Disclaimer: no. you get it by now
Author's note: This is one of those prompts in my inbox meant to be drabbles that exploded into almost full-fic. The anon gave me lavender, Soul and Maka, and "I need you to pretend to be my girlfriend/boyfriend." I don't really know what this is and I wrote it over the course of the week but totally on a whim. It's my usual mix of sadness and cheese. It's AU, obviously. It's got some slight mature moments in here but nothing graphic because I'm not brave enough to write the smut stuff (I'll save that for resbang... maybe). I could talk forever but I'll stop.
He doesn't warn her or knock. He strides in and she's sitting in the center of the floor, stained with paints that remind him of the sunset over the city: orange, crimson, pink, a dark purple like a bruise. It looks like she tried to dye the tips of her pigtails: one is black, and one is green. She turns to him when he shuts the door, an unspoken but clear question in her expression.
He walks over to see what she's working on, and there is some sort of multi-colored poem on her floor. Her entire apartment is a blank canvas somehow. It's only half-finished.
She blocks his view of it by leaning over it and shakes her head. Some excess paint flies from her loose hair to the floor.
He hates that even coated in cheap paint and in a white t-shirt and cargo shorts he thinks she transcends her own art. Soul lifts her from the floor and pushes her to the wall, and he kisses her until she stops him.
Their faces are so close when she whispers, "I'm going to get paint all over you if we keep this up."
"That's ok," he says. "Make me like you."
Maka runs hands down his cheeks and marvels at how soft his skin is. They are now coated in a mixed burgundy, and it's like the color from his eyes has overflowed and bled onto his cheeks, into the spaces in her fingers.
He kisses her again, and it's so fervent and heated that she forgets how to breathe. They drown in warm skin and paint as their clothes come off somewhere along the way to her ordinary bed.
Their colors are so bright when they mix but she hates the gray area they linger in.
She closes her eyes while he leans over her and paints an image on her shoulder blades. She grows impatient, flips him over, and rests straddling him.
She starts to paint some sort of sparkling gold along the ridges of his old scar.
"You didn't let me finish mine," he groans.
"What were you drawing?" she asks as she gets to where the scar ends at his hip.
Maka stops her lining of his mark. "What sort of wings?"
"Angel wings. Because you always say you wish I would call you angel."
She puffs air into her cheeks. "Because I am an angel."
Soul rolls her over and she shrieks in surprise at the sudden movement. He kisses along her neck, and only halts in his movement to say, "You weren't much of an angel twenty minutes ago. You won't be twenty minutes again from now."
She sighs. "And whose fault is that?"
She can feel his smirk against her skin. "Mine. And I love it."
They shower some of the paint off and she insists on wearing nothing but his shirt; he's not so much taller than her that it covers much of anything. He kind of wishes it did. She distracts him as they sit on her couch and she drapes her legs over his lap while they watch reruns.
"Soul," she says.
He turns to her. "Yeah?"
"What's got you all bothered? You only surprise me like this when you're stressed out."
He squirms. He swears she can see the movements of his soul. "I need to ask you a favor and I don't know how to do it."
Maka turns the volume down and gives him her full attention. "Just ask. I don't bite."
He waggles his eyebrows and she kicks him.
"Okay, okay," he murmurs as he rubs his new sore spot. His cheeks burn up for a moment and she feels his discomfort in her own bones. "I need you to pretend... to be my girlfriend. Just for the weekend."
She's silent for a while. She pries her eyes away from his. She doesn't know what to say. They're almost naked on her couch. They've been friends for six years - sometimes best friends, sometimes this midway to lovers but not quite all the way there that she loathes but doesn't try to change - and she's more confused than ever. He is the only person she's ever been this intimate with, and not just in the physical way: he knows about her parents' divorce and how it weighs on her, how she sleeps best when it rains and she leaves the windows open, how she only likes green tea. No coffee, no earl gray. She knows about his parents, too, how overbearing they are and how it affects him; he likes his coffee black and she knows he sleeps well only when she's near because the nightmares leave him.
