A/N: Hey everyone! I hope you enjoy this lighthearted fic! It's about a topic that's dear to me: Music! Look to my profile for all your reference and song link needs, especially those of you who are unfamiliar with Dance Dance Revolution. This fic will center mostly on Soul and Maka and their relationship, their challenges and their identities and how that changes as one goes through adolescence and such. It'll touch on music and what it means as well. I hope you guys enjoy it!
Note About the Setting in the Canon: For BPM, you can consider this slightly AU. It takes place in the Manga canon after the Baba Yaga arc with Arachne, but ignores Noah. So Kid's actually around and apart of the Spartoi. Let's start!
SouLimit! B.*.P.*.M ~ Chapter 1
It was no use. They were just from different worlds. Maka sighed and let the pen fall from her hand as Stein lectured about how understanding helped facilitate better resonance. All the other theory they learned in class she understood and was able to put into practice, but this. This, she just couldn't get around. When it came down to it, Maka couldn't really understand Soul. First off, he was a guy and guys were naturally irrational testosterone driven creatures that worked on ego and not logic. Second, Soul was the king of mixed signals. One moment he'd do something surprisingly sweet and in the same motion do something rude or embarrassing.
...and then there was music...
Even if his past was a bit of a sore subject for him, music was still key in Soul's life. She could recall dozens of times when it'd had an influence over his mood. Soul could return home from a mission or school upset, disappear into his room, turn on his music ,and then leave his room calm moments later. She didn't have many things that could do the same for her. Sometimes a novel would if it was really good, but most of the time her thoughts would distract her from the story. Besides, it didn't make any sense! How could electronically or otherwise produced sounds arranged in a mathematical way do anything but cover silence? How could it actually mean anything? The idea was silly. But still, Soul could find the meaning of the universe in a commercial jingle.
It wasn't as if Maka hadn't tried either. Every book the library had on music, she had read. Every article on his favorite musicians that the internet had to offer, she had poured over. She even watched the Behind the Music documentaries on TV, but in the end it was all just a melody, just noises arranged in a pleasing way. It frustrated her more than she could stand. Music was a road block in her understanding of him and therefore a road block in the way of her becoming a better meister. Any other reason was irrelevant.
Maka glanced to her left to see that Soul wasn't paying any attention what so ever. Instead, he was busy balancing a pencil on the bridge of his nose with his feet propped up on top of the notebook Maka had bought for him to take notes in. Black Star, who had decided to sit next to him, was doing the same; the both of them were probably in the midst of some sort of lame contest.
As if his slacking wasn't annoying enough, Maka could sense the other girls in the room glancing at him. They were whispering, gossiping, and coveting the weapon she had put so much effort into. Meh, those girls were only interested because she had finished the hard part. There had been a few times she had heard girls swooning over his looks, but it wasn't unusual for the girls here to be pretty desperate. They'd have to be desperate to think that his unkempt head of hair and lazy, droopy eyes were cute in any way, right? Not to mention he drooled far more than anyone his age should, he didn't know how to fold his shirts right, and God save them if he actually ever woke up on time. How could any of that be attractive? Maka deserved a medal just for putting up with it.
As soon as the lecture was over, Ox turned and adjusted his glasses lto look up at Maka. "Good luck on the test coming up next week." And that grin showed, that crap-eating-smirk of his that marked his challenge. God, how Maka couldn't stand that expression. The hours spent studying were always worth it just to wipe it off of his face.
Maka leaned forward with a determined but evil grin on her face. "I don't need luck."
And then, just like that, he had the nerve to turn his attention away from her, as if their customary academic rivalry wasn't worth a comeback! To add salt to the wound, the new object of his attention was the two slackers to her left.
"It arrived at the arcade yesterday." Ox's geek fetishes were expensive, so he took up the geekiest job out there: quarter jockey at the Death City arcade after school. Maka at least had to respect his folks for making him go out and waste his own money. Unfortunately, Soul and Black Star occasionally went and wasted their money there too. Instantly, the dummy-duo sat up, pencils forgotten, as if Ox had just told them the news of the century.
"You really mean it?" Soul asked, eyes wide as if it were Christmas time.
