It was a truth universally acknowledged, that two half-demon men in possession of a brother and a sword, must be in want of dueling like the bloodthirsty dumbasses they were. At least, it was a truth universally acknowledged by Vergil and Dante, and thus they fought together, and thus Nero fought at them a few times until the three of them reached an agreement: as long as they didn’t kill each other, didn’t gore each other too much, and heeded Nero’s veto when the situation just wasn’t conductive to fratricide dueling, the twins could do whatever they wanted.
So everything was good and the Sparda family harmony was at its apex until Nico decided to fuck with Nero’s mind.
They were having a picnic in the middle of a desolate volcanic area. Previously, it had been a mountain with happy villages, cows and charmingly outdated local customs, the whole rural package, but then the volcano had erupted, destroying a few ill-placed mystic seals, and the rest was history and a lot of demons.
Still, it was quite a good area for a picnic. The view was pretty cool. And Nico had built fans based off the remains of defeated Frosts which, while admittedly pretty morbid, were awesomely efficient. Trish had brought exotic food… things that tasted like too many spices, Lady offered sandwiches, Dante contributed with expensive beers and snacks; even Vergil had helped with organic salted meat and freshly cut vegetables. Nero was taking care of dessert, having unpacked the three far-too-big boxes of cookies that Kyrie had sent him off with.
What had set the twins off, nobody knew. There must have been some logic to the whole thing because they always acted in unison, like some kind of duel-o’clock bell had rung on a sound frequency only they could hear. Dante had suddenly stuffed three of the biggest cookies in his mouth like the greedy asshole he was, then he’d risen while Vergil only took one and elegantly nibbled on it as he thumbed Yamato.
“Well,” Dante has said as well as anybody could with a cookie-overstuffed mouth.
And then they were off as Lady shouted “And kick his ass, Dante!” while Nico threw in a high-pitched “wooh.”
Trish simply continued to eat her sandwich with far more sensuality than a normal woman ever could muster. She didn’t even drop a single tear of mayonnaise. She just smiled knowingly, which should have been impossible through a mouthful of BLT, as she watched her two not-sons soar through the air in their true devil shape.
“So?” Nico said, scuttling on her hands and ass to sit alongside Nero rather than getting up and sitting back nearer like a normal person. “D’ya feel the impulse to, ya know, rise and fly with them?”
Lately, Nico had gotten interested in the twins’ fighting. This manifested through very weird questions.
“Not this time,” he warily indulged her.
“So when they begin the fight in human form, ya want ta fight with them, but when it’s in demon shape, ya don’t!” She declared triumphantly.
“It’s the twenty-seventh time I’ve asked you this question and the results are consistent!”
“Yeah, and?” Nero asked.
One day, as they hunted with V, Nero had asked him why he was only wearing a coat even though he was shivering. V has slowly raised his head, slowly peered at him with deep, sharp green-dark eyes and answered, or said, or threatened: “Ah… But, curiosity is human.”
Which made no sense as a reply, but Nero hadn’t dared pry further. There was something in that answer – that sentencing? – that had transformed friendly curiosity in a sinister metaphysical questioning.
Curiosity is human. Man risking himself for dangerous answers. That was the meaning, or at least the feeling, Nero had gotten from it.
And now the feeling rose again because Nicoletta “No Sense of Common Sense” Goldstein was on the case and ready to rumble.
“I knew it! It’s a matin’ fight!”
Nero choked on his cookie. He’d been stabbed, mutilated and slashed multiple times, but no pain was quite as distressing as cookie crumbs getting stuck in a place of his sinuses in which man had never been designed to ever feel anything but normal nose stuff.
“What the FUCK?” He half-sputtered half-screamed as soon as he managed to cough and sneeze himself back to normal.
“A matin’ fight! See, that’s when – that’s when two, or three, or more demons see each other, and then, they fight, and then, my dad’s notes were not explicit on the attraction mechanics ‘coz those assholes at the Order, they didn’t want ta supply him with all he needed for a proper study, ya see, but! But! Then it happens, the demons decide to mate! So they fight again, but trying not ta kill each other or at least not too much and so! They throw in their most impressive attacks! Because they want ta show the other how strong and worthy they are, see? And how do Dante and Vergil begin most of their fights now, huh, the ones you instinctively don’t want to join? Sin devil trigger! Their best fighting form! And look at that!”
