aaaaah, resbang! already! the biggest thanks to skaventuretime, sillytwinstars, thefishywitchy, sojustifiable and professor-maka for betaing and being all around wonderful and reassuring. without them, this fic would be absolute garbage (and probably not finished, aaaaaa)

cover art for the fic is by we-trade-your-heroes-for-ghosts on tumblr, and the other art she's done for the fic is on there as well. i do not deserve such kindness or beauty for my trash fic, but please give her stuff a look (and my other artist, mr-proma, as well!) because they both worked super hard and AAAAH. AAAAAAAAAAH.


2008

.

It's her own fault he catches her off guard.

She had merely been helping Tsubaki with last minute preparations, shuttling in arm-fulls of flowers - something that had very been specifically Blake's job, not hers - when she quite literally ran into him, stems and petals flying everywhere. At first she's just as apologetic as she is clueless, frantically dropping to her knees to collect the fallen decorations, muttering, "Sorry, sorry," and, "I should have been watching where I was going," like a complete space cadet. It doesn't even cross her mind that she's bowed before someone who could very well be a perfect stranger, knees spread boyishly in a skirt, while hurriedly collecting fallen stems and carefully tucking petals back into proper order.

If only he were a stranger.

Maka doesn't notice the outstretched hand until moments later, when the ground is clear and her hands are full. Blunt fingernails greet her, alongside long, freckled fingers and a smooth palm. She doesn't need the vocal confirmation to know exactly who she's bumped into, but his tell-tale, nervous clear of his throat rumbles through her like thunder anyway.

Ten years and his hands are still stupidly pretty. Ten years and his eyes still have the power to pin her down and make her feel blown open, make her feel vulnerable and seventeen all over again. It's just as much of a rush as it is terrifying, and she feels wholly naked in front of him, wishing she'd done her hair, wishing she was wearing more than just a coat of mascara, wishing she was standing so she could punch him right in his stupid, nicely-shaped jaw.

It's been ten goddamn years since she's seen Soul Evans and it's still too soon.

The white-hot anger is instantaneous. Burning up, she sputters, unable to keep her composure for even just a moment in his presence.

Maka frees a hand just to slap his away. He flinches and tucks it back into his pocket, eyes flickering away - and without his gaze immobilizing her, Maka jumps to her feet and holds her ground. He's even taller now, somehow, than he had been as a teenager, but she won't let his adult, broad shoulders distract her from the truth. There's still a fracture in her heart left behind by him, and fuck it all if he thinks he can just waltz back, offer her a hand like a gentleman and pretend like nothing has changed.

Everything's changed. He should know that. He's the one who changed them.

"I can get up myself, thank you," she says primly, chin raised high. The burning heat is too close to her eyes, and Maka cannot cry in front of him. Not now that she is fully grown. Not now that he's here, a week before Tsubaki's wedding, disrupting her (new) natural order of things.

Soul's posture caves. "Sorry," he says, and Maka very nearly spits in his face.

He has a lot of nerve existing in the same airspace as her after everything - and why here, she finds herself wondering, legs very nearly trembling in barely-contained rage. Why here and why now, of all times, has Soul Evans decided to come out of hiding and show his face? On the cusp of her best friend's wedding, when her hair is crudely tied in a bun and her legs unshaven?

Because of course she's envisioned this moment. Of course she's spent too many hours in bed, dreaming of the day she;d run into him again. She'd be bolder. More beautiful. Successful, not clutching mangled flowers and rocking very unsexy running shoes.

"Do you think a sorry will cut it?" Her voice is shrill and high. For a moment, Maka doesn't recognize it as her own. Who is this person, losing her cool over a man? Who is this girl, in her body, who cares so much?

His eyes are so damn red. And glued to his shoes. Nice shoes. Not at all the beat-up combat boots he'd worn as a teen. He's also not at all wearing the same mangled, tight jeans he'd sported as a young man, either. Shame. Part of her misses them, much in the way one misses bits of their childhood - so heavily drenched in nostalgia that it's blinding to the truth. Had any of his clothes ever actually been passable, or had she merely been too distracted by such rose-shaded glasses?

Not like it matters now. If anything, it just pisses her off more. He's still so distracting, even after all of this time. Even now, his eyes are still the warmest thing she's ever seen. Even now, they still make her tongue a little numb, make her brain pause.

Fuck him. Maka clenches her fist and finds her nerve.

