Winds of Change
The next morning, Maka woke up to the sun shining in through the stained glass window, casting colorful shadows along her face. Normally it would have bothered her, but today it didn't. The memory of last night flashed in her mind, and a small smile crept onto her face. Soul had finally come clean about everything - even though she already had an inkling about it. It meant more coming from him, and she felt like he trusted her more than anyone now that she knew the truth.
There was nothing holding them back from being together anymore.
She was upset - heartbroken - that the rumor Star had told her was true, but she wasn't going to desert Soul either. He needed someone to be there with him, that much she knew. Soul had spent so many years with the regret and hatred balled up inside over being the cause of Wes' death that it was to the point where it physically destroyed him and ate at him from the inside out. He needed someone who would be by his side no matter what, and that was the exact person Maka wanted to be.
Discretely stretching out her back, Maka worked out the kinks that were there without waking Soul up, but squeaked when she felt his arm snake around her waist. Chills ran up her spine as he nuzzled his face into the crook of her neck, and gently bit the skin there.
Maka had never spent the night in a man's bed before, but experiencing it with Soul felt right and made her feel comfortable. His bare chest pressing against her was warm, she felt the soft thumping of his heart through their contact, and his breath tickled the small hairs on the back of her neck. She relished in the feel of him being close to her, the tingles and fluttering in her stomach reminding her it was real - that they were real.
"'Morning," he mumbled.
She felt the smile spread along her skin as he kissed the spot he had bitten. "'Morning."
Maka felt him move from her, the sheets behind her rustled as he settled down, and the hand that wasn't draped across her made a path down her spine. She had to suppress the whimper threatening to escape her by biting down on her lower lip and clutching the sheets closer to her. It didn't work as Soul chuckled behind her, and his gruff voice vibrated through her body.
She pushed her rear away from his thighs and flopped onto her stomach. Burying her face in her pillow, she hid the blush that was slowly warming up her cheeks. The bed springs creaked, and Maka felt Soul's lips pepper small kisses along her shoulder blades, and his hair tickled her back as he went, eliciting small giggles from her. He bit down on her, taking some of her skin between his teeth, and Maka gasped. She loved those sharp teeth of his, how they'd scrape across her skin, and leave little red marks on her body; she was never one for biting until Soul came into her life. He gently slapped her rear, and took some of it in his grasp to shake it.
Maka turned her face away from the pillow and glared at him. "Are you an ass or boobs man?"
Laying his head down so that he was facing her, he said, "I'm a Maka man."
Maka flipped onto her side and wrung her arms around his neck to pull her body closer to his and wrapped her leg around his waist. His crimson eyes were heavy lidded as he looked down at her, and she felt her lower abdomen stir with a mixture of lust and want.
He was hers and she was his, the previous night was proof enough of that; she had given her all to him, and he had done the same. Whether it was either of their first time ever, didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was that they both loved each other enough to share in the most intimate of activities. Their first time together, while romantic and sweet, was still awkward and clumsy, and she couldn't have imagined it performed any other way. She wanted to be with Soul for the rest of her life; he was the only man she loved and ever would love.
"What are you thinking about?" His touch was gentle on her skin as he pushed back a few strands of hair, and Maka closed her eyes to control her rapidly beating heart.
"Just you and me," she opened her eyes, "and last night."
"Yeah, that was fun." His smile fell a little. "I never apologized for what I told you that night we broke up. I swear I didn't mean any of it. I do love you, really, I was just-"
"I know," she cut in. "You only said that because you were afraid you'd end up hurting me like Wes, but I trust you. If the darkness does come again, I'll be there with you, Soul. Whatever it is, we can get through it together."
She cupped her hands around his face, and pulled his mouth to hers. Their noses smooshed together, making it hard to breathe until they found the perfect placement for their current position. His tongue was smooth as it slipped beyond her lips and curled up against the roof of her mouth; hot, warm lust ran down her throat as it flowed throughout every one of her muscles. His hands greedily roamed her body, feeling every single part of her that he could reach and leaving goose bumps in their wake. They found their way to her chest and she moaned while he massaged her breasts, breaking their kiss so she could arch her back into his touch.
Her body felt like it was on fire, and she swore if he weren't holding her she would float away any minute. She was being stimulated in every way possible. His mouth was sucking and licking her neck, those damn teeth of his nibbling on her flushed skin. One hand was teasing her nipples and palming her breast while the other teased the hairs near her core. Her gasps and moans started to escape her mouth in small huffs of air and she was finding it harder to breathe, let alone think. It felt like he was all over her body, covering every available space as he ravaged her.
Her brain clouded over with lust, Maka couldn't concentrate on anything other than the thought of him being inside her. She loved Soul too much, and she needed to show him; she needed to let him know that she wasn't going to be like the others. There was no way in hell she was going to desert him because of what he had done in the past, and she was determined to prove just that.
She gently pushed him onto his back, removed his hands from their positions on her body, and straddled him. He raised a brow in confusion, and Maka gave him a reassuring smile as she bent down, their lips barely touching.
