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When You Awake, When You Walk, When You Sleep

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-They Will Speak to You-

2 August - 6:38 PM

Nero had just killed off the last Marionette when he felt that ever so familiar coldness behind his back. Whirling around with Blue Rose already charged up and Ragtime ready to go, he had to fight himself from outright gawking as a familiar red-clad figure was practically dragging something, or rather, a familiar someone in navy blue.

"Come ON, Verge! You said so yourself, and I've got witnesses to back me up! So MOVE. YOUR. FREAKING. ASS."

Heels were literally creating small furrows and casting sparks in the cobblestone, burning some of the few grasses that had popped up in between the cracks. The ragged tails of his coat fluttered as the void closed behind them, left hand tightly wrapped around a sheath. "Since when had we agreed to those conditions?!"

/"But you promised, Uncle Vergil."/

The childish and almost hurt-sounding pout from the large demonic sword on Dante's back nearly had Nero choking on his own spit. There was research and stories on how some devils would pretend to be children to lower people's guard before either possessing them or killing them. Except this voice sounded like a genuine kid that reminded him of Kyle.

/"Both Dante and Master Dante have a point, Master. You did promised Dante to the terms."/

He could barely remember the few times of hearing a soft female voice whisper to him when he still had Yamato. Elegant and noble, like some of the matriarchs or ladies from the older Fortunan families, yet never condescending and always patient when answering some of his own unspoken questions.

And then Nero's heart clenched upon seeing the large grin underneath the mop of messy hair. A grin that he would be reluctant to admit out loud that he actually missed. "See, told ya!"

The sigh that barely ruffled swept back hair sent another pang through the younger hunter's chest, this time reminding him of how it used to be released by someone else with black hair. (Which was really white, because his family were utter shits on proper explanations.) A mess of emotions stormed through his chest, most of them he could barely make heads or tail of, some that felt like a strange mix of anger and relief. "Inconceivable, but I won't argue the reality that you won our bet..."

"Wooo! Man, I miss actual fresh air!" Noticing his nephew practically stomping up to them, Dante perked up even more. "Oh, hey! What's up, Ne- HURK!"

Glowing fists punched both half-devils in the faces hard, prompting loud curses as they were sent flying back. Said cursing got cut off by a human arm and Breaker wrapping tightly around their necks as a human body tackled them, keeping them on the ground. While Vergil stiffened at the unexpected contact, the younger twin simply let out a soft huff of mild amusement after a quick pause to let his nose reset.

"...jackasses," Nero whispered hoarsely, burying his nose into warm leather that smelled of blood, dirt, gunpowder, and who knows what else, and not giving an absolute damn on how ridiculous he looked at the moment.

Feeling the shaking from the younger man, Dante let out another quiet chuckle with a small genuine smile as he patted his nephew's back. "...kept you waiting, huh."

"...shaddup, old man."

Some time later, Dante was busily gobbling down almost all of the prepared meals that had been stocked in the motorhome's mini-fridge like no tomorrow while Nero recounted things that had happened since the twins had left the Human World. Even though Nero internally despaired a bit on the future grocery shopping, he didn't care, just wanting to enjoy that little spark of relief because his family was safe and alive. Sitting further away, Vergil slowly nursed his container of reheated stew, unsure how his stomach would handle human food after a little over two months of either sustaining on absorbed demonic energy and/or whatever had been marginally edible to him and his brother in the Demon World.

"He still kinda hates yer guts, y'know."

Waving away the smell of smoke did nothing, and he doubt trying to ignore the weaponsmith would get her to leave. "I would be more surprised if he didn't."

"And that's where you Sparda idjits' problems lie." Nico all but jabbed her cigarette into his face as she unceremoniously plopped down near him on the still intact bench. If she noticed him stiffening again, she ignored it. "All three of y'all don't talk shit. At all."

Vergil frowned at the younger woman's words, careful with his grip on both utensil and container. "I fail to see how verbal communication would help alleviate our... situation. 'Actions speaks louder than words,' as it goes. It's how devils typically communicate."

