Disclaimer: I don't own Devil May Cry, I only lay claim over a few Original Characters, and even then anyone can use them, should they want.

Joe: Things have slowed down quite a lot, I know. I really feel I have to apologise, but I keep getting caught up with other projects, if I devote my time to writing fics at all.

Now, I wouldn't quite call this the turning point, but it's certainly getting close. It's finally gotten very entertaining to write again, which is good news for all of you. The material's still kind of dark, but with light starting to shine through at long last (Awww). I suppose I'd better remind you of the rating; T. That means it's actually kind of adult, but I suspected that an M rating would cut down readers. But seeing as you all are of the age group to play Devil May Cry (and judging by some of the other fics I've seen in this fandom), this chapter shouldn't be a shock to the system for any of you.

Just one more thing; I've been asked if Nero and the Order of the Sword will appear, and my answer remains no. This is intended to precede the fourth instalment, and seeing as I started this before it even came out, the chronology will get screwed up. For the sakes of this fic, it'll help if you see it as thus; three, one, two, this, and then four. You see, when this started I took the plot-lines of the first three, and tried to make logical sense out of it to ground this fic, and since the first and second games were linked, the addition of DMC4 threw a spanner in the works. So please assume that the first three games happened before the fourth, just for this.

Well, enjoy.

The Devil Hunters had re-established their base of operations in the lamp-lit subterranean cavern dug from the walls of a metro line. The base had undergone considerable expansions recently, not by grandeur or whim but by necessity. The business had now consumed the lives of it's members, and accommodation was needed by the devoted hunters. Partly due to the fact that for many, such as Enzo, twenty-four hour shifts became a grim fact of life, and the chore of resurfacing to return home - with an armed escort to fend off the demons that would most certainly ambush the weary hunter - became too much an effort to perform on a regular basis. The expansion was also due to the fact that many hunters no longer had the luxury of their own home, the destruction wrought by the demons so widespread that entire districts were reduced to rubble.

The Devil May Cry was amongst those homes ruined, an inevitable yet still heartbreaking occurrence for it's previous inhabitants. It had been located in the slums, there were no nearby places of strategic importance, and it was off-the-beaten-track; sooner or later the demons were going to demolish it or infest it, with no reinforcements close enough to be of any help. It was only then did the severity of the situation occur to Vergil and Trish. Whilst the Devil May Cry stood on it's foundations, they had a home and a base to work from, and the onslaught seemed bearable, if not trivial. Now that they were bunking in the newly carved barracks of the Hunter's headquarters the magnitude of how much they had lost was painfully clear.

Vergil opted not to think about it. In his opinion becoming stressed and burdened by the situation was an option, rather than a natural occurrence of a rational being. He would therefore spend his nights in the sanctum – what basically amounted to a war room – giving his advice and listening to reports if he decided to stay in and if he intended on sleeping that night. However, the majority of nights were spent patrolling the disquietingly diminishing number of rooftops, quietly observing the ADP in the cover of the shadows.

Devil Hunters were by harsh experience unperturbed by rough nights and constant fighting, but the morale was steadily decreasing amongst the survivors. Some of the more battle-hardened, such as Lady, would grit her teeth and get things done under her own shift, and reserve the worried obsessing for the sleepless nights spent in the cold barracks. Others had succumbed to despair; some had even lost the will or capability to fight on. Yet that was what the others had to do as they persisted, watching their friends and family die and grieve around them, knowing that their decreasingly motivated struggles could never halt the flow of demons.

Gestures of hope were non-existent. A real victory had not occurred since Egypt. Reclaiming the fallen church was a distant fantasy in the vague recesses of their minds. They had not recaptured anything of importance, real or imagined, since their return.

The only hope they received was from each other, their comrades in the same foxholes as their own burdened selves. There were frequently celebrations of nothing in particular in the Sanctum; the hunters would drink themselves into stupors with recently liberated beverages to the sound of an out-of-tune guitar.

But they were together, albeit barely.

Grief and exhaustion were the prevailing states of mind. Stress for an extended duration did things to people. Vergil took up drinking. The angry bickering between Pike and Anvil reached breaking-point, until all that existed between them was a cold tension, periodically marked by angry and silent sex.

