Unclaimer: Maddy only gains much hatred from her readers for posting sad mini-chapters. Nothing more.
Everything was dark.
And really hot.
It was terrible, and he wished for the numb, half-awareness that he had been swimming in for long moments before fading away, only to fade back again later on.
How long had it been since he had actually been aware?
He didn't know.
There was a soothing feeling at one point, like someone's soft hands cupped his face and whispered to him promises of the warm sun and cool grass and things that were better than the hollow void he found himself in. It was bittersweet like when his brother took his shoulder in his hand and with a sad smile, said, "We've failed before, but we're alive and we've always pulled through."
Who was his brother again?
What even was a brother?
He recalled a dream he had where some young soul asked him for help. They had wings. He gave them armor. Everything was red and blurry and exhilarating.
No, that didn't actually happen though. A dream within a dream.
Nothing was real.
That was right.
He was probably dead.
But the loud and the hot and the pain and vibrations and that white, white light that burned - oh how it absolutely burned him - was there above him. It was real. And it had only burned so bright after he whispered "trust" to the soul as he steadied its wings, which crumbled under the weight of the darkness.
He had forgotten the feeling of protectiveness.
It was like fire. Good fire. Not the white burning pain he felt. It was instinct, it was emotion. It was not trying to destroy him.
No, he wasn't dead.
Where was he then?
It asked that. When the little bird returned, it asked him where he was.
What had they said?
What had they talked about?
He was behind it, right?
(He didn't know what it was anymore, he didn't know anything anymore, it was so loud...)
There was so much noise after that. He recalled the sound of someone choking which was drowned out by the loud he was currently hearing. He loathed the pressure that did not let him help. (That held him fast in place while everything began to grow into his new hell.) Then whoever-it-was was gone, and he was left alone in the hot, the pain, the loud, and the heavy.
He decided that he wanted out.
He needed to find that person.
Who was he again?
It was really hot, and really loud, and too dark, and he felt like he was being crushed by something.
It really did.
Then it got worse. It increased.
He wailed, maybe. Possibly cried out for help, struggled to reach for - for what?
There, hanging above him, past the light, his little bird.
He remembered! This time it wasn't crumpled; it was burning in the good way that wasn't white hot and painful. He reached for it, attracted to its warm glow. It seemed to beckon him, invite him. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew it had been injured, wondered if it still needed him.
He decided yes.
Then the too dark suddenly became too bright and there was vibrating and clanging amongst the loud and painful droning that was crushing him and he just wanted out.
He was so tired.
Fragments of light fell around him.
...They glinted and reflected the burning white in a way that did not hurt.
He let go.
And floated through stars.
After he struggled to reach for his bird.
It was too much.
She was gone anyway.
Maka celebrated graduating from a cast to a brace with a perfectly sliced piece of cake. Soul celebrated with three.
They lazed about on the left balcony of the fourth floor in the west wing of Death the Kid's prestigious and symmetrical mansion that he shared with the Thompson sisters and on occasion Death himself. Kid had made it very clear earlier in their mini celebration that they would hold a larger party for when Maka would be able to walk without any assistance. He had detailed to her all of his plans, and made sure that everyone was aware that that party would be held on the balcony on the fourth floor of the east wing.
"Even the events must be symmetrical," he had stated with an indignant huff, turning away from the crowd of bemused faces. "I will not have the balance of my perfect home be thrown off by the dissymmetry of holding a party on the same balcony as the last. It would ruin everything!" He had taken several very deep and shaky breaths after that and Liz stood trustily by his side and patted each shoulder eight times to calm him down, all the while Patty laughed till she was blue at her meister's silliness.
Maka might have found it odd that they were having a party for a person with a broken leg on the fourth floor of a mansion, but then again, it was the result of the planning of an OCD death god. Each social event that happened would alternate wings (East to West, then North to South) and move up the floor levels in numerical order. It was the only way.
There was no other.
Upon hearing this very detailed, long winded, generally boring and pointless explanation that was literally only important to one person, everyone heaved a collective sigh of exasperation.
"That's our Kid!" Liz said, a fake smile was plastered on her face to hide her own grimace. "Always so orderly."
Everyone halfheartedly agreed, just to move things along; Kid's few temporary servants had set up a lovely buffet.
