Seeing as how I am not the illustrious Atsushi Ookubo, I do not own Soul:Eater.


Caprice


Of Friends Who Mean Well and the Mayhem (Clusterfuck) that Ensues Anyway: Day 1, Part 1

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It was a day fashioned for caprice by the gods themselves. Winds swirled about haphazardly, kicking and swirling the fallen autumn leaves, taking small insects and bits of paper for the ride of their lives. The sun was out and smirking but it looked rather unsure; clouds hedged all around and it suspected its eternal adversary might win the day. Death City inhabitants could feel the mischief on a day like today – the tension lodged somewhere between the stomach and throat – and had unconsciously built up barriers against anything that seemed too out of the ordinary. In their world of kisshins and witches and insanity, you couldn't be too careful…

Of course, not everyone adhered to the general level of caution. The ninja stalking (at the top of his lungs) up the street on his way to school certainly had no such inhibitions. Every swagger and lunge was a physical challenge to the powers that govern normalcy, accompanied by a verbal counterpart: "ALL BOW TO THE GREAT ME! I ALONE AM BEST."

His demure weapon walked politely behind him, quietly worrying, always watchful. She cared for the boy more than she could ever find words for, let alone admit, and the gods of chaos passed her on today knowing that the time ahead would be a painful one for her. The disparity in their ages and her motherly instincts would not avail her, although her strength might.

Several streets over, another pair made their way to school. They were a far more subtle study: the technician was an endearing mix of courage and stubbornness, physical insecurity, and marked intelligence and skill. She was a talented girl poised to become a powerful woman, and knew the subsequent loneliness and mistrust that so often was par for that course. Unfortunately, her earnest and unflinching demeanor nabbed the attention of caprice, although her partner was luckier in that respect.

He slouched and drooled, in defiance to his blood and upbringing; hid behind sarcastic mutters instead of engaging in the polite conversation he had been taught. He was a curious concoction of smoke, mirrors and madness; he had hidden behind his loneliness for most of his life. Yet now he had her, she who could dispel his insecurities with a brash toss of her head, and now he knew the sunlight. He would fight for her with every breath in his body, and the lords of chaos knew this, and recognized their end.

Yet the powers that govern caprice will move as only they will, and it settled at last on its choice. A smiling woman of indiscernible age sat giggling at her technician's table, fashioning a drooping giraffe from a collection of used (now unusable) napkins. Her older sister picked at her cuticles, and prayed their technician wouldn't be above two hours late this time. She was personally too old for mischief's taste, and there was a hardness in her that it didn't like to work with. Her technician, on the other hand, was far too manic and steeped in compulsion already, and he had been tempered with his recent trials. Not him. Her. The one with the giraffe, alternately giggling and scowling, both threatening and precious. She would be their vehicle.

The game was on.

"So did you guys hear? About Nyne?"

Maka glanced over at her friend, but didn't stop walking to class. The eager witch had to take long strides to keep up with her, and had often wondered how Soul could follow so close behind with his slouching, short-legged gait. Jackie of course was her own personal shadow, and the girls had always meshed well.

"Nyne? No, what is it?"

"Some movie, right?" Soul broke in, looking bored, but taking the opportunity to lean across his technician and join the conversation anyways. He adjusted his headband as Kim giggled, too damn bouncy in the mornings. She must have seen Ox already.

"Nooooo, the love potion. You know, the one that's said to actually work."

Maka spared her friend a concerned glance. "Potion? Is it…safe?" And not developed by witches? She asked silently, expecting Kim would understand her concern. While everyone trusted and accepted Kim, she knew it had to be a sore subject with her still; witches were Shibusen students' mortal enemies, after all.

"Oh, definitely! Leah tried it out on Ben this weekend, and they're glued to the hip now. Smiling like monkeys and talking like five year olds. Yep, it definitely works."

Maka opened her mouth to explain the difference between the words "works" and "safe" but was cut off by Kim running ahead into Ox's open arms, giggling all the while. That shut it pretty quickly. Kim and Ox were a thing, yeah, but not that much of a thing…Soul, judging from the way he'd been turned into a pillar since last she checked, agreed. "Soul? You ok?" For a moment she feared she had missed something major, epic in the proportions that only a teenage crush could be, but then Soul shook his head and grinned a crooked, rueful smile.

"Nah, I'm good. Heh heh, Ox's pretty whipped, huh?" He pointed to the technician who was spinning Kim around, fighting off a rather monkey-like grin of his own. Maka snickered, feeling her fear dissipate like smoke. Of course Soul didn't like Kim. That would just be-

"ALL HAIL THE GREAT ME! BOW DOWN LOWLY HUMANS AND CLEAR OUT OF MY (and Tsubaki's) WAY." Black*Star paused, hands still upraised, his impossibly colored hair sticking up in all angles, voice raised high enough to rouse the dead. His glance fell on Soul and Maka and he grinned recklessly. "EXCEPT FOR SOUL AND MAKA, THEY MAY STAY. THAT IS ALL."

Maka facepalmed and Soul snorted. Maka prayed for the day that Black*Star would pretend to be a normal human at least until 8am, but Soul thought it was funny. He shook up the routine, and provided him with an excellent foil. Black*Star was (very) loud, (most of the time) obnoxious, (absolutely) ridiculous, and (almost) always made Soul look cooler by comparison.

Black*Star strolled up to them with Tsubaki in tow. Now that she was within a five-foot radius, she politely bid them good morning, and looked meaningfully at Maka. Maka smiled back and nudged Soul.