"Yeah, but you three-" Nico sighed through her nose before taking another drag, trying not to chew the filter. "You three are also still human."

His eyebrows furrowed deeper. "We're born with demon blo-"

"Hear me out, papa bear." She held up a hand to silence him. As much as she wasn't really showing any fear outside, Nico was shaking inside, and that urge to not stutter was a struggle. Meeting with Dante was one thing, practically an infamous rock star in the mercenary world. Vergil? She might not had really known the older twin much, but what little Lady and Trish shared made her wished she had taken their words a bit more seriously, even with their own bias. "Who were you and Dante born to?"

He could sense her fear, almost smell it, but he had to admire the courage she was showing. "Sparda and Eva Alighieri, bu-"

"Where were you and Dante born?" Nico plowed on.

"Here."

"Where 'here'?"

'Interesting...' "Here, the City of Red Grave." That last part had been almost bit out as a certain and painful childhood memory resurfaced.

"A'ight. Where did you and Dante grow up?"

"Here, Red Grave." He didn't stop one of the happier memories that flitted through this time, that of who could climb one of the trees on the family property the fastest.

"So!" Nico slapped a thigh, flicking away the cigarette butt with her other hand. "Which realm is Red Grave located in?"

"The Human World. What is your poi-" Glacial eyes blinked when he re-ran the words and their conversation in his mind again. Vergil tilted his head at her, begrudging respect in his expression. "Well played, Nicoletta Goldstein."

"How'd yo- Oh, duh, V." Internally, she breathed a sigh of relief now that whatever pressure that he had been projecting quickly eased off. Seriously, this was why she stuck with being support - she'll never get how Lady handled half of this dominance crap as a human hunter. Scratch that, just being plain human. "But for real, you three - especially you and Nero - have seriously got to sit down and have a proper talk, mano-a-mano. None of us are mind readers, plus me and Nero already get enough cryptic shit from my old man's notes, useful as they are. Stupid mumbo jumbo mystic crap... Give me equations on calculating resistance, gravity, and deformation any day."

"Spoken like a true engineer." Vergil paused for the briefest moment, sensing those words were from that other lingering comfortably somewhere in the back of his mind.

Nico snorted, not as tense, tapping out a new stick and just popping it into her mouth but not lighting it. That sounded something like V would say, and she fought off the pang of grief at the thought of the poetry-spouting summoner. She was going to miss talking with Griffon, that giant blue chicken, having caught the rare real smiles from V when she and the demonic avian summon would riff off of each other. Hell, even the few times Shadow would willingly turn over to accept belly rubs, purring away to rival the motorhome's engine.

At that thought of demonic companions, the weaponsmith let slip a groan. "Aw, crap..."

Vergil raised an eyebrow, slowly chewing on a piece of flavored beef.

She waved a hand between him and Dante, who was still listening closely to Nero. "Lady an' Trish. I don't wanna imaging their own reactions to you two dumbasses, if Nero's was anything to go by. Hopefully not that bad of a dumpster fire..."

"Ah."

"But seriously, you an' Nero?" Both she and the younger devil hunter might had been the only child in their own families and they obviously didn't quite get along in the beginning, yet the weaponsmith wouldn't trade her near sibling-hood with the younger hunter for anything else in the world. Not even for demon parts that could create some awesome works of art. "Talk to each other."

He said nothing, simply stared into his stew. With another sigh, Nico dusted off her shorts and went back inside the motorhome see if there were any other caches of food or snacks to last until she and Nero got to shopping.

Really, Nico didn't know why she was acting as some sort of therapist or counselor for father and son. Rock Goldstein was the only dad in her life - she couldn't care less regarding Agnus as her biological old man. Maybe it was because of how broken Nero had sounded after that big shock, as well Lady's comment on never truly recovering. ('Hoo, if that tidbit from Lady wasn't loaded with some major history, I'll eat my boots.') Although comparing Agnus to Vergil was probably unfair to the older twin, because at least Vergil returned, even if he had to be literally dragged out of Hell - Agnus never once looked back. Any further thoughts was put to the side when she found a half-filled box of cheese crackers hidden behind her welding machine and an energy drink can at the bottom of the mini-fridge.

