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Unfamiliar

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She didn't want to be here.

Why did she have to let Blair do this to her? She was never really the clubbing type at all to begin with. Yet here she was, sitting at the bar, watching her best friend dancing (if what she was doing could even be called that) with every guy she could get close to on the floor.

Maka rolled her eyes and went back to her water. She wasn't the drinking type either. Not that she was against it or anything; she just couldn't stand the taste of alcohol. Everyone around her seemed to have no problem with it at all though, and she had several times had to turn down different guys' offers to buy her a drink, half out of the whole not drinking thing, and half out of paranoia that they were out for something more than a conversation.

She never exactly had the best luck with men, and her roommate and best friend, Blair, knew this, and seemed to be trying to introduce her to a guy for the past several months. It wasn't that she "never met the right guy," as Blair liked to put it; she just wasn't too fond of guys in general. Her cheating father hadn't really been a shining example of the male gender, and that had unfortunately played a rather large part in the decision. Blair knew this too, but seemed intent on changing her mind. She appreciated the effort, really, but still… she was happy single. Less drama to deal with. And some of Blair's boyfriends didn't really help to change her mindset on men to begin with, so she usually had very little faith in Blair's hopes for setting her up with someone.

Fortunately, after the twelfth or so decline, the guys at the club seemed to get the picture that she wanted to be left alone, as the corner of the bar she sat at was empty. Which was perfectly fine with her. All she had to do was wait until Blair got too drunk to stand, and then drag her home as usual. She would have attempted to enjoy the music, as she had in some of the clubs Blair dragged her to, but that didn't seem to be happening here. Quite simply, the music sucked.

"This seat taken?"

She glanced up and sighed at seeing a new guy with shock white hair approach her. "No, go ahead." She muttered before chugging down the last of her water, intending to either order another one, or leave, depending on what this new guy's plans were.

The bartender noticed the new arrival and asked for the new guy's order. He glanced over at Maka briefly before turning back to the counter. "I'll have a Mountain Dew," he jabbed his thumb in Maka's direction. "And whatever she'd like."

Maka sighed. Another guy trying to buy her a drink. "I don't drink," she replied, the response becoming automatic by this point.

He didn't even flinch. "I figured as much by the water. You look like you want to be here about as much as I do. Figured I might as well try to lessen the torture. Order yourself a soda or something."

Maka blinked. This was new. She glanced up at him and noticed he wasn't even looking at her, and he did actually look like he'd been dragged here as well. Well, fine. As long as he wasn't trying to get anywhere with her…

"I'll have a Coke."

The bartender nodded and walked off, leaving them alone. New Guy never said a word to her or even looked in her direction, which was fine with her. The song changed over and he immediately slammed his head onto the counter with a groan of frustration, making her jump a little before he pulled back up and growled.

"Does all the music suck here?" He muttered.

Maka found herself answering before she could stop herself. "Yes, actually. I get dragged here quite often. This is about the average of the music here."

"Ugh." New Guy slammed his head on the counter again for good measure. "God damned DJ wouldn't know music if it bit him in the ass."

Maka raised an eyebrow.

"So…" he muttered into the counter so quietly she almost didn't hear him. "At the risk of sounding like a douchebag hitting on girls at a bar like a moron…" he glanced up at her and rolled his eyes. "You come here often, then?"

Maka looked at him for a moment, trying to gauge whether or not he really was trying to hit on her, decided he was harmless, and nodded. "Yes. Against my will. My roommate keeps telling me I need to 'meet someone,' which I honestly have no desire to do."

New Guy blinked, and Maka noticed that in addition to his unusual white hair, he also had red eyes. While she could easily assume he bleached his hair, his eyes were genuine. She saw no outline of contacts that were usually visible with the colored ones. "Not much luck with guys, huh?"

"Not so much that as just don't like them in general."

He raised an eyebrow at that. "Mind if I ask why?"

Maka sighed and looked away as the bartender returned with their drinks. "It's… kinda personal."

He nodded. "Fair enough."

They sat in comfortable silence for a while before Maka decided that she probably hadn't worded her last responses very well. "I mean… I don't like guys, but… that doesn't mean I like girls."

He looked at her like she grew a second head for a moment before letting out a bark of laughter that he quickly muffled into chuckles. "I never assumed that, don't worry."

"Oh…" Maka looked away in embarrassment. "Sorry."

He waved it off. "Don't be. A lot of people here look stupid enough to just assume that. According to idiots like them, if you're not completely horny for the opposite sex, you're gay. That's it. Never mind that you just haven't met anyone you seem to work with or just want to be alone."

"You sound like you speak from experience."

His head hit the counter again. "Dear God… have you met my friends? They all hook up and assume I need a girlfriend too. Ugh."

Maka winced. "Sounds like what I have to deal with."

He sighed. "As someone who feels your pain, I apologize."

Maka looked down at him. "Is that why your friends dragged you here?"

He lifted his head off the counter and looked over at her. "Technically, no. I wasn't really dragged here, but that doesn't change the fact that I don't really wanna be here."

Maka blinked. "Oh?"

"Yeah," he nodded over at the stage, which had a drum, a keyboard, and a few guitar stands and mics set up. "There's a live band playing later. I'm part of it."

Maka perked up a little at that. His opinion on the music here probably meant that what he played was better… to him, at least. "Really? Do you sing or play?"

He snorted. "Play. Not for lack of the others trying, though. I refuse to sing."

Maka chuckled a little at that. "What do you play?"

"Keyboard."

Maka was about to say something else when a very loud boy with obviously dyed blue hair walked up behind them and thumped the boy on the back. "Oi Soul, we're on in like… now!"

He rolled his eyes and sighed. "All right, all right. I'm already set up, you go ahead, lemme finish my pop."

Seemingly satisfied, the blue haired kid left, and the guy she'd been talking to, whose name, if she heard right, was Soul, threw down the rest of his soda before glancing at her. "You gonna be here when I get back?"

Maka glanced out at Blair. She didn't show any signs of slowing down, so Maka turned back to Soul and nodded. "Yeah. My friend doesn't look like she's gonna give out any time soon. I'll likely be here."

He nodded. "Cool. Feel free to order whatever. I'll pick it up when I get back."

Maka shook her head. "You don't have to-"

"Don't worry about it." Was all she heard before he trotted off to the stage and completely out of earshot before she could protest.

She watched him climb the stairs and flop down behind the keyboard, adjusting a few switches on it before looking up at the blue haired kid, who was poking at a guitar, tuning it while adjusting his own mic. Apparently he sang and played.

Another boy with black hair with three horizontal white stripes on the left side had a bass guitar over his shoulder and was adjusting his amp. Two blond girls who were dressed similarly and looked somewhat alike, most likely sisters, stood beside him. The taller one with a guitar, the shorter one with a pair of drumsticks sticking out of her pocket. She looked every part a drummer, as she was giddy and didn't appear to be nearly as composed as her sister.

A tall girl with long black hair pulled up into a single ponytail was talking to the blue haired boy. Maka recognized her as a girl she saw Blair speaking with earlier, and since she had no instruments and was adjusting a mic stand alone, Maka assumed her to be the singer.

Maka glanced back at Soul, still adjusting settings on his keyboard, and had to hold back a laugh as a mic was set in front of him and he scowled up at the blue haired boy, who put it there. He simply shrugged and went back to his guitar as Soul bared his teeth at his back for a moment before going back to his keyboard.

After a few more moments, the blue haired boy grabbed a mic and shouted for the whole club to hear, introducing the band, and generally riling up the crowd. Maka had to admit he seemed made for the attention.

The music was definitely different from anything she'd ever heard before. It was rock, but it had a certain dark, melodic edge to it she'd never heard before. The guitars had a good part of the music, but the bulk of it seemed to her to be Soul's keyboard. And he was good. The lead singer wasn't too bad either. Her voice was beautiful and suited the music well. The two guitarists were off in their own little world, but their playing was perfect. The bassist seemed more focused on his playing. He had no music, but he stared down as his guitar as he played. The drummer was all over the place and looked to be having way too much fun, but her playing was solid.

She looked back at Soul out of curiosity, and was immediately struck by his playing. His eyes were closed the whole time, and he didn't even seem to need to think about what note to hit next. It just happened. And his music was beautiful. Occasionally some other members of the band would give background vocals for some of the songs, and while Soul had openly said he refused to sing, he seemed to anyway, so lost in the music that it just came out. She tried to hear him, but he was either just mouthing the words, or so quiet that the other two boys drowned him out.

She didn't notice when Blair plopped onto a stool next to her and downed three beers before deciding to make her presence known. "They're awesome, aren't they?"

Maka nodded. "I've never heard music like this before. It's kinda creepy, but at the same time, I really like it."

Blair nodded, flipping her violet hair. "I spoke with Tsubaki, the singer. She says their keyboardist writes most of their songs."

