More Fluff-drabble-mushy-fluffystuff from me. Inadequately documenting the early stages of Soul and Maka's partnership. Could be perverted if you look at it a certain way, but mainly rated for Black*Star's language. Apologies for typos; it's late and I'm tired. EDIT/ Sorted typos and other errors! Sleep is goood.
Enjoy, and if you did, leave a review, because I love them! Thank you :-)
Soul and Maka were arguing.
It was inevitable, really. It was the end of the day; they were hungry, tired and generally grouchy. Maka had earned herself a black eye during training, courtesy to Ox Ford – of all people, gosh it made Maka so mad! – and she was attempting to dull the throbbing with a bag of frozen peas. She had been victim of a Headache from Hell for the past hour, and had been eagerly anticipating two large aspirins when she got home, only to find they were gone and that Soul had taken the last one and not bought any more when he went shopping yesterday.
Consequently, everything was all his fault.
Consequently, Soul disagreed.
"How am I supposed to remember every little thing we need whenever I go shopping?" He strived to maintain his monotone indifference while projecting his argument across the small living area, but ended up sounding like he was a growling dog instead.
"Make. A. List," Maka gritted from her place on the couch, head throbbing with every word she lobbed his way. "That's what normal people do."
"I did have a list! But your handwriting sucks. And aspirin wasn't on there anyway."
"My handwriting is fine. Your reading sucks. And you're avoiding the point – as usual! Go get me some aspirin!"
"Get it yourself!" Soul retorted from the kitchen, as he hunched almost ludicrously over the stove, stirring the soup so hard it spilled over the edge of the pot and bubbled on the hob.
"NO!" she roared. "You used it up so you have to get some more – that's the bloody rule!"
"Those are your rules!" Soul bellowed, finally losing his cool. "I don't have to listen to your stupid rules and I'm not going out – it's raining!"
"Oh, boo-hoo, poor you –wouldn't want to get your hair wet, would you?"
"Shut up, Maka!"
Running out of retorts besides 'shut up yourself' Maka played a card that perhaps, in hindsight, she shouldn't have, and she burst out, "Soul, I'm not asking you, I'm ordering you! Weapons are meant to do what their Meister's tell them! So go out and get me some goddamn aspirin!"
Soul turned and stared at her for a long moment, crimson eyes calculating, angry, and yes, even hurt. He wondered if she was joking, but the olive eyes glaring fiercely from around a bag of frozen peas begged to differ.
No. No, she wasn't joking at all.
He submitted, but sought a meagre form of retaliation by slamming the door on the way out (and throwing the aspirin at her when he got back).
Despite the victory, Maka didn't know whether to feel scornfully proud or just plain guilty. And the headache didn't go away, even after she took the aspririn.
Shibusen turned out to be not so different to the rest of organised civilisation. Maka was too young and (ironically) too absorbed by its teachings to truly understand what was happening and why, but she vaguely began to comprehend the subtle nuances of its brainwashing after her and Soul's seventh battle.
The first six had been easy; their foes fell to their inexperienced techniques despite that noted inexperience, and Soul consumed their essence with a greed Maka found somewhat grotesque.
But then the seventh came, and that was a little different. Not difficult, just different, and the man-beast, who called himself Hydra, in account that he had three heads, caught her unawares when his claw flanked her. Without a thought, she raised her weapon and blocked the attack.
Shibusen taught that that was the right thing to do. The weapons are shields, tools, items, objects, missiles, ammunition, and should be used as such.
Maka didn't think much past that, nor did she bother to linger on logistics, until Soul morphed back into his human form and his face was dripping in blood.
She screamed and fell backwards onto the unforgiving cobblestones, one hand jerking towards her mouth in horror. Her poor little world was henceforth shattered by the revelation that there are weapons and then there are weapons.
Soul wiped away the blood so he could see her clearly and threw her a blank appraisal. "What the hell, Maka? What's wrong with you?"
What's wrong with me? Maka's shrill, hysterical thought pitched across her brain. "You!" She pointed stupidly at him. "You can… It goes through the metal? The attacks?"
Soul's expression flitted between surprise and puzzlement. "Well, yeah duh." When she continued to blink at him in terror he elaborated, "What did you expect? It's not proper metal."
Not proper metal.
There were terms to phrase this state of matter more eloquently – and Maka looked them up, don't doubt it – but the way he said it was a weight on her shoulders, a shadow across her mind, always and forever.
