Eight: C'mon, whisper what it is you want
Far across the desert sands, all is quiet again.
It is still early in the morning, the sun casting tiny shadows across the dunes. Soul is exhausted, which he supposes is a normal side effect of a night spent skateboard-gallivanting and witch-conquering. His back is against the ground, and he's too tired to care about the sand in his hair, so he closes his eyes for a second before a shadow moves over him.
"Can't sleep yet," Maka says, tugging on his hoodie. He grumbles as he sits up, hunching over his knees. In the distance, Free is hunched over as well, running his hands absently through the sand.
"... How are you feeling?" Maka asks, glancing at Soul out of the corner of her eye.
"Um." He looks inward. Everything feels a bit better, he thinks; the twisting in his mind is less urgent, less intense. But even with the madness calmed… he can sense it, something unsettling there, a strange, almost demonic presence creeping through his veins.
"It's... still there, I think," he says, and she nods, clearly disheartened. "But," he adds, "don't worry about me or anything. I'll be fine."
She rolls her eyes at him, but reaches into her jacket pocket. "Here," she says, handing him the flower. "I wanna meet him."
Soul's not so sure if he wants them to meet, but there's something that he needs to do. He steels himself and sniffs the flower for what he knows will be the last time, and there is now some nostalgia mixed in with his disgust.
"What do you want now, you- oh! Oh, hell yeah! What is up! Soul! My guy!" Black*Star twirls out of the flower in a literal pirouette, coming back to hover in front of them with a cheeky smile plastered across his face.
"Hey," Soul says, who can't keep himself from grinning at Black*Star's exuberance.
"Man am I glad to see you, that witch was the worst, and- oh. OH!" He glances at Maka, then back at Soul, his mouth forming a little surprised o. "Is this her?" he hisses at Soul, putting his hand up to his mouth like he's telling a secret. "You know, your meister girlfr-"
"This is Maka, Black*Star," Soul says loudly, grin wiped clean off his face.
"So yes, then," Black*Star says, and Soul fights the very powerful urge to put his face into his hands.
"...This is the one who wanted you to sneak into my room, isn't it?" Maka says dryly.
"Glad you can tell," Soul says, but as he turns to look at her, he can see that her ears are pink, and he doesn't know what to make of that. "Anyway," he adds before Black*Star can do any more damage. "I've got another wish to make."
"Whaaat? You do? It's the last one," he reminds him, patronizingly, as if Soul doesn't know how to count to three. "You gotta make it a big one. Like, the biggest one ever."
"I have a question first, though," Soul says. "Is Medusa… gonna be stuck there for awhile? Even with the 'most powerful magic in the world'?"
"Ohhhhhh yeah," Black*Star says. "I was down there for 10,000 years, remember? Me." He points at himself. "Black*Star."
"Yes, okay, I get it," Soul says. "In that case… I already know what to do."
"Oookay. Let's hear it!" Black*Star says, cracking his knuckles.
"Okay. Get ready," Soul says.
"I'm ready, I'm ready," Black*Star says, jumping up and down. "Man, this better be some wish."
"I wish…" Soul watches him very carefully. "... to bring everyone back to normal." Black*Star's face freezes. "Back to what things were like, before you became a genie. Or, for us not-old-farts… just bring us back to normal. Except for Medusa and the bird, obviously. And… except for me."
Black*Star's face is so frozen that Soul wonders if Free had gotten a crack at it with his ice feet.
"You're speechless," Soul says, starting to smile. "I do have that effect on people."
"...Why?" comes a soft voice to his right. He leaves Black*Star to his gawking and turns to see Maka staring at him, the soft disbelief on her face nearly breaking him in two. "Why would you not change back?"
"Okay," he sighs. "... You ready for the last thing?" She doesn't look ready, but she nods resolutely anyway.
It's true to form, he thinks, for her to jump first and ask questions later.
"Because…" he says, "I'm not really a weapon." He gestures halfheartedly toward Black*Star. "I wished for it. And I'm not giving it up."
She swivels to face him completely. "But- you just said- the black blood-"
"Listen," he says, frustrated, shaking his head. "I know you wanna protect me from that. But I'll figure out how to handle it, cause there's, like, nothing that'll keep me from being your weapon, okay? As long as you want me, I'm here."
As he says the last part, she scrunches her face up a little, trying not to laugh, and he scowls, pinking.
"Sorry," she says, placing her hand on his arm. "It's just… you keep having to monologue."
It's true, he does, and it's awful.
"So… you lied to me," she says, her laughter disappearing. "For a really long time."
"...I did," he says. "I was scared-"
"You shouldn't have been," she says, cutting him off. "It was stupid. You're so stupid.'
It's true, he is stupid, and oh look, he's found something even more awful than monologuing: disappointing Maka.
"But," she says. "I know why. And… I still want you to be my weapon."
"Really?" he says far too eagerly, all semblance of coolness evaporating on the spot.
"... Yes," she says, hiding a smile as she gazes at the horizon.
As she says it, Black*Star finally manages to unfreeze himself, and he looks at them both, tiny little stars lighting up in his eyes. "Okay, so… we good here? Are you sure?"
He looks over at Maka, who nods, and he looks back at Black*Star.
"See you soon," he says, and Black*Star rises up, stretching as far out of the flower as he can, and snaps both fingers.
