Strung Out
by.
Poisoned Scarlet

Summary: 30 days. She could go 30 days without Soul Eater Evans. Or so she told herself.
Rating: T for language and minor violence.
Genre: Romance/Humor.
Pairing: Soul/Maka.
Authors Note: Ha. I finished this within two hours of starting it. I feel accomplished. Who knew writing without any prior plotting could be so helpful in relieving writers block for the rest of my stories?
Story Notes:
N/A.

Disclaimer: I do not own Soul Eater.


Maka smiled at Soul, whom she saw was looking at her through the tinted window of the bus. Professor Stein and her papa were already adjusting themselves inside the vehicle – she could faintly hear her papa's annoyed shout for attention as the bus driver shut the door.

A good number of weapons from Shibusen had been hand-selected by Stein and Sid to attend a fierce training regiment and a convention that would include meeting a few famous Deathscythes. It was an optional field trip that Soul had been on the verge of turning down due to sheer laziness, but Maka had made sure Soul attended.

The training part wouldn't be very pleasant but Maka knew Soul would regret not going to speak to other renowned Deathscythes if she let him have his way.

After all, they were on their ninety-eighth soul already.

They needed a little guidance at this stage.

One more soul would change the entire game; it would be the deal maker, and they could not afford another tragedy like the Blair incident. They had to hunt down a real witch this time, fight her, take her soul, and bask in the glory of being the first Shibusen students in their class to meet Lord Death expectations.

"BYE TSUBAKI!" Black Star shouted, cupping his hands around his mouth as the Shadow Weapon poked her head up from her seat and smiled warmly at the boy through the tinted windows. "TRY NOT TO MISS YOUR GOD TOO MUCH!"

Maka shook her head at his antics.

"Quiet down, Black Star." She told him. "It's only thirty days."

"That's enough time to go insane without someone as bright and heavenly such as I!" Black Star puffed his chest out. "That's why I took it upon myself to stash a couple of pictures of me in her stuff so she could have the strength to go on without me by her side!"

Maka rolled her eyes at his words. Of course he would go and fill Tsubaki's suitcase full of his images... and probably signatures.

"Liz and Patty..." Maka heard Kid sigh softly beside her.

She glanced at him. "What's wrong, Kid?"

The Death God merely shook his head, a weary smile on his face. "Nothing, Maka. It'll just be a little difficult to adjust to the silence of the house when I get back."

Maka lowered her eyes and turned to the bus, her eyes seeking out his eyes. She caught them but she also caught the slight grin on his face, and noticed it was because Harvar, Patty and Liz were seated around him and were no doubt joking around. She glimpsed the high pony tail of Tsubaki on the other side, too.

Maka saw Soul frown and realized she must look strange, as Kid's words had sobered her up. She forced a smile on for his sake, one she saw, with a plunge of her stomach, that didn't have the desired effect as Soul's expression frosted up and his eyes silently asked her what was wrong.

The bus lurched forward and Maka flashed her eyes away from his, nibbling on her bottom lip.

There was no real reason to feel so gloomy, in retrospect.

Soul was being given an opportunity of the ages; Shibusen had never hosted such an event before, and their generation would be the first to be sent on such an excursion.

She should feel happy, excited for him, perhaps even relieved to have him out of the house for a few days...

If so, as the bus disappeared from sight and she was left with Kid and Black Star, the latter of which complained about being hungry at the top of his lungs, why did she feel like she made a huge mistake by letting him go on the trip after all?


Day 0

It wasn't so bad.

She hung out with Kid and Black Star after Soul and their own weapons had left and she had a great time at the fast food restaurant they went to for dinner.

She convinced herself the initial feeling of loss was normal; both Kid and Black Star had been a little subdued in the beginning but they had regained their animated and normal personalities after a few fries and burgers.

She honestly thought it wouldn't be all that bad without Soul by her side.

She could go a few weeks without him.

No problem.


Day 1

Sleeping hadn't been much of an issue.

She had practically collapsed on the couch after she arrived home from the restaurant.

She ignored Blair when she alerted that she was working late-shift in favour of allowing some rest come to her scratchy eyes.

But the morning had been... strange.

