Actions

Work Header

Once More With Feeling

Chapter Text

The trap was sprung. And there wasn't a damned thing Dante or Vergil could do about it.

Not even their demonically enhanced gifts would be enough to break the Sons of Sparda from this horrific twist of fate. In any other circumstance, Dante and Vergil would have simply endured the assault with their usual combination of competitive spirit and stubborn refusal to die. But the appearance of the Demon Emperor quashed whatever humours that may have arisen in an instant. How precisely the brothers allowed themselves to be caught so completely unawares in the Dark Prince's trap was a complete mystery. There was no avenue of escape or method of quick egress from the situation - they were utterly and overwhelmingly surrounded.

Or... perhaps on reflection it was a matter of arrogance. Dante and Vergil had only been fighting the most basic of creatures for a long time now. Beings that fell like chaff before their swords. Even the greater demons they had encountered had proven little challenge against their combined strength. Such a state of near absolute supremacy had allowed them to grow complacent in their power. They hadn't even realised when taking on stronger and fiercer enemies that their strength was whittled away little by little. It seemed that their enemy was quite a fan of the old axiom 'death by a thousand cuts'. And that was precisely what happened. Now they were trapped in this excruciating battle of attrition - one that they could not win.

Another compelling question was how the hell did Mundus manage to break from the seal on Mallet Island and return to his home domain? Given the circumstances however, the brothers were willing to dispense with the questions until their current foes could be defeated.

If they could be defeated. The shared treacherous thought hung in the back of their minds, though neither would express it out loud. They had too much pride for that.

Dante and Vergil stood back-to-back with their weapons drawn, as they had always done since entering this forsaken hellscape to destroy the Qliphoth. Looming above the battlefield, the three eyed spectre of the Great Lord Mundus etched a familiar gut-churning sight. His shadowed hands hovered over the legions set before the twins, his fingers dancing as he directed the lesser demons like a puppeteer directing a theatre performance.

"Hey Verge," Dante was distressingly breathless as he spoke, his devil sword in a two-handed grip before him. "R-reckon you can take the thousand on the right?"

"Perhaps..." Vergil was equally as breathless, heart hammering in his chest and sucking in great gasps of air. It was weakness, but for the first time in his life he was astonished to realise he didn't care. "If one more were to appear, that might just be cause for concern."

"A'right then, its settled. Lets make 'em work for it, yeah?" Dante grinned, his teeth stained red from the wounds he'd sustained earlier in their two-man war against the denizens of the underworld.

"Took the words right out of my mouth, brother." Vergil replied.

Despite the situation and the reality that this was very likely their end, the brothers couldn't stop the sheer thrill they felt at the fight. The intoxicating exhalation of battle filled their tired bodies with renewed vigor. Neither found themselves particularly caring that the end of their lives was at hand. They had entered the world together - it was only right that they departed together in a blaze of glory. It would be a good death, and Vergil found himself at peace with that prospect. Dying beside his brother would be a noble way to go.

A tremor beneath their feet caught the elder brother's notice first and his heart lurched, recognising the familiar precursor to a move used on him long ago. "Dante, move!"

Before he could react, the younger Sparda was knocked hard on his front as the very ground beneath them warped and shot twisted barb projectiles at the brothers. Blood exploded from Vergil's guts and welled up in his throat as the barbs skewered him like a human pin-cushion. Their paths had likely ruptured his lungs, grazed his heart and impaled him through the bowels. Blood ran in thick lines down the dead wood and pooled at his feet. Vergil gasped for breath, trying to maintain the fragile thread of consciousness he had left to him.

"Shit! Vergil!" Dante was back on his feet in an instant cutting away the roots that bound his brother in place, and when Vergil collapsed to his knees he kept one hand on his shoulder as support. The Devil Sword Dante was levelled at their company, daring any one of them to try and take them now the elder brother was literally on his knees and incapacitated for the moment.

"Ah, how nostalgic this is Nelo Angelo. I recall inflicting similar wounds during our last encounter." Mundus' booming voice somehow sounded like a soothing purr which sickened the Sparda brothers. Dante pointed his Devil Sword towards the dark king.

"Hey feather face, sorry to say but I ain't lettin' my big brother go to the prom with some butt-ugly date like you! So back the hell away or things'll get real ugly real fast!" As much as Dante tried to affect his typical bravado, the threat rang blatantly hollow.

"I said before did I not? The human heart is a tumour of weakness. Allow me to remove it for you, to purify that obstacle from your path to power." Mundus offered ever so graciously.

Vergil grit his teeth against the pain, closing his eyes against the nightmares such words and the events that followed brought to the forefront of his mind. His anger peaked at the Dark Prince's sheer audacity. He grasped the remaining barb in his chest and wretched it out, inch by agonising inch then spat out a mouthful of blood spitefully. The pain fueled his fury and his typical calm collected front was no where to be found. Instead he chose to declare his flat refusal in a parlance with which his brother and son were intimately familiar.

"Go fuck youself."

Dante barked out a laughter despite the circumstance.

Dante crouched down and threw Vergil's arm over his shoulders. The older brother didn't protest, simply keeping his grip tight on Yamato as the twins rose and glared defiance up at the Demon King.

A crystalline clink sound echoed through the battlefield, somehow louder than all the snarls and roars and growls of the feral demons vying for Sparda blood. It was the sound of small chains attached to the most precious gemstone in all existence. An all too familiar amulet slipped from Vergil's pocket, four thin chains - two gold two silver - trailing as it clattered to the ground. The jiggling chain chimed like a bell, seemingly stopping everything within ear shot. Vergil and Dante both turned to stare at the amulet, the silent question in both of their eyes.

How? How could it possibly be here?!

The Perfect Amulet bounced in the pooling blood at their feet but did not land. It hung in the air, hovering just centimetres from the ground suspended while the four chain links rattled gently. The Sparda brothers looked around and found a purple haze cast over their adversaries. All locked in place. Frozen in time - frozen in a breath. The only thing that made any kind of sound was the amulet, which sounded so... inappropriately yet blissfully musical in this blighted scenario. A faction of a second later, the crystal emitted a dark purple glow that expanded into a circle. Some sort of purple rune that resembled an eye with two moons orbiting it confined within a runic circle.

"Umbra..." Vergil breathed and Dante stared at his brother in recognition.

In an eye blink second, the chains shot out extending to ludicrously long proportions that marked out a semi-spherical space to enclose the twins with the Perfect Amulet forming its apex. The Umbra rune circle rotated at a 90 degree angle and lowered to their feet.

The purple haze around their enemies slowly faded away and the Demon King roared his rage. The very skies themselves thundered and boomed with his outburst, such was the power under his command. Demons rushed like carrion to a corpse but none could break the purple magic barrier that had erected around the twins, linked together by the chains.

"That foul witch!" The dark king roared in a colossal tantrum-like rage, "Eva, you blighted creature! Not once but twice - How dare you steal from me!"

The very rune beneath their feet glowed as a bead of dark crackling energy blasted the brothers apart from each other. The bead expanded into a whirlpool that grew faster than either could register.

"Vergil! Stay close to me!" Dante lunged for his brother, hand outstretched as the purple and black magics encompassed them.

Vergil just barely caught his twin's hand as they were hurled head long into a tempestuous whirlwind that threatened to consume all in its path. In an eye-blink instant, the magical barrier and the amulet that forged it, were gone. Taken into the vortex that whisked the sons of Sparda from the underworld. The Demon Emperor's maddened roars of denial and curses of retaliation vanished in the howling winds around them.

It was brutal. As the elements themselves had formed fists and chose to add their own beating to what the Sparda brothers had already endured at Mundus' hands. One particular turbulent wind strike knocked Yamato clean from Vergil's hand.

"NO!" Vergil reached out in vain as his treasured sword spiraled into the abyss, lost forever in this space.

"Damn it!" Dante growled in frustration, eyes closed with his spare hand shielding his head from the brutal force attacking them. "We need to hold on!"

"Don't let go!" The elder brother cared little that he begged and the twins cried out in agony when they lost their grip on each other, thrown by whatever magic this was in opposite directions. Vergil was sent pinwheeling away before his back collided with a hard thump against a flat surface which knocked him out completely.

Chapter Text

The last thing Vergil recalled was standing at his brother's back preparing to make a final stand against the hordes of hell closing in around them. Each and every one of them hungry for Sparda blood. But at the metaphorical eleventh hour, the Perfect Amulet slipped from his pocket to activate some form of magic that spirited them away from the chaos. It was unmistakably Umbra in nature. He had come across hidden and cryptic notes regarding the ancient clan's knowledge of such things during his journey as a youth, but precious little in truth. Certainly nothing to give explanation as to how the amulet wound up in Vergil's possession, let alone performing such a feat.

In the maelstrom of magic, Vergil had clung to his brother for as long as he could - they had just made peace after years of long and bitter feuding and Vergil was not about to lose one of the last scraps of family he had left. But it seemed whatever intention was behind the power did not take his will into account. Being torn from Dante by the elements themselves sent electric spikes through Vergil's heart and mind. A feeling of despair neatly accented by the loss of Yamato.

It seemed to be the pattern with him. When Vergil gained a mere fraction of his desires, forces beyond his ken would reduce those hard-earned victories to ash in his mouth. The precious blade - the last true heirloom of Sparda - went pinwheeling into the vortex and disappeared into the ether.

Since then, Vergil's mind has been trapped in a haze. Like there was a layer of static disconnect between his mind and body. It brought forth memories of the numerous horrors he had endured during his time in Mundus' care when the Dark King had him in his clutches. Torturing his sanity and twisting his perception. Stripping away the memories that forged his identity and life one thread at a time. All of it in aid to reduce the proud elder son of Sparda into little more than a meat puppet to further the Hell King's own warped ambitions.

However this was not a sensation filled with jagged pain and horrific mutilation but something else. More like a bone deep fatigue. Like the toll of all the battles he and Dante had fought since coming to the Underworld - and perhaps before that atop the Qliphoth - compounded into inescapable exhaustion. His body felt as though it had been pushed beyond its limits for far too long and simply refused any commands from his mind to move, prioritising its own need for rest over his will.

Vergil would have cursed it had he the ability to do so but in this darkness, all he could do was lie in wait for whatever happened. His mind slipped in and out of a semi-aware state more times than he could count. Each time, his body would not respond to his commands - not even to the most basic thing like opening his eyes.

The fact that concerned him the most however was that he wasn't alone. There were impressions in this semi-aware state. Fleeting things like half-remembered dreams. The first thing he sensed in this coma-like state was something - or someone - had lifted him up, something strong and fierce carried him somewhere as if he weighed little more than a small child. The presence was fierce. A being of incomparable power. If asked to describe it, Vergil would say he was staring at the surface of a vast ocean, one that could unleash a raging tide at the right provocation.

The second presence he could perceive was gentle, calm and graceful. This one had power though it felt somehow underwhelming. As if the owner had allowed their natural gifts to go unused causing them to atrophy like an unused muscle.

