Chapter Seven: Happiness Is A Warm Gun
He placed his hand flat on the slate grey wall, flinching under how cold the bricks were.
How could it all be gone. Where the fuck did it go?! It had just been there yesterday! It had fucking existed yesterday! A demon stood here! And an antidote did too! White wings were penned here…weren't they!? Was this even the right alley?! He wasn't too sure in that moment...everything was gone.
Even the sticky notes were gone. All of them.
It was like the art had never been on that wall.
Like he and Angel had never been on that wall.
That thought hurt more than he thought it would and Soul could feel his knees buckling. His hand pressed against the wall and gripped so tight that his knuckles popped and he finally crumpled down in front of what used to be their piece.
"No...just...fucking no, please." He didn't know who he was talking to at this point, he hadn't felt this isolated since he finished that broken city so many years ago, and lately it had felt like home. He couldn't wait to come here after work, he couldn't wait to check in with Angel. He knew he could come here and she would just let him be, and now it was all fucking gone.
The grey paint was still wet. He could still smell it. Soul never thought he could hate the smell of paint so much.
God fucking damn it. He lost his piece! He lost the demon! Soul barked out a laugh at that, ignoring the stinging in the back of his throat the best he could. He had put so much of himself in that. It was the most raw thing he'd done in years...and it had just been ripped from him. He couldn't even enjoy the healing Angel had offered with her last collaboration. He had barely even gotten to see it, and now he never would.
He could go scraping at the wall, but that would only rip up what was underneath.
But he was underneath it. He was there, choking under that fucking industrial grey that seemed to mock him more than anything Angel had ever done. Angel had at least meant creation when she carefully penned over his work, or more recently, added to it. But this? Just a solid color across what had been him and his best friend's everything.
The hand pressed against the wall slowly bunched into a fist, and Soul dropped his forehead. "Fuck. You." He snarled to the bricks, and brought his fist back before letting it fly at the mocking bricks that used to welcome him home.
How many homes was he going to have to lose before he could finally close his eyes?
The pain that exploded under his knuckles was ignored when he saw the few drops of blood splattered against the wall.
It looked better with color.
It always had.
Wes had been ready to parent.
On principle, Wes hated coming at Soul like a parent. His brother was twenty, and while he was a legal adult, Soul was still a fucking kid, and he still forgot to follow basic rules. Like calling his older brother to check in. Honestly, Wes had so few rules, it was really infuriating when Soul couldn't follow the simple ones he put in place. It wasn't like Wes had exactly been a stickler for rules in the first place, but after what had happened Soul's first Christmas here, and the way his parents had come down on him like holy hellfire, Wes had made real rules, and he expected those rules to be followed.
But sometimes, for whatever reason, Soul would completely blow off the rules and leave Wes a fucking mess in their kitchen at three in the goddamn morning.
The violinist grumbled into his drink before draining it, and finally placed the well used tumbler into the sink. Soul had twenty more minutes before Wes called the cops, because he was passed angry now, and he was starting to teeter on terrified. Where the hell was his brother!?
Wes had phone in hand when he finally heard the door to their apartment open. The relief felt better than the booze he had been drinking, and he put on his "parent face" for when Soul finally walked into the kitchen.
But when Soul did, Wes' lecture died halfway to his tongue.
His brother was slumped over, more than usual. His knuckles were starting to scab over, and looked like they were pretty bruised. Soul's beanie was in his hand, and his statically charged hair was everywhere, giving a slightly unstable look to his little brother. What really killed Wes were his eyes though. Soul gave a sniff, then looked up at his brother. They were dull, and looked like he'd just been crushed. "I'm late. Sorry."
"What the hell happened?!" Wes forgot he was supposed to be mad. Forgot he was supposed to be the adult for ten fucking minutes and hold his brother accountable. All he could remember was it was his job to protect his little brother, and he hadn't done a very good job of it in that moment.
"Ahh….me and Angel's...we...It's-I fucking-Dude I can't-It's...g-gone." Soul's gnarled English came out quickly, and Wes swallowed. He fucking hated asking the kid to repeat himself, but he didn't have much of a choice.
"Didn't catch that Soul."
"T-the fucking piece man. It's-I don't-It's not-gone! It's gone! Like-no more-fucking lost it-Just...we lost it man."
"Someone covered it. Wes...it's all gone." Wes didn't realize when he had gotten up, but his arms were around his brother and Soul just slumped against his brother.
"I'm sorry, little brother, I'm so sorry. Really."
Soul didn't say anything, just twitched and shook his head. Wes sighed and held his brother a little tighter. It wasn't fair. Wes knew that in his heart of hearts that what happened to his brother wasn't fair, but Wes didn't know how to even start to make this better for his brother.
