Disclaimer: I don't own Soul Eater or any of the characters therein.

This was the first time Soul had ever wished Maka would be just a little afraid of something.

The cliche would have it that scary Halloween movies are great opportunities to flirt. Traditionally, the girl would grab the guy's hand or even try to cuddle into him for "protection" as terror was wrought onscreen. All he had to do was make himself available, maybe lean in close and let their fingers brush together. By the end of the movie they'd be clinging to each other with a perfectly valid excuse: "we were scared."

There were a few problems with this, though: first of all, the movie was not that scary. Secondly, it really was not that scary for people who'd spent their lives fighting evil and madness on the front lines. Thirdly, Maka was not a wuss. She was battle-hardened and, aside from occasionally wincing with empathy when something that looked painful happened onscreen, she would never have a true fear reaction to a mere movie.

Soul chastised himself for being - no, acting - so pathetic. Cool guys let girls know when they're interested and don't even care about being rejected. But his situation was different. Fears about how this might change their relationship could reduce him to a puddle of insecurities.

Next to him, Maka's arm nudged his as she readjusted her position. Soul leaned toward her, hopefully in a way she could not perceive, so their arms stayed in contact and he'd keep feeling her body heat.

He was taken slightly aback when she turned and smiled at him, finishing up with a sip of her soda.

"Want some?" she whispered, offering him the beverage. Soul stared at the straw.

...Maybe...that would be like an indirect kiss. Did she know this? Was she doing this on purpose? No, come on. Maka was way too romantically obtuse for that kind of flirting...right?

She blinked. "No?"

Soul grabbed the drink a little more forcefully than he meant to. "No! I mean, yeah. Sure. I'll have some." He took a long sip from the straw. "It's good," he said gruffly, not thinking about the flavor of the beverage at all.

He handed it back. On the screen, something loud happened suddenly. He wasn't even paying enough attention to be startled (what was the title of this movie again?), although Maka jumped ever so slightly at the noise. Soul reached over and gently touched the tips of his fingers to hers. For one heart-stopping moment, she didn't move, but then she grabbed his hand in return.

He sighed under his breath, relieved. This should really not be a big deal. They held hands all the time, but there was something different about doing so in battle and doing so in a dark movie theater under neither threat nor soul resonance. It was a mark of how important she was to him. Something had been brewing between them for a long time - since they met, probably - but taking steps toward bringing it into the light made him a nervous wreck.

Ah, yes. They must be reaching the climax of the movie. There was lots of screaming and running and startling and considerably less suspense than before. He heard a terrified little whimper come from Liz, who sat diagonally behind him next to Kid. Patty, the only one who had bothered to put on any (giraffe-themed) Halloween makeup, simply let out an amazed "Ooh."

And at that moment, Maka leaned her head against his shoulder.

Yep, she was definitely using this moment as an excuse just as he was. She gasped as though scared, but he could tell it was forced, probably to distract from the potential awkwardness of the moment. His heart soared, and he leaned his head against hers.

There was a covert contract among the members of Spartoi.

Soul had noticed it a while ago. At first he had been afraid that he would be called out in front of Maka if he outwardly flirted with her; that would make it near impossible to dance around the issue and approach it at their own pace.

But other group members had fairly obvious romantic attractions, too, and nobody ever said anything - at least, not in front of the wrong person. It worked like this, if Black Star and Tsubaki were an example: Soul and Maka would talk about Tsubaki and Black Star behind closed doors. Soul would talk to Black Star about Tsubaki, Maka would talk to Tsubaki about Black Star, Liz and Patty and Kid would talk to Maka and Soul about Black Star and Tsubaki - the list went on. But nobody would give away any secrets, or talk about Black Star and Tsubaki in front of Black Star and Tsubaki together. It was a silent understanding, an agreement that nobody would say anything that would force anyone into an uncomfortable situation prematurely.

Soul was incredibly grateful for this as he continued to hold Maka's hand on the way back to Kid's mansion at 11 PM. Still, of course, no one was safe from teasing, and he endured this on a daily basis now from the other members of Spartoi. He assumed Maka probably did, too, as a willing participant.

Tonight they would be having a Halloween slumber party. Things were already set up - everyone's sleeping bags had been left there, and the mansion was decorated in a symmetrical manner with equally symmetrical jack-o-lanterns. They had considered having the party at someone else's residence, but Kid was obviously nervous about trying to fall asleep in a place where symmetry had never been a main focus. Still, he was getting much better about all of this - he had promised not to worry about the symmetry of the party as long as care was taken to keep the asymmetry confined to a single room, complete with a TV and adequate room for sleeping bags.

