My Liar's Chair
Six Years Later
The waiting room at Shibusen Headquarters was smaller than Maka originally imagined it would be.
The gold walls and copper trim balanced against each other to give a more relaxed feel to the room which reflected the color scheme of Death City itself. Eight chairs were crammed into the room - four on either side - and there was only one door that led back out to where the receptionist was. Maka found it peculiar that there wasn't another door leading to Lord Death's office, but dismissed the thought as quickly as it came to her. Along the walls there were different pictures of past Shibusen employees, and the blonde wondered if her mother and father were featured in any of them or if she would be featured in any of them in the near future.
Her meeting with Lord Death was the beginning of something far more wonderful than the last six years of her life had been; she felt it in her bones and her soul. She was back in Death City, and nothing could go wrong.
She was home.
When her transfer had been approved a few months ago, she couldn't believe it. A majority of her fellow pilots along with the higher ups loved having her part of their team. She was one of the best pilots and fighters they had seen in years; she had helped to defeat a good handful of their strongest enemies along with dodging enemy fire in the air alongside her partner on countless occasions. Her approval had also marked the day of her six year anniversary of being with the Scythes Aerodynamics team which was only further indication that it was all a dream for her.
In all honesty, Maka would have stayed, but she really did miss home. She missed her friends along with the teachers she had met during her training, but most of all she missed Death City. The location of the Scythes division didn't have the same landscape, nor did it have the same feel; it never felt like home. Even after living there for six years, Maka didn't feel like she belonged there, she always felt more like a tourist rather than a real resident.
But more important than all of those things, she missed-
Her thoughts were disrupted when the door opened, and her attention was drawn to the new arrival. "Maka Albarn?" the receptionist asked. The blonde nodded as she bit back a smartass retort. She was the only one in the room, who else could she possibly be? "If you can follow me, please. Lord Death is ready to see you."
Maka gathered the papers that were spread out on the seat beside her, and placed them back in her small leather messenger bag before following the other woman. The hallway leading to Lord Death's office was different compared to the one at the academy. The color scheme was inverted; rather than the gold trim contrasting with the copper walls, it was the opposite. Rather than pilots from different Aerodynamics divisions, the hallway featured more pictures of Spartoi's various ranking pilots. Maka wanted to investigate the pictures, hoping to catch a glimpse of Soul and his brother, but she failed in her haste to catch up with the longer legged woman.
After turning corners and saying a cordial greeting to a few people, the other woman paused in front of a grand mahogany door. She turned to smile at Maka. "We've arrived. I'll just announce your presence, and then leave." Turning the doorknob, she took a small step inside the room. "Lord Death, Maka Albarn is here to see you."
"Oh, wonderful," came the familiar high pitched voice. "Let her in, let her in."
The receptionist stepped out of the room to allow Maka to enter. Before the blonde was in completely, however, the woman leaned closer to her slightly to whisper, "it's good to have you with us again."
Maka was caught off guard by her words, and side eyed the woman to see if she recognized her. The bubblegum pink hair did spark some recognition in the blonde's mind - how could anyone possibly forget a peculiar hair color like that? - but other than that there was nothing. However, she didn't have time to mull it over as the woman pushed her further into the room, and shut the door behind her.
"It's nice to see you again, Maka. I hope you enjoyed your time with the Scythes."
She smiled. "It's nice to see you, too, Lord Death." Or what was the familiar form of Lord Death anyways. Was he really a cyborg or a human? The world may never know. "The Scythes were a wonderful Aerodynamics team and Tsugumi was a great partner, but I'm glad to be home."
"I'm glad to hear that. Go ahead and sit down." Lord Death gestured with one oversize gloved hand to the chair in front of his desk, and Maka sat down while he remained standing.
"Now, let's decide where we should place you here at Shibusen." He pushed a button on his desk and a computer screen popped up from the projector inside. "Let's see. We have an opening in Spartoi," her heart jolted at the word, "which is our Aerodynamics team, but you know that already. If you would like to take that job opening, however-"
"Yes!" Maka leaped out of her seat excitedly before composing herself after a few seconds and settling back down. She was not an enthusiastic teenager anymore; she was a grown ass woman and she would behave as such. "Yes, I would love to take that job, but only if Soul will be my partner… if that's okay with Wes, of course."
Lord Death's mask remained stoic, but Maka sensed something wasn't right. "Did you keep in contact with Soul when you left?"
Maka gulped as she feared the worst. "No. Well, we did, but it didn't last past six months. After that I sent him letters bi-weekly, but it was more of a one sided conversation. Why did something happen to him?"
"I see." Lord Death bowed his head a little. "No, Soul is perfectly well. I am, however, sorry to have to be the one to tell you this but Soul is no longer with Spartoi."
Her mouth fell open; to say she was shocked was a pretty accurate way of describing how she felt. "What? Why would Soul… why would he leave? His brother was here! It doesn't make sense. What happened to make him leave?"