The reunion between the twins, Lady, and Trish didn't go as bad as Nico thought when they arrived back at Nero and Kyrie's home. Although she had to admit, the extremely loud telling-off directed at the twins was rather warranted, especially from Lady - they were certainly quite the bunch when it came to daddy issues. (Come to think of it, Nico wondered if that also included Trish in regards to Mundus, watching Trish electrocute Dante while simultaneously hugging him.) Awkwardness was profound between Trish and Vergil, the blonde immediately leaving to somewhere after giving her piece on the twins' idiocy. Alright, tack on apparent mommy issues as well. Nico was going have to drag that out from one of them at some point even if it meant using her pliers, because like Hell she was going to let their stubbornness ruin her mojo.

When the party that was both celebrating the twins' return and a "make up" birthday party on behalf of Patty (who gave Dante her own chewing off before hugging him tightly), Nico was pleased to see father and son talking on the roof. Pretty heatedly, given how Nero's arms were moving about as well Vergil's nearly constant tense body language, but hey, progress when nothing got damaged and both later joined the rest of the gang at the tables come dinnertime with actual smiles (a small one on Vergil).

-3-1-2-4-5-

-They Will Guide You-

4 September - 2:23 PM

"Again."

Gritting his teeth at the harsh command, Nero re-sheathed Yamato for what felt like the hundredth time and readjusted his body's posture as Dante quickly reset the dummy in the distance. Holding her sheath ('It's "saya."') in his left hand while his right hand hovered over her handle ('"Tsuka," c'mon, you read an entire book.') had most of his muscles constantly yelling how this was feeling rather off, after years of using Red Queen. The few times he actually used Yamato in a fight and not by his soul's manifestation, it was mostly echoes of moves that he either tried to copy as best as he could or whatever knowledge that flowed into his body. Even when he had killed Sanctus with Yamato, it was out of pure instinct (and being completely done with the old geezer's bullshit), not quite himself. He considered it a blind luck that he didn't cut Kyrie at all when he freed her from the Savior's Core.

'I WISH he'd-'

/'-not be so harsh on you on this, if not at least lower his expectations?'/

Nero tried to contain his twitch at the calm female voice speaking clearly in his mind, except the fingers on his right hand jerked slightly. He barely noticed the slight quirk to Vergil's lips, no doubt knowing the reason for the younger part-devil's reaction, which prompted more mental cursing. /'Well, yeah.'/

/'He's always had high expectations, Young Master. From his teachers, more so on himself in front of Father. Especially after...'/

Wasn't that a fun topic that still needed to be discussed, because for all of his own externally portrayed air of not giving a damn, Nero still wanted to know more about his family. Although the likelihood of having to beat it out of either twin was rather high, now that he thought about it. /'It's just... weird, y'know? Him seriously letting me practice with you? Especially given how Dante described him when they were kids. How come you never really talked to me before?'/

Another attempt at a fast draw, but still missing the target and hitting the cliffside behind, prompting a curse of disappointment at himself. Nero did take some minor consolation of Vergil's lips quirking again in what had to be definitely amusement when his strike and the broken rocks nearly hit Dante instead. Even if neither men could quite hear the words, the loud bellow and angry gesturing from the younger twin was more than enough indicator on his thoughts of being nearly hit again.

The sense of a smile that held very little joy, slender but calloused fingers tracing visible scars on a toned arm that had been hidden by voluminous white sleeves that edged into navy blue. /'I was still... recovering. Being broken like that because of Mundus, losing shards of myself in the Demon World, and the attempts at "repairs" over the years by that alchemist had not been kind to me. Your energy reforging and repairing me upon your initial Trigger awakening truly helped my recovery, but to a degree. Think of it akin to rehabilitation almost immediately after waking up from a coma with little to no transition.'/

Re-sheathe, re-position, draw, miss again, curse again as the target was sent tumbling away instead from the wave rather than a slice. He could barely make out the look of worry from Dante.

