Phlox – our souls are united; we think alike
Disclaimer: Soul Eater is not mine etc.
Author's Note: I reblogged a post on tumblr that basically said I would fill a prompt if someone were to give me a pairing, a color, and a sentence. An anon gave me Soul and Maka, the color white, and the sentence "But I thought..." and I filled it with this one-shot. I actually started the first half of this fic maybe over six months ago and the prompt inspired me to finish. I may have messed around with the meanings of some flowers and I did my research but I don't really know how much certain flowers cost or whatever but... anyway, please enjoy!
The silvered bell above her door plinks as he saunters in just the way she remembers: slumped shoulders, sharp-edged smirk. It startles her, but his teeth blend in so well with the floral background of the shop; he's like a misplaced jungle animal between thick rosemary bushes and ivy vines. She tenses; he may be the predator, but she will never be prey, especially ensconced by the results of her own green thumbs, sore from dry dirt and accidental thorn pricks.
She pastes on a smile on and feigns innocence as she greets him at the counter lined with rose bouquets and old-fashioned cash registers. "Hi, sir, how may I help you?" She wishes he was just another stranger in her store, so she pretends he is. He's just a random citizen who showed up on her doorstep to gaze at the fresh flora, not the one that got away, the one who slipped through the large spaces between her fingers from her weak grasp on him. She swipes at some rose petals as she awaits the dreaded recognition.
She sucks in a deep breath; apple blossom scent gets snagged in her lungs, and the pink of them reminds her of the lightest parts of his eyes.
"So this is your… domain."
She remains quiet. She wonders how many more daffodils may have bloomed while they stand here, her gaze trapped on her wooded counter and his on her restless hands, the grooves in the palms permanently stuck with soil.
He clears his throat, and she brandishes her best neutral expression, but finds it tough to remain emotionless as she observes an unexplainable sadness in his. "Um, so how are you, Maka?"
She flinches as he draws out her name from what she imagines must be antiquated memories now, black and white and blurred in his head and such a contrast to the colors that grow around them. "I'm… fine, Soul. Happy. Let's stop the small talk," she says, with the last part through half-gritted teeth. She shuffles through a drawer and takes out a yellowing notepad and an old pen she hopes still has ink. "Anyway, seriously. Do you need to place an order?"
"Yeah," he murmurs. He runs a hand through his lily-petal locks.
"What would you like it under?"
She nods as she scribbles it down between weak blue lines. "And what's the occasion?"
He hesitates, then rushes: "Wedding."
The only noise after his voice is the tiny tear she accidentally makes in the paper.
The house is silent when she stumbles in, weighed down with the excess purchases she made at the grocery store in a fit of misplaced anger and the resulting hunger from stomping down aisles one through six. She drops the paper bags on the marble island in the kitchen, and releases a large, calming breath as she walks to the windowsill to check on her two young bonsai trees, the tips of the fringes silvered by the moonlight. Satisfied, she returns to stuff her groceries into the fridge and cabinets in the few empty spaces left by her three housemates.
Maka leaves out a pounds of steak and vegetables. She chases away the quiet of the place with the sizzle of the chopped meat in the skillet, but it isn't enough to disperse her thoughts. Thoughts of her ex-boyfriend in a form-fitting, pinstripe suit as he stands at the altar. Thoughts of his signature shark-toothed grin as he sees his bride-to-be in pure, lacey white on her way to meet him - and it's not her, the way she always used to dream though she would never admit it. Instead, Maka is in a pew at the very back of the quaint church. She's flat-lines, pigtails, and knobby-knees, and the fiancé is curves and grace.
She shakes her head and focuses on chopping an onion on the board. She sinks into the rhythm of slicing, chopping, of swiping the tiny shreds into the smoking pan. Whole, half, then a hundred tiny bits.
She startles at the unexpected voice, and swipes the blade over the top of her thumb. She meets Tsubaki's concerned cerulean stare just as blood begins to bead at the edge of her new wound. "Yes?"
Her friend directs her to the main bathroom, shoves her onto the toilet seat, and rummages through the medicine cabinet for their first-aid kit. Tsubaki is as gentle as usual as she kneels on the cool, white porcelain tile floor and cleans the cut. Maka is like a child again, except instead of a stifling and over-affectionate father sobbing over a small scrape, her friend is calm and precise. Maka blinks and her finger is not the least bit sore or swollen, and cushioned by a bandaid. She smiles, briefly.
She's glad she lives with at least one nurse.
"Maka," Tsubaki says after she puts away the kit, "what's wrong? You were crying."
A perceptive nurse.
Maka sighs, and plays with a loosened pigtail. "It was because I was chopping an onion."
Her warm-ocean eyes turn to ice. "I called your name nearly six times before you even noticed me, and then you almost sliced off your thumb. What is wrong?"
