Nero woke up to his demonic senses screaming at him in the back of his mind. Racing out of bed, he shoved open the front door halfway to devil trigger when he recognized the presence. "Vergil?"
His father glanced down at him. He was standing on a ladder and doing something to the gutters. "Hello, Nero."
"What the hell," Nero said. "It's like three in the morning." He squinted up at Vergil, who was holding something that looked suspiciously like a paintbrush. "Are you painting my roof at three in the morning?"
"It's closer to four," Vergil said.
"Answer the question!"
Vergil tilted his head to the side and paused for an obscenely long time. "Yes."
"Why?" Nero said.
"The stars," Vergil said simply. "They're in the correct position for painting."
"Can you stop?"
"Leaving the process unfinished could result in...undesirable effects." Vergil said. V used to speak with the exact same goddamn inflection.
"Are you putting a curse on my house?" Nero asked.
"It won't affect you," Vergil said. "Or your girlfriend," he added when Nero immediately opened his mouth to protest.
Nero crossed his arms and glared. On one hand, he didn't know exactly what was going on and he didn't like it one bit. On the other hand, it didn't seem to be an immediate problem, and he was standing around in his underwear. Morning Nero could deal with this. "Whatever," Nero said. "I'm going back to bed. Goodnight, Dad."
Vergil paused for a second in his painting. "Goodnight, Nero. Sleep well."
Vergil was gone by the time he woke up again in the morning, but there was a book sitting on the kitchen table. Nero picked it up - a poetry collection - and flicked through it. The only thing that immediately stood out was a note scrawled on the back inside cover.
To Nero, for your education. -Vergil
The William Blake collection that he'd been given had Vergil's name written in the very same spot. "Education," Nero scoffed under his breath, hugging the book to his chest.
He padded outside and summoned his spectral wings to jump up onto the roof. Whatever Vergil had been doing last night, it had either blown away or dried clear - nothing seemed to be different.
Should he call Dante and ask if he should be worried about what his father was up to? Probably.
For now he settled onto the couch with his new book.
The demonic presence is back again the next night. Nero yawned as he got out of bed and took the time to put on his slippers and a bathrobe.
Vergil was in the garage, this time. He crouched on the roof of the Devil May Cry van, hair brushing the roof above him, painting something. "Why, hello, Vergil," Nero said, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Yes, you can come in and start doing whatever the hell you want to my van."
Vergil glanced up at him before returning his concentration to his task. "Nero."
"That was a hint," Nero spat. "You're supposed to ask permission before coming into my house and messing with my stuff."
"I didn't want to wake you," he said serenely.
Nero clenched his fists. "Well, you kind of screwed that one. Now tell me what you're doing, or else I'm going up there and-"
Vergil tossed him something and Nero instinctively caught it, holding the medium-sized bottle up to his face for inspection. "Iron supplements?"
"Your gift for the night," Vergil said.
"I don't need your gifts," Nero sneered. "Are you calling me anemic or something?"
"They're good for you," Vergil said. "Especially considering your unique physiology-"
"Do you and Dante take these?"
"I did when I was a boy."
"You're changing the subject," Nero said, but he tucked the bottle into his pocket. "What have you been painting?"
Vergil sighed. "They're protective runes."
Nero blinked. He wasn't sure which part of that statement to address first. "Runes?"
"A type of witchcraft," Vergil said. "My mother practiced."
"I don't need any witchcraft around here."
Vergil stilled. He added one last swooping stroke with the paintbrush and then hopped down off the van, hands full of brushes and a cup of some clear liquid. "I am aware you do not require my assistance in protecting your home. For what it's worth, you have it nonetheless. The runes may not work, anyway. Any magic I've ever attempted has been passable at best."
"You can teleport," Nero said.
"That's different." Vergil was avoiding his eyes. "I have finished my work. Good night, Nero."
"Yeah, yeah," Nero said. "Call next time, would you?"
Vergil inclined his head on the way out of the garage.
Nero didn't catch him on the third night, when Vergil left a pack of gum (peppermint, dentist approved) on their kitchen table, and on the fourth he didn't bother getting out of bed. By the fifth night he could sleep through his father's presence, which proved to be a mistake, because he did wake up to the sound of some loud thumping noises in the kitchen the next morning.
