"Hey, Soul." Soul Eater glanced up from his plate of spaghetti, a noodle dangling from his mouth. His meister leaned on one elbow, chin cupped in her hand, gazing distractedly at some point over his shoulder. Soul slurped the stray string of spaghetti into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed.

"What's up, Maka?" he asked.

Maka twirled pasta on her fork without looking down at her plate. She continued to stare off into the distance, as though her mind was not entirely present. "I was thinking of going out tomorrow evening," Maka told Soul. "Will that be a problem?"

Soul was somewhat surprised by the question. Maka wasn't the type to ask permission for anything. "Nothing's going on tomorrow that I can think of," Soul said. "Why? What are you going to do?"

Maka blinked, and her eyes refocused. She turned her gaze on Soul. "I was asked out on a date," she informed him calmly. For a few moments, Soul was silent, staring at her. Then he turned back to his spaghetti and took a huge bite.

"Huh," he commented through a full mouth. "Have fun."

oOoOo

Soul was lounging on the couch when Maka emerged from her bedroom. He watched her walk past with lazy eyes, lids only half open. She was wearing an outfit he'd never seen before—jeans, a rather cute top, and a sleek pair of boots meant for looking good rather than kicking ass, much different from her usual footwear. Her hair was still up in its trademark ponytails, but her eyes and lips had been subtly enhanced with touches of makeup.

Maka paused by the door to pull on her black trench coat. She put a hand on the doorknob, ready to leave, and turned to Soul. "I'll be back around nine. Do you think you can handle making dinner for yourself?"

"I'm not going to burn the building down, if that's what you're worried about," Soul grunted.

"Yeah…right," Maka laughed lightly, not sounding entirely convinced. She departed with a small smile and a wave. Soul closed his eyes and listened until her footsteps faded away. Then he yawned and dozed off. When Maka returned three hours later and tiptoed past him to disappear into her bedroom, he gave no signs of waking up, but the moment her door closed, he rose and made his way to his own room.

oOoOo

After school, as Soul and Maka walked toward their lockers, a vibration sounded from Maka's pocket. She pulled out her cell phone, flipped it open, and gazed at the screen. Her lips curved up into a small smile as she read the text she had received. Her fingers quickly skimmed the keypad, efficiently typing in a response. She was about to return the phone to her pocket when it vibrated again. Soul watched as her eyes widened and a faint blush dusted her cheeks. She replied to the new text and waited with the phone out. Barely a minute later, it buzzed to announce a new message. Her eyes darted over the words and her fingers keyed in an answer immediately. She continued her silent text message conversation all the way to her locker. Soul watched out of the corner of his eye as she juggled the tasks of putting away her things, grabbing what she wanted to take home with her, and carrying on her text exchange.

Maka finally put away her phone as she and Soul headed for Soul's motorcycle. "Who was that?" Soul asked casually.

"Hmm? Oh, that was my…my…" Maka paused, frowning with uncertainty.

"Boyfriend?" Soul supplied drily.

"My…boyfriend…" Maka tried, tasting the word. "Yeah, I guess so," she agreed, an expression of revelation upon her face. Soul's chest puffed once in half-hearted amusement, and he quirked an eyebrow at her, silently asking what Maka's boyfriend had wanted to talk about. "He asked me out again on Friday," Maka explained, practiced at reading Soul's body language. "I said I would, if nothing came up."

Soul yawned, climbing onto the orange motorcycle. "Just don't sign up for any missions that night or the night before," he advised as Maka slid into place behind him and locked her arms around him. "You don't want to be tired." On that note, he revved the bike and took them home.

oOoOo

"Soul?" Maka knocked on the weapon's door and let herself in. Soul was sprawled on his bed, face flushed with fever, used tissues in piled on the blankets around him. "I made you dinner," Maka announced. She bore a tray in her hands, loaded with a bowl of split pea soup, a mug of hot tea, and a glass of cold water. Soul shoved the dirty tissues off his lap so that she could set it down. She accepted the invitation, and sat down on the edge of Soul's bed. "Maybe I shouldn't go," she said, worry etched on her face as she took in Soul's bedraggled, exhausted appearance.