"Hey, we'll be in class in a minute. Save us seats, ok?"

Soul grunted his assent, and tried not to stare at her as she walked off with Tsubaki, very likely to the girl's bathroom, the haven of all that is feminine and silly, with a dash of blood thrown in to ward off inquisitive adolescent males. He remembered the time when Kilik and Ox had ignored the menstrual safeguard, and the haunted look on their faces for weeks afterwards. Stifling a chuckle, he hunched his shoulders and tuned into his best (male) friend, knowing what was to come.

"So? Start anything?" He tilted his head in the direction the girls had taken, taking care to speak at about half-volume. Had they cared, he might have only disturbed the dead instead of rousing them to full fury.

Soul grimaced. "No. Don't see a need to." He was not about to get into their mutual fear of commitment, and how they had gone farther together than he'd ever believed possible. He still was grateful for every day together, and he wasn't about to chance all this. He half turned away and began walking to class, wondering who they had today: his partner's bastard of a dad, Patches McGee, or Sid. No messing around with him, that was simply not the man he was.

Black*Star was not to be pushed aside. "Dude, what are you waiting for? Anyways, I thought you wanted to stop the insane flow of "partner requests" you've been getting since she made you a Death Scythe. And you're in love with her. Like, since we were twelve."

"Shut up," Soul growled. He didn't need a reminder. The last few years had been rough, even taking into consideration that he hadn't realized the extent of his emotional dependency on his partner until they were fourteen. Still. Two years is a damn long time to love some unrequitedly, and an even longer time for Black*Star to keep a secret. Damn, maybe he should be less pissed and more impressed…

"Foolish mortal, to think of silencing a GOD! But seriously. Get on that shit. I mean, it's not like she's looking at anyone else. Otherwise she'd have dropped your mopey ass by now." Ignoring Soul's pointed glare he rambled on, as oblivious to the workings of fate as he was to the anger of his best friend. "You better hurry up, man. She's starting to get kinda' cute…some other guy's gonna' swoop in soon if you don't make her yours." A shifty look, paired with an upraised eyebrow. "But maybe it's your time, my friend. Heard about Nyne?"

Soul sputtered, feeling the hit to his cool card keenly. Even Black*Star knew about this Nyne shit? Was he the only one who hadn't heard about it? Damn, how out of the loop was he? He struggled to maintain his composure. "Yeah, I've uh, heard about it."

"And?" Black*Star bounced excitedly, eyebrows to his hairline. "You gonna' go for it?"

Soul didn't hesitate. "No."

"What? Why? It's practically a gift from all the other gods not so awesome as me!"

"Absolutely not."

Black*Star pouted. "Well, I think it's genius. Lets her try out the goods, and then she'll never want to leave."

"Black*Star, you're hurting my soul. Seriously." He shook his head. "It's just not cool, ok? Who'd want a drugged up woman anyways? And it can't be forever, if it even works at all. The aftermath would be hell."

"Enh, I heard it only lasts a week. That's why it's a taste, just a teaser. You know, this is how great I am, don't you wanna' be with me all the time?" He leaned in conspiratorally. "Tsubaki says certain couples used it as a kind of booster…you know, they already like each other, they just wanted to see if it did anything." He leaned back, smiling proudly.

Soul shook his head minutely, intrigued in spite of himself. "And? Did it?"

Black*Star's smile never faltered. "No idea. Didn't listen to the rest."

Soul growled again, wondering if it was unethical to shove his friend's head through a locker. It probably was, he decided, but if he said one more thing about fucking Nyne…

"Death Scythe-kun?"

Both boys turned to see a blushing girl, fidgeting awkwardly with her fingers. "Ano…could I talk to you for a second?"

Yep. Screw ethical. He reached for Black*Star but the ninja had already moved on, laughing wildly. Soul turned back to the girl, only just keeping himself from rolling his eyes. "Hai…"

"So you practically offered yourself up to him…with or without the Nyne potion, and he didn't care?" Maka could feel the disbelief dripping off her face like blood. She knew her friend was crazy, but hadn't known him to be insane.

"Well…he was in the middle of a training set, and he was very tired-"

"Bullshit! Tsubaki, you are the most beautiful and amazing woman I know, and if he can't take you seriously for thirty seconds then he's an absolute dumbass. I mean, he is, but still! ARGH." Maka stomped her foot, and turned to the mirror, clutching onto the sink for dear life and sweet sanity. "Can heNOT see what he's missing out on?"

Behind her, Tsubaki smiled a sad yet grateful smile. That her (female) best friend would stick up for her so was more than encouraging, it warmed her heart. After all, only Maka had known what the past year or so had cost her. Ever since she had fallen unexpectedly and jarringly in love with her self-absorbed technician, her emotional affairs had never been too stable. There were times when she wished that Black*Star would ignore her completely; perhaps then she would find the peace she craved. Yet no matter how selfish and unobservant he could be, he always demanded a place for her, and would accept nothing less than the best for his compliant partner.

He obviously cared deeply for her. He just didn't notice her sexually. And after her feeble attempt yesterday, she didn't know what else to do.

"Ok, ok, back up. So…you told him about Nyne, and then…?"

