Chapter 23: Long Story Short

"Are you sure about this? We do have school tomorrow."

Maka smiles and leans into Soul. He smiles back, his arm going around her shoulders. These last few weeks have been the best of Soul's life. Yeah, he's always getting teased about Maka being his girlfriend but he didn't care. He loved her and she loved him and that was all that mattered.

"Yes I'm sure. It's not like we have any tests or anything."

"Well aren't you turning into a bad girl."

Soul grins and teases her as she lightly smacks his arm. They walk down the sidewalk, stopping to watch the sun set. When a cold breeze sweeps around them, Soul takes his jacket off and wraps it around Maka. She smiles up at him, her eyes shining slightly. Small butterflies form in Soul's stomach, making him give her a very soft and very sweet smile in return. Maka blushes slightly and they stand there, getting lost in each other's eyes.

"I love you Maka."

"I love you too Soul."

The cool breeze plays with their hair and they start walking again, both of them lost in the world that only they inhabit.

•••••••••

The world was darkness. Black*Star couldn't see a thing. But he could hear soft voices coming from the other room. He shifts around and material scratches at his face. So it was a blindfold that was obscuring his vision. A soft grunt leaves him as he gets himself propped up.

"…later tonight?"

Black*Star holds still and listens to Arachne and the boys talk.

"Yes. We need to get rid of him before he becomes trouble."

"And what do you propose?"

"Shoot him and dump him into the ocean."

"Why don't we just bury him?"

The three argue but Black*Star tunes them out. He's heard enough. He had to escape. He tugs on his bindings but they don't budge.

'C'mon Black*Star. You can do this. This is nothing.'

He thinks to himself as he moves around until he finds an edge of something. He uses it to pull his blindfold down so he could at least see what his surroundings were. It takes his eyes several moments to adjust to the light. He was sitting in Arachne's home. More specifically, her living room. Perfect. He shimmies around until he's able to grab the entertainment stand and pull himself up. He hops over to her kitchen and very carefully opens her drawers until he finds a knife. He grips the handle and takes a deep breath to steady his nerves.

"…..poison… keep him subdued."

" No, a gun would be better…"

"…broken neck…."

God. Did they ever shut up? Black*Star moves the blade and starts sawing away at the rope that was holding his wrists hostage. It takes what feels like an eternity to get through but his hands finally break free. He quickly cuts the rope around his ankles and tosses the remains aside. He sets the knife down and he goes back into the living room. He looks around, anxiety starting to build up inside of him. He sees Arachne's phone lying on the table and he scoops it up. Jackpot. He turns it on and he records the last bit of arguing and the groups' consensus. He quickly turns it off and slips the phone into his pocket. He takes off, running into the cold December night.

•••••••••

"You two better behave."

Maka looks up as her father's voice enters the room. She was sitting on Soul's lap, the two of them watching a movie.

"I'm heading off to bed. Behave."

"We will Papa."

He nods and heads upstairs. Soul softly rubs Maka's back and smiles at her. She smiles back at him, leaning into him.

"What movie do you want to watch now?"

Maka shrugs and plays with Soul's hair. It's softness still surprises her sometimes even though they've been dating for months. Her smile softens and she lays her head on his shoulder and closes her eyes.

"I just want to stay with you."

"Then that's what I'll do."

Soul's arms wrap around her and the two relax. But their peace doesn't last long. They sit there for maybe 10 minutes before a loud knocking comes from the door. Soul mumbles and looks at the clock on the wall.

"Who would be out this late?"

Maka shrugs and moves out of his lap.

"Only one way to find out."

They both approach the door, Soul in front of Maka. His hand rests on the knob for a moment before he slowly turns it, opening the door. Shock fills him when he sees who is at the door but it's quickly swept away by anger.

"What the fuck are you doing here?!"

He jerks forward, making Black*Star back up. Maka grabs his wrist, stopping him from tearing Black*Star apart. He growls and tugs, telling Maka to let go of him. She keeps her hold on him, stubborn.

"Soul. Violence isn't the answer. Please stop."

It takes a moment for Soul to register his girlfriend's words, but when he does some of the fight leaves him. He glares at Black*Star instead.

