Don't ask me why I've started another fic with all those unfinished ones. Please forgive me and enjoy.
Soul woke up in a position that was unfortunately not unnatural for him. The bed in the dispensary always had sheets that felt just about as good as sandpaper and ruffled like paper when you moved them. Honestly, though, he didn't feel much like moving, his gut aching every time it expanded with a breath. The last thing he could remember was fighting with Maka in the street, not against an enemy but against each other as she ineffectually tried to force him into some kind of honesty with her. He had turned, felt her hand grasp tightly and forcefully on his wrist, and then, as he looked over his shoulder to let loose another gruff comment, the pain hit his stomach, the darkness started to wash over his eyes.
Now he was staring at the ceiling of the dispensary, feeling Maka's hand in his, her hair tickling at his forearm. "Maka," he grunted. Death, did he hope she didn't move, didn't detach from him, didn't take her warmth away because while he could never say it, her touch was what he wanted most in the world.
"Soul?" Maka's voice was bleary from sleep as she raised her head, eyes focusing on his dark red ones blinking back at her. "How are you?"
"Been better," Soul muttered.
Maka stretched, breaking apart their hands before turning and shouting over her shoulder. "Mira, he's up!" She turned back to him and to his dismay didn't take his hand again, instead, clutching them into the sheets. "Do you remember anything?"
He shook his head as the only reply. The pain wasn't so much in his gut anymore, but in his throat, that closing sensation as he tried to force himself to not think about taking her hand. You're pathetic, and he felt it all the way down to his core.
"Mira thinks it could be a spell, but we don't know for sure," her voice was soft and low, her fingers creeping towards his side but pausing before actually making contact. "There was just so much blood that I thought… I couldn't stop the witch."
"Don't," Soul grunted and finally swallowed the pain down, weakly placing his hand over hers. He wanted to flex his fingers, feel her skin, but he forced just the inert contact.
Her eyes diverted to the sheets. "Do you feel different?"
"Can't tell." Soul shrugged but instantly regretted it, feeling the pull at his side.
As he hissed a breath through the pain, Mira pulled the curtain aside, stopping at the foot of Soul's bed. She echoed Maka's question, eyes scanning over Soul's face. "Do you feel different?"
"No," Soul sighed.
There was a glancing thought in Maka's mind that he hadn't answered the same, but it didn't seem important. It only mattered that Soul was awake, that it hadn't been something so detrimental that he was lost in some way or another. "And he doesn't remember what happened, either," Maka attempted to save Soul any more frustration from having to repeat himself.
"Strange, but not too strange. We'll want to keep you for observation. See if anything develops." Mira picked up his chart, making sure to check if Kid or Stein had left any particular notes.
Soul wasn't strong enough to keep himself from giving in to the urge, squeezing at her hand and murmuring, "Maka…"
"What's wrong, Soul?" She brought attention back to him and instead of seeing the usual internal struggle on his face, the way he always fought with words before answering that kind of question, she saw his mouth perk, immediately ready to speak.
"I don't want to stay here because I don't like being that far away from you." Suddenly, regardless of the pain it brought, Soul sat up ramrod straight in the bed, his eyes wide and blinking as if that voice had come from someone else.
"What… did you say?" Maka murmured, unable to take her eyes off the way his whole body had tightened up.
Without even a breath he echoed himself, "I don't want to stay here because I don't like being that far away from you." He pulled his hand away from her, using to it cover his mouth as if to force the words back in.
At first, a blush drifted across Maka's cheeks, the imagery that popped into her mind from that offering almost too much to bear. But it was the horror on his face, the way he looked as if those words had taken a life of their own that made her eyes water, that brought the worry flooding into her heart. She shook her head, "You don't mean that, do you?"
Soul clamped his hand harder against his mouth because he felt the words coming. I do mean it because being away from you feels like being without air sometimes. As he swallowed those words down he felt the rip in his side, his eyes trailing down to see the previously white bandage starting to saturate with blood.
"Soul!" The concern for his words flew right out of her mind, seeing the red start to blossom at his stomach.
Mira, who had only been half concerned with what she had assumed was teenage melodrama, suddenly sprung into action, grabbing extra gauze to press into the new stain. "What did he do?"
"It must have been because he moved too quickly," Maka murmured, watching as Soul's eyes rolled lazily in his head.
"No," Soul's voice was nothing more than a breath from his lips. There was no reason to think otherwise except Soul just seemed to know. "I can't lie."
"What?" Mira and Maka both blurted, looking at each other before looking back to Soul.