Just as the war tore lovers apart, it drew others together, unlikely as they may have seemed at the beginning:

It was a night of opportunity and revelations. The sanctum was occupied by just three people; Enzo, Vergil and Trish.

The sanctum was a relatively spacious room, sufficiently large to fit a large oak table big enough for thirty with room to spare. The desk was constantly cluttered with large maps of the New York districts and metro systems, as well as intelligence sent by the ADP. Indeed, an old-fashioned radio was placed on the table, intended for communications with the Anti-Demon Patrol. Intelligence was scarce, but maintaining the lines of communication was enough of an asset to continue to keep them.

"ADP says that they've been ordered to escort a VIP outta the city and across the country, and they might need some help. Sometime tomorrow," Enzo informed the other two, his hoarse voice indicative of excessive smoking "This order came from the top brass, and they say it was made clear that absolutely nothing should happen to the loads."

Enzo had put on a fair amount of weight, more than the weight he had lost in order to fight in Egypt. Enzo had never exactly been a lean man, but it had gotten to the stage where his health was starting to suffer. Food supplies were relatively broad; demons ransacking a building were uninterested in foodstuffs, but it was the weeks spent in the Sanctum that were detrimental to Enzo's wellbeing, coupled with his drinking and smoking habits which had skyrocketed accordingly to his stress.

"Who's the load?" Trish asked. She herself was handling relatively fine, being a full demon. The only sign of any pressure on her was that she had stopped wearing make-up, for hunters were unwilling to make expeditions so far into the city just to secure make-up while food was such a constant issue.

"Eh," Enzo blinked twice before reaching onto the desk and retrieving a sheet of intel and skimming back through the report "Some woman and her child."

"What makes them so important?" Trish queried, unimpressed "There's plenty of families making do in the safe-houses."

"A gesture of sorts by the government," Enzo replied bitterly "Your classic Saving Private Ryan shit. Apparently the husband's a soldier stationed in some fort in Nevada, got himself mauled by a half-demon. They want to let the wife and child see him. I'd say it's a fucking publicity stunt. What they won't see on the news is the lives it's gonna cost bringing them across the country..."

Trish nodded grimly in agreement while Vergil frowned, visibly puzzled.

"A half-demon mauled him?" he inquired incredulously.

Enzo caught onto his drift, his mouth open slightly as he considered the implications. Half-demons were a rare commodity; apart from the sons of Sparda and the Guardians of Vie de Marli, there were no reports of any such beings.

"According to the intel, yeah..." Enzo answered quietly "...do you think...?"

There was no need to finish the sentence. Trish and Vergil exchanged meaningful glances, both thinking of Dante. Trish suddenly gasped as some long-forgotten piece of information graced her memory.

"Where did you say they've to be brought?" she asked excitedly.

"Er – Nevada somewhere. It's unspecific in the report," Enzo replied vaguely "All the ADP told us is that there's a military base this guy's stationed at, and he got savaged by a half-demon. Since it's a fort in Nevada, I'd say it's in the middle of the desert somewhere."

"That's where Tailor is," Trish stated informatively.

"How do you know?" Vergil demanded of her quickly.

"He rang," she replied, suddenly ashamed "I forgot to tell you. He said he's stuck in some shit-kicker town, and wanted to know if we could pick him up. I told him not to hold his breath. But, now we could get him if we're already in the area."

"Not to overlook the fact that there is a military base containing half-demons," Vergil added "Which are almost certainly the Guardians, and possibly Dante. With them, things will turn on this front. We could easily break them out of captivity, if we-"

"Don't even fucking think about it," Enzo interjected sharply "That would involve assaulting a US fort. We are in no position to add the feds to our list of enemies, especially with all that the ADP is doing for us."

Vergil glared menacingly at Enzo, who returned it confidently.

"Don't you even care that -" Vergil began angrily.

"You're not gonna try and guilt me outta this, Vergil, because you know I'm right," Enzo cut across him heatedly "We aren't gonna risk the whole force on breaking Dante out while we're stretched thin as it is. If you ask me, he's better off where he is – assuming that he is actually there."

