Author's Notes: You can entirely blame Eis for this. She drew a fantastic roller skate picture, and she graciously allowed me to explore this fic for it! And as I know we have a very international fandom, please feel free to find me on tumblr (fabulousanima) if there are any Americanisms that are difficult to understand. This is part 1 of 4.


September

Soul shut off his motorcycle as he pulled into the parking lot and pushed himself into spot with his feet. Dropping the kickstand, he dismounted and leaned against it, knowing that he had managed to adopt an image of being perfectly cool, which was a good thing, because he also knew he was about to totally embarrass himself.

He sighed as he saw Liz Thompson's truck pull into the parking lot, followed closely by the screeching tires of Black*Star's junky sedan. He was having a hard time remembering why on earth he had agreed to this nonsense.

He did remember when he'd agreed. It had been a lazy Saturday and he and Black*Star had decided to have a Battlefield marathon. They had left Black*Star's foster dad's place and walked to the convenience store nearby. Out of nowhere, a pack of twelve-year-old girls on roller skates had appeared and nearly ran them over. They were laughing and yelling, and they all started giggling madly when Black*Star pretended to chase them off in anger. "Man, I remember those days," he had said, hands on his hips as they skated away. "Right?" And Soul had been forced to admit he had never actually been on roller skates a day in his life. His parents had never invested in many toys when he was a kid, choosing to only purchase music books and lessons and records for their sons and allowing very few things to cross the threshold of their mansion that would be classified as fun. Apparently, he had missed out, because Black*Star insisted that they had to go to the local rink so he could experience it. So here they were.

"Yo man!" shouted Black*Star as he hopped out the car, trailed by his girlfriend. The sisters hopped down out of their truck behind him. Soul nodded to the gaggle of girls behind his boisterous friend, then addressed him.

"Let's get this over with."

"Aw c'mon, you'll have fun!" With that, Black*Star motioned towards the entrance. Soul pushed off his motorcycle with a snort.

Soul squinted through the darkness as he entered, trying to adjust to the dim lights of the roller skate rink interior after having been in the glaring sun of the parking lot. Black*Star slapped him on the back as he passed, and Soul grunted.

"C'mon, let's go rent some skates!" he shouted eagerly. "Don't keep me waiting, slowpokes!"

Tsubaki giggled as she walked by Soul, followed by the two bickering sisters. Soul jammed his hands in his pockets, a scowl across his face. Sure, he had agreed to come to this dingy place, but now that he was here, he was having second thoughts.

Soul approached the counter with the others where a short girl in pigtails was reading a book. She sat on an awkward angle on her stool, perched precariously, but it was clear that she was too absorbed in her novel to notice. Soul was surprised when Black*Star gave a loud crow and raised his hand in greeting as he advanced.

"Hey Maka! I didn't know you worked here! Got a new job, huh, Pigtails?"

The girl — Maka, apparently — looked up and smiled in surprise. "Oh, hi Black*Star! Yeah, I do work here now; that pizza place was super stressful, so I decided it was time for a change."

She leaned to the side to peer behind him, and Black*Star seemed to notice her curiosity. "Oh yeah! These are my loyal followers!" Soul rolled his eyes, but it was too dark for anyone to see. "You've met my girlfriend before, right?"

"Tsubaki, right?" Maka asked, and Tsubaki nodded.

"Nice to see you again."

"And this is Liz and Patty."

"Hi!"

"Hey."

"Nice to meet you guys," said Maka.

"Oh, and this — stop skulking, Soul — this is Soul." Soul grunted again, but moved forward to get a better look at the thin girl behind the counter. She was athletically built and looked young for her age, but her green eyes were large and luminous even in the dark of the rink.

"I'm Maka," she said, smiling at him. He merely nodded.

"Hey, can you believe it? This guy's never roller skated a day in his life!" Black*Star laughed uproariously as he pounded on Soul's back, thrusting him forward. Soul scowled.

"Really?" Maka asked, her eyebrows raised. Soul was prepared to snap at her, but she hadn't said it maliciously, so he bit back the scathing words and shook his head. She cocked her head to the side, one of her pigtails trailing across the pages of her open book as she studied him. "Want me to teach you?"

