Author's Notes: I collected the drabbles I wrote for the SoMa Week prompts, so here they are. These were all posted separately on my tumblr (fabulousanima) but now I've brought them all together.
Day 1: Memories
It was her goddamn birthday, he was sweating his ass off already, shit was getting everywhere, but he was going to bake these fucking cookies even if it killed him.
Which it was starting to look like it would.
Keeping up a steady stream of curses under his breath, Soul turned the electric mixer off to add more of the dry ingredients to the large bowl. He wanted to knead his face in his hands, but they were covered in egg slime, so he resisted. Tsubaki had promised him she would keep Maka busy until 6 o'clock, which didn't leave him much time.
Maka's absence from the apartment gave Soul the idea to do something a little special for his meister. It had only been a few weeks prior that he had kissed her for the first time, and she, after a gut-wrenching second where she didn't respond, had kissed him back. He knew that she didn't make too much of a fuss over her birthday — in fact, they had spent the last one abroad on a mission — but Soul felt the need to make this one count. He may never achieve Prince-Charming-levels of attractiveness, but he'd be damned if never sweeps her off her feet.
Thus, the cookies. They had baked this recipe together dozens of times over the years, producing some of the most delicious chocolate chip cookies Soul had ever tasted. But Maka, know-it-all that she was, had gone and fucking memorized the damn recipe and after searching through their meager collection of cookbooks, Soul had been forced to admit that the original copy was long gone, and he was at a loss.
He was almost positive he had gotten all the ingredients. Flour, sugar, salt, baking soda (or was it baking powder? fuck), butter, eggs, brown sugar because for some godforsaken reason there were two kinds of sugar, and vanilla extract. Soul was pretty sure there was no milk involved, which was a good thing because apparently he had finished it the night before when he went for a midnight snack. But just because he had found all the ingredients didn't mean he knew what to do with them.
Teaspoon or tablespoon? One egg or two? What were dry ingredients and what were wet ones? Butter started dry but then melted into a liquid; what the hell did that count as? He knew he had to add the dry to the wet while beating the entire mixture, but what constituted which was a complete mystery to him. Why had Maka thrown out the stupid recipe?
Soul turned the hand mixer back on, and a fine poof of powder rose from the batter as he stirred. He was growing impatient, and dumped the rest of the dry ingredients in, cursing as some fell onto the counter. Of course Blair would choose today to disappear and be completely useless to him.
Okay. The batter more or less resembled the dough from previous baking sessions. Soul moved to the sink and hit the handle with his wrist. He rinsed his hand of egg (mostly), then reached for the yellow bag of chocolate chips. His hands were still damp, and he struggled to grip it. Suddenly, the bag ripped and chips exploded across the kitchen.
"Fuck!" he shouted, stooping to sweet as many as possible into the bag and trying to remember when the last time they had washed the floor was; a few weeks, maybe? Soul glared at the chips he had managed to salvage as he tipped them into the batter. Baking killed bacteria, right?
He reached into the bowl and began to knead the chips into the dough. Maka had always insisted they use a spatula for this part, but Maka wasn't here right now, and so he used his hands. After he had successfully spread the chips evenly through the batter, Soul looked around the kitchen and realized he had forgotten to take out the cookie trays. Swearing, he washed his hands again, then pulled them out of the cabinet with a clatter.
Scooping up a generous heap of cookie dough, Soul slapped his spoon against the tray. The dough remained stubbornly attached to the spoon. He growled, rummaging through the drawers for another one. He awkwardly slipped the batter from spoon to spoon until it fell to the tray with a plop. He repeated this process another two dozen times, growing more and more frustrated.
Finally, all of the dough was transferred from the bowl to the cookie sheets. Soul threw open the oven door with a little more force than necessary and shoved the trays inside.
How long did they have to bake? Maybe 30 minutes? Sounded right to him. He brushed some stray chocolate chips into his hand, and tossed the egg shells, empty chip bag, and butter wrappers into the garbage. He glared at the dishes in the sink for a full minute before deciding to wash them after they had eaten; might as well wash them all together. With a grunt, he exited the kitchen to wait on the couch for a half hour.
Soul found himself being jolted into consciousness with a sharp cry of "What the hell, Soul?" and the acrid smell of smoke reaching his nostrils. Maka dashed into the kitchen, her partner on her heels. There were curls of black smoke issuing from the oven, and Soul reached around Maka to open the window as she flipped the knob to turn off the heat.