Tsubaki sighed. She was a little embarrassed talking about this with Maka, but who else could she turn to? "I told him about other…couples and partners who had used it as a control group, and they said how much better it made their relationships. Eased communication, better sex," (here Tsubaki blushed, trying not to remember certain adventures of their youth in which the word "hornball" played a part)," all that. And then I casually asked him if he thought it might be fun to try." She paused.

Maka looked over her shoulder impatiently. "And?"

"Well, he…he agreed."

Maka had already opened her mouth to castigate her unfortunate friend and the surprise took her a moment to get over. "That bas-wait, what? He agreed?"

Tsubaki sighed and looked away. "He said 'yeah sure, whatever you want.' He hadn't actually listened, Maka! I could have said I was leaving him for another partner and he would have said the same thing. He doesn't care. You said it yourself, he couldn't even listen to me for thirty seconds." She slumped, dejected. "I feel like…like I'm nothing more than a tool to him."

Out of the depths of Maka's battle against castrating Black*Star at that very instant, a strange thought bubbled up from the unconscious of her psyche to her rational, if slightly overworked thought processes. "Well then do it."

Tsubaki picked her head up, confused. "Do…what?"

Maka liked the crazy plan the more she thought about it. "Do it. Give him Nyne. Make him see what he's missing. Then, when it wears off, see whether or not you want to be with him." She shook her head, admiringly. "I think it's crazy enough to work."

Tsubaki gaped. This advice…from Maka? What in the world? "But…but I don't have Nyne…and I don't know how to get it…"

Maka smirked, and turned back to the mirror. She straightened her tie dramatically. Grinned. "Ah. But I do."

Tsubaki looked at her reckless friend through the mirror. "Oh dear…"

For some, lunch couldn't come soon enough. Others had work to do, and got it done. Maka spent almost half an hour working on Kim (so Ox huh…you're really digging those pillars of power…so what's Nyne like?) before she would own up to having used Nyne last Thursday. She didn't have any more, but she could put Maka in contact with the one who had hooked her up. She just had to wait until lunch, and then Maka would have her heart's desire. Grinning shyly, Kim asked was it for Soul?

Maka's shock was enough to convince Kim it wasn't, although her mad blush counteracted her sincerity. Kim realized she probably wouldn't need it anyways, she was about 98% sure Soul was absolutely in love with Maka, and that matters couldn't be so desperate as to warrant Maka's needing Nyne. No, it had to be for someone else…

"Ah, I know! It's for Black*Star!" She giggled. "I kinda' figured he'd be hopeless at romance…he's normally so confident, but when you're in love with a woman like Tsubaki, I guess it would be easy to think you're not good enough."

Maka was caught between embracing Kim for noticing Tsubaki's clear superiority, and chagrin that the truth seemed to be so far removed from her logic. Maka chuckled nervously. "Oh, I dunno'. I don't think Black*Star has noticed anything that he can't use to train, eat, or fight. And besides, who says Tsubaki wants him?"

Kim gave her a look that clearly questioned her sanity. "Are you kidding? Why else-how else could she be his partner for all these years if she wasn't in love with him? I mean, rippling muscles equals hot yes, but that's about it, girl. He can be as dumb as a brick, and you know it."

Maka grudgingly agreed. She had told Tsubaki time and time again to leave herself open for the possibility of a better guy coming along, but Tsubaki was adamant. Once, perhaps Mifune would have done the trick. Now, it was Black*Star or nothing.

Hence the Nyne. Finally heeding Professor Stein's glare (he'd do nothing more than that, as she and her friends only came to class after promising Kid and Shinigami-sama that they'd retain a semblance of normalcy. It helped to combat the insanity, at any rate) the girls stopped their whispering and commenced pretending to pay attention.

Maka positively smirked. Just you wait, Black*Star. You'll realize what a real woman is after today…

Liz and Tsubaki were already at the customary table when Maka and Kid made their way through the chattering underclassmen. It felt strange to cut through swathes of youngsters, but as Kilik was on a mission, Ox and Kim were likely exploring their sexual boundaries (consequently, Harvar and Jackie were striving against serious physical and mental illness), and Soul and Black*Star were fetching some pizza for the rest, they were the sole representatives of all those aged 16 and up. All members of Spartoi were asked to come to classes when not on missions, even though most weapons had reached the level of Death Scythe. Needless to say, both weapons and technicians had reached newfound heights of popularity since Asura's second disappearance.

Of course, not everyone appreciated them. Kid in particular seemed to have developed an anti-fan club. Currently, they were fashioning a statue of him made entirely out of cafeteria foods. It was extremely asymmetrical.

"WAGGHHHHH! Don't desecrate MY SYMMETRY!" The moment Kid spotted it he rushed over to stop the madness, arms flailing wildly. Maka snorted and set her tray down to Tsubaki, sitting across from Liz. Both girls looked up at her expectantly.

"Oh, Maka. It's nice to see you. Did you have a productive day?" Tsubaki greeted her hesitantly, completely unsure how to broach such a sensitive subject. Her companion had no such scruples.

"Did you get the shit? We're not getting any younger, you know." Liz was the oldest of the group, and therefore was not only taking a shot at Tsubaki's age, but her own. She brandished a French fry like a scolding schoolmarm. "And not to be crude, but Tsubaki's so strung up, it's a wonder she hasn't imploded. She needs to get laid."

Tsubaki gasped in horror and embarrassment and even Maka's eyes widened. Liz nonchalantly bit into the fry, then leaned across the table and patted Tsubaki's hand. "Don't worry girl. You'll see. Just wait 'til you've got him in your arms…it'll all make sense then."

