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Under Duress

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V would have to ask Vergil to purchase an elliptical, or something of that nature, when he decided to return from his "vacation".

 

It wasn’t that he desired the same physique as his master. Just that running out of breathe whilst being pursued wasn't exactly convenient.

 

Stealth was his preferred method of travel at the moment for a reason. And it had gotten him quite far despite the circumstances, but his luck was starting to wear thin.

 

It was times like this V wished he had the heightened senses of his master. The sword probably would hurt either. Though that would probably just make the target on his back bigger and redder. Bluer?

 

V shook his head and started walking again. This was a pointless train of thought. All he needed to think about right now was crossing the threshold of his target's territory. It wouldn't guarantee complete safety, but it would improve his odds greatly…  probably.

 

At the very least, his death there would be less unpleasant than the alternative. V shuddered to think of what would happen if his pursuers caught up with him again. So far he had managed to stall and slip away, but without access to a reservoir of demonic energy, his bag of tricks was next to empty.

 

He doubted he would be confronted again today however, the way the last encounter ended made him think they had let him get away on purpose. If their overconfidence meant his survival, then V wouldn't complain too much.

 

It was only a fraction of a mile until he entered the city limits, it took a lot for V to risk this trip, but it's not as if he had a choice at the moment.

 

Such crowded skylines weren't to his, or his masters, liking. It wasn't that he hated humans, just that he didn’t know how to act around them or what to do with them.

 

The foreboding atmosphere alone would have turned V away had it not been for encounters like the one he'd had earlier.

 


 

V smelled the desiccated flesh before he heard the crunch of disturbed gravel. The scent was nearly as unfortunate as the fact that he'd been caught up to again.

 

"Why has this fragile little familiar wandered so far on his own? He won't last long out here alone, he should just let us take him."

 

They were really quite quick to announce themselves. Two deformed figures emerged from behind a rubble wall. Splitting up to circle him as V slowly backed away for cover. The slinking creature hissed its offer out as if it was seductive.

 

"We're strong enough to sustain your pitiful little life force, even if you get torn open we'll make sure you'll survive. Just think of what powerful offspring you'll get to bear. If you win our master's favor you might even get to keep one of them."

 

"My, that's certainly a… tempting offer, but I'm afraid I must decline. And I would really suggest you be on your way before my master hears of this incident. You see, he doesn't much approve of festering creatures touching his things."

 

The growl that came from the misshaped creature made V regret his choice of words. Hopefully he wouldn’t ruin his own attempt at stalling this time. Thankfully the beasts were slow to try and surround him.

 

"Don’t worry boy, our master doesn’t like other people breaking his toys. Be good and come to us now and we won't have to hurt you… much. But keep mouthing off and I just might break your jaw, make it nice and easy to fuck."

 

"Give me a while to think about it, I'm sure your lord wouldn't mind me taking in the city sights before I settle down."

 

This at least drew a laugh, or something like it, from the uncomfortably wet looking demon. Thankfully it was enough to distract it from V's inching hand. V broke out in a cold sweat as he noticed the other demon had made its way behind him.

 

"You think you can hide in that city? don’t think he won't notice your presence. You're dead the second your stench reaches him you little cur . And once he runs you out of his little hovel, we'll be waiting for you. You've only managed to evade us so long because of our orders to bring you back without marking you up. Let's see what Sparda's little spawn does to his traitor brother's bitch when it parades around his territory."

 

The sound of V's last runic flash-bang covered up the wheezing cackles of his pursuers.

 


 

 

At least he was finally starting to see more developed areas. There were now a decent number of rest stops in between V and a sprawling residential district.

 

V considered his options for approaching his master's brother as he stepped carefully towards the buildings. Introducing oneself to a demon normally took place over a period of days or weeks.

 

You would leave your scent at the edges of a demon's territory, and occasionally check back to investigate responses given via scent markers.

 

If the other demon had curiously sniffed at your own scent, the area would be free of tension and home to small shreds of scent from both parties.

 

And if the other demon had taken offense to your prodding they would scent mark the area possessively to dissuade you from trying to make contact again. That, or they would just track your scent down and eat you.

 

The method V was being forced into using was far more likely to end with him being eaten. And even the term "method" was giving himself more credit than he was due.

 

He currently had no clear or tested plan for going about things, instead working off adrenaline and taking things moment to moment. 

 

But, since dawdling at the edges of the man's territory might tempt the more "courageous" of his pursuers into risking the short distance to reach him, he was forced to head deeper into the more urban areas.

 

Perhaps staying in public and in view of humans would keep the devil hunter from just shooting him before investigating the situation.

