Chapter 16- Throw some glitter make it rain

She's so tense when she starts her shift at Chupa Cabra's that she contemplates taking a shot. Or three. Maka doesn't know what she was thinking, taking Tsubaki and Liz's advice. Her routine would have been perfectly fine without Soul's input. It was completely unnecessary, and what's worse-

She doesn't want to think about the stricken look on his face as she ground into him wantonly, about how, despite the erection he was clearly sporting for her, he had gently gripped her thighs and made her stop. It felt a lot like rejection, especially when he had urged her up and off his lap with a "I'm pretty sure you've got the hang of it," followed by words that made her spine cold. "I think you should go, now."

Which is really just stupid because they're just partners. It can't be rejection when there's nothing for him to reject her for. She's being overly sensitive. After all, she's the one who asked for his help, which, she reminds herself, he willingly gave. And it isn't like they're dating or sleeping together (well, sleeping together) or anything, so really it doesn't matter that he asked her to go home.

Cause it's his apartment. Not hers. And they're partners, not together. Which she definitely doesn't want because that would be...foolish in the extreme. Nothing good ever comes out of dating your partner. She's seen those relationships implode enough to know first hand. Still, she knows what rejection feels like, and this is definitely rejection.

She delivers a tray of sub-par domestic beer to a table of rowdy thugs, and she doesn't even bother to respond to their catcalls. She's afraid, she realizes somewhere between the tables and the bar, and it has nothing to do with the thugs and everything to do with Soul and the fact that she's got to admit to herself that she wants him. She wanted to give him that lapdance in a way that had very little to do with the fact that she needed the practice, and everything to do with the way her mouth went dry every time he walked around shirtless or did little things like make her drinks and let her sleep in his bed and took all the shit she gave him with that wry twist of his lips.

She had thought that he wanted that, too. And maybe, she thinks, that's where this pain in her chest is coming from. She wanted him, and thought he wanted her, and he didn't. It's as simple as that. She breathes through her mouth. It's not like it's the first time she's been wrong about this kind of thing. And really, it's probably for the best. So she wants to have sex with him? So what? She's wanted people before and hasn't gotten them. This won't kill her.

Even if it will be a little awkward. Thanks to this situation-this unexpected partnership that's thrown them together-she feels closer to Soul than she has anyone else she's been partnered with before. And that, she is sure, is why she feels so shitty. She doesn't want to have fucked that up because of a little meaningless attraction.

Liz corners her about halfway through her shift with a shit-eating grin that falls the moment she notices that Maka's not responding.

"Ok, spill."

That is pretty much exactly the last thing that Maka wants to do. If she's learned one thing during the course of her assignment, it's that Liz Thompson means well, and as a result cannot keep her nose out of someone else's business. Idly, she wonders if that's how Liz ended up helping Kid out, but that's just not the kind of thing that you just ask someone.

She just shrugs her shoulder. "Spill what?" It's pretty flimsy, and they both know it.

"Did you get an extra opinion?"

"Yeah." Maka wills Liz to just drop it, but the blonde leans a little closer.


"And he liked it," she tries to keep her tone casual, but the elder Thompson remains unfortunately perceptive.

"And that's it?" Liz looks at her intently, and after a short moment, pulls back just a little, her fingertips resting lightly on Maka's arm.

Maka nods. She's trying so hard to keep her face neutral. Soul is her partner, and no matter what Liz or Pattie or Tsubaki think, that's all there is to it.

Liz squeezes her arm faintly, and she guesses that she failed, because Liz definitely is reading something unintended in her features. "You're going to knock them dead," she says, and for a brief moment, Maka is deeply, profoundly, grateful that Liz isn't pressing anymore.

"I'm gonna try," she says, and gives the older woman a small smile.

"You're going to be fine," Liz asserts, and Maka's smile is just a little wider.

He knows the minute that the words left his mouth that he fucked up. She hadn't stormed out of his apartment, but the careful, slow way she got up and nodded, gathered her things, and quietly shut the door behind her was somehow a million times worse. She covered it well, but he couldn't miss the flash of hurt in her eyes, and as much as he wanted to take back his words, to ask her to come back, to finish what they'd started, he can't.