Dumb from shock, Nero obeyed. Clad in his true demon form, Vergil drew lines of blue fire against the ashen skies while Dante waited him out in human shape. Finally, Vergil fell like a meteor toward his brother, the air roaring from inhuman speed, and then Dante exploded in a flurry of crimson magic, just at the right time to parry his twin. Ice-like blood sprayed him while Vergil was blown back a few meters, somehow converting his remaining kinetic energy in a quick recovery. Blue summoned swords instantly flew at Dante, drawing complex, deadly lines in the air.
“Look at that,” Nico cooed with awful, awful enthusiasm. “Look at that flirt –”
“No!” Nero barked. There was so much wrong with everything she'd just said, from Agnus studying demons – studying demons’ love life to – to the incest thing and to Nico’s utter happiness at the whole affair, that he first stopped at that: no. No everything. “No! This is not – no! This is not flirting! This is normal sibling fighting! And what the fuck – no!”
“Listen, Nero, it's only natural –”
“You just have the dirtiest fucking mind and I’m not standing for it!”
He desperately sought Lady and Trish’s eyes, looking for support. The human was glaring at the twins’ display, munching on a cucumber with wrathful abandon. The demoness gave him a pity-filled shrug, something apologetic pinching her brow.
Pity. Trish did disdain, but not compassion. For her to look at him like that –
No. No no no no. Nico, who’d followed his gaze, gave him her most “told-so-you” glance and opened her mouth to say something.
Nero threw his cookie at her.
Something was afoot, Dante knew. Both thanks to instinct and to the fact that Nero, bless him, was the worst at hiding anything. The problem was that the kid, while expressive, was also very stubborn: he’d clammed up hard when Dante had asked what was going on.
Well, Dante was not the kind of man to fight for answers when he could just be lazy and wait them out, so he didn’t think too much about it. Nero would tell him when he’d feel ready. Or would shout at him. Meanwhile, Dante would just do his thing, which currently included Vergil-proofing his life.
Now, Vergil was a big boy who was able to find a place and earn money by himself, preferably without too much criminal activity involved. Dante was mostly confident on his brother’s ability not to fall back into old towers-and-chaos-raising patterns. He'd hooked Vergil up with a few contacts after a firm reminder that he’d sic Nero on him should Vergil murder them; it'd seemed to work. So that front, at least, was dealt with.
The first problem was that Lady was still kinda pissed at Vergil for the whole “demonic enslavement” thing, which was understandable. Or, and part of the Temen-ni-Gru affair. So far, Vergil was reacting to her jabs with stoic indifference. The problem was while Dante's brother certainly had mellowed since their youth, he still could go from detached ennui to MURDER mode in a beat should the right trigger be pressed, so Dante was on edge each time they interacted.
The second biggest danger was Nico. The girl was one hundred percent not scared of the big, aloof, half-devil swordsman that sometimes acompanied Nero for their biggest hunts. Whether it was because she’d trusted V (had she?), because she thought Nero would protect her (he certainly would try) or simply because she didn’t have any survival instincts (Dante had seen her drive), she seemed far more intimidated by Dante than by Vergil. She treated the latter as some big domestic cat, a bit bitey but fundamentally tame, and Vergil actually tolerated a surprising amount of demands from her. He'd even sat through a lecture about the ethics of mutilating your estranged son.
Still. Vergil had his limits.
For instance, when Nico walked over with a notebook in hand to ask him, eyes bright and smile wide, “Hey, big guy! Yer tongue has spikes, right? So, do ya have spikes down here too?”
Vergil froze. Dante would have laughed at the very uncharacteristic look of shock across his brother’s face, but he was too busy being struck wordless.
“Nero didn’t want ta answer,” she continued blithely, “and I’m in the middle of a study right now, so –”
“So I’m sure you’ll find a few full-blooded demons to pry the question from or why not a book?” Dante suggested hurriedly.
