Dedication: To my good friend Gin-kyo, KidLiz artist and author extraordinaire. Without the extreme enjoyment I've gotten out of beta-reading Ambrosia, I would likely have remained uninspired and this story would probably have not been written. At least, not for a long time. I hope you like it!
Disclaimer: I don't own Soul Eater; that belongs to Atsushi Ohkubo. But I do own Elizabeth Thompson. I would consent to handing her off to Kid, however, if only he would ask. After all, I'm certain she would be quite willing to give herself to him...
By Eeveebeth Fejvu
Inhale. Bang. Bang.
Exhale. Bang. Bang.
Inhale. Bang. Bang.
Exhale. Bang. Bang.
Kid paused briefly to adjust his grip on the pistol's handle, pale fingers shifting against the textured surface. Both skin and metal were slick with sweat. He swallowed hard, then rotated his sore left wrist a few times before cupping the butt of the gun once more. His right index finger trembled as it awkwardly curled around the trigger, unused to being used in its intended way. Raising the pistol out in front of him, arms stiff and elbows locked, he sighted the paper target down the end of the barrel, inhaled, and fired two more rapid shots.
The poor target had already been in terrible condition from his earlier barrages, with large chunks of flimsy paper torn away and scattered across the concrete floor. These last shots, however - directly through the center of the bull's-eye - rang the target's death knell. The thin shred of tissue that held the right side to its hanging clip snapped, and the remaining paper swung freely back and forth in the air, limp in defeat. A hint of a smirk twitched at the corner of Kid's mouth, momentarily loosening the severe line of his tightly-sealed lips. He exhaled through his nose, carefully lowered the pistol to his side, and strode briskly across the long room. He unclasped the tattered remains with one hand and set them aside, then hung another fresh, crisp-white target in its place. After he was certain the paper was straight and the clasps were an equal distance from each side, he turned on his heel and tersely made his way back to his starting position eight yards away.
The snap of his sneakers against the gray concrete echoed loudly in the silence, but Kid was unconcerned about the noise bothering anyone. That was one of the benefits of having your own personal firing range within the deepest of the many basement levels of your mansion, after all.
This cavernous space had not always been a firing range, though. Kid could still remember when it was only one more storage room, indistinguishable among many. He had had it renovated from floor to ceiling, however, after taking two very special Weapons in off the streets. For he had quickly realized that the standard training gyms in the DWMA were ill-suited for firearms, and he had wanted a secluded place to practice with his new partners anyway, far from the critiquing eyes of his Father and the Death Scythes. After the trio had finally gotten used to each other and Kid had become more skilled at firing the twin pistols, the indoor range had fallen into relative disuse as they ventured outside to challenge their accuracy over greater distances. In fact, it was now only at times like these when this range was still employed...
Times like these, when Kid was at his most upset. When he was at his most uncertain, embarrassed, angry, afraid, frustrated...
There were so many things that could make his already-overwrought emotions go haywire. Failing to complete a mission to kill a kishin egg. Failing to finish a trivial piece of homework. His Father's flippancy in the face of disaster. That Japanese painting in the front hallway that was eternally off-center. The ridiculous rivalry between he and Black*Star that existed only in the ninja's head. The Academy's half-truths, blatant lies, and mysterious motivations. His own ignorance about his role as a Grim Reaper. The cocky freshmen that challenged him to fights in the cafeteria. The wide-eyed freshmen who shied reverently away from him in the hallways. The way his incomplete Sanzu Lines made him look like a stranger, like a completely different person in photographs from the one he recognized in the mirror each morning...
There were just so many things. And when nothing seemed to go right, and the whole world was one chaotic mess, Kid could hardly bear the strain. He had needed some form of release, so that he could gain control of himself once more... And then the girls had introduced him to this.
It was a perfect stress reliever, target practice.
Kid stepped onto the rubber mat and whirled around to face his new target, wiping his damp left hand on his pants. He was wearing jeans right now, dark blue and pristine, along with a black polo shirt and black-and-white Converse with skull emblems on the sides. Such clothes were uncharacteristically casual of him, of course, but the girls often insisted upon expanding his wardrobe along with their own and he just didn't have the heart to refuse their eager faces. Kid drew the line when it came to wearing such informal outfits outside of the house - he refused to allow anyone but the two of them to see him in jeans - but for a situation like this, when he was already tense and uncomfortable, the loose apparel actual felt consoling.