Death City on Halloween night was absolutely beautiful. The residents were enthusiastic about pumpkin carving, and the glowing, leering, smirking, smiling, laughing, shouting, grotesque faces appeared everywhere, like lanterns during a festival. They cast a generally warm glow across the town. In more residential neighborhoods there was a lot of trick-or-treating, even in Death City where Halloween seemed to be a way of life year-round; the children here were just as enthusiastic about free candy as children the world over.

At this time of night the city was busy with the annual Halloween carnival. The Spartoi decided to take a quick detour there - Liz was feeling particularly chipper now that the movie was finally over, and everyone was enthusiastic about the few rickety rides that had been brought in for the event. There were rows of sugar in various forms for sale - pies, cakes, candy and caramel apples, chocolate, and so on. Nearly everything was shaped like a pumpkin, ghost, bat, or cat.

From his slightly-taller perspective, Soul looked into Maka's eyes. She happily swung his hand back and forth and hummed the theme tune from the movie they had just left, and she looked absolutely beautiful by the carnival lights.

"Heh. Nerd." He grinned like a jack-o-lantern.

"Jerk," she answered, pouting, but there was fondness in her voice.

"Wow, I'm hungry," Black Star announced.

Liz frowned. "We just had dinner, and then you inhaled an entire bucket of popcorn at the movie theater."

"Actually, most of that popcorn ended up on the floor because he threw it at people," Kid said dryly.

"Why don't we get a snack while the others get on the rides?" Tsubaki (the peacemaker) asked Black Star. "We'll catch up later or just meet them at Kid's."

Black Star nodded. "Okay! Sounds like a plan! I see pie over there so let's go!"

"Actually, I've been meaning to try some of that hot apple cider." Maka gestured toward a stand right next to the one Black Star was so eager to run toward. "Maybe we'll come with you, Tsubaki."

"Always volunteering me for stuff," Soul protested with far more passion than he actually felt about the matter. In truth, he would have gone anyway; it was just an unwritten rule that Soul would have to give her a hard time about it.

Liz, Kid, and Patty were already waving their temporary goodbyes as Maka shot him one of those looks. She tugged him after their friends; he smirked, because her angry faces were adorable, and followed wordlessly.

"...Huh?" Maka asked.

"I said don't worry about it. I got it," Soul answered as he handed a couple of bills over to the man (dressed as a creepy clown) behind the cider stand. In return, he was handed an orange, bat-themed cup full of hot apple cider, complete with lid.

Maka huffed. "You know, I have money. You don't have to buy me stuff." In truth, this was her pride speaking. She resented the stereotyped idea that men are supposed to buy things for women. Another part of her absolutely loved Soul's chivalrous gestures, but she didn't want him to think she was looking for him to pay for her stuff all the time because really all she actually wanted was him.

"I know I don't have to. I'd like to, though. You could pay me back," he suggested.

"Hmm. Nah," she smiled. "Too late. Didn't you want any?"

Soul shook his head. "No, I'm full. Can I just have a taste?"

"Sure," Maka answered. He took a swig from the little hole in the top of the cup, drinking longer and slower than was necessary. Then he handed the cup back, grinning.

Something passed between them in that moment - an understanding. If she drank from the same opening, this would be an indirect kiss. So he had understood what she was trying to do in the movie theater.

Maka beamed, grabbed the cup, and drank from it immediately.

"How is it?" Soul asked.

"It's good."

Meanwhile, Black Star was chowing down on about nine different flavors of pie right in front of the cat-costumed lady working the pie stand.

After several mediocre rounds on the carnival rides, the group headed home. Soul decided to try one of the special giant chocolate peanut butter pumpkin cups and devoured it in about two bites.

"Hey, I wanted a chance to try some." Maka pouted.

"Uh, sorry," Soul said, genuinely embarrassed. "It's gone."

"How fast did you eat that?" she wondered, looking directly at him.

"Well, you know me - pretty fast," Soul said sheepishly.

As they walked, he grabbed her hand and Maka couldn't possibly hold back a grin. They fell back a bit from Black Star and Tsubaki, who weren't paying too much attention.

"Hey," she heard Soul say quietly from her right side as he tugged at her arm a little bit.

"Mmm?" she asked, turning her head to face him.

She couldn't anticipate what was coming next. Maka assumed he was just going to point out something funny or say something about their friends. His face was a lot closer than she expected, and she barely even had time to register what was going on before he mumbled something like "well you can probably still taste it on me so..." right against her mouth and planted a kiss softly on her lips. Then he didn't say anything more, though he was bright red and kept walking purposefully. Maka was going to shout something at him, but Black Star and Tsubaki had gained a sudden interest in them from ahead.

