Soul lurked in the hallway, inconspicuously observing his meister. Maka was slumped on the couch, her expression a mix of disappointment and dejection. She had been like this for the past three days and the cause was no mystery. Her eighteenth birthday was coming up, and her mother had promised to show up. Maka had been giddy with excitement for a month. After nearly five years, she was finally going to see her mother!


Spirit had been the one to break the news. In her last report to Shinigami-sama, Kami had told him she wouldn't be able to make it for Maka's birthday. Soul could still picture the frozen look on her face at her father's words. Color had drained from her skin, and with only a whispered, "Oh, that's too bad", she had walked stiffly from the room. She hadn't wanted to talk about it and after asking if she was alright, Soul hadn't pressed her. He, on the other hand, was pissed. It was bad enough the woman had avoided her daughter for years, but to get Maka's hopes up like that and then crush them was inexcusable. Maka's mother hadn't even had the decency to tell her herself, not a phone call, letter or text. Not even one of her usual crappy postcards.

So now, here he was, with a mopey meister. Well, that wasn't quite accurate. Maka only moped when she thought no one was looking. When people were around, she tried to appear normal, although her weak smile fooled no one. Soul could have handled it if she had been pissed off, yelled and screamed about it, thrown a little fit. He could have handled tears, even though he hated to see her cry. Either reaction would have been justified in his opinion. But this sad ghost of his partner who went through the motions of going to school and fixing his dinner and even remembering to pick up some replacement guitar strings without being asked was almost enough to break his heart.

Soul took a deep breath and walked into the living room. He wasn't sure how he could make her feel better, but he had to try. She didn't notice his presence until he was about two feet from the couch. Maka jumped almost guiltily, before rearranging her features into that damned fake smile that he was coming to hate.

"Hey, Soul. What's up?"

"Nothin', just wanted to see if you wanted to do something, or...something."

He scratched the back of his head, inwardly kicking himself. He really should have planned this better. Or at all.

"No thanks, I'm just going to finish reading this book. I'm at a good part."

Sure she was. That's why she'd been reading the same damn page of the same damn book for three days, because it was such a literary masterpiece. Maka, taking more than a day to finish a book was about as natural as Spirit devoting his life to celibacy.

"Okaaaay, I'll just hang out in here then. If that's alright with you?"

"Yeah? You don't have to ask, it's your living room too, you know." she said with slight confusion, going back to pretending to read afterwards.

Soul sighed, going over to fiddle with the radio in the corner. He kept trying to come up with something to say, discarding one conversational gambit after another. This shouldn't be so hard, dammit! This was one of those times where he wished he'd been partnered with a guy. Then the solution would be clear; tell him to fucking get over it already, and if that didn't work, punch him. Problem solved. This approach did not work with females. They would snivel and cry. Normal females, of course. But Maka and the other girls in Spartoi were horses of another color, more kick-ass and take-no-shit, less weepy damsel. Still, the female of the human species were mysterious creatures, and one wrong exhalation could result in his balls snuggling up with his Adam's apple. Maka would chop him to hell and back, lecturing him loudly (and profanely) about his insensitivity. Then again, that was almost preferable to the current situation. When was the last time she'd Maka-Chopped him, anyways? Nearly a week. Unbelievable. He actually missed the abuse!

The opening of a song on the radio caught his attention. An idea quickly forming, he turned up the volume. Soul began to sing along, shuffling over to dance in the middle of the room. This was embarrassing. If anyone were to see him, he'd be losing major cool points. But if it got her to smile...he plastered on a smile and sang louder.

My heart's a stereo

It beats for you, so listen close.

Hear my thoughts in every no-o-ote

Make me your radio

And turn me up when you feel low

This melody was meant for you

So sing along to my radio.

It was starting to work. Maka's eyes kept flickering from her book to him, the corner of her lip beginning to twitch. Maybe if he hammed it up a little more...he kept singing, but broke out into breakdancing moves for the verse to go along with the rapping.

If I was just another dusty record on the shelf

Would you blow me off and play me like

Everybody else?

If I ask you to scratch my back, could you

Manage that?

(Soul squatted and rubbed his back against the arm of the couch like a bear would a tree, causing Maka to giggle.)

If I could only find a note to make you


I'd sing it softly in your ear and grab you by the


(Soul grabbed Maka by the hand and pulled her to her feet, causing her to squawk like an indignant chicken.)

Keep me stuck inside your head, like your

Favorite tune

And know my heart is like a stereo that only plays

For you

As the song went into the chorus, Soul began to spin Maka around, placing his hands on her hips as he guided her in a dance. Her face was flushed and she was laughing, making the grin on Soul's face stretch wider. Maka was surprised to find that she was enjoying herself. It was almost impossible to get her weapon to dance, so when he had started, she had momentarily thought it might be a sudden onset of Tourette's. She had been happy enough to sit and watch, but then he had pulled her from the couch, forcing her to join him. Quickly finding a rhythm, she matched her movements to his.

I think I finally found a note to make you


If you can hear this, sing along and take me by

The hands

Keep me stuck inside your head, like your

Favorite tune

And know my hearts a stereo that only plays

For you

Maka's blush deepened when Soul entwined their fingers as they continued to dance, their bodies brushing softly against each other.

