"Okay. Running down the checklist one more time. Clothes?"

"Duh. I've got half my closet in here."

"Okay. Toothbrush and toothpaste?"

"Yeah."

"Shampoo."

"Yeah."

"Hair gel?"

"I don't use hair gel!"

"Liar. Did you pack-"

"I've got everything, Maka! Quit worrying!"

Said blonde meister nervously wrung her gloved hands and bit her bottom lip. The buzz of people talking and trains rolling down the tracks beat against her eardrums as she struggled to hear her partner's words. "I'm sorry! It's just. . .well you're going to be gone for a long time! Stein said it could be over a year before you come back." A patron going around selling balloons – most of them white since all of the colorful ones had already been bought – walked past the meister-weapon pair with the bouquet of balloons gripped tightly in his hand. A few of the balloons nudged Maka playfully, but she didn't notice. A feminine voice crackled over the intercom:

"Train 2B to Crownpoint, New Mexico has arrived and will be departing in approximately five minutes."

Maka swallowed the lump forming in her throat and did her best to hold back her tears. "That's you," she whispered. He wouldn't hear it, not with all of this noise, but he would know. She smiled encouragingly and spoke louder this time. "Now you hurry up and get to Florida and get your ass back here, you hear me Soul Eater?"

"Maka, I-"

"Do have your hair gel. I packed it."

Soul blinked and then shook his head. "No. I promise to kick some serious ass, just for you, okay?" He smiled crookedly and picked up his lone suitcase from the ground.

Maka stared in distaste at his suitcase. It meant he was really leaving. And the train behind him was going to be the one to take him away from her. A swell of emotions exploded in her chest and the tears finally did fall. Her version blurred horribly to the point where she could only make out Soul's outline. She didn't see his concerned look or the way he reluctantly looked back at the train and the people boarding it. She didn't see him loosen his grip on his suitcase, deciding on whether to ditch the mission and just stay home with her. She also didn't see his sad expression when she sprung forward and gathered him in a death grip, burying her face into his chest.

He was really leaving.

"You had better, you jackass."

The whistle echoed through the platform, calling out to the strays who had yet to board the train. It warned them to hurry for it was leaving soon, ready to take them away from Death City and away from Arizona. And it some cases, it was taking them away from loved ones.

"You'd also better keep in touch. Otherwise that witch clan won't be the only one fearing for their souls," Maka said as she brought her face up for air. Her eyes were red around the rims and tears still dripped down her cheeks. If it weren't for the steeled look in her eyes, Soul wouldn't have taken the threat seriously.

"Don't worry. I will. Shit, Maka. Stop being so uncool," he moaned and threw his head back. Just like old times, when they were kids. This elicited a giggle from Maka and Soul smirked, happy on reaching his goal.

"Well I'm sorry if I'm going to miss you!" she shouted. She unwrapped her arms from his torso and instead occupied them by clasping her hands behind her back. She took a step backwards, right into the path of a woman in a cocktail dress running in flip flops. Her albino partner gripped her shoulders and pulled her closer, out of the way and into his arms again. He planted a kiss on the top of her head and hugged her tightly one last time.

"How could you not miss someone so cool?"

Maka looked up and smiled. He'd miss her too.

The train's whistle bellowed and people began running to the train, jumping up into their designated carts. Time was passing by too quickly and was pushing them apart. Maka backed out of Soul's arms and sighed. "You should go now. You don't want to miss your train."

He hesitated and stared at her in wistfulness. As she opened her mouth to reprimand him, he nodded and voiced his agreement. Without another word between the two, he turned and jogged to his cart and stepped up onto the train. Maka watched in turmoil as the doors closed, shutting him away from her.

"Train 2B departing for Crownpoint, New Mexico."

The train creaked forward moving agonizingly slow. Maka felt the slight tug of her heartstrings going with it, pulling and pulling as the train picked up speed and left the platform behind. She thought she saw a spot of white hair in one of the windows, but it was gone before she could be sure.

"Come back safe, Soul," she whispered to herself.

It was time to go back home, but the will to move her feet wasn't there. She couldn't help but stand there as if she was waiting for him to come home, not leave it. She didn't want him gone. But it was a little late for that.

"Soul's a big boy, Maka," she muttered to herself. "He can take care of himself on his own. And so can you." But when the words left her mouth, Maka wasn't so sure anymore. Maybe she had grown too attached to her weapon. They warned against this at the academy, she had personal experience with her parents and common sense just told her to lock up her emotions for the albino and disregard them as a brief infatuation.

Deep within her soul Maka knew it was more. Now that he was gone she was certain of everything. She knew exactly how horrible it would be these next few months without him and she wished it would race by while she stood here. She didn't want to think into it, but that was impossible. Soul wasn't at her side and he wouldn't be for a good while.

