Disclaimer: I always forget these. Nope, don't own it.

Author's Note: To those of you who have read something of mine before, this is a bit more…graphic, I guess. Not tremendously bad, I hope. So, in warning, this contains sexual harassment and nudity. Forgive me?

Author's Note 2: Edited. I don't remember why I wrote the original using "kishin egg," but it was stupid, and it bothered me. So I've fixed it. I think.

It was one of the rare pre-kishin that had had actual training in the use of its chosen weapon. Most kishin fought on raw instinct alone, but every now and then you came across one that had acquired some true skill back when it was human. These ones were more dangerous than the usual pre-kishin. They didn't leave obvious openings, and they didn't hesitate to exploit any openings left open by the technician. They used complicated offensive techniques, parried more effectively, and planned ahead. They weren't always more powerful than the instinct-driven kishin, but they were often faster, cleverer, and more experienced.

Normally, she preferred fighting the trained kishin. They presented a challenge, allowing her to test the true extent of her skill. When she swept her blade through their bodies in the finishing blow, she felt a rush of pure, fierce triumph at her accomplishment, rather than the drained, somewhat disgusted feeling of having slaughtered some pathetic rabid animal that couldn't even defend itself. She learned more from tangling with a single skilled pre-kishin than she did from a dozen untalented ones, even if the increase in her raw power was the same.

But Maka had to admit, this one was really pissing her off.

The kishin almost resembled a human, but for a few subtle alterations. Its young male figure was lithe and rather good-looking, but for the pure black eyes that looked like bottomless pits in his face, the forked purple tongue, and the fingers that ended in short but wickedly sharp claws. He wielded a long, thin sword that looked like it ought to break with the slightest impact, but somehow he was blocking Maka's every blow with ease, despite the fact that Soul, Maka's weapon partner, was an enormous scythe of no trivial weight. The corrupted being moved quickly and gracefully, laughing every time he slipped past Maka. The low, smug chuckle grated on Maka's nerves, eliciting snarls of frustration. She felt clumsy and inept, despite the fact that the monster was as unsuccessful at landing a blow on her as she was at hitting him. The meister tried to force through the kishin's defenses, raining blows on his pathetic little sword that increased in power with her rising irritation, but somehow the thin blade held up, and the evil creature managed to break away from Maka's assault.

Careful, Maka, warned Soul. He could sense through their soul link that Maka's anger was beginning to cloud her judgment, and against an opponent like this one, her sharp mind was her most important advantage. Don't let him get to you so much.

"He's not getting to me," Maka snapped, spinning Soul expertly around her hands to deflect a series of rapid jabs from the pre-kishin. Eyes narrowing in concentration as she diverted a slash from below, she added, "I won't let him get to me."

The kishin licked his lips, looking over Maka suggestively. "I'd love to get to you," he sneered. Baring her teeth, Maka fluidly moved Soul into an upward slash that almost impaled the monster's heart. The corrupted being quickly jerked backward, expression of surprise melting into a smirk as he regained his footing. He laughed at Maka's barely controlled rage before plunging into another storm of lightning-fast attacks. Maka gritted her teeth and fought for an opening to use Soul offensively instead of defensively. She couldn't disengage without risking her skin, and, by Shinigami, there was no way she was letting that damn thing put so much as a scratch on her!

The monster was sly. He weaved his sword in complicated attack patterns, and when Maka shifted Soul to parry, he would twist into an attack on the weak point of her block. Maka was forced to step back time and time again to avoid the blade. She managed to slip her own slices between the kishin's attacks, but something had changed. The pre-kishin now took her hits, dodging just enough to avoid a fatal wound before retaliating with more attacks. Try as she might, Maka could not take the offensive upper hand. The pre-kishin's blood splattered over her and the ground while Maka remained uninjured, so why did it feel like she was losing?

The pre-kishin feinted, taking Maka by surprise. She managed to deflect the jab just in time, but her grip on Soul loosened. Quick as a flash, the monster slid his blade along Soul's staff, and before Maka knew what had happened, her scythe was twisted out of her hands. She watched in horror as he skidded several feet and fell over the edge of the roof. "Soul!" she cried. Her yell was cut off as the kishin slammed his body into hers, ramming her back into a tall chimney. He pinned her there with one of her arms trapped between her body and the brick and the other held down by one of his clawed hands. Maka struggled to break free, but the pre-kishin held her fast.

"Feisty, aren't you?" the monster whispered, bringing his lips close to her ear. A deep shudder ran through Maka's body as the creature's forked tongue flicked out and ran along the rim of her ear.

