Warnings: Completely AU. Crack. Disjointed. Lazy. Rushed editing. Only vaguely related to Valentine's Day. Bad language. SoMa, TsuStar, hints of LizKid, SteinMarie? SteinMedusa? SpiritMedusa? Blatant SteinDessert.

I do not own Soul Eater, Target, Olive Garden, McDonald's, Benihana, Play-Doh, The Chappelle Show, or claim that any legal process described in this fic is accurate and/or realistic- most notably insurance companies and the justice system- and is purely for comedic purposes. I have seen a snapped tie-rod, though.

Got a Problem?
Part one

Why am I doing this?

She asks herself this, standing in a very pink and red-garbed grocery aisle, with different brands of chocolate chips in either hand.

She's eighty percent positive that more than just a handful of people would misunderstand her intentions if she gave them Valentine's chocolate. For one, she isn't at an appropriate age for giving people valentines. Two, she isn't romantically interested in any of the people she is planning on giving chocolate to, and will have to suffer the repercussions. Three, she doesn't know jack about cooking in the first place.

But Tsubaki's words, muffled from around the corner of the cubicle wall, had carried a stupid kind of optimistic magic while they'd been sitting in the drab gray of cube farms and beige computer stations. Maka is unable to delete them by any process she knows.

"Valentine's isn't just about showing love to your boyfriend! It's like a chocolate-themed Thanksgiving! It's about showing your appreciation for everyone you care about."

It felt like a good idea, at the time.

Then again, at the grocery store, barely escaping death dealt by psychotic women with shopping carts and surrounded by a mob of stressed-out men, Maka wonders if she had temporarily suffered a lapse in sanity at work, earlier.

Her gut sinks at the thought of having to wrestle her way into a check-out line. She's just about to give up on this ridiculous plan, reaching out to put the chocolate back on the shelf, but she feels hungry eyes on her, making her skin crawl. Glancing to the side, she spies a very attractive woman, shopping cart filled with feathery, sheer, questionable ensembles. Her eyes watch her like a hawk.

Maka realizes she's in possession of the last two bags of chocolate chips in the entire aisle.

It's childish stubbornness that's making her put the chocolate into her hand basket. She knows this. She berates herself while simultaneously giving the woman a sheepish grin while fleeing to the crowded check out counters. So what if she doesn't have a boyfriend for Valentine's Day? Who would want to wear frilly, see-through lace just so a man could get his perverted rocks off because sex is expected on a certain day? What a load of bull.

Maka promises to at least make enough Valentine's chocolate to leave at her mother's grave, to make up for her idiotic pride.

"Tsubakiiii," she pleads into the phone, the lobby attendant giving her a bemused glance.

"I'm so sorry, Maka! I know I said I would help, but I completely forgot! And now I'm going out tonight-"
"Tell me it's NOT that midget with the stupid hair. I need to hear these words."
"I kind of like his hair..."
"Uhhg! He's so obnoxious! Don't complain when he turns out to be a womanizing asshole and that the chocolates you get from me taste awful!"
"Love you, Maka! I'll make it up to you, I promise!"

After disgruntled goodbyes, Maka hands the phone receiver back to the abnormally muscled- but still somehow benign-looking- man behind the counter. "Thanks, Mr. Barett. Ahh, I guess I ought to head to the library before it closes. Maybe I can find Baking for Dummies or something."

"The library?" The man asks, making a bewildered face. "That's on the other side of town, isn't it? We just got that internet kiosk put in," he gestures to the corner of the lobby, "Why don't you use that instead?"

"Maybe I would some other time, but I spent my extra cash on stupid Valentine's chocolate, and I need the rest of my budget for rent and that oil change I've put off for too-many-thousand miles," she hurriedly explains while wrapping her scarf tightly around her neck and heading out the lobby doors. She calls out, "Don't get robbed while I'm gone!"

"Don't get robbed, yourself!"

Mr. Barett doesn't have a clue. She may be small, but she knows self-defense and how to walk through someone's kneecaps. Which is what she'll do, she decides, shutting her car door loudly, when she finally catches the attention of the smelly thug in the free parking zone three blocks from the library.

Seriously? She can smell him from five yards away, and she's upwind.

"Ay. Check out Pigtails over there!"

She had thought there were three of them, but she realizes the third figure is the other two's recent victim. She only catches a glimpse of the old man, sagging and coughing against the tailgate of a pickup truck. Smelly hangs back while his scraggly, saggy-pantsed counterpart struts over.

Well, he has kneecaps too, she muses.

"Hey girlee. What grade you in?"

Maka discreetly shifts her weight to the balls of her feet. The library closes in less than an hour, and that old guy probably needs some medical attention. She wishes they'd hurry up so she can get this over with. Smelly gives the old man a kick to the ribs like an afterthought before joining his companion. Scraggly wraps her left tail of hair around his grimy finger.

"Does it matter?" She replies.

Scraggly grins lecherously. "Guess not. Let's spend some quality time together for Valentine's, yeah?"