"Nah, I'll be fine," Soul croaked. He spooned some of Maka's soup into his mouth. "You should go," he told Maka thickly. He swallowed and added in a somewhat clearer voice, "It's not cool to stand up your date."

Maka bit her lip. "I could call…" she began.

"Go, Maka," Soul interrupted. He began to cough. Maka looked alarmed, but Soul flapped a hand at her, shooing her away. "You're gonna be late," Soul managed to warn between wheezes.

Hesitantly, Maka rose. "Just…call if you need anything, okay, Soul?" Her partner nodded. His scarlet eyes burned into her back as he watched her leave.

oOoOo

Maka sat in front of the coffee table, going through the mail, and Soul was draped over the armchair, dozing. Blair, bored, decided to spice up the bland atmosphere. Padding stealthily over to Soul, she popped into her human form and leaned forward over Soul's head, thrusting her breasts into his face as she bent down to rub her nose on his chest. Instantly, he was wide awake. Unfortunately for him, his first reaction was to try to sit up, which only resulted in his nose being pressed further into her flesh. He gagged, unable to breathe, see, or maneuver out of the compromising position. Blair's chest rumbled with her purring laughter.

"Get off me!" Soul demanded, voice muffled. Blair ignored him. He waited for a painful chop to his head to come to his rescue, but nothing happened. Never had he wished more for a Maka Chop, deserved or not. "Makaaaaaaa," he groaned. "Heeeeelp…"

Maka looked up from her sorting. "What's wrong, Soul?"

Blair straightened, and Soul hastily sat up. Both stared at Maka. She looked from one to the other, bemused by the dumbfounded expressions on their faces. It was Blair who broke the silence. "Maka-chaaaaaan, I don't think you ever told me about your boyfriend," the magical cat purred. She slithered past Soul and slid onto the couch behind Maka. The meister scowled.

"You can't have him," Maka informed Blair. "Go find another plaything." Soul cringed.

"I won't do anything, I promise," the cat whined. "I just want to hear about him." She arched her back and stretched. "What's his name? What's he like?"

Maka eyed Blair suspiciously but finally relented. "His name is Nathan," she said at last. "He's…sweet. Gentle. Chivalrous. Intelligent." She shrugged. "A good guy," she concluded.

"If he's gonna survive the relationship, he'd better have a thick skull," Soul commented. "Because otherwise Maka's violent streak will—ow!" The long-awaited Maka Chop had finally arrived.

oOoOo

"I don't understand why you're so opposed to the idea!"

"What am I, your father?" Soul snapped. "I don't need to meet every guy you decide to have a fling with!"

Maka froze. "No, you're not my father," she told Soul quietly. "But you are my best friend." Her eyes hardened. "And I'm not my father, either. I'm not going to go chasing every guy I lay my eyes on. You know perfectly well that Nate's the only one I've ever dated. But if you don't want to meet him, fine. I won't force you." The hurt in her voice was obvious. Without another word, she whirled around and strode out of the apartment.

Soul placed a hand over his eyes and sank down onto the couch.

oOoOo

Soul was about to knock on Maka's door and ask whether she'd like him to order pizza when he realized that she was talking to someone.

"You've been accepted to Shibusen?" she squealed. "Nate, that's fantastic news! So, do you know who your meister's going to be yet?" There was a short pause as she listened for a reply before she spoke again, more seriously this time. "Don't worry. Scythes are rare, but most technicians can adapt to them pretty quickly—it doesn't have to be someone who is specifically a scythe technician. Plus, everyone's enamored of the idea of making a true Death Scythe. You'll find someone without a problem."

Maka's boyfriend said something, and she laughed quietly. "No, sorry. I still consider Soul my partner. We have more work to do, even if he is already a Death Scythe." She sighed. "I guess he doesn't really need me, but, well, I'm just not ready to even consider taking on a new weapon." She listened and then said in a slightly more cheerful tone, "Thanks. I know you don't."

Soul backed away from the door, throat dry. By the time Maka emerged from her room, there were already two pizzas waiting on the kitchen table, one decked out with all of Maka's favorite toppings. "Mmm, smells great!" Maka said with a grin, and she dug in with gusto.

oOoOo

It was late, long past midnight, when Maka slipped through the door of the apartment and closed it noiselessly behind her. The second it was safely locked, her legs lost all their strength, and she slumped against the door. Slowly she slid down until she sat, arms wrapped tightly around her folded legs, hands gripping her keys so hard that they cut into her palm. Her whole body trembled. Her forehead fell forward to rest on her knees. At last, she lost the battle to hold back the tears.