Staring off into the direction the train left more tears pricked Maka's eyes. It was no use; her mother always said crying never changed anything. Besides, he was coming back. He promised. Stein promised. Shinigami-sama promised. The mission wasn't difficult. That's why they allowed him to go on his own. Whilst she was required to stay in Death City in case something occurred that would need her assistance. Which, in her perspective, was dumb because what was a meister without her weapon? What was a warrior without their sword? What was a painter without their paintbrush or an author without their pen?

Nothing. They were just another person walking the earth. Another face with nothing unique about it.

Maka sighed deeply and dropped her arms to her sides. Standing here would do no good. It was time to head home. Blair was moving out next week and she needed help packing up her things. She was moving into her friend's – someone else who worked at the cabaret – house since she lived closer to their workplace. Maka dragged her feet around towards the exit with the sad realization that once Blair moved out next week, their apartment would be awfully lonely.

The bouquet of balloons she saw earlier, the one that a patron had been carrying and selling individual balloons to small children, floated past her without their patron. Maka looked around, spotting the middle-aged man jogging through clusters of people attempting to catch up with the escaping balloons. They continued to float above the heads of rushing people, all in a hurry to catch their train before it left them, not paying any attention to the balloons gliding above them. Maka wove through individuals going the opposite way in a speed walk to try to catch the balloons before they got too high. She did – just barely – and brought the bouquet down from the air and waited for the patron to catch up. When he did, he was panting slightly with a smile of gratitude on his face, eyes twinkling in the low orange light the lamps above gave off.

"Thank you, Miss. You could not imagine how much that means to me. Please, tell me what I owe to you for your kindness!"

Maka sweat dropped and handed the man the tangled balloons. "No! No! It was nothing! I just noticed them floating away and decided to grab them! There's no need to fulfill a debt to me." A single white balloon suddenly obscured her vision. She peered around the balloon at the man holding it out with his extended arm.

"I am sorry that it's not much, but it is all I have at the moment!" Maka opened her mouth to protest but the man closed his eyes and shook his head. "You look like you need a pick-me-up. Have you said farewell to a loved one?"

Maka froze in her retort and stared at him. A second was all he needed before he shoved the balloon in her face again, insisting she take it. Gingerly, Maka grasped the balloon in her hand and watched as the man walked off, shouting out his offer for balloons until he disappeared into the crowd, balloons and all. She looked up at her own white balloon and an instant pang pierced her chest. It was the color of his hair. . .

Shaking her head of all depressing and Soul-related thoughts (they seemed to go together right now), Maka continued her trek towards the exit gates, making plans to pick up cardboard boxes for Blair on the way home. She passed through the metal gates, experiencing trouble when the string wrapped around one of the spikes. Bashfully looking around, she tugged on it nonchalantly as if it meant nothing to her. But for some reason, this balloon meant so much to her and if it got stuck-

Pop!

A few gazes turned to her at the abrupt and loud noise caused by the now deflated balloon and Maka blushed a light pink. The balloon string unwrapped itself from the spike and the lifeless balloon flopped to the ground pathetically. A little put down by the brief life span of her new balloon, Maka dragged it to her and picked it off the ground clutching it in her fist. She dumped it in the nearest trash can and walked out to the parking lot.

Something thin and cold gripped her wrist and held her back. Maka turned to find an elderly woman with shimmering silver hair that reached her waist and was braided on both side of her head. She wore a navy blue skirt that reached her ankles and a white button-up blouse, each decorated with aqua and blue-green crystals. The crystals reflected the sun's rays and glowed with the light given to them. The woman wore a white scarf with blue-green rhinestones embedded into a floral pattern around her head, the ends falling down with her hair off to one side. A same deep purple sash wrapped around her waist, connecting her blouse and skirt, did the same. On the left side of the woman's face was what appeared to be a henna tattoo of a lily, the petals on her temple and outside corner of her eye, the leafy stem running down her jaw bone. Her eyes were a haunting crystal blue, so light they almost passed as silver. If Maka didn't have her trusty Soul Perception – the enhanced kind that could see past Soul Protect – she would've believed this woman to be a witch.

"I'm so sorry, my dear," she said softly, shockingly sounding years younger. Not to be fazed from the out-of-place voice, Maka shrugged.

"It was only a balloon. There are plenty in the world."

The woman stared at her with those eyes, the ice cold crystal blue eyes that chilled Maka to the core. They were not just looking at her, but looking into her. She felt it. She knew it. Maka shuddered and looked down at where the woman's hand still gripped her hand to shrug it off. Those eyes, so cold, so contemplating, but what freaked Maka out the most was the undeniable fear and sorrow inside of them.

"Really, I'm fine."