"Pass," she says blandly.

Scraggly raises a pierced brow, skeptically. "Babe," says Smelly, whose breath is somehow even worse than his body odor, "-we isn't givin' you an option, unner'stand?"

Old Guy in the background mumbles something that sounds a lot like "Leave her alone," but his voice is too hoarse to really understand.

"Don't you two have better people to mug than the elderly? I mean, that's kinda low, isn't it?"

"The elde- what, this guy?" Smelly says, thumbing behind him incredulously. He laughs. "Don't worry 'bout that fag."

"Yeah, don't change the subject," Scraggly sneers, yanking on her hair.

They always go after the pigtails. Every guy has a thing for handlebars. Sick perverts. Maka is twisted and pulled forward into Scraggly, but she does as she remembers, bringing up a foot and simply walking forward. She has to guess where his knees are, because his pants are so saggy and misleading, but she guesses correctly- stepping through his knee and feeling the snapping crunch through her worn winter boots.

Scraggly howls painfully into her ear, and he drags her to the ground as he collapses. Smelly is only now just starting to react, having not exactly seen what had happened.

"You fucking bitch! I'll fucking kill you!"

She doesn't exactly remember what happens, herself, in the next twelve seconds, only that muscle memory takes over from hours of self-defense courses, and that her elbows and heels of her hands are tingling and achy once both thugs are grounded. Then she realizes that the old man is standing next to her, hunched over and gingerly rubbing the knuckles of one gloved hand.

"Came to help, though I guess I didn't do all that much."

Maka screams at the top of her lungs.

"WOAH woah woah. Whoa. Calm down."
"Y-y-you were like eighty years old a second ago! And beaten up!"
"Of course I wasn't, and they got the jump on me, okay? Can't believe I was saved by a- a- fifth grader or something..."
"I'm twenty-three, you creep!"
"What? Seriously?"
"You're welcome. Oh god, you're bleeding..."
"Ah- oh. No, that's motor oil. I'm fine, really. He just choked me a little and I might have... blacked out or... man, this is really lame."
"You.. You're sure you're okay?"
"Yeah. Though I'm pissed. And I want my fuckin' wallet back. Not like there's anything in it, but it's the principle of the thing. OI. Which one of you sleazebags took it?"

"You don't have to ...babysit me, you know."
"Well they busted my cell, and you apparently don't have one- which is the craziest thing I've ever heard, by the way- and I doubt anyone else called the cops. What if they got the jump on you, instead? I don't think they'd just choke you a little, no disrespect or anything."
"I'm just saying, you look really uncomfortable, here."
"'Cause it's a library. ...I'll get over it. Think of it as a thank-you. What're you doing in this nerd sanctuary anyway? Haven't you ever heard of the internet?"
"Nerd sanctuary? 'Haven't you ever heard of the~' YES I've heard of it, jerkwad-"
"I can't afford a computer, let alone a net connection, so... yeah. And I need to make some stupid cupcakes."
"Cupcakes. You got a problem with that?"
"Just figured you to be a cookie person, is all, ...Cupcake."
"Ow! What the hell! What the fuck did you- Baking for Dummies? What kind of lame chick are you?"
"Shut up! Go away! Go home! Go..get mugged!"

Maka had felt slightly guilty when he stormed out earlier (okay, really guilty), but that old-but-not-old guy had been obnoxious! And creepy! White hair? Really? He hadn't even taken off his archaic, dorky goggles inside the library, and he essentially calls her a nerd!

She doesn't want to admit it to herself, but she glances out the windows of the library in cautious paranoia before she leaves- the agitated librarian locking the doors behind her. Maka doubts those two lowlifes are still nearby, but she had, admittedly, pegged that weird guy as the type to stick around even though he had said he was leaving. However, she sees no sign of him outside. That.. jerk.

Even though she told him to get mugged...

She'd have to leave more cupcakes at her mother's grave. Kami had always tried to convince Maka that not all men were jerks, and here she is, being even more of a jerk to one who had tried to make sure she didn't get raped on the way back to her car.

Sorry, Mom.

She doubts she'll see him again, (she doubts the events had actually happened, and that the man with strange white hair is actually from this planet) but just in case she does, she promises to thank him, even if he had been irritating enough to make her throw a book at his stupid head.

Maka makes it to her car without incident, though she's violently startled by the sound of an engine roaring to life at the nearest stoplight. In the corner of her eye, as she's opening her car door, she sees a streak of black and orange pass underneath partially burned-out traffic lights. She thinks she sees a hint of pale hair and a lopsided motor oil stain, but she tells herself it's a trick of the twilight.

"Thanks," she murmurs quietly anyway, to her steering wheel.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Tsubaki asks warily, sitting across from her at the small, business-provided cafe. Her obsidian hair is braided, today, with a thick forelock of fringe constantly falling into her eyes.

"I'm not even sore. I'm fine."
"Maybe you ought to start carrying mace or-"

"Just tell me how your date went," Maka interjects, sipping from her overused water bottle and rolling her eyes.