"It will be okay Soul."
"I...I don't think it will be."
"She knows it wasn't you who covered it Soul."
"But I don't know if she saw what I did for her. She could just...wait...forever. She could think I didn't care. Wes...I think I lost her."
She didn't mean to wear a new dress for what she considered one of the top five worst days of her life.
The dress was new, and her tights were patterned. Her shoes were her favorite combat boots and her dad had left her a note asking her to run across town to get him some new shoes since he was working extra shifts. Maka didn't mind, she wanted a good reason to head over to the other side of town, gave her an excuse to check on their wall.
The sun was softer that day, and Maka appreciated it for the long walk she had in front of her, so she decided to reward herself for the effort by stopping by the wall first. It had been a few days since she'd been there and she was hoping that Eater had seen her work by now. She just wanted to know if he liked it. She wanted to know if it had helped at all, but mostly she just wanted to hear from him again. She was thinking she would like to talk to Space Cowboy face to face again. Maka smiled to herself as she slipped into the alley and shivered. God, it was much colder down the alley during the day than it was at night, and she brought her arms around herself to stay warm.
Something felt wrong before she got to the wall, and she swallowed hard before she looked up.
The blank slate in front of her was disorienting, and more confusing than anything else. Maka figured she had taken the wrong turn down the wrong alley, because their alley had a rainbow of sticky notes and a massive mural that had taken up the entire wall. So...so where was it? She blinked at the grey then placed her hand against it. The wall was cold, and coagulated, like barely dried paint.
This wasn't right, this wasn't correct. What had happened here? She had...her piece had been up here? Where did it go? Where did all the sticky notes go?
Why was it all gone?
Maka brought her nail up to the wall and scratched at the grey, digging under the paint and scraping it away. She flicked the paint from her fingers and investigated the tiny hole she had created. Black and red.
Black and Royal Red.
That was their piece...that was their collaboration. Maka stepped away from the wall and shook her head. "No…" No, it couldn't' be true. There was no way that it could be true. Tears welled in her eyes and she swallowed the wave of hysteria that was lodged in the back of her throat. No more. Maka couldn't take anymore.
She ran from the alley, from the wall, from the grey, from Eater, and she ran for home. She ran for where the few pieces of Eater she had left were still stuck to her window. The artist was sure she looked like a maniac, tears slipping from her eyes while she ran through the streets trying to get home. By the time she found herself back at her door, her hands were shaking and her lungs were scorching.
She quickly let herself in and walked up to her room. Stumbling over to her bed, she pulled her green comforter up and hid herself inside of it. Her shoulders shook with the strength it took to suppress the anguish she felt at the thought of not only losing her art, the first piece she had ever felt important enough to paint on a wall, to put out there for the world to see. Her confidence and her damn portfolio were gone now, completely erased from existence.
God that had been the point of tagging on the wall, to keep her work permanent! She just wanted to keep it real; keep it real and wonderful and tangible and it made her feel alive! It made her happy! It reminded her of how her mother used to react to her pressed flowers and her small paintings. It was nice to feel powerful, to feel amazing, to feel acknowledged when she left her art on their wall, but now she had lost even that.
Maka had nothing done anywhere else. Not like Eater did.
Thinking about the other artist brought a fresh wave of pain crashing down on her, and she couldn't keep herself stoic anymore. Maka cried into her sheets, arms wrapped around herself. How was she going to find Eater again? It wasn't like she had thought to ask his name when she did meet him, it wasn't like she had his number….god did he even see what she had painted?!
Oh fuck, what if he hadn't?! What if he just thought that she didn't give a shit about his demon?! God...She had never felt shittier in her life. What could she do now?!
She lost it.
She lost him.
Soul was given a week before Wes made him leave the apartment again.
The moping mess of little brother had exiled himself to his room, and he didn't come out unless he had to work or his bottomless stomach had finally taken priority over his newfound isolation. Wes had let him have his space, but after a week had passed and Soul hadn't touched his cans, the violinist was officially worried.
Like contemplating calling his mother worried.
However, he was willing to wait if he could get Soul out of the house today. Wes stood at his brother's door with a cup of coffee, (not instant coffee either, Soul's annoying mocha-choca-latte-mericano Wes wasn't totally sure what it was) and he knocked on the door.
There was no response, but he could hear Soul groan under the mountain of pillows that made up his brother's bed. "Soul. Up."
"Fuck off, 'm sleeping."
"Soul it's like...three in the afternoon."
"Yeah, and I ain't been sleeping at night okay? Fuck off, I've only been asleep for like an hour."
"Jesus Soul. Get up okay? I got you coffee."