Suddenly, the sand starts to swell around them, kicking itself up into a storm. Soul's hair is doomed at this point, so he gives up on even trying in that department, scrunching his eyes shut as the sand swirls. Where the cave had been, the ground starts to almost bubble, sand rising and falling from the surface like water brought to a boil. Sand also rises up to cover the skateboard and the flower, gliding over them… and when the winds die down and Soul opens his eyes, two people stand in their wake.
"Hm," the boy on the right is saying, lifting up a section of his hair and glancing at the three white stripes that cross it. He looks at it for another long moment, then looks at the sky and snaps, "Really? 10,000 years of being your friend and you can't even make a small cosmetic change?!"
As he says it, a blue-haired blur crashes into the sand a few meters from them.
"Hold, please," Black*Star says, eyes already locked onto the other person standing before them. "Babe!" His gleeful cry echoes across the sands, and before Soul can blink, Black*Star is speeding past, throwing his arms around the girl and dipping her low into a kiss.
"Hi, Black*Star," she says warmly when they break apart, wrapping her arms around him.
"And sorry, Kid," Black*Star says, clapping the stripe-haired boy on the back. "The request was 'back to normal', and this is your default setting."
Soul's staring at them both, mouth agape, and suddenly it all makes sense. He can already tell that this is the skateboard, but he feels the need to ask about the other.
"...You're the flower?" Soul says.
She smiles softly. "Black*Star's told me a lot about you."
"Eruka!" Soul turns to see Free sprint across the sand to where the cave had been, pick someone up, and swing them around.
It's a relief to see them reunited, Free stooping to kiss her on the cheek as they walk and Eruka pretending not to be flustered about it.
Other figures are rising out of the sand, too; two girls with cowboy hats make a beeline for the skate-Kid, and his unimpressed expression warms a little as they throw their arms around him.
"Thank goodness!" another rather short figure is saying from across the sand. "I've got a lot of storytelling parties to catch up on!" Black*Star and Kid look at each other and grimace.
As they start to walk back to the Academy, Black*Star leans in to Soul and says, "Oh, uh, by the way, I did make one... cosmetic change."
"I love having a normal eye!" Free says in front of them.
"Stop poking at it, or you're gonna lose it again!" Eruka squawks.
"Hey Kid," Soul says, running to catch up to him. "Medusa will really stay down there? She's not too powerful to get out?"
Kid turns to him, nonplussed, as if he doesn't understand the question. "Of course," he says after a moment. "No one's magic is stronger than Death."
As Kid walks away, Soul doesn't understand anything any better, but given everyone's surety, he decides that he'll let it lie.
Beneath many many layers of sand, in a blue, cavernous room, sits a blackened sword. Next to the sword lies a silver snake, sitting almost close enough to catch it in its fangs.
Back at the Academy comes another round of reconciliations. As soon as they cross their way into the courtyard, Spirit bursts through the doors, hugs Maka's leg, and apologizes for allowing himself to be bamboozled by Medusa's wiles.
"I never should have trusted her!" he declares. "Her hair was always so… twisted."
Blair tags behind him, and there's a very fearful moment where Soul is terrified that he's taken away his cat's ability to talk without thinking before she rolls her eyes at him and says, "Please, kitten. I've always been a magical cat."
The end of the year comes and goes, and although Soul manages to scrape by to graduate, he and Maka both know they need to work on building up their connection, learning to trust each other again, to coexist as partners without all of the distractions. They work hard through the summer, and after all of the insanity of the past few weeks, it's good, easy, to be around her.
It dawns on him one summer evening, as he lies in his bed with Blair asleep on his chest, that they haven't been hangry in a very long time.
Resonance comes naturally, now, with no need for secrets. Black*Star and Tsubaki send them postcards, having decided to travel the world post-freedom ("There's so many places I have to show her!"). Kid and the girls are more enigmatic; Soul never really knows where they are, but Kid sends him letters, in looping, perfect penmanship, about their favorite skateboard shops. On the weekends, he and Maka both go down and help at the pet shop, though Eruka doesn't let them touch the frogs.
He's found solace in this circle of strange friends that he met by even stranger means. It... almost makes him feel like he belongs, or something.
Even so, there's one tiny hole in his heart that aches sometimes.
You're thinking about it again, Maka says, and he half-glares at her. You miss him.
Usually he'd deny it, but: ...Yeah.
You should send him something. His shrug is tangible through resonance.
Hey, um, she starts to think, and he's immediately distracted from their other conversation as he catches a glimpse of something in her thoughts, something that he thinks maybe he's seen before.
Something he's been thinking since the first time they resonated.
"I wanna try something," she says aloud, walking up to him. "... Do you trust me?" she asks.
Her thoughts are warm. "...You know I do," he says, and so she jumps without hesitation, leaning up and planting a kiss on the corner of his lips.
Radio silence through the link. Did you just-
"Mhm," she murmurs, and this time she pulls him to her, and both of them smile like goons against their first real kiss.
That night, he gets out a paper and pen, and writes a letter to his brother. After all, Maka's argument had been very… convincing.
Soul decides to tell him a story. A story about truth and lies, and magic and choices, and about the unlikely friendships that sometimes, if you're lucky, can be forged within the chaos.
Like a diamond in the rough.
Hello hello. Thank you so much for reading. Drop me a line if you feel so inclined! Either way, I'll see you soon. :)