"You showed me how much you love me last night. It's time for me to repay the favor," she breathed out before closing the gap between them.
Chills ran down her scalp and spine as he threaded his fingers through her hair. She swiped her tongue over his lips before he parted them to let her in; it was her turn to make him weak, to fill him with her love as he had done to her.
He allowed her tongue to explore the inside of his mouth - gliding over his tongue, his teeth, and curling up along the roof of it as she sucked in every single one of his moans. Electricity flew through her as his hands moved out of her hair, down her back, over her rear, and along the underside of her thigh until they rested in the small space behind her knees. He dragged her legs further up on the bed, bringing her body to a sitting position on his lower abdomen. Moving herself slightly, she rubbed some of the moisture from her entrance onto him which earned her a small grunt and a light hip bucking action. Pride bubbled up inside her, mixing with the lust that was already there, and Maka broke away from him.
Pushing herself up, she smirked down at him as she grabbed the sheets that had fallen off their bodies, and pulled it up over her back as she laid back on top of him.
Later that day, Soul woke up to an empty bed and a cold spot where Maka had been only a few hours previously. Rubbing his hands over his face to rid it of the sleepiness, he stretched out his muscles before settling back down on the bed. In all honesty, everything since the night before felt like a dream. Not only had he told Maka the truth about what happened to Wes, but she had accepted him. She didn't leave when she had the chance nor did she judge him like their old friends had; she was the one who remained by his side.
His chest swelled up at the thought, and a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. He was finally able to be with the one person he loved and nothing was going to go wrong. The fortune that the woman had told them didn't come true and nor would it ever. The ruins were a distant part of his past, never to be seen in the present, and Maka was with him. He wasn't going to break up with her like before nor did he plan to hurt her with such cruel words again. He loved her, truly he did, and he was finally going to receive the happy ending he desperately needed.
Soul rolled over onto his side to find a note gently placed on the pillow beside him. He grabbed it and flipped it open to see Maka's familiar cursive writing scrawled on the piece of paper. It was neat and pretty as the scriber herself, nicer than his would ever be. The note told him that she had left for work already but would be back afterward to pick up where they had stopped. He folded it back up and chuckled lowly to himself; for someone who didn't like talking about sexual activities in her daily life, Maka was definitely the type of person who loved performing them at night.
He swung his legs off the bed, found his boxers on the floor to put them on, and walked toward the kitchen to prepare himself something to eat. He made a mental note that if Maka as going to be staying over at his loft from now on, he would have to make a trip to the store and buy things that didn't require a microwave. Now that he thought about it, if she was going to be living with him more than just the food was going to have to change.
Soul paused in the middle of his loft and looked around. It wasn't the messiest of places but neither was it clean. Clothes were strewn everywhere and small parts to his sculptures were scattered along the floor. There were were also a few bottles still hidden in places only he would notice, and the loft smelled faintly of musk and alcohol. He hoped Maka hadn't noticed, but knowing her, she probably had. He made the unconscious decision to at least clean up the place and make it appear half decent before she arrived back later that day.
He may have been a slob, but she definitely wasn't.
Sighing, he made his trek back toward the refrigerator to at least get some food into his system; it was going to take a good majority of the day to make things look nice for Maka. When he opened the fridge, however, he noticed that there was a plate of a few breakfast items waiting for him on one of the shelves. Plucking the note that was tapped on it, he recognized Maka's handwriting again and chuckled.
"I noticed you didn't have much to eat that was on the healthy side so I cooked something up for you. Maybe we can go shopping later? Or at least try to remove the stench from the loft. Love, Maka," he read out loud. He tossed the note on top of the counter and pulled out the plate of food.
"You sure do think of everything, don't you?"
Maka had actually overslept and was running late for work that morning, but she didn't tell Soul that in her note. She felt it was better if she kept silent about it so as to not cause the man to regret taking up a good majority of her time in bed. It was really both of their faults - mostly hers since she was fully aware she had work the next day - but he wouldn't see it that way. Soul was never really the type of person to blame others when he viewed his own actions were always at fault.
Barely making it fifteen minutes after she was scheduled, Maka plopped down in her desk and heaved a heavy sigh. She hoped one of her co-workers covered for her so she wouldn't get in too much trouble; she had done the same thing for a couple of them and secretly she wished they would return the favor for her. Luckily her silent prayers were answered when Liz dropped a pile of files on top of her desk.
"I covered for you," the dirty blonde woman told her.
Maka squinted at her. She had a feeling there was a catch. She had worked with Liz for a few months and was fully aware of her tricks to get what she wanted. However, she wasn't sure what it could be so she mumbled a feeble 'thanks' before booting up her computer. A few minutes passed, Maka idly tapping at the keyboard, and the woman still hadn't left. Maka sighed and sat back in her chair to look up at her.
"What's the matter?"
"Your father was looking for you," she trailed off at the end and eyed Maka suspiciously. "Also, something's different about you. What happened yesterday?"