Soul felt his jaw tighten slightly and shrugged.

"Ha! You should totally teach him, take him under your wing!" yelled Black*Star, throwing an arm around Soul's shoulders.

Maka smiled again. "Lemme grab everyone some skates, then I'll ask Kim to man the front desk. I need to stretch my legs anyway."

"Are you allowed to take a break like that?" asked Tsubaki.

"Oh yeah! The manager likes to have one of the employees on the rink to make sure no roughhousing is going on or whatever. What's everyone's shoe sizes?"

The group all shouted out numbers, and Soul was impressed when Maka grabbed a bunch of pairs of skates and handed them out properly. She shouted to a short girl with pink hair on the rink, who waved to her and skated to the edge of the rink. The girl took her skates off while the group maneuvered to the ledge where the carpet ended. Soul took his skates from Maka as she held up her own pair. "All right! Skating is really easy, you just have to get the hang of it."

"Maybe. I'm just gonna look so uncool while I'm learning," he grumbled. Maka giggled.

"But these are your friends! They won't tease you."

Soul begged to differ, but refrained from commenting. He slowly removed his boots and laced up the beat-up skates Maka had offered him. She was already on her wheeled feet, hands on her hips as she waited for him. Once he was ready, she extended her hand. He took it. He was a bit surprised by her firm grip as she pulled him to his feet. He stood in front of her, and she shook his hand ever so slightly, gaze unwavering. But the moment was ruined when Patty whizzed by them, slapping Soul's backside on her way. He growled and reddened, turning to yell at her, but he lost his balance and pitched forward. Maka braced herself and caught him, but not before his pride suffered several low blows.

"Ready?" she asked. Soul grunted.

She straightened him up, then switched her hold on his hand so that they could skate side-by-side comfortably. Soul was mortified to find that he was terrible at it. His feet kept shooting out from under him, and the only reason he was still upright was Maka's hand in his.

"It's easy! It's just a slide and glide, one foot in front of the other. Like this." She demonstrated, albeit slowly due to his dead weight dragging behind her. "Got it?" Soul scowled, but tried to imitate her actions.

"So how come I haven't seen you around before?" she asked conversationally.

"Uh, what do you mean?"

"I mean, do you go to school with us? I don't think I've seen you there."

"Oh. No, I go to private school. Shibusen Prep."

"Oh wow! You must be a really good student," she said, smiling widely at him.

"Uh..."

"Really? What are you doing there, then?" Maka pouted. "I would have loved to go there, but my parents couldn't afford it."

"Oh, uh, yeah, my parents are pretty much making me," grumbled Soul. "Wasn't really a choice."

"So how do you know Black*Star then?"

"I met him at the record store. The one where Liz works. He was just hanging out with her and I come in often enough, and we just started shooting the shit, y'know." Soul looked curiously at her. "What about you? How do you know him?"

"Look, we made it around the entire rink!" she said happily, and Soul rolled his eyes. What an accomplishment. He'd looked like a drunk duck while doing it, so he didn't feel particularly proud. "He and I have known each other since we were kids. He and his guardian Sid used to live across the street from us, but they moved a few years ago to be closer to Sid's work. We still see each other in school though."

"Death City High?"

"Yeah," she said.

They skated in silence for a few more minutes, lapping the rink again for a grand total of two times.

"I think you're getting the hang of this!" Maka said happily. Soul let out a hollow laugh.

"I seriously doubt that."

"No, try!" she said, and let go of his hand. Soul slid forward a few feet, but felt himself falling. His arms windmilled and he grabbed blindly to keep himself standing. He felt his hand catch something warm and looked up to see Maka's horrified expression; he had managed to hook himself into the back pocket of her shorts, practically fondling her ass. He righted himself quickly, shocked to see the sheer anger in her eyes, when she shoved him hard and he glided backwards into the wall. She threw him one last nasty look, then skated off.

Soul watched her glide away, stymied by her reaction. Her pigtails streamed behind her as she quickly left him behind.