"You don't have to risk the whole force," Vergil replied reasonably "Just me. I'm already wanted by the government, and I'm perfectly fine with going alone."

"We need you here," Enzo stated firmly "There isn't nothing that gets through to these demons, except you. They all seem to know it when you're here, and are less of a problem. With you outta the picture, we're all screwed."

"But," Vergil began, before simmering for a while, as he didn't have an answer immediately prepared "...think about it. Risk my absence for about a week, maybe two, and your result is an army of half-devils."

"If you're right," Enzo pointed out.

"If I'm right." Vergil agreed.

Trish stood between the two, worried by their heated exchange. Her arms were crossed and her lips were creased into a pout as she watched them argue.

"You know what, Enzo?" she interrupted the two impatiently "If he's willing to risk his own neck in saving the half-devils, fine. Why hold him back? But still, Vergil, don't be expecting us to rush in and save your ass if it all goes to Hell."

The other two went quiet, both satisfied by her ultimatum.

By now a low rumble was heard from a separate chamber, with intensifying volume. A large crowd was approaching, an excited crowd at that. Sound travelled easily throughout the bunker; the only door set up in the place was the entrance for security purposes. However people were working day and night to improve the quality of the bunker; people rescued from the city who were willing to be of use; engineers, doctors, and many able hands all contributed to help the hunters that were fighting for the city. Though most civilians were content to sit and cling to their remaining families in the ADP protected sanctuaries, others felt that they must do whatever they could. While the ADP was a state-established force, and thus did not require the services of the civilian population, the devil hunters received such people with open hands. The services offered included medical help (provided that the hunters regularly foraged for drugs and other medical equipment, catering for the ever-exhausted hunters, and structural improvements by engineers and those willing to do manual labour. Electricians did their best to keep a power supply, and occasionally they were escorted by the hunters to substations in order to reboot the system that the demons frequently attacked.

These services were all inestimably helpful to the devil hunters, but that which they needed the most was extra manpower for fighting, their most valuable resource. To a very limited extent they received this. The homeless people of the city had been among the first victimised by the demonic hordes, yet their numbers were constantly on the increase due to buildings being demolished and scrapped apart on the sadistic whim of the demons. Some of the original homeless were still left. Having always harboured a deep paranoia of death and demons, these fears finally being founded gave them reason enough to fight. In the underground headquarters of the devil hunters, an armoury had been established. The armoury was not guarded, the rule of thumb amongst the hunters being that if you could fire a weapon you were welcome to it. Besides, the dead throughout the city more often than had a weapon of some description on their form; be it a lead pipe or a handgun, or an assault rifle from a deceased ADP or hunter. They were never in a position where they were suffering from a shortage of weaponry. The homeless were often no more than a transitory attack force; untrained, unfamiliar with their weaponry, susceptible to be killed just as easily as killing any kind of demon – if not more likely to be killed. Not to say that they were ineffective. Not only the fact that they were useful as shock troops, but ADP and hunters, aware of their location and movements, used them as an unwitting diversion for the demons to ensure a successful flanking ploy against the adversary. Or even as meat shields. The ADP often questioned the morality of this, whereas the devil hunters shrugged it off, claiming that the homeless had volunteered themselves into a war. This remained one of many differences that challenged the alliance between the ADP and the devil hunters.

The sheer volume of the noise created by the incoming crowd either meant that the war was over, or that they were all anticipating getting hopelessly drunk. Vergil shrewdly suspected the latter.

Surely enough, even the first few two enter the sanctum were clutching containers of various beverages rescued from the ruins of some bar or other. Enzo's previously beleaguered expression lightened at this sight, and he went so far as to give a light-hearted laugh and rub his hands together. These nights were the only good ones left to live for. Sure, there were always hunters stationed at key points adjacent to the entrance (not by the entrance itself, which would compromise their position), but those that were free were able to enjoy themselves, for however long a duration until the bitter fight continued.

The room became full of demon hunters armed with an impressive amount of drinks, before due regard was given to the variety.

