Chapter 1: Got a Secret, Can You Keep It
Soul's got a dirty little secret. Well, he's got several, but this one is far more precious to him than the porn stash hidden in his dress shoe box or even the fact that he knows how to play "Piano Man" by heart and has untold numbers of Disney lyrics buried in his slacker brain.
"Hey Soul, you coming?"
He looks over at his meister and gives her a little wave. "Nah. I'm gonna pass. I'll catch you back at home."
Maka gives him a glance, eyebrows knit together in something like worry and unsurety. "Are you sure?" she asks, half poised to follow after Tsubaki.
"Go on," he grins and gives her a little verbal push. "Maybe if you eat enough ice cream, your tits'll get bigger." He watches her face redden, and congratulates himself on doing an expert job pissing off his meister even as he rubs at the goose egg that's started to form. If that doesn't get her off his ass for the next couple of hours, then he's fucked anyway.
Soul waits long enough to make sure that the girls are well on their way, Maka's seething fading as their souls gain some distance. As soon as he's sure they're gone and not coming back, he hops on his bike and heads towards his appointment.
There is something to be said for being a weapon, for working with and for Shibusen. Doctors visits, for instance, are free. Unfortunately, that's only applicable if you use the Shibusen approved doctor. As Soul pulls up in front of the decrepit, stitched together laboratory, he can't help but lament that the only Shibusen approved doctor is apparently Stein.
He parks, and the doors to the lab swing open. He swears this place just gets creepier every time he comes here. Marie greets him with a smile and a nurse's outfit, and an offer of tea. Soul doesn't accept as such, but apparently Marie takes his wide-eyed stare as a "yes."
He waits awkwardly on the couch and contemplates whether or not scalding his eyes out with the tea will be an effective way to both get him out of this appointment and to erase any stray thoughts about why Marie is wearing a nurse's outfit in the first place. In the long run, he's probably safer just drinking the tea. Who the fuck knows what kind of crazy shit Stein would try if Soul blinded himself.
Soul realizes about halfway through his cup of tea that he's a nervous drinker and now he has to take a piss; he's about to get up when Marie pops her head back into the living room with a cheerful, "The doctor will see you now!" Soul looks longingly at the bathroom door, but decides that he'd rather get this over with as fast as possible.
Marie shows him into the now familiar workroom and leaves him, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, waiting for Stein to acknowledge his continued existence. The doctor seems very intent on the gadget he's fiddling with.
"You're here again?" he asked, peering over his shoulder. "Eyes?"
Soul winces. So uncool. "Yeah. My glasses got smashed up."
Soul doesn't have to see the inquisitive eyebrow to know that it's there. "I don't wanna talk about it. Can we just get this over with?"
Stein makes a noise in the back of his throat that could be a chuckle or the beginnings of a psychotic break. Soul's not sure which would be preferable at this point. "Of course we can." Stein turns around fully, and Soul can see what he's been tinkering with. It looks like the world's worst piece of headgear, and he backpedals away from Stein.
"The fuck is that?"
"This? Oh, just a little redesign of mine. You're going to put it on your head!" Soul doesn't like the sound of that one bit-are those screws on that thing? "You'll be fine. Don't squirm." Before he knows what's happening, Stein's got the helmet-cum-torture device plopped onto his skull, and Soul is effectively blind. "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?." Stein adjusts a few of the screws, and Soul remains frozen, lest something pierce his brain. He's thought a lot about how he might die one day, and he really doesn't want it to be in Stein's lab.
"So, uh," he starts, desperate to distract himself from what's going on around his skull. "What's up with Marie?" The doctor pauses for a moment.
"Hm. You mean with the-" Stein makes a gesture that Soul can't see.
"The outfit? And the whole doctor's office schtick?"
"Well, this is a doctor's office, technically-Marie seems to think a certain amount of decorum is required since you made a special house call for your appointment, instead of a trip to the school's facilities."
"Huh. Well then." Soul's not entirely sure how to respond to that one.
"Plus I think she really likes the uniform," Stein makes a few more adjustments around his skull and some noises that Soul is at a loss to interpret. Still, it's better than trying to contemplate Stein's words.
A thought that has been worrying away at the back of his mind belatedly asserts itself. "Are you sure you're qualified to be doing this? Just what are you a doctor of, anyway?"
"Oh, this and that." There is a click close to his ear, and suddenly, Soul can see again. Stein's grin is a little fuzzy. "Now, Soul, one or two?"
The actual exam doesn't take very long, especially once Soul realizes that Stein's rigged up eye-equipment is probably not going to explode or result in impromptu brain surgery.
"I can get you a new pair of glasses in about an hour," Stein offers, jotting down something on his chart.
Soul's impressed in spite of himself. "Really? Only an hour?" That would make his life so much easier, even if it meant hanging around here for a while longer. It would also mean not having to make up another excuse for going back out without telling his meister just where he was going.