"I'm not legally allowed to say what exactly happened, but there was an incident which called for Soul's removal from Spartoi."
"What was the incident?"
"As mentioned before, I cannot legally tell you." His voice was sterner than before and she knew she was pushing her luck by pressing him for more but she didn't care.
"No buts Maka." Lord Death's voice became deeper and scarier than normal, and Maka felt herself shrinking in her seat a bit. Chills ran up her spine because she had never heard his voice turn like that; it was gruff and deep, reminding her of a smoker's voice.
When Lord Death spoke next, it was with the same playful tone she was familiar with. "Now, would you like to join Spartoi?"
Maka looked at the ground as she thought it over. If she did join Spartoi, she would have a different partner, again, which would mean she'd have to learn to resonate with someone all over. The whole reason behind her transfer was because she wanted to work alongside Soul like they did in their youth, but if he wasn't with Spartoi anymore… what could she possibly do about it?
"No," she finally said. "If Soul isn't here then there is no other person I want to team up with. It took Tsugumi and I almost a year to resonate properly, so no. Are there any other job openings?"
Lord Death turned his attention back to the projection and scrolled through the screen once again. "There is a spot open among our secretaries. You'll be doing mostly desk work such as organizing files and making sure reports go where they belong. It can be boring, but it's the only job we have open right now."
"I'll take it." She did need a job to pay for her new apartment, even if it was a secretary one.
"It's very tedious, not at all exciting. Are you sure you wouldn't prefer Spartoi? You'll do wonderful things there, I'm sure of it. Plus, it will be far more up to your standards than simple desk work."
Maka bit the inside of her cheek to prevent the tears that pricked the back of eyeballs and threatened to fall. She would much rather be in Spartoi, but without Soul there, it was hopeless. She was her best when she was with him because they were a better team than her mother and father had ever dreamed to be. He was the only person she felt comfortable going through soul drifting with, and she didn't want anyone else.
"I'll take the secretary job."
A few days passed before Maka made any effort to contact her friends. It was partly because she wanted some time to settle in, but also because she wanted to spend some time alone with her thoughts. As she unpacked her belongings into her new apartment, Maka contemplated every possible reason there was for Soul to leave the academy. Based on his behavior the last time she had seen him, Spartoi had probably become too much for him which led to his departure.
But if that were the truth, then what happened to Wes? Surely the older Evans brother had other choices when it came to partners so he himself wouldn't have left the academy. However, Maka knew it was always Soul he wanted to be with. That was the whole reason her and the boy had been separated after graduation. A small portion of her regretted not asking Lord Death about Wes, but she also had the feeling that if she had, he wouldn't have answered her questions.
Her thoughts about Soul and Wes were washed away by the time she started working at Shibusen. They were replaced with learning how her assigned computer worked, how to correctly file things away, and making sure she put in her best effort every day. The desk job may have been the type of work she didn't want - or wasn't hoping for originally - but she was still determined to give it her all. It was in her nature to do things perfectly and remain committed to her responsibilities, she had been that way ever since she was little.
The job was interesting, though. She was able to see what the other Aerodynamic Pilots were doing without actually being a part of them because when they had to file a report, they went through her. The only downside was that she found herself jealous of each of them. She really did miss flying the solar ships and exploring the different areas that skirted in and around Death City. Her heart yearned for the adventures from her youth and the time she spent with Soul; it yearned to be up in the air once again.
A part of her wished she could join them, but a much larger part knew she would never do it unless Soul was there with her.
It wasn't until a week of working at Shibusen, Maka finally decided to find out what happened to her partner. Lucky for her, the system she worked with had files on current and past employees so she searched 'Soul Evans', hoping to find his file, and found it was the first one to pop up under the search bar. Clicking on his picture caused a small blue box to slide out to the side. It gave his basic information that was common knowledge already (birthdate, age, etc.), things she didn't much care about. What she did care for was underneath the box. However, where it said 'Spartoi Activity' there was large red lettering that read 'Confidential', and it asked for a password when she clicked on it.
Confused, Maka exited out of the screen, and typed in 'Wes Evans'. If Soul's profile was inaccessible, maybe Wes' would be the opposite. Clicking on the elder Evans' picture, the same blue box slide out to the side with his credentials as well as the same large red lettering under 'Spartoi Activity'; it was the mirror image of Soul's.
Leaning back in her chair, she felt defeated by the stupid system. None of it made sense. Why would their information be confidential? Maka tried forming a logical explanation for it, but nothing came to mind. There was no logical reason for both of the Evans brother's profiles to be private unless something tragic caused them to leave.
Moving back to the computer after a few minutes, she exited out of the screen, and went back to work - but not before writing down Wes' phone number.
She would find out the reason behind the Evans brothers departure even if it killed her.