Even Vergil's mouth twinged upwards as he noticed Lady and Pike lugging in a large case between them. It was a wooden crate with a bolted lid, the contents of which gave the tinkling of glass on glass each time the crate swung to the side as the two progressed. With a heave, they lifted in onto the desk, by Vergil.

"Some rich bastard left this behind," a breathless Lady explained cheerfully "Found it in the ruins of a sizable-looking house. Pike didn't want to drag it all the way back, but I couldn't just leave it all there. Besides, an ADP convoy was escorting civilians to a safe-house nearby. Any demons in the area would have been preoccupied with the supposedly easy meat nearby."

As she said this, Pike unbolted the lid and opened the crate. Vergil peered in gleefully. Contained inside were many bottles of red wine. Vergil grinned.

"It's good stuff, I checked," Lady told him, somewhat proudly. Indeed, the son of Sparda was impressed as he reached in and gently unearthed a bottle, on which the label read 'Chateauneuf du Pape'.

"You owe me big, Lady," Pike grumbled irritably, hand placed to an aching back "You were barely lifting at all. Across half the fucking city. I don't even like wine."

"What do you want, a cookie? Go get drunk or something," Lady brushed him off, waving a hand dismissively. Her bald friend walked off, mumbling darkly. She turned to Vergil, then reached into the crate, producing two glasses. "May I?"

"Please do," Vergil answered as he produced a thin knife from a sheath strapped to his thigh, flourishing it, then thrusting it into the cork before twisting clockwise and upwards. The cork emerged with a satisfying pop.

Elsewhere, Enzo was interrogating Anvil whilst examining a bottle of Jameson twelve-year reserve whiskey with an approving smirk.

"-so you think they're suddenly going all-out on the docks?" he asked her, his eyes elsewhere but very much alert to her answer "what the hell would they want the docks for?"

"Asking the wrong gal," Anvil replied, a can of lager clenched in her hands "I suppose they sense something of interest there. Maybe some big fucker in charge is giving them orders, since the docks aren't of much use to them, but they're of huge strategic importance to -"

Her eyes met Pike's across the room. Both of them immediately turned away, scowling. Anvil took a mouthful of her drink and paused for a while before continuing "so they're of importance to us. The demons won't have any use for them, but if there's a clever one in charge, it'll know that keeping us annoyed is useful for them."

Having successfully opened the bottle, Enzo poured the contents into a small glass before downing it. He gave a loud appreciative sigh afterwards.

"Good shit...so, you reckon that there's a higher devil in the city?"

"I hope not, but there's a good chance there is."

"Fuck." Enzo replied with a grimace "That's all we need right now. God knows we're having trouble just with the sheer mass of the smaller ones. But now they're organised..."

"What's more, if the big guy decides to show himself on the battlefield it's all over," Anvil added grimly "In addition to the hordes of smaller ones."

Enzo's response to this statement was the filling of a much larger glass with whiskey. Although he said nothing, Anvil knew what was going through the ex-hunter's mind.

"Don't lose sleep over it, Enzo," she said consolingly "Sure, we have Vergil, don't we?". A worried frown spread across her face when she saw his reaction.

"We won't," Enzo groaned, before banging his head on the desk "He's headed off to fucking Nevada. Thinks he can break Dante out of a military base."

"Is he out of his mind?" Anvil demanded, stricken. "We're screwed without him!"

"That's what I said," Enzo mumbled "He won't listen."

"Well," Anvil began calmly, searching for an optimistic viewpoint "well, suppose he can break Dante out. That's the two of them on our side of the frontline."

"Anvil..." Enzo said glumly, raising his head "Nevada. Fucking Nevada. Imagine how long it'll take to get over there from New York, then to break Dante out – after figuring out how – then, naively assuming he's not dead or captured, the two of them have to make their way back. All the while, we're stuck here without Vergil, while a higher devil is parading around."

Anvil had no response. She merely stared grimly at Enzo, who downed his glass before letting out a rasping sigh. The sounds of merriment were to be heard from all directions, but it seemed that the two of them were in a world of their own, painfully aware of the war going on around them.

