There is a letter in his mailbox from someone he has not heard from in a long time. The handwriting in the center of the envelope is lilted and half-scrawled, but there is no chance that the script is forged. After staring at it blankly, he floats light-headedly into his office and reaches in a drawer for a letter-opener.
Letters are stupid. Send me your cell phone number, if you have one. Actually, don’t. I’ll make this quick. I’d rather not have to deal with this over the phone.
I’m getting married next month. October 25th. It’s being held in Death City, near my place. You can bring your wife and kids—I’m assuming you have a family by now—but don’t tell our parents. I will literally skin you alive if you do, because Mom will ruin everything.
My address is on the letter.
It’s an awfully brusque wedding invitation, and a ridiculous surprise as well. His younger brother, the absentee, married.
Wes Evans smiles despite himself.
He’s always been very proud of Soul, the introvert; the quiet little intelligent boy that had been terrified of living in the shadow of his older brother. There are many things that Wes would like to ask him now. Why did you leave without saying anything? What did you want to prove?
Most prominently, he wants to ask, why did I make you feel like such a disappointment?
Still, he does none of those things, because he’s terrified of breaking the tender, fragile olive branch that his little brother has offered him. Soul is a man now. Apparently, he is a good man, because he has taken the time to inform his older brother, whom he had been painfully scared of being around as a child, that he’s getting married.
“Lisa,” Wes calls up the stairs, “Are you doing anything the week of October twenty-fifth?” When she replies in the negative, Wes pens an RSVP to Soul, keeping his writing brief and following Soul’s instructions to the T.
Wes shows up on Soul’s doorstep on October 20th with a bouquet of flowers and shuffles around on the mat nervously. A sandy-haired young woman answers the ring with a soft smile. “Hey,” she greets, reaching for the bouquet Wes offers. “Are you Soul’s brother?”
“Yes. My name is Wesley Evans, but you’re more than welcome to call me Wes.” He steps inside and glances around the apartment. It’s a lot more colorful than had once been Soul’s preference as a boy, but maybe things have changed.
The young woman running around the apartment—his little brother’s fiancé—certainly does not seem Soul’s type, but then again, it has been many years since Wes has known Soul well, or even seen him in person.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know your name,” Wes finally says, feeling a bit embarrassed at his brother’s inappropriate social behavior. That feeling, at least, is familiar.
“It’s Maka,” the woman says, green eyes shining as her lips quirk into a smile. “I figured he wouldn’t have told you. I practically had to threaten him to invite you to the wedding in the first place.”
She leads him to the kitchen and asks Wes to have seat while she sets the electric kettle on to boil. Maka also asks him whether he’d like tea or coffee, busying herself around the apartment and chatting easily.
“Where’s the rest of your family?” Maka’s inquiry is light and honest and Wes’s heart warms at her curiosity.
“They’re staying at a hotel a few miles away. I called a cab over here. I wanted to know if there would be any photographs this week, or other events that we should plan for.”
Maka giggles at his tone. “Oh, gosh, it’s nothing that formal. Maybe we’ll have a little party on Friday, since the wedding’s Saturday, but I don’t think either of us planned on family photographs. My family’s kind of a mess.”
Wes likes to think of his own family—the entirety of the Evans group—as a very sophisticated and refined gathering of people. Still, he knows that for every compliment exchanged in high society, daggers and pitfalls are equally numerous in those discussions.
The two-sided nature of things in the Evans’ family home had been a large part of the reason Soul had been so desperate to escape, and that, at least, Wes can empathize with and understand.
“Some would say the same of mine,” he very privately admits and Maka hums her agreement.
He spends the better part of an hour getting to know the gentle young woman. She is twenty-six, the same age as Soul, a university graduate student, and a weapon meister affiliated with the DWMA. “As the leading technician,” she explains, “I’m able to thoroughly understand all variants of souls, and I often practice with students that can’t resonate well with their partners. But,” Maka says after rambling for some time, “that’s all gibberish to you, though, I suppose. Tell me more about yourself.”