She lets go of her dusted-blonde hair. She retains another set of tears, but cannot keep her voice from shaking. "He's getting married," she murmurs.
Tsubaki's eyes widen, and pales visibly. "You mean…Soul?"
Maka nods. She doesn't want to speak. She's afraid the words will turn to more sadness, more imagery of white dresses and black suits and shining red eyes.
"That's impossible, Maka. You two broke up only a year ago. He couldn't have already… No way."
"What's there not to believe?" she asks. "I broke up with him and I was the one that said he could do better. Clearly, he did. I'm happy for him." She lets an unsteady smile surface.
She rises from the cold seat and starts back toward the kitchen. "Thank you, Tsubaki. Sorry I woke you up. You should get some rest."
"Hey," Tsubaki says, "you should, too."
Maka returns to the kitchen and chops her last onion. A whole into a half, a half into shreds.
She burns the steak and dumps the food into the disposal.
She maintains her grin with the force of a warrior as he steps through her door once again. He made an appointment on the phone a few days ago. She's practiced. She's full of false-smile finesse. "Morning, Soul."
She slides her yellowed notepad off her desk and beckons him to follow her to the greenhouse section of her store. It's cool, it's calm. The pounding in her heart eases when she smells the nearby, overhanging threads of lavender.
"So, if you have come to me for advice on picking the flowers, I need you to answer some questions to help me out," she says as she straightens a basket of new bouquets to her left.
"Fair enough." He crosses his arms and gives her his full attention.
She clears her throat. "In what season is this wedding taking place?"
"Two months from now. In Autumn."
She scratches a few notes down between the crooked lines. "Do you know the color theme?"
"Um." His eyes wander from hers. "Girly?"
Maka rolls her eyes and groans. "You're in charge of some of the preparation, but you aren't aware of any of the basic design?"
"Why should I be?"
She hits her forehead with the pad.
"It's just that flowers are important," he says with a pale blush, "and I knew they were important to you, so I thought of you. I trust your judgment."
She bites her bottom lip, pivots, and starts to walk the long, green aisle. "Fine. For once, you make an educated decision."
He follows her to a small section toward the back patterned with frilled flowers of eventide shades: orange, red, some yellow. He can tell she's about to lecture him by the way she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath - always like she's strapped with loose cords and is about to launch over a jagged edge. Always prepared for the worst to be the best.
"Since this is an autumn wedding," she starts, "I suggest working with these colors in particular. They're always good for that season. See any you like?"
He looks frightened for a moment, like she's asked him to pick a punishment. Then, he points to a misplaced daffodil. "That?"
"Those might be an expensive order out of season. Though they are symbols of a new beginning, so you're on the right start. Carnation of an orange color might be good, though these are better for people who have just started dating, since their meaning is rooted more in initial fascination, not necessarily permanence." She plucks a strand of bell-shaped blooms from another bucket and extends it to his nose. "Freesia smell like citrus, so this might be a nice touch for the wedding guests. Their meaning, however, is more friendship than love." She pulls the flowers away from him and inhales.
"I'm proud of you," he interrupts.
Maka meets his sheltered gaze without a word. The unspoken question sits in her own stare.
"I mean," he continues, "that you pursued your passion and succeeded. And you seem happy. And I'm proud of you for it. And jealous. I wish I could pursue my passion."
She wears a perplexed expression in the wake of his cryptic words. "Your music is wonderful. You should try."
His simper is heavy with an indiscernible weight, and she thinks of the antiquated weeping willows by her pond. "I'm not talking about music."
She crosses her arms and refrains from response. She stands so close to her flowers that the spray meant for them reaches her. It soaks and sinks into her skin and she shivers, though she cannot tell if it is the temperature of the water, the melancholy in the crimson of his eyes, or the quiet that sits between them like a stone wall.
Maka breaks some of the silence. "I also suggest the arbutus flower, though they are also pricey."
"What do they mean?"
She fiddles with the end of her apron, but she does not look away. "You are the only one I love."
"Maka, you drank that huge margarita awful fast." Tsubaki throws a subtle warning symbol to the blue-haired bartender after he places down her next drink.
"I'm a strong girl," she says, though the metallic, cheap tequila she sucks down forms a blazing whirlpool in her gut.
"I'm not saying you're weak. I'm saying you didn't eat much today, and you're tiny. And you're also a violent drunk and I never know how to handle you on my own."
"I just want to not think." The pale-blonde swirls the frozen beverage over and over. "He's been coming to the shop almost every day. Shouldn't he be with his fiancé? It doesn't all add up, so I want to not think. Just one day, I want to not have to think about this bullshit."
Tsubaki just heaves a sigh and leans back in the creaking bar seat. "Whatever. I'm not responsible for anything rash or stupid you do. Just remember that."
