AN: This is for Bitter November because she helped me with the ideas (read: gave me the ideas) for Soul and Maka's presents to each other! If you're in this fandom and haven't read her stuff...go do it. Lots of thanks to Lueur-de-L'aube, who helped a lot, too, and patiently listened to me complain about my lack of ideas for this.

Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate...and if you don't, then simply have a wonderful week.

None of his ideas would be good enough. They were all stupid, either too cheesy and tacky or lacking in thoughtfulness.

But he had to try. Only a week until Christmas.

Soul had bought books for her in the past, but none of them had been perfect enough. He vowed to do better than ever before as he walked through the double doors to Death City Bookstore.

A book entitled "Understanding Music"? Maybe...but no. She had said a few times that she wished she understood music, but that would be too obvious a gift. Not thoughtful enough. Besides, a small part of him worried that she might take it as an insult.

That day, Soul spent more time in the book store than he ever could have possibly predicted. He looked through novels, classic and contemporary. He looked through reference books, art books, puzzle books, calendars, stationery, books about science and books about history.

Nothing really inspired him.

On his way out of the book store, though, he noticed a poster.

He recognized the name on the poster. The most recent addition to the "Maka's favorite authors that she won't stop telling me about" list. A new book would be coming out in January, and a copy could be reserved now. Soul spent a few moments trying to figure out whether she had already reserved this for herself, and decided that she probably had not. She usually didn't spend a lot of money on herself around the holidays.

Soul went to the counter and reserved Maka's copy. As the cashier handed him a receipt, he asked, "We're still giving out tickets for the signing. Did you wanna get those, too?"

Soul blinked. "The signing?"

"Oh, you didn't know about it?" The cashier raised his eyebrows. "We're a small store, so we're limiting the number of people who can come by selling tickets to people who preorder the book. Did you want to buy one?"

It didn't take long to consider. "Yeah. What's the date?" he asked as he took out his wallet.

"January 15th, starting at 10 PM. It's the first night of its release."

Soul paused for a moment.

That was the day and time of a concert. A really good concert. A concert he'd been planning to buy tickets for this afternoon.

Oh, well.

"Is it possible to get two?"

"Ahah. Usually we limit it to one per preorder," the cashier said, looking shiftily around. "But...depending on what it's for, maybe I could help you out...?"

Soul made a face, blushed, and checked to see that no one was in earshot. "Yeah. It's uh, for a girl. A date," he answered gruffly. The cashier winked and added another ticket to the order. Soul pocketed the two tickets and left, strangely at peace with the concert he was going to miss.

Maka's Gift, Part II came to Soul much more easily. He noticed the "book-scented" candles on his way out of the store, and knew they were a gimmick she would appreciate.

Unbeknownst to Soul, Maka was having just as much trouble finding a suitable gift for him.

She'd always been pretty good at finding thoughtful presents for people, but this year she wanted his to be special.

She wanted him to feel understood. She had to admit, her weapon could still be a bit of a mystery to her at times (a lot of the time, actually), but she would like to think she understood him well enough to make him feel comfortable around her. At home. Completely accepted. She wanted him to feel appreciated, too. She was certain she'd stumbled upon the best weapon partner ever to walk the Earth; if only a gift could properly convey that. Altogether, she wanted him to feel loved but not pressured when he opened...whatever she was going to get him.

Soul didn't seem to want a lot of things. If there did happen to be something he wanted, he would quietly go out and get it himself. Maka supposed this would give her free reign to just have fun and be creative, but there was something unsettling about not knowing "the answer" about what he wanted the most.

Maka felt completely out of her element in all of the stores that would be relevant to Soul's interests. She ended up buying a pair of biking goggles for him. He'd been wearing the same ones since he was thirteen, and while he'd never complained about them, little parts around the headband were starting to crack. Besides, she thought as she watched the cashier ring them out, these are going to look really, really good on him.

Then she reminded herself that this gift was in fact for him, not her.

She still didn't know too much about the kind of music Soul loved. But she did know one of his favorite musicians, and she did see a poster saying he would be coming to town in March, so she absolutely had to get him tickets to see that. Two tickets, because who wants to go to a concert alone? She reread the poster.

January 15th, 8 PM to 12 AM.

Maka groaned inwardly. If she went with him, she couldn't attend the book signing. There was no guarantee he'd want her to come, she reminded herself sadly, but what kind of Christmas gift would it be if she didn't at least make herself available to go?