The teardrops cascaded down her cheeks, dripping onto her jeans and soaking them. She tried to keep her breathing silent, but it was too ragged for her to control completely. A few quiet sobs managed to break through her defenses. She was glad she hadn't made it to her bedroom; the walls were thin, and Soul had been a light sleeper lately. She stopped fighting the tears, focusing her energy on keeping her weeping as noiseless as possible and waiting for the storm to abate.

"Maka."

She jerked violently and looked up. Soul crouched down in front of her, eyes burning with worry. "S-sorry, I didn't mean to wake you—"

"What happened?" Soul asked. "What did that bastard do to you?" The fury in his voice was unmistakable.

"Nothing," Maka whispered. "He didn't do anything. He just…" She swallowed. "He just…kissed me."

Soul stiffened but said nothing, waiting for her to explain. "I wasn't ready," Maka admitted in a whisper, looking down at her knees. "I know we've been dating for two months, and he has been a real gentleman, taking it slowly, but…" She shivered. "When he kissed me…all I could think about…was my f-father." Maka hugged herself, fingers digging into her sides. "Nate isn't anything like Spirit," she told Soul. "He's the opposite. They don't have one thing in c-common. Well," she amended, ever scrupulous, "Nate is a scythe weapon. But…but…I shouldn't be s-seeing my papa in him. I shouldn't…have felt l-like I was my papa when I…when I kissed him. But I d-did, and…it was h-h-horrible." Maka squeezed her eyes shut, though it did nothing to slow the flow of tears.

Soul moved over to sit beside her and eased an arm over her shoulders. Maka turned her head and cried into his shirt. Soul held her until her shaking ceased and her eyes dried, leaning his cheek on her head as he waited. His crimson eyes flared in the darkness.

oOoOo

"Hey, Soul." Maka knocked on Soul's open door. Soul, lying on his bed with his head pillowed on his arms, glanced at her and pulled out one of his ear buds. Maka could hear the music blasting out of them from where she stood. "I'm going to Nate's house to help him study for a test his class has coming up."

Soul rolled his eyes. "Again? Congratulations, you officially make the most boring couple in the history of Death City."

Maka crossed her arms. "Being intelligent and responsible doesn't make you boring," she huffed. "Maybe you should try it sometime."

"Yeah, no thanks," Soul said flatly. "Caring about stuff like grades is totally uncool."

Maka sighed, deflating a little. "Do you think you can survive another night without me to keep an eye on you, Captain Cool?"

"I'll manage," Soul replied, smirking slightly. Maka's lips twitched up in return. She waved and turned to leave. Soul popped his ear bud in and stared at the ceiling, smirk fading the moment Maka's soul was too far away for him to sense it.

oOoOo

"That chick is totally hot. Think she'd talk to me?"

"Dude, that's Maka Albarn. She's definitely taken."

"By who, Soul Eater? He barely looks at her."

"No, she's the girlfriend of that new kid in Mirror Lake Class—Nathan Uba."

"Wait, you mean that tall black guy with the cool scar on his hand? The scythe weapon?"

"Yeah. Apparently they met even before he got into Shibusen—probably in a library somewhere, knowing them."

"Ouch. I wouldn't want to tangle with him, even if he is a bookworm."

"Yeah. But I bet Soul could take him on no problem. Uba's only known he's a scythe for a year now. There's no way he could beat a Death Scythe."

"I'm telling you, Soul Eater's not interested in her. They've been partners for years now, and nothing's happened."

"Yeah…you're probably right."

Someone brushed roughly past the two students, jostling one hard enough to knock his bag off his shoulder and scatter his belongings everywhere. "Hey, what's the big idea?" he complained, kneeling down to gather his things. His friend bent over to help, too. By the time they looked up, the rude guy was already gone.

Maka was waiting for Soul at the bottom of the steps. She caught a glimpse of his face as he strode past her, hands buried in his pockets. "Hey, what's wrong?" she asked, concerned, jogging to catch up.