"Were you trying to burn the house down?!" she demanded, whirling on him. Soul felt his anger flare suddenly.
"Of course not! What the hell is your problem? I was just trying to do something nice for my girlfriend on her fucking birthday, and it all craps out on me! Why—" Her lips, still cool from being outside, are on his, and he finds himself slowly easing into the hands pressed against his cheeks. His angry words die in his throat as he slides his hands to her waist.
"You were doing this for me?" she asked, breaking away.
"Yeah," he grunted. "Or I was trying. Why do you have to be such an overachiever and throw out the cookie recipe? If I coulda just followed the directions, we might actually have been eating cookies tonight."
"What do you mean?"
"The recipe for the chocolate chip cookies we make. I couldn't find the original, and you apparently remember it perfectly every time we make 'em…"
"You think I have the recipe memorized?"
Maka stepped out of the embrace and walked to the garbage can. Gingerly, she reached in and grabbed the chocolate chip bag between her thumb and forefinger. She held it out to Soul.
"The recipe is on the back of every bag."
Day 2: Trust
"Maka, trust me, you're not gonna like it."
Maka squared her shoulders, gave her partner a pointed stare across the table, then said to the waitress firmly, "I'll start with the sea bass chowder."
Soul rolled his eyes. "I'll take the crab cakes," he said.
"And your second courses?"
"The haddock," Maka quipped.
"Your lobster's fresh from Maine?"
Soul struggled not to drool too much. "Yes, please." They handed over their menus with their thanks, and their waitress disappeared. Their eyes met over the table again.
"Seriously, Maka, I don't know why you're being so stubborn. You don't like fish. You don't have to have it."
"I thought I'd give it another try," she said airily. "Besides, you said these fish are totally different than what I'm used to."
Soul merely started grumbling about meisters who lived to make his life difficult while Maka studied her silverware. She was apprehensive about the fish, though Soul had informed her that the sushi he had forced her to try before was, quite literally, oceans away from the fish on the East Coast.
They had just finished a relatively easy assignment in Boston; the kishin egg was not particularly intelligent, and it had chosen a highly populated area; reports were pouring in about the disturbance it was causing. It hadn't taken them long to dispatch of it. Soul had expressed (enormous) interest in getting dinner, and the conversation had turned to what the area was known for; to Maka's chagrin, seafood. But something twisted in her gut, and she decided to give it a try anyway.
As a plate of bread was placed in front of them and a slice disappeared whole down Soul's throat (with an askance look from the waitress), it occurred to Maka that this was her first official date with Soul, and her father was paying for it.
Okay, well, not really. It was technically coming out of the DWMA's budget, but his salary was part of that budget too, and Maka was determined to take a little savage pleasure in the fact. As her soup was placed in front of her and a whiff of it hit her nose, she realized it might be the only thing she took pleasure in tonight.
The chowder was okay, but it had that nauseating hint of that peculiar something that was fish. Soul inhaled his crab cakes, but generously offered Maka the rest of the bread so she could dip it in the chowder. This made it a bit more bearable; she could now mostly taste the bread, but it still made her tongue tingle.
She and Soul chatted while she played with her food. It was nice, being done early with the mission. It was nice, feeling his foot pressed against her ankle under the table. It was nice, the way the glow from the candles lit up his hair in the dim room.
It was not nice, the way her haddock looked as it was placed in front of her. Why was it so weird and flaky? Maka poked it gingerly with her fork, and it seemed to fall apart under the metal. Losing her courage, she turned to the risotto instead.
Her partner, on the other hand, was in heaven. His steaming lobster was presented to him, and he salivated, much to the displeasure of the waitress. "You're having a New England meal tonight," she told him. "Lobster's from Maine, butter's from Vermont. We use local Mass veggies, too." Soul grinned at her as she left the two of them to their meals.
"That doesn't look too appetizing," Maka said, eying the crustacean with trepidation.
"Oh, but it is," said Soul, cracking the claw he had twisted off the body. For a moment, it seemed he wanted to do it with his teeth, but as they were in polite company (and most people at the restaurant were unaware of his talented teeth), he used the nutcracker.
