Author's Note's: This is a collection of drabbles (most of which have already been featured on my tumblr, fabulousanima) for parenting!SoMa. The second generation kids I describe here are all characters I came up with, but if you'd like to use them in fan creative content, please just ask! :D Here's a bit of reasoning behind the children's names:
Kari is named kinda sorta for her grandmother; Maka would have been happy to name her Kami, but Soul insisted she be given her own identity so as not to have to live up to any expectations (and feeling less than charitable towards the ever-absent woman).
Shade is named in continuation of his father and grandfather. "Spirit" and "Soul" both can be used to refer to wandering spirits and the imprints of the departed, so it fit right in.
Also, I can't promise the ages always work out; I kinda just did approximately 3 years apart.
The early morning sunlight streamed in through the window. Maka turned her left hand slowly to watch thousands of colors glint off the delicate diamond that adorned her thin finger. Her cheek rested on her outstretched arm as she tiredly admired her ring. Deciding after another minute that she was probably done vomiting, she shifted on sore legs and flushed the toilet and stood up shakily.
Well. If she had had any doubts before, it was pretty clear now what this was. She shuffled in front of the bathroom mirror and gazed at her slightly sullen appearance. She had just been throwing up for the better part of a way-too-early hour, so she forgave herself the bags under her eyes and the lines around her mouth. Maka grabbed her cup from the side of the sink and filled it with water, which she gargled while she thought about what this was going to mean.
She and Soul had only been married for less than two years, but it looked like the honeymoon was officially over. They had discussed this idea a while ago, and after much back and forth by the both of them, they had agreed that Maka would forgo the tiny little pills she took every morning. But nothing had happened for months; it had even taken her a few weeks to get a normal period again, and the tests kept coming up negative. They had shrugged it off and hadn't discussed it since.
Maka had been a little anxious when it hadn't worked — what if they couldn't? what if she couldn't? — but she had been able to put that nagging voice aside. She was still very young with plenty of years to keep trying; there was no reason to worry about that just yet. Well, now she had a completely different thing to worry about.
She slid a hand under the edge of her tank top and over the smooth expanse of her stomach. There was no outward indication that anything was different. It was the inside that was changing, and it wanted to make its presence known by causing her to lose her cheeseburger from the night before. Okay, so maybe that was an outward sign.
Turning the knob of the sink again, Maka splashed her face with cold water. She wasn't sure if it was a blessing or a curse that Soul was away on a Death Scythe mission for next four days. He had already been away for the first part of the week and was due home by the end of the weekend. Was it better to have the time to plan out what she was going to say? Or was it going to cause her to run around in circles and drive herself crazy?
She briefly considered asking a friend for advice, Tsubaki perhaps, but quickly decided against it. Soul had a right to know first. She took a deep breath, then let out a humorless laugh. Everything was about to change, and she wasn't sure if they were ready for that.
The door of the apartment opened with a loud bang. Maka jumped. "Sorry," Soul said gruffly. "Didn't mean to do that." He came into view holding his duffel bag and his backpack; he must have hit the door open with more force than he'd intended. He sighed as he dropped them to the ground and sank down into the couch next to Maka.
"Do you want help putting those away?" she asked as he shimmied into her lap.
"Can't it wait?" he groaned.
"No, I figured we might as well get it out of the way."
Soul threw her a dark look, then got heavily to his feet. Maka instantly felt a little guilty. She had been planning on telling him while they were engaged in a household chore together; she figured it would be homey and cozy and put him in the mindset of family. But now he seemed a bit miffed, and she realized her mistake.
He grabbed his duffel and she took the backpack, and they shuffled into their bedroom. Soul threw the bag on the bed and unzipped it unceremoniously. Maka was a little more careful.
"So which clothes are dirty and which ones are clean?"
"I dunno. Smell 'em."
"You didn't keep them separate?" Maka asked incredulously.
"No, I didn't bother."
Maka frowned. "But that means we'll have to wash all of them. Soul, we've been using way too much hot water lately, we're running up the bill!"
"We don't have to wash the clean ones, just take a whiff and decide."
"But they'll smell like the dirty clothes they just spent a seven hour flight in a cramped suitcase next to!"
"You're the only one who cares about that kinda shit, so I don't know why it matters," Soul growled. He shot her a glare, and she felt her temper bubble to the surface.
"I am not! Don't you care if people smell you? People will talk if you stink!"
"Since when should I care what other people think? You know that's shallow."
"Soul! Don't twist it around! It matters because you're a Death Scythe! You know I don't think you should care what others say, but when it's something like personal hygiene, you have to care!"
"Damn it, Maka, I just got home and you're already nagging me. Could you just lay off?"
"Augh!" she cried, and she threw the shirt she was holding across the room.
"Hey, that's my favorite shirt, would you st—"
"No, you stop!" she yelled, voice rising to a level just shy of hysterics. "This wasn't how this was supposed to go at all! I don't know what we were thinking, this is gonna mess everything up, and I don't even know what I'm doing, but I was trying to do it right and I wanted you to be happy about it, but I just don't know what to do—"
"Maka." She took a deep breath and looked at her partner. He had made a move to retrieve his shirt, but had stopped in front of her, twisted to look at her over his shoulder. His face bore no sign of annoyance; he only looked apprehensive. "What are you talking about?"
"This isn't how I wanted to tell you, but I'm pregnant."
