The Truth of Forgiveness
Something drew Maka closer to Soul after their first meeting, but she wasn't completely sure what it was. In the days and weeks that had followed, she found herself spending most of her time with the man and never bothered with trying to contact any of her other friends. From an outside perspective, her relationship with him might have appeared to be unhealthy, but it was anything but that. She had really missed Soul and found rekindling their friendship was more important than the others she had. There was also a secret the white haired man was keeping from her, one that she wanted to learn about.
Hurt and pain resided behind his crimson eyes and she desperately wanted to know why; she wanted to learn all of the secrets he kept locked away in his heart and the thoughts that roamed around his mind. She was fully aware that Soul was a private person - had always been that way - but she still felt betrayed that he didn't trust her enough to talk to her. Her heart also broke at the thought that he had returned to his reclusive state when she was transferred after she had hoped he moved past it during their time at the academy.
Sighing, Maka lightly shook the thoughts of Soul and his weird behavior from her mind. She had work that needed to be done, and wondering about the inner workings of a man that was miles away was not one of them. There were requests flying in from each of the individual Spartoi teams that needed to be prioritized. Each of them appeared to be in dire situations all around the outskirts of Death City, and a small portion of Maka wondered what they were experiencing. What type of dire situation were they in that would call for backup? Or an entire hospital's supply?
"Maka," came a bored voice as her attention was drawn away from the monitor and her thoughts. "Can you take these case files to Lord Death's office? I'd do it, but Kim's forcing me to train one of the newbies."
"Sure, it's no problem." She smiled up at the tall blonde by the name of Liz Thompson. There wasn't much she knew about the girl in the short time they worked together, but she appeared to be a kind person. The only thing she did know was the fact that Patti the waitress was her younger sister and they lived in a small apartment complex on the other side of town. Rumor around the office was that their old friend Kid was the one who paid it off for them since it was located in one of the richer neighborhoods, but it was only a rumor.
"Thanks." Liz said as she gave her a small smile.
"Oh, Liz!" Kim called from across the office, and Maka watched as the older blonde visibly flinched at the playful tone. "I have our new employee here who is just dying to be trained by you!"
"One of these days I'm going to murder that woman," Liz muttered to Maka.
She removed the files from Liz's hands and gently placed them on her desk before giving a small shrug. "And if you do I won't testify against you. That way your sentence isn't too long."
Liz smiled. "Thanks, Maka. You are a lifesaver."
Watching the woman walk toward Kim and a dazed brunette, Maka silently giggled to herself. Her co-workers were definitely a fun group of people and were not like the other girls she knew at the academy. Back then, they all appeared to have an air of sophistication and maturity that was years beyond them, but the women she was slowly getting to know now, while mature, were also a playful bunch.
Maka finished sorting through a few more reports she had on her list before picking up the files from Liz off her desk. The stack itself was pretty heavy and large in comparison to the files from the past, and Maka guessed that they must have been from the older blonde's own sorting adventure. The weight of the files didn't matter, though, because Lord Death's office was only down a few hallways, but she was still uncomfortable with the matter. The reason behind her discomfort was the small fear that someone she knew would see her. While she was fine admitting that she didn't join Spartoi to Soul, everyone else from the academy was a different story.
Everyone knew she was the best in their year and that she was a perfect candidate for Spartoi. Not taking the job offer was an embarrassment not only to herself, but among her old classmates as well. They may have been taught techniques on how to perfect their combat skills, but the guilt tripping came naturally.
"Kilik, do you have a status update on the ruins situation?"
She stopped just before turning the corner at the sound of her father's voice, but that wasn't what had caught her attention. Her ears had perked up at the mention of ruins because there only one he could possibly mean; the ruins her and Soul had encountered the humanoid cyborg at. The same one that was the cause of so much turmoil and the small drift between Soul and the person he was before. The mere thought of that day and the events that followed made her uncomfortable.
"We still haven't been able to find the cyborg that was mentioned in Albarn and Evans' report, but there is something else you need to know, sir."
Maka closed her eyes and swallowed down the lump in her throat as the cyborg slashing Soul across the chest flashed in her mind; she witnessed his blood splattering along the ruin floor, her shoes, and the cyborg's body, before the young boy fell limp to the ground. The memory left a grotesque taste in her mouth and her stomach churned as she tried to forget it.
But how could she possibly forget something like that? It had left her partner weak, helpless, and was the cause of his downward spiral.
She opened her eyes and pinned herself to the wall. Whatever information Kilik had for Spirit, she wanted to know too, which meant she had to be absolutely quiet.
"And what exactly would that be?" Spirit asked.