Maka smiled. Somehow that made sense. "It seems to fit him," she replied, forgetting that Blair probably didn't know that they'd spoken.

Blair grinned, gold eyes focused on her, and Maka instantly regretted speaking. "You know him, huh?"

Maka rolled her eyes. "Not really. We spoke for a bit before they started playing. That's all."

"And he bought you a drink," Blair replied, eyeing her soda. "Or two," she added as she noticed the empty soda glass beside the full one.

Maka blushed despite herself. She had in fact ordered another soda shortly after they'd started playing. "He insisted, and it didn't mean anything. We just talked for a while. He doesn't even know my name."

"But you know his." It wasn't a question. Blair was positively smirking.

"Only because the lead guitarist yelled at him a little before he left."

Blair glanced up at the stage for a bit before looking back to Maka. "His name is Black Star."

Maka stared at Blair. "You're kidding."

Blair grinned. "Nope. And the bassist's name is Death the Kid. But he goes by Kid."

Maka looked back at the stage. "Don't tell me the drummer and her sister have odd names too."

Blair shook her head. "Liz, guitar, and Patti, drummer."

Maka nodded. At least not all of them had odd names. Not that Tsubaki did. She had been pretty sure the girl was Asian, and the name only proved it. Blair leaned in conspiratorially, and Maka sighed, knowing what was next.

"So what's the keyboardist's name?" she purred.

Maka rolled her eyes. "I'm sure you know, since you have everyone else's."

Blair pouted. "Actually, no… Tsubaki wouldn't tell me. Neither would Kid or Black Star."

Now Maka was intrigued. "Why not?"

Blair only pouted more. "They all said that I should ask him myself 'cause he didn't like having his name given out. Whatever that means."

Maka smirked. "Then I probably shouldn't tell you, either."

Blair scowled playfully at Maka and poked her shoulder "No fair!"

Maka shrugged her off. "Besides I'm not sure I heard Black Star right. Or if Black Star was even using his name. So I can't honestly say I know his name either."

Blair pouted again. "He sat here and spoke to you for that long and didn't even tell you his name?"

"It didn't seem important, and I didn't ask…" Maka trailed off. "Wait…" She turned to glare at her friend. "And how long have you been spying on me?"

Blair grinned. "Since he offered to buy you a drink, and you let him. And I wasn't spying, just observing."

Maka's scowl deepened. "He didn't mean anything by it, Blair." She growled.

Blair shrugged. "Be that as it may, he got farther than any other guy has, and that intrigued me." She rolled her eyes then. "Imagine my disappointment when all you two talked about is how much you hate it here and how annoying your friends are."

Maka stared openly at Blair. "You were spying on me!"

Blair grinned, downed a shot of something Maka couldn't identify, and stood to leave. "I was simply observing. From a close enough distance to hear."

Maka growled at Blair's retreating back before she disappeared into the crowd again.

They played for a solid hour, ending on a beautiful song with a softer tone than the others. Black Star once again riled up the crowd, thanking them for listening and bowing overdramatically. Kid rolled his eyes and shook his head at Black Star's antics, but Maka could see a tolerating smile. After he was finished, Black Star put his mic down, packed up his guitar, and waked back to Soul, who he shared an exuberant high-five with before jumping down off the stage and turning to catch Tsubaki as she hopped carefully off the stage after him. Maka grinned, pretty sure they were together.

Soul packed up his keyboard and toed it under the stage with the rest of their equipment before heading back to the bar with his hands in his pockets before the crowd rushed the stage to talk to the band. He was waylaid by a couple guys who seemed to ask about his playing, since Soul seemed happy to answer them, but other than that, he escaped the crowd.

Maka could feel Blair's eyes on them as he sat back down in the same spot he'd been before and ordered another Mountain Dew. She looked down at her own soda before admitting she'd ordered herself another one while he was gone.

He downed about half of his own in one go before glancing back at her. "Just one?"

Maka nodded. "Yeah. I didn't want to impose or anything."

Soul snorted. "I said not to worry about it. I don't mind."

Maka frowned down at the counter. "I don't… want to feel like I owe you."

Soul looked at her. "If I thought you were that type of girl, I wouldn't have even spoken to you in the first place."

Maka blinked, but made no other move to respond.

Soul sighed. "Look. You don't strike me at all as the type to want anything to do with a guy no matter how many drinks he buys you. I'm fine with that. You don't, and never will, owe me anything."

This time, Maka did look at him. "Then why…?"

He shrugged with a smirk. "Is it a crime to try to cheer someone up?"

Maka looked away. "You don't even know my name."

He shrugged and took a sip of his soda before responding. "You didn't seem willing to give it, so I didn't ask."

"… Maka."

He grinned softly and downed the rest of his drink before looking back to her. "Soul Eater."

Maka blinked before shaking his offered hand. "Seriously?"

He grinned sheepishly, showing off a mouth full of pointed teeth. "Yeah… my mom was… a little vindictive."

Maka couldn't help but laugh a little at that. "Really?"

"Let's just say that I wasn't exactly… planned."

Maka frowned. "Rough life?"

"No, actually. True, I don't really get along all that well with my mom, but my dad's okay and my brother's awesome. I moved out years ago, so it's been easier lately." He started work on his third Mountain Dew before turning to her. "You? If you don't mind me asking."

Maka sighed. "My mom's great. My dad… I don't really get along with."

Soul frowned. "I'm guessing that has something to do with you not liking guys all that much." He said gently.

"… Yeah." She was amazed at how easy it was to talk to this boy. He was different from other guys she'd met, true, but still… She never even told Blair any of this, yet here was this guy that she knew for only a few hours and felt like she could trust him with everything. It was frightening, to say the least.

Soul seemed to catch on. "You don't have to give details if you don't want to, Maka."

Maka closed her eyes and sighed. "Thank you."

Soul grinned. "So how often do you get dragged here?"

Maka looked up, grateful for the subject change. "Saturdays. Thursdays and Fridays I'm dragged to different clubs. Occasionally my friend drags me to a gay bar to see how many guys she can attempt to 'turn straight.'" She put air quotes around her last words for emphasis.

Soul laughed hysterically for a couple moments. "Does… Does it ever work?"

Maka rolled her eyes, looking mildly disturbed. "Amazingly, she's done it twice so far."

Soul blinked. "Damn. I'm torn between being impressed and disturbed."

"I usually go with disturbed. She goes through guys quickly anyway."

"Ah. One of those." Soul rolled his eyes. "Point her out for me please, so I can have fair warning to run if she ever approaches me?"

Maka laughed a little before scanning the crowd for Blair before pointing at her.

Soul cocked his head. "The one with purple hair and like… no clothes?"

"That's her. Tell me she's still got her top on."

Soul grimaced. "Just barely."

Maka nodded. "Not quite drunk enough for me to drag her out yet then."

"So you're dragged here every Saturday?"

She looked up at that question. "Pretty much. Why?"

Soul shrugged. "We're gonna be here the next two Saturdays, it'd be nice to know there's someone here of intelligence I can talk to."

Maka frowned. "You're not local?"

"Oh no, we're local," Soul replied, absently swirling his soda glass. "Black Star actually lives right down the street from here. We just don't play in clubs much."

"Ah."

A loud crash from the dance floor got both their attentions, and Soul sighed. "Speaking of Black Star, someone's a little drunk and needs to be dragged home." He called the bartender over and ordered Maka one more Coke before paying the tab and standing to leave. "See you next week then, I guess?"

Maka nodded. After seeing her speaking with Soul both before and after the band played, Blair was sure to drag her here for the weeks the band was playing. "Most likely."

Soul smirked. "I'll look forward to it, then. Later, Maka."

As she watched him bolt across the club to collect his drunk friend before he did any more damage, Maka couldn't help but think that despite being male, he wasn't all that bad. Even though Blair would be devastated when she found out that Maka only saw him as a friend.

Chapter Text

Maka sighed. She'd been right. Blair had all but dragged her to the club this week. She had also made sure that Maka was dressed "appropriately." She looked down at herself. Sinfully short skirt (that she'd put leggings on under just to preserve what was left of her modesty), thin spaghetti strap halter top (which she had put a t-shirt on under for the same reason), and for some strange reason Blair had decided to put her hair up in pigtails with little skull clips, claiming it made her look "cute." She would have gone with "twelve."

She had to admit though, she did think she looked nice when she looked at herself in the mirror before Blair dragged her out of the apartment. She'd drawn the line at the knee high boots that Blair had given her, opting instead to wear her usual combat boots and cringing inwardly when Blair pointed out that they suited the outfit better.

She sighed. The guys at the club seemed to agree with Blair; she'd had to decline a lot of offers this time. Putting her head down on the counter in a weak attempt to draw less attention to herself, she was startled out of her thoughts when a glass was set down in front of her. She raised her head to see her own reflection in a Coke glass, before blinking once and looking up to meet a sharp toothed grin. She couldn't help smiling back a little.

"Hello, Soul."

