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held in the arms of your words

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You know every language on Earth, because you are Death and you know everything.

You know dead tongues. Fusion languages. Archaic and classic Latin. Welsh, even. (That one took you a while.) You know them all because you are Death and there's not a single book you haven't read or word you haven't heard. Spending the past two months as a human didn’t completely blank your mind. Despite your amnesia, your knowledge never really left. Every word you have ever read and every language you have ever studied was still there, just waiting to be used. When you reawakened within yourself, it wasn't so much a flood of knowledge as a sort of realignment of your system. A faint, 'Oh, yeah, I suddenly remember how to conjugate Flemish verbs.' (Among the more important realizations- Mainly how everything was going straight to Hell. Not for you, Death. But for you, Ryoji Mochizuki.)

You are Death and you are haunted by humans.

More specifically, you are haunted by this human. This human, who speaks muffled Japanese and leaves off ending consonants more often than not. You re-learned the language from him. You remembered enough to speak it fluently, sure, but he gave the words color. You, Ryoji Mochizuki, learned to slur certain phrases together and leave off the ends of words. You, Death, the top scholar of the language, can't stop that habit. You can practically hear the disappointment of Shinkichi Hashimoto every time you speak it. Which isn't often anymore. Your thoughts and words are now almost exclusively in your native tongue, a language older and more complex than the Earth itself. You, Death, speak a language of the Gods.

It is Christmas Eve and you, Ryoji Mochizuki, are waiting to see Minato Arisato.

You promised yourself you wouldn't come back to this room searching for this. But the problem with being all-seeing is that you see everything. You see a man dying of thirst in the desert. You see him. You see a child catch pneumonia. You see him. You see an old woman pass peacefully in her sleep. You see him. You see a shadow, crawling closer and closer to a small island off of Japan. You see him. You see two figures walk the halls of the afterlife calling out their child's name. You see him. You always see him.

You, Death, have no eyes to close. You can't turn away and pretend he doesn't exist because you have no face. You always see him— talking with his friends, walking the streets at night, comforting a dying boy, climbing the floors of the tower. It is only natural for you to have an attachment to him, you reason. You sort of lived in him for an upwards of a decade. A short amount of time to a being like you, but you haven’t spent that much time with any other human on this planet. He is in your proverbial bones.

You know it's more than that, though. Because you are more than just Death. You are also Ryoji Mochizuki. And to you, Ryoji Mochizuki, Minato Arisato was the most important person in your short life.

It's that part of you that’s drawn to him and you know it. Death is impartial, even to its vessels. Humans are not. If it was just you, Death, you would have never intervened in the world of the living in the way that you, Ryoji Mochizuki, did. You are selfish. You are haunted by him and he made the mistake of giving you a taste.

You've showed up uninvited to his room so many times that he doesn't even flinch when he finds you sitting on the edge of his bed, scarf wrapped around your face even though it's not particularly cold in the dorms. He doesn't bother to act surprised, even now. He just leans against the doorframe and looks straight at you. He looks at you and you crumple because you're just so incredibly sorry.

You're not sorry for anything you've done or will continue to do. That moment has passed. You can't continue to hate yourself for something that's not a choice you, Ryoji Mochizuki, get to make. You’re sorry that he had to fall in with you and you’re sorry that you know him as well as you do. You’re sorry that you know he won’t kill you.

You're sorry he’s choosing to put himself through this. You’re sorry that if the roles were reversed, you wouldn’t have the strength to kill him, but mostly you’re sorry that he isn’t weaker than you. You’re sorry that he’s fighting something he can’t win against and you’re sorry he can’t let go of any version of you so easily.

Minato Arisato is not a boy of many words. Besides, he knows you too well to waste his breath on you. He knows you inside and out in every version, after all. Just because you spent the least amount of time with him as Ryoji Mochizuki doesn't make you any less important to him. It doesn't make the relationship you have any less significant.

If you were Pharos, he would sit quietly and listen through your inevitable monologue. If you were Thanatos, he would acknowledge you wordlessly with a different, darker part of himself. If you were Nyx, he would waste no time attempting in vain to destroy you. But as fate has it, you are none of those at the moment.

You are Ryoji Mochizuki, and because of that he does what you maybe don’t expect. His steps over to you are casual but you immediately recognize his purpose, even before he leans over you, pulls your scarf down to your neck and kisses you. It only lasts a few seconds at most, but it’s enough. You've never really felt out of place in this room, but sometimes you need a reminder that you're doing the right thing. That even if this is the wrong place at the wrong time, he won't turn you away. You grab the front of his shirt in your hands.