Later that night when she arrived home, she called the number she had written down. She listened to the ringing tone as she impatiently tapped her fingers on the table, and waited for someone to answer. It was taking far longer than it should have, and she was close to hanging up when someone picked up the other line.
"Hello?" came a male voice through her speaker.
Maka's heart stopped. She recognized the voice, but it wasn't the one she had been expecting.
"Uh... yeah. Who is this?"
"It's Maka. I'm back in town." She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat before continuing. "I found your number on the Shibusen database, and decided to give you a call so we could meet up - or something - since you stopped replying to my letters, and all." Nevermind that it was Wes' number she had called, but maybe Soul was living with his brother now.
There was a long pause on the other end of the line before he spoke again. "Yeah, sorry about that. My life sorta became hectic after a certain point."
"I figured." Another pause. "Do you maybe want to meet up, then? Say tomorrow? I really missed you, Soul."
"Tomorrow's not good for me. I have… things to do. How about the day after?" Maka didn't miss the fact that he ignored her last comment.
Nodding, she quickly remembered he couldn't see her face and said, "sounds good. Where do you wanna meet up?"
She heard him sigh before saying, "there's this diner called Deathbucks over near the clock tower, we can meet there. They're pretty decent."
"Alright. I'll meet you there for dinner, say around six?"
"Great. I guess I'll see you then."
"Yeah, you, too." Another short pause. "Bye, Maka."
She cursed herself for not talking to him longer as she slammed the small phone on the table. She didn't even ask to speak to Wes nor did she invite him to join them. She breathed out heavily and leaned back in her chair. At least one good thing, came out of the phone call; she was going to meet Soul which meant there would be answers as to why they both left Shibusen.
Soul wasn't expecting her to call; he wasn't even expecting her to return to Death City. In all honesty, he hoped he would never see her again. When he stopped replying to her letters, he wanted that to be the last remnant of their relationship. He didn't want to have to explain to her what had happened to make him leave Spartoi because that would mean he'd have to admit to what he did. Maka wasn't an idiot; she was a smart girl who asked questions so when he heard she was working at Shibusen, his first thought was that she knew. She knew about the incident, and she knew what type of monster he really was.
He took in a deep breath as he sat at the booth farthest away from everyone, trying to calm his nerves. He was being ridiculous with his thoughts and worries. His case was confidential which meant Maka wouldn't know the finer details about the incident; only the higher ups had access to his and Wes's file. There was no possible way Maka would have knowledge about it unless her father gave her the password, but even that thought was idiotic. Spirit may have hated his guts but he wouldn't give his daughter access to something like that.
The whole idea was preposterous.
"Hey, Soul. What can I get for ya today?" asked Patti, one of the waitresses at Deathbucks.
"Uh, nothing right now. I'm waiting for someone."
"Ooooo, is it your girlfriend?"
"No. It's not like that with this person," Soul growled.
"Whatever you say, mister grumpy pants. Then I'll be back when she gets here! Bye, pianoman!" Patti singsonged as she skipped off, her skirts flowing out behind her.
"I told you not to fucking call me that," he mumbled under his breath. She was a sweetheart, but sometimes the girl was such an asshole.
Soul flipped through the menu laying in front of him in order to keep his hands busy while he waited. He had been to the small diner multiple times before, more so on the nights when he had a nightmare or he was haunted by his past mistakes; the dark and secluded booth had long ago been deemed as his own. It was a quiet place, and hardly anyone other than the waitresses really bothered him. The Shibusen employees rarely ever stopped by the place so he was able to escape from the truth if only briefly.
The little bell on top of the door chimed, drawing Soul's attention to it, and his heart practically jumped out of his chest.
Maka still looked like the same girl he had etched into his memory as she stood in the doorway with her ash blonde hair and small physique, but she also looked the way a person who had aged six years should. She no longer wore the pigtails like she had during the academy. Now she wore it down with a few strands pinned away from her face. Her cheekbones were more pronounced, and her jawline was more angular having lost some of her baby fat. Her body also appeared to have taken on a more womanly figure as her waist cinched in to make way for small hips and long legs. Maka was absolutely stunning. A sudden rage of jealousy rushed through him as Soul noticed she drew in a few stares from some of the male guests.
"Maka!" Soul stood up a little to wave her over as well as alert the attention of the men that the pretty blonde was here for him. When she caught sight of him, she smiled before walking over, and sliding in the booth in front of him.
"Hey. Long time no see." Lord, was her smile always that intoxicating? "How have you been?"
He shrugged. "Same as everyone else, suppose. You?"
"Good." There was a small silence between the two, the conversations around them their only source of noise. "So, what have you been up to all this time?"
"Umm," he rubbed the back of his neck, "nothing much. Just a few odd things here and there, but what about you. Why'd you come back?" He inwardly cursed himself for sounding so rude.
"My job transfer was approved a while ago, and I missed Death City so decided to come back. I wanted to come back home."
"So you with Spartoi now?"
"No, not exactly. Lord Death offered me the job, but I didn't want to take it."