"Where do you get off?" she asks, burning, rightfully so. "Do you know what it was like, Soul? Do you even care?"

She's making a scene. People are staring. Perhaps it's cruel of her to bask in it, if just because she knows attention makes Soul so uncomfortable. The spotlight cooks him, builds up his walls and shuts him down, makes him fidgety - but while he squirms, he never runs, never budges, and Soul takes her verbal beatdown with an unwavering level of maturity.

Shaking. Her legs are shaking, and the asshole is still just standing there. He's not even fighting back, just bowing his head every time she splutters and tries to collect her thoughts long enough to spit venom at him. As if she hasn't been preparing for this moment for years. As if she hasn't spent every moment to herself planning what she would say, should she ever run into Soul Evans again.

And now here she is, nearly incoherent with fury and betrayal and heartache. Fuck him.

"Sorry," he says again, more quietly this time. He dips his head. "Sorry, Maka."

Maka harrumphs and bounces the flowers in her arms, shifting her weight. "What are you even doing here," she asks instead, pointedly ignoring the solemn look in his eyes. Crimson will make her forget her ire. Crimson will thaw her, and Maka can't have that, she just can't. She's behind schedule as it is, and this little run in with her past is dragging on and eating up precious time - but Soul demands her attention just as effortlessly as always.

"I thought you still lived in Death City," Maka huffs.

"Am I supposed to stay there forever?"

"Sure never had a problem with that before."

He flinches, finally, and Maka can't even find pleasure in it. Stupid sad eyes. Stupid kicked puppy face. Stupid stupid Soul, appearing out of nowhere. She ought to knock his lights out. She ought to save Tsubaki's wedding and kick him out of Massachusetts, stat.

He is maddening. Looking at him brings the strangest tightness to her chest - a fine brew of righteous anger, of course, but also hints of nostalgia, notes of twitterpated yearning, impossibly. There is a fire within her that he lights effortlessly, an overwhelming heat that he ignites with nothing more than a red-eyed glance and bleak set of his lips. More than anything else, she's angry that he can still inspire these fluttering feelings in her, even after everything he's done. Even amidst all of the hurt, all of the rage, there's still inexplicable attachment to him. She feels like a guitar string, and he's plucking away, idly, and everything is humming around her in atmospheric preamble.

Soul shrugs. "Liz invited me."

"What?"

"Said she wanted all of her friends at her wedding," he says, almost guiltily, still fully unable to meet her eye. Rage diverted, Maka very nearly crushes the flowers in her grip. "So here I am. Hey."

"Puh," Maka snaps, "how thoughtful of you. You're always so considerate, Soul. Always there for your friends."

"Maka," he tries. There's that tinge in her chest, creaking, rippling, and Maka swallows thickly.

She wants him to stop talking. She wants him to meet her eye and own up to everything, wants an answer, wants a reason - but he won't, and she won't let him, and it's far too late for reasoning, even if there's a vacancy in her heart he's left barren.

Maka has flowers to deliver, has a hall to decorate, has maid of honor duties to attend to - has far more important things to be doing than barely resisting the urge to throw down in a Boston hotel and kick Soul Evans right in the family jewels, no matter how desperately he deserves it. It's a great show of restraint when she holds her head high, sets shoulders back, and marches right past him. It's something out of novels, the way she brushes past him, shoulder bumping his arm, jaw set - and the way he turns to watch her go is just desserts. It's validating, almost, and certainly fuels the stubborn, headstrong part of her that longs for revenge.

The bustle of the street is loud. Car horns and chatter and the clicking of high heels muffle the sound of her blood roaring in her ears - and more importantly, help shroud the constant replay of Soul's voice, saying "Sorry," over and over again, on an everlasting loop. Sorry, Maka.

Sorry.

How long has she waited to hear that? How long had seventeen year old Maka sat waiting by the phone, in a new city, holed up in her dorm room with a pillow hugged to her chest and bleary eyes?

It's far too late for apologies and sad eyes. But it's not too late to cry, apparently, and once the spell is broken and he's fallen off the radar again, twenty-seven year old Maka can't stop the tears from coming. They burn hot, scarring the pale, delicate skin of her cheeks with streaks of heartache and regret. Perhaps she'll never be clean of him. Perhaps there will always be a part of her, no matter how pathetic and stupid, that will still miss him, will still hurt over him.

It's been ten years since she's seen him and it's still too soon.