 

Deciding to just let fate happen to him, V headed towards a small coffee shop and pretended he wasn't about to die thanks to one of his master's megalomaniacal tantrums…  again.

 

"Hello there! What can I get for you today?"

 

Feeling sullen, he approached the counter and ignored the cashier's friendly smile and stale greeting. He pointed to one of the few unassuming looking pastries on the display rack, and quietly asked for an espresso.

 

"One bear claw and one medium espresso coming right up! That'll be $4.79 sir."

 

Avoiding eye-contact with the chipper barista, V fished some of the money he… borrowed from his master out of his pocket.

 

"Thank you for your purchase! Here's your food and a cup, you'll find the espresso machine right over there."

 

As the woman in front of him motioned him over to some kind of appliance, V realized fate was determined to happen to him a lot today.

 

"I… do not know how to use an espresso machine." His blank expression seemed to put a dent in the confused baristas smile.

 

"Oh! Oh, well, that’s no problem at all! You just find a seat and I'll bring it to you."

 

V felt like a child as he carefully moved into the seating area. He found a small booth by the front window and slid into it, relieved to sit down after his hectic journey into the city.

 

Waiting on his drink, he wondered how his master had prepared their espressos. V had certainly never seen an espresso machine before, maybe Vergil just summoned them?

 

Resting his chin on his palm, he found his gaze drawn out of the window and towards the entrance to an alleyway. The stray cat prancing near it having caught his attention. How ironic.

 

His dour reverie was interrupted by his drink being slid into view across the table. It was what he'd been craving all day. Except this espresso didn’t come in a familiar mug, and wasn't accompanied by the creak of a rocking chair, or the crackle of a fire. The stale pastry was little comfort.

 

Definitely not pouting, V mocked to himself. His shot nerves were beginning to settle down now that he'd made it into a public building. Murdering a human-looking man in a coffee shop would likely be bad for a demon hunters business, V reasoned.

 

V once again mourned his master's unexplained disappearance as he noticed a patch of something sticky on the seat across from him. One of the things he did hate about humans was their tendency to come together in unclean, germ ridden masses.

 

He thought he would be in the clear for a while longer, when another flash of movement caught his eye from the window.

As his gaze flitted over, he caught a glance at the figure who quickly disappeared into an alleyway… Oh, oh dear. Maybe it was just a hair-dye happy human. Or a different tall half-demon with a gigantic sword.

 

V took a sip of his espresso to mask his dread. Pretending the grimace was due to the bitterness, and not his impending demise.

This definitely did not taste like his master's recipe. He decided to finish his "meal" before heading out to investigate the alleyway invitation. It wouldn't be right to waste food, of course.

 

Eventually, after nibbling his way through the dry bear claw, V stood and made his way to the door.

A small part of him was glad to say goodbye to the poorly cleaned building.

If he survived long enough he would make sure to visit a different coffee shop.

 

Gritting his teeth and composing himself, V strolled towards the alleyway. No time like the present to meet his maker. Or in this case a man who hated V's master. And owned a sword that weighed more than V. And a lot of guns. Maybe he should have just stayed in the coffee shop. Or went in a different direction and pretended he hadn't seen the man flit into the alley.

 

Knowing what to say when he reached the demon slayer's murder ambush would probably be wise.

 

Like "Oh greetings mister Sparda, Have you met your brother? Well he threw a tantrum and went to Paris, please protect me from his mortal enemies."

 

Or maybe "Fancy meeting you here mister slayer! Remember the guy who tried to kill you twice? Well I'm his loyal familiar and I thought I'd surprise you at your home."

 

Ah yes, this was truly one of V's most wise and well thought out plans. Why hadn't he thought to use a phone and just ask the man if he intended to kill him before waltzing into his city like an idiot?

 

His scathing internal monologue was interrupted by the sound of a gun cocking.  V froze on the spot, cane suspended in the air, and a grimace stuck across his face. He really should have stayed in that coffee shop.

 

"I heard my little bro got a pet, but I didn't think he'd send it to me to have it neutered. Frankly I'm honored, much better than a Christmas card."

 

V stared blankly up at the older man, and the gun gripped in his hand. Besides the hair and the deadly weapons, there wasn’t much that stood out to V that reminded him of Vergil. Between the bad posture and tired, smug expression, this man looked more like an underpaid exterminator compared to his legendary reputation.

 

"…My name-" His brilliant, well thought out response was cut off by a gunshot. At first V expected to feel warm blood seeping through his clothes somewhere, but soon saw that the gun had been aimed towards his feet.

 

The gruff man across from him looked ready to finish fumigating rats to death and go home to beer and a football game. The alleyway certainly fit the situation, it seemed the perfect place for vermin to take shelter. Or to hide a dead body. V was struggling to maintain eye contact with the man currently staring him down.