Soul very slowly turned his body to face her. 'What' he more mouthed than said aloud.
Maka held his gaze, but her voice lowered softly. "I'm pregnant."
Soul's stare seemed to slide out of focus in front of her. His breathing had turned shallow, and Maka felt something twist in her gut. She couldn't read his expression. His hands lifted aimlessly and he sunk to carpet. Soul knelt as if at an altar in front of her and gently leaned forward until his forehead was touching her stomach. Something melted in Maka, and she brought her hands to his hair at the same moment his hands gripped her waist tightly. She could hear a buzzing in her ears as he slowly lifted his face and placed the gentlest of kisses on her skin above their unborn child.
"Soul, why are you using my personal cell phone? Is there an emergency?"
"Then you should have used the mirror."
"Kid, shut up for a minute. I'm letting you know that I'm not going on any more Death Scythe missions for a while."
"Maka's pregnant. She's already a couple weeks along. I missed the beginning of this, I'm not missing any more of it."
"Well, I assume you were there for the beginning of the whole thing."
"I don't want to risk impregnation, thanks."
"What? Wait, how do you… never mind, I don't wanna know. But I'm home for the next few months, all right? Please, man."
"That can be arranged."
Maka struggled to balance the heavy grocery bags as she reached for her keys to the apartment. She swore as they slipped through her fingers and fell to the floor. She stooped to grab them, and the celery fell out of the brown paper bag.
"What the hell!" she snapped, and put the bag down to properly open the door. She grabbed the edges of the bags and dragged them over the threshold, not bothering to pick them up again.
She spotted Soul on the couch with his nose in a book. "What are you doing?" she asked with a smile in her voice.
"Nothing!" he yelped, snapping the book shut and shoving it under the cushion beneath him. "Need help? Oh shit, Maka, you said we didn't need that many groceries! I wouldn't've let you carry those by yourself if you'd told me you were gonna buy half the store."
"I don't need help, I'm fine," she said, flapping her hands at him.
"You shouldn't be lifting heavy things!"
"Soul, it's fine, they're not that bad. And besides, I am barely showing, I can still handle this."
Soul eyed her stomach, which for all intents and purposes, looked like a normal belly. But they both knew how thin Maka was usually, and the slight bulge that now existed where it hadn't before was a sure indication that something was different there.
Maka set the bags on the counter, and they began to put the food away.
"Why did you buy sour cream?"
"I think I'm getting my first weird craving, because I was walking by it in the store and I decided that I wanted nothing more in the world than a baked potato with sour cream."
Soul snorted. "'Bout time. You're already almost two months in, you're way overdue for weird shit like that."
She turned slowly to face him. "How did you know that?"
Maka might not have been so suspicious, but her partner looked extremely guilty and she felt a smile spread across her face. "What were you reading?" she asked again, and his flush spread.
They made eye contact for a second, and Soul realized what she was going to do, but she was too quick for him. She practically leapt through the kitchen and into the living room. She dove for the couch, and he tried to snatch the book away from her, but she smacked him away (she was now armed and dangerous). Maka flipped it over to read the cover.
"'What to Expect When You're Expecting,'" she read aloud.
"Ugh, fine, yes. So uncool, I know," he groaned. Maka let the book thud onto the coffee table and wrapped her arms around his neck. She captured his lips in a fierce kiss, and he slid his arms around her waist in an attempt to catch up. She pulled him down on top of her so that they flopped onto the couch. She wrapped her legs around him and moaned between his teeth.
Well. The groceries could wait.
Maka rubbed her protruding stomach in what she hoped looked like a calm gesture as opposed to what it really was: something to occupy her hands so that she didn't wrap them around the neck of the next person to hand her a present. Who the fuck came up with a shitty idea like a baby shower?
She tried to crack a smile as another woman pushed a pastel box into what was left of her lap. Her mother, who had not been able to attend, had recommended that Maka invite a large number of Kami's friends, who were more financially stable than people Maka's age and could give slightly more expensive gifts. Maka had protested, saying that sounded greedy, but her mother had insisted (via email) that that was simply how it worked, and that it would put less of a burden on her friends who were just starting out in life too.
If she were honest with herself, Maka had really been hoping that Tsubaki would have offered to give her and Soul their leftover infant paraphernalia, as Blue*Star had outgrown it all now that he was two, but she knew better than to make such a request. She knew Black*Star and Tsubaki planned on having more children after Blue*Star's health issues were taken care of, and she certainly didn't want to be selfish; she was simply desperate to avoid this horrific encounter.
She had really wanted Soul to stay with her during the party, but the look on his face when she had suggested it had been enough of an indication of his feelings on the matter. Besides, when the gaggle of older women who were friends with her mother arrived, the first thing they all said was, "I hope all the men are out of the house!" Maka was wishing she had her man right now, but she was far less interested in his human form at the moment, instead contemplating how best to use him as a scythe to put a quick end to this entire affair.
Maka pulled at the knot of ribbon around the next box – these women seemed to be able to tie the most inexplicably tight knots, and Maka was spending half the party struggling with string – while Tsubaki sat happily on her right side, pen in hand. She was in charge of keeping the list of who gave what gift so that they could write thank you cards later, which Maka had decided hours ago that she would have absolutely no part of and that Soul would be in charge of that shit.
