In which I write a western. And it's Soul Eater fanfiction.
Disclaimer: Soul Eater is a licensed anime/manga not owned by me.
Death City. Blistering heat.
Crescent Moon Saloon was understandably packed, the bartender pouring out drinks in the attitude of a mindless drone, the clamor of voices buzzing the air. Four large blocks of ice affixed to the corner ceilings dripped lazily behind their fans, making it a worthy four degrees cooler inside. Men grunted from behind their poker hands and women giggled from behind their feathered fans, hitching up their hems and crossing their legs. The pianist's fingers moved over the ivory like tumbleweeds over open dessert. Peaceful.
The raised, slatted doors of the saloon sung open with an audible hinge squeak bang. Only a few people – including the bartender and sans the pianist – looked up. A young woman stood there, limbs spread out. She had mile long legs and hair beat up with grit from sun and sand. Looking straight ahead of her at no one in particular, she growled in a serenely monotone voice, "I'm looking for a weapon."
Those patrons looking her way quickly went back to their cards and drinks. The young woman stomped her croc skin boot into the rough wood floor, bringing up a few splinters. She balled her hands into fists and stepped forward, squaring her frame before repeating herself. "I need a weapon." Chairs scraped against wood and everyone but the piano player fled.
Maka Albarn gave an irritated huff and snatched the nearest unspilt drink, downing it in one. The pianist trilled a scale and turned on his bench to face her.
"So?" he drawled.
She frowned, penetrating him with her green eyes. "You're a weapon." It wasn't a question.
He shrugged. "For the right price."
"A hundred in cash up front, two hundred when the job is done." She wore a dusty greatcoat two sizes too big for her over a simple buttoned up man's shirt – flat chested – and a pair of khaki shorts.
The piano player loosened his string tie and seemed to consider. "What's the job?"
"I'm going to kill a man."
The fans were suddenly ten times louder. Blood. Pounding. In his ears. He liked the way she said it. He closed the lid of the piano and strode toward her. She was exactly his height in her boots. Eye to eye. She was serious.
"Wait." He shifted his weight back an inch. "If you're going to kill him, what do you need a weapon for?"
She squirmed. "It's my choice."
He shrugged. "Whatever." Stepping to meet her outstretched hand, he mentally shook his flesh away and felt the brightness of his soul pull him inside out. She inhaled sharply and grasped him by the shaft.
"So you're one of those, huh?" Inwardly, he grinned.
She twirled the cool metal between her fingers and brought his blade slashing into an arc.
He had time to pack a few things before they headed out. She clipped his pack to her horse and slung him over her shoulder. "I'm not heavy?" he asked, mildly suspicious.
"About as heavy as a broom?" she suggested.
The man – she would not reveal his name or why she wanted to kill him – was probably on a stagecoach out to Vegas.
"That'll take days."
"Hence why we packed," she grumbled.
"What about food?"
"I packed that, too."
They traveled nearly ten miles by nightfall and made camp, starting with a fire. Her hat rested over her pack and he snorted when he saw her hair. She snapped the twig she was using to stoke the flame and demanded to know what was so funny.
"Pigtails. What are you, four?"
He barely had time to register that there was a thick leather book in her hand before he was flat on his nose.
"I'm nineteen," she seethed, "and the pigtails are easy. My hair is short and thin and it's dusty out here."
He pulled himself to his feet, dusting himself off. "I'm going to ignore the fact that you just clocked me with an encyclopedia and tell you to not be so defensive."
She rolled her eyes and rummaged through the bulky food bag, coming up with some wrapped meat and a frying pan. "You never told me your name," she mused as she slid his helping onto a plate.
He gave a bitter bark of laughter. "It's Soul."
She frowned again, skeptical. "No. Really."
"Soul. Evans." He let go of his family name with some reluctance. She nodded. "Okay."
They kicked sand over the dowsed fire and relieved the horse of its burden. The horse had no name, as it was on loan from a public renting stable.
"There's only one tent," Soul pointed out.
"You're going to make me sleep out in the open."
"We're going to share."
He stared at her. "Didn't your father or anyone ever teach you any modesty?"
She snapped the posts into place and kicked off her boots, sucked off her coat. "No." Reaching into the largest pack she threw him a sleeping bag. "These are separate, anyway. And I'm not changing out of these clothes. We ride as soon as we're had breakfast." She tugged out her own sleeping bag and curled into it, leaving him plenty of room beside her.
"Well. You're flat chested, anyway."
The spine of the book kissed his skull again. "Dammit!" he swore, rolling himself as far from her as possible. "This is so uncool."