/'Besides, you lacked both Masters Vergil and Dante's familiarity of being part devil since birth, never mind your having grown up in such a place that worships Father. I did not want to burden you any more than necessary at the time.'/ An assessing gaze that felt warm, even though her eyes would've been a chilling blue akin to glaciers. /'You and your precious also needed time to re-hone yourselves, thus I did not quite speak to you.'/

The unexpected warmth in his chest gave him some pause, both surprised and touched by Yamato's consideration of his own insecurities in spite of her own problems. (Learning that Yamato and his own devil referred to Kyrie as his "precious" had been a bit mortifying, although Yamato's teasing use of "mate" had him turning extremely red and ignoring Nico's pestering questions when she noticed the unexpected blushing.) Rubbing the side of his nose, Nero readjusted his stance again, trying to mimic how Vergil had showed him earlier. /'Thanks... I guess.'/

/'My pleasure, Young Master. Now, if you'll pay close attention, adjust your foot a bit more this way...'/

This time, the wave was a thinner line and dismembered an arm while cutting off part of the head. Nero warily glanced over to Vergil, sheathing Yamato again just in case.

He wasn't privy to whatever conversation Yamato and Nero had, but Vergil could see that whatever the two talked about, it had helped ease Nero a bit. Vergil himself knew that it would be some time before either of them could be truly comfortable around each other, even with their talk from the party. For all of Dante's poking at them to get some "father-son bonding time," it was hard to even contemplate activities that didn't involve serious injury or major property destruction. Vergil supposed that Yamato's suggestion of properly training Nero on how to wield her was "out of left field," but examining the idea logically, it was sound. He mentally snorted at himself. For all of the impulsiveness Dante acted and the visible range of expressions on Nero, he was no better than either of them when it came to his own emotions - his own idiocy costed him over 20 years of lost time, because the older Son of Sparda hadn't pause to think things through.

If both Sparda and Eva were still alive, he didn't doubt that the couple would've been completely disappointed in him. 'Especially Mother...'

Studying the gash in the cliffside that now resembled more of a slice instead of being caused by heavy impact, Vergil barely turned his gaze to Nero. The tension in his son's shoulders, clenched jaw, and how his left hand kept readjusting his grip on Yamato's saya briefly reminded him of how he felt when he had been trying to do his own Summoned Swords after Sparda had done a simple demonstration.

"There are some improvements to be made," Vergil finally spoke, now eyeing the cliff.

Deflation, shoulders slouching as Nero moved to redo his stance.

"...but, acceptable for now."

Shock and delight mixed with the slight tinge of red on his son's face (still an unusual fact to swallow at times), his body language now a bit more relaxed. That prompted a glimmer of warmth within his own chest, one that was comfortable. 'It seems I should be a bit more freer with my compliments, as well reconsider my expectations. And perhaps Nicoletta has a valid point on words still being necessary instead of just actions.'

There was also a feeling of approval from the other. Strange, but not unwelcomed.

They were a part of each other, after all.

-3-1-2-4-5-

-They Will Watch Over You-

2 November - 9:05 PM

It was hard to ignore his inner devil demanding that they leave the small cave to /hunt/ and /kill/ the rest of the demons that lead to his son being injured badly to the point of labored breathing, even when unconscious. Human reason and begrudging paternal instincts won after pointing out that to travel out in the currently raging storm would be a death sentence for Nero, and there was also no guarantee of him surviving a trip via a void portal. Nico wasn't available, having dropped them off near the target location before leaving to do research at the city's library that she'd been wanting to visit. She would've immediately gone to pick them up if not for Vergil warning her away through the static-laced phone call about the heavy flooding.

A younger Vergil would've coldly taken that Nero was too weak to live, and deserved to die if he didn't make the trip.

Now that he was older, he had to remind himself that for all of his son's own prowess on hunting, he was still mostly human - demonic heritage could only give so much benefits, even for someone descended from a devil as powerful as Sparda. Foolish to believe in his own ability to be able to take on the Prince of Darkness, especially after being defeated by Dante on top of having to deal with Arkham.