The worst part is that he wants. He wants Maka with a fierceness that startles him, that makes his blood boil and his jaw clench. She's gone, but he can still feel the heat of her, the weight of her slow grind against his lap. He sees her green eyes, focused so intently on him every time he closes his eyes. He groans from his spot on the couch and slowly, guiltily, grinds the heel of his hand against his dick. It doesn't help.

The problem, he knows, isn't that he's attracted to her. He'd been attracted to her the minute she'd snuck into his private room at Chupa Cabra's. The problem is the fact that he knows her now, that she's his partner and he'd like to think, his friend, and he's not any less captivated by her. In fact, he's pretty sure that he's only become more attracted to her. That's Grade Fucking A dangerous, especially immersed as they are in this case.

Soul scrubs a hand over his face, through already tousled hair, and tries not to think of Maka, warm and willing, of her thighs and her eyes and the way her fingertips brushed against him so lightly. He really doesn't think about the way she bustles around his apartment and wears his hoodie because that way lies a special kind of madness.

His dick twitches insistently, and that's one problem that he's going to have to deal with. Soul isn't proud of the way he shoves down the waistband of his pajama pants and grips his erection. He bites his lip, choking off a groan as he strokes himself slowly. Maka had left in enough of a hurry that she hadn't even bothered to take down that damn portable pole, and fuck, he's got a new whole catalog of imagery to draw on now.

He knows that he didn't imagine the way she had brushed against him, the way she'd paused, staring, breath shallow, before going into a filthy grind against him. There was no way she could have missed his wildly inappropriate boner. He rocks his hips up into his fist, and there's just enough of the slick-slide of precum and friction that he doesn't even pretend that this is going to last more than a few minutes.

What if, his traitorous little brain says, she'd stayed? It's no great effort to imagine her lips against his, harsh and biting and sweet-he replays that alley kiss more than he'll ever admit, the way her hand had snaked down his chest, teased his cock-the way she'd pressed against him without hesitation in Chupa Cabra's. He groans, hand speeding up. If he hadn't opened his mouth, she would have stayed, would have maybe pulled down his pants and wrapped her hand around his dick. He would have leaned forward, tasting her neck again, pulled gasping breaths from her mouth and swallowing them down, and she would have been wet, so wet for him as he slipped a hand in her pants and-

His rhythm stutters, and he's coming suddenly and forcefully and all over his t-shirt. Fuck. He sits there for a long moment, brain a little scrambled. The guilt settles into his stomach before he really recovers from his orgasm. It's not like this is the first time his partner has had a feature role in his spank-bank fantasies, but it feels different this time, like maybe he's crossed a line that he didn't know existed. He can't deny that he had encouraged her, had wanted her, and then just as suddenly pushed her away.

Soul sighs heavily, limbs still feeling a little noodly. His shirt is a lost cause; he really hopes that this doesn't end up as an allegory for his partnership, too. He has got to get his shit together.

The last thing that Maka wants after her day is Black*Star's dubious company, but she's fought and lost this battle before and resigns herself to being driven home. Her shoulders tense just a little when he makes an increasingly familiar turn, and she clears her throat slightly.

"Actually, can you take me back to my place tonight?"

Black*Star shoots her a look and a raised eyebrow. "Trouble in paradise?"

She snorts, "I don't know what you're talking about." It sounds more like a huff than a calm assertion, even to her ears.

Black*Star whistles through his teeth and she winces because he's loud even when he doesn't mean to be, and it's amplified in the cabin of his monster SUV. "Oh, little Soul-ja boy musta fucked up good."

She eyes him incredulously because does he even know what he sounds like most of the time? Black*Star blinks back, taking his eyes off the road long enough to give her a knowing look. Maka decides he probably does.

"He didn't fuck anything up." I did. "I want my own bed for a change is all."

"Really? Cause Soul's got a pretty nice bed."