Nico scowled at him from the kitchen table, where she was surrounded by a small mountain of books. "Hey, nerd."
"What the fuck," Nero said, looking at the volumes. Around thirty of them, thick, definitely second hand. About half of them were strewn all over the floor.
"That's what you get for leaving an encyclopedia all over my eatin' spot," Nico said, taking a generous bite of her bowl of oatmeal. "Your creepy demon books aren't even in English."
Nero bent down and picked up a volume label I. "Latin," he said, paging through it. It was definitely an encyclopedia full of different types of demons. "The Order taught all the kids Latin. I haven't used it since, though."
She scoffed. "Yeah, right, nerd. Where'd all these come from?"
"Shut up," Nero said halfheartedly, turning to the back cover. To Nero, for your reference. Vergil. "It was a gift."
"Santa Claus," Nero said. "Don't get any mess on my stuff."
"Don't leave your crap in the kitchen," Nico said.
Nero rolled his eyes - this wasn't even her house - and started stacking the books as high as he could in his arms, tucking them away in the back corner of the living room. It took him three trips. Nico called him a nerd the entire ride over to their job of the day.
'Santa Claus' also left him a new set of towels, a utility knife, a watch, a pack of toilet paper, a spice rack, and a vial of some suspiciously purple liquid labeled 'for enemies only.' He managed to hide it all from Nico, who only came over the days they had jobs.
Kyrie thought the whole thing was hilarious.
"It's free stuff, Nero," she said, rolling her eyes as she cut the packaging off a new roll of socks that had been left on the kitchen table the morning. "We're not going to say no to free stuff."
"You don't know where he got those socks!" he argued.
"They have a receipt."
"He probably bought them with stolen money," Nero said. "Put those down, Kyrie. Those are blood socks."
She rolled her eyes. "They were eight dollars. You always need new socks."
Nero crossed his arms and huffed, "Yeah, well if my father thinks he can buy my affection with eight dollar blood socks, he is sorely mistaken."
"I agree this is the very least he could do," she said. "I'm not saying you have to forgive him, Nero. I'm just saying I can be on your side and the side of the free stuff."
"Traitor," he muttered.
They started leaving their back door unlocked.
Nero woke up early one day to an empty bed and the early-morning sunrise blinding him from their open window. Yawning, he slowly pushed himself out of bed and shuffled down the stairs in a lazy hunt for Kyrie.
He stopped when he heard voices in the kitchen. He grabbed the closest blunt object he could find and whipped around corner. Kyrie and a very tired-looking Vergil stared back at him.
"Good morning, Nero," Kyrie said. "And...Nero's umbrella."
Nero's brow furrowed. He looked from his girlfriend, to his father, to the box of doughnuts in between them. Two were missing. Kyrie still had powdered sugar on her right cheek.
"They're from the corner bakery," Vergil said.
He dropped the umbrella, sliding himself into a third chair across the table. "So much for calling," he said, but he reached into the box anyways to grab a chocolate glazed.
"I was just telling Vergil how grateful we were for all the gifts," Kyrie said pointedly, her eyes boring into Nero.
Nero glared at her, cheeks full of food. "And I was just telling you I can't be bought," he said. Tried to say. It came out pretty muffled through all the doughnut.
"Manners," Vergil commented.
Nero stuck up his middle finger.
Vergil stood up fluidly from the table. "I've overstayed my welcome," he said.
"Oh, no, please stay," Kyrie said, kicking Nero under the table. "He's just not a morning person-"
Nero swallowed, finally, and said, "The doughnuts are pretty good. You can stay if you want."
"Thank you, Nero," Vergil said, "But I'm afraid I do have to leave. I've been a bit behind schedule all night. Enjoy your breakfast."
Kyrie slumped down in her chair. "It was nice to see you."
"You don't have to keep bringing me stuff," Nero blurted out, watching as Vergil thumbed the Yamato. "I don't need it."
Vergil stared at him carefully, eyes narrowed. "Perhaps not," he said. "But you deserve them."
He frowned. "I don't-"
"I think Nero deserves lots of nice things," Kyrie said.
"I'm glad you agree," Vergil said. He drew the Yamato in one fluid movement, slashing an X into the air in front of them. "Good day." He was gone in a flash.