You talk because you want him to listen. "It's only for a minute," you say. It sounds like a promise, even though that isn’t exactly what you are going for. His face doesn't change but his fingers curl around the fabric of your scarf, pulling it loose from your neck. Despite yourself, you smile. "But, come on, it's a holiday. I hope you don't think I'm the kind of guy who would completely disappear without a trace and not even wish you a merry Christmas. I have some class."

"I'm flattered," his voice is dripping with sarcasm, but you are trained to the subtleties of him. The way his fingers shake and brush against the skin of your shoulder. The way his eyes are sharper than his usual lethargic gaze and completely trained on you. The way his chest rises and falls beneath your finger tips. He's relieved to see you. Relieved and something else but... mostly relieved, you think. In hindsight, it's kind of a warped emotional response to Death, but you could care less. He wants you here and you aren't going anywhere. You've gone this far against your better judgment, and it's not like you have the will to turn away even if you wanted to. It's really all for the best.

Without warning, he straddles one knee around your waist and pushes you back against the mattress. For a moment your breath hitches, but you mentally punch yourself in the face for not expecting him to just as quickly make his way up to the other end of the bed, appraising you with a small smirk. You do your best to recover and scramble to a sitting position, resting your back against the uncomfortable metal gate at the foot of his bed. (You've asked him to get rid of it multiple times. The bed's only a twin so it’s not like you can actively avoid it, and it hurts if you're... preoccupied and don't see it coming. He had the audacity to laugh at you let out a completely appropriate cry of pain last time you ran into it, and it made you hate him a little for ten whole minutes.)

His gaze is unwavering and you feel the blood rush to your face, pooling there until he cracks and lets out a small, curt laugh. It's his only outward sign of genuine amusement, and while in life it was one of your favorite things, it doesn't do anything now but hurt. You can't look him at all without that foreign, tight feeling in your chest settling in and making your hands shake, so the only thing you can do is look out the window. It isn't snowing, but the sky is a deep pink, so bright that it illuminates the entire room.

Silence falls and you can't help but speak. You're practically conditioned to carry a constant, one-sided conversation with him at this point. You talk. He listens. You talk more. He reacts. It's as natural to you as breathing, which is to say, not really natural at all, but you do it because it's the only thing you know how to do. In your heart you know this meeting with him should be different, but you don't want it to. You want to go back to the nights when you didn't have to ask to sleep at his side. Back to the nights where it felt right to be here and only here. Back to when you only had one 'you'. The only thing you can do is pretend. "I miss you. I hope you know that."

You feel his eyes turn away from you, and it's only then you are able to face him again. He stares up at the ceiling and leans back on his hands, letting his shoulders rise and fall lazily. "I figured you'd go back to... wherever and forget about being Ryoji until the 31st. I didn't think you would miss much of anyone."

It doesn't work that way and you know he knows it doesn't work that way. You know because the way he kissed you on the 3rd wasn't a kiss you give to someone who would forget it. It was not a kiss for his own sake. It was a kiss you give to someone so they remember it. So it gets under their skin and it hurts because they know for a fact it'll never happen again. It was first degree murder.

Or, Hell. Maybe you are looking too far into this. It's not really that complicated, right? Human emotions and mechanics are weird, even with someone you know so well. Maybe he honestly did believe this would be easy on the both of you. Well, it's the thought that counts.

You don't really know what to say to him that won’t cause him to roll his eyes, so you cross the distance between you and kiss him again, deeper this time. To be honest, you don’t really expect him to act like the two of you can just pick up where you left off in terms of intimacy, but you aren’t expecting him to be so reserved, either. He wraps his arms around your back and holds you there, but he doesn't press any closer against you. He doesn't actively reject your advancements, but he's careful and calculated- he keeps his own actions chaste, leaning against the wall to steady himself as he kisses back. For the moment you're human. You remember how he felt when he was uninhibited and wild and yours, but you don't press. Even in the best of times you always let him call the shots with this due to the simple fact he’s more experienced, and you certainly aren't going to demand the reigns in such a delicate situation. You break apart but he doesn't push you away, so you stay there, held in his arms and wrapped around his frame, just breathing together.