Maka attempted again to pick up the haddock, but it slid off her fork again, and her stomach turned over. Soul was making short work of the claws, actually moaning out loud as he slathered butter everywhere. She wondered if everyone ate lobster so messily, or if it was just her weapon.
At least she had the rest of the food on her plate. Soul snapped the back of the clawless lobster, then twisted the back flippers off.
"That's absolutely barbaric," Maka said, her stomach twisting even more.
"Wanna try some?" he asked, ripping a leg off and offering it to her. "Here. You suck the meat out of this."
"You what?" she asked. He demonstrated. "Oh, man." She pushed her plate away. She watched Soul continue to attack the poor creature (who had ever picked up one of these things in the first place and decided to eat them? they were terrifying up close); Soul just kept snapping and breaking parts of the shell to reveal more meat, which he devoured just as happily as he had devoured the kishin egg only a few hours prior.
He leaned back, patting his stomach. Maka was feeling anxious and nauseous and she just wanted to go back to the hotel. "Are you done?" he asked. She looked down at her plate. Sighing, she slid her utensil under the fish and lifted a piece to her mouth. Maka popped the offending morsel into her mouth and scrunched her nose. She wanted to spit it out, but this was a nice restaurant! She swallowed with a shudder, as Soul chuckled and said, "That good, huh?"
"You can finish it," she said, a hint of dejection in her voice. Her partner didn't seem to notice as he shoveled the fish onto his plate.
"I knew this would happen; you just can't handle fish. More for me."
Maka stood suddenly, anger coursing through her veins. Soul gaped up at her. She threw her napkin down onto the table and stormed out of the restaurant, dodging the waitress as the woman said something about the bill, and stepped out into the street.
Maka pounded up the sidewalk for a few blocks until she found herself at a long green strip in between the two lanes of traffic. No one else was there; it was still a bit cold out, but the trees lining the path were lit with white Christmas lights, even though it was well into spring. Maka flung herself onto a park bench and waited.
She sensed him coming long before he arrived. He had been drawn to her, she knew, by the pull of her soul. He sat heavily on the bench next to her, murmuring that he had taken care of the payment. She sighed, looking down into her hands.
They sat in silence for a while, each staring straight ahead. Finally, Soul broke the tension. "Wanna tell me what's wrong?"
Maka examined her fingernails. "I'm sorry."
"I didn't ask for an apology. Or, at least, not yet. Tell me what's bugging you, and I can decide for myself if I need one."
"I just," she began, sighing again. "I just… I know you like eating fish. I figured that you'd, you know, want to. When we do… stuff like this. We haven't been… doing this for long and I just wanted to show you… that I could be good… at this." At being a girlfriend. At being flexible. At doing things he wanted to do, before he found someone else to do them with.
"So you tried to choke down some fish? To prove something?"
Maka let out a light laugh, and turned to look at him. He was grinning his usual shark-toothed grin, but his eyes were warm. "Pretty stupid, huh?"
"For such a smart girl, you sure can be dumb sometimes. I know you're good at this, y'know. I liked you just fine as a partner for years, and that's not gonna change… now. You already are what I like; you don't need to try to prove that or anything."
She allowed herself to lean onto his shoulder, and he slipped an arm around her thin frame. They remained that way for a few minutes, enjoying the slight increase in heat due to their proximity. But then Soul opened his mouth again.
"'Sides, if you were hoping to prove that by choking something down, I could think of something a little more appro—"
The sound of a spine of a book meeting his skull echoed through the still air with a satisfying crack.
Day 3: Protection
Soul's hands were slick with grease, which made holding the bottle in his hands difficult. He struggled to squeeze a bit more out into his palm, then said, "Close your eyes."
His daughter scrunched her eyes shut while he lightly dabbed at her cheeks with the sunscreen.
"Soul, why are you turning my child into a ball of butter?"
He glanced over his shoulder to where Maka was sitting under the umbrella, shaded from the harsh California sun. "I'm protecting her from sunburn every two hours. Don't you know that even one sunburn can double a kid's risk for melanoma—"
"Yes, Soul, you've told me half a dozen times since we got here. I'm all for putting sunscreen on her, but I think you're overdoing it. Her skin is as white as her hair! You've got so much on her, you can't even rub it in properly."
Kari opened her eyes to look at her parents. Soul stood up and slid the now much lighter bottle of lotion into the back pocket of his swim trunks. "Her skin is very delicate. I'm just being careful. Plus, even the instructions say to reapply every two hours."