Tsubaki and Maka were now varying shades of scarlet, and Tsubaki hid her burning face in her arms. Maka coughed and looked to the side, trying very, very hard not to think of Soul in a towel. Therefore, Patti plunking down beside her seemed like a good thing.

"Hi guys!" Patti's insane grin practically sparkled, and Liz gave her sister a lazy wave before subtly shifting her fries away. She knew better than almost anyone that her little sister was rapacious in all her appetites. Moderation was simply not Patricia Thompson's style. The other girls murmured their hellos, and Maka promptly left the tasks of conversation to the other two girls. She had to be on the alert for their contact, Kim had promised she'd send someone over with Nyne at lunch. But they might not approach her if she was surrounded by so many…she made to stand, but a hand gripping her trench coat made her stop. She looked down, surprised.

"Where do you think yer goin'?" Although chipper just the moment before, Patti was now in danger mode, and Maka hurriedly sat back down. No one ignored Patti when she got like this.

"Errr…I'm sort of waiting for someone, Patti, so uh, if you'd just excuse me for a moment…"

"Sit yer ass down. Otherwise how am I gonna' give ya yer shit?" Patti glared her terrifying, soulless glare, and then looked around furtively. Upon spying Kid (still) reprimanding his anti-fan club, she whipped out a handful of packets with Nyne emblazoned diagonally across the top. Mission accomplished, she reverted back to her misleadingly cheerful self, clapping her hands in delight at her friend's shock. "Now allllll you have to do is mix them in liquid, one packet a glass. It'll last a week. Strengthens bonds, increases sex drive, makes shithead partners who haven't fuckin' noticed you yet wake the fuck up. " She giggled and winked. "Drink up, and then make eye contact with your man. I brought enough for all of us!"

The three other girls at the table stared at Patti, shocked beyond rational speech and thought. Then, as one, Maka and Tsubaki turned to Liz, who had turned an unnatural shade of puce and was in immediate danger of French fry inhalation. Patti had…Patti was the Nyne dealer? Liz slumped onto the table, scattering her fries, muttering something about failure, on the streets, and what would Shinigami-sama say? Tsubaki and Maka simply looked at each other, officially weirded out. This was almost as strange as the time Black*Star had fought Kid for the pair of perfectly symmetrical panties.

"Ano…Patti? Why do we *all* have packets?" Tsubaki thought the day couldn't get anymore embarrassing than it already was, but clearly she was wrong. Maka started and blushed, not having caught Patti's intention. Liz continued to mumble incoherently, supplying herself with a bit of percussive ambiance by banging her head upon the table every so often. It was impressively rhythmical.

"Hahahahahahaha Tsubaki-chan, I thought you were smart! Don't you know it's illegal to Nyne someone against their will? If we're all Nyned, we can't be blamed. Also, it's been too long since any of us got any. After all, you're not the only one pining away…" Surprised by her sudden, uncharacteristically mature manner, Maka and Tsubaki followed her glance to a familiar yet surprising figure; that of Death the Kid undergoing what appeared to be an intricate ritual dance upon the anti-fan club's table. This jarred Liz from her stupor, and she spat out a fry.

"Patti, you can't…not to Kid. He's our technician, and that would be fuckin' weird!" She sighed. "Also he's immortal. Are you sure you want this?"

Maka and Tsubaki had both turned to Liz as she spoke, and now turned in horror to her younger sister to see her reaction. Not even Liz could gainsay Patti and get away with it.

Patti said nothing. She nabbed all their glasses before they could say anything, ripped open the packets of Nyne, began mixing in the contents. Then, without looking at her sister, she spoke. "I've already made my decision, nee-chan. This is what I want." She finished tapping the powdered potion into the girls' glasses and whipped out a couple of Soul and Black*Star's favorite power drinks. She chuckled softly to herself as she tapped the powder into their drinks as well and Maka finally found her voice.

"Patti…thank you for doing all this, but I'm not trying to seduce anyone-"

Danger!Patti was back. "You boning Soul, then?"

Maka gaped, unable to respond. "Uh, er, I, um, don't uh, I don't want, uh…"

Patti smirked, satisfied. She pushed Maka's cup a little closer to her. "That's what I thought."

Maka tried her hardest not to blush as she accepted the cup. Of course, she didn't have to drink it, only had to hold it so Patti didn't shove it down her gullet…but what if she did drink it? Huh, ridiculous question: disaster. Absolute catastrophe. It would ruin her and Soul's relationship! She knew how introverted he was, and how highly he valued and how desperately he protected his feelings. This sort of game was a mockery of their current relationship, as best friends and partners and, if such a thing was possible, soulmates without the romantic connotation. She shook her head. No. No matter how much she wanted Soul – and there were times when her mind went nearly white with desire – she couldn't allow anything to change. To do that would be to risk everything they had achieved over the years, and a life without Soul was simply unthinkable…

"HYAAAAAAAAAAAA PATTI THAT BETTER BE MY DEATH JUICE YOU'RE PACKING!" Only Black*Star could manage to speak in all caps all the time. He bounded over and slapped Patti none too lightly on the back, in thanks for having procured his favorite drink. Maka averted her eyes, not wanting to be in the crossfire when all hell broke loose- anyways, she was blocking Tsubaki's line of sight. She got up quickly and bumped into Soul and Kid, the latter of which having been obviously dragged away from correcting his statue's symmetry. Her eyebrows quirked up, and Soul sighed in response. See? She couldn't lose this…she shouldn't be greedy, it was simply not her fate.