She ignored the last comment and instead focused on the first one. "What do you mean my papa's looking for me?"
"I mean he was walking around the office checking every cubicle trying to see which one was yours. Pretty sure he even left you a note." Liz nodded to piece of paper that was lying on top of a small stack of papers, and Maka quickly snatched it up. "Now tell me what happened yesterday."
The blonde ignored her co-worker and read the note from her father. It was a request asking if she would be interested in meeting him for lunch that day. Maka licked her lips as she thought about how a lunch date with the man would go. It had been over six years since she even had a decent conversation with him and a part of her didn't want to join him. Another part of her yelled to take the offer and try to make amends with the man before it was too late; however, it was only a small part of her.
"Maka," came Liz's stern voice.
She looked up to see the other woman waiting for her response to the unanswered question from earlier. Deciding it was better to respond than ignore Liz, Maka gave the woman what she wanted. It was always better to answer Liz flat out when she asked a question rather than avoiding it because she was forceful and wouldn't drop it until she was satisfied.
"I don't know what you're talking about. I'm the same as I was yesterday." She turned back toward her computer and checked through the files that were leftover for her. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get to work."
Liz slammed her hand on top of Maka's desk, startling her in order to draw her attention away from the computer. "You're lying."
"I'm not lyi-"
"Yes you are. I can see it in your eyes and all over your face. For the last few weeks you were moping around the office and ignoring everyone, and all of a sudden you have a smile on your face and your eyes are sparkling more than usual." The woman leaned in closer to Maka and squinted. "I recognize those symptoms. Did you get laid?"
Maka squeaked and her hand flew over her mouth to hide the smile that was definitely there. "I don't know what you mean," she said behind her hand.
Her eyes grew wider as she watched the grin form on her co-workers lips, and she knew automatically that she had given herself away. Liz gasped as she moved away from her. "You did! Who was it?"
Maka furiously shook her head, trying with all her might to convince Liz that she was wrong. "I didn't get laid, I swear! I just woke up in a better mood because-"
"Because someone boned you last night!" Liz leaned back over so that only Maka was able to hear her. "Tell me who it was or I'll go inform Mr. Albarn what his beloved little daughter has been up to."
Maka fought back the urge to hit the other woman, deciding instead it was better to admit the truth rather continuously deny it.
She removed her hand from her mouth and took a deep breath to brace herself for the reaction Liz was bound to have. "Soul and I are back together as of last night."
Every single emotion flashed across the older woman's eyes; from joy to sorrow to realization to heartbreak, it was all there. Wes had been Liz's fiance for a short time, and now that he was gone, there was no wedding to be had for her. Maka felt guilty that she would eventually have what the other woman never would, but what was she supposed to do? Figure out a way to save Soul from murdering his brother all those years ago so they could both have a happy ending? Not even all the steam power in the world could do that.
"You and Soul, huh?" the joy was gone from Liz's voice, and guilt shot through her chest.
Liz glanced down and Maka swore she saw moisture glisten in her deep blue eyes. The heartbreak she must have felt over losing her fiance so suddenly was still rough on her heart and the younger blonde saw it. Wes never should have died so young, but there was nothing for her to do about it except try to console the older woman.
Maybe lying to Liz was better after all.
"I know how difficult things must be for you, but-"
"No," Liz cut in and when she looked up, there were small streaks of tears staining her cheeks. "It's fine. I'm happy for you, really I am… I'm sure Wes would have been proud of his brother, and you two deserve each other. Soul really did miss you when you were with the Scythes. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to sort through these files."
Maka watched the girl leave. She felt the conversation should have gone completely different than it had, but she was also glad it occurred the way it did. Liz was a strong girl, and she was positive one day the older blonde was going to be able to get passed Wes' death exactly like Soul had. At least, Maka knew deep down in her heart they both would find the peace they deserved when it came to the other man's untimely passing.
Sighing, she resumed working until noon rolled around.
Soul was startled awake by the front door being slammed shut. Glancing around his surroundings, he noted that it was dusk as the orange, yellow and pink in the sky outside the window mixed together to create a mythical setting. Even the city below appeared to be quiet as they all settled into their homes to spend some time with their family before going back out for the night. He was still sitting on the couch, his meal from earlier half eaten and sitting in his lap; he didn't remember when he had fallen asleep or the fact that he was tired, but it had happened. Smoothing his fingers through his hair, he stretched out his back and shook himself awake.
"Were you asleep?" Maka accused.
"No," he growled. "I was resting my eyes."
"Uh huh, sure."
She removed her bag that was strapped around her waist and thigh before tossing it to the side where her personal belongings were, and slipped her feet out of her boots and placed them next to his own by the door. Her footsteps were soft as she walked the short distance between them and plopped down on the couch. He side eyed her as she tucked her legs beneath her on the couch and snuggled up to him, wrapping her arm around his waist. Warmth spread up his side at the contact and a small smile spread on his lips.
"How was work?"