That chain of events led to Maka nibbling on a piece of overly sweet cake while lounging on an outdoor love-seat next to Soul, watching him inhale far more cake than necessary. Black Star was perched on the armrest next to Soul, Tsubaki was watching Liz in embarrassment from the table while Liz tried to convince a passing waiter to go out with her, Kid was fussing over the order of the fruit plate, Patty was stealing sticky-buns from under the table, and the waiter was trying to politely decline Liz's advances while still paying attention to Kid. Maka got the feeling that he was a new employee.
It had been about three weeks.
Three long, boring weeks, of which a good chunk of Maka's time had been spent focusing on waking up the Death Scythe Fullmetal, who was all but unresponsive. Maka had very quickly caught up with all of her school work, and stayed steadily on top of it so that every spare moment she had she could try resonating with the sleeping weapon. It wasn't like she could do any field work with her leg, and while Soul no longer needed a sling or a brace for his collar bone he still had some nasty bruising and really couldn't do much without his meister either way. For the time being, they stayed in Death City and focused on simply getting better.
Or in Maka's case, getting that damned Fullmetal to not play sleeping beauty for once.
As of yet, it appeared that her attempts were for naught. She no longer felt anything from the weapon. Not even a slight pull, a spark, or even a little pulse. It was like the soul inside had been burnt out, like it no longer really existed. Maka wondered what would happen to the weapon if that were the case. Would it turn into dust and dissolve away? Crumble to pieces in her hands? Simply remain in it's current form until someone decides to break it?
She didn't know.
She didn't want to give up, either.
But what if he really was dead?
What if the thing that had been keeping him alive had actually been that hex?
Oh Death, what if she had killed him? Maka put her cake down, suddenly feeling very lightheaded. Soul gave her a gentle nudge.
"Did you not want that?" He asked, peering at her.
"No," she stated.
"What's wrong with you?" Soul asked, she could hear the lightness in his voice. She thought she might throw up.
"I feel like we're wasting time; I should be trying to get Fullmetal out," Maka replied softly, not looking at him.
"It's not going anywhere, Maka," Soul said, sounding fairly nonchalant. "Just give it a break for a while and relax. You've been working too hard."
"Yeah! You've been so busy with that old piece of metal you haven't been paying any attention to me!" Black Star chimed in, leaning over Soul's head. "And I'm such a big star, too. It's unreal." He gave Maka a studying look, looking dead serious and very ridiculous at the same time. "Say, maybe you have been working too hard. You look really pale."
"Yeah, he's right," Soul agreed, leaning in really close to Maka's face. Black Star managed to situate himself over Soul's shoulder, giving him the illusion of having two heads.
"W-well..." Maka trailed off, not really wanting to voice the morbid conclusion she had come up with, but not really wanting to just lie and say she was sick.
"Come on now, guys. Let Maka alone so she can eat her cake in peace," Kid called over from the buffet table. "I would feel nauseous too if I had you two so close to my face." Black Star jumped up, leaping onto the armrest of the little white love-seat. Kid cringed a bit and eyed Black Star's muddy shoes.
"What was that, Kid? Don't think my face is amazing, do you?" He snorted, looking down at the young reaper with distate.
"Nope," Kid replied, looking up at Black Star, unimpressed. Patty jeered from under the table.
"Beat him to a pulp, Kid!" she squealed. Maka blinked, wondering how things had escalated so quickly. Soul snorted next to her.
"C'mon now, you ain't gonna take that, are you Black Star?" he asked nonchalantly, glancing up at the young assassin with a smirk. Black Star huffed angrily.
"No way in hell!" he shouted, throwing his fists in the air. "Tsubaki - chain scythe form, now!" He held his hands open, waiting and ready for his trusty weapon. She remained in her seat at the table, however, delicately sipping some peach tea. She glanced up at Black Star and gave him an apologetic smile.
"Sorry, Black Star, but this is not the place nor time to be fighting. Wouldn't you agree Maka, Liz?" She turned to the two girls, looking for some support. Maka nodded vigorously and Liz shrugged.
"I don't mind some rough and tumble; makes the party more interesting." Liz stated. She turned to the confused waiter and whispered behind her hand, loud enough for everyone to hear, "Kid'd squash that little pest anyway." Patty giggled darkly from under the table.
"Squish pests, squish pests!" she chanted. Tsubaki sighed.
"You're not helping," she said sadly.
"I agree with Tsubaki," Kid proclaimed, ever serious. "This is a party for Maka and Soul, not a fighting ring."
