He was sitting in the throne-like seat before the steering panel of the air craft with his well-toned arms crossed over his chest while observing the passing scenery through the windshield of the vessel. He had a very important role, after all—he was driving the thing where all his most important people in the world were and they trusted him with their lives as they rested from a tiring day.
Actually, if you have to be picky, he had just had trouble sleeping and had come in the only uninhabited room in the whole ship to while away time till everyone rose. He sucked with piloting flying things as big as this one and it was great that the auto-pilot program didn't need anyone to watch over it to function properly because they'd all be doomed if he was in charge of piloting.
It had been about two in the morning when Jio entered the control room of the space craft that was taking him and his friends towards Zenom's main base, wherever that might be.
Naturally, because it was still the wee hours of the morning, there was no one in it—a bright contrast to how it was during the day—and he could bask a bit in the peace of mind he for some reason could not find under his bed's satin sheets.
A few days ago, he and his friends had rescued Ruby from that horrible incubator Stea had placed her in to return her to her true angelic form—that of a faceless monstrosity. Thankfully, the merry crew had managed to return the girl's soul to her body successfully—well, technically, he had been the only one doing the soul extracting but he would've never been able to get there without the invaluable help of his friends—and she was now a full-fledged member of their bunch.
It had taken her little to no time to get used to the changes that had occurred during those four—(excruciatingly long and painful)—years and she was her usual boisterous self once again, bossing everyone around and smiling as bright as the sun that shone outside.
This particular thought made him turn to the problem at hand and just why he could not rest peacefully in the comfort of his own room.
It wasn't as if he wasn't tired enough to sleep but that he couldn't stop the frantic thoughts that were racing in his mind to allow himself to drift off.
What was he thinking so feverishly about to obstruct his rest, you wonder?
He wasn't quite sure himself but knew that it had something to do with Ruby and that radiant smile of hers—(such a wonderful, contagious curve of her plump lips it was)—that he hadn't seen in what seemed like eternity to him.
Whatever it was, it had been going on for a while—ever since his first friend had been brought back, in fact.
He could not understand why it was so difficult to look her in the face without something odd and completely foreign—a thing that had a mind of its own, it appeared—clenching in his chest tightly, making it harder and harder to breathe properly. When he talked to her there was always a warm feeling in his gut, an inexplicable constant presence that he could not recall being there before.
Whenever she accidentally brushed his skin with her own, much lighter, smoother and softer than his coarsened one, a weird shiver would crawl up from the place she had touched him right to his very heart where it would reside for hours and hours after she was no longer even in his sight.
And her smile, something that he had taken for a given when he had been young and naïve, seemed even more brilliant than before, and that much more special to him now, something that urged him strongly to smile back, something that he desperately desired to always see on her face and yet always to be genuine, always coming right from the heart.
He could not explain to himself what was going on with him and just why his body was reacting so strongly to anything and everything Ruby did. It had become so serious that he no longer actually needed her present in the room to start experiencing that gut-wrenching feeling. All that he had to do was call her image in his mind's eye and that foreign emotion would rise in him unconditionally.
The black and white haired youth had tried his best to rid himself of those thoughts and to act as normal as possible. So far he believed that he was quite a master of himself but even that came at a price. Straining himself to appear normal outside to the others, he could now barely sleep for suppressing the problem without really solving it.
Then again, how do you fix something you can't understand?
And it wasn't like he had not tried to grasp what was going on with him. He had laid awake in his bed for hours and hours on end, trying to figure it out.
Of course, asking any of the others for help was out of the question for him. Usually the things he did not understand that needed some thorough explaining were best to find out from Ruby but there was no way he was going to ask her about something that was—indirectly thought it was—her fault.
Cross had told him already that they were not friends and he didn't like Jio, so he was out, although it would've been nice if things were different. Being an angel, Cross would've been sure to know what this fuzzy feeling was without mistake.
Ball would either not know anything or would make fun of him and not tell him anyway, so he wasn't an option either.
He'd seriously considered talking to Mei about his case but lately she and Ruby had got really close so if it was something he didn't want Ruby finding out, it was best not to mention it to Mei either. After all, he'd heard enough word going around about female solidarity to know when not to try the truthfulness of the tale.
Kirin and Amidaba were people of wise age and would without a doubt be aware what it was that's wrong with him but they could always choose not to tell him or to find out on his own, giving him just this or that useless hint that would be of little to no help at all and he'd just be annoyed to have asked them in the end.
