Disclaimer: Soul Eater is not mine. Nope.
A/N: Now slightly edited, with a pinch more flufftastic romance than before! (By popular demand! Ha, if this keeps up, sooner or later you'll have a full-blown lemon on your hands…but I doubt it.) Also, again, this takes place during the regular timeline, but for legality's sake, everyone's older. Good? Good. Now enjoy the crackishness and review.
Soul waited, somewhat impatiently, for Professor Stein to absorb the weight of what the young weapon had just related—that he and Maka were unable to produce a demonslayer wavelength without Soul accessing the frightening madness of the imp's power. Soul was convinced there was another way; after all, Maka's mother and father had managed to use such an attack, and as far as Soul knew, Spirit had no bizarre, jazz-loving imp lurking in his subconscious.
"C'mon, Teach," Soul prompted after silent minutes had slid by. "There's gotta be something."
Stein took yet another thoughtful drag on his cigarette, the stick practically reduced to just the filter. He exhaled smoke casually, rocking slightly in his backwards-facing wheeled chair. "I wonder," he mused aloud, most likely to himself.
"Wonder what?" the weapon pressed, hands clenching in his jacket's pockets.
"You say there's a demon inside your head who loves jazz?" Stein asked, apparently determined to be enigmatic.
Soul hunched more into his shoulders; he was already slouched against the wall. "Yeah. So?"
The stitched professor shrugged. "Mm, just curious. The black blood seems to manifest in peculiar ways, that's all. And drawing upon this imp's power causes the madness to overcome both of you…interesting…"
"Interesting?" Soul echoed, straightening a bit in indignation. "It's bad, not interesting! Maka's threatened by this, but she's absolutely determined to produce the Demon Hunter! And who am I to tell her that she can't? It's practically her birthright." He looked away sharply, expression crumbling to disappointment. "I'm just not strong enough, am I? I don't have the potential to be a proper Deathscythe, do I?"
Stein scrunched his cigarette out with one hand and waved the other dismissively. "Nonsense. You are plenty capable of ascending to the rank of Deathscythe. You and Maka are quite strong enough on your own to tap the powers of the demonslayer wavelength; you simply need to harmonize in perfect resonance while you do so, which I believe you achieved through playing this metaphorical piano."
"But I can't do that," Soul repeated, aggravated by the elder's circular discussion. "If it only affected me I would do it in a heartbeat. But I can't put Maka's sanity at risk, too. I just can't."
Stein smiled faintly, and from the light reflecting just so off his glasses, Soul couldn't see his eyes. "You have the heart of a Deathscythe, and may I go so far as to say you also have the soul? Pun intended, of course," he added, his smile broadening momentarily. "You are willing to do anything for your master, and that is commendable. However…for this solution—because there is one solution—it would be better for young Maka to be present."
Soul blinked and shifted his weight slightly against the wall; one of his legs had begun falling asleep. "Why? Can't I just tell her later?"
The mad professor's grin definitely widened now. "For your health, Soul, I believe it would be better for her to hear the proposal directly from me. She might…misconstrue things, otherwise."
The weapon relented with a shrug, not about to argue—if Stein wanted to make things more complicated for himself, then he could go right ahead. Personally, he was only concerned with solving this problem, and this time he didn't care how long or hard he would have to train to help Maka attain Demon Hunter.
Silence reigned while the two men waited for the technician's arrival. Soul remained slouched against the wall, occasionally bouncing one heel on the baseboard, his head tilted back and his red eyes fixed on a crack in the ceiling. Stein sat in his usual fashion in his roller chair, alternating between poking around on his computer and twisting the screw in his head.
A knock sounded on the door, and Stein said, one hand still idly cranking the screw, "Ah, come in, Maka."
The girl entered, glancing between the professor and the weapon before her gaze focused solely on the elder. "What is it, Professor Stein? And why's Soul here? Does this have something to do with the Kishin?"
"Such a barrage of questions," Stein said jovially, pushing his glasses up his nose. "Do sit down, Maka. Make yourself comfortable."
She obeyed, but her pose attested to her heightened nerves and curiosity: she sat on the edge of the couch, her knees pressed together and her hands gripping the cushions, elbows locked straight. Soul sidled along the wall, now leaning directly beside the arm of the couch.
