A/N: Chapter 2! Quick note that sometimes I change POV but I make sure to make that evident with a horizontal line break.
"So, uh, where were we?" Soul says, still wiping surreptitiously at the stain on his shirt. Tiny beads of sweat give his complexion the look of a candle slowly melting into a puddle of gooey nothingness.
Maka reaches under her desk, where she keeps her mini-fridge, and retrieves a cold bottle of water.
She hands it to him. "Talking about plo-"
Invisible piano keys begin to play from the approximate area of Soul's pants.
"Fucking hell," Soul growls.
"No, that's Beethoven, I believe," Maka states.
The look he gives her is one part amused and one part apologetic as he pulls the still-playing phone from his pocket. "I'm sorry, I'm going to have to get this."
"It's fine," Maka says, raising a hand. "I don't have any other immediate appointments."
He gives her a grateful look and walks out of the room, answering the phone with an irritated, "What is it, Wes?"
Maka turns to her computer and tries to her hardest not to listen but the funeral home is made entirely of metal, glass and tile, all of which echo very loudly.
Soul is arguing with Wes, apparently Soul was supposed to be somewhere else and he quite evidently wasn't there. "I'm just out, okay, Wes?" There's some more excited talking from the other end and then Wes' voice becomes quiet, as if he's trying not be heard from his end.
Soul's voice quiets as well. "Shit." There's a moment of absolute silence and then, "She's already here?"
Despite herself, Maka finds herself straining to hear better but to her disappointment, she can't hear anything from Wes' end. All she catches is Soul's reply, a quick and curt "I'll be there soon." His footsteps get louder as he walks back to Maka's office.
Maka straightens up quickly. When Soul returns, she is pretending to be looking intently at her computer, which is nothing but Google's homepage.
"I'm terribly sorry but I have to go," Soul says, standing behind the chair awkwardly.
"Not an emergency, I hope?" Maka says, looking up.
"My grandma came for a surprise visit," Soul sighs.
"Oh," Maka says, nodding as if she understood.
"It's not that she's a bad grandmother," Soul says abruptly. "She's just a little too perceptive sometimes."
"Ahh," Maka says. "That would be a problem."
"Yeah," Soul mutters, frustrated. He fishes out a card from his pocket and extends it to Maka. "I'll have to do this differently now. I hope you don't mind."
Maka takes the card. It declares him as Soul Evans, piano instructor, and is rather plain, save for the piano keys that his number is printed on. "As long as I'm available when you call, I have no problem breaking up the planning." She hesitates and then blurts out her question in one breath. "Though I'm not sure how soon this will need to be ready by?"
Soul grins, unnaturally sharp teeth winking at Maka. "The doc says I've got about a year with treatment."
Maka purses her lips, nodding again. "All right then."
"I'll call you soon," He gives her a thumbs-up as she rises and reaches out to shake his hand again.
Maka feels her face redden and she pulls back her hand just as he reaches out for hers. They both chuckle awkwardly.
"I'll see you around," Soul mutters bashfully, backing up to the door.
Maka sits back down and gives him a wave. "Until then."
The grandfather clock in the corner of Maka's office (a parting gift from her old boss) rings seven times, each resounding chime reminding her that she's worked past closing hours once again and is running late once again for her girls' night out with Tsubaki, Liz and Patti.
She sets down her pen and stretches as far as her cramped muscles allow. Her joints give popping sighs of relief and she sinks into her chair, letting her body go limp for a moment before she straightens and begins to pack up.
As Maka's organizing her papers into neat piles, a small card flutters onto the floor. She feels her heart settle somewhere in her stomach as she reads Soul's name, printed neatly on the card.
Tucking the card into her day planner, she puts the planner in her bag and shuts off her computer. Her face dully reflects in the black monitor, staring blankly into space. She closes her eyes for a few moments and then shakes her head once.
When she first got this job, she knew that the only way to deal with the grief others brought to her was to compartmentalize her work life from her personal life. Hence her number one rule: never bring your work home.
She gathers up her things, marches out of the office without another look behind her and turns off the lights. Setting the alarm in one fluid movement, she continues her march out of the funeral house.
When Dr. Stein had given him his prognosis this morning, he had been sure that no, he did not want to die but as he contemplates his most formidable enemy to date, a portion of spaghetti more suitable for an Olympic athlete, he is almost sure that he would rather bite it right now than take another bite.
The noodles take the form of limpid arms that threaten to choke him as he stabs at the spaghetti with his fork, his stomach violently informing him that should he take another bite, it would be most thoroughly rejected.
"Soul, dear, why aren't you eating?" His grandmother asks in a slightly croaky voice from across the table. "This is your favorite, isn't it?"
"I am eating, Granny." Soul quickly takes a bite and forces it down into his very unhappy stomach.
