By. Poisoned Scarlett
Two Years Later
"I AM HERE FOR MY MONETARY RECOMPENSE!"
Soul cracked an eye open, peering over the couch flatly as his long-time friend Black Star strutted through the front door as if he owned the place. He saw Maka shut the door with a wrinkle of her nose, annoyed by his flashy entrance, and Soul slumped back down on the couch in hopes of evading the turquoise-haired loudmouth.
But no such luck.
"Beat it, Star, I'm broke," Soul sneered and shut an eye when his friend bellowed the injustice of his statement. "Don't scream in my ear, idiot, I'm sitting right beside you!"
Black Star smirked at him, pointing at finger between his eyes. "THAT MAY BE SO, MY FRIEND," he roared, "BUT IT SEEMS YOU DO NOT HEAR ME AS YOU THINK YOU DO!"
"Oh, I hear you alright," he bit back. The sarcasm was missed by his friend. "I'll give you the money tomorrow, it's not like you need it right away!"
"YOU DON'T KNOW THAT!"
"Yeah, I do."
"Dude, you just texted me saying that you have a day off today and you're gonna' hang out here to play video games," Soul dryly reminded and Black Star blinked owlishly, also remembering. "It ain't looking too good for you, either, Maka doesn't like loud idiots like you in the house. Maybe if you shut up, we can actually play some xbox."
"XBOX YOU SAY? I KNOW!" He leaped up, stomping a foot on the coffee table. Soul looked at him with a smirk starting to stretch his lips, knowing his friend too well already. "FIRST ONE TO GET TO THREE WINS GETS THE TWENTY PLUS AN EXTRA TEN!" He whipped out a ten dollar bill, waving it in his face mockingly.
"You're on! Might as well give me the cash, I already won!"
"PUNY PEASANT, HOW DARE YOU THINK YOU ARE ABOVE THE GREAT BLACK STAR - !"
"Black Star!" Maka finally snapped, appearing in the archway of the kitchen with her thick-rimmed glasses perched on her nose, red in the face with rage. She wielded a spatula in her hand, pointing at him menacingly. "SHUT UP! If you keep yelling, I'll make sure you can never use your voice again!"
"HA! AS IF SOME MIDGET LIKE YOU—UGH!"
Soul winced, watching his friend clutch his aching nose and writhe on the floor while Maka calmly picked up her spatula from beside him. She shot a sharp look at Soul and he sighed, understanding her nonverbal warning.
"We'll be quiet..." he mumbled.
"One peep out of him," Maka pointed her spatula back at Black Star who, by now, had recovered enough to pout and glare sullenly at her, "and you're both out of here, got it? I already got a complaint from the manager last week because Black Star was being too loud! One more complaint and we're getting another notice!"
"I!" Black Star sighed noisily and hung his head at her warning look. "Fine, whatever, jeez. You're such a hardass, Maka, anything else you wanna' nag at us for?"
Maka pursed her lips. "Bring your own soda whenever you two decide to hang out! Contrary to what you may think, I am not here to continuously replenish your supply every time you two morons drink yourselves into a diabetic stupor!"
Black Star grinned widely at that but before he could open his mouth and potentially knock himself unconscious, Soul slapped a hand over his mouth and shouted, "Got it!" and let her wander back to the kitchen to grab some treats for herself before she went to her own room. Once she was safely inside her room did Soul let go of Black Star, who exaggeratedly spat and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Dude," Black Star began as Soul started up the game system, a pack of soda and a bag of chips already spread out before them. "I don't get why you moved in with her. She nags more than my mom!"
"Nygus?" Soul snorted. Now that woman really could nag you to death. "Hell no. She just doesn't like you."
"Pfft, no one can not like me! I am The Great Black Star!"
"Whatever," Soul absently replied. However, Black Star kept his voice at a reasonable level and was wary of Maka despite her being locked up in her room the entire time. It turned out that Soul had some luck on his side for he ended up winning the three matches; which was good, for he needed those thirty bucks for grocery shopping. As uncool as it sounded, he was reluctant to admit to Maka that he had totally blown off the forty dollars specifically for groceries on a brand-new pair of headphones he hadn't been able to resist buying. So when Black Star coughed up those thirty, Soul immediately shoved them in a hidden pocket in his wallet and made a mental note to go grocery shopping later—perhaps with Maka, as she hadn't stepped out of the house for anything except work for awhile. She needed some human time so she wasn't so restless, he decided.
