Shinigami knew it was going to be a bad day when, on one of his habitual mirror checks into the should-have-been silent halls of Gallows Manor, he discovered Kid polishing the stairwell banister. Although the boy was dressed in his pajamas, they weren't rumpled meaning he hadn't actually slept yet. The polishing cloth buffed vigorously, but Kid's golden eyes were wide and slightly unfocused, his mouth moving in a silent mantra.
Not again, the death god thought, and left the Death Room behind to appear through the hallway mirror silently. Kid didn't even look up as he approached, only whipped the cloth off one wooden baluster and onto the next without slowing. Only when Shinigami closed one of his enormous hands over both of Kid's and gently pried the polish from his fingers did his presence seem to register.
"Father?" Kid stammered; frantic, frightened, wretched. "Please, I have to finish the-"
"I'll take care of it," Shinigami said, knowing full well it wouldn't happen. If dealing with these moods of his son's had taught him anything, it was that he had to keep Kid's mind rooted firmly on whatever was in front of him, or he'd become trapped in an endless loop of imagined tasks until nothing could shake him loose from the cycle.
Kid's breath hitched, but he allowed his father to guide him downstairs to the kitchen. The god only left for a moment, just to fetch a blanket to put around Kid, but when he came back he found the boy pulling all the jars out of the spice rack, thin shoulders slumped with anguish as he sorted them.
"Kid. It's okay. They're fine."
"They're not fine!" Fingers gripped the glass containers tightly, threatening to crack them. "They're uneven, they all have different amounts, the labels are crooked-" The bottles clattered across the counter top in twos and threes as his breath came in short, shallow bursts. "I-I can't believe I've let our house get in such a state, I-I'm sorry Father..."
Shinigami put one hand on either side of Kid's head, blocking out all the boy's peripheral vision so he could look nowhere else but right in front of him. The irregular edges of the Reaper's form softened from their hard lines as he willed his shroud to curl around both of them; safe, protective. "Honestly," he said. "You can be such a handful."
The boy resisted the cloth embrace for only a brief moment, then surrendered to it as his father's voice echoed across the surface of the soul. Gallows is sound. The stairs are all right. The spice rack is all right. This is your haven. Everything here is fine, and settled, and balanced. Nothing is wrong. Nothing is wrong.
And Kid was finally able to believe it, for tonight.
Spirit was waiting for him at Shibusen the next morning when the Reaper returned to the Death Room. "Everything okay?" he asked, having formed a number of ideas as to what might've occurred overnight to cause his wielder to leave like that.
"Yes. Well," Shinigami amended the automatic reply. "... maybe."
"Tea~, Spirit?" The death god pulled a china tea set from somewhere and not so gently plopped Spirit in front of the low wooden table. The redhead let himself be seated that way because he recognized a reluctant show of avoidance when he saw one. He offered to pour the tea but Shinigami waved him off, and before long the pair of them sat with a cup each, silent across from each other. Spirit hadn't had much inclination to drink tea since his wife had left, and his preferred libation was something much stronger.
So it was only after the tea had gone cold and Spirit had still only managed to drink half of it, when Shinigami finally stirred and said, "Kid had another bad night."
The scythe thought about putting the tea cup on the table, but then thought better of it; something in his hands would feel better. "Bad how? Is he all right?"
"Mm-hmm~," the god acknowledged absently. "I got him back to sleep eventually. But..." One large finger bobbed its way to the base of the mask.
Shinigami seemed to deflate, folding in on himself. "This time it was the railing on the stairs. And the spice rack."
Spirit refrained from shaking his head, although it certainly would have been an appropriate reaction. He understood why the Reaper was subdued about it. What in the world could have been so wrong about a staircase to set Death the Kid into one of his... there isn't even a proper adjective for that, he thought glumly. And a spice rack? What's next?
"And the spacing of the tiles in the bathroom."
Oh. That's what's next.
"Sir," the redhead said cautiously. "I know the situation's a little complicated, but shouldn't you consider having Kid talk to someone about this? Not that," he added hurriedly, "he can't talk to you, but it's getting... I mean, it just seems like maybe this is becoming-"
Spirit choked a little at the admission he hadn't been expecting, and raised the tea to his mouth to cover it. The liquid inside was cold and unpleasant, but he swallowed some anyway and repeated the god's earlier words. "Well. Maybe."
Shinigami carefully set his cup down, giving the action more attention than it deserved. "I'm afraid I'm partly to blame for that, Spirit." Swiftly anticipating the protest his Weapon was voicing, he shook his head and held up a hand and idly noting that Spirit flinched. (Perhaps he'd been using the shinigami chop too often lately.)
"I haven't been telling him that his-" Fixation, obsession, addiction, mania. "-compulsions aren't... that he doesn't need to do those things. I've always let him. I've never told him not to."
Spirit looked dubiously across the table at the unreadable mask. "Yeah, but..." he started, but trailed off. He understood the justification, because he did the same thing with Maka. Whenever his daughter acted out on her unhappiness over her mother's absence, he told himself he'd screwed up, again. It didn't matter if he'd actually done something wrong or not (that day), it was important for Maka to be blameless in it.
"It'll work out," he said finally, wishing he had something more profound to offer.
Shinigami allowed himself a faint sigh, but then clapped Spirit energetically on the back, almost driving the man's face into the table. "Of~ course! This won't be how he defines himself permanently. He's a good boy... I shouldn't doubt him."
After Spirit had left, and he'd cleaned up the tea and checked on his still-sleeping son in the mirror, Shinigami felt better for talking it out with another father. He would fight as many of these inexplicable battles against the strange compunctions of Kid's mind as it took. One night, one picture frame, one uneven candle at a time until he felt his son was in control of it, and safe. But he would be careful never to blame Kid for it, and never to tell him that it was wrong or abnormal.
That would be Shinigami's burden to carry, and he chose it gladly.
A/N: And that concludes The Good Son! Thank you very much for reading along with it, for reviewing, and for giving me your support. But don't worry, this isn't the end of my Soul Eater writing! I know many of you wanted to see Kid's growth through Shibusen and the events of the series, and I promise you'll get them! But I wanted to keep this piece as a childhood story between Kid and Shinigami alone.
Please look forward to the next part of this series, entitled Triskelion and which should begin before too long. Until then, thanks again.