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Dante's Little Apple Surprise

by Tatsurou

Chapter 15: Fatherhood

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As Dante got Applejack settled into his life, some major alterations proved to be necessary. Dante had long been used to sleeping in most mornings, waking only for the call of his stomach, the phone, or the doorbell, the phone only if it was the third time it had rung and the doorbell only if it didn't stop. Applejack, however, awoke at the crack of dawn and started bawling within ten minutes if Dante wasn't awake to get her breakfast. While Dante was seriously put out with this disruption of his usual sleep cycle, he found it easier to adjust to waking up early than should have been possible. He privately suspected this was Geryon's doing, making subtle changes to his biological rhythms to help him take care of Applejack. As it meant waking at the crack of dawn was merely unpleasant rather than torturous, Dante decided not to look this gift horse in the mouth.

Another adjustment was the matter of breakfast itself. Dante had been perfectly content with a breakfast of cold pizza, beer, and a titty mag. His half-demon physiology was able to metabolize the beer rather easily so he didn't actually get drunk. Applejack, however, was a growing filly and needed more nutritious fare. As such, he had been forced to stock up on quite a bit of supplies he wouldn't normally have bothered with - flour, eggs, milk, spices, seasonings, other baking goods, fresh fruit - and had started learning to bake by trial and error. Despite not talking clearly yet, Applejack's teeth were developed enough that she could easily handle solid foods already, and while she would accept being taken out to eat for breakfast, she showed a marked preference for food Dante made her. While she would accept and enjoy breakfast at someplace like Denny's, the judgmental look she gave Dante all the way there and all the way back quickly convinced him it was worth the effort to learn how to cook rather than face that face every morning. He was rather surprised that he wasn't completely incompetent in the kitchen.

Normally after breakfast, Dante would laze about playing video games, watching TV, or otherwise wasting time until something exciting happened, or until lunch. However, between breakfast and lunch appeared to be when Applejack was most energetic, and required constant supervision to prevent disaster. Major injury wasn't that much of a worry, as she seemed to already have developed the half-demon regeneration rate, and all she needed if she hurt herself was a 'kiss it better' before she was right off to toddling along. The bigger concern with her antics was the damage she'd inflict to his home and place of business if left to her own devices.

Child proofing the place proved an exercise in futility. If she couldn't pull a cabinet open she wanted to look into, she'd kick a hole in the door and crawl in. If something she wanted was out of reach, she'd don Beowulf and climb the walls by sinking the spiked gauntlets and greaves into the wall, damaging both wall and whatever she was trying to get. Trying to take away her Devil Arms didn't work, as she proved able to summon them to her out of her hat, somehow. If he tried to put her in a playpen, she'd knock it over. The same with any fences he put up to keep her in one particular area of the house.

After a few days, Dante discovered that the only way to stop Applejack from destroying the house between breakfast and lunch in an attempt to entertain herself was to play with her. If they were spending time together, she was perfectly happy to behave herself. In an attempt to burn her energy so she would be relaxed later, he did the only thing he could think of and bought a bunch of cat toys and stuffed animals. As long as he was playing with her, this satisfied her.

Lunch thankfully didn't change much. Dante usually had a light lunch, grabbing whatever was in the fridge and chowing down. Applejack was apparently fine with a light lunch as well, and it didn't take much effort to toss a simple salad or make a sandwich.

After lunch, Dante did weapon practice. The major alteration there was having to stay aware of Applejack's location during that time, as she always watched him, following his movements and occasionally trying to mimic them. Dante made a mental note to start her training as soon as she was able to do a spin kick without falling on her tail. Thankfully, she found it hilarious when that happened, as it always made her burst into giggles.

