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“Let me use your shower,” Soul huffs as they land. They have only been in Death City for 10 minutes and whatever grime on him is already melting into his skin.

Kidd raises an eyebrow, “We are close. But not that close.”

“Not together. I’ll go after.”

He considers this and nods briefly. After spending twelve weeks with him, tackling mission after mission, Soul learns that Kidd needs exact explanations. Everything is much faster that way.

“We have a workshop in 30 minutes, so I will be leaving after I shower.” Without you, he implied.

He probably has to prep. “Yes, sir,” Soul salutes. “Our Shinigami is very busy.”

Kidd raises his eyebrow again, but an alarm goes off from his watch and prompts him to get going. He straightens his tie and heads to the bathroom, “See you at Shibusen, Soul.”  

+

If he had the time, he would savor the view. The rest of the world is beautiful, but there is nothing that could beat a Death City sunrise – the pink hue of the sky, the way gold encases buildings and casts comforting shadows, the way it reminds him of fresh cups of coffee and blond eyelashes.

But he didn’t have the time today. He speeds along the streets, forced to ignore it all.

Kidd took up most of the bathroom time to fix his hair and left Soul with measly time scraps. His own hair is a mess – crammed into a headband – while bruises litter his cheeks, but at least he would make it to this mandatory workshop.

(It is more for publicity than anything else. Everything about being a Death Scythe seems to be that way.)

When he finally arrives at Shibusen, the nostalgia hits him hard. It’s only been twelve weeks, but it may as well be a year.

And then, he hears her.

The ache – the missing, the gooey feelings, the mess – comes back, louder than ever. As if he ever stood a chance of blocking it out. His ears had been tuned to the frequency of her laugh a lot time ago.

Someone flips a switch, the melody invades his senses, and he sees the Black Room.

The Demon is there, celebrating, thrashing the black piano, jumping, squealing with glee, “The Queen arrives! The Queen is back! To provide and give us what we lack!”

“Shut the fuck up,” he whispers, pocketing his keys. “I thought you were gone.”

He tries to quiet his wavelength before she notices. It’s just Maka.

The Demon answers, suddenly in his ear. “Are you ever really free from all those demons you eat? Hm….and the Queen? We both know she’s never been ‘just’ anything.”   

+

Once he composes himself (he can’t get rid of it completely but at least it’s quiet), Soul makes his way up the steps.

He isn’t prepared for the hot spike of jealousy at what he sees. The meisters are sprawled on the couch, limbs draped over each other like a strange mosaic – contrasting and complimentary.

Black Star rests his head comfortably in the crook between Maka’s shoulder and neck while her heels rest in Kidd’s lap. His hands are on her ankles, leaning into the other two as they laugh at his story. (He remembers the days Kidd would stiffen at her touch, but now that traitor does nothing but soften. Damn it all.)

“I thought you left to prep,” Soul deadpans, announcing his presence.

“I never said that,” Kidd replies, tilting his head back to look at him. “I wanted to see our friends.”

Soul grunts. That explains the pause.

He feels the weight of Maka’s stare and braces himself for impact.

“Soul!” The echo of laughter did nothing to prepare him for the cadence of her voice as she says his name, the way her eyes light up, the chaotic crescendo it causes. (The Demon takes the opportunity to turn the volume all the way up.) “You look tired.”

She reaches out and he rushes towards her like a magnet.

He notes the faint bags beneath her eyes.

“You do too.” A pause. “Maka, I -”

Their hands only brush, pure electricity, before someone grabs the back of his shirt and pushes him towards the building.  

“Easy there, lover boy,” Liz mutters low, then raises her voice. “Hello Kidd! We’ll hear all about your time in Egypt after the workshop we’re going to be late to!”

Beside her, Patty and Tsubaki shout their own greetings, but continue to move.

He glances at Maka again. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say (confess?), but nods at Liz anyway. “Thanks.”

“You got it, dude.”

+

“Oh, he’s making that face again,” Patty announces and moves to mimic him. She flips her hair and looks into the distance, eyes going glassy.

Liz snickers, “That means he’s thinking about Maka.”  

“I’m not,” he argues, feeling his ears heat. (He didn’t mean to; it was just hard when she was so close.) “I’m thinking about how dumb that workshop was.”