Soul had been pondering ways of convincing her to go to the park afterwards when Black Star spoke up:
"Hey, about you and Maka..."
"What about us?" He asked, sharply.
"Liz has been snooping around recently," Black Star began, taking a drink of his soda. "Trying to figure out if a rumor she heard around the office is true."
"Rumor?" Soul asked, already feeling a headache coming along. Rumors were never good and if Black Star was bringing it up, it definitely could not be good. Soul glanced down the hall, to Maka's bedroom door. It was closed and it was silent but he knew she was reading her book and could, at any moment, stop and listen in. Black Star seemed to be aware of this, too, for he dropped his voice even more:
"Yeah, rumor. I don't believe it cuz you would've told me but," he shrugged and looked at him dead in the eye. "You're not planning on proposing to her, right?"
"P-proposing? To Maka?"
"Yeah! I mean, you've been with her for like...three years or something, right?"
The question had thrown him off but not because he hadn't thought about it once or twice. It threw him off that people were actually speculating the possibility of marriage between them when they hadn't even announced they were dating! That was the thing: they weren't dating. They had attention-seeking issues, abandonment issues, a lot of issues that were being steadily undone between them, but they hadn't dared to cross that line. There had been moments, oh, there had been times when he wanted to kiss her, cup her cheeks and give them a reason to light up that pretty red. But he hadn't, he'd always drawn back before he could, because this relationship they held was fragile despite seeming impregnable. It could be easily destroyed with one false move and, after being readily accepted, needed, by her, taking that next logical step in their relationship was intimidating. Perhaps later in their life, Soul decided, later when they both realized they really could not function without the other, when they were caught too deep in their own safety net, tangled and close with everything they needed found in one another. Perhaps then, it would be okay to kiss her and love her and keep her by his side until death took him.
Except, he thought to himself, weren't they already there? He couldn't bear the thought of being separated from Maka. She had been there every morning for the past two years. He woke up to her cheerful voice, he fell asleep to her drowsy murmur of good night. It just wasn't...right, to picture a future without Maka. Soul stopped thinking about these things before they made him moody again.
"No," he replied, shortly. He looked at the television screen, lips pressed together. "...We're not even dating."
"EH?" Black Star hacked, spitting out his soda. Soul barely dodged the spray of gross purple before the man was in his face, demanding with raging green eyes: "What the hell do you mean you're not even dating? The hell have you been doing this entire time?!"
"Helping her pay rent," Soul scowled and his friend gawked back, seeming truly amazed by the honesty in he saw in his eyes.
"Is she getting you getting off?"
"No," he glared harder.
"...She do your laundry at least?"
Soul rolled his eyes. "Every other month."
"You guys take turns?" He smirked, mockingly. "That's cute, man, what're you gonna' tell me next? You guys have matching underwear and you take evening strolls in the park?"
"Fuck off," Soul sneered and ignored his friend when he laughed boisterously, draining his soda can and crushing it in his hand.
"Well, whatever, it's your life," Black Star nonchalantly said and stood up. He dusted chip crumbs off his lap and looked back at his friend, who glowered as he turned off his Xbox. "Hey, you up for a game of basketball tomorrow? Kilik's coming this time!"
"Five or six, I'll text you when we're there."
"Alright," he stood up as well and led him to the front door, where they decided they'd meet up an hour beforehand and bumped knuckles in goodbye. Soul locked up the door again and yawned widely as he returned to the living room, falling back on the couch with a loud sigh of relief that he could be left alone with his own thoughts again. Before he could even begin to ponder he and Maka's strangely convoluted relationship, said girl's bedroom door popped open and she stepped out slowly.
One thing Soul had noticed about Maka was, despite her tough exterior, she really was as unsure and wary as she had been when she was blind. He had thought it was due to the fact that she could not see and getting around when the only thing you saw was black could make any person slow and cautious. But even now, when she could see perfectly, she still retained those cute traits. Soul smiled lopsidedly when she came out a little more and when she noticed his smile, her stance became confident again and she walked to him. She pushed his legs aside and sat down, letting him slid his legs over her lap instead. Her fingers rubbed his calf as she said:
"Are you going to eat out tomorrow?"