His hair was white. She didn't get that. He drooled in his sleep.
"Hey." She poked him. "Soul." Another poke, considerably harder. He yawned and slowly opened his eyes. Red. Like sunrise and sunset. A row of shockingly pointy teeth. "Breakfast ready?"
She swallowed hard. "You eat while I pack up the tent."
He rose with a measure of what she could only describe as lethargic grace. Sometime during the night he'd discarded his shirt and he didn't put it back on until after he'd eaten and watered the horse.
"You're a pretty decent cook… what with limited resources…" he muttered as she mounted.
"Oh." She pulled her hat down to her ears on the pretext of blocking the sun. "Thanks."
He shrugged and shifted to fit her hand. It's only later that she realizes he must have been trying to make up for the insult last night.
It's nearing sunset when they saw it. A thick cloud of smoke barreling across the sand like a train. But it isn't. Maka pulled a pair of binoculars from her pack and looked.
"It's a Kishin," she confirmed.
"Fuck," he muttered, his voice echoing in the blade. "I haven't fought one of those in ages."
"It's coming for us," she breathed. He couldn't tell if it was fear or awe. He would have preferred the former.
"We should run."
"It wouldn't matter," she pointed out. "Open land. Nowhere to hide. The horse will tire."
"Fuck," he muttered again. "I dunno if I can kill it. Wound it maybe." He fell back into his skin.
"Wait!" she jumped down from the horse and grabbed his arm. "You're not going to do this alone."
He stared at her. Blinked. "You can't be serious."
"You can have the tent to yourself tonight."
He could see it now. A grotesque shape on three legs, erratic movements. Long neck.
He sighed. "If you can't keep up…"
She nodded, eyes fierce. Being in her hands felt almost familiar now. He should have demanded more money.
The first blow she landed nearly cut its head off. She kicked two of its legs out from under it and stabbed it deep in the center of its body. The rush was immense. He had to stop his soul from pushing out to seek hers. She backed up, steading herself for a final blow, but the thing squirmed, flipping back over and darting its longest limb out to slash at her. She wasn't quick enough and he felt the shudder of her veins as her skin broke, but when she cried out in pain it ended in a howl and she pivoted on her heel, backslashing his blade around and upward.
Their souls touched and the kishin warped and bloated before disintegrating into the sand.
"Fuck," he breathed, ripping metal from his skin and leaning against her. "You okay?"
She nodded, breathing heavily. Her shirt was torn. Underneath, the tightly woven bandages that bound her chest splayed open.
He pushed her away quickly, clapping a hand to his nose, dark red blood dripping over his knuckles.
She stared at him.
"So you're not as flat chested as you pass yourself off to be," he muttered.
"Get me some water. The heat, woman. It's the heat."
She cooked sweet smelling flapjacks with sausage gravy under the stars.
"You sure you don't want any?"
"The egg filled me right up," he assured her, referring to the kishin's remains.
"What did it taste like?"
He grinned. It was the first question people asked him when they found out what he was. "Like crab meat?" he shrugged. "It doesn't have too much flavor, but once it's in you, you're not hungry for hours."
She nodded, satisfied.
"Are you going to tell me who this man is?"
"I'll tell you once he's dead."
She slept outside the tent as promised, and secretly, he was glad. A few times during the previous night she'd rolled over far enough to rest against his back, and he wasn't sure he would be able to sleep that way now. Granted, her breasts weren't as impressive as the saloon girls who danced onstage during the evenings, but as small as they were they were also perfectly round and pert. He was already having enough trouble keeping his soul in check when he looked into her eyes.
He woke up before her and started building the fire. Her dark blonde hair spilled over the edge of her sleeping bag.
"We should catch up to him by sundown," she said, pouring scrambled eggs onto his plate. "Maybe tomorrow morning."
Motivated, they rode faster and longer, taking a much shorter lunch break than the last two days. He could feel her excitement, her anxiousness. She wasn't a killer. This man was special.
Nearing sundown they stopped, exhausted. Wheel tracks in the dirt. Maka celebrated. Morning for sure. No later than an hour past noon if they were lucky. She snuck off to change behind an outcropping of red stone and emerged with her chest bound tightly again, wearing a clean white shirt and a blue skirt patterned in tiny yellow flowers. Her pigtails she festooned with pink ribbon.
"You look like a kid," he spat, unrolling his sleeping bag. She missed the relief in his voice and smacked him with the book.
She lay flat on her back in the tent, clearly too on edge to sleep. Finally, she slipped, and he followed.
It was the dark just before morning when she poked him. "You awake?"
"Look up. What do you see?"
Annoyed, he complied. "Stars. I see stars."