"Aww, Kid, that's no fun. But I suppose we can't fight an unwilling participant." Soul shrugged, reaching for Maka's half eaten cake. "Settle down, Black Star, we can beat the crap outta that guy at school later." He smirked playfully at Kid, who rolled his eyes before smirking back.
"I wouldn't suggest it, but if you insist..." There was a wicked glint in his bright yellow eyes, which betrayed his current serious demeanor. Maka smiled slightly, glad for the familiar scene, even if the boys were picking fights with one another. It was all good fun. They were a team; they'd never intentionally harm one another. Maka morosely wondered what they would think of her thoughts on Fullmetal. She sighed and leaned back, tucking herself against Soul's side, wanting to disappear. Of course, if she did that, she'd never be able to help Fullmetal.
Soul shifted next to her, accommodating to their new position. He gave her a curious glance and while she hoped that her face was blank and did not portray anything, she must have had some sort of desolate expression on her face because Soul leaned his forehead against her's and gave her a small smile, not saying anything. His eyes spoke volumes though. She knew he would listen to her later on, first chance they got.
Her stomach dropped at the thought of Fullmetal being dead because of her, and the sudden feeling of a lack of air caused her to sigh again, though the feeling remained. She squirmed and buried her face in Soul's shoulder, wishing that the party could just end so she could go try to resonate with Fullmetal.
Black Star tried to peer at Maka's face, leaning in front of Soul to do so.
"What's your problem, Maka?" he was more or less lying in Soul's lap now, peering up at her. "You're acting all funny."
"Black Star, leave Maka alone, she's probably all worn out from working with the Fullmetal," Tsubaki chided. Maka gave a small nod.
"I guess I am a bit tired after all," she admitted. It wasn't really the truth, but then again, worry and stress and a broken leg were all very exhausting things.
"Perhaps we should end our festivities here then," suggested Kid, giving Maka a worried look. Liz sauntered up next to him and nodded, giving Maka a supportive smile.
"You do look pretty tuckered out," she said. Patty jumped up and nodded, spilling stolen sticky buns everywhere.
"Sis says that I should take a nap when I'm tuckered out!" she informed Maka. "Maybe you should do that! Right sis?" She turned to Liz, who patted her head.
"Maybe a bubble bath first," she suggested. Patty squealed.
"Could we have one of those tonight?! Could we?" she jumped up and down excitedly. Liz shrugged and nodded, causing Patty to shriek with delight and go running into the mansion, undoubtedly to go draw a bath. Tsubaki stood up, placing her tea cup on the table.
"In that case, why don't we head home, Black Star? I'll make us some rice balls when we get there." She smiled at Maka encouragingly while Black Star hopped off the love-seat and stretched lazily before following Tsubaki through the perfectly polished glass doors that lead off the balcony. He waved goodbye enthusiastically and Tsubaki bowed daintily.
"See ya, loseres!" he jeered as he sauntered off. "This lame party is too lame for someone as awesome as me."
"Black Star, be nice..." their voices echoed from the hallway as they left the room the balcony was connected to.
"...I had better go make sure Patty doesn't flood the bathroom," Liz said thoughtfully, like an afterthought. "Take it easy, Maka, okay?" She offered a fist to Maka, who bumped it haflheartedly in return. Soul gave her a bump next. Liz turned and left the balcony the same way Black Star and Tsubaki had left, hips swaying suggestively. She gave a graceful wave to the waiter, whose face turned a bright red, and glided away after her sister. "See you around." She called over her shoulder.
"Damn that Liz, acting in such an inappropriate manner at my parties," Kid grumbled, shaking his head. "Alright, why don't you pack up the food instead of staring at my weapon, hm?" He directed to the waiter. The young man jumped to attention and began grabbing empty plates to bring inside. His face was no longer red, though his ears were still bright pink.
"Guess we'll be heading out too then," Soul said, standing and taking Maka's hand, helping her up. "Want us to help?"
"No, no, it's alright." he glanced at the waiter, who was apparently doing something that was irksome to Kid. "I've more help than I need as it is." Soul laughed and gave Kid a light punch on the shoulder.
"Go easy on him, poor bastard," he laughed. "We'll see you later, Kid." Maka nodded and gave her friend a smile.
"Thanks for this, Kid. I appreciate it," she said, meaning every word. Kid gave her a kind smile in return.