She heard Kilik shuffling through some papers that she could only assume was his status report. "When Ox and Harvar exited the ruins before us, they saw two figures coming from the direction of the town that was nearby. The two figures attacked, and Ox and Harvar tried to talk some sense into them, but they wouldn't stop."
"What happened then?"
"Ox and Harvar shot the two figures, but the strangest thing is that the figures appeared to be human. Harv told me that there was some sort of dark substance surrounding their bodies and when they spoke it wasn't in a language he understood. Ox said it appeared to him like they were being possessed. Neither one is sure they'll be joining us for future missions. The whole ordeal really rattled their nerves, sir."
A moment of silence passed as Spirit digested the news Kilik gave him.
"I see," he finally said. "I want you to take this report directly to Lord Death himself; this information is to remain top secret, is that understood?" A pause for Kilik to nod his understanding. "Relay the same information to your crew. I don't want any of this to get out to the other Spartoi team members. It's on a need to know basis only. If Ox and Harvar do decide they don't want to be on the ruins team anymore, tell them to contact me. I'll be sure to place them somewhere else."
Maka heard the scuffing of Kilik's boots as he turned to walk in the direction of Lord Death's office and she knew she had to make a decision quickly. Her father was either going to follow him or walk in her direction, with it most likely being the latter. Taking a deep breath, she turned the corner - pretending she had been walking down the hall moments before - when she bumped right into her father. He placed his hands on her shoulders to prevent her from falling, but his smile turned to shock when Spirit caught a glimpse of her face.
"Maka. I didn't know you were back."
A few weeks had passed since she moved back home yet she still refused to contact the man between that time. It might have been childish for her to still hold on to the grudge from when she was younger, but it still burned bright in her heart. Forgiving someone for cheating on his wife, no matter how many times he claimed he loved the woman, was hard; especially when their own daughter had been hurt in the process.
It had been well over ten years since her parent's divorce and the actions of her father did appear to be petty now, but, in truth, their relationship had always been strained. She had realized that during her time with the Scythes. When she moved back to Death City, telling the man about her arrival had been the last thing on her mind. There were too many years of pent up anger that their relationship was beyond repair at this point.
However, the guilt still rose inside her as she chewed on her bottom lip. She really should have tried to be a better daughter to him. The worst he had ever done to her was love her too much, and he wasn't the one who left the country, either.
"It was nothing personal, I didn't tell anyone that I was moving back. It was more on a whim than anything."
It was a lie but he didn't need to know that, and she certainly didn't need her guilt to worsen.
He slowly nodded his head. "I see. Well, I'm glad you're back. Maybe we can have lunch sometime? That is, when you aren't busy with work."
"I'd like that."
The pain that flashed in his blue eyes didn't go unnoticed by her as the guilt slowly swelled up into a lump in her chest, crushing her heart in the process. He didn't deserve to be treated so unfairly and she was a terrible daughter for being the cause of it. If she was able to find it in her heart to forgive and accept him for the person he was, they wouldn't be in this situation now. She lowly sighed as her hand twitched to reach out to him, but Spirit placed his hand on her shoulder before she was able to. The gesture was the same one he had performed when she received her acceptance letter from the academy and tears stung the back of her eyes.
"You do your father proud, okay?"
Her throat felt heavier, and she wanted to apologize for everything - her behavior for the last ten years, for never forgiving him for her cheating on her mother, and telling him how much she loved him - but the words didn't come out. They stayed wedged in her throat and in her mind as she gave him a small nod.
The pressure of Spirit's hand was missed as soon as he removed it from her shoulder, and she remained stationary as she listened to the soft thud of his boots as he walked away. Slowly, she turned her watery gaze to the floor and silently cried. Her mind yelled at her for being ridiculous, that the older man knew she loved him even though she never acted like she did. Spirit was the type of man who was aware of his faults and understood the reasons why she resented him. There was nothing for her to be guilty about.
However, the pain in her heart was real, and the tears staining the granite floor were too.
As Maka laid in bed that night, she tried to excuse her actions and feelings for her father, but all of her attempts were futile. No matter what she told herself, the guilt refused to be erased as it built up in her heart. It felt like someone had wrapped their hand around the pulsating muscle and was squeezing out all of the emotions within it.
It pained her to admit it, but she was a terrible person.
It was her fault that Soul had been slashed across his chest, and her mind was too stubborn to forgive her father. She was a heartless, selfish person who only cared about herself. The people around her never really mattered, she was always looking out solely for Maka Albarn. A girl who resented her father because of something that happened a long time ago didn't deserve happiness. She deserved to be dropped in the deepest part of the ocean where she would rot for all of eternity and suffer through the nine circles of hell after death.
It was a punishment fit for a person like her.