Soul slid behind Maka, continuing to sway gently with his arm wrapped across her stomach, her hand in his.

I only pray you'll never leave me behind

Because good music can be so hard to find

I'll take your hand and hold it closet to mine

Thought love was dead, but now you're

Changing my mind

Maka's heart sped up at the feel of his breath against her ear as he sang. Their movement in the hanging mirror caught her eye, and she saw that Soul was no longer wearing his goofy grin as he sang this verse. His eyes seemed to be closed in concentration as he pressed himself to her, a serious look on his face making her focus intently on the lyrics. A warm feeling spread throughout her body. Soul was being, dare she hope, almost romantic? She wouldn't complain if that was the case. That would be the best birthday present ever, screw her mom. Her eyes widened. She hadn't even been thinking of her mother these past few minutes. He had been trying to distract her, in his own weird way. His own, incredibly sweet, weird way. Suddenly her mother's absence ceased to matter. She had Soul. Everything would be fine.

My heart's a stereo

It beats for you, so listen close

Hear my thoughts in every no-o-ote

Make me your radio

And turn me up when you feel low

This melody was meant for you

So sing along to my stereo

So sing along to my stereo

The song ended, and they slowly pulled away from each other. Soul wasn't sure what to do next. She seemed happy while they were dancing, laughing loudly as he twirled and dipped her. Would she go back to being gloomy now that the song was over?

He needn't have worried. She spun to face him, and he was relieved to see that the smile spread over her face was genuine, the first real one in days.

"Thanks Soul! I needed that. I feel a lot better now, so I'm going to call the girls and take them up on their offer."

Soul felt his shoulders slump slightly. All that work and she was leaving him?

"Where you goin'?"

Maka smiled deviously as she dialed.

"Retail therapy. Papa gave me his card and said I could go crazy. Wanna come with us? We'll be trying on dresses, and shoes, and-"

Soul backed away in alarm, waving his arms furiously.

"No! No, it sounds like a girl's day out, no males needed. I'll just stay here and chill."

Maka rolled her eyes as she finished her call, amused at her weapon's obvious fear at the thought of traipsing around clothing stores with a pack of girls. Honestly, he acted like his dick would shrivel and fall off if he showed the least bit of interest in shopping. Oh well. It was fine with her. This way not only could she tell the girls what he had done for her, but she could pick out the outfit she would wear at her party without him seeing. She wanted it to be a surprise; she was looking for something that would throw his hormones into overdrive. She had been indecisive about whether or not to make a move on him, but after today...she hadn't realized that she found sweet to be incredibly sexy. And Soul had been very, very sweet.

Soul watched her flying around to get ready, dashing from her room to the bathroom and back again. She exchanged her shorts and T-shirt for a short, flippy pink skirt and a white lacy camisole that made his eyes bug out. What had been mildly interesting in a B cup had him drooling now that they were C's. Oh, what a difference a size could make...his fantasies were cut off before they could get too lecherous by Maka calling out to him as she flew out the door.

"Soul, hide the laptop while I'm gone! I swear, if Blair downloads any more porn onto that thing, I'm going to skin her alive, repeatedly!"

She was gone before he could answer, so he just went into the kitchen to retrieve the sexually abused computer from the table. He would keep it confiscated until Maka got home, but then the cat was her problem. He stopped in the doorway, staring thoughtfully at the laptop, an idea starting to form. He already had a present for her, one he was extremely nervous about giving her as it implied he might like to advance their relationship. Which he would. He just had to go about it carefully, like pirouetting through a minefield. If it worked, it would be worth it. If it didn't...he wouldn't think of it. But the computer gave him an idea for something else, something that would score him major brownie points. His eyes narrowed and his lips curled into a scowl.

It was time to have a little chat with Spirit.


Maka had spent the last few hours in a flurry of dresses and shoes. The Thompson sisters and Tsubaki, initially pleased at her brightened outlook, became positively ecstatic when she had related what had occurred in the living room with Soul. They were now determined to find an outfit so stunning it would, as Liz put it, "Have him drooling so much he'll have to hang a bucket around his neck".

It was taking forever.

Each dress somehow fell short. Too long. Too short. Too shiny. Too drab. Too something.

It was hard to find the delicate balance between sexy and streetwalker. A dress that said, 'I want you to jump my bones', and not, 'I want anyone to jump my bones'. Patty was the one to finally find the winner, an emerald colored number with a golden sheen to it. From the front, it looked fairly conservative, with a wide halter neck that hugged the breasts without exposing them, skimming the waist to flare into a short tiered skirt. But the back was different. There was no back; just the thin strap at the neck, and then nothing until just before the top curve of her ass. Liz added the final touch; thin, burnished gold colored sandals with ribbons that crisscrossed from ankle to knee, emphasizing her long, slender legs. It had been discovered that though Soul enjoyed boobs like most males, his weakness was legs and Liz was determined to capitalize on that.