He took Vergil by his fighting arm, preventing him from further thumbing at Yamato’s hilt.
“Let’s go, huh, Vergil?”
His twin stared coldly at him, intent clear in his eyes.
“Let’s fight, Dante.”
Dante sighed and grinned almost in the same breath. He tried not to be bloodthirsty, he really did. He tried to be good and not fight too much, so that the kid – Nero – wouldn’t worry.
“I wanna see, I wanna see!” Nico squealed happily.
“Another time!” Dante promised cheerfully.
She pumped her first in triumph, "eeeee"-ing her joy. Dante pulled Vergil away, feeling his twin’s anticipation. He couldn’t pretend he wasn’t excited either: impatience and bloodlust curled gleefully in his veins, small sparks of enthusiasm short-circuiting his brain.
He just –
They worked so well, fighting and bickering together. It felt good, using the full extent of his power against Vergil and feeling him taking it, taking him, and then unleash Hell right back at Dante. Vergil’s display of abilities was a glorious, deadly, beautiful thing that Dante never tired of watching, an intricate symphony of lights and fires and power that seared his eyes. And seeing Vergil disconcerted by his attacks, sometimes, managing to score one against him, to make him bleed –
That felt amazing. That felt addictive. And it probably wasn’t healthy or good or – well, it probably was…
But, technically speaking, it was only combat. No reason for fighting to be anything other than that, huh? Going full strength at each other, wanting to pin Vergil, to spread out the full length of his wings around them, to win and dominate utterly. Normal demonic instincts.
Normal demonic instincts which seemed to be accompanied with unexpected stirrings of ye old loins, nowadays.
Dante grinned at his twin.
“Okay, brother, let’s dance.”
Vergil smiled with cold satisfaction and cut a portal for them.
Well, off to do brotherly things together, then!
The twins were fighting again. Trish sighed with a mix of fondness and exasperation, because the signs were so clear anybody would have to be blind to miss it, and yet...
The heavy emphasis on their best, most powerful shape, displaying the full span of their wings every chance they got. The light shows, the bright fires that burned twice harder as they threw everything they’d got at each other. Flight of flames and power, scarifying human atmosphere with devil magic. Trish could even see how the pulsating energy that seeped through the armored skin of their demon forms slid downwards in quick waves toward their crotches.
They couldn’t be clearer if they tried.
They still seemed to miss the entire point, though, and she was beginning to wonder if it was on purpose.
It probably wasn’t. She knew Dante well enough to be sure that he was adorably… dumb on those matters. Even the somewhat human flirting she had tried at the beginning of their relationship seemed to slide unnoticed; it was worse on the demon side. He swore his father had never explained the bats and the empusas to him, and she could believe him.
Trish could inquire about what Vergil knew, of course: from what Dante had told her, he was the one who'd been interested in their demon heritage. That meant managing a conversation with him, however, and though she didn’t really resent him for the way he’d used her – he had been a heartless, nameless demon king then – she was annoyed by his aloofness. He’d been cuter as V. Probably because he had been weaker, more human, and dying, which had made him both more expressive and more prone to confide in a demon what looked like his mother.
He was still a bit cute, to be honest. She wanted to pat him whenever he sat close-but-not-too-far and listened quietly during group reunion, bickered with his brother, or took care of Yamato with the patient care of a parent… To pat him and to do other things to him, to be fair, but that was part of her demonic DNA. Mundus had created her as a mother figure, but his estimations of human mothers’ behavior had been somewhat off: part of Trish was wired to find Dante (and thus, sadly, his brother) absolutely to her taste. She’d sworn that she’d never sleep with him even if he wanted to, just on principle. She was not defined by her design.
(Well, she might not say no to a threesome with Vergil.)
On the bright side, it all meant that the beautiful mating display Trish was admiring was close to her ideal softcore porn: strong, handsome demons fighting and bleeding and embracing (and instantly trying to break a few bones) in the most gorgeous way.