"Mmm, stressful. There were far too many files to sort through and we left with about twenty unsorted." She pressed her face further into his chest before speaking again. "Also I ignored my father again."
"You two still haven't talked things over?" He was fully aware of the relationship Maka had with her father. It was obvious during their time at the academy; Spirit was always trying to dote on his daughter, but she avoided him every chance she had. The way she spoke about the man was proof of where their relationship had always stood.
He felt her head move against his chest. "No… but I do feel like it's time." She picked her head up to glance at him. "I've resented him for long enough and we both need to settle the unresolved conflict that's been growing between us… me more than him."
"Glad to see you finally come to your senses." She pinched his side. "Ow! Fuck!"
"You don't have to be an ass about it."
"And you know it's true," he remarked as she glared up at him. "Maka, you've been holding a grudge against the man since you were twelve, don't you think it's about time you bury the damn hatchet? Yes your dad was a dick for what he did to your mom, but he's apologized to you countless times. What more do you want from the man?"
"Since when did you grow up?" she pouted.
He shrugged. "Suppose some of you rubbed off on me."
"Well, I don't like it."
Lowly chuckling, he said, "would you like me to change?"
"Guess you'll just have to get used to it, then, because I'm not changing for shit. If one of us is going to be the level-headed person in this relationship, I'd prefer it to be me."
"Why's that, so you can tell me when I'm being a shithead?"
"Payback's a bitch, you know that."
Her laugh vibrated against his chest and his heart was close to bursting. It sounded like angels singing their praise from the heavens above; it was a highly addicting laugh.
"Fine, you can be an ass and I'll be the idiot in our relationship. As long as that means I can be lazy, it's fine with me," she said.
"I'm not lazy. I just know how to spend my energy for the day better than you."
"That's being lazy, Soul."
"Maybe in Maka's book, but in Soul's book, it's being productive as fuck." Her only response was to laugh and call him an idiot. Reverting their conversation back to the original situation, he said, "so you gonna talk to your dad tomorrow?"
A small pause passed between them as Maka debated her answer in her head. "Yeah. Come tomorrow, I'll go out to lunch with my father and apologize for being a jackass to him for the past ten years."
"I'm glad," he said. "What are we eating for dinner?"
Maka pushed herself away from his chest and glared at him. "Is it always about food when it comes to you?"
"Of course. Food is the most important thing in life. You need it to survive, Maka." He thunked her gently on the head with two fingers as if she were being ridiculous.
"Food and sex, that's all boys care about." She thrust her legs off the couch and grabbed the plate off his lap as she stood up. "Do you want takeout? Unless you wanna cook, because I don't feel like it."
"I can think of other things to eat if sex is on the menu." Soul smiled to himself as he turned around to see her reaction.
"What are you…" she trailed off as she tried to digest his words. Once her mind was able to register what he said properly, her eyes turned to slits. "Call the Chinese takeout place and order our usual, pervert."
He laughed as he whipped his phone from his pocket and dialed the number. "You were the one who said boys only think about food and sex. Plus, I thought you like it when I eat you out. If I remember correctly, you were the one who said Eater suited me what with the way I know how to work my tong-"
"If you finish that sentence I will murder you in your sleep!" she yelled.
The first thing about Maka that everyone knew was the fact that she was a very light sleeper. It was one of the main reasons why Soul and Black Star always had a difficult time pranking her in the early days at the academy. Any small sound that was within a five meter area of her was capable of stirring her awake. However, useful as it could be, she also hated being a light sleeper because it sparked her fear of thunderstorms when she was younger. Every night there was one, she was awake at the first crack of thunder, cowering under her blankets until it passed. They were definitely not the most fond memories from her childhood.
Along with being a light sleeper, Maka's animal instincts had always been highly attuned, allowing her to sense danger before it hit.
Maka woke up to the sound of whining and moaning near her ears and the tight tug of someone pulling on her sleep shirt. She didn't open her eyes right away, thinking it was all a dream, but after a few seconds of listening, they finally snapped open. Listening to the man behind her for a while, she slowly turned around to see that he was muttering in his sleep as he buried his face into her back. The bedsheets on his side of the bed were tangled around his body as if he had fought them during the night. There were little beads of sweat on his forehead and his hair was plastered to the skin. To put it nicely, Soul looked like a mess.
"Maaaa…," he moaned out.
She strained herself to hear the rest, trying to figure out what was wrong with him.
"...kkaaaa… noooo… please… nooooottt… stop," were the only coherent words she was able to pick up before realizing he was having a nightmare. Panic rushed through her as faint memories of the ones he reiterated to her when they younger were brought to the forefront her mind.
From what she was able to gather, his dreams were truly from the deepest parts of hell that rose from the ground with their only intent being to haunt him.
Turning around slightly so as not to loosen his grip on her short, she tried to shake him awake. "Soul! Soul, wake up! Wake up, Soul! You're having a nightmare!"