Tsubaki slaps her hands flat on the table in excitement. "HE'S SUCH A GENTLEMAN."

"Whaaat? That loudmouthed jerk with the snow shovel?"
"YES. He is! I mean, not a jerk, but a gentleman. He pulled out my chair for me and everything."

Maka shoots her coworker a skeptical look. "And where was this chair?"

"Okay, so it was just Olive Garden, but-"

J-j-just Olive Garden...!

Maka's eyes glaze over, thinking about the last time she'd been to an Olive Garden, or a restaurant, or even a McDonald's. She's dismayed that she doesn't remember the last time she'd been anywhere.

"-But when he's by himself, he's actually kind of shy! It was so adorable and I WANT. YOU. TO MEET HIM."

Snapping out of her culinary reverie, Maka chokes on her drink. "What? No way. You don't need my stamp of approval, Tsubaki. I mean, you know my record with guys.. I'm just going to point out all his flaws, and then you two will fight about it, and then you'll hate me forever, and I don't wanna be the one-"

"He has a hot friend."
"-to break up your thing with that monkey- wait, what? Like I care!"

"MAKA pleeeease!" Tsubaki dances around in her chair, squirming with anxiety.

"Please, what? What're you.. no. NO no no NO! I don't want to do any double-dating awkward crap; I know that look on your face."
"He really wants his friend to find someone special!"

Maka grimaces. "Then he can go to the red-light side of town and find someone on sale."

"Not that kind of 'special'!" Tsubaki hisses, appalled.

"Yeah, whatever." She takes another bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. "Besides, whatever guy he brings along is gonna take one look at me and bolt right out the door. No one wants to be accused of pedophile charges," she dryly says, mouth full.

Her friend blows the dark forelock out of her face with a scoff. "You're very beautiful, and even more so when you dress to impress!"

"No thanks."

Maka chokes on another sip of water. She's already done in with the single word, but tries to save some grace. "W-What?"

"Valentine's Day. Already have reservations and everything." Her coworker leans forward, looking her dead in the eye. "And he's paying."

She doesn't remember the last time she had eaten meat. "What time do I need to be ready," she says flatly, all business.

"'Cream together butter and sugar until'... What the hell do they mean by 'cream'? And how's it any different from 'blend' and 'stir'? Raawg!"

It's the day before the Chocolate Reckoning. She glances at the complimentary alarm clock. She only has ten hours until the fourteenth of February, and she had only been successful in destroying her tiny nook of a kitchen. Maka had been working all morning and skipped lunch to tackle the chocolate cupcake challenge, and maybe also to keep busy in attempt to not think about being bribed by food to go on a blind (and double) date the next evening.

Her date better not take a liking to her and expect sexual mischief just because of depraving, commercialized holidays.

...Depraving, commercialized holidays in which she had become suckered into participating out of a combination of Tsubaki's brainwashing and a self-imposed guilt trip, like an idiot.

'Show appreciation for everyone you care about!' At this rate, all the people I care about are going to die from food poisoning. Happy Valentine's!

Though the library had been a gold mine of recipes, Maka had been so preoccupied arguing with That Weird Old Guy two nights ago that she hadn't remembered to grab Baking for Dummies on the way out. She had successfully made batches of runny cupcakes, rock hard cupcakes, and cupcakes so distorted that she doesn't possess a vocabulary extensive enough to describe that particular brand of failure.

With melted chocolate spattered on her good jeans and the majority of her tiny stove, she flops into her droopy director's chair and eyes the cookbook open on the counter next to her. Maka thumbs through the recipes, forlorn.

Who am I kidding. I'm not cut out for this.

After multiple pages of intimidating concoctions, her eyes are caught by a glossy photo depicting a plate of chocolate cookies with shiny, crimson frosting. Her face contorts into wry amusement. Maybe Obnoxious had been right and she really is more of a cookie person.

The recipe looks easy enough. There are still some terms she's unsure about, but she has enough ingredients after her multiple failures to give it one more shot. Glancing to the picture attached to the skinny, time-worn fridge, she takes comfort and determination from her mother's smiling face.

She is just finishing icing the last chocolate cookie when someone knocks on the door. "Who is it?" She calls aloud.

"Sid Barett, Maka! You've got a call, downstairs. It's the creepy guy again- I put him on hold."

Creepy guy? For half a second, Maka's heart stops, wondering how the man from Friday night had found out the number of the motel building, but then she regains her senses. Mr. Barett always found Frank's voice creepy. She grabs a handful of finished cookies. She hurriedly flips two deadbolts, slides over the security chain, and opens the door.

"Thanks, Mr. Barett. I'll be there in just a sec. Try these, will you?"

"Maka. Want to do some driving for me? Delivery guy was a no-show."

"Umm..." She's not sure if her car is fit for driving all over town, but Stein's shop is only a few streets from the graveyard. She could give Mom some cookies while she's out. A day early isn't necessarily a bad thing, right?

