I'm not a perfect person,
There's many things I wish I didn't do,
But I continue learning,
I never meant to do those things to you,
And so I have to say before I go,
That I just want you to know,
It never should have come down to this. If it wasn’t for who, what, he was, things wouldn’t have happened the way they did.
Because of him…
I'm sorry that I hurt you,
It's something I must live with every day,
And all the pain I put you through,
I wish that I could take it all away,
And be the one who catches all your tears,
That's why I need you to hear…
* * *
The moment your laughter echoes between the buildings, you immediately place a hand over your mouth, fighting against the blush that colors your cheeks. You don’t mean for it to be so loud, but his words, combined with the uncanny resemblance to Dante’s voice, startles the sound from your throat.
“It’s not that funny. If he knew you thought so, I’d never hear the end of it.”
“I’m sorry,” you say, eying the frown that settles onto Nero’s face, “but you sounded just like him. I couldn’t help it.”
“Great. Just great. Make it worse, why don’t you.”
You continue to hide your smile as you walk beside him, daring to walk close enough so that your arm brushes against the rolled sleeve of his coat. As of yet, he either doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care.
You hope for the latter.
“It can’t really be so bad. He seems like he’d be a lot of fun…in small doses,” you state.
“Five minutes. Tops. Why do you think I leave every chance I get?”
“Ah, I see, and here I thought you liked spending time with me.”
Somehow, you succeed in not cringing on the outside. The inside, however, is another matter entirely. Today seems to be bad for spontaneous outbursts. Since running into him, literally, on the sidewalk near Devil May Cry, things have slowly progressed into a friendship. Dante had witnessed the collision and had made it his mission to track down where you lived in order to ‘broaden the kid’s horizons’. The older man had even gone so far as to drag Nero to where you worked, the two of you forming a mutual dislike of him that had helped break the ice.
It is now six months later and your heart wants far more than friendship.
It is a secret that you keep closely guarded, however.
From the corner of your eye, you watch as he runs the back of his hand across the tip of his nose, blue eyes on the sidewalk ahead. “Not when you take up for him, I don’t. I thought you were on my side.”
His voice has changed, the words meant to be playful, but tinged with sadness instead. You try to scan his expression, watching as he glances down at his right arm. The white sling stands out against the darker colors of his coat, the fingers of his injured arm clenching and unclenching within the confines of a blue and red glove.
“Is it hurting?” you ask quietly.
Those piercing eyes cut your way from beneath the snow of his bangs before his head lifts. “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
If he only knew…
I'm not a perfect person,
I never meant to do those things to you,
And so I have to say before I go,
That I just want you to know…
It's foolish for him to say such a thing. You're going to worry for as long as that frown stays on his face. Whatever issues he has at home, you do your best so that they don’t interfere when he’s with you. You aren’t quite sure when his happiness became more important than your own, and it doesn’t matter. So long as you can crack stupid jokes, or embarrass yourself to put him at ease, because nothing in the world means more than spying that rare, slight lift at the corner of his mouth.
“I think I’m in the mood for Italian today,” you state, startling him out of his sulk. “How ’bout you?”
“When are you not in the mood for Italian?”
“When you’re being an ass-twig?” you counter.
Nero stops, the worn heels of his boots scuffing the pavement as he turns to look at you. “What? What does that even mean?”
Crossing your arms over your chest, you refuse to look at him, lifting your chin a bit for good measure. “Dante said it’s a good term for you since you act like you have a stick up your-.”
He starts walking again, his steps a little faster than before, and you can’t resist smiling behind his back.
“Fine! Leave a woman to find her way through the dangerous city streets alone,” you call after him. “I’ll meet you there when you stop going the wrong way.”
You hear him curse as you enter the alley to your right. Your skin becomes cooler in an instant, afternoon sunlight replaced by the shadows between the two buildings. Aside from a dumpster, it’s a straight shot to the other side of the block. There’s no sense in going all the way around when you can shave ten minutes off the trip.
Dante was right, it was way too easy to fluster Nero, but it’s also one of things you love about him the most-
Your body shivers as a breeze stirs the trash littering the ground, papers rustling as they dance across the way. You aren’t entirely sure why your feet cease to move, nor why you have to fight the urge to step back, but those questions become moot the moment you hear Nero’s boots running toward you. Your eyes barely have time to register the way the brick wall behind the dumpster begins to turn black before Nero’s body engulfs your own, his boots sliding along the pavement as his momentum carries you past.
Where your skin was cold seconds before, it is now becoming heated, a bitter smell reaching your noise. You hear the sound it makes before you actually see it, and that does nothing to quell the fear spreading like a wildfire through your blood. Turning in Nero’s hold, you glance back to see a misshapen claw emerge from the wall of the building.
Gravity seems to lose its hold on your mind.
The breathless quality of your voice causes his hold on you to tighten and the motion breaks through your confused terror. Both of his arms are around your upper body…
…and the right one is glowing.