It took her several minutes to finally wake him up. Soul's crimson eyes were wild as he checked his surroundings to make sure he was truly in the real world. He breathed heavily from his nose and Maka watched as his chest rapidly rose and fell before he finally started to settle down. Relief slowly creeped over her skin as his body physically calmed down, but it disappeared once his eyes fell on her. She noted the humiliation that sparked beneath them along with regret.
He broke their eye contact and nonchalantly untangled himself from the bed sheets without a word to her. She observed his body movements as he did so, waiting for him to say something - anything - to her. After witnessing him experiencing a nightmare for the first time in years, she expected him to be talkative on the matter, but instead he silently sat on the edge of the bed and placed his head in his hands. A few minutes passed with only the sounds from the city below to break it before she cautiously crawled across the bed to rest her hand on the small of his back.
"You weren't supposed to see that," he muttered.
"You weren't supposed to see that," he said again.
"But why?" she asked.
He stood up off the bed, allowing her hand to fall from his back and leaving her question unanswered as he walked toward the bathroom. Maka sat there for a while longer, debating if she should follow him or not, before getting up. She stood in the doorway and eyed him cautiously as he splashed the cool running water on his face and turned it off to wipe himself clean on the towel that hung limply on the rack. When he was done, Soul made eye contact with her in the mirror. Taking in a sharp breath, she noticed how worried and tired his eyes were, and vaguely wondered how long he had secretly been having the nightmares.
This was definitely not a once a year occurrence.
"How long have they been happening?" she finally asked.
Soul averted his eyes from her as he looked down at the white sink. "They've been getting worse since my brother's death. Sometimes I'll go months without having a nightmare, but then they come back ten times worse compared to the last one."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because you didn't have to know about them."
"But I'm living with you now," she retorted. "I should have at least known you were having them again so I wouldn't be surprised like I was tonight."
He looked back at her reflection. "You were surprised?"
"Of course." She breathed out heavily as she walked into the bathroom and stood behind him, noting that his eyes followed her while she did. Wrapping her arms tightly around his waist, she leaned against him and squeezed. "You had me worried there for a while, Soul. I don't like seeing you so distraught and hurt. I wish there was something I could do, but there isn't, we both know that."
There was a moment of silence after her small speech. She felt his fingertips ghost along the outline of her hands and arms and small chills flew down her spine. It occurred to her how intimate her pose was against him and was only able to imagine how comforting the small gesture was for the man. He had spent years having to deal with the nightmares on his own, but he wouldn't have to anymore. She was with him now; there was nothing they couldn't face as long as they were together. They both loved each other dearly and wouldn't let anything harm the other without there being an all out brawl.
"Are they like the ones you had back at the academy?"
Years ago, she had spent a few nights after his breakdown upon hearing her assigned Aerodynamics division outside of their cabin, staying up with him and trying to draw his mind away from the nightmares. He only shared a couple of them with her, but based on what she was able to gather, they appeared to be minor. There was nothing too terrifying in them nor were they as dark as she had assumed they would be. However, now it appeared like he was trying to fend for his life in them.
"No." She felt his back rise a little as he took a deep breath. "Like I said, they keep getting worse as time goes on. They're more vivid now and are taking things from my real life and altering them to make it more sinister."
"What do you mean?"
The hesitation in his voice was missed as he said, "I've had dreams where I was the one who killed you at the ruins instead of the cyborg."
Maka moved one of her hands on his chest to where she knew his scar was and gently rubbed along the outline. "But you didn't." She lay a small kiss on his bare back where his spine was located before continuing. "I'm safe, and we're both together now. Nothing's going to change that."
"How sure are you about that, though?" he asked.
Unwrapping her arms from around him, she moved to stand by his side and stared at his reflection. "I'm positive because you and I are a great a team when we're together. We're both fantastic on our own, but put us together and there's nothing we can't conquer."
Although he nodded, there was no conviction in his gaze, and Maka sighed. It was going to take more than a late night pep talk to make him believe her.
"Come on. Let's go back to bed."
Maka wrapped her hand around his and led him back to bed, gently pushing him onto it before walking around to the other side. It took a few more persuasive actions on her part to get him to lay down, but after a while he finally did. A few seconds passed where she was staring at his back before he rolled over and curled up against her. With his head pressed on her stomach and his arm curled around her waist, Maka gently soothed him to sleep by stroking his head.
Once his breathing steadied out and she was sure he was asleep, she stopped. Watching the lights of the city glow outside, she guarded him from the monsters while he slept.
The next morning Maka rapidly silenced her alarm clock before sparing a quick glance behind her at Soul. His soft snores and the small drip of drool escaping from the corner of her mouth were confirmation enough that he was still asleep. She breathed out a small sigh of relief as she quietly threw her legs over the bed and stretched out her back. After the nightmare incident, she barely slept a wink. Instead she spent most of the night staring at him because she was too afraid he would have another one and she wanted to be there for him.
It wasn't until around three in the morning that she finally passed out, and she had a feeling that getting about four hours of sleep before work was not a good idea.