"Get off," she spat, twisting viciously. The monster was much stronger than her, though, and kept her pinned easily. He chuckled softly and dragged his tongue down the line of Maka's jaw, then down her throat. Maka tried to head butt him, but he just pulled his head away. He clicked his tongue at her.

"Naughty," he chided. Then, to Maka's horror, he lifted his free hand and grabbed her breast. "Mmm," he breathed into her ear as Maka's skin crawled. "Small, but very nice." A growl of fury rumbled deep in Maka's chest and tore out of her throat. She snapped her teeth at the pre-kishin, desperate to do something, anything to hurt him and get him off her. He leered at her. With a flick of his claws, he cut through Maka's shirt. He plunged his hand into the tear and ran his oily fingers over her skin, pinching, fondling, squeezing. Her stomach churned in revulsion.

Maka heaved, trying to pull her trapped arm out from behind her back so that she could use it as a weapon. The kishin leaned into her, his weight smashing her harder against the chimney and sending spikes of pain shooting through the crushed arm. Tears of pain, anger, and terror welled up in Maka's eyes, though they refused to spill over. The monster pulled his hand out of her shirt, running it briefly over her breasts once more, and reached down. Clawed fingers rested on Maka's inner leg just above the knee, taking a moment to rub circles on the skin before moving slowly, inevitably upward. Maka's body began to tremble uncontrollably as the hand ran up her thigh, searing her skin painfully. It reached the bottom of her skirt and pushed higher, probing, reaching—

There was a flash of red and black. The pre-kishin loosed a high-pitched scream, and suddenly, the weight pinning Maka to the chimney disappeared. Maka sagged, shuddering violently, breath coming in ragged gasps, heart pounding erratically. Only sheer force of will kept her on her feet. She watched the howling pre-kishin stumble away in a frenzy, moving to reveal Soul in his human form, one arm transfigured into a scythe blade stained with the monster's blood. The expression on Soul's face was terrifying. His crimson eyes burned with passionate hatred and unfathomable fury. With his blood-splattered face, spiky white hair glowing in the moonlight, and pointed teeth bared in a feral snarl, he looked like a vengeful demon from the deepest, hottest pits of hell. With an animal roar, Soul threw himself at the pre-kishin. He slashed at the evil entity with wild abandon. The creature screamed pitifully as Soul ripped him apart.

This has to stop, Maka thought fuzzily, watching Soul lose himself to his rage. She forced herself to stand up tall. "Soul!" she called. Immediately, the weapon broke away from the pre-kishin and appeared at her side. "Transform," Maka commanded, holding out a hand. Without hesitation Soul did as she bid. There was a flash of light, and Soul's metal scythe staff settled in Maka's hands. "Are you ready?" Maka asked quietly.

Soul's image appeared as a reflection on the red and crimson blade of the scythe. His face was still twisted with fury. Let's kill him.

Maka trained her flaming green eyes on the bleeding monster before her. "Your soul is mine," she informed him coldly. She raised Soul's blade high and flew forward, a battle cry on her lips. In one neat stroke, she parted the pre-kishin's head from his shoulders. The evil being's body transformed into swirling ribbons of darkness and vanished, leaving only a pulsing, glowing red sphere in its wake. Maka skidded to a stop. Turning to face the corrupted soul, she loosened her grip on her weapon partner as he transformed back into a human. Soul snatched the kishin egg and stuffed it into his mouth, chomping down viciously before swallowing. Maka waited for his usual expression of satisfaction to appear, but it never did.

Soul stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked at Maka. "You okay?" he asked gruffly. Maka nodded, not trusting her voice, and hid her still-shaking hands behind her back. Soul stared at her suspiciously, but decided to drop it for now. "Let's just go home," he muttered. Together, the two made their way home, eager to put as much distance between themselves and that rooftop as possible.

Soul paced silently outside the bathroom, suddenly falling completely still every few minutes as he stared at the closed door before resuming his pacing. As soon as he and Maka had returned home, his technician had announced that she was going to go clean up and shut herself up in the bathroom. Soul had gone to wash the kishin's blood off his skin in the kitchen sink and then come to wait for Maka.

He had been pacing for the past two and a half hours.

Harsh thoughts pounded through his mind in a ceaseless circle, and disjointed images of the night's events played over and over again in his head. The sudden cold on his metal staff as he was parted from Maka's grip. That—that—creature, pawing Maka's skin with filthy hands. It was his fault, all his fault; he had let himself be separated from his meister. He was a failure, a traitor. That disgusting creature, how dare it touch his Maka! Falling through the air, landing with a clatter on the ground, transforming, wasting precious minutes finding a way to get back on the roof. He had failed her, how could she ever trust him again? He was supposed to protect her! That thing with its hands disappearing under Maka's skirt…A rage, an insanity, a bloodlust like he had never experienced, so powerful and terrifying that even the black-blooded demon within him had cowered away in the corner of his mind. The disgusting, burning taste of that evil soul sliding down his throat. Her voice, cutting through the hatred, still ready to fight after what had happened to her. God, he was such a failure!