"But Soul, I have to go back there…see what they're doing to me? I must-"

"PATTI! THIS CAP IS SUSPICIOUSLY EASY TO OPEN, WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?"

Maka froze, and her cup (which she had planned on dumping out in the girl's bathroom) shook in her hand. She shot a quick look at Tsubaki, who held her cup to her lips, but had not drunk yet. After all, there was no point in doing so until Black*Star did. Maka's brow furrowed in thought. Why, really, did Tsubaki have to drink if she was already lusting after Black*Star? It wasn't like she needed any help faking the effects, even in the unlikely event that they were caught…Maka had half turned to Tsubaki, muttering urgently for her not to drink because who in Shinigami's name could tell what would happen if she did, when she realized her cup was no longer in her hand. When did…Had Soul…? Oh no.

"AH WELL, PROBABLY JUST WANTED TO MAKE IT EASIER ON ME, THE GREAT GOD. BOTTOMS UP!" As Black*Star raised the bottle to his lips, Patti saw her moment of glory and, thinking only to do Tsubaki a favor, shoved Black*Star as hard as she could in her direction.

The next few moments were remembered haphazardly, as memories broken down in battle. Black*Star careened into Maka, drenching her face – and open mouth, still in the middle of telling Soul not to dri- with liquid. Tsubaki froze, head tilted, eyes shut, damage done. Soul reacted automatically, leaning down to catch his technician but her and Black*Star's combined weights were too much for him. All he could manage was one desperate look - and he couldn't even tell if her eyes were open or shut, let alone whether she was looking back at him – before her back hit the floor. He knelt over them, heart racing for no good reason.

Patti sheepishly took a sip of her untainted water. Oops.

Black*Star groaned uncharacteristically quietly as he lifted himself off the ground, using only the strength of his forearms. What had that been all about? What was Patti thinking? How had she dared to push someone as godlike…as…

Black*Star's heart fluttered to a stop as Maka's eyes fluttered open. She had steeled herself for a jarring impact, but not enough of one, apparently. Her head felt sort of…fuzzy. She felt so warm. And there was a strange taste in her mouth…sweet, and slightly tangy, and…

Shit! Her eyes slammed shut, but it was too late. Black*Star had seen. She had seen.

The next moment ranked in the top ten most infamous moments of Shibusen. For in that moment, Black*Star defied all that is good, rational, canon, and non-detrimental to Spirit Albarn's not dying before turning 40 by taking Maka's first kiss on the Shibusen cafeteria floor.

He was enthusiastic about it too.

Tsubaki unfortunately saw all, for her eyes had opened when she felt the rush of two bodies falling to the floor beside her. She had locked eyes with Patti, but that had been no damage – Nyne was not designed to make one desire contrary to their biological urges. The first male she saw was Black*Star, but only his broad back, currently acting as Maka's personal canopy and then-what? What the FUCK? Was he…he was fucking kissing MAKA! Knowing what had happened yet not caring anyways, she stood up on legs that wouldn't stay still and tottered past them. Tears were falling. She didn't fucking care. She was going to keep her head down and until she got home and then sleep for a week because she sure as hell didn't want to look at anyone else or see them together or-

Tsubaki had forgotten that she was still taller than about ¾ of the school, so looking down would not avail her if she bumped into someone slightly shorter than her. It was indicative of fate that Death the Kid was the perfect height for this maneuver. Fate was proven when he was the one Tsubaki pushed herself into in her haste to escape, and whose eyes she met while under the influence of Nyne. Yet her luck was not like her technician's; her hands were just beginning to grip his shoulders when he moved past her in order to keep Soul from emasculating Black*Star in front of the entirety of Shibusen. Even though he was no longer in her grasp, however, she could still feel the texture of his jacket under her palms, and his golden eyes in her mind. Tsubaki sighed, ire forgotten. She had never noticed how delectable Kid was…

Liz had had enough. She had just watched all her friends – save for Kid, who dwelt there all the time she reasoned darkly – enter hormonal insanity and she was going to stand for none of it. Gesturing to Patti, she commanded her as only older sisters can do to bring them to order.

Giggling, Patti complied. She leapt between Soul, who was apparently trying to gouge out Black*Star's eyes with his scythearm and Black*Star, who was trying to get back to Maka, who was huddled on the ground behind Soul, clutching her knees. Kid restrained Black*Star as well as he could, but the passions of the gods are almost impossible to deny, and his hold was slipping. Patti knew only one technique could work against Black*Star, and luckily, she was just the woman to go through with it. Dancing nimbly in front of Black*Star, she gave him a cheeky smile, and then kicked him as hard as she could. Between the legs.

Black*Star felt the kick as keenly as any ardorous man would, and sank to the floor. Defeat. For now. He would pursue this sudden and immensely powerful attraction to his oldest friend another time, but for now, the lancing pain in his previously engorged member was summoning all his attention, until even that was replaced by the cool, sweet dark of oblivion.

The six remaining conscious friends all looked at each other, afraid to move for what madness might ensue, until Tsubaki sidled up beside Kid and laid a tentative hand on his shoulder. Her thumb engaged in a slow sweep against his collarbone, and Kid eyed her hand like he would a small, asymmetrical insect. Patti made to glare at her but Soul's hand on her shoulder stopped her. He was breathing heavily, and for once, looked almost as frightening as her.