You feel comfortable there but the silence unnerves you. The feeling in your chest returns and you panic, but you don't know what to say to him. In a normal situation you would crack some lame joke that sends his eyes to the ceiling and your ass to the floor, but there's only so much pretending you can do with him. He sees right through you, for one, and you know despite how much he wants your presence he has his reservations. You remember how it felt but you won't press. It's a different time.

Still, you can't have it stay like this. You've done so much talking these past few months— he has to be very, very clear of your feelings at this point. With all your rambling he has to have picked up the point somewhere in there, right? That there is no one else you could have fallen in love with in this life. That he could be any gender and you still would want to be with him. That even though you couldn't really place it at first, he feels right for you. Like fate. For all his sarcastic remarks at your expense, he never once turned you away, just listened patiently and eventually let you in. He’s never needed the poetry or the dramatic declarations to convince you of anything. You just know how he stands on things and in truth you’ve always been a little jealous of how he can convey so much so easily. Your words are all you’ve ever had.

While he lives strictly by the philosophy that silence is golden, you believe in the power of words above all else. You may be a little dramatic, especially in this form, but you don't talk for your health. You want to convey your thoughts and you want people to react. You talk a lot (and you do mean a lot) but you always have something to express. You want him to hear them. To believe them. To be affected by them.

But you also know words are dangerous. You can win or lose someone with just a sentence. You always choose your words around him quickly, but carefully. The few times you’ve let your mouth get ahead of your brain have ended in disaster, so you've been forced to learn to think and act quickly. You're not stupid, no matter how you look. You're Death. The whole omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient thing still applies here. Your words won him and they could just as easily take him away. Maybe that's why you've never said it. It's a risk you’ve never been willing to take.

But here, lying in bed with him for probably the last time ever, held in his arms under a snow sky ushering in the last year of the world, you want to tell him. You suddenly hate the words that have gotten you this far. You resent having to walk circles around the issue and never say it. You're so tired of the fact that he can say one word and have you know what he believes but you can ramble off an entire essay and be left wondering if you’ve made your point.

You are Death and you are supposed to be fearless. You are the last judgment. There is nothing that scares you because you've seen it all. But here in this dorm room, you are not Death. And you are absolutely fucking terrified of telling this boy you love him.

You feel like bashing your head against the wall. It's not that hard. Just words. You know words. You may not know emotion, but you know words. It's not that hard. 'I love you'.

But there's a risk associated with it. A risk you can't and don't want to calculate. You wanted to tell him since the first time you spent the night. You wanted to tell him that morning after the fourth time when he ‘accidentally’ wore your uniform to school and many times since. But each time you let him walk away without hearing it. You wanted to say it on the 3rd when you had nothing left to lose, but there was always that one damning shred of hope left that it wasn’t quite the end. You want to say it now, at The End where you know there's nothing left for you two. Even if there were hope beyond tonight, the Fall is coming. You've had a good run but it's over, so what in the world is there left to lose by finally letting him know the truth?

That's just it. It's the end. Love is hope and hope is meaningless in a doomed situation. Life was simple when you were just Ryoji Mochizuki and a future, however brief, with this boy was possible. There was always tomorrow for the words to come out. And now, when the clock has finally ticked down and the promise of 'oh, well, next time' has been exhausted, it feels futile. You love him. So what. What does it mean anymore? Everything? Nothing? There may not be anything to lose, but it still weighs on you. Ever since you entered this room it's hurt like hell. Why in the world would you make it worse on either of you in the 11th hour? What's the point?

There's no point but you still want to say it. You want to say it because you feel it, damn it. In this room you are human and humans are creatures of blind emotion, so why don’t you just give in? This last moment is all you've ever wanted. You want it but you can't have it. You slump against his hold, but he catches you with a raised eyebrow. You force a smile. You improvise. "Can I stay here?"

He sends you that look that you know so well, that 'I actually cannot believe you would take the time out of your day to ask something so unfathomably stupid' look that Minato has down to a science. He removes his hand from your waist and rolls over to the edge of the mattress, gesturing vaguely to the remaining available space. You fall down to the bed, sitting up just enough to remove the scarf from your neck and put it gently on his desk. You kick off your shoes and they fall somewhere on the floor, not even bothering to remove your socks before your bury yourself under the blankets.

He follows suit immediately, having already been in his sleepwear before you ever showed up. The bed is ridiculously small by anyone's standards, but the two of you have gotten damn good at making it work if you do say so yourself. You fall into the familiar pattern- you press yourself against the wall and he takes the outside edge. You wrap your arms around his waist and hold him there, chin pressed against the curve of his neck.

