Vegetables (Childish) – Blood

Blood sat down, or rather slumped on the chair in front of the table. And frowned. That was a hindrance. He was a demon and needed no food to survive; vital energy every now and then was enough to keep him alive. He had lived 60 years in a cave with just a few humans and rats, after all. That was not tasty, but at least it was safe to eat. No really, three meals a day were no more than luxury to a demon like him.

So why the hell did he have to eat that?

- Blood, we've been through this already, began the redhead boy in front of him, guessing his thought.

Blood knew Ishuca couldn't understand the utter absurdity of this situation. He, one of the four most powerful demons, who reigned upon the wild and rough territory of the North, was sitting in front of a table and preparing himself for meal. In front of him, there was the most appetizing food a demon could dream of, and a little of something green that barely looked edible, and that tasted even less edible.

And he was going to eat the latter.

That was nonsense.

The most appetizing food a demon could dream of had an indulgent smile and picked a bit of the green thing with a fork.

- C'mon, now, Blood, just a little. Aaaah…

- Aaaah, Blood heard himself repeating. A long experience had taught him it was no use trying to say no to Ishuca.

- See? That's yummy, isn't it?

- No, it's not, Blood retorted, sulking.

No, not sulking. Of course Blood wasn't sulking. He was an adult responsible demon; there was no way he'd be acting so childishly. No way. He wasn't pouting, either. He was facing the ordeal without so much as a blink.

- Don't be mad, Blood. You need vegetables to grow up properly.

- To WHAT?

- I know you are grown up already, Blood, but I've always wanted to say that, Ishuca replied with his most sunny smile.

Which led Blood to face a dilemma: should he go on showing his total displeasure to probably no avail, or should he surrender –once more-, eat the cursed distasteful vegetables and benefit of the hurtful delight of Ishuca's content face? After a while of unnoticed quandary, he realized none of the options would allow his pride to remain unharmed. Provided he still had something like 'pride'. Whatever. He had done so many things already that were far from demon-like. So many things he would have regarded as degrading a few decades ago. He had even befriended a priest. And to make matters worse, he didn't regret anything he had done since he had met Ishuca.

No, there was one thing he did regret, he thought, staring at Ishuca as the boy carried the plates in the kitchen. He regretted very deeply to have wounded Ishuca. The more he thought about it, the more he regretted. Those four claw scars had many meanings. They meant that at some point, he had failed to protect Ishuca. That his true nature was always hidden somewhere inside, his demon nature that regarded Ishuca as food. But also, that by his side, Ishuca hadn't always been 'happy'. At that time, he had looked on the verge of tears. Not only his back had been hurt. Lately he had known misery again, and it had been a hair's breadth, because once again, Blood had been about to fail protecting him. So far, they had been able to manage it one way or another. Ishuca was still able to smile and it made this smile even more priceless. But some day may come, when Ishuca would endure such pain, such despair, worse than anything, worse than death, to the point of turning him mad, something so terrible that it would break him. Blood didn't know exactly why, when, what would happen then, what would it mean for Ishuca to be truly 'broken'. And he never wanted to find out. He never wanted that day to come. That day when he would think, 'If only I hadn't brought Ishuca along'. 'If only I had let him live peacefully among his kind.' 'If only…I hadn't met Ishuca.' 'If only…'

If only I had let him die serenely.

The day when he would become devastatingly aware of the fact that a demon and a human can't achieve happiness together.

He stood up, pain throbbing in his chest, and headed to the kitchen. All of a sudden, not seeing Ishuca made him feel anguish.

He reached the door of the kitchen. Ishuca was right there, turning his back on him, washing plates and mumbling a stirring song. Blood approached, silent. Ishuca didn't even notice. I could be someone else. I could be trying to hurt him. So fragile, so defenceless. Unguarded. All of a sudden, the meter or so that separated them became unbearable to Blood. He dashed forward and wrapped his arms around Ishuca's shoulders. The boy jumped in surprise.

'Blood?'

'Just a little bit more. Don't…Just stay here.'

Ishuca fell silent and huddled against Blood. He waited for the demon's heart to beat less fast, for his breath to be calmer.

'Blood, what's wrong?' he asked, somehow figuring it wasn't the vegetables.

Blood didn't know what to answer. He didn't want the boy to be worried. He knew Ishuca didn't want to be a burden to Blood, let alone to worry him. He didn't want the boy to blame himself. And, yet, he meant it from the bottom of himself. 'If the two of us could go somewhere safe.' But no place in the world seemed safe enough. There would always be demons to see Ishuca as a prey, and priests to consider him a tool. There would always be people scheming to part them. He almost wished he could take the boy away from the world, like a flower in a greenhouse, forever pure and sheltered. Safe. Where no one would ever harm him. That was not possible, of course. That wouldn't do. He couldn't force Ishuca to depend on him only. He couldn't deprive Ishuca of everything, of everyone. And yet, unless he did, he could never be a hundred percent sure that the boy was secure. Even if he did, for himself was a danger to Ishuca.

'Blood' Ishuca said softly. 'Blood.'

His calm voice, gentle tone, soothed a bit of Blood's uneasiness. That's right, Ishuca

'I'm here.'

Was here. Now, at that moment, Ishuca was here, warm, smiling, alive.

'What's wrong, Blood?'

Wrong. Nothing was wrong now. Tomorrow either, as far as he could tell. Tomorrow could be as bright as it might be dark. There was no point in brooding over a danger that had no reality yet. Ishuca was happy now. Together with him, in the house he had grown in, Ishuca felt no worry. Ishuca's hand on his forearm. Ishuca's head on his shoulder. Ishuca's back against his chest. Ishuca…is here. That alone, after all, was enough.

The boy struggled to turn over and face Blood.

'Don't worry, Blood. I had you eat really bitter things, I know, that's my fault. But now, I'll prepare something really scrumptious for you, so that you smile again and forget it. So it's okay. Ne?'

He had a tender smile, and Blood had the feeling that there was a hint of old sadness…or maybe, of old remorse in that smile. Maybe it wasn't just that in Ishuca's simple and immediate vision of life, there were no more than sour vegetables to worry them. Maybe Ishuca knew.

And in any cases, Ishuca was right.

'Yeah…it's okay. Never mind', he muttered, releasing the boy.

Later in the night, Blood soundlessly climbed the stairs, opened carefully Ishuca's room's door, tiptoed in. He looked at the boy; the starlight was bright enough for him to see Ishuca's peaceful sleeping face, surrounded by coppery hair. He ran the tip of his fingers on the boy's wild locks, on his forehead, on his closed eyelid and long eyelashes, on his soft cheek, on his parted lips. Then he smiled. The boy mumbled something in his sleep, something about blue flying strawberries, and turned over. The demon arranged the blankets on his narrow shoulders. And left silently.