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The Blood Devil opens her eyes to the sight of a door-covered sky. She breathes even though she doesn’t really need to, blinking away the last vestiges of her unremembered dream.

She knows nothing except that she is Blood, and she needs to die. (But not yet.)

“Welcome to Hell.” A devil with a face twisted into a permanent torturous scream leers down at her. “Or should I say welcome home?

——————

“That was some past life you must’ve had,” laughs a devil walking by. Or, more accurately, crawling by on its twenty-seven hands.

“What do you mean?” The Blood Devil frowns.

“Never seen you come back looking so… human,” the devil shrugs. “Dunno what they did to you out there, but at least you look good.” With a dark chuckle, he continues on his way, venturing deeper into the endless fields of Hell.

The Blood Devil blinks, surprised. She hadn’t known she used to look different than this. But then again, she doesn’t know much of anything at all.

She wiggles her hand in front of her face. Soft but calloused skin, five fingers to a hand, fingernails sharpened into claws. There aren’t any mirrors in Hell, but she knows she has two legs and two arms. Her hair is only on her head, and her horns are decently-sized.

She likes to look like this. She doesn’t want to look like the twenty-seven-handed devil that just strolled by, or the Decay Devil, or the Hole Devil, or the Organ Devil, or the Cockroach Devil, or any of those ugly devils. She wants to look like this. She likes to look like this.

Most devils don’t care about what they look like. Did the Blood Devil always care? Or is this different, too? Is this new?

She knows better than to actually ask.

——————

They are burned into the back of her eyelids every time she closes her eyes. Like an afterimage, after staring into the sun long enough to nearly go blind, until a hand tugs her face away from the sky.

Three faces.

She can’t quite make them out. Sometimes it feels like she can, when she’s half-asleep and a kind of muscle memory takes over. Sometimes it feels like she’ll roll over in her sleep and when she opens her eyes to see what’s next to her, everything will be okay.

But she always opens her eyes to nothing but a faceful of of grass and empty, empty, emptiness, loomed over by infinite doorways to everywhere and nowhere. And she is always alone, except for when something has come to kill her.

(Something has usually come to kill her.)

But if she pretends that nothing is real, she can almost imagine it. One hand around her shoulders, another hand on her head, and fluffy fur in her hands. Phantoms that are so, so much more familiar than everything in this place that birthed her.

She wants it more than anything, in those dim, half-asleep times. Aches for it.

But when she wakes up, it’s all gone, and she is left with only the ache and nothing to show for it.

——————

“COWARD,” the Wasp Devil roars. The Blood Devil narrowly misses getting vivisected by an enormous stinger. “WHY DO YOU RUN.”

The Blood Devil just flips her off and sprints for cover.

She can’t die. She can’t die. She can’t die. Not now.

——————

“You’ve gotten so weird, Bloody.”

The Filth Devil looms over her, five times her height and just incredibly smelly.

“Do not call me that,” she snaps. “That is not my name.”

Her name is—

“Well I sure ain’t calling you Blood Devil,” the Filth Devil laughs. “Damn mouthful. Unless you’ve somehow gotten more pretentious since you last poofed back down here?”

Right. The Blood Devil. That’s her name.

“I am not, and have never been, pretentious,” she sniffs, pretentiously.

“Yeah, and I ain’t covered in sixty layers of mud n’ gore,” the Filth Devil snorts.

“Go and find somewhere else to smear your mess,” the Blood Devil huffs. “I’m busy.”

“Busy starin’ off into space, you mean?”

“Yes. Very very busy. Leave now.”

“If you’re so desperate to go back up, just die.” The Filth Devil’s mass of sludge mimics the movement of a shrug. “I could kill you right now, if ya want.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t.”

“Why. Not.” With speed that such an enormous body shouldn’t be capable of, he shoves his face right up to the Blood Devil’s, so they’re nearly touching. She holds her breath, but he’s close enough she can practically taste the stench. Bad enough to kill a human, probably.

“It’s not time yet,” she insists. “I can’t go back.”

The Filth Devil leans back, and is silent for a moment, as if contemplating her very existence. Which he probably is.

“You have gotten weird,” is all he says, before he slither-sludges away.

——————

(There’s a little girl with black hair and yellow eyes, and she’s smiling for the first time in a long, long time. And a boy with ruffled blonde hair and less dirt and blood on him than she remembers is smiling too, for the first time in weeks, maybe months, at this little girl.)

(She wouldn’t dare ruin this. Not after everything. Not now. Not now.)

——————

She sends spears of thick, dark crimson blood into the chest, head, and paws of the Wolf Devil.

“You like dogs, right?” She asks no one. She steps back as an enormous gnarled hand grabs the Wolf Devil’s limp body. “Hope you like your new puppy.”

She sees the Wolf Devil back in Hell again after only a few short weeks. She almost laughs.

——————

She dreams, sometimes-all-the-time. This time she dreams of a boy in the snow. Her breath rolls out of her mouth in little white clouds and she shivers uncontrollably, but she can’t move. She doesn’t recognize him, not quite, but she doesn’t not recognize him either.