"Why not? Spartoi was always your final goal. At least it was when we were at the academy together."
"I know," she averted her eyes away from his as she nodded. "But that would have meant I'd have to find a new partner… since my original one left."
Soul gulped. She knew, she most definitely knew the reason behind his departure. Even if she didn't, she deserved to know. If Maka were truly the only person he ever really trusted then she also deserved to know the exact events that occurred in her absence. They had spent almost a year learning, memorizing, the others most cherished memories, growing closer to the other every single day. The news about their separation had hit him the hardest and wasn't she the one he had allowed to see him breakdown? Not even Wes had ever seen him like that; Maka was honestly the only person who held his trust still to this day.
He knew all of this deep down in his heart, so why couldn't he tell her?
Because you're afraid she'll look at you like the monster you are. All the others do already, what makes her different? came the voice in his head. It was the same voice that haunted his dreams, the same one that told him to... so long ago.
And it was right.
"Yeah, sorry I didn't tell you about that," He tried to laugh but it sounded fake even to him. He looked away to avoid the pitiful glance he knew was there, but failed as he spared a side glance in her direction. There was no pity in her deep green eyes, but rather confusion. "What?"
"Nothing." She pursed her lips as she studied him for a couple minutes. "It's just, there's something different about you, but I can't put my finger on what exactly."
Soul sat back in his seat and pulled the cool guy act out of his ass like it was second nature for him. "What do you expect after not seeing someone for six years, Maka? People age, ya know."
Maka closed her eyes as she smiled and shook her head.
Fuck, was she adorable when she did that, he thought.
"No, I know that, idiot. I mean there's something different about your aura. But it doesn't matter right now. It'll come to me later." She placed her elbows on the table and crossed her arms as she leaned in toward him. "So, how's your brother?"
It was Soul's turn to look confused. "What?"
"Wes. Your older brother. How is he? Is he still with Spartoi?"
Six year old Soul walks toward his older brother with tears in his eyes. The other neighborhood children are cruel to him as usual when he wants to play with them, but he can't for the life of him understand why. He's a kid exactly them, yet they treat him cruelly as if he were an outsider. It has been occurring for weeks now, but he still isn't used to it which is why he always turns to Wes.
Older brothers heal all wounds, as Soul has learned in his short life.
"Soul, what's wrong?" Wes asks.
The older Evans kneels down in front of his brother and pulls the boy's hands away from his eyes. He notes the red brimming around his pupils, his little nose is tinged with a light pink, and his skin is warm as he touches him. Wes hates seeing his brother like this, but, since the day Soul was born, it was bound to happen. It's the whole reason he was graced with an older brother like himself.
"Why don't the other kids like to play with me?" Soul's voice is low, and Wes can hear the small sob that breaks in it which only makes his own heart crumble. "Is it because of how I look?"
Wes gives him a small smile and sighs.
His brother always did have trouble finding new friends and people who would accept him for who he was instead of base their judgements on looks alone. The fact of the matter is that it shouldn't matter that his brother has white hair, shark teeth, and crimson eyes. He's still a person on the inside, a damn good one at that. Anyone would be lucky to call him friend, but that never mattered to the others. Kids were cruel. They tease those who are different - calling them names and poking fun at them - and it always pained Wes to see his little brother hurt over something based on his appearance.
However, he knows how to handle this one. "Your looks have nothing to do with it, little brother. Those kids are only jealous because of who your family is."
"Mhm." Wes rubs a thumb underneath his brother's face to wipe the tears away, and grabs his hand. "Come on, we can go play on our own. We don't need those other kids."
Soul smiles. "Okay."
They walk to the other side of the playground, away from the kids who are sneering at the two, and Wes tries his best to cheer his younger brother up. There may be a six year age difference between the two, but Wes always tries to ignore it. His brother means the world to him, and he wants to make sure he receives the attention he deserves.
It was the only thing the older Evans was able to offer him.
Since the day he was born, Soul was always considered the black sheep of the family. Even from a young age, his interests were more focused on the fundamentals of Aerodynamics rather than his music lessons which peeved their parents to no end. Of course it was understandable. Their parents wanted Soul and Wes to be accomplished musicians like themselves, but Soul's heart was never aimed at pursuing a music career. Wes was the only one in their family who understood his brother's love for the sky.
As Wes pushes Soul on the swing, a solar ship flies above them and draws the attention of the younger Evans. When he swings down, the white haired boy digs his feet in the dirt to stop the momentum, and his attention turns toward the sky as he watches the ship soar overhead. While Soul watches the ship, Wes watches his brother. He sees the curiosity and excitement that crosses over his face, and wonders how deep Soul's love for the air is. The plane disappears and Soul's upturned lips fall.
"You wanna be up there one day," Wes states. He doesn't need to question the boy, he already knows the answer.