"Anything for my friends," he said, giving her a small bow. "Now away with you, there are things to be done and a balcony to clean!" He ushered the two of them away, the tender moment gone. Maka laughed softly, obliging to Kid's requests. There was no need to have him even more stressed out than he was already, what with the world not being symmetrical and all.
As Maka and Soul walked down the stairs of the grand mansion, they heard Kid's voice, an octave higher than usual, panicing over something. There was a crashing sound, a shattering sound, an agonized wail, a scream to shut the hell up you little shits that must have been from Patty, and moments later the waiter was running out of the mansion in a frenzy, blowing past the weapon-meister pair, shrieking "I QUIT, I QUIT!" at the top of his lungs.
"He didn't go easy on him."
"Not at all."
"No wonder there are so few staff at Death Manor."
"Yeah, no kidding."
"He was brave."
The pair walked in silence for a while, contemplating life in Death Manor with Kid and the Thompson sisters. A mutual agreement was made that life was most certainly better in their little apartment. Less hectic, no OCD death gods trying to give order to the chaos of their home made almost entirely of posters, cards, books, and vinyl records. Everything was the way they liked it; messy, familiar, and completely theirs.
Maka found herself sighing again.
"Alright, you've been sighing non-stop since you decided to not eat your cake," Soul said, turning to look at her while they walked. "Either you regret not eating it, or something's seriously on your mind."
"Soul what if I killed Fullmetal?" Maka blurted out, desperate to get the words out of her system and into the air. She watched Soul's reaction with wide eyes. Mostly, he looked surprised, then chuckled and sighed.
"Maka, you didn't kill him. That hex probably messed him up bad, and you're working to fix him," he eyed her expression. "He's fine. Just comatose. You didn't kill him, there's probably no way you could kill him, and you're worrying over nothing."
"But hexes have great magical abilities," Maka argued. "What if that was what was keeping his soul in tact? What if, when we destroyed it, we ruined his soul and now he can never get out? What if he really is nothing but an old weapon now?"
"Maka, you're overthinking this," Soul started, giving her a worried look as he stopped walking.
"No, I'm not!" Maka snapped.
"He was supposed to be infamously powerful. Does that not mean that he couldn't stand up to a hex that he's been standing up to for literally hundreds of years?" Soul was quick to counter her argument.
"Maka, you're stressed and worried and being really impatient," Soul told her, looking her in the eye. "You're so persistant, but you got to step back now and then and look at the big picture or you'll never see what good you've done." He put his hands on her shoulders, "Just breathe for a minute and think."
Maka blinked at him, feeling hopeless. He gave her a look that said, go on. She sighed sadly and closed her eyes, focusing on his warm, heavy hands that all but enveloped her slim shoulders. His soul was calm, though she could feel little qualms of worry bubbling up here and there. Worry for her, no doubt. She was such an idiot. She was unbelievably stressed, wasn't she? Always worrying about things that did not need worrying over, turning little things into huge problems... Yeah, she was overthinking the situation.
Thank Death she had Soul to keep her in line.
She opened her eyes, meeting Soul's.
"Better?" he asked.
"Yeah," she replied. There was a small shadow of doubt in the back of her mind, but she wouldn't have it. She needed to move forward with Fullmetal. With the way she had been thinking, of course they couldn't resonate. She had been trying too hard; when they first resonated, it had been desperation, pure instinct, and adrenaline that brought them together. Fullmetal had been woken by the wavelength of panic she sent out, not her pleas. He responded to action, not meditation.
"Soul?" Maka began not long after they started walking again. He hummed in response. "Do you want to go bungie jumping tomorrow?"
Another few weeks past, another boring party was had, and Maka had exhausted every single action-oriented plan she could come up with.
She was still waiting for results.
There had been not a peep out of Fullmetal, and while it was frustrating, Maka knew better than to let herself be put down. She would find something to get him out, she knew it.
What if she had Black Star beat her half to death? Fullmetal had responded when her life was in actual danger... Yeah! That might have been the problem; she had bungie jumped, sky dived, cliff jumped, fought Kid in a reluctant duel on a roller-coaster (which she lost gracelessly after tripping over the track), ran around hacking Fullmetal into trees... the list went on. She tried to push her physical limits as much as possible, but the only thing she got out of it was very thick arm muscles, as Fullmetal weighed a ton.