"Nothing," Soul muttered, glaring at the weeds poking through the cracks in the cement sidewalk. He stopped suddenly and wheeled around, almost causing Maka to crash into him. The girl took a quick step back. Soul stared down at her face, crimson eyes intense. Maka blinked in surprise and held still, holding her breath. At last, Soul said quietly, "I see you." Then he turned around and resumed walking, this time at a more reasonable pace. Confused, Maka followed, wondering what that had been all about.

oOoOo

Gritting her teeth, Maka skidded back several feet, holding Soul firmly in front of her, years of practice allowing her to maintain her balance and stance. The kishin charged again. Maka was a breath slower preparing her block than normal. Soul felt unusually heavy in her hands today, a sure sign that something was wrong with their resonance. But for the life of her, Maka could not figure out what it might be. Perplexed and frustrated, she warded off the kishin's attacks and jumped into a counterattack. In her state of distraction, she missed, giving the monster a chance slam a massive paw into her side. Maka went flying, crashing through the window of an abandoned warehouse.

The scythe technician landed in a pile of empty cardboard boxes, shards of broken glass raining down around her. She stood stiffly, using Soul's shaft to help lever her up. She bled lightly from several minor abrasions but decided that she was otherwise unharmed. She waited patiently for the kishin to chase her into the warehouse, and was not disappointed; seconds later, it blasted through the rotting wood walls, howling at her.

As she darted toward the corrupted human, scythe elevated in readiness to strike, Maka pondered Soul's silence. Ordinarily, when she made stupid mistakes or lost her focus in a battle, he would shout at her until was back on track. But now, he said nothing, even though Maka kept slipping up. This enemy was relatively weak; a Death Scythe and a technician of Maka's caliber should have taken it out long ago. But Maka and Soul were struggling like one-star meisters.

The kishin batted away Maka's attack and danced out of her reach. "Quit—playing—games!" Maka snarled at it. "I don't have time for this! I have a date tonight!"

It happened at that moment: something snapped in their resonance. Maka's eyes barely had time to widen in shock before a huge explosion threw her and Soul in opposite directions. She smashed through another wall of the ancient warehouse. The whole structure creaked ominously and finally collapsed, tossing up a cloud of splinters. Maka coughed and tried to rise, but she was trapped under the debris. She made a feeble attempt to shift to beam that seemed to be the main source of her trouble, but her angle of leverage was too awkward for her to accomplish anything.

Then there was a familiar pair of hands reaching out to help her. Soul tugged at the beam from above while Maka pushed with her shoulders from below, and in moments, she was able to slither free. Soul snatched her wrist. "C'mon, run!"

Maka hesitated. "The kishin…"

"Do you honestly think we can take it as we are now?" Soul asked harshly. "Come on!" He tugged her away from the ruin just as the kishin burst forth from the mountain of rotted wood splinters. Maka gave in to Soul's insistence and fled with him.

They finally lost the kishin in a seedy area just beyond the edge of the touristy part of the city. Soul pulled Maka into a dead-end alley between two run-down Thai restaurants, both closed for the night. His grip on her wrist slipped down to her hand, and Maka gasped, snatching her arm away. Soul caught a glimpse of fiery red burns on her palms before she tucked her hands under her armpits.

"What was that?" Maka demanded. "Back there, in the warehouse? What happened?"

"How should I know?" Soul muttered, refusing to look her in the eye.

"You are a Death Scythe, Soul Eater, and I am a three-star meister! We should not have lost to that kishin. What went wrong with our resonance?"

"Why are you asking me?" Soul snapped. "Do you think this is my fault?"

"As far as I know, Soul, there's nothing wrong between us! So if our resonance isn't working, it's because you're upset about something! I can't allow whatever it is to get in the way of our mission."

"Oh, well, I'm sorry my personal issues got in the way of your precious mission," Soul sneered. "Or maybe you're just mad that it messed up your plans for your date? Actually, I'm surprised you even have time to worry about our resonance, being so concerned about your night out!"

"Soul, what are you talking about? You know that I would never put my social life before my responsibilities to my work and my partner."

