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an identity crisis
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soul/maka oneshot; gift of a good partner 
25th-Dec-2010 12:13 am
lol yes another post from me what is this insanity.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it! 

Also, finished a fic I've intended to finish for about five years and a half now. A Soul and Maka one-shot. I missed writing these two so much, though I'm not sure I did all that great of a job. I really got to get back into this fandom, catch up on manga, etc. In the meantime, I wrote something Christmassy for them. With, of course, a corny, cliche ending. :| In anime canon, this would be post-canon, I guess? As for the manga... I don't really know where this would fit. No major spoilers past volume... I want to say 2. :| And I had to keep reminding myself throughout the whole thing that Death City can't get snow, because it's in the desert.

:|

I have a hard time imagining a Christmas without snow.
Title: Gift of a Good Partner
Rating: PG.
Words: 2, 532 (a Christmas miracle).
Pairing/Characters: Soul/Maka, with mentions of Tsubaki and Black Star giving some damn good advice.
Warnings: I hope they aren't all too out of character here. And I also only gave this a quick glance for grammar errors/spelling, so please point things out if you see them! 
Summary: Maka's keeping secrets beneath all those bandaged fingers, and Soul's determined to seek them out before Christmas rolls around.

He first notices it when she bungles the omelets she meant to make for breakfast.

He’s drinking milk from the carton on the couch without a care in the world, feet crossed on the livingroom table, when he suddenly hears her cry out in pain and jumps to her side in an instant, like he’d been there all along. (It always seems to work that way for the two of them, he also notices for the first time.)

“Maka! What happened?” he asks, and then watches helpless as the seething iron pan falls clattering to the tiled ground, the half-beaten eggs spilling like a small yellow sea onto the floor at her feet, some bits sticking to the ceiling. He knows she feels intense pain when she winces visibly, when she’s openly afflicted. He hates to do it but he grabs the right wrist that she’s rubbing with her left and pulls her up, demanding an explanation with only a leer this time.

She sometimes think when she stares into his eyes that the redness in them comes from blood drawn from his prickling glare on his opponent’s skin gathered over the years of fighting. When she thinks that, she doesn’t speak; she can only gaze bleakly back and blink every once in a while and soak in a semi-deep breath.

The long silence standing in that vehement position startles the both of them. He loosens his grip to ease the pain she’s obviously in.

“Nothing,” she finally whispers. “I’m fine, Soul. Calm down. And how many times do I have to tell you not to drink from the carton? See what happens?” Her voice rises bit by bit as she regains equilibrium. She shakes her head at him and puffs out her cheeks angrily. “You clean up my mess and I’ll clean yours. Fair deal?” She doesn’t wait for a response from him, and instead grabs a clump of paper towels and makes her way to the table to absorb the puddles of milk forming there.

No use crying over spilled milk, she thinks to try and level her temper.

He knows she’s digressing, and tries to sneak a glance at her injured hand, but she pulls it away as quick as he made it to her side.

He hates that sort of double standard. It happens a lot in their home, he thinks; far more often than he’d like to admit.

-----------------------------------------------------

When she tells him what she thinks of his eyes, he starts to wonder about hers. What could make eyes so vibrantly green?

He thinks instantly of jealousy, maybe from his father’s wavering attention or her mother’s privilege to travel the world all on her own.

He thinks of leaves unrolling in the rain in the spring. He thinks of the fresh grass beneath the new canopies, the dew the gems that give the blades the sparkle her eyes take on (when she finally acts human enough to laugh). Sea glass that washes up unwillingly on shores. The sea itself.

Things that haven’t bloomed completely yet – little buds, unfledged and ungrown, supple.

Green represents newness, he realizes. Like diamond-in-the-rough hope. He wonders if the fragments of viridian in her eyes are pieces of hope put together.

He can believe it.

“Soul! Did you use all the hot water again? This is the third time this week! I’m gonna fill the shower with ice cubes when you least expect it sometime soon!”

(Sometimes.)
---------------------------------------
He notices it in the change of behavior, too.

Her weapon knows quite well that his meister isn’t the biggest fan of the holidays (evident in her reluctance to buy even a tiny Christmas tree or a wreath for their door), and that her mood sours a bit as soon as the streets are covered in roof to pebble in tinsel (very evident in her occasional “accidental” crushing of an ornament or two in battle in the streets).

But it looks almost like she’s been weighed down by a physical ailment this time. Like Christmastime is a disease to her that she unwillingly caught. Like it’s stress in its gaudiest form.