The next thing he could perceive after their presence was that he had been laid down somewhere comfortable, warm as a summer morning and soft as a cloud. Wherever he was, he was filled with an overwhelming sense of respite... and he would even go so far as to claim a feeling of 'safety'. Such an elusive concept for him that he almost didn't recognise it.

The two presences remained in his perceptions. Every time Vergil was lucid enough to sense them, it seemed that they alternated. The two presences invoked words in him, labels that he thought he would never apply again to another in the living realm. It was strange to even put the thought forward, his logical mind rebelled at the very impossibility of something so surreal. How could it possible be so?

Mother. Father.

No sooner had the words formed in his mind that Vergil bolted upright with a gasp, feeling a thick heavy blanket pool at his waist. His eyes screwed shut and he cupped his head in his hand with a grimace of pain. His head throbbed like demons were tap-dancing on his skull. He groaned, rubbing the heels of his palms into his eyes in a vain attempt to halt the pain running up and down his crown. He was dressed in navy coloured button-up pajamas with white lining on the edges, certainly not the vest and pants he lost consciousness in for certain.

Vergil looked to his immediate right, knowing despite not seeing this room for nearly forty years that he would find his objective sleeping in the bed besides his. Separated by a long night stand that sat below the large arch window which illuminated their room in a bright white light was Dante. Dante, impossibly young Dante, slept there half tangled in the sheets. He was dressed in a similar style of pajamas as Vergil, though his were a rich maroon in colour.

Though Vergil had far too much pride to admit it out loud, his heart was in his throat when he rushed over to his younger brother. Ignoring the biting cold of the wooden floor, he stood at his brother's side rousing him to wakefulness with a hard shake of his shoulder. "Dante. Dante!"

"Mmm... wha - Verge, thank god!" Dante's bleary eyes opened and blinked once or twice before his brother's face came into complete focus. He leaped out of bed in an instant, Vergil was taken aback - both figuratively and literally as the sudden action took him completely off guard. Dante threw his arms around him and Vergil returned the embrace without hesitation.

Neither were sure how long they remained in the hug, but Dante was the first to break it and finally took in their surroundings. And more importantly his clothing and size. The room appeared to be a perfect recreation of their childhood bedroom. Everything was mirrored and an imaginary line right down the centre to identify which 'half' belonged to which brother. Two desks sat across their beds in various states of cleanliness. Vergil's half of the room was all piled books, notes and even some loose musical sheets for the violin. Everything had a sense of order and a correct place. Even as a boy, Vergil had an obsession with keeping things tidy and ordered. Whereas Dante's half was the utter opposite, a picture of pure calamity. Toys and books chucked haphazardly on the floor or scattered across his desk. A pair of two wooden swords rested against his desk.

When they had finished examining the room around them, the twins turned their gaze to themselves. They were as identical as the day they were born, neither bearing the marks of adulthood nor their entire lives that had etched hard differences into their features.

"Okay, what in the hell is this?" Dante demanded, gesturing around them.

"It appears to be our childhood bedroom," Vergil pointedly looked around to the perfect replication of their childhood room, down to the books and toys they had kept.

Vergil returned to his bed and ran his fingers over the open covers, feeling the soft mink blanket that had been thrown over him. "Though how or why we ended up here is entirely a mystery."

He turned and pulled himself onto the bed, his feet dangling over the edge. Dante nearly laughed at the irritated face he pulled when he realized his feet wouldn't touch the ground. Instead, the elder Sparda son simply rested his heels against the mattress frame.

"So, got any theories? Speculations? Spit-balled ideas?" Dante questioned, walking over and joining his brother on the bed. Unlike Vergil, he leaned back on his palms and let his legs kick out in front of him. His fingers brushed over the blanket cover and he pouted. "Damn, your blankets were always softer than mine."

Vergil cocked an eyebrow. "Its because unlike someone, I didn't sneak food into my bed at night to munch on while mother and father weren't looking."

Dante laughed, elbowing him playfully with a grin apparently not at all concerned that they were reduced to preteens. "I remember you used to partake in my bounty more often than not."

"I was smart enough to stay on your bed while we ate, brother." Vergil replied, that childhood memory filled his mind, one of many so easily accessible now that the last of Mundus' corruption had been expelled from his being. It was a pleasant memory, pitching Dante's blanket like a tent while they ate more sweets than mother would have allowed, enjoying the delicious forbidden fruit of Dante's mischief.

His expression turned serious, "I know it was Umbra magic."

"Those witches with the freaky time powers? Make pacts with demons and all that?" Dante asked,

"Not how I would have phrased it, but that is the essence of what they are. Extraordinarily powerful women with the power to summon demons into our realm for service and control the ebb and flow of time," Vergil explained, giving a sidelong look to Dante. "You would appreciate their martial prowess, they fought primarily with gun-play."

Dante hummed appreciatively, "Sounds like a bunch of badass ladies. But how do you think Umbra magic ended up with mother's locket?"

Vergil shrugged. "There's two answers that most readily come to mind."

"And those are?"

The elder brother counted off the options on his fingers, "First, father knew of a survivor of the Witch Hunts in the fifteen hundreds and had the amulet enchanted with Umbran magic with some form of fail safe to prevent it falling into the wrong hands."

"And two?"

Vergil seemed more hesitant to offer the second opinion but gave it regardless, "Second, as the locket is - was mother's then mother herself was an Umbra Witch, and the magic was hers."

A shadowed look passed over Dante's face, closing his eyes against the intrusive memories of his mother's frantic calls for his brother and her death screams. "That's not possible. If mother was... if she was one of those Witches..."

The rest of the sentence was left unsaid, hanging in the air over the pair of them. Then she wouldn't have died.

"So what do you want to do?" Dante piped up after a long silence, trying to force a lighthearted tone into the conversation.

Vergil glanced away towards the door. "Its best we gather as much information about this situation as possible. I wouldn't put it past Mundus to set up such an extravagant scenario just to break us. After all, I am... intimately familiar with the tricks he enjoys playing with one's mind."

Dante scrunched his nose and shook his head, "Nah - I doubt it. The barrier was keepin' all the demons out. And Mundus was cussing up a storm about mum always stealing his stuff."

"Perhaps." Vergil pushed himself off his bed, wincing as the cold floor sent a jolt up his nerves. He quickly investigated around near his bed, if this was a true recreation of his childhood bedroom then he should be able to - ah, there they were.

He slipped on a pair of black slippers that matched his navy blue pajamas. "Regardless, I still say we should keep our guard up. I cannot summon any of my demonic energies, and if I can't then you definitely won't be able to."

Dante held his hand out and watched it expectantly, waiting for his new Devil Sword to appear but alas nothing happened. He simply huffed and pushed himself off the bed too. "That bites. We haven't got a thing between us to defend ourselves."

Vergil was about to make a suggestion on that matter but his face etched a frown as the sound of sharp clacking grew steadily closer. "Someone's coming."

Dante glanced around quickly, looking for something he could use as an improvised weapon but stopped cold when the knob turned and the door opened on a creaking hing.

"Oh, my sweet boys - you're finally awake." A relieved smile greeted the twins and their hearts leaped to their throats, frozen in place by the appearance of their beloved matriarch.

Chapter Text

Every thought, every theory, every half-wild crazy speculation about this scenario froze in place as the twin boys saw the image of their mother in the doorway of their childhood bedroom.

That loss for words continued as Eva swept across the room and gathered her sons up in her arms, holding them close in her warm embrace. Dante reflexively returned the hug and when he'd regained his senses he buried his face in his mother's neck. Tears gathering in the corner of his eyes as he took in her all too familiar scent, a mix of lavender and rosemary.

Vergil remained ridged. Too stunned by her appearance to even register the gesture. His eyes were wide like a deer in headlights at the physical affection and his hands remained static as his sides, either unable or unwilling to express the same open affection Dante had for their mother. He was simply too gobsmacked by the bizarre circumstance. He was even more so by the warm tracks he'd felt running down his cheeks. He was crying. Childishly, foolishly crying.

"My boys... my sweet boys, are you well? Have you been hurt?"

Eva pulled away, brushing away their tears away with her thumbs. Her hand cupping their cheeks as her soft green eyes traced over their faces. She took in their expressions for only a few seconds before a sorrowful look replaced the grave concern. Her eyes gave her thoughts away clear as summer morning. It was almost as if... she knew?

"Oh my precious boys, you've met with a terrible fate haven't you?"

Hearing her voice snapped Vergil out of his trance and his hands, comparatively tiny compared to his mothers, closed around Eva's. His eyes slid closed as he leaned into her touch, the childish fear lancing through his mind that should she pull away from him she was disappear forever. It was unlike his typical stoic self and it threw all thoughts of caution to the wind; but damn the world and all the devils in it - let him have this one moment.

If Dante wanted to question this behaviour, he kept it to himself. It appeared he was similarly transfixed by the appearance of their matriarch. And like Vergil, he was reluctant to let her go. Neither could be blamed. Eva remained in silence, merely offering the comfort of her presence she realised they desperately needed. At once, the brothers went to speak, to question or explain or just say something to break the silence.

"Mum, I -"

"Mother, there's-"

"Hush now, Hush. Its okay. Everything is going to be okay, I promise you." Eva soothed kindly, kneeling before them with one hand holding the two of theirs each. "You two gave your father and I quite the fright. You've been sleeping for five days."

Father? Father was here too? Vergil's heart seized painfully at the thought of his Sparda and he'd shared a look with Dante, a brief side glance that spoke volumes about his inner conflict. What would Sparda think of the man his son would become? The man who raised the Temen-Ni-Gru, the man who split himself asunder in a misguided attempt to seize more power? He shook his head of the thought, registering his mother's words.

"Five days?" Vergil echoed, blinking in surprise. He brushed away the lingering tears in his eyes while Dante chose to speak up next.

"Mum... i-is this real?" An obvious question, and in any other time and place a blatantly stupid one, but it was apt for the circumstance in question.

To her credit, Eva simply took the question in stride. "Yes. Yes this is real, Dante." Her head titled to one side and offered a subtle crooked smile, the same Dante would get when he was feeling just a touch mischievous. "Although, if I were your enemy, then perhaps that was the wrong thing to say, no?"

That caught them off guard, the twins exchanged confused looks. The same question in their mind. Did mother know what happened to them? Well. She had to, Mundus wouldn't have cursed her name so vehemently had she not. But how did she know?

"Mother... the amulet. Your amulet. Did-" Vergil began, but Eva shushed him brushing her hand through his bed hair and slicking it back close to his usual style.

"We can discuss this later, my little poet." At last Eva rose from her knees, her hands on their shoulders as she guided them from the room. "Come, breakfast is on the dining room table. I had a feeling you two would stir sooner rather than later."