And with that he had run out of options for people who were human enough to reply to his query.
It was thoughts as riddled and endless as these that had chased him out of his room, no longer calm enough to just lie on his side in the bed and mull things over. He had quickly donned on his usual garb and gone to the control room where there was enough room to pace if he ever felt the urge to and he could just watch the trees and cliffs and rivers that the craft passed as they flew onwards.
By the time the clock struck four, Jio was finally relaxing somewhat in his seat as he watched the night scenery bathed in the soft light of the moon. His lids were heavy and his body was stiff but he was unwilling to leave the room for fear of waking up by the time he reached his bed. Having a sore neck from sleeping uncomfortably couldn't be that bad, right?
But then the door to the command room unexpectedly opened and he started, looking around to find who was up at that kind of time. It was dark in the depths of the premise where the entrance was and he couldn't see well who it was but judging by the lightness of the steps it couldn't be any of the guys for sure.
"Guess I'm not the only insomniac tonight, eh?" a pleasant voice that he could recognize anywhere at any time of day said cheerfully.
"Ruby," the youth uttered almost breathlessly, disbelieving her horrible timing. "What are you doing up so late?"
"I could ask you the same thing." She was now right behind his seat and thanks to the moon light above them he could see her face and the slight smile that was gracing her lips.
That smile that could captivate upon a single glance…
"I just couldn't sleep," he said, not in any hurry to elaborate.
"Neither could I," the girl said, her smile growing. Turning his gaze away from it was like trying to defy gravity.
Thankfully, her attention was drawn by something else soon enough to rid him of the suddenly suffocating silence.
"Hey, is that thing on auto-pilot?" she piped up excitedly, leaning over the back of his chair. She was talking almost directly in his ear. "I wonder if they needed an additional O-part to do that!"
She was so close that her breath was tickling his earlobe when she spoke.
But what presented the greatest problem for him was the fact that her chest as pressing against his shoulders and the back of his neck, making him acutely aware more than ever just how much they had changed in the time they'd spent apart.
He was reminded once again that they weren't kids anymore. He had grown quite a bit during that time himself—he was taller, leaner, his shoulders broader and his body much better built—but for those years had been quite generous to Ruby for her body had filled out quite nicely. A bit too well, maybe.
Her figure was slender and well-curved in all the right places. Whenever he allowed his gaze to linger on her form, a heat rose in his cheeks that he wasn't well acquainted with so he always averted his gaze in such situations to avoid any uncomfortable situations from rising.
There was hardly anywhere to run now that she was pressed up against him.
Regardless, he jumped to his feet and showed her the thing that allowed the machine to move on auto-pilot while neither Kirin nor Amidaba was driving it, desperate to put some space between their bodies as soon as possible, unsure what he could do when overwhelmed by those foreign emotions.
Jio could clearly recall nights like this that he had been able to talk with Ruby for hours and hours on end but now when she was there again he could barely think what to tell her to draw her attention to a conversation with him. There were too many things he wanted to know but was afraid to ask of her—had she suffered from being close to Satan in the darkness of his soul for so long? Had she been lonely? Was she able to see and hear what happened to him during those four years? He wanted to feel that they were still close even though she was no longer a part of his soul, just like the old times, but something was stopping him, making him feel infinitely uncomfortable in his own skin.
It was really annoying—all those years he had craved to be by Ruby again, to meet her once more and see that heart-warming smile of hers on that angelic face of hers again and now that she was there he couldn't think what to do, where to start from.
He clenched his hands into fists subconsciously and the Solomon Key embedded in his hand made that squeaky sound it always did when he closed his palm. Ruby looked up at his face curiously.
"So that's the sound you were talking about," she said, pulling him out of his reverie. "Figures—it's just like Jio to complain over something as unimpressive as that."
"Nu!" he muttered and crossed his arms over his chest stubbornly, a splitting image of himself back in those days when things were that much easier to understand.
As they stood on their feet in front of one another, the height difference between them was rather hard to bypass. For Ruby, who had been used to looking down to meet the gaze of her friend, craning her neck to do so now was quite foreign and somehow pleasantly new.
"Although you still act the same, you sure have changed quite a bit, Jio." He stopped pouting at that and gave her a curious side-glance. "You've become really handsome over the years."
Many people he hadn't seen in a long time had complimented him on his looks lately but none of those praises made him feel quite as pleased with himself as when the praise came from Ruby.
His face flushed and he turned away, embarrassed and not quite sure how to retort to compliments since they weren't something he received on a regular basis.