Soul looks down as he shuffles his shoes along the ground, trying to think of his answer. "Yeah, sorta, but mother and father wouldn't be happy with me."
Wes smiles. "What if I joined the academy when I become of age?"
This catches Soul's attention, perking up and turning around to smile at him. "Really?" The excitement oozes all over his face and voice, and Wes can't help the warm feeling spreading along his chest cavity.
He nods. "Of course." Lightly punching his brother on the shoulder he adds, "I'd do anything for you, Soul. You should know that by now."
Soul swallowed and closed his eyes as the memory was replaced with other, more horrible ones. Shaking his head, he tried to remove them from his mind, wishing nothing more than to forget the awful accident. If time travel were possible, then it would have been him instead of Wes. That was something he would make sure of. He didn't deserve to live on while his brother rested six feet under because of a mistake Soul had made. It wasn't fair, none of it had been fair.
Once the thoughts subsided, Soul opened his eyes again and took a deep breath before telling Maka the devastating news.
His voice was barely above a whisper when he spoke; it was a wonder how she even heard him. "Wes passed away."
Her mouth fell open and a small gasp escaped pass her lips.
"I didn't know. I'm sorry…" Maka chewed on her bottom lip as she bit back the words that were begging to come out, but Soul knew her far too well. She was bound to ask the questions that were burning on the tip of her tongue no matter what.
However, her words told him a story he wasn't expecting.
She didn't know beforehand that Wes had passed away which meant no one at Shibusen told her. Neither Spirit nor Lord Death or any of the others who knew about the accident bothered to let her in on the secret. Maka's image of Soul from their academy days was still intact, and she didn't see him as the monster everyone else thought he was, including himself. For the time being, he was safe when it came to her, but a small part of him wasn't positive how comforting that thought was.
"How did it happen? When did it happen? Why didn't you tell me?" she finally asked.
Soul blinked, unsure of how to answer. "Um… him and I were out on a mission, and there was… an accident." He paused to take a deep breath. He wasn't sure if he should tell her the exact events that had happened. Looking into those bright green eyes of hers, a small part of him wanted to, but a larger part wasn't ready. Maka was always a nice and caring person who saw the good in others, he didn't want to ruin her view of him.
Hell, she chose to be friends with me when we were younger, right?, he thought.
"I left the academy soon after, and that's the end of it."
Telling her the truth was a risk he wasn't ready to take at the moment.
Maka pursed out her lips as she digested the news. They sat in silence before Patti came back over to take their orders. With it being Maka's first time at the diner, Soul ordered for the two of them and offered to pay which Maka was quick to object to. However, after a few minutes of arguing between them when Patti left, Soul won which left a certain blonde seething in her little corner and pouting at him.
"Aw, why the long face, pigtails?" His teasing words made Maka stick her tongue out at him. "Way to act your age. How old are you again? Twelve?"
"And a half," she smiled.
"I can tell."
After a couple minutes, Maka placed her elbows on the table and laid her chin on top of her cupped hands. Smiling, she asked, "so since you aren't working for Shibusen anymore, what are you doing now? How has life in Death City been since I moved?"
"I, um, started playing the piano again for a few clubs around town. That's basically how I make my money these days. As for life since you left, its been pretty boring. I see Star and Tsu occasionally, along with the others from the academy, but they've been busy with Spartoi business so we rarely have time to talk."
"Can I hear you?"
"Hear me what? I don't go around letting girls hear the noises I make in bed after the first date."
Maka smiled. "Idiot, I meant your music! I've never heard you play and I would really like to. I'm sure you're great."
"I'm not that great, but sure," he nodded. "Maybe we can go to my place after this?"
"Okay." She reached across the table and placed her hands on top of his. A surge of electricity flew up his arm, and he quickly slid his hand away from hers causing the small smile on her face fall somber. "I really did miss you, Soul."
He stared at her, and noticed things he hadn't when she first walked in.
Her bangs were a longer, a few of the strands strands fell in front of her eyes so that they touched her blonde lashes. Every time she blinked, they would flutter out before falling back in place. Even her hair was longer as it fell just above her chest rather than a few inches below her shoulders like when they were younger. Her lips were plumper than before, eyes a more vibrant green, and a few freckles were speckled along her nose and cheeks. She was even more beautiful close up. Soul swallowed a large chunk of saliva that had welled up in his throat as the feelings he thought had vanished long ago slowly resurfaced.
Maybe rekindling their friendship was a bad idea; he shouldn't allow himself get close to her again. He didn't want something similar to Wes' death to happen to Maka, and he certainly didn't want her to find out the truth. If she ever did, she would never speak to him again. Soul wouldn't be able to live with that kind of regret nor live without her. It was better if they stayed away from each other, never to see the other again.
That's what he should have done.
"I missed you too," he whispered. Fuck, he thought, that wasn't what I meant to say.