“It was definitely boring,” Tsubaki agrees. Soul shoots her a look of gratitude.  

It quickly morphs into betrayal as she utters her next words, “But you were definitely thinking about Maka.”

Liz and Patty dissolve into a fit of giggles.

Soul clicks his tongue at her.

“It’s okay, Soul. We all know you missed Maka,” Tsubaki replies sweetly. She raises an eyebrow at Liz and Patty. “It’s natural to miss your meisters, right? Liz? Patty?”

They both redden at that.

“It’s not the same,” Patty pouts.

At least she is fair. Soul nods, feeling validated again and mentally returns his gratitude to Tsubaki.

A crowd cheers, a welcome distraction, gathered at the bottom of the steps. From what Soul could see, it was mostly meisters and there is some duel in the middle.

“No way,” Patty laughs, awe in her voice. “Kick his ass, Maka!”

Soul realizes it was Kidd and Maka sparring. The battle is reminiscent of his 2-v.-1 battle against Kidd, but this time, Kidd is weaponless and Black Star sits silent on the sidelines.

Soul watches as they trade blows, eyes bright, movements fluid. Any passerby would think they had coordinated a performance, Maka matching Kidd step for step.

She shifts the Bo staff swiftly from her left to right hand, movement so slight Soul didn’t notice until she landed the next blow. When did that happen?

While she had always been graceful, Maka moves with a new steadiness in her stance. A stab to the left, jab to the right – fast, unpredictable movements that reminds him of the unevenness of Black Star’s fighting style.

Then, there is a moment – Kidd lags out of their synchronicity and Maka lunges. She swings low, knocking out his legs and sends him to the ground, immediately pinning him down with the staff at his throat and foot on his chest.

(Soul swallows, trying to calm the heat that pooled into his gut.)

There is a pause – the audience filled with awe, he is a Shinigami, weapon or no weapon – before Patty lets out a whoop and sprints towards Maka.

Soul starts to clap, pride swelling in his chest, and the audience follows suit.

Beneath her, Kidd mutters something low, mischief in his golden eyes. She only laughs and shakes her head before being tackled to the ground by Patty – the three of them morphing into a pile of limbs and laughter.

“Maka!! You did amazing!” Patty shouts, “You were all swish swish” – she does a fairly good impression of Maka’s battle face – “And Kidd was all boom boom!”

She falls to the floor, landing on Kidd, who tumbles to the ground again.

Kim helps Maka out of the pile and they knock fists. “Not bad, Albarn.”

“Thank you.”  

Black Star wraps an arm around her shoulders, knocking their heads together. She winces, but smiles nonetheless, cheeks flushed from battle.

They look weirdly complimentary like that – heads bent close as the sun makes their hair glow.

Jealousy scratches at the base of his spine. He tries to shake it away. He can’t keep feeling this way anytime Maka touches someone; it is her main form of affection.

Maka looks up suddenly and their eyes connect. The comforting green tells him everything he wants to hear. You are safe. You are worthy. You are home.  

He swallows the urge to collapse in her arms (it had been so long) and speeds up his pace. Their wavelengths sync as they get closer. The click of the pieces correcting what had felt wrong for months.  

They finally, finally connect. Hands first – new callouses and freshly cut nails – then, she is smushed against his side and he feels like he can breathe again.

“Hi, Soul.”

“Congrats, Maka.”

Inhale.

Her arms wrap around him as they drive home.

The city rushes beside them. The coolness of the evening entices the people of Death City. Couples are on strolls, children run in front of their parents, friends clinking glasses – sounds familiar as his own heartbeat.

The sun begins to close its eyes, turning the sky pink.

Soul turns left.

“The long way?”

“Yeah, I want to take it in.”  

Exhale.

They make dinner together, a familiar brush of their fingers as they pass ingredients back and forth.

She adds new spices, and he likes it.

Inhale.

Her face is smushed into his shoulder, warm and comfortable against his side. Some holiday movie is playing, but Soul is focused on their hands dancing around each other.

She hums a few off-key notes.

He freezes.

“Where did you hear that?”

Maka looks at him through long lashes – Soul, focus – and considers his question. “Hm, I’ve been hearing it from your wavelength since you got back.”

Embarrassed heat spreads across his face.

Every part of him is singing, screaming, bursting with how much he has missed (liked, admired, cherished, loved) Maka. And she could hear every note.