Besides, the offer of extra cash is too much to pass up. Her real job doesn't schedule her on Sundays. "Sure! Do you need me to stop at the warehouse first or at the shop?"

"Shop. See you in twenty."
"Alright. Thanks very much!"

And twenty minutes later, as she pulls into Stein's Auto Shop's parking lot and sees an oversized pickup truck peeling out in reverse to violently run over the motorcycle parked behind it with a sickening crunch, Maka accidentally stalls her car. She only vaguely realizes her error when her car's abrupt lurching nearly topples the paper bag of cookies out of the passenger seat. Her arm blindly shoots to the side to save them while she watches the curious events through her windshield.

Mangled and abandoned like inconsequential roadkill, orange metal and twisted chrome shines in the wintry sun and leaks various fluids onto concrete. Less than five yards away from the crime scene, the first garage door in a long line of bays chugs to life. It's surreal, she decides, as she numbly watches a man, dressed in stained mechanic's coveralls and a black bandana over his shock of white hair, impatiently shimmy and slide underneath the opening door and proceed to tear across the parking lot after the truck. The pickup squeals away, rear tires spinning and leaving black trails in its wake. It shoves itself into traffic like an impatient toddler, almost causing a severe wreck before escaping.

Not like Creepy Old Guy could have done anything to a massive automobile if he had caught up to it, but she supposes that 'it's the principle of the thing.' The man stands, furious and panting on the curb, watching the motorcycle's murderer get away without incident. The frigid puffs of his breath seem to accentuate his fury.

Maka shakily gets out of her car, blood singing with the weirdness of coincidence. The air is punctuated by whiffs of burned rubber. She hasn't found her voice yet as the man (maybe young man, she amends, after having seen him sprint like an Olympian across the lot) makes an abrupt one-eighty and storms back into the now fully open garage door he had erupted from. Which is just as well, because she hasn't any idea what she should say.

"What did you do this time?" Frank asks, openly smoking in his own, non-smoking, establishment. He releases the button on the walkie-talkie, which gives way to noisy, crackled swear words and frustrated noises. "Afternoon, Maka," he says in afterthought.


"..Frank," she returns in wary greeting. "Um. What just happened?"

"What I'm trying to find out." Depresses the button again. "Friends of yours?" The middle-aged man with deeply imbedded grease stains around his fingernails and knuckles takes a mellow drag off is cigarette.

"Five-Two-Zero-FUCKING-Seven-Eight-Zero-Nine, I'mgonnahunthimdownandshovehisstinking,filthyfrienduphisass-"

"What're those numbers about?"
"License plate, most likely. Repeating so he doesn't forget. There's a box of filters by the door. Northside wants to buy them."


Maka looks away from the big pane of glass behind Frank's cash register counter that gives a view into the long stretch of car lifts and oil pits and a furious man having a mildly-contained fit. She spies the box in question.

"Wait, Northside? To that- that... HELLHOLE? Come on, you know I can't stand going there-"
"Which is why I'm paying you double. Now go, and stop by the warehouse on the way back. Pick up everything on the list."

Maka grimaces at the unperturbed man while he pacifies his mechanic in bored monotone. "Alright, alright, I'll call in the plate." And then, to her in curiosity: "You smell delicious."


She finds her eyes already back to the oil-stain-coated exterior of the Weird Old Guy, pacing back and forth like a very trapped and agitated animal. She explains to Frank, distantly, "I ...was making cookies... for Vee-Day."

"Imean,whothehelldoesthat? It'snotasandcastle,she'saFUCKINGHARLEY-"

"Evans. Evans. Shut the fuck up and get back to work."

The man named 'Evans' stops short in his pacing, and the constant chatter of his ranting over the walkie-talkie in the older man's hand goes eerily silent for a moment before a distorted sigh is heard. Frank adds, "I can put it back together if you wa-"

"Hell, no! You'd turn her into a bus or something- don't touch her!"

Maka watches Evans glare in their general direction through the glass, but he's so far away that distance dilutes its effectiveness. He tosses the walkie-talkie to a cluttered counter top while stomping down the stairs to disappear into a mechanic pit.

"Better get going, Maka. You saved a cookie for me, right?"

Well, Mom hadn't hated Frank as much as she did Papa in the end.

"Surely your father didn't raise you to be so disrespectful."
"My father didn't raise me. Your bill is four-hundred dollars, even."
"Y-yes, mother?"
"Bring me the safety deposit box."
"Um..o-oka- er- ...Yes, mother."
"Shall I say 'Hi' to Spirit for you? He's taking me out to dinner tomorrow night."
"Oh would you, please? If you want, I can give Mr. Stein a big kiss for you when I get back to the shop."
"Here it is, Moth-"
"Pay Miss Albarn and escort her the hell out of my building, Chrona."