Bags like swollen bruises start to form under her eyes (he knows she likes to study till all late hours of the night that give an owl a run for its money, but this is ridiculous). She eats less and less, and leaves her room less and less after they come home. When Maka speaks (even in class, much to her embarrassment), her voice is hoarse like her throat’s been sanded, always broken and cracking.

Soul can’t help but an arch in eyebrow in class when she flinches after just a few strokes of writing and just a slight grip on her pencil. Each time her knuckles turn white a little bit of red follows and stains her skin – she’s never had dry skin before, he swears – and soon her fingers are seemingly strung from band-aids and badly-held gauze (the beginnings of a mummy).

“Maka.” He finally can’t contain his concern anymore, and corners her after class one day. “What the hell is going on with you? It looks like you’re falling apart. It’s pissing me off, especially since you won’t let me help.” He knows he can save it for home, but here, she can’t run from him, like she’s been doing the past few days at their apartment (damn her door being the only one in the house with a lock).

“Double standard,” she shoots back, like she’s been reading his mind (the one thing, she thinks, she’s sure she’ll never be able to crack open and read). “You never tell me what’s going on with you either, you know. It has to go both ways.” She glares, her emerald eyes looking less like new leaves and more like a serpent’s. “You couldn’t help me with this, anyway. You’d mess it up.” He can tell the meaning behind those words isn’t drenched in any sort of malice, but he can’t help but feel slighted at the unspoken message there, like he’s always messing her up.

Maka becomes immediately cognizant of the effect those words may have had on him, but doesn’t bring it up. She feels broken about it, but storms off in all her stubbornness and heads toward the library.

He notices it more after their fight. They bicker a lot, but not like this.

Not the kind of bickering that breaks his heart and bothers him for hours at a time.
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Christmas is in three days, and they still haven’t spoken.

Soul steals the couch each morning and waits for her to reveal herself so they can build a bridge over this wide river and cross it, but she doesn’t come down until she knows he’s not there.

Damn it all, he thinks. Then, he seeks advice.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Do I think Maka-chan has been acting weird? No. Not at all. Why?” Tsubaki’s smile is so fake Soul can swear he’s seen it in a painting at an art museum his partner dragged him to once before, like it’s been chiseled there (another rarity that makes him silently rage).

“What are you all hidin’ from me? This is really starting to get on my last nerve.” He slams his fork down on the cafeteria table, as if that’d sharpen his point.

He gives her credit for not flinching, but sees her with no real respect when she refuses to respond.

“She hasn’t been sleeping, and I know it’s not because of studying – winter break is soon and finals are done. We haven’t had a real mission in a while, so doesn’t need to be this tired or this restless or injured. It has nothing to do with the black blood, either. I know it doesn’t. That’s done and over with for a while.” It’s like a dam breaking, flooding the space between himself, Black Star, and Tsubaki, and they’re trying their best to stay afloat in it. “She can’t cook right anymore because she’s always so damn distracted by something that she won’t tell me about because she’s avoiding me like the plague. I know she hates the holidays, but this runs deeper than that. I’m even afraid to go home.” He takes one deep breath before the plunge. “What is going on?”

Tsubaki’s heart shatters a little at his unheard pleading. She’s warmed by his genuine fretting for his friend, but restricted by the pact she made with Maka many months ago about it all.

“Soul,” Black Star begins, placing a firm hand on his friend’s shoulder. His eyes are unusually acute. “Maka really didn’t tell you?”

Even Tsubaki’s waiting with bated breath for her partner to continue. She clearly doesn’t get what he’s trying to say either (which is a surprise – their wavelength is strong).

He leans forward and prepares himself – finally – for the answer he’s been longing for. “No. Will you?”

“You see,” he begins, and both Tsubaki and Soul lean toward him, like awaiting the telling of a great secret. “Each month, girls malfunction. They lose a lot of blood in the process, and it makes them crazy.”

Soul’s certain that the fork now sticking out of Black Star’s forehead is better than his brass-knuckle gift, and will bring about a much bigger malfunction than the one mentioned before. Much better present, Soul thinks.

For the both of them.

“Forget it. I’ll get to the bottom of this once and for all on my own. Merry Christmas, numbnuts.”

“And a Happy New Year, Soul!” Tsubaki calls cheerfully from her fallen partner’s side.

He says that, but he’s still afraid, and decides not to stop home at all, even though it’s Christmas Eve and the partners had a promise to, no matter what argument they were in, exchange gifts like usual. He’d rather admire the fluorescent, flashing lights than see them knocking around in his head after an intensified Maka-Chop.

He hates to admit it, but he misses her. The real her. A lot.