She went through her regular morning routine, tip toeing across the hardwood floor that creaked in certain places, and even made sure the water wasn't too loud while she brushed her teeth. It was weird and uncomfortable being extra cautious, but she was worried about Soul not getting enough sleep. The nights when he found it difficult to sleep during their year at the academy came to mind, and a grumpy Soul was never a good thing. The man had a shorter temper when he was running low on juice and that was something the world wasn't ready for.
It took her longer than normal to arrive at work because the bus she usually rode was running a few minutes late, but somehow she still made it on time. She walked down the short hallway in the front of Shibusen, saying a small greeting to a couple people as she passed them, and opened the door to where her own office resided in. A blur of raven hair flashed in her vision about halfway to her desk, and the form of Jackie Dupre stood in her way. Her dark eyes were focused harshly on Maka, and the blonde felt like apologizing for every single thing she ever did wrong - including the time she accidentally dyed the cat purple when she was six.
"Can I help you?" Maka asked after a few seconds.
Jackie's stare softened as she spoke. "Lord Death told me tell you that he would like to see you promptly in his office. He also said to mention that you aren't in any trouble; there's something he wants to tell you personally."
Maka felt herself slowly nod as she digested the woman's words. It was rare and out of character for Lord Death to call her into his office, but she assumed it must have been something important because he wouldn't have done it otherwise.
"Right. I'll go put my stuff down at my desk and then head over there."
The dark haired girl shook her head. "Lord Death said there was no need for that. He actually encouraged me to tell you to take your personal belongings with you because he had a feeling you weren't going to stay at the office for very long."
The blonde's eyes bulged. "Do you think he's going to fire me?"
"Maka," Jackie's voice was flat and reminded her of the way Soul sometimes spoke to her when she was overreacting or over thinking a situation. "Why would Lord Death fire you? You're one of the best employees we've had in years. You could probably miss a few days of work, even slack off a little, and still remain working here. If there's one person in this office who has job security, it's you."
She was slightly taken aback by the other woman's kind words; Jackie rarely showed her sincere side to people whose name wasn't Kim Diehl. "Um, thank you," Maka offered.
"You're welcome," the woman smiled before whipping her hand around her back and handing a few case files to Maka. "Since you're already going there, can you hand these over to Lord Death for me?"
There was always a catch when it came to the dark haired girl; she was hardly ever nice without some ulterior motive.
Nodding, Maka grabbed the files from her and turned to leave the office.
The trip to Lord Death's office was nerve-wracking at best. Her mind constantly wandered to curious thoughts and different scenarios of what she was possibly walking into. Maybe he had heard about her recent reconciliation with Soul and was offering the pair a permanent spot among the Spartoi members, or maybe he wanted to congratulate her on being a wonderful worker. The scenarios varied from worse to best, each rising on the totem pole with her every step until she finally reached the large mahogany door.
Slowly curling her hand into a fist, she raised it and cautiously knocked on the door. She leaned in closer in order to hear his childlike 'come in'. Her fingers tingled with anticipation, and her heart was pounding so hard it felt like it was going to burst out of her chest any minute. Then finally she heard the response she had been waiting for before wrapping her fingers on the doorknob and entering the office.
Lord Death sat at his desk like usual, nothing out of the ordinary in sight.
That is, except for a small recorder that sat alone on top of his desk, and the strange unease wafting around in the room. Maka's danger senses were on high alert as she waited for the man - or cyborg - to speak.
"It's good to see you again, Maka. How are things?" he asked after several minutes.
She smiled. "Everything's good."
"Glad to hear that." A small, awkward pause. When he spoke again, his voice appeared to grow deeper and more solemn which caused her own mind to grow even more worrisome. "Unfortunately I didn't call you into my office to trade pleasantries. You are in here because I have some sorrowful news for you."
Maka released the shaking breath she hadn't realized she was holding in as she nodded to prompt him to continue. Taking one gloved hand, Lord Death slid the recorder across his desk toward her.
"This is for you." She stepped forward to pick it up, placing her thumb on the play button, but didn't press it. His words stopped her from going further. "I don't want you to play it here. Instead, I would like to relay the news to you personally before you hear the final words that reside forever more on that electronical device."
She swallowed. "Final words?"
If Lord Death had a mouth that moved, she felt like it would have licked his lips at that very moment. "I regret to inform you that Spirit Albarn was murdered on one of his recent missions, but his final moments have been preserved on that recorder. I felt it should have been passed on to you in order for you to have some form of closure."
Averting her glance away from him, she looked down at the recorder in her hands. Every possible emotion was flowing through her; there was regret, hatred, despair, and denial coursing through her body. Her hands started to shake slightly, and she was only vaguely aware of the stinging in her eyes. Spirit couldn't possibly be dead; it had to be some sort of sick joke. There had been plans to reconcile her relationship with him - she was only thinking of doing so the previous night.
It didn't make any sense. Why would life decide that now was a wonderful time to take away the man she had resented for years? Why did it have to occur now? Of all the times she had wished him dead, why did it have to come true the day she was going to finally forgive him? The day that she was going to try and repair their damaged relationship?