The minutes ticked by with excruciating deliberateness. Even absorbed in his thoughts of self-loathing and worry for his meister and rage towards the dead pre-kishin, Soul listened intently. Unconsciously, he was waiting for a signal that would tell him whether or not his meister was okay. The only sound that reached Soul's ears, however, was the occasional faint slosh of water in the bathtub. Soul continued pad noiselessly back and forth.

The third hour came and went. Unable to bear the silence another moment, Soul gathered his courage, walked over to the door, and knocked. "Maka? Are you all right?"

For a moment, there was no answer. Then, quietly, she replied, "Yes. I—I'm fine." Soul flinched. Maka kept her tone even and calm, but the lie was obvious, even without the quaver he felt reverberate through her soul.

"You've been in there for hours," Soul pointed out, unable to prevent his concern from leaking into his words.

There was a small splash. "I j-just—" Maka's voice began to shake, despite her efforts to keep it steady. "I…just…I can't wash off the feel of—of—of his hands on me. I can't—I can't—I f-feel so dirty!" Her voice cracked, and the raw panic began to flood out. "Please—just let me wash it off! I—can't—I can't bear this—hideous—feeling!"

Soul's heart froze and shattered at the brokenness of Maka's voice. Without hesitation, he put his hand on the doorknob and let himself into the bathroom. "S-Soul!" gasped Maka, immediately wrapping her arms around her bare chest. Trying to summon her strong, stern voice, she demanded, "What are you doing? G-get out!" Ignoring her command, Soul walked right up to the edge of the bathtub and crouched down beside it. Green eyes huge, Maka leaned away from him.

Soul studied her. Her eyes were puffy from crying, and tears slid silently down her face. Her skin was rubbed raw where she had scrubbed it furiously in an attempt to wash away the memory of the kishin's invasive touch. Her arms, draped over her chest, were both badly bruised, one with a clear handprint around the wrist and the other black and blue from the elbow down. She was shivering, despite the steamy warmth of the bathroom, and he could clearly see her quick pulse beating in her neck and chest.

Carefully, Soul reached out to brush his soul with hers. Maka cringed away at first, terrified, but he fed reassurance and compassion into his wavelength, and slowly she accepted it. Cautiously, she let him link their souls. As soon as the bond was complete, Soul sent wave after wave of peace and strength into Maka's soul. Her trembling slowly began to fade, and her heartbeat returned to a more normal pattern. "Deep breath, Maka," Soul ordered gently. She closed her eyes and drew in a deep, steadying lungful of air.

When Maka had calmed slightly, Soul reached out and pried the washcloth from her fingers. Her eyes snapped open. "Soul, what—"

"Hush," he interrupted. He dipped the cloth into the water and began to dab at Maka's face, wiping away the salty tears. Her jaw and ear on one side were pink, so he took special care sponging over them. Maka shivered once more and went still. Soul dipped the washcloth in the water again and brought it to Maka's neck. This, too, had been scrubbed mercilessly, he noted. He made sure to go over every inch of the raw skin, rubbing the cloth in gentle circles, trying not to inflame the sensitive skin any further.

When Soul had finished wiping down Maka's neck he reached for the bottle of soap. Its volume had been greatly reduced since Soul had seen it that morning. He squeezed a bit onto the washcloth and lathered it up. Then, he encircled Maka's wrist with his fingers and tugged her arm towards him. Maka's breath hitched and her cheeks flamed. She resisted his pull, digging her fingers into her biceps to keep her arms covering her chest. Soul caught and held her gaze. "Let me do this," he said firmly, crimson eyes serious. Maka hesitated, staring into Soul's face. Sensing that he meant her no harm, she gulped and yielded to his gentle tugging.

Soul couldn't keep back a quiet hiss when he saw the thin scratch on Maka's breast where the monster had cut through her shirt. Feeling Maka flinch, he forced himself to let go of his anger and focus on her. He rested the washcloth on her shoulder and began to meticulously soap her arm, all the way down to the wrist he still held loosely in his hand. He was particularly careful going over her bruises, not wanting to cause her the slightest pain. When he was finished, he ran the cloth over her arm once more before setting it aside and cupping water in his hand to rinse her off.