"What…the hell…is going…on?"

Incomprehension and Reflection, Secrets Are Kept: Day 1, part 2

...

"So let me get this straight." Soul inhaled a ragged breath and tried to find a calm, happy place. Absolutely impossible, but it was good to try. "Black*Star, Tsubaki, Patti and Maka are fucking drugged with this Nyne shit, and are going to be behaving like fucking lunatics for the next week? Whose bright idea was that?"

Everyone turned to look at Maka, who shakily held up her hand after a moment of inner denial. She still hid her face in her knees, but as she was behaving herself and had not tried to jump Black*Star's fallen form every thirty seconds, they had allowed her to their council. They had commandeered Stein's empty room after the briefest of explanations, and having deposited Black*Star and Tsubaki (under strict orders from Kid to not letBlack*Star escape) in Chrona's old room, continued to break the madness down. Patti was present as well, as she had supplied the Nyne, but only as long as her passion remained passive. She was currently in Kid's lap, playing with his jawline. For Patti, this was passive enough.

Soul tried to bolster his frustration, and not think about Maka's potential plans with the love drug. Just who had she been trying to seduce? Shinigami, he hoped it wasn't actually Black*Star. "Maka? Care to explain?"

Maka shook her head mournfully. Her mortification was acting as a shield against her now nearly ungovernable desires, but her loyalty exceeded even that. She couldn't give up Tsubaki now, not when she had locked lips with the boy/man/kissing demon that Tsubaki had been in love with forever. She groaned, hating herself on most, if not all, levels.

Soul growled. Maybe it was for Black*Star… "Maka, this is important. Cooperate, damnit!"

"Um, here. Let me try to explain." Liz coughed importantly, and effectively procured Maka and Tsubaki's goodwill for at least the next three years. "What I believe happened was this: Maka was asked by an extremely frustrated friend for some Nyne. So she asks around a bit-"

Soul grimaced. He couldn't help it. Maka asked around for Nyne? What was this world coming to?

Liz continued after a sharp glare in Soul's direction. "-and eventually, word gets to Patti who apparently deals Nyne-" the sharp glare intensified, and moved from Soul to her sister. Patti steadfastly ignored it, much more fascinated by Kid's stubble collection. "…And so we come to lunch. Patti brings the stuff, and decides on her own that we all should, and I quote, 'get some.' " Kid frowned, but Liz was nearing the finish line, and he let her continue on. "Patti distributes the poison, and then you guys get here. Now, I'm pretty convinced that it wasn't really meant for any of us, Patti just got a little excited. I mean, Maka tried to leave the table with her glass, probably to go deliver it to whoever. But then…yeah. You all know the rest." Liz congratulated herself for her quick save, and for whatever had been running through Maka's mind when she cravenly attempted to run away. Hopefully, Tsubaki's secret would be kept safely hidden away in the obscenity of this disaster.

Kid looked positively disgruntled. "I hope you know that this poison wouldn't even affect me. If alcohol doesn't, I don't see why this would. So clearly it couldn't have been for all of us…"

"It wasn't for any of us, Kid! And anyways. Patti didn't pour you a glass, so I think you're fine, Kiddo." Patti wouldn't have forgotten that, Liz silently contradicted herself. What are you up to?

Soul furrowed his eyebrows. "So if it wasn't meant for any of us, why did Tsubaki drink? That's not like her. At all."

Maka and Liz froze. Uh oh. Busted. Yet salvation came from an unexpected corner. Patti left Kid's jawline alone for a blessed three seconds, and smiled hugely at Soul.

"Aha, that was me! I told her if she knew what was good for her, she'd drink."

Everyone (including Kid. Especially Kid) shivered. Ahh, danger!Patti to the rescue…

Soul ground his forehead into his palms, praying that he'd wake up, and this would all be over soon. "Kid, aren't you a little too calm about this? I mean, you have Patti and Tsubaki in love with you for a week. Doesn't that worry you?" Think about how dangerous and talented those two girls are, dude, Soul silently continued. I mean, unless you're into that kind of thing…

Kid sniffed, eerily calm. "I don't see why it's so terrible. Although they are asymmetrical, it's no worse than Liz and Patti…and besides. Shouldn't you be the one who's worried? Black*Star is going to come on strong to your technician, and unfortunately, she's going to welcome it."

"N-no I'm not," Maka supplied weakly, "I can't. I won't." She lifted her head from her knees, and tried to fix Kid and Soul with her most quelling gaze. "I'm stronger than that."

"Stronger than Black*Star? We all saw how easily he overcame you in the cafeteria." Kid shifted Patti in his lap. "It's not your fault Maka. But we have to protect you, especially as you might not want to fight it when he's in the same room as you." He thought for a moment. "And conscious."

"No, wait. You don't understand I-"

Soul stood up abruptly, startling Maka into silence. He tried to glare everywhere but her, but she caught his anger and misunderstood. "Look, there's no time for this now. I'll call you guys later and we'll work out a plan. I'll take Maka somewhere safe. Kid, you gonna' be ok handling Tsubaki?"

Kid nodded, and Patti giggled at the movement of his stubble under her palms. Kid was thankful for his Shinigami skin that couldn't blush.

"Good. See if she'll do something about Black*Star. We'll see you guys later then. Maka? Let's go."

Kid waited until Maka had shuffled out behind her weapon – for once, not brazenly in the lead – before he turned to Liz with a severe look on his face. "Alright, the truth. Let's have it."