"Finally!" Black Star cheered, standing and putting one foot up on the writing ledge. "Now everyone will truly know how godly I truly am!"
"No way, you're in my territory!" Soul shouted, standing as well with a proud thumb pointed to his own chest.
Maka rested her cheek in her hand, feeling a headache coming on. "What are you two idiots talking about?"
"You wouldn't understand." Soul dismissed. Bingo! An hour and a half of frustration was let out in an instantaneous Maka-chop. Soul sat down in his seat, holding his head.
"Lemme ask again," Maka put her book away. "What are you three going on about?"
"The stage that will proclaim my godliness to all who enter the arcade!" She ignored Black Star's mindless chatter and turned to Ox.
"DDR Omnimix. Only the newest and best version out there." Ox boasted as if he had personally crafted the machine they were talking about. Not that it mattered, he might as well have been speaking Latin, at least then she would have gotten some of what he just said.
"It's a game where you step on buttons to music." Soul finally explained, removing his hands from his wild white hair. "Like I said, you won't get it, so don't worry about it."
Maka clenched her fists. It burned her up to feel left out of things, but he was right. She probably wouldn't get it, like it, or deem it worthwhile. "Whatever, just don't stay out all night. You have to catch up on your studying. It's so embarrassing when you score so low on tests. It looks bad on me."
"Sorry I'm such a disappointment." Soul stood and stuffed his hands into his white jacket. "C'mon, Black Star. I've been lookin' forward to kickin' your butt in this game for a while."
As Soul walked with Black Star through the hall, his mind drifted back to Maka. If understanding facilitated better resonance, then it seemed that it was amazing that they worked at all. Her words could sting so quickly and her doubt in him showed so easily that he wondered why she'd still want to stay together in their partnership. He annoyed her, burdened her, embarrassed her and Maka wasn't shy about letting him know.
What did they have in common, really? Besides their desire to work for Shibusen, what did they share? A home? A partnership? How far did those things truly stretch when there was little else? There was a connection between them that resounded so strongly when they were in danger, but in the days in between, that resonance was almost mute. They were worlds apart...What Soul wouldn't give to have just one meaningful, personal thing to share with her.
Maka sighed as she walked back towards the apartment. Naturally, Tsubaki went to the arcade with Black Star, Soul, Ox, Kim and the others. The only one not sucked into the hype around the stupid machine was Kid, and even Liz and Patty had gone to check it out. Unfortunately, Death Mansion was in the other direction, so the walk home was quiet and a little lonely. Stupid Soul. Stupid arcade. Whatever, maybe now she could get to the end of that book she had started, and do her laundry without worrying about her clothes getting mixed up with his. That's right, she wouldn't let this get her down! This was a golden opportunity to do whatever she wanted without him getting in her way!
Happily, Maka grabbed the knob of her apartment door only to feel that it wouldn't give. It twisted just a bit but refused to turn. No, no this wasn't happening. The walk home was long and it was over 97 degrees outside. Maka shuffled through her pockets, her bag, everything she was carrying, only to remember that Soul had rushed back to get the notebook he didn't even use and must still have the key.
"Aurgh! I'm gunna kick his-!"
The trip to the arcade was long, it was hot, she had homework and studying to worry about, and the longer it took to get to the arcade, the less time she'd get to herself. Now Maka would need a shower when she got back. The sound of music echoed from just down the street. There was a crowd of people smashed into the modest sized establishment, gathered around one spot where lights flashed and hyper techno music was playing. When she had entered, a song had begun and by time she wiggled through the jumble of people, the next song had started. At the edge of the ring of people Maka stared in shock.
It wasn't the machine that had caught her off guard, which would have been reasonable since it was taller than her, with massive speakers, a glowing neon logo display and a large screen with pink, green and blue neon lights blinking with the pounding bass. It wasn't the music either, the techno mixed with rap lyrics.
"Could it be that you wanna be more like me? No shame, I bring pain for the year 2g. Now we gonna turn this party out! Put your hands in the air move em all around." The machine blared the words out.
No, it was him. Soul's jacket and tie were left on the red bar at the back of the game's platform, his white button up shirt was open with a deep red shirt underneath that was tight enough to be slim and thin enough to wear under clothes, and it rolled up his torso a bit from his movements. His belt was doing all it could to keep his pants hung on hips that moved in ways she hadn't seen.