And yet there was one such person who was perfectly aware of the situation and it's significance who was currently allowing himself to enjoy the current occasion.

Vergil was seated with Lady to one corner of the room, a glass of wine in both of their hands.

"-and so I have to leave early tomorrow, if not tonight, before anybody tries to stop me," Vergil explained, his thoughts somewhat loosened.

Lady was silent for a moment, staring solemnly into his eyes.

"This is a huge risk you're taking, you know that?" she asked him quietly.

Vergil nodded as he refilled his glass and, after waiting for prompt, refilled Lady's.

"It has to be done. I can't just leave the Guardians – and hopefully Dante – to stay in captivity," Vergil answered sincerely, before adding as an afterthought "Did you know, that we were actually there before? At least I think so. A military base with research centres inside...in Nevada somewhere, I saw a map in the base. They dissected demons there, you see, scrapped them apart to see how they worked...and every demon died in the end, for one reason or another."

"You don't think that...?" Lady queried anxiously.

Vergil took in a deep breath, took a sip of wine, then answered darkly;

"If they are, either I join the pile or everybody in that centre does."

The two fell quiet once again, Vergil staring at his glass and Lady staring at Vergil. When she next spoke, there was worry in her voice.

"You don't have to do this," she urged him, her hand unwittingly placed on his.

"I do. I don't expect anybody to understand," Vergil replied, oblivious "But Dante is worth the risk. He would most definitely have done the same."

"You really do care for him," Lady commented, somewhat surprised.

"I..." Vergil began hesitantly, before continuing quietly "I always did... I just denied it. I was just... afraid of what it - what it meant. I was worried of the repercussions it would have on how people saw me. I placed so much importance on my image...I didn't realise that...that image is what you get as a result of your actions, it shouldn't be the cause for your actions. I just held everything back..."

Vergil cut himself off, before giving Lady a timid smile, to feign that he didn't really mean what he meant, as he realised just how much he had let out. But he couldn't swallow his words, seeing how heartfelt they were, surprising both himself and Lady. Lady seemed stricken by his words, more so than he himself was. Her grip on his hand tightened, before she slowly leaned over, close.

Upon blinking Vergil realised their lips were both connected, her tongue in his mouth, and there was a moment where he went rigid, shocked. But he didn't resist, nor was he actively participating.

Suddenly he drew back sharply, his eyes wide and his face red. Lady's face went a deep shade of crimson, before she looked away, embarrassed.

Vergil did not mean for it to look the way it did. His issue was not Lady, but rather the fact that he had no issue. Uncomfortable thoughts raced through his mind, questions he had no immediate answer to, and that he would rather not provide an answer for.

Not long ago he had killed a woman, not because he needed to, but because he was angered by the rumours. Rumours of...of...a romantic relationship. He had taken agonising attempts to maintain his image as the masterful warrior throughout his life – calm, detached, collected – and this woman threatened to shatter that image. She herself had done nothing to portray anything substantial. Spoken politely, giggled at his comments, displayed signs of vague affection – but it was the commentary of Dante and Tailor that had inflicted insecurity on Vergil. Vulgar jokes at his expense, and his reaction was to remove the woman from the picture – by killing her. He had made himself believe that he could kill humans at will, whether he really could or not – and thus found no qualms in murdering the culprit woman, who's only crime was her existence. It was his fault he killed her, not hers.

And here he was now, the possibility of such a relationship in arms reach. Did he want this? Was he ready?

Of course he wanted it, this was obvious to him. Though, did she? Did Lady know what she was getting herself into?

It was just a kiss, he was overreacting, he scolded himself. One kiss and he had to undergo a mental and emotional self-analysis. He reasoned that he should just seize this meager opportunity, just a kiss, and for once abandon any regard for the future. What happens, happens.

She was beginning to leave now, and he reprimanded himself internally again. Lady was on her feet now, heading for the doorway of the room, berating herself for being so fucking stupid. She knew who she was dealing with, and she didn't think twice about it - did she even think about it?

Vergil reached out and squeezed her hand gently. Lady froze, and wasted a second before turning back around, to look back at Vergil's face. They were both silent for a short while, before reuniting.