By the time she had the tickets in hand, though, Maka was feeling oddly excited. She was going to tell him the other ticket was for anyone he wanted to bring, but she really hoped he would ask her to come, regardless of the midnight release party for the new book.

A week passed, and soon it was the night before Christmas.

The two of them arrived at Kid's house separately for the Christmas-Eve-founding-party-after-party. Soul observed that things were a lot more festive than usual, everything decked out in red and green and white and gold; the two pistols seemed to have been hard at work decorating, and there were multiple Christmas trees.

Soul and Maka found each other in the crowd and began a lively discussion about Christmases past. They also whispered in hushed tones about what they'd bought for their friends and speculated on what others had bought for them.

Their conversation was interrupted by a chipper "Hey look!" Both glanced over at Patty, who was pointing enthusiastically at the ceiling directly above them. "Someone finally went under the mistletoe and it's Soul and Maka!"

Much to the pair's chagrin, they now had a highly amused audience, consisting (at first glance) of Black Star, Tsubaki, Liz, Patty, Kid, Ox, Harvar, Kim, Jackie, and a few other students who weren't Spartoi. Sid might even have been watching nosily from his corner of the room, although considering his clouded, milky eyes it was kind of hard to tell.

"Uhhh..." Soul looked awkwardly up at the large bundle of mistletoe, which was indeed poised perfectly above himself and his meister. "How did we not notice that?" he mumbled.

No doubt about it, this would be the time to kiss her - with everyone watching to see him fail if Maka was unreceptive to his advances.

"Oh, finally." Kim grinned as widely as the moon. She looked almost predatory. "You know the rules," she added. "Pucker up, both of you!"

Soul risked a quick glance at Maka's face. She was bright red and carefully studying anything in the room that was not watching the two of them. Her eyes flicked to his face, and then quickly to the floor.

"No! No way!" he said emphatically.

"Come on, man," Black Star grinned, teeth gleaming brightly in the Christmas lights. "You have to. It's tradition."

"I'm not gonna kiss my meister, dude," Soul shot back. He looked around the room. "No," he repeated loudly to everyone and no one in particular.

"Well, as the host, I have to say-" Kid began.

"Traditions can be broken," Maka snapped abruptly. "Sorry to disappoint you all, but I don't even want to kiss my weapon tonight, thank you very much. Let's go, Soul." And with that, she grabbed his wrist and pulled him away, back into the disappointed crowd, away from the mistletoe.

Feeling the warmth of her hand around his wrist only accentuated the weight of the regret that nested in his heart.

Once they were back at the refreshment table, Maka sighed in frustration and let go of Soul's wrist. "People should mind their own business," she huffed, still a bright shade of pink.

Soul liked to think he'd been getting better at reading Maka's not-so-carefully disguised emotions over the years. And when she was getting defensive, she blushed.

"Oh, you gossip about other people all the time," Soul tried teasingly, hoping to lift the mood. "You never mind your own business."

"Shut up, Soul," she snapped again. He grew quiet.

"Ah. Sorry," Maka added after a moment. "I guess I'm just tense today. And these idiots are making it worse."

"S'alright," he murmured.

They only stayed another couple of hours before leaving. Maka was feeling rather shaken, and she wished she could just relax and enjoy the night of Christmas eve.

His refusal to kiss her didn't really mean anything, right? Well, maybe it did. Maybe he was too shy to do it in front of people. After all, there were quite a few gawkers around. Even she had refused; she would have said 'no' if he hadn't done so first.

But maybe he just didn't feel that way about her.

Either way should not have ruined her evening. She should have been able to just enjoy the quality time she spent with all of her friends in one place, and look forward to Christmas morning tomorrow, and yet another party later in the day. Still, she realized just how much she'd been hoping for something to happen this year - with all the mistletoe hanging around - and then the perfect opportunity had presented itself and just...passed by.

She had kind of preemptively destroyed it. She had been so flustered and embarrassed upon noting Soul's refusal that she shut everyone down, which may have been the right thing to do, but in retrospect maybe she should not have said she didn't want to kiss him. It wasn't true, and she was after all still clinging to hope.

Unable to sleep in her bed, Maka gathered the gifts she had for Soul - unsatisfying though they were, a little box with goggles and two tickets in a pretty envelope - and brought them out to the living room. She wanted to sit on the couch in front of the glowing Christmas tree, the way she did as a child. Even if she wouldn't be earning her weapon's affections this year, she could at least enjoy the ethereal feeling of Christmas before dawn.

Neither of the gifts were good enough. He was ashamed of them, lying there on his bed, candles and preorder tickets wrapped up as though they were rare and wonderful treasures. Any idiot could have picked them out.