Shibusen had taught them that weapons were to be used as such, but they forgot to mention that beneath the dangerous shell of steel and sharpness was flesh, bone and blood. Weapons could see, hear, think, feel impact, get cut, sheared in half, bleed, die.
They were people with friends and families and loved ones, and Shibusen did its best to erase that minor inconvenience from the Meister's minds, for everyone's sakes.
Until that Seventh Battle (though they'd successfully completed nine now) Maka hadn't given much thought to the lessons meant for Meisters only. Nearly everything was done with one's partner, but some were done alone, and during these lessons Shibusen sent its message in gentle undercurrents, moulding the future fighters into steelier forms of their past selves.
Maka was sitting in her usual place in the classroom, but Soul wasn't next to her. This was a MEISTERS ONLY lesson. Instead, Black*Star was in his place, studiously not paying attention to what the teacher was saying (about manipulating weapons to unleash their full potential), engaged as he was by a handheld game console. His blue hair was hidden beneath a cap; the rim shadowed his eyes as he furiously mashed buttons with his thumbs. Maka's eyes wandered to the screen, where two ridiculously beefy 2D men were beating the living daylights out of each other with katana.
"Shit on a stick," he hissed beneath his breath – notably quiet for Black*Star – when his player got stabbed in the ribs and lost a life. "I'll teach you not to mess with God you dickless bastard!"
Maka leaned on her desk and rested her cheek on her hand. She contemplated Black*Star distantly, mind turning.
"Hey, 'Star," she whispered, prodding his leg with the toe of her boot.
"Uhn?" he grunted, eyes never leaving the game.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Has she ever got hurt?"
"You know… when she's in weapon form. Has she ever come out of it and been like… bleeding?"
"Uh. Yeah. Like, this one time, when I was fightin' this dude he caught the blade at the wrong angle, and when she came out she had a broken arm."
Maka's stomach hit her feet like a lead ball. "R-really?"
"Yeah. She's fine now though, right?"
Maka toyed with her pencil, tapping the end on the desk, searching for the words to articulate her feelings. "Do you ever feel… bad? They protect us like that and we use them so readily but they're still so vulnerable."
Black*Star glanced up at her for the first time, eyes wide with surprise. "Huh? What do you mean? I don't feel bad. It's Tsubaki's choice. She's a warrior, y'know? She's tough. Why do you – " The console in his hand bleeped loudly, and they both looked down in time to see his character get impaled and ripped in two. 2D blood spurted from his pixelated corpse while 'GAME OVER' flashed obnoxiously on the screen.
Maka was about to say something, but Black*Star threw the console across the room, where it exploded in a firework of microchips and shrapnel, then he prematurely ended the lesson by blurting, "MOTHERFUCKER!" at the top of his lungs.
Shibusen's sparring ground was a desert. Literally, it was a desert. A scorched wasteland of rock not even broken by one measly cactus. The sun had every right to look smug in the blinding sky; each student was burning beneath its tirade.
"Commence!" the teacher bellowed from some way to Maka's right, and the students did just that, each with their weapon in hand, practising their respective mantras while sweating out their ambition to do so with every passing minute.
Maka's mind was elsewhere, gaze caught in the hazy waves of heat blurring the horizon. She'd been having nightmares recently. She was in Black*Star's game, fighting with Soul in hand, weapon form of course, and her foe was a 2D beefy man with a katana. Except he wasn't attacking her – he was attacking her scythe, and with every blow he dealt Soul would scream in pain and blood would seep out from between the ring that connected the blade to the shaft and drench her white gloves until they were dripping. Finally, the enemy would dart forward, aiming for Maka, and when she lifted Soul to defend herself, he cut the shaft in two. Soul would transform then, and Maka would look down in horror at his torso, separated from his lower half in a gradually widening pool of blood.
"Oi!" The note of impatience in Soul's tone suggested he'd been calling her for a while. "Oi, airhead, we gonna start sparring or are you just catching a tan?"
"Alright, gimmie a sec!" Maka snapped, and spun the scythe naturally in her grip, listening to the familiar whistle of the blade through the air.
In was strange that in weapon form, Soul seemed like an extension of her body, a unity that they struggled to find in human form. It was something she controlled with barely a thought. Their hearts beat as one; they exhaled and inhaled in unison. He was something more than a weapon, but there was no word for it.