Tsubaki's face was bright, even while doing something as tedious as writing a list of baby gifts; it must be one of Blue*Star's good days. She knew Soul was over their apartment right now, and she wanted so badly to be there, both to escape the hellhole that was this party and to see how he looked playing with a kid. Sometimes it felt that they were so wrapped up in the details of painting a nursery and throwing baby showers and babyproofing the house and everything, they were forgetting they bringing a living being into the world.
Maka finally got the box open and peered inside. "Thank you so much!" she said with as much sincerity she could muster. "We definitely needed another diaper bag, just in case!" She wondered briefly if the bag was big enough for her to crawl into and hide until this catastrophe was over. Or maybe she could put it over her head and suffocate herself with it. There had to be something.
She rubbed her knees hard, trying to excise the murderous intent from her heart. Perhaps it was her hormones that were making her so impatient. Perhaps the baby was bored to tears too and wanted to go do something exciting, like go for a seven hour run or jump off a bridge. Maka glanced at the clock. She immediately wished she hadn't; she'd been at this for hours and she was only halfway done with the presents.
A present in black wrapping paper was shoved into her hands by Patty. "Here!" she chirruped. "Guess who it's from!"
"No clue," Maka said, smiling her first real grin in hours. She opened the mercifully simple wrapping paper and found a note.
Maka. When your child is born, there is a possibility that he/she will not be born perfectly symmetrical. This happens, and it is nothing to be ashamed of, but just in case, I have provided a small tool kit to help you keep your new infant looking even. You shall find enclosed (1) tiny pair of scissors, (1) tiny nail file, (1) tiny nail clipper (for hangnail emergencies), and (1) tiny pair of tweezers. I think these should be sufficient, and they are a small convenient size. Enjoy!
She would enjoy making him swallow each of his tiny presents.
But she said "Tell Kid 'thanks', Patty!" and placed the box on the coffee table in front of her, hidden from view by a mountain of pastel colored items.
She gave Tsubaki a look, which her friend dutifully ignored, but whispered out of the side of her mouth, "He got me one of those kits too."
Another present was pressed into her hands, and Maka toyed with the idea of shouting "T he baby's coming!" just to get everyone out of her house, but she knew that someone would text Soul, and it would send him into cardiac arrest if he thought she was going into labor and he wasn't there, so she swallowed thickly and pulled the tissue paper out of the bag. Oh goody. More onesies. Because she didn't have 54 already.
She sighed inwardly. She really wasn't trying to be ungrateful; indeed, this was an enormous help, because even though Soul had a Death Scythe salary, babies were pretty expensive. She just wished she could unpack all these presents on her own time, when everyone wasn't staring at her and her swollen belly and her sore ankles and her painfully heavy breasts and her limp hair. She wanted to do this in the privacy of her own home (emphasis on the 'private') with her husband so they could laugh and make jokes and relax.
"What are you doing back?" squawked a middle-aged woman from the chair closest to the door. Maka looked up to see Soul stepping carefully into view, looking a little flabbergasted at the explosion of wrapping paper covering his living room. Maka felt a grin spread across her face as she looked at him with a sort of hungry desperation in her eyes. He found her gaze and looked even more nervous; his meister was looking at him as if he were a knight in shining armor come to save her, which had to mean that things were bad here.
"I thought you'd be done by now. You're not done? It's been like five hours."
Some of Kami's friends muttered behind their hands. Soul looked uneasy.
"Uh, I'll just get a beer and sit quietly in the other room."
Someone muttered, "I hope he doesn't think he can drink around the baby," but Maka was thinking that it was such a shame that the only thing that might make a baby shower bearable (being totally wasted) was not option when one was in need of a baby shower.
"You can stay!" she said, the plea in her voice evident, but Soul shot her a frightened look and disappeared. She cursed him and his blade and his beer and his freedom and his family and his loins, but then took the last one back because she was going to be in desperate need of stress-relieving sex after this, and at that thought, she felt turned on all of a sudden. Damn, these hormones were torture.
She scrubbed her face with her hands. What she would not do for some divine intervention right about now.
"MORTALS! I have come to deliver the most important present any young disciple of mine could ever need!" The door to the apartment slammed open as Black*Star kicked it in, guffawing. Soul ran into the room again, looking a little frazzled. Maka stood up.
"Behold!" Black*Star dragged an enormous object from behind his back to the middle of the room. It was covered in an old blanket, which he whipped off with a flourish. "It's a statue of me, so Soul's kid can properly worship me when the time is right! You don't have to thank me, Maka, I know how much it means to you."
"Black*Star." An icy voice hissed across the room. Tsubaki was standing too now, her eyes riveted on her husband. He looked at her, a little startled at her tone.
"Who. Is. Watching. The. Baby."
Black*Star held her gaze for a moment. He turned heel and scampered out of the front door again, Tsubaki's roars of anger hot on his heels.
Maka squeezed Soul's hand as they made a slow lap around the block closest to their apartment. She knew they would have to move into a bigger place someday in the not-too-distant future, when the baby really needed a separate room, but she'd be sad to see the place go. She felt her eyes mist over, and she shook her head impatiently. Now she was getting worked up over a building; this baby needed to get out.
"How're you feeling?" asked Soul, glancing down at her.
"No different," Maka said, a little dejectedly. "This is getting ridiculous."
"Hey kid," Soul said, leaning over slightly to address Maka's enormous belly. "We're getting a little impatient here. You're late. Don't make this a habit."
Maka rubbed her stomach. "You're almost two weeks late, c'mon honey."