She almost expected her father to jump out from the door that rested behind Lord Death's desk.
"Is this some kind of sick joke?" she finally asked, glaring back up at the being before her.
"I'm afraid it isn't," he offered. "I understand if you would like to take the remainder of the day to come to terms with this news. That's why I've excused you from work already. Once you leave this office, I must request that you go home instead of bury yourself into your work. This type of news is very stressing and-"
"Stressing? You call this stressing? Do you have any idea what type of relationship I had with my papa?" The term of endearment that had been foreign to her since she was twelve felt comfortable on her lips, but it didn't matter. There was no one alive she was able to call give the term to anymore. "This isn't stressing, this is traumatic! I was going to reconcile with him today! I was going to tell him that I forgave him-"
Her voice broke on the last two words, and Maka clutched the recorder to chest and tightly shut her eyes closed in order to prevent the tears from escaping. She couldn't cry, not here, and certainly not now.
Licking her lips, she said, "I'm going home now. I need to be with someone who actually cares about how I feel about the situation and won't try to make it better with a stupid tape recorder."
She glared at Lord Death before turning around and leaving his office. Keeping her head down low, she ignored the curious glances the other employees offered her as she allowed the tears to slowly fall down her face. She didn't need or want any of their condolences; none of them truly cared about her, and they certainly would never understand her feelings when it came to Spirit Albarn. For the time being, there was only one person on her mind who would be able to understand the heartbreak she was experiencing.
The only place she wanted to be was in Soul's loft, wrapped up in his arms, and hearing the soothing words.
Since the moment Maka left for work, Soul had remained in bed wide awake staring outside the window across from him. The nightmare from the previous night was still haunting him in the back of his mind, and his gut was churning at the mere thought of it. He was disgusted with himself; how could he possibly have enjoyed slashing Maka to pieces? How was it possible that his taste buds were still craving for a drop of her blood?
He should have been passed it all by now, but he wasn't. The fortune teller's prediction was slowly coming true, and he was starting to fear the worst. It was only a matter of time before one of their lives ended, and he was determined to make sure she was the one who continued to live on. A nagging voice in the back of his mind that sounded an awful like Maka told him to stop fretting over such nonsense - a very Maka thing to do - but he countered it. There was a perfect reason behind his fretting.
Losing the woman he loved was a bet he wasn't willing to take, and thinking of ways to protect her helped calm him down.
The hustle and bustle of the city below was well underway when he heard the front door open. Glancing at the clock on his nightstand, he noted that it was barely nine; Maka was supposed to be at work, not back home. He turned around and watched her silent figure as she slowly closed the door and rested her forehead on the hardwood. Not wanting to scare her, he rolled over and quietly called out to her.
Maka removed her head from the door, but kept her gaze downcast as she turned toward him. When she spoke, her voice sounded broken and distant, and his heart ached. "Hey, Soul."
"What are you doing home so early?"
She shuffled over to him like her feet were made of lead and she wasn't able to pick them up, and dropped something onto the nightstand with a loud 'thunk' before sitting on the bed. Soul fought the urge to reach out to her, every fiber in his body screaming at him to hold the woman, but he wouldn't. Something told him this was a conversation she had to initiate it herself. No matter how hard he felt her misery, he had to allow her to be the one to initiate it.
After several minutes passed, she finally spoke. "Papa's dead," she whispered.
Soul waited to see if she was going to turn around and tell him she was joking; Spirit Albarn wasn't possibly dead. Maka had just been telling him about the man the night before, how she planned to mend their broken relationship and start over. It didn't make sense. What kind of universe did they live that decided it was great idea to do that to someone? To tear apart their chances of making things right with their own father?
It wasn't fair.
"What are you talking about?" he asked.
Reaching out to the thing she had dropped on the nightstand, Maka grabbed it and fell back on the bed, landing gently on his stomach. He noted the redness that brimmed her green eyes - the colors a nice contrast if it weren't for the circumstances - and the puffiness of her cheeks along with the light pink under her nose were all indications that she had cried all the way home. His heart broke for her. Out of everyone in the world, she was taking the death the hardest and with good reason; he understood what it felt like to have unresolved conflict sticking in the air between a loved one who passed and yourself.
"Maka," he quietly said as he laid his hand on her stomach.
She turned her head at the touch and gave him a small smile. "Papa's gone and I-"
Her voice broke at the end, and Soul was prompted to wrap his arms around her waist to pull her toward him. She didn't need to be pushed to accept the small act as she turned around in his arms and buried her face in his night shirt. The moisture from her tears seeped through the material, and he felt her body shake and crumble as he patted her back.
Allowing her to release the pain from her heart, he continued to hold her until the shaking stopped and her breath was coming out in small hiccups. It was another few minutes before she pried her face away from his shirt and glanced up at him behind ash blonde bangs. His arms tightened around her, giving her waist a small squeeze.