"You-you probably shouldn't make her so mad, Maka."
"I'm sorry, but I can't help it. It's too fun! Even if she is your mother."
"But if she catches me laughing, she makes me rebuild transmissions, and without any help from Rag!"
"Ahah~ I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Here, take these. I made them today!"
"For Valentine's Day. Even though it's tomorrow."
"I.. don't know what to do with this..."
"You eat it!"
"But I didn't get you anything!"
"Then I expect something for my birthday. Make sure you save some for Ragnarok! Bye, Chrona!"
"Bu-but.. Okay bye! I guess.."

Maka groans, lifting the heavy carton up to the register counter. "UHG."

"This isn't what I ordered," Stein says, stubbing out his cigarette into a dented soda can.

"That's still in the car. THIS," she pants, indicating the carton, "is Marie's Valentine's Gift to you." She collapses into a plastic chair reserved for waiting customers.

Frank lifts an eyebrow, peering slowly into the container of various pink and red tufts of tissue paper. He doesn't bother revealing its contents, but takes the box in his arms and mumbles "Guess I better put it in the break-room's fridge." Maka's jaw slides open, bewildered. That thing weighs as much as the other box in her car, filled with engine parts.

What on earth weighs that much, needs refrigeration, and is still considered edible?

While Frank is away, Maka hears the walkie-talkie crackle loudly behind the counter.


She glances to the break-room door that Frank had retreated to. She hears no signs of his return.

"Oiii, Stein!"

To pick up, or not to pick up...

Not like she has anything intelligent to say, but the weirdness of seeing the strange man named 'Evans' twice in a row begged her curiosity into action.

"You pimp. If I get in there, and you're eating another cake from some broad again, I'm gonna-"

"It's really a cake?" She asks into the walkie-talkie in her hand. She had nervously grabbed it over the counter, and had ducked behind the obstacle to peek her head just high enough to see Evans look over his shoulder.

"Uh.. maybe? Who's this? Where's Stein?"
"He's in the break room. Eating 'maybe-cake' from Ms. Mjolnir."
"Marie? Oh Jesus. He's gonna get diabetes. But no, seriously, who is this?"

Frank clears his throat behind her. Maka hopes her finger isn't depressing the talk button as she yelps in fright. She guiltily places the walkie-talkie into Stein's open hand.

"WHO is getting diabetes?"
"Err...Certainly not you. Can I close up yet? It's fucking cold in here."

Maka scoots closer to the door, mouthing to Frank that she's going to get the other box out of her car. The man lights another cigarette, settling into his bar stool behind the register while his mechanic makes hesitant inquiries to his boss's silence.

In the parking lot, she notices the winter sun is already closing in on the horizon. Maka checks her watch; it's a quarter after five. She hasn't eaten anything all day, and is feeling a little weak. However, she only has to bring in this box, get paid, and then could buy groceries at her leisure.

The thought of warm broth and noodles sounds wonderful enough to give her another burst of energy. She wrestles with the heavy container of auto parts, sliding it out of the hatchback of her car and hoists it, arms and legs wobbing, to her shoulder. It's more steady once it's there, and she carefully puts one foot in front of the other on the way to the front door of the shop, thick cardboard digging into her neck.

The box must hide most of her features, she decides, when she hears that gravelly voice again; much more similar to the voice two nights ago than the one she'd been hearing over a walkie-talkie throughout the afternoon. "Wh- hey! Here. Let me- How did you even lift this thing?" The weight is taken off her shoulder, but he turns away to take it into the garage without giving her a second glance.

Her body feels very warm, and she blames it on the heating in the building compared to the frigidity outside. Shuffling to the register counter again, she digs into her back pocket and retrieves the small wad of fifty-dollar bills that Chrona had given her. She places this on the counter.

"Did you give Medusa my regards?"
"...What regards?"

Frank smiles a secretive smile. "Good." And he peels a two bills from the pile and nudges them towards her.

Maka stares at them like they're a figment of her imagination. "What," she blurts.

"Said I'd pay you double."

She makes a worrisome noise in the back of her throat. "Even so, I only worked for like, two hours!"

"New company policy for gas reimbursement."

She dimly realizes she's sputtering. "B-b-b-"

"That cookie was good, too."

Maka is too dumbfounded to reply, but Evans does for her, popping his head around the doorway leading to the garage, in interest. "Cookies? Are you holding out on me again?" He sends a put-off glare in Frank's direction, and then, noticing her with astonishment, "Cupcakes?"

Her shoulders hunch up defensively. She notes with surprise that his eyes are an odd shade of brown she's never seen before- the slanted light given by sunset making the color a reddish burgundy. She hadn't seen them the other night, hiding behind dark goggles. Nervous, she slightly holds up a hand in greeting. "Hi again."

"Oooh? You made cupcakes too? You didn't tell me," Frank says, blowing smoke in her face. Maka irritatedly waves it away with a hand.

"That's because I didn't make any cupc-"
"What're you... Are you stalking me?"
"What? No!"

Frank explains mildly, "She's Albarn's daughter. I've known her since she was born."