(“It’s quite embarrassing, really,” the Demon chimes in.)

“Soul?”

“Hm?”

She huffs out a breath, but softens regardless. “I said – has it always been there?”

He thinks back to when they first met – how badly he wanted to scare the bright-eyed girl, how he shoved the darkest, most unlovable parts of himself into the song – and yet, she reached out anyway. She even wanted to be partners.

He thinks about her spar with Kidd earlier. Despite the Bo staff being inanimate, she welded it in the way where none of his punches landed on it.

Maka is always there, offering a home, when he could do nothing but drown.

“Yeah, it has,” he replies, blinking back the emotion that swelled in his chest.

“It’s nice,” she says, refocusing on the television.

It’s quiet again, but Maka sees – well, more like feels his wavelength tumble off beat – and looks over, alarmed. “Are you okay?”  

The song will always be playing, whether she hears it or not.

His body feels warm all over. “Mmm.”

+

Being home and a Shibusen “student,”, Soul thought his schedule would include less combat. He didn’t expect to have more.

Spirit is a ruthless teacher.

“In the midst of chaos is opportunity,” he says, a stolen quote, and immediately punches Soul in the gut. It is eerie how serious the man can be when Maka isn’t around. Soul can almost see the Death Scythe feared across nations.

(And in turn, the legacy he is inheriting. He doesn’t like to think about its weight.)

The punch sends Soul to the ground. He pauses there, trying to catch his breath. It had been a particularly grueling session and he is angry, mostly at himself, for not being able to learn this.

From above, Spirit looks at him for a moment and nods towards the city. “Go home.”

Soul sits up, “I can do this.”

“You’re frustrated,” Spirit says. “And you will only get more frustrated if you keep pushing yourself.”

“Then, why do you push me so hard, old man?” he grumbles low, gratitude unintentionally seeping into his tone.

“It’s my job,” Spirit laughs and smacks the top of Soul’s head. “Tell Maka I said hi.”

He nods, realizing this is the first time he will be seeing her all week. Their schedules have been completely opposite after that first night.  

The sun had already set, but maybe there was enough time to catch a movie. It is a small chance, but he speeds home anyway, desperate for something other than a sleepy conversation.  

His hopes are quickly crushed. He finds Maka face down at the desk, nose smushed into a book, eye bags darker than yesterday.

Soul frowns and opts for a shower instead. He isn’t upset. Maka had been running herself ragged with her own training.

(“Black Star, really?”

“Yeah, it’s insane,” she replies, running a hand through her hair. “But he’s a good teacher.”  

He tries to ignore the soft look in her eyes. If he thinks about it too much, the itch will return. And he doesn’t like the feelings it brings about his closest friends.

He chooses the good response instead, the response that he truly believed, but is overshadowed by insecure emotions. I’m really proud of you, Maka.)

Soul files the memory away as he changes into fresh clothes. His body continues to ache, but at least he doesn’t smell terrible anymore. He returns to the living room and eases her into his arms.

She blinks her eyes open and offers him a sleepy grin. “You smell good.”

He ignores the butterflies in his stomach and glances at her book, “Battle theory?”

“They offered me a teaching position at Shibusen,” she replies, closing her eyes and leaning her head against his arm. “I’m thinking about it.”

The ugly feeling starts to form again. The Demon laughs.

“…Congrats,” he says, clearing his throat. “You’d be a great teacher. Nagged my ass enough times.”

She shoves his shoulder, snorting. “Congrats right back,” she says. “You’re about to be done with training.”

It dawns on him that she is right. After this technique, he’s officially learned all the moves of a traditional Death Scythe. And after that? …He didn’t know.

They get to her bedroom and he sits on the edge of her bed, letting her scramble off him and dive into the sheets. The realization sits between them. Everything is changing.

She looks up at him, hair free from pigtails. “It’s not always a bad thing.” 

He makes a face.

Maka offers him a small smile. He can’t help but return it, his face betraying him.

“Thanks for the ride, Soul.”  

“Always,” he replies automatically. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

He heads out before he can say anything else – to stay, to ask what that meant for them, to beg her not to leave. But it’s too late. (And he’s a coward.)

Sleep is impossible now, so he takes a bath instead. He drags the record player into the bathroom and plays “Okinawa” by 92914 on low.