Stein wheeled closer, draped over the stitched back of his chair. "Well, now. Soul has informed me of your difficulties in achieving the demonslayer wavelength and of his concerns in the previous method. I don't advise that he utilize the power of the black blood, either, so—"
"That's what that was?" she exclaimed, rounding on the weapon. "That's what that was?!"
Before Soul could reply, Stein interjected with, "Quiet, please. That's hardly the point of this little intervention. It was a risk, it seemed, he felt he had to take, and we should all be grateful it resulted in the discovery of your own personal Demon Hunter, Maka. Now, moving on…"
She relented, her frame slumping a bit as she faced the mad professor once more.
"There is an alternative method," Stein continued, and Soul saw Maka perk up in his periphery. "However, it is generally not utilized as a means of perfecting soul resonance, as it can only work between exactly the two right people, and partners rarely are each other's…soulmates."
A foreboding silence hung in the air, and then Maka laughed outright while Soul snickered.
"Soulmates, Professor?" she asked, shaking her head. "You mean like in a cheesy romance novel? Not like I read those or anything," she added, much quieter, as Soul slanted her a judgmental glance.
"Techs and weapons have been around for centuries," Stein said seriously. "The connection is actually the other way around—our soulmates preceded the fairy tales'. Back to the point, the only way to ever achieve the perfect harmony is to be partnered with one's soulmate. This doesn't require that the weapon and tech match each other fully on every little detail; what matters is that the overall balance is perfect. In fact, I'm sure Kidd would enjoy this idea immensely," he added, musing again.
"So…how do we find out if we're soulmates?" Maka inquired, glancing up briefly at Soul as she said it.
"You require a bit of special training—" ("Of course," Soul grumbled) "—but it does not take long, on average, and is very…decisive. Once you have, shall we say, completed the training, then you will know if you're soulmates or not, because you will have achieved the balance in your resonances."
The partners traded another quick look, and then Maka looked at Stein, somewhat suspiciously. "What exactly are you getting at, Professor? You're starting to act like Papa when he's dodging a question about his recent activities."
The light flashed off Stein's glasses and glinted off his teeth. "Your father would not appreciate my introducing you to this particular brand of training," he said mysteriously, "but push has come to shove. The one way for a technician and a weapon to discover and then perfect their souls' balance is…"
He paused for dramatic effect; Maka leaned forward eagerly, and Soul raised a curious eyebrow.
"…is to have sex."
The teenagers froze, both blushing furiously, and it was Soul who managed to find his voice first.
"The hell?" he snarled, brandishing a fist in Stein's face. "What're you trying to pull, you sick bastard?"
Stein merely smiled breezily in the face of such fury. "See, I told you that she should hear it from me," he stated, a hint of gloating in his calm tone.
"B-b-but, Professor, you can't be serious," Maka stammered, still beet-red and looking anywhere but at Soul. "Why would…why would…that…have anything to do with our souls' harmony?" Then her eyes narrowed, and she said fiercely, "Have you been hanging around Papa too much? You were never such a pervert!"
Stein laughed, actually threw back his head and laughed. The partners watched in bewilderment as he clutched at his stomach, the chuckles shaking his body and bringing tears to his eyes.
"Hanging around Spirit too much! Good god, that's a funny thought!" he laughed, then sobered immediately. "But no. In fact, this has everything to do with your wavelengths."
Maka swallowed against her dry throat and ventured, "Er, how, exactly?"
Soul looked at her sharply. "You can't actually be considering this!" he yelped.
"I'm not, I'm not!" she protested hotly, blushing again. "But I just wanna see why it works, and maybe…and maybe…I don't know what, but maybe the why will help us figure out another how. Maybe."
"Maybe," he echoed distastefully and resumed glaring sullenly at Stein.
The professor remained positively delighted, as if someone had just dropped off a dead horse and said he could dissect it. "It's quite simple, really. During sex—" Soul and Maka nearly fainted again "—the two participants are, theoretically, joined in the closest conceivable way. It is during this most intimate of unions that the souls do not just resonate on the same wavelength but are, in fact, shared. Once this sharing has occurred, the memory of the balance is imprinted on your souls, and from then onward, you can achieve that harmony instinctually, without any real effort. It's quite convenient, and anyway," Stein continued, waving a lazy hand, "Didn't you ever wonder why a tech is almost always partnered with a weapon of the opposite gender?"
Their mouths flapped foolishly for several drawn-out seconds, and then Soul croaked, "But what if you're gay?"