'Truly, I am the larger imbecile compared to Dante...'

Vergil sighed softly, running a hand through his ponytail. The only other sign of his agitation was that his tail had shown up, vacillating between worried twitching and lashing about in anger.

Slim fingers curled through fur that sometimes rippled like ink, feeling the pleased rumbling underneath the powerful body after another day of successfully escorting another group of humans to safety.

When he worried in private or they met scared children, she leaned into hands with reassuring purrs. She even entertained some of the younger children with her tail once they got over their initial wariness.

When he was recovering from an attack that had nearly killed him, her tail lashed about in agitation.

A loud crack of lightning followed by thunder rumbling prompted a soft groan from Nero, causing Vergil to bite down when the paternal part of his devil surged again, but the younger man didn't wake. For the first time, Vergil wished that he bothered to bring some medical supplies along - the few Vital and Devil Stars Nero always kept on hand had already been used to stabilize him as much as possible, but he still needed proper treatment.

Again, over confidence in their demonic abilities.

A greater fool were they.

/"Big Bro Nero will make it, Uncle Vergil."/

He didn't move, but his tail twitched again, stabbing into the ground. "Quite the faith, Durante."

/"I know he will. Big Bro Nero is big and strong like you and Daddy."/ The red pommel brightened a bit in the dim cave, voice soft so as not to disturb. /"I also believe Daddy will come back with help in time."/

In spite of his own dark thoughts, Vergil had to smile a bit at the broadsword's optimism. "Hm."

He knew it was coming from behind. Years of near constant paranoia combined with heightened instincts told him that he could avoid the vines of the demonic plant-animal hybrid, both the basic barbed ones as well several of the needle-like ones carrying venom sacs.

Dante received a Summon Sword on joking about how appropriate it was to get a demonic gardening job.

He didn't expect to feel a warm body crash into him.

Time that wasn't because of Quicksilver or his own control practically slowed, as the scent of his son's blood and flesh being burned by the acidity of the venom hit his nose. The sound of Blue Rose and Red Queen clattering was drowned out by the thump of Nero's limp body hitting the ground, louder in his ears than the missiles Dante had fired.

Roaring in rage, the nearly unfamiliar sense of /need to protect offspring/, and that old emotion once again thought shoved away: fear.

He barely retained enough logic to cleanly dismember the stinger first before completely eviscerating the guilty demon while Triggered in Sin, executing what had to be the most contained Judgement Cut End he's ever done. The remaining brood had escaped into their little patch of forest, forcing Dante to slam him into a full nelson hold when he made to give chase, yelling that Nero was his higher priority and that they could use the stinger to make an anti-venom if he would just stop and think about his son right now, damnit.

Yamato yelling - actually yelling - at him that for Lady Eva's sake, they can pursue later, your son is more important right now was another reason why Vergil didn't hesitate to trade swords with his twin, Dante immediately opening a portal with the ice-encased stinger in hand. The words on promising to find a doctor he knew was barely heard when the storm broke, forcing Vergil to find shelter for him and Nero at Durante's urging.

The last time he felt this kind of helplessness was when he was younger than 10 years old, jeered at by demons, clutching a sword longer than he was tall and little knowledge on how to wield such a heavy legacy.

Another lightning strike, this time most likely hitting a tree outside, from the sounds of splintering wood.

"Cre... do... no..." Nero suddenly whimpered, right arm weakly twitching as if wanting to reach out to someone beyond, left hand tightly grasping the dark longcoat that was covering him. "Dun... m... sor... ry... died..."

The heartbroken tones was such a stark contrast to the usual brashness, causing Vergil to blink in surprise before feeling another emotion that he associated more towards Dante. Despite the brief sliver of envy at whoever this Credo person was, he couldn't fault the impact left on Nero to be causing such a nightmare.

"Who are you to my son, who had most likely helped raised and taught him some of his skills?" the older half-devil asked quietly.

