Her head is tilted slightly to the left. Soul absently observes the effect of gravity on her tied hair: the slight slant as one tail reaches towards the ground and the curve and sway of the other as it dips around her neck and shoulder. She leans forward, staring intently at his right arm- or what had been his arm a moment before.

"Does it hurt?" she asks, the note in her voice making it plain that she doesn't care at all if he is in pain, personally. She's only curious about the science. How thoughtful.

Soul scowls at her. "We've been partnered for how long? And you've just now asked me?" Dusty olive eyes flit to his face politely, acknowledging his mouth had opened, though he may as well have neighed like a horse for it wouldn't have made any significant difference. Maka's attention returns to his bladed arm, an inquisitive hand coming to touch steel.

He watches her eyes slightly widen. "It's warm," she murmurs to herself. Had she expected cold metal?

"It is my body."

To his bemusement, she actually looks slightly worried. "But our sync rate is still solid, right? We're not having any dissonance, are we?" His meister peers directly into his eyes for confirmation and reassurance, and he wonders how the hell she can look at anyone so unwaveringly without feeling the least bit of discomfort.

His scowl softens as he looks away from her face- the direction of which happens to be down at first, and then immediately off to the side once he realizes her blouse is loose enough to see clearly down her chest. "Y-you're used to gloves. We're fine. I'm just a little warm right now." Which is true, but if she should ask why he's feeling warm, he would have lied through his pointy teeth.

She seems to digest his words, her head straightening from its tilted pose. Maybe she's filing away information. Maybe she's reformatting her nerdy brain. She blinks, apparently accepting his explanation, and returns to ignoring his face.

How had he even managed to end up in this situation? Maka's stationed on the coffee table (which irritates him, because she always smacks him when he does the same), suddenly bored enough to examine him like a tumor.

Maka runs a palm along the blunt edge of him. It's alienating to feel something touching his blade that he isn't supposed to be cleaving in two. He wonders if this is what circus lions feel when a human head is shoved into its mouth and is trusted to not bite. He can't decide if he's humiliated or honored.

Her fingers dance up, coming to the juncture of where his weapon ends and his humanity begins- which is somewhat like an indefinable slew of flesh, or maybe bone, or maybe metal, or a combination of all three that occurs when bridging the gap between impervious demon-steel and pathetic meat-bag. It's a good thing his meister is inspecting him with her patented, clinical air of Doctor vs. Patient, else he might get the wrong idea.

She pokes and prods the unappealing, unnatural mass that currently functions as his shoulder. The changes in his degree of sensation are noticed by her; her eyes flicker at his every twitch when her palm travels from tempered flesh to the normal skin of his neck. She's too close, eyeing his throat and lightly grazing her nails to gauge his reaction.

Soul glowers at her, but it's meant more for himself and his lack of ability to reign in his frustrated, sexual solar-flares, and maybe for having taken the 'clinical' idea of her in his head about ten thousand steps too far.

Because she'd probably look pretty good in a nurse's outfit. Or hell, even those nondescript, baggy scrubs, embroidered with his E-A-T emblem, and preferably three sizes too big so the neck of the shirt is wide enough to fall off her feminine shoulder.

...But the old-school, overused nurse outfit is still kind of a classic. White. Too short. Too tight. Low cut. Fishnet. Red stilettos. Little... hat thingy. With the plus sign.

Soul decides he needs to stop thinking altogether, and also that he prefers her usual combat boots over red stilettos.

Soul decides he may need to be evaluated for his mental issues.

...He wonders if Maka would be willing to evaluate him-

"Hellooo? Are you even listening? Spaz."

He flinches, eyes focusing on his meister's vaguely aggravated stare. "What huh? Sorry. I... I'm... what."

Maka gives him a twinge of eyebrows and a twist of mouth, clearly questioning his mentality. Oh, if she only knew a fraction of his problems! Shrugging his weirdness off, she speaks. "I said, re-transform. I wanna see it again."