Stein looked flatly at the weapon. "I hardly think this is the best time to come out of the closet, Soul."
"Wha—no! That's not what I meant!" he exclaimed. "I was just saying, if you're not inclined to swing that way, what happens if—"
"Oh, I don't know," Stein replied, rather more cheerfully. "I suppose Ox and Kim are both members of same-gender partnerships, but regrettably, they both appear straight and unable to provide any interesting research in that regard. Come to think of it, so were Spirit and I. Hm. Nevertheless, this is the only way to perfectly harmonize your souls and therefore perform Demon Hunter."
The professor shrugged, lit another cigarette, and rolled back to his desk. "That's that, though. It's up to you two now."
Soul and Maka reached their shared apartment roughly a quarter of an hour later; they had not lingered in Stein's office, preferring to flee with all speed to somewhere…safer, although now that he thought about it, perhaps an empty apartment was not the safest place to be after hearing such news.
Maka, after all, hadn't so much as looked at him since the meeting, and she hadn't dared to touch him, even on their ride home. She usually clung at least to his jacket while they rode his motorcycle, but she kept her hands very obviously to herself, one clutching the leather seat and the other holding her skirt down.
He wondered if she were somewhat scared of him now, if she were afraid that he would jump her without warning. He wanted to say something, wanted to assuage that maybe-fear, but he couldn't make his lips and tongue cooperate, and part of him hoped that by staying silent, the entire issue would just evaporate into the ether.
He prayed the latter was true: he had always been comfortable in her presence, and this awkward tension was fast getting to him.
"I guess I should make dinner," Maka said as she unlocked their apartment's door and stepped inside, Soul a respectful distance behind her. "I don't know what we have, though…it might just be instant ramen…"
She waited for the outburst, but Soul just shrugged and said, "Whatever we have is fine."
He brushed past her, careful to give her a wide berth, and headed for his room. Once inside, he shut the door and hung up his black jacket before collapsing face-first on the bed. He listened to the sounds of cabinet doors opening and closing and Maka's quiet grumbles as she failed to find anything more pleasing than dehydrated noodles in a cup. He honestly didn't care—dinner was the furthest thing from his mind at the moment.
And suddenly, the confines of his bedroom were suffocating—not to mention all the hastily dismissed fantasies about what could potentially happen in said bedroom—and he wandered out into the living room and plopped on the couch. He watched Maka in silence as she bustled about the kitchen, as busy as instant ramen would allow her to be. He had never paid it any attention before, but her skirt was heinously short; his face grew hot, and he forced his eyes away and wrenched his thoughts to a different set of tracks, one that did not deal with analyzing how long and slim the exposed lengths of her legs were…
Damn it, Stein! he yelled in his head, his hands clenching into white-knuckled fists. I never thought about this, not once, before you suggested it! You're putting ideas into my head, you sick, sick bastard, and I'll never forgive you for that!
…or how if she leaned over, even the slightest bit, he would be able to see…
Soul's sharp teeth sank into his lower lip, and he concentrated fiercely on the pain.
"God, I hate summer," Maka complained, and to Soul's increased distress, she pulled her sweater vest over her head and draped it over the back of a chair before she crossed the room. She had to walk directly past him to reach the window, and his eyes were riveted to the hem of her skirt as it flirted with indecency. She pushed the window open to coax in a breeze, and yes, when she leaned over, he could see—
"Are you alright, Soul?" she asked, and he realized he was still staring. "You looked a little…dazed."
"Really?" he rasped, his fingernails biting into the soft flesh of his palms. Oh, dear god, no…
"Yeah," she said, and she tilted her head to the side in a discerning matter. "Maybe the heat's getting to you…"
"Must be it! Cold shower? What a great idea!" Soul nearly yelled, and he scrambled over the arm of the sofa and almost face-planted into the closed bathroom door in his haste.
Maka watched him flee with a quirked eyebrow, but then she shrugged and resumed poking about the kitchen.
Soul shivered in the icy water, but he didn't dare turn it warmer, much less turn it off. How the hell had he gone from being able to shuffle about the apartment, shirtless and unfazed, to getting a raging hard-on when Maka opened a window?
"'S all D-D-Dr. St-St-Stein's f-fault," he grumbled, teeth chattering from the chill. He had never had a scrap of lecherous thought directed towards the technician before, and she wore that skirt so often that it ought to be a crime, length notwithstanding! He remembered thinking on several occasions that she was quite pretty—although pretty was an entirely different brand of thought—albeit in a petite, frail kind of way…although calling Maka frail seemed to defy the very definition of the term.
