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24 hours

Chapter Text

Maka lazily dragged the cloth across the counter of the dingy diner her dad owned, the neon sign near the front door proudly announcing they were open 24 hours a day. When she was a kid, she had thought it was kind of cool, especially since she always saw odd and interesting people enter the dingy restaurant after the sun set. Now, the endearment was over and Maka felt like the customers were mostly always vile men that she despised completely. It was unfortunate as she was in charge of the place while her dad took care of some affairs. She shook her head, refusing to let her father's behavior ruin her mood.

She always took the night shift, while her dad came back by dawn to take over her place. They had considered hiring someone to help them, but had decided against, firstly because as her father proudly announced to anyone willing to hear, "it's a family business!" And secondly, because their profits weren't that big, and they couldn't really afford someone else staying there. Especially since most of the times, the diner was empty. That was the state Maka found it in, save for an old lady, covered in a dark cloak, who Maka suspected was sleeping. She decided to let the women rest, and the place was quiet enough that even she felt like her eyes would close any second now. It had been a pretty uneventful night, like most were, and she wished something would happen.

And then the bell above the door rang and Maka's eyes turned to it and were met by burning red, red eyes and she couldn't help but smile. The boy that was slowly dragging himself to the counter, half asleep, was her favorite customer. Not only did his appearance intrigue her, but the way he always seemed to forget they had ever talked made her imagination run wild when it came to the stories the boy had to tell and why he always seemed so tired, showing up at the weirdest times of the day.

She stopped cleaning and moved to stand in front of him, the cloth thrown in the sink and she placed one hand at her hip. "What will it be today?"

He looked up at her, smiling softly, without showing his teeth, "I'd say it's better to start with a coffee, Blondie."

She felt her cheeks heat up and casually turned around to make the said coffee. Shouldn't she, a barmaid, be accustomed to being called pet names by strangers? Very handsome strangers, she thought, before shushing herself and turning her face into the friendly and heatless expression she usually worn.

"Here," and she placed the cup in front of him, only half turning away from him so she could still see him from the corner of her eye. He quickly emptied the cup's contents and Maka intently watched the way his eyes closed and the way his throat moved before she caught herself and fully turned around, admonishing herself. He was just a boy that usually came to her diner at hours when anyone else would be asleep and always looked like he should be sleeping already. No need to get all worked up over him, no matter how good-looking he was.

She was so absorbed in her thoughts that it was only the gentle tap on her elbow that snapped her to reality. "Hey, don't mean to bother," he drawled, voice husky and eyes drooping, "but could you get me another coffee, maybe?" He asked, smiling again, before laying his head on the counter.

She was going to turn and take his order, because you never denied an order to a client, but the words left her lips before she could stop herself. "All that coffee can't be good for your health." She almost regretted saying it, but he snorted and she decided that it was okay.

"Can't sleep." He said, smile sardonic, "Besides, it's freezing outside. Coffee warms you up." He continues, managing to shrug even while half laying on the counter.

"Well, there are other warm things besides coffee." She insisted, hands on her hips because the bags below his eyes looked really bad and coffee wasn't going to help him.

"Alright." He said, and Maka would swear that she could see amusement in his eyes. "What do you have for me?"

"There's cake." She offered, sheepish, thinking about the chocolate cake that was still in the oven, made for her and her father, and not the customers, but she figured it'd be okay. "Chocolate cake."

He stood straighter, grinning, and she got a glimpse of the sharp teeth he tried so hard to hide. "That's my favorite." He announced, and he seemed alive, for once, and Maka couldn't help but grin back at him.

"It's in the back, I'll go see if it's ready to take out of the oven." She said, and she was almost at the kitchen when she turned back, and found him staring at her. "Don't go anywhere, alright?"

"There's no where else I'd like to go."

Chapter Text

After that night, Maka didn't see him for a whole week. She wasn't preoccupied about his absence, he had been known to disappear from the city from time to time. It usually didn't take long, and so Maka continued her normal life without worries. The customers came and went, some regulars, some travelers, some foreigners, and some who wanted nothing but to cause trouble, those being the reason Maka always kept her dad's shotgun close to her behind the counter. Not that she knew how to properly use a shotgun, her father had refused to teach her, but she knew how to hold it menacingly enough to scare the evildoers away.