As if the mention of food was a rallying cry, their stomachs chorused in a loud low grumble that stretched on for quite a number of seconds. Eva raised an eyebrow down at the boys expectantly with a cheeky expression, attempting to stifle a giggle while Dante broke out into a laughing fit and Vergil was trying and failing to hide the embarrassed flush on his cheeks. His face was turned away from his mother, but she simply patted his head gently while she guided them.

It took no time at all for them to reach the table, their bedroom was on the second story. the instant they turned the corner into the dining room they were ambushed by the delicious scent. The dining table was set for four places with fried bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, roast meats and vegetables set on plates. It was a humble spread despite the ostentatious table wear, but it may as well have looked like a venerable palace feast from the twins' perspective.

Eva had settled them into their seats, across from each other on the square table like they had when they were children. Before she had even said anything else, the boys were off. All thoughts of this being an illusion dashed as they moved to pile their plates high with the sustenance their growing bodies so desperately craved. Even if the display lacked some table manners.

While the boys were occupied with breakfast - and displaying an astonishing lack of table manners while they were at it - Eva took the chance to quietly slip out of the room. Her face set with regal determination as she strode towards her husband's study.


The soft clack of heels against carpet echoed down the hallway and Sparda's gaze rose from the ancient vellum in time to see his study's door open and his wife standing in the hall. The Dark Knight leaned back in his chair, a grand wooden chair padded with soft red cushioning.

"My Lady," He greeted, plucking his monocle from his eye and noticing the grave expression. "The boys have begun to stir, I take it?"

"Yes. They've awakened." She crossed the room and sat herself in the cushioned chair across from Sparda's rich mahogany desk. "I've left them at the dining table for now. Poor boys - the way they're scoffing down their breakfast you'd be forgiven for thinking we hadn't fed them their entire lives."

Sparda chuckled only a little at the levity. "As always, your timing with these matters is impeccable. As I have learned time and again, I shall never doubt your instincts."

Eva allowed herself a faint smile before her expression turned severe. "So, shall we discuss the matter at hand or will we continue to dance around it until judgement day trumpets sound?"

Whatever good humour remained between them vanished. Sparda retrieved an object from his top drawer and placed it on the desk between them. The thing should have been made of a high-purity metal with a rich luminescent ruby in the central setting. Instead, the chain links were the colour of dulled iron and the ruby replaced by a lump of coal. It was an identical match to the Perfect amulet that Sparda wore around his neck, a key that he would give to his wife - and later would pass down to their sons.

"It is your spellcraft." Sparda explained as Eva took the amulet into her hands, examining it more closely. "Your spiritual essence lingers on it, I can taste it like the scent of blood and fire in the wind."

Eva met his gaze evenly. "Yes, and that fact troubles me greatly."

"It troubles me also but please explain, my love. I want to see if your opinion on this matter matches my own." Sparda prompted patiently.

"This is a spell I have not cast yet, but I can tell you of what I intended from the remnants of its construction," Eva explained, holding the faded amulet in her palm. "The spell was intended as a final safety measure. When the wearer - or wearers in this case - experienced a great deal of mortal danger, the spellweave's matrices were intended to transport them away from that danger. To a place where they mutually felt the safest."

The Dark Knight leaned back in his chair, contemplating what he'd gleamed from the last few days. "I can only imagine where they came from then. Their wounds taint on their spirits like a pox. And it reeks of..."

"Of Mundus." Eva finished for him and Sparda exhaled heavily, not wishing to voice the name of his erstwhile brethren in this place.

"That spell brought them here. To this home. And as ludicrous as this sounds, pulled them to this time." Sparda folded his hands together, peering at his wife. "Though I am not surprised that such a thing could have possibly occurred, you are the foremost expert in your clan's temporal magics."

Eva shook her head dissuading that notion. "But to pull a person - let alone two people - back through time... I could scarcely believe such a thing is possible. A matter of moments, yes. But if our theory is correct, we speak of years Sparda."

"I could." The devil replied, unperturbed. "It is you, my love. You may be human, but even you have a habit of underestimating your capabilities."

"My former capabilities." Eva corrected, closing her hands over the amulet. "No matter which angle you choose to look at it. And regardless that we do not know the ages of the boys before this spell was cast, it sketches a horrible picture if this is the place they truly felt the safest."

Sparda leaned back in his chair and nodded grimly, "Indeed. It speaks of an ill lived life."

The Dark Knight rose from his chair and circled around the table to his wife, leaving his trim purple coat behind on the coat hook. He offered his hand to his beloved who took it and rose, "Perhaps its best if we chose to discuss the matter with the boys. That is presuming they're quite finished stuffing their faces with that feast you and Lucille prepared."

Chapter Text

Despite their mother already informing the twins of their father's presence, nothing could have prepared them to actually see the demon in the flesh. Their father, Sparda, crossed the room with Eva in tow. He'd paused one of the empty chairs at the head of the dining room table, pulled it out for his bride to settle herself then assumed his own seat on the opposite side, settling himself down as the female caretaker wordlessly entered the room from the kitchen.

The caretaker was a pale lanky woman dressed in emerald green with a long neck and a tight brown bun. Her name was Lucille and she had already cleared away their first round of breakfast and set about bringing out the second course. It was an oddity against what little either twin had remembered of their childhood years, but perhaps this was their mother's doing. Seeing how ravenously her children devoured their food must have prompted her to request Lucille fix a second round of good. Truly, it was more of the same succulent smelling entrees, but Vergil and Dante found their appetites had suddenly vanished.

Dante eyed Lucille, he had always sensed something... strange about her. Vergil had maybe sensed it too at one point, he was always more adept with his demonic side, but the tap dancing playing on his nerves and all of his years as a professional Demon Hunter had made him acutely aware of precisely what that feeling was. Lucille was a demon. Doubtlessly one loyal to Sparda, for their father would not willingly let another demon near his progeny unless he was absolutely certain of their intentions - but she was a demon nonetheless.

To her credit, Lucille ignored the slight looks the boys were giving her. When she happened to meet their gaze, she gave a nod with an expression of polite indifference before continuing with what she as doing.

Sparda served himself two sides of near charred black toast, soaking it in butter, and a healthy scope of eggs, charred sausages and bacon. Dante shifted his food around his plate while fidgeting uncomfortably. By contrast, Vergil stiffened his back ramrod straight. His hands remaining in his lap. The silence was tense and it was Sparda who first broke it.

"Have you to slept well?" His voice was just as they remembered, like warm honey. Rich and low baritone that made it easy to understand how women were so charmed by the man.

Vergil gave a slight nod while Dante remained silent, avoiding both of his parents' gaze. Eva glanced up from her own breakfast and shared a look with her husband.

Sparda let his knife and fork rest against his half-eaten plate and rested his chin on his folded hands.

"Perhaps I should dispense with the usual pleasantries. I know a spell was cast, I know whatever spell was cast has brought you two children back to this place. So my sons, my question to you are as follows: One, precisely where - or potentially when - did you come from? Two; What situation where you in that would leave the stink of the Dark Emperor's sycophants all over your wounds? And three; what was the precise nature of the events that led to your first two answers?"

"We were injured?" Dante piped up,

Sparda shook his head, "Mentally and spiritually exhausted, yes. But no physical wounds were present on either of you. However, the echo of those injuries remained on your spirit. I could smell it like the lingering remnants of pestilence."

"You may find yourself greatly disappointed and disturbed by the answer, father." Vergil supplied after a tense silence in a shockingly small voice.

Sparda regarded his first born with oddly kind eyes. "In my experience, the truth is often both Vergil. But speak honestly and speak truly."

The elder son was about to speak before Sparda raised a hand slightly. "And before you decide whether or not to omit anything, please remember that I have spent millennia walking this world and that it takes quite an effort to disturb my humours. I also know how to spot when you are lying, my boy."

It is clear their father meant that last wry comment as a joke, but Vergil did not take it that way. Dante gave a hefty sigh and offered a helpless shrug.

"Where in the hell do we even start?" The younger son shook his head.

"The beginning. Tell us everything." Eva soothed him gently but it was little better.

Vergil and Dante shared a look, their hesitation plain on their faces. Even the beginning seemed to be a point of conjuncture between the two. The beginning of their ideological conflict? The beginning of a rivalry that had seen them both die in one form or another over their painful lives? How they had only just managed to become brothers again after a lifetime of bitter hatred, scorn and mutual grudging respect?

As if a silent conversation had taken place, they seemed to reach an agreement and chose to begin on that fateful day in their eighth year. Where an innocent childhood was torn so viciously away thanks to the Dark Emperor himself.

Eva and Sparda had listened intently and in silence. They were so quiet as the details of Dante and Vergil's lives growing up were laid out to bare for their scrutiny. As tempted as either twin were to omit certain details, they chose to be honest and truthful like their father had requested. Pausing only when they heard the clatter of fine china, which was when either Sparda or Eva took a small sip of whatever they were drinking.

During their retelling of their lives, Lucille had come along and cleared away the remains of breakfast that had turned cold, wiping the table down and replacing the central fixture - a tasteful vase of purple lotus flowers, their mother's favourite. Finally, Vergil had reached the conclusion of their heartbreaking epic.

"Then the Perfect Amulet fell from my pocket. I've no idea how or why it was even in my possession. As far as I knew, it was lost to me forever. After it clattered to the ground, an Umbra rune matrix spawned from the amulet, sweeping us up in its power." Vergil explained, still avoiding his parents' gaze.

"Next thing we know, we're sucked into some freaky vortex thing. After that, we're midgets waking up in our childhood bedroom - then mum came in to check up on us."

Sparda had not made any significant change in expression since the tale had begun. He was contemplating every word his sons had shared, breaking down the facts and archiving them away in his ancient mind for use on a later date. The only real shift in expression was a subtle twitch in his right eyebrow, and even then that was extremely difficult to glimpse. It was such a good and immovable expression, it'd be real hard to try and out bluff him in a card game.

Eva's expression was morose on the other hand. The retelling of her children's lives had caused her to become more and more closed off, lost in her own quiet sorrow. She did not look at the boys for a long time, and they had feared her disappointment. But there was also something else in her eye they couldn't quite place. Was it... anger? If so, was it directed towards the Sons of Sparda? Or Lord Mundus?

"This is far worse than I had anticipated." Sparda leaned back in his chair, arms resting on the table. He inhaled deeply and released a shuddering breath, a shadow of despair hanging over his features.

"I do not condone many of the actions you have taken, but neither of you are to be blamed for doing what you must to survive. As much as we wish to pretend the world is not that way, the truth is ugly and does not oft permit us that fantasy for long." He considered his sons, "Your life has been a tragedy, and the fault is-"

"-Mine."

The three devils all turned to the Matriarch. Eva's expression was severe as she contemplated her tea.