"I won't remember anything. That's the point."
"I remember back in high school you said you were determined to never drink."
"Sadly, I have some of my father's genes." Maka glares at her beverage as she drains the rest of it in under five minutes. "The genes where I have an urge to destroy myself and everything I stand for when I'm drowning in tequila."
Her tongue is coated in kiwi and sugar and the acidic vortex in her stomach has transferred to her head. Despite her slight wobble, she makes her way to his apartment front door without much hassle. Without having to ask anyone for directions, without stopping or swerving. She could find her way here blindfolded and the thought nearly has her retching on his stupid welcome mat: COOL GUYS ONLY.
Vomit would enhance the ragged mat.
Maka takes a deep breath, and bangs on his door without much regard to her frail knuckles.
She remembers it is 2 AM when he opens the door dreamy-eyed and in only skull-bone boxers.
She hates the way her breath hitches when she snags a small view of his still-fit body. She remembers the way it felt under her hands, even the exact pattern of his scar. He's the song on the radio she knows the lyrics to after hearing it for the first time in ten years. She misses it.
She points at his waist. "I bought you those. And you're wearing them. I bought you those when we were eighteen, and you're still wearing them. Now. Tonight."
He looks at her like she just told him the world's worst joke. Or she is the world's worst joke. She did tear her dress on the way here. One of her heels is missing and she may have wandered through a mud puddle.
"I bought you those," she repeats when he remains silent.
"And you're wearing them."
"Wasn't expecting a drunken guest in the middle of the night and it's hot."
"I'm not drunk."
"You're leaning on my doorframe like it's your third leg."
"That's a dumb metaphor. You're an idiot. I hate you. Why do I still think you're sexy?"
He sighs and abruptly picks her up and throws her over his shoulder like she is boneless, like she's incapable of being fractured. She breathes in his cinnamon cologne, relishes the feel of the warm muscles of his back before dry heaving.
He tosses her on his threadbare couch and wanders to his kitchen. He returns with a glass full of cold tap water and she leers at him as she drinks it. She sits up after she finishes and crosses her arms.
"I came here to confront you about something, Soul Evans."
He smiles at the emerald wildfire in her eyes. "What about?"
"Why do you keep visiting me all the time?"
He scratches the back of his neck and stares intensely at his knees. "I missed you. I didn't… want to lose you forever. This flower thing was the perfect excuse to keep in touch."
"You could have called me," she whispers.
"Not after the way you broke up with me."
She still hears it, their last conversation as a couple. It never left her mind. She could have stood on a stage in front of thousands of strangers and recited it, could have conjured up the same emotions and expressions if she needed to, if she wanted to try. She remembers finding her father that morning with yet another big city call girl though the divorce was not finalized, and she remembers returning to him and telling him they needed to split, because she was her father's daughter in the worst ways and she would cheat on him. She remembers him telling her that was a crock of shit, but she remembers not believing in him in that maelstrom of a moment, not believing in anyone – not even herself.
Maka peels off her only remaining shoe. "I have to go home," she says. The hangover comes before the sobriety and her shoulders ache like they're carrying stones. Her heart aches. Her throat is still dry. She wonders if she's here, sleeping in the same bed and same black satin sheets she once did.
"You're not going home. Just stay here the night. I have no obligations tomorrow, anyway. It's Sunday."
She lays down and her eyes close on their own. "I was always a burden to you. That's why I had to leave."
She feels his cool hands play with the ends of her hair. She thinks she might cry. "You were never a burden. You were my savior." He tucks some of the loose strands behind her ear. "Stay."
She's asleep before she can reply.
Maka wakes a few hours later, her mind and stomach sludge. The water he handed her last night still sits on the table, and she downs it as fast as her margaritas the night before.
"Mornin'," he grumbles as he turns the corner to his kitchen. He remains in his boxers.
She has the conscious mind and manners now to blush and turn away. "Please put something else on."
"My apartment, my rules. You're free to take off your dress if it'll make you more comfortable."
She can almost hear the suggestive wink he throws her. "You shouldn't say stuff like that. I could get the wrong idea. It's inappropriate."
"Right. 'Cause stumbling into my apartment last night and yelling at me wasted is very appropriate."
The fridge door clangs open, and he places eggs, cinnamon, butter, and some texas toast on the granite island. "French toast?" he offers.
Her posture slackens. "My favorite."
"I remember," he says, and they fall into an awkward quiet as she meets him in the kitchen to help, all the while keeping an invisible ten foot pole between them.
She cracks two eggs before he sprinkles her with cinnamon. She whips her head to him, and tries to calm her heart at the sight of his smirk.
"Asshole," she mumbles, before she fires back with the entire bar of warmed butter and hits him square in the forehead. She laughs, for the first time in his presence for over a year, as it drizzles like liquid gold over his eyes and onto the floor. She has to lean on the counter to prevent collapsing into a giggling frenzy on his floor.