Unsurprisingly, they received no response. Maka and Soul had taken to an evening walk after dinner each night in the hopes of inducing labor, but no luck so far. The midwife had said that they would wait until half a month past Maka's original due date to chemically begin the process, but Maka was still hoping that their child would decide on its own when to be born. She rubbed at her stomach, but there was no response from their baby.
"Well, I guess perfection takes time," said Soul, and Maka shot him a look.
"Hey. You are not allowed to spoil this child rotten. We are going to raise it to be a grounded, thoughtful individual."
"Yeah, yeah," said Soul with a grin. They reached their building again and climbed the stairs, Maka huffing and puffing by the time they got to their floor (Soul was doing a bad job hiding his chuckles). They washed the dishes from dinner together and climbed into bed. Soul fell asleep quickly, but Maka sat up reading for a while. Eventually, she put the book down and gazed at her stomach again.
"Please come soon," she whispered. "We want to meet you." With that, she turned off the light and shimmied down the pillows to settle on her back.
A few hours later, her eyes shot open. Maka was disoriented for a moment, but she quickly gained her bearings: there was a slight dampness between her legs, the baby was squirming like mad, and she felt a spasm rack her body. She flung an arm out and smacked Soul hard across the chest.
"Oof! What the—" he said thickly.
"Soul, it's happening."
He blinked at her blearily in the dark for a beat. Soul shot out of bed the fastest Maka had ever seen in all her years of knowing him, scrambling around to put clothes on. She slid out of the bed, her feet touching the floor lightly.
"We're gonna have to change the sheets," she said, trying to breathe evenly.
"Maka, who the fuck cares, are you okay, are you breathing right, shit—"
"Don't start swearing around the baby."
Soul was suddenly in front of her, holding one of her dowdy maternity dresses. He had scrunched it up and nodded at her, so she raised her arms and he slid it over her body.
"I'm not gonna have to wear these awful clothes anymore!" she said delightedly. "Ha ha, ooohhh…" Another spasm rippled through her.
"Are you sure you're feeling okay? You're babbling."
"I'm having a fucking baby, I'm allowed to do whatever I want."
"What happened to not swearing—"
"Right. Getting the car."
Two minutes later, Soul pulled their clunky car — ("Maka, this is the shittiest car ever, can't we just keep using the motorcycle?" "Where can you put a car seat on a motorcycle?") — around to the front of the building, where Maka was standing, breathing heavily. A light came on in one of the windows above them and an elderly man stuck his head out.
"Is she coming?" he called softly.
"Baby's coming," Maka confirmed, and the older man gave a quiet cry of joy.
"Mr. O'Neil is gonna be upset if it's not a girl," Soul said, jumping out to help Maka get into the passenger's seat.
"We're about to find out."
They met each other's eyes. A thrill of excitement seemed to shiver through the both of them. Soul snapped out of his reverie and ran back to the driver's side and hopped in, slamming the door.
The brief ride to the hospital was punctuated only by Maka's rapid breathing, and Soul's (even more frequent) admonishments to keep breathing. Finally, they were in front of the hospital, where the midwife was waiting for them.
"I've got her," said the wizened old woman, her gnarled hands on the handles of a wheelchair. "You park and come on up. Maternity ward, room 402."
Soul did as the midwife asked, albeit extremely haphazardly. He practically sprinted back to the hospital entrance; the automatic doors couldn't open fast enough. The front receptionist shot him a scandalized look as he zoomed past, skidding to a halt in front of the elevators. He pounded the button.
But when he finally reached the room, Maka was lying in the bed, looking perfectly calm. He felt a little foolish and a lot uncool, but entered and took her hand.
"Now," said the midwife, who was already in scrubs. "You need to put these on. Your wife is doing just fine so far; everything looks to be in order, and I'll be damned if this isn't a short delivery. This one's ready to come out."
Soul slipped into the scrubs while Maka continued her breathing. "Would you like the epidural?" asked the midwife.
Maka scoffed. "I've battled kishin my whole life. I don't need pain medication."
Soul took her hand again. "The contractions are going to get worse before they get better, dear," warned the midwife. She turned to the nurse. "I'd love some coffee before we really get going, thanks."
"Hey," Soul said lowly, leaving Maka's side to approach the old crone. "You're getting coffee on the job? You sure you know what you're doing?"
The midwife snorted. "I should think so." She motioned her head towards Maka. "I delivered her."
Soul raised his eyebrows and rejoined his meister. The nurse returned with the coffee, and placed a small tea on the table next to the bed, smiling at Soul. He nodded his thanks.
"Have you thought of names?" asked the nurse.
"If it's a girl, she'll be named in honor of her grandmother," said Maka. "Kari. If it's a boy—" She was cut off by a loud screech that ended in a curse, crushing Soul's fingers. "Motherfu—"
"Let's get that epidural, shall we?" muttered Soul out of the corner of his mouth, and the nurse disappeared again. The midwife approached Maka and peeked under her gown.
"Right on schedule."
142 colorful swears, one quick shot to the lower back, and two hours of labored pushing later, and the midwife waved to Soul. "Son," she said. "Here." Soul moved from Maka's side to position himself below her (trying hard not think about the fact that that's how they got themselves into this in the first place). "You should be the first," she murmured, and held out Soul's (very numb) hands as Maka gave one last push. A slippery, slimy baby slid into his hands, and he felt his heart stop.