Maka commenced the ritual. The movements were instinctive, light; she danced across the flaxen turf like she was flying. She could feel Soul correcting every incorrect angle she let slip, shifting himself in correspondence to her movements. But still she sensed that she took the back seat; Soul was leading her, doing the hard work; she merely told him where to go.
He has a mind, a thought process, she reminded herself. He thinks, he breathes, he feels…
Experimentally, she twisted her hand just so, and instead of completing a smooth arc upwards, the shaft was shifted two centimetres downward in her palm, and the upper ridge of the blade grazed the ground.
She stopped, offering, "Oops, sorry."
The scythe shifted in her grip, and she was suddenly staring at a large, angry crimson eye. "You meant to do that," Soul stated, not without a hint of anger. "What the hell?"
"Did I hurt you?"
"Wha- um – no…" Soul grunted angrily, seemingly caught off guard by the question. Then he added, matter-of-factly, "Something like that doesn't hurt, Maka."
She paused, then asked, "What did it feel like?"
"When you hit the ground? Does it feel like when you fall over and um… scrape your knee or something?"
"Wha? Ah… no. No. Like a jolt, like being… being pushed, but without the risk of falling – seriously, what the hell's wrong with you?" he caught himself mid-description. "It doesn't matter what it feels like. Just get on with sparring before the teacher – ah AH WHAT THE HELL MAKA?"
Maka was running her hand up the shaft of the scythe with gentleness that was very contradictory to her personality. She tried to understand, perhaps for the first time proper, the nature of the material. It could not be classed as anything manmade, as thorough as the illusion of metal and steel was. No, she thought, as she ran her hand back down the shaft and up again, it was unmistakably supernatural, as if the outer metal was a façade for something else, not dissimilar to a snail hiding inside its shell. She feathered her fingers across the flawless curve of the blade, sharp enough to slice through flesh and bone if Soul desired, but he would never hurt her, so it wouldn't even cut the flimsy cotton of her gloves.
"What does that feel like when I touch you like this?"
There was a flash of bright white light and suddenly Soul was standing in front of her, his face as red as a tomato and his eyes betraying anger, confusion and downright embarrassment. Maka gawped at him obliviously.
"Not cool, Maka."
The subject never parted ways with her completely, but by now they were getting good at battling. Damn good. Injuries were few and far between and they were usually too busy with classes to think too much of anything else.
They spent almost every waking minute of the day together.
It had been awkward at first, for Maka anyway, being forced to share a small apartment with a thirteen year old boy who liked to walk around in his boxers every morning. Her father had kicked up a fuss about that, to be sure. But they fell into a routine fast enough. They were both honest and blunt and therefore various annoyances became quickly apparent. Maka didn't like mess. Soul liked to be first in the shower every morning. Maka didn't like fish. Soul liked homemade lasagne. They both did their own washing. They took it in turns to cook. They both had hobbies that evaded one another: Soul didn't understand Maka's inclination to read for leisure, and Maka was confused by Soul's wont to mute the TV every now and again, until she caught him scribbling music notes onto the back of a take-out menu, and then realised he only was using TV as an excuse in case she caught him doing something that was actually interesting and productive. (He still harboured the opinion that playing the piano was uncool, but Maka thought it was the coolest thing Soul could do.)
At any rate, as time went on, Maka grew to genuinely like Soul, despite their differences, which was something she had secretly fretted after she'd first met him in the music rooms at Shibusen. Their partnership had happened so quickly, a connection sparking between them from an inexplicable source, that it had somewhat frightened her. She'd hoped to be paired with a girl, for starters. But that didn't matter anymore because she liked Soul and Soul liked her.
… Or at least, she hoped he liked her.
Her worry about this had surfaced after listening to a lecture, previously that morning. The teacher had repeatedly enforced that the weapon's opinions on battle matters were irrelevant in comparison to the needs and wants of the Meister.
It was just one of those rules that nobody liked to talk about openly. A rule that hung between the students and teachers, something so deeply imbedded that it went largely unnoticed by the masses; it was simply accepted for what it was. It came up occasionally as jerking reminders, sometimes in battle, sometimes in lessons, and sometimes, though rarely, as jokes, especially for the freshmen students who were just learning about the pecking order between Meisters and Weapons.