By the time Soul finished washing Maka's first arm, she was sitting limply in submission, watching him work with blank eyes. She didn't resist at all as he lifted her other arm, completely exposing her breasts. Soul rested her hand on his shoulder, ignoring the fact that he was getting wet, and continued running the soapy cloth over her skin. He still flooded her with peace through their soul bond, and he sensed her letting go of her tight self-control for once so that the serenity could overwhelm her and erase her thoughts. Soul began to hum a quiet, soothing tune that matched the waves he was giving her.

The next part was difficult for Soul. He was terrified of scaring her. He shifted into a better position, moving slowly to keep from startling her. Hoping she wouldn't notice his hand trembling, he rested the washcloth on her collarbone and carefully slid it down, ready to pull away at a moment's notice. Maka made no movement, eyes still glazed. Gently, Soul began to clean her breasts. He counted out his breathing to keep it steady. He forced his hands to be impartial, but he couldn't keep the tenderness out of his eyes. As if drawn by an irresistible force, Maka's dull eyes moved up to focus on Soul's face. She stared at it, entranced by the unmasked care in his expression, as Soul splashed water onto her to rinse off the lather.

"Maka, I need you to stand up now," Soul told her. He guided her to a sitting position on the edge of the tub. Maka rested one arm around his shoulders and leaned into him, soaking him with the lukewarm bathwater. She continued to gaze at Soul's face with mesmerized eyes as he took the cloth and began to tend to her leg. It was a struggle now for Soul to maintain the serene soul connection with Maka. Images of the foul pre-kishin contaminating the skin Soul now washed flashed before Soul's eyes. The violent emotions of earlier threatened to resurface, but Soul shoved them down, refusing to let them pass through his bond with Maka. He would only let the purest tranquility reach her. He took his time completing his task, making certain to touch nothing but the skin that Maka had scrubbed raw earlier, not wanting to invade her privacy any more than necessary in her rare moment of defenselessness.

At last, he was finished. He had Maka stand, securing her hands on his shoulders so that she wouldn't slip. He checked her for any remaining soap or hidden injuries and then lifted her out of the bathtub, setting her carefully on the bath mat. He grabbed a fluffy towel and wrapped it around her. She stood still as he took a moment to retrieve a few things from the medicine cabinet. She then let him rest a hand on the small of her back and guide her to her room. He sat her on her bed while he rummaged through her closet for a pair of pajamas. By the time he brought them to her, Maka had regained some of her willpower and was able to pull them on without Soul's aid. He stopped her before she buttoned up her top. "Let's do something about that scratch," Soul murmured, sitting next to her on the bed. "I don't trust that thing's claws. I don't want you to get an infection."

Maka watched as Soul applied an antiseptic to the scratch on her breast. She made no sound, though Soul knew that the substance stung badly. He patched the cut with a somewhat sloppy makeshift bandage, even though it was barely bleeding. When he was done, Maka finished doing up her buttons and lay down, wet hair spilling over her pillow. Soul rearranged her legs and pulled her blankets over her, tucking her in. He gathered up one limp hand in his and rubbed it absently, trying to return some life to it. Gradually, he disentangled his soul from Maka's, sending her one more pulse of calmness before finally letting the connection fade. A long, quiet breath, not quite a sigh, escaped from Maka's lips.

Soul sat with Maka in silence for several minutes. He concentrated on his awareness of her soul. Its presence comforted him, driving away the dark thoughts that had been plaguing him. At last, he shifted, about to stand; it was time to let Maka sleep. But as he set her hand down on the bed, her fingers twitched, then squeezed his gently, asking him not to let go. "Soul," she murmured. He looked up to find her green eyes losing their dull cast, focusing more intently on his face. Soul waited. Maka closed her eyes and then opened them slowly. "Thanks," she whispered. "I—thank you."

Soul cleared his throat. He couldn't accept her gratitude, not with the weight of the guilt on his shoulders. He cast around for words to say. "Do you…want to talk about what happened?" he offered. "Or…if you want…I could call Tsubaki or Liz and ask one of them to come over."

Maka shook her head. "No, that's all right," she sighed, unconsciously squeezing Soul's hand once more. "You…you washed the memory of it away." Her eyelids drifted shut. In a matter of moments, she was fast asleep.

Soul let his head fall forward onto the bed beside Maka. "Idiot," he mumbled into the blankets. "You give me way more credit than I deserve." Her grip on his hand did not loosen, and he did not try to free himself. Soon, he followed her into slumber.

By mutual, unspoken agreement, the incident was forgotten. The next morning, Maka was herself again, unchanged on the exterior. She and Soul treated one another no differently than they had before. But, perhaps, on a level that could not be seen, understood, or known, there was something different between them: a bond strengthened, a trust deepened, a door unlocked, and maybe even opened just a crack.