That's why the word "pretend" is like a knife twisted in her heart. That's why she replies, "I need time to think about it," and still cannot meet his gaze.
Maka rises from her place on the couch, gives him back his shirt, and wanders to her room to grab more of her paint.
Soul lets himself in on Thursday. He finds her at her art again, but this time with other people involved. He puts his arm over his eyes to block it out: Liz and Patti are nude in her living room.
"Should I come back?" he asks, and Maka and the girls laugh at the crack in his voice.
"No. Hold on."
He remains standing with his eyes blocked.
"Ok," she says. "You're safe now."
They both hold signs over their middles with their names on them painted in lavender.
He blushes again. "How is this safe?"
She rolls her eyes and continues to paint words on one of Liz's legs. "Leave if this too much for you, then."
He closes the door behind him and crosses his arms. "What is this?"
She stands and looks to him with a new light in her eyes. "My new art project."
He reads some of the words in modest places: We were once master thieves. We almost turned to gangs had our roommate not stopped us.
"Explain?" he asks.
"It's kind of art and psychology together. It's a huge work in progress," she says, and he loves the way she brightens at the chance to educate him. "I want to see how perception is altered when we know the darkest secrets of someone from the moment we meet them."
"Why do they have to be naked?"
"They're completely opening up from the moment you meet them."
"God, Soul, you're such a teenage boy," Patti says with a giggle.
"Yeah, you picked a real weak one, Maka," Liz cuts in and she blushes and sends them off to her room to get changed.
She gathers some of her materials until he speaks.
"So about this weekend..." He clears his throat. She almost flinches at the awkward tension that sits between them like cold wind.
"I'll do it." She holds back her sharp retort as she picks up another name sign from her paint-drenched floor. It is cool on her bare feet.
"How about in exchange I become one of your experiments for this project?" She watches him out of the corner of her eyes as he scratches the back of his neck.
"It's a promise." She grins. "No take-backs. I'll pretend to be your girlfriend, and you become one of my art subjects."
He doesn't notice her approach him until she stands only a few inches from him. "Maka?"
"Why do I have to do this, though?" The light in her eyes moments before has dissipated; all that remains is darkened curiosity and the guilt turns his stomach to knots.
He knows what's between them is real. He knows he could fix all this if he were just brave enough to ask her to actually be his girlfriend, but the cowardice overwhelms the yearning. He does not want to shatter what safe middle ground they've formed here, in her home all hundred-colored and covered in her tangible ideas.
He reaches out and plays with a pigtail. Not dip-dyed today. "My parents were trying to get me engaged to some frou-frou musical stranger from another rich family. So I told them I had a girlfriend."
Her grip on her signs tightens. "And why use me?"
Soul's mouth opens but no words leave. He could say it now: Because I wish you were. He forces down that sentence and his stomach churns more, as if he's really swallowed the unspoken thought. Instead, all he manages is, "Because you know me the best."
"I wonder why that is," she responds. Her voice is thick, fragile, and quiet, the opposite of who she is. She does not give him any time to reply and steps into her room.
"Can't believe I get to meet your family just a day after becoming your girlfriend," she says as she gets on the motorcycle behind him, her grip around his waist somehow looser than normal; he worries she's slipping from him.
"I guess I'm real serious about you," he replies with a strained titter, and the words turn them silent.
She closes her eyes and leans into the leather of his jacket, but not so heavily that he can feel her. The wind rolls through her hair, but the breeze is weak. It reminds her of those rare moments in the middle of the night when he runs his fingers through the long blonde strands, thinking she's asleep.
He slows down just as she's starting to doze off. "Want to stop for breakfast?"
Her eyes flutter open. "Mm. Yeah."