"This is war, Maka Albarn!" he shouts before he reaches into his fridge, whips out a can of whipped cream, and sprays it in her direction.
She takes the mixing bowl filled with slimy egg and manages to get some on his bare chest. He tries to run at her and they both end up sliding to the floor; he catches her on time and holds her close before they hit the checkered tile.
She feels the ooze of egg and the sinking of the melting whipped cream into her clothes. She pulls away just slightly and slides her hands gently through his sleep-tousled hair to check for bumps.
"Are you okay?" she asks as she looks at him wide-eyed and cautious.
Soul leans up and kisses her, and before the morality of the situation sets on her she kisses him back, one hand still fisted in his alabaster hair to pull him closer, as close as possible. She stops only when one of his hands wanders up her right leg.
She slaps him and the silence between them is the heaviest it has ever been.
"How could you? You just made me into what I always knew I would be!" she screams, and the tears form at the edges of her eyes before she can hold them back. She rises from him, leaves, and slams the door behind her without another word.
He does not return to her shop, but it's no concern to her. He placed his order already: Phlox, her favorite, because the meaning is "souls united."
She cannot be sad, she thinks. When she strode up to his front door that day and dumped him a year ago, she thought she would never see him again. This is what she wanted, and expected. This is the happiness he deserved.
The sting of the slap still burns in the cracks of her palm with the soil and thorn pricks.
She's shocked when she receives a text from him one night a month later asking her to come to the wedding. She hands the phone over to Tsubaki while the two of them marathon old comedies between a bowl of popcorn and half-baked ice cream.
The nurse looks at it like she would a riddle, then shrugs. "Just go," she says.
Maka sinks into the couch. "Why?"
"I mean, this is the first wedding you've down flowers for. At least go see your work on display."
"But it'll hurt," she says, and she thinks again of him in the suit, her in the white dress and beyond human beauty.
"It has to," Tsubaki murmurs, "it'll hurt this one day, and then you can move on, you know? When you've seen it yourself. I mean, don't go to the ceremony. That part is boring. Just go to the reception."
Maka takes back her phone and types a quick response: Ok.
Tsubaki curls her hair, and as she gazes at her reflection she realizes how long it has been getting. She supposes she could slice half of it off after the wedding. She only grew it out for him because he liked it long. It could be her symbol, she thinks, for getting over it. Officially.
Maka wears her nicest dress, one her mother gave her before she fled the country. It is dark green and one-strapped, and highlights her eyes. She bought new black heels because she mutilated her last ones.
She stays to the back of the ballroom and admires the orange and yellow bouquets on the tables for a moment, as if she's observing a painting of her own on display. The announcer says something in a blithesome tone about the couple's first dance, and she takes a deep breath and tries to peek through the growing crowd of Evans relatives, all dressed in suits and jewelry worth more than her organs on the black market.
Her eyes are wide as she watches someone who looks a lot like Soul – but isn't Soul – lead the blushing bride onto the mahogany floor. Wes, she realizes. This is Wes's wedding. She scans the crowd but does not see her ex. Her eyes continue to rove until she sees it: a distant balcony, vacant of hundreds of bodies.
She almost runs, but restrains herself to keep stealthy. He stands there in a pinstripe suit, swirling a flute of red wine, looking like he'd rather be anywhere else in the world.
He meets her gaze.
"This... isn't your wedding!"
"Is this your new way of greeting me now?" he asks with a soft laugh. "You just run up to me and yell something obvious."
She blinks and suddenly she's crying, and she knows her mascara is running, maybe ruining her dress, the only evidence her mother ever existed, but she keeps crying. She does not stop. "But I thought…"
"I thought… this whole time, that this was your wedding."
"I thought you came to me for flowers for your wedding. That's why… I was so upset… and confused… and hurt. And scared. Scared you'd moved on so fast when I… still loved you. I didn't stop. So it was a fucking disaster for me this whole time." She hears herself nearly blubbering. "And I slapped you. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry about everything. Don't let me leave again. Stay. I love you. I still do. Arbutus."
She falls completely apart when he wraps her tight in his arms, though she fights the urge to knee him when she hears him laugh again. "Trust me, I won't let you leave again. I never really thought you left. And… I'm sorry. I should have explained from the start and then none of this would have happened."
She leans into him. "Let's go home."
"I'm so glad to hear you say that. This party is lame."
She knees him.
Maka smiles from his bed, wrapped only in a sheet, as he tampers with his keyboard. "Finally going to pursue music again?"
He smiles. "Yeah. Now that I have you back."
"But I don't get music."
"You don't have to get music to be the inspiration for it."
She closes her eyes as he starts to play, the smell of freesia drifting from his windowsill.