"They say reapply some, not the entire bottle."
"Whatever," Soul said, reaching down to take his daughter's tiny hand in his. "Just keep the little guy… shaded."
Maka gave him an exasperated look as she shifted their son Shade in her arms. "You're not funny."
"Daddy is funny!" chirped Kari. "He told me."
"Daddy is also modest. Have a good time, Kari."
Soul and his daughter took off down the beach, his strides slow to accommodate her little gait.
Very early into their partnership, Soul and Maka had gone to the beach with their friends, and Maka had forgotten to apply sunscreen to her back. The resulting burn had been awful. Soul could still remember his horror at the peeling and blistering of her back, not because of "ick-factor" (though it was none too pleasant), but the amount of pain that had so easily been inflicted on his meister. His skin just tended to tan, and though the new skin under the peeling layers of damaged flakes was tanner than what it replaced, Maka was a much fairer person and reacted differently to the sun. In the future, Soul was diligent in asking her if she had remembered to put more on, but having a daughter with skin paler than her mother's had sent his anxiety rocketing to new heights. He gazed down at her as she waddled next to him, looking at the creamy smooth skin of her shoulders. It would be a cold day in hell when he allowed a single blemish to appear on it.
Suddenly, Kari stooped. Soul stopped to wait patiently. "Look at this, Daddy," she said, proffering her chubby hand. She clutched a piece of sea glass in her fist.
"Nice find, kid. Want me to save it for you?" Kari extended her arm and Soul held out his free palm. She carefully placed the glass in his hand, and he put it in his pocket.
"Are we gonna go swimming?"
"We can if you want to."
"Will the waves be taller than me?"
"There might be some taller than you, but I won't let you get knocked over."
"Will there be waves taller than you?"
"I doubt it, angel."
Kari was silent for a moment, gazing at the glittering ocean. Soul guided her closer to shoreline, waves gently lapping at the sand. His daughter began giggling as her sandaled feet sunk into the wet sand, becoming shrill as water slipped over her toes. She let go of her father's hand to flap her arms up and down in delight. Soul watched her with a slight grin on his face.
Soon Kari had invented a game of her own (brilliant child that she was, Soul thought) and was running back and forth, chasing the waves back into the ocean and squealing with glee as they raced after her up the sand. He watched as she started slapping her small hands against the wet sand, marveling in its slight elasticity. He let her get lost in her own little world, simply enjoying the opportunity to watch his daughter discover new things around her.
Except at two hours on the dot. "Time for more sunscreen, kid."
Day 4: Fight
Maka could feel her heart pounding in her ears. She knew she was going to die. Panting slightly, she felt her hands clench around what she was holding and she braced herself for the final blow.
The "Game Over" screen flashed in front of her. "Fuck!"
She quickly mashed her controller to hit "restart", growling under her breath. Her character popped back into existence, his health fully restored and looking for all the world that he had not just gotten pummeled. She guided him through the last corridor to enter the boss's chamber.
Soul wandered into the living room, looking a little disheveled. The barest of glances told Maka he had probably fallen asleep while listening to music on his bed.
"What's got your panties in a twist?" he asked.
"I can't beat this stupid boss."
He sat down next to her. "Go grind some more and get more experience," he said simply.
"I can't!" said Maka. "This is the second phase of a two part battle, and I saved between the two. I can't go back to find any other enemies; I'm stuck here."
Soul watched disinterestedly as Maka attacked the boss. She seemed to have a strategy going: cast a protection spell, avoid the front of the boss, rail on the head, then dodge the large attack at the end of the cycle. However, Maka didn't seem to be fast enough with her healing, and her in-game partners were being killed far too rapidly to be of any help. Her HP was depleted again, and she let out a frustrated wail. Her real-life partner held out his hand.
"Lemme try," Soul said. Maka looked a little reluctant — he knew she wanted to beat this game on her own — but she finally relented.
Soul restarted the game and entered the room in the game. He tried a slightly different approach; he was more judicious with his attacks and spent more time avoiding being hit. For a brief while, it seemed he was doing all right, but soon he too was staring at a "Game Over".
"What the hell," he snarled, and restarted the game. This try was even shorter than the one before. "What the hell!"
"My turn," Maka said, wresting the controller from his hands. She began the game again, but after a few minutes, was once again defeated.