/"I think he was Big Bro Nero and Big Sis Kyrie's big brother,"/ Durante answered, just as subdued. /"Sometimes, Big Sis Kyrie would look a little sad at this one picture that has both of them with another man on their shelf."/

"M'sorry... Cre... do... dun... leave..."

Vergil couldn't help but actually feel grateful for the deceased man who left such a mark on his son, for being there when he wasn't. (Thinking back, getting punched in the face after his and Dante's return now seemed rather warranted.) Letting out what felt like an uncharacteristic sigh, Vergil lightly brushed wet bangs to the side so as to rearrange the improvised ice pack on Nero's forehead. He froze when the younger part-devil instinctively leaned into his fingers, almost nuzzling.

If he was his younger self, he would've jerked his hand away.

And yet...

Vergil brushed his son's hair gently again but lingering just a bit longer. The effect resulted in Nero relaxing a little more, breathing not as harsh but still not fully conscious.

"...D-Dad?" he slurred, eyelids fluttering but not opening.

"I am here." Stroking feather-like hair this time, the other hand rearranging his coat to better cover the younger hunter. Calmer now, his tail curled underneath Nero's jacket that had been folded into a pillow after making sure his braid wouldn't cause any discomfort. "Rest, Nero."

Another weak nuzzle, trusting one of the hands that had once ripped his right arm away. "...m'kay."

Vergil could remember Eva's slim fingers gently brushing two frightened toddlers' hair when passing storms would come through, Sparda a comforting warmth on the other side of the bed. The memory of her soft lullaby from the past mingled with his voice in the present, the words coming forth unbidden but not unwanted.

Those voices deep within
Bring you down to your knees again
Redemption calls unto
All of those who persist with the strength of the few~

The red pommel flickered, as if Durante was tilting his head to better listen. /"What's that song, Uncle Vergil?"/

"A lullaby that your grandmother once sang to Dante and I." He rested his head against the cave's wall, feeling his hair slide over his shoulder while keeping his senses on the lookout. Dante's sword had insisted on calling him "uncle" early on during their time in the Demon World despite all of his protesting (much to Yamato's barely hidden amusement and Dante's unhelpful glee). When asked why, Durante bluntly responded that he was "Daddy's big brother, he was family, and family doesn't get left behind." Unable to find any fault in that kind of logic, Vergil finally gave in on accepting the title. (It actually felt... nice, as time passed.) "It... brought comfort to both of us when we were young."

/"S'nice song. Please sing more, Uncle Vergil?"/

He couldn't help but let out a soft laugh. It would be nice to pass along the song, Eva telling them that it was something passed down from her paternal grandfather.

Don’t come to question all that you’ve known
Remember, you are not alone
I will be here, standing beside you~

There is no mountain too tall to overcome
We will be as one
You will rise again
This is your legacy

"Rise again
This is your legacy~

As the thunder rolled away outside, Vergil listened to the heavy pattering of rain taking its place, Durante now humming the main melody.

It wasn't long until his brother returned with his doctor friend and their engineer was able make her way through, yet it felt far longer, what with Nico having to fight mud and slick pavement even as the storm gradually lightened somewhat. Sláine was able to charm his way through on getting them three decent hotel rooms despite no reservations. The still catatonic Nero was passed off as just needing some sleep in an actual bed, them having been on the road for so long.

Pausing on his way back to his and Sláine's room from the nearby mini-mart trip for some extra food (the cashier looked as if she wasn't sure whether to accept his payment or refuse after he had pretty much ransacked anything pizza-related in the freezer section), Dante silently peeked through a crack in the door and smiled softly at the scene in front of him. After a quick fumble of his cell phone, he was in possession of a picture of Vergil dozing in a chair placed as close as possible next to a peacefully sleeping Nero hooked to an IV slowly administering the anti-venom and other necessary fluids.

One glacial eye opened, simply looked at Dante for a brief moment before closing again, wrapping his tail a little closer around Nero. Still smiling, the younger twin quietly closed the door.