He likes it because the irony – a Korean indie duo singing about a Japanese prefecture. He sinks into the bath. The warm water brings relief to his body.

Just as he gets into the rhythm of the song, he hears the whisper. “She’s getting ready to leave you.”

“That’s not true,” he responds, turning up the music. He doesn’t know how much he believes it.

+

Blaire is pretty sure her landlords roommates are sleeping together.

Not in that way. The tension is too thick for that to have happened. But sleeping in the same bed.

She wasn’t spying. An experimental spell propelled her cat form into the dresser in Soul’s room. There was a small wedge she slipped into, but apparently could not get out of.

There is a lump on the bed and Blaire is about to call out before seeing pigtails. Oh, it’s Maka.

The door opens before she can say anything, hallway light flooding into the room. She burrows herself farther into the drawer.

Maka blinks at the light, lashes casting shadows across her cheekbones. Soul doesn’t seem surprised, just unsure, hovering at the edge of the room. He seems tired too, Blaire notices, the dark circles under his eyes matching Maka’s.

(Both her roommates have been going through a phase where they don’t care for themselves when they are apart. Blaire never understood it – was it a human thing?)

They share a long look, the type she had only seen when they are resonating souls, a magic radiating off them – something ancient that Blaire is smart enough not to touch.

And then, Soul strips off his shirt, a long stripe of scar tissue stretching across his chest, and crosses the room.

Just when things are getting interesting, soft snores fill the room. She sneaks a look at the bed. They are both asleep; Soul wrapped around Maka, nose in her hair. Even in his sleep, he holds her like she is delicate. (Even when the three of them know she isn’t.)

It’s been a long time since she’d seen that – either of them sleeping so soundly.

She hears it through the walls. Nights are usually reserved for nightmares or tears. But tonight, there is only peace.

Blaire smiles.

Maybe their coping habits weren’t the best. Nor their communication skills.

But their love has been growing since they were young and Blaire doubts anything will get in their way.

+

Congrats again. You’re going to do great.  

Maka stares at the note, reading it for the fifth time before throwing it down on the table. She pulls at her hair, staring at the oolong milk tea it came with. (He even included pre-made tapioca pearls.)

No matter how tired Soul got, he always remembers the little things.

How is she supposed to get over that!?

Maka glances at the ajar door, hoping she didn’t wake him up. She supposes that cuddling every night wasn’t helpful either.

She doesn’t know what it means other than knowing she liked the familiar spark of energy between them and waking up to the smell of strawberries.

They don’t talk about it. Soul comes in late; Maka leaves early.

Soul is always saying she is the braver one, but she can’t (won’t) bring it up.

She would rather fight a thousand Kishins before discussing why – to review, define, finalize – what was going on between them.

She is happy to live in this limbo, as long as Soul wants to.

(The interview goes well, Syd chuckling at the fact that Maka even had doubts, and she moves through the rest of day in bliss. When she gets home, she writes a note to Soul before making dinner. She knows he isn’t getting in until late.)

+

The cold night air kisses the sweat on her skin. The view from the balcony is her favorite part of Kidd’s mansion.

Death City is spread out before them, dark but overflowing with life. Its inhabitants sing and the streetlights buzz. Maka could not imagine her city ever being silent.

On nights like these, Maka is reminded that they are only eighteen. That despite all the scars, battles and triumphs, the rest of their lives are ahead of them. Mistakes are allowed to be made.

Because you found someone to catch you.

She ignores the thought in favor of taking a slow, purposeful drag of the blunt in her hands, and prides herself on inhaling without the cough. The exhale is just as purposeful, the cloud of smoke floating lazily towards the sky.  

She tries to imagine if this would be possible five years ago – being at a party, completely comfortable, surrounded by people she loved in a beautiful house, where she felt like she belonged.

It really is a beautiful house. Maka still wasn’t sure how Black Star convinced Kidd to let them host the party here. When she had asked about it, he just shrugged and said, “Who would deny a God?”

Regardless, it is beautiful. The ceiling is entirely made of glass, some stained and other clear enough to see the stars. Large orbs of golden light float around the living room, contrasting beautifully against the dark furniture. Someone even arranged countless bouquets of camellias to celebrate the birthday girl.