Liz winced. She knew it was almost impossible for her to lie to her technician. "You can't tell anyone, ok?"

Kid huffed, clearly annoyed. "Elizabeth, this is an extremely delicate situation, and two women are suddenly and inexplicably in love with me. I know you're lying, and I have a right to know what happened. Whether or not I tell anyone or act on the information is up to my discretion, although I'll try to preserve all our precarious relationships. Regardless, this next week is going to be extremely difficult."

"Just tell him onee-chan. He might be able to help us."

"Fine." Liz drew in a deep breath. "So…Tsubaki wanted the Nyne for uh, training purposes-"

"Tsubaki is in love with Black*Star, yes," Kid surmised. He looked affronted when Liz stared at him in shock. "What? It's not like it's-oh, just continue."

Liz looked him askance but complied. "Yeah. So she wanted it, and Maka knew someone who had it, so she put a request through this person and Patti turns up with it, and the rest you already know. She decided we all needed it-"

"Well, not you so much, nee-chan. And I didn't really mean to drink it, I drank out of the glass Soul set down right before the accident, and that must have been Maka's because there was Nyne in it." She hung her head when her companions' glares became too much for even her. "Ok, so it was not my finest hour. But I wanted it to work for Black*Star and Tsubaki. Aaaaaaaand I figured it wouldn't be so bad if Soul and Maka drank as well."

"So did they? He had the glass, right?" Both girls looked at Kid, confused.

"Wait, what?"

"Soul! Did he drink? He must have had her glass if you said he set it down for you."

The trio of asymmetric doom stared at each other, the ramifications of this idea compounding in their heads. As one, they shook their heads. The thought of Soul in love with Maka, in love with Black*Star who was back in love with her, instead of Tsubaki who now was in love with Kid…it was too much. Whatever the truth was, they simply did not want to know.

"Who'd Tsubaki want to Nyne?"

Making a sound frighteningly akin to a drowning mongoose, Maka promptly fell off the futon she had been so precariously perched upon. They had been "home" for less than five minutes – home being Soul's emergency pad when he acted as Death Scythe; they figured this was the safest option as Black*Star didn't know it even existed– when Soul dropped the bomb on her, although perhaps she should be thankful that he was speaking at all. The ride home had been silent, awkward, and for once far too long for Maka's personal comfort. Usually she liked riding behind Soul on his bike. Not today. For a lot of reasons.

Picking herself up, she tried to play it off. "Why on earth would Tsubaki try to Nyne someone? I mean it's not like she'd need to. And this is Tsubaki!"

"Yeah. Uh huh. You just fell off the couch."

"That proves nothing."

Silence.

"I'm clumsy!"

More silence.

"I'm not going to answer this." To distract herself from his intractable silence, she let her eyes rove around his apartment. She had been there once before, helping him move the spare mattress into his room, but hadn't remembered it as quite so bleak. Perhaps she had assumed he would fill it up and make it more lived in, but he still spent most of the year at their apartment in town. Apart from the futon and a tv, the room was depressingly bare. The kitchen wasn't stocked, and the dishes looked like they hadn't been used in months. She assumed his bedroom was just as stark.

"Maka."

Against her will, her eyes flew to his, and the beating of her heart grew to a slow yet steadily pounding crescendo. She had thought her attraction to his blood-red eyes and his unlikely thatch of white hair – not to mention the shark teeth, sleek nose, long fingers, and slim build - to be bad before, but now it was so much worse. The urge to leap into his arms had been present since she hit puberty, but now…oh shinigami, save me from myself.

Having uttered her name Soul found he had nothing else to say. She was here with him in the other apartment, the one that his duties demanded, and while he had inwardly decided that this place would be the haven of all that is manly it now felt so good to have her here. Damn him for being possessive, but he liked the notion that she needed his help, and only his help. Yet this was a dangerous line of thought. At the moment, she was in love with Black*Star, and he needed to keep himself and his dangerous feelings in line. Now, if only she would stop looking so damn forlorn and adorable…

"I'm sorry, Soul. I didn't want for all this to happen…I'm sorry I thought of the Nyne, and got tackled, and am imposing on you. I'm sorry-"

"Enhhhh, shut it Maka. We live together anyway." He grinned his crooked, sharp-toothed signature grin. "Anyways, it's been a long time since I've kicked Black*Star's ass…I've been hard up for a good fight." He told himself that his erratic heartbeat was not because of Maka's shaky smile, and gestured her into the kitchen. It was late, and he was pretty sure he didn't have any food, but he figured he should offer her something, nonetheless. Maybe he had some graham crackers or something somewhere…

Thankfully, she wasn't hungry either. They gave each other mirthful smiles, yet it was hard to laugh at themselves when the sexual tension between them was becoming a serious concern. Especially when he realized he didn't have a toothbrush for her. For a moment, all their previous years of protocol went completely out the window, and he was absolutely stunned at the revelation that he could offer her his toothbrush, resulting in their most physically intimate and possessive action up to date. Yet her practicality sidestepped all this, she charmingly held up her index finger and declared herself satisfied. Soul fought down a momentary (yet frightening) rumble of thwarted desire, and like the cool gentlemen he was, allowed her to use the bathroom first. Maybe now karma would ensure she wouldn't shower…

She didn't. She was out of the bathroom in minutes, even before he'd had a chance to dress the futon with blanket and pillow. Her hair was down, but she had made no other move to undress, obviously waiting for him to go to bed.

