A/N: Ahoy thar, Taylor here! BACK WITH A BANG. Hi. So. Sorry for our hiatus D: *goes on a ramble about how busy things have been blahblahblah* THE IMPORTANT THING IS, we're back to writing this story! This chapter was mainly a setup for the big climax that's happening in the next chapter! So stay tuned! That's where things will get interesting x) Now let's switch it over to Jess, because I can't think of anything witty to add in! I NEED MORE COFFEE. *shines spotlight on Jessie*

*winces in the bright light* Hi, this is Jessie :) So big apologies for the hiatus! And I hope I didn't freak anyone out with deleting all my stories and going AWOL and whatnot. There is now an explanation on my profile for what happened, but in two words: Reichenbach depression. It's serious stuff, you guys. Anyway! Taylor and I are back, and this is where our story picks up! Okay, not in this chapter, but next chapter is seriously going to be epic. Epic.

Quick note! Unlike previous chapters, this one is kind of a collaboration of both our writings. Most of it is Taylor, but I pop in at a couple of random spots. So without further ado! I present the next chapter! *trumpets blow*

You know how they say a girl blossoms when she's in love? I felt stuck in a reverie, unable to stop staring at Soul in light of this new realization that'd struck me.

When the crowd finally set us down, I felt like I'd gotten my landlegs back, but I was still dumbfoundedly staring at Soul, probably looking like a huge idiot, now that I think about it. He finally turned to meet my gaze, and I felt my heart do flip-flops at his smile. Just when I thought he was maybe going to say something meaningful to address the kiss that had (almost) transpired, or maybe finish what he'd started...

"Sweet. What a cool stroke of luck." The words snapped me out of my stupor with a harsh jerk of reality check. He was glancing in the direction of, lo and behold, his bike, with a big enthused grin. We'd happened to be set down right next to it.

Well. So much for that.

"Very convenient," I responded dryly, trying to hide my bitterness. "So how in the world are you going to top a parade?"

Soul had to relinquish my hand to slip onto the bike, which I was a little disappointed by. "Well, I'd say it's about time for a little relaxation, don't you think?" He revved the engine. "Hop on."

I voiced the first notion that came to mind, "The library?"

Soul made a sound that was something akin to a mix between a scoff and a snort. "I said relaxation, Maka, not boredom."

I felt a scowl form as I smacked his arm. I wasn't in the mood for all that, considering my conflicting emotions about the kiss, skipping school - well, everything that'd happened today, really. This day had been more eventful than my year full of training and Kishin-hunting...and that was saying a lot. "Oh, shut up."

"Oi, watch it while I'm driving. You WANT me to wreck?" Soul retorted. Just then the breeze sifted through his ivory spikes, and it looked just lovely for a moment before the strands found their way into my eyes and mouth. (Take note that I was sitting right behind him.)

"Well, I'd rather you not, so don't piss me off," I growled, a little meaner than I'd intended.

"Yeah, yeah. Just keep your damned books away from me."

"You bring it upon yourself!"

"That justifies all my concussions?"

"Well, I think you have it coming."

The buildings began to slip away from the horizon as Soul drove through a clearing that suddenly gave way to a forest trail. "I don't think you know how it feels to have a bigass book as thick as Blair's hips slammed into your skull. Tch."

As thick as Blair's hips..? I could feel my eye twitching. "And what's what supposed to mean?" I demanded, finding my gaze trailing down to my own lacking hips.

"I'm saying, the book is effing huge," he answered disdainfully.

"MAKAAAAAA CHOP!" Don't ask how I had a book on hand after everything that'd happened. Don't doubt my skills. I am not an alleged bookworm for nothing.

Suddenly, with that movement, the entire bike toppled over, and I felt us make impact with the hard ground as we skidded into a ditch.

It was silent for several long moments before: "GODDAMMIT, MAKA! That better not have ruined the paint job!" Soul snapped, his head having a large book-shaped indent.

I'm ashamed to admit all of the emotions that'd built up in the course of the drive began to explode. "Just because I don't have big hips! I'm so sorry I can't be a cat porn star!" Even at the moment I registered that I was screeching nonsensically.

Soul stared at me for a long moment before finally sighing and lifting a hand to his forehead in a gesture of exasperation. "Maka, I wasn't saying I LIKE her hips. If I did, why would I compare them to your accursed books?" he spoke slowly as if chidingly consulting a child.

I can't even describe how embarrassed I felt at that moment, sprawled on the ground and staring up at him with clueless eyes. All I could utter was...

"Oh... my bad."

Soul exhaled and extended a hand down at me to help me up, which I smacked away in my humiliation. "Sorry won't fix my bike, will it?" He allowed me to help myself up as he pushed his bike back onto its wheels.