"Do you think that's bad for the house?" Nero asked.
Kyrie kicked him under the table again. "Nero!"
"He's trying," Kyrie said. "You could be a little more polite."
"He had the first 22 years of my life to try, Kyrie," Nero said. "We're a little past trying."
"What's he supposed to do, Nero?"
"He's supposed to talk to me like a goddamn normal person!" he snapped. "He's supposed to call when he wants to come over and make awkward small talk and apologize, damn it. He's not supposed to run out every time a conversation gets difficult!"
Kyrie sighed. She reached out across the table and grabbed Nero's hand with her own. "I'm sorry your father isn't who you wanted him to be," she said. "You're right. You don't owe him anything."
He squeezed her hand. "He was supposed to be my dad," he said feebly, like that explained anything. "He's supposed to like me, not feel guilty over me."
"If he doesn't like you, he's an idiot," Kyrie said.
Nero and Dante had had a huge fight when they'd come back from hell. Five years, and you didn't tell me, Nero had screamed. Who would want us murder twins as family, Dante had countered, and then they continued their pre-Qlipoth tradition of not talking to each other especially often.
Until Dante had called the van's phone one day and said immediately, "Vergil's moping."
"Hello to you too, asshole," Nero said. Nico, driving, looked over in concern, but he waved her off. "How are you feeling today? Like you knew you were my uncle for the entire goddamn time, perhaps?"
"Why's Vergil moping?" Dante continued, like he hadn't said anything.
"I don't know," Nero said. "It's not like he talks to me if he can avoid it. Which, if you can't tell by all the teleportation, he usually can."
Dante inhaled like he was wincing. "I thought he was with you, most days."
"He breaks into my house and drops off crap to aleve his dirty conscience," Nero said. "Would you count that as being with me? I wouldn't."
"Hell," Dante said. "Thanks, kid, I'm on it."
"Five years," Nero said, and then hung up the phone. He didn't have high hopes for Vergil coming over anytime soon. His father's side of the family didn't have a great track record of wanting to come for family dinner.
“What do you mean, Vergil’s coming to dinner?” Nero shouted.
Kyrie looked affronted, crossing her arms. “He called today looking for you. I invited him over. He’s bringing pizza.”
“Bringing pizza,” Nero echoed, wheezing, because of course he was.
“He even ordered from that place on fourth street,” Kyrie said.
Nico hopped out of the driver’s side of the van. “Oh, nice. I love that place.”
Nero, still dressed in full mission gear, turned on his heel and started sprinting away.
“WHERE ARE YOU - oh, forget it,” he heard Nico call from behind him.
“PIZZA,” he shouted into the wind, feeling unhinged. Their local pizza place wasn’t too far from their house, and he pounded down the sidewalk in record time. He burst through the front door of the place, bell ringing loudly and boots screeching against the tile as he skidded to a halt. Vergil - slicked hair, black coat, like he belonged in a Fortunan pizza parlor - turned around to glance at him.
"Hey, wait," Nero said stupidly, shoving a finger into Vergil's face. "I am buying dinner."
Vergil swatted Nero's hand out from the air. "You are not."
"Yes I am," Nero insisted, turning and marching up to the counter. "Hi, Catrina."
"Nero," the employee at the counter said, sounding relieved. "I mixed up your friend with you when you came in."
"This is my father," Nero said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his wallet. His heart pounded at the admission and he deliberately did not look at Vergil "And under no circumstances is he allowed to pay for dinner."
Vergil leaned forward and snatched Nero's wallet from out between his fingers. "If you want to by a dinner, you'll have to order your own."
"I'm here to pickup an order under the name Vergil, please," Vergil announced. Catrina had the audacity to look amused.
"And how are you paying for that order?" Nero accused. He made another grab for his wallet.
Vergil dodged easily. "Credit."
Nero turned to the counter, prepared to make.his case to a neutral third party. "Catrina, please," he said, and tried to channel thoughts about how his father could not get away with standing there and buying pizza like it would make everything better.
"Sorry, Nero," Catrina said. "Order is in his name."
Vergil handed her a credit card, and Nero scowled and snatched back his own wallet. "This is the last one," he declared. "No more gifts."
