Disclaimer: I do not own Soul Eater
Ivory and Bone
Ivory and bone. That's what piano keys were made of.
Back before plastics and vinyl, before synthetic shit was processed and made life so much easier for the artists of their craft, people bled. Sweat and tears, or whatever else they had left, they toiled for what they had. Day in and day out, they'd work hard for something that meant something to them. And every time they made a mistake or life had other plans in store for them, those people would just get right back up from where fate had knocked them down and come back swinging full force. It was a time when a piano was really a product of labor, a product of ambition, though such a meaning had disappeared a long time ago.
But as his fingers worked their way around and about that instrument few could ever hope to master, Soul remembered. Or at the very least, understood that there was something to remember. A time when skills meant nothing unless you were willing to suffer for it, kind of like now as the crowds watched him perform for the first time in this hole in the wall theater. He could feel their gazes and ever-judging eyes, his own focused solely on those teeth of white and black that lay out in a row before him. Every second past was another reminder of the minutes that remained, so close was the end he could already feel it.
Crescendos. Plummeting falls of tone that only the most hardened listeners wouldn't flinch from. Silence.
His music was like a gunshot; such thunderous power one second, followed by dying echoes and the intense quiet that trailed behind it. It was lyrical when it really wasn't, dark and mysterious while at the same time pleasant in a horrifying sort of way. Labels did not come close to describing it, which is why when the music trailed off and the lights suddenly came back on, the entire room was strangely silent.
After a moment to collect his breath, Soul brought his head up from his self-induced hunch. He stared out into the crowds and saw different kinds of faces, all of them seemingly confused. It was like no one knew how to react, how they were supposed to react to what they'd just heard. Their faces didn't scream rejection, only awe. And for the lone pianist who rose to his feet and took a lonely bow to a silent audience, their eyes told him enough. That it wasn't what they were expecting when they heard a local talent was to be performing that night; the lowly new musician trying his luck at the big times. Part of him wanted to grin as he walked off that stage, the part that took pride in that blood, sweat, and tears he worked so hard to shed. The other part, however, was just a little bit somber.
Because he knew that he wouldn't get paid as much if the crowd wasn't clapping, and he'd have to work another shift to make up for money that wasn't flowing in.
Soul could live with that, he'd been doing so for years. Cut off from a family that wanted nothing to do with him, there were many nights when he'd eaten noodles from a cup and called it a night. But things were different now, and money made the world go round, his world go round. There was no way he could forget it either, not with his most loyal fan waiting for him as he walked backstage past a pitifully dull, red curtain. She stood there and smiled with hands cupped in front of her, green eyes doleful with meekness as his heart melted at the sight of her. He couldn't get a word in edge wise before she hugged him.
"I thought you were great." Maka hummed into his shoulder, too short to reach his ringing ears.
"Thanks." was all he could muster in reply, tiredly wrapping his arms around her as well.
They stood there in silence as the sound of the night's host broke crickets chirping out front, the crowd finally coming to life with a delayed applause that sounded almost genuine. Soul looked up from his girlfriend's neck, brows raised in surprise with apathetic eyes glowing red in the dark. Maka looked up at him and gave a light smile yet again, only to bury her face in his pin-striped chest. The pianist stared out into the void, his face not changing a degree as two long, slender hands scratched his sore back. This scene wasn't one he was expecting, and for a moment, it seemed like almost a sick dream.
Since when did things ever work out for him? Certainly not when his family stopped talking to him when he knocked his girlfriend up in their own words, though that would have implied that he left her. No, he and Maka had a child together, because that's exactly what it was. And though he tried explaining that to his less than forgiving parents, well, needless to say they wouldn't be helping any time soon. Life hadn't been too kind to either of them, because just how embarrassing was it for her to explain to her father that in nine months he'd be a grandfather, all before he turned the tender age of forty no less?