Maka rolled back over and tried to clear her head. Rather than thinking of Spirit, she thought of Soul. The memory of them sitting in front of his piano floated to the front of her mind causing the core of her chest to heat up and slowly spread throughout her body. A small smile spread across her face as she berated herself for not seizing her opportunity and kissing the man. Slowly she wondered what his lips would have tasted like if she had; they were probably like something soft and sweet, like cotton candy. The probably would have melted in her mouth as soon as they touched, causing her insides to soften and her heart to flutter.
Maybe next time they met, she'd find out
Soul found himself sitting in the same diner once again, waiting for Maka to arrive. His mind was buzzing with thoughts of what the day would bring, but he was also plagued with doubts.
The nightmare from a few weeks ago was still haunting him. The pleasure from watching the small blonde die in front him still lingered in the back of his mind and there wasn't a single moment he was awake where it didn't torment him. Why he still agreed to meet with her was beyond him. It also didn't help that the darkness was seeping its way back into his thoughts and dreams, reminding him of what he was capable and of what he truly was beneath his flesh.
If he were to ever physically hurt Maka - or worse killed her - he wasn't sure what he would do.
He wasn't sure if he would be able to live with that blood on his hands.
Soul released the breath he had been holding in and gently placed his head in his hands as he willed his headache to go away. He had been taking the prescribed medicine for them since they started a few weeks ago but it didn't seem to work. The door chimed a few minutes later to announce a new customer, but his head was throbbing too much that he didn't bother to see if it was Maka or not. A small light flickered on in the back of his mind that alerted him to her presence, but he didn't pay it any attention. Deep down, he hoped the light was wrong this time.
"Hey, Soul!" came Maka's cheery voice.
Panic rushed through his body as he was startled by the unexpected noise and he bolted straight out of his seat, scraping the chair along the floor. Maka softly placed her hand on his shoulder and gave a light squeeze to calm him down. It was done in a similar fashion like when they were younger. "You okay?"
Wild eyes looked up at her as he willed his rapidly beating heart to slow down before answering. "Yeah. I'm fine. Just wasn't expecting you to come so soon."
Maka nodded as she sat down in the chair across from him. He opened his mouth to say something, but yellow hair flashed in the corner of his eye, drawing his attention to a newcomer.
"Hey, you two lovebirds. What can I get for ya today?" Patti asked as she whipped out a small notepad from her front apron.
He was about to correct her when Maka spoke first. "May I get a coffee with three creams and two sugars? Also, a slice of banana nut bread if you have any, please."
"I'll take a coffee too, but black. Nothing sweet for me." Soul decided against correcting the waitress since his date chose not to.
"Alllright," Patti said as she finished scribbling on the notepad. "I'll have that out in a jiffy! Don't you two do anything I wouldn't do!" She winked before dashing off to the kitchen.
"And make it the strongest cup of coffee you have, Patti!" Soul yelled after her.
He breathed out heavily and stretched out in his seat as he tried to pop his back. It had been another restless week for him and his body was paying for it. His muscles ached and he was sore everywhere, especially in places he didn't know existed. The voice in the back of his mind constantly reminded him that he needed to go see a doctor or at least contact Kid about it, but he always ignored it. It was embarrassing enough that he saw a psychologist for five years after Wes' death and if Maka found out, he would be downright humiliated. He also didn't want her to bombard him with questions that he wasn't ready to answer.
Questions that stirred too many bad feelings and memories within him.
When he turned back to Maka, her eyebrows were scrunched together in confusion. "What? Did I do something wrong?"
"No. Just… how often do you come here?" she asked before closing her eyes and shaking her head a bit. "That sounded accusatory. I only asked because you seem to know the waitress really well. You two seem to be old friends."
She really was observant. "Mhm. I come here all the time when I've had a hard night or can't sleep so I've come to know Patti very well. She's always working when I come here too."
"What do you mean you can't sleep?"
"It's mostly because of the-"
"Maka!?" came a shrill voice near the door.
The pair turned to see who the person that interrupted them was and saw Tsubaki standing at the front of the diner gaping their way. She zigzagged her way through the other customer's tables in order to reach their own, being careful not to ruin her skirts as she went.
"Hey, Tsu!" Maka stood up to hug the dark haired girl. "It's been so long! Your hair's gotten longer and… I'm so sorry I didn't tell you I was coming back, or that I was back. I've been busy these last few weeks."
Tsubaki and Maka broke apart before sitting down in the chairs beside them.
"You've changed so much!" Tsubaki said. "Six years really did a good job on you. You look so mature and beautiful and - oh Maka it's so great to see you again. I missed you so much."
"I missed you, too. And everyone else. It's really great to be back."