What is he- instant replay? Is he here for her entertainment?

When she spies his lips forming into a displeased line, she gives him a small 'please' with the bare minimum amount of sheepishness. His eyeroll isn't even completed before he goes from steel to flesh and back again, the living room of their apartment echoing with fading crackles of static and singing metal.

"W-w-whoa, wait! I blinked! Come on, don't be so stingy."

Soul scoffs. "I've shifted for you for every battle, every trek through jungle, every haircut, and every time you've had a loose thread on a sock, and now you wanna see how I work."

To his statement, Maka only shrugs, clearly finding everything he said irrelevant.

"You're a menace. What if this really did hurt me? Don't blink this time." It's probably stubbornness and pride that makes him push a little harder to make the transformation faster than before. That, and he resents being hot and bothered in her oblivious presence.

The room sighs again with the leftovers of his effort. Maka smacks his thigh, which causes a brief somersault performed by his heart. "Slowly! I already said 'please', what more do you want from me?"

The phrase 'to not be treated like an object' sits on the edge of his tongue, but he keeps his mouth shut, not wanting to get into an argument so early on a weekend, and only because his meister lacked social skills. Soul takes a deep breath. He'll find a way to get back at her for this uncomfortable scrutiny later.

Slowly, as requested, he feels for the metal that is currently his arm. It's hard to control, for the act of shifting in slow motion is akin to trying to stop fingers in the middle of a snap. The result is a jerking, stuttering mess of light and re-forming tissue as he forces the steel apart and rearranges it back into his human arm.

Soul finds his brow damp with the effort. He suddenly feels a pang of insecure inadequacy. Up until ten seconds ago, he'd been sure and smug in his abilities as a weapon, never once thinking there were things about his own body he couldn't completely control (apart from a nagging, unexercised libido).

Without her urging, he tries again to steady his transformation- this time in reverse. He feels his skin and wills it to fragment and realign to his other truth. He attempts to grasp every aspect, every shifting part, every altering cell, and tries to keep all those little pieces of himself in focus. His teeth grind as he controls the crazy, rushed, chaotic rate of change.

It's a slide instead of a jump. The scythe emerges from both him and nothing, red and black revealing from behind blistering blue and white. The room shrieks with the cries of what can only be defined as magic as every breath he takes makes the blade reach a little farther, and every beat of his heart makes the blade sharpen and delicately curve. Soul can almost feel it complete, and he holds himself back from rushing the last few atoms of himself into place.

This is when he makes the mistake of risking a glance to his partner- maybe to see if she is in just as much surprise and wonder as he is, or maybe to check if he's able to hold her attention at all- and he finds her eyes wide and sparkling from the lights shining off of what his hand used to be, her mouth slightly open and a corner of it quirking upwards in amazement.

Her head is tilted slightly to the left. Soul absently observes the effect of gravity on her tied hair-

It's enough to break his focus. With the loud snap! he had been holding back, the scythe dissipated, his flesh reforming with a whip crack that almost stings- in shock with how much abrupt, startling confusion the failed transformation generates in his body. Soul lets out an irritated breath, leaning back in to the couch while rotating his wrist with a satisfying pop. He feels stupid, having lost his concentration so easily, and he's still lost in his thoughts regarding this fact when Maka surprises him with her hands gently pulling his forearm back to her.

He's surprised at the worry on her face, again. Her mouth opens, trying to start a handful of questions but getting them jumbled with her tongue, but her eyes ask him plainly enough, question marks penned by her expressive eyebrows. Soul's torn between watching her expression and following the movements of her hands which investigate his arm.

"I'm fine," he manages to get out between her unfinished words. "It didn't hurt, just surprised me. I, uh..." Man, why does her rapt attention endear her to him so effortlessly? "Doing it slow is harder, uh, than I thought." Because that didn't sound perverted at all. He offers her a hesitant half-smile and he's relieved to find an echo of one grace her lips.