Soul had reluctantly followed her around, whining about how she looked like a complete idiot and that she should try something that might actually work, but Maka paid him no mind. Fullmetal was different than most souls. She needed to find something that would catch his attention, something that would get past whatever barrier he had put up.
Something that was real.
It was a bit unfortunate that Fullmetal was not allowed to leave the DWMA, though. Maybe, just maybe, if she could get him out to do some real fighting, see some real action and fight real threats, she could ge him to finally wake up. She tried to explain to Lord Death, to Stein, her father, anyone who would listen to her. She needed to take Fullmetal out into the real world. He would be lost to them forever, otherwise. Death shook his head no, saying it was too big a risk; what if she lost him to a pre-kishin? The other responses to her pleas were all similar in nature.
All Maka could do was try to think of some alternative, but nothing would come to her. She decided to study soul resonance until she knew everything there was to know, from modern forms of resonance to the first souls to ever truly resonate. Maybe she would find something there.
In the meantime, Maka took up as many missions as possible. She and Soul burned through kishin eggs like they were dandelions under an industrial lawn mower; their schedule became mission after mission after mission when she was not studying. Maka had forgotten how great it was to be out on the field. Perhaps it was a bad thought, but the senseless violence of a fight cleared her head, put her back to the basics, made her realize that Fullmetal's goal had been survive. She paid more attention to how wildly her soul resonated with Soul's durning the peak of a battle. She watched closely, intrigued that their union grew stronger, if only for moments, when they were forced all the way to the edge of their limits. She pushed them. Soul went along out of curiosity and faith; she refused to let him down.
She refused to let Fullmetal down.
A month passed by hastily, each day spent with hard work. Maka blinked, then spring should have been looming over them. The signs of spring failed to come however. No trees began to bud with young leaves, flowers did not bloom with the few spring showers that the season brought. Nothing lived, or wanted to live. There was an anxious feeling in the winds, like the fear that the Kishin had instilled in the minds of everyone. The stiffness of the air made Maka's skin crawl with unease. It felt like death. Yes, death was in the air. Something was coming.
The disturbance was slowly growing closer, idling towards Death City like a cat after a mouse. Maka was suddenly very aware of the fact the monster that attacked them so long ago might still be out there; she never actually knew if it had been killed by Fullmetal or not. The sickly aura it had began to loom over Nevada put her and Death's meisters on edge.
"It's like something's crawling," Marie said with a shudder. Stein, who stood next to her, nodded. They were in the Death Room, along with Maka, Soul, Kid and Spirit. They stood around Death, looking grim and uncomfortable.
"The air tastes like rot," Death observed. The others nodded meekly. "I wonder what could be causing it? Perhaps you know, Maka?" Maka nodded.
"That thing that attacked us... It wanted Fullmetal. I don't think it was a kishin; in fact I'm positive it's not," She looked around at everyone. "I don't know what it is though."
"Some kind of witch-made thing?" Kid suggested. "That's what you said it might have been before, right?"
"I thought so," Maka mused. "I've never seen anything like it before, though."
"Hmm," Death mused, tapping his mask with one large finger. "Perhaps it's a homunculus. They're not really witch-made, but the people who used to make them used a similar form of magic."
"A homunculus?" Stein rose a thin eyebrow above his glasses. "There's been no record of one those existing for centuries."
"No, but with the awakening of the Kishin, I wouldn't be surprised if one that managed to survive was behind the attack. Odd though, here I was certain that Fullmetal and his meister had successfully rid the world of the seven sins." He shrugged. "Oh well, we've got Fullmetal, so there's not much to worry about."
"But I still haven't made any connection with him, Lord Death," Maka protested. "And what do you mean by 'seven sins'?"
"Ah, perhaps I should tell you the whole story, then." Death looked around the room. "What do you think, Professor Stein, Kid?"
"I've not found anything in the library, and I doubt Maka has either," Kid stated. "So I'd like to know just what it is we're up against, Father."
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious," Stein drawled, a ghost of a smile danced at the corners of his lips. Marie shifted next to him, looking worried.
"Well, in that case, I'll explain who made the 'Seven Sins' to an extent, since they still seem to be a threat," Death seemed to shrink a bit, black body bending down low and close, like he was about to tell them all a rotten secret. "You see, it was actually a sort of relative of Fullmetal's that created the 'Sins' in the first place, which was one of the reasons why it was his and his meister's job to eradicate them."