Soul didn't miss the glance she threw him when she said 'everyone'. However, his nerves were on edge because when the stars came out, the night sky was never far behind…
The door banged open, drawing all the customers and waitresses attention toward the front of the diner where a man with light blue dreads mixed in with mechanical contraptions walked in. Upon seeing his old friend, Soul's heart dropped down to his stomach. It had been about five years since he last saw the man - not since his departure from Shibusen and Spartoi - and their final goodbye hadn't been said on the best of terms.
"Yo, peasants! Bow down to your god!" Black Star boomed, his voice ricocheting off the walls around them.
He scanned the patrons around him as he searched for one person in particular. When his eyes fell upon Tsubaki and who she was sitting with, they bulged. In a blink of an eye, he dashed over toward their small table and leaned on it, causing it to tilt slightly. "Maka! You're back!? When did this happen!? Why did this happen!? Your god demands answers! Why have you not told your god anything!?"
Maka and Tsubaki giggled behind their hands at Star's antics before the former spoke. "Well, hello to you, too."
"Yeah, yeah, skip the pleasantries, Maka. I wanna know what the fuck you're doing here because it sure as hell has nothing to do with joining Spartoi."
Once again, Soul caught Maka's quick glance toward him. "That was my first intention, but then plans changed. I still work at Shibusen, just not in the Aerodynamics division."
"And why the hell not?"
"Because it didn't sit right with me. I would have needed to find a new partner."
Star nodded. "Eh, I gotcha. Finding a partner is always difficult. That's why I'm glad I have Tsu here as mine. Couldn't have been paired with anyone else!" He pushed off the table and crossed his arms as he puffed out his chest. "No one can ever handle the great Black Star like Tsu can!"
"That doesn't surprise me," Maka smiled.
The man dropped his arms along with the god act and smiled at her. "Doesn't matter if you're with Spartoi or not, I'm glad I have one of my best friends back. Now we can show Death City what it really means to raise hell."
Maka placed her hand over her face and groaned. "I should have listened to Mama and stayed away from you when I still had the chance. You're a really bad influence on me."
"A god can never be a bad influence on his people."
"Or her people," Tsubaki chimed in.
As if remembering something important, Maka's head popped back up and turned to Soul. "But I would join Spartoi again if a certain someone were to do it with me."
All eyes were drawn toward the white haired man causing him to slump down further in his chair.
He glanced everywhere in the restaurant except toward the people watching him, but Soul's eyes began to wander back after a few minutes. The first person was Tsubaki whose facial expression was a mixture of sorrow and anger all rolled in one. The pit of his stomach squirmed with uneasiness under her indigo gaze until she finally averted her gaze down to the table. Taking the hint, Soul looked toward Maka but noticed her emerald eyes weren't trained on him and were instead they were focused on Black Star. Reluctantly, that was where his attention turned.
But he regretted it immediately.
Throughout the entire exchange, Black Star had never noticed that Soul was sitting at the table, and when he finally did, the merriment evaporated from his face. In its place rested resentment, and hatred scorched through his dull green eyes that Soul felt the invisible daggers being pierced into him. When it came to Star and his relationships with people, he was either overly protective of them to the point where he would be willing to lay down his life for them - no questions asked - or he was capable of hating them beyond eternity without any hope of reconciliation.
When it came to Soul, it was always the latter but with good reason.
Remembering where he was, Star schooled his expression into a more neutral, blank one even though his anger still seeped through by the terse tone in his voice. "Hey, Soul. It's been a while."
"Yeah," he breathed out.
An awkward silence fell around the table as the two men stared at each other, waiting to see what the other would do. Tsubaki kept a watchful eye on Black Star while Maka's eyes darted between the two, trying to decipher what was going on. Soul should tell her, he knew he should, but how exactly was he supposed to tell the woman he hadn't seen in six years that he tried to murder his friend once?
As if on cue, Patti returned to the table. Her cheery disposition placed a standstill on the silence as she placed Soul and Maka's order on the table. "Here you are, lovebirds! A slice of banana nut bread plus a coffee with three creams and two sugars for the lovely lady. And, the strongest cup of coffee we got for Mr. Grumpy Face over here."
The waitress glanced between the two new occupants at the table and smiled. "Can I get you two anything?"
From the corner of his eye, Soul saw Star quickly gaze over him before sitting down in the empty chair next to him. "I'll take a glass of milk."
"And give me a slice of pie with a cup of coffee, please." Tsubaki returned Patti's smile before quickly adding, "oh, and I'll take two sugars and a cream with it."
"Alright-y. I'll be out with that in a jiffy!" And then Patti was gone, leaving the four back to the awkward silence from before.