"Ah." Maka looks down at his forearm held in her hands, and Soul swallows his abject glee at her fingers loitering along his skin, idly petting. One palm flatly slides up to his shoulder, and he doesn't understand why it feels less like a doctor exam and more of something increasingly personal. "You do feel pretty warm. You should go to bed."

If he shoves his feelings any further down his throat he's going to choke. He manages a nod. "'Kay."

He's mildly distressed when her hands pull away. Maka leans back, still sitting on the damn coffee table, and nestles her fingers between her knees. "That was pretty cool, though," she says, and after a moment long enough for her to probably hear his heart stop, she adds, "Thanks."

He can't think of anything to say- can only faintly hear the roots of his hair sizzling as he watches her bid him goodnight and shuffle away.

He must not realize what he's doing. That, or she weighs certain social contexts differently than everyone else.

This is what she decides as her toes curl and spread into the dense berber carpet under the library table, trying to channel her ticklish reaction to her partner's attentions away and into hiding. Maybe it's a subtle payback for the other night, or possibly he is just as curious, but Soul's fingers absently stroke and play along the inside of her forearm, skittering up her wrist to the sensitive crook of her elbow.

He's bored and looks half asleep, one cheek smashed on the cool surface of the table, watching his own hand's movements with the glazed-over eyes of a zombie. Maka reads her study guide, and reads her study guide, and reads her study guide, and comes to the conclusion that it's not in English, because the letters and words make little sense with her weapon toying the the delicate, fragile skin stretched over her veins. Surely he must feel the fluttering pulse under his touch, but he makes no form of acknowledgement.

Okay, it's been at least a minute and a half, his hand dancing along her forearm in that slow, meandering waltz all the while, so she decides she's allowed to risk another glance.

No one is home. He's zoned out, staring into space as the edges of his nails tease up her skin and leave faint trails that almost instantly disappear.

She doesn't think she moves- Maka has been concentrating on keeping that one arm playing possum as long as possible- but maybe she had, because something brings her partner back to the present. Soul's palm freezes with his fingers just edging inside her shirt sleeve. They lock eyes in that instant. He looks a little embarrassed and kind of confused. She hopes she doesn't look as disappointed as she feels.

His hand abruptly raises, ratcheting at the elbow, fingers spread in surrender. "Ah- I wasn't... thinking, sorry."

Opening her mouth would only end with her stammering like an idiot, so she pulls off a crummy imitation of one of his nonchalant shrugs, and slides her eyes back to her study guide. Her arm remains anchored exactly where it is.

"It felt nice," she carefully says with her patented, neutral, classroom voice. She's grateful for the lack of nervous tremor, which is still being channeled to her toes, carpet sliding under her little nails.

She has to reread a paragraph four times after Soul gently rests his large hand in the crook of her elbow, settling in for a nap that she'll have to chop him for, later.

He dislikes parties, but he's used to dealing with them. His meister likes parties, but doesn't have the social stamina. He knows these things, so he doesn't know why he's startled when he finds her in a closet. He could blame it on the zombie outfit and the flashlight shoved in her mouth, but being startled by fake zombies isn't really something he wants to admit, either. Luckily, she doesn't ask.

"What're you doing in here?"

Maka, nestled in what used to be color coordinated, evenly spaced rows of shoes, pulls her green-tinged arm out from under a pile of sweaters and pops the flashlight out of her mouth while angrily squinting at him.

"Shut the door, you're blinding me!"

He opens it wider. The Monster Mash blares from the other side of the mansion, where he's sure Kid is leading his weapons in a synchronized, ridiculous interpretive dance. Soul drops his plastic sword and Spartan shield. "I claim sanctuary."

His meister stubbornly wiggles more deeply into her nest, gaze returning to the book in her lap. "Go find your own closet."

Soul throws his head back and makes the most obnoxious groan he can. "Maaakaaaaaaa..." In his peripheral he barely catches her eyeroll. "I'll let you wear my mohawk helmet."