She could sense his hesitance, his lack of confidence. She had found the one place where he was not in control. It was in one way pleasant, refreshing even. Although not at all what she had been expecting, or rather hoping for.

Their actions did not go unnoticed. Not far away, Trish and Pike were sharing a crate of beer. Though Trish was a demon, and therefore more resistant to the intoxicating effect of alcohol, Pike in some recess of his mind considered it weak to drink less than her, and as a result was drinking an intemperate proportion of the lager.

With a wry smile Trish noted the actions of Vergil and Lady nearby, and rather subtly coughed and informed Pike of the situation in a low voice. Pike, in an admittedly less inconspicuous fashion, belched loudly and leered blearily at the pair.

"Dante's gonna be – hic – pissed," Pike grumbled with some difficulty.

"My God," Trish sighed wearily "You're actually hiccuping."

"So what?!" Pike demanded impatiently.

"I think you've had enough, hon. And as for Dante, I don't see what you mean. If anything, he should be happy for Vergil."

"For what? Making out? That's not exactly enough for Dante to be proud of," Pike answered with a coarse smile.

"Ugh," Trish responded, shaking her head with disdain "I don't mean like that. I mean, he'd be proud that Vergil opened up at all."

"He's still got the rest of the baseball pitch to run," Pike pointed out before downing the rest of his bottle and exuding a loud belch. "You know, Trish, you're actually really hot..."

Trish gave Pike a light push on the shoulder, inadvertently sending him sprawling to the floor. She had evidently overestimated his current sense of balance.

"Sorry, hon." Trish apologised dispassionately.

The only reply she got was heavy snoring. With an exasperated sigh, Trish finished her drink in a final gulp and went off to find somebody conscious with whom she could share gossip.

It was difficult to determine the time in the barracks. There were no windows, for they were underground, and there was no clock. Lamps were constantly lit day through night, electric lamps thanks to the helpful volunteers. Judging the general time by the people sleeping there was an ineffective method, as hunters had a shift system which guaranteed exhausted dormers at all times. It could just as easily be night as day, as far as they eye could see at any given point in time inside the barracks. Vergil had only discovered the time by the visibly expensive silver watch strapped to Lady's arm. She was clearly doing much better than she would have in peacetime.

The barracks consisted of rows of salvaged beds of varying shapes and sizes. There was constant bickering over the right to ownership over many of the more luxurious beds, many of the more forceful personalities claiming ownership over the double and king-sized beds, though they were for the most part ignored by their comrades who gleefully seized said beds at any given opportunity.

As they were the first to retire, Lady and Vergil had secured a highly coveted double bed at the far corner of the barracks.

Vergil was wide awake. He was sitting up, with the duvet covering his body from his belly button down. He confirmed the time by checking Lady's watch for the umpteenth time that morning. Five o'clock in the morning. He knew he had to depart soon.

Demons were most active at midnight and at noon, so it was only logical that most human operations of importance took place at six in the morning and afternoon. If the ADP were sending out a convoy, they would do so at a time that the convoy would be under less of a threat of attack.

Vergil had been awake for quite a while now, checking Lady's watch at frequent intervals. He constantly reminded himself that he should be already leaving just in case, but just as often he made concessions in his timetable to remain in bed and watch Lady's sleeping form. This was a very new and exciting – yet slightly nerve-racking – experience for him. Last night had been a huge leap for him, and the result was that he had been awake since three in the morning reflecting on it, somewhat thrilled, somewhat afraid. He had begun by promising himself that it was just a kiss, and that it was really nothing of significance. Now he was not so sure. As he observed Lady's gently rhythmic inhaling and exhaling, he became aware of deep feelings for her, unfamiliar, frightening. His stomach lurched when he wondered if she harboured these same feelings for him, or if last night may have meant nothing to her. Had this venture only been the result of alcohol? Vergil had consumed a lot of wine, but not enough for him to become truly intoxicated. Admittedly, Lady had drank less, but Vergil was unsure of the effect per unit quantity of alcohol on humans. But he reasoned that she did not seem imbalanced in any way, save for perhaps a greater willingness for close interaction than he usually attributed to Lady. She had definitely not been drunk, he reasoned with surprising relief.