"For the game?" Soul asked rhetorically. Figured she'd eavesdrop. "Probably. I'll bring you something, too. I shouldn't be back late."
"Okay," Maka nodded. "Say hi to Kilik for me, I haven't seen him or the twins in awhile."
"You can come with me, y'know," he coaxed. "Get outta' the house for once in your life."
Maka shook her head. "I can't play basketball and you know what happened last time!" This time she glared at him and he grinned at the ceiling, remembering only too well. So perhaps he had bullied her a little, forcing her to play without telling her the rules, but it had been great fun to watch her scramble around helplessly, trying to figure out the rules of the damn game before she blew her lid, grabbed the ball, and smacked it at his head—and Black Star's, twice hard because of his laughter. "I'll be back late from work tomorrow, anyway. Kidd asked me to work overtime in order to coordinate a luncheon with Anya."
"She's this girl who works in my division," Maka mumbled, her brows knitting together in that familiar expression of irritation.
"You don't like her," he observed and Maka slumped a little more, pouting.
"It's not that I don't like her, it's that she said some things to me when I couldn't see. She still acts like I can't."
"Things?" He frowned. "What kind of things?"
"Stupid things, it isn't important."
"I still want to know," he replied and moved his leg when she stayed stubbornly silent. "Ma-kaaaaaa!"
"She just called me loud!" Maka shouted then subdued, troubled. "And a burden. Liz told me not to let it get to me but I guess I was a little bit of a burden when I couldn't see..."
"You can see now so she shouldn't be calling you that. You're not a burden," Soul firmly told her. Maka looked at him, a smile starting to lift her lips. "If she has a problem with you, she should take it up with Kidd. You're fine, and Liz told me that you've been doing great at work. Something about a promotion soon," he grinned when her eyes widened excitedly.
"Really? Kidd wants to promote me?"
"She said it, not me!" He held his hands up with an easy grin and she squealed, bouncing up and down excitedly. He nudged her with his knee. "Oi, that's my head you're smacking!"
"If that's true, then I'll be able to work in the same department as Liz!" Maka breathed, shimmery eyed. Soul's eyes softened and he settled himself comfortably on the couch with his arms crossed behind his head as she happily watched TV, no longer trying to nudge his legs off her lap. He hadn't felt this content or at peace in a long, long time—not since he moved out of his parents scrutinizing eye and his brothers relentless teasing. He was actually happy, even if Maka still made him cook dinner every night and sometimes managed to get him to do the dishes, too.
"Stupid," Maka mumbled with annoyance as she stalked into her office the next day. "Jeez, how could Tsugumi deal with her? I'll never understand," she grumbled as she gathered up her things. She spared a glance at the clock on her desk and picked up her pace. She was later than she thought she'd be but Anya had cost them valuable time with her defiance. Honestly, if she could get over her dislike of her, things would go a lot faster.
She hoped that Soul was right about that promotion. She hadn't gotten around to asking Liz but she had seen her give her a thumbs up earlier, so that was a good sign. She wondered if Soul was home yet and figured that yes he was. He always came at the time he said he would. She was running late so he'd probably call her to check up if she took any later. So she quickly packed her things and hefted her bag on her shoulder and stepped out of her office, locking it behind her. She was fumbling for her cellphone when she felt it vibrate when she heard Anya and Tsugumi by the elevator, waiting for it she guessed.
"I haven't asked her," Tsugumi said, hesitantly. "She doesn't look any different and I don't see a ring anywhere! He would buy her a ring, right?"
"Well, assuming he already proposed! Which he didn't, not yet," Anya said. "Maybe he's reconsidering it. She's really loud and, ugh, she's always lecturing me!"
"Well, Maka is an efficient person and she doesn't like when things take longer than they should!" Tsugumi defended her stiffly. Maka's lips quirked up as she hid around the bend, holding the phone to her chest. "But I don't think...I don't think they're even dating. She talks about Soul a lot but not like that, you know? It's the same as before...nothing's changed, not from what I can tell!"