If she were being honest, it had been totally horrible.

She caught herself too late opening Soul's bedroom. She had already been expecting to see him sprawled on the bed, drool running down the side of his mouth, and instead she had been met with an untouched bed, the sheets crisp and clean because she had just washed them two days ago.

She felt silly right after.

Soul wasn't here.

He wouldn't be here for another twenty nine days or so.

She felt even more silly since she had made two plates of food...

She gave the second plate to her neighbor, who had been on the run and hadn't had time to eat breakfast.

She blocked out the memory for the entire day, too, not wanting to admit that maybe adjusting to Soul's absence was going to be a lot harder than she first thought.


Day 4

Everything came back into focus.

As she expected.

School was of high priority to her once more, the substitute for Stein wasn't as bad as many made him out to be, and she was once again indulging in her usual activities within school grounds.

There was only one tiny, miniscule, thing the matter with this otherwise normal scene...

Soul wasn't there.

And she hated how she kept looking beside her, expecting to see his sleeping frame slumped forward on the chair or throwing paper balls at Black Star or just spacing out like he so often did when they were in class.

She told herself she should feel relieved: she no longer had the frustrating responsibility of prodding him awake or trying to get him to focus and write his notes down...

That still didn't stop her from looking sideways every few minutes for the rest of the day.


Day 7

It had been a week.

A whole week without Soul.

It had been a week without seeing his sharp-toothed grin, without seeing his ruby eyes light up with mirth when she did something clumsy or plain dorky, without hearing his laugh or sarcastic drawl, without admiring his spiky white hair, and without holding his hand before he transformed into her weapon...

Maka would say she was adjusting to his missing presence quite well.

She hadn't entered his room expecting to find him sprawled on the bed in nearly two days.

She made breakfast for herself only now.

She stopped blaming Soul when she found a random article of clothing on the floor or misplaced an item.

She stopped expecting to hear light jazz drift from his bedroom; the familiar sound of pen on paper as he wrote out a music sheet; the random curses or thumps and bumps that told her he had stubbed his toe on the bedpost again or Blair was being a pest again.

She stopped expecting all those things and more.

Or so she told herself.


Day 10

"Maka?" Kid asked, during lunch, as Black Star bellowed something for the entire student body to hear on top of the table.

No one heeded him but the assassin didn't let that get him down – it only encouraged him to be louder.

Maka's fork sunk deeper into her meal, which was now indiscernible since she had played with it far too much. "Yes, Kid?"

"Are you alright?" He asked, eying the totally mutilated school lunch food on her plate. He swallowed his OCD tendencies for the sake of figuring out what was wrong with her – perhaps then she would fix that terrible, simply awful, asymmetry and everything would revert back to normal.

"Oh. Yeah, I'm fine." Maka pasted up a smile that, she realized with a heavy heart, Soul would have automatically known was fake but Kid merely accepted as real.

"I see. Good. You were just looking a little down." Kid explained himself, going back to eying her tray. "Are you going to finish that?"

Maka's brows shot up at his question. "Um, no."

"May I please have it?"

Maka slowly slid the tray over to him, sighing when she saw Kid pick up her fork and begin the tedious task of carefully removing every piece of food that didn't belong with the other. Of course he would try to fix the symmetry of her school lunch!

A cart wheeling boxes full of forks and spoons, napkins, disposable trays, and other necessities for the school lunch area passed by her.

She firmly ignored the way her pigtails looked so dreary, her eyes too sober, and her shoulders too slumped compared to the utterly fake smile she pinned on her face, in the metal reflection of the cart.


Day 13

"BLAIR!" Maka screeched, running out of her room and after the mischievous cat. "Give my book back to me NOW!"

"Nya~! Catch me if you can, Maka-chan!" She shouted over her shoulder, putting the couch between them.

"Blair, I swear if you don't give it back to me..." Maka left off threateningly, racing to find an opening to reach the cat who had finally had enough boredom and had actually done something about it.

"Mmm, Maka-chan will do what, what...?" Blair snickered to herself, still holding the book in her hands, her long and pointed nails digging into the cover in a way that actually pained Maka.