"Well?"

Black*Star huffs and comes out of the dark. A sick feeling twists in Maka's gut when she sees the bruises and cuts on him.

"I've come from the Dark Side."

"Tell me something I don't already know."

"How about Arachne turned on me as well. And I have proof that she and her… friends were plotting to kill me."

"Prove it."

Black*Star obliges and pulls a phone out of his pocket. He shows the video that he took to Soul and Maka. When Maka hears the other voices, she grabs Soul's arm, suddenly feeling faint. He grabs her, worried.

"Maka? Are you okay?"

"Yeah…. I just need to sit down…"

Soul leads her back into the house and has her sit down, sitting next to her. Maka closes her eyes, letting the dizziness pass. She leans against Soul and his arm automatically goes around her. Black*Star comes in, quietly closing the door behind him. He leans against the wall, watching the two of them. He's uncharacteristically silent and Maka opens her eyes one she's feeling a bit better.

"Why'd they do that to you?"

"I was going to turn all of us in and the two muscle heads jumped me."

"How long ago?"

Black*Star shrugs.

"No idea. I've lost track."

"Wow. And your parents didn't call the police or anything?"

"My parents could care less if I come home or not."

Black*Star says it like it's no big deal but that just seems so wrong to Maka. Parents shouldn't be so negligent. It's part of the reason why there are people like Arachne and Giriko exist.

"Okay. Enough. We get it. You were held captive. That doesn't excuse what you did."

"I know. Never crossed my mind that it would."

"Then why are you here?"

"To make things right."

Maka shifts uncomfortably. She didn't know what Black*Star had in mind but she doubted she would like it. He probably would want to cause some serious harm to them, considering the things he'd been involved in for the past 5 months or so.

"And how do you plan on doing that?"

"We go to the cops and turn them in."

•••••••••

"Are the stories true?"

"I can't believe she would do something like that!"

"You guys are so brave. I never could have done something like that."

Voices babble at Soul and Maka as they make their way through the school halls. Kids surround them, all of them wanting to know more. Soul sighs internally and he brushes them all aside, making a path for him and Maka to pass through. He keeps the others from bombarding Maka as she gets her things. When someone reaches out to get his attention, he growls softly.

"Everyone shut up!"

His voice rings through the hall and everyone goes silent, watching, waiting.

"Look. We're not going to answer any of your questions. You all know as much as you need to know. If you wanna know more, why don't you see if you can get in to visit Arachne?"

A sound of disgust travels through the crowd as Soul and Maka slip away. Maks sighs in relief once they're away from the crowd and she smiles softly at Soul.

"Thanks for that."

"No problem. They were starting to annoy me anyways."

Soul puts his arm around Maka and they walk into first period together. Their teacher wasn't there but a small t.v was playing, the story of the last few months still making headlines even though the story first aired a week ago.

"When do you think they're going to move on?"

Soul shrugs and they move to their seats in the middle rows. This was their compromise since Maka refuses to sit in the back and Soul refuses to sit in the front.

"Hard to say seeing on how big of a scandal it all was. Guess we'll just have to wait to find out."

"I hope it's soon. I hate all of this attention. I just want to go back to being a nobody."

A soft smile touches Soul's lips and he leans a little closer to Maka.

"But you won't be a nobody. Not to everyone."

Maka looks at him and he finds himself wondering how he could have ever of found her unattractive. She smiles at him and his heart beats a little faster.

"Only to the people that matter. And that's all that counts."

She leans in and kisses him, soft and slow. Soul's heart takes off and he deepens the kiss with her, reluctantly breaking it when he hears others heading into the classroom.

"I love you Maka."

"I love you too Soul."

He smiles and leans back, enjoying the way he was feeling. The butterflies and his racing heart. The happiness and contentment settling in his veins. That. That's what love is. Neatly impossible to find and keep, but oh so worth it. Soul closes his eyes and leans his head back, a single thought floating through his mind.

'Just as long as I get to keep this, as long as I get to keep Maka, for the rest of my life, I'll be happy. As long as we're together. Forever'