"Lord Death called me into his office and gave me the news," she whispered.
Her voice was hoarse from all the crying she had done that day, and he wasn't sure if he should feel relieved or furious at the thought of Lord Death being the one who told her. Whether the form of their old headmaster was a cyborg or human, he was fully aware he hadn't offered any comfort to the girl in his arms.
"Let me guess, he told you and then sent you on your merry way without even giving you consolation prize?" She nodded and he snorted. "Typical. Bastard is supposedly the lord of death, yet he can't even help those who have to grieve because of it."
Maka placed her hand on his chest. "Did he do the same thing to you when Wes died?"
He nodded. "Told me a bunch of bullshit about how my brother was proud of me and, that his death wasn't my fault before sending me back here. To an empty loft that I shared with my brother. Wasn't exactly the comfort I needed."
"Look at us, the couple who both lost someone close to them and only received a half-assed form of closure for it," she joked.
"Hm," he hummed.
The small glint of merriment disappeared from her gaze as she looked away from him. Joking aside, the both knew they deserved more than an apology for their loss, a pat on the back, and a dismissal from work for a day - or forever in Soul's case.
A few minutes passed and Soul's attention was drawn to the object in her hand. Reaching between them, he lightly tapped and broke her away from her own reverie.
"What is this?" he asked.
As if remembering something important, her eyes bulged and she flipped on her back, being sure not to ruin his hold on her.
"It's a tape recorder. Lord Death said it held papa's last words on it, and that it might help with the grieving process." She lifted the object up a little, her thumb twirling around the play button, and looked up at him. "Do you think I should listen to it?"
"What harm could it possibly do if you did?"
She shrugged. "I don't know, but I am kind of scared to hear it. What if it's not something I want?"
Soul's mouth tugged into what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "You won't know until you press play."
Deep down, he hoped it would give the woman at least some closure with her father's death, but the more cynical side to him hoped the opposite. A small part of him wanted them both to grieve together, but he also wanted her to be happy and the only way that was possible was if Spirit's words were somewhat comforting. Maybe they were somewhat affectionate, maybe he spent the last few moments of his life telling his daughter that he forgave her for all the bullshit she put him through.
However, one only hoped that was true as Maka pressed down the play button.
"This is Spirit Albarn, captain of Spartoi team number fifty-six," came the man's voice as it emitted from the little speaker. "I'm reporting our finding at the ruins as the rest of my men try to fend it off. I don't believe any of us are going to make it out of this alive."
There was a pause as his words were diminished by a loud roar that caused goosebumps to prick Soul's skin along with the shouts of men. Glancing at Maka, he noted the slight spark of recognition at the sound they had just heard.
"Have you heard that-"
"Sh," she quickly silenced, pressing the recorder closer to her ears.
"We weren't able to find the cyborg, but we found something that's much worse. It's a-"
Once again he was cut off by the loud roar. "I don't have time to describe it. Whoever listens to this, just note that the ruins hold a monstrous creature that is beyond our worst nightmares. Don't send anymore teams out here, please. I am officially dubbing this place as far too dangerous. Evacuate the nearby city and be done with it."
A short pause as they listened to the creature mentioned roar once more and the horrible screams of Spirit's comrades.
"There's also one last thing I would like to say. Whoever listens to this final message, please relay something to my daughter, Maka Albarn." Soul felt the woman in question stiffen at the mention of her name, and felt the room grow silent as they both listened closely.
"Tell her that I love her very much, and that I understand why she resented me for so long. I never meant to hurt her with my actions for all those years and I'm sorry for all of it. I wish we had time to mend our relationship, angel, but know I do love you very much. Not a day went by that you didn't make me proud. I love you, baby girl, and I'm sorry it has to end this way."
The tape cut off and, holding his breath, Soul waited for Maka to say or do anything. Her eyes remained trained on the recorder between her fingers, not a muscle in her body moved, and her chest slowly rose and fell as she breathed. Several seconds passed and his heart was beating against his chest with anticipation. It wasn't until he heard her sniffle that he gripped her tighter.
Maka dropped the recorder as she turned to bury her face into his chest once again, and he slowly rocked her as she shook against him. He was only able to catch a few of her muffled words as she sobbed them out. However, he didn't say anything to try and ease her pain - he wasn't sure what to say. The only thing he did was run soothing circles on her back and allowed her to cry in peace. There were no words for him to say that would help her through this, he knew this based on experience.
Everyone in the world could give her their condolences, but none of it would heal the scar on her heart.
"Why did it have to happen now?" she asked.
Soul glanced down to see her focused on him, waiting for his reply. He slowly shook his head. "I don't know how to answer that."
"It isn't fair." She snuggled up closer to him, wrapping an arm around his waist and tugging on his shirt from the back. "I was going to apologize for everything today and then this happened."
He pulled her closer to him and tightened his arms. "I know."
An hour passed before her body finally stopped shaking and the tears halted. Neither one said a word to each other, the silence of the loft soothing them to sleep.