His grin widened as he sat down next to her, Mountain Dew in hand. "What's up?"

She sighed before taking a sip from her Coke. "Not much…"

He looked her up and down before motioning to her outfit. "Your friend?"

She rolled her eyes. "You should see what she didn't get me into."

He snickered once before shaking his head slightly. "Well for what it's worth, you do look nice."

"Thanks…" she muttered, blushing a little.

"You sittin' here all night, or you feel like moving?"

Maka blinked at him. "Huh?"

Soul grinned a little sheepishly. "I may have mentioned you in passing to the rest of the band over the week, and they all want to meet you now. I've pretty much been sent to drag you back to our table."

He nodded to a large booth off in the corner, and Maka followed his gaze to see the rest of the band sitting there. Kid seemed to be fretting over the sugar packets for some reason, Black Star and Patti were too busy laughing at him to notice anything else, and Liz was trying to calm him down. Tsubaki, however, glanced up, noticed Maka and Soul looking in their direction, and waved a bit with a friendly smile. Maka couldn't help but wave back.

"Sure," she said, hopping off her barstool. "The bar hasn't been a great place to be this week. I'm gonna kill Blair when we get home." She fumed a little as she headed towards the table.

Soul chuckled a little and followed her closely, which both surprised and relieved her. They would have to cross the dance floor to get there, and Soul was close enough that any guy who looked at her saw him and figured she was taken.

She was right. Once they'd left the floor, Soul backed off a little and followed her at a more leisurely pace, one hand holding his Mountain Dew and the other shoved in his pocket. She gave him a small look of thanks, to which he just smirked and gave a half shrug.

Kid, Liz, and Patti were on one side of the table, Black Star sat alone at the end, and Tsubaki sat opposite Kid and the girls, next to Black Star. Maka slid into the booth next to Tsubaki and Soul plopped down next to Maka.

Black Star simply looked from Soul to Maka, then back again, seemingly unsure of what to say, when Tsubaki smiled as soon as she sat down and held a hand out to her. "It's nice to finally meet you, Maka-chan. Soul-kun's told us a little about you. I'm Tsubaki Nakatsukasa, and this is Black Star.

Maka smiled and returned the greeting to both, and Black Star grinned. "Ahh, so you're Maka. Thought you looked familiar. The great me never forgets a face." He continued to ramble on about how great he was for a while before Soul leaned over and muttered into her ear.

"He's always like this. We usually just ignore him. He'll shut up eventually."

Kid rolled his eyes as Black Star continued to ramble before holding his hand out to Maka. "Death the Kid, but you may call me Kid. I, like Tsubaki, have been wanting to meet you since Soul mentioned you. May I also add that your appearance is beautifully symmetrical."

Maka shook his hand. "Uh… thank you."

Kid smiled and withdrew to introduce Liz and Patti.

Liz nodded with a friendly smile before reaching over to bonk Black Star on the head, trying to shut him up, but he just went on, unfazed by the hit entirely. "Sorry," she sighed. "I tried. He'll shut up under his own power eventually."

Patti was a little more enthusiastic with her greeting, and ended up knocking over the sugar packets when she exuberantly reached over to shake Maka's hand. What happened next left Maka a little speechless.

Kid had a conniption.

"Patti! What have you done! The packets!" He immediately collected all of them, trying desperately to put them back exactly how they were. "No… Oh no… I can't make them as wonderfully symmetrical as they were!" Almost in tears, he immediately collapsed to the table, his head in his arms. "They're ruined! I ruined them! I'm horrible! Useless! I can't even put sugar packets back the way they were! Dammit… So depressed… Let me die…"

As Liz sighed and recruited her sister to cheer Kid back up, Maka blinked and looked to Soul, who was sipping his soda and watching the dance floor in detached interest like nothing was going on. Black Star continued to ramble, unaffected by Kid's outburst, and Tsubaki was gently trying to quiet him, also seeming not to notice.

Seeming to feel her stare, Soul turned back to her, raised an eyebrow, then glanced over at Kid. "Oh. He does this a lot. It's normal. Black Star used a sugar packet for his iced tea earlier, and he threw a fit then too, because that made an odd number of sugar packets. He ended up eating one himself to make it even again." He rolled his eyes before leaning close to her again. "He's a liiiiitle OCD over symmetry," he muttered in her ear. "That compliment he gave you earlier about looking symmetrical is the highest you could ever receive from him." He chuckled a little. "Feel honored."

Maka could feel her face heating up, and struggled to convince herself that it was because of Kid's earlier compliment, and not at Soul's closeness and the feel of his breath on her ear as he spoke.

Black Star finally shut up once he noticed that his tea was gone, and got up to go order another one. Everyone at the table glanced at him, and Tsubaki suddenly looked stern. "Black Star…" She said, the warning in her voice almost tangible.

He grinned sheepishly "I know, I know… Don't worry, just getting another iced tea. No long island involved. I'll even let you check."

Tsubaki still looked dubious, but nodded for him to go. Maka looked to her in question, but she simply smiled a little sheepishly and shook her head. Kid, who had calmed down when Black Star had gotten up to leave, nodded in the blue haired boy's direction.

"Because of his little… spectacle… last week, Black Star's grounded. No alcoholic drinks before or after playing for the rest of the month."

Soul rolled his eyes. "Good God. He's heavy when he's loaded. How bad was he, Tsubaki?"

Tsubaki shrugged. "Not at all. By the time we all got him home, he passed out shortly after you all left."

Liz snorted. "Figures. The second we no longer have to deal with him, he passes out like a good little drunk for his fiancée."

Maka blinked at Tsubaki. "Fiancée?"

Tsubaki smiled. "Our parents set it up for us years ago."

Maka raised an eyebrow at the other girl. "An arranged marriage?"

"Our families are very traditional. They did ask for our approval first. We both grew up together, so neither of us had any objections to it."

Maka blinked. "Wow. You guys have it easy, I guess."

Tsubaki chuckled. "I suppose that's one way to put it."

"Now if only they'd just set a date." Liz grumbled.

Tsubaki blushed. "We… haven't really had the time to think about it yet. Our parents are leaving all the planning to us, and neither of them seem to be in much of a hurry to rush us."

Liz rolled her eyes. "That's because you already live together. You're practically married already."

Soul smirked at Liz. "Then what does that make you three, hm?"

Liz scowled playfully at Soul. "Shove it, kid."

Soul stuck his tongue out at Liz in response. Patti cackled hysterically at his response while Kid blushed a little.

Black Star chose that moment to return, plunking his tea down in front of Tsubaki as she took a sip to check for alcohol. Seemingly satisfied, she gave it back to him. He glanced between Kid and Soul before grinning over at Soul. "Oh come on. You embarrassed him while I wasn't here? That's not cool."

"Just talking about their living situation again," Soul replied, gnawing on an ice cube as his soda was long gone. "Nothing new."

The conversation went on for a while. Maka learned that in addition to Black Star and Tsubaki being engaged, Kid actually was going out with both Liz and Patti, neither of whom seemed to mind sharing him, and they both lived with him. She also was a little surprised to learn that Liz and Patti had practically raised Soul, who had been living alone from a very young age. Later on they'd met Kid, and through him Black Star and Tsubaki, and once they'd all finally pulled Soul out of his antisocial shell enough to share some of his music (Soul had actually seemed a little embarrassed at that), they'd decided to try and start a band, and here they were.

Black Star immediately asked if Maka sang or played anything, and she had immediately responded that while she loved music, she was practically tone deaf. The conversation would have gone on from there if Soul hadn't pointed out that they were due up on stage soon. Maka offered to hold the table for them, and they'd agreed.

She scooted back into the middle of the booth, where Black Star had been sitting earlier, and watched them tuning their instruments and setting up. Soul only had to plug his keyboard in and turn it on, and after checking a few settings of God Knows What, he got up and trotted to the bar. She was confused for a minute until she saw what he was getting and rolled her eyes at him as he slid another coke across the table to her before running back to the stage before she could say anything.

After another round of Black Star screaming into the mic, they began to play. The music was the same beautifully dark rock music as last week, but the songs were different. There were a couple more upbeat songs that she guessed were written by Tsubaki, as she had shyly mentioned writing a song or two, but Soul's style seemed to be woven into every song.

She was a little surprised when a man with spiky brown hair sat down next to her and asked her to dance. She politely refused, but the man, who was not quite drunk but also not quite sober, kept insisting. Just as she was about to get up and leave, a boy with large blue eyes and short blonde hair grabbed his shoulder.

"I believe she said no, Giriko. Come on, we'll find you another girl."

The other man grumbled a little, but got up and followed him.

The blonde boy smiled at her as he lead the other man away. "Sorry about my friend. He's more than a little drunk at the moment."

Maka nodded. "Thank you."

He grinned back. "No problem. I'm pretty sure he was just waiting until your friend from the band left you alone. Sorry again!"

He was gone before Maka could deny anything.