"I called ahead," Vergil said. “Kyrie must have told you?”
"I promise nothing. At the very least, you can't take away my prime excuse to avoid Dante."
Nero scoffed, grabbing the two soda bottles off the counter and leaving Vergil to pick up the pizza boxes as they popped out. "So I'm really doing you the favor, is that it?"
"Exactly," Vergil said. He scooped up the pizza and led the way out the door. "You'd understand if you had siblings."
His heart suddenly skipped a beat. "Siblings, huh," Nero said, fighting to keep his voice under control. He shouldn't care about what his father had to say. He desperately cared about what his father had to say anyway. He slowed down his pace on the sidewalk. "So I definitely don't have any of those?"
His father tilted his head. "No," Vergil said, and then, "Not that I know of."
Nero’s mouth dropped. Not that he knew of? How many women had he-
"I'm afraid I don't have any details of your birth," Vergil said, blithely interrupting Nero’s thoughts. "I never knew your mother was pregnant. It is unlikely you have any full siblings."
Nero blinked. Dante had implied that Vergil probably didn’t purposefully abandon him, but it was nice to hear all the same. "Full siblings," he repeated.
"I can't speak for your mother," Vergil said.
"Tell me about her," Nero demanded breathlessly.
Vergil paused , and for a second Nero thought he would refuse, or dodge the question . "We met here," Vergil said finally, gesturing as much as he could with hands full of pizza boxes. "We were both investigating the Order of the Sword. I gave her a false name. I highly suspect she gave me one as well. We split ways after we left the island that summer, and I haven't seen her since."
"What was she like?" Nero asked immediately, like he wouldn’t get another chance. He might not get another chance, if Vergil was as good at dodging questions as Dante.
Vergil considered. "Tall. She said she had blue eyes, but I thought they were more green in the light. Long hair. She had good instincts, and she was very independent. I found her to be...admirable."
"Admirable?" Nero echoed.
'Yes," Vergil said. He glanced sideways at Nero, and then away again. "I can attempt to write down all the details I remember,” his father said softly. “If you would like to try and trace her path."
Nero had been about 4 years old when he’d realized that regular children had parents. That was probably the most religious period of his life - he remembered kneeling by the orphanage window and praying night after night for Sparda to give him parents of his own.
In a way, Sparda had delivered.
His mother could be impossible to find, of course. Or dead, or a scumbag - well, she'd never cut off one of his limbs, so she couldn't be too bad - Savior, if he had a mother and a father -
"Yeah," Nero said, his voice suddenly tight. "I...I would like that very much. Thank you."
Vergil threw a sharp glance in his direction, but Nero did not want to test his control over his voice right now, so he bounded away up his driveway and through the garage entrance to his house. His mother. From the sounds of it, a human mother. 4-year-old Nero would be so happy.
"Nero? That you?"
"We're home," he called out belatedly, swinging around the corner to find Kyrie and Nico hanging out in the kitchen. "With dinner."
"You found him?" Nico asked.
Vergil appeared over his shoulder. "Hello, Nicoletta," he said, probably using her full name just to be contrary. "Kyrie, thank you for having me."
"Thank you for dinner," Kyrie said. gesturing to the counter. "You can put the pizza down there."
"Anytime," Vergil said easily, like he didn't know he was giving Nero a stroke with that one word.
"It's Nico," Nico corrected him, waving in his direction. "Hey, Vergil, it's nice to - uh, meet you, I guess. Do you remember me?"
He turned to stare at her, raising an eyebrow. "Yes, I remember you, Nico. You came to pick me up enough times in the van."
She glared, reflexively grabbing a plate of pizza that Kyrie shoved into her hands. "It's not like you look much like V anymore," she said. "Which is a shame. I dug the tattoos."
"I wasn't un-fond of them myself," Vergil said. "If the opportunity presents itself, I wouldn't be opposed to other familiars."
"Here's a fun human fact for ya," Nico said. "Not all tattoos need to contain the soul of a demon."
Nero was startled out of his intense staring at his father by Kyrie's gentle hand on his elbow. She gave him a concerned look.
I'm fine, he tried to impress with his eyes. Out loud, he said, "do we have pepperoni?"
They did. The four of them settled around the kitchen table, Nico and Vergil still arguing the relative merits of a purely aesthetic tattoo.