But the city was calm, as calm as a city can be, at least, and so Maka's days turned into nights and her nights into days without so much as a commotion.

Her day was nothing but a routine by now. She would work the night shift, wait for her Papa to take over, and then she would sleep until the sun was way up in the sky. She would read - read of faraway places and forbidden passions, and people who saved the world with nothing but bravery - and then she would return to the diner, as her Papa excused himself, claiming he had very important business to attend, although Maka knew exactly what type of business he was talking about, and the cycle would repeat itself until exhaustion. And Maka was exhausted.

She craved freedom. She needed to see the world. She wanted to be the one who was brave and the one whose love stories inspired nations and the one who visited all the beautiful, unbelievingly beautiful places she read about. But she was nothing but a small town girl, whose father had a little tendency to drown himself, whether in booze, or women, and whose mother had left, probably to live all the adventures Maka never could.

She realized why she liked the white-haired boy so much. He was different. Be it in the way he carried himself, the way his eyes seemed to always hide something, or just the way he looked, she knew he was different. And in her dreams, he was her ticket out of her black and white town.

So when he finally returned, his shoulders hunched forward and his eyes foggy with sleep, she placed a coffee in front of him without being asked to. After all, he seemed in desperate need of something that would keep him awake just a little longer.

He smiled softly at the cup, looking up with tired eyes and Maka wondered how, how could his eyes look so vivid when he seemed like he was so close to passing out, and she smiled at him too, to which he responded with a quiet thank you before downing the whole drink.

He asked for one more. She gave in, served him another cup of steaming coffee, but when he downed that one as well, despite it being scalding and asked for one more, she drew the line. "You know, I can refuse to sell alcohol to anyone who looks drunk. I say I can also refuse coffee to someone who looks as sleep deprived as you." She said, voice firm because he really needed to rest.

His laughter surprised her, low and husky, and something tingled in her stomach as she shivered. "You got fire." He said, and it sounded like a compliment so Maka nodded and mumbled a "thank you", before he continued. "What's your name?"

"Maka." She answered promptly, aware that this was not the first time he asked that question. But she tried not to hold it against him.

"Maka." He repeated, as if tasting the sense of her name on his tongue. Maka would have been affected, had this been the first time. "Mine's Soul."

She was taken aback. Never, since he had started frequenting the diner, had she told her what his name was. Her mouth hung open for a moment until she realized she looked like a fool and asked for clarification instead. "Soul as in… soul?" She tried, hoping not to offend him.

He laughed again, though it was squeakier this time around. "Soul as in soul, yes. It's dumb."

"It's not." She countered, quickly. "It's… Different."

"And since when is different good?" He asked, his tone more serious although the smile never left his face.

"I like different." She whispered, half hoping he wouldn't hear. But the look of surprise that took over his features told her he had, and she hurried to go serve the other customers, in a feeble attempt to hide from him and his gaze and why did she go and say something stupid like that? She barely even knew him and she had basically told him she liked him.

The rational part of her brain told her she was overreacting, that it was nothing but a friendly conversation and that she had nothing to worry about. But when she returned and found, in Soul's place, the money to pay for what he had consumed, she started to wonder if she had somehow pushed him away. She felt like banging her head on the wall.

And then, "We'll meet again.", one of the bills said, and hope bloomed in Maka's heart and she wondered if this was how birds felt when they flew because her stomach was in knots and her heart was in her throat and just who the hell was him to go and make her feel like that?

Chapter Text

The diner was full.

At first, when her Papa called and asked her to help, she had thought he wanted nothing but to go take care of some business a few hours earlier than usual. So, as she climbed down the stairs of their apartment, right above the diner, she cursed him and his despicable habit of frequenting the strip club on the other side of the city as often as he did. But when she opened the door that separated their house from the restaurant, she was completely blown away by the amount of people, and the almost excruciatingly high volume, that met her.