Some things don't change.

This has consistently been the only time you've allowed yourself to shut up around him. It's the only time the silence doesn't scare you. The only time you feel like you don't need to talk just to feel comfortable with the situation. It almost feels sacred between the two of you, and it’s not a ritual you’re ever going to challenge at this rate.

If it were a normal day, you'd fall asleep like this, tangled in each other without question. But it's not a normal day and you can't sleep. You want to memorize this moment and hold it for the rest of your very, very short life. You just want to take this one uncomplicated moment and brand it into your mind. You want it to be so engrained in your psyche that not a single version of you will ever forget it. You want to say this just to make him laugh at how ridiculous and stupidly poetic you're being, but you don't want to ruin the ritual. So you just think it to yourself.

You pull your hand away and he produces a small noise that sounds suspiciously like a whine from the back of his throat that you pointedly ignore. His muscles relax again when you place your hand against his back, humming slightly while you push the hem of his oversized night shirt over his thin shoulder.

You're good at language. You can't let it go. You want to but you can't.

You begin with archaic Latin because it has always been your favorite. A lot has been written about you in archaic Latin, so the egotist in you is partial to it. You have to do a little manipulation to get the phrase to work (they weren't really the touchy feely type back then) but you think you have a loose translation in your head by the time you press the tip of your finger against his skin and spell it out against his shoulder blade.

"What the actual fuck are you doing," he mutters against the pillow, shivering slightly under your touch.

"Shh," you reply, smiling at the fact that for the first time you're the one telling him to shut up. “Let it happen.”

Classic Greek is next. Archaic Latin may have liked you, but classic Greek was certifiably obsessed with you. It feels right for you and him, especially, in a really warped way, with the whole Thanatos thing. You barely catch yourself before you laugh out loud at your own lame joke. There's nothing really left to do except to laugh in this situation, right? You'll do a horrible job at pretending if you let yourself be completely crushed under the grim reality. Love was a well talked about subject with the Greeks, so hardly have to think twice to remember how to say it.  

You continue at this for quite some time- there are a lot of languages in the world and to be honest there's no way you could have gone through them all. But you do your best. You breeze through the variations of Arabic. You have a lot of fun with the Romance languages. You're pretty sure you misspell it in Welsh. (No one's perfect, not even you.) It feels like forever, but it honestly can't take more than a half hour at best. He's relaxed, but he's not asleep— looking over his eyelids are heavy but not completely shut. He's probably trying to do the same thing you are, make the moment last longer than it should. You finish on contemporary Greek with a flourish, pausing for dramatic effect before sliding your hand back under the blankets and around his waist, tugging him tighter against your chest. You press a kiss to his jaw line, and you revel in the fact that the corners of his mouth lift up ever so slightly.

"Done writing your novel?" He asks, intertwining your fingers together with his.

"I think so." You kept a ruining count in your head- 105 languages. 105 confessions- ‘I love you’. You covered every language branch from the obscure to the obvious, but you never did Japanese. Not because you think he would understand— he probably wouldn't, half-asleep like this, but because you don't think you could bring yourself to. It's so much easier to say what you mean when you're sure that you're safe. It's so much easier to tell him this way, when you’re sure there’s absolutely nothing to lose.

There's a lot you want to say. That you'll miss him more than you could ever possibly explain. That you would give anything the world to save him. That you would give even more to go back to the time when this was all they ever were. That it's selfish and wrong but there’s not a soul in this Earth you wouldn’t cast away in exchange for his happiness. There's so much that you don't say any of it. It starts to snow and you close your eyes. He's warm and alive against you, and even if it's not forever it's for now and it's enough to keep you sane. This moment in time is just enough to get you through the rest of your life being you, Ryoji Mochizuki.

"Minato?" The snow falls and you squeeze his fingers gently. He doesn't reply but you don't expect him to. He shifts in your arms, signaling his attention. You don't dare think about what happens next. "I love you."

He freezes. The snow falls and neither of you breathe. You can’t move a muscle, anxiety gripping you so tightly that you’re not even sure you said anything at all. Then slowly, he begins to come alive again, his breath returning to a slow, even pace. Out of the corner of your vision, you see his eyes fall shut. Minato Arisato sighs, his words quiet but deliberate. "I love you too."

The snow falls and midnight strikes.

Christmas comes in silence.