Sparda leaned forward. "My Lady, that is not-"

"It is." Eva declared unwilling to be swayed, then gestured to her sons. "You heard their tale, didn't you? You heard what happened after their eighth birthday. I died trying to protect them, I was too weak and powerless to do anything more than hide one son and then lose the other. Because of that weakness, they spent their entire lives at each other's throats. Their entire relationship became one of bitter misunderstanding and strife because I could not do what I should have."

Her eyes closed and she inhaled deeply steeling herself, her fingers curling around her tea cup tensed before she released her grip and reached to her sons, one hand for each of them. On instinct, they returned the gesture and held their mother's warm hands tightly. Eva looked imploringly between her children, her heart laid bare. "My boys. Please, forgive me. Forgive your mother her weakness and her failure to protect you."

"Mother-"

"Mum."

"Eva, that is not the case." Sparda tried to interject again.

"Isn't it?" She turned sharp eyes on her husband, a knowing look passed between them and the Dark Knight relented. "Is it not? Wasn't it my choice to relinquish my power, and thus put myself in that situation in the first place?"

The Sparda matriarch had released her sons and rose to her feet, a fierce determination etched in her expression. "I have failed these boys once as a mother, and I will not fail again."

"Eva..." Sparda went to reach for her, but their mother had already excused herself from the room.

"I've never seen mum act like that before..." Dante blinked in surprise at the outburst,

"Will she be alright?" Vergil asked his father.,

The Dark Knight slumped in his chair before brushing his hair back in exasperation. His gaze turned to his two boys. "I will discuss the situation with your mother. She has a tendency to be... stubborn about these matters once her mind is set. As a wise man once said, men are like silk - it is difficult to change their colours once the dye is set..."

"Poetic." Vergil commented.

"I will also inform Lucille to suspend your lessons for now, at least until we come to an understanding as to how we proceed from here. In the mean time, I believe you two should become reacquainted with your old home." Sparda rose from his chair and made his way out of the room, arms behind his back as he strolled after his wife. The expression on his face made it obvious he was not going to enjoy the conversation.

Vergil took it as his cue to leave the dining room table and made his way through the manor. No particular destination was in mind but he felt like he needed to be alone. As did Dante apparently, since he had taken the same idea and left without a word. Vergil had taken his time as he strolled through the manor, consciously avoiding places he knew his mother and father were likely to be. He'd lapped upstairs and downstairs three times before he'd found Dante again.

His younger brother was standing in the foyer before the white shuttered wardrobe to the side of the entry way. Vergil approached as he noticed Dante's fingers brushed over the shuttered wardrobe, memories of his mother's terrified face were forever burned into his mind. Feeling perhaps this was a private moment, he decided to turn back around and return upstairs until he'd caught a glimpse of the family portrait hanging above the landing. The coloured paints still fresh and vibrant in colour, not at all marked by age as it was when he'd last seen it as an adult.

"Mother hid me here." He said, his voice distant and hollow. Vergil stiffened ever so slightly, not looking away from the family portrait.

"This is where I used Yamato to sever myself in two." Vergil offered in return.

"And where I absorbed rebellion to gain my true power," Dante gave a humourless chuckle turning from his dark revelry and join Vergil in looking up at their family portrait. "Always came back to this place, didn't it?"

"Its where everything began. The place where we were born and where our childhood died." His tone was melancholic.

"And yet, here we stand - with a chance to do it all over again."

"But at what cost?"

"You've never been one to consider consequences, its kinda weird to hear that coming from you."

Vergil's gaze lowered and bit his lip, a childhood habit when he was attempting to muster the right words. "I suppose... I've never been in a position to fully contemplate my actions, the ramifications of them. I was so possessed of the notion that power was an absolute that I never once gave thought to all that suffered in my wake."

"Seeing father's disappointment made me feel small, foolish and little more than a child fumbling in the dark grasping beyond my reach." Vergil admitted, and it bruised his pride to do so.

They fell into silence once more. That seemed to be happening a lot lately. Taking in the magnitude of what had happened to them and where they stood now.

"We need strength." Vergil declared and Dante would have rolled his eyes at the proclamation before, but there were two key things that made him take the statement different.

His twin brother was not declaring a selfish quest for his own benefit but had included Dante within it. 'We' needed more, not 'I'. More than that, he didn't say 'power' he said 'strength'. The younger son of Sparda felt his heart lift a little and Vergil turned to look at him with such an earnest expression that Dante couldn't help but be moved by it. "Mother and father are or were powerful, but we know they are not invulnerable."

"We're the Sons of Sparda, ain't we? And we both know how strong we became. First time around - we were fiddling and faffing about, but now we know where the goal posts are and a pretty good idea about how to get there right?" Dante said, wearing his crooked grin that even more childish on his youthful face, he held his hand up demonstratively. "Imagine how much better we could be if we got a jump start on it?"

"You're... agreeing with me." Vergil was perplexed then immediately frowned. A rather cute expression from a child and Dante laughed at it. "Please don't, it makes me incredibly uncomfortable."

"Hah! Imagine how I feel too, dumbass." Dante joked giving Vergil a lighthearted punch in the shoulder. The elder son of Sparda returned with a halfhearted shove of his own. The younger twin became serious once more, staring up at the family photo. "I don't want to lose mum or dad ever again. We've got a second chance to change everything. And I sure as shit ain't gonna let mum die again."

"Neither will I." Vergil declared.

Chapter Text

Eva plucked the object from its shelf in the wardrobe in the master bedroom and set it on the cleared dresser. It was a chest made of stained dark mahogany wood with an elaborate etching on the lid. Golden plating edged the corners, the hinges and the latch. The latch had been fashioned to resemble the clan mark of the Umbra Witches, itself studded with amethysts to accent its lines and curves. The symbol echoed the one atop the chest.

Inside was her most prized weapons, four finely wrought hand cannons collectively named the Four Seasons. They were a most beautiful display of master craftsmanship. Long barreled revolvers made of chrome-coloured metal and ivory handles, neatly accented with gold filigree. To complete the ensemble, each one was studded with a polished gemstone; Spring held a bright emerald, Summer held a ruby, Autumn a sapphire and Winter a diamond. They lay symmetrically inside the case, and Eva knew that another precious object existed within. The pocket watch of an Umbra witch - a sort of badge of office. The surface was polished smooth onyx embedded in a gold setting with a stylised crescent moon worked into the design.

Eva's fingers traced the golden detail, a fleeting thought in the back of her mind as she examined the chest. Was she a fool for this? That every time there was the slightest whiff of danger, she would dash back to those old yet achingly familiar ways?

Perhaps she should have felt differently knowing that her beloved husband was the Dark Knight, the devil whose powers tore the worlds asunder and erected the impossible boundary between dimensions. But it was clear by their sons' tale that such a thing wasn't enough to protect them from the horrors of the world nor the enemies of their fore-bearers.

It stabbed her heart like an ice cold lance to think that her children were forced to face that darkness alone. That it brought them to clash many times, that her eldest was forced to play along as the meat puppet to their greatest enemy for years losing most of his adult life to the Dark Emperor's depravity.

That her youngest son had to bare the burden of guilt that not only did he lose his brother once, but twice over. First to the abyss and second to death - even if the latter didn't quite stick.

There was also the boy they had spoken of. Nero, Vergil's firstborn son. Eva and Sparda's first and only Grandson. He too had been lost because of this magic. Lady. Trish. Lucia. Nicoletta. Nell Goldstein. Kyrie. Patty. Morrison. Names of their friends. Their colleagues and their entire lives had been wrenched from them. As much as Eva had wished to say that this second change was perhaps blessing in disguise, it was a bitter pill to swallow and such platitudes seemed beyond cruel.

A matter of three decades were truly nothing to Sparda when measured against the millennium of his existence, and truthfully nothing against her own centuries long life. But to their children, it was their lifetimes. While Eva believed that if fate willed it they would meet their friends and found family again, it seemed a grave insult to simply ask the boys to believe as she did.

Eva felt her fingers tighten around the chest and her face contort into a fierce scowl. She went to the latch before a sweet honey voice made her freeze mid motion, as if she were caught doing something illicit.

"May we discuss this before you rush to make a decision you cannot recant?" Sparda had asked, standing in their bedroom doorway.

"I don't think there's anything to discuss. Your arch nemesis is going to slaughter our household, the vast majority of this city and turn our sons' lives into abject hell. This is the only recourse available to me to ensure that does not happen." Eva explained, her eyes focused on the chest.

Sparda crossed the room and sat on their bed, his icy eyes still focused on her. No doubt wishing he could devise a way to coax Eva off her path. But she was a stubborn woman when her mind was set, it was one of the things that had enamored the Dark Knight so.

"Do you wish to find yourself in hell again?" It wasn't meant as any threat, just a simple statement of truth.

"For my sons, I would gladly suffer for eternity if it kept them safe." Eva declared with out a shadow of hesitation.

"I doubt they would be content knowing their security came at the cost of damning your immortal soul," Sparda reasoned gently then sighed, "You recall exactly how difficult it was for for us break your first contract."

"I remember the Witch Hunts and their aftermath all too well, my love. I was there too," Eva replied, not dissuaded. She turned to her husband, "I remember being tied to that pyre, the flames singeing my hair and licking at my skin. But a grim memory centuries ago won't change my mind now."

"As if it ever could," Sparda mused under his breath. No, her resolve was ironclad it seemed.

"As I said before, I see no other option to protect my children. Clearly wards and guardian runes will not be enough to protect this home of ours. It requires an active participant, not reactive measures."

"There are other ways," Sparda offered. "I could summon Beherit. I could summon Abraxas, Anzu - or any number of my followers who sought residence in the human world after I closed the gates."

"You would pluck them from their lives to play nursemaid to your children?"

"If that's what I request of them then that is what will happen," He replied with certainty.

For a moment - the merest fraction of a moment - Sparda believed that Eva was finally coming around. That he had warded her away from a precipice that would forever change her life. But that hope was quashed quickly and the Dark Knight had come to his decision not a minute afterwards.

Eva shook her head after a long tense moment, "No. I will not allow others to put their lives on hold to service our whims. Followers or no. If you want to try and dissuade me further, then-"

"I will not," Sparda waved a dismissive hand to cut her off, hiding the exasperation he felt under his understanding expression. "I have said my piece and you have made your decision. I do not agree with it after all we have suffered to revoke the contract, but I will support it. And you. You are my love, the mother of my children and the Lady of this house. If this is the path you believe will best allow you to protect our children then this is the path you must take."

He rose from his seat on their bed wearing a wry smile. "I should have known even before coming into the room that I'd have had better luck convincing mountains to bow before me."

Eva chuckled softly but she was beyond grateful. This decision was not easy on either of them. "What shall we set as the conditions of the contract then?" she cocked her head to one side in amusement, "I'd offer you my firstborn child, but you've already taken my first and second born together. Unless you wish for a third born, there is nothing much more I can set as terms I'm afraid."

"You can offer this," Sparda said in a formal tone, "Eva of Redgrave, do you swear to protect the progeny of the Dark Knight until your dying breath and beyond? Do you swear to uphold this contract from this day until the end of days?"