He repositioned his left hand around the gun, and felt a small hum of vibration in response. For a brief moment, his breath caught in his throat, but then he shook it off by licking his dry lips and shifting his stance until his feet felt balanced. His mouth tightened back into a line. Kid leveled the gun at the fresh target with a renewed sense of awareness, not having forgotten for even an instance what - or, rather, who - he held in his hands, but having become acutely conscious of it once more.
...How many more, do you think? Liz asked him, her voice low, calm, and stable.
"Just this one," Kid muttered, and fired two shots, one to left side and one to the right side of the middle ring.
Patty was upstairs in her bedroom right now, probably watching a cartoon or playing with her stuffed animals. He could feel her happy soul through the many stories above them. Kid knew that she wouldn't have the patience for this - the repetitive shooting in the precise formation and the hanging of target after target - so he had never asked her to accompany him in times like these. Patty could be so intense in such a violent way that Kid was certain her soul would only goad him on to stronger unwanted emotions. As this was against the point of coming here in the first place, Kid left Patty to her own devices, knowing it was best for them both.
For although he was exceptionally close to his girls, and Patty had seen him run the full gamut of emotions countless times before... Kid didn't want her to see him quite like this. To see him struggle to release all of the irritation and the worry and the rage that built up inside of him from the general disorder that forced its way into his life. To see this level of human vulnerability in one who was born a god...
Liz, on the other hand, could take it.
She knew, somehow, just how to handle him, even when no amount of pleading or demanding or eye-rolling or abuse from her younger sister could break him from his manic state. When he would stride off restlessly towards the staircase that led down to the firing range, he didn't even have to ask - she was always two steps behind. Liz was patient with him, more tolerant with him at times like these than at any other, somehow knowing that if a problem was target-practice-worthy, only the passage of time could break his torment. When they arrived at the range, she always promptly fell into pistol form in his hand, firing smoothly as he imprinted his emotions on the targets and destroyed them one by one. She stayed mostly quiet throughout, and was as unobtrusive as it was possible to be as the Weapon he wielded. And she never complained, no matter how long it took Kid to come down from his unwelcome high. As she pulled the confusion and shame and terror from his soul, Liz transformed that energy into blazing, hot-red bullets - the normal magenta hue darker and more violent from his own intensity - soul bullets that were solid enough to blast through the physical targets and singe the concrete back wall.
It should have been the same for both girls, he knew. Kid should have wanted to keep these extreme fits of temper from Liz just as much as he wanted to keep them from Patty. But, somehow, it was different. Though the thought of it made him uneasy, he knew that Liz spent the majority of her days - the majority of her life - catering to his every neurotic whim. So it felt only right, in its own strange way, to let her in this far. To let her follow him down into this deepest basement, down into this deepest level of his soul. To let her see, as no one else did, the sort of being he really was behind the reserved mask he wore...
But that was the problem, Kid thought. That was the problem right now, wasn't it?
Bang. Bang. With precise movements, he shot a hole through the top of the middle ring, then one through the bottom.
Bang. Bang. The top of the outermost ring exploded into a gaping tear. It was quickly followed by an identical tear directly below it at the bottom.
Yes... That was definitely the problem...
When Kid resonated with his partners' souls during battle, the internal world they constructed between the three of them was a dark and silent place. Nothing existed but a fathomless black void, and yet it was an unoppressive space. External reality was only a dulled and distant echo, present but inconsequential. According to the girls, it was a place not unlike the one their consciousnesses resided in whenever they were in Weapon form.
In that quiet world of their resonance, Kid would stand still and wait for Liz and Patty to find him. His Reaper's cloak - the only garment it seemed he could wear in this place - twisted and writhed about him like a living organism, shadowy tendrils flitting serpentine across his bright alabaster skin. He was a shining beacon in the darkness, a lighthouse to his partner's souls. It never took more than a brief but unmeasurable moment for them to reach where he stood. No matter which way he turned to look for them, though, his girls always joined him from behind, Patty to his left and Liz to his right. They would touch their hands to his palms, feather-like, to let him know they were there, and in one smooth motion, he would locked fingers with them, joining the three together as one.
Then, looking from one to the other, he would smile at them with gentle confidence to let them know just how proud he was to have them by his side, how honored he felt to be their Meister as they plunged forward into battle. And they would smile back, Patty with her twinkling eyes and wide grin, Liz with her sideways glance and knowing smirk. Their bare forms glowed with a pleasant pink light, feminine curves fuzzy and indistinct in their luminescence. As the girls shifted closer and curled inward towards his chest - the incorporeal shadows of his cloak lightly entwining itself through their limbs - they would lean their cheeks against the thin silk of his hair, and breathe. And in that long breath, they would draw from him the emotions that rioted his soul, feeding upon that potent energy and shaping it into the ammunition that blasted from their pistol forms to obliterate all who stood in their way...