Said girl takes the blunt from Maka’s fingers and inhales a drag so long Maka knows her nose burns.

Liz laughs, “Seventeen now and she doesn’t hold back.”

Tsubaki snorts, exhaling a cloud of smoke. “I’m just trying to catch up with Maka.”

“I’m not that high!”

“You’ve been staring into space for a good half an hour now.”

Had it really been that long?

“I’m admiring the beauty of our city! And our youth,” she sighs. “Things have changed…are still changing.”

“Agreed,” Tsubaki hums, glassy-eyed, as Liz inhales from the blunt. “Who knew that the Battle on the Moon would be such a pivotal moment in our lives? Lord Shinigami passing away, Kidd becoming the new Shinigami, Soul being the new Death Scythe…”

“We always knew that was going to happen…”

“Just not the impact,” Liz finishes, placing a soothing hand on Maka’s shoulder. “I feel you, girl.”

Maka knew that out of everybody, Liz and Patty knew the foreign feeling of being displaced. Kidd and Soul’s partnership is just how “its always been” – Shinigami and Death Scythe – but it just felt like it was pushing them out of the narrative.

Maka gives her an appreciative look, clasping their hands together. Liz smiles back.

Tsubaki hums again. She wears a black maxi dress and red lipstick, somehow looking more beautiful than usual. “You know what I know?”

Maka and Liz cock their heads.

“I know that things are changing, but this won’t,” Tsubaki says, intertwining her hand with Maka’s. Tsubaki gestures towards the living room with her free hand – their friends caught up in some sort of odd game, ugly laughter echoing throughout the house. “We’re bonded for life.”

Something very warm glows in Maka’s chest. She squeezes Tsubaki’s hand. “Thank you.”

Liz squints at Tsubaki. “Ridiculous, sappy, stop warming up my frozen heart!”

She tackles Maka’s side, causing her to fall into Tsubaki and suddenly, they are a pile of limbs and laughter and there is nothing that can better describe this feeling than home.

+

Soul thinks that tonight has to be astrologically aligned in his favor. It’s a night where none of them have class, a mission or even training the next day. Everyone can attend without worrying about the future. Soul feels like they all do that too much already.

Black Star plops down next to him, beer in hand.

“Let’s talk,” he says, voice weirdly quiet. Black Star is the only person that gets quieter when he’s drunk.

Soul clinks his beer with his own, “What’s up, dude?”

“Why the fuck have I seen Maka more than you since you got back? You mad at me or somethin’?”

At the mention of his meister, the itch returns. He suppresses a scowl, mostly annoyed at himself for the irrational jealousy, especially for something stupid as this.

He hadn’t been ignoring Black Star on purpose, but he sees how it happened. In avoiding his jealous thoughts, he unconsciously avoided the source.

He opens his mouth to speak, but Black Star interrupts, “Oh, it’s that.”

Soul pauses again, thrown off by this side of his best bro. Quiet, observant and unafraid to go for the throat? That was for the battlefield.

“It’s not that, I know it’s not like that,” he argues, sinking into leather couch. “It’s just my stupid-”

“It’s not stupid.”

Soul stills, blood running cold.

Black Star rolls his eyes and shoves him. “And it’s not that either.” He fake gags.  

Soul doesn’t know what expression he is giving him, but it makes Black Star place both hands on his shoulders.

“Okay, I am going to tell you this because I am drunk, and for some reason, you aren’t believing your God. So I am going to take pity and tell you something very exclusive!!!”

He is getting louder. Soul briefly wonders if that means he is sobering up. 

“But this doesn’t leave us,” Black Star finishes, gaze serious. “Got it?”

Soul straightens. “Of course, dude.” They knock fists.

“Ever since the Moon, my wavelength has been…,” he hesitates, grabbing his hand. “It’s been like this.”

Soul flinches, expecting the electric shock he was used to in battle. Instead, there is a gentle hum.

“I don’t get-,” he starts, but a jolt of wavelength echoes through his body.

He jerks his hand back and looks at his friend. “Black Star…” 

“Stop looking at me like that,” he shakes his head. “I’m a God. It’s fine. Just being near Maka, touching her…her wavelength grounds mine. And she knows that too.”

He takes another breath before continuing, “She’s always been like that…since we were young.”