"I swear it in this life and the next, I will protect the kin of Sparda."

Eva raised her right hand forward towards her husband and Sparda took it firmly, palm to wrist. In that second, he had shifted into his demonic form. Flesh replaced with scales and leather hide, fingers with talons. Crackling purple-black energy faded into existence and coiled around their joined hands before wrapping around their limbs like a tight web. Strand purple energy sketched the symbol of the Umbra and marked the pact like a stamp.

Purple lines of power crawled up Eva's arm before sinking into her skin and the mark of the Umbra vanished along with it. Pact given and accepted.

The second the ritual was over, Sparda had resumed his human guise and still deeply troubled by the pact he had just reinstated with his wife. They had both poured years of effort into unmaking the very same bargain that seeing it reforged felt like that work had been for nothing. But the years of peace, of normalcy and of a simple life were memories he would cherish. The sad truth was they could no longer put up the pretense of normality, they could no longer pretend to be a happy if reclusive mortal family. Not when there wasn't a single member of said family that could really hold claim to the human definition of 'mortality'.

No, this was inevitable Sparda had realized. Had the boys not made their magically propelled journey through the river to time, Sparda would have had no doubt that this would have been the outcome. As the boys grew, their powers undoubtedly would have, thus forcing their mother to push herself to even greater lengths to protect them. The Dark Knight had wondered if he had remained in their lives - their previous lives - would Eva have remade her pact as she did now. He supposed he would never know and had resolved to push forward from here. Even if the events that separated him from his family still occurred in this timeline, a portion of his power would always remain with Eva bound to her weaves.

"Thank you," Eva had moved close and embraced her husband, their hands still clasped together. "I know this will be hard, but now I have the means to fight for my children too."

"I just pray we do not regret this." Sparda replied, wrapping his free arm around her in a hug. Eva did not respond.

"That being said..." Sparda glanced aside and her newly reawakened senses could tell he was mustering a tiny portion of his demonic power as their parted. Less than a minute later, the caretaker Lucille was knocking politely at their bedroom door.

"My lord, my lady." Lucille inclined her head respectfully with her typical expression of polite indifference. "You summoned me?"

"Lucille, how is Antos faring these days?" Sparda asked,

"Well enough, sire. He still travels, but still elects to send his mother letters when he can." Lucille replied with a note of fondness

"If it is of no inconvenience to him, please summon him. A matter of ... some urgency has arisen and I would prefer having more bodies to assist me in handling it." Sparda asked and they could see the caretaker's eyes light up, even if she kept her expression politely neutral.

"At once, my Lord. He will be ecstatic to answer the call." With that, Lucille had dismissed herself to attend to her task.

Eva gave him a questioning look. "Why summon another demon? Didn't we just discuss that was unnecessary."

"This is not for protection but for guidance. The boys will be lost and out of touch with themselves and the world, no?" Sparda had asked, "I believe that having another cambion their own mental age present will help them adjust to the situation."

"A smart move," Eva agreed, "I didn't even begin to think of that."

"I have been known to make a good on rare occasion. Now if you will pardon me my lady, I have some research to attend to," Sparda nodded to the chest, "And I believe you have some old colleagues that you may wish to reacquaint yourself with."

Eva gave him one last huge and kissed him deeply, a token gesture to display how much she had truly appreciated what he had just done for her. No physical action would be enough to express the depths of her gratitude but this would have to suffice. For now at least...

Sparda had excused himself and strolled back to his office at a leisurely pace, running his mind through possible ideas. Avenues of thought experiments that would better arm and equip them for the attack that is to come on their home. As well as rummaging through possible reasons or beings of sufficient power that could forever part him from his family.

The last thing he expected when he returned to his office was to see his firstborn son waiting patiently outside the door, trying hard to not look as though he'd been standing there for some time debating whether or not to knock.

"You can enter if you wish, Vergil but you'll find my study quite empty." Sparda said lightly, nearly causing the boy to jump out of his skin in fright. Though he tried to compose himself affecting a mirror of Sparda's own reserved nature, the hormonal and tiny body of a child made the attempt difficult and frankly a little adorable.

"... Father. Can we talk?"

Chapter Text

Vergil disappeared to... wherever he disappeared to after they made their promise leaving Dante alone with his thoughts. It seemed the Sons of Sparda needed time to adjust to this new reality and no one could really blame them.

This place was so full of memories that Dante was almost overwhelmed by them. Before long he found himself standing in front of the shuttered white wardrobe again, hearing the echo of fire and his mother's cries for Vergil followed by her death screams ringing in the back of his skull. He could remember the blazing fire and it's heat on his skin, the horrified tearful face of his mother that haunted his nightmares for years.

Dante was so preoccupied, he didn't notice the sound of footsteps down the steps but the familiar creak from the second-to-last step that snapped him from his revelry. He looked up to see who it was.

Expecting to find Vergil coming back, Dante couldn't hide his surprise when he saw it was his mother. More specifically, he was gobsmacked at what she was wearing.

Eva's long blonde hair was pulled back into a braid that sat over her left shoulder, a few strands of hair left hanging over her brow that reminded Dante way too much of Vergil's hair style. She wore a hooded Victorian-Gothic long sleeved jacket, golden embroidery coiling over every inch of black in intricate designs that mirrored the ones on her favourite gown. Underneath was a pale button-up blouse, accented by a black and gold vest that again matched the neckline of the same gown and maroon red trousers tucked into knee-high heels boots.

At her sternum was a smooth onyx fixture, a kind of locket with an eye symbol etched in gold. The symbol of the Umbra witches and the same emblem that earmarked the spell that propelled them back in time.

"Dante, are you alright?" Eva seemed just as surprised to see him standing in the foyer.

Dante just blinked up at his mother, "Uh… Wow - Mum, you look like you're about ready to kick some serious ass."

"Language." His mother put her fist on her hip wielding her disciplinary tone like a brand, then gave a brief conciliatory nod after about five seconds. "Thank you for the compliment, but mind your language young man. We don't speak that way in this house."

"Yeah, well - it's been a few years since I've been in this house. Sorry if I've forgotten a ground rule or two." The jest was meant as simply that - a morbid joke at the circumstance but neither took it as such. Eva's face fell fractionally and she offered him sympathy.

"I'm sorry Dante. Force of habit. I see you and it's just - I suppose you could say this morning's tale hasn't quite sunk in yet," She sat herself down on the steps and beckoned Dante to join her. He did with an obvious spring in his step. "That being said, would you mind trying to curb your language? Believe it or not, young boys shouldn't talk like crass uncultured vagabonds."

It was ridiculous for a grown man to be so eager to simply sit by his mother, but perhaps this child's body was messing with Dante's head more than he realised. He noticed that Vergil was having issues too. Not being able to summon his typical stick-up-his-backside stoic demeanor. Then again this was the first time in three and a half decades he'd had to speak to the woman whose memory he borderline worshipped. Of course he was eager to spend as much time with her as possible.

Dante plopped himself down next to his mother, swinging his legs out in front of him as he grinned cockily. "Yeah, but I'm a forty-three year old man, Mum. Even if brother and I have taken this literal jaunt back through the ages."

"And I'm six hundred and eighty four. What's your point my little devil?" Eva had smirked at how the admission completely wiped the expression right off his face, leaving slack-jawed astonishment in its wake.

He almost didn't register the same smirk Vergil was so fond of wearing when he upped his twin in their competitions. It was amazing that for all of Vergil's issues, he really seemed to take after their mother's character quirks more than Dante ever did.

"I, uh…" Dante whistled and Eva chuckled at his reaction, "I'm kinda fresh outta those right now. You're really - wow. Gez, mum, you don't look a day over thirty."

Eva ruffled his mop of hair. "And you don't look a day over seven, you little flatterer."

Dante let out a long loud belly laugh at that one. He smiled up at his mother. It was odd to speak to her like this. To speak on some relatively even terms and he found he didn't mind it one wink. His icy blue eyes found the locket on her vest.

"So you really are one of those Umbra Witches, huh?" He pointed at it, a child-like curiosity in him beckoned him to touch it but he managed to rein that impulse in pretty quick.

Eva touched her fingers to her pinned watch. A curious expression that Dante couldn't quite place flickered over her face, but it was gone in a second replaced by a certain pride. "Yes I am. Did you think any old witch could craft temporal-"

"That means you'll end up in hell if you bite the dust." Dante cut her off abrupt and it turned whatever levity his mother was about to offer to ash.

She put an arm around his shoulder and pulled him close. "That's the price of our power and that's the contract we've upheld since time immemorial."

Dante sighed, deep and melancholic. "... Yeah, it's a tough break though, right?"

"We knew what we were getting into and we accepted the fact long, long ago," Eva explained sombrely. "Still, Hell has its place in the grand design, one world can't exist without the other and someone has to keep the two in balance."

"Hmm… " Dante hummed. The question he wanted to ask, the real question was if she were such a witch - then why did she die so easily that day? But he supposed neither was the time and place for it. Instead, he focused on something more innocent. "So can I ask what's with the get-up? You goin' somewhere."

"You could say that. I've decided to throw myself back into training. I'm out of practice and I could very much use a bit of exercise," she explained with her kind smile but there was a mischievous little twink in her eye that Dante recognised from own reflection in the mirror, "I retired from my craft a long time ago, so I need to reacquaint myself with a few tricks of mine. It won't be too difficult. like riding a bicycle."

Well that answered that question. But it only replaced it with another, if father had disappeared then why didn't she opt to train the first go around and use her power then? The second question was one he'd likely never get an answer to, so Dante pushed the macabre thoughts aside. He was speaking to his mother and didn't need something so bitter to distract him from the simple pleasure and joy of this conversation. Instead, he kept his excitement going. "... does that mean you have some kick-ass-"

"-Language."

"-butt guns?"

Eva took a moment before pressing her finger to her lips to hide an unladylike like snort, repeating the phrase 'butt guns' under her breath with a giggle. Dante sniggered at his own turn of phrase and was delighted to remember that his mother shared his rather crass sense of humour, hidden as it was under social propriety.

"Hey, that was your fault, not mine. And I thought I was supposed to be the kid here." Dante joked, grinning up at his mother.

"Yes, yes. I concede, that was entirely my fault." Eva waved it off, "And yes, I do have my own weapons Dante."

"Luce and Umbra?" Dante guessed and pouted when Eva shook her head.

"Those are your father's handguns, though he rarely uses them. He prefers to use a sword, considers it the 'Gentleman's way of Battle'." Eva punctuated herself with a rather accurate impersonation of Sparda which made Dante cackle.

"Yeah, that's where Vergil got it from."

"No, No. My precise four are the Four Seasons." Eva explained and Dante laughed as if she'd just delivered the best joke in the world.

"Antonio Vivaldi, I should have known. You always loved his stuff."