"Can you feel the beat down in your soul? Don't fight the difference just let it go!"
The screen, if Maka was able to look away to it, was a flurry of arrows, the word Perfect on Soul's side of the screen had the number 234 and climbed wildly. Suddenly he dropped to his knee to hit a combination of arrows as the crowd cheered, and effortlessly, Soul stood and spun, the combo numbers still rising. He was smooth. He was cool. Her face was hot, there were so many people. How? Was that even him? What had she come here for again…?
"4, 3, 2, 1, let's count it down! Wanna see you move, let me hear that sound!"
She was shocked out of her haze when Kim put a hand on her shoulder and leaned in close enough to shout "Never thought I'd see you here."
"Soul's got the key to our apartment." She struggled to shout over the music. It was then that Maka kind of noticed that Black Star was on the other player part of the platform, bouncing around with much less effort than Soul. Not that she paid the loud mouthed ninja any mind. Even if Soul had to try more he looked so much better doing it.
"Soul's really good." Kim smiled. "You're going to let him come over more often right? He'll bring lots of people in to watch and spend money which will help the arcade a lot!"
Maka didn't reply, still transfixed with watching Soul. The crowd around her was moving to the music as well, tapping their feet, patting the sides of their legs, or all out dancing if they had the room. They were all sharing in the experience, living vicariously through the two dancers or perhaps just enjoying the spectacle. Everyone involved was happy and the beat of the music pulsated dully through all the souls present. Was this what music was about? Before Maka could contemplate it more, the song had ended.
"You're amazing!" the machine cheered. "Come back and show me your moves again!"
"You did your best, but it wasn't enough." Black Star patted Soul's back. "Don't be mad, no one expected that you'd be able to beat someone as great as me!"
The screen showed the score, Black Star's higher by a mere 10,000 points. "You just got lucky." Soul said as he grabbed his things from the bar and allowed the next people to take their turn. "I haven't played in years."
"What's that? Excuses?" His friend held his hand cupped over his ear. "Do I hear a mortal crying in the blinding light of my halo?" He turned to see Soul's face but grew annoyed when Soul was looking at the crowd. "Hey don't ignore your betters!"
"I thought I…never mind." It had to have been his mind playing tricks on him, but Soul could have sworn he had seen two blond pigtails, white and blue disappearing into the crowd. But there was no way that Maka would ever be here. Besides, if she had seen him up there, she'd surely laugh. Maybe she'd berate him for wasting a good dollar on music he could dance to for free, or for spending time here that he could be using studying. He shook his head, following Black Star out of the arcade. It was strange but Soul almost wished she'd have seen...
It had been a close call, too close. Hunched up inside of a racing game, Maka had just barely managed to escape the crowd before Soul had noticed her. It was hard to tell if it was the adrenalin of escaping or his dancing that was causing her heart to race like this. What on earth had come over her? This was Soul, Soul, her dopey, lazy, sloppy partner! Just because he could swing his hips or dip like that, didn't change anything!
"Hey Maka," Ox leaned over the back of the racing game's chair. "Funny seeing you here."
Alright, today couldn't get worse. Maka swallowed and let her confusion at her own emotions turn into annoyance for Ox. "I'm allowed to be here if I want to, aren't I?"
"Have I ever shown you my new iphone?" From his pocket, Ox pulled out the slick, small device. "It does all kinds of things. I can make calls, play games-"
Maka began to get up "I'm very busy, why don't you show your toy to Kim?"
"It also lets me post videos to the internet." And before Maka could get up all of the way, Ox shoved the phone into Maka's face. There on the display was a close up of Maka's face just moments ago with Soul expertly in the shot as well. Anyone who would see it would have no trouble figuring out just who she was staring at, slack jawed and red-cheeked. Instantly, Maka tried to grab at the phone but Ox quickly jerked it back.
"Give me that, or I swear I'll-"
"Don't worry I won't post it." His laughter still curled Maka's hands into fists. "But only if you do something for me."
Oh what Maka would do to be able to grab his shirt and just pummel him into bits, but if she made a scene, there'd be no way to deny she had ever been here. Not to mention, if she did kick his butt, Ox would most likely tell everyone anyway. With a deep sigh, Maka crossed her arms.