At this, she finally looks at him, green eyes appearing sunken into stage makeup eyesockets. He feels a little victorious over having finally distracted her for a decent length of time, but is immediately reminded over how unnerving her undivided attention really is.

"That's not even historically accurate," she flatly replies before shoving her flashlight back between her teeth. Regardless of her complaint, she pulls her feet close to herself, allowing him space. His victory saunter is cut short by an expectant, outstretched hand. "Ah-ah. Hat."

Soul pays the toll and picks his way through Elizabeth Thompson's shoe collection. Maka dons the Spartan helmet- it's too big and tilts to one side- and shuts the closet door, shrouding them in darkness save the beam of light emanating from a zombie mouth.

He is keenly aware that he is now in a mostly dark closet with his partner, and he wonders if she finds this strange at all. Judging by how she'd made little to no acknowledgement regarding his very exposing costume (he worked hard on his abs this summer, damn it, and she hadn't even batted an eyelash), probably not. Soul is likely nowhere near her attraction radar, still naught but a weapon that occasionally wears a human outfit and hogs her social overload hiding spots.

Soul sighs. At least he's away from all the commotion, and he's secluded with his meister and her ridiculous outfit. He can't laugh, though, because she looks content with all those sweaters, and his Spartan ass is cold sitting on the freezing hardwood.

He has a cape, however, and he tries to huddle up in this while sneaking his feet under Maka's crossed legs. She abruptly jumps, startled. The spotlight shines directly in his face, and his knees are immediately smacked by her paperback.

"Knock it off," she grumbles around the metal in her mouth.

"I'm cold!" he complains, squinting at the bright light.

"Sorry, Trojan man," she says, and it takes him a moment to translate her flashlight-speak.

Sputtering, he notes that his face isn't cold anymore. "T-this is Sparta, okay? SPAR-TAN," he tries to clarify, but his meister only hums vague acquiescence.

Yeah, well, he's sorry too, for having entertained the pathetic fantasy of Nurse Maka tending to his plastic sword wounds. Except it had turned out those nurse costumes draped over the edge of the shopping cart last week had been for the Thompsons.

They really were overused.

He should have known his practical meister would make her own costume, complete with multiple layers of torn bedsheets and a papier mâché ribcage. Instead of the little plus-sign hat, she wears a warrior helmet. He's irritated she's still kinda cute, LED lights reflecting off the pages of her book and into her faux grotesque face.

Uncomfortable, Soul stretches his legs a little further, noisily pushing aside stray shoes that scrape along the floor. Maka growls irritably. "Are you done?"

He comes to terms with the fact that he enjoys her attention even if it is laced with imminent death. "You're like in the one spot my legs would be comfortable."

She impatiently pulls the flashlight from her mouth. "You're in the one spot I thought I'd be able to read in peace."

Soul grins, lightly nudging her thighs with his feet. "What're you reading, anyway?"

"A hundred ways to cook brains."

He cuts his retort short when he hears that which he had been avoiding.

"Soul! Wherefore is your chickenass?"

He quietly groans, and Maka slowly points the flashlight at him in curiosity. "'Chicken ass'?"

"Please hide me." He can't see whatever face she's making, hidden behind the LEDs blasting his night vision. After a moment, the light shines to an upheld sweater at her side. "Come here, then."

"Uhh..." He is not going to be able to hide his Spartan ass under there.

"Transform, stupid," Maka hisses at him.

Right, then. He makes a clumsy dive, all kinds of pointy shoe parts digging into his bare chest and legs. He shifts into his weapon form, his shaft alongside Maka's legs and his blade straight in the air like a flag to surrender. "What am I supposed to do with this?" he worriedly asks before she slaps his blade to one side. He's about to tell her to stop being so damned violent, but then he's suddenly mute, because there's zombie school-girl butt on his face. Well, on the flat side of his blade, but it's like his face, and he doesn't know what to do.