The close proximity between him and Star made him feel like he was suffocating, like he was a caged animal with nowhere to run or hide. He was being forced to face Black Star head on. Facing his inner demons and admitting to what he had done years ago were things he wasn't ready for yet. Hiding the truth about what had happened to Wes from Maka was proving to be difficult as time went on, and her finding out what he had done to Black Star was at the bottom of his list.
Rather than facing the truth, he listened to the three people sitting around him as they reminisced on what had happened in the years they had missed. He watched the blonde's eyes light up with excitement when the dark haired women told her something; how the small laughter lines at the corner of her eyes scrunched up or the way her cheeks puffed out as she laughed. It caused the pit of his stomach to burn with want and his eyes never left her, almost like he was in a trance.
Without warning, Maka's body splayed out across the ruins floor in a warm pool of her own blood flashed in his mind, and his fingers twitched with the desire to leap across the table and kill her. He swallowed it down as he forced his mind to think of other things rather that memory and suppressed his urge by picking at the skin around his nails. Being with Maka Albarn was proving to be like treading in dangerous waters and he needed to be more careful.
All it would take was one slip up.
One accidental slice to her throat and she would be gone.
About two hours later, the four companions left the diner. Both pairs said their goodbyes - Maka exchanging contact information with Tsu and Star in the process - before going their separate ways.
Soul and Maka walked aimlessly down the street in a comfortable silence as their boots thumped along the cobblestone. Occasionally, Soul's hand briefly brushed against Maka's as their arms swung next to each other with every step they took. The tingling feeling he had felt only a few nights ago shot up his arm each time her flesh touched his. He both loved and hated it. He hated it because he didn't trust the monster inside of him to remain under control until he arrived to his apartment, but he loved it because every fiber in his body was telling him that they were right.
But it was dangerous; he was dangerous.
Suggesting that they go their separate ways was very tempting, but a part of him wasn't ready for it yet. For the time being, Maka was the only good thing in his life and he wanted to treasure every moment he had with her for however long he was able to. It was only a matter of time before she found out the truth about the accident and she ended their friendship. Only then would her view of him change. She would see exactly what everyone else saw when they looked at him - a demon - and once again, he would be alone.
"So Tsu and Star are engaged. That's insane, right?" Maka asked as she broke the silence between them.
Soul turned his head slightly to look down at her, one white brow arched up. "What?"
"Tsu and Star getting married next year. Weren't you paying attention just now?"
"To be honest, not really. I sorta zoned out there for a while."
She smiled. "Well, they are. It seems pretty crazy considering how young we still are, right?"
He shrugged. "Eh, I wouldn't say that. They have known each other for most of their life so it isn't really that much of a surprise. Plus they do say couples who drift together all the time have a greater compatibility than those who don't."
"You think we have a good compatibility?"
"Uh, well…" he trailed off as he tried to think of an answer.
He was aware of what he wanted to say, but at the same time he wasn't sure if it was the right thing to say. They weren't even a couple; they had only soul drifted for a whole year while they were at the academy. He did know her better than anyone else he had met at his time in the academy, but did that really mean they were compatible? Glancing down, her bright green eyes were focused on him, waiting for his answer. Gulping, said fuck it and gave it to her.
"Well, sure. We do know each other better than anyone else - we know the others deepest, darkest secrets - so yeah I'd say we are."
"Even though we aren't a couple?" she pried.
"Yeah, even though we aren't a couple," he whispered.
His cheeks burned as he stared at the clock tower as it loomed over the city. The architecture of the tower was similar to the grandfather clock in his parent's home as the black pipes for the steam jutted out of the gold-trimmed maroon base. Large golden cogs peeked out of the clock's face as the ticking black hands pointed to roman numerals. In place of a moon dial, there were carvings of a skull and two scythes on the wood which represented Shibusen itself. It was the center focal point of the city; for everyone else, it was a symbol of honor and great fortitude, but to him it only meant disgrace and cowardice.
It was the last place him and Wes had visited before their final mission, before his brother's demise.
Pausing to stare up at it, a thought occurred to Soul and he knew the exact place he wanted to take her.
"Have you ever been to the edge of town before?" His question must have caught her off guard because she slowed her walking to stare at him.
"What do you mean?"
"Have you ever been to the docks on the other side of town before? If you haven't, I was wondering if you would like to. It's a really nice view, different from all the smog that's around this area."
Maka licked her lips and stared at the ground, and Soul's heartbeat started to pick up as he waited for her answer. He found a part of himself hoping that she would decline his offer and give him a half true excuse for why she had to go back home, like she left the oven on or had to wash her hair. However, at the same time he didn't want her to.