"A sort of relative?" Marie asked, cocking her head to the side.
"I'm not 100% sure as to how this sort of relative came into being, since he really couldn't be called human either, but there he was, looking identical to Fullmetal's own father yet having no genetic resemblance whatsoever." Death shrugged. "Over the years he seemed to collect these interesting servants that were neither human nor which, kishin nor golem... Each one was named after one of the seven sins."
"These servants were the homunculi you mentioned, correct?" Kid asked, gold eyes ablaze with interest.
"Yes, Kid. It was Fullmetal's father, Hohenheim who discovered that they were homunculi. Turns out, the 'servants' were manufactured by a rather obscure and primitive science that none too many could still perform. I enlisted Fullmetal and his meister, who were an exceptional weapon/meister pair that actually understood the odd science, to remove the 'sins' and their creator from existence."
"And this science was..." Stein ventured, leaning in.
"Alchemy." Death said. Stein's eyebrows rose above his glasses. "Not quite the magic of witches, not quite the science of man, but still powerful nonetheless. You see, Hohenheim's twin was a lot like the kishin in that he wanted immortality. Only he had a better plan that utilized alchemy and the homunculi. Fullmetal, his meister, Hohenheim, and many other brave meister/weapon pairs managed to stop him. It was that final fight that killed Fullmetal's meister, and it was not long after that fight that Hohenheim disappeared."
"What was the plan, then?" Kid questioned.
"To use the science of alchemy to extract the souls of an entire country in order to gain the powers of a god," Death stated. "He almost succeeded too, but Fullmetal's meister sacrificed his own life to ensure that he wouldn't."
The room fell silent, soaking in the knew revelation.
"Do you remember his name, Lord Death?" Maka asked weakly.
"Alphonse Elric," Death replied. "I would never forget." Maka nodded, eyes fixed on the ground. Soul shifted closer to her.
"Anyway," Death chortled, straightening up. "Stein, since you're obviously familiar with the science I'd love it dearly if you'd start teaching the students about homunculi and the basics of alchemy. You can do that, right?"
"Of course," Stein said, turning the screw in his head a few times.
"Spirit, I need you and Marie to get some of our senior meister/weapon pairs together and put together some scouting units. We don't need any homunculi getting into Death City, now do we?" Death gave Spirit a wink.
"Yes, sir!" Spirit said, then blinked. "Ah, no, sir." Death chuckled.
"Maka, Kid, Soul, you all keep studying and do well in school." Death said, turning to the trio. "Maka, you and Soul will no longer be going on any missions, I'm afraid." Maka blanched.
"What? Why?!" She threw her hands in the air, stepping forward.
"Because the homunculi probably know your face," Death answered, shrugging. "Your soul's presence is imperative to waking Fullmetal's, so I'd like you to be alive. And Soul get's off the hook since he's your weapon."
"But why is my soul so important to his? Why can't I fight too?" She was getting so close to understanding, how could Death make such an unwise decision?
"Maka, it's not a huge deal if we can't fight for a while," Soul said putting his hand on her shoulder. "We'll take it easy for a while and focus on studying the homunculi and alchemy. No biggie." Maka rounded on him angrily.
"Yes biggie, Soul," she snapped, making him recoil in surprise. Marie let out an audible gasp and Kid's eyes widened. She turned to Death. "What's so important about my soul, anyway? Why am I the only one working to wake up Fullmetal? He's your Death Scythe, not mine!" Sure, it was more likely that she could wake him up because of their previous success resonating, but why was it her soul that stirred his? Why wasn't Lord Death being more proactive in waking him?
"Maka, there's a good reason for it, just be patient," Spirit began uncertainly. He reached out to her, but she stepped back, away from everyone. "I'm sorry, Maka, we just didn't want to put even more pressure on you."
"Too late for that, Papa," Maka sneered. She turned to Death, looking for answers she knew her father would be reluctant to give. She took comfort in the fact that Stein, Marie and Kid all looked equally surprised; at least they weren't keeping secrets from her.
"Your soul, Maka, has many of the qualities that Alphonse Elric's soul had," Death told her, earning a surprised look from Spirit. "Our hope was that those specific qualities would resonate with Fullmetal and wake him up."
"So trick him into thinking I'm someone who's dead?" Maka spat, incredulous. "That's sick."
"Not trick him, just replicate the bond that he had with his brother."