Soul hadn't been able to sleep very soundly. He kept waking up and thinking back to Maka's words, "I don't even want to kiss my weapon." He had a pretty strong feeling that she was being defensive, that what she said was in response to hurt feelings, but he couldn't know for sure.

Maybe he'd be less restless if he got up for a little while.

Soul walked to the living room to find something unexpected: a sleepy meister dozing on the couch in front of the lit Christmas tree, feet dangling from the edge of the cushion. She didn't have a blanket. Just looking at her made him feel cold, so he put down the presents he was holding and grabbed a blanket quickly from his bedroom, throwing it over her somewhat unceremoniously in an effort to offset his sappy gesture of caring.

Green eyes opened sleepily. "Hmmmmm?"

"Shhh. Go back to sleep."

She grinned sleepily. "Too late. I'm awake now. Merry Christmas, Soul." Maka stretched under the blanket in a way that made him wish they'd had this conversation before he put it on her.

"Ah. Dammit," he said, but he was grinning, as she sat up and he sat down next to her. Her smile relaxed him a little.

She had noticed, as soon as she woke up, the mistletoe hanging on the ceiling. She decided not to say anything, considering the events of the night before. It would only ruin the moment.

"What's going on?" she asked instead. "You're never up at..." She checked the clock. "Five in the morning."

"Couldn't sleep," Soul answered. Then he looked around the room. It was dark, and lit only by the multicolored Christmas tree lights, and he saw the gifts Maka had brought from her room. Gesturing toward the packages he had brought, he suggested, "Let's exchange presents now."

"You don't want to wait until we go see the others?"

Soul shrugged. "If you want to. But I want to hurry up and open my presents." He smirked.

"Pfft. You're like a kid," Maka sniffed indignantly. How could a person like him be so absurdly cute?

"Here." He plopped his presents right next to her on the couch, between the two of them, and then reached for the two she'd given him.

"Open yours first," he said expectantly. Maka rolled her eyes.

"Okay," she sighed in mock-derision, but then she smiled and quickly tore the wrapping paper from a rectangular package. A pair of boxes fell out, and she studied them for a moment before saying, "Soul! I've been looking at these forever at the store! Thank you so much." They were book-scented candles. She looked him straight in the eyes, and hoped he could feel how much she genuinely appreciated it.

"I wasn't really sure if you'd like them, since you never show any interest in candles. But you're such a bookworm it seemed like it was worth a shot."

Maka didn't even act offended. "I'm glad you did. I'm going to light them right now." A minute later she had lit one on each end of the coffee table. They added to the warm glow in the room, their odd scent blending seamlessly with the pine scent from the tree.

"Open the other one," Soul said, handing her a small, thick, decorated envelope.

"Nah. First, you open one of yours," Maka insisted happily, handing him the package she knew contained the bike goggles. She watched his expression carefully as he unwrapped it, and his face broke into a massive grin.

"Cool! How did you know I needed these? I was getting real tired of my old ones."

"Ah, I noticed that yours were really old." Maka smiled. "So you like them?"

"Yeah, obviously," Soul said. Then he eagerly handed her the envelope. "Okay. Now you."

Maka eyed him suspiciously.

"What? I wanna open mine last." He shrugged.

Maka tore open the envelope. In it was a receipt for a brand new book she was excited about. She smiled, about to say something, but noticed two other pieces of paper in there. She lifted them up and read one aloud.

"Death City Book Trade, Admit One," she read out loud slowly. "Limited-Release Book Signing, January 15th...there's two?"

Soul shrugged again. "I figured you could bring someone with you. I would definitely go, but you could bring whoever you want."

She burst into laughter.

"What?!" Soul asked in alarm. She could see panic in his eyes, so she shook her head.

"No! No, it's okay. It''s amazing, Soul. I love it. Thank you. You might want to open yours now, though." She tried to keep her laughter to a bubbly giggle.

Soul's eyes widened as he opened the envelope and stared at the tickets.

"You can bring someone with you too," Maka said. "I would go, but...whatever you want."

"Maka!" he said, beaming. "Obviously you can come. I still need to teach you about decent music. But...what are we gonna do?" he asked, worried. "We can't be in two places at once...I mean, you don't have to come with me, but..."

She put her arm on his shoulder. "It's okay. We'll work it out later."

He leaned back into the couch. "Ah, I can't believe we did that."

Maka sat back and allowed the moment to sink in a bit. Still wearing a goofy grin, she went to make some hot chocolate for both of them.