"But everyone's saying he's going to!" Anya insisted.
"No, Meme said so because she saw them at the park one day and he was sleeping on her lap!" Tsugumi told her, firmly.
"That's not what she told me! She told me Maka was sleeping on his lap and he bent down and kissed her!" Anya argued, fiercely.
Maka listened with wide eyes, heart pounding. She had fallen asleep on Soul at parks often but she was a light sleeper. She would surely feel it if Soul kissed her, right? She dearly hoped so. It would be depressing to know that he had and she hadn't been conscious to enjoy it. And it'd also piss her off because what was he doing, stealing kisses like that? She expected him to be the type to just go for it, not take the cowards way out!
"Okay, okay! So where did this whole marriage thing come from?"
"They're living together, aren't they?" Anya shrugged and the elevator dinged. Both girls stepped inside, continuing their discussion, and when the doors slid shut, Maka peeked her head out and heaved a sigh. It was true that Soul had moved in with her about four months after she regained her sight all that time ago; more because he kept falling asleep on her couch when nightfall came around and he already had extra pairs of clothes in her room for the morning when he went to work. She logically thought that him moving in would be the better alternative than having him going back and forth all the time. But nothing had ever happened between them during the time they were together...or, more like, they always jerked away when they were on the brink.
He had drawn so close to her once, Maka remembered with a light flush, that their noses had bumped and his breath had feathered her lips. She had really thought he would kiss her that day and she had been strangely okay with it. She wouldn't have minded if he had, she had later realized, in fact she would have responded with much enthusiasm. The thoughts only multiplied ever since then, her burgeoning affection and want of him. The want was what annoyed her the most: how when he ruffled her hair or squeezed her neck because he knew she was ticklish, she wanted to pull him closer to her and let him squeeze other places. It was annoying and not to mention perverted, to have such thoughts about him. But it didn't help he walked around without a shirt when it was summer and he liked to sit so close to her; always be so close to her yet not close enough for her to relish his skin against hers or his warmth melding with hers.
Her phone rang, a call this time, and Maka answered as she brooded on her own inability to make a move.
"I'm still at the office," Maka told Soul and glanced at the clock. It was definitely late. "I'll be there in half an hour! Did you...oh, okay, did you get half and half?...because last time you forgot!" Maka grumbled, smiling when he sighed loudly and reassured her that he had gotten chow mein and rice this time. "I should've been home an hour ago!" Maka grumbled as she waited for the elevator. "Anya was being difficult. If I have to work with her again, I'll shoot myself." Maka laughed when he snorted and told her not to miss. "Oh," Maka blinked when the elevator door opened to reveal Akane, one of her co-workers. "Good evening, Akane!"
"Maka," he nodded politely. "Have you seen Tsugumi around, by any chance?"
"You just missed her."
"Ah, damn," he blew out a breath. Maka stepped inside next to him, returning to her conversation with Soul. Akane chanced a glance at her, his eyes lingering on her affectionate smile as Soul recounted the basketball game to her. He glanced at what floor they were on: only the 20th. They still needed some ways to go. He tapped his feet and, after a minute or so, Maka said her goodbye's to Soul and hung up with a cheery smile.
"You look happy," he commented. "Soul do something stupid again?"
Maka looked at him. "If by losing fifty bucks because of some basketball game, then yes, he did do something stupid again!" Maka shook her head at the thought. "I can't believe he let Black Star sucker him into betting fifty dollars. He should've known better!"
Akane nodded. "Things still going steady between you two?"
"Yeah..." She paused, looking at the man. "By steady you mean good, right?"
"Yeah. Y'know, no major arguments or anything. Still want to be with him and stuff."
"Ye - no, wait, we're not dating!" Maka corrected him hastily. Akane stared at her, brows raised in disbelief. She flushed deeply. "We - we just share an apartment because it's cheaper! Ah..."
"Well, Kid pays well and last I heard, Soul works at a pretty good record company. I heard they pay well, too..."
"Y-yeah but...um... we just - we're really not dating! So everyone should just drop it!" Maka stubbornly said and prayed that they'd reach the parking level already. She could feel Akane's stare burn into the side of her face.