There was a buzzing in his ears as he looked down at the tiny person in his hands. "A girl," he heard himself say. He felt dizzy, as if he were having some sort of out of body experience.
A few moments later, Soul was standing over Maka, holding their now clean daughter, who was wailing at the top of her lungs. "Maka," he said, and she could hear the lump in his throat. His eyes were glittering. "Maka, look."
"I see her," she said tiredly. She smiled happily. He gently handed her over, and Maka held her daughter for the first time.
They stayed that way for a while. Eventually Kari stopped screaming — "she has a set of lungs, wow" — and the midwife slipped back into the room.
"I think she's ready for a first meal," she said. Maka shifted higher on the bed. "You're welcome to choose whatever you like, but if you breastfeed—"
"The baby gains immunity to a number of diseases, lower risk of developing allergies, decreases risk on infections…" Soul started to rattle off. The midwife looked impressed.
"You know what you're talking about. Did you read a baby book?"
"He read every baby book," Maka said, and Soul was amazed that after having just gone through labor and delivered a baby, she could still sound sarcastic. She positioned their daughter, supporting and guiding her and lowered the ugly hospital gown. Kari rooted around for a bit before latching onto her mother.
"Oof!" Maka said in surprise. The midwife slipped out again with a chuckle.
"Yeah, just what a weird feeling. Yeesh. She's not having any trouble with this, is she?"
"Smart girl," Soul said with a smirk.
"Eurgh, this is gonna take some getting used to."
"Like you aren't already?"
She shot him a look. "That was for pleasure. This is for function, and lemme tell you, it's a little bit different. Ouch!"
"Hey, be gentle, kid, those are a rental," said Soul, rubbing his daughter's back. Maka rolled her eyes skyward, but soon moved them back to her partner's face. He was watching Kari with one of the most tender expressions she had ever seen on his face, and she smiled. He turned to her, still wearing that same look, and they shared a soft kiss.
Kari: 7 months
His infant daughter giggled as Soul gently rubbed the wet sponge down her back. They had only just started bathing her in the tub, having graduated from the sink a few weeks ago, and she was still clearly enjoying the novelty of it. She slapped at the water happily, occasionally looking up at her father and saying, "Da." Every single time — every single time — she said it, his heart did a backflip. She knew who he was, she was calling him Daddy.
"Da!" she exclaimed, and he grinned.
"That's right, kid, that's me," he said.
Kari splashed happily for a while, gurgling to herself. She didn't even protest when he very carefully wet her hair and rubbed at her scalp. This was one of her more cooperative baths, and Soul felt at peace.
Until her heard Maka scream.
His heart, so recently swelled with joy at the sight of his baby girl, contracted painfully. For a brief moment, Soul was torn between his two most basic instincts: care for his meister and lover (which meant flying to her aid) and care for his daughter (which meant not leaving her in a tub where she could not sit up by herself yet). Making his decision, he tightened his hold on Kari and sprinted down the stairs, leaving a wet trail of baby-drippings behind him.
He burst into the kitchen to find Maka upright and unharmed, but with a look of abject terror on her face. He whirled his head around, trying to discover the source of her fear when something fluttered into his peripheral vision. Soul jumped, but then turned to see that it was only a small bat, flying desperately around their tiny kitchen.
"Is this the problem?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes! Yes, get rid of it!"
Soul stared at his wife, his very damp and very naked baby between his hands. "You can face down witches and kishin without breaking a sweat, and you're afraid of a bat?"
"SOUL; just take care of it!"
He extended his arms, and Maka took her daughter from him. He grabbed the dish towel from the counter and after a few failed attempts, he managed to throw it over the terrified creature and it fell to the floor with a 'flump.' Gingerly, Soul scooped up the towel with the bat wrapped inside, and he made his way to the front door. He pressed on the handle with his elbow and released the bat into the darkness; he could see its relief in the way it soared across the night sky.
When he returned to the kitchen, Maka seemed to have calmed down some, because she seemed to have turned bright red from embarrassment at having overreacted. She had wrapped a clean kitchen towel around Kari (who had miraculously not started crying over all the excitement) and wouldn't meet Soul's eyes.
"What if I had been being attacked by a kishin egg? You would have brought your infant daughter to the fight? To what, drip on it?"
Soul only smirked, knowing she was feeling sheepish. He made his way over to her and kissed her temple.
"Like I could have left her in the tub."
"Yeah, but then I would have had to defeat a kishin egg while holding a baby."
"Oh, please," Soul chuckled, pressing his forehead to hers and catching a small smile on her face, "you and I both know you're more than capable of wielding a scythe one-handed while carrying your daughter. You're amazing, Maka, even if you are afraid of bats."
Soul would later swear he sensed something was wrong before it happened. He had been standing in the kitchen cutting the crusts off of Kari's sandwich when he heard the first bump. Somehow, he knew what it was. He raced out of the kitchen and tore through the dining room, Kari's squeals burning his ears. He slid to his knees and his daughter fell into his arms at the bottom of the stairs. For a split second, she seemed to be in shock, then she burst into noisy tears.
"Shh," said Soul, lifting her up a bit to inspect her. She seemed okay, probably just shaken. "It's okay, honey," he murmured, bringing her back close to him. "You're okay, I got you."
Maka came thundering into view, her hand under her enormous stomach. "What happened?" she demanded, but Soul met her eyes and shook his head.