"Ruby's changed a lot too—if I didn't know it was you I might not have recognized you." Even the tips of his ears were red in his blush.
"During those past few years, I have always felt your presence all around me but I missed being able to talk to you so much…" She was smiling as she was looking at a point nowhere in particular outside the windshield of the moving vessel.
"I missed Ruby herself most…" The young man breathed out just barely above a whisper his most genuine feelings on the matter, immediately making the heat in his face intensify.
"Did you say something? I couldn't hear."
Maybe he'd regret it later but for the time being he switched to the familiar old defensive mode of denying anything and everything embarrassing.
"No, nothing, you must be hearing things!"
"Hmmm…" she began with a thoughtful face. "I could almost swear I heard you saying you were missing something." She shrugged, completely oblivious to the way Jio was intentionally avoiding her gaze. "Oh, well. Is there any particular reason you couldn't sleep or are you just not tired?"
Her choice for a subject change was very poor, in his opinion.
"I was just… over-thinking things," he told her truthfully, calming down somewhat from his newfound hypersensitivity.
"Now that's new—you giving anything such serious thought." He glared sardonically at her, scorn burning in his eyes as he met her gaze. She laughed lightly. "But that's curious—I couldn't sleep for the same reason."
Jio's expression fixed into one of surprise.
"There's something troubling you?" he asked in concern. She didn't answer for some time before finally turning her attention to him again.
"What would you do if I told you I was in love with you?"
It was the condition which he deduced he had that was making him act as weird around his best friend lately.
Being someone who had never been shown love though, knowing he was in love with someone was hardly any help. He didn't know how to love or how to express his feelings, didn't know what to do with himself in such a situation and feared above all else being rejected, finding out that his feelings were not reciprocated. So he had kept quiet, ashamed of his insecurity and yet unwilling to do anything to change this stalemate he had landed himself in for fear of losing the one most important person in his life.
What would he do if he found out she was in love with him?
He was so taken aback by her question that he was stunned into utter stillness complete with blatant gawking.
"Do you love me, Jio?"
What was she to him?
A friend, a colleague…
… a lover.
He'd known that for so long and yet had never told it to her. He'd only acknowledged her as a friend when she was so much more to him.
And now that he could tell her, his throat clenched shut, preventing the words from leaving his lips.
He was always like this, always incapable of handing the more personal social relations with people.
A small, slender finger pulled his chin to look in direction of his friend who was still expecting an answer. She was closer than he recalled her being just a second ago—her ample bosom was now touching his chest, the skin of his whole body very sensitive below the cloth where there was contact between their frames.
He blushed heatedly, the proximity between them rushing to his head at once. Ruby smiled—the gentlest smile he had ever seen from her (and he had seen quite a number of them)—and sighed lightly, a feeling of content emanating from her in relaxing waves.
"I'm so happy," she whispered and closed her eyes as she slowly closed the gap left between them. "Because Jio has been the most important person in my life for such a long time too."
When her lips met his, he felt like even he, a vessel for Satan, had been allowed entry in Heaven.
He had sometimes wondered how Ruby would taste and now he knew that she was just as sweet as he had always thought she would. Her small body fit perfectly in his embrace and she was so warm, so wonderful to hug close. Her arms wound around his neck, pulling him deeper into the gentle kiss just as he drew her closer to his form with his strong arms that were wrapped around her slim waist.
Kissing her so fully, so passionately and selflessly like he was then was something Jio had wanted to do for such a long, long time he couldn't even quite recall when the desire had first stirred in him. But nothing mattered, nothing other than her and the world where they were the only two beings that existed, where this one moment of complete bliss would last an eternity. While he held her, he felt whole and elated; the gentle touch of her lips melding against his turned him into a god and she was his angel, his to have and protect, from then on till the end of time.
When he had rescued her, he had welcomed her home. But only now when she was right there in his embrace, communicating more feelings than can ever be experienced at once with searing kiss after searing kiss, could he say that he finally felt home as well.
And she was the one that had been there to welcome him with open arms.
A/N: After reading the awesome manga that is 666 Satan (because this piece has no other version to its name for me) and not getting the ending that I desired for regarding my two most favourite characters in it, I just had to write something like this.
If anyone cares enough, I might launch into a somewhat multi-chaptered story post-series because I am still not content with even just this one-shot. xD
Thanks for reading if anyone even does. This fandom needs so much more love because it is truly a superb work with a captivating story and infinitely charming characters.