“…I think it definitely needs a decal, or something,” Nico was musing. “Whaddaya think, V? I have a few spare cartoon demons left over from my jukebox. It’ll look killer on the trike, right?”
Vergil had his arms crossed, deep in thought. “I’m not sure I agree. The streamers compliment it perfectly, I think. It doesn’t need anything extra.” He noticed Nero and Kyrie approaching the tricycle, a cautious look on his face. “Son. Kyrie.”
“Dad,” Nero acknowledged.
“Are y’all done mackin over there?” Nico teased. “Kyle’s about to break this baby in without ya!”
Nero made a face. “Give me a break.”
He turned toward Vergil. “Dad… I thought about what you said and I’d. Well.” Nero cleared his throat. “It’s true I don’t know how to ride a bicycle, so if you could show me…”
Vergil’s eyes lit up. “Certainly. We shall start your training right away.” He turned toward Kyle to shoo him off the tricycle, but the seat was already vacated. Nero noticed too and looked around for Kyrie, Nico, and the kids, but they had mysteriously vanished.
“How curious,” Vergil commented, voicing Nero’s thoughts. “But no matter. Have a seat, Nero.”
Nero obliged, sitting down on the thin bicycle seat. Ugh. It was poking into his butt. His feet went way past the pedals, sitting flat on the grass. Nero felt his body scrunch up in response to the tiny toddler contraption. He glared at the overhead sun as if cursing it.
I fucking hate this, but I’ll do it for you, Dad.
“Let’s begin,” Vergil instructed. “We shall start with the basics: sitting on the tricycle.”
“Bring it on,” Nero challenged.
It was a very long afternoon. From the house, Kyrie watched the shadows grow longer and longer as Nero's training grew more and more tedious. She hoped Nico got in a few good photos.
By the time the sun had set, Nero felt glued to the tricycle. He was sticky with sweat, being forced to stay on a toddler bike for the majority of his day. But Vergil seemed satisfied with his performance.
“Tomorrow, I shall show you how to go even faster,” he declared. “You have shown admirable progress. You are learning well—as expected from my offspring.”
Nero was too tired to come back with anything witty. Instead, he let his body sink onto the cool dewy grass. He closed his eyes, dreaming of his bed. He didn’t even move when he felt Vergil raise him by the armpits and cradle him in his arms, like he really was a kid ready to be put to bed.
I’ll let him have this, he thought.
Chapter 7: 0.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. …So it is written.
Fourteen days ago Vergil accepted a phone call to visit Nero, and seven days ago Vergil found himself knocking on their door in Fortuna. Now, after seven days of staying in their small but lively house, Vergil deemed it was his time to depart. Though he came with little, his suitcase was brimming with crayon drawings – self-portraits of the orphans, some of Nero with his old arm, and even some eerily similar still lifes of Vergil himself. All of them but Kyrie had gathered outside the house to bid him farewell, the latter citing a headache and promised would be out later.
“Nice meetin’ ya, Mr. Vergil,” Nico said, pumping Vergil’s free hand up and down with gusto. “Next time, lemme take a look at that Yamato, huh?”
She eyed Vergil’s sword hungrily. Vergil pulled away, glancing reflexively at the offending weapon.
“Over my dead body,” he responded neutrally. “Interesting to make your acquaintance.”
“Sheesh!” Nico spat. The kids laughed at her reaction.
“He’s not like Dante,” Nero laughed. “He won’t give up that so easily to your experiments.”
“You had Yamato though, once,” Nico said mournfully. “If I had just known you sooner…!”
“He kept it for me,” Vergil pointed out, not unkindly.
“Well, yeah, until you ripped off my arm.” Nero grinned.
He extended said regrown arm to his father. Vergil took his hand, and they both gave a vigorous shake.
“Maybe I did you a favor, after all,” Vergil said, a wry grin on his face. “You’re strong even without Yamato.”
“Strong enough to kick your ass around,” Nero bragged. “I think I still see my fist in your face when the light hits you every so often.”
“I’d like to see you do it again,” Vergil challenged. “Another time,” he added hastily. “A different stage. This is not a place to do battle.”
Nero grinned broadly. “Whoa, Kyrie finally rubbed off on you. She’s got you whipped beyond belief, old man.”