"Oh yeah?" At last, Soul whirled around to face Maka. "Lately, I'm not so sure. You're always out with Nathan." The name burned on his tongue. "You're barely ever at home anymore. I feel like I don't know you. If you'd rather spend time with him, why don't you just be his meister?"

Maka glared. "Is that what this is about? Soul, I will never replace you as my weapon, no matter what happens. You should know that by now! It doesn't matter how much time I spend with Nathan: you're my partner, and my duty is to you first."

"That's not the problem!" Soul spat.

"Then what is?" Maka cried.

"Why can't you understand?" Soul seized her by the shoulders. "I'm not angry because you're with another weapon! I'm angry because you're spending all your time with another guy!"

"Then why didn't you tell me?" shouted Maka. Tears of anger poured down her face, but she dashed them away impatiently. "Every time I went out, I asked you if you were okay with me going, gave you a chance to hold me back, but you never did! You never showed a single sign that you would rather I stayed than went away!"

"Being jealous isn't cool!" Soul lost his last shreds of control and began to shout, too.

"Damn cool, Soul Eater!" Maka roared. Soul jerked back, shocked. "A little bit of jealousy shows that you care!"

"It doesn't matter," Soul said bitterly. "You would have left anyway. You're not the type to back down on a promise, and besides, you love him, right?"

"Try!" Maka snapped. "Try it right now!" She inhaled deeply and forced herself to lower her voice to a more normal level. "Tell me honestly: do you or do you not want me to stay home tonight?"

Soul stared at her hard. "Stay," he said.

Without breaking eye contact, Maka deliberately reached into her pocket and drew out her cellphone. She did not even glance down as she punched in her boyfriend's number and lifted the phone to her ear. There was a pause. Then: "Hey, Nate. It's Maka. I'm going to have to cancel our date tonight."

Soul's ears rung. Maka's firm gaze made his head spin. "No, Nate, I'm fine. I just need to take some time off to be with my partner." He must have said something that startled her, because she finally blinked and looked away from Soul. "What?" She bit her lip, then nodded. "Okay." She looked up at Soul again and held out her phone. "He wants to talk to you."

Taken aback, Soul automatically accepted the proffered cellphone. Slowly, he put the receiver to his ear. "Hello? Is this Soul Eater?"

"Yeah," Soul grunted.

"It's good to finally hear your voice, although if you had been doing your job properly, I would have heard it a long time ago."

"What do you mean?" Soul asked, wary.

"When you care about someone deeply, you're supposed to guard her, Soul. Guard her jealously. You don't ever give her a chance to leave your side."

Soul glanced at Maka. "That a threat?"

Nathan chuckled, a bit sadly. "No, just a piece of advice. You know, from the very beginning, I only convinced her to date me by saying the whole point was to make her fall in love with me. She had been very honest in telling me that she cared far more about you than she would ever for anyone else. But I could have done it—I could have brought her around, if you never stepped forward. Not having your feelings returned can kill them, eventually."

"You're not following your own advice," Soul pointed out. "Or was that last comment about you?"

"No such luck, Soul Eater. I still love Maka. And in case you're thinking you have everything cleared up with her, think again. If she really thought anything had changed, she would have broken up with me. She isn't the type to cheat on her partner. If you want her back, you'll have to win her from me."

"Is that all?" Soul let a slow grin spread across his face. "Well, in that case…" His red eyes glinted devilishly as he turned his gaze on Maka. "I'll be taking her. What did you call it? I'll 'guard her jealously.' Sorry, but your time's over." Without waiting for a reply, he hung up.

"What was that about?" Maka asked. The expression on Soul's face made her nervous.

Soul slung an arm around Maka's waist and pulled her closer before she could protest. He powered down her cellphone then slipped it into her pocket. "Guy talk," he said in response to her question. "But I think your 'boyfriend' says too much."

Maka frowned. "Why the sudden sarcasm?"

Soul chuckled. "Want to take another crack at that kishin?" He took one of Maka's scorched palms, pulled a roll of gauze out of a pocket, and began to wrap her hands. "I'll protect you properly this time."

oOoOo

Author's Note: The problem with this is that Maka never figured out what she was doing wrong. Soul was not the only one responsible for the miscommunication. But I wanted this to be mostly about his point of view, so I'm going to leave it like this. Sorry for the gender discrimination, readers.