"What? It's a great bed." Black*Star glances over at her, eyebrow raised. She can't honestly tell if he's fucking with her, or not. She is not going to ask, she's not. Nope. Not gonna do it.

"N-nothing. Just, back to my place, please."

"Aight. Whatever, piglet."

"What did you just call me?"

She's tempted to tell Black*Star to fuck right off when he finally pulls up to her apartment, but that would be a lot like punishing Tsubaki for her boyfriend's inability to keep his stupid trap shut. She's still having enough trouble wrapping her brain about the idea of her roommate dating someone like Black*Star. Maka's trying to get over it-every time she thinks something derogatory about the mobster, she swears she can hear Tsubaki's admonition that Black*Star is a man who has done bad things, but he is not a bad man.

It helps, she admits, that he's effectively dropped Arachnophobia like a bad habit.

Tsubaki's already home when they get upstairs, and Maka is suddenly glad that Black*Star came with her, if only because it distracts her roommate enough that she can stealthily sneak into her room. The last thing she wants is another confrontation on how things went with Soul. She's already spent more than enough time dwelling on it. Even still, she pulls out her cell and shoots him a quick text.

Home safe.

She's irritated, not a jerk, after all. She doesn't check her texts, though. If it was important, Kid or Soul would have just called to begin with.

Soul will still be there tomorrow, and she'll still have to survive her first night of being a dancer, and she'll force her way past the inevitable awkwardness because it's not like she's never made shit awkward before. For the first time in a long while, she gets ready for bed before 4 am, she doesn't review the case, and she doesn't talk to Soul, despite the fact that she hears her phone buzz with a text message that can only be him. Instead, she curls into her bed and reaches for the neglected novel gathering dust on her nightstand.

From the living room, she can hear the surprisingly soft murmur of Tsubaki and Black*Star, and the occasional bark of Black*Star's laughter.

The hospital is all bright lights and stark white and the smell of forced sterility, and no matter how much time he spends here, Kid will never, ever get used to it. He moves quickly, shoes tapping forcefully against bleached tile as he makes his way to a little-used, out of the way ward. Kid hadn't wanted to put Chrona in the hospital at all-it makes him nervous with his inability to monitor and control the situation, but there was no doubt that the kid would have died otherwise. Kid remembers the look on the surgeon's face, and knows that it was a miracle Chrona hadn't died already, body broken and torn and-Kid shudders.

What a fucking mess.

He slips through the ward door without any trouble, and is greeted by the alert eyes of one of his top officers. Kid doesn't miss the faint slide of a gun being put away.


"Captain," Sergeant Harvar Éclair acknowledges from his hospital bed.

"How's it going?"

"The usual. It's been quiet, mostly. Just the normal rotation of doctors and nurses."

"And our patient?"

Harvar winces faintly. "Still having the nightmares. Loudly and at length." Kid gives him a sympathetic clap on the shoulder. "Seems to be spending a little more time conscious, at least."

"That good. Has Chrona said anything?"

"Not more than a few words, and nothing I could really make out."

"Well, better than nothing, I suppose."

"I'll say. It's a miracle the kid survived at all."

"No joke."

Neither had been speaking particularly loudly, but when Kid pulls back the curtain separating the two beds, Chrona is very definitely awake and very definitely staring at him, pale eyes blown wide. He takes a quick inventory of Chrona-wrist and leg in a cast, bandages everywhere from what had to have been hundreds of shallow and not so shallow cuts-under the bandages, Kid knows he'd find a wealth of stitches carefully sewn into paper thin skin. Giriko really did a number on the kid, not taking into account the damage that Maka had inflicted. Kid wonders if there's anyway that they can get Chrona in shape to testify against Giriko if he manages to squirrel out of the current set of charges laid against him.

He hopes it won't be necessary.

Chrona's eyes are still sunken, skin stretched tight over bones and so, so frail looking. Even still, it's an improvement. The worst of the DTs seem to have passed, and Kid's pleased to see that Chrona almost looks completely aware of him and the room.

