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“You need a new weapon.”

Yeah, he knows that. This place smells like dust and blood, but not fresh blood. Blood you’d cook with.

Wait.

Aki looks at the backs of the heads of the guys who led him down here. He knows they have no interest in him. There’s always this antagonistic undercurrent to every relationship he has with the people of Public Safety. Like everything is just a childhood game of truth or dare, stacking their goading requests up higher and higher and pushing each other until one of you inevitably dies or quits or both.

He’s seen it happen.

None of them think Aki is serious about any of this. He knows they’re all bracing for when he runs away or eats his last meal. It doesn’t matter how many devils he defeats; they remember his tears a lot longer than they remember his kills.

He cries when he loses buddies.

Aki doesn’t care how they speak about him. His choice has nothing to do with them. Something whispers in the back of his mind, you care what Makima thinks, like a bloated ghost running wet fingers through his hair. With a shiver, he sets that aside.

“Go make a contract with the future devil.”

They’re practically snickering as they say it.

“Maybe it’ll let you off cheap, if you impress it.”

All Aki has to do is exist to get them to cough up the details of past contracts, gutting people’s life spans for glory. They want to scare Aki, but he’s past that point. Thanking them, Aki goes inside the chamber of the future devil. Immediately, the scent on the air changes into something floral and sticky and earthy— a split open tree trunk with sap welling up. It’s sickly sweet.

“The future rules.”

Aki refrains from rolling his eyes. He will never make sense of the devils.

“I’ve come to make a contract,” Aki says.

The great cruciform devil in front of him makes a noise from deep within, the groaning of ancient wood. “Your attitude sucks.”

“I’ve been told.”

The six slitted eyes toward the top of the future devil’s face narrow. “Put your head in my stomach, already. Let me size you up.”

Aki makes eye contact with the wound-like opening in the future devil’s body, where a large pupil is zeroed in on him. Swallowing the chill, Aki does as he’s asked, pressing his face into the opening. What he expects to feel like bark around his head feels more like calloused hands as he slides in closer to the eye. With his face fitted in, all the outside light cuts off, and he can no longer see the gaze that is surely fixed on him. Commanding himself to stay calm, Aki waits for whatever it is the devil wants. Only a few seconds pass before he hears a sigh like leaves rustling in the wind. The sound is a finger drawn down his spine.

Oh.” The future devil laughs, its belly contracting around Aki’s head. “I’ll never get tired of this.”

Frowning in the dark, Aki braces his hands on the devil’s stomach as a drip of fear lands directly onto the back of his neck.

“You know how many devils would kill each other to get their hands on you?”

Aki focuses on his breathing.

“I can’t wait to see you die, little boy.”

It’s a reflex to try and pull his head out of the future devil’s stomach, but of course it doesn’t work. The entrance tightens around Aki’s neck and stops him short. Another groan of breathing wood sounds and Aki can feel deeply calloused hands on his back.

“I’m an adult,” Aki finally says.

“Says who?” the devil asks, hands tightening around Aki’s waist. “The country? Laws made by humans? Time?”

The future laughs again, low, like a flame burning under Aki’s chin.

“I’ve spoken with the time devil. He wants a piece of you too.”

“Why?” Aki asks, blinking his eyes to protect against the darkness.

“You.” Those long fingers on his back squeeze Aki’s sides, one degree too tight, and Aki flinches at the pressure. “Are going to be in a movie very soon. We’ve been waiting for this movie. Bought tickets for it years ago and now, finally, this show’s about to start.”

Aki slides his hands a little closer to the lip of skin that’s holding him inside. “What kind of movie?”

“You ever heard of Cain and Abel?” the devil asks.

“Who?” Aki frowns into the devil’s stomach.

“Didn’t think so,” the devil says. “You humans are so fragile. Brains and memories, entire cultures built with straw and bullshit. It fucking rules.”

Aki tenses at the hands sliding roughly from his back, over his ass, and down to his thighs.

“Fear is always real, though.”

“Is this… part of the contract?” Aki breathes.

Something touches Aki’s face, soft on the flat of it, sharp on the edge, fingers made of ivy caressing his cheek.

“Hey, kid.” The devil’s voice feels much closer now, breath on Aki’s wide open eyes. “You want to see the future?”

“I didn’t… think that was part of it,” Aki says, and why is he scared now?