"Well, that's a shame," Akane began, "I think you guys should go out. You've got more chemistry than any other couple I've seen around these parts," he smiled lopsidedly at her wide-eyed look, "You guys work well together. The times he comes by to pick you up, it's like you two are always on the same wavelength. It's weird but pretty amazing to watch. Gives me hope, y'know? That things like that could actually work out between two people," he added a little wistfully.
That was funny, Maka thought, because Hiro had said the exact same thing all those years ago and he had been a total stranger at the time.
The elevator dinged and Maka followed Akane out after a second, rather dazed by his words. The man bade her goodbye and headed back to his car, messing around with something on his phone as he did. Maka stood under a wash of white light for a second longer, pondering his words. Same wavelength, huh? She stifled a sigh and made her way to her car. Once inside, she let her head fall on the wheel and she groaned. Now she couldn't get that idea out of her head. It's not like many things would change, she convinced herself, everything would stay the same except maybe now she would have a reason to slant their mouths together or slip her hand under his shirt or sit on his lap or...
Maka groaned louder.
She would have continued her pity party had her phone not vibrated with a text from Soul, who wrote that he couldn't find his jacket anywhere.
"It's in the closet," Maka muttered, irked. "Where I always put it, you idiot!" She texted the reply and decided that was enough stalling. She needed to get home before the thoughts in her head could bug her anymore. "Why would he need his jacket, anyway..."
She received her answer when she found him standing outside on the sidewalk with his arms crossed over his chest, his leather jacket unzipped and fitting him too well. He stood as if waiting for someone and when he spotted her, he waved her down.
"What are you doing out here?" Maka asked through the open window, puzzled as he rounded the front of her car and slipped into the passenger seat.
"There's no more milk," he told her grimly as he shut the door.
"Soul, are you serious? It's eleven pm."
"This is serious! I like milk," he whined. "M'always get - "
" - up at night to drink some, yes, I know," Maka sighed and decided she might as well keep driving. She headed to their usual supermarket, since it was probably the only thing still open at this time at night. "Anything else we need?"
"Uh, some chips and soda and doughnuts. Oh, and some cranberry juice!"
"I meant real food."
"What're you talking about? That is real food," he grinned. "Soda is my life blood."
"I thought it was milk."
Maka giggled and his smile widened. When they arrived to the supermarket, she once more asked him if they were missing anything else at home and although that earned her a roll of the eyes from him, he listed off the things they really did need and, when they entered, Maka picked up a grocery basket and Soul made the bee-line for the dairy section for that gallon of milk. She wandered the aisles for a bit, filling up the basket with a few things they needed and picking off more as she decided she'd cook some spaghetti sometime next week. She paused when she saw a woman doing something similar ahead of her, only with a cart, and she let her eyes linger on the woman who hummed a song under her breath as she reached for some bottles of seasoning.
What caught her eye the most was the glint on her ring finger - the ring, basically. It was rather extravagant for an engagement ring. Maka decided it was a pretty ring however far too flashy. There were a lot of diamonds, she noticed, some emeralds there, too. She found herself thinking that she'd prefer something less flashy, perhaps classy. Something with rubies, she immediately thought, not the traditional gold either. Perhaps silver or something but now that she thought about it, she wouldn't mind gold either. Gold was always the safe way to go, she mused as she turned back to the cans of tomato sauce. Maybe with a few diamonds encrusted in it and their names engraved on the inside of the band -
She immediately stopped, her hand freezing midway taking out a can.
This was going to far.
She was already thinking about marriage and she was still single.
Marriage was completely overrated anyway, she decided with a frown. Really the only benefit was the pretty matching rings and perhaps the fact that the wedding bands repelled girls from Soul and men from her. But aside from that, things would not change. People said they did, saying marriage was a big step, but Maka honestly thought living with someone was a bigger step. She shared everything with Soul now, her thoughts and her things. He was a person who meant a great deal to her and not to see him every day, well, she didn't like thinking about that. She liked to think he had always been there for her.
"Got it," Soul came up beside her and dumped a gallon of milk in the basket.