The house is not entirely what she imagined. She pictured marble fountains and topiary gardens, gold gates and possibly a moat. The house is undoubtedly a mansion, but she's not as overwhelmed by it as she thought she may be when he described it to her over their diner table. It could be normal with one less floor and a few less windows. It is white with black shutters; surprisingly simple. She would not guess there was a rich bloodline here aside from the backyard large enough for an entire mountain range and forest, and aside from the tall black gates and winding paved path to the doorway.
Maka turns to him. "You grew up here?"
He sighs, like this is a question he has been asked so many times before. "Yeah. I did."
"Then why do you drink milk from the carton like a savage?"
"I hate you."
"Be nice, babe."
"No nicknames," he says, and she's relieved to see some of the stress leaving his tense shoulders at her teasing. "Absolutely none."
"I don't know. It kind of makes me feel powerful." Her grin could be sadistic in a different light. "My sunshine and happiness."
She laughs and skips forward to walk ahead of him, and he tries to contain a blush at the way she looks to him now in a spotlight of sunshine. She's happier than she's been since he first asked the terrible favor, so he cannot find it in himself to discourage her. He loves her the most when she's grinning ear to ear like this, a warm glow to her wild emerald eyes. The bottom of her white summer dress flows with the humid wind. "Buttercup, why are you so grumpy?" She reaches forward, grabs one of his cheeks, and tugs on it.
He's about to swat her hand off when they both stop at the sound of a third voice just a few feet away.
"Not even in the house yet and you two can't keep your hands off each other? I probably should not have put you two in the same room."
Maka pivots to face the interloper. He is like a taller version of Soul to her, though his eyes are a pale blue, and his hair a pale blonde. His eyes are more amiable than his younger brother's, but somehow, she trusts them less. It might be that she earned the warmth in Soul's eyes, and Wes just seems to give it away to anyone.
She extends her hand and he takes it in hers like it's made of glass, and kisses it. Her mouth drops open at the chivalrous gesture.
"I'm Wes," he says with a smile, "and you must be the lovely Maka."
"Yes," Soul says through gritted teeth as he grabs her and pulls her tight to him, out of his older brother's reach. "This is Maka. My girlfriend." His knuckles on her shoulder are ghost-white. She's not sure if this jealousy is for show, but from the grimace and slight tremble to him it appears genuine. She remains silent, with her heart pounding, and her head wrapped in rapid-fire thought.
"I'm not going to steal her, Soul, relax." He laughs, and ruffles his brother's alabaster hair. "I'm not in the mood to get murdered today."
"You couldn't steal me from him, anyway," she interjects. Her cheeks burn up as she feels Soul's wide eyes whip to her in shock. She wants to explain but she's just as shocked as he is. She's lost her breath and her heart might beat straight from her chest if it hammers any harder.
"Careful, m'lady, I like challenges."
"Ah, how I missed the sound of my flustered young brother." He leads them over the gilded threshold. "Let's go inside and get you two settled."
The inside of the house is intimating; the first thing that catches her gaze in the house is a chandelier that looks like it belongs in a five-star hotel in Manhattan. It's not lit yet, but it still sparkles as if it is as the sunlight trickles in and catches the edges of the diamonds. The Evans brothers leave her behind as they move toward the stairs and she stays stuck under it; she's hypnotized. She wonders what it'd be like to be the one to string those jewels together.
She snaps out of it when Soul calls her name.
The stairs are plush and red-carpeted under her sandaled feet. She feels out of her element, and despite Soul's background here he also looks off-kilter. She stays close to him as they ascend yet another ornate set of steps. She's not sure when they start holding hands but she likes the familiarity of his skin in an unfamiliar place.
Once they reach the third floor, Wes reaches up and lets down a set of stairs from the ceiling. "Here," he says. "I figured that you might want an escape after dinner with our parents tonight, so I specially requested the attic guest room for you two."
Soul grins. "Guess I can't hate you too much now."
Wes returns the smile. "Just because you two are isolated, however, does not mean you can make all the noise you want. I sleep just under this room."