The twins suddenly took flight together, two embracing lines of red and blue energy. Trish admired it from afar while Lady scowled. Her human colleague was less… receptive to the situation.
“Fucker has the gall to come back after he tried to exterminate humanity twice –”
“Well, that was his demon half, wasn’t it? V tried to prevent it.”
“Yeah, okay, so one and a half time, and now he’s trying to seduce his own fucking brother!”
“You can talk to Dante if you dislike it,” Trish suggested smoothly.
Lady glared at her. Of course she wouldn't. The three of them were bad enough at dealing with feelings and vulnerability that they weren’t going to get willingly into something as messy as “my dead estranged brother came back to life and now things are getting ambiguous.”
“What do you want me to tell him? He’s past the age when he needs a chaperon! Of course he wants to believe that his brother is back and reformed for good. I’m not going to get suspicious in his face. It’s a prime ‘shoot the messenger’ situation.”
“He wouldn’t shoot at you.”
“I meant it as an expression.”
“Oh.” Trish shrugged. “For what it’s worth, I’m half-convinced Vergil is oblivious to it, too.”
“He’s not. He’s a calculating bastard.”
Trish smirked at Lady. “We’re betting?”
Lady grinned back. “What are you offering?”
“Our next pay.” Money was rarely a wrong answer with Lady; those toys of her cost money, a pretty amount of it.
“You’ve got a deal... If you can find me some proof.”
To be honest, Trish didn't expect to find any concrete evidence, but the bet motivated her enough to launch an investigation. It only took her a few days of friendly visits to the Devil May Cry, but she finally managed to catch Vergil on his own. He was lying on Dante’s couch, reading a treaty on devil arms; Dante’s presence was nowhere to be felt.
Trish smiled charmingly at him. His pale eyes instantly narrowed in distrust. Clever boy.
“Hello, Vergil. Dante’s not here?”
He eyed her warily. “He’s on a hunt.”
“Oh, too bad! I wanted to borrow one of his books.” She sat on Dante’s desk, on her designated spot – even at the worst of his messiness, he always left her the place to sit. Such a gentleman. “Since you’re here, do you know any good references on demon courtship?”
This time, Vergil lowered his books and stared at her with something close to alertness. Did he think she was coming on to him? That would be hilarious.
“I don’t think Dante studied the topic.”
“Surely, Sparda must have left you with some… reference.” She smiled some more. He scowled some more. That was just precious.
“The teachings of our father focused solely on practical matters.”
“Yes, that’s why I thought he would have advised you on further reading for when you’d reach the proper age. You know, the preliminary fighting rituals...”
There. Vergil’s eyes widened slightly, and then narrowed as he straightened. He was taken aback and sharply curious, but trying hard not to show it.
“I had… no interest in that kind of futility. My brother might have. You are free to look through the library if you wish, but I’ve no curiosity in the matter.”
Yes, big boy, do repeat how much you’re not interested a few more times. Trish nodded gravely, biting back her smirk.
“I see. I’ll see what I can find, them.”
The volume hadn’t been opened in years if ever, but Dante did have a book about demon sexuality in his shop – an antique collection of illustrations that was used to keep a cupboard upright. Trish left it lying around in full view, just in case.
This was getting very, very fun.
Something was weighing on Nero’s mind. He didn’t want to Kyrie to know what – he tried so often to shoulder so much alone – but she could at least guess it was linked to his demon blood. First, there was the fact that he'd asked her if she wanted to see him fly in devil form for her, which was… odd. Cute, but odd. He’d seemed crestfallen at her first reflex of surprise, so she’d quickly pulled herself together and swore that she’d absolutely love it and could she bring the children along? They would be so impressed at the sight!
He’d seemed down at the suggestion, for some reason. He usually was so happy to involve the children in sporty activities…
Kyrie knew her limits. She understood the softer, youngest parts of Nero: what he liked to eat, his favorite music, the childhood fears and shames that they’d both agreed to never talk about ever again. But for now, Nero just had a hard time letting her in the other part of himself – the demon, the hunter. He eluded her questions. He smiled reassuringly. He protected her and while she appreciated it, while she knew that he did it for her own good… Sometimes, she wondered. Worried.