Blair showed up shortly after, also a little tipsy, but at least coherent. "That was interesting."

Maka sighed. "Not really. He was starting to scare me."

"Well if that other kid hadn't come in, I would have dragged him off."

"I doubt he's your type."

"Oh he's not, but he also looked drunk enough that I could easily ditch him in the middle of the dance floor and he'd be none the wiser."

Maka chuckled and rolled her eyes before taking a sip of her soda. "You're horrible."

Blair rolled her eyes right back. "Well you don't have to stay very long this week. I found a guy I think I'm gonna go home with."

Maka rolled her eyes again. "I take it you're prepared, then?"

Blair winked before pulling a stack of condoms out of her purse.

Maka sighed. "Again, you're horrible. And you have no shame."

"I'll take both as compliments. I'll text you once I get there and be home by noon."

Maka shook her head and smiled, long used to her roommate's antics. "Whatever. Have fun, don't get arrested."

"Those aren't exactly mutually exclusive." Blair laughed and ruffled Maka's hair before heading back to the dance floor.

Maka was left alone for the rest of the time they were up playing, which was fine with her. After they were done, a lot of people crowded the stage while they were packing up, asking questions. Maka chuckled slightly as she noticed a lot of guys were talking to Tsubaki, Patti, and Liz, and the stony impassive look on Kid's face as he held Black Star back from killing the boys talking to Tsubaki, even though he looked like he was imagining pain for the boys talking to his girlfriends. Soul was largely inattentive to it all, taking his time packing up his own equipment. A few girls came up to him, but he politely declined all of them.

The whole band disappeared backstage with all their equipment for a while before coming back out, probably packing it up somewhere, as this was the last week they were playing here. Maka was surprised at the pang of regret she felt at that. She did love their music, but over the last few hours, she'd gotten to know the rest of the band, too. She'd miss talking to them every week.

She was pulled out of her thoughts with a jolt as an arm was tossed over her shoulders at either side, and she looked up to see Liz on one side and Patti on the other.

Liz grinned. "Me and the girls are gonna have a girls night out some time this week, and you're coming with, no excuses."

Maka blinked in surprise, but smiled back. "Sure. When?"

Liz shrugged. "Not sure yet. Was gonna grab your number so we can get back to you." She handed Maka her cell phone, and Maka typed her phone number in before giving it back. Liz punched a few more buttons and nodded. "Saved. Let's head out."

"Saved!" Patti repeated before letting go of Maka and scooting quickly out of the booth as her sister got out at a more leisurely pace. Tsubaki and Kid were standing beside the table, and Liz reached out and grabbed Black Star's collar before he could head out to the dance floor and handed him off to Tsubaki. Black Star pouted a bit, but stayed where he was. Maka assumed he was also grounded from the floor as well as drinks.

Soul arrived a little later. "Stuff's all packed up." He said to Kid before plopping down at the booth.

Kid nodded. "Good. You gonna hang out here a while?"

Soul nodded.

"Alright then, We'll get the idiot home and then I think we're gonna head home as well." Kid waved once and bowed slightly in Maka's direction. "It was very nice meeting you, Maka."

Maka blinked at the formality, but nodded. "You too."

Patti waved goodbye more enthusiastically than Kid and her sister, and Tsubaki bowed slightly in greeting, promising to see her at whatever Liz had planned. Black Star grinned and waved, only slightly less enthusiastically as Patti, before following Tsubaki, leaving Maka and Soul alone.

Soul downed about half of the glass of Mountain Dew he came with on his way back form the stage before speaking. "So how long before you have to drag your friend home?"

Maka shook her head. "She's… going home with someone else. I'm pretty much free to go whenever I want."

"Ah. You got a ride?"

"We usually just walk."

Soul frowned. "At this hour?"

Maka rolled her eyes. "The streets we take are well lit, and I can take care of myself."

Soul didn't look convinced.

Maka scowled at him. "I'll be fine."

Soul nodded. "Yeah, you will. Because I'm giving you a ride home."

"Wha-"

"I'm serious. Just let me know when you feel like leaving."

Maka scowled at him, and he just gazed calmly back at her. After a while, she sighed and lowered her gaze to the table. "Fine."

Soul grinned and started chewing on an ice cube as he watched the club with detached interest. They fell into a comfortable silence as they both people watched for a while, occasionally commenting on how drunk or how desperate someone seemed to be. After a while Maka decided she'd had enough. She stood and stretched before heading towards the door. "If giving me a ride will make you feel better, come on then."

Soul nodded and threw down the rest of his drink before grabbing his jacket and following her.

Once outside, she blinked as he led her to large orange motorcycle decorated here and there with various spikes. The headlight looked like it even had teeth. He swung his leg over it and helped her up behind him before starting the engine.

"Alright," he tossed over his shoulder as the engine warmed up. "Tell me where I'm going."

Maka was still trying to settle herself on the back seat of the bike, but glanced up at that. "Cottonwood Place."

Soul frowned for a moment, then blinked. "That apartment complex over on Southern and Main?"

Maka nodded. "Yeah."

"Alright then," Soul replied, throwing the bike into gear. "Hang on."

"To what?"

"There's some grips below the seat, or you can hang on to me, whichever works."

Maka blinked at how casually he'd said that, but as soon as he let go of the clutch and the bike took off, she instinctively threw her arms around his waist and held on for dear life.

She felt rather than heard Soul chuckle a little before slowing down a little bit for her sake. She carefully loosened her grip before looking over his shoulder to see where he was going, occasionally giving him directions about shortcuts she knew.

She noticed Soul tensing up slowly as he got to her neighborhood. She didn't blame him. She and Blair didn't really live on the best side of town, but their apartment was cheap, and everyone knew everybody, so there wasn't really a lot of crime in their area.

She had him pull up to the gate and leaned over him to punch in the code to open it, then directed him to where her apartment was. She was surprised when he glanced where she was pointing, nodded, then headed off to find a nearby parking place.

"You don't have to walk me to my apartment. It's alright."

Soul glanced back suspiciously at the stairwell, making Maka roll her eyes. "Going to anyway."

Maka sighed. "If you were any other guy, I'd think you were trying to get into my pants, you know."

Soul chuckled at that. "Good thing I'm not. I'm just worried."

Maka hopped off the bike once he'd killed the engine, digging in her purse for her keys. "I can take care of myself, Soul."

"As you've said." He replied, climbing off the bike and following her, ever alert.

Maka chuckled. "You're acting like a nervous bodyguard. Calm down." A siren wailed in the distance, and Soul looked off in that direction for a few seconds. Maka sighed and smacked his shoulder. "That's at least a mile away. Stop being so paranoid."

Soul followed her closely up the stairwell and through the outdoor hallways until she reached her apartment and unlocked the door. "Blair left it a mess before we left, but come on in if you want." Maka murmured, having long since given up on getting him to stop being so protective.

Soul visibly relaxed once she closed the door behind him, and looked around. There were a few articles of clothing here and there, and he remembered Maka talking about what Blair had tried to get her into before they'd left for the club. Maka wandered around the room, picking up the clothes and tossing them into what he assumed to be Blair's room before closing the door behind them.

She kicked off her boots before moving past him to the small kitchenette and pulling down a glass from the cupboard before glancing back at him. "Thirsty?"

Soul blinked. "Oh. Sure." He wandered into the kitchenette after her and glanced out the window, slightly unnerved that he was still hearing sirens.

Maka sighed, handing him a glass of water. "There's a speed trap on the corner. They catch people there a lot."

Soul nodded, still staring out the window.

She rolled here eyes. "Soul, Blair and I have lived here for years. Everyone in the complex knows us, and everyone here knows everyone else. The last time there was anything remotely resembling a crime here, it was stopped before most of us even knew about it. We all take care of each other. And as I've said before, I'm fully capable of taking care of myself."

Soul made to glance around the apartment again to try to pull his attention away from the window and the sirens, and his gaze fell on a shelf full of trophies. He raised an eyebrow and moved towards it. As he got closer, he noticed that it was a bunch of martial arts trophies, and they all had Maka's name on them.

"Like I said," he turned to see that Maka had followed him. "I can take care of myself."

Soul turned back to the trophies. Kickboxing, kung fu, aikido, judo… "Impressive. Remind me not to piss you off."

Maka chuckled a bit but it quickly broke off into a yawn. Soul grinned. "I'll let you get to bed then." He held up his now empty glass. "Thanks for the drink."

He moved to the kitchenette and set the glass in the sink, glancing out the window once more before shaking his head and tearing his gaze from it, noticing a pad of sticky notes and a pen on the counter.

He grabbed both. "If you ever need anything though…" he scribbled on the notepad before pulling the note off and handing it to her. She looked down at it and blinked upon noticing it was a phone number.

She smirked back up at him. "That has to be the most creative way a guy has ever slipped me his phone number."

Soul rolled his eyes. "It's not like that. Just… call me if you need help with something, okay?"