"Spirit Albarn?" Red-eyes exclaims, dismay clearly written on his face. "That disgu-uhh," Evans tries to cut off his remark, looking to her in mild discomfort at the idea of offending her. She notes with a grim smile the hand he protectively places on his head.

"That disgusting pig?" She finishes for him, looking to the side with a sigh. "Yeah, unfortunately."

"Gross, I'm sorry," but his tone relays sympathy for her, rather than apologetic for his opinion of her father.

Maka turns to back to Frank, displeased. "Are you sure this is fine?" Her hand hovers over the cash in front of her, mind slowly calculating how much food she can stuff in her fridge with this much money, and how she's itching to leave and escape from the calculative gaze of Weird Red-eyes.

"Yeah. But you have to deliver one more thing for me. Actually, two."

Well, surely it'd be worth her lack of hunger for the next month. "Absolutely. What's next?"

"I need you to deliver some of your cookies to Spirit."

"Also, I need you to give this guy a ride home." Frank thumbs his finger in Evans's general direction, like a weird variation of the thug from the other night.

This time, Evans exclaims. "WHAT?"

"Clock out. Your ride is here."

"So uh.. wait. This is your car? Geeze, I shoulda got a better look at it the other night."

Her driver's side door groans loudly as she opens it. She shoots him a confused look over the peeling, rusty roof. "What? Why?"

"'Cause I would've offered you a ride home. This thing is a death trap!" He exclaims, appalled.

Maka stares at him, offended and incensed. "This 'death trap' is going to give you a ride home, got a problem?"

He doesn't say anything- only mildly smiles- which makes the loud clatter of the car's passenger side mirror falling off after he shuts the door that much more apparent. She wills murder to rain on him with a glare. He holds his hands up, innocently. "I didn't even slam it, don't give me that." And he gingerly reopens the door to grab the mirror from the parking lot. He holds it awkwardly in his lap, because he doesn't know what to do with it. The car whines as she shifts into reverse.

"Put on your seat belt," she growls.

Evans huffs, reaching behind him to grab the safety belt. "Not like it's gonna save me," he murmurs.


"Spirit lives here?"

It's not a mansion or anything, but it is a decent-sized house on the corner lot of a residential area on the good side of town. The yard still looks well kept, even though the grass is brown and half-frozen and the two trees in front are bare and skewering the twilit sky. Maka stops walking abruptly on the path leading to the front door. She hears Evans scuff his shoes to keep from running into her. She turns around to look at him irritatedly.

"Look, can you... wait in the car or something? I doubt this will take long and-"

"No way, Stein told me to make sure you did your job. Plus I think your car-" he looks over his shoulder to the driveway, "is intimidated."

So her death trap looked pathetic and wimpy next to a streamlined luxury vehicle- so what? It only lit the fire in her blood to hurry up and get this over with.

"I'm just saying I don't want it to spontaneously combust while I'm sittin' in it, that's all."
"UHG, fine, just... don't say anything."

Maka whirls around and stomps to the front porch, knocking violently on the door with her right hand while her left clenches angrily on the paper bag of what's left of her inventory of cookies. "GIRL SCOUTS," she shouts.

She hears the mechanic shift uncomfortably next to her after twenty seconds of silence.

"Should, uhh, you knock again?"

Her eyes glare at the peep hole in the door. A shadow passes behind it. She remains unanswered. With a growl, she opens up the paper bag, and crouches in front of the mail slot of the door. She meticulously begins to shove each individual cookie into the slot, making sure to smear the deep crimson frosting all over the door like a bloody calling card.

"Woah, hey now-"
"...that's just a waste of good-"
"Would you quit it?"

She glowers at the hands gripping her forearms, which drag her backwards and up to a standing position. "I think you won, Albarn." He says half-jokingly, his nervousness at her alarming behavior still evident in his voice.

She thinks she should be more uncomfortable with his hands taking hers and awkwardly wiping excess icing and cookie crumbs on the chest of his stained uniform. She can't find it in herself to care. Looking with a numb gaze at the front door to her father's house, she realizes she'd essentially mutilated all her hard work by shoving it through the mail slot like a Play-doh fun factory. She realizes, belatedly, that she now has no cookies left to offer at her mother's grave. Her shoulders slump, defeated. She hasn't won anything at all.

"Maka," she says, tiredly.

"My name is Maka."

She doesn't like people calling her by her last name.

And then her stomach growls.

It's at his haughty insistence that they stop at a Subway, once he finds out she hadn't eaten anything since lunch break yesterday with her co-worker. Walking inside, she smells freshly baked bread- the scent soaking into her skin in a sort of euphoria. Her stomach announces its anticipation.

She's never been to a Subway before. There's a long preparation table with two employees standing behind it and looking at them expectantly.

"Can I help you?" One woman says, long blond hair tied up behind her. The other woman behind the make-table, who looks too uncannily similar to the first woman to not be related, says "Oooh, has Pigtails ever eaten here before?"