Luckily, Nico was currently here, tinkering with the van while Nero was gone – Kyrie had sent him at old Alfonso’s to fix his leaking roof in exchange for a few apples – and she was usually more straightfoward than Nero. It felt devious, coming to her for answers that Nero would rather keep from Kyrie, but...
Nico welcomed her with a grin, waving as she turned away from the van’s inexplicably damaged side door – probably a demon: Nico had always been a quick but cautious driver whenever Kyrie had been with her. “Hi, Kyrie! Somethin’ ya need help with?”
“I brought beer and cake!” Kyrie smiled at her. “And, hum… I had... questions?”
“Ah! A bribe, huh?”
Kyrie flushed. Nico grinned, patting her arm, and took the beer from her tray. “Can’t refuse a bribe from a pretty lady! Ask away, babe.”
“N-Nero seems like he’s got something on his mind, nowadays. And – he won’t tell me about it, but you’re his best friend...”
Nico took a sip of her beer, looking thoughtful. “Huh. What makes you say that?”
“I just know. Usually, when he can’t tell me about something, it’s a devil matter, so –”
“Ah! Yeah. Well, it’s this demon reproduction stuff, you know?” Nico answered
Kyrie’s hand flew to her belly, cold horror flooding her veins.
“Demon reproduction?!” She exclaimed, voice shrill and terrified even to her ears. “B-but w-we never – I-I –”
Nico hurriedly shook her head, two-handedly patting her – still holding the bottle – in her haste to comfort her. “No, no! You’re not pregnant, I’m talking about him and the twins!”
Kyrie dropped the tray. Nico seemed to realize her mistake and panicked, shaking her in a frantic attempt at comfort. “No no no! Shi – fu – damn! I didn’t mean that! I meant the twins with each other! They’re going to screw each other! Not Nero, I swear! I’m studying him, shit, I mean, I’m studying them, the twins! It’s going to be fine!”
Kyrie just gave up and started to cry.
Nico had disappeared. Lady had two suspects as for the culprit: either Vergil or Nico herself. She didn't like Vergil, which was reason enough for suspicion, and Nico...Well, not only had her clothes, make-up and favorite tools disappeared, but a Post-it had been found on the side of the van: “BRB! NO WORRY!!! Nero don’t break the van when I’m gone D=< !!!!!!!”
Nero, of course, was beside himself with worry. He’d frantically asked his father about Hell passageways and if there were any kidnapping demons that could also imitate Nico’s writing. He’s demanded to go to the Underworld immediately. Right now, the boy was a storm of hostility and anxiety that skewered demons every chance he got while Dante and Vergil awkwardly hovered around him. Lady would have mocked them, but the truth was that she sucked at comforting too and Trish, well – Trish had done kinda better in that she’d lightly touched Nero’s shoulder as they promised him they’d do their utmost to find Nico, but that wasn’t saying a lot.
They might have been among the best demon hunters in the world, humility be damned, but Lady had to be real with herself: they really, really sucked at feelings and how to deal with them. They’d all breathed a sigh of relief when Nero had gone to Fortuna to search through Nico’s notes, believing that Kyrie's presence would automatically comfort him. After all, she had this magical power to calm him down with a smile.
It’d turned out, though, that love had its limit. Nero was nervous, angry and sad, and because of that Kyrie was sad, too, and thus it made things worse, and thus the kid ended up moping on Dante’s shoulder as Vergil stiffly stood a few meters away, visibly dying to flee this display of raw vulnerability. Perhaps it was family loyalty that kept him in place – or, Lady thought cynically, the fear of drawing all those feelings to himself if he was caught leaving.
There was one thing that calmed Nero down, though: killing demons and sparring practices with the twins where they mostly kept human shape. Trish smiled triumphantly at Lady while the three hybrids zapped and zipped and bonk-ed through a plain, pummeling emotions out of each other with reckless abandon.
“See? They’re not in the mood to flirt when they’ve got the boy to comfort.”
“It’s just a coincidence.”