Granny makes a sharp tsk-ing sound. "Selene, what are you feeding this boy? He's all skin and bones."
"I feed my two boys as well as you fed me, Mother," Soul's mother gives Granny a half-hearted glare.
"Too well, sometimes," Soul's father cuts in. "I put on a good fifteen pounds when I first married Selene."
Selene smiles at her husband, mollified.
Soul cuts in. "If you don't mind me asking, Granny, but why did you come here?"
"I'm not allowed to come to see my only family?" Granny gasps in mock-offense.
"Soul didn't mean it like that, Granny," Wes says easily from the right of Soul. "But we do usually visit every summer and you have never visited since we moved to Death City."
Granny shakes her head. "I could never understand why anyone would name a city over something so inauspicious."
She takes a sip of her water, silver strands of hair shining in her mostly gray hair. "Anyways, I've just been feeling lonely since your grandfather passed." She shrugs. "Being with my family is what makes me happy and I hope you don't mind my sudden visit."
Mechanically, Soul echoes the protests of the rest of his family that Granny 's presence is very much welcome and they're happy to have her in their house as long as she wants.
Soul then pretends that he doesn't see Granny's eyes linger on him as she thanks them and attempts to meld into his chair, staring down his plate. Guilt ties up his throat, however, and he doesn't speak again for the rest of the meal.
Soul sits at his desk, contemplating the half-finished composition before him. He was never one for organization. The only place he was remotely neat was when he crafted his compositions and even then, they usually were splattered with ink smears by the time he was done.
But this one was important. His legacy, so to speak.
Because if he's judging right, this is the last musical piece he'll ever be able to write. Soul stares at the notes on the page, exasperated. The notes formed a piece that was too happy, too light, too not-Soul.
In one neat motion, he folds up the paper neatly and rips it in half. Then he gathers up those pieces and rips them in half again. And again.
Eventually the pieces become too small to rip and he's forced to merely glare daggers at them, chest heaving as if he had just run a marathon.
The squeak of his door opening sends him hastily sweeping up the pieces into his hand and into the trashcan beside his desk.
He speaks as he turns. "Wes, I've told you to kn-"
"I am not Wes," Granny says cheerfully, standing in the doorway.
"Sorry, Gran, I forgot you were here," Soul says sheepishly, rising and inviting her in with a wave in his hand.
"You are quite forgiven," Granny smiles at Soul, taking a seat in his desk chair. "I was just making my rounds before I went to bed."
"What do you think of the city?" Soul settles onto his bed.
"Much too dry for my taste," Granny says, wrinkling her nose. "But," she allows, "it does have a certain charm."
Soul nods. "That's how I felt when moved here too. But it grows on you."
"I'll be sure to let you know if that's true or not when I leave for home," Granny says.
"And when will that be?" Soul asks carefully, hoping his curiosity didn't seem to out of place. But having Granny learn about his condition was something he had never planned on and was something he aimed to avoid at all costs.
She takes a glance around the room before her eyes rest on Soul. "What's the matter, dear?"
"Nothing," Soul says a little too defensively. His heart plummets as he sees Granny's suspicious expression grow deeper. He attempts to sound a little more casual. "Really, Gran, today was just a pain in the as-butt. Nothing major."
Granny seems amused now. "No need to censor yourself. I did grow up with three older brothers, you know."
"Right," Soul says, blushing. His vision seems to waver for a second as a wave of fatigue hits him from nowhere. His hands dig into his palms. Keep it together.
"All right then, how is school going?"
Soul tries to keep his voice, although it doesn't feel like nearly enough air is reaching his lungs. "Well enough."
Which is the truth. School had been going rather smoothly as of late for Soul. Too bad he was going to have to drop out.
"Then it must be a girl," Granny says mischievously.
Soul nearly chokes on his spit. "Gran, I wouldn't be acting this way over a girl!"
"Aha, so you do admit you're acting different," Granny says, jabbing a finger in his direction.
Soul opens his mouth for a few moments before giving up. Gran was better at tricking information at him better than Wes and that was saying something. If he wasn't careful, then he'd be found out.
"It's just this cold I have," Soul said, deciding it'd be best to go with a part of the truth. "It's just making me feel pretty crummy."
Soul rejoices internally as Granny takes the bait. "I knew there was a reason you didn't eat nearly enough at dinner." She rises from the chair at once. "I am going to make you some tea and then you are going to get a long night's sleep."
He doesn't protest, as he normally would, at being treated like a child. Instead he bobs his head up and down and Granny bustles from the room.
Once Granny's footsteps have faded away, Soul flops onto his back, covering his eyes with his arm.
He was nearly certain that Granny was going to be keeping a closer eye on him now, which was going to screw with the rest of his plans, but he'd done what he had to do to get out of this sticky situation.
Whatever came tomorrow, he would deal with. Until tomorrow was a problem he wouldn't have to deal with anymore.