"I can't believe you're blackmailing me. What? Do you want me to take a dive on the test?"
Ox gasped, hand on his chest. "I'd never ask something so low." The grin that followed showed he had something much more sinister in mind. "Besides, I don't need to blackmail to beat you academically."
"Then spit it out already! I've got things to do!" Like beat Soul home somehow...
"There's a bunch of chores here at the arcade that I just hate doing that takes time away from my studying. Come by every night after closing and do them for me until the test and then I'll be glad to erase this funny video."
Maka's mouth went dry at that. "What kind of chores?"
Ox tapped his chin as if giving it some thought before holding up a finger for each chore. "Cleaning the bathrooms, wiping down the machines, taking out the trash and vacuuming."
"And when am I supposed to come over?" Please don't say seven, please, please don't say-
Damnit! That was her study time! Maka stood, hands still clenched into fists. "Fine, but if that thing is leaked, I swear you'll need Kim to heal all the bones in your body, got it?"
"I do have morals. I keep me word." Ox put his phone safely back into his pocket. "See you at seven."
"Whatever." Maka pushed past him and rushed for the door, thankfully avoiding the attention of her other friends that were there. It would be impossible to beat Soul back to the apartment now. She'd need an excuse as to why she was getting there after him...
Soul had been home for maybe fifteen minutes when he heard the door open. There stood Maka, drenched in sweat from the hot Nevada sun, arms full of groceries. He rushed up from the couch to take a few of the bags.
"If we needed groceries we could have taken the bike." What? No 'thank you, Maka?' No 'that must have been hard to carry, it sure was nice of you?'
"Oh cool! You got more Pop Tarts." Soul rummaged through the two bags he had taken out of her five. What a jerk! He probably didn't even realize that he had kept the keys and she would have been locked out anyway.
How in the world could she have reacted like that in the arcade to someone more interested in Pop Tarts than her? Maka took a deep breath and put on a passive aggressive unaffected expression as she carried her three bags into the kitchen as well.
"I'm going to the library to study at 7." A lie, of course, not that he seemed to catch it. Soul hardly looked up from the new food at her news.
"Ok have fun," was all he offered in response.
"You should study tonight too."
"Ok. Yes! You got my favorite soup!" He immediately took his can of Chunky Soup over to the cupboard for a bowl. The groceries weren't even put up all the way before he was intent on eating! Maka sighed in annoyance.
"I'm going to go take a shower."
"Mmhmm." Soul popped the top of the can, not even glancing back at her. Maka left the kitchen at that. If he was so interested in the food, let him put the groceries away.
"Hey Maka, do you want..." Soul turned to see she had left already, so he put the bowl into the microwave and pressed the buttons, trying to shove his growing worry aside. She had thought to get his favorites and carried them home, but she seemed so desperate to put space between the two of them. Was it a gesture of kindness? Was it just an ordinary chore that she did out of obligation?
Maybe he should offer to come with her to the library. No...Maka didn't like to be bothered and it was pretty likely that he'd end up irritating her. He must have done something wrong to make her upset. Something nice would have to be done to keep the peace, to maintain their partnership.
With soup in hand, Soul headed to his room to relax a little before studying. If he scored low again... Soul would do most anything to keep from being called an embarrassment by her. Disappointment, humiliation and expectation tended to remind him of home and that was the last place Soul wanted to be. Those feelings were the last ones he'd ever want to feel when thinking of Maka.
Ox waited at the door of the arcade, eyeing his digital watch. Sure enough, Maka walked up the street at 6:55, reaching the door at exactly 7:00. She took out the trash first, doing her very best to ignore Ox as he sat at the main counter of the arcade, studying his little nerdy heart out as she toiled. The bathrooms thankfully weren't that bad and didn't take much time. Vacuuming took a ridiculous amount of effort since by time the arcade closed there were tickets, popcorn and other things on the carpet, and there were so many machines to weave in and out of. She had to switch outlets maybe ten times before the floor was finished. All that was left was wiping down the machines. Maka started in the far corner and worked her way across the floor, leaving the newest machine for last.