Their life was his fault, and he told himself that every time he looked in the mirror. Yeah, it took two to tango, but ultimately it was his responsibility. There was no getting past that, because if he was man enough to get her in bed, then he should be man enough to own up and take care of the consequences. Soul bit his tongue at the mere thought, wanting to cause himself pain just to make sure that he didn't get off too easy as the crowds applause got to him. So what if they liked his playing? Now that the performance had ended and his paycheck was assured, life was back to the way it was. Maka was his priority again.
"You brought a jacket right? You feel cold." Soul asked, his flat eyes softening when she looked up and nodded. "Who's watching Gil?"
Maka closed her eyes and turned her head, pressing her cheek into the man's torso. "Tsubaki offered to watch him for the night, he loves her."
"I'm convinced it's because she's got a rack bigger than her husband's ego. Good lord Maka, our son's a pervert." he smiled, earning him a smack on the head.
"That's something he gets from you. In which case, he's your son." Maka quipped back, though her narrowed eyes stood in stark contrast to the smirk that tugged at her lips.
Soul matched his girlfriend's smirk with one of this own, and the two of them let their foreheads fall against one another's as another performance started up in the background. Neither paid attention to the music being played; only the inside of their own eyelids as both struggled to stay on their feet. Work was hell, more so during the winter, and after pulling eight hours a day at his regular job, Soul still had to perform for spare cash at local clubs. Maka didn't have to come, in fact he'd prefer it if she didn't since it taxed them both. But nevertheless she'd be there, supporting him as he supported her and Gil.
He loved her. She knew it too, even though he didn't say it near often enough. It was all part of his need to act tough and cool, or whatever it was that ran though Soul's manly logic. No matter what it was though, Maka understood something that his family didn't; that Soul Evans wasn't one to run away from something, whether that be from the piano that people looked at him strangely for playing, or the son he had a part in creating. He was young, and he still had a life to live and things to learn. But deep down, he was already more a man than others his age, and Maka had no regrets in ever trusting him.
Which is why their lips snuck their way towards each other with little fan fare or warning, like they'd been doing this all their lives when in reality it was only a couple years. Such a short time it was to be together and raise a child, maybe being the reason why their mouths still tingled at the feeling. Soul closed his eyes and soaked in the presence of his shorter, blonde haired other, as she let her fingers dance along the back of his neck. Smiling against each other's lips as the sound from out front started to register in their ears, both Soul and Maka pulled away, the red eyed of the two cocking his head to the side.
"Violin, huh?" he said wistfully, holding on firmly to the woman in his arms.
"Kind of a sad tune." Maka added, her grip tightening to the point where his eyes fell to her again.
Soul shook his head with a crooked grin. "My brother played. This isn't nearly as good as his work, but I can still feel it."
"It still sounds sad to me." she reaffirmed, listening to the strings being strum. "Almost like a lullaby, though it would be perfect for Gil."
His musician's ear caught wind of his girlfriend's comment and immediately, the cogs in Soul's head started to turn at the thought of his son listening to such a song. A haunting melody to be sure, but one that reminded him so much of his life before. When life was carefree, and his and Maka's only worry was to go out on Friday, or Saturday, or both. It was a time not too long ago, though in such a short time things had drastically changed. That's not to say it wasn't for the better, because in the end it was. Money was tight, but money was always tight, and it'd be a cold day in hell when he begged his family for cash.
He had a son. A son. A little, bouncing ball of flesh that looked just like him with Maka's eyes to match. It confounded him just how insanely perfect a one year old boy could be, when all other children his age were off their fricken rockers with sugar or baby hormones. How when Maka put him to bed, the little thing actually went to bed instead of staying up crying all night. And Soul just couldn't fathom how, no matter how tough he acted around anyone else, it was always Gil who broke him down when he got home from work. The way he would rush towards him with a book in his hand, opening it up as he shook it because he just didn't know the words to tell his dad that he wanted to be read to. Maka of course would always give them a tired smile, watching her two boys slink off to Gil's room for a night of reading.
