A Piacere ma Lusigando

(Life in the Key of G)

2: In which Soul learns how to comfort, a postcard is received, and Maka decides to try on masks

Who's to know if your soul will fade at all?

The one you sold to fool the world

You lost your self-esteem along the way, yeah

Good god, you're comin' up with reasons

Good god, you're draggin' it out

And good god, it's the changin' of the seasons

I feel so right, so follow me down and just

Fake It-Seether

Soul spent three months picking up the pieces in the aftermath of Maka's mother leaving and at times he wondered if it would ever end. In public, at school, she was the same as ever. Chipper and cheerful, but say the wrong thing and you'd find yourself with a book driving its way through your skull. At home she moped and buried herself in book after book during the daylight hours, as if studying would make the emptiness in the house go away and being a perfect student would bring her mother back. Sometimes she drug him out to the middle of nowhere for extra practices, driving herself to become the best fight that she possibly could. After all, hadn't her mom been perfect? Hadn't she managed to make Spirit into a Deathscythe in spite of her idiocy? Soul knew that that looked like. He was, after all, simultaneously the one who couldn't measure up to his family's expectations and the idiot. But he still couldn't bring himself to tell her he understood, that he knew what this felt like. Because their partnership was still too raw, too new, and the gaping wound in his partner's soul made it hard enough for him to compensate during a fight, much less bring it to her attention.

So he got better at holding her while she cried herself to sleep, at tucking the blankets around her when he managed to get her to bed. She never said anything about it, or about the cup of tea he'd bring her sometimes when her face looked like death. She kept quiet and took his clumsy attempts at comfort and never told him that she woke when he laid her back in her bed and whispered things like "It'll be ok," or "We'll make our own family." She was so far gone in her grief that she never wondered at the meaning behind the words and just accepted them as her partner doing his best for her. After all who else did they have to lean on? She'd never heard a word about his family one way or the other.

Only once did she say anything about their situation, and then it was only "You're too cool to have to do this all the time," under her breath as he set yet another cup of tea at her elbow. He snorted and gave her a sideways grin before leaving her to her books.

And then the first postcard came. It had been his turn to grab the mail, and he hadn't really paid attention to what he was holding until he got inside. A notice from the apartment manager, the water bill, and some sort of flyer from the school all got sorted off, leaving him with the postcard. On it was a picture of the Eiffel Tower, glowing in the night. On the back was a mark saying it had been sent from Rome two weeks ago, along with a quick scribble in her mother's handwriting. "I've filed for divorce. I love you dear heart."

That was it. That was all. Soul stared, unbelieving, at the little bit of printed cardstock. That was it? That was all that the woman had to say after the absolute hell she'd put her own daughter through? But Maka had wandered out of the kitchen, spatula in one hand, "Hey Soul, dinner's nearly ready." It was too late to hide it and Soul watched helplessly as she noticed what he was holding and snatched it out of his hand. "Hey, this is pretty, who's it-" she stopped, sucked in a breath, dropped the spatula, and collapsed before he could blink, all in one movement. Kneeling there in the middle of the entryway she read the two scribbled lines. And then again. And again.

Soul knelt in front of her and grabbed her by the shoulders. "Maka!"

No answer.

"Maka!" He shook her a little bit and watched as her head wobbled slightly on her neck, but her hands were steady, so steady. Her knuckles were turning white, and her chin was trembling dangerously. Soul wanted to slap her, wanted to rip the stupid thing out of his partner's hand and tear it to shreds, burn it, destroy it however he could. But when he tugged on it gently, she pulled it back, holding it to her heart like a talisman. Something in the set of her jaw told him that to try hard would bring on something much worse than a Maka Chop. With a sigh and mutter of "This is not cool," he sat down to wait it out. It didn't take long, but the result wasn't the one he'd been bracing himself for. Between one heartbeat and the next the tension left her body and she grinned up at him. "Isn't it great Soul? She's ok!"

Soul nearly choked. Ok? Did she think she'd fool him, pretending that the past three months had all been worry about whether a mother who would abandon her own child was ok?! He could feel his nails biting into his palms and if he bit any harder on his lip he might just cut it off. He at least, had chosen to be on his own, but this girl hadn't asked to have her soul and her faith in family shattered. He'd never had any of that, but at least he had known it when he saw it.

Then he saw that the tiny tremble in her chin wasn't gone, and there was as much steel determination in her gaze as happiness and all the fight went out of him. If this was how she chose to deal from now on, if this was the mask she'd wear, who was he to argue? After all, wasn't he wearing a mask of his own? Soul snorted and sat back, bumping one of her knees lightly with his foot to prove he was cool. "Yeah I guess it is."

Everybody was entitled to their masks after all.

AN: Soul Eater and the characters in it are NOT mine. Dangit. This is the second in a set of one shots meant to go together but hopefully able to be read separately. I started this series watching the anime, but we're going to end in the mangaverse. We're mostly-pre series here. Next one should be after it starts. I hope you enjoy! Please R&R!