Pleased to have found the perfect outfit, Maka was ready to call it a day when a hand came down on her shoulder and squeezed. Maka looked up to find Tsubaki, smiling at her in a disturbing way.

"Aren't you forgetting something, Maka-chan?"

"Nooo", she replied nervously, "I got the dress and shoes, that's all I needed."

"Now, you know that an outfit needs more than that."

"I have some emerald earrings to wear with it, which should be enough."

"No. Patty found the dress and Liz chose the shoes, but I shall make the most important contribution of all!"

Maka wasn't sure she liked where this was going.

"And that would be?"

"Lingerie. Sexy lingerie", said Tsubaki sweetly, with an innocent smile that made you think of kittens and rainbows, when you should really be thinking of leather and handcuffs.

"I don't think that's necessary, but thanks anyway. It's not like we'll definitely be doing it that night; I'm not even sure that he feels the same way."

The hand on her shoulder tightened its grip, crushing any thoughts of escape, and the smile became threatening.

"Let's not kid ourselves, shall we? With that dress, he'll be mentally humping you like a dog, and when he gets you alone..." she broke off, going all starry eyed, "You'll give him the precious gift of your virginity and make wild, passionate love until dawn!"

Maka's face resembled the setting sun as she squealed, "Tsubaki! Don't say such things in public! And it's my birthday, why does he get the gift?"

"It would be mutual, wouldn't it? Besides, the best gifts are the ones that can be shared! Now that that's settled, let's find something that will drive him bananas!"

Tsubaki began to drag her down the hall in the direction of the lingerie store. Maka shot Liz and Patty, who had just returned from the cash register, a pleading look. They shrugged in unison, wearing matching evil grins.

"She's right, we have to make it a night to remember", snickered Liz.

"Yeah! Gotta get you all prettified so you can smex Soul up!"

As her body slid along the floor, she contemplated her inevitable doom. 'When did this become Mission Get Maka Laid?' she thought mournfully. Although, remembering how it felt today, his hands gliding over her skin with their bodies briefly rubbing together, maybe getting Soul between the sheets wouldn't be as impossible as she feared. It's not like she didn't want it; she had accepted her desire for her partner ages ago. It was just taking that last step that had Maka shaking in her kick-ass combat boots. But the look on his face that she'd glimpsed in the mirror as he sang, the way he had held her...maybe, just maybe, she had a chance.

"Maka? Did you hear me? I asked you how you felt about crotchless panties."

Maybe she had a chance, if she could survive Trial by Tsubaki.


It was dusk when Maka finally made it back home, and Soul watched in fascination as she dragged herself through the doorway, with disheveled hair and shell-shocked eyes. She had a clothes bag over her shoulder, and frou-frou looking bags on each arm. Catching his questioning look, she groaned, "I will never, ever say that Tsubaki is too sweet to be going out with Black*Star ever again. She's a demon, a demon I tell you!"

"What the hell happened?"

"No, the wounds are too fresh. I may never be able to speak of it. At least, not without some really intensive therapy. Now, I'm going to go put this stuff up and take a shower, and try to forget that the last six hours ever happened. See you in the morning."

"You need me to help you with any of that?" he gestured to bags, but Maka clutched them to her, as best as she could.

"No! No, I've got it! I can take care of these by myself, thank you, so just move along, there's nothing here of any interest! Nothing at all!"

She scuttled down the hall to her room, slamming the door behind her.

Soul stared after her for a moment and then headed for his own room, glad she had been too preoccupied to ask him what he had done today. His mission had been a success, and he was quite pleased with himself. If things kept going this well, he might actually accomplish his dream of snaring the elusive Maka Albarn.


The next two weeks passed in a blur of school and minor missions, leaving little time for much romantic advancement. Soul did the best he could; performing small, simple gestures and gradually increasing their frequency. He started by getting her comfortable with him in her personal space, standing and sitting closer than he normally would. Once he felt she was comfortable, he picked up the pace, sliding his arm behind her shoulders when they were sitting, casually holding her hand when standing or walking. He was pleasantly surprised when she not only seemed to accept his advances, but appeared to reciprocate them as well. When he had first tried putting his arm around her, during a movie in their apartment (cringing at the cliché the whole time, but the old standby was all he could come up with. At least he hadn't pretended to yawn first.), he had braced himself for a Maka-Chop, or at least a 'wtf?' look. But she had just stiffened for a heart stopping millisecond and soon leaned into his side. Holding hands was a bit easier, since she was used to that from resonating. He used that to his advantage, simply by keeping ahold of her hand at the end of their daily training.

She only seemed nervous when he started doing it in public, as if waiting for their friends to make some kind of remark. Soul had solved that problem beforehand; he had gone to each of their friends and explained, politely and calmly, that if they embarrassed Maka in any way, he would go black blood level postal on their asses. He made sure to smile extra wide while saying this, showing off his preternaturally sharp teeth.

The teeth always worked.