She was the strongest person he knew—in a different, considerably less obnoxious way than Black Star—with her quiet, sometimes bullheaded tenacity. She was fiercely determined and devastatingly intelligent and unflinchingly loyal to him and all her friends, and sometimes he felt he rather paled in comparison. He was such a sarcastic slouch, and all he really had going for him was his devotion to his master, to Maka.
He would die to protect her—almost had, in fact.
Soul turned off the water with trembling fingers and toweled dry as quickly as humanly possible. He wrapped the dampened material around his waist and, bracing his hands on the sides of the sink, stared down his reflection.
Blood red irises stared back at him from beneath a shock of snow-white hair, and he studied the visage before him. This was Soul Eater, the scythe-type weapon who partnered with Maka Albarn, the daughter of a renowned duo whose father was as good a Deathscythe as he was a flirt and whose mother was the only technician ever capable of performing Demon Hunter.
It all came back to Demon Hunter.
He wrinkled his nose, and his mirror image wrinkled its own right back. He wanted to believe that Professor Stein had been hanging around Spirit too much, as Maka had accused, but he couldn't quite fight the logic behind the elder's suggestion. During…well, that, people were supposedly as close as they'd ever get, both in mind and body. So why should the soul be left out? Indeed, wasn't the soul the center of the whole thing?
Soul had a feeling nineteen-year-old boys rarely contemplated that side of sex, and that doing so was decidedly uncool. But…but this was Maka, and he had always loved her as a friend, respected her as a tech. To even think about such an act with her required introducing more emotion than he'd care to admit into the equation.
What had he just thought, after all? Loved her as a friend?
He gazed seriously at his reflection.
Would it be so hard, then, to believe that he could love her as a soulmate?
"Both senses of the word," he whispered to himself.
Maka was already slurping noodles by the time he ambled out of the bathroom, fully dressed, cooled off, and considerably more composed. She was seated at the table, her tie now loosened and her shirt half-unbuttoned, and Soul concentrated on his own cup of ramen, determined not to be sidetracked by her suddenly alluring appearance.
"I'd say eat it before it gets cold, but the microwave's right over there," she said in between mouthfuls.
He hummed a noncommittal reply and lifted some limp noodles to his mouth via chopsticks. He chewed, swallowed, and after several repeats, remembered his manners and said, "Thanks."
She blinked, her own chopsticks suspended in the middle of swirling around the cup, and managed after a moment, "Oh. You're welcome, Soul. Instant ramen's not too hard, though, so—"
"No, not about that," he interrupted, surprised by the sound of his voice: certainly he hadn't intended to speak? "I mean, for dinner, but also…just in general."
Now she was really staring at him, and to his further surprise, she flushed slightly and cast her gaze elsewhere. "Oh," she echoed, quieter this time.
He resumed his eating, mortified that he had said anything, while she poked at her noodles distractedly.
"Mmf?" he replied, his mouth full of ramen.
She smiled faintly, amused by that, but the expression soon deepened into something genuine. "Thank you, too."
He grinned his usual crooked grin and shrugged. "No problem, Maka," he said lightly. "Being cool all the time is a burden, but I tough it out."
She giggled quietly but resumed toying with the remnants of ramen, looking rather pensive. He studied her for a long moment before he inquired, "Hey, what's up? You look…I dunno, sad almost."
She didn't glance up at him, her gaze fixed on the tabletop, as if it were the most fascinating thing ever. "Eh? No, I'm not sad. I'm just…thinking." She breathed a long, low sigh, and when she inhaled again, her shoulders seemed squarer, more resolute. "Hey, Soul…"
"Yeah?" He set down his chopsticks, sensing this was important.
"About…about what…Professor Stein said," she said, blushing horribly, and Soul felt heat creep up his neck and across his cheeks as well. "I…I just…I was just wondering…if…"
She seemed unable to say more, but Soul managed to croak again, "You're actually considering…?"
Her head bowed, long bangs hiding her eyes. "Well…I mean…if it can get Demon Hunter…"
His heart sank before he even realized it had begun to fly. Demon Hunter. Of course. Sensible, logical, intellectual Maka would never suggest such an action without an equally sensible, logical, and intellectual purpose. Demon Hunter would vastly help Shibisun's cause in this bizarre war, and perhaps would be the only attack capable of bringing down the damned Kishin and his circle of evil witches.