Wes feels floored and somewhat out of place as he answers. He talks about his family—his darling Lisa, a petite Hispanic woman with a sharp tongue, and their son. Vern is white-haired and daring and outspoken, but he behaves well in public at six years old and Wes is very proud of him.
“As an internationally acclaimed violinist, I’ve been many places,” Wes explains softly, folding his hands on the table and twiddling his thumbs, “but the magic of humanoid weapons still baffles me. Strange to say, isn’t it? Especially with my own little brother being one of them.”
“There’s still plenty of time to learn,” Maka replies easily, smiling fondly. “You’re here all week, after all. Has Soul met his nephew?” Wes shakes his head and Maka huffs. “Right. Of course not. Well, he should be home any time now. You should have him take you for a ride when he gets back.”
He refrains from asking, where would we go, and instead waits patiently in the living room, cradling a lukewarm mug of tea.
Soul returns, calling for Maka as he puts his bag down and startles at the sight of his brother relaxing in his living room. “Fuck,” he exclaims, and Wes is a moment away from berating him on his language when Soul puts a hand to his forehead. He seems to steel himself before he pulls it away again, leveling a glance at his older brother. “Wes, what are you doing here?”
“I believe I was invited,” Wes quips back, watching his words so that Soul doesn’t feel like he needs to bolt back out of the front door. With a sigh, he says, “I came to see you a few days early so that you could meet my family. I hoped that I could spend some time with you.”
The glare Soul shoots him is wary. “And do what?”
Play our instruments together. Talk about your nearing marriage. Ask you why I intimidated you so much when we were children, Wes thinks. Instead of voicing those thoughts, he simply answers, “So I could get to know you again, Soul,” and Wes’s little brother seems floored at the very idea. After Soul blankly stares at him for four minutes, he finally says, “Maka seems to think that you could take me on a ride somewhere. Do you have someplace you’d like to go?”
The following silence is less tense than the one previous. Soul studies Wes with a hard expression before he slowly turns to the door. “I guess so. Hope you don’t mind your suit pants getting a little dirty.”
Wes does not mind, but he does wonder why Soul asks.
Moments later, when he sees the low-riding motorcycle that’s obviously been customized and polished with care, he understands.
Soul takes them up to a high cliff that has narrow roads, but his steering is careful and the ride is exhilarating, Wes admits. He feels like the motorcycle's engine continues to rumble through his chest after they climb off and Soul takes his keys out of the ignition.
The two of them watch the setting sun—a strange sight here in Death City, where the sun has a face, and the moon rising at its’ heels is no less unsettling.
It’s a reminder that this place is full of things Wes doesn’t understand. He knows of weapons and meisters in the most technical sense—they have proper jobs just like everyone else around them, but seem to be far fewer in concentration worldwide. Here in Death City, a town created by and for the greatest of human weapons and technicians, the mysticism lingers heavily.
The regal balls and parties that he and Soul had suffered through as children seem almost quaint in comparison to the city. They'd passed cats turning into women on their way up to the clearing and Soul had noted that there were several lingering spirits in the fog that he’d have to look into at a later time.
It’s surreal to Wes that his little brother, whom so few had complimented in the past, is now responsible for things on a grander scale than Wes can fathom. It had always been clear to him that Soul had been talented—is talented—musically, but also, that he is more than just an Evans Musician.
“Tell me about yourself,” Wes asks gently, keeping his tone level as his eyes briefly roam over his brother’s face. He looks so different. Their hair is very similar. The spikes are relaxed, the tone snow-white, and his face has filled out. Soul is undeniably a man now.
“Where the hell am I supposed to start?” Soul grumbles, scratching the back of his neck.
“Tell me what happened after you left.” Wes remembers his gripping panic when his brother had gone missing. His mother had been more concerned with appearances at the time, but even she and their father had grown worn with grief about their son’s prolonged absence. “It’s been fourteen years. I thought you might’ve been dead.”
Soul grimaces at that. “I told Grandma that I was leaving, but not where I was going. I didn’t want anyone to find me.”