Dinner was usually something ordered in, the leftovers of which had once been the next day's breakfast, now the basis of the next day's lunch. Generally Dante went with pizza, Chinese, or some other dish he could eat while vegging out in front of the TV. While the choice of meals was still easy, the addition of Applejack meant it had to be at the table. For one thing, she tended to tilt back and forth while eating, so she needed a modified high chair to keep her steady. For another, she couldn't handle any sort of utensils, so her food had to be cut bite size for her and placed in a dish she could fit her face in. Then Dante had to wipe her face clean afterwards. He always chided her for being a 'messy pony' when he did that, which set her to giggling. He liked her giggle.

While Applejack's fondness for meat dishes would have raised eyebrows amongst others, Dante didn't know enough equine physiology or behaviors to question. Besides, he liked meat too, and was just grateful for yet another aspect of his normal routine that stayed the same.

Dessert was a new addition, but one that Dante was quite happy to include. Before, if he wanted dessert he'd pull a carton of ice cream out of the freezer and eat it a spoon at a time until he was satisfied before sticking it back in. Applejack's fondness for baked goods had led him to explore other types of desserts. Following her name, he found they both liked hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top. It was up to debate which of them was messier when eating that dish.

After dinner and dessert, Dante usually vegged out in front of the TV, either watching cartoons or playing video games. The only major alteration there was having Applejack curled up in his lap. Thankfully, she took care of her own bathroom needs in the back yard, and it wasn't yet enough to worry about shoveling. At first she didn't really like it when he played video games, as she couldn't handle the controller with her hooves and mouth. Dante settled that by special ordering an arcade control pad for each of the systems he had with the buttons mapped and labeled. The larger buttons and easily graspable control stick made it much easier for Applejack to play, and they both played together until Applejack started to sway from exhaustion.

In the past, Dante would stay up late playing games, listening to loud music, or watching action movies. However, once Applejack went to bed, any loud noise would wake her up. Unlike most infants - as far as Dante knew - Applejack did not cry if she was awakened in the middle of the night. If she needed him for something, she would yell for him until he came. But if it was something he did that woke her up - loud noises and the like - she would climb out of the bed, crawl across the floor until she found whatever room he was in, draw Artemis, and shoot him in the nuts. She would then insist rather vocally on being tucked in again. As a result, Dante began going to bed about an hour after putting Applejack down for the night.

It wasn't until several weeks after bringing Applejack into his life that he realized there was a resource he wasn't utilizing. "Say, Nevan, any chance you could manifest in demon form to help take care of Applejack?"

"Sorry," Nevan purred, "but the demonic energy released by Temen-ni-gru into the world has dissipated. Without that, none of us can assume our demon forms."

"We are limited to functioning in our weapon forms," Agni explained.

"And even then, our own energy is not able to provide much," Rudra added.

"We must rely solely on the energy our wielders can provide us to power our magic," Cerberus pointed out.

"That'll be the case anywhere a major demon isn't trying to manifest," Nevan concluded. "The energy generated by the boundary being warped will allow us to use more of our power, and even manifest as it becomes more pronounced. Otherwise, Earth barely provides enough magical energy to maintain our personas within the weapons."

Dante snapped his fingers. "Nuts," he growled. "I'd have loved to have you manifest a time or two, Nevan." He grinned lasciviously. "And not just to help take care of Applejack."

"Naughty boy," Nevan scolded in a purring voice.

A thought occurred to him. "How come Beowulf never talks?"

"My hatred for the blood of Sparda knows no bounds!" Beowulf proclaimed. "It is to my eternal shame and rage that I am bound to my soul form, unable to bring my vengeance down upon you all and destroy as you so rightly deserve for your fathers'-OW!"

Applejack had pulled the gauntlet the voice was coming from off and begun smashing it with the other over and over while babbling in baby talk. When Nevan cracked up laughing, Dante demanded, "What's she saying?"

"Stop hitting yourself," Nevan translated, setting the others to laughing.

"Saw hibbi yafel! Saw hibbi yafel! Saw hibbi yafel!" Applejack cried with each hit.

Next Chapter: Training Estimated time remaining: 3 Hours, 23 Minutes
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