After they ate their dinner and caught up on the last years they had missed, Soul and Maka made their way to his loft which wasn't far from the diner. He didn't live in an extravagant complex like Maka nor in a neighborhood she had expected for him to. Soul's apartment building was located in one of the dingier parts of town behind an abandoned warehouse, and the building was a bit dilapidated. From the outside, Maka couldn't believe anyone would want to live there, especially someone from Soul's background.
Based on what she was able to gather when they were training together, he had grown up in a wealthy neighborhood and his family was well off for several generations. She was only able to guess that he had been exposed to the finer things in life whether it was through his wardrobe or in the cuisine that he ate. Everything was exquisite and far beyond the reach of someone who came from a background like Maka's. Her father was part of Lord Death's council, but that only meant they had money, not that they were able to spend it on expensive luxuries.
The service elevator was out of order so Soul had to lead Maka up six flights of stairs before they finally reached the floor his apartment was on. There were hardly any lights on in the hallway, and the stench of urine made her nose scrunch up. There were patches of paint on the dark brown walls that was peeling off and there were a few water stains on the carpeted floor. When they finally reached his door, Maka breathed a sigh of relief. The deep mahogany of the door was rich and inviting compared to the others in the hallway, at least from the outside it appeared to be decent.
Soul shyly turned toward her and said, "fair warning, it's not the tidiest of places right now,"
She crossed her arms and raised one delicate brow. "You act like I didn't live with you for a whole year. I know what your idea of clean is, Evans."
"Fair enough, Albarn," he mocked.
He pulled the sleeve of his shirt back, and waved his wrist in front of the scanner. A small click later and the door released from the lock to rest behind the archway an inch. Soul pushed it all the way open to reveal a small loft area. Like the hallways, the inside of his apartment was dark and dingy, but there was a lack of urine smell which pleased Maka. As they walked inside, the lights turned on automatically; the pale yellow gave off a mysterious feel to the room but still brightened it enough to show off the surroundings.
The apartment (in reality a loft) itself was one entire room, with only one door - not including the front door - for the washroom. Everything that didn't deal with personal hygiene, was out on display for her to see. His sheets and a few articles of clothing were strewn about on his bed and a variety of pillows were scattered along the headboard. His nightstand was a cluttered mess, personal belongings just thrown on top around the funny looking alarm clock. On the other side, squished into a corner, was a small kitchen and dining area, and next to that area sat a brown couch in front of a television set.
The opposite side facing Maka was composed of yellow tinted windows which followed the slant of the roof above, offering a nice view of the city that loomed outside. Sitting directly in front of it was a small brown keyboard with a matching bench. However, that wasn't the aspect about the loft that drew her attention. That honor was reserved for the stained glass window that was embedded in the middle of the yellow; it was the same one Maka remembered seeing a long time ago through Soul's memories.
"Who made that?" she asked as she pointed to the object in question.
Soul followed her finger and nodded when his eyes fell upon the window. "Wes made it for me. It was a gift for getting into the academy."
"It's really lovely," she breathed out.
She walked forward to see the stained glass window from a closer perspective. It was the same design she had seen years ago; a dark purple dragon encircled a white crescent moon with light blue and yellow stars splattered on a green background. It was a beautiful work of art, and Maka couldn't help but wonder why Wes ever stopped making them. The one he had made for her was currently sitting in front of her bedroom window, and she loved waking up to see all the colors as they danced around her room at sunrise; it was peaceful and wondrous.
A few minutes passed before her attention moved from the window to the piano in front of her. "So this is where you practice your new little hobby?"
Sitting down on the long seat, she delicately traced her fingers along the keys, playing a few chords as she went. They were ancient and a few pieces of the marble were chipped, but the small keyboard was still beautiful. The almost pristine white and black keys against the brown board were almost enchanting; there were different cogs and gears carved into the wood and two small copper pipes jutted out the back. Soul's soft thuds rang in her ear as he walked over, and she felt his body heat warm her skin as he slid in beside her. Her heart started racing as she realized how close they'd be sitting, and her breath hitched when his arm brushed against hers as he reached forward to touch the wood.
"I bought this off some guy at a pawn shop. He wanted about fifty bucks for it so I had to take the opportunity when I could. A piano like this is hard to come by especially at that price. Also recognized this work immediately." He tapped a finger on the board before withdrawing it. "A famous artist from Paris carved that by the name of Justin Law and his work is very nice. She's in bad shape, but she does the job."
Maka gently walked two fingers over a few keys, feeling the cool marble under her touch. "I think she's beautiful."
Soul snorted and stared at her with a small smile. "Yeah, she is."
She turned her head so she could continue talking to him, but stopped halfway.
Neither one had expected to be so close to the other. Staring into his dark crimson eyes, she saw everything; she saw the boy he was long ago, and the one currently sitting beside her all swirled into one. There was pain and misery behind those eyes, but also something else, something that wanted to break through. She wasn't able to pinpoint what it was exactly, but for the moment she didn't care. Instead, she counted the small freckles that dusted across his cheeks and nose, trying to etch each one of them into her mind. She wanted to remember how beautiful he looked when she saw him again for the first time in six years.
