sempiternal: eternal and unchanging; everlasting.
The Appalachians are the first mountains of their kind she can ever remember seeing.
"You’ve got a memory like a target after Black Star’s done practicing his knives," Soul tells her irritably. "Makes sense you’d think they’re something special."
"But they are!" she wants to protest, but he’s in one of his moods and his eyes are half-lidded and poisonous, so she contents herself with a mild snarl in his direction before she abandons him to his sulk. She clambers atop the dog’s traincar and settles onto her stomach, soaking up the almost painful warmth from the sun-heated metal roof as she stares at the mountains, face cushioned on one arm.
They’re deep and dark, lush and ragged all at once, rough curves gentled over with trees older than Death. Tall as they are, rippling ominously around the winding train tracks like the splintered ribs of a shattered god, they look tired.
Maka can sympathize. She feels tired, too, these days, blunted by the constant sandpaper of Soul’s convoluted brain. He’s always snapping at her and then apologizing and then doing it all over again. It’s irritating and infuriating and, friends or not, it’s not very appealing to try so hard to help him when he doesn’t seem to want to help himself much.
The mountains loom at her, ancient and uncaring. She sighs and soaks up the heat like a lizard, closing her eyes and sort of hoping she’ll get baked off to a cleaner, less selfish state of mind.
"You." She cracks an eye and gives Soul her very best glare. "I’m baking. With the mountains. You’re not invited."
He opens his mouth, pauses to ponder her words, then descends a single step down the train car’s rickety ladder, until only his eyes and his madman shock of hair are visible over the edge. “All right.”
"You’re not leaving," she points out after a moment.
He’s all sharp edges, teeth and aggressive elbows and a boyishly protruding Adam’s apple, and it’s almost jarring after getting hypnotized by the trees. “Just be quiet if you’re going to sit up here,” she sighs at last.
He climbs up, just slowly enough to pretend it was his idea all along, and flops on his back beside her, lying one hand half over his eyes for shade in the fierce sun and picking at flakes of rust with the other. “What’s this for?” he asks after a while, once she’s descended back into her sunbaked reptilian daze.
"Mm." It takes her a second to blink back from white-hot heat and slumbering green. "You would be doing it wrong. You’re looking at the sky, stupid. I’m looking at the mountains. I told you they’re special.”
He doesn’t move, just keeps squinting up into irradiated blue. “Didn’t say how.”
"They’re old," she offers ponderously, stretching and lying her cheek onto the metal; it’s so hot that tears rise to the eye closest to it, but it feels good, too. "Old, old. Harvar said they used to be massive, really astonishing, and over time they got worn down."
"Dragons and magic," she mumbles. He rewards her with a dry snort. "Wind and weather, I suppose."
He finally abandons his cloud hunting and rolls over onto his stomach, rising onto his elbows and propping his chin in his hands. A stray breeze, smelling of cooked earth and decaying forest litter, sweeps over them, and Maka sucks it in with something sort of like reverence. He slants a look at her from under bleached-bone lashes.
"Keep looking," she admonishes comfortably, yawning. He rolls his eyes obnoxiously.
"This is useless."
"You can’t do anything without making sure no one thinks you’re taking it seriously, can you?"
"I take you seriously."
"I— that’s not what I meant."
"I take my music seriously."
"Yes, yes." They lie in shared lethargy for a while.
"All right," Soul mumbles at last, yawning a little himself, neck cracking audibly in the sleepy high-noon hush. "They’re old. Older than anything. We’re little pieces of dust to them."
"But we can still think they’re beautiful."
"I guess it’s interesting," he concedes, finally, before wriggling back over to his previous sky-gazing position. Maka flops an arm across his forehead for him, for shade, and he grunts, planting one of those young sharp elbows into her ribs and leaving it there
"This sun is lethal. I feel like I could sleep a long time," she says out loud, mostly to the mountains.
"If this was one of your fairy tales those old mountains would be fucking laughing at you,” Soul slurs, eyes totally closed now beneath her forearm; his eyelashes tickle.
"Now you’ve got it," she tells him, pleased, nudging against his unblunted elbow, and he grins at her.