"Oh, come on, just try it out. Just a little one. You're not afraid, are ya?"
Vergil scoffed. "It would be a waste of time. I doubt any human studio would have the skills necessary to create a design in the face of our regeneration factor."
Nico blew a raspberry. "I forgot about your lizard regrowing powers."
"Eugh," Nero said. "It's what she calls my arm." He waved his newly-regrown right hand. "Doesn't even have scales anymore."
"Name any other creature that regrows limbs," Nico said.
"Octopus," said Kyrie.
"Every demon known to mankind," said Vergil.
"And lizards," Nico finished. "I rest my case."
"My older brother had a pet lizard when we were young," Kyrie said. "He said that if I scared the lizard's tail off then I had to eat it."
"Eat the lizard?"
"Classic Credo," Nero said, reaching behind him to the counter and grabbing another slice of pizza. "Anyone want more?"
"Me," Nico said instantly, and he ended up serving everyone seconds.
Dinner passed easily, casually; Nero stayed pretty quiet, feeling almost lightheaded in the presence of his father, but to his surprise Vergil and Nico bantered like they'd been doing it for years.
Nico gets along well with you, a voice in his head reasoned. Maybe you and your father aren't so different.
He could name so many facts about his ancestors now. His grandfather was the Dark Knight Sparda. His grandmother had been a witch. His uncle owned a demon-hunting business. His father was a former king of hell.
Eventually they ran out of pizza, and Kyrie started putting away plates.
"Well, I'm out for the night," Nico said, excusing herself from the table. "Nice meeting ya as a whole person Vergil."
"Likewise," Vergil said. He glanced a Nero for a moment and then said, "I should probably take my leave as well, although-"
"Wait," Nero blurted out. "Before you-"
"-if I could have a word," Vergil continued, and then stopped to stare at him.
"Yes," Nero said, pushing himself to his feet. "Yeah, of course. How about the back porch?"
Vergil shrugged, and followed him out the back door.
Nero stood there awkwardly, shoving his hands in his pockets and looking around. This late in the summer the sky was still light from the still-setting sun. "Thanks for dinner," he said. "For coming to dinner, I mean. I guess also for buying dinner. You didn't have to." Man, he awkward. He wished he didn't care about his father's opinion - it would make things so much easier.
"It was no trouble," Vergil said.
"Yeah, but...still," Nero said, trying to think of how to phrase this without scaring his father away. "It was nice. Not just the pizza, but you. Coming with the pizza."
Vergil stared at him with a blank expression. He had to resist the urge to squirm under the gaze. "Nero," Vergil said suddenly, "I regret that you had to grow up alone."
Vergil turned to look over the yard. "I was alone after my mother was killed," he said. "I know it can't have been easy."
I had Kyrie and her family, Nero almost replied, but stopped himself. "It wasn't," he said instead, because it had been hard, and it had been lonely, knowing he was a monster but not knowing why. "It's better now that I know what I am," he added, because it was.
"Dante should have told you," Vergil said, and then shook his head. "You should have always known. It is beyond my ability to right this."
"I'll live," Nero said. "I don't actually need you to be my father."
Vergil stared resolutely out of the yard, stone-still. "I know."
Nero bit his lip. Shit, he always does this. "But I like it when you try," he blurted out, ignoring the blush spreading across his cheeks.
Vergil glanced over. "Dante mentioned that the volume of gifts may have started to alarm you."
Fuck it. "The gifts are fine, but it'd be nice if you stuck around too."
"Oh," Vergil said. He didn't say anything else, but he looked like he was almost smiling. "I can bring pizza again."
"Call first," Nero said. "Call anytime, Da - old man."
Vergil was properly smiling now.
Vergil didn’t stop dropping off gifts, but he also started coming by around dinner, instead of in the dead of night.
“What are these, mittens?” Nero asked, pulling out his bounty from a plastic bag. The mittens actually looked really nice, the same color as his coat, but he couldn’t let Vergil know that. “It’s still summer.”
“You don’t own anything with a right hand,” Vergil said.
Nero flicked him off with his newly-human hand and grabbed the gift receipt with the other. There was a note scrawled on the back.
To Nero, for staying warm symmetrically. -Father.