"... You're just full of mysteries, aren't you?" Maka mutters to Soul, who's standing beside her as the one and only Wes Evans backs into the parking lot in a tow truck, red lights reflecting off the water in the inlet.
"Let me guess," she says to both of them. "Your parents own a towing company."
Soul is grouchy again, kicking up dirt with his shoes. "I swear we don't own everything in this damn town."
Wes and Maka both watch him for a minute, and she opens her mouth to ask something, but then she lets the question float away. He'll open up on his own time.
"How much do I owe you?" she says instead.
Soul looks surprised and, from the window of the tow truck, so does Wes.
"Maka," Wes says. "My dear, sweet wagon girl. We'd never charge you for this. Mother and Father don't have to be privy to all of our business dealings." Soul, leaning against the truck with his arms crossed, nods in agreement.
"Ohhh no," Maka says, marching over to the window. "I'm not gonna let you guys work for free-"
"You gave me your wood for free," Wes says. His tone is light, but with an insistence that makes her rethink picking this battle. "And we will simply not accept any payment. Don't even try it!"
The Evans boys have the exact same expression at this moment: eyes narrowed, cheeks pinched, jaw set. Staunch in their commitment to do things their way.
It's probably what she looks like when she refuses to back down.
She sighs in exasperation, looking down at her feet. "Okay," she says. "Fine. We can talk about it more tomorrow," she adds. "But for now… thank you."
"Nooo problem. It'd be boring if you gave up that easily," Wes says with a little chortle. "Come by tomorrow. I'll take good care of the car tonight." Wes gives Soul and Maka a cheerful wave and heads out of the parking lot, dragging Nana's newly-attached car behind.
Anger is still churning in Maka's gut, but there's a measure of relief there, too, and now she's at a loss for what to do.
"... I don't wanna go back up there," Maka says, pointing to Skully's. "They're gonna ask, and I don't wanna talk about it."
"Aw man," Soul says. "You sure? Liz is gonna absolutely lose her shit. Might be funny."
"... Yeah, I'm sure," Maka says, though the tiniest smile quirks the side of her mouth. "I'd rather not go home, though. I told Nana I wouldn't be home until after midnight."
"Uh." He's hesitant, and the way he says it brings Maka back to his reaction to that stupid ouija board question, which is intriguing. "Would you wanna… drive somewhere? Get outta Shareport for a couple of hours?"
She looks him up and down slowly, deliberately. "Kay. …But only if we don't talk about Blake at all."
There's a magic that lights up the sky on summer nights, a calm, humid presence that flies through the windows. It's a feeling that's almost impossible to describe, but everyone who's been on a summer drive on the coast knows what it feels like: the sound of ocean waves, invisible in the darkness. The freedom to go anywhere. The knowledge that as long as the wheels beneath your feet keep turning, you can't be stagnant; you have to go somewhere.
It's this feeling that spills through a 1972 Mercedes on the backroads of Shareport, where Soul Evans is beginning to remember what it's like to be free.
When they stop at a 7-11 on the outskirts of Northborough, he feels like something in him is… mending, like the thirty minute drive has brought him back to life again. He catches a glimpse of his reflection in the window, his brown eyes shining almost red in the light of the Open sign.
"You wanna keep going?" he asks her reflection as she passes. In the mirror, they watch each other, taking in each others' reflection. She sips her slushie and nods.
The decision is made, and onward they go. A companionable silence carries them forward as Shareport fades further into the distance, the only sound the rushing of the wind through the windows and the occasional switching of gears.
Is it supposed to be this simple? He can't remember the last time something in his life was simple.
But the pavement slides behind them, Shareport disappears, and every passing moment is another escape.
Finally, they find themselves parked at a beach an hour and a half away, wading through the sand towards a lighthouse, shoes clutched in each of their hands. The ocean is calling, illuminated by the full moon, and they amble towards it, watching the white caps of low tide descend upon the sand. They sit down just beyond the water line, shaking a little from the chill in the air, even in mid-June.
"Here," he says, tossing his jacket into her lap, because - he knows it, and even worse, she knows it - he won't pull it around her shoulders. It's difficult, to be this close, especially with Blake's stupid interference earlier tonight.
They're teetering on the edge of something, and as usual, he's afraid. Afraid to take the leap.
But it won't be tonight, because tonight... she wants to talk. He can tell.
And to his great surprise… so does he.
"It's so quiet out here," Maka says as she tugs the jacket on. "It feels like being at Nana's, only different."
"That must be nice," he says. "To feel that peaceful in your own home."
There's nothing for her to say to that, so nothing is what she says. After a moment, he sighs.
"... Sorry," he says. "You know I hate talking about... home."
He hates that she doesn't have to ask what he means. "I do," she says.
But it's also a relief. Isn't it? Wouldn't it be nice to let her in? Just a little?
Decide what you want, little brother.
"I just… can't be in Shareport anymore," he says, because something in his gut is breaking down, breaking out. "That's why I love this car, and the bike. It's like... the only time I like this place is when I know I could get in the car and never come back."
The waves overtake the silence, gliding in and out, like the ocean is breathing, waiting for her to speak. Soul breathes along with it, and together they wait.