He then considered if these feelings were only natural for a first partner, that it really was nothing. He concluded that it was only nothing if he so felt. But having said that, Vergil did not ever wish to leave this bed.

He exhaled heavily. He had undergone a transformation of sorts, and he was now wondering in retrospect if it was an intelligent thing to have done. Just yesterday he had been sure of his mission, but now he was reluctant even to begin it.

Vergil reached over and tenderly stroked her raven hair from her face. Lady mumbled something unintelligible in her sleep before rolling over. It would take considerable effort and willpower for him to leave.

Blinking twice, he then scolded himself. He was dwelling on this too much. He forcefully reminded himself of the bigger picture. Dante. The Guardians.

The War.

The fate of the humans rested on him, he knew. Without the contribution the half-devils could offer, there was no desirable outcome of this war that Vergil could see.

But, what happens when he leaves New York? Without his protection, the hunters were at great risk. Vergil could sense something dwelling in the city, out of sight but not out of mind. A higher devil, of that he was sure. The son of Sparda was confident that he could confront the devil, but, like any clever puppet master, the devil would most certainly not show himself to Vergil without first attempting all other alternatives. Should the devil perceive Vergil's absence, then what? Would he unleash himself onto the remaining, human defenders? Watching Lady's sleeping form, the thought crossed Vergil's mind that, should he leave, Lady, among the other hunters, may be decimated in their masses.

But in terms of the war, they were less of an asset than the Guardians. That was undeniable.

What should he act on? The greater good? Or, his own interests?

He did not need to ask himself such a question, for he already knew the answer. Closing his eyes, Vergil clasped onto Lady's hand and squeezed.

He had to leave, now.

Vergil opened his eyes, sighed once again, then placed his hand on Lady's shoulder and began to wake her. He had to say goodbye. After a moments groaning, Lady clasped a hand to her eyes and yawned loudly. She exhaled heavily.

"What time is it?" she grumbled irritably "Don't fucking tell me it's morning already."

"It is five – fifteen in the morning," Vergil informed her.

"Quarter past fucking five?" she snapped incredulously, but softened when she finally noticed his expression. "What's wrong?"

"I have to leave," Vergil said simply.

"You – you're leaving? Now?" she asked quickly.

"I have to. You know I do. Please don't make this any more difficult than it already is," Vergil told her, in what almost sounded like a pleading tone.

"I'm headed for the ADP convoy that should be leaving for Nevada. I felt I needed to say goodbye first," Vergil said firmly. Lady sensed from his tone that he felt that he was being thoughtful. "And...I...needed to ask you...about last night."

He faltered, evidently stuck for words.

"Did you...feel anything for...for...?"

"You're new to this, aren't you?" Lady asked him with a smile, before yawning again and adding. "I'm feeling generous, so I'll be patient."

Vergil's lip twitched upwards and he nodded slightly in response.

"If you're asking me if I think we have a chance together, I'd say yes," Lady stated, eyes twinkling at Vergil's wide smile. "But you've got a lot to learn about this whole 'relationship' thing. Leaving the morning after sex isn't considered a good habit for a boyfriend."

As she uttered that last word, Vergil's stomach lurched. Boyfriend. He was her boyfriend. The word was such a clumsy term, it meant nothing for Vergil. He was not about to take to the trivialised human notion of 'boyfriend' with glee. But he was with her, and that was the part he seized upon. He had clearly gone quiet for a while, because Lady asked him;

"You were saying?"

"Yes. I...have to leave. I might not be back for a long time, if at all."

The implications of the last three words had an imposing effect on the pair, which Vergil had not anticipated when he said it. The possibility of his capture for life, or even his death, went through their minds.

"When exactly are you leaving?" Lady inquired softly.

"Now. I really have to go, immediately," Vergil replied, and his face went dark as he realised the time. He stared at her silently for half a minute, before stating "Goodbye."

"Wait – just – five minutes," Lady insisted desperately, leaning into him and they tenderly kissed again.