"Everything okay?" asked a voice behind Soul, and he twisted without letting go of the wall to see who was there. Black*Star was raising an eyebrow at him.

"Maka freaked out when I fell and accidentally grabbed her ass. What the hell?"

"It was an accident?" Black*Star asked sharply.

"Of course, man, whaddya take me for?"

Black*Star sighed. "Yeah, okay. Maka doesn't handle that kinda thing well."

"What, is she not into dudes?"

Black*Star grimaced. "Might be easier on her that way. No, it's that she has a bad track record."

Soul arched an eyebrow at his friend. Black*Star continued.

"Her old man. Real skeezeball. Cheated on her mom a bunch of times. They're divorced now, but Maka still lives with him 'cause her mom travels or some shit. She doesn't get along with him. Plus there was this senior last year, Giriko, who cornered her one day after school."

"Shit. What happened?"

Black*Star snorted. "She broke his foot and two of his fingers. But she was pretty angry about it for a while, and kinda swore off men."

"Why's she still friends with you, then?"

"'Cause we're like brother and sister. She's just weird if she thinks you're gonna try something."

Soul watched her skate around the rink. Her long legs were thin but powerful, and she glided effortlessly step by step. She seemed to notice his gaze, and she turned to meet his stare.

"All right! Want me to keep teaching ya?" Black*Star asked cheerily.

Soul grimaced at him.

"I got him," Maka said, appearing suddenly behind them. Soul looked at her gratefully.

"All yours, Maks!"

Maka extended her hand again, and Soul took it. He pushed off from the wall and she steadied him. They quickly regained a rhythm and took off again around the rink.

"Sorry for grabbing you, by the way. It was an accident, but it still wasn't cool of me."

Maka sighed. "Thanks, but I kinda overreacted. I could tell it wasn't on purpose by the look on your face."

"Why, what face was I making?"

"You turned bright red!"

He groaned. "So uncool." Maka giggled. They spent the rest of the time chatting happily, and when it was time to go (the sun was already setting?), Maka escorted them to the entrance. She walked the group out to the parking lot, and looked surprised to see Soul approach his motorcycle.

"You ride that?" she asked incredulously.

"Yeah," he said, throwing a grin her way. "You ever been on one?"

"No!" Maka said, but her eyes widened as she saw him mount it. "It's dangerous."

"Yeah, but it's also fun."

Maka gave him a look that was hard to interpret, but waved to the others as they retreated to their cars. "Well, be careful," said Maka, looking apprehensively at the bike as Soul revved the engine. She met his eyes. "See you around," she said, and he knew she meant it.


Soul contemplated the twenty-seven different kinds of chips in front of him. He was a bit bemused by all his choices. Shrugging, he grabbed a bag at random and moved on to the soda aisle. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a pair of ashy blonde pigtails he thought he recognized. Immediately changing his trajectory, he detoured into the bread aisle. "Maka?"

She whipped her head around, a look of surprise on her face. She smiled, and reached up to pull her ear bud out. "Oh, hi Soul!"

"What are listening to?"

She offered him her loose headphone, and he stuck it into his ear. Loud pulsing techno beats bored into his skull, and he gave her a skeptical look. "You listen to this techno trash?"

Out of nowhere, she produced a book and smacked him on the arm. "Shut up," she pouted.

"Ow! That actually kinda hurt..."

"Like you have better taste in music?"

"Um, yes."

She turned her nose up at him, and returned to examining the various loaves of bread in front of her.

"All right, all right, sorry. Maybe someday we'll work on your musical education."

"Maybe you should worry about your own academic education first."

Soul laughed. Maka gave him a grudging smile. "Fair enough, bookworm. Maybe I should get you to tutor me." He waggled his eyebrows at her, and she giggled. "So what are you getting tonight?"

"I realized I didn't have much in the house for lunches, so I'm buying sandwich stuff. It's just me and my dad, and he's not always great at remembering to get groceries."

"Yeah, Black*Star mentioned that it was just the two of you. Sorry about that."

She shrugged. "What about you? Are your parents still together?"

"Uh, yeah. I have an older brother, but he moved out already."