Kid's hands were growing numb. The longer this practice session went on, the stronger the tingling in his fingers grew. It was the recoil, Kid told himself. Even though it had literally been years sincehe had worried about the force of his pistols' kickback, it had to be the recoil. He just was not used to holding a gun upright, that was all. If he concentrated hard, Kid could feel that his right index finger ached the most. It had to be that. He was just not used to this position, and to being alone with only Liz within his grasp-
Kid inhaled involuntarily and then choked on the extra air. The pistol in his hand pulsed with a delicate tremor, her puzzlement a silent question suspended between their minds. Kid tried to brush it aside, as one would wave away a pesky spiderweb, but her query prodded back, a hint of concern now just visible beneath the surface. He tried, with only partial success, to focus his eyes back on the hole-ridden target in front of him, and not on the smooth silver of the Weapon that glinted in the florescent lights. He licked his dry lips, steadied his trembling arms, and fired.
When Kid resonated with Liz's soul alone, the internal world they built together was nearly identical to the one that belonged to them and Patty. The inky void, the quiet, the animate shroud, the white glow of his spiritual body in the black... it was all the same. Beyond that, however...
A sense of restlessness would overtake his soul as he waited for Liz to find her way to him through the darkness. He would pace this way and that, golden eyes bright and alert for signs of movement, his cloak streaming along behind him and shadows reaching outward as it searched for her itself. And just as the wait became nearly unbearable, there she would be, heralded by a lovely rosy light and a shudder of happiness shooting through his core. Kid would sense her directly behind him, and so, with a twist of his wrists, he would blindly present his hands to her. Her soft fingers would brush against the skin of his arms simultaneously, sliding down to stroke his thin wrists, following the creases in his palms down to weave her fingers with his. Joined together, Kid would sense her step closer, would feel the gentle pressure of her round breasts against his back through the insubstantial cloak. She would wrap her arms around him then. Their linked hands would pull him into a self-embrace along with her own, and she would lean over his right shoulder, their eyes turned in the same direction towards that faint echo of the outside world.
And she would breathe. And as she did, he would feel a warm puff of her breath ruffle his hair... feel the rounded tip of her delicate nose pressing into the hollow beneath his ear... feel her soft, pliant lips trailing from his earlobe to the edge of his jaw down his neck to the bony surface of his collarbone... A light spot of dampness would be left behind wherever her lips paused to linger on his skin, and those places would burn with the scalding, pleasurable pain of a gunshot wound. The anxiety and the wrath and the confusion that flooded his mind would leak out, and she would breathe in those fractured pieces of his soul.
And he would feel, in that moment, what it felt like to be inside of her... would feel the moist warmth of her tongue roll his shattered emotions into a cylindrical bullet of amplified power, set in a thin casing of her own emotions and engraved with her initials. He would feel the movement of her throat against his shoulder as she swallowed the deadly projectile they had formed, reserving it in the magazine of her soul until he needed and called it back by his pull on her trigger.
Then she would inhale again, the light scrape of dull teeth breaking open the momentary cauterization of his wounds to pull in another breath of his shuddering essence. Again and again, the process would repeat, until Kid would feel his eyes begin to roll back, and his body grow heavy and limp in her arms, his frantically fluttering cloak the only thing holding him up as it twisted around her, binding her body to his...
The pistol in his hands shook, and Kid stared in wide-eyed disbelief at the hole he had just left in the paper target. It was at least three inches off from where he had meant to place it. A low whine of panic began to well up in the back of his throat, but before it could take hold, he swung the gun to the opposite side of the target and fired, blasting a round tear to match its misplaced twin.
It was just... He could feel her right now! Right this very instance, as the trigger snapped beneath the pressure of his aching finger, he could feel the caress of Liz's soul against his own and, with layered vision, see their interlocked fingers pressed against his bared chest, their bodies glowing warmly in the cool darkness... Caught between the two realities, Kid felt a bead of nervous sweat roll down the side of his face. Couldn't she feel it as he did? Feel his clammy hands around the handle of her pistol form, taste the salt of his skin beneath her traveling lips...? Kid's arms trembled weakly with the strain, and his locked legs hardly felt capable of holding him up for much longer. As he stared desperately at the disarranged holes in the target, he felt the ghost of a kiss against the side of his neck and, in a fit of startled reflex, fired.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.