They passed the controller back and forth for another two and a half hours, the Saturday sun dipping lower and lower in the sky as all their other plans for the day were forgotten. They called encouragements and swears and commands to "Dodge!", and groaned and moaned when the other inevitably failed.
Both meister and weapon were agitated now, sitting on the edge of the couch, alert and focused. It felt almost like a real battlefield, except Maka's hair was up in two small buns and she was wearing only a cami and light blue shorts, and Soul was in pajama pants and a T shirt. They were almost resonating, their souls were sparking with so much energy, as they watched with a single-minded focus Maka control the character around the boss.
She was doing well, better than the last 16 tries they had done, and the pair was tense, apprehension almost tangible in the air. Soul's hands gripped his knees as Maka avoided another attack.
"You got this," he said.
"I just need to keep healed."
"You totally got this."
"No, he got me, I'm healed."
"Do it again, get more of that bar up."
"I don't have much MP left, I need it for the protect spell."
"I think you should have a healthier amount of HP and just wait till it replenishes itself."
"Oh no, oh no—"
"You got this!"
"YES!" Maka shrieked, jumping up as the boss started splintering into beams of light on the screen. Soul stood with her as she slammed the controller on the coffee table. He grabbed her around the waist, both of them crowing in victory. Soul lost his balance and sat down heavily on the couch again, pulling his meister into his lap. She was looking at him with a fire in her eyes, her cheeks flushed slightly at her win, and suddenly her lips were mashed against his.
Soul tightened his grip on her waist as her arms snaked around his neck, both clutching at the other in fevered pitch. His teeth were being pressed against the back of his lips in a slightly uncomfortable manner, but then he felt her lips part, and he quickly matched her movements so their tongues could meet in her mouth. Her hands moved to his neck, grasping at his hair. She was building a slight rhythm, pulling at his kiss and pushing back against him, and Soul moved his hands down the curve of her backside.
Maka let out a tiny moan, which seemed to bring her back to herself, and she broke away to look her partner in the eye. She was panting, her chest heaving above his, her face red. There was a little bit of nervousness in her eyes, and it took Soul a moment to realize what she was anxious about: she had shown him her hand, she had revealed how much she liked it, she had let her desire be known without knowing his. He grinned a wicked smile, and pulled her hips against his, squeezing her ass as he did so, recapturing her lips and determined to erase any of her doubts with his heated kisses.
Day 5: Blood
When Maka got home and checked the mail that day, she saw that she had a postcard from her mother. Her heart swelled and she couldn't keep from grinning as she climbed the stairs to her apartment. It had been a while since she'd heard from her Mama. Maka threw the rest of the mail onto the small table in the hallway and plopped herself down on the couch, excitement coursing through her. But her heart sank when she flipped it over.
Her stomach seemed to tighten and twist into knots as she gazed down into the thing in her hands. She could taste something metallic in her mouth. Maka wasn't sure how long she stayed that way, but it was darker when she heard the front door open and the shuffling gait of her weapon enter the apartment.
"Maka? Why are you sitting in the dark?" he asked.
Soul slung his gym bag down onto the floor; he had playing basketball with the others.
"I thought you wanted to come home and shower. What's up?"
Maka didn't answer as she heard him approach. He sat down next to her. "What's that?"
She handed it to him wordlessly. Soul looked at it, switching between both sides. "Is this from your mom?" She nodded. "Oh, jeez, Maka—"
"I don't know if it was our mailman, or the first mailman, or something, but look," she said, finally finding her voice. "It must have gotten soaked through at one point. All the ink bled everywhere. You can't read anything anymore."
"I see that, Maka," said Soul, looking at her curiously. Maka tried to hide under her bangs as she felt his gaze upon her. "I'm really sorry. I know it's been a while since you last heard from her—"
"It's fine!" she chirruped. "It's really fine." She tried to smile.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes! I understand that she's very busy and she doesn't always have time for things like this and she only has the opportunity to buy so many postcards and she can't control when it rains and she doesn't even know that it got ru-ruined on the way…" Maka started hiccuping. Her voiced trailed off, and she finally met Soul's eyes. Without warning, she burst into tears.
She brought her hands to cover her face, and felt Soul wrap his arms around her shoulders. He drew her close, and she could smell the dried sweat on his jersey. Maka's sobs wracked her body as she washed her frustration and anger and hurt and betrayal out, Soul's arms there to keep her in one place.