That book was her favourite! It was a novel Soul had gotten for her for her birthday a year ago! And now she was damaging it?

Damn, that pissed her off so badly!

"Ugh! SOUL, BLAIR'S—!" Maka cut herself off on a strangled note, her eyes wide with what she had shouted. She had called for Soul, called for Soul to fix this because she couldn't bother to fix it herself, and called for Soul because he was so good at handling these types of situations... always so level-headed and firm when it came down to things that mattered to her...

Blair's ears perked, her wide and bright gold eyes peering at Maka curiously. She noticed the shadowed curtain that darkened her eyes and she tossed her the book after another second, the girl catching it without lifting her eyes off the floor.

"Nya, if Soul-kun was here, everything would be funner and less boring!" Blair pouted. "It's so gloomy in here!" And it was, she wasn't exaggerating. All the curtains were drawn, giving the room a rather dark glow. Usually she would draw the curtains back to let in sunlight but these days she couldn't really bother – who was she trying to brighten up the day for?

That person was gone right now.

Maka absently stroked her thumb across the cover of her book. "Mm..."

She locked herself up in her room for the duration of the day.


Day 16

Everything was pissing her off nowadays.

She didn't know why but she was fed up with everyone's attitudes toward her.

Especially Ox.

Ox, without Harvar, had no one to bug, and so he had taken it as habit to bother her during class.

She had Ox for the entire day except for lunch, when she usually hung out with Kid and Black Star by the lunch area or outside in front of the school.

And it was probably the only speck of light in her entire day – Black Star was like alcohol: he had a way of making you forget about your problems for a few hours before they hit you hard again and sunk you deeper into that hole of self-misery.

But it was still addicting and Maka was always eager to hang out with the two boys during break.

"I expected better from you, Maka." Ox commented snidely, gazing at the 90% she had received on the exam she had taken a few days ago. She admitted she hadn't been in the best of moods and had only studied half of what she usually did, which would explain the less than perfect score.

She had missed two questions out of twenty.

"Aren't you supposed to be top of the class?" He continued. Maka's hand fisted around her pencil. He was already attacking her ranking! The nerve of him! "Even Kilik got a better score than you!"

"Doesn't Kilik usually get good scores?" Maka forced out.

"Usually." Ox conceded casually. "But he doesn't usually get better scores than you."

"I only missed two multiple choice – I was in a hurry, that's all."

Ox snorted in laughter. "Two multiple choice? Multiple choice? The answer was basically staring you in the face and you missed them? I expected you miss the fill-in-the-blanks but not the multiple choice!" He stuck his nose in the air, an insufferable smirk grazing his lips. "Some top student you are."

Maka could feel her pencil break in half in her hand. Her breathing was hard; she was on the verge of kicking her chair back and letting the snotty boy have it when a firm hand landed on her shoulder.

She shifted dangerous green eyes, having subconsciously activated her Soul Perception, to meet with Kid's calm amber ones.

"Yo, Ox, don't you have some else to bug with your dorky crap?" Black Star said from beside her, flicking a paper airplane in his direction. "Who cares if Maka didn't get a freakin' one hundred – it was just a dumb test! It doesn't even count for our grade – Stein said so!"

"I know." Ox smoothly replied. "I just expected better, that's all."

Maka bristled at his words again, grinding her teeth together. One more word – one more word and he was going to kiss her fist – !

"Ox, I believe Kim is calling for your attention." Kid said frostily. "I would heed her calls, if I were you."

"EH? KIM? I'M COMING, MY LOVE!" Ox pranced off with hearts in his eyes, only to get harshly shot down by Kim, who had taken to speaking with a few of the girls in the class.

"Maka, are you alright?" Kid said, carefully.

Maka rigidly let go of her pencil, the two cracked pieces clattering noisily against the desk, and sat back in her chair. She exhaled a slow breath, raising normal but weary green eyes to both boys. "Thanks you guys. But I'm fine now, really."

Black Star gazed evenly at her for a second before yawning and stretching his arms over his head. "Hey, Maka, Kid, you guys wanna' ditch the next class? I'm starving and the school lunch sucks! Let's go get some burgers!"

Kid caught on immediately. "Sure. Maka?"