Maka laughed. "I was joking. But here," she tore off the bottom half of the note and scribbled her own number on it before handing it back to him. "It's only fair."

Soul blinked before taking the number from her and glancing at it, then pulling his phone out and immediately programming it in before shoving both in his pocket. "Well guess I'll see you when I see you then." He grinned up at her. "'Night."

"Good night, Soul. Careful of that speed trap on your way out."

He nodded. "Right. Later, Maka."

Maka waved as he trudged down the stairs to the parking lot. She stood at the door until she saw his motorcycle pull away before closing the door and heading to bed.


Chapter Text

Maka glanced at her phone when it rang with an unknown number. Guessing it to probably be Liz, she picked it up. “Hello?”

“Maka-chan?”

She smiled. “Hey, Tsubaki. What’s up?”

She could hear Black Star making a ruckus on the other end of the line, but Tsubaki seemed to be ignoring him. “Liz-chan gave me your number and told me to call you and ask if you were free tonight?”

Maka glanced over at Blair, who waved at her to go. “Sure, where should I meet you guys?”

“Actually Black Star and I were going to pick you up. Liz-chan and Patti-chan are already waiting for us at Soul-kun’s house, and I have to drop Black Star off there anyway. Soul-kun says you live near us?”

“Oh, yeah,” She remembered Soul had mentioned that Black Star and Tsubaki had lived down the street from the club, which also wasn’t far from where she was. “I’m at Cottonwood.”

“Oh, Black Star used to live there… is the security code the same?”

“Same as it’s been for the last five years.” Maka replied.

She could hear Tsubaki scribbling details as she spoke. “Alright then… getting in shouldn’t be a problem. Are you on the north or south side?”

“North.”

“Alright. As soon as I can get Black Star to put some pants on and stop bothering the neighbor’s dog, we’ll head right over.”

Maka didn’t know whether to be impressed or unnerved at the nonchalance at which Tsubaki said that. The girl had the patience of a saint. “Is there anything I need to bring or wear? What’s going on tonight?”

There was a slight pause as Tsubaki stopped to think. “If you needed to do or bring anything special, Liz-chan would have probably told me so I could let you know, but I haven’t heard anything. Seeing as the boys are being confined to Soul-kun’s house for the night I’m guessing we’re having a girls’ sleepover or something to that effect. I should probably warn you that I think it’s a cover for Liz-chan and Patti-chan to get to talk to you and learn more about you. They seem to want to get to know you well. Possibly because Soul-kun considers you a friend. They’re quite protective of him.”

Maka laughed. “Should I expect the overprotective parent talk?”

Tsubaki giggled a little before replying. “No, they’re not like that… You may have to expect to field the question of when you’re going to start going out with him. Soul-kun’s already had to deal with that.”

Maka rolled her eyes and scowled meaningfully at Blair across the room. “So have I.”

Blair stuck her tongue out at Maka before going back to the TV. Maka rolled her eyes and turned back to the phone. “So should I bring PJ’s or something, since sleepovers may be involved?”

Tsubaki hummed thoughtfully on the other line. “Maybe. I’m bringing a set to be sure. Like I said, I know the boys are spending the whole night at Soul-kun’s. Black Star mentioned all night video games.”

Maka nodded. “Will do. Unless there’s anything else I should know, I’ll see you when you get here?”

“Nothing else I can think of at the moment. Ah… Black Star, get down from there! I have to go, Maka-chan. We’ll be down in a few minutes.”

Maka smiled. “Alright then. Good luck.”

Tsubaki chuckled slightly. “Thank you. I may need it in a second or two. Goodbye, Maka-chan.”

“Bye.”

Maka snapped her phone closed and went to her room to get a small bag together. Blair followed and plopped down on her bed while she dug around in a drawer for a pair of sleep shorts.

“So what’s going on tonight?”

“So far, I think just a sleepover. Liz, Patti, and Tsubaki apparently want to get to know me.”

Blair pouted. “No boys?”

Maka sighed. “No, the boys are doing something else.”

“Bah. That’s no fun.”

Maka rolled her eyes. “Sometimes your idea of fun scares me.”

Blair grinned. “Oh come on, you’ve only had to bail me out twice.”

Maka smirked back. “Oh yes. And the break on rent was nice, too.”

Blair pouted again. The two times Maka had had to come bail Blair out she’d made the other girl make up for it by paying the rent by herself for the month. “That was mean, by the way.”

“But well deserved.” Maka replied from under her bed, growling slightly at not being able to find those damn sleep shorts.

“Can’t argue with that.” Blair replied after a while before nudging Maka in the butt with her toe, holding up the shorts she was looking for when the other girl emerged from under the bed in a huff. Maka grabbed them and stuffed them in her bag before getting up to grab her toothbrush when Blair asked a question that nearly made her freeze in the doorway. “Oh, by the way. What was Soul doing here last week?”

Maka blinked before turning back to her friend. “He insisted on giving me a ride home. He came in for a glass of water and then left. How the hell did you know that?”

Blair smirked. “Your boy wears a very unique aftershave.”

Maka rolled her eyes as she continued down the hall for her toothbrush, Blair following. “He’s not my boy. And I’m not sure I wanna know how you know that.”

Blair huffed. “I’ve talked to him. Remember when I told you he wouldn’t tell me his name two weeks ago?”

Maka sighed. “Okay, but still… that’s weird. I mean, I don’t exactly go around smelling my friends.”

Blair laughed. “Neither do I, but it was kind of hard to ignore. It’s different from most. You can’t tell me you didn’t notice that.”

Maka gave Blair a blank look, and Blair sighed.

“Right… You wouldn’t notice something like that anyway.”

The doorbell rang at that point, and Maka finished shoving things in her bag. “There’s my ride. I’ll see you sometime tomorrow morning I guess.”

Blair nodded and all but shoved her out the door as she barely managed to grab her keys. “Have fun!”

Black Star blinked at the closed door as Maka walked by. “She seemed in a hurry to get you out. She havin’ a guy over or something?”

Maka laughed. “Not tonight, I don’t think. She’s just happy I’m being social for once.”

“Oh?” Tsubaki asked as she led them down the stairs to a small sedan.

“Yeah,” Maka replied as she hopped in the back seat as Black Star called shotgun. “I don’t get out much. I usually just stay home and read or watch TV. I’m kinda tired after work most days.”

Tsubaki nodded at this. She looked like she wanted to ask more, but didn’t. Maka figured she was saving it for the sleepover.

The drive over was mostly silent, save for Black Star occasionally shooting his mouth off, which Tsubaki seemed to politely ignore, so Maka followed suit. She glanced out the window at the neighborhood they were currently in. Average street with average houses. Tsubaki parked near one that already had a couple cars and a very familiar motorcycle parked outside. Judging by the perfect symmetry of one of the cars, she was pretty sure she knew who that one belonged to.

Black Star shot out of the car like a rocket and barreled through the door. Maka blinked and stared after him for a moment before noticing Tsubaki getting out at a more sedate pace, so from what she’d seen and heard about him, she guessed this was normal.

She shouldered her bag and followed Tsubaki through the still open door before closing it behind her. She wasn’t sure what she was expecting of Soul’s house, but some of it didn’t really surprise her. The front room was small, and had nothing in it but a small table with a radio on it and a guitar case in the corner beside a chair. The room angled around the corner and her breath caught at the sight of a beautiful pure black baby grand piano. Its lid and top were currently closed and there were papers with what appeared to be songs in various stages of being written scattered all over it, but it was still polished and looked well cared for. After a few more moments of gawking, she followed the direction Tsubaki had gone to see everyone in the large family room.

There was a long couch that angled along the wall facing a large wide screen TV where Patti, Black Star, and Kid were fiercely locked in a game of Mario Kart while Liz watched in mild interest, cheering her little sister on and laughing hysterically whenever someone took a blue shell. Kid looked mildly stressed out, and she noticed that poor Luigi was in 8th place. She smiled a little when Kid pulled up a place, and almost cheered him on when she noticed him grimace and immediately hit the brakes, dropping back into 8th place and relaxing visibly. She shook her head and chalked it up to part of his OCD.

Tsubaki had wandered into the kitchen shortly after Maka had entered the room, and after another quick glance around the room she spotted Soul curled up sideways in an armchair with a worn spiral notebook on his knees and a pen in his mouth, scowling thoughtfully at the page and occasionally writing something down or scratching something out before going back to chewing on his pen. After a while he got up and paced around for a bit before flopping down on the couch opposite the racers, still scowling at his notebook.

Tsubaki chose that moment to reappear, and Maka glanced back over her shoulder at the taller girl. She must have looked confused, because Tsubaki smiled and nodded to Soul.

“He’s like this when he’s got something. Inspiration usually strikes him pretty hard, and he zones completely out when it does until he’s gotten everything down. He probably doesn’t even know that we’ve showed up yet. If he was like this before Kid and the girls showed up, he probably doesn’t know that any of us are here yet.”