The warm, happy glow of realizing her best friend would rather give her a great Christmas present than attend his ideal concert made Maka reconsider mentioning the mistletoe.

But no. It would be too strange.

He first noticed it when she got up to make the beverages.

Mistletoe. It must have been Blair's handiwork. There it hung from the ceiling in a way that said "I know my roommates will sit right underneath this and I think they should kiss each other right now (nya)!"

Something in him wanted a second chance. Now they were alone. Now she could change her mind, if she wanted to. He decided to bring it up carefully, as a joke.

"Looks like Blair's been trying to prank us again," he sighed with what he hoped was exasperation, pointing up at the ceiling. Maka immediately turned a bright red again and stood still with the hot chocolate.

"Y-yeah, I...noticed. I wasn't gonna say anything though," she said quietly.

"Why not?" It tumbled out of his mouth before he had a chance to stop it.

"Well, because I didn't wanna make things weird. Because of what you said last night, I mean. You wouldn't want to do stupid stuff like - like kiss me anyway, so I thought it would be nicer if I just didn't say anything."

She looked so dejected as she said it. He wasn't stupid, he knew there had been a misunderstanding...

"Maka. I can't believe that's what you thought. Because it's not what I meant when I said 'no.' I said 'no' because all these people were watching and Black Star was being a dick about it and I didn't know how you'd react and it caught me by surprise. Maka...I didn't say 'no' because I didn't want to kiss you...actually I really wanted to..." he put his hand over his mouth and trailed off, realizing he'd essentially just confessed.

Maka studied his face, eyebrows progressively climbing further into her thick bangs. And then she smiled. The smile lit her face slowly and shyly, as though it were some kind of adorable baby animal venturing from its nest for the first time. "Soul," she breathed.

" didn't mean anything by it when you said you didn't want to, either?" he asked cautiously.

"I only said that because I was angry at what you said."

"Oh. Sorry." Soul deflated.

"It's okay. Stop worrying about it." Maka continued to hold eye contact.

He glanced up again at the mistletoe. "Uh. Well, there's no one watching now..."

"Do you want to try it?" she asked breathlessly.

"Yeah, I do," he answered softly.

It would never be clear who leaned toward the other first. They probably had leaned in at the same time, really. Either way, his lips were on hers, soft and hesitant, and she didn't quite know what to do except push a little closer to him. Each afraid of overstaying their welcome on the other's mouth, they both pulled away around the same time, too.

"Ah. Thanks?" he tried awkwardly.

This thing. This kissing thing. That moment hadn't been nearly enough. It was something they both wanted to do again. Maka didn't even try hiding the fact that she was staring at his lips. Soul noticed this, and took it as the invitation it was.

This time, he angled his head more comfortably, and brought his arm up to her shoulder to pull her closer. She wrapped her arms around him, which caught Soul by surprise, and he grinned before they kissed again.

They held it for longer this time, long enough to tighten their embrace and for her to tangle her hands together in his hair and for him to run his hands up and down her back. They both shook with anticipation; he felt the butterflies in his stomach all take off at once when her tongue gingerly lapped against his lips. He touched it with his own, and soon their mouths were locked together perfectly.

Their lips and tongues swirled together, caught up in some kind of intimate dance. Pine and the scent of books tangled with the smell of Maka's shampoo and the clean detergent on Soul's clothes. But for Soul and Maka, this was not close enough. They tightened their grips on each other, pressing their bodies together; Soul finally leaned back and pulled Maka up as she settled on top of him. Then, each impatiently resumed their makeout session, snuggling together as close as they could. His hands caressed her back and she clawed at his shirt.

And finally, she started grinding against his lap. She couldn't resist; she could feel the evidence of his attraction to her. They could feel the sparks fly deep inside themselves. They each took their turns moaning ever so lightly at the intensity of their mutual desire.

"Maka," Soul whispered urgently against her lips.

"Hmm?" She looked curiously into his deep eyes.

"I don't want to go farther than you're comfortable with," he said nervously.

Instead of answering right away, she leaned up and kissed him on the forehead. "Behind your sour attitude about everything, you're really the sweetest, aren't you?" she said huskily in his ear.

Soul grinned and peppered her neck with hot, wet kisses. "I think you bring it out of me," he answered, voice deep and low.

"Let's just enjoy being like...this for a little while longer," Maka continued. She closed her eyes and touched her nose to his. "But not too much longer. Because I want to go as far as you want to go."

And so they continued. The lights of the Christmas tree and the warm glow of book-scented candles blended with the light of dawn.