Maka stared at Ox, who caught her burning glare and returned it with a snarky smirk of his own.

Ditching would be like giving in.

She wouldn't be able to face everyone if she agreed to Black Star's offer...

"No, thanks. You two go ahead without me." She briskly dug in her bag and took out her folder, which kept all of her work so far. "I'll take notes for you two."

Black Star and Kid exchanged looks before the blue-haired boy shrugged off her answer and called Kid to follow him, leaving Maka alone in her row; a broken pencil and a desk the only thing separating her from pummeling her rival into the concrete.


Day 19

So maybe thing's weren't as bright and shining as she pathetically made herself believe.

Maybe Soul actually played a bigger role in her life than she had ever thought.

A far bigger role.

She sat on her bed with her knees drawn up to her chin, gazing emptily at her rumpled bedsheets.

She didn't understand this feeling of in-completion she had been experiencing more and more frequently. It was hindering her ability to concentrate at school and it was making her so irritable and plain moody.

The past few days have been threatening to snap the little patience she possessed and Ox's constant taunting was only making things worse.

She wouldn't know what to do if Kid or Black Star weren't there to keep her temper in check and stop her from doing something she would regret.

Maka sighed softly to herself and slid off her bed, blaming her gloominess on the cold as she left the small comfort of her room to head into the kitchen, where she opened the refrigerator only to stare at a carton of orange juice.

A carton of orange juice that would have been open and half-empty had Soul been there, with her.

Not on a trip.

Without her...

She slammed the door shut and slumped against it as if she had just seen the most terrifying thing in her life. She pressed cold fingertips to her eyes and gulped in deep breaths, struggling to cope with the loss and emptiness she felt weave around the delicate curves of her heart.

She shouldn't feel so unbalanced; uncoordinated; lonely; empty...

It was just Soul.

It was just her partner.

It was just her weapon.

... It was just her best friend.

Possibly her life line.

Possibly the one person she could trust unconditionally.

Possibly the only guy who knew her both inside and out – better than her own mother, her stupid but loved father, her overbearing relatives and snotty cousins.

"Ugh, stop it, Maka! It's just Soul!" She shouted at herself, vigorously scrubbing away the tears that had managed to drip down her cheeks. She wouldn't cry. That would just be embarrassing and stupid since he wasn't dead and he hadn't left her with the intention of never coming back. "It's just Soul."

It's just the one guy who could melt her with a single press of a piano key.

The one guy who understood her even though he denied it half the time.

She stormed back to her room and buried her face in her pillow for the rest of the night.


Day 22

Eight days.

Eight days and he would be back.

Eight days and she wouldn't have to bear with the loneliness, the emptiness, the gloominess that had taken residence in her home and person, nor the constant sighs and itch to hit someone over the head, preferably someone with white-hair and red eyes, with her textbooks.

Just eight days.

"Still not finished yet, Albarn?" Ox's voice rang from above her. Maka's pencil dug into her work. Now the dark lead mark on her paper would ruin the perfection of her work and that was enough to make Maka boil with rage.

Black Star ditched class today.

Kid was too immersed in the writing of his name, as he had finally begun to get the K in his name perfectly symmetrical, to notice the menacing aura that had enveloped Maka.

"We still have ten minutes, Ford." Maka hissed.

"Yes, but as top of the class, I expected you to be finished by now."

"Finishing first doesn't prove my intelligence." Maka frostily stated. "It would just prove that I don't think things through clearly enough."

Ox narrowed his eyes. "What are you trying to say, Albarn?"

Maka rose cool green eyes. "I'm saying that the earlier you finish, the more prone you are to making ridiculous errors because you are rushing through your work."

"I checked my work over." Ox stated. His eyes narrowed in challenge. "Twice."

"I check my work over while I'm completing it." Maka smirked, tauntingly. "Twice."

Ox sneered and turned away from her, leaving her to bask in the sweet victory over her rival.

She noticed the slight smile on Kid's face as he finished shading the K in his name.

He looked up to greet her with an approving nod.

That was probably the best day she had had since Soul left.

Too bad good things didn't last very long.