Maka watched him pace around a few more times before going to the piano in the front room and tinkering with a few chords before shutting the cover again and moving to the guitar around the corner, trying the same chords.

Tsubaki had left to answer Black Star calling for her to join in the game, leaving Maka to watch. After a few more notes on the guitar, Soul blinked and got up to move to the piano again, shuffling through the mess of papers on top of it before finding the one he was looking for, comparing it to his notebook, scratching a couple things out on the paper, writing a couple more things in the notebook, and then crumpling the paper up and tossing it over his shoulder into a bin behind him. He looked over his notebook one more time, frowned, scribbled something else down, then nodded to himself and closed it, tossing it into the pile on the piano before finally looking up and noticing Maka.

“Oh. Hi.” He had the grace to look mildly embarrassed for not noticing her, and didn’t seem to notice the half chewed pen still hanging out of his mouth. “How long have you been there?”

Maka smiled at his slight deer-in-the-headlights look. “Only a few minutes. I just got here with Tsubaki and Black Star.”

Soul blinked. “Oh. Everyone’s here then?”

Maka smiled. Tsubaki was right. Completely zoned out. She nodded and Patti chose that moment to whoop in victory as Black Star apparently ate a blue shell.

Soul raised an eyebrow before chuckling to himself and getting up from the bench. “I see they’re got the Wii set up.” She followed him to the other room and Tsubaki quickly passed her controller to him.

Liz glanced over at him. “You done?”

“Yeah, sorry.” Soul replied without looking up from the screen. “Had something and had to get it down before I lost it.”

“S’okay,” Liz replied before turning back to her sister. “Oi, Patti. Kick Black Star’s ass already, we’re ready to go.”

“Kaaay!” Maka watched in slight amusement as Baby Bowser used every boost and malicious item in the game on Mario, effectively dropping him to 12th place before crossing the line in first place, giggling maniacally and tossing her controller onto the couch before grabbing a giraffe print backpack and standing up.

Soul cringed, having been caught in some of the larger explosions, but still ended up in second. “Not sure if that was epic or just plain scary. Patti is too damn good at this game.”

Black Star huffed. “Making me come in last place. Last place! I should be number one!” He flopped onto his back on the floor and pouted, further expressing his distaste for Patti’s tactics.

Despite the nervous terror of Patti’s many deathtraps, Kid was satisfied with himself, having come in at 8th place. He nodded once and sat back to wait for Black Star to stop pouting and start the next race, glancing up at Liz and Patti. “Kindly don’t tear my house apart too much.”

Liz smirked back before ruffling his hair, setting him into a frantic effort to straighten it again. “No promises, hun.”

Patti tackled him with a goodbye hug which he returned once he pulled himself up from the floor, and turned to receive a much more sedate but no less emotional hug from Liz. He smiled at the both of them as he moved back to the couch. “Have fun.”

Patti nodded and Liz smirked back. “Always.”

Soul glanced over at Liz, a small smirk on his face. “Don’t traumatize her too much.”

Liz grinned back. “Again, no promises.”

Tsubaki rolled her eyes and jokingly dropped a protective arm around Maka’s shoulder. “I’ll look out for her, Soul-kun.”

Soul laughed at the silly determined look Tsubaki had put on as she’d said that, then shook his head. “Thank you, Tsubaki.”

Liz rolled her eyes and called to Patti, who immediately saluted and moved behind Maka and Tsubaki to shove them all through the front room. Maka barely caught the boys’ yelled goodbyes and the brief “good luck” from Soul before she was out the door.

Chapter Text

Liz led them all to the symmetrical car and opened the trunk for all their bags before they all got in. Maka found herself shoved to shotgun while Patti and Tsubaki sat in back.

"Alright," Liz said as soon as the car started. "Girls' Night Out starts now! First order of business, the most fattening, cholesterol-laden food we can find 'cause we don't have to care tonight. Girls, we're going to McDonald's!"

Patti cheered from the back seat and Tsubaki laughed, agreeing instantly. Maka smiled, liking this group already.

One trip through the drive-thru later, they ended up at the largest, most elaborate house Maka had ever seen. She stood and stared a bit while Liz and Tsubaki moved to the trunk to grab their bags. Patti was playing with her happy meal toy while munching on a couple fries, and grabbed her bag when it was given to her without breaking her concentration on the small piece of cheap plastic. Maka was snapped out of her staring when Tsubaki handed her her bag, which she shouldered and followed her and the sisters inside. Tonight was likely to be interesting, if she could stop staring at the house like a freaking tourist.

"Maka! In here!"

She glanced up at Patti waving at her from a door off to the side, and realized she'd been hanging around the foyer staring while the others had moved on. Embarrassed, she shook her head and followed Patti into a sort of recreation/game room that had four air mattresses already set up with sheets and pillows on the floor. From their somewhat haphazard setup, she was pretty sure that Kid had no part in it. Or in this room. From what she had seen of the mansion so far, every single room down to its very last millimeter was perfectly symmetrical. The room they were in now looked a little less… rigid.

"Kid's not even allowed in here," Liz spoke up from behind her as she looked around, seeming to know what she was thinking. "Patti and I had to have at least one room to ourselves."

Maka nodded and tossed her bag on one of the mattresses before flopping down on it. Patti was digging through a closet and came back a few minutes later tossing blankets at everyone. Maka picked up the one that had landed on her head and cocooned herself in it, facing the others who had followed her example.

The conversation started out neutral, basic girl stuff from Liz, and what her current fashion magazines had claimed to be "in." Patti had snorted at some of them, and when Liz had gone to grab one to show pictures, Maka couldn't help but laugh out loud at how ridiculous some of them looked.

Eventually conversation turned to what they all did for a living and how their respective weeks were. Patti apparently worked at a day care center, and took great delight in listing off how many monsters had been slain and how many tea parties had been held that week. Liz was a makeup girl at a department store in the mall, and had a couple interesting stories about some rather stuck up valley girls she'd had to deal with. Tsubaki was a receptionist at a dentist, and told stories of how she was able to calm frightened children and even some adult patients before they were called in. Maka could easily see her doing so. She had a very calm and caring demeanor, and felt like someone you could tell anything to or go to her for comfort.

Eventually the question of her occupation arose, and she grinned and responded calmly, "I'm a martial arts instructor."

She had expected the silence, but not the looks of awe and respect. She usually just got odd looks.

"Wow," Patti beamed. "So you could like, kick all our asses huh? That's so cool!"

Liz smirked. "I thought there was an air of 'don't mess with me' about you. What do you teach?"

"Karate, kendo, aikido, taijustu, judo, kickboxing, tai chi, wing tsun, and krav maga."

Liz chuckled a little. "I don't even know what half those are, but wow."

Tsubaki smiled. "Don't tell Black Star what you do. He may challenge you."

Liz snorted. "So what? I say let him get his ass kicked. It'll be fun to watch. The kid takes one year of karate and thinks he's Mr. Miyagi. It'll be nice to see him taken down a peg."

Patti laughed and quickly agreed. Tsubaki chuckled nervously but it was pretty obvious she would find it entertaining as well.

The conversation went on for another hour, until Liz learned that Maka liked to play pool and immediately dragged her to the pool table in the corner and challenged her to a game. Maka won, and the rematches and random other games that also involved Patti and Tsubaki went on for a while before they finally got tired and went back to their air mattresses.

After a while of comfortable silence, Liz glanced over at Maka. "You've probably seen this coming all night, but Soul never told us how you two met. I know at the club, but what happened exactly?"

Maka looked up from her fifth cream soda of the night and sighed. "To be honest, nothing really. The seat next to me at the bar was empty and he sat there. He bought me a drink, but didn't say a word to me for a while until he started complaining about the music. A conversation went on from there."

Liz nodded. "Sounds like him. He was complaining about a headache when we left that night. He has a rather eclectic taste in music, but there are some things he just can't stand. Dubstep and certain trance songs drive him insane."

"It was weird though," Maka mumbled, looking down at the floor.

Liz raised an eyebrow curiously. "How so?"

Maka blinked, not realizing she'd said it out loud, and looked up at Liz. "I usually wouldn't even give a guy the time of day, but it was so easy to talk to him. It was just... surreal.

To her surprise, Liz nodded in understanding. "Patti and I weren't exactly the most outgoing either, but even when we first met him and he was like, twelve, he had a certain charisma about him. He's not the most outgoing either, but if he feels like talking to you, it's so easy to do. You're right, it is kinda surreal, but it's an interesting quality to have, I guess. Shame he never really puts it to use, but hey."

Maka cocked her head to one side in curiosity. "Why do you say that?"

Liz snorted. "Look at him! Composer, poet, good listener... He could easily get any girl he wants and he still insists on living like a hermit. If it weren't for his high school years and some of his lyrics, I'd think he was gay."