He only wishes he were as good at mending things as he was at making a mess of them. He knows their relationship would be so much better than it was now. Than it is.

He wonders what Death City would look like with snow, like the Christmas he always imagined. He wonders what their apartment would look like if they both liked decorating for the holidays, if they liked each other. He somehow finds himself imagining them sitting incredibly close on the couch, and under the mistletoe hanging freely from their door...

“What am I thinkin’?!” he shouts suddenly. Soul tries to erase all the ludicrous fantasies from his head (is this what Maka’s father goes through all the time? he wonders. No wonder he's so sick in the head).

Gag me. I'm losin' my mind.

He sits on the edge of the fountain and listens to the lilting flow and melody of it. It eases his troubled mind for a while, and he starts to drift off into blurred, unclear thoughts and images.

He’s startled, however, from his half-slumber at the sound of his name being called from across the way. He hears boots clumsily making their way toward him, familiar boots.

“Soul!”

She’s out of breath by the time she reaches his side, clinging tight to a small brown package with fragile, bandaged fingers that look so frighteningly breakable beneath all the beautiful lights. He thinks of grabbing them and holding them to his heart, as if the shared brokenness between them would heal all the cuts, bumps and bruises they carried. He also wonders what made his imagination so wild in the past few hours.

“We had an agreement, remember? Even if we were in a fight,” she says between labored breath, “we’d exchange.” She puts the package on his lap, her accompanying smile (is this a part of his gift?) so real and so Maka that he savors it for a long time without realizing it. He hasn’t seen it in so long that it’s a sweet relief to his aching spirit, a balm. He’s absolutely speechless for once in his life.

“Well,” she continues, “aren’t you going to open it? And I assume you still haven’t gone shopping for me yet, huh?” She rolls her eyes, but to his comfort, is no longer up for feuding with him.

With their reunion out of the way and balance and harmony (the essence of the two of them) back in order, he begins to slowly unravel the present.

He’s somehow even more speechless when he sees what it is. His jaw is slightly slack, and his eyes soften like the fabric as he runs his hand across it with the same gentleness that he presses on his piano keys.

In his lap is the jacket, his favorite yellow jacket, that got torn up in the first battle with Chrona so long ago sewn (partly) sloppily back together again.

She sits next to him, some sort of self-conscious pride shimmering in her eyes. “That’s what I’ve been working on the past few weeks. It’s why I’ve been up late, and why I have all these cuts on my hands, too. Mama never taught me how to do anything crafty like this because she couldn’t herself, so I had to learn, and then do it. It’s why I said you couldn’t do it, either. Can you imagine the two of us trying to fix that one rip? It’d be a greater mess than before,” she explained, her sentence like one big sigh of relief (he knew, most of all, that she hated to lie, especially to her partner). “It still didn’t come out the way I wanted. I’m sorry.”

The glow in her eyes turned guilty as she went on. “I know that jacket was precious to you, and I felt like it was my fault it got ripped, so I wanted to fix it. I really am sorry it’s not like it used to be. I’m so-”

“It’s better.”

“Huh?” She turned to face him now, curious and also amazed words finally left his lips.

“It’s better than it was before. Thanks.” She’s pulled into a hug so sudden it shocks them both. He’s grinning now without even knowing it. “Battle scars are cool.” His eyes grow serious as he disentangles himself and snags a hold of one of her hands. “Except this kind. This kind just worries me. Don’t cover them up and hide them – try to make it better instead. You at least should have let me wrap these. What a shitty job with the band-aids, Maka. You’re gonna get infected. Guaranteed.”

“For my Christmas gift, then, can you maybe make these better? Pick out some ‘cool’ band-aids or something for me?”

“That’s all ya want?” He seems surprised.

“Well, I really already got what I wanted a long time ago.” She grins mischievously and walks ahead of them to their home.

“Yeah, yeah. Me, too, I guess,” he mumbles under his breath.

“Oh, by the way, you gotta hear what Black Star used as a cover-up story for you.”

“I already know. We had it all planned.”

“What? That was… actually pretty damn good.”

A good partner, they both thought.

The gift that keeps on giving.
please stay
Comments 
27th-Dec-2010 04:50 am (UTC)
Aww, they returned to equilibrium at the end. For not having written SoMa in such a long time, this is incredibly well-written!

It makes sense that Maka doesn't know how to sew and that as stubborn as she is, she would try. And the Black Star cameo, was just priceless.

*HUGS YOU TO BITS*

Loved it.
27th-Dec-2010 07:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it. I was really worried about posting this one.

♥ And thank you for the hugs! Haha.
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