Day 25

"WHOOO!" Black Star hooted proudly, literally being the commentator for the fight taking place below. "GO MAKA! YEAH! BEAT THE SHIT OUTTA' THAT FUCKING NERD!"

"NO! MAKA, WAIT—!" Kid desperately watched as Maka and Ox threw hits at each other. The substitute that had been teaching their class rose in alarm, just as Maka vaulted over another desk and allowed Ox to get intimate with the sole of her boot.

He staggered back but gripped her ankle in time, throwing her harshly to the side. She rolled but regained her footing immediately, snarling out his name in a way that made Kid shudder.

She was more than angry – she was livid, and he could only imagine what Ox had said this time to provoke her in such a violent manner.

"Maka! Ox! Please, settle down!" The substitute hastily tried to calm them down, the entire class now shouting and hollering for them to continue; even going as far as placing bets on who would get the last laugh before the teachers interfered. "CLASS! CALM DOWN! MAKA, OX—!"

"That's it? That's all you got, Albarn?" Ox spat out some blood, Maka shoving herself away from the wall Ox had kicked her in.

"Fuck you, Ford." The class gasped at her vicious reply. It wasn't everyday Maka Albarn, model student, swore like that. "You're going to regret ever saying I should ditch with Black Star!" And she dove right after him, Black Star's crazy howls for her victory fueling her onward.

In all honesty, the comment he had made shouldn't have provoked her in such a way.

But it was just the way he said it – so haughty and condescending – that blew her fuse.

She suddenly didn't care how this fight would circulate the whole school in a days time, how she would definitely get in trouble since their substitute wasn't allowing the fight and they were still going at it, or how this might affect her in the long run as Ox punched her squarely in the stomach.

Her breath knocked out, Maka forced her foot to hook around his ankle, effectively tripping him forward. She put all the power she had left into that one knee to his stomach, just as Sid slammed the classroom door open and bellowed for order.

But Maka was content – she had gotten the final blow and he was still wheezing for breath, as Sid and the substitute put as much distance between them as possible.

"Maka, you do know what this means, right?" Sid said, as she regained her breath and rested a hand on her stomach, which she knew would be bruised by tonight.

Ox hadn't held back but anything less would have been insulting.

"The Dean?" Maka quietly answered, earning a nod from Sid. Soul and Black Star were quite friendly with the Dean of their school, a bulky and burly man of fifty who was infamous for his lectures. Now she was finally going to see what made Soul and Black Star snicker so much whenever they spoke about him. "Okay. I'll go."

"I'll escort you there." Sid offered, more out of protocol than comfort. "C'mon, Ox!" Sid waved him over. "You're coming with me to the Dean, too!"

"I suggest sending them separately." The substitute advised, catching the dark look in Maka's eyes when she glanced at Ox. The boy didn't look too pleased with her, either. "Another fight might break out between them."

"Hm." He didn't think so: Maka was usually level-headed and didn't get into these types of fights, and one fight wouldn't necessarily induce another one. He was sure, after releasing all the frustration in this one fight, Maka would be apt enough to hold back from punching the boy's face in again. But he agreed with the man for the sake of humoring him. "Taking precautions was something I used to do when I was alive. I guess I'll do the same now that I'm dead. C'mon, Maka – Ox, I expect to see you at the Dean's office in five minutes tops, you hear me?"

"Yes, sir." Ox bitterly said.

"Good."

It wasn't so bad, all things considered.

At least now Maka had something to talk about with Soul when he returned – The Dean made funny faces when he yelled at her and his sentences were so choppy and poorly phrased that it was hard to take him seriously.

Maybe that's why Soul and Black Star laughed at him so much behind his back...


Day 28

"Aw, man, it's great to be outta' that stuffy classroom!" Black Star sighed in relief, cracking his neck and knuckles to relieve stress.

"I have to admit – it is quite nice to be out in the open today." Kid glanced at the brilliant blue sky, the laughing sun that hovered over the guttered clouds. "Do you think Deathbucks still has that special on their caramel coffee's?"

"I think that promotion ended yesterday, Kid." Maka added, grunting when she flexed her stomach muscles accidentally when she stretched. There were two bandages in a crisscross on her cheek from being shoved to the board and having the sharp edge of it dig into her skin. Some bruises from Ox's punches were visible on her stomach, arm, and the side of her lip, which was still swollen and red from being busted open.