Soul took a shallow breath, trying to abate the pain. "I have to say what I think or…" Soul pointed to his wound, trying to save the rest of his struggling breath.
"A curse," Mira murmured. "When I ask you, try to say the wrong answer." Mira paused and waited until Soul nodded at her. "What color is your hair?"
But Soul was able to pause, able to formulate the word, "Blue."
Mira frowned, examining at Soul before turning to Maka. "Ask him something."
Maka's mind flitted between questions, all of them in want of truthful answers but none of them exactly what she would want Mira to hear. "When was the last time you cried about something?" Regular Soul would bristle at even the insinuation that he'd cry over something, probably shut his mouth and ignore the question altogether.
Instead, the words instantly sprung from his mouth, "I cried when you weren't home on Tuesday." Soul's chest heaved but his voice disintegrated into a whisper. "That's the truth but I'd never… I didn't want to say that."
Mira's lips pressed together in a thin line, her glance falling empathetically on Soul. "Not can't lie all together, but can't lie to Maka." She turned her head back to Maka, "You were with him when the witch was there, right?"
All the words were nothing but jumbled thoughts in Maka's head and she was sure that she couldn't actually produce her own anymore. Just me. He can't lie to me. "Yes," she murmured. "Does that mean… am I cursed, too?"
Maybe in a different way, Mira thought was edging into amused. "Probably not, but you're a… maybe a catalyst."
"I am," Maka's eyes flew wide, "Just before she showed up I was yelling at him that I wished he'd tell me the truth."
Soul's eyes moved to the ceiling, his head tilting back at an agonizing angle. Without knowing it, his thought mimicked Mira's, Knowing all my thoughts is just going to be a curse for her, too. "But it's just if she asks me questions," his mutter drifted up through the air.
"I don't think we should test it out," Maka sighed. Her eyes climbed up to his face, the way his eyes squinted hard at the tiles above, looking concerned by the number of pinprick holes.
Mira hesitantly brought her hands away from the wound, carefully pulling at the edge of the gauze before sucking her teeth. "It's completely reopened. I'll have to restitch you."
Soul kept the next thought to himself, his mind playing over the irony of it. Holding in an answer means to have it ripped from me. Literally spilling my guts here. Her fingers tentatively touched his again and he felt a low groan build behind his teeth. Of course, it would be her. Maybe she'll rip my heart out, too.
The normalcy of it all was tearing Soul apart. Maybe Maka was slower to talk, formulating words and sentences carefully with extra mental scrutiny, but other than that their existence was almost identical from before the curse. That was only as far as Soul was concerned since he could not see the daily war waging in Maka's mind. Even as they sat on the couch now, her back pressed against Soul's shoulder as she tried to read a book, her mind was completely elsewhere.
The list started: Why do you refuse to see your family?
Why do you always seem to discombobulated when your brother calls if he calls?
Do you ever regret becoming my partner?
But then drifted off into more dangerous territory: Why haven't you ever dated anyone?
Have you ever thought of me in bed at night before you fall asleep like I catch myself doing sometimes?
Is there any chance that you could love me even a fraction of the amount that I know deep in my heart that I do?
But the wounds stopped her. Not just the one in his stomach that seemed to inch at a snail's pace towards healing, but also the ones that she might inflict psychologically. Regardless of her want, Soul must have his reasons why telling her these things was off-limits. Maka didn't even let the rational side of her explain that she had never asked anything close to the questions above, so she wasn't even sure whether or not he would be willing to talk. Soul was just always quiet, always reserved, more so with everyone else but even with her.
It was the same theory as to why she never, ever used her soul perception on him. While she could usually read his feelings through the way his soul bounced around hers, it was getting to the point where she could test the boundaries of thought just with the touch of her hand and a generous amount of concentration. When she caved and told him that was the case, she remembered the horror on his face then, too, but she had assured him the same thing she was thinking now: it wasn't her place, it wasn't fair to him. She thought maybe this would help him open himself, this idea that she respected his boundaries, but he drifted further towards the edge of mutism.
Just like the night it happened, she had lobbed questions at him and he'd always let them fall wordlessly. Easy questions like that night when Maka had snapped at him for refusing to hold her hand. It was something she'd gotten into the habit of doing just before the accident, reaching for him, anchoring herself to him because the feelings were just starting to become too much for her to bear and she wished that those silent motions would give him the knowledge. Instead, he seemed to sink into hesitation each time they touched and she was starting to feel that apprehension leaking through his wavelengths.