He shouldn't have worried so much. The girls swooned in vicarious joy for their friend and promised to keep quiet, and Kid, aside from his OCD, knew how to behave. That left him with Black*Star. Who, instead of clowning around, proceeded to grill Soul about his intentions like the closet big brother he was. Soul's answers seemed to appease him, though he was left with the distinct impression that should he ever do wrong to Maka, that Black*Star would not hesitate to use Tsubaki to slice him into sashimi. Which was fine with him. Hurting Maka was the same as hurting himself, and since he didn't expect to ever reach that particular level of masochism, they should be alright.

Soul knew definite progress had been made, however, when she stopped merely accepting his advances and began to instigate them herself. Now, if he didn't have his arm around her while they were sitting for more than a few minutes, she would grab it and pull it over her shoulders, cuddling into his side. And as often as not, when he reached for her hand, it was now met halfway by hers.

So he should be feeling good about now, instead of pacing his room like a basket case. But now it was time to implement the next stage of his plan, and he had a case of the jitters the likes of which he'd never had before. This phase Not a ring! No, that was several more years into his game plan. His long term goal, if you would. This was setting the stage, a precursor of things to (hopefully) come. Still, it was a significant step, one that couldn't be interpreted as anything less than an offering of an exclusive, committed relationship. He had originally planned to do this the night of her party, but excitement coupled with dread at her possible refusal changed his mind. Being shot down publicly was more than his fragile, if extremely well-disguised, ego could take. If Maka turned him down he knew, despite his best efforts, there would be tears, and that would be so uncool.

'Hell, who am I kidding? If that happens I'm gonna bawl like a fat girl on prom night.'

He tried to calm down, telling himself that nothing much was riding on this. Just his friendship, happiness, and entire future. And the possibility of kissing a sweet, sweet goodbye to his virginity. He smacked his head at that last thought. Bad Soul, bad! This wasn't the time to be thinking of that. He had been trying to avoid such thoughts, but they were as nefarious as cockroaches and twice as hard to kill. And, like cockroaches, in the light of day they weren't so bad but once the lights went out, they sprang forth in overwhelming multitudes, leaving him to...ahem, *handle* his problem as best he could.

Soul shook his head, not wanting to go down that particular trail right then. If all went well, he'd have plenty of time for that. He'd make damn sure.

He glanced down at the box in his hand, ran his other hand through his hair, and stepped out of his room, proceeding to saunter into the living room with a studied nonchalance that Soul didn't feel. She hadn't come in yet. Good. They had planned to watch a movie at eight (oh shit, was Kid rubbing off on them?) and he was about five minutes early. He sat at one end of the couch, sliding the flat black box between the cushion and the armrest, arranging himself in a position that invited her to press her body against his, hopefully with her delicious little tits rubbing up agai- no!

Cockroach thought!

Squash it!

There. He was cool again.

He settled in, and waited for his prey to make her appearance.


Maka stood in front of the mirror, eying herself critically and feeling ridiculous for doing so. It was just a movie, for Death's sake, and she was acting like it was some kind of date! Still, she supposed she really couldn't blame herself. These past few weeks, Soul had become increasingly affectionate, so who could blame Maka if she was reading more into this than she usually would? She had been surprised by his advances at first, but after the initial shock had worn off, she found herself actively seeking out these moments of intimacy, these gestures that conveyed feelings that she hadn't the courage to put into words.

She shook herself out of her reverie, as she only had a few minutes before she needed to be in the living room. Maka was having second thoughts about her wardrobe choice, wondering if it wasn't perhaps a bit too daring. She was wearing a thin, pale green camisole without a bra, and a pair of slightly darker green short shorts that hugged her butt, only coming an inch farther past the cheeks. Her hair was left loose, mainly because Soul had developed a habit of playing with it, so it wouldn't have stayed in its pigtails anyway. Biting her lips nervously, she debated changing into something more modest, even taking a couple of steps in the direction of her dresser, when she stopped. Why shouldn't Maka show a little skin? Was there anything really wrong with giving him the hint that she was interested?

This was a chance to gauge his reaction to her body before the night of her party, to see if that dress was going to have any effect or not. She veered off from the path to the dresser, instead heading out into the hallway before Maka's courage could fail her. Her momentum carried her halfway into the living room, where she stopped; finding Soul already sprawled on the couch, in a pair of striped blue boxers and a navy T-shirt. Oh good. She wasn't overdressed. And he was looking positively yummy. She ogled him for a bit, quickly snapping out of it when he looked up, finally noticing her presence. She tried to appear confident as she walked to the couch, an extra sway to her hips as she watched him closely for any sign of approval.


Soul looked up to see Maka standing in the middle of the living room. Several things caught his attention, the first being the incredible amount of skin on display, a rare treat for him. The second thing he noticed, when she began to walk over to him, was her chest.


He tried to keep his poker face in place, but his eyes wandered down to her swaying hips, drawing his attention to her long, toned legs; legs that could be utilized in a variety of interesting positions, the most tantalizing having them wrapped around his waist as he pounded into her tigh-no!

Cockroach thought!

Bad Soul!

Kill it!

There. He was in control again, coolness restored.

"Hey. You ready to start the movie?"