I've found a reason to show,
A side of me you didn't know,
A reason for all that I do,
And the reason is you,
Your body has never become so still. Even with the threat of death looming in the background, there is nothing that will make your feet turn and run. Your eyes are on the side of Nero’s face, his head turned to watch the creature pulling itself from the void. You can feel every minute fluctuation of your heart, every drag and pull of air from your lungs because, for you, time has fallen still.
Within the shadows of the alley, you can see the sky blue glow of his arm from the corner of your eye; can see the misshapen fingers that grip the sleeve of your shirt. You are standing so close to him that you can sense the return of your breath against the collar of his coat, your hands clenching the material in an effort to remain standing.
How many afternoons have you spent walking at his side? How many nights have you remained awake trying to think of ways to make him smile? You have become proud of the way he has begun to open up, shedding his shyness in favor of revealing the person he truly is.
Has all of that been a lie? Do you even know him at all?
What is he?
“Bad time for you to pick a fight, asshole.”
His left hand disappears, one side of his coat shifting as though he’s searching for something. His eyebrows draw together, followed immediately by a curse. When he speaks again, he doesn’t look your way and part of you is glad for that.
You’re afraid, and not entirely because of the creature.
“Get outta here.”
His right arm releases you and you stand swaying for a moment, feeling abandoned in more ways than one as the warmth of his body fades away.
You watch as he hides his arm behind his back, turning his body to cut your line of sight. At a loss, your eyes slide upward, but his gaze is still elsewhere, and you realize that no answers will be given today.
Your feet begin to retreat as the creature is fully revealed, its body twisted and stitched together much like a Picasso painting. A low hum issues forth from a mouth you can’t find, nor do you wish to look closely enough, the sound sending vibrations over your skin.
Nero turns to face it and, despite your fear, you feel a moment of utter panic as you realize that he has no intention of going with you.
“I’m sorry.” His glowing arm lifts, the light intensifying, and you see the color reflecting on the sadness of his expression. “I should have…I wanted to…” Sadness turns to anger, his claw-like hand clenching into a fist. “GO!”
You run, fleeing the unknown and the agonizing break of your heart.
Hours turn into days, and days into weeks.
Two weeks to be exact; fourteen days since that encounter in the alley near your favorite restaurant. Nero hasn’t come to find you, to make sure you’re alright, and there has been no sign of Dante, either.
For the first few days, you were grateful for the space, trying to sort through the confusion and the fear in order to think straight. Though you still have questions, there is one answer blaring in your mind like a mega phone.
You miss him.
“Ow, for fucks sake!”
The painful exclamation snaps you back to attention, your body jarred by the collision of your cart to the heels and backside of your boss. You flush as he bends down to rub at his injuries, his brown eyes shooting you a glare that makes you feel about two feet tall.
“I don’t know what the hell has gotten into you, but how about getting your damn head out of the clouds before you kill someone with that thing!”
The wheels squeak as you pull it back, the metal frame burdened by the groceries you are attempting to stock. An old woman at the end of the aisle pauses as she passes by, giving your boss the evil eye.
“I’m sorry, sir,” you mumble, “it won’t happen again.”
“Damn right it won’t! One more incident out of you and you’ll find yourself scrubbing the toilet-.”
“Or, she could liven my place up a bit with that beautiful smile of hers.”
You turn your head so fast that a bone pops, your eyes wide enough to take in the entire front half of the store.
His eyes crinkle with a smile. “I couldn’t have said it better myself. Come on, it’s lunch time. My treat for once.”
“I can’t just-.”
“Do us all a favor and just go,” your boss cuts in. “Get your shit together before I have to fire you.”
Dante steps aside, sweeping his arm out and signaling for you to proceed. It takes only a few seconds for you to study his expression, your own tight with worry as your stomach twists into thousands of little knots. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by anything, his smile genuine enough. Unable to keep from wringing your hands, you lead the way to the front doors, praying all the while that he isn’t here to give you a final farewell.
Stepping out under the noon sun, you have to blink a few times to clear your vision, the world beyond blurring into a haze. Damned if you’re going to cry in front of the one man who will tease you for it.
The sudden weight of his arm nearly bowls you into the street, his strength forcibly turning you and pulling you flush against his side. “Hope you’re in the mood for pizza. I haven’t had any since this morning and I’m starving.”
You mumble your consent, hand taking hold of the back of his leather trench coat to keep your balance. It feels odd being this close to him, but there is no denying the fact that the contact is comforting in its own way, despite him leaning on you more than he should.
“So, where’ve you been hiding?” he asks, tilting his head to glance at you.
“I haven’t been-.”
“You haven’t been by to see me. No phone calls, no notes, not even a singing telegram from some guy dressed up like a dumbass. I was getting worried.”
The crowd along the sidewalk begins to thicken and you take hold of the hand lying over your shoulder as you squeeze closer. “Nero. Is he…is he alright?”
“Define ‘alright’. If you mean ‘coping an attitude and acting like someone pissed in his boots’, then he’s the same as ever.” You hear the scratch of stubble as he reaches up to rub his chin. “I take that back. He hasn’t said much since you stopped coming around. You two have a fight?”