He moves further into Chrona's space, but doesn't settle into the visitor's chair, just-stands. He's not sure why he's so reluctant; Chrona's eyes mostly manage to track his movement across the room. The improvement is incredible.

"C-captain?" It comes out cracked and unsure and familiar, but less than a month ago, Kid wouldn't have ever thought he'd hear it again.

"Hey there, buddy," he says, and offers a small smile. Chrona blinks, and Kid thinks he sees the faint twitching of a lip that could be construed as a smile in another life. "How're you feeling?" he asks. It's mostly cursory-Kid imagine Chrona feels a lot like hell.

"Hurts," comes the barely audible reply.

"Yeah, I know it does, but the doctors say you're healing really well."

"Not me," Chrona croaks. "It's Ragnarock. He hurts. Can you make it stop?"

He doesn't stay much longer, partially afraid of causing a relapse for Chrona, brought on my too much stress. Kid wants to know how much Chrona remembers, how much they can maybe use against Medusa and Arachnophobia, but he doesn't want to push. More than anything, he wants to be sure that they're going to be able to use Chrona to testify at all.

Kid feels something else entirely clench and sink in his chest as he leaves. Chrona blinks slowly up at him, seeing but not really seeing, and Kid bites down on his fear. The important thing is that Chrona gets better, he thinks. One thing at a time.

Ox Ford stares blankly at the results of his analysis. It's been a week since Stein handed over the sample fluid Detective Albarn had brought in, labelled "URGENT," and he still doesn't know what's going on with it. It's a puzzle, and he's determined to solve it. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day, and his other work starts to pile up quickly.

With a dismayed grunt, he pushes aside the sample and pulls out his analysis of the blood sample that Death the Kid himself had brought in.

He knows he's brilliant, and he knows that there is something between these two samples, but he can't get the science to line up. He's missing some key-something that links the two and can tell him what, exactly, it is that this mystery drug does and how it functions. He picks up the phone and dials Stein's number to give him yet another disappointing progress report.

Maka can feel her heart pounding, the hot pulse of blood through her arms, her legs-she doesn't know why she thought that they stage lights were going to be brighter. She stares at them almost every night. Blair likes to keep them low enough that the dancers can make believable eye contact with the customers, so they can "forge a real connection," the manager informed her over a nearly overflowing Manhattan weeks ago. She doesn't know how she forgot that, suddenly.

Liz gives her a crooked smile from the wings and from behind her, Pattie throws both thumbs up enthusiastically. She thinks that she's going to be sick, but she pushes it down. She can hear Blair's silky smooth voice purring over the microphone because she gets some kind of kick out of introducing a new act. Maka swallows and throws her shoulders back, tilts her head up and smiles. It feels wrong and forced, but it's just a performance. She can do this.

She can see the audience past the stage lights, but she doesn't focus on them, not yet. One foot in front of the other, eyes on the pole. Don't think about the heels, don't think about the fact that the stage is kind of sticky with spilled drinks and sweaty palms. The bass kicks in as she reaches for the pole, and Maka exhales, flashing a grin at a random face in the audience as she jumps. Despite her palms, her grip is strong and she spins, quick and easy.

Every so often, she'll catch a glimpse of a face she recognizes-once she accidentally caught Black*Star's grinning face. She's not entirely sure that he doesn't give her a thumbs up. Even with all of her practicing, and her general level of fitness, she can start to feel the strain in her arms as her first song begins to wind down, and she's only got a brief respite as Ke$ha fades out and her second song comes on. It's slower, harder, and she can't remember why she chose it now, other than it's hard to lose the heavy beat of a NIN song. She slides down the pole to engage in her floorwork, and focuses on dancing, on the lights, the music, on anything but the brush of hands she doesn't know and the slide of money against her skin.

When her set ends, it's to catcalls and clapping, and Liz is beaming at her from the wings as she tries not to stumble off the stage. Her arms hurt, her legs kind of hurt, and as the adrenaline winds out of her system, she can feel the bile start to rise in her throat again. Maka gives Liz a shaky smile.

"I knew you could do it," the blond tells her, hand warm on her shoulder.