"Guess I can still hate you a little."
"Well," his older brother continues, "dinner is in an hour. See you two then."
Maka shouts her thank you and near-runs up the small set of stairs. She smiles as she takes it in: turquoise carpet, overhanging mini white lanterns, a bed in the corner by the window. It's tinier than the rest of the house, but somehow here she can breathe better. It reminds her of home.
Soul watches as she stands under a lantern and cradles it in her palm like it's a butterfly that's alighted. He notices how she's inspired by these lights, unlike the chandelier that frightened her. He steps behind her and wraps his arms around her thin waist. He looks at her the way she looks at the lanterns, both filled with a light they can't quite capture without fear of ruin.
"So," she starts as she fixes his tie before their venture to the dinner, "what should I be expecting at this dinner?"
He releases a deep breath. "A lot of questions."
Maka flattens the sides of his collar. "Can I answer them wrong?"
"They're my parents." Soul pushes some of her straightened hair behind her ear, and it feels like silk. "You can only answer wrong."
She pouts. "Comforting. I'm also probably going to use the wrong fork."
"I'll follow your lead," he says. "I'll use whatever fork you use."
"Wouldn't it make sense for me to follow you so I use the right fork?"
"I want to make my parents furious."
Maka rolls her eyes, then backs a few steps away from him and twirls, still in her summer dress. "Do I at least look all right?"
He remembers her in cargo shorts and covered in paint, and he sees her now in pure white. She looks good with or without color, he realizes. She's all bright-hued soul to him. "You always look good."
She stares at her feet. "Thanks." She hears his shaky breathing and grabs his hand again. "Let's go."
Soul swallows a boulder-sized lump in his throat and intertwines their fingers.
"I'm here," she whispers. "I'm not leaving."
He kisses her forehead and plays with some of the ends of her hair again. "Thank you for that. I couldn't ask for a better partner. I'm… really lucky to have you."
She squeezes his hand.
Wes and his parents are already at the dining room table when they arrive. Wes is grinning, and his parents are stoic, distracted. Maids hustle back and forth from the swinging kitchen doors as they set the table and display what she assumes are appetizers, though she can't quite tell. She wonders if there are flakes of gold in these meals.
She loses herself for a moment as she watches Soul pull out a chair for her.
She stares for a while, unsure of what to do. She throws him an unspoken question, and he gently guides her by her shoulders into the chair and sits beside her.
The maids disappear and all is quiet aside from Wes munching on some of the appetizer, still smiling as if he's in on some joke no one else at the table is aware of.
Maka turns to Soul's parents and extends a hand to his mother. "Hello, I'm Maka. Soul's girlfriend."
His mother seems taken aback, but reluctantly shakes her hand. "I was hoping Soul would take the initiative and introduce everyone as a polite Evans boy should, but thank you for making the first move. I'm Aurea. This is my husband, Frederick." His father just nods, face still frozen in a frown. "It's… nice to meet you. Soul?"
Their ruby gazes meet across the table. "Mother?"
"How are you? I do believe it's been… three years since we've spoken."
"You spoke to me on the phone the other day. You were trying to get me married to a stranger."
She leers. "You do seem to love strangers. You surround yourself with them on purpose. How is this different?"
Maka turns to Wes and points at a bowl in front of her. "So what is this? It smells delicious."
"Summer squash soup, I believe. Right, mother?"
"So Maka, what do you do for a living?"
She places her spoon down. "I currently work for a family health center as a counselor. Right now, however, I'm only part-time. I'm working on a huge art project that I'm really thrilled about-"
"Ah," she interrupts, "so you must be living on the margin. Sadly, Soul cannot provide much wealth for you since he abandoned his music. I hope that's not what you're seeking in him. He has potential and wastes it. Doesn't he, Frederick?"