"Don't insult me."
"I bought the coffee."
A few more swears later, Soul opened his door. He was only in his boxers, and his hair actually looked messier than it usually did. He scratched at the scar that bisected his torso and accepted the coffee. "Thanks."
"Yeah, no problem. Listen. You wanna get out today?"
"Not particularly, no."
"Yeah, come on dude. Go do something. Like...I don't know, go visit Sid and Mira."
"Don't need paint."
"Do it anyways?" Wes offered, and Soul growled, draining half of his coffee in one gulp.
"Fine." Soul turned back to his room and started rummaging through the clothes on his floor, looking for something that was clean. Going outside sounded awful. Completely awful but he knew what Wes was doing. If Soul didn't prove he was alive, then his mother would be called, and god if he wasn't careful his mother would show up at his door and start doing that shit where she went all Italian Mom on his ass and she would only leave when he was miserable and forty pounds heavier.
Finally he had a clean shirt and a questionable pair of skinny jeans on. He spat some toothpaste in the sink and washed his mouth out with the rest of his unbearably sweet coffee. He grimaced as he threw the cup away, normally he only downed an expresso shot, maybe with some hot water, but when he's depressed Marie usually made some terribly sweet concoction for him.
He threw his beanie on when he walked out the door, Wes waving him out. He was too fucking tired to deal with any of this shit right now. He only had about a month until his school started again, and he didn't know what to do with himself anymore. He did head for Mira and Sid's store though, if for nothing else he would finally be able to ask Sid about the green that had been plaguing him longer than he wanted to admit. He could at least have that.
The store was empty when he walked in, and he sighed and headed to the wall of color. He ran his fingers over the reds, stopping over the scarlet that nearly matched the color of Angel's poppies. He bit his lip and turned away from the color, only to be face to face with Mira, who for whatever fucking reason, was sitting on top of a display.
"Hey Mira." He nodded and Mira reached out and grabbed his face with her hand.
"Boy are you hung over?! You look like hell! And where have you been?! God did you get into your brother's booze stash?!"
Soul growled and pushed her hand away from his face. "No, come on...I can't ever find his shit."
"Then what the hell is wrong with you? Look like your father came to visit-" Mira froze and looked up at him. "Did your father come to visit?!"
"No...Mira..." Soul dropped his eyes and Mira tilted her head, looking at him. Finally, she leaned back against the display and opened her arms.
"Come here." She ordered him, and Soul resisted for thirty seconds before he accepted Mira's hug, and let the tiny woman on the display case hold him. "What happened to you baby?"
"Don't lie to me baby, what happened?" Mira patted his back and Soul sighed against her shoulder.
"Mine and Angel's wall got covered. Completely. There's nothing left."
"What?! N-no! No! Oh baby..." She let Soul go, and he helped her down from the display. "Come to the back, I'll make you some tea."
"Alright." Arguing with Mira was pointless, so he followed her to the back. She sat him down on a crate. The table in front of him was made from empty paint cans and a paint splattered glass slab. He took his beanie off while she turned on the hot plate in the back room. "Who covered the wall?"
"I have no idea."
"...you saw what she did, right? You saw Angel's flowers?"
"Yeah...I drew...wings for her, as a thank you. I don't know if she saw it though I...fuck I don't know!" Soul ran a hand through his hair and Mira set a cup of tea down for him.
"Why don't you ask her?"
"All the sticky notes are gone too. Plus...what if she did? It's...it's just gone."
Mira disappeared into the back room, came back to set something in front of Soul. He glanced down, and picked up the paint pen she had put in front of him. "What's this?"
"Uncap it and test it out for me, would you?" Mira requested, and Soul glanced at her before he did as she asked, and tested out the pen, watching as a Royal Red Angell was painted from his hand.
"Whoa. Didn't know you had this color in pen."
"We didn't. Your little Angel asked for it last time she was here." Mira explained, sitting down. "And you see, it would be a shame if she never knew to come get it. So, go leave her a message."
"What if she doesn't check the wall anymore?"
"Boy, this girl has spent her entire summer dedicated to your little pissing match, and you expect me to believe she's just stopped coming to the wall. I don't buy that for a single second. So, you drink your tea, you get your butt out of my store, and you get her back. You understand me?" The tiny shopkeeper stood with her hands on her hips, raised an eyebrow at him. "Well? Did I stutter?"
Soul smiled, and took a sip of his tea. "No Mira, you absolutely didn't." Soul slipped the marker into his pocket and smiled. Under her white mask, the color expert smiled as well, and she walked behind her overgrown unofficial son. She brought her hand back and smacked him upside the head hard, leaving tea spat all over her glass pane table. "Ow! Mira why?!"