"Kari just slipped down the stairs, but she's okay," he said gently, his eyes not leaving his wife's face. "Right? You're okay. Your socks are slippery and you fell, but you're all right."
The meister put a hand to her heart (made somewhat difficult by her swollen breasts). "Did you find her like this?" she whispered over her daughter's sobs.
"I caught her."
"You caught her?"
Soul nodded as Kari finally started to hiccup herself into a quiet lull. He pulled back again as she sniffled.
"Are you hurt?" he asked. She shook her head, then buried her face in his shoulder, bursting into renewed sobs.
"Okay, okay, shh. I think she just got scared," Soul said, addressing Maka. "Damn floors are too slippery. Ready for lunch, angel?" Kari nodded into the crook of his neck. He lifted her easily and walked her to the kitchen, and Maka was left standing below the stairs, rubbing her belly.
Kari had completely forgotten about her fall by the time Maka read her her bedtime story, but when she slipped out of her daughter's room, she found Soul attacking the stairs, sandpaper in hand.
Kari was practically vibrating with excitement. She kicked her legs against her father as he held her, but he didn't protest. The elevator doors opened onto the fourth floor of the hospital, and she spun her head around and around, trying to take in all the new sights and sounds.
"Mama's in here," Soul said as he pushed open the door to the small room. He grinned at Maka, who was sitting up in bed, holding a small bundle of cloths. Kari's little face split into a grin; she was bubbling with energy, in stark contrast to her beleaguered parents. Soul could see the bags under Maka's eyes, and he knew his hair was a mess, but they both sported identical happy grins.
"Mama!" cried Kari.
"Hi, sweetheart," Maka said in a tired voice. "You need to be gentle, but come give me a hug." Soul set her down on the hospital bed and the three-year-old crawled to her mother. Maka pulled the blankets away. "This is your baby brother, Shade."
Kari gazed down into the tiny wrinkly face of her infant brother. "Shade?" she asked, and Soul placed a hand on her back.
"Yeah, angel," he said.
"Shade?" Kari said, raising her voice to be heard.
"Oh, Kari, babies can't talk," Maka said. "Shade can't answer you."
"When will he talk?"
"Not for a while."
Kari looked back down at the child. She leaned forward slowly, and Maka and Soul shared a warm look between them. Kari tried to gently press her lips to Shade's forehead, but she slipped a little and gave him a sloppier kiss than she'd meant to; she glanced at her parents, but they seemed to still be smiling, so she determined that she had done all right. She sat back on her heels.
"What do sisters have to do?"
"They love their brothers. And protect them." Soul smiled down at her.
Kari nodded, looking more serious than she had ever before appeared in her short life.
Shade: 9 months
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."
"Okay, you sit there," Kari said, pointing to the tiny chairs of her play table. Her parents carefully lowered themselves onto the little wooden furniture; Soul heard an ominous creak below him, and he gingerly shifted his weight.
"Are you ready?" demanded their six-year-old, hands on her hips. Her verdant eyes scrutinized her parents struggling not to fall out of their chairs.
"We're ready," Maka said, folding her arms in her lap, her knees almost touching her chest.
Kari grinned, then ducked behind the doorway. A moment later, she shoved her brother out into the open. He rubbed his eye with his hand as he shifted from foot to feety-pajamaed-foot. "Say your line!" hissed his sister.
Shade stood up straighter. "Now presenting," he yelled, mispronouncing his 'r' and raising his hands above his head. "The play!"
"Say the name!"
"The play 'Goldilocks!'"
He ran to join his sister behind the wall again. "Applaud!" she demanded from out of sight, and Maka and Soul obliged. She stepped out into view. Her shock of white hair was hidden under a yellow washcloth that she apparently stole from the downstairs bathroom. "I am Goldilocks, the most beautiful and smart girl in the land. I am walking through the woods." She pantomimed her action. "And I am hungry and sleepy. But now I hear something!" Kari put a hand to her ear in an exaggerated motion, and Shade came into view again, balancing three differently-sized teddy bears.
"We are the three bears and we are going into the woods!" he shouted, using his pudgy hands to pound the stuffed animals across the rug. "Walk, walk, walk, walk."
He seemed to forget the context of the play, because the last bear launched into the air with a 'Whoosh!', but when Kari stamped her foot, Shade recalled that they were not, in fact, playing Rocketship, and he relented.
"I bet they have some delicious food in their house!" Kari cupped her hand and spooned imaginary porridge into her mouth. "Yuck! This is too hot." She released the offending porridge and cupped her hand again. "Yuck! This is too cold." Once again. "Mmm. This is just right." She shoved her face into her hands and made loud garbling noises as her brother giggled.
"You have your father's table manners," Maka said quietly. Soul smirked.
"Now I need to sleep." Kari flopped to the floor. "Yuck! This bed is too hard."
"You don't say 'yuck' to beds!" Shade insisted.
"Fine. Ouch! This bed is too hard." Kari stood up again and flung herself back to the ground.
"Careful, there," said Soul, but Kari paid him no mind.
"Ouch! This bed is too soft."
"It's not 'ouch' if it's soft!" said her brother.
"Fine! OH NO this bed is too soft!" Kari snapped. She got to her feet once more, the washcloth falling off in the process. She sat down hard on the ground. "Finally! This bed is just right."