As he looked down at her he felt the emotions from their first night together start to stir in the pit of his stomach and the all too familiar warmth as it spread across his chest. He found his gaze trained on the light pink of her lips as they glistened in the sunlight. The desire to pull her forward and kiss them - change their relationship completely - was strong but he fought against his body to do so. It wasn't the right time or the right place.
He was allowed to stare at her all he wanted, but it was hazardous to actually start anything with her that went beyond friendship.
Finally, Maka nodded and smiled up at him again. "I don't think I've ever been over there, but I would love to see it."
Hesitantly, he offered her his hand which she didn't waste any time in taking. As her fingers wrapped around his palm, he noted how warm they were and was reminded of their youth when they held hands almost daily during their training. Back then it had become second nature to reach out for her. It occurred almost like clockwork; each time they went out to go on a mission or he found himself nervous about a particular session, all he had to do was move his hand out slightly and hers would find it automatically. He felt safe and protected when he held her hand.
He swallowed the small lump in his throat as heat crawled over his skin. "I think you would really like it."
He led her in the direction of the docks as they remained holding hands. When compared to the inner portion of the city, it wasn't as crowded and the buildings were more spread out as they grew closer to the ocean. A mixture of fish and salty sea air wafted up into his nostrils and Soul felt an ease wash over him. He had visited the docks often in the day and months that followed his departure from Spartoi because he found that it was the only place in the city that allowed him to clear his mind with no distractions. There was something calming about the blue sea and allowed him to breathe easier.
Plus, the lack of people who weren't fishermen was also inviting.
They walked toward one of the docks that didn't have a boat tied to, and Soul released Maka's hand so that they were able to sit down on the edge. He had been correct in telling her that there was a nice lack of smog as the clear blue sky and sun shone down on them. A few birds flew over their heads and occasionally fish jumped out of the water before diving back down to the depths below. In the distance, in an unobservable part of the ocean, there was the distinguishable sound of a horn from a larger ship.
Soul breathed a sigh of relief as he allowed the cool wind to blow through his hair and kiss his warm skin. He glanced over at Maka and smiled. Ash blonde locks flew behind her as the wind came off the ocean and sun lightened the strands creating a small halo effect around her head, reminding him of a fallen angel. His heart fluttered at their mere image of her.
He still found it unbelievable that he was sitting beside her; that out of all their old friends, she chose him to be with. When she had called him, he didn't want to believe that she was back, but weeks later and she was really there within his reach. However, he didn't act on the small desire because in the back of his mind he feared if he did, she would disappear in vapor of fog. Or that he'd find out that his time with her was all a dream and in reality she was miles away with the Scythes.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?"
It took him longer than it should have to realize the meaning behind his own words as he felt the heat rise in his face. Lucky for him, she didn't pick up on the hidden meaning behind them and thought he had meant their view.
"Mhm. It is." She turned to look at him and the way the light sparkled in her eyes made him lose track of every coherent thought that ran through his mind. She was definitely a vision to be cherished. "How did you find out about this place?"
He blinked a couple of times as he tried to sort through his thoughts to find a decent enough answer that both satisfied her curiosity and didn't lead on to the secret he was holding from her. When Maka cocked her head to the side, he was finally able to form a decent, understandable sentence.
"After Wes died, I tried finding things that weren't damaging to my health to cope with it but soon realized there weren't that many. Found out about this place from a close friend of mine at the time, and it really helped me out back then."
"I'm glad." She smiled, but it faltered after a few seconds as her mind registered his words. "You didn't have anyone else to help you out back then? None of our friends from the academy?"
He wasn't sure how to answer that. It should have been obvious after seeing Black Star and Tsubaki at the diner but apparently not. "Um, no. They sorta all ditched me after my brother's passing. There wasn't really anyone for me to turn to except myself."
Pity filled Maka's eyes as she stared at him and he immediately regretted telling her the truth. The last thing he wanted was for her to feel sorry for him; he didn't need it. He was able to get through the turmoil on his own and having no one to help him had always been the best option for him anyways. It had always been him and Wes looking out for the other until only one Evans brother remained. Learning from a young age that he was the only person he was able to depend on had helped him also.
He was about to tell her so, but she spoke before he was able to.
"So you literally had no one?"
"No." He paused and licked his lips. "But I didn't need anyone, either. I was better on my own; I learned to depend on myself like a proper adult should. Really, Maka, I don't need you to pity me. Besides, I think I deserved to lose all my friends."
He stared out across the ocean and tried to avoid the nagging feeling in the back of his mind that told him he shouldn't have uttered the final sentence. Maybe it was the wrong thing, but he didn't care; she had to know that he was fine.
Maka placed her hand on his shoulder, pushing him a little so that he was forced to look at her. "Soul, don't say that. You know better than anyone that that's a lie."