"Yes. I've got everything on hand, and your prescription hasn't changed. Shouldn't take long at all."
"Don't I like, pick out frames or something?"
"No," Stein smiles at him placidly. "I'm afraid we only have one style here." He adjusts his own glasses and Soul cringes.
"Do I have to get frames from you?"
"You do if you want them to be free."
Maka hears the rumble of Soul's bike as she's finishing up her homework. She's out of her chair before she's even aware of what she's doing, and she stops herself before going into the living room. It's embarrassing how much of a Pavlovian response she's developed when it comes to that bike.
She stands awkwardly in the middle of her room for a moment, waiting until she hears the clomp of his steps and the bang of the door shutting. Then she waits a moment more, uncomfortably aware of her curiosity as to where he's been and how badly she wants to rush out there and ask him and greet him. She kind of makes herself ill sometimes.
It shouldn't matter that she's got the teensy tiniest (enormous engulfing) crush on her weapon. These things happen, and she's not all that surprised. Soul's a good guy, loyal and honest, if a bit abrasive and gruff at times. She's abrasive and gruff herself, so it doesn't bother her so much. She's fine with being friends, which is why, she tells herself, she's standing in the middle of her bedroom and not already in the living room.
Maka takes a deep breath and exits her room finally to find Soul's already disappeared straight into his room. It's not unusual, but it irks her, especially after he blew everyone off this afternoon for some as yet unknown reason. She shrugs off her irritation and knocks on his door.
"Hey Soul, I'm going to start on dinner. Whadya want?"
There's a muffled curse from the other side of the door. "Ah, I'm cool with whatever, Maka." She glares a little at the door, but shuffles off to the kitchen. She's too hungry to press the issue for the moment.
She stares at the fridge for a moment. Her level of giving a shit is pretty low, so she starts up the oven and pulls out the rare frozen pizza they've got stashed away. She shoves the pie in the oven and snags a book from her room to read as she waits for her partner to come out and for dinner to be done.
He comes out nearly twenty minutes later and ruffles her hair a little as she sits, curled up on the couch. "Pizza?"
"Yeah. Nothing else looked good."
He hums, pleased, under his breath and checks on the pizza. "Crust's getting brown."
"Well if it's done, take it out."
He gives her a little grin. "But isn't it your night to cook?" Maka sits up and gives him a hearty glare.
"I hardly think that you pulling dinner out of the oven will constitute a serious breach in dinner etiquette, Soul."
"I dunno-" he teases. She hopes he's teasing at least, because the alternative would indicate that he's being a severe brat, and he's not been that bad since the first couple of months they started living together. Maka growls a little under her breath, but gets up anyway, only to find Soul in the process of taking out the pizza anyway.
Logically, this should have made her pretty pleased, but instead all she can feel is her irritation with him rising. Even without Soul Perception, he can feel it coming off his meister in waves. She snatches the pizza cutter from the drawer and nudges him out of the way with her hip.
"'s there something wrong?" he asks, pulling down a couple of plates. She viciously rolls the slicer across the pan and thinks. She'd like to tell him why she's irritated, but at the same time, she knows that it's stupid, and that she's overreacting. She's not even sure why she's mad, just that she is and it's sort of with Soul and sort of with herself and sort of with everything.
"Nothing's the matter. I'm just in a bad mood." She settles on this because it is effectively, if simplistically, the truth. She divvies up the pizza half and half and flops back down on the couch with her plate. Soul joins her a moment later, and turns on the TV, effectively dropping the subject. If she's going to ignore whatever it is that's actually bothering her, then he'll just wait it out.
He doesn't want to face the mountain of homework waiting for him in his room, but Maka's bristling silence isn't much of an improvement-to the point at which he's genuinely considering sucking it up and doing his work.
"What did you end up doing this afternoon?" She says it casual-like, but she doesn't look him in the eye, just keeps her vision trained on the TV. There is a feeling in the pit of her stomach as she asks, squirmy and unsettling, her brain in a hyper state of quantum-need-to-knowness. Soul gives her a wary look out of the corner of his eye.
"Had an appointment."
She stiffens almost imperceptibly, but Soul knows his meister, and imperceptible for most people is GLARING RED DANGER SIGN when it comes to Maka and him. Perhaps blase hadn't been the best way to handle that question.
It's killing her, not knowing, even if it isn't technically any of her business and she doesn't want to be this nosy, needy, nagging creature- "Oh? What kind of appointment?" She sounds like she's fishing-hell, she is fishing and she knows it. But she tells herself that at least this way she'll know and once she knows she can let it go and stop letting it eat away at her. He's not replying though, and she hazards a quick dart of her eyes to assess the situation. He looks torn. What could there be to be torn about? It's a simple question, she thinks, and then slaps a hand over her mouth because thinking had translated into unable to keep her big mouth shut.