 

"Not interested. Only thing I need to know is why my bro sent you. Start talkin' unless you wanna get snipped"

 

Despite thinking to himself that someone ought to tell the smirking man his jokes weren't that funny. V fell on his hands and knees before the older man, cheeks burning with shame. The submissive posture was common amongst demons, but it still tore at his dignity ever time he'd lowered himself to doing it.

 

 Dante stepped forward, using the heel of his boot to keep V's neck pressed down against the gravel of the alleyway. He stared down at the meek form beneath him, confused as to why someone so weak would trespass so blatantly. He was quick to roll over despite the cocky attempt at trespassing.

 

"It takes a lot of nerve to enter my territory smelling like rival and without permission. Just because you’re a familiar doesn’t give you a free pass, especially given who you belong to."

 

V grit his teeth, again reconsidering his plan to come anywhere near this city and choosing his words carefully.

 

"I meant no offense in coming here, I would have been more cautious but for being pursued.  My master fled days ago and left me behind, his enemies have sought to claim me in order to spite him. I could think of no one else capable of deterring Mundus' minions."

 

Dante frowned down at the boy under his heel. He still had Vergil's scent on him, but it was muddled with the scents of other small fry demons. He also looked obviously harried, with scrapes and cuts adorning his body and a desperate tone in his voice.

 

"So you’re a stray looking to freeload off me? Demons aren't exactly fond of sharing y'know. And why'd he ditch you in the first place? I'm not too well versed in familiars, but I've never heard of one getting dumped."

 

V balked at the blunt words of the older devil, twisting his head slightly to glance up at him from beneath his boot.

 

"My masters reasoning eludes me, if I had to guess I would posit that he is without reason entirely at the moment. And I never meant to imply I would be… leeching off of you. I was trying to formally offer my services as a familiar, but found myself rather under duress when I attempted."

 

Dante laughed at the facetious tone of the familiar, who, despite being at his mercy remained slightly defiant. He would have to find out the details of the Vergil situation later, but grilling the kid in the middle of some alley seemed like a hassle.

Plus, a little help around the office was sounding tempting now that he considered the boys offer. He wasn’t above claiming someone to spite his brother either after all.

 

"Watch your mouth until I've agreed to keep you, ya little brat. Now, what services are you offering exactly? I don't take batteries your size, and I'm not really a pet person."

 

V flushed harder at the man's scolding. His words tended to get him in trouble far too often for his liking. But thankfully the devil seemed mostly amused. It wasn't his fault he was still sore at the recent departure of his master.

 

"I'm aware that I don’t have enough energy to offer a demon of your…  caliber. But I can offer you information, and…"

 

V struggled to think of something else to list, but the only other thing he could think of was his body. And that wasn't something he wanted on the table with this gruff man. V had no idea if he was gentle or cruel as of yet. From what he had heard the man was easygoing and acted more human than normal, but rumors could certainly lie.

 

"Know how to clean?"

 

The simple question disrupted V's racing thoughts, leaving him confused. He looked owlishly up the man currently pinning him to the ground.

 

"Pardon?" V chirped.

 

"Y'know, wash dishes, scrub floors, that kinda thing."

 

This conversation was going off the rails in a far different manner than V had expected.

 

"I… suppose. But, forgive me for asking, why would a demon hunter need a maid?"

 

Dante gazed down at the boy blankly, leaning back on his other foot, lightening the pressure on the V's neck.

 

"Me and my protégé aren't the most neat people on the block. We end up just eating takeout off paper plates most of the time. It's fine for me but he's always bitching at me to eat real food or clean stuff."

 

V was starting to understand why Vergil has a distaste for his brother.

 

"So to clarify, you're willing to forgive my transgressions, and shelter me from other demons. With the main condition being that I clean up after you and this…  protégé?"

 

V remained suspicious that this was some kind of ruse. He would be lead back to the man's home, where his legs would be cut off with some sort of demonic chainsaw. Then he would be made to clean up his own blood and gore before dying.

 

"Well based on your outfit and the fact that you lived with Vergil, I'm sure you're used to some prissy mansion with sparkly furniture and caviar or whatever. Plus, my punk of a protégé is a halfie like me. You'd make a good teaching tool so I can show him dynamics and all that jazz."

 

Where to start with these inane statements? At least "prissy mansion" didn’t fill him with dread like "teaching tool" did. Plus, V should really be grateful the man had even heard him out.

 

"Very well, I accept your terms. What shall I address you as?"

 

At this Dante stepped fully off of his neck, helping him up off the ground and handing him back his cane.

 

"Just Dante. Well then, let's get you back to the office kiddo."