Day 6: Demon
"Soul, slow down!"
"Can't hear you!"
"Yes you can, you liar!"
Soul laughed, the sound whipping over his shoulders to reach Maka's ears. Her pigtails lashed against her face as he increased the speed of the motorcycle, roaring down the highway. She should've been a lot more nervous, considering how fast they were going, but she felt strangely at ease. That didn't mean she wasn't going to nag a bit.
"There's no need to be such a speed demon!"
"Who needs a reason?"
"I'm getting cold back here."
"Told'ya to wear a warmer jacket!"
He had. Maka tightened her arms around his waist. "You're obnoxious."
Soul turned his head so she could see his leer, then turned his attention back to the road. She shivered and ducked her head behind his back. Maka pressed her face against the worn leather jacket and despite the buffeting wind, the roar in her ears, the dizzying sight of rushing asphalt below her, she felt at peace.
Day 7: Goodbye
Soul felt something constrict in the region of his chest as he watched Maka blink tears out her eyes and hand their son a small backpack. Shade was practically vibrating, he was so excited.
"You make sure you keep each other safe," his wife said, her voicing wavering slightly. Shade grinned up at her, and Soul felt a wave of dizziness pass over him; he knew that toothy smile.
"We'll be fine, Mom, don't worry." His ashy blonde hair stuck up in the back, and Maka leaned forward to try to tame it. He batted her hand away. "Mom, stop, you're embarrassing me," he grumbled.
His partner Sophia giggled. She was like a doll, blond princess curls cascading down her back, and she still bore the unmistakable plumpness of a pampered girl living in London. Soul knew by the time her weapon training was complete, she would lose her innocent wide eyes, and his stomach squirmed when he thought about it.
What kind of parents were they, sending children off to fight kishin eggs? He and Maka had barely survived; what were they thinking?
Shade met his father's gaze, red eyes reflecting one another. "Okay, Dad," he said quietly, and Soul willed himself not to break down. He reached out one arm, disengaging his hand from his pocket, and flung it around his son's thin shoulders. Shade allowed himself to be pulled into the hug, encircling his arms around his father. Soul ever so slightly pressed a kiss to his son's hair, sure it was too soft to be noticed by the boy while Maka gathered Sophia into her arms, crying harder.
Soul had been distraught when his daughter Kari had left for her first mission too, the entirely-too-enthusiastic Blue*Star shouting about their grand adventures and living up to his name, but this was a different kind of pain. His daughter had both his snark and her mother's fire, and was a force to be reckoned with; she kept even Blue*Star on his toes. He ached to watch her leave, but there was something particularly painful about seeing his gentle son, his youngest, his baby, set out to fight monsters. Shade felt that he had a lot to live up to: his mother a world-renowned meister, his father a Deathscythe, and his sister blazing a trail for herself already.
The white-haired man didn't want to release his son, but he felt Shade start to fidget slightly, and he relented. Maka was crying too hard to say anything, so it was up Soul to make a speech. He grimaced inwardly at the thought, holding his arms out for his wife to fall into and sob onto his shoulder.
"Shade, we're both really proud of you. We know you've trained and studied for this, and despite your mother's waterworks, we know you're ready for this—" Maka hiccuped a laugh "— and we can't wait to see you turn Sophia into a Deathscythe someday. This is just the first step on that path."
Shade smiled up at his father, his eyes a little misty. Soul saw the glint of light on his son's sharp teeth, the only set in the world that looked like his, and this thought made him want to start sniffling along with his wife. Shade slung his pack over his shoulder and said quietly, "Thanks, Dad."
He and his partner turned towards the bus that would take them to the airport. Maka let out a strangled noise that somehow Shade was able to interpret, and turned back to allow her to plant one last, very wet, kiss to his forehead. They boarded the bus with a bound, and Maka buried her face in her husband's chest again. He knew she would cry herself out on the walk home, would have composed herself enough by the time they entered the door that she would be able to comfort him when he finally broke down. Soul might have asked himself when it was that he became so uncool, but he already knew the answer: it had been the moment his children were born, had fit into his hands and breathed their first gulps of air. Now they were growing up, and the feeling of seeing the bus carry his son away was the most bittersweet thing Soul had ever felt.