His knee-jerk reaction is to tell her that it's none of her business. Except that it kind of is her business because she's his partner and more importantly, she's his friend and his roommate, and you're supposed to tell your friend/partner/roommate when you have to do things like go to the fucking doctor. You're also probably not supposed to hide the fact that you have to wear reading glasses from them, either, but it's far too late for that.
He thinks about telling her he had a date, but he can't even imagine how she would react to that-she'd probably laugh in his face. He can't imagine that anyone who knew him would buy that particular fabrication-might as well tell her he'd been studying in the library. Soul keeps his face carefully neutral.
"It was the kind of appointment that I had to keep," he says, and maybe it comes out a little more standoffish than he had wanted, but his veins are running cold with apprehension. It's not a lie, he tells himself, but it kind of still feels like one. He feels like he's hanging on the edge of a precipice with no way down that doesn't involve horrible spiky death as she stands. She takes her plate and beckons her hand for his, all the while keeping her eyes studiously on the TV. He hands it over and watches her disappear into the kitchen.
The sinking feeling deepens. He tries to think of a way to make this not desperately awkward without sacrificing what might be the last vestige of coolness that he has. "Did I miss anything?" is what comes out of his mouth, and he cringes a little as he says it.
In the kitchen, she laughs a little, and it completely fails to make him feel any better. "Pattie got a french fry lodged up her nose. And then lodged two up Black*Star's nose in retaliation for him laughing at her."
He chuckles a little at that. "I'm sorry I missed that." He cranes his head around to look at her and catches her staring at him. Soul offers up a small smile. "If I could have missed my appointment, I would have."
Maka wants to believe him, but why won't he just tell her, dammit? She knows he's trying, though-that, despite all they have been through, he's still an intensely private person, and she's getting upset at nothing. She will leave it alone, it doesn't matter- "Will you tell me what the appointment was for?" Maka strongly considers investing in some duct tape. She has apparently lost the ability to control her own mouth.
"I'd really rather not." There's something in his face, in his voice, but she can't quite figure out what it is, and she's terminally frustrated with herself for being like this.
"Ok," she replies. It comes out terse as she tries to reign in the strange pressure in her chest. "I'm going to bed," she adds because if she doesn't get away, doesn't get a chance to compose herself and get her shit together, she's going to be a hot mess, and she doesn't need or want Soul to see that. He'll take it to heart when it isn't even his fault.
Maka doesn't look back as she slips into her room and shuts the door quietly behind her. Soul slams his head quietly into the arm of the couch.
Soul's got a headache that he wants to blame on his homework. He glares at the innocuous box on the corner of his desk, then sighs. It's pointless to try and resist. If he wants even a vague chance of passing and not having Maka beat the bejesus out of him, he needs to turn in some homework.
And to do that-he pulls out his new glasses.
"I hate you," he says. They glint mockingly back at him in the light of his desk lamp. Soul wonders if it's the light, or just a quality possessed by every pair of glasses made by Stein. He slips them on and watches the page come into sharp relief.
His head throbs for a moment, eyes adjusting to sudden clarity. The page comes into focus, and Soul picks up his pen, ready for a different kind of headache. Time slips by, and he tries to concentrate on the words on the page, but being able to read his textbook and wanting to read his textbook are two totally different things. His head dips down, eyes drooping. Dimly, he hears the faint click of his door opening.
He's upright in an instant, hands fumbling for his eternal shame. One hand latches onto his glasses and flings them away from him at lightning speed. They skitter across his bed and clack into the wall. Soul watches them teeter on the edge of his bedspread before they topple into the crack between mattress and wall.
He exhales shakily. "Yeah?" He turns in his chair to give her a neutral look and hopes that he doesn't look as stressed as he feels. That was close. Too close. His meister stands in his doorway, one hand unconsciously twisting in the other. He notes that and the way she ducks behind her bangs, and wonders why she's so nervous.
She stays in the doorway and he's not sure whether to be glad or weirded out. Normally, Maka has no compunctions about invading his personal space. "I just wanted to say that I was sorry."
She lifts her head a little, green eyes shining and narrowed. "I'm sorry," she says like repeating it's going to magically make him understand what she's talking about.
"I heard that. What for?"
"For earlier. I was being-" She's got a list a mile long-nosy, irritable, a total spazzmo-weirdo-creepface- "short with you," she finishes. Her fingers twine into each other. Soul gives her a little smile, and Maka's heart jumps a bit. He crooks a finger at her and beckons her forward and goddamn her feet, she's walking into his room.
Soul pushes away from his desk and stands, meeting her halfway. One warm palm rests on the top of her head and he ruffles her hair. "I dunno. You're always a little short with me."
Part of her wants to laugh because god what a dork. She backhands him in the stomach instead and marches back out of his room.