But Ox was in equally bad shape. His stomach was so sore he could only eat a little at a time and he had difficulty standing up and sitting down – although this worked out to his advantage since Kim cared for him often now. His glasses Maka had broken with her first punch, so he had to wait to get new ones from his optomistrist, and his cheek was swollen from where he'd landed on the floor when she drop kicked him.

Their punishment had been simple: 100 standards, since it had been their first offense ever.

Ox and Maka had raced to see who finished first and ended up completing the assignment in fifteen minutes, at the same time, thankfully.

Maka would have probably punched him again to shut him up and taken the extra 100 standards if she had lost...

"It won't be too long now." Kid commented, sounding happier. "They'll be back late Friday!"

Maka brightened visibly, clasping her hands behind her back. "Yep!"

Black Star grinned at the thought. "Man, I can't wait until Tsubaki comes back! I miss her food!" He drooled at the thought of being able to savor her excellent cooking skills.

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but I miss Soul pestering me to go out." Maka admitted with a sheepish grin. "Everything is so... boring without him."

"Patty and Liz – without their loud voices, the house seems so quiet and dreary." Kid added wistfully: "I wonder how adjusting to their sudden reappearance will fair with me."

Maka silently agreed with Kid.

She wondered if she would stop being so gloomy and short-fused when Soul returned.

A brighter smile lit her face.

She was sure he would make everything better again.

She almost couldn't wait.


Day 30

He was coming home.

He was coming home today.

Maka excitedly changed into her normal clothes, putting some effort in fixing her hair. At least her pigtails weren't so down and drab today – even her usual black trench coat and short skirt looked a little more lively than they had yesterday or even a week ago, when she had been in her darkest hours.

She still looked a little beat up – mostly because of the bandages across her cheek and her busted lip – but the smile on her face was so brilliant, it almost managed to hide the injuries.

She cooked breakfast while humming a random tune under her breath, almost dancing as she served herself some pancakes and eggs with a strip of bacon and a full glass of orange juice.

"Nya, Maka-chan, can Blair have some cream for breakfast please?" Blair asked hopefully, as she had been quite the pest to Maka these past few days. But the love-struck man who usually served her free cream was out today and she was craving some of that delicious milk...

"Sure, Blair!" Maka chirped, standing up to serve the cat in her preferred bowl. Blair happily lapped the cream, watching Maka curiously as she finished her breakfast with a soft smile playing on her lips.

"Is something going to happen today? Maka-chan, you look so happy!" Blair tilted her head to the side at the giddy giggle she recieved. She hadn't seen Maka this happy since... two days before Soul left on that field trip.

"Soul's coming back today!" Maka reminded brightly. "He's finally going to come back home!"

"Oh! Yeah! Soul-kun is coming back today! Blair almost forgot she must put on her sexiest outfit to welcome him back!" Blair nodded to herself, laughing when Maka snapped something nasty at her and tried to kick her with her foot.

"You better not, Blair, or you won't get any cream from me ever again!"

Blair just laughed and quietly landed on the outside ledge of the window, glad that Maka was back to normal.

School was unbearable, for once. The sheer thought that all of their partners would be back just half an hour after classes ended was making everyone – especially Maka – jittery but impatient with excitement.

Black Star was visibly more boisterous than usual, Kid wasn't drowning himself in writing his name for once, and Kim, even Ox, were far less irritable and annoyed than before.

"Hey, Kid, how about we all go to Death Robbins for some ice-cream to celebrate everyone's return after school?" Maka suggested, Black Star nodding vigorously for him to agree from behind her.

Kid nodded. "That sounds like a wonderful idea, Maka, but we'll have to leave immediately. It seems others also have plans on visiting that particular ice-cream parlor today..." He was talking about the group of girls who were twittering about it two rows down.

"Mmhmm!" Maka beamed.

"Sweet! Then we can go tag on that new building by my block!" Black Star grinned widely at the thought. He had a few new images he'd like to spray-can on the walls and he knew Soul would aid him in his quest to be known throughout Death City – even if it got them into loads of trouble sometimes.