Maka smiled. Oh, he was good. She almost missed it. When he had first looked at her, there had been a widening of the eyes and a slight flaring of the nostrils. It had been nothing major, but enough that she felt she could confidently say that her breast size was no longer an issue. It was when his gaze had traveled south, however, that got the most telling reaction. Jaw muscles tightening, hands clenching, he had shifted almost as if he was uncomfortable, letting out a tiny whimper she wasn't sure he was even aware of and one she wouldn't have noticed herself if she hadn't been so intently focused on him. All in all, Maka was satisfied that lust would not be a problem; now all she had to do was confirm that there was love, and she could proceed to give herself the gift of hot, steamy, Soul-flavored birthday sex with no reservations whatsoever.

"Sure. You want anything to snack on, before I start it?"

'Why, yes, if you'll just prop your foot up on the armrest, I'd be more than happy to nibble from your ankle on up to your-'




"I don't care. I'll have something if you are, otherwise just a drink's fine."

"Hold on and I'll grab some things then."

He watched as she walked into the kitchen, eyes tracking the movement of her hips; left, right, left. Soul's fingers dug into the couch cushion as he fought to regain some control on his AWOL hormones. Tonight was supposed to be special, an important step in the direction of a romantic relationship, not about getting laid. Tonight was not about sex.

Tonight was not about sex.






He would control his urges and be a perfect fucking gentleman! No matter how easy it would be to tug those sorry excuses for shorts off her hips, to see first-hand if her ass was as fine close up as it looked from a distance. Soul rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes, steeling himself for the upcoming temptation.

'Let's face it. If she showed any sign of giving the green light, I'd break the fucking land speed record getting her to a bed, no matter how pure my intentions originally were. If she had just worn her nice, safe, regular pajamas I might've had a chance, but now it's gonna take every ounce of willpower I've got not to jump her bones.'

She returned with her arms loaded with provisions, enough to last them through several movies by the looks of it. She handed him a large glass of ice cold coke from her left hand, setting down its twin on the coffee table with her right. Under her arms were a package of Oreos, two tubes of Pringles, a bag of spicy Doritos, and something he couldn't quite make out.

"Hey, watcha got there?"

Maka beamed triumphantly, waving the large box under his nose so he could read the words on the sides. They were Slim Jim's, his favorite movie snack, one that he rarely got to have because the stores were always sold out of them for some inexplicable reason. His eyes misted over, and drool trickled out of the corner of his mouth before he quickly slurped it up.

"You. Are a goddess!" he cooed, watching the box greedily.

"Don't tell Black*Star. He'd be devastated that I reached his goal before him". She snickered, setting the box down to go stick in the DVD. Soul scooted the jerky closer to his side of the table, already tasting that lovely flavor of processed meat. She really was the coolest partner ever. So cool, he'd even let her have a stick all to herself.

Well, maybe half of one.

Or a bite of his.

Perhaps he'd just let her taste it on his lips when he gave her a goodnight kiss. Yeah, that last one sounded like the best option.

Maka popped open the case and slid the movie into the DVD player, then joined Soul on the couch. She teasingly reached for the jerky, giggling when he tensed up and whined. She grabbed a tube of Pringles instead, and he relaxed with a sigh.

Once they had their fill of snacks, Maka snuggled up against Soul, burrowing under his arm. He ran his fingers through her hair to her shoulder, playing with the strap of her top and trying not to think how easy it would be to slice through it with a transformed finger. They sat this way throughout the movie; lightly stroking the others exposed skin wherever they felt they could get away with it. If asked later, neither one could tell you what the plot of the movie was.

Soul had been relaxed, but as the credits began to roll, his earlier nervousness returned. Maka sat up and stretched, picking up the remote to shut off the T.V.

He took a gulp of his drink to ease the dryness in his throat. This was it; the time had come to make his move.

"Maka? Can you stay here a minute?"

Maka looked at him, hearing a note of strain in his voice.

"Sure. What's up?"

"I know it's still a few weeks till your birthday, but I got you something and I'd like to go ahead and give it to you now, okay?"

Maka bounced up and down on the couch. "Like I'd actually turn down a chance at an early gift! What is it?"

He smiled at the way she acted like an excited five year old, but really wished she would stop bouncing. It was...distracting. He fumbled around in the crack of the couch, heart almost stopping when he couldn't lay hand on the box. He finally found it, it having slipped deeper during the movie. He pulled it out and handed it to her, blushing madly.

She took the flat black box and opened it, curious as to what it could be. She nearly gasped when she saw what was inside; it was absolutely beautiful. Lying on a cushion of black silk was a necklace. It was a white gold, snake linked chain, with five charm beads. Three of the beads were spacers, with different cuts of filigree and tiny gems. The two other charms were slightly larger, and obviously custom made. One was a miniature replica of Soul in scythe form, with a small garnet for the eye. The other charm was a musical note, with a diamond making up the base. They were exquisitely crafted, and each individually would have made a lovely pendant. But put together, they screamed Soul, symbolizing him perfectly. Maka recognized this as a deeply personal gift. This wasn't a piece of jewelry you gave just anyone; it was a gift meant to be given from one lover to another. In effect, Soul had handed her his heart in a box, and it was now up to her how this would play out.