Maka's heart beat out of control as she tried to catch her breath.
She drank in everything on his face from the white lashes lining his eyes to the light scar on his cheek that wouldn't have been noticeable otherwise. The beautiful way his nose poked out from his face and the small curve as it connected back; the freckles only enhanced that beauty. His cheeks were still a little chubby, but the hint of cheekbones was there nonetheless.
She continued to scan his face until her focus came to his lips, the pink creating a small fire in the pit of her stomach. She wasn't far. If she moved even an inch, she could kiss him; it would only take one move and the feelings from long ago would resurface for good. They could be together - really be together - and they wouldn't have to worry about her moving away. There was literally nothing holding her back from moving that one last inch…
Soul cleared his throat, drawing Maka out of her daze, and averting her attention back to his eyes. "Would you like me to write you a song?"
His breath smelled sweet and was warm as it hit her face making her eyes dart back down to his mouth. Closing her eyes, she swallowed as she tried to remove all thoughts of him and those intoxicating lips from her mind. Now wasn't the time to have such lustful thoughts. When she opened them again, she was staring at red instead of pink.
"I would like that."
Soul broke their gaze after a minute and looked back at the piano. "Just give me a while to decide on the right song for you, okay? It takes time and skill to find the right tune for someone like you."
"Someone like me?"
"Yeah, someone who's anal about shit and never shuts the fuck up - ow! Not to mention abusive! The fuck, Maka?" Soul practically leapt out of his chair when she pinched and twisted the skin on his arm.
"You were being rude," she said.
"Wouldn't have to be if you weren't such a damn prude."
"I am not a prude."
"Yes you are. All you did back at the academy was read alone on your bed."
"That doesn't make me a prude." Maka smoothed out her skirt before continuing. "Just that I know how to spend my spare time productively rather than planning extravagant pranks with my best friend."
"Hey," he snapped. "That was productive work."
"Whatever you say, Eater."
"God I was a real idiot back then wasn't I?" He threaded his fingers through his hair as he gave her a side glance.
"Yes you really were. Who chooses Eater as their own middle name anyways?"
"I thought it was cool."
Maka snorted. "Right. I forgot I was talking to Mr. Cool himself. The same person who thought it was a smart idea to wear his own personalized goggles all the time."
"Fuck I almost forgot about that. What the hell was I thinking back then?"
"I don't think anyone likes to remember what their younger selves did. Makes for some cringe-worthy memories."
"Don't I know it."
There was a moment of silence as both escaped to their own separate thoughts, and Maka's mind trailed back to a question she had earlier. "I've been meaning to ask, what happened to Grigori?"
Soul looked at her and blinked. "They didn't tell you?" She shook her head. "Thought Lord Death would have told you more than he did. Grigori's still mine, Wes and I bought her once I joined Spartoi, but since I'm no longer part of the Aerodynamics division, she's currently in storage. Never to be flown again." A short pause. "Why? Did you wanna fly her?"
"No. Well, kind of. I do miss flying in her."
"Then why didn't you take the Spartoi job?"
"Because it would have been useless without my right hand man next to me. There's no one like my original partner, you know?" She bumped her shoulder against his to emphasize her point. "Like I said, I really did miss you. I missed flying alongside you, as well as these little moments here."
He smiled weakly at her. "Missed you too. Flying with Wes wasn't exactly… the best. I knew too much about his life beforehand. Yours was definitely more exciting."
"Yeah, I heard resonating with a family member was always more difficult because of that, but I'm not entirely too sure about it. I only resonated with Papa once, and never had the desire to do it again after that."
Soul knitted his eyebrows together. "When'd you do that?"
"It was the day at the ruins when the… um, well you know." Maka bit her lower lip and stared at the building across from his. She watched the small airships flying lazily across the sky some distance away and only vaguely wondered when Death City put them in. She had only heard about them before, but never saw one in the city. They were always meant for other, more populated cities rather than a medium size place like Death City.
Soul's tone was somber when he spoke next. "Yeah, I remember."
Maka could only guess he was thinking back to the day of the accident and a sharp pang shot through her chest. Bringing up the ruins was a bad idea, she always found a way to fuck things up somehow and she hated it. If only she was able to learn to keep her mouth shut or at least think before she spoke so she wouldn't ruin the moment with her big mouth. Soul was right, she was a nerd who had a big mouth; a big mouth that always found trouble.
After a few minutes of silence, Soul asked, "How far do you live from here?" His voice drew her out of the stupor she was in, and she focused her attention back to him.
"I asked how far do you live from here because it's almost sun down," he nodded outside the window to indicate what he meant.
She checked the time on her holo watch. "Right, I should be getting back. I'm actually on the other side of town so I guess I can just take the bus or - what are you doing?"