Looking into her deep green eyes, he no longer saw pity etched across them like before; instead he saw anger and hatred flashing across them.
"You need at least one person to help you through a death, especially when it was someone who was very close to you. I wish you had told me sooner about Wes' death-"
"And what would you have done then? Come down here and try to comfort me or something? In case you didn't realize it, you were miles away from me! You were in another part of the country of christ sake, Maka!"
"I do realize that, but I wouldn't have let it prevent me from coming back to help my friend through a traumatic experience!"
"Oh right because Maka presence always makes things better, right? Because she would have waved her little wand and made everything better! News flash, that's not how things work! You can't just sweep shit under the rug and hope that makes it easier because it doesn't!"
"But I could have tried!" She cupped her hands over either side of his face and Soul noticed the desperation hiding behind green. "I could have been that person to help you get through whatever issues you had during the time, and I definitely would not have deserted you like everyone else did."
Shaking himself out of her grasp, he breathed out heavily and sulked on the dock. Arguing with her was useless, especially when she was so determined to get her point across to him. Maka was a very stubborn person who didn't stop at anything when it came to helping others see what she did. However, he was stubborn too, and for the moment he wanted to wallow in his own self pity and hate himself for what he had done. He didn't want her to make it better yet; he wasn't ready for that next step.
Although, in truth, the thought of her being the only person who didn't desert him all those ears ago did comfort him.
"Maka, I swear I didn't need anyone, and I still don't. I can get over Wes' death on my own; I don't need anyone and I especially don't need you." He regretted the words immediately. Turning his gaze away from her, he didn't see the hurt flash across her eyes, but the pain his chest was enough to know what the repercussions were.
Her voice was stern as she said his name, and he was almost too afraid to look at her but he did anyway. Maka's hands quickly cupped themselves over his cheeks again and she kept in place with a firm grip as she stared intently into his eyes.
However, when she spoke, her voice was calm and there was a sadness in it that he hadn't heard before. It almost broke his own heart just hearing it. "You do need someone and I'm not going to let you hate yourself over something you couldn't control. Wes' death wasn't your fault so you need to stop blaming yourself for it, please. I don't like seeing you so broken."
The sincere-ness behind her words seeped out with each syllable and bathed him in a warmth he had never known before. His heart pounded against his chest, and his thoughts changed into more intimate ones. He no longer wanted to remain still, sitting in the same position only inches away from her. His eyes darted from hers, down to her lips, and then back again. He did feel something for her - something that was more than just friendship - but what if he hurt her? Could they really have a relationship without him changing?
Soul swallowed. He didn't know what had compelled him to go further on the matter, but every reaction his body was experiencing felt natural and right. His heartbeat was thrumming in his ears, his palms were sweaty as he rubbed them against his pant leg, and his thoughts were swimming with the questions of what her lips would feel like. Maybe they would be sweet and soft as he pressed them against his; maybe she would taste like a warm summer day as he moved his tongue against hers.
He wouldn't know unless he tried.
And he did.
The kiss was awkward and it felt like it was a horrible idea as she remained still, but then she started to move her mouth against his and it felt right. Their noses bumped against the other as they tried to find an angle that suited them both, and he wasn't sure where to put his hands. Little chills flew down his spine as warmth filled his heart and flowed through the rest of his body. Her hands slowly moved away from his cheeks to intertwine themselves in his hair and small tingles crawled along his scalp at her touch. She moaned into his mouth as he dared to swipe his tongue out in order to taste just a tiny part of her. For one brief moment, all of his problems disappeared and there was only him and her in a world that was completely their own.
He didn't know what was happening to him exactly, but it was intoxicating and he was very intrigued to feel more. He had never kissed a girl - would be embarrassed to admit that he had practiced with a pillow under his brother's suggestion when he was younger - but the way her hands tugged on his hair to pull him closer told him he was doing it right. Cautiously, he moved his hands to the small of her back to press her closer to his body and his heart jumped at the small squeak from her. He loved everything about her. From the way her hands clawed at his scalp to the way her mouth lightly sucked on his bottom lip to the way her body perfectly molded against his own. He loved all of it and he didn't want to lose her ever again.
She broke away first, and the imprint her warm lips had left on his own was quickly replaced with the cool air around them. Upon seeing the confusion that flashed across her eyes, his elation was quickly diminished with worry. He tried to recall if she had kissed him back or not; he felt that she had - everything in his mind was telling him she had - but he feared it was a memory his mind was manipulating. A small portion of himself felt like had taken advantage of her and that he should have asked if it was okay to kiss her rather than doing it on a whim.