Maka shrugged. "Maybe he's just more interested in his work than finding himself a girlfriend right now. Nothing wrong with that."

Liz sighed at that, and Patti and Tsubaki looked a little subdued as well. "That's not it," Liz replied. "I wish I could say it was, though."

Maka frowned in concern. "Then...?"

Liz looked at her for a moment, conflicted, before she sighed again. "It's not really my story to tell, but... In a nutshell, a lot of girls used him in high school. They'd hang out with him, or make out with him or something, but if he tried to pursue a relationship, they'd never speak to him again. He wanted something real, none of them ever wanted anything more than a fling. Eventually he got tired of it and just... gave up. He hasn't had so much as a close female friend other than us ever since. I'm pretty sure he only considered Tsubaki 'safe' at first because she was already engaged to Black Star when he met her."

"Which is why you can see we're so interested in you, Maka-chan," Tsubaki added.

"Hell, I was interested in you before he even went to you. He saw you when you walked in with... Blair, was it? And watched you turn down guy after guy before... oh damn." Liz chuckled to herself. "That was probably why he even went to talk to you in the first place. You intrigued him, and as a bonus, you weren't interested in anything."

Maka grinned a little sheepishly "I... kinda gave up a while back too. Not as long ago as he has, but yeah."

Patti blinked and spoke up for the first time since Soul was mentioned. "How come?"

Maka sighed. "I guess it started really with my papa. When I was little... perhaps even before I was born, I don't know... he cheated on my mama almost constantly. When I was 10 she finally couldn't stand it anymore, filed for divorce, and left. She took me with her, but I still had to spend time with him. Custody was alternating every four months during the school year and all with my mama during the summer. He always claimed he loved me and mama more than anything, but... I never saw it proven.

"The day I turned 18, I moved out on my own. Mostly to not have to pack up and move every few months. Blair and I both got the apartment I live in now and I've pretty much been there ever since. I've always been into martial arts so I got myself some training and a few certifications and me and an old friend of mine opened up a studio together.

"As for... giving up on dating, while papa is somewhat to blame, he's not the only reason. I've had a few boyfriends. None of them were worth it. They either wanted my body more than me, or tried to change me or get me to stop being a martial arts instructor 'cause... hell, I don't even know. Maybe they felt emasculated because their tiny little girlfriend could kick their ass. And a couple... were no better than my papa. A few years ago I finally said 'screw it' and stopped looking. Even so, Blair keeps trying to set me up with someone, and you can imagine all the hell I've been getting since I've met Soul."

Liz smirked and Tsubaki and Patti giggled. "Probably about the same amount of hell Soul's been getting from us."

Maka sighed. "Leave him alone, Liz."

"We like seeing him happy. He's an expert at moping around. Whether he sees you as anything more than a friend or not, he's happy when he's with you." Liz poked Maka in the forehead at that. "Is that so wrong?"

"I... well... no, but..."

"Then what's the problem?"

"Neither of us are interested."

"Right now..."

"Liz!"

"Alright, alright," Liz laughed. "I'll back off both of you. But don't expect me to shut up entirely. You have no idea how much fun it is to watch him squirm."

Maka rolled her eyes. "On the subject of relationships, I'm curious..."

"About us and Kid?"

"Yeah... I'm not judging you or anything, it's just... how do you do it?"

Surprisingly it was Patti who answered. "Sissy and I have shared pretty much everything growing up. It's not too hard for us to share Kiddo."

"And he loves us both equally and gives us both equal amounts of attention and affection. He'd have an aneurysm otherwise."

Maka stared. "He's that OCD?"

Liz raised an eyebrow in response. "You saw his breakdown over the sugar packets last week. And have you seen this house? Patti and I spend most of our time either in here or his room 'cause God forbid we leave anything in any other room even a hair off."

Maka blinked. "That sounds stressful."

"We've gotten used to it. Sometimes it's an annoyance, but now it's kind of endearing. He's loosened up since we started dating. Black Star says he used to be much worse."

Tsubaki nodded at that. "At least he's come to terms with his hair. He used to have a breakdown at least once a day over it."

Maka blinked. "His hair is natural?"

"Do you honestly think that with his psychotic devotion to symmetry he'd purposely dye his hair that way? It's an odd genetic quirk he inherited from his dad. The stripes are natural. If he tries to grow them out, they pop back up later. About every four inches or so his hair on the left side streaks white. He dyes it sometimes but his hair doesn't hold dye well either and it washes out pretty quick."

Maka blinked. "Interesting. Never heard of anything like that."

Patti grinned. "Soul's terrified of the dentist!"

Maka blinked at the seemingly random piece of information before Tsubaki elaborated. "You have seen his teeth, right Maka-chan?"

Maka nodded, still not understanding the connection.

"It's a rare genetic anomaly. It runs in his family but it's skipped three generations, so he's the only one with it. His dentist... kind of views him as a rarity and frequently mentions wanting to get a blood or tissue sample and sometimes even mentions dissecting him. What that will do, I have no idea. But Soul's always held at the dentist longer than most other patients. Soul's not the only one who's terrified of him by a long shot, but he's... a decent person."

Liz snorted. "Be honest, you've worked for him for five years and you're still creeped out by him."

Tsubaki scowled at her. "He's not that bad once you get to know him, but yes. He is a little... unnerving. He's still the best dental surgeon in the state."

Liz nodded. "True. My wisdom teeth surgery healed much faster than anyone else I know."

Patti grinned rather creepily. "Bet he's still got Soul's in a jar or something!"

Liz shuddered. "Probably."

Conversation died shortly after that, and they all decided to call it a night. Liz muttered something about hoping Black Star wasn't too wasted when they went back to Soul's in the morning to pick the boys up before she finally passed out.

Chapter Text

"Shoulda told us you have trouble sleeping in strange places," Liz chuckled. "We could have gone to sleep earlier."

Maka groaned something while her head rested against the passenger window as Liz drove back to Soul's house.

"Sorry Maka, I don't speak zombie."

She only groaned again and bonked her head against the window.

The four of them were still in their pajamas as the plan was mainly to just pick up the boys and go home. Liz and Patti were both pretty sure Kid would be exhausted from dealing with both Soul and Black Star all night without them to keep him balanced and calm, and it was pretty much an unspoken agreement that Black Star was very likely to be some form of drunk. Maka planned on texting Blair to say she was going to be late and then claiming a chunk of Soul's couch for a few hours.

She trudged in after the girls and noticed that the room with the TV that everyone had been in the night before was now empty, save Soul sprawled on one side of the angled couch, blanket about to fall off his waist and pillow already halfway to the floor. Some time during the night he had changed into a white wifebeater and basketball shorts.

The coffee table had an empty reasonably small bottle of vodka and a massive pyramid of empty Mountian Dew cans beside an empty 36 pack box. A perfect, pristine cube of Sprite cans stood in the exact center of the table. Even half dead, Maka was able to guess whose was whose, though from the sheer size of the Mountain Dew pyramid, and a second box she spotted on the other side of the couch, she sincerely hoped that Black Star helped drink all that and it wasn't just Soul.

Liz marched up to him and not too gently nudged his shoulder. "Wake up, squirt."

He groaned and opened one eye. "Oh... hi, Liz."

"Mornin'. Where'd Kid pass out?"

Face still buried in what he still had of his pillow, he raised one sleepy finger pointed at the ceiling. "Beanbag."

Liz nodded and marched upstairs with Patti, and Tsubaki approached Soul, who clumsily pulled himself up to a sitting position. "And Black Star?"

Soul yawned and nodded to the side. "Bathtub."

Tsubaki sighed. "That drunk?"

"Nah... habit I guess. Was on the floor out here, but every time he got up to piss, just crawled into the bathtub and went back to sleep. Came and got him a couple times, but he kept going back. Just left him there. Wasn't drunk… did get a little tipsy. Possibly hung over. Good luck."

Despite the fact that his speech was slurred with sleep, Tsubaki seemed to understand him. She giggled a little at her fiancé's habits before heading for the bathroom. "Thanks, Soul-kun."

Soul glanced up at Maka as she walked into the room, but she ignored him, dropped her bag on the floor, and flopped down on the other side of the couch. He blinked at her before he got up and grabbed a pillow and blanket off the floor that she guessed had been for Black Star, tossed the blanket over her and handed her the pillow, then went back to his side of the couch and righted his own pillow before following her example.

Liz and Patti came down a few minutes later with a somewhat bleary eyed Kid, and Liz leaned over and muttered something to Soul that Maka in her half asleep state didn't catch. Soul groaned, hauled himself up off the couch, and stumped upstairs. Maka briefly wondered if Kid had left a mess as well, though he hadn't look hung over, just sleepy. She guessed not when Soul came down a few seconds later, cradling what appeared to be a speckled brown koosh ball in his hands before lying back down on the couch, setting the ball on his chest, and promptly going back to sleep.