During the spectacle that afternoon, Maka hadn't really looked at the machine itself. This blasted thing was the cause of her troubles now. The whole thing seemed a bit silly really. How could anyone find a game like this fun? It took so much room, and the neon lights were obnoxious even if at this moment the machine was just quietly playing its demo songs. Oh well, the damage was done. With a deep breath, Maka stepped onto the platform and watched how the arrows she stood on glowed. The machine returned to its title screen at her presence on it's floor.
"Dance Dance Revolution Omnimix! Show us your moves!"
"How annoying." Maka frowned before running the damp cloth over the game's display. But her hand slowed as the arrows scrolled just under the cloth. Despite her mixed opinions on Soul, and her continued confusion at her earlier reaction, what she had felt shared in the crowd had been real and unmistakable. There had been a connection there in the mass and it began here, on this platform he had danced on, these arrows he had followed.
The softness at these thoughts made her nervous and Maka quickly tried to think of something negative, like how illogical the whole thing seemed, or how strange that they could play any game that had to do with arrows after dealing with Medusa.
"You know, you might like this game." Ox said, leaning against the game's back support bar and Maka jumped, dropping her cloth.
"Don't be ridiculous." She scolded, frowning at Ox. He had done that on purpose just to see her jump, as if wasting her time like this wasn't bad enough.
"No, I really mean it." He moved onto the platform next to her and quickly fed the machine four quarters. It boomed loudly and Maka quickly jumped from the platform as if being on it on start-up would force her to participate. Ox just laughed.
"I know it looks like it's a game about music, but it's not. It's more like whack-a-mole than dancing." After some quick menu selections, Ox selected the beginner difficulty. "First, there's BPM or beats per minute." He pointed at the numbers under the song's title on the wheel of strange songs to choose from.
"The more beats per minute there are, the faster the tempo will be. It's all math." He scrolled through the songs until he landed on one titled 'Look to the Sky'. "This one's 140 bmp, which is pretty average." And then Ox selected the song.
"The game places the arrows on a grid according to the beats per minute. The rest is in counting and your reactions." The arrows were few and far between on the beginner setting, nothing like the storm that had appeared on Soul and Black Star's game. Ox counted out loud in sets of four and the arrows arrived in predictable manners. A step forward, a step to the side, a jump and repeat.
Maka watched, shocked. It truly was just math and reaction. There wasn't any dancing involved at all! No art required! It was so easy, she'd be able to do it no problem, right? She did have incredible reaction skills and learning a game like this would maybe even help improve her coordination. It was logical, based in numbers and suddenly seemed much more ordinary and a lot less intimidating.
The trance song soon ended and Ox stepped aside. "Wanna give it a shot?"
"Fine, but only if you keep you phone off and somewhere else. I don't want anyone to know I've touched this thing." Maka wouldn't readily say it, but her pride simply wouldn't let her admit to anyone that she was a beginner at anything, and there was a good chance she was going to fail pretty bad at this. Ox took out his phone and put it down on a nearby machine.
"I don't know these songs, so pick something easy." It was incredibly hard not to let her nervousness show through. Ox used the arrow buttons under the screen, searching for just the right song. In the end, he chose 'Pink Rose.' A beginner song at just 146 bpm.
Maka missed the first two arrows so Ox pointed at the screen. "You need to step when they get right here."
"I've got it, move your finger." Maka said, trying her best to concentrate. The music was distracting. This wasn't dancing, Maka quickly reminded herself. She wasn't dancing, this was just whack-a-mole, it was just numbers. No one was watching, it was ok. The next two arrows she hit with the words Good showing on the screen.
"The closer you get to hitting them at the right time, the better the combo. You'll start getting greats and then per-"
"Quiet!" Couldn't he wait till after the song to explain? The next arrows were consistently good and Maka missed only her first jump. All others she was able to catch. It was awkward to say the least, but she was doing it! That was all that mattered. This game would be one less thing that was beyond her abilities! It was funny, but the more she concentrated on her movements and the timing, the more the music disappeared into the background. In the end she received a B for her efforts.
"Wow..." Ox just stared in disbelief at the screen. "I guess there's really nothing you can't do."
"Do I get another song?" Maka asked, turning from the screen.