The mysterious woman nodded and let go of Maka's wrist. She bowed her head with grace and muttered a last, "I'm terribly sorry, Maka" before turning and walking away with her skirt swishing around her ankles. Her eyes were a bit misty before she turned around and Maka briefly wondered if she was crying. A wave of guilt crashed onto the blonde meister, thinking maybe she had been the one to cause her tears. She took a step forward to call out to the woman when a loud bell chiming interrupted her. She glanced back at the clock above the train station and swore.

6:30

She had to hurry home and cook dinner and help Blair with her stuff tonight. And on the way home she still had to pick up those extra boxes. Plus, Tsubaki said that she and Black Star were coming over to help a bit and hang out for awhile, to keep her company with Soul now gone. She was happy to know that even with the apartment empty for the next couple of months, she'd still have her friends to rely on for company.

Maka picked up her pace to a light jog and headed down the street. The sun was falling asleep quickly as drool dripped from its open mouth. The sky was turning a light orange and the clouds and faint pink. The sunset was so beautiful and warm it made Maka feel a little less depressed. Maybe Soul leaving wouldn't be as terrible as she predicted.

Maka smiled and continued jogging down the sidewalk, scarce of any of Death City's populace. Sure, Soul wasn't here at the moment, but that didn't guarantee the end of the world. She had her friends who were what she officially deemed her "crazy and dysfunctional family" and for now, that was enough. Soul promised he'd back and she trusted him to be.

An aqua glow caught her eye as she passed a jewelry store and her boots scraped along the sidewalk as she brought herself to a sudden halt. She peered past the bars on the window of the closed store and saw a shining aqua crystal necklace sitting on red velvet, very similar to the elderly woman's she ran into earlier. The necklace triggered her curious thoughts again and while Maka left behind the necklace as she walked down the sidewalk, she did not leave behind those thoughts.

It was so strange, how the woman had stopped her out of nowhere and began apologizing that wasn't even relevant to her at all. And over something as minor as a popped balloon. Sure, Maka was a little sad when her albino balloon, the one that reminded her of her albino partner, died, but it was nothing to fret and apologize about. Especially with such sorrow and fear in one's eyes. What was to fear of a popped balloon? Maybe she was senile or something.

But then. . .how did she know her name?


Author's Comments:

(Okay, this is going to be a long author's note. But please bear with me and read all the way through. I have important announcements in here.)

Pssst! Hey! I'm here again with a brand new story! *tada!*

Okay. Now before you guys who are following some of my previous stories (*coughNYATF,ED,GPcough* )start to worry, do not fret! I am working on the next chapter's for each of those stories now! But the plot bunnies insisted and pleaded that I begin this. And well, you can't resist the plot bunnies! Not with those. . .adorable little eyes and tail. . .

*ahem* Anywho~ This is actually going to be a really short story. Promise. And not one of those "Well I said it'd be short, but later on I might decide on it being longer" things. I am dead set on how many chapters this is going to have. Four. 4. Quatre. Four-in-spanish (no I honestly don't know :P I'm a frenchie). Hear that though? FOUR CHAPTERS EXACTLY.

Truthfully, this was going to be one huge oneshot and then I reconsidered, "Holy shit that's a really long oneshot." Which normally I don't mind, but man. ;_; I need a break, you know? Besides, I'm so eager to get this out and I want everyone's opinion. And the third reason I did it is to make it a bit suspenseful (it hardly is though).

Okay, so explanations now:

NYATF (this is for my TT friends who happen to read my SE stuff): I was going to write the next chapter this weekend, but I started writing it in my Civics class in, you guessed it, my Civics notebook. I didn't deem that important enough to take home, so it's still in my locker. So I didn't write any this weekend. ^^; I'll start more tomorrow though. Expect an update sometime this month though.

ED: I know! I only have the first chapter done! And you have every right to be mad! But I got stuck on the second chapter. ;_; Horribly stuck. But I figured a way out, so now I'm writing most of that chapter. Expect an update sometime this month.

GP: Hey~ It's been a month and I wanted to have at least a bi-weekly thing going. Look how that's turned out. ^^; But I've actually written half of the 5th chapter (WARNING: it's kinda long. I'm only half way and I've already gotten 13 pages). Then again, that's on paper. ._. But in my defense, it's college ruled (more lines per paper) and I wrote really, really small. So it'll still be a really long chapter. I would give you guys a preview, but I haven't even begun typing it and I won't start til later this week. So expect an update sometime next week (if not, feel free to slit my throat).

Really sorry for the delays guys. So many ideas, so little time. T^T

And lastly, I have set up a poll on my profile for a new story I'm thinking about. I won't tell you here, but I'm pretty sure you'll be able to guess by the answer choices. I BEG YOU to please, PLEASE take this poll. Each answer choice will develop a different plot line (I have ideas for each one). So whichever wins will be the plot I go with. So please take a minute of your time to take this poll! :)

Please review so that no more balloons are popped. ;_; They have feelings too you know.

Until next time~!