"Can you fault a woman her fine tastes?" Eva replied, pushing herself off the stairs and Dante couldn't help but feel like he lost something precious when he took her warmth with her, "But at any rate, I need to be off. I have quite a bit to revise and the sooner I get started, the better off we'll all be."

As Eva rose from her seat, Dante contemplated a stray thought before practically leaping to his feet. "Hey mum?"

Eva paused and turned to face him, "Yes, sweetheart?"

Dante rubbed his neck awkwardly unsure how to phrase his next statement. "Vergil… um, he grew up thinking you didn't love him. Thinking you had abandoned him to die at Mundus' bastard horde."

Eva looked heartbroken and Dante felt a sting of guilt. He knew how fundamentally stupid it was to ask a mother to look out for her son but he felt like he needed to tell her what happened. "I'm just… I thought you should know. Vergil and I lost a lot of time as brothers because of that, and - well, I just don't want it to happen again. I just got him back, ya know?"

He could feel the sting of tears at the edges of his eyes but put on a smile for his mother to hide it. Eva took a deep breath before mustering up a kind smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. He knew she knew he was faking the cheer and brushed his cheek with her thumb. A touch of sadness flickered across her face. "Thank you for letting me know Dante."

She pressed a kiss to his crown and Dante threw his arms around her in a crushing hug. He smiled bitter sweetly, drinking in the warmth he thought he'd never feel again in his lifetime.

"Be a good boy and don't torment your brother while I'm gone." Eva parted the embrace and cupped his cheek which he leaned into while wearing his cheeky grin.

"Aw c'mon mum, that's half my fun!"

"Don't." She said with finality but there was a playful glint in her eye. "I'll be back this evening, Dante. I'll see the both of you soon."

With that, Eva had left her son in the foyer and Dante watched her disappear behind the front door. A treacherous thought in the back of his mind told him it would be the last time he ever saw her but he rebuffed it coldly.

"No chance in hell we're losing her again," he whispered to himself, feeling his anger and determination rise in equal measure. "Not a fucking chance in hell."

Chapter Text

Vergil was grateful for the barrier of Sparda's huge mahogany desk set between them. His father had invited him into his study and offered him a seat on one of the rich cushioned guest chairs across from his table. Vergil hesitated at first, only taking the seat when Sparda cocked a curious eyebrow at him.

The cambion swallowed down a lump in his throat. He was completely on edge and cursed this youthful body for rendering his otherwise fine control practically useless. He was not one to shirk at challenge or hard tasks, but this seemed to be the hardest undertaking he had ever put his mind too. To stand before his father - the man he most aspired to become and the epitome of all Vergil considered strength - was utterly nerve wracking.

Sparda had said nothing, watching his son with mild curiosity. They stayed this way for a good long minute, Vergil averting his gaze from his father until the Dark Knight took it upon himself to break the silence.

"Vergil this is going to be a very boring conversation, if it qualifies as one at all, if you choose not to speak your mind. I may have a great many gifts at my disposal but telepathy is decidedly not one of them," Sparda had begun and Vergil felt his treacherous lip curl slightly at the light jest, "So tell me what ails you? What had you standing outside my study for what I presume was several minutes?"

The words - the real words Vergil wanted to speak choked him as they rose in his throat. His heart hammered in his chest, and he had no doubt his father could sense his trepidation.

"The Perfect Amulet..." He offered tentatively at last, "What became of it?"

It was a cowardly thing, to hide his true intentions behind such a distraction but it was enough of a stall to allow him time to properly frame his thoughts.

Sparda folded his fingers, resting his chin on his raised hands. "The one that brought you back, you mean? Not the one currently in my possession?"

Vergil met his father's gaze for a moment before his eyes fell to his desk, anywhere by his father's face really. Curse this wretched guilt gnawing at him so.

"The Amulet that brought you here still exists, but it has lost any semblance of power. It is little more than a lump of coal set in an ornate iron brace. It has nothing left."

As if to demonstrate his point, Sparda reached into the top drawer of his desk and retrieved the blackened Perfect Amulet. Flippantly tossing it on the desk between them as if it were worth no more than a cheap plastic ware hawked by festival vendors.

Vergil's gaze flicked between his father and the amulet before sliding off his chair and moving to take it. Their mother's amulet was so... lifeless. Even his immature senses could detect it lacked all the vibrancy and innate life that he'd sensed from all those years ago, when it hung around his neck and rested comfortably against his chest. The last piece of his mother he had in the world, and the last fragment of his freedom that he managed to wrestle away when he was trapped into the role of Mundus' lapdog.

"My guess is whatever spells Eva - the other Eva - wove to make your trip possible was designed to drain the powers of the perfect amulet. In doing so, somehow she managed to fundamentally altered its material composition. I expect this was a safety measure she devised to prevent two keys to the demon world existing in wherever time or place you two ended up," Sparda explained with a note of admiration, shaking his head. "Your mother truly is a remarkable woman, and an ingenious practitioner of the dark arts."

"So she is an Umbra Witch." Vergil's hands curled into tight fists on his lap, feeling a smoldering indignant rage building in his core.

"She was..." Sparda answered and it was with some regret that he added, "And now she is again, yes."

"What?" Vergil felt like ice cold fingers griped his heart and squeezed it tightly.

"Many years ago, before your time - there was an event called the Witch Hunts. I will not go into details for that's not my story to share and I believe that we are both rather overwhelmed by the day's events. But to make an exceptionally long tale brief, your mother chose to relinquish the majority of her power for the slim chance at living a peaceful life in hiding." Sparda leaned back in his chair, watching his son carefully as the young man took all of the information in.

"Upon hearing your story, your mother had decided that the best course of action to take was donning the Umbra Garb once more and return to her clan's teaching."

An even heavier weight dragged at Vergil's gut and the guilt he felt grew tenfold. He had researched that very same clan during his youth, looking for any minute trace of power he could get his hands on. In that time, he had managed to pry precious few secrets from their dead tomes, but he gleamed enough to understand the fate that awaited all of them.

"But... father - surely you know what becomes of such women?!" Vergil couldn't help his outburst. "Should she die, her spirit will-"

"Her soul will be flung into the depths of hell. Yes, Vergil I am more than familiar with that particular caveat of the Umbra Witch's contract," Sparda let out a long heavy breath, "However, you and your mother are cut from the same cloth. Once your minds are set, it takes an apparent act of the divine to make you both change your course."

Despite his father's order, the childish fear had completely overwhelmed any logic or reason the elder Son of Sparda possessed.

"If she dies, then Mundus will get his hands on her! He'll torture her! He'll use her like-"

"Vergil."

"-He used me!"

"Vergil."

His father's voice was nothing human, a deep growl like the threat of distance thunder and the roaring of an apex predator melded into one. And Vergil shrank in his seat, thoroughly ashamed of his lack of control.

Sparda drew in a slow steadying breath and fixed his son with a piercing gaze. "Your mother has fought demon kind for longer than you could know. And as reckless as she can be at times, believe me when I say she is very much capable of taking care of herself."

"My experience begs to differ," Vergil muttered under his breath, then instantly regretted it.

Instead being chastised like he expected, Vergil was surprised to see his father nod grimly.

A tense silence passed between father and son, Vergil heard his father lean back in his chair and could practically feel the scrutiny. "So, how about we cease dancing around the issue and cut to the heart of the matter. What is it you're really here for Vergil?"

Sparda reached across the table and took the black amulet in his hand, rolling it over in his palm while the chains clinked gently. They lacked the same jingle as they did before, reduced to a dull thud of iron chains rather than the music of gold rings. It was a silly thing, but his enhanced sense of hearing could detect the minute differences between the two.

Vergil closed his eyes and mustered his resolve. There was no escaping whatever fate awaits him now. Licking his lips, he spoke, "... I'm wondering what punishment is awaiting me."

Sparda frowned ever so slightly, "I'm confused as to what you mean, Vergil?"

Spurred onward, Vergil continued. His voice no longer emotive, but dull and distant. "You heard our stories didn't you? I've killed dozens, hundreds in my quest for power. I raised and shattered the spells surrounding the Temen Nii Gru, nourished a Qliphoth to gain even greater power, both caused an untold casualties... every step I've taken has besmirched the legacy and name of Sparda... so what punishment awaits me?"

Sparda leaned back in his chair, "What makes you think a punishment is inevitable?"

"Isn't it?!" Vergil couldn't help his outburst, "I've committed so many crimes for the slightest hint of power. I used Yamato to carve out my humanity and my two halves manipulated Dante's comrades into helping them merge. All of it, the devastation-"

Sparda cut him off, waving a dismissive hand as if banishing the entire line of thought. "I said it before, I do not condone the actions you and your brother have taken but I understand that you did what you believed was right. Survival is an unsightly ugly thing, but sometimes it is a necessary thing and the only option we have. Something, I promise you, that I am intimately familiar with."

Vergil found himself unwilling to be silenced on this matter and tried to press forward, "But -"

"Do you think my own path to power was filled with nothing but garlands of roses, pretty bard songs or heroic deeds like those fairy tales your mother used to read to you as bedtime stories?" Sparda's strong voice preempted whatever point Vergil was going to bring up, and like the child he appeared to be, he found himself silent and deferring to his father's higher authority.

"If you came to me seeking punishment, you will get none from me. The tragedy of your tale is punishment enough I think," Sparda rose from his chair, listing off his points as he circled around his desk.

"You lost your mother at the tender age of eight, slain by Mundus' rabid hordes. You've lost twenty years of your life - over half of your existence - twisted and defiled at the behest of Mundus' debauchery, suffering its consequences even now. You have lost access to all of the powers you have gained over the years, you have lost Yamato - and most of all, you have lost your son."

Sparda sat in the second guest chair, clutching one of the legs and dragging the chair around so Vergil was facing his father. The Son of Sparda looked up at his father and was stunned at the sheer sympathy he saw in that face. A far more emotional expression than Vergil every remembered him having before,

"So please tell me, Vergil. What possible punishment can I give you that hasn't been done to you already?"

The boy blinked, disbelief plain. "Just like that? You'd forgive everything so readily?"

"Do you forget where your demon blood comes from so easily, boy?" Sparda asked with an underlying power that it would have frozen the blood of a lesser being. "What cultists and fanatics who deify my deeds tend for forget is: while I choose to fight for humanity, I am a devil. My path to power was paved with blood, crushed bones and the broken corpses of those I've slain. Whatever crimes you have committed in your lifetime, I promise you it is nothing compared to the atrocities I have committed in mine."

Sparda reached out and placed a hand on Vergil's shoulder in comfort and empathy. It felt as if he too was unburdening himself from his own guilt. "But you now have an opportunity that I never did."

"And what opportunity is that?" Vergil asked though he had a feeling he already knew the answer.

The grip on his shoulder tightened, "All the crimes, all of the deeds and all of the deaths you caused have been erased. You have been given the opportunity to replay the events of your life and forge a path to a brighter future. The only question is; are you going to repeat those events to their same conclusion, or are you going to change tactics and achieve a new outcome?"