Soul doesn’t know what to say, but relief rushes through him anyway. He wants to kick himself for even needing to have this conversation, but Black Star doesn’t give him the time to.

He knocks his fist into Soul’s temple, and mutters, “Don’t get it twisted, okay?”

“If I say yes, will you go back to normal?”

Black Star stares at him and nods, letting out a loud, boisterous laugh they are all used to. It isn’t long before Soul joins in, their ugly laughs echoing throughout the living room.

+

“Someone dared Black Star to finish a keg off the side of the balcony,” Patty announces, giggly. She rushes off before either Tsubaki or Maka has a chance to say anything.

They exchange a look – someone is going to get hurt – and follow Patty.

There is already a crowd forming at the balcony. In the center, Maka spots a spike of blue hair. The idiot is upside down, hanging off the balcony with pure strength, and is finishing the keg at an alarming rate. (But in hindsight, Maka had to admit it was impressive.)

Soul steadies the plastic tube Black Star is drinking out of. It is slight but Maka notices the shift in their energies. It brings her relief; she is glad they finally worked out whatever was going on.

“He’s going to break an ankle,” Tsubaki predicts.

Maka eyes the odd angle of his left leg and nods along, “Definitely.”

+

Surprisingly, he does not break an ankle.

He is, however, blowing chunks into a crystal adorned toilet while Maka pats his back. She tries to focus on the painting on the wall instead of the awful noises. (It’s just the number eight, but Maka can imagine that Kidd spent a lot of time on it.)

Another retching sound comes from Black Star.

“There, there,” she hums. “Just get it all out.”

“I don’t need your pity!” he shouts, snapping his head up. There is vomit on the corner of his mouth. “I just need-”

He interrupts himself by ducking back into the toilet.

“You never had it,” she mutters. Tsubaki is the birthday girl and doesn’t need to watch her dumbass meister right now.

The door opens, revealing Kidd with a wet towel. He offers it to Maka, “I heard these help.”

She slaps it onto Black Star’s forehead, who now has his cheek pressed up against the cold bathroom floor. He accepts it with a grunt and keeps his eyes closed.

Maka and Kidd stare at him for a bit; it’s one of the few times they have seen him at peace (and quiet) in a long time.

She looks back at Kidd, quip ready, but he is still staring at Black Star.

With his red cheeks and furrowed brows, she almost reassures him that nothing in the bathroom had been offset (except for Black Star’s consciousness); but stops herself when she sees his eyes.

Out of everyone, Kidd’s wavelength had always been the easiest to read. Maka had attributed that to his open personality, but looking at the affection in his golden eyes, she realizes there is a lot about Kidd she still doesn’t know.

He notices her gaze.

She nods immediately, trying to convey everything he needed – empathy, trust, support – and nods again, to make sure Kidd understands.

Whatever he got out of it, he seemed to like it because he shot her a soft smile. “Who knew a Shinigami had feelings?”

Maka can only laugh at that. “Kidd, we all knew about your big heart.”

+

She excuses herself from the bathroom to get Black Star a cold glass of water.

Maka is not sure how long she’d been there, but it is long enough for the majority of the guests to clear out. Their close friends are gathered around the fireplace, slouching against each other.

She doesn’t mean to eavesdrop, but the quiet tones of their game makes their way to her ears.

It is a game of truth or dare – Maka thinks – but more like truth or truth.

Favorite color?

Be in a dungeon for a day or listen to Black Star talk for an hour?

If you were to do anything besides this, what would it be?

“Diamond thief,” Patty deadpans, then pauses. “Or a giraffe rider!”

Maka snorts along with the others. Was that even a thing?

“Hm,” she hears Liz asking someone. Maka can’t see who from this angle. “If you could pick anyone to be your meister, who would it be?”

“What are you talking about?” a gruff voice says. It’s Soul. She ducks beneath the counter before she can even think about it and tries to slow her heartbeat.

She reminds herself that it’s just a game, but strains to hear his answer regardless.  

“It’s Maka.” In a quieter voice. “It’s always been Maka.”

A shiver runs down her spine as the chorus of Awwwwwwwwwh breaks out in the living room. She doesn’t understand why he sounds so sad.

+

The air between them is different, perhaps it had always been changing; but tonight, it’s something they can’t ignore.