The apologies spewed out of his mouth before he was able to think of a proper sentence let alone anything coherent. His words came out as a jumbled mess and he continuously stuttered as he tried to excuse his actions like an idiot. Telling her the moment felt right to him even made him sound like a pervert who took advantage of women on a daily basis. No man who respected women would ever use that as an excuse, and he felt like the man in her stories about Spirit Albarn when they were younger. However, she silenced him with one finger over his mouth and smiled.
"Don't worry. I-I actually liked that." Her eyes softened as she stared at him before chastely kissing his lips again. "I actually really do like you. I've liked you for a long time now." She bit down on her bottom lip and looked off to the side. "I mean, unless you didn't mean it, then um… maybe we could talk it out?"
She was giving him an out, and he should have taken it but he didn't. Instead, he raised one hand to grab her chin and turned her face toward him. She looked so beautiful with her hair down, the wind gently blowing it in every which direction, and her eyes sparkled as she looked up at him. Butterflies fluttered around his stomach and he wanted nothing else than to be with her in that moment and treasure her for the rest of his life. As he rubbed his thumb along her jawline, he noted how soft her skin was before bending down to kiss her again.
When he broke away, he touched her forehead with his and smiled. "I'm glad."
For the moment he was happy, but something was clawing away and screaming at the back of his mind that it wasn't going to last long. His happiness with her was fleeting, and he needed to take it for granted for the time being because if he went too far, one of them was going to be hurt in the end.
Maka was more than happy that he had kissed her. Nothing in the world was better than the feel of his lips against hers, and she had been right, they were soft and sweet against hers. They didn't melt in her mouth like cotton candy, but they did make her own heart melt. The warmth that had spread throughout her chest and over her body was enough proof for that. Their kiss was the beginning of a new step in her life and it was everything she wanted. The stories she had read in romance and fairy tale novels were no match to their own love story. The tingles that crawled over her skin, the butterflies that fluttered in her stomach, and the blankness of her mind was more than she had ever expected.
She knew from the moment they met again that she loved him very deeply and now she didn't need any more validation of it.
They were going to last far longer than her parents ever did. Soul was nothing like Spirit and he never would be; he wasn't the type of person who would hurt her.
They were standing in front of the ruins, the desert sand blowing around their feet, and the sun's rays beating down on them. The inside was pitch black and neither were able to see what creatures lurked inside, but their mission was to find the cyborg. Taking a deep breath, Soul reached out for Maka's hand and they took their first steps forward. It wasn't like the last time they had been there; the inside of the ruins were cold, smelled musty, and the aura surrounding it was different. There were no eyes trained on them, and there was a haunting feeling about the place like there was a new evil presence there.
Maka dropped his hand and gasped. "Soul, what's wrong with you?"
His vision was blurred with red as he turned toward her, and his breaths came out in a loud heaving mess. The scar across his chest burned and the claws at the back of his mind were scratching against his skull to escape. The small voice was whispering incomprehensible things to him, but every human thought from before was erased. Instead he heard the same words repeated over and and over: kill Maka.
Taking a step forward, he unsheathed the knife from his side and raised it at the woman beside him.
She took a step back as she tried to talk some sense into him. "Soul, what are you doing? This isn't like you! Put the knife down!"
But he didn't listen as he continued to walk toward her. The thirst for her blood caused his mouth to water and he released a monstrous growl as he bared his teeth. Maka tripped on a rock and fell to the ground. She scooted away from him as her green eyes grew in terror at the sight before her. However, he refused to stop until he achieved his goal. The imagined what her blood would taste like as he lapped it up with his tongue and soaked it up in his mouth. His taste buds buzzed at the mere thought of it.
"Soul, stop! This isn't you! I know it isn't you!" She tried to put on a brave front, but he saw right through it. Fear was etched all over her face, and even a few tears were falling delicately along the outline of her cheeks. "Please, think about what you're doing!"
He laughed, but it didn't sound like him; it was dark and sinister, almost like the demon's voice that resided in his head. "You honestly think I give a fuck about what you think? You're just a naive, pathetic little girl who never saw the monster when it was standing right in front of her." He raised the knife over his head, the sunlight from outside glinting across the blade before he swiped it down as he aimed for her neck.
He woke up with a start. His heart was pounding against his rib cage and his palms were sweaty as they grasped the sheets.
When he tried to fall back asleep that night, he didn't. The events from the nightmare were imprinted on the back of his eyelids, and each time he closed them, he saw Maka's frightened face frozen in time. The thirst for her blood was still strong on his tongue and no amount of water was able to quench it.
If there was one thing he learned from it, it was that the darkness that resided in him didn't want him to be with Maka. It wanted him to kill her, and that was something he wasn't willing to do.