“Well,” Wes says, “you succeeded.”
The younger man slumps in place with a sigh. “Christ. You’re not making it any easier to talk, Wes.”
Wes inhales deeply and closes his eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m glad you’re alive, Soul. I’m happy to see you.” He opens them and gives his brother a tender look, his eyes a bit misty. “I was just…worried. One day, you’re twelve and you’re missing, and the next, you’re getting married and you’re twenty-six. It’s a lot to take in.”
There is a lengthy pause before Soul begins speaking. “From the beginning, huh?”
He talks until the stars are glittering in the sky. Soul speaks of suffocating in the Evans household, of the overbearing pressure to succeed; of the disappointment of constantly falling short to Wes himself. He talks of roaming the country’s Death Weapon facilities until he’d chanced upon a function where he’d met Maka, the meister that had made him a five-star Death Scythe, the highest honor any weapon could receive.
Soul’s caustic nature breaks as he speaks of Maka. She is courage and wisdom and beauty to him—the quite literal savior of the universe, and a humble hero, at that. He talks of envying Maka’s proud nature and hard-won confidence; of admiring her go-getter attitude, even when he’d often rather be lazy. It is obvious in every mention of her that Soul loves the woman.
He brings them to speed on current events. Maka’s jobs are endless, and Soul’s are just as numerous. The two of them are jetting off to handle political cases every other week, striving hard to keep the tumultuous peace between meisters and witches alive and well.
Soul says that he’d proposed on the fly in the middle of a mission. They’d been living together since age thirteen, made it through battles and picked up the pieces of each other. They’d dallied with other relationships through the tail end of their academy years and Maka’s college undergraduate, but had found nothing quite like the peace of each other.
This, Soul explains, is quite common among highly-skilled weapons and meisters. “You have to share all of yourself with someone and sync up with their very thoughts. It’s hard not to get everything about a person when it’s like that, and we’d always known that we loved each other. It just took some time to figure out whether it was romantic or not.” Soul smiles. “Kind of stupid, looking back at it now, but we’re both really stubborn.”
The easy way that he says that breaks the last of the tension between them. Soul seems less skittish now that he’s talked all evening and Wes has listened with few interruptions. He’s patient as he explains things that are too outlandish for Wes to grasp the first go around, and eventually ferries Wes back onto the motorbike, saying that he should get back to the hotel before his wife and kid get worried.
The ride back is calming and Wes has time to process everything he’s heard.
Soul hadn’t said this in so many words, but he’d basically admitted that he’d helped Maka save the world. Wes perversely wishes that the people who had spoken so ill of his little brother could see him now, with his head held high, though he still has a sharp-toothed smile and a wicked sense of humor.
The night before the wedding, both the bride and groom-to-be gather friends over at their apartment, and Wes is joined by Lisa and Vern at his side at the party.
Black*Star and Kid—who everyone affiliated with the DWMA looks surprised to see—get into a heated debate in the doorway, and their partners stand by their sides while chatting, completely nonplussed by the behavior. Everyone speaks frankly, chewing with their mouths open, and Vern stares in wonder at all of the boisterous laughter and genuinely happy expressions.
Wes privately thinks it’s pathetic that he’s never had such a casual gathering for his son to witness, and he’s grateful that both Lisa and Vern take things in stride instead of acting aloof. In fact, he thinks both of them are rather having fun, and he’s pleased.
“Hey,” Soul says, greeting his family members with a wave. “You guys didn’t have to come all dressed up. Patty’s probably going to spill punch all over you anyways.” Patty—one of the blonde sisters bouncing at Kid’s side near the table with snacks—has a sloshing cup in her left hand, giving Soul’s words credit.
“That’s alright,” Lisa replies with a smile, squeezing Soul’s arm lightly and startling him at the contact. “Nothing we can’t wash or replace. They’re just clothes.”
Soul looks up and fixes his brother with a blank stare and a schooled expression. “Wes. You have to marry this woman. I can’t believe she’s sensible enough to be seen with you.”