"Thanks, Soul. We can head to the apartment and get some stuff tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah. Oh, uh…you know where the bedroom is, right? I'll see you in the morning then." He continued arranging the blanket.

For a moment, Maka thought he meant their bedrooms at home, and was seriously confused. She didn't get it until he sat down on the futon and looked up at her, patiently. "No, Soul, I'll sleep on the futon. You sleep in your bed."

"Nope. You're the guest, you get the bed."

Oh shinigami no, how could he ask her to sleep in his bed? Did he not know what the smell of him did to her? Well no, he probably didn't, but still. Wasn't this improper somehow? "Soul, c'mon, it's your bed. I'll be fine on the futon."

Soul understood and misunderstood. He realized she was uncomfortable about sleeping in his bed, but not for the correct reason. He sighed. He hadn't thought himself to be repugnant. "Maka, I've slept in that bed…twice. About half a year ago. I assure you, it's perfectly safe. Anyways, you're the one who needs rest. Just think of what your "gentleman caller" might do in school tomorrow."

Maka blanched, and that was it. She hadn't thought that far ahead yet…calling out a soft goodnight as she padded to the bedroom, she wondered how on earth she was going to manage tomorrow. She sighed in relief as the door clicked shut behind her. Finally, some peace and privacy in which she could impose some order on her unruly thoughts. Pulling up the warm comforter around her knees, she began.

Article #1: After all this was over and she could think straight again, she was going to round up all the Nyne in the world, and burn it.

Article #2: The next time she saw Tsubaki, she was going to fall to her knees, and beg Tsubaki for forgiveness. Repeat procedure as many times as she felt necessary, or was forgiven.

Article #3: Procure comfortable clothes. Her blouse buttons were uncomfortable, and she sure as hell wasn't lying naked in Soul's bed. She would just have to suffer through it tonight, unless that large and rather promising looking chest of drawers might hold a t-shirt or two…

Success! Reasoning to herself that he hadn't worn it in months, she slipped out of her blouse and into a red and black striped t-shirt that a) didn't smell like its owner; and b) was without buttons. All right. Back to business.

Article #4: Fallout damage. Word was going to spread, and her father was going to hear all about it. Maybe not from Stein, who had always taken pleasure in baiting her father (Maka encouraged this wholeheartedly) but from someone. She would have to explain calmly, and maturely, and then request that Shinigami-sama take Death Scythe on a mission. Preferably, one far, far away, that would last for the next decade or so.

Maka squirmed as she approached the final two articles. They were the most important, and by far the most uncomfortable to even think about. Yet they were not going to go away if ignored, and she needed to be prepared. Otherwise…chaos. Total chaos.

Article #5: Black*Star. Maka moaned as she remembered the cafeteria incident. He had kissed her! In front of everyone! Tsubaki and Soul! Gah! She blushed as she remembered the feel of his lips over hers, so warm and willing and forceful. He was so powerful. She had been far too shocked to move and had taken the kiss, even though it had felt like his lips were searing off her skin. It had not been pleasant, but that was only to be expected. After all, during her fall she had-

No, not yet. Everything in order. Now, think about battle plans. What are you going to do when Black*Star comes bounding up to you tomorrow? How are you going to hold him off? Maka grimaced. Maka Chops could only do so much…and Kid was right when he had mentioned that Black*Star would physically overcome her. But Maka was Black*Star's oldest friend, and she hoped that would count for something. And Tsubaki would probably hold him back, wouldn't she? She still loved him, right? Or did Nyne erase any former feelings? Maka sincerely hoped not. She had always assumed Black*Star would realize that he was in love with his partner someday, and she didn't want to think that this idiotic misadventure would end all chance of that forever. She shook her head. What to do, what to do…She could talk Soul into taking a longer-term mission. Maybe hunting for kisshin references in Venice? Somewhere exotic, distracting, and far from home. It felt a little like running away, but it would help out with Article #6, she hoped. Unless it absolutely wrecked it.

Article #6: At all costs, do not let anyone find out that she wasn't actually in love with Black*Star. No one could know that she had locked eyes with another – apparently – before she had been mauled by the overenthusiastic ninja. It had all been so chaotic, so fragmented, that she was fairly sure he didn't realize she had first seen him. And she wasn't so worried about her actions giving her amore away. After all, she'd only been in love with him for oh, say the last year-and-a-half? Give or take another two?

She respected Nyne's power – it was as if all emotions had been amplified by a seductive amount. But she had been holding in her rampant emotions for her best friend, flatmate and weapon for a long time now, using soul resonance in just about every goddamn battle, and if that didn't take serious strength and willpower, she didn't know what did. She could manage this Nyne business, and with a little luck, she could even avoid Black*Star's ardor. If not, well…she supposed there were worse prices to pay for Soul being kept oblivious as to the true nature of her unchanged feelings for him.

Besides. It wasn't everyday that Soul could indulge in his overly protective nature without facing death or serious injury. Maka managed a small grin as she fell into slumber – as long as no one knew she was (still) in love with Soul, this Nyne thing might be manageable after all…

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So…yeah. Slightly revised version, with nothing seriously new and exciting added. However, can we have a round of applause for songstar13 who is amazing and beta'd this? I think we should. Thanks Song!

Thanks also to those who informed me of mistakes prior to this – Liz referring to Patti as nee-chan comes to mind – and sorry it took me so long to fix everything!