Again and again he fired, eight times in quick succession, shots of crimson energy flying wildly and blasting holes in a random pattern across the target. The paper jumped frenziedly on its wire until the last shot took out the bull's-eye and the whole thing was forcefully torn from its clasps. As the remains drifted down confetti-like towards the concrete, Kid felt his knees buckle and give way. Stunned, he fell down hard onto the rubber mat, pain flaring up in his tailbone.
Immediately, the pistol in his hand began to shake with great urgency, and he struggled for a moment to pry his fingers from their death grip. As soon as his grasp was slack enough, Kid felt the hard metal dissolve into a burst of warm, pink plasma. Pure energy leapt out of his hand and arced over his body to land on the mat to his left. The light grew, settling for the blink of an eye into the rosy silhouette of a distinctly female form, before it flashed, and she was there with him, again in human flesh.
"Kid?" Liz asked. The pitched worry in her voice was unmistakable. Before he could even turn his head in her direction, Kid felt a soft palm press against his forehead and he twitched, his eyes forced shut by her touch. "Kid? Are you okay?" she continued, flipping her hand over to run her knuckles across his skin. "You feel a little hot... And since you're usually ice cold, that's-"
"I'm fine, Liz," he interrupted quickly, delicately grasping her wrist with his fingertips to remove her from his face. She allowed it; only withdrawing, however, after a reluctant pause. Kid leaned back, pressing the heels of his palms into the rubber mat for leverage, and slowly breathed in and out through his nose for a minute. Then he opened his eyes, taking in her image with a sideways, lidded glance.
Liz sat close beside him, arms propping her up and legs stretched out in front of her, mirroring his own position. She tilted her head to the side to look at him, long golden strands of loose hair falling into her face. She wore an older pair of low-waisted jeans and a thin sleeveless top in her favorite shade of red. Kid's eyes flicked away for a moment down at his sneakers before being drawn right back. The jeans gripped her rounded thighs, emphasizing the length of her slender legs before flaring around her bare ankles. He caught a glimpse of her midriff, and the edge of a black bra strap, and the beginning of the dip between her breasts, as the silky material of her shirt clung to her skin and accentuated every curve. His breath became lodged in his throat, and he felt his whole body stiffen in response.
"You sure, Kid?" Liz said, voice hesitantly breaking through the silence. "You're fine?" His eyes shot up to her face. Her expression was serious and wary. Full lips tilted down into that sober frown he knew so well, and sleek eyebrows - shaped into perfection by his own hands - pinched together on her forehead. Kid's eyes locked onto hers. With his inhuman gaze, he could pick out each individual fiber in the stroma of her irises, the complex weave of a million different tints of cobalt blue. It was a calming color, that endless sea of her eyes, but its intensity only served to disconcert him more.
"...Yes," Kid finally replied, hardly able to speak with his mouth so dry.
"If you say so..." Liz trailed off skeptically. With a languid motion, she tilted her head back to stare up at the plain white ceiling, the movement dragging the draped locks of her hair off the curve of her shoulder to hang down her back. It left her prominent collarbones and the gentle curve of her throat exposed to his gaze. Kid watched a bead of sweat roll down her light tan skin. The tiny whips of hair at the back of her neck were dark gold with moisture. Even in Weapon form, Kid thought, she felt the strained exhaustion of battle, the physical toll of firing round after round after round... If that was why she appeared so flushed, of course, and not because...
Kid jerked, staring out towards the shredded debris of the target. Well, of course, it wasn't that. They must have been down here at the firing range for hours by now. Liz was just tired. That was all... He sighed quietly.
What a problem this was to have.
"...The shooting help?"
"Hm?" Kid murmured, careful not to look at her again.
"The shooting. Did it help?" He sensed her shift in place beside him. "You feel any better now?"
"Yes," he said, though he himself could hear the lack of conviction in his voice. He cleared his throat lightly and tried again. "Yes, it helped." He paused, before adding, "Thank you."
Liz made a small humming noise of assent and fell quiet. Kid sat in silence, staring out at the obliterated target and trying to make sense of it all. His limbs continued to tremble, and the painful spot where he had hit the floor began to throb. It was surely bruised, he thought. Not that it mattered much. His Reaper body would heal it completely in an hour or two, with no residual discomfort. If only, he thought, it could heal other physical discomforts...