Wes rolls his eyes and Lisa giggles. “Thank you, Soul.”
“Really, though,” Soul says, putting his hands on his hips, “it’s nice to meet you, I guess. I’m kinda the black sheep of the family, so, sorry I missed your wedding.” He kneels to be at eye level with Vern. “Sup, kiddo. Wanna see my record collection?”
Vern’s eyes grow wide and he leaps up. He’s a moment away from answering excitedly before he holds himself back and stares up at his mother and father for permission. They both nod, and Vern takes Soul’s tan hand, following him to his bedroom as the young man asks the boy what kind of music he likes.
Maka turns up out of nowhere and offers Wes and Lisa sandwiches. “Soul always says he doesn’t like kids, but he’s a liar.” She takes bite of her own after they take a couple off of the plate. “He doesn’t like kids with no taste in music, but since you’re you, I’m sure Soul and your son will hit it off just fine.”
Wes hums thoughtfully, taking Lisa’s hand. “I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Soul and I never really saw eye to eye on our musical interests.”
Maka fixes her green eyes on Wes’s wine-red ones and looks unimpressed. “What do you mean by that?”
Squirming lightly under her scrutiny, Wes explains, “I’ve always had a fondness for classical stylings, but Soul was different. I love lots of types of music, but our family only respected old-fashioned practices.” He sheepishly looks down at his lap to avoid Maka’s intense stare. “It was hard for him, at home. His talents and tastes were elsewhere, and our parents couldn’t understand that. I always thought Soul was a genius—he just wasn’t me, and he shouldn’t have been. We’re different people.”
The young woman smiles at that. “You want to know something funny?” Wes looks up at the question. “When I first met him, he played me something that he’d composed. It was dark—a little frightening, if I’m totally honest—but it was so genuine that I couldn’t stop listening. It was beautiful.” Maka’s eyes are bright as she talks about Soul, and the two of them are so infatuated that it almost burns. “I think he’s a genius, too, but he wouldn’t believe it even if I told him that. He’s the kind of person you have to believe in and wait for.” She pats Wes on the shoulder. “I wanted him to give you a second chance. Don’t mess this up, okay? I really care about Soul.”
“I know,” Wes says, suddenly understanding Soul’s enduring awe for the young woman. Looking at Maka is a bit like staring into the sun, she’s so fierce. “I won’t.”
“Good,” Maka says, and with that, she flounces back to the rest of the group.
The wedding is small, well-attended, and boisterous. All the people from the night previous are there, as well as several other adults that Tsubaki—Black*Star’s weapon partner—had explained had been classmates of theirs. Once people make their way to the altar in the procession, Wes gets to study things in depth. Maka is walked down the aisle by her father, but she looks disgruntled by the very notion, and her mother sits in the front row with a serene smile. Soul’s groomsmen look happy for their friend, Black*Star has to be told to shut up five times, and the room fills with laughter as the wedding courses ahead.
Soul exchanges vows with Maka and stares at her like she’d carved the earth with her own two hands. Maka looks back at Soul, a full head taller than her, even with heels on, and fondly stares at him as though he is the ground itself, steadying and familiar and something she can trust in more than herself.
Wes doesn’t know that he’s ever been to a wedding so wonderful in his whole life, his own wedding included. Vern politely stays seated the whole time without complaining, but by the time Maka and Soul kiss, even he looks ready to jump up and cheer like the rest of the hall does.
They break off and chatter at the reception. There are no formal seating tables, but Soul seems to exchange teasing words with Maka’s father before the food arrives, who has been crying since about twenty minutes into the ceremony. Lisa asks Wes where they should sit and Wes looks around before Soul glides over to them.
“It’s cool,” Soul says, pointing to his table. “It’s gonna be me, Maka, Crona, and Kid, but you guys can sit with us.”
“What about Maka’s family?”
Soul grimaces. “It’s complicated. Things are easier if we let them figure out where to sit for themselves.”
Dinner takes place, and rollicking stories are told at the reception.