Soul was trying his best not to fidget. He really was. But she was just sitting there staring at the necklace, her hair hiding her expression. He was about to start babbling, most likely saying something incredibly stupid and uncool in the process, when she moved. Silently, she handed him the box, her hair covering her eyes. His heart dropped. This was what he had feared the most; rejection. Like a fool, he'd gone after a legendary Pokémon with a regular pokeball, and now it was about to flee, running off into the tall grass, out of his reach forever. He took the box with a hand heavy as lead, mind scrambling for ways to minimize the damage, when she spoke.

Turning her back halfway to him and lifting her hair from her neck, she said softly, "Could you put it on for me?"

Soul nearly melted with relief. Saved from the icy clutches of rejection! He would do his touchdown dance later in the privacy of his room. He lifted the necklace from the box, and undid the clasp, fingers fumbling from the unaccustomed action. He gently laid it around her neck, noticing the goose bumps rising on her skin as he rejoined the clasp. When he was finished, Maka turned to face him, and the look on her face left him breathless. Her cheeks were slightly flushed, and her eyes were sparkling as she looked at him with a soft, loving expression he had never seen her wear before. He committed it to memory, never wanting to forget her as she was now, lit up as brightly as only a woman in love could be. And knowing Maka as he did, Soul knew it was the meaning behind the necklace rather than the necklace itself that made her look like that.

"So, does that mean you like it?"

"I love it! This is the best present I've ever been given. Thank you, so much."

Soul was surprised when she leaned in and kissed him on the cheek, her hands going up to rest on his shoulders. It was nice, but he wanted to leave her with no doubts about his feelings. He slid his hand to the back of her head, angling it to the side. Soul brought his lips to hers in a gentle kiss, slow and unhurried, passionate but not lustful. He wanted to use tongue, but wasn't sure if he could control himself from moving too fast if he did. Maka took that decision from him when she somehow found her way onto his lap, straddling him. He was distracted from the kiss as he slid his arms around her waist to draw her closer.

And that's when her tongue flicked out of her mouth to brush between his lips.

Soul groaned low in the back of his throat at the feel of her velvety soft appendage working its way into his mouth, his own darting to join hers without consent. Their kissing grew more intense as they began to grind against each other, hands stroking greedily over heated flesh. Soul wasn't sure any more if he could keep himself under control and it was with feelings of mixed relief and frustration that he heard the phone ring.

They broke apart reluctantly, unwilling for the make out session to end.


Maka growled, a small scowl on her face. Soul shifted under her, half thankful for this interruption that was keeping him from banging her right there on the couch, even if this meant he'd be flying solo in his room later. But not too much later. Soul Jr. didn't like to be ignored.

"You'd better answer it. Could be important."

She muttered under her breath as she stomped to the phone, answering it curtly.

Soul didn't pay too much attention to the conversation, too busy considering whether to go back to their snog fest on the couch, or do the gentlemanly thing and go to bed. Alone. He still hadn't come to a decision when Maka returned, no longer looking quite as upset as she had been.

"That was Shinigami-sama. We're supposed to come in for a mission in the morning, at seven thirty."

He quirked a brow.

"Not at eight?" he said snarkily.

Maka chuckled.

"I know, it's gonna give Kid a fit. I guess we should go ahead and get some sleep."

Soul stood and stretched his arms over his head, feeling smug at the regretful tone of her voice. He kissed her on the corner of her mouth, careful not to start anything.

"Let's try to wrap this mission up fast tomorrow, okay? I don't want it to take all day."

"It shouldn't take too long with all of us on the job. Unless Black*Star decides to do something spectacularly stupid."

"That settles it; tomorrow is officially screwed."

They had made it to the doors of their rooms as they talked, and Maka hesitated as she went through her door.

"Goodnight, Soul, and thanks again for the present. I'll always wear it."

He couldn't resist kissing her again. "It looks good on you. Like it belongs with you."

"It belongs. It belongs like nothing else ever could."

As they went into their separate rooms, both knew that they hadn't been talking about the necklace.

There was no time for awkwardness the next morning. Both had been so keyed up the night before that it had taken them hours to fall asleep, causing them to sleep in longer than they should. In a flurry of jackets, headbands, pigtail holders and pop tarts, they flew out of the apartment. They were lucky they had a motorcycle; they made it with minutes to spare before Kid detonated. After all, if the meeting couldn't be at eight, then they could be there at precisely seven thirty, dammit! Asymmetrical gaaaaaarrrbaaaaage! At least, that's what they thought they heard him shouting about as they came up the steps; with Patty's foot in his mouth, they had to make an educated guess.

Soul slouched over to sit up against the wall by Black*Star, shortly followed by a gagging Kid. Black*Star laughed as the Shinigami twitched and shook, brushing dirt from his suit while muttering about heartless, chaos loving weapons. Soul ignored them both in favor of watching his meister, who was surrounded by her squealing friends. Like sharks attracted to blood, they had homed in on the new bling around Maka's neck, firing off questions like a trio of machine guns. Soul felt his lips twitch in a satisfied smile at the radiant look on Maka's face as she dished the dirt. He noticed how her fingers already played absently with the charms, as if she had been wearing it for years instead of hours. Ah. It looked like Tsubaki asked something perverted, if Maka's squeak of indignation and rapidly flushing cheeks were any indication. He wasn't the only one watching the show, as he was made aware when Black*Star elbowed him in the ribs roughly, earning a grunt and a glare.