Oh, that would be me, wouldn't it, Maka thinks belatedly. Somehow, she doesn't feel offended. "Ah, no. I haven't."

Evans, who is peeling off his gloves and stuffing them into a pocket of the coveralls he's still wearing, steps forward from behind her and gives her a bewildered look. "You've never been to a-...? I'm serious. What kinda weird chick are you?" He shakes his head, and then motions for her to follow him.

"Heya, Soul~" The first woman greets warmly.

"Liiiz. How's Crazy?"
"He's doing better, actually. Painted stripes on the mirror to make his hair look even, but he's stopped trying to organize all the folds in the curtains."

Soul? What kind of name is...

Well- her father's name is 'Spirit' so, really, she can't be that surprised. But what kind of person are they talking about? To make the situation even weirder, the smaller version of Liz leans to one side to peer around 'Soul', who is blocking her line of vision, and stares directly at her.

Maka offers a hesitant smile. The young woman grins in reply, waving excitedly. Maka finds herself waving back. Evans starts to order, and she observes intently, trying to learn the process. Different types of bread. Meat. Cheese. Toasted? No, thanks. Lettuce. Tomato. Bell pepper. Onions. Pickles. Cucumbers. Black olives. Pepperoncinis. Mustard. Guacamole. Salt and Pepper. Make it a meal? Yes please.

"That. Is the most disgusting sandwich I have ever helped prepare."
"Thanks, Patti."

Evans finishes paying, empty cup in one hand, bag with his sandwich and chips in the other. He gives her an amused look. "Ta-daaa," he deadpans.

"So what'll it be, girly?" The woman named Liz asks her. Maka whips her head to look at her, and then to all the sandwich ingredients gleaming in the bright overhead lights.

"Everything," she breathes.

"I-I want everything!"

Evans watches her with a peculiar look on his face, idly chewing a potato chip. She gives exactly zero amounts of crap. Maka hums as she eats, overwhelmed with all the flavors and textures and pure deliciousness of fresh food dancing on her tongue.

"You really haven't been here before, have you," he says, amazed.

Maka shakes her head vigorously, chewing. She'd bake cookies for Frank every day if it meant he'd pay her extra and she could eat this smorgasbord. She swallows, and then pops a Cheeto in her mouth. A Cheeto! She'd forgotten how much she loves Cheetos!

"I've never seen someone eat as much as Black Star. I think you might even surpass him, and you're, like, a third his size."

She makes a questioning noise, mouth full of sandwich again.

"Don't worry about it. So.. what do you do, anyway?"

Maka swallows, and takes a sip of Sprite to follow it down. "I do data entry and customer support for an automotive insurance company."

"Let me guess- same policies that Spirit sells to our customers."

Maka nods. "He's the top representative. Been friends with Frank since college."

Evans frowns at her, confused. "Why do you work with him? You don't seem to, er.. like him very much."

"Well- ..do you care if I eat and talk? Thanks," she takes another bite, "When I moved out, I wanted nothing to do with him. I didn't want any of his help or money or whatever. But the company was the only place that would hire someone like me without any experience, so I took the position, as much as I hated it." Swallows. "He works in a different department, though, so it's not like I have to look at him."

There's a small silence as she takes another bite.

"He was home, wasn't he."

She's glad he doesn't ask why her father hadn't opened the front door. Thinking about it makes her sandwich taste bitter. She takes another pull of soda through her straw.

"Soul Eater Evans," he says in his low tenor, hand outstretched and hovering over her mountain of Cheetos.

She eyes his firm-looking palm cautiously. More proof that he wasn't an old man, no matter what she had thought in the beginning. "Soul-what-now?"

"My name."

Maka holds the last bite of her sandwich in mid-air, skeptical. "...'Eater'."

"Got a problem?" He asks, imitating her tone of voice.

She laughs. She wipes her hand on her jeans and shakes his.

"Hi, uhh. So, I need to call in a claim. A pair of doucheclowns ran over my bike yesterday."

She nearly falls backwards out of her chair, causing such a ruckus that Tsubaki hesitantly peers over the wall of the cubicle. "Maka?" The young woman whispers. "Are you alright?"

Maka hastily adjusts the earpiece of the phone. "I-I-insurance policy number, please."

An awkward silence, and she hears him idly sniff through the phone. "...No way. Cupcake?"

"...Way," she shakily admits to her desk, putting a hand to her forehead.

"Huh. I'd complain about how you aren't open on Sundays, but uhh if you were, I probably would've had to ride with Stein yesterday, and then I would be dead now."

"He does cost us a lot of money every time he wrecks," she mumbles into her hand.

"I'm beginning to think he does it on purpose, for spare parts."

Tsubaki makes interested hand-motions. Maka covers up the mouthpiece, stifles a snort, and explains she'll talk about it later.

"Maka. Phone for you downstairs again."

Maka trips while putting on pantyhose. "Ack! Uh! Alright, I'll be down in a second," she says loudly enough for Mr. Barett to hear her through the closed door.