She groaned. "Okay. What does that tell you?"
He shifted so that he was looking up with her. "Well. That star," he pointed, "is pretty low. So that tells me it's about four in the morning. That star," he pointed higher, almost right above them. "I think that's the astrological sign for love, which means I'm screwed." He sighed. "And I guess in general I think that Shinigama or whatever must be real because even if science explains it, that many stars is just too amazing."
"That's nice and all," she murmured. "But what I meant, idiot, is that our tent is gone."
He sat up abruptly and looked around. "We've been robbed," he said.
Everything but their sleeping bags had gone.
"At least we're close," Maka said, pointing. Barely visible on the horizon they could see the outskirts of the city.
"Best get walking," he muttered.
The sun had been up for less than two hours when Soul noticed it. Sticking out of her boot. He snatched at it.
"Give it back!" she shrieked.
It was a photo of a man. Long red hair. Cam expression. Maka's nose.
"Is this him?"
She snatched it back. "Yes."
For another hour they walked in silence. When they reached the city it was high noon. Maka had no designs on finding their horse.
"Wait here," she instructed outside a restaurant. He saw her enter and hold up the photo to the host and a few of the customers. She came out frowning.
She shook her head, pulled out some cash from her other boot. "Go get something to eat and meet me back here in an hour. I'm going to keep looking."
Two buttons of her shirt were undone and her hair was frazzled when she came back.
"Well?" he handed her a sandwich and she wolfed it down, slumped to sit next to him.
"He was here. Two days ago."
He fought the urge to put an arm around her, but he couldn't stop his soul from pushing out. Surprisingly, hers embraced it and she exhaled.
"The good news is that I have an account at the bank here. I can pay you."
He nodded. "Okay. Pay me. Then we'll get another horse and ride out again."
She looked up. "What?"
"Job's not done yet, is it?"
They named the horse Eater.
"We should sleep in shifts, so we won't get robbed again," Maka reasoned. They'd decided against another tent, anyway. Soul hid his cash in a leather fold at the bottom of the feed bag.
Before they left to pick up the trail, Maka changed back into rougher clothing.
"So you dressed up for him?" he asked.
She gave an irritated huff. "He… hasn't seen me since I was a kid." That was all she would say, though Soul decided not to press the matter.
It took them almost two days to pick up the trail. A small farmhouse near Walker Lake, and the woman inside recognized the man in the photo. She pointed them across the border, into California.
"I'll increase your pay," Maka said as they crossed over.
Mentally, he shook his head. "I just want to get this job done."
They dined extremely well that night, Maka having traded some dry goods for a whole chicken.
"There's something I don't get about you," Maka confessed as they put out the fire.
"It's genetic," he muttered offhandedly.
She blinked. "No. Not that. I know." She fumbled with the fastenings of her sleeping bag.
"I'll take first watch," he offered.
"Why do you play piano?" she blurted.
That was a new question. He shrugged. "I'm decent at it."
She shook her head. "But you're a weapon. You could be racking up a lot of money filling bounties. You're a scythe. It's a pretty rare form. You could apply to the Spartorì if you wanted."
"It's not that simple."
She curled into her sleeping bag. "If I told you about him, would you tell me what's complicating it?"
"You wouldn't tell me before we kill him."
She sighed and rolled over, away from him. "You're right."
He'd never had a meister before. It wasn't all that complicated. Sure, a few technicians had managed to hold him before, but he was heavy to them. The one time he'd gone into battle with someone other than her he'd mainly been used as a shield. He didn't want her to know that the kishin they exterminated the other day was the first and only one he'd ever defeated.
It took them two more days, but finally he was within reach.
"Tomorrow for sure," Maka chanted under her breath as she took her watch.
He woke up just before dawn. She was cooing softly, petting Eater's nose. Her hair was loose, her shirt open.
Her face burned as she quickly buttoned up her shirt. "Sun's not up yet."
"What did he do to you?" She stood frozen. "At least tell me that much."
A long moment passed. She exhaled. "It's what he did to my mother," she said softly.
"You're not a killer." He'd been thinking it for days. She had a determination in her. She felled the kishin without a second thought. But this girl couldn't strike down a human life.
"I didn't pay you to talk me out of this," she snapped.
He hung his head, traced the folds of the shirt in his hands. "You could kill him with your bare hands. A gun. A knife. Something that doesn't talk back. Why was it so important to find someone like me?"
She shifted her weight from one foot to the other uncomfortably.
He exhaled. Fine. "You're the only technician who's ever successfully handled me." She looked up at him, eyes wide. He grinned. "I know. It's true about matching souls. Fuck."