“Not a real one,” the devil says, oily ivy fingers that might be poison lightly pulling Aki’s bottom lip. “I don’t just see the future that’s set in stone. I see every hypothetical that humans are scared of. And all the futures they’ve managed to avoid.”

Razor sharp fingernails bedded in soft skin slip quietly into Aki’s mouth, pressing down on his tongue like a doctor trying to look down his throat. Sweetness wells up along his taste buds to distract from the intrusion. Behind him, willowy hands begin to shred the clothing off of Aki’s body, like strips of bark peeled away. Aki slips his thumbs into the folds of skin holding him in place, gripping tightly as he feels the air creeping along his naked flesh.

All the while, an image begins to shape in front of him. It’s far away, like he’s watching through binoculars that he has to squint to see through. Easing into a bright sunny light, warmth pours over Aki as the future devil strips him bare. He can see Himeno, Denji and Power. They’re on the beach. Sap is dripping over Aki’s tongue as Power declares herself president of the ocean, and the others laugh.

Where am I? Aki thinks as rough fingers push up between his thighs. Himeno is smiling like she’s never thought about the day she’ll die, water lapping at her feet. She’s telling Denji to stop Power from trying to catch the fish. It’s so warm, Aki feels it burning his face. The fingers in his mouth are twisting around, hardening into wood that he can bite down on. He does, teeth sinking into it without a care as a calloused palm wedges his cock up against his own stomach.

Aki’s right eye twitches as he watches them all laughing, such good music that he can barely hear. Denji turns toward him, eyes locking with Aki’s through the scope of the future devil’s gaze while a wet, sticky finger finds the rim of Aki’s hole. Everything is warm as Denji calls out, “Get in the fucking water, dipshit.”

Teeth grinding against the offered branch, Aki’s eyes prickle with tears from the finger pushing inside him. He thinks maybe this should hurt— Denji waving in an invitation— but it doesn’t.

You have ice cream on your lips, Aki thinks, gnarled finger slotting deep within. His cock aches, still pressed against his own abdomen by the other hand he can’t see. The devil offers no relief of motion, just holds Aki’s pent up release in a fist. The finger inside him is changing though, thickening. Aki can’t tear his gaze away from the beach, the way they’re calling to him to join in. It feels like gold bursting under his skin.

Matching the rolling of the waves at Himeno’s feet, the devil starts to fuck Aki on the crooked finger stuffed inside him. Aki moans around the branch in his mouth, swallowing the sap that’s drizzling onto his tongue.

“Stop being such a wet blanket, we’ve been planning this forever!”

“Get in the water with us, you’ll regret it if you don’t!”

“I’ll protect you from all the fish in the world!”

Come in, come in, come in.

Aki’s legs tremble as a wave builds up from the fulcrum of his skull. He wants it so bad, like he’s never wanted anything in his entire life. One more call from Denji, and a hand reaches out in response, someone who’s been out of frame. Aki fights to keep his eyes open even while his cock leaks against the firm fingers around it. The wet spot of cum on his stomach becomes sea water splashed against him, shaking with the ever-growing branch still steadily plunging in and out in a mess of sticky, sweet fluid.

Tears running down his face, Aki watches the hand reaching out, then an arm and then shoulders and black hair as someone answers the call of his friends. The last thing Aki hears before his eyes roll back is the quiet laugh of his brother as he joins the others in the water.

I would do anything. Anything for them.

Aki’s eyes clamp shut as the waves break, becoming aware of his own body lurching forward with every thrust of the devil inside him. He’s painfully hard, whimpering around the branch in his mouth, feeling sand between his toes as the devil slides a finger directly over the slit of his cock. He’s not ready for when the devil blooms inside of Aki, the smallest protrusions ribbing down the length of its calloused skin, touching every millimeter it can.

Aki shudders when he comes, warm ribbons carelessly draped over his own stomach. His grip on the devil’s belly becomes a desperate bid to stay upright as his knees threaten to give out. The laughter of his family bounces down his every nerve ending, lighting him up as he buckles, while the branch held between his teeth turns to fresh snow.

Aki closes his mouth around it, holding in the steam rising from his tongue. Fresh snow dotted with blood. The kind of blood you cook with.

With a sigh, Aki slides out of the devil’s stomach and onto his knees; the branches withdraw from inside him and plant themselves onto his back instead. They keep him upright, head tilted back so Aki can look into the eyes of the devil of the future.

“Is this part of the contract?” Aki asks.

The future devil gives a laugh like the revving of a motor.

“You ask that every time.”