Just like now: apprehension, sadness, but a distinctive addition of what she could only assume was self-loathing. Maka sat there trying to piece him together like the puzzle that he was.
"On that page for a while," Soul mumbled under his breath.
Maka forced an unconvincing laugh. "Spaced out." That apprehension spiked as Maka turned her face towards him, her cheek practically at his lips.
Soul tried not to let his breath hitch but the sound of him gasping for air was the only noise in the room. He tilted his head back, no longer in danger of the temptation. There was an enormous beat of silence that echoed between the two of them before Soul tried to force the words from his throat, "Maka…"
Maka's normal reaction would be What? but she feared the use of a question, opting for "Yes…" with no inflection.
It felt like the entirety of his skin was crawling. "Maka, you haven't asked me anything."
"No," Maka was quick to return. "It's like soul perception, it's not fair."
"Oh," it came as a flood of relief but also as a torrent of love. It was impossible for her to understand how much it overwhelmed him when she slipped into her own protective role. These moments where he actually dared to think that she could in some way love him dumbfounded him.
"Not to say I won't, by accident, but I'm trying," she murmured. "It's weird to think about what I say before I say it to you."
"You don't usually?"
She had to turn her face back, forcing her eyes to focus back on the page so that maybe the heat rising in her face would stay invisible. "Not usually. I trust you, Soul, with a lot of things." Like my heart, her mind whispered but that didn't seem entirely fair. It was bordering on a lie since she hadn't even told him that he held that delicate vessel in his hands.
Soul was glad she wasn't looking at him anymore, couldn't see the tight clench of his jaw. "I think about every word." That statement bordered on insane for him, his body instantly breaking out into a sweat just thinking about the millions of implications. All that hatred of himself, of the secrets he kept, was finally filtering down to one thing: she had all the power in the world to break them now and she wasn't. He had to see the rationality of it: Maka cared about him. Cared so much about his mental wellbeing in this that maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't be a catastrophe. But the baby step still made his mind holler incoherently, his soul wobble around at the edges of hers.
There was another pregnant pause as Maka held the Why? on her tongue. It wasn't fair since it finally felt as if he was trembling at the edge of opening, but she couldn't force it, especially since a small part of her knew there was a chance that the answers weren't something she wanted to hear in the first place. With a withering sigh, she gave him the out, "You trust me."
"I do." He turned his head back to her, his nose almost in her hair as he just barely resisted the urge to press his cheek against the silky blond strands. "I don't trust myself."
Again, Why? lingered in her mouth but she stifled it. "You should." This time Maka leaned forward, hating to disconnect but needing to rotate herself in the seat, moving so they were shoulder to shoulder and she could see his face. "I'd say because you always seem to do the right thing, Soul, but I know that's because you worry about it so much, you think it to death before you do anything. Maybe you should try just… going with your gut for once."
Trusting the gut that right now had a slow-healing wound seemed like a reach, but it was becoming more obvious that he was running out of time. He was letting his doubts swallow him up and could see it creating a rift between them. "What happens if it's wrong?"
"You're allowed to do wrong things," Maka shrugged, feeling the friction between their shoulders. "I mean, you're not planning to rob a bank or anything, right?"
"No," and even though the answer came automatically he could still laugh. "I'll… give it a try sometime."
"Good." She took the opportunity to nudge him with her shoulder, for the first time in months finding no resistance, just his body accepting hers. That was where her bravery stopped, her eyes now focused wholly on her hands. Her mind searched for something more, something other than a question, and in the absence of courage, she only found, "I think I'll start dinner. Is there something you'd like?"
"Whatever you make I'll like." He could smile even through the truth. "You sure you don't want me to, though? Thought tonight was my night."
Daringly, she let her fingers touch to his side, delicately fingering where the bandage would be under his shirt. "You're still healing."
Soul held his breath, not out of pain but from the contact alone, waiting for the crawling warmth in his gut to subside. "Don't let me get away with that excuse too long."
"No," her laugh was joyful and it made that feeling in his stomach turn into a flip. "OK, dinner time." Her touch disappeared along with the rest of her.
He watched the door, listening for her footfalls, waiting for the clanking sounds of pots and pans. It wasn't until he was sure she was busy, far from the field of his voice that he murmured to himself. "I'll tell you when this is over, promise."
Black Star was poking at Soul like the curse was something tangible like slime on his skin. Each finger press received a slap, Soul's patience already worn too thin.
"Black Star, cut it out," Tsubaki murmured, trying to pull her meister's hand.