Minutes passed by and Liz made no move to leave. Eventually, Kid's drooping eyes fell closed, and he focused on calmly breathing in and out, in and out. Inhale... Exhale... Inhale... Exhale... The world was dark behind his eyelids, an inky black, and like a half-forgotten dream, the phantom caress of lips on his skin and arms wrapped tight around his chest began to bubble to the surface of his mind. Kid let the imagined sensation in before he realized what he was doing, and when he did, he found himself unpleasantly torn between fighting it off and just letting it continue to haunt his soul...
A rustle of movement to his left caused him to twitch and partially open one eye. Liz had shifted her long legs underneath her body and was getting to her knees. Kid shut his eye tightly once more. So she was leaving now. He had no reason for disappointment, he told himself. She had done her duty to him. She had done more than he would have asked of her, had he even asked... coming down here and letting him borrow her Weapon form to work through his own personal issues...
Suddenly, Kid felt two points of pressure on the backs of his shoulder blades, the solid touches identical in force and in distance from the center of his spine. His shoulders hunched automatically as he took his weight off of his hands and leaned forward. "What...?" he began, trying to turn his head to catch a glimpse of the pressure's source. His black hair, with its incorrigible bands of white, fell into his eyes, however, obscuring his vision. "Liz? ...What are you doing?" The pressure intensified briefly and Kid felt his body tighten further in response. "...Liz?"
"I'm trying to get you to relax," she said wryly. The cotton knit of his polo shirt crinkled as her fingers kneaded against his taut muscles. Kid felt his eyes grow wide. "You're just so tense..."
Liz hadn't been getting up to leave. She had merely gotten to her knees, shuffled across the mat, and settled into a kneeling position behind him. And now she was attempting to massage his shoulders.
A whimper of thrilled panic rose in him, ready to spill forth. Kid only just managed to keep it back.
"I'm... I'm fine..." he protested half-hardheartedly. The pressure of her hands intensifying and relaxing soon became a steady, rolling rhythm, like the push and pull of a tide, and Kid found himself falling under its drowsy spell even as his hands clenched fearfully and his toes curled inside his socks.
"Mmhmm," Liz hummed, in a knowing sort of voice. "Sure." Just as he became used to the steady beat against his shoulders, he felt her grip slacken, and he inhaled sharply in discontent. "You know, I don't think all of that target practice helped at all... I think..." Her hands disappeared entirely, and he felt his shoulders hunch again. "I think it actually made it worse."
"I'm..." Kid began, but then he didn't know how to finish. What was he supposed to say? That stress-relief shooting had made it worse? That it had made it worse, because the problem he had come to the range to release was-
"Here," Liz said abruptly, breaking his thought. "This is better..." A light touch of cool air suddenly crawled across Kid's lower back, and he felt his breath hitch as the back of his shirt was lifted up. And then warm hands were against his exposed skin and the heat Liz had felt on his forehead flared throughout the rest of his face. She was touching him, the round tips of her fingers pressing into his bare flesh and rubbing up and down his back. He blinked, dazed. Though it was true, Kid thought to himself, that the interaction they shared while resonating souls was a deeper form of contact... this external contact seemed somehow more... more...
He was afraid, he realized as he shivered beneath the pleasant scrape of manicured fingernails down his spine. He was afraid that Liz - street-wise girl that she was - would be able to read his body better here in the physical world than in the symbolic world of their resonance. She would instinctively recognize the underlying reason for his clammy skin, his quickening breath, the fast pulse that throbbed within his veins, the way he squirmed in clothes that were suddenly too tight for comfort...
She dug the heels of her palms into his back, dragging the pressure up to his shoulder blades, and a muffled moan slipped out between his tightly-pursed lips. For a split second, Kid was sure he felt Liz pause, but then the instant passed, and her fingers began to knead small circles into the tight skin beneath his shirt collar. Kid's eyes began to slip closed. It just felt so good, her hands on his skin... It just felt so right, so natural, to have her this close, to feel her presence at his back...
"Can I... Can I ask you a question?"
He hesitated, peering anxiously down at his hands arranged carefully on his lap. If the question she asked was the one he was afraid of her asking... He licked his lips, then took a deep breath and said, "Yes. ...What is it?"
"...What's been bothering you lately?" Kid stared at his hands, expression blank. "I mean, for the last few weeks, you've been... acting kinda weird. Well, you know, weirder than normal. And I was just wondering... What's been going on? ...What's been bothering you so much that you had to come down here to try to shoot it out of your system?"
A weak smile flitted onto Kid's face, though he knew she couldn't see it from her position. He felt her hands settle against his back as she pressed forward into him, leaning over his right shoulder to try to glimpse his expression. Finally, he replied.
"I have just been feeling... a little frustrated..."