I brushed my clothes off. "Well, you shouldn't have brought Blair up at all!" He of all people knew that was a touchy subject with me.

"Eh, I guess that was a rookie mistake.." he acknowledged as he propped out the kickstand, inspecting his motorcycle carefully.

"It'll still drive, right?" I treaded cautiously, gauging his reaction.

Soul nodded with conviction. "Oh, yeah. This baby can handle anything. I'm just making sure she didn't get scratched."

I couldn't help but roll my eyes. Men. "Just start 'her' up again, so we can get going."

Soul fleetingly looked defensive but apparently decided to let it go, slipping back onto the seat and turning the key.

I got on, but I held onto the bike instead of him this time, as my own little act of rebellion. I'm such a rebel. "Do you even know where you plan on going?"

"Of course I do. Cool guys never get lost." I rolled my eyes at his macho act that'd found a way to return.

I honestly wish I could say that we somehow ended up in the middle of nowhere and that Soul is a total idiot who couldn't navigate his way out of a cardboard box, but... That would be a lie. To be completely truthful, he managed to find a tiny piece of heaven that has somehow been hidden in Death City all this time without anyone ever realizing it.

I was a little nervous at first when we stopped driving on familiar pavement and somehow ended up on a winding dirt path. I started to speak up and voice my reluctance, but then I realized how... well, lovely it was. Elegant oak trees that seemed to brush against the sky guided our way down the quaint road, and the tweets and chirps of birds were our melody. I'm a city girl through and through, and I had never been so shocked to discover the simple beauty of a forest. I didn't even know we had a forest in Death City!

Once again, I opened my mouth to show my awe, but Soul just kept managing to surprise me. There was a break in the trees, and an endless lake of shimmering water awaited us. As we got closer, the crash of waves against the smooth bank grew louder, and I felt like I had traveled to an entirely different universe.

"Wow... it's beautiful," I choked out, the words falling flat for what I was trying to say.

For a moment, Soul's wink rendered me breathless. "Not a bad view, huh?" He killed the engine and jabbed his thumb toward the bike's compartment in the back. "Time to put that bikini to work."

Good feeling's gone. "W-what? I d-don't think I can.. no! No, I don't think so!" I sputtered, both enraged and mortified.

"And why not?" Soul turned around, still perched on the bike, and flashed a cheeky grin. Dammit, him being so effortlessly sexy didn't help my present state in the least. "Didn't catch that." He cupped his hand behind his ear, inclining for me to speak up, leaning in closer.

"I don't feel comfortable with it." I kept my response curt and to the point.

Just as I thought Soul was going to persist, he turned back around. "Alright, fine. So you're just gonna go swimming in your clothes?"

"Well, what are you swimming in?"

He gestured to his shorts.

...Oh. Duh, Maka.

I know it's silly that that's all it took for me to change my mind, but I considered everything Soul had done for me that day, how sweet and considerate he'd been, giving me the time of my life when I'd been so adamantly against it. The words slipped out without my consent, "I.. I guess I could put on the swimsuit.."

The look of pleasant surprised that swept across Soul's face was instantly worth it all, as he turned around to look at me. "Why the sudden change of heart?"

I had the perfect response planned out, and usually I'm quite eloquent if I do say so myself. But everything about Soul at that moment completely flustered me, and I felt my cheeks surge with heat as I turned around sharply. "J-just because!" I pursed my lips sullenly as I hopped off to withdraw the skimpy bikini.

I couldn't help but feel that I'd undergone some major character development in just under twelve hours.

What was Soul doing to me?

Thankfully, Spirit's voice did eventually go out, so his screams of 'MAKAMAKAMAKA' were reduced to an odd panting noise that resembled a mentally retarded bear. He stalked down the streets of Death City, his blue eyes scanning every corner and every nook for any sign of his precious little girl and a certain shark-tooth spiky-haired little punk.

His first stop was the sight of the parade. By the time he arrived though, all that was left were a few empty floats and what remained of the crowd mulling about in the streets. He tried to ask a few if they had seen Maka, but everyone just ran away screaming. Then again, he probably should have used a little more tact than shouting in their faces, his voice suddenly completely restored, "HAVEYOUSEENMYBABYGIRLANDAMOT HERFUCKINGOCTOPUSHEAD?!"

Needless to say, his detective skills weren't working too well.

Suddenly, Spirit stopped dead-cold in his searches. Without moving an inch, he turned his neck to the side, and his eyes zeroed in on a spot on the pavement. His face twisted into a snarl as he stalked over the area and leaned down so his nose was practically brushing the road.

With a single finger, he scraped it across the tread mark and sniffed it. "Motorcycle," he growled. "...Fresh."

Spirit jumped to his feet at the speed of light and darted off down the road, following the trail of black marks.