Tentatively, her soul pushed outward. He seized it.
"He's a weapon, too."
It made sense. "You're not a killer," he repeated. "You want a fight."
The man was her father. He was an unfaithful husband and was erratically present in her life until she turned six, when he disappeared for good, though every so often he sent presents and money. Maka grew to hate him. Her mother was a strong woman, but she only stopped eroding emotionally after she demanded a legal divorce, when Maka was ten.
"I just want to tell him what an asshole I think he is and how much he ruined my life," she explained.
"But I wouldn't mind kicking his ass while I tell him." She pulled her hat down to block out the rising sun.
Soul figured she had the right.
After securing Eater outside a small saloon and inn, they entered and took seats at the bar. It was a much lively atmosphere than the Crescent Moon, but they had no piano player, just a lone guitarist and a tambourine player. Maka held up the photo of her father. The bartender nodded and mentioned a place down the street. A brothel. Maka ordered a hard drink and slammed it down, along with a generous tip, dragging Soul with her.
"SPIRIT," She crowed. "LET ME SEE YOUR FACE."
She hadn't bothered to dress up. Her hair was pulled messily upward and mostly stuffed under her hat, her greatcoat flapping open, the top buttons of her shirt undone, the soft perfection of her chest half exposed.
The doors swung cautiously open and the man stumbled out, clearly already touching drunk even at noon. He wore an expensive suit and a tittering blonde on his left arm.
Soul felt the tension settle around Maka and mentally shook his flesh away, feeling the brightness of his soul pull him inside souls closed in on each other like magnets.
"YOU," Maka's voice trembled slightly. On either side of her, the street cleared fifty feet.
"Maka?" Spirit said, awed. As if burned, he pushed the blonde woman away. She stumbled in her heels, ample bust throwing her center of gravity as she darted back .inside. "Papa missed you."
"SHUT IT," she practically howled. Her soul felt desperate, and the weapon had to grasp it tightly to keep it from unbalancing them.
"Papa loves you, Maka. Don't be angry."
"YOU LIAR." Hot tears washed over the fissure that tethered her to Soul. And then she was flying, the whistle of metal alive in her hands. Soul's blade tore into the father's shoulder and he was pleased. Another swing. And another. The sound of metal hitting metal. The world seemed to ring out of focus. Spirit's arm curved out, black as night.
Maka fell to her knees. "I hate you, Papa." The man in the expensive suit crumbled. "Do you know how badly you ruined me?" she choked out. "I can't trust anyone anymore. I don't believe anyone that tells me they love me. When I fell in love, I…" she hiccoughed. "I can barely look him in the eye!"
The whole world was silent. Only the shaky breaths of the girl and her father existed.
"Papa is so sorry, Maka."
"You're pathetic," she spat, hoisting herself to her feet. "I love you, Papa. But I never want to see you again. Every day I'm apart from you I'll forgive you a little more."
Maka stoked the fire to life and glanced up at him, wondering why he hadn't left already.
"It's flapjacks for dinner."
He nodded. "Sounds good. I'll water the horse."
She tucked her father's photograph at the bottom of her pack and looked east. "You can go back to Death City any time you want, you know," she murmured.
"I know," he answered, startling her.
"So why don't you? You have enough cash to buy a train ticket."
He took the plate she offered him and grinned wide. "You don't get it, do you?"
"No." She glared at him.
"Tell me what it's like to be in love," he said softly. "What it's like for you and your trust issues." Her plate trembled in her lap.
"It hurts," she said tersely.
"It hurts to look him in the eye."
She nodded. "I'm afraid of being lied to again." They had honey for the flapjacks this time, and the sweetness made her blood rush. "It hurts, but it feels so nice, too. It would kill me, Soul. But I just… I just want you to touch me."
The grin reappeared. "Come here."
One of her long legs on either side of his lap, her mouth tasting of honey.
"I have hope," he whispered.
She swallowed back tears. "It... it might take a while."
"Don't care." His hand slipped under her shirt, traced the curves under her breasts. "Will you be my meister?"
She leaned into him, shivering at the touch. It wasn't hard to imagine a life where she fought kishin to earn her bread. Hell. Her mother had done it. She unbuttoned herself, giving him more skin. He wasn't any product of her parents, anyway. She was. And she'd be damned if she was ever so afraid that she'd betray her soulmate. Her hands dropped down to his lap, wrestled with the rough fabric of his pants. His break broke against her neck.
"I think that's a yes," he drawled with satisfaction.
She leaned back and looked him full in the eye, blushing feverently. "No shit."
This has twoshot potential.