"We are coming home now!" said Shade, marching the three bears over to his sister's prone figure. His red eyes gleamed as he yelled, "Someone has been eating our food! Someone has been sleeping in our beds! And she's still here!" The bears forgotten, he jumped on his sister's back, who squealed and turned over to return the tickles he was giving her. Maka started laughing as their children wrestled, giggling madly. Soul began to chuckle too, but was cut off as the tiny chair collapsed below him, ending the play.
Soul was reading in his armchair when he sensed his daughter's approach. There was a time when they were kids that he had teased Maka mercilessly about reading for fun, but it was a habit of hers that had rubbed off on him despite his best efforts. But his peaceful hobby was interrupted by his daughter plopping herself onto the arm of the chair.
"What is it, angel?"
"I've been thinking that the house can be a little quiet sometimes," Kari said conversationally.
"Are you suggesting that that's a bad thing?"
Soul blinked owlishly at her through his (very uncool) reading glasses. She grinned at him, and it was no less intimidating despite her dull teeth.
"Why is it a bad thing?" he asked carefully.
"Because it can be really boring," said Kari. "Don't you want a little excitement?"
"I've had enough excitement for ten lifetimes, thanks," he muttered. "But what did you have in mind?"
"Promise to think about it?"
"Just think about it!"
"Can we get a puppy?"
Soul pinched the bridge of his nose over his glasses. He turned to his daughter, perched like a bird on the armrest, smiling at him warmly. He looked into her mossy green eyes, eyes he had not been able to resist since the moment he first saw them in her mother, and sighed, knowing he had already lost.
"So is that okay, Mom?"
Maka stood dumbfounded, watching her son look up at her a little bashfully. She started into the red of his eyes, but he looked away, still somewhat sheepish.
He was asking for quite a lot.
Shade was finally home after one of the most important days of his life: the day he picked a partner. He had been alternately anticipating and dreading this day, and when Maka had finally shoved him out of the house this morning, she had hoped that he would at least be able to make it through the day without throwing up out of sheer nerves. She didn't report to school that day herself, though; she had spoken with Kid and got the day off to catch up on some paperwork. She knew her son was jittery enough as it was, and she thought giving him a bit of space at school today might help alleviate that.
Well, in a way, she had been right; Shade had marched into the house, all trace of nervousness gone. Instead, he looked like he was steeling himself to say something, and Maka very quickly learned what it was.
"I found a partner, but she needs a place to stay. Can she move in with us?"
She decided to get a bit more information first. "Why doesn't she have a place to stay? And tell me a little about her! What kind of weapon is she? What's her name?"
"Oh," Shade said, looking a bit distracted. "Uh, her name is Sophia. She's from London. She only just found out she's a weapon a little while ago, and her parents wanted to enroll her in the the best school. Um, she's a double bladed naginata—" Maka raised her eyebrows briefly; that was unexpected "—and she's been staying in a hotel with her nanny until she can find a place to live here. So can she? You and Dad did."
There it was; she knew he'd play this card. "That—"
"Wasn't different!" he said heatedly. Maka pursed her lips.
"Shade, we don't really have the room for another person here."
"Can't she sleep in Kari's room?"
"Your sister still lives here, even if she goes on missions sometimes. You can't just volunteer her room!"
"But where else is she gonna stay?" Shade asked, his voice threatening a whine.
"What do her parents want her to do?"
"I don't know. She said they were really wealthy and would pay for whatever, but I don't think she wants to live by herself. She says she gets lonely now, and she has the nanny with her and she said the cook was always at her house—"
"She has a cook?"
"Yeah, and I guess a whole bunch of other people who work there, but she doesn't really like it."
Maka thought about the mold growing on the ceiling of the bathrooms, the cracks down the ceiling of the dining room, the doors that sagged in their hinges, and the burner on the stove that never heated up, and imagined asking what must be a girl used to a very pampered lifestyle to live here. She sighed, but then caught a glimpse of her son's determined face, his mouth drawn into a serious frown, and she knew what her answer would be.
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 Death Scythe, 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 Death Scythe 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.
The kettle whistled and Maka quickly shut the gas stove off. She poured scalding water into each mug on the tray, watching as the steam curled up and the tea bags turned dark. She grabbed the tray and wandered into the noisy living room. Soul was placing the battered Monopoly box on the table while Blue*Star and Kari argued loudly over who got to be the dog piece.
"If you two keep shouting, Sophia will use the dog piece and you two can suck it up," Soul grumbled.
Sophia blushed slightly under the gazes of everyone in the room. Maka smiled warmly at her as she set the tray down on the coffee table. "I think that's a good idea."
"Fine," Kari said without malice, plucking the tiny metal canine from between Blue*Star's fingers and pushing into Sophia's hand.
"Can I be the thimble?" asked Shade.
"No," said his sister, snatching it away from him. He merely rolled his eyes.
Maka slid onto the couch next to her husband and he gently placed a familiar hand to the small of her back. Kari and Shade began unpacking the box, commenting on the stains on the cardboard and reminiscing over how each had been made.
It was a rare weekend that neither of their children were on missions, and Maka and Soul were taking full advantage as Sophia distributed the mugs of tea. Kari and Shade had agreed to family game night, and Sophia, who lived in the little guest room, had smiled widely when they insisted that she was included in that as well. Blue*Star, to no one's surprise, showed up just as Maka was setting dinner on the table earlier that evening. Right on cue, Tsubaki had called Maka's cell phone, frantic to know where her son was.