"Hurry up, you two!" Tsubaki laughed. Black Star was looking on suspiciously. They didn't give any sign of having actually seen what happened.

Maka licked her lips. Yeah, maybe there was a hint of peanut-buttery chocolate there.

Everyone had finally decided it was bedtime around 2 AM. Sleeping figures, only lumps and shadows and highlights in the moonlit darkness, were scattered all over the room. Unlit jack-o-lanterns kept silent vigil.

Soul had not said anything significant to Maka since they got back - just the usual bland conversations; the ball was in her court. She decided to wait to do anything until everyone was asleep.

She could barely see, but Soul's white hair stood out even in the darkness. Maka crouched next to his bedroll, shaking his shoulder gently. "Soul. Hey," she whispered.

He groaned her name and stirred for a moment before realizing it was still the middle of the night. "Huh? Wha's goin' on?" he asked, snapping to attention.

"Shhhh. Nothing," Maka assured him. Her heart was pounding at roughly a million beats per minute. Suddenly she felt very stupid. No matter what - no matter how many times they held hands, no matter how close they sat next to each other, even whether or not he'd stolen a kiss from her earlier tonight - she would still be nervous about messing something up with their relationship by going too fast or too aggressively.

But she came to do something, and if there was a right time, now would be it.

"Can I...join you?" she asked, a little breathlessly.

Soul looked confused for a moment, and then - she could swear she saw his blush even in the dark - answered "Yeah. Sure."

Maka scrambled into the sleeping bag, trying her best to minimize the awkwardness of her movements. After some shuffling and rearranging, there she was, lying eye-to-eye and chest-to-chest with her weapon. All tightly wrapped up in warmth and softness, she held his hands, with both of hers this time; he wove his fingers between her own.

"So. Why are you in my sleeping bag?" he whispered. She felt his warm breath on her lips, still sugary from Halloween sweets.

"You smell like peanut butter cups," she said, moving her face just a fraction of an inch closer. She flexed her fingers; he squeezed her hand back.

"Heh. You smell like cider."

"You've been...unusual tonight," she continued, slowly and deliberately to break that veneer of ignorance they'd both been feigning to avoid making any risky moves that couldn't be taken back.

"This...hasn't been going on for a while?" Soul asked, sounding a little dismayed. "I could swear you started it."

"Huh? No way!" she hissed. "You started it!"

Soul snorted, but quickly returned to seriousness. "But anyway. The important thing is...where do you want to go from here...?"

Maka leaned forward and brushed her lips against his. She felt his hands flex with emotion. "Forward, if that's okay with you," she answered.

"Cool," Soul sighed breathily before leaning in and kissing her again.

Soon they weren't holding hands anymore. They were embracing, running their hands over each other's shoulders and backs as their lips and tongues caressed each other. They tried as hard as they could to be quiet and hoped it would work because with the feelings coursing through both of them, it wasn't easy. It was not a large sleeping bag, but considering how close they wanted to be with each other, it felt like acres and acres of fabric.

Maka reached up and ran her hands through Soul's hair as they ground together. They very nearly rolled over entirely in the bedroll. His grasp wandered down to the small of her back and he pulled her as close as possible.

She knew where he wanted to go...so she went there first, grasping his rear end tightly and pulling him in. She gave him a brief moment to return the favor before finally pulling away from the kiss. He made a disappointed noise and held her close, as if to compensate for having to break the lip-lock.

"I think we better keep it quiet," she giggled as she cuddled against his chest and listened to his heart. And when he hummed his assent, she heard his voice rumble, low and comforting, in her ear. She initiated a rather competitive game of footsie before they gradually dropped off to sleep, the weapon holding the meister for once.

The fresh, bright morning of November 1 was so different that Maka felt like October 31 was already a year away.

The jack-o-lanterns suddenly looked out of place, she was fairly certain she never wanted to eat that much candy again, and she could already barely remember the events of last night's Halloween horror flick.

But most importantly, the spark between Soul and herself had finally ignited. Every time she remembered this, she had to fight the urge to shout triumphantly into her still-sleeping partner's chest. She lay there relishing every sensation - the feeling of each different kind of fabric, from the sleeping bag to Soul's tee shirt to her own clothes, their shared body heat, even the slight draft coming from the doorway. It made her feel that much cozier all wrapped up in Soul and the smell of him and his clean laundry.

Eventually, people started waking up around them. As Soul pulled Maka up toward his face for what he hoped would be a subtle a good-morning kiss, the general consensus around the room seemed to be "Wow, guys. It's about time!"