He slid off the bench and walked over to his nightstand, ignoring her unanswered question as he went. She watched as he slipped into his leather jacket that was draped on one of the bedposts and picked up something silver out of a small glass bowl sitting on the stand beside it. "I'm taking you home. It's dangerous walking in this neighborhood at night."
"Soul, you really don't have to. I can take care of myself."
"I know." He threw one of his infamous smirks over his shoulder that caused her warm liquid to flow through her stomach. "It's not your safety I'm worried about. I'd rather not have to read in the paper tomorrow that a short blonde woman kicked ten guy's asses in the middle of the night."
Maka laughed and slid off the bench to follow him back outside into the hallway. He led her to what appeared to be a parking garage that was connected to the building, where a gaudy orange motorcycle was parked in. The wheels were larger compared to those on a normal motorcycle, exhaust pipes protruded from the rear, and there was a single headlight with shutters on it. He sat down and patted the back of the black seat for Maka to sit down before placing the key in the keyhole to rev the bike to life.
The ride to her apartment was smooth as she clinged to his jacket, giving him directions to her place. His body heat kept her warm against the cool night air as they zoomed past buildings and people causing them all to blur as they went. It was exhilarating and reminded her of the days when they flew together as the wind whipped through her hair. Blonde strands of hair flew behind her as they made a particularly sharp and she had to tighten her grip on him.
Being that close to him caused more electricity to surge through her body, and she felt every muscle of his back move as he steered the bike around each corner and obstacle in their way. The smell of leather was strong along with his shampoo. They mixed together and wafted up her nose, making her wish the night could last forever so that she was able to stay on the bike longer with him.
Unfortunately, it all had to come to an end.
Once they reached her apartment building, Maka dismounted the bike and bid Soul good night before walked up the stairs to her home. Thoughts of Soul and the day she spent with him slowly lulled her to sleep, and she remembered that she still didn't learn the exact reason behind his departure from Spartoi. She knew it was because of Wes, but exactly what happened to him? What was so traumatic that it would make Soul quit?
The last thing she remembered was the way Soul looked when they first met seven years ago, and the youthful glow that covered his face. Compared to the man she knew now, that glow had long been extinguished and it broke her heart. The Soul she knew now was still the same boy, but something had changed him.
She only wished she knew what it was.
As Soul laid on his bed, he watched the lights from the outside world dance along the ceiling.
He wasn't sure why he had brought her back to his apartment, or why they had to be that close when they were at his piano. Seeing her like that was breathtaking, and he wanted nothing more than to kiss her. Her cheeks and nose were peppered with small freckles and the blonde lashes that feathered out around her eyes only enhanced their vibrant color. Maka Albarn was beautiful and six years had done her well. She was like fine wine, it grew better with age.
He rolled over to stare across the room into the dark abyss, and wondered what sorts of monsters would visit him that night.
Soul wanted to laugh at how ridiculous it was that he still had nightmares even after six years, but every one of his attempts to rid himself of them was futile. He tried sleeping pills along with every trick in the book he could find, but nothing worked. His nightmares only grew stronger, and the more he fought against them, the harder they fought back. Some nights he found sleep hard to come by, and would stay awake to listen to the noises on the street - listening to every argument and word that drifted up to him. They were somewhat soothing, but they never helped him sleep.
As he closed his eyes, he hoped tonight would be different.
However, hope was such a fleeting thing when it came to Soul.
The nightmare that night was the same one he had right after the incident with his brother.
It was the day of the ruins when he and Maka entered the area without permission. The cyborg was there and everything played out like normal, but then it changed. Soul didn't run out to save Maka; instead he stood back and watched as the cyborg sliced her across the chest causing her blood to spew out. He watched her crippled body hit the floor, her haunting green eyes looking up at him, and her mouth formed the simple word 'why' before all life was wiped away from her. The small glimmer of hope in her eyes was the last thing to disappear and all that was left was a simple shell that used to be Maka.
Soul woke up with a start; his heart pounded against his chest, and his breathing was heavier than normal. Placing his head in his hands, he tried to ease his breathing with the technique his shrink, Kid, had taught him.
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.
It was fifteen minutes or so before his heart finally slowed down, and his breathing was back to normal. He swung his legs over the bed before standing up and walking to the bathroom where he splashed water on his face. The cold moisture was welcoming against his burning skin and helped him wake up quicker. He stood over the sink, waiting for the wave of nausea to subside before opening his eyes to stare at himself in the mirror.
He should have been surprised by the nightmare, but he wasn't. There had been countless nights where the same dream occurred, each one more sinister than the next.
Seeing Maka die before him wasn't the part that left him shaking. However, not even that was the most hellish aspect about the dream. The most horrible and sickening part of it was that he enjoyed watching the life leave Maka. He enjoyed seeing her last breath escape her body, and the blood pooling around her.
He enjoyed every minute of it, and that's what scared him the most.