Liz smiles at her again as she slips past the curtain, and Maka feels a little of the tightness in her chest loosen. That lasts about as long as it takes for Blair to find her. The woman is practically glowing, her well-manicured fingers reaching out to pinch Maka's cheeks before she can even register what's happening.

"Oh, you little gem! I knew when I hired you you had potential!"

"Um-" Maka remembers that conversation, and she's pretty sure Blair thought no such thing.

"We'll rotate you on again in another hour, but we'll keep it light-I know it's been a while since you danced regularly and oh we are going to have to do something about your costuming and-" Maka lets Blair's chatter wash over her, hearing her words, but not really paying too much attention until she hears the word "topless," and feels that slight panic rising again.

Later, she doesn't fully recall getting through the rest of her shift. She knows that she did another round on the stage, vaguely remembers that her reception was good, if the noise was any indication. Maka had tried to focus on the crowd, on picking out individual faces, on recognizing them and matching them with the data she's been compiling over the last month or so. On the plus side, it keeps her from getting too hung up on the fact that she's grinding herself against a metal pole for strangers-most of whom are shady characters at best. If she's got to focus on work so she doesn't focus on work, then that is exactly what she'll do.

Black*Star's waiting for her with a truly shit-eating grin when she says goodnight to Free and slips out the backdoor of the club.

"Not a word," she snaps. His grin widens just a little.



"You're no fun, piglet."

"I swear to god, Black*Star."

"Yeah, yeah. You coming or what?"

She climbs into the Black*Star Mobile and buckles her seatbelt. "I wasn't expecting to see you in there tonight," she says after he's pulled out into the street with a tire squeal that she didn't think could be made exiting a parking space.

"Eh, thought it might be time I start showing my face again, now that Giriko's out and things have calmed down a little." Maka stiffens a little. Black*Star gives her a look out of the corner of his eye. "Relax, short stack. I'm just looking out for my minions. I'm gonna be like...a ninja. Arachnophobia won't know what hit them."

"Are you planning something?" it comes out sharper than she really means, but if Black*Star is going to pull something, she wants to know about it so they can either stop him or head off the inevitable collateral damage.

"I'm like a Girl Scout, Albarn-always prepared."

Maka blinks. She doesn't even have a response for that. Black*Star looks incredibly pleased with himself, and she can't quite bring herself to correct him. The quiet lasts as long as it takes her to realize that her chauffeur has taken it upon himself to take her back to Soul's.

"What-why are we here?" The look he gives her drips with a level of perception that Maka is wholly uncomfortable with. "If I told you to butt out, would it work?" she asks finally.

"About as well as it did when I told you the same."

Fuck. "Yeah, ok. Fine." She knows that she needs to go up there eventually-that she needs to talk to her partner, even if there is a little part of her that dreads it. She can get past the sting of rejection, she can, it's just that it still feels raw.

"I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"

Maka rolls her eyes a little, but she can't deny the inexplicable fondness she feels for Black*Star and his brashness. "Yeah, probably."

She's on the sidewalk and shutting the door when he catches her eyes. "And hey. Good job, all right?"

It catches her off guard, surprising a small smile out of her. "Thanks." Black*Star waits long enough to make sure that she's in the front door before driving off, and she'd turn around and walk back to her place if she didn't have a sneaking suspicion that Black*Star had a) already told Soul to expect her and b) wasn't on his way back to defile her apartment with her roommate.

"Miss Blair?"

She stops at her name and turns slowly, forcing a relaxed smile. "Yes, Free?"

"Is everything all right?"

"Of course it is, sugar!" She rests a smooth hand on his forearm reassuringly. "I've just got to take care of some-paperwork. You'll get everything locked up tight, right?"

It's strangely comforting to see the concern in her employee's eyes. "Of course, Miss Blair. I'll get it done right now. Don't you work too hard."

"Thank you, sweetie; I won't." She waits long enough for his footsteps to trail off before heading down the marble hallway. She doesn't spend much time in Medusa's inner sanctum, and she prefers to keep it that way. There's not much that she can do to avoid this particular encounter, however.