“Nico shared her notes with me, you know. Numbers don’t lie.”
Nico’s enthusiasm had contaminated Trish. She kept track not only of the twins fights, but also of the number of times they gratuitously triggered – Dante displaying the full size of his wings as he parried an attack he could easily have avoided; Vergil using his tail to pierce an enemy he could have stabbed with the Yamato; both flying when they could have walked; using their internal fire to burn devil plants or lit up dark ruins…
Lady called that “being showy assholes.” Trish talked about mating displays. The annoying thing was that Lady was beginning to fear that not only was the demoness right about the flirting aspect of the fighting – well, she’d resigned herself to that from the moment Nico had happily blurted it out – but Vergil was just as into it as Dante.
A man who was able to look his son straight in the eyes and tell him, “She sounds like she has the situation under control. Even if she didn’t, though, you cannot do anything to help her right now. Therefore, it’s useless to feel anything about it.” while sincerely believing it would help was unable of manipulative seduction. The look of quiet surprise on Vergil’s face when Nero had punched him had been priceless.
“You’re entirely too hyped about this,” Lady told Trish, still. Dante was ill-adjusted enough to the human world without going out with his twin brother. That was going to be a fun one to hide from Patty, the gossip hunter.
“It’ll make them happy,” Trish declared confidently. A few hundreds of meters away, Dante and Nero were double-teaming Vergil in a healthy, violent sense, laughing as they did. He was chuckling too. Crazy demons.
Lady groaned in disgust and changed the subject.
“Think Nico is going to be fine? She’s a goddamn great gunsmith. Hope I’m not going to lose her.”
“She certainly seemed to believe it,” Trish answered smoothly.
Nero had switched allegiance and was now working with Vergil to keep Dante to the ground. There were claws, a lot of wings, a lot of arms, the whole work. The kid seemed downright cheerful and relaxed.
“Think it’s Vergil that chucked her in Hell for stalking him and his brother?” Lady asked.
Trish didn’t answer.
Well, anyway, that was none of Lady’s business.
The conversation with Nico had been quick.
“You. Stop observing us. Stop taking notes.”
“No can do,” she’d replied cheerfully, as if she thought he was somehow joking. “The two of ya, yer the only flirting demons I’ve got!”
Something in Vergil had frozen at the word “flirting.” A thousand explanations about the ridiculousness of the idea had crowded his tongue; he’d been unable to state any of them.
“There are plenty of demons in Hell,” he’d said instead.
“Well, I can’t go here,” she’d explained as if talking to a child. “I’ve got no portal at my disposal, if you haven’t noticed, and I’d kinda get squished in a few secs. Seriously, V, I’m being discreet and all! I just want to see more mating fights –”
“That can be arranged. The travel and security aspect of the situation. I’m still a demon king.”
“Well, if you can –”
Vergil hadn’t thought he’d find a suitable passageway so quick, nor that he’d be able to create artificial demons so easily – no Trish, for sure, but armored, clever things that would protect the awful, dangerous, delusional weaponsmith. Motivation could push a man to such feats.
To such possibly ill-conceived feats.
“You should have told Nero,” Dante stated.
It wasn’t an accusation. Vergil bristled still.
“When has he left me space to do so?”
“C'mon, you’ve had occasions to speak since then! It’s been two weeks.”
“It’s too late, now.”
Even Vergil could admit he sounded sullen.
“Might not have been too late the day after.”
“He was shouting a lot. I thought that it would be best to talk afterward, when he had calmed down somewhat.”
He hadn’t thought about Nero’s worry when he'd rushed Nico to her one-of-a-kind occasion to study demon biology. To be fair, he hadn’t thought a lot back then: a few things in him, his breathing included, had stopped working properly upon hearing the words “flirting” and “mating”.
He’d left Nico the time for a goodbye note and he had sincerely believed that she would leave behind some half-convincing explanation – he had left her creative liberties, as long as she didn't mention his... altruistic assistance. He hadn’t checked her Post-it. Any thought beyond “make her leave before I throw her into Hell myself” had been… secondary.
