Every time is different.
Each universe turn, every restart, press, flick of the switch, happens when nobody’s looking. God’s a sneaky bastard that way – always throwing curveballs and waiting for the inevitable strikeout He’s sure to achieve.
Demons find their home in the earth’s shallow soil, magma crusted skin and teeth white and sharp as moonstone. Demons find their home and Satan does, too, because there’s a kind of solace in the blood-soaked dirt, in the smell of rot ripening. Every earth is a little different, of course, as they are want to be. The continents move a few degrees east or west, sometimes there’s one moon, sometimes there’s four.
The fall, much to Satan’s amusement, still hurts like a bitch no matter what.
“What kind of person just wakes up crying?”
Akira scowls, and it’s about as intimidating as a growling puppy. The snapdragon stems sever easily between Ryo’s fingernails, pink petals christening the ground like opaque fish scales. He doesn’t think twice about how many he picks that day, but the growing pile at his feet isn’t unsubstantial. Ryo already understands more about the world at seven then most do at seventy – and the teachers know so, too. It’s part of the reason they tend to leave him alone, which suits Ryo just fine.
“It was a sad dream, Ryo! You would’ve been crying, too!”
“Really?” And he’s genuinely curious. “What happened?”
Akira’s brows pull together, skin soft and pinking with the fresh burst of heat that comes in late-May. “There was a wave. A giant wave.” The sheen of tears is already glinting in his eyes, like a fresh coat of glassy paint.
“I watched it come over the hills and swallow everything. My mom and Dad, our house, Miki and her parents, too. It even took you, Ryo.” He stops, gaze lost, bottom lip trembling before he snaps back into focus. “So you would cry. Anyone would!”
Ryo doesn’t suppress the smile creeping in, watching Akira braid loose blades of grass in his lap, gaze intent. Years later, in the eyes of his dead father, he’ll think he sees a cresting white lap of water, there only for an instant and gone the next. Ryo will think it’s strange, remembering Akira’s childhood dream like it was his own. A sick mirror. But none of that has come to pass, yet.
“Would not.” He says, just to be contrary.
Akira’s nose wrinkles when he misses a crossover, freckles like splinters lodged across the bridge. “Would too.”
There is no such thing as love. Therefore, there can be no sorrow.
The sentiment’s one he tries to hold onto when the realization comes, when Akira no longer stirs under his touch. Fading. Cold. Death is Satan’s second lover but it doesn’t stop the surprise from seeping in like an uncaught bullet wound, ripping and shredding through millenniums of armor in mere seconds, fractions of seconds. The ache trembles, haunting and ceaseless through his very bones. It feels like a virus, the kind of heartache that chews you up and spits you out, a little more broken with each vicious crunch.
The demons used to complain, back before the humans, of the bacteria that would eat them from the inside out. A malicious illness that would sweep their ranks every few hundred years, fever burning, flesh eating. It would always save their heart for last.
Satan isn’t heartbroken. When they cry it isn’t for the absence of sorrow, or the empty promises love makes and tosses to the wind. The tears that fall on Akira’s icy skin run rivulets through caked-on dirt, carving rivers through valleys of dried brown blood.
Satan’s heart isn’t broken. Ryo’s fairly certain they never had one in the first place.
would you like to try again?
> yes, thank you Almighty Lord
> fuck you
The stars are cathartic, a callback to the flow of memories that sometimes surface, sometimes don’t. Some lives, Ryo remembers everything – every last detail down to the crush of the car’s metal over his head, the final, vacant look on Miki Makimura’s face. Amon’s heated eyes narrowing in on him, wicked and hungry and lovely. It comes back to him with a dizzying clarity that strikes hot, a burning grip clenched around his wrists. Shackles. There is no escape from this, from here, from the magic snare trap of his own cruelty.
In those lives Psycho Jenny blinks at him, concern apparent, but unsurprised, as if she too remembers how many times they’ve sat together through it all. As if she’s saved them a hundred times over and finally gets to reap the benefits of a long-sought realization.
Akira’s why is always a question mark between them, a resonating sensation that’s shaped like a scream against the wind. The word Why with a hundred different meanings: why turn humans against each other? Why give Amon to Akira? Why do any of it at all?
Ryo doesn’t laugh even though he wants to, even if every fiber of his heart beats with a sick, comedic thud. The answer should be obvious: it is obvious, to anyone with more than half a brain.
I didn’t want to save humanity.
I wanted to save you.
aren’t you getting tired, little angel? I could do this all day
> please, let this be over
> fuck you
Miki Makimura’s the constant. She changes too, of course. From unreserved bundle of badass, butcher knife tucked in her book bag, to her other iterations on a softer spectrum. Soft, if it’s even the right word. Maybe it’s a different kind of blade, a different degree of sharpness. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Ryo doesn’t particularly care for her either way, in any of her ways.
Sometimes, the times where he isn’t a part of their story, Ryo watches Akira love her, in quiet rooms, in secret and in declaration. He’d die to protect her, would do or try any last thing to keep her from danger. And oh, does he try. But humans are so fragile, so weak you touch them and they crumble into little bite-size pieces. Akira tries, but a demon with a human heart can only rage so much against the heavens before he too, falls.
In one life – a one in a millionth chance life, they get to live. Akira holds onto the softer pieces of himself, and Satan’s crystal tipped talons lay dormant in the pits of Ryo’s memory long enough for it not to matter, in the long run. They make it back to the cliff side, the tiny whitewash houses and lighthouse tower tilting, precarious at the ocean’s lip. Their room together is cramped, too small to be practical, really, and Ryo doesn’t mind. Akira makes him open the windows to smoke, even in the wintertime, saying how it makes the sheets smell like ash. Ryo laughs when they both start shivering. He really doesn’t mind at all.
They do the things they don’t get the chance to otherwise. Rollercoasters, breakfast for dinner, camping trips gone wrong and 8 a.m. university classes. Ryo lets Akira have him in every sense of the word; emotional, physical, biblical, every heady breath and stolen look cracking the world a little more each time.
He doesn’t mind the chance to be human. Unconscious as it may be. Akira traces the edges of his face with the tips of his fingers late at night, and the reverence aches, like the shallow echo of an adoration from people he doesn’t know. Not yet. Not this time. This time, they get to do things right. Akira sees his parents every year on Christmas, and Ryo does not betray him.
The end comes anyway. It always does.
are you satisfied, yet? no? well, good.
> do I even have a say in the matter?
> did I ever have a choice at all?
God settles beside them in the wreckage of it all, shadow face grinning, delighted, and disappointed. They look across the orange sea together, messiah and pariah. The two terms are not mutually exclusive. God saves the obvious questions – in fact, He doesn’t ask much of anything at all. They’ve gone past that point now, and Satan can’t be sure how many times they’ve done this, anymore.
As long as there is a world to reset, as long as there are demons to die out and humans to take their place, Ryo Asuka will work his way into the belly of time, through the folds of bloody guts to an island nation on the far end of the earth. God’s Why? with a capital W isn’t the same as Akira’s. There’s no bitterness, no resentment to fuel the bite on the last syllable, no anger. Only pure, unbridled curiosity. A twisted sense of fascination.
For love, is what Satan thinks. Akira’s face streaked with tears, with blood. Akira’s broad, calloused and trembling hands reaching out through the dark. I did it for love.
I do it for love.