She's greeted by Medusa's oily smile and an insincere, "Blair! How good to see you. What can I do for you?"

Blair tosses her hair back and keeps her head up. "You wanted me to let you know if Black*Star came back into Chupa Cabra's. I spotted him tonight."

Medusa leans forward in her chair, and Blair doesn't like the spark of interest in her eyes. "Did you now? What was he doing?"

She shrugs a shoulder. "The same as ever-he came in, had a drink, and watched the entertainment."

"Did he watch anyone in particular?"

"The usual-Bambi and Roxy-he seemed to enjoy the new girl, too."

"New girl?"

She shifts a little under Medusa's scrutiny. "Kitten-she's taking the place of Cherry."

"And what happened to Cherry?"

Blair doesn't believe for one moment that Medusa doesn't know exactly what happened to Cherry. After all, it was her lap dog who took Cherry out of commission. "I'm not sure; perhaps you should ask Giriko." It comes out more snide than she'd intended, but Cherry had been a good dancer, and a good kid. No one deserved to be hospitalized because of her job and one man's inability to not be an abusive asshole.

"What a shame. I'll make sure to talk to him about that. Although, since he's been incarcerated for that little incident, I suppose his punishment's been meted out."

Her lips twitch in displeasure because it isn't enough, but there's nothing she can do about it. "Of course," Blair says instead.

"Did you notice anything else?"

Free had mentioned seeing Kitten leaving with Black*Star-had noted it because Eater hadn't been in for about a week or so, and he'd thought it entertaining. Blair hesitates for a split second. "No. Nothing else. He came in, enjoyed himself, paid his bill and left." Medusa frowns, and Blair's heart speeds up just a little. "Oh, there was one more thing."


"He wasn't nearly as loud as he usually is." Medusa's lips curl slightly, and Blair focuses on her breathing.

"What a relief." The blond taps her fingers against her desktop a few times-the surface unnaturally tidy. "Well then, thank you for that information, Blair. You've been very helpful."

"You're welcome." She turns to go and is stopped by Medusa's voice.

"You will let me know if you notice anything else." It's not a question.

"You know I will."

"Oh, and Blair?"


"Make sure that everything runs smoothly this week. I'm going to be unavailable."

"Of course."

Blair doesn't fully relax until she's out of the club. It's very late-or very early, and she just wants to get home, and not think about why she didn't mention to Medusa the fact that Kitten has been leaving with Arachnophobia Enemy Number One Black*Star. She tells herself that it's because she just got a new dancer and doesn't want to have to find another one. It's only sound business practice. Even still, she can't help but be a little relieved that Medusa is going to be on one of her periodic little "vacations." It's the only time she feels like she has some actual breathing room.

She startles a little as a shadow near the door moves, and says "Miss Blair?"

"Free? What on earth are you still doing here?"

He shrugs a little, massive shoulders hunching. "Figured you might want an escort home. It's late."

She tilts her head to the side, regarding him, then holds out her arm. "If you insist, sugar."

He's in his kitchenette, making toast, when he hears the tumblers on his door click. Soul can't help turning to look, even though he knows who it is. He's only given one person a key since he's been here. He's going to play it cool, though-maybe slip in an apology-maybe-

Maka shuts the door behind her quietly, and his words die in his throat. She has glitter on her face.

"I, ah-hi," she says, breaking the awkward silence.

"Hey yourself." He was wrong. It's still really awkward. The timer on his toaster oven dings and he gives her a crooked little smile. "Toast?"

He can watch the tension leave her body at once, and she nods. "Sure." She moves into his living room with practiced ease, and Soul has to remind himself that she's only been avoiding him for a day and some change. It feels like a lot longer. Maka only hesitates for a moment before she's right back into his space, literally and figuratively. Something in his chest relaxes as she checks his arm gently with her elbow. "Butter?" He slides it over and hands her the butter knife.

