Handle With Care
By Anjana V.
Damn! She was doing it again.
Even in weapon form, Soul could feel his entire body stiffen as his thought processes sputtered to a halt, losing track of everything except the slim fingers running deliberately up and down his haft. Maka always did this- only during practice and never in battle, thank god- this slow, torturous caressing of his weapon handle whenever she paused to consider her next move in the middle of sparring. She had told him that it helped her think, keeping her hands busy like that. Well with the way she was bearing down with her palms and rhythmically flexing each finger, she must have been doing a hell of a lot of thinking. Which was probably good because Soul was struggling to string two thoughts together which was decidedly NOT cool.
Think of anything else! Uhhh, jazz musicians selling out to play pop, broken chord progressions, Maka playing piano. He mentally shuddered at this last one in particular, letting his sense of superior taste finally help him feel like his usual, cool self again.
“Soul, focus! They’re keeping outside our range, I need you to modify your length! Are you even paying attention?” Maka’s chastising thoughts cut through Soul’s sense of relief and reminded him that he was still in the middle of a fight. “Yeah yeah,” Soul replied, forcing himself to ignore the sight of her biting her lips in concentration as she stared down Black Star and Tsubaki. “Of course I’m paying attention! You just need me to-”
The rest of his response was lost to a deep groan as Maka suddenly slid a hand up to the base of his scythe head and twisted sharply to adjust her grip. He prayed that Maka hadn’t heard the sound the move had pulled out of him, completely forgetting to adjust his form as requested. Maka either hadn’t heard or was convincingly pretending she hadn’t, offering no response or reaction except for- was that a slight smirk? Before Soul could consider more closely, Maka took off in a sprint, confidently ducking under Black Star’s guard and deflecting a giant shuriken-form Tsubaki before resting Soul’s blade gently against Black Star’s neck.
“Look at that,” Maka thought smugly towards Soul, “You didn’t even need the extra length.” As the weapons returned to human form, Maka immediately swept Tsubaki away with a coy backwards glance at Soul, who was left staring after her open-mouthed. “Seemed like you were struggling a bit today so I just handled it. You know, for such a cool guy, you’re looking pretty heated up.”
While Black Star demanded an immediate rematch, Soul silently processed his whiplash from the abrupt end to the fight and Maka’s cryptic parting remarks. Tuning out his overly loud friend, Soul ran a hand tiredly over his face. He’d have to talk to her about this, he wasn’t sure how many more sparring sessions like this one he could take. Despite commanding all the power of a fully fledged death scythe, somehow the thought of confronting his partner about this had him feeling as nervous as a rookie again.
That night, Soul found himself outside Maka’s door reconsidering his decision. To calm down after the sparring session, he’d spent hours at the piano losing himself in music. Despite that, standing at her threshold now brought all his agitation bubbling to the surface, although he couldn’t quite figure out exactly why. As he stood in the cool night air wavering between knocking and fleeing, Maka wrenched the door open. “Are you coming in or not? Tsubaki’s going to be here soon so if you wanna talk, make it snappy.”
Startled, but prompted into action by Maka’s sharp gaze, Soul stepped into the house, lingering nervously by the entrance. He swallowed and found his throat to be surprisingly dry. “Yes?” Maka prompted, impatient at his continued silence. Soul coughed once to clear his throat and said, “We need to talk. About how you spar. Or we spar. Our sparring. It’s…. It’s not working for me. I mean, I’m not working with it. I mean- I just…”
Maka interrupts his fumbling explanation, “Sparring? Did you notice something wrong when we were training? You’ve gotta be more clear, what exactly isn’t working?”
Staring pointedly at the carpet, Soul haltingly replies , “It’s… the way you handle me. When you pause to think, you… the way you touch me. It’s distracting and it makes it hard for me to focus on anything except….” As he trails off, he sneaks a glance at Maka, hoping he’s said enough and she’d understood. She meets his eyes with an unreadable expression, holding his gaze for what feels like a small eternity before breaking into an impish smile. “Why Soul,” she says, her voice dripping with false sweetness, “That doesn’t sound like a problem with us. That sounds like a problem with you. But don’t worry, I’m sure with proper training it’s something you can overcome.” Not breaking eye contact, Maka takes a step forward, forcing Soul to stumble backward.
“I…what…training?” Soul stammers, confused at the turn the conversation has taken “But I-”
Moving closer still, Maka interrupts before he can finish, “Don’t worry, as your partner I’ll be sure to help you get all the practice you need. There’s really no reason to be so nervous.” Soul lets out a strangled laugh at the irony- somehow her reassurances only make him more nervous.
Closing the last of the distance between them, Maka wraps her hands around Soul’s wrists as they hang limply by his sides. Staring down at her hands on his arms, she continues in a lower tone, “It’s good you told me though. Even after all these years as partners I had no idea you had this kind of… weak point. We should really get a better sense of what kind of handling sets you off. You know, to plan for the future.”
Soul wracks his brain for any kind of response as Maka firmly runs her hands over the insides of his wrists, up his arms and over his biceps to rest lightly on his shoulders. He stares at her wide-eyed, heart thumping loudly, unsure what to make of the situation.
Maka tilts her head quizzically, “Hmmm, that didn’t seem to get much of a reaction.” The tiniest hint of the impish smile from earlier teases the corners of her lips, betraying her serious tone. She sweeps her hands up to circle his neck, pressing just enough to force him lightly back against the door which shuts with a soft click behind him. Soul’s heartbeat kicks into a gallop and his face grows hot, but he still can’t seem to utter a word. “There we are,” Maka purrs, “First weakness, two-handed grips high up by the neck. Noted.”
As she releases his neck, Soul lets out the breath he hadn’t even realized he was holding. The relief is short lived however as Maka’s hands slide decisively down to his pecs instead, provoking a short, sharp inhale from him. After that she’s relentless, running her fingers over every inch of his torso, playing him like a piano. No, not a piano, because Maka at a piano had never been close to this good.
Wait, good? Soul’s thoughts are in complete disarray. No, this is torture. Despite the thought, Soul finds he can’t muster even an ounce of will to put a stop to Maka’s attentions. It’s too much. It’s not enough.
Just as he thinks he’ll go mad, Soul gathers himself to tell Maka that something has to change or he’s going to lose it. He pulls his head forward- when had it fallen back against the door? - to find Maka gazing up at him. She looks directly at him with charged intensity, electricity passing between them. “Is it not enough?” She asks, as she slides her hands firmly down over his hip bones to rest her fingertips at the top of his pants.
And suddenly it’s too much.
Soul jerks his head to the side just in time as a nosebleed erupts from his face. Surprised, Maka jumps back and the two stand in silence for just a brief second before Soul wrenches the door open and sprints into the night. As he flees, he passes a surprised Tsubaki who makes her way up to Maka’s still ajar front door.
“What was that about?” Tsubaki asks her friend who’s still standing at the doorway, “Did Blair transform unexpectedly again?”
“No,” Maka replies, with a deeply self satisfied smirk, “I was just laying some plans for the future.”
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