"Mom!" he shouts. Some of the plates rattle and Maka reaches to catch a candle before it hits the tablecloth. "I didn't abandon my music, I abandoned yours."
"I don't understand how a son of ours turned out like this," his father sighs. "You should really move back here and reform yourself."
"Is this girl why you're so out of place?" Aurea asks.
"We literally just sat down and I already want it to be over! This is why I left! I had to deal with this every single day."
"Mr. and Mrs. Evans, you've raised a really good guy," Maka says, her voice solid. "I was never after him for his music, his potential wealth. I love him for his soul. I love him for who he is. I met him right when I first moved to the city. I wandered into his record store and I was lost, and we talked and then he wrote down the directions for me. And underneath, he wrote his name and number, and to call him if I ever got lost again." The table is silent in the wake of her sudden story. She remembers how he looked in that store, surrounded with old jazz from a record player and the morning light. "I never got lost again. He… never let me."
Their parents sit in an astonished quiet at her outburst.
Wes rises after finishing his soup and excuses them from the table. He takes them to the door and hands them each a ticket in the corridor. "It's for the county fair just a few miles away. You two go enjoy yourselves, and I'll keep the parents busy. Call me after they're asleep and I'll let you in. Try to leave before they wake up," he says with a wink.
"Wes," Soul says as he grabs the ticket, "I'm sorry. Thank you. Our parents haven't always been great but… you've always been a fantastic older brother. I needed to say that."
He grins. "I needed to hear it."
The parking is in a field of overgrown grass, and it tickles her exposed ankles as they walk toward the guiding lights of the ferris wheel in the distance.
"I've never been to a fair," she murmurs as they walk – their hands still interlocked. "I always lived too far from them."
"Wes used to take me every year to this one, though it's been a while."
Maka notices how peaceful he looks now, away from the stifling air of his childhood home. She smiles and follows him through the ticket booth. The scent of fried dough and the sound of children running rampant hit her right away.
She's overwhelmed for only a moment before he guides her toward a row of barns in the distance. He stops when they reach a stable all filled with a variety of sheep, and she laughs at how excited he looks to take her there. He crouches down and pets one that comes right up to the fence to greet one, and she joins him.
Maka drags him to pathway along the edge of the stage when the live music starts: some low-key country singer wailing to a ten-gallon hat audience perfect for him.
"Come on," she says, "dance with me."
"You're going to step on my feet again. You always do when we try that."
She grins. "Guide me. Come on, I only have sandals on today."
"You've hurt me in your bare feet, fat ankles."
She crosses her arms.
"Okay." He smiles and leads her in a soft, slow dance.
She loves this, but hates that they've fallen back into an undefined place between friendship and fake lovers.
Wes sneaks them back in once they return to the Evans manor, but holds Maka back as Soul stumbles his way, exhausted, up the stairs.
"Miss Maka," he whispers, "can I ask you something?" He checks behind him to be sure his brother cannot hear them.
"I can tell you two love each other but… he hasn't asked you out yet, has he?" He puts his hands on her shoulders, and they are much heavier than Soul's.
She hesitates, then nods again. "How did you know?"
"I just guessed, since my brother's always… kind of been afraid of getting, you know, too close to people. You're the closest to him I've ever seen. I'm surprised, but I'm happy. He's softened a lot since he's met you. Do you want me to help you out with him?"
"I appreciate it," she responds, "but I think we're almost there." She doesn't say she's not sure they will ever be there – wherever there is. She doesn't say she gives him all the subtle signs possible to get him to notice, to encourage him. Instead, she says, "I kind of want him to realize on his own."
"Good luck." He pats her shoulders. "You're a real gem, and I hope he knows it and doesn't screw up. I think I'd like you to be my sister."
She grins. "I'd like that, too."
Maka closes up the stairs once she enters their sequestered guest room. Soul is already in bed, but wide awake. She throws off her dress halfway to him, and falls beside him.
"What were you and Wes talking about?" he asks before she can even close her eyes.