Vergil pressed his lips together, refusing to confirm Nero’s conjectures. Indeed, he had taken a liking to this strange yet ordinary girl. It had been a long time since he had interacted with one.
“Where is she? Still in bed?”
Nero frowned, looking toward the direction of the bedroom windows. “I don’t thi—”
He was interrupted by a slam of the back door, and mounting footsteps from the back of the house.
“Oh, here she comes!” Nico announced.
Kyrie ran up to them, obviously out of breath clutching a leather bound tome to her chest. “V-V-Vergil,” she panted. “This is for… you!”
Panting roughly, she extended the tome to Vergil. “A gift,” she wheezed. Nero put an arm around her shoulders soothingly, but Kyrie didn’t falter.
Vergil delicately took the book from Kyrie. It was similar in stature to the album in their living room, but thinner and much more new, and also had no legible title. The book’s jacket was a rich sapphire blue in color with a leathery texture.
“Open it,” Kyrie encouraged. “Nero put it together.”
“Kyrie!” Nero interjected, a blush beginning to creep through his collar.
Vergil flipped open to the first page, and felt his stomach drop in surprise. Vergil’s first visit, someone had written in neat cursive, and was dated from seven days ago. It was a photo album.
The following pages chronicled the past week, adorned by paper crafts the boys presumably had created. Nico’s photographs were the centerpieces of each page, featuring Nero, Kyrie, and of course, Vergil. Vergil saw pictures of himself scowling at the camera, or looking at his book, or cleaning ice cream off his coat while Kyrie handed him a dishtowel. There was also many, many photographs that were blurred, appeared to be upside down, or visibly have one of Nico’s fingers in the corner.
“That’s one of my favorites,” Kyrie cooed. “You and Nero look so cute together.”
She was pointing out one of Vergil that hadn’t been blurry and featured the two of them with Nero’s (now Julio’s, but Vergil didn’t need to know that) tricycle. Nero’s feet dragged on the grass while Vergil stood beside him in mid sentence, presumably lecturing him on tricycle posture.
“My ass still hurts from that,” Nero grumbled. “You made me sit on that fuckin’ tricycle for hours…”
“It is resistance training,” Vergil objected.
Vergil flipped a few more pages until he reached the last one: the group picture they took the day after Vergil arrived. He looked at it closely, frowning. Something about it was off, though he couldn’t pinpoint what…
“Oh!” Julio exclaimed, looking excitedly at the picture. “I helped Auntie Nico fix it up!” he said proudly.
“Fix it…?” Vergil repeated.
“Erm, yeah,” Nico said awkwardly. “See, the sun…” she tapped where Vergil was supposed to be standing. “I couldn’t see yer face at all. Julio kindly touched it up a bit.”
Vergil looked closer. Oh, now he could see it. Where his face should have been, scowling and squinting, was a crayon drawing of his face recreating his scowl. Steel blue capital M’s emphasized his slicked back hair, and his nose seemed a little crooked. The circle representing his head also seemed a little small. Well, artist interpretation and all that.
“Thank you,” Vergil said, unsure what else to say. Julio beamed.
“And… Nero, Kyrie. Thank you for having me,” Vergil said, lowering his head in gratitude.
Kyrie smiled warmly. “Any time you’d like to drop by, please do. Our door and phone line is open to you.”
“Yeah,” Nero said, clapping Vergil on the back. “And be ready for a rematch! Or even a bicycle race, maybe.” He suddenly grimaced. “Maybe if we save some money for that… okay, scratch that. Fighting it out is much cheaper.”
“I will come by to observe your training,” Vergil promised. “For now, I’ll go on check up on my helpless brother.”
Vergil turned away from them for a second, but then suddenly turned around. “Nero, come here,” he beckoned.
Nero stepped forward, cocking his head. “What’s—”
Before he could lose his nerve, Vergil embraced him. Nero, startled, returned it.
“My son,” he murmured. “Thank you for letting me stay with you.”
“Dad…” Nero was at a loss for words, so he hugged him tighter. No words, really, were needed. Vergil – and that pesky V that liked popping up from time to time – understood.
After a few seconds, they broke apart.