The ball triggered her curiosity more than it normally should. She blamed being sleepy and the odd fact that he was sleeping with it. She couldn't think straight and her mind tended to wander when she was this tired, and this time was no exception. Soul turned his head away from her in his sleep, and she found herself admiring his jaw line and admitting that perhaps Blair was right when she'd made the offhand comment years ago about Maka having some really weird turn-ons…

Blair. Right.

She reached down and blindly rooted through her bag with one hand for her phone. Pulling it out, she flipped it open and took a few tries to type a message to her.

Couldn't sleep well, as usual. Crashing on the couch at Soul's for a while. Be back late.

She laid there staring blearily at her phone until she got a response.

Expectd whn u said slpovr. "Sleep" well. Dnt frgt 2 use protection! :3

Maka scowled at her phone before punching in a response that was almost automatic at this point.

Fuck you, Blair.

Her response was much quicker this time.

I dnt do grls, sry. And Soul dsnt strike me as the type 2 go for 3sums

Maka rolled her eyes.

Whore.

Cunt :D

She threw her phone back in her bag with more force than necessary and shoved her face in her pillow before pulling the blanket over her head in a huff. When sleep still stubbornly refused to come, she glanced back over at Soul and the little brown ball. He held it in place with one hand as he slept, as it would have rolled off onto the floor with his chest rising and falling with his breath. What purpose could it serve, and why had Liz had him go get it?

… And did it just move?

She blinked, rubbed her eyes, and squinted closer at the ball. Nothing. Maybe it was her sleep deprived mind playing tricks on her and—holy shit!

Okay. Ball definitely moved. Ball is also breathing.

Her brain finally got the overly delayed message to her mouth and she yelped in surprise. Soul snapped awake and sat up quickly, carefully supporting the ball, which was now definitely moving as it squirmed in his hands. Eyes wide, he looked over at her to find her staring at the ball before looking back down at it himself. He immediately calmed down and chuckled a little before turning it around in his hands and holding it out for her to see.

Nothing happened at first and Maka wondered what he was doing, and then with a little grunt, a tiny paw poked out of it, followed shortly by a long pointed nose, beady little black eyes, and the cutest little round ears she had ever seen. It regarded her grumpily while the part of her brain dealing with all things cute and adorable quickly processed all this information and came to the necessary conclusion.

Hedgehog. Soul had a hedgehog. Soul had an extremely sexy jaw line and a hedgehog. Damn she needed sleep. Was she always this horny when tired?

Said hedgehog squinted at her for a moment longer, then grunted and balled back up again. Maka was pretty sure she had an incredibly stupid look on her face as she regarded the little spiked ball in a new light. She was pretty sure it wasn't pleased with her for waking both it and Soul up, but she didn't care because it was the cutest thing she'd seen all month. She was positive she had a stupid look on her face when Soul grinned at her.

"Well now she's pissed. She likes sleeping on me because I'm warm and you woke me up." He held the ball closer to his chest as he looked back up at Maka, a little unsure. "It's… not a problem, is it?"

Maka blinked. "No. Why would it be? She's adorable."

Soul chuckled a little. "Kid and Liz are terrified of her."

Maka hummed in response, leaning over to poke gently at his pet, receiving a twitch and a grumpy grunt in response that made her laugh. "What's her name?"

Soul blushed a little. "Spike."

Maka raised an eyebrow. "Spike?"

"I… kinda named her before I knew she was female. By the time I figured that out, it was too late to change her name. She already answered to it."

Maka smiled. "That's actually so much cuter," she blinked. "And I really need sleep. Your hedgehog has turned me into a puddle of goo."

Soul laughed out loud, bringing another annoyed grunt from Spike. "If it's any comfort, so do I. I've been up all night dealing with a not all there Black Star. I sugar crashed hard about an hour before you all showed up." He motioned to the pyramid of Mountain Dew cans. "Black Star helped, but most of that is my doing. And just FYI, vodka mixed with Mountain Dew is disgusting. Never do it. Ever. Black Star did it with all his Mountain Dew and managed to get me to try a shot. Ugh."

Maka made a face. "Noted. That doesn't even sound good."

Soul stretched and flopped back down on the couch, rolling over on his side to face Maka and put Spike between his chest and arm. She promptly uncurled and set her paws and chin on his wrist before falling asleep. He scratched her head with his other hand before settling down on his pillow. "I'd say goodnight, but seeing as it's almost noon, I'll just go with sleep well."

Maka settled down on her side of the couch and stretched out while lying on her back, adamantly ignoring the fact that her fingertips brushed his hair when she did so, and rolled over to face the back of the couch. "Likewise," she yawned back.

When she woke up much later, she found that Soul, the empty bottle, and all the pop cans were gone. She was impressed either with how well she slept, or how quiet Soul was able to clean up the mess, because she hadn't woken up at all. She stretched and hauled herself up to a sitting position, idly shoving some of her unruly dishwater blond hair out of her face. She checked her phone for any messages and found it was 5:30. Blair hadn't seemed to mind her being gone all day today as well, her messages were blank. She shoved her phone back in her bag and stood to look around the room. Aside from her and the mess she was positive she was, the room was spotless.

Damn. She really must have slept like a log. It even looked like he'd vacuumed.

"Sleep well?"

She had been digging through her bag for a change of clothes when Soul decided to give her a heart attack. She surprised both him and herself by leaping backwards over his coffee table.

Soul smirked at her as he leaned on the back of the couch right over where she'd been sitting. "Nice. Impressive landing, too."

Maka looked down to notice that she had landed perfectly balanced on her feet on the other side of the couch. She took a deep breath, let it out, and held up her change of clothes while trying desperately to get her heart rate back under control. "Nearest bathroom?"

"Is still a mess." He pushed off the couch and turned to head upstairs, motioning her to follow him. "You can use mine. I'll grab you a towel."

She hadn't planned on taking a shower, but now that he mentioned it, it sounded like a nice idea. She stepped down off the couch and jogged around the other end to catch up. He was still wearing the wifebeater he'd had on this morning, but had changed into some jeans and some worn tennis shoes. She adamantly refused to acknowledge her perverted brain as it pointed out that he was quite well muscled for a musician, and mentally stomped on any other thoughts before they could follow that track. She cursed Blair, Liz, and Patti, deciding they were all to blame for these sudden treacherous thoughts.

The second story of Soul's house appeared to be nothing more than one large room. There was a TV larger than the one downstairs on the wall closest to the stairs, and the room itself was lined with a couple well worn couches and a loveseat or two, and about five or six beanbag chairs. There was a long table on the far wall with what appeared to be a large rabbit hutch on it as well as a large bag of cage bedding, a bag of cat food, and a box of feed crickets. Spike trooped around inside the hutch with a toilet paper tube stuck on her head, seemingly having the time of her life.

On Maka's right, in the center of the wall, was a sliding door leading out to a balcony that overlooked the front yard, and directly across from that on the opposite wall was a hallway that Soul walked down and opened a door to a small bathroom before turning around to slide open what she assumed to be a linen closet when he reached in and grabbed a towel.

He handed it to her and slid around her to head back downstairs. "Liz leaves some girly shampoo here occasionally, I think there might be some left if you don't wanna use mine, hair dryer's in the top drawer of the counter on the left, and I'm ordering a pizza 'cause I'm too lazy to cook at the moment. Any preferences?"

Maka blinked before shaking her head. "As long as you don't order anchovies, I'll eat whatever."

Soul nodded. "Cool. I'll be downstairs if you need anything." He turned and disappeared around the corner before she heard him thumping down the stairs. She turned and looked curiously at the door at the end of the hallway, assuming it was his bedroom, before shrugging to herself and heading into the bathroom. She trusted Soul, but locked the door anyway.

After spending nearly half an hour in the shower, she felt much better and more awake. She hung the towel up on the rack for lack of a better place to put it and pulled her hair back into a single ponytail to keep it out of her face before grabbing her pajamas and heading out the door to find Soul sitting on one of the couches upstairs facing the TV with a game controller in his hand and an open pizza box on the table in front of him. There was an extra plate and a can of Coke with a glass of ice next to it, and she smiled despite herself as she tossed her pajamas in her bag (that he had also brought upstairs) and sitting down next to him to grab a slice of pizza. She glanced over at the game in idle curiosity and grinned. Smash Brothers. She loved this game.

Soul seemed to catch on and held up another controller to her before grinning in challenge. "Need me to go easy?"

Maka snorted. "You wish. Maybe I should go easy on you."

"Oh really, now?" Soul replied, grin still in place and one eyebrow raised. "Ever played this before?"

Maka simply narrowed her eyes and chose Pit before entering her name below player 2. "Bring it."

When Soul finally brought her home around midnight, she had gone to bed with the satisfaction that she had practically destroyed him for six straight hours of Smash Brothers and he owed her a smoothie from her favorite cafe every Saturday for the next month.

She completely ignored Blair's squeals that she now had a date with Soul every Saturday.