Soul only cries when Marie, one of Maka and Soul’s old teachers, comes to the podium and speaks of their heroism as teenagers in the ranks of Spartoi. Maka squeezes his shoulder with tears in her eyes as well.
All in all, the evening is a success.
Wes couldn’t be prouder of his little brother if he tried.
On Sunday morning, Soul surprisingly arrives at Wes’s hotel and sees his family off at the lobby.
He holds his hand out with splotchy-red cheeks. “It wasn’t…bad to see you, Wes.”
Wes chortles suddenly, covering his mouth even though his eyes are welling up with tears. “My, that’s all you could manage after fourteen years of separation, with our touching reunion?”
“Oh, shut up,” Soul grunts back. He pauses for a long moment, studying Lisa as she tells Vern what she’s doing, checking out with the receptionist. “I…never told you, back then, but I was scared of what you stood for.” Wes keeps his eyes trained on Soul and stays silent. “It was a stupid reason to run away, but I was a dumb kid. I never really got what you were trying to say, and honestly, it’s been so long that I don’t remember most of it, but I’m sorry, I guess. I just felt like such a fuck up, and hell, it took me a long time to feel like a good weapon too, but it was a confidence thing. Personal problem. Nothing against you, Wes, but I never belonged there and you know it.”
That much is true. Soul has flourished out here in the desert in Nevada, in Death City, where anything is possible and magic is a part of life. The Evans Family would have sooner seen Soul wilt, trying to fit into formal suits and concert halls and failing at every turn.
Here, he can be himself, and Wes certainly can’t fault him for that.
“Thank you for inviting me,” Wes says softly, pulling his brother into a hug. “For trusting me. For telling me about yourself. For speaking to my wife and child like a real family.” Sometimes, Wes forgets those things are important, in between all of the wining and dining with the upper echelon. The whole week has been grounding and informative for him.
“Thanks for coming, Wes.” He shuffles for a minute before pulling out his cell. “What’s your number?”
Wes can’t help himself from teasing his little brother. “I thought you said I wasn’t worth warranting a phone call?”
Soul flushes hot and grumbles, “I’m going to text you, asshole. Now shut up and tell me or you won’t hear from me for another fourteen years.”
Once the exchange is finished, Soul sees them off and disappears on the horizon on his motorcycle, helmet gleaming in the midday sun.
When Lisa, Wes, and Vern get back to their manor, Lisa kisses Wes softly on the cheek and smiles. “I’m glad you got to see your brother and that he was doing well.”
“Me too,” Wes replies, fiddling with his phone until he sends something to the printer and dabbles through a box of trinkets until he finds an empty photo frame.
“Uncle Soul was so awesome,” Vern exclaims unabashedly now that they’re at home. “He has so many cool guitars and keyboards. I want to play something like that, Daddy!”
“Alright, alright,” Wes agrees with a laugh. “We’ll look into those things next weekend, Vern. I have to go to Vienna tomorrow.”
“Already?” The boy whines. “Aww, last week was so much fun. I want Uncle Soul and Aunt Maka to get married every week.”
Lisa and Wes both chuckle at that. The printer stops making noise and Wes inspects his work with a fond grin, holding up the glossy shot.
He’d managed to coerce the entire wedding party and quite a few guests into group pictures at the ceremony, and his favorite shot is of the Evans’ group and Maka, all caught fiddling with each other’s hair before the person holding the phone had snapped the picture.
He frames it and puts it on the mantle, woefully out of place with the rest of the refined décor, but, as Wes looks at it, he finds that it fits their home more and more. It’s a new generation, and, as much as he loves classical music and the reputation of his parents before him as classical musicians, there’s nothing dictating that his son must follow in his footsteps as a virtuoso, and this picture further proves the notion.
It’s a picture of a better tomorrow, one with his little brother back in his life, and one where Soul has his number and does something more than occasionally remind Wes that he is alive. He's in love and newly wedded to brave Maka Albarn.
A world in which his brother has given up his family name in favor of hers, in order to give his life and everything he has to the woman who has given him everything, and Wes cannot fault him for it in the least.