“Until next time,” Vergil said, but before Nero could rejoin the girls, he said in a low voice, “Nero. I will be expecting grandchildren in the future. Do not disappoint me.”
Nero’s face turned a tomato red. “Shut the hell up and go home!”
Vergil smirked as he unsheathed Yamato, the blade sparkling in the midday sun. Stepping a good ways away from Nero and the rest, he slashed an ‘x’ in thin air—opening up the warp for the faraway city. As he stepped through, a small voice spoke in his ear.
That wasn’t so bad, right?
Silence, Vergil shot back, but there was no bite in his words.
You’re getting soft. It might be a good look for you.
“Let’s see how soft I am when I get moldy pizza on my boots soon,” Vergil shuddered at the thought.
A few weeks later, Nico ambled into the house, clutching a pile of mail. “He-e-ey, Kyrie! You’se got a letter!”
“A letter?” Kyrie asked. She was perusing a new copy of Elle on the couch, pen in hand. Nico could see quick, sloppy circles drawn over different mascara brands an up-and-coming actress was promoting.
“Yeah.” Nico flopped herself on the couch. “It’s for Nero, too.” She looked around, noticing the house was empty for once. “Where’s everybody?”
“Nero’s in the garage,” Kyrie said, eyeing the letter with interest. “The kids went out, but Carlo is taking his afternoon nap.”
“I’ll go get ‘em,” Nico announced, tossing the letter onto the couch. She marched away toward the garage door, leaving Kyrie with the letter. She picked it up, turning it over in her hands. It was a standard paper letter envelope, nothing special about it. Except, Kyrie realized, it didn’t have a postmark. Or a stamp. Or even their address. Just their names, written in small and neat cursive. On the back was a red wax seal, stamped with a symbol Kyrie didn’t recognize.
Faintly she heard Nero’s grumbling and Nico’s nagging approach. “All right, I’m here,” Nero said peevishly as he entered. His face was full of grease, presumably giving Red Queen some maintenance. “What happened?”
Kyrie raised the mysterious letter up to Nero. “We got a letter,” she said simply. “But look—there’s nothing on it.”
Nero wiped his hands on his holey shirt before taking the letter. He looked at the back and the front, a question on the tip of his tongue.
“Do you recognize the seal?” Nico asked, looking over his shoulder.
“Nope,” Nero said. “But I don’t sense anything demonic from this. So let’s open it.”
Thumbing at the letter flap, he carefully pulled the seal off and opened the envelope. Nero pulled out a carefully folded paper and unfolded it. Something came out of the letter and fluttered down to the ground, facedown.
“‘To my son,’” Nero read, then paused, scanning the letter’s contents quickly.
Kyrie’s eyes grew wide. “Vergil?”
“Yeah. ‘To my son, and Kyrie,’” Nero began again. “He can’t even use my first name?” he grumbled.
“Keep going,” Kyrie said peevishly.
“Sorry. ‘To my son, and Kyrie. I have found great solace in the gift you bestowed upon me, so I wanted to gift something of my own. In Red Grave City, there is a relic of my childhood in a certain house on a hill. I have retrieved that relic and imparted a smaller version of it to you both for the family photo album. Trish was kind enough to show me how a camera and photo developing software works. Sincerely, Vergil.’”
“Is that it?” Nico stooped to the floor, picking up the paper that had came out of the envelope. “Ohhhh… wow!”
“Lemme see,” Nero said, discarding the letter to the couch. “Damn… what the hell, they look straight out of a history book.”
Kyrie took the opportunity to scan over Vergil’s letter. His sharp, small cursive letters perfectly matched the script on the front of the envelope. Judging from the lack of any postal stamps, it must have certainly been hand delivered.
“Kyrie, look!” Nero had tore the photo away from Nico’s hands and plopped on the couch. “I know what he’s talking about in the letter,” he said sticking the photograph under Kyrie’s nose. “When he was V, I saw the house he wanted to go to. It must’ve had this painting inside.”
Kyrie took a look. It was a painting of a family; a woman with golden hair stood adjacent to a very royal and large looking man. Beside them sat a pair of twins, one wth his white hair slicked up and the other with hair falling into his eyes. She brushed the photo with her finger… so that’s Dante and Vergil. Their mother and father… Nero’s grandparents.
A new chapter to their family history.