Change or Lack Thereof


Summary: Nero thinks of how he's changed without really changing and of his family.

With inhuman quietness, Nero snuck into the tiny backyard of the house that he had once shared with two adopted siblings and now with only one.

Credo had built a sort of mud room into the small back porch and that was where Nero headed now. The mud room had come about after Nero's first official demon hunt for the Order. He'd come home that night covered in tacky, half-dried blood (most of it not his) and Credo, who'd waited for him, had crossed his arms, stood in the doorway, and refused to let Nero in. Credo had told Nero that he could either be hosed down in the yard or sleep on the porch because there was no way he would be allowed to set foot in the house as he was. Nero had slept on the porch and the next day Credo had dragged him into helping outfit the porch with coat hangers, a place to store gear, and a bucket that could be filled with water and used to wash of the worst of the gore.

This time was different, Nero wasn't nearly as dirty and Credo wasn't there to make sure Nero stayed mostly in line. And there were so many other changes, the fall of the Order, the destruction of the Hellgates, and hundreds more less obvious ones.

Right now, all Nero could do was his best to survive from day to day, like Kyrie was, like the rest of Fortuna was.

Nero drew the Red Queen off of his back and rested the blade's tip on the porch and it's hilt on the railing. He hadn't had much time to perform maintenance, only to top off the fluid in the combustion reservoir and wipe off the blade itself. The exceed mechanism was slowly clogging up, and if he wasn't able to clean it out soon the entire thing could back up and catch fire or, if his luck ran bad, explode.

Blue Rose was also drawn and set on the railing. Compared to the Red Queen, Blue Rose was low maintenance and even with his limited time Nero had been able to keep up with its basic care, though the detailing was suffering from lack of attention.

Credo had been the one who had taught Nero how to clean his sword and, reluctantly, to clean his gun. It had been drilled into Nero that if a hunter wanted to survive, he kept his weapons in as good of condition as he did his own body, and, in the past, the only weapons Nero had had to worry about were his sword and then his gun. Now there was the Devil Bringer. Nero had no fucking clue how to deal with it, didn't even know if he needed to do anything, and there was no one he could ask.

Nero slipped out of his coat (which was bloodstained, though not as badly as it could have been) and draped it over the railing, leaving his arms bare. He felt exposed without his coat, having worn it almost constantly since the Order's fall to hide the Devil Bringer. Not because he was ashamed of it, Nero refused to be ashamed of the one thing that had allowed him to save as many people as he had, but because people were afraid and frightened people did stupid things.

Nero didn't blame them. After things had slowed and he'd been left (mostly) alone on his trek through the forest to the Order's Headquarters, Nero had wondered just what the hell had happened to his arm. He'd been afraid of the implications the Devil Bringer had on his humanity and whether or not whatever power had taken his arm would be satisfied with just his arm. Nero had gotten used to his changed arm; he'd had no other choice. The rest of Fortuna did have a choice, however, and Nero knew that if he wasn't careful he'd be ostracized if he was lucky or hunted down if he wasn't.

There was something about the Devil Bringer that struck the average person as fundamentally wrong, and Nero had quickly realized how the devil arm affected people. When inside the city's fortified center he kept his entire arm covered and even when he fought alongside the former devil-slayers of the Order Nero never exposed more than his forearm. He'd never let anyone see his upper arm, where the Devil Bringer gradually merged into his own flesh. About halfway up his bicep, the Devil Bringer's armored plates gradually grew thinner and smaller and the spaces between the plates became wider and shaded from the unarmored blue of the Devil Bringer to the pale flesh-tone of Nero's skin until the armor plates disappeared entirely at his shoulder.

He was only slightly clumsier with his clawed hand, but even that had decreased with time. Nero wasn't really surprised that he'd gotten accustomed to the Devil Bringer. A hunter had to be adaptable in order to survive, but this felt natural and Nero guessed that if he really was of Sparda's blood (though Dante had yet to reveal how exactly that had happened) then it shouldn't be surprising.

All in all Nero wasn't sure he'd actually changed all that much.

Nero grabbed his sword from where he'd rested it against the railing. He was tired but Red Queen needed to be cleaned if didn't want to lose his left arm in a fiery explosion. The other Hunters would watch his back, even if their only reason was that he'd be one more person for the demons to target instead of them. He retrieved his cleaning kit and sat down on the steps with the exceed mechanism on his lap. It was awkward at first. Nero had been trained to fight equally well with both hands but his right hand had always been dominant, especially in tasks that required fine movement like cleaning the Red Queen. But eventually Nero got the hang of not getting his claws stuck in the delicate fuel lines and not getting the pipe cleaners jammed into the valves.

His mind began to wander as his hands went through the newly familiar motions.

Nero had always been grateful that Credo had seen past his white hair and frighteningly blue eyes to the lonely child he'd been in the aftermath of the demon attack that had decimated the neighborhood he and his mother had lived in. He had not shown it openly and had often rebelled against his adopted older brother (Credo had always insisted that he was entirely too young to be anyone's father) but he would have done anything to protect him and Kyrie. Now he wondered if that urge to protect had been entirely human, but he was also sure that he wouldn't have cared if it was. He'd continue to protect Kyrie for as long as he was able to.

Standing with the newly cleaned exceed mechanism in hand, Nero wondered if he should consider Dante family. The older man had left him Yamato and Nero couldn't even begin to guess the blade's history. Nero shrugged and decided that could wait until after Fortuna was out of immediate danger.

Nero was pretty sure that Dante wouldn't be too bad of a person to call family.