Black Star let Tsubaki win, irritating instead with the crow on his voice, "Hey, Maka, ask him something!"
Maka looked up from her book, an amused smile shining Soul's way. "What's the color of your hair?"
"White," he shot back with a smirk.
"No, something embarrassing," Black Star groaned.
"No," Maka sighed.
"Ask him when's the last time he-"
"Black Star," Soul growled, hands reaching with the intent to throttle.
"Better yet, who he was thinking about the last time he-"
Soul cut him off with one good yank. "Idiot!" The two of them were instantly scuffling, Soul forgetting still slightly gaping wound in his side in favor of strangling any more inappropriate conversation out of Black Star's throat. Before he could even get a good choking in, both met the familiar fate of a Maka chop to the head, Soul surprised to find that his meister's arms were waiting for him as he withered in pain.
"You're an idiot if you think you should be fighting like that with your side the way it is," Maka hissed at him, her arms tight across his chest, far away from pressing on his wound.
"Sorry," Soul managed to mutter through the butterflies in his stomach. Trying not to think about it, he let his head fall back against her shoulder, his head tilting towards her neck so close that he could swear he saw the blood pump in her throat.
The panic of his limpness in her arms hit her, forcing the words before she could think them through. "Are you OK?"
"I'm perfect." He was glad whispering still counted as the truth, the words only hitting her ears instead of the rest of the group. It still elicited enough of a blush from both parties that Black Star started to snicker again.
Maka's grip loosened and Soul got himself back to his feet, already missing the way he fit against her. "I'm sorry," she muttered. "I didn't mean to ask."
"It's OK," Soul shrugged but couldn't turn to look at her. He focused his eyes on Black Star instead, his smile turning grim. "Aren't you supposed to be out finding that witch instead of bothering me?"
"Hey, hey, don't rush the master at work," Black Star continued his chuckling.
"I'll rush you all I want since I have a hole in my stomach and a tongue that won't stop running," Soul barked back.
"There's plenty else you could be doing with that tongue," Black Star winked back.
It was a coordinated effort between Tsubaki and Maka to keep the peace, Tsubaki's hand clamping over Black Star's mouth while Maka opted once again for holding him. It was just his hand this time, tugging to keep him from moving forward. "Don't worry," Tsubaki's voice was soft and warm in comparison to her partner's. "We leave tomorrow. Akane and Clay think they've narrowed down her location after she left the city."
Black Star finally managed to wrench Tsubaki's hand away, instantly back to gloating. "So you only have a few days before your God saves the day again!" He sent another wink Maka's way, making her hand twitch with the need to pummel him. "Meaning you should ask those questions now while you have the chance."
"Absolutely not," Maka groaned. She pulled on their joined hands, moving Soul along with her. "And we'll see who actually saves the day, especially if Akane will be there."
"That's blasphemy!" Black Star yelped. "Worship like you should!"
"I'll murder him," Soul muttered.
Maka laughed back at him, letting her fingers start to slip from his. "Not if I do first."
He let her fingers go free but slowed his walk. "Maka…"
"Soul," she mimicked, pausing and turning back to look at him.
This was dangerous and he felt the fire starting to burn in his belly. "Ask me something, anything."
She stood blinking for a moment as if translating his words before shaking her head. "I told you-"
"Any question, Maka. One free-bee." If she questioned it again he would break, his tolerance limit reached.
Maka took a deep breath, looking over every inch of him before coming back to his eyes. "Why do you stay away from your family?"
"I never felt like one of them. Being a weapon was a good excuse, but even before that, never actually ever felt at home." The words were hard but the wave of relief that came from them existing in the world, from another person hearing them, suddenly made him realize how much he needed to say that. The reprieve was only sidelined by the disbelief at the question itself. "That's what you wanted to ask?"
Her fingers clenched into her skirt, wrinkling the fabric. "It's something I always wanted to know. I assumed it was too painful to talk about."
"It was," Soul took a tentative step forward, "but it doesn't feel so bad now."
"Good." Maka turned away from him before this could continue, her heart bursting from her chest with each beat. There were too many questions to ask and that was the one she chose because the ones about her, about them, she couldn't bear them to be answered because of a spell.
He let her go, feeling the apprehension coming off of her in waves, and trailed slowly behind, giving her the space she needed. The hope was that she would ask that final question, nothing half as dirty as what Black Star insinuated, but maybe something closer to who is always on your mind? Soul was starting to realize that he wanted, needed her to know that answer.