You don’t answer, not really sure how to, and find yourself pulled along as he crosses the street without bothering to look first. Up ahead, your eyes catch sight of your favorite Italian restaurant and the tables placed out front for people to eat outdoors. Almost every chair is occupied, the fragrant hint of spices mingling with the sound of a violin.
“I’ll take that as a yes, but I can’t say I feel bad for the kid.”
You both step onto the curb at the same, his long strides leading you under the vine covered canopy in only a few steps. You are preparing to ask what he means by that when he uses your hold on his hand to spin you, the world blurring for a moment until you find yourself facing him. He steps forward, a smirk teasing one corner of his mouth, forcing you to retreat until your back presses against the building. Sunlight filtering through the lattice creates diamond shapes along his hair and shoulders, and your heart stops beating altogether.
“It’s his loss, babe, but it sure as hell won’t be mine.”
Dante’s warm breath passes over your lips, your eyes frantic as they search his gaze. He has never tried anything like this before and you don’t understand why in the hell he is going for it now.
Your hands press against his sides, well aware of the attention his antics are drawing, and attempt to push him away. “Dante-.”
“What’s wrong? You’re single, I’m single, and we have cheesy love music playing in the background.” The closer his mouth gets, the wider your eyes become. “Don’t tell me your gonna let this amazing opportunity pass you-.”
“I love Nero.”
The words are out before you even realize they’re on your tongue, and if you weren’t so shaken, the sight of Dante’s eyebrows hitting his hairline would have made you laugh.
Time starts ticking away, your breathing too rapid, and little by little his eyebrows begin to drift back down.
His voice, barely more than a whisper, passes in the air between. “Then it shouldn’t matter what he is.”
Surprise turns your body cold as you watch him push away. His head turns toward the crowd of people eating.
“You’re late. I asked you to be here ten minutes ago.”
Nero is standing amid the row of tables, his sling and glove once more in place, and his expression an exact replica of your own.
“I go through all that trouble and you almost miss it.” Dante makes a tsk noise as he turns to go. “Kids these days.”
He disappears around the corner, your eyes falling to the ground at your feet. There is no way you can watch Nero walk away. Even if he heard your confession, he has every right to leave you standing here. He doesn’t owe you anything, and you have no right to ask-
“You coming or not?”
Your startled gaze finds him standing just a few steps past you, his eyes glancing back from over his shoulder. He asked it in such a quiet way, as if he’s afraid of what your answer might be. There is only a second of hesitation as you gather your nerve before your feet carry you to his left side out of habit.
You aren’t quite sure what to say. As Nero walks alongside you, you keep trying to think of words that might bring back the comfort that was shared at one time. His stride matches yours but the stiffness of his body lets you know how uncomfortable he is.
Leave it to Dante to put things in such a blunt perspective. A simple sentence; a realization that was hidden by your fear.
“Then it shouldn’t matter what he is.”
There is nothing in this world that can make you fear Nero. It’s the unknown; the part of the world you hadn’t known existed and the worry that you will never be able to fit into such a place. It’s just an arm. It has nothing to do with the way he makes you feel, or the smile he can put on your face simply by walking into a room. You try to find the courage to say that out loud because ‘sorry’ will never be good enough, but your feet keep right on walking and your mouth remains closed.
You risk a glance at him, your heart sinking as you notice the way his eyebrows are drawn together and the frown pulling at his mouth. The sight hurts in a way that you never could have thought possible.
Your feet slow to a stop. “You deserve a better friend than me,” you say quietly, throat constricting with tears.
He halts mid-step, back becoming stiff, but he doesn’t turn.
“I’ve been trying so hard. Saying stupid things, making an idiot out of myself because I just…I want you to stop being so sad. And now I’m the one who-.”
“Did you mean it?”
The question is asked almost too low for you to hear, his head turning slightly but not enough to look at you. It takes a moment for you to catch on to what he’s referring to and a blush creeps into your cheeks. He heard after all.
He doesn’t say anything for the longest time. It feels like years to you as you eye the part of his face you can see. You wait for him to tell you what an idiot you really are. You wait for him to simply take off walking again and leave you standing there.
“Are you just going to stay back there?”
Your heart jumps when he holds out his left hand for you to take and you hurry forward before he changes his mind, your palm coming to rest against his as you lace your fingers.
As you both begin walking again, you risk another peek and notice that his eyebrows have smoothed out even though the frown remains.
“Now I owe Dante a pizza,” he mutters.
You try to hide a smile but that becomes impossible as his hand pulls you closer to his side.
I've found a reason for me,
To change who I used to be,
A reason to start over new,
and the reason is you.
I don't own Devil May Cry or its characters. Nor do I own the song/lyrics The Reason by Hoobastank.
Author's Chapter Notes:
I'm bored and can't sleep so...time to add old, dusty things. Wrote this for the lovely Ri a long time ago. One of my few attempts at a song fic thingy.