Vergil swallowed the lump in his throat and met his father's eyes. "I don't want to lose my brother again, I don't want to lose my family again... I want to set things right this time."

"Good," Sparda declared, smiling genuinely with a glint of good humour in his eyes. "If you said you wanted to repeat the same events again, I'd very much have the grounds to declare you insane."

Vergil chuckled at that, and strange as it sounded he felt the weight in his stomach ease... if only just a little. When he moved to excuse himself, Sparda's other hand grip his shoulder and he felt himself pulled into a hug. His eyes widened at the action and like with his mother, he was at a loss with what he should do. Eventually, he returned the hug as a soft smile creased his lips. Tears welled up in his eyes and he was astonished to realize it was from relief.

Vergil found himself unable to figure out how to feel from that, on one hand he was relieved his father wouldn't punish him, on the other, part of him felt like this was an injustice to all his victims. Sparda must have sensed it too.

"Be at ease," Sparda told him lightly, parting the hug, "Go read some poetry or practice your music. Take some time to acclimatize to your life here."

Vergil nodded, and found for the first time since he entered the room that it was easy to look at his father's face. "Father, I need to ask - what are we supposed to do? We know that Mundus is coming soon, perhaps in just over a year. And we can't simply sit idle and do nothing. We may be children, but we are devils too. We need-"

Sparda raised a hand to cut him off gently. "I understand. Both of you have craved action and I'm glad to see that hasn't changed. In the morning I will take you both into the yard and assess your skills. Once I gain a grasp of where you both stand, then we will begin training in earnest."

Vergil stood a little straighter and his treacherous lip curled into a pleased smile.

"I'll assume you heard that, Dante." Sparda raised his voice a little louder and Vergil spun to see Dante poking his head through the study door, looking utterly blameless.

"Only 'cause I was eavesdropping." He replied innocently, then snickered at his older brother's scowl.

"Damn it, Dnate - Must you always ruin a moment?" Vergil growled,

"Ah, hell Verge - ya know it ain't me unless I crash the party."

Dante pointed and laughed at their father. Vergil couldn't help but join in, albeit sheepishly, looking up at their father who was rolling his eyes so hard they were surely looking at the inside of his skull. "Void take me - these are my children... "

Chapter Text

Vergil was knocked flat on his back with a loud thump, knocking some of the wind out of him. The blunt sparring sword was still clutched tightly in his grip as he skidded back from the blow. Every muscle fibre ached, his limbs trembled and sweat drenched his black sleeveless shirt to his skin. The elder son of Sparda was sucking in great lungfuls of air as he struggled to push himself back up, attempting to ready himself for another charge at his father.

The only thing that soothed his bruised ego a little was watching Dante plant face first into the ground. They were both dressed in training gear, sleeveless shirts and shorts with blunt-edged metal training swords. Between them was their father Sparda, who stood with one arm behind his back in a gentlemanly fencing pose, his own sparring sword glimmered in the midday sun. He hadn't even broken a sweat, let alone got so much as a smear on his immaculate white blouse.

Vergil let out a frustrated growl as he climbed to his feet, unsteadily and using the training sword as a crutch. His heart pounded painfully against the wall of his chest. He felt weak and he hated it. Desperate in his desire to call upon the powers he commanded only days ago - thirsted for them like a man for water in a parched desert. But closed his eyes against the feeling and re-centred himself.

This is not my enemy, he coached himself. This is not a foe that needs to be defeated. This is not a battle with my life on the line - this is just my father's test. And my body is that of a child. I shouldn't be so impatient.

They had been going since just after the crack of dawn, the scrapes and bruises were testament to that, but it didn't stop Vergil from wanting to win. He always wanted to win. To give any exchange his utmost and at least land a blow on their father where Dante could not. Most of all, he wanted to please his father and he wanted to live up to the faith the elder demon had in him.

Dante's cry of effort and subsequent grunt of pain knocked Vergil from his thought bubble. And he opened his eyes in time to see Dante's attempt at a Stinger, only to be effortlessly deflected by Sparda and sent barreling into the dirt once more. Said landing added yet another scrape on his chin to the mounting collection.

"Perhaps we should take a break for now? You two have been attempting to land a strike on me since dawn. You've not getting much closer to your goal, are you? In fact, you've only gotten sloppier, especially in the last hour." Sparda suggested, adding a playful taunting edge to his words as he glanced between his sons, "Perhaps we should consider taking time for brunch? You've already far exceeded my expectations."

Dante was still on the ground, looking up at his father then meeting his brother's gaze. Vergil caught the look in his eye and recognized the mischievous glint.

Returning a knowing look, Vergil made a show of relaxing his stance, feeling as breathless as he sounded. "Very well, father. Perhaps it time to take a break."

Sparda nodded, pleased and he also dropped his guard. A fatal mistake within sword's reach of a certain younger twin brother. Their father yelped when the blunted sparring sword whacked the back of his knees, more in surprise than pain, but it was more than enough of an opportunity for the boys to strike. Leaping from their respective positions to tackle their father to the ground, pinning him as best as their tiny bodies could.

To hell with the fact this was childish and to hell with appearances and propriety. Vergil didn't stop the victorious grin spreading over his lips. Following suit, Dante didn't bother hiding his devil-may-care laughter at their father, knocked flat on his back.

Sparda was stunned, looking up at his sons and his treacherous lip curling. He tried to sound disappointed at their underhanded trick, but the amused glint in his eyes betrayed him. "Oh, now that's fair. Ignoring the rules of a duel to strike a cheap blow? My, my, am I disappointed..."

"When faced with a superior foe, one must seize any and every opportunity presented to take said foe down." Vergil explained as if recounting from a text book, rising from the hold and standing a pace back. He didn't hide his impish smile. It was a foolish victory, but a victory nonetheless.

"Besides, you've been knockin' us flat on our asses since sunrise, Pops. Only fair if you get knocked down a peg or two." Dante helpfully added, springing up with surprising energy despite being just as worn out as Vergil, and dusting off his pants.

"Is that so?" Sparda mused, smirking. One that immediately spelled trouble for the twins, but Vergil didn't have the time to warn his brother to run before it happened.

In a second, Sparda was back on his feet and the boys yelped as their worlds suddenly turned upside down. Their father had gripped them both by the ankle, letting them hand from his out stretched hangs.

"Oh this is fair!" Dante complained sarcastically, echoing his father's words.

Sparda was unperturbed, utterly amused by the whole scenario. "You were the ones who decided to change the rules of engagement, my boy. Do not become angry with me when I simply choose to follow suit."

"Your point is well made, father. Now could you please release us?" Vergil requested, still in surprisingly good humour. He felt himself smiling despite the embarrassing position of hanging by one leg, and he oddly enjoyed the tomfoolery of it all. He enjoyed that Dante was stuck in the same humiliating position far more.

"Mmm... no." Sparda's deep voice rumbled in his chest, a critical look replacing the good cheer as he surveyed his two hanging children.

"Father...?" Vergil prompted,

"Dad, this is fun and all, but uh... we'd like to get down now." Dante added helpfully.

"Forgive me boys, but I wish to conduct a thought experiment, so you will have to indulge me..." Sparda explained, turning from jovial to stoic in about one second flat.

That was never a good sign. It meant either father was suddenly rather furious at something and he was about to unleash his unrelenting rage... or more likely and arguably far worse, he was feeling mischievous.

"And what's that, father? Timing how long it takes for us to throw up dinner?" Dante posed in a mocking imitation of Vergil, who retaliated by trying to punch his shoulder. Albeit unsuccessfully.

"No..." Sparda mused, "The question I wish to pose is as follows; you are both adults in the bodies of children, so I must wonder whether its a product of the body or the mind?"

Dante was almost scared to ask, "Whether what is?"

The devilish grin on Sparda's face grew in tandem with the dreaded expressions of horror the twins gave him, "Whether one is ticklish or not."

The attempts to escape were feeble against their father's strength and a play-wrestling match ensured. Well, playful for Sparda. The twins were giving it their all, trying to the best of their abilities to escape their father's reach and avoid the torture he was threatening.

In that moment, neither Son of Sparda were worried about the coming storm. Neither were concerned about the armies of hell mustering to attack them in a year's time. No, they were simply having this day. Having this time with a father they had lost long ago, experiencing a childhood so viciously taken away from them.

Chapter Text

Vergil decided that H.G. Wells was an… interesting author. His father had loaned him a copy from his private collection, and if his father was to be believed, the signature on the front was the true signature of Herbert George Wells. That fact alone would make its value near incalculable to the right collector and worthy of any historical or literary museum - and so, Vergil paid the book with precisely reverence it was due while he read it cover to cover.

Science-fiction was not his usual taste in reading, but Sparda had spoken so eloquently and animatedly about how much he enjoyed the imagination behind the tales when first published close to a hundred years ago. Offered it up as one of his favourite examples of human imagination. Just the sheer enthusiasm the devil had for the work was enough to peak his son's interest.

Not that Vergil was naive to H.G's works. He had spent the majority of his childhood neck-deep in whatever literature he could get his hands on, but his preferences leaned more towards poetry and William Blake in particular. Science fiction was never a great intrigue to him, but Vergil couldn't deny his father's point and decided that he would entertain reading the rest of the author's works. For the sake of his completionist tendencies in him than anything else.

But on the way to his father's study to request the next volume, long mournful notes of a cello drifted through the air witch ensnared his attention. It was not from his father's private chambers on the east side of the manor, but the sun room that his mother frequented on the western side.

Driven by idle curiosity, Vergil approached the door and peeked through the open sliver. By the time he had arrived to watch, the long mournful dirge transformed into a far more familiar piece. Johann Sebastian Bach, if Vergil recalled correctly.

Eva say alone in the room on a backless wooden stool, her eyes closed and a content smile on her face as she lost herself in the sway of her music. Every part of her consumed by the passion of playing the instrument. The notes were crisp and clean, beautifully played and not a sound out of place. For a scant few seconds, Vergil was simply content to listen and felt a smile tease his lips as a flicker of contentment bubbled away in his being. He had loved the classics, and hearing them played with such deft and effortless skill was a true delight.

The elder Son of Sparda raised his hand to knock on the door, but a rushing wave of guilt overrode his wish to make his presence known. It robbed the moment and the swelling music of its soothing quality and Vergil thought better of his action. His free hand clutched tightly into a fist as he let it drop to his side. He was being cowardly, he knew it, but he couldn't bring himself to face his mother at this time. But when he moved away, the treacherous creaking floorboard gave his presence away and he winced.

The note slipped and Eva was abruptly knocked from her trance, her head jerked up to see her first son standing in the doorway through the crack. "Oh, Vergil. Do you need something, my little poet?"

Vergil tried to assume his usual stoic demeanour and excuse himself hurriedly. "I apologise. I didn't mean to disturb your playing. I'll leave you be."