It looks like she's just going to ignore the whole incident, and Soul can't quite decide if he's relieved or irritated. On the one hand, he doesn't want her to leave again-pissed and hurt. On the other, they probably ought to act like adults and talk about what happened. He wavers as they eat together, sneaking little glances at his partner. She seems completely unaffected, except how, every so often he catches her looking back.

"What are you doing out of bed, anyway? Do you not know what bed rest is?" she asks, brushing a few errant crumbs off her shirt. She meant it as a rhetorical question, light and teasing, but as soon as the words are out, she can hear how accusing they sound. Maka tenses, waiting for the scathing reply she deserves.

Soul gives her a blank look. "It's toast, not a triathlon, woman."

It's not what she's expecting, and she can't the small grin that sneaks onto her face. "Yeah, yeah. You sure about that? You look like you're getting pretty out of breath there, Agent Tubs."

And just like the that, the last of the tension slips away. She can do this. She can do buddies.

"Why you gotta be like that?" Soul asks, giving her a wounded look. Maka laughs.

"This is what happens when you go against doctor's orders."

"I'm doing a lot better. I'm a pretty quick healer, you know."

She gives him a skeptical look and a noncommittal noise. It's habit by this point to go over her day with Soul, but the last thing that she wants to do is bring up the pole dancing debacle, especially when they've just gotten past the awkwardness, and for a moment she struggles to keep up the conversation.

"We should probably have someone check up on that," she finally says. "I could get Stein to make a house call-"

"Isn't Stein the coroner?"

"He's a fully certified doctor," she offers.

"Who is also a coroner," Soul sputters.

"He's not that bad," Maka insists, conveniently forgetting that Dr. Frank Stein really is that bad and that you couldn't pay her to use him as a physician. Soul doesn't need to know that though, and she does want him to get looked at by a doctor. "I want you back out there with me," she blurts. She flushes.

Soul's hand is warm on her wrist. "I want to be back out there, too," he replies, and she doesn't think that she's imagining the intensity in his voice.

Maka wakes up relatively early, overly warm and one foot dangling off the edge of the futon. She rolls her neck carefully and stretches, flinching when her fingers brush against something warm and living. Her eyes flicker open to see Soul, half slumped over her. He's drooling a little, mouth open, and Maka's head is pillowed carefully on his thigh. The TV is still on, volume turned low.

He would let her fall asleep on him. She wants to be irritated with him, but it's kind of weirdly sweet in its own way, and mostly she's just glad that things aren't too awkward between them. It will be hard to get over her not-crush, but Maka likes that they can be close like this-wouldn't change it for the world. She just wishes Soul'd gotten up before falling asleep. She just knows he's going to whine about having a crick in his neck all day.

Carefully, she extracts herself and makes her way into the kitchen to start some coffee. Now that her first night of dancing is out of the way, she feels a little more calm, more focused. She can work on integrating that aspect of her job in with all the others. But first things first, she's gotta get Soul to Stein for a check up.

The idea makes her a little nervous. He says that he's doing all right, but she doesn't quite believe him. It hasn't been that long, and-Maka shudders. She doesn't want to think about Soul's wound more than she has to. If she had the option, she'd convince Stein to come out to the apartment for a house call, but there is no way that wouldn't look ridiculously suspicious. Besides, she's not even sure that Stein leaves his laboratory/office to go home, much less that he'd even consider leaving for a house call. Maka rubs the bridge of her nose and fixes herself a cup of coffee, wondering how long it will be before Soul slumps over on the vacated futon and startles himself awake.


I say it every time, but it doesn't make it any less true. Thank you everyone who is still reading this thing, and for all the new follows and reviews! You guys are fantastic, and you mean the world to me. Work's been busy over the summer, and I've been lacking in both motivation and time to write. Being an adult is hard.

Special thanks to Lueur de'Laube for being consistent with her much-appreciated nagging, and to Adulter Clavis for making sure this thing made even a little bit of sense once I was done with it. Marshofsleep gets a special thanks for being patient as I bounced a billion stupid ideas off of her, and for being brilliant and giving me two lines to use in this chapter. Thanks for all the encouragement and support, guys!