“Hi,” says the boy in the snow. “Do you wanna play with me?”

The urge to apologize rises in her throat. She doesn’t know why. Sorry for everything, she wants to say, even as her voice won’t work. Sorry for making a mess. Sorry for making your apartment smell like cat litter. Sorry for being a disaster. Sorry for not letting you sleep at night. Sorry for all your broken and shredded things. Sorry for getting you in trouble all the time. Sorry for being so loud. Sorry for everything, everything, everything.

“I didn’t mind, you know,” the boy in the snow shrugs. He kicks up snow with his foot, almost awkwardly, almost shyly, and the familiarity of the motion twists painfully in her chest.

(She hadn’t quite realized it then, too used to their combined guaranteed revival and functional-immortality. She hadn’t quite realized just how—just how fragile he was, compared to the two of them. He was just a human, after all. But he always seemed so big. So much older than them, even though he was only nineteen. So much more responsible and admirable. It made them think he was something like invincible. They forgot that he was just as easy to kill as anyone else.)

“I miss you,” the boy gives her a lopsided smile. “Both of you.”

Devils shouldn’t cry, especially not ones as powerful as her, but she thinks she might anyway.

(She’s going to come back, one day. He never will.)

“I don’t even know you,” she manages through her tightened throat.

“That’s probably better,” the boy says. “I’m tired of making people sad.”

She wakes up with dried-up tears on her cheeks anyway.

——————

“This is BORING,” she whines, smashing in the head of the Ceiling Fan Devil. What kind of devil even is that, anyway? Its spinning blades aren’t even that strong, but it’s fast enough that at least a few humans have to be totally afraid of ceiling fans. Just. Why?

She wonders how long it’ll take for it to come back.

——————

She dreams of a boy with fluffy blonde hair. Just a kid, really, but he still feels older than her. The urge to sprint up and grab his arm is so strong she nearly trembles with it.

“I know, I know,” the boy says. The twang and drawl of his voice sounds like coming home. “Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten you.”

“I am unforgettable. I wasn’t worried.” She responds without really being aware of what she’s saying. But the words feel right.

The boy’s face twists in a way she can’t read. “Can ya wait a little longer for me?”

“Unlike humans, I am quite capable of waiting for eternity,” she sniffs.

“Yeah, yeah. No need to rub it in,” the boy smiles—and it’s a new smile, a slower one, a softer one. “And just ‘cause you and me could wait forever doesn’t mean I’m gonna let us.”

All the things she wants to say stick in her throat. The dream won’t let her run to him, so she settles for an insufficient nod.

“Hey, uh,” the boy laughs a bit, awkwardly, raising a hand to the back of his head. “Do you remember me?”

She wakes up before she can answer him with an ache in her shoulder for a scar that doesn’t exist. And even as her memory of the dream fades, she doesn’t know what her answer would have been.

——————

She loses it against the Bear Devil. Laughter in her lungs and blood in her mouth and gore under her nails, she sings along to the sound of a roaring engine only she can hear.

Don’t be reckless, chides a man with the eyes of a boy in the snow. They’ll put you down if you keep this up.

“You’re one to talk,” she snarls, and she twists her hand inside the Bear Devil’s chest, ripping out his heart.

“Say hello to the humans for me,” she grins a bloodstained grin. The Bear Devil doesn’t get the chance to respond, because a gnarled hand the size of a skyscraper reaches down and drags him up, up, up, until he’s out through the doors and into the world above.

(You smell like blood, the Bear Devil heaves his last breaths through the shredded, gaping wound in his chest. Like the blood that put me here. Do you think she’ll send me back again?

The Chainsaw Man whips back around to face the prey he was about to leave behind. What did you say?

But the Bear Devil is still and silent. Even after the Chainsaw Man drives another chainsaw through him, for good measure, he is too dead to speak.)

——————

She’s dreaming again.

“I miss you,” says the fluffy-haired boy. Then he snorts. “Don’t like saying it to your face. Damn weird.”

“Then don’t,” she says.

The boy frowns. “Nah. That’s worse.”

“Oh.”

“You doin’ alright down there?”

“I am undefeated, as it should be,” she preens.

The boy laughs. “‘Course you are.”

There’s a beat of oddly awkward silence while the boy seems to deliberate over something.

“Hey,” he says slowly, “how much longer are you gonna stick around… you know… down there?”

“Until it is time for me to return.”

“Is that… y’know, close?”

“You tell me.”

“I want it to be.”

“Then it will be.”

She wakes up to a new image burned into her eyes, and a new sound ringing in her ears—a blinding smile, and a voice saying see you soon.

——————

The Blood Devil lets the first devil she comes across cut her down, laughing all the while.

“See you soon,” she grins, and she doesn’t know who exactly she’s going to see—but she’s going to be happy there, and that’s plenty.

As she falls, she feels snowflakes fall on her face and eyelashes, and just past her fading eyesight is a boy in the snow, looking happier than he’s ever been.