"You think I was gonna ignore all those f-bombs you dropped in front of me? Boy I don't know how many times I need to tell you to watch your mouth when you're talking to a lady! I oughta hang you by your toes, you know that?" Mira stalked to the back, to finish unpacking the next box of cans, and when she came back out, Soul was gone. His cup was empty, and on her table he had written thank you.
Mira smiled and shook her head. "Just next time you come in here, she better be with you."
Just like every night since the death of her painting, Maka walked towards the wall.
The phrases beating a dead horse and attachment issues just like your mother ping ponged against her skull and made her feel worse and worse with every step. She knew it was dead, and she knew it was gone. She wasn't pretending that walking to the wall every night would somehow bring it back. Rather, Maka was just the kind of person to sit and mourn, it was just who she was.
She may or may not be leaving a flower there either.
Just a tiny sprig of purple hyacinth, a color Maka found deep and beautiful, which was a slap in the face compared to its meaning. How long are you supposed to grieve before you start healing? Maka wasn't religious, she wasn't spiritual either, she was just...hopeful. And she hoped, to whomever or whatever could hear her, that Eater had at least seen her poppies before she had lost them to the wall. She hoped that he was at least comforted by that fact, if nothing else.
And she hoped to God she would see him again.
Maka dipped down the alley quickly, her legs breaking out in gooseflesh under her skirt, and she hid deeper in the warm purple sweatshirt she had thrown on before she went out. Was it always this cold down here? She had never noticed that before. She finally reached her wall and set the flower down at the base. Smiling a little to herself, she looked up so she could say goodbye.
That writing hadn't been there yesterday.
What the hell?
It was angular, and up high, and nearly fucking impossible to read. If these clues weren't enough to make her heart sing, Maka's face nearly split when she saw the color. Red. Royal Red. A Royal Red marker had been used by the bossy paint purist himself, and the idea made her heart nearly burst.
It took her a minute to decipher the message, Eater's handwriting being both sloppy and stylized, but she was finally able to crack the code.
I drew wings for you Angel, did you see?
She hadn't. She hadn't seen them but God did she want to. In that moment she wanted nothing more than to scratch away the ugly grey of the wall and reveal the pain and healing that was being suffocated underneath. But, rather than destroy this note, and her nails, Maka had a better idea. She moved her head side to side, trying to see if there was any shine off the paint on the wall. It stayed dull, which meant that it was dry, had been dry for a while.
Mind made, she sat herself down at the base of the wall and crossed her legs. Maka picked up her flowers and held them to her protectively.
It was a long shot, a popsicle's chance, a million other phrases that made her realize she was too old to believe in fairy tales anymore.
She didn't care.
She was going to wait.
He was jumping the gun worse than Mother Superior at this point.
He'd only written the message earlier today, and it was stupid to think that there was going to be a response so soon, but fuck he really couldn't help himself. All he was going to do was check, and if there wasn't anything there, he would turn around, go home and make himself fall asleep at a decent hour.
Yeah, it was a good plan.
He threw his bandana up over his face before he ducked into the alley. If the city had begun covering walls, then the last place he wanted to come back to was the scene his crime. He walked carefully, slowly, trying to keep himself calm. There was no reason to freak out-
Fuck, Angel worked quick. She had already painted something on the wall again? And fuck he was impressed. It looked like a huddled girl, and it looked damn realistic. She had flowers in her hands and he took a step back to really get a good look at her painting.
Then her painting looked up to get a better look at him.
Soul froze, eyes wide as the girl looking up at him blinked those massive green eyes, and gave him a smile. "Eater?"
He pulled down his bandana quickly, and nodded. "Hey Angel." Her smile turned into a grin, and she looked above her head, up at the wall.
"I didn't get to see the wings, I'm sorry."
"Oh, it's cool. They weren't anything special." He shrugged, and she stood up. Just like he remembered, she was impossibly small, barely up to his collarbone, and she rocked on her feet for a second. Soul smiled at her then, and her grin got wider. "I'm ah….I'm Soul. By the way. My name is Soul."
"Oh. Hi. I'm Maka." She bit her lip for a second, and took a step towards him. It was all he needed to scoff and walk over to her so he could open his arms and lean down to hug the tiny little weirdo. She wrapped her arms around his neck and laughed, holding him tight. "I'm sorry I didn't get to see your wings."
"It's okay. Really." He promised into her hood. "We can make something better than that, plus, if you're interested, I have a great idea for a spot. Wanna paint with me?"
"Soul, I thought you'd never ask." Maka laughed again and went back to hugging him, and Soul did the same.
Fuck the demon, fuck the wall.
This is what he had been missing.