Maka tightened her grip on the basket, glaring at him. "Can't you just carry it? It's taking up space!"
"Tch, no, I'm sore from the game," he flexed an arm and she shook her head at his petty concerns. "I'll just go get a cart." And he walked away, leaving her to frown at his backside before she turned back to the cans. She had just picked off two more cans of tomato sauce since she knew how much Soul loved spaghetti when she caught a flash of silver from the corner of her eye. Soul came rushing down the aisle, stepping on the back of the cart and pushing forward like a moron.
"Soul! If you crash into something, I am not paying for the damages! Get off that thing! What are you, five?" Maka hissed, grabbing the cart and halting his fun.
"C'mon, Maka! I'm not gonna' crash, I've done this a hundred times when I was a kid!"
"Exactly: when you were a kid. You're twenty four, Soul!"
"This is childish."
"No, it's called having fun. You should try it sometime, it's good for the heart."
Maka was about to growl something back when she heard light giggles. She turned back and found that same woman smiling at them, having seen the exchange. Soul noticed her but just as easily dismissed her, going back to trying to push forward so he could speed down the aisle at light speed again. Maka smacked him when he tried, dumping the contents of the grocery basket into the cart, and sent him a dark look when he tipped the cart back a little from his weight.
"What? I'm not moving it!"
"I swear, Soul, if you break something, you'll be sorry!"
He rolled his eyes. "I'm not gonna' break something, I'm not that stupid!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" He scowled. She merely smiled back, continuing to search for more things they needed while he trailed behind her, pushing the cart forward with one foot still hooked on the back. "Maka! Makaaaaaaa! Maka, Maka, Maka, Maka, Maka - yikes!" He dodged a swat, darting his wide eyes to her slit ones.
"I heard you the first time!"
"Then say something!"
Maka slit her eyes at him. "I'm getting really -!"
"Tired of my shit, yeah, but I could be worse," Soul smirked.
Maka arched a brow.
"I could be Black Star!"
Maka immediately shuddered and he snorted at the thought, pushing the cart forward so she could follow him now. He noticed, as they made a turn, the woman continuing to smile at them. He then noticed the wedding band on her finger, glinting under the bright lights of the supermarket. A real flashy ring, he thought, probably cost the guy a fortune judging by how many diamonds he saw and the big emerald stone perched on the middle. His eyes shifted back to Maka, who had stopped to pick up a box of instant pasta curiously. She wasn't that type of girl, he decided instantly, to want something so flashy and tacky. She'd want something simpler, something maybe with emeralds? Maybe diamonds, you couldn't go wrong with diamonds. Maybe a combination of emeralds and rubies, he thought suddenly, kind of like... to show their union.
Red and green.
Yeah. That was a good idea.
Band would be gold - or platinum, Soul distinctly remembered his mothers wedding band to be made of platinum. It was much more expensive but platinum would be great. He roughly summed up an estimate in his head, figuring he could take some money out of his savings, before his thoughts came to a screeching halt.
Why was he thinking so deeply into wedding rings? His eyes darted back to Maka, who had decided to take four of those boxes and was continuing her walk. They weren't even going out; they hadn't even kissed yet! And already he wanted to put a ring on her finger? Soul decided it was all Black Star's fault, why he was even thinking about it so much. If he hadn't opened his mouth, right now he would be thinking up ways to bug Maka and not about what size ring she wore and if he should be cheesy and engrave something inside the band; something like its the soul that matters or our uncool secret or make something, for once in his life, meaningful and combine the two or - !
She smiled. "Chocolate or vanilla?"
She looked at the ice cream in her hand. She reached over and grabbed a cookies 'n cream one. "This one? It's not really chocolate but..."
"No, it's perfect," he said, staring at it. Cookies 'n cream, he thought. "Combination's good," so combination it was, he decided in that moment.
Maka cocked her head at his strange phrasing but dismissed it, tossing the container of ice cream into the cart.
She would remember this day later in life, during one of her spring cleaning morning sessions, when the sun was at its brightest and it happened to catch the numerous facets of the ring that adorned her finger, and realize just what he meant by that.
A/N: I was going to end it in the last chapter but I already had this written out. So I decided to make it an epilogue so you could all read it :)