"NO!" Maka glared, shooting the idea down immediately. Soul wasn't going to get arrested on his first day back from his extended field trip no matter what the assassin told her. "You're not going to vandalize a whole wall, Black Star! That's a crime!"

"Aw, live a little, Maka!" Black Star complained. "I liked you better Monday, when you totally kicked Ox's ass!" He loudly stated, his intention clear as Ox sharply looked up and seethed in their direction. The boy smugly grinned at him before continuing: "Anyway, fine, how about we play a few rounds of basketball?"

"Only if I could sit out!" Maka flatly said.

Black Star shrugged, not really caring. "Sure, whatever." He'd force her to play once they were there.

"Then it's settled." Kid concluded, shading the d in his name. He was almost done – he was getting better at this and he couldn't wait to inform Liz and Patty about it. "We'll pick up some ice-cream and then head over to the basketball courts near Maka and Soul's apartment!"

"YAHOO!" Black Star hooted.

"SHH!" The substitute teacher shushed, earning a sheepish grin from the boy.

"I mean... yahoo!" He whispered.

Maka just muffled her laughter in her hands.

It honestly felt like forever before they were released from the oppressive restraints of school. Maka had literally ran out of school along with Black Star to the designated meeting place, Kid trailing behind them on his skateboard.

Black Star stationed himself on top of a lamppost immediately, squinting his eyes in the distance to see if he could catch a glimpse of the bus.

"We're a little early, huh?" Maka was panting from the run but felt gleeful nonetheless. Nothing seemed to be able to bring her down today, not even the scowls Ox had thrown at her throughout class.

"Half an hour – an hour at most, if there's traffic." Kid predicted, giving his watch a quick glance. "I'm sure they'll be here punctually, though."

"Let's hope so..." Maka muttered, standing beside the Death God while Black Star made himself comfortable on top of the lamppost. Eventually, her high ran low and she opted for leaning against the post while Kid meditated quietly.

She took this time to organize her thoughts. It definitely wouldn't be cool if she started crying or if she appeared too clingy and needy when Soul arrived. She had to plot this out good to avoid further embarrassment – losing her cool during class and going off on Ox had been bad enough on her otherwise clean record.

She still couldn't get over how Sid would give her blank looks whenever she bumped into him in the halls.

They practically read: I'm watching you!

She hadn't noticed the incoming bus until Black Star's excited shouts snapped her out of her thoughts. Although the entire day had been nothing but a thorn in the side for her, that half hour spent mulling over how she would react when Soul arrived went by faster than she liked, ironically.

Maka fixed her coat a little, tucking some of her stray strands of hair behind her ear. She walked beside Kid once more, watching the bus park before them with anticipation punching its way through her stomach.

She could catch some movement inside through the tinted windows but she couldn't really see anything else but their own reflection.

"Here they come..." Kid muttered, and Maka watched the first few students exit the bus with anticipation bursting at the seams inside of her.

Jacqueline and Kim practically ran into each other in a tight hug and Harvar high-fived Ox before inquiring about his injuries.

Maka forced herself not to look at the blank but threatening look she was receiving from Harvar. She knew the boy was protective over his meister but she was just as hurt as Ox was, so it wasn't like they had unfinished business.

Unless Ox decided he wanted to regain his lost dignity... Maka was willing to hold her own against him if it came down to it.

I've been hanging out with Black Star way too much... Maka inwardly moaned, wanting to shake off the thought of becoming irresponsible because of his bad influence.

That would just be tragic, in her view...

"MAKAAA!"

"Eh—oof!" Maka squeaked as her father latched onto her, nuzzling his nose in her hair while she tried to regain her balance. He happened to somehow hit her stomach, which delayed her from shoving her overemotional papa off her body. "P-Papa!" She spluttered, before finally pushing him off her. He just latched onto her legs. How embarrassing! She could almost hear Ox snickering at her from the side... "Stand up, papa, this is really embarrassing..." She bemoaned, ducking her head.

"Papa missed you so much, Maka!" Spirit sniffled wetly, clutching her legs to his cheek. "My beautiful Maka-chan! You've only gotten more beautiful in my absence!"