"But... you still come back," Maka finally says, watching the waves. "Every time. Why…" She hesitates.. "Why… do you think that is?"
The answer is simple, and it isn't. And because of this, he struggles to explain it.
"I don't really know," he says. He thinks of the lighthouse, of the bay. The sound of the ocean in his ears. "There's something about this town that's… bigger than all of my parents' bullshit," he says. "That's more."
"I dunno," he says, and he grimaces a little, because there's that feeling in his chest again, like something is trying to escape. "The way it feels after a storm. The smell of the tide, or whatever. Stuff that doesn't have anything to do with people."
She nods. "Things that don't change, right?"
He blanches a little, his hair skewing to the side to cover his eyes as he scoffs.
"Yeah, well," he says. "Some changes are okay."
"Oh yeah?" she says, smile widening. "Which ones?"
He recoils back into his shell, because ugh, feelings.
"I didn't think I'd ever meet cool people in Shareport, other than Wes," he says with a little shrug. "People that own old Mercedes, or that do pizza box seances, or whatever. Or…"
He stops, and he's keenly aware of how she's watching him.
"Or…?" she says softly.
Decide what you want, little brother.
He wants to escape, and this feeling in his chest wants to escape, and he wants to throw the dart and see where it lands.
"Or… stubborn C-plus drivers, who drive me insane. And who aren't afraid of things. And who…"
Who… feel like home, a little bit.
It's the truest thing he's felt in so long, but he can't say it.
"I…" Maka says, grabbing a handful of sand and letting it trickle through her fingers. "I don't know if you remember, earlier this summer… when I said I wasn't looking for anything."
He stills, eyes fixed on the water.
"But..." She looks up at him, the moonlight framing her hair like a halo. "I think… I might have changed my mind."
He swallows, and the escape-feeling in his chest is replaced with something... warm.
"Well…" he says, looking up at her through his hair, forcing the words out. "Like I said. Some... changes are okay."
She's smiling at him in the darkness. "They are, huh?"
He takes a handful of sand, too, watching it trickle down. "... Yeah. Really okay."
"I…" She tilts her head to the side, curious. "I'd like… to try something. Alright?"
He eyes her cautiously. "...Alright."
In slow motion, she edges forward to tentatively lean her head on his shoulder.
They sit there for a moment, his heartbeat in his ears. "Is this okay?" she asks after a moment, to be sure.
He lets out a shaky laugh. "...This is very okay," he confirms, and he lets a smile spread across his face as they sit there, taking in the moonlight, the water, the quiet.
They spend another few minutes out there, listening to the waves, but soon the late hour forces them to abandon the lighthouse, and the waves. They retrace their footprints in the sand, a mark of their evening that will soon be washed away with the tides.
"I agree, by the way," she says to him as they walk. "There's something magic that makes me come back here, too."
"That's... just Nana, isn't it?"
"Not… completely," she says with a little smile. "Obviously she's most of it, but there's something else in the town itself. I can't see it… but I can feel it." She starts to laugh, and Soul sends her a curious glance. "Sorry," she says, covering her mouth with a hand. "It's something I read in a book once."
"No wonder I have no idea," he says, and just like that, all of the tentativeness, the newness, the shyness is broken as her eyes become slits, and her gaze glides over to him as he tries to hide the wicked grin on his face.
"It wouldn't kill you to read something, you know," she says as they get back to the car and slide into the seats. "I assume you didn't study in school at all, either."
"Nope!" he says, sounding very satisfied, because he knows it'll piss her off. And look, it does.
"You're so frustrating," she says, shutting the door with a snap.
"Listen," Soul says as he leans around his seat to back up the car. "Not all of us were goody-two-shoes in school, and we all made it out fine."
"I could kick your ass with just one of my goody-two-shoes," she grumbles as she clicks on her seatbelt.
He knows that. It's probably why he likes her so much. "Yeah, yeah. You're tough, Wagon Girl."
The rest of the ride back is quiet, but for the first time, he doesn't feel the mounting dread that he normally feels when he heads back to Shareport.
As they pull into Nana's driveway, Maka looks over at him, and then down at his hand, which is still sitting on the gear shift.
The shyness is back as she places her hand over his, glancing up to gauge his reaction.
Slowly, methodically, savoring the way that it feels, he turns his hand around, reaching up to thread his fingers through hers.
"Hey, Maka?" he asks as she starts to smile, her fingers still extended in surprise.
"I'm glad you changed your mind."
She looks down at their hands again, and brings her fingers down, giving his hand a squeeze.
And there you have it. :) If you've made it this far and are exclaiming "What?! That's it?!", never fear. This is part one of a two-part series. This story is technically complete, but Part 2 is coming, eventually. It would've been impossible for me to finish everything I have planned in one Resbang, so please look forward to the second installment, where we'll get more absurdity from Blake, the revelation of Why Nana Has All That Wood, and, of course, a smooch or twelve. Soul and Maka both have a lot more opening up to do, and I'm excited to explore that with you all.
For the time being, thank you for being here! If you're so inclined, drop me a comment and let me know what you thought! See you all soon. :)