"You wanna do it again?"
"I can't just settle for a B."
Ox just shook his head "Right, well you get one more song." The game returned to the song selection screen and Maka didn't hesitate to just reselect the song she had just tried. Without Ox's explanations and with her previous experience, Maka had a lot less trouble. It still looked kind of clumsy, but the goods were turning into greats. She even received one perfect on a jump. Maka held her breath at the end of the song. If she didn't get an A, she'd have to try again, then who knew how long she'd be stuck here.
"Wow! You're amazing!" The game shouted and Maka jumped for joy when the A showed.
"So does this mean you're going to come and play with Soul and the oth-" Ox had begun but stopped when Maka whipped around to look at him.
"No! No one can know."
"But you did a good job. I know I failed the first few times I tried." Ox rubbed his head.
"But Soul will make fun of me for being a beginner. He'll patronize me and I really don't want to deal with that."
He sighed. "Fine, if you say so."
Maka relaxed at that, grabbed her rag but stopping when the screen changed to a circle of letters. "Did I get an extra song or something?"
Ox turned his attention back to the screen. "No, since the machine is new, there's not a lot of top scores yet. You beat the default scores in the beginner difficulty for those songs. Now you get to put your name in."
Speaking of pride, it was hard for Maka not to claim credit when she had earned it, but she couldn't possibly leave her name on the game for all to see. After a little thought, she used the arrow buttons under the screen to enter a code name.
"B.P.M." But she couldn't just leave it at that. Maka wanted to let all of the boys who played know that a girl had left this score, so she added a heart at the end and entered it into the game's memory.
"Bpm?" Ox asked with a raised eyebrow.
"It's the logical part of the game, of course I'd name myself after it." DDR then played its booming credit song before displaying all of the top scores. It was easy to spot Soul's name there, as well 'GODBLKSTAR' and a few other names she hadn't recognized.
The competitive side of her hungered to overtake all their places. The vindictive side of her wanted to take this 'music' thing and conquer it just to see Soul's reaction. She wanted to pound it into the ground as a way of destroying the music roadblock in her understanding. This game could very well be the key to becoming an even better meister. It would validate her suspicions that music as something deep was just foolishness, and that she truly could conquer and control things in her life if she put her mind to it. Thanks to Ox's blackmailing, she'd have the perfect time to practice as well since the arcade was closed!
Maka turned and smiled at Ox. "I'll see you tomorrow." And hopped from the platform, humming.
When she got back to the apartment, Soul had done the dishes, even though it was her turn that night. That was strangely nice of him. Maybe she should make Soul a snack in case he was still up studying. In moments, she had made two sandwiches on separate plates and walked to his door, knocking twice.
"Soul?" His light was still on, but he didn't answer. Maka balanced one plate on the bend of her arm and carefully opened his door to find Soul asleep, face down in his text book. Her mouth suddenly went a little dry. He was strangely adorable-in a puppy way-when he slept, and she felt a tiny pang of guilt for being so annoyed with him that day. He truly had tried to study. Maka put the plates down before gently shaking his shoulder.
"Soul, you need to go to sleep in your bed."
Slowly he opened one eye, some white strands falling in front of it. Groggily he smiled. "Hey, welcome back."
A skip in her chest made Maka swallow. She quickly turned her back to him in fear that he might see the new color to her cheeks. "You're going to be sore in the morning if you sleep like that."
The sound of his chair moving allowed Maka a chance to exhale the breath she wasn't aware she was holding. Hastily, she grabbed her sandwich and headed to the door, not looking back to Soul before offering a quick "Goodnight" and shutting the door.
Once closed, Maka leaned back against his door. What in the world had that been about? The way his drowsy gaze fell upon her had caught her breath. The way his hair had fallen made her hand want to move and push it back with a gentle motion. His slightly parted lips, moist from his sleep-his kind words. Welcome back. It made Maka slightly dizzy.
This...this was ridiculous. Maka hurried to her room. Today had been long and stressful, and was playing tricks on her mind. That was all. Just aftershocks from that afternoon and her silly teenaged hormones running rampant. There was still studying to do and then school in the morning. Yet, after the studying was done sleep remained out of her reach. When Maka closed her eyes, there were just arrows and him.