Maka groaned pitifully. "Shut up, shut up! Please, just shut up already! You're embarrassing me!"

"Yeah, stupid Deathscythe, you're making me look uncool by making her look uncool!" A familiar and well-missed voice added, making her heart swell with joy.

"Soul!" Maka cheered, clasping her hands in front of her to restrain herself from doing something really uncool – like pulling a Spirit and glomping him or something...

"What's up, Maka?" Soul grinned, slouching over to her.

The world around was her melting away from her awareness.

She didn't pay attention to how Liz and Patty practically glomped Kid, making him fluster because they had glomped him unevenly, nor how Black Star eagerly begged Tsubaki for food, the older woman giggling at his childish antics with warm oceanic blue eyes. "How did the trip go? Did you have fun?"

"Great! It was awesome!" Soul exclaimed, kicking her father out of the way with a roll of his eyes. Stein eventually wandered over to drag him away, muttering something about overbearing senpai's while the Deathscythe cried for his daughter. "The training was a total drag but the convention was cool!"

"Really? You better tell me everything that happened when we get home, Soul!" Maka warned playfully.

Soul nodded eagerly. "Yeah. All the other Deathscythes we met were so cool! I even got you an autograph from the top Deathscythe in the world right now!"

Maka sucked in a sharp breath, asking hopefully: "Gale Piercing?"

"Who else?" Soul grinned at her squeal. His eyes hardened, however, when they landed on her busted lip and bandaged cheek. He hadn't noticed them in his eagerness to reunite with his meister. His grin faded to a grim line. "What happened to your face..."

She had almost forgotten about that.

"Oh, this?" Maka laughed nervously. She self-consciously touched the edge of her lip. "I, um, I got in a fight with Ox at school..."

Soul's brows shot up. "You got in a fight at school?"

Maka puffed her cheeks out at his incredulous tone. "Yes, I did! Why, is that weird?"

Soul shook his head, still looking a little bewildered. "You're always telling me to stay out of trouble. And you've never gotten in a fight at school before unless the teacher asked for a demonstration..."

"Yeah, well..." Maka looked away, a pout settling on his lips. Her cheeks pinked at his surprised look. Her eyes locked on Ox and her face hardened before a smirk graced her lips. "I got fed up with him so I showed him who's boss!"

Soul watched the flicker of expressions on her face before glancing at Ox, a slight sneer on his lips. It didn't sit well that his meister had gotten into a fight without him and got out hurt. "Did you win?"

Maka sniffed loftily. "Of course I did!"

He expected nothing less from his meister. "Good enough." He'd deal with Ox later.

Maka fidgeted with the hem of her skirt, her mind coming up blank with what else to say. She hadn't really thought of what she would say once Soul was standing right in front of her – she had been more concerned on not appearing uncool...

Soul shifted his duffel bag on his shoulder, the small smile still on his face.

There were a lot of things she wanted to do but knew she couldn't: she wanted to smack him, she wanted to bring him into a lung-crushing hug, she even allowed the dangerous thought of planting a big one on him in those seconds of euphoria.

Instead, she gave into her weakness for his touch, and decided he could handle her killer hugs, and spontaneously brought him into a tight embrace he returned after brushing away his shock.

She was so full of surprises today.

He liked it.

His chuckles made her feel warm. They automatically extinguished the emptiness she had grown accustomed to over the weeks. His arm was tight around her, one hand ruffling her hair out of their pigtails fondly.

She couldn't find it in herself to care yet.

"Missed me?" He teased, faintly hearing a sniff from the girl. He only patted her head softly, his rogue eyes warm with an emotion he rarely let anyone see. He had certainly felt strung up and twitchy without the knowledge that his meister was nice and safe in her room. It felt nice to finally know she was safe, albeit a bit ruffled up, but safe nonetheless.

Maka nuzzled her cheek into his chest, inhaling the unique scent that was him; her weapon, her partner, and the person who held her very sanity in his hands just as she held his in her own. She tightened her arms around him, unwilling to let him go yet even though her friends were starting to wrap up their own reunions.

"You have no idea, Soul..."