"Dude. Finally grew some balls and gave it to her?"

Kid looked up from his hissy fit and took note of his surroundings.

"I see she's wearing it, so I assume all went well?"

"Whoa, wait, wearin' what?"

Kid and Soul stared at the confused looking ninja. What did he mean? He had known almost from the beginning what Soul had planned. Not that that had been Soul's intention. But if his perverted thoughts were sneaky and cockroach-like, then Black*Star was their physical manifestation. Quick to insinuate himself where he wasn't wanted, he had an unerring knack for worming out information that you wished he hadn't. With these information gathering skills, you'd think he'd be a much better assassin, but he chose to use his power for evil and the humiliation of his friends instead. The question was, why was he now acting like all this was news to him?

"I gave her the necklace. What were you talking about?"

Black*Star looked blank for a few beats.

"I thought you gave it to her. You know, gave it to her!"

He made accompanying hand gestures that had both Soul and Kid trying to block him from view of the girls; they had an upcoming mission after all, they didn't need it to start with the fool's head cracked open on the Academy stairs.

"Hell no! We didn't do anything like that! Get your mind out of the gutter; I wasn't going to bone her on the first night!"

Black*Star narrowed his eyes at him intently.

"I wondered why you both still felt like virgins. Though it looks like it was a pretty near thing, huh?"

"How the fuck do you know something like that?" asked Soul. By all that was holy, he really was like a cockroach! Maybe he had been scrambling around in their apartment unaware this whole time!

"Kid an' Maka got Soul Perception, but the great god Black*Star has Sex Perception!" he stated proudly, a smug smirk on his face.

"I don't believe it," said Kid in a flat voice. "That was just a lucky shot."

"Really?" he eyed the other boy up and down in a knowing manner.

"~I know something about you!~" he sang, causing Kid to pale and rapidly change the subject.

"T-that doesn't matter right now! Anyway, of course Soul didn't pursue his advances. He was trying to be romantic, something you wouldn't recognize if it strolled up and bitch slapped you."

This made Black*Star clench his fists, face purple with rage.

"I do too know how to do that romance crap! I'll prove it, just you wait!"

Thankfully, things didn't get a chance to escalate, since right then the clock chimed the half hour, signaling it was time to go in for their meeting. Joining their partners, they headed into the building in the direction of the Death Room.

And if Maka and Soul walked a little closer together, with his arm around her waist, no one chose to comment on the fact.


Soul sat on the floor of the hallway, head in his hands. His friends were with him, but they were only background noise, buzzing white fuzz that held no meaning. Inside the door to his left, lay his meister, still unconscious. Stein was looking her over, trying to figure out what was wrong with her. Why had she been the one the witch had focused on? Why her? He kept replaying the scene, over and over again; it still didn't make sense.

Their target from Lord Death had been a mid-level witch, one that should have posed little threat to three meisters and their weapons. The plan had been to take her out quickly, no muss, no fuss, and 'Hey, wanna stop for pizza on the way home?' Maybe that had been their problem, thinking it would be easy, letting their guard down. After all, she hadn't looked too imposing, barely older than they were themselves, dressed in a Lolita fashion with shades of pink. She hadn't even bothered with Soul Protect, meeting them head on as if she relished the thought of fighting them. She had been so cocky...but then, so had they.

"Brats from Shibusen, eh? And what's this, three meisters? Afraid one couldn't do the job?" she scoffed from her perch atop a floating, pink...swan? Yes, a swan. Not exactly your standard witches familiar, unless you remembered that a swan can break a man's leg with its wings...and those bastards have mean bites.

"The great Black*Star needs no help, but he lets his faithful minions tag along to bask in his glory!"

"Big words from a little man. The question is, can you straight laced little sheep fight the glorious madness of my magic? You cannot hope to fight what you cannot understand!"

Maka laughed as she dropped into a battle stance, angling Soul to cover any openings. "We don't understand madness? Lady, we're Spartoi; we're the fucking Baskin Robbins of madness!"

The witch tilted her head in confusion.

"Baskin Robbins?"

"We come in thirty one flavors of crazy!"

Kid launched himself at Maka, shaking her by the shoulders. "THIRTY EIGHT! IT SHOULD BE THIRTY EEEEEEEIIIIIGHT FLAVORS DAMN IT! "

His weapons pulled him off, though he continued to froth at the mouth with a crazy look in his eyes. Maka and the witch both sweat dropped, exchanging pained glances.

"Um, does he need to lie down or something? Maybe take some medication? Slip into a buckled white jacket?"

"I told you, Baskin Robbins."

"Enough of this shit. Let's fight!" roared Black*Star.