"No, not at all." Eva rose from her chair, leaned the cello on against a rest by to her seat and crossed to the door, opening it wide for Vergil to enter. "Please. If you're looking for a quiet place to read then you can read here if you'd like."

"Oh, no. I was going to ask father for another volume." Vergil explained, casting a quick glance at the novel in his hands. He was looking for any excuse, no matter how weak, to leave things as they were. His father's forgiveness was one thing, but his mother's disappointment was quite another - and one that he was not quite ready to face just yet.

Eva leaned to the side to catch a glimpse at the book cover and gave a look halfway between amusement and annoyance. "Those H.G Wells books belong to me. I was wondering where they went to - should have known your father snuck them out of my sun room. But if you'd like the next in the set, I'm sure I can find them for you."

Eva left the door open and beckoned Vergil to follow her to the wall-spanning bookcase next to the window. It was only with the utmost reluctance and hesitation that he did so.

Just like the name had suggested, the sun room's entire outer wall was composed entirely of floor-to-ceiling windows with crimson velvet drapes gathered around its frame. A long cushioned sunbed still sat by the window, where Vergil would frequently perch himself and read until Dante came to pester him to play a game. Other details stood out, the small tea table and chairs that sat in front of the sunbed, where a large pot of iced tea stood half drunk. From the scent it was some sort of tropical blend, mixing peaches, oranges and grapefruit. The chair and music stand where his mother had been playing say opposite of the wall-sized bookshelf. The musical stand itself held only a thin binder filled with sheet music, but it was closed. Vergil marveled absently at his mother's skill with the cello that she could effortlessly play one of the hardest pieces of music for the instrument from memory. It struck him like a flash of insight, an epiphany. He realised that it must have been his mother who inspired him to learn his own strings instrument - the violin that remained untouched in his room since he'd returned to this time.

Vergil drank in all the details. Despite being back in this time for weeks now, he still marvelled at his childhood home. And while it had lessened, the primal fear that he would one day wake up in the underworld lingered in the back of his mind like a coiled viper waiting to strike.

Eva hummed quietly to herself while scanning for another novel, but Vergil found his attention drawn to the fine cello. He recalled many times he had seen this instrument before, but he'd never really had the opportunity to hear his mother's skill with it. Or perhaps those memories were simply lost to him. Either to his own desire to forget, or simply being lost to time.

While his mother scanned the bookcase, completely absorbed by her task, Vergil took another long look around the room. One more thing about the room stood out starkly to Vergil as his eyes rested on it. Hanging from a wall mounting above the single chair was a blade and its scabbard. An eastern style katana. Quietly, he approached to inspect its finer details. It was a fine sword, and upon closer inspection revealed a beautifully crafted gold tsuba. It was circular in design with the phases of the moon etched around its circumference and studded by amethysts.

"Ah ha! Here's another H.G. book. Food of the Gods." His mother declared in triumph behind him, but Vergil didn't acknowledge it.

Instead, drawn by child-like curiosity, he carefully set his book aside and dragged the stool along to stand on so he could reach for the sword. He lifted it gently, reverently (and with some difficulty - curse this body's short stature) to inspect its craftsmanship.

"She looks like Yamato," Vergil said, his hands around its purple wrapped grip as the freshly stoned blade glinted in the light. "And she feels like her too, but I highly doubt I could cut through the fabric of reality."

"That's not surprising," Eva said coming up behind him and carefully plucked the sword from his hand, holding it up for her own inspection. "Your father made Murasame for me because I coveted the Yamato."

"Mother?" Vergil turned his head to look at his mother's fond but distant look at the blade. She coveted the Yamato? Truly?

Her expression changed and she offered him a soft smile. "Is that so surprising? That your sweet mother would covet power herself?"

"A little, perhaps," Vergil admitted, climbing down from the chair. "I have very vague memories of you from my youth - my first youth I should say. You were kind but you seemed dainty like you were made from spun glass. But I suppose I have ample reason to doubt that assessment now."

Eva sighed deeply, giving the blade a testing swing away from her son before flipping it in her grip with a superlative flourish and replacing it on its wall mount. "When children are young, their parents do their best to guide them as carefully as they can, only exposing the lessor aspects of the world - and I suppose themselves - when children grow old enough to understand the shades of grey,"

Eva explained as she made to sit on the sunbed and met her son's gaze, the book she had retrieved was placed delicately on the tea table, "But you both have already seen hell, figuratively and quite literally. I honestly see no point in treating you like children, intellectually speaking at any rate. So, I suppose in that vein, perhaps you can understand why I would seem so different to the mother you remembered. There's truly nothing left to hide."

"And what of you being an Umbra Witch?" Vergil asked, half-accusing as he turned to face her. "Do you think Dante nor I wouldn't know what becomes of such women when they die? What happens to you now when you pass on?"

"I fully expect your father to tear open a new hell gate to come get me. He's done it before." Eva shrugged and Vergil was taken aback by the frank confession.

A long tense silence fell between mother and son for a long time, Vergil turned his attention on the sword Murasame while Eva gaze flickered around the room, but her eyes inevitably returned to her son. It was as if neither of them knew how to address each other anymore. Truth of the matter was, Vergil was actively avoiding his mother if he could help it. They would converse in front of Dante and Sparda, at family meals and the like, but Vergil had refused to share a discussion with the woman. Out of cowardice, he was ashamed to realise. But it seemed the fates themselves had conspired to bring them together at this moment and he doubted he was going to get away with it much longer.

"Are you angry with me?" It seemed that Eva was willing to shoulder that burden for him, and Vergil felt a shameful relief as the weight lifted from his own shoulders.

He swallowed the lump in his throat and turned half away. He drew in a deep breath. It was time to unload the burden. "I should be the one asking you that, mother. Are you... disappointed in me?"

Eva blinked in confusion, "In regards to what?"

"What I've done? The things I've... " Vergil trailed off, his father had already dismissed the concerns out of hand seemingly absolving his son of fault and dismissed them no more as a parent would a misbehaving child, but Vergil was terrified on a primal level that his mother would not be so quick to forgive.

"You mean the Temen Ni Gru? The Qliphoth and the rest?" Eva finished then sighed heavily, she leaned back and gestured for Vergil to sit with her. He joined her on the daybed, albeit reluctantly.

"It seems you've inherited my penchant for bullheadedness, c'est la vie." She sighed, her arm around his shoulder. Vergil allowed himself to lean into her side, thankful and mindful that Dante wasn't there to tease him for his open affection.

"Do you think you're the first person with foolish notions of power in their youth?" Eva rested her head against Vergil's, pressing a kiss to his crown. "I promise you I'm intimately familiar with rampant power fantasies. Though, admittedly, fantasy may be the wrong word for it."

"Why?" Vergil asked, oddly appreciative of the candid tone their conversation had taken.

Eva readjusted herself, hand moving to brush Vergil's hair. Another awkward silence stretched on for a long moment and Vergil caught his mother's melancholic expression. Her eyes were distant and gloomy, as if she struggled to muster the right words to say.

"I was a slave once. Did you know that?"

Vergil jerked away, his wide astonished eyes stared at his mother. The admission took him completely off guard. His mother? A slave? The astonishment turned quickly to boiling rage. If the person who enslaved her still lived, Vergil would gut them and strangle them with their own gizzards.

Eva continued, her tone become more melancholic and forlorn as she retold her story, "Back in the early 1300s, the world was a different but no less wretched place. I was a slave, the lowest of the low. Worth no more than the dirt I toiled over. I... won't go too far into matters. Suffice it to say, I was eventually 'freed' from that place, so to speak. I, in my naivety, had thought that when the Umbra had come to buy me from my master that I would be liberated, that I could be freed from having a master." When I was given my new calling as an Umbra witch, I didn't want to be just a run of the mill warrior."

She paused in her story and glanced over her shoulder to look out the window, as if she could see a piece of her past replay in the moment outside. "I wanted to be the most powerful witch. I wanted to be feared and respected. For all of the indignities I'd been forced to suffer my entire life - accomplishing that single ambition felt like justice. I deserved the power I held, I deserved to have only the most powerful demon at my beck and call. I never wanted to feel weak or ashamed ever again. I wanted that power because it was mine by right and by virtue of my suffering. At least, that was the driving thought in my head I took my vows and ensnared my demon. I couldn't have been no more than eighteen."

A look of wrath covered her features and Vergil found himself equal parts awed and a little afraid. He was astonished most of all about one thing. He never truly knew how much he and his mother were alike. Yes, Sparda had made comments that they were cut from the same cloth, but this was... she had known the pain of someone taking away her will and liberty, known the pain of being forced into slavery. More over, known the same weakness and shame he felt and her reaction was just as his was, to seek out the strongest source of power they could find and make it their own.

Eva shook her head, her blonde hair swayed and she tried to fix a smile. "Well. I eventually managed to form a pact with your father after many fruitless attempts but I suppose my point is, I know what it's like to feel weak and helpless. Like my life is not my own and how its like to feel as if you're only option is to grasp for any and all scraps of power you can bet your hands on."

Vergil felt her hand brush over his head while his mind reeled from the information she had just given him. He frowned, "And that's why you chose to become an Umbra Witch once more?"

"Yes, my little love. Because I don't want to lose my children to my own powerlessness, as I did once before." Eva answered firmly, then offered a tentative smile. "Does it astonish you, Vergil, to know that your mother isn't a flawless creature?"

"I suppose... I can relate." He offered in return, still mulling over his thoughts.

Eva sighed softly, "I have gone to extremes in pursuing my own power, and I have strayed from a righteousness in those extremes. It means that I made a mistake. But if there is one truth I have learned in my long life, it's that many things can be built from mistakes or wither away because. You fall, you learn, you get up and you choose to move forward. Or, you can let that mistake hound you like a ghost, gnaw at your insides until you have nothing left but your regrets. Believe you me, child. Regret is a weed, and it poisons the heart and soul if you cling to it."

"So you can simply dismiss everything I've done?" Vergil questioned, unconvinced.

"You have made a mistake, Vergil. Plenty of them, but name me one person in this world who hasn't," Eva answered, "I certainly hold no claim to perfection, but what you do with it is your choice. So answer me this, sweet boy, are you going to repeat your mistakes or learn from them?"

Despite himself, Vergil smiled, "You know, father offered me the exact same ultimatum when I spoke to him on this matter."

Eva smiled down at him, "Well, is your answer going to be any different than the one you gave him?"

"Of course not," Vergil shook his head, "I'm a man of my word."

Eva pulled her son into a hug, and Vergil did not resist. He returned the embrace and drank in her warmth. Her floral scent was always soothing. "Whatever you choose to do with your new path. No matter what happens, I want to remember that I will always love you Vergil. And you will forever make me proud."

Vergil felt his heart lift, and after a long moment offered words he had never thought he would say again. "I love you too, mother."