"I hate to say this, but you jump right into questions like your mother."
He gets up and leans over her. "Seriously. Tell me."
She smirks. "Is Mr. Always Cool feeling insecure?"
Her simper fades at the serious tone in his sanguine stare. "I do love my brother, but I always lose to him. I'm gonna be worried."
"I'm not attracted to your brother, Soul." She runs a hand down the side of his face, traces his jaw. "I prefer red to blue."
"Soul," she whispers as he is about to kiss her, "you would have to really hurt me to lose me. As long as you hold onto me the way you should, I'm here. I mean it."
The kiss is slow, and simple, but she relishes it like the cool draft from the antiquated window behind them. Their following movements are just as slow and simple, and she drowns in them. The light cast by the miniature lanterns barely reaches them.
Wes sneaks them out just as the sun starts to rise, and he leaves her with a wink and his brother with a promise to visit.
Their long ride home is wordless.
They arrive when the sun hits its peak, and he walks her to her door. She lingers after unlocking it.
"Thank you, Maka," he says after a pause. "I'm sorry it was a little hectic and not as many days as I said it would be."
"No problem." She does not shake his gaze.
"So I guess… we just go back to normal, right?"
"Like nothing ever happened?" She thinks of his death grip when his brother kissed her hand, the look in his eyes when he was afraid he would lose her, how she defended him across a table filled with more tension than meals. She thinks of how they sleep always somehow touching, whether it be holding hands or a full embrace.
She did not know she had started to cry. "No." She shakes her head. "I can't pretend nothing ever happened. I'm sorry."
He blinks and she's gone. He hears the echo of the door slamming. He thinks of her voice the night before: "you would really have to hurt me to lose me."
She locks her doors in the following days. She notices when he stops trying to visit a few weeks later.
Soul finds a way to meet up with Liz quite easily. They meet in the park just a few blocks from both of their apartments.
"I really need your help," he says as they walk the cobblestone pathway. "This is going to sound scary, but I swear it's not. I need you to help me break into Maka's apartment."
"What's in it for me?"
"What if I said I knew someone perfect for you, and I could hook the two of you up in just a few days?" He hands her a picture of his older brother.
She scans it, then sighs. "Okay. Only because he does look perfect for me and because I've known killers in my life and you're not one."
Maka kicks her door open, her other weighed down with a brown paper bag full of some of her groceries for the week. They all fall to the floor when she spots him against her back wall, naked and coated in lavender paint.
She starts to read the words and tries not to cry in front of him again: I fucked it up with my favorite girl because I wasn't brave enough to tell her I loved her.
The sign he holds reads: I'm really sorry.
"Hold on," she says. She runs to her room and returns with a camera.
"Maka," he squeaks. "Really?"
"I held up my side of the bargain, and now it's your turn." The flash blinds him for a moment. She places the digital camera on the couch and stands just a few inches from him, admiring his sloppy handwriting. "Do I want to know how you got in here?"
"How'd you motivate her?"
"Promised her a date with Wes."
She laughs. "No way."
"Yeah. Seriously. They are going to the last day of the fair on Friday night."
"Who'd have ever thought Soul could be a matchmaker?"
"Not me. I'm… really bad at the love thing, huh?" He shifts the sign from one arm to the other.
"Yeah," she agrees, "you are. But I'd say with this you may have hope." She's suddenly closer to him, her eyes on his.
"Would I be more hopeful if I said I love you?"
"I love you." He does not look away.
"I love you, too."
"I don't deserve that, though."
"I can earn it if you allow me the honor of being your boyfriend."
He reaches out and grabs one of her hands. "I can tell you I love you every morning and every night."
"Okay," she whispers. "And?"
"I can compose a song for you."
She presses their foreheads together. "And?"
"I can paint with you."
She smiles. "Make me like you."
He runs lavender-painted hands across her cheeks, but he makes sure none of her own color ever leaves her.