Traffic had been hell. She'd only managed to get home in just enough time to shower, put her hair up in a low, half-assed side tail, and put on the closest thing she has resembling date-worthy clothes before she needs to meet up with Tsubaki at Benihana. She hadn't had time to make more cookies for her mother, and the guilt of that fact simmers in her gut.

She grabs her scant makeup bag and a hand mirror, taking them with her as she thunders down the stairs in hose, pleated skirt, and a somewhat-nice sweater with a wide belt cinching the middle. She's very grateful Mr. Barett doesn't seem to mind that the lobby phone has essentially become her home number. She gives him a questioning look before putting the phone to her ear. He only shrugs in reply.

"Hello? Maka speaking," she greets, out of breath. She balances the receiver between her shoulder and jaw while holding up her hand mirror, hurriedly swiping mascara over a set of eyelashes.

"Before you call me a stalker, let it be known that Stein gave me the number."

She almost stabs herself in the eye.

"Look, ugh, this is so lame. I forgot about a thing I had to go to tonight until like, literally, an hour ago. I need a ride."

Maka blinks, temporarily stalled. She then fumbles with the mascara wand, moves the phone to the other shoulder, and begins on the other eye. "I..I'm sorry, but I really don't have time! I'm supposed to meet my friend in half an hour, and I have no idea where my shoes are, and-"

She hears a hissed curse. "Where're you supposed to go? If it's the same direction, I'll jump out the window while you drive by, if I have to."

Maka laughs despite herself. "It's in that square of restaurants in front of the mall on Carson Avenue."

"Yessss! Have I told you you're amazing?"
"What? I mean, no, but.. "
"That's the same clusterfuck I need to be. C'mon, it's not like I live far, right? I'm five minutes from your place."

Maka sighs, overwhelmed with the absurdity of the situation. She pops and smacks her lips together with gloss. "Wait, what did you say? Now you know where I live?"

"Stein~" he reminds her.

"UHG. I'm never making him cookies ever again!"
"So.. see you in six minutes?"
"Okay, okay, fine- but no complaining about my car!"

And, instead of handing Mr. Barett the phone, she bends through the lobby window and slams the phone herself. Clearing her face of irritation, she smiles brightly to the man. "Did you like the cookies yesterday?"

"I did, very much, thank you. You're running late."

She hears him laughing through a "Happy Valentines Day!" as she sprints up the stairs to her room.

"I am, I am, I am, I heard you!"
"Woah! Yeah, okay, Nascar. Wow. You clean up pretty nice."
"No, really. I'm kinda impressed. ...That's yellow. YELLOW LIGHT."
"No it's not."
"We're fine, it was pink, don't be a chicken. It's not cool."
"Not co-..! Hey. I'm the epitome of cool, you understand? These shoes are so polished, they could reflect the sun and- and- and melt something."
"Too bad it's seven-thirty and no one gives a crap."
"Oh, now you understand what a streetlight is."
"There's a cop on the corner, I'm not stupid. And, okay, maybe you clean up alright, yourself."
"Just a little bit. Maybe."
"Can I get that in writing?"

She knows something is immediately wrong when she shifts into park and Soul Eater Evans doesn't appear to be in too much of a hurry to exit the vehicle, like he's already reached his destination and doesn't need to dash off into the night to a different building. But he does get out, eventually, and leans down to face her through the open door. "Thanks, I owe you big time," he grins, shutting the door.

But Maka, with her horrifying suspicions becoming harder and harder to overlook, reaches forward and turns off the engine. She sees Soul bend down again in her peripheral, looking worriedly through the passenger window when he hears her engine go silent. She jerkily climbs out of the car and shuts her squealing door. Her heels sound conspicuous on the pavement. Soul raises a confused eyebrow, opening his mouth to ask her something she is afraid to answer correctly. Her mouth presses into a thin line when a male voice cuts into the cold air.

"SOUL. Hah, I thought you ditched, you bastard! Why didn't you answer your cell?"

Pale hair, combed and unhindered by bandana, flits around as his head turns to face the voice. "Asshole. I told you it busted the other night."

Oh yeah. By thugs.

"Right, whatever. Who's this?"

And blue, blue, why blue- of all colors under the sun, hair peeks around her former passenger and spies her grimace.

"Heey, weren't you with Tsubaki the other day? In line at the-"
"Maka! I was worried you weren't going to make it! What...? Why is...?"

I should have just stayed home and baked cookies.

Maka sighs, her breath clouding her face. Unenthusiastically, she explains, "This is the mechanic I was telling you about this morning."

Tsubaki's eyes widen. "Ehehe~ ...Hi, again, Soul."

By the tone of Soul's voice, he has suddenly understood what has just happened. "Hey, Tsubaki."

"So uhh," Black Star says, and she physically smacks herself in front of the three people for not recognizing his blatantly obvious name last night at Subway, "-how d'you two know each other already?"

She should have seen this coming from ten-thousand years away.

And the conclusion tomorrow! ..Sometime. Maybe.