He was a little sorry. Especially for Nero. But he hadn’t known what to say when his son had first panicked, and now it was far too late and he mostly felt –
Nero with his sensitivity and strange, inquisitive looks when he saw them after a fight.
Trish with her inappropriate questions, leaving obscene books lying around in the shop.
Lady with her way of looking at Vergil like he was about to raise a new Qliphoth every time he touched Dante or got into the demonic form that it was his birthright to take.
Kyrie with her failing at calming down Nero when everybody had told Vergil that she was incredibly efficient at it.
And, finally, Dante being… Dante. No specifics, just the whole of him, as usual. Hard to read, even harder to understand, and Vergil needed –
– To fight. Nothing more. He didn’t even need it. He just wanted it and he had every right to. Everyone else was being incredibly annoying about what was pleasant sparring with his brother – perfect occasions to unleash his strength, his mastery, his true demon form – to show off, certainly, but when hadn’t Dante and him loved showing off to their sibling?
They’d always done it. Always tried to impress the other. Even Dante, despite his supposedly nonchalent attitude, had bragged about his efficiency as a demon hunter the second they’d met again, one year before the raising of the Temen-ni-Gru.
(Vergil had won their duel then, obviously.)
Vergil had the right to want to fight his brother and to like it, and it was none of their business.
And if, possibly, it was indeed linked to some… demon instinct of some kind, well. Dante didn’t need to know. He’d probably panic about human taboos. He’d… react stupidly.
Vergil didn’t need anything more. Fighting was good enough. Bantering, sometimes, or just staying silent together. Enjoying each other's presence. That was good enough. That was, at least, enough.
“Hey, Vergil!” Dante called, poking him to catch his attention.
Vergil caught his brother’s hand, snarling reflexively. “What.”
Dante tried to pull away, out of principle. Vergil tightened his grip, out of principle. His brother’s skin was warm; his hand was strong and bony. “We gotta get her back, you know? Gotta go with the boy and find her. He’s not going to rest until he's sure she's safe.”
“She’s fine. She’s happy. She loves her forbidden knowledge.”
“You’re feelin’ up to explain that to Nero?”
Vergil glared at his twin. Dante chuckled. He had given up on getting his hand back a few seconds ago and now Vergil didn’t know how to release him – it felt too late, like doing it now would suggest that he was enjoying their contact. Once again, he’d missed the right window of time and now, it all felt clumsy and awkward and as if he didn’t know how to hold Dante’s hand properly. Firmly clutching his hand was nonsensical when his brother was not struggling. Being gentle, however, was just… Ridiculous. So he was stuck between the two, fingers pressing lightly, but not too lightly, on his brother’s hand, and that was twice as grotesque.
They kept having those moments, nowadays. Vergil hated it. He let go sharply and thumbed at Yamato’s hilt, looking for calm in the familiar gesture.
After a moment, Dante grinned.
“Why the hell did you throw her in Hell, anyway? You should have known it’d be a shitshow.”
“She was willing.”
“What did she say?”
“Nothing.” Vergil paused, thought better of it. “Her curiosity was... uncouth. I invited her to apply it to full-blood demons and she accepted.”
“Yes. Three syllables. Means ‘a strong desire to know or learn something.’”
“Amazing. I’m enlightened.”
Vergil nodded gracefully. “No need to thank me.”
“And what that curiosity linked to the very interesting and kinda eye-searing collections of illustrations that Trish left lying around last time? Or the charred manual she, airquote, accidentally, airquote, forgot on my desk when she came for pizzas?”
“I don’t pay attention to your friends' mess, brother.”
“I thought you’d noticed how Lady look at us every time we fight. Last time I managed to pin you to the ground, she threw a beer can at my head.”
“I was about to unseat you anyway.”
“Was holding your wings with mine.”
“And I was grabbing your arms.”
“I’d got a hand in your chest crevice, tho.”
Vergil’s breath caught at the memory. It was to be expected that there would be sensations in devil form that did not quite translate in human words. He just hadn’t thought that they could feel… like that. Pain, pleasure, and a vulnerable intimity whose sole memory derailed his train of thoughts in an obsessive closed circuit.