"That's practically the same!" Maka shouted, frustration growing.
"It could never be the same, Maka. Their family bond was far stronger than normal because of the lives that they led. Alphonse's kind heart was all Fullmetal ever lived for," Death explained. "and I'm positive that your kind heart will be the key to waking him."
"But..." Maka looked around at her friends desperately, feeling the fire fade. "...How?"
"By doing what you've been doing this entire time," Stein spoke up and his grey-green eyes met her olive ones.
"Professor..." Maka looked at her teacher sadly.
"Please, continue to help my Fullmetal, Maka," Death said. "I know that the situation seems grim, and our tactic for waking him might not be what you had in mind, but when the time comes it will work. I only wish I could perform the task myself."
"Why is it that you can't resonate with him anymore, Father?" Kid wondered, gaining everyone's attention.
"I had no part in their family bond," Death swished his hands back and forth. "To be honest, Fullmetal didn't trust me as much as his father and brother did. He was a tough cookie."
Maka turned to Death's mirror. Fullmetal had been placed next to it. She walked forward and picked the old scythe up, its weight familiar in her hands.
"I'm going to wake him up, but I'm not going to trick him. There's got to be another way," she said, looking determined.
"Excellent!" Death sang, bouncing a little bit. "I still don't want you fighting, though. Understood?" Maka nodded reluctantly; he had a point. "Alrighty then, everyone's dismissed."
Kid walked over to Maka and put his hand on her shoulder and gave her a firm nod. She nodded in return before he turned and walked away. Soul stepped next to her, eyeing the scythe. Stein and Marie left the Death Room after Kid, leaving Maka, Soul, Spirit and Death the only one's remaining.
"Did you need something else, Maka?" Spirit asked.
"Lord Death, what's Fullmetal's name?" Maka questioned, looking squarely into the eye holes of Death's mask.
"Well, Fullmetal, of course," Death replied with a shrug.
"No, his birth name," Maka shook her head. "Nobody would name their child Fullmetal; I want to know what his friends and family called him." Death sighed.
"You're so persistent. I'll have to punish your father for it," Spirit gulped at that and cut a hand across his neck, silently begging Maka to drop the subject.
"Give him a Reaper-Chop then; I want to know," Maka insisted, undeterred. Her father whimpered from behind Death. Soul snickered under his breath.
"Alright, alright," Death said drooping a bit. "I'll tell you his name, but only because you're the one who has to wake him and knowing might help. It doesn't leave this room though, okay?" Maka nodded, leaning in close. Soul and Spirit did the same.
"His birth name was Edward Elric," Death told her. "Now don't tell anyone else, understand?"
"Yes sir! ...But why is it so important that nobody knows his real name?" Maka asked, confused.
"It adds to the mystery of Fullmetal!" Death chortled with a wink. "It was a personal preference of his, back in the day." Death chuckled to himself. "He said, 'Here's the deal, my brother and I will work for you, but don't use our real names. There's no reason for anyone else to know.' I agreed with him and kept that promise until today."
"That's... a really dumb reason, actually," Maka said, feeling like she had been let down just a bit. Death shrugged.
"I'm sure Fullmetal had a good reason for it," he said. "Now get going, there's much to be done." Death shooed Soul and Maka to the exit and waved goodbye as they made their way down the guillotine hallway.
"Lord Death?" Spirit asked when the kids where out of earshot.
"Hm?" Death replied, turning to his scythe.
"There's more to it than that, isn't there?"
"There is." It was a statement. A fact.
"My daughter's not in danger, is she?"
"Not in any more now than before."
"...What is the real reason?"
"Names can be cursed, Spirit. Fullmetal was wanted by witches and homunculi alike. No one was allowed to know for their safety."
"Did someone learn?"
"That monster with my friend's body learned. Good thing it was secretive by nature." Death sighed. "There was so much death that day, Spirit. So many good people, lost forever."
They stood in silence for a while. Then Spirit excused himself; there was work to be done.
This chapter is shorter.
This is so upsetting.
To be fair, I could have put the climax in this chapter and just ended it here like I had originally planned, but it would have been over 10,000 words long and it would have dragged out and that would have been no fun for anyone. That said, this and the last chapter (WHICH WILL BE THE NEXT CHAPTER I PROMISE) are going to be a tad shorter than the first two.
I doubt anyone but me actually cares about that fact. But w/e.