Having the attention span of a tsetse fly, he had decided he'd been quiet long enough. Shifting Tsubaki to shuriken mode, he leaped high into the air and launched Tsubaki at the off guard witch, who jerked to the side in time to save her neck, if not her hair. It sliced through the thick braid of pink hair like a knife through hot butter, leaving her with uneven, choppy chunks sticking out every which way. This, of course, enraged her.

"Damn you!" she howled, gathering energy in her hands, "I'll get you, you meisters, and your little weapons too!"

Maka rolled her eyes as she prepared to strike. "Did she really just say what I think she did?"

Black*Star took up a position next to her as Tsubaki shifted into a chain scythe.

"Yup. If I ever start spoutin' cheesy lines like that, shoot me, okay?"

"I can gladly arrange that." deadpanned Kid, coming up on the other side of Maka, seeming to have recovered from his earlier episode.

"Oh look. Mr. Eightball is functional again. Glad you could make it."


"Enough. Let's get this over with before she finishes her chanting." Maka ordered, launching herself on top of the swan, swinging Soul in an arc that sliced a deep wound in the witch's ribs. The other two meisters joined in, wielding their weapons in sync with her, fluidly dancing in and out of each other's way, parrying and dodging the pink, feathered shaped bolts of energy the witch was slinging.

She was strong, but she was no match for the three of them, and it didn't take long before they had her worn down, broken and bleeding from wounds all over her body. She was all but almost dead already with Maka poised to make the last strike, intending to neatly lop off the witch's head, when the dying woman looked up at her, eyes full of pure hate and malice.

"Such a happy little girl, aren't you? I know why. I can taste it from here!" she croaked, barely managing to pull herself into a sitting position. "You may take my life, but I won't go to hell empty handed! Love Love Death Curse!"

At her final shout, a beam of her remaining life force shot out of her body, enveloping Maka in a sickish Pepto-Bismol pink light. Her body jerked straight, muscles taut and tight as Soul slipped from her grasp to clatter on the pavement. He transformed just in time to catch her as she fell, her eyes rolling back in her head.

"Maka? Hey, snap out of it! Wake up, damn it!"

Soul shook her a little, trying desperately to get her to wake up. It was useless. She was out like a light, and he could do nothing but hold her, tears gathering behind his eyes.

"DAMN YOU BITCH! YOU'RE DEAD!" Black*Star roared, rushing to get revenge for his friend. He was too late. She was already dead, body dissolving, her soul hovering in the air. Kid was on his cell phone, calling for Professor Stein. He shouted a few terse orders and joined the rest of his friends around Maka. Liz, Patty and Tsubaki were in their regular forms, watching their friend worriedly. Black*Star kept pacing up and down, hating the fact that outside of a fight he felt completely useless to help.

Soul hadn't moved from his kneeling position, gently cradling Maka, stroking her head as if soothing a child. He stayed like that until the school ambulance got there and placed her in the back himself, unwilling to let anyone else touch her. He glared at Stein, silently daring him to kick him out, but the older man said nothing, Stein merely took his seat on the other side of the gurney and motioned for the driver to go.


The door opened and Stein stepped out, shutting it behind him. Everyone crowded around, waiting for his prognosis.

"She seems to be fine. I can't find any indications of physical damage, and her wavelength is normal. I might find out what happened if I dissected her..." he smirked as he clicked the screw in his skull, noting with amusement the way they all tensed as if to attack. "But since that doesn't seem to be an option, we'll just have to wait till she wakes up to see. That shouldn't be too long. She was starting to show signs of coming to when I left. I'm going to call in Kim to see if she can shed any light on the subject. If you want to go in and wait, that's fine, but be quiet and send for me if anything changes."

Soul was through the door before he had even finished speaking, his friends hot on his heels. They were just in time to watch Maka's eyelids flutter before opening fully, as she let out a soft groan. They crowded around the bed, Tsubaki supporting her as she tried to sit up. Maka rubbed her temples, muttering, "Wow, I feel like I've been kicked by a mule! What happened, did we get her?"

"Are you feeling okay, Maka-chan? That witch hit you with something pretty powerful."

Maka finally looked up at them, smiling a little. "I'm alright, just a little dizzy. Please tell me Black*Star didn't do anything to me while I was out."

Kid stepped forward. "I took the liberty of confiscating his markers before we came in."

Black*Star glared. "I wouldn't have done that again, give me some credit! A god never pulls the same trick twice!"

"Thanks Kid. But no one's answered my question. Did we get her?"

"Yup! The wicked witch went all melty, ain't that right, Sis?"

"Blegh! Don't make me think of that, Patty! So disgusting!"

"Are you sure you're okay? You need me to get Stein?" asked Soul, not quite believing that they had gotten off so easily. Which, as it turned out, was a good thing. Because, you know, they kinda hadn't.

Maka focused her attention on him, smiling politely. "I'm sorry, but who are you? Are you new here?"

Necks swiveled in her direction as all eyes focused on her with that 'oh shit' look.

"Houston, we have a problem!" said Patty, summing it up quite nicely.

-This was meant to be a one-shot, but it morphed totally out of my control to become a multi-chaptered fic. Hope you enjoy, and please review! It encourages me to write more, faster! Also, special thanks to GlitterGoat for editing.