And dammit, he'd read that book! Like nobody's fucking business, because his son was worth it. Cuddled up in a blanket as his father sat hunched over half asleep, Gil would giggle and laugh at the funny noises and voices he'd make for each individual character. And so what if it was uncool to talk like a princess for twenty minutes a night, or stomp around the room like a dragon because the book was about a fairy tale? Soul didn't care. He honestly didn't care. Because at the end of the night, when Maka walked in on them passed out together, with a book and mouths open to match, it was worth it in the end.
It was his fault that their lives were this way, but maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.
He loved this make-shift family of theirs, and Gil and Maka were the most important things in his life.
So right then and there, behind the stage where they'd hidden away from the crowds and the stage crew, Soul grabbed hold of Maka's hand as she stared at him wide in surprise. Without a single word, his foot moved forward and he pushed in the same direction, his girlfriend powerless to resist as she went along for the ride. He looked down on her and gave a genuine smile while his foot pulled back and he did the same, again leading Maka in an unexpected shuffle. She hid her eyes when the blush streaked across her face, the realization finally sinking in that they were moving to the violin playing in the background.
This is how they first met. Not necessarily waltzing like they were doing right now, but dancing nonetheless. Soul wouldn't sugarcoat it, he didn't remember much about that night. Only that the following morning he'd woken up to a blonde haired, green eyed woman who made his heart stop just looking at her. Needless to say, the minute she woke up, she was running out the front door in embarrassment. But a girl like that, you just don't let go that easily. So after a little chat with his friends from the night before, and an arranged meeting to return her cell phone, they'd been together ever since.
There was no way she could have known he was an Evans, or that music and footwork came as natural to him as swimming to a fish. Of course, once Maka finally realized, her devotion to him was sealed. Not because his family was rich, or because had some fine taste for the extravagant. She loved his music, loved the way he could lead her body and soul with just the simple touch of his fingers. Even now, as the two of them danced a shabby waltz in an equally shabby theater, there was little more he could have done to make the moment any more magical for her. He grinned at the sight of her wide, bright eyes staring at him.
"You know, we're gonna have to get home soon." Soul muttered, leaning in close. "Tsubaki's gonna wonder where-"
"-Don't ruin the moment, Soul." Maka cut him off, pursing her lips in mock annoyance as he threw his head back and laughed.
They had a little boy to get back to, he knew that. But Maka was right; they needed this. And maybe fate was trying to tell him something too, since it just so happened to be the end of the week. A Friday, like the ones they used to share before reality hit them like a ton of bricks. It had been so long since the two of them had a moment that neither wanted to end their private dance any sooner than they needed to, even though some time ago the music had stopped at the crowd had long since clapped for the artist as he walked off the stage. Soul would have clapped too, if only because he gave them an excuse to hold each other.
Tsubaki could hang on just a little while longer. Just enough for them to get it in a few more steps, their feet continuing to move to an imaginary tune that wasn't there. Soul's head tucked in close to the woman who followed his every move, her breath rushing past his ear while she hung on for dear life. They stayed quiet, focused only on the sounds of their own footsteps. So much said with no words that they didn't need any sort of signal to know when their nonexistent song had ended, both of them somehow knowing to slowly stop their back-and-forth motion at the same time.
And there the couple stood like they had been when Soul first arrived backstage. In each other's arms, not a care in the world as to who could have been watching them or where they were even supposed to be at the moment. All that mattered was the look tucked away in eyes of green and red, that hint of love and acceptance that their son would know someday as the look his parents always gave him.
"We're gonna make this work." he said quietly, wrapping his arms around Maka in a sudden embrace.
She just nodded and hugged Soul back, not needing to be convinced that if anyone was going to keep their promise, it was him.
In real life, having a kid isn't nowhere near as glamorous as fiction/anime would have anyone believe. But at the same time, that doesn't mean it can't be a good thing either. A baby is a gift, one that drools, and crawls, and craps all over the place when you really don't want it to. Having one isn't the end of the world or otherwise, just another step in life that some of us have to take in stride.