They’ve sobered up enough to stumble home, knowing the path from Kidd’s mansion to their apartment like a bedtime story.

When they get home, they don’t talk much. Blaire left a record on, the soft notes comforting after hours of bass-thumping music.

Something about the song catches her ear. “Have we heard this before?”

Soul only snorts, offering a hand. “You don’t remember?”

She accepts it, its grasp familiar. His other hand moves to her hip. She catches on and moves her own to his shoulder. They sway at a slow and steady rhythm.

She lets herself close her eyes.

When she opens them again, they are in the Black Room.

“I haven’t been here in years.”

Soul shrugs. The suit he wears is the same, classic black with a tie that matches his eyes. But he is no longer the teenage stuffed clumsily into formal wear. Now, he wears it like it was made for him.

“Never been a reason to bring you back.”

“And now?”

“And now…” He reaches behind her to raise the volume. “You forgot the song.”

It hits her then, the song they danced to when they were thirteen.

They dance now, the movement of their feet syncing with the music and each other. “It’s kind of like synching wavelengths,” she thinks out loud.

He nods, “Think about it too much and it comes out all wrong.”

Maka nods, willing herself not to think.

She lets herself be close to him, to step and sway in his proximity. Moonlight casts silver onto their skin, their shadows intertwined as they spin.

This isn’t new, but it’s intimate in a way where Maka’s heart is left on the table.

The song ends. The Black Room is gone. They look at each other.

She turns away first.

+

Soul lets out a frustrated sigh and throws himself down on the couch. 

The record continues to spin, nothing but a faint buzz, emitting. The silence between them is thick, almost suffocating, all playfulness from earlier evaporated.

Maka sits down on the opposite side, looking very tired. “I just…I don’t…I’m tired. I think I’m going to –”

She makes a move to leave. In that moment, Soul sees the ocean forming between them. She was going to leave and do great things; he was going to be lost again, a pathetic conclusion to their story. 

“I know you don’t want to talk about it, but I need to know.” A warning would be nice; how does one prepare for a broken heart?

Maka hovers in the air awkwardly before returning to her place on the couch. If Soul wants to break the delicate limbo between them, she would. She just hoped her heart will stay in one piece. “You’re right. We should have talked about this a long time ago.”

Soul nods, suddenly afraid of hearing everything she had to say, but goes forward anyway. “What are we doing?”

They stare hard at the floor, as if all the answers are hidden there. Maka sighs, “…I don’t know.” She thinks about his sad tone at the party, the timing of this conversation and the realization breaks her heart.

She swallows before continuing. “I don’t want you to feel…bound…to me, but I would at least like to be friends.”

“Wow,” he huffs out, anger brewing in his stomach. What a callous, manipulative way to tell him she is planning to leave – to make him think it was his idea. “That wasn’t cool of you at all. Is this what being broken up with feels like? Because we’re not even together. And that fucking sucked.” 

A spike of irritation runs through Maka – his sarcasm is her least favorite defense mechanism. It could really hurt. And she couldn’t believe he is using it against her in a situation like this. “I know we’re not dating, Soul. I’m sorry it’s such a pain to be my partner.”

“What are you even talking about?!”  

“I don’t want you to feel like you’re stuck with me! I’m fine on my own!”

They rarely actually fight, but the outcomes are always explosive.

“Then, what is this? Why are we always cuddling and touching and talking about our future together!?”

Maka made an exasperated sound, throwing her hands into the air. “Because that’s what I want! A future together!!”

Soul suddenly deflates back into the couch.

“Then, why the fuck are you leaving?” He grumbles.

“What? Why would you think…?” She stops, feeling the energy sap out of her. “I need a drink. Do you want one?”

He nods, feeling his heartbeat in his ears.

+

When she returns, they are both feeling more calm, nursing their drinks.

Soul took the liberty to light the fireplace and put on a new record while she was gone. Small things that made it feel like a whole new day. The training, the teaching job, the miscommunication…Maka had begun to realize how Soul is viewing these transitions.

“I’m a prodigy, Soul,” she begins. “And what does a prodigy do when there is no one left to beat?”

He scowls, “Find other weapons to master?”

“They burn out.”

Silence fills the room. Soul thinks of ten reasons of why that would never happen and opens his mouth to voice the first one.

She puts a hand up, “I know. I’m not alone.”