He wanted to do the same to Dante. He itched to do the same to Dante.
“I was still about to throw you off.”
“Yeah, yeah. Still... Lady looked like she disapproved of, you know, what we were doing.”
Vergil didn’t like the way Dante was looking at him – carefully relaxed and smiling, the way he was before a fight. Or maybe he did, because Dante wasn’t panicking. But Dante was good at hiding panic, too.
Something was buzzing under Vergil’s skin, and Dante had five seconds to calm it down before he stabbed him.
“To the point, Dante.”
“And, I was thinking about the way poor Nero is completely flustered every time we fight in demon shape, now. Don't cha think it's odd – ouch!”
Dante was so busy being… smarmy and insufferable, he hadn’t even tried to evade stabbing. Vergil glared at him.
“You put a hole in my wall!” Dante protested as Vergil pinned him harder against some ridiculous pin-up poster.
“I said to the point, Dante.”
But his brother only laughed and twisted and suddenly he was a blur of demonic energy launching itself at Vergil, full of claws and teeth. Vergil narrowly evaded his attack, feeling heat cut through his shoulder. A flesh wound. Violence always solved everything – the unease that burned through Vergil’s nerve, his uncertainty, his exasperation.
“Not in the shop,” Dante hissed. "Take us out."
Demanding. Vergil pulled him through a portal, toward the emptiness of Red Grave – nothing here, nothing but ruins and memories and the glorious shine of his brother’s true form.
Nothing to disturb them during their duel, fighting and dancing both. His brother’s shape was magnificent, both so close to his own and so intimately Dante, crowned with red fire and sharp deadly horns. His fighting style was messy and too flexible, and Vergil had frowned upon his brother’s jack-of-all-trades techniques, once – but now he could acknowledge that Dante made it into something beautiful.
No humans here, no witnesses, no science. Only the two of them and the nameless thing that sang through the air each time their blows met, Dante’s name on Vergil's lips and mind as they tore through each other and soared through the sky and effortlessly destroyed what came on their way.
Dante, as they wrestled to the ground, his twin trashing and grinning with needle teeth against him. Dante, as their blood spilled and evaporated in sulfur-smelling smoke. Dante, his brother’s flesh tasting like hunger and pleasure under his tongue. Dante, Dante, Dante, and both of their voices then, as he finally dug his claws into Dante’s red-hot molten core, the feeling that no man would ever be able to name –
“I suppose I don’t need to ask if it was good for you,” Dante crows much later, when they’re spent and human in the ashes.
Vergil affectionately stabs him with a summoned sword.
“Nico!! We’re here!!”
Nico rose from her work, surprised, and laughed with delight as Nero ran at her, grabbed her and hugged her hard enough to make her cough.
“Nero, ya big lug! I’ve missed ya!”
“Nico...!” Oh God, he was going to cry. She hugged him back, patting his head.
“Yeah, I’m here.”
“You’re alright?” He asked hurriedly. “You’re not hurt? I'm going to kill them a second time if they've hurt you!”
She threw a glance beyond his shoulder. No ladies but the twins were here, looking in tip-top shape. Vergil glared at her.
The brothers’ hands were almost touching. Ooooooh.
“Nah, nah, I promise. Got a unique occasion for demon study, so I had to grab it quick buuuut no no no don’t start shouting I got ya weapons!”
He shouted anyway. But she’d left him a Post-it! And she really had found awesome new arms ideas (along with supernatural make-up recipes and a lot of juicy intel about demon biology)! Well, it was pretty adorable that Nero cared so much, and embarassingly touching, but now she was feeling kind of guilty, which sucked.
Behind them, the Sparda twins were cautiously waiting for Nero to stop feeling all the emotions.
Their hands were touching.
Only her love for her dumb, lovely good dog of a colleague prevented Nico from grinning as he kept (somewhat rightfully) roasting her. He'd be vexed, and learning the reason would make it the opposite of better.
Still, wasn't she a genius on demon behavior? Yes she was! V (and everybody else)'d better feel so impressed about her insight.