"Gopher? That's a weird last name."

Maka laughed. "Honestly, he was kinda weird dude." She took another sip of coffee, and they began to walk again. "He was working as one of our literary agents when Kid offered me my position out of school. We hit it off really well. We both liked books, we both were on high school track, and we both liked the same music."

Her breath misted in front of her face as she spoke. Soul kept his eyes on the dogs, making sure none of them slipped on any ice.

"He did have a goofy face, sometimes," Maka said. She shot Soul a sly sideways glance. "Obviously, I have a type."

She laughed as Soul spluttered indignantly. But as his protests subsided, she began to look more pensive.

"We really don't have to talk about this if you don't want to."

Soul let out a breath through his lips, blowing his bangs up momentarily. "Well, I mean. It's obviously important to you. And, uh, I'd like to figure... this out."

She grinned coyly, then let out another sigh. "Well. Okay, so we got along, and decided that even though we worked together, we could give it a try."

"Bad idea?"

Maka snorted. "One of many. The next was sleeping together." She brought the cup to her lips, but frowned and pulled it away, looking dissatisfied. Shaking it next to her ear, she shook her head and continued. "It wasn't great. I couldn't figure out if it was me, or him, or the two of us, but it just... wasn't doing it for me. I tried saying something, I tried not saying something, nothing worked. Not good."

Soul grunted.

"Then one day, he picked up a new client. The guy's name was Noah, and he had an idea for this novel, set in a fantasy world, and it was gonna be called 'Eibon.' I don't even remember what the hell it was gonna be about, it got so convoluted, but James went on and on about the themes and the message and the style and he was convinced that it was gonna be the next big thing."

"Like 'Game of Thrones'?"

Maka pursed her lips at him.

"Oh my god, you're such a literary nerd, fine, 'A Song of Ice and Fire'?"

"James was convinced bigger. Which, like, okay fine. But Noah was terrible at keeping deadlines, and his drafts were all over the place, and he often wrote things really piecemeal, and it drove me crazy. His lateness made me late, but James refused to rush him because he insisted Noah was an 'artist' who needed to allow his genius to work its magic. He also started dropping his other clients to 'focus' on Noah. Normally he worked with seven or eight at a time, but eventually he was down to just Noah."

One of the dogs squatted, and Soul dutifully used one of his bags to scoop up the waste and the surrounding snow. With deft fingers, he closed the bag and looked around for the nearest trash can.

"Oh, here." Maka took it primly with her fingernails and held the bag away from her. She stumbled across the snow drifts, making her way towards a waste bucket covered in snow. Maka tossed her empty cup and the bag into the metal can with a slight clang, then walked back towards the cleared path, arms out on either side as she tried not to stumble.

"Thanks, you didn't have to."

"No problem. I needed the trash anyway." She stuck her hands in her pockets. "Anyway, yeah. James and I finally got into a huge fight over Noah. We were in the office late, because Noah had promised he would submit something by 5pm that day, and it was almost 7:30pm and he still hadn't. I needed it to make my deadline, and I was pissed. James waited with me, so we just started screaming at each other over it."

"Ouch."

"It was so unprofessional, I'm so glad Kid wasn't there to see. Pattie was, actually, but neither of us knew it at the time. She only told me months later that she had overhead." Maka rolled her eyes. "She complimented me on my creative use of the word 'godwottery' which I didn't even know was a word I knew."

Soul laughed out loud, echoing against the icy trees. Maka grinned at him from under her eyelashes.

"Well, I was pretty proud of that one. But yeah, it was ugly. It was a Friday, and by the time Monday rolled around, Kid was in my office at 8am, asking me why James was asking for time off." She closed her eyes. "I was so mad, I didn't bother trying to get in touch with him. He took two weeks of vacation time, but then as that approached, he emailed Kid and said it was actually his two weeks notice."

"Wait, really?"

"Yeah," Maka sighed. "I know."

"No, I mean. I dunno. Seems kinda immature."

"In a way, yeah, I suppose. It just. It hurt. And I... sometimes have a hard time admitting I'm wrong, so there's that. It took another few weeks before I decided to try to talk to him again. It was then that I found out that they moved in together."

"James and Noah?"

"Yeah."

"Oh. Oh. Shit."

Maka rubbed her eyes, spreading the faint makeup around. "Yeah. I never actually talked to him again, but I've heard through the grapevine that he's doing okay. Still claiming to be Noah's agent and talking about how great the book is gonna be. I dunno. Some of the things I've heard about the way Noah treats him doesn't impress me, but... well. He just always walked all over James and I think he still does."

"He's an adult. There's only so much you can do."

"I know. I know!" Maka threw her head back to gaze into the gray sky. "I was angry and hurt and frustrated, but then I found out about that and I felt bad because he obviously was figuring stuff out and that's totally understandable and I don't think he did anything maliciously but I also felt really fucking stupid for not knowing and just..." Turning her head, she gave Soul a wry smile. "Plus I'd just had a few months of bad sex. I was just not in a good place."

"Understandable," he said, grinning gently at her.

"So. Well, yeah. I guess it just got all tangled in my mind. Plus we haven't had much opportunity, after missing that long weekend away. I wish our work places weren't so far away from the other's apartment."

Soul sighed. "I know. I mean, I can always ask Marie for other routes to do, but that takes some rearranging."

"No, I know. I don't want you to feel like you have to change something like that for me."

"What if I want to?"

As Soul's hands were occupied with a number of leashes, Maka slipped her arm around his. "That's sweet," she whispered. They walked in silence for a few moments until she pulled away slightly and shot him an amused look. "Or you really want to have sex."

"Can't it be both?"

She laughed, leaning against him again. "Well, I can already tell it's gonna be fun when we actually get the chance; just the way you look at me lets me know you actually want to."

Soul leered down at her, a grin plastered across his face. "We do have some free time this morning," he said in a singsong voice. She swatted him.

"God, not with this headache. This is the worst hangover I've had since college. I need about eight more gallons of coffee and maybe some pancakes."

Soul smiled, pressing his lips to the top of her head. "That I can do."