Her hand remains up as she chugs the wine in her glass.

Soul mimics her, finishing his own. He has a feeling he’ll need it for whatever she is about to say next.

“After what happened in the Book of Eibon…” They never really discussed it, but Soul laid off the insults then. “And then, when you left, I just…” She takes a deep breath. 

“I am too dependent on you.”

“That’s not true,” he says immediately. Sometimes, Soul wondered if he needed her at all.  

“…But I was, Soul.” She looks everywhere but his face. “And I just needed to figure out who I was without you.”

He grows very still. “And what did you find out?”

“I’m pretty fucking awesome,” she smiles. He is simultaneously turned on by her swearing and amused at her answer.

“You are,” he agrees. “But where do I fit in?”

“Here.”

She cradles his cheek for a moment and leans in, farther than she means to. Their teeth clank together softly and she pulls back to reposition, a particularly sharp canine grazing her bottom lip. Goosebumps break out over her neck.

A gentle hand curls itself into her hair.

“Are you serious?” His voice is low – fragile, insecure – but Maka can hear the note of hope.

She bets on that note and nods. “I don’t want to be in limbo anymore.”

He nods, immediately declaring, “I want to be with you.”

She looks at him, “You’re not allowed to run away from this.”  

“I made that decision a long time ago,” he says, the finality in his eyes making her heart skip a beat.

He slumps against the couch and starts to laugh.

She slant her eyes. “What is it?”

“We had our first kiss. On our ugly purple tile floor.”

A laugh escapes her, “Stop, it’s not that ugly.”

They look at each other and burst out laughing. Because it’s so ugly. The ugly purple tiles and green carpet and orange couch. A hodgepodge of ugly, mismatched pieces they collected when they were thirteen.

Maka smiles at their history. This is her best friend. And that gives her bravery.

She situates herself onto Soul’s lap, caging him between her legs, and brings his face close. “Soul?”

The laughter dies from his face and is replaced with a deep flush that spans from ear to ear. She could definitely get used to that. “Yeah?”

“You’re cute when you blush.”  

The blush spreads to his neck, but locks gazes with her while asking, “Do you want to try it again?”

She can only nod weakly, suddenly at a loss for words. He wraps his hands around her waist (they’re so big) and pulls her close. Their lips connect, and it is magic.

Rhythm is easy to find; nothing like dance, everything like battle – always knowing where and when to be, meeting everywhere they needed each other. A grip of her hips, arms around his shoulders, tongues sloppy in the middle. She is flushed against him and only wants to get closer.

Their kiss is igniting fire – starts slow and spreads fast. When Soul pulls back for air, she grinds down at angle that makes them both moan.

Soul decides it’s the best chord he’s ever heard.

Because he is a fast learner, he finds ways to make Maka sing again. He kisses along her collarbone, hearing the tone of those gasps get higher as he moves. He sucks hard at the highest gasp, a spot where her shoulder meets her neck. (That gets the biggest applause.)  

For some reason, they tip over, her blond hair spread out against the purple tiles.

He sucks his way lower, dipping below her collarbone, hands gripping her upper thighs.

She shivers, trying to control her gasps. “Should we, ah-,” Sharp teeth grazes her nipple, stupid cloth getting in the way. “Should we go to my room?”

Soul nuzzles between the dip of her breasts, looking up at her, pupils blown. “Yeah.”

“Yeah,” she breaths.

It’s fast, as he scoops her up, gripping her upper thighs as she wraps them around him. She manages to slip out of the straps of her dress. She is tugging at the top button of his shirt when she feels the bed hit her back.

Soul almost growls as their lips meet again. It’s warm, messy and familiar. Their kiss slows, a comforting pace, Soul’s way of telling her they can go at her pace. But they can do warm and sweet lovemaking later. Maka wanted it now.

She flips them easily, Soul’s body pliant to her touch.

Her skin is pale and littered with love bites and salvia, but he just wants more.

+

Pink and yellow rays of light stream through the window of her bedroom. Soul remembers last night and looks down. Sure enough, it is the freckled body of his meister, absolutely adorable as she breaths into his neck.

His arms tighten around Maka, skin warm against him. She turns a bit and nuzzles his neck, hair tickling him. “Too early.”

Soul snorts, “Nah, we’re right on time.”