"Maka, dear. I'm glad you're here!" Her Papa exclaimed as soon as he saw her, wide-eyed. "It's Black*Star's anniversary," he offered, as an explanation, "It's going to be chaotic tonight."

And it was. Maka didn't stop for the whole evening, except for some short conversations with those she knew. As soon as Black*Star had seen her, he had engulfed her in a bear hug and demanded she bowed before her God. She was used to him, they were about the same age and had played together many times as kids, when Star moved there to live with his uncle after both his parents died.

Maka used to feel sorry for him, she knew what it was like not to have one of her parents and couldn't imagine what it was like to not have both. But as they got older, and in one of the very rare moments that Black*Star was actually serious, he had confided in her that he didn't miss them, because he didn't remember them. Maka thought it was even sadder, the fact that he didn't have any memories of his mom and dad, but she hadn't said anything because he seemed like he wasn't bothered by the tragedy of it all.

So they continued friends, although most of the time she felt like punching the god damn idiot in the face, and Maka grew fond of him as one would grow fonder of an older brother. An older brother with blue hair and obnoxious habits. An older brother she had always wished for, because despite all his playfulness, she knew she could count on him.

All in all, the night was busy, of course, (Maka was delighted, they had so much work that her Papa didn't dare to leave) but the atmosphere was so filled with joy and laughter that Maka wondered if that was what happiness felt like. Everywhere she looked there were people mingling, laughing, enjoying themselves and Maka tried her hardest to imprint the image in her brain. She knew happiness, of course, but she wanted to tuck the warm feeling that was engulfing her right now, so that when dark days came, she could resort to it and remember what feeling good felt like.

And then, "Soul, amigo!" A loud yell, from none other than Black*Star, as he jumped down from the table he had been standing in (her Papa was absolutely livid, that brat is going to ruin the table. Again) and pierced through the crowd to meet the white-haired, bored looking boy that stood by the entrance. Now that was a sight. Maka would've never thought that someone as vivid and flashy as Star would be friends with someone as quiet and reserved as Soul, but the arm thrown around Soul's shoulder and the lazy grin he sent towards the blue-haired boy seemed to leave no doubts. She had never seen Soul look so happy.

But the happiness was, apparently, short lived. It only took a few minutes for Maka to take a tour around the dinner, filling any empty cups and scribbling down the orders, before she found herself standing in front of him. He was sprawled out in a chair, away from the rest of the people.

"Quit sulking." She admonished, placing a hand on her hip as the other held the small notepad in which she wrote down what people asked.

"Don't like parties." He replied, scrunching his nose and looking up at her. She noticed how, this time around, his eyes didn't seem hazy with sleep. He stood straighter. "You're Star's friend as well?" He asked, pointing to said birthday boy, who was in a heated argument over who could lift more. "I don't we've ever met, I'm S-"

"Soul." She cut him off, cheeks heating, but determined to make him feel at least a little bad. Did he really not remember anything? "We've met." She added, sour.

"Oh?" His eyebrows furrowed as he concentrated, trying to remember her. "I mean, I've seen you around, but… We never talked, did we?"

She chuckled lightly, although her chest felt empty. "We've talked plenty." As soon as she answered, she knew she shouldn't have said anything because she could hear the hurt in her own voice. "You come here a lot, but you always look like you're ready to pass out from sleep deprivation." She continued, hoping he wouldn't notice how hollow she was feeling.

"Shit." He murmured and closed his eyes, opening them a bit later. "I wish I remembered that." He said, and he looked genuinely disappointed, so she gave him an opening.

"Name's Maka." She said, astonished because her voice sounded weak, even to her ears. "And I've got people to serve." She continued, wanting to put as much distance as possible between them.

He made a move to go after her, but she swiftly melted in the crowd that was now laughing loudly at Black*Star's compilation of terrible, terrible jokes.

She avoided seeing him for the rest of the evening and he apparently left before the party was over. Star only left when it was already morning and he had to be dragged by two other guys, because he was a blundering mess, shouting incoherent things and acting foolishly. Maka felt like she couldn't reprehend his behavior. It was his birthday after all.

They were starting to clean up when her dad told her to go to bed, he would work the morning shift and she shook her head, saying she could do it, and