In other words, what the Meister wants, the Meister gets. Of course, the weapons have their own personalities and morals, and are entitled to refuse anything commanded, but, after a conversation with Tsubaki, Maka discovered that weapons were dissuaded to do this.
"What do you mean?" Maka asked, hunched over her chocolate milkshake as if the pair was conspiring against Shinigami-sama.
"Well, it's like when soldiers run away during a war, isn't it? Like abandoning your post. It's…" Tsubaki dug around for the word, twirling her straw in her own milkshake. "Dishonourable."
Maka considered this. "If things got really bad, or if he asked you to do something you didn't agree with, would you ever abandon Black*Star?"
Tsubaki looked like she'd been slapped. "Wh-what? No! Never! Of course not! I'd follow Black*Star to the end of the world if he asked me too!" She hunched down suddenly, cheeks going pink as a few nearby students threw her curious, sidelong glances. "Hahh, well, you know. That's what we're here for, right?"
Maka nodded slowly, not necessarily in agreement. "Do you like Black*Star?"
Maka let this sink in as she chewed thoughtfully on her straw.
The next sparring lesson was a disaster. Maka could feel Soul's essence with as much clarity as any other day, but it was tantalisingly out of her reach. It was like they were opposite ends of a magnet; no matter how much she reached out to him, she ended up pushing him away. He could sense her frustration and she could sense his confusion and things because a muddled mess of conflicting emotions and unbridgeable chasms.
Inevitably, the shaft began to burn beneath her hands, and she dropped him with a yelp.
The teacher stomped over, bad tempered from roasting beneath the sun's merciless scorn. "Albarn! What are you doing? I've been watching you all morning and your form is terrible. Pick up your weapon!"
"I…" Maka stared at her hands. They were blistering already. "I'm not sure –"
"Maybe we should give it a rest for today." Soul had transformed into his human self.
The teacher turned a critical eye on him. "That's not your call to make, Evans" – here Soul winced at the use of his real surname; Maka felt his displeasure as acutely as she did her own – "transform back immediately."
"I really think – "
"It's not your job to think," the teacher snapped. "Listen to your Meister –"
"NO!" Maka's yell surprised them both; they stared at her slack jawed.
"Don't talk to him like that! He's not a weapon he's a human being!"
"A-Albarn!" The teacher was going red in face with fury and opened his mouth to say more, but Soul grabbed Maka's arm and lead her some distance away, offering a pale excuse about her 'getting hit on the head'.
Once out of earshot, Soul shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned forward, inspecting his Meister doubtfully. "Well?"
The question hung between them for a moment while Maka scrutinised her burnt hands. "I'm sorry."
"I don't care if you're sorry. What the hell's been wrong with you lately? And if it's girly shit, spare me the details."
Maka glanced up at him, expression very un-Maka like. It took a moment for Soul to place the emotion and when he did he was surprised – she looked self-conscious.
"Soul," she said quietly. "Do you… like me?"
He blinked, rocking back on his heels. "Whhaaa?"
"I just – I just want you to know that I would never make you do anything you didn't want to do! I don't care about honour – I don't care if the weapon's opinion is inferior! I know what Shibusen teaches and even though you're my weapon, first and foremost you're my friend, you're my best friend and I… So I…" She trailed off, more embarrassed by the outburst in general than the admission, because she was being true to herself, and if he didn't like that, well, screw him.
When she looked up Soul was smiling crookedly, something grateful and wry glittering behind his eyes, but she couldn't quite place it, couldn't quite understand.
"Here," he said, and held out his hand.
She took it, and when she did it was like watching a curtain part. She closed her eyes and let the feeling – his feelings – wash over her like gentle ocean waves. She could see a persistent glow and taste the undercurrents of his personality – laidback, loyal, fiery, kinda twisted. In the background, she thought she could hear the tinkering of a piano, no no, she could hear lots of them, his mind always working to perfect a new composition, always keyed to sound and music, a part of him he rarely let anyone see, for it came hand in hand with a deep-rooted sense of self-doubt she'd yet to understand.
But above all these underlying feelings came a more prominent one – one he was pushing to the surface of their shared bond, over the boundaries where their souls overlapped. It was burning bright and clear, a beacon that cleared the clouds of doubt from her mind. Simple, plain, carefree and meaningful: the foundations that their partnership would forever be built on, regardless of what they were taught at Shibusen.
I like you too, Maka.