Maka has been on him before (don't get him wrong- it had taken awhile to pretend that wasn't a big deal either), but he isn't mentally prepared for this kind of underwear to face proximity. Not to mention the way she shifts to quickly camouflage his shaft is-

Can demon steel melt? He's not sure. How well can ass cheeks gauge temperature changes? He is so fucked.

"Ah HAH!" cries Black Star, wrenching open the closet door just as Maka returns to her casual seated position.

His meister's voice is exactly the same as when Soul had first interrupted her. "Shut the door, you're blinding me!" she complains around her flashlight.

"Wha- Nerdling? Being anti-social, I see. Unsurprising. Where's your weapon, man?"

"I dunno, probably pouting somewhere."


"The hell! I gotta challenge him to a one on one Beer Pong MASTER CHAMPIONSHIP."

Ah, just shoot him. He can die happily here with meister butt on his face, it's cool.

"Have fun with that," Maka boredly replies, turning a page of her book.

"Are you sure he's not hiding out in here somewhere?"


"What's with the helmet?"

Ah shit.

"Aaaand his gear is out here..."

His meister confidently scoffs. "Pouting, I said. He wanted to hide in here. Tried to... strip tease his way in."

It's either Black Star's raucous laughter, or just Maka's bored, flawless delivery that embarrasses him enough to clench his eyes and mentally stumble into the chair in his Black Room. The imp looks surprised to see him, opening his mouth to make a smart-mouthed remark, but Soul just holds up an iron hand to plead for silence.

"And it didn't work?" Black Star chortles.

The girl sitting on him merely replies with an exaggerated yawn.

"Bahahaha! Oh man. Liz owes me a Benjamin."

"That's... I'm not gonna ask. Will you go? Now? Away?"

"Yeah, yeah. Have fun ya weirdo."

And the door shuts. Soul wishes he could have placed his head against the frame beforehand and had his skull mercifully smashed. He blearily glances to his mind's demon, who makes questioning hand signals. Soul throws up his own, helplessly. The oni harrumphs, brushing his problems off and waddling to a less annoying part of their soul.

"What's a 'Benjamin'?" Maka asks in the silence.

His voice sounds really loud, trapped under her. "A hundred dollar bill."

"Oh!" she exclaims. "Because his face is... I get it."

Soul decides his mortification can't get any worse, so when he grudgingly leaves the Black Room and shape-shifts out of his weapon form, he carefully re-forms his body behind her. His outstretched legs rest outside hers, and he's very glad she's as warm as he is. Her back stiffens when he plops his forehead on her shoulder. Her voice sounds as steady as ever though, and it's disheartening.

"I wonder what the bet was about," she questions, placing the flashlight back in her mouth and returning to her book.

Soul thinks he knows the answer, but he doesn't want to say it aloud- especially if Black Star believes he had won said wager. He changes the subject, a little. "...Strip tease? Really?"

The flashlight comes out again. Soul is entertained at her slight bashfulness. "I... ran out of ideas," she admits, biting her bottom lip. He chuckles, despite his lingering embarrassment, which annoys her.

"Quit laughing. I will bite you."

"Haha, ha, wh-what?"

"Zombie bite."

He scoffs. "Oh no, what ever shall I do. I'll be an undead Spartan. Darn."


"Whatever." Soul knows she hadn't meant for the biting thing to sound flirty, but he can't stop it from tumbling out of his mouth. "What would happen if I bit you, instead?"

Her response is both disappointing and unsurprising. "I don't know... I dunno if a zombie virus works that way or not."

He sighs, deflated. But then he glances at her face, his own still resting on her shoulder. The flashlight is back between her teeth again, and the light reflecting off the pages of her book shines on her. He sees she hadn't used the costume makeup on her neck, which is flushing prettily.

He's impressed at her rock-solid voice. "Still cold?" she mumbles around the light.

Soul smiles a little. "I'm good now." Her eyelashes dance as she listens to his voice.