"Right. Demon Hunter." The words came out wooden. He had agonized over his sudden physical reactions to her, wondering if this were the beginnings of a love story that had been growing for years and had only needed a push in the right direction, and here she had only focused on gaining power via their souls' perfect harmony.
She had never contemplated loving him. His heart wrenched.
His fingers rolled into fists as his jaw set tightly, clenched so hard it ached. Part of him wanted to rise and coldly refuse, or turn the situation around and make fun of her for even suggesting it, or shoot her down in any myriad of ways to convince her of his disgust for her blind focus on power.
But most of him knew this was his one chance, and now that he wanted to take it, he couldn't let it pass.
He would do anything for her.
"If you really think it'll work," he said stiffly. And then, because he couldn't bite it back, "If Demon Hunter's important enough to you."
He wasn't looking at her, so he didn't see her wince.
"It…it is," she managed, twisting her hands in her lap. "It could…well, it could save the world. Potentially."
"This may not work," he said. "Stein made no promises. We might not be soulmates, and this could all just get shot to hell."
She remained quiet for a long minute. "I know," she finally acknowledged.
"Well, if you're willing to risk it…"
"I am," she said, more solidly this time.
Soul finally met her eyes, vermillion on viridian. He stood up and slipped his hands into his pockets, his gaze falling away.
"Well, where d'ya wanna do it?" he sneered in a voice heavily layered in bitterness. "My room? Your room? The couch? The table? Or maybe we could go rent a hotel room somewhere, just so there's no connection to our daily lives—"
"Soul, stop it!" she said, lancing to her feet as well.
The abruptness of her actions caught his attention, and he looked at her, genuinely off-guard. Something inside him flinched at the glint of moisture in her eyes, and another part of him endeavored not to care.
"Stop…stop being so…blasé about it," she continued, brokenly. "I—I can't—"
"You can't what?" he snapped, even though weariness weighed down his voice, his heart. "This is just an alternative path to power for you. What the hell does it matter how it happens, if it's 'beautiful' or not?" He made sure to make the apostrophes audibly clang with irony.
She stared at him again, but this time her expression was painfully hollow. "You…Soul, I…I didn't want…I didn't want to say this. I…I didn't want to scare you away…because I can't…I can't lose you."
She worried her lip with her teeth, and Soul stared blankly back at her, the first feathery tendrils of hope daring to swirl in his chest again.
Keeping her head bowed, Maka reached out with one hand—as she had done so long ago—and pressed her palm flat to his chest above his heart, her fingers curling into the fabric of his shirt.
"This isn't about Demon Hunter," she whispered. "This is…I mean, I think I might…I think I lo—"
She never finished her sentence because Soul had claimed her lips with his.
He eased back slowly from the gentle kiss, his lids rising halfway, and saw that she was gazing back at him in the same manner, her lips still slightly parted. She searched his eyes, his face for a split second, and then her fingers ghosted across his cheeks, pulling his mouth back to hers, before they slipped into his hair. He returned the kiss hungrily, his tongue snaking out to slide along her lower lip. He savored her taste in the brief moment before she allowed him entrance, her own tongue coiling around his and making the kiss hard and rough and hot and deep.
Her fingers twined in his hair, anchoring to the snowy strands, and his hands grabbed her waist and hip tightly, pulling her as close to his body as physically possible. Flush to each other, their breathing loud in the otherwise silent and still apartment, they stumbled around the table. He couldn't maneuver well with her glued to his front, but he didn't ultimately care too much about destinations.
So when he backed her into the kitchen wall, he decided it was as good a place as any.
"You sure about this?" he asked as they caught their breath, since kissing was a long way from making love.
"Yes," she replied.
There was no hesitation.
Everyone collected in the Shinigami's sky-room watched in awe, approval, and appreciation as Soul transformed into an angled crescent moon of bright magic in Maka's hands. Power crackled like electricity in the air, sparking and sizzling with sheer intensity.
"Oh, Maka, my little Maka, she's just like her mama, oh I love them both so mu-huh-uch!" Spirit exclaimed, beginning with a proud paternal boast and dissolving into fervent bawling sobs, a shuddering ball on the floor.
Stein just smirked knowingly and took a drag on his cigarette.