"I've always wanted siblings. Do you guys get along?"

Soul shrugged one shoulder. "More or less." He quickly changed the subject. "By the way, are you gonna go to the Death High football game on Friday? Black*Star's playing and he told me to come. I was thinking about going, might be a good time."

"I hadn't thought about it, but Black*Star is always saying I need to watch him play..."

"Have you not seen him yet?"

Maka rolled her eyes. "I've seen him all right. I was what he used to practice his tackling on for years."

He chuckled. "Sounds about right. So you gonna come?"

"Yeah, why not?" she replied with a smile.

"Here, I can give you my number so we can meet up."

"Okay!" Maka pulled out her phone and offered it to Soul. He quickly tapped out his name and number and saved the contact. He handed it back over, and she typed something just as rapidly. "All right, I just sent you mine."

Soul felt his pocket vibrate, and he reached for his own phone. He had a new text message that simply read Maka Albarn.


"Up here!" came a familiar voice. Soul looked up to see Maka standing in the bleachers next to Tsubaki, waving frantically at him. He took the stairs two at a time and pushed through some of the other onlookers to stand next to them. Tsubaki smiled at him as Maka hopped off the bench to stand on the floor of their aisle.

"Sorry I'm a little late," he said. "Your school is huge, by the way."

"Yeah I know!" said Maka, her voice raised to be heard over the cheering of the crowd. Tsubaki was clapping loudly while watching the field, clad in Black*Star's letter jacket.

"Did I miss anything interesting?"

"I don't think so. I don't really know much about football, I just kinda cheer when everyone else does."

Soul chuckled, and turned to gaze down onto the field. "What number is Black*Star?" he asked Tsubaki.

"42!" she replied happily.

Soul scanned the playing field and located his friend. "I see him."

"Our team should be good this year!" Tsubaki said. "I'm really excited for Black*Star. He hates losing."

"I never knew," Soul deadpanned, and Maka's laugh came from his right. They watched the game for another half an hour, cheering and groaning along with the crowd. Tsubaki was really absorbed in it, but Soul and Maka chatted while they watched, neither being particularly invested in high school football. After a while, Soul said, "Wanna get some food?" and Maka nodded. They thumped down the bleachers, metal echoes lost in the noise of the crowd.

They approached the small concession stand. "What do you want?" Soul asked as they joined the back of the line.

"I think I'll get a hot dog," she mused.

"Are they any good here?"

"I hope so, because I'm starving!"

Soul laughed as they reached the window. A harried looking student turned to them.

"Oh. Hi Maka."

"Hi Ox. Having fun?" The boy sneered slightly at her.

"Two hot dogs," Soul interjected.

"Oh! You don't have to," Maka said, protesting as Soul pulled out his wallet first.

"Maka, it's like three bucks, it's no big deal."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive." Soul reached out and took his hot dog from the disheveled Ox and they made their way to a small table with condiments. The ketchup had, for some reason, exploded everywhere, so everything was sticky, but they managed to get what they wanted with minimal levels of sliminess. Soul was impressed by how quickly Maka ate; for a girl so skinny, she had an enormous appetite. They threw out their napkins, which hadn't done much more than stick to their fingers in tiny white clumps, then climbed back up the bleachers to rejoin Tsubaki.

"So how are we doing?" asked Soul.

"We're winning!" said Tsubaki, jumping up and down. She turned her attention back to the game, cheering loudly. Soul noticed that Maka kept her arms wrapped around herself despite the latest touchdown, which usually prompted clapping.

"Cold?" he asked.

"A little," she admitted.

"Here," said Soul, shrugging out of his leather jacket.

"Oh no, it's fine! I don't want you to be cold."

"Nah, I'll be okay. I'm like a space heater, I'm always overheated. But the jacket makes me look pretty cool, so I wear it anyway."

Maka snorted, and accepted his jacket. She slipped it around herself, and it engulfed her. "Thanks," she said, redirecting her gaze back to the field, but Soul kept watching her for a few more moments. She looked so tiny in it, and something stirred in the region of his navel as he looked at her protected from the cold by his jacket.