"Eating me out of house and home, as always," Maka had said good-naturedly. "I think he's staying for board games too."
Indeed he was, and he insisted he go first. Everyone knew better than to argue. He rolled the dice, frowning as he saw that he had only gotten a 4. He moved his piece forward.
"I'm not entirely sure how to play," said Sophia in her lilting accent. She had a very slight lisp due to the gap between her two front teeth, but it was only noticeable when she was nervous, and she was only nervous when all the attention was on her.
"I'll help," Shade said gently, and Soul had to choke down a grin. His son was such a little gentleman, set at such glaring odds with his shark-toothed smile. Shade handled his slightly intimidating looks in the completely opposite manner than his father did: Soul used his sardonic wit, his son used a soft voice. Each response worked for the other's partner, however, and Soul rather enjoyed watching Shade and Sophia interact. She was still timid, even after almost a year of weapon training, and Shade seemed to be happy to accommodate her.
"Oh ho!" crowed Kari as the game progressed and she purchased the first piece of property. She placed the tiny green house on her square.
"Damn!" said Blue*Star. "I wanted the first house!"
"Too bad you suck at this game," Kari said. Blue*Star snarled and rolled the dice. "See!" laughed his weapon as he groaned. "Go to jail!"
"What happens when I land on this place?"
"You get to take the money there."
"Ugh, I wanted that! Good job Sophia."
"How did you drink your tea so fast?"
"Land on my space. Land on my spaaace."
"Cut it out, Kari."
"Laaand on my spaaaaace."
"Kari! Ew! Get your foot out of my face!"
"My baby brother doesn't like my feet?"
"No, they stink."
"They do not. Blue*Star?"
"You're offending my godlike sense of smell."
"Screw you. And pay me $260."
Maka slid an arm around Soul's waist and he turned to look at her. He wasn't doing so well this game, but no one had tried to light the board on fire, which meant it was more successful than that one night when they were teenagers that still was only referred to as That Game and still caused Patty to get a manic look in her eye and even Black*Star to shudder. Soul grinned at Maka, the corners of his eyes crinkling. He lightly touched a hand to Maka's hair, which was starting to look more and more like his (she often complained he got to skip the embarrassment of getting gray by virtue of the fact that he was already there). Their lives had been filled with so much danger and madness, and their children's lives would be plagued with the same, but here, in this moment, they were happy and healthy and whole. He pressed his lips to his wife's.
"Gross. And Dad, it's your turn. If you roll a 7, you're gonna owe me $340." Soul felt a light jab on his cheek.
"Kari," he said, his lips still against Maka's and his eyes still closed, "If that is your foot, you are grounded for a month." He felt the offending object withdraw slowly and the sounds of Kari tucking her legs underneath her reached his ears.
Soul sped around the corner, sliding a little on his socks. Shade was standing in front of his bedroom door. He looked unhurt, but the strained sound of his voice when he shouted had made Soul hurry.
"What is it?" he asked, eying the look of revulsion on his son's face. Shade merely pointed to the door. Soul leaned closer to it and heard an odd shuffling noise. He glanced at Shade, who still seemed to be in shock.
Soul opened the door and was hit with an overwhelming smell. It was too pungent, so he covered his nose and mouth with his T-shirt, and peered into the gloom. The entire room was shifting before his eyes… no. The entire room was crawling with insects. One flew at him and landed on his shirt. It was a ladybug. More started to pour into the light of the hallway, and Soul slammed the door. He marched down the hall to his daughter's room, Shade hot on his heels.
Soul wrenched the door open to find Kari sitting on her bed, utterly unperturbed.
"Did you know that you can buy a tub of 5000 ladybugs off Amazon for thirty bucks? That was a $60 prank; that's a good bargain."
Soul stared at her. Shade peered around his father to see his sister sitting in her bed, completely nonchalant.
"C'mon, Dad," she said, a lazy grin across her face. "This is a high quality prank. Did you and Uncle Black*Star ever manage something this good?"
Sophia appeared at Soul's side. "Excuse me," she said in her light voice. "I hate to interrupt, but I just went into the kitchen to fix some tea, and there are about fifty ladybugs crawling over everything. They're getting into the food and the drawers and the windows…"
Kari's grin slide off her face.
. . .
Maka returned home feeling good about herself. She had made substantial progress in the research for an upcoming article she was writing, and was ready to enjoy whatever Soul had whipped up for the evening. She did not expect to see her sixteen year old daughter sitting on the front stoop, head in her hand and looking sullen.
"What's going on?"
"Dad's not sure if I'm gonna be allowed to live in the house anymore."
"Well, we're actually not sure that anyone can live in the house anymore, but Dad said he specifically revoked my house privileges, unless I can come up with a way to fix this."
"Fix what?" Maka asked. Kari motioned to the front door with her shoulder, and Maka wrenched it open. She was hit with a swarm of ladybugs as they made their escape, and entered the warzone. There were small red insects on every surface of the house, and it all smelled overripe and sour. She found Soul, Shade, and Sophia in the living room, using some of her books to swat large swaths of them at once, then scrape their glittery wings and orange goo into a garbage bag that was about half full already. They were all wearing a mishmash of protective gear presumably scrounged from the garage, because Shade had on a catcher's chest protector and a pair of swim goggles, while Sophia wore a volleyball net wrapped over and over around her body. Soul turned to face Maka, his eyes bugged out under his motorcycle goggles, and could only manage to say one thing.