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into the sublime seas

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Power has a routine.

She sleeps fitfully through the night; she cries herself awake more often than not. Nyako meows mournfully whenever Power wakes, slowly padding over and settling into her arms to keep her company til dawn. Then, when the sun first rises, exorcising all traces of shadows from the room, she finally lets her eyes slip shut. 

She's not afraid of the dark, because fear implies irrationality. Power is merely cautious, watchful, anticipating the next strike. She knows the darkness devil is dead; she knows its next strike will not come. But still, it is good to be careful. It is good to wake up screaming, because, after enough time, the horror will fade, and then you will be more prepared for what comes next.

It is good that Denji is there. 

Power watches her housemates one morning, as Aki busies himself in the kitchen and Denji busies himself with picking his nose. Aki has been as stoic as ever, despite the loss of his arm, but his posture is warier, now, more tired.

When Aki doesn't think that Power is watching, she sees how he struggles — how he teeters off-balance, when he wakes in the morning and forgets the newfound asymmetry of his form. How he grimaces and curses as he teaches himself to do with one hand what he had so easily accomplished with two. But Aki is prideful, and Power is above the foolishness of humans, so she does not offer him help — she simply pretends not to notice. 

Denji seems to be relatively normal. Occasionally, he gets lost in his own head, the beginning of a frown tugging at his lips, before he quickly snaps back to normal, but Denji has always done that. After all, Denji has always seemed at odds with the humans around him. While Power watched the others mourn over their silly friends, Denji merely frowned. Where the other devil hunters acted as though the older lady hunter's death was an insurmountable tragedy, Denji merely kept living. That's why she likes Denji. Among other things, he's sensible. 

The other humans waste time cycling through meaningless phases of grief, but Denji keeps his eyes forward. While Aki tries to cook by himself and play at normalcy, Denji is there to watch with her. He has the mentality of a true warrior, she thinks — ruthless in battle and restless in peace. She wonders, briefly, why Denji does not act like the other humans do, but she forgets the thought just as quickly. Perhaps it's the devil piece of himself which gifted him common sense. 

Power is not afraid. Merely watchful. But Denji is there to watch with her as well. He even gave up his trip with Makima to help her watch. She can't fathom why he would ever want to be around her more than strictly necessary in the first place — stop, please, it hurts — but she knows it had meant a lot to him, in his stupid, sentimental way. 

Slowly, Aki's sick leave dwindles away, but Power's caution does not. She leaves the lights on when she leaves a room. Aki used to shout at her for wasting electricity, but now he merely bites his tongue before shutting them off when he thinks she doesn't notice. The drapes remain open at night so that she can monitor the moonlit streets for danger, though the light and noise of the city is nearly unbearable without the soundproofing. 

But she begins to play more with Nyako, who she has been hopelessly neglecting in the face of her duty; she begins to sleep, however fitfully, until she is no longer dragging herself through each day, weighed down by exhaustion; she begins to plot pranks again with Denji, and, through the mud splattered on Aki's head and the bruise forming on his face from where the bucket fell from its perch on the doorframe and made contact, she even sees a split second of relief in his eyes before they have to run like hell from his wrath.

Things aren't perfect, or even particularly good. Denji's become even more thoughtful since Hell, and Aki looks grimmer and grimmer with each passing day. But at night, they all gather under the same blanket, on the same futon, and let the harsh noise of the city lull them into sleep. 

Power doesn't realize she's fallen asleep until she wakes, panic rising in her chest, mighty enough to choke her. But the weight of Nyako padding onto her stomach grounds her until her shaking finally slows, then stops.

Aki looks so peaceful as he sleeps, the unguarded expression unfamiliar on his stern face, and Denji looks so young as he snores, curled up around a pillow. She studies their faces and commits them to memory. Slowly, she sinks back down onto the futon. Nyako purrs contentedly.

Belatedly, Power realizes the stars are visible tonight. She watches them twinkle through the glass door, nearly hypnotizing, and can't help but think of simpler days, when she would watch the same sky with nobody but her cat by her side. The view from the forest was a far cry from the city, where light pollution rendered the night sky nigh invisible, and she can't help but feel a great, painful nostalgia. When she lived in the forest, life was rarely different or especially difficult. Perhaps some days she would kill a fox for dinner, and other days it would be deer, or wolves, or a bear. The monotony of those familiar days died the moment the bat demon captured Nyako, thrusting her into this dangerous new world of devil hunting. Stroking Nyako absentmindedly as she purrs into her torso, she can't help but miss her old life.

Power never cared for others of her species, and she despised humans on principle. Back then, she would have never been forced to fight the darkness devil, or be sent back to hell, or have her blood and power sapped away routinely under the watchful eye of the most terrifying human in the world. But perhaps, she thinks, lying prone in a room filled with the only beings she's ever really cared about, this life isn't too bad after all. 

She takes a deep breath, then two, then three. Power closes her eyes. She sleeps soundly til dawn.