Though unplanned, they pulled the blankets over themselves and lost complete track of time, neither caring for that blissful expanse of time they had left together.

"Alpha-Delta-Papa Base, this is convoy Lima-Kilo One, message. Over."

"Alpha-Delta-Papa base receiving, send. Over."

"We have encountered an obstruction on the road. The ruins of a building have overlapped the designated route. Requesting permission to take an alternative route. Over."

"Standby, over."

Vergil stood on the rooftop of a nearby building, observing the progress of an Armoured Personnel Carrier along one of the remaining roads out of the city. The APC, an M113-A4, a newly designed model for the war, had been modified heavily for this independent cross-country mission, with an augmented engine to provide a much higher top-speed than it's counterparts. A mounted machine gun on a revolvable platform was fixed to the roof, with an Anti-Demon Patrol soldier manning it.

The son of Sparda had not arrived in time to watch the departure of the convoy from the ADP headquarters, nor seen the woman and child to be escorted, but it was not a difficult task in tracking down the vehicle.

Yamato attached to his belt, and Force Edge sheathed at his back, Vergil confidently patrolled the area around the convoy, careful not to be spotted himself. The ADP still had orders to arrest him on sight.

To reduce his worries about the protection of the hunters in his absence, Vergil left the blade Crìnge in Trish's keeping. He doubted it would be sufficient to hold back the tide, but he only hoped that it would be enough to ensure their livelihood until his return.

He had no idea what communications were going on between the convoy and the HQ. It may have intrigued him to know that the ADP were cursing the devil hunters for not providing support for the convoy as planned. Enzo had not spared any hunters as he knew that Vergil had departed to follow and protect the convoy by himself.

Guessing correctly, he deduced that the APC had stopped in it's tracks to wait for further orders. The road they were moving along was obstructed by debris from a destroyed building, and there was only one remaining turn that would keep them on track towards Nevada, though Vergil could feel that it led through a demon-infested section of the city. The ADP evidently knew that as well, or they would not have stopped.

"Lima-Kilo One, you are granted permission to take the alternative route. Be advised, there is reportedly heavy demonic activity in that area. Alpha-Delta-Papa Base, Out."

Vergil watched as the APC traversed to take the left turn, then swiftly moved along the buildings alongside it, never allowing it out of his sights for more than a few seconds. He fell into a position a mile or two ahead of the convoy before waiting in position, allowing himself a few minutes to sit and watch. It was then that he saw it first.

It was hard to distinguish from it's surroundings at first, as it was completely transparent, almost to a degree that rendered it invisible. It's translucent body consisted of a strange grey substance, unidentifiable as either liquid or gas, that constantly swirled and writhed, like steam. The substance was shaped to form a quadrupedal creature, which Vergil could not determine as canine or feline. It's eyes were dull orange lights, which were the easiest way of seeing the creature at first. It appeared to be some distant relation of a Shadow, but did not appear to resemble any animal Vergil had yet seen.

The creature did not seem to have noticed Vergil, but was alerted to the incoming APC. Indeed, it hissed to itself as the vehicle approached. The machine gunner could not yet see it.

Acting quickly, Vergil fired an opaque blue sword at the creature, but the projectile simply shot through it, leaving the demon unscratched.

The creature suddenly exploded – that is, it's steam-like body expanded out from the shape of an animal, and enveloped nearby boulders of rubble, fallen segments of buildings and devastated cars.

Vergil watched on with fascination as the pieces of ruin covered by the grey mist hurtled through the air, colliding with each other at a centralised point. Bit by bit, the mist constructed a large golem-like edifice, easily as tall as a building. When the final piece of the unholy jigsaw was assembled, two lamp-like eyes flashed into life at what clearly was supposed to be the head of the beast.

The machine gunner was long aware of this new threat and had opened fire. However, the bullets merely glanced off the beasts tough body, having absolutely no effect.

The beast began to slowly stomp towards the armoured personnel carrier, it's eyes flashing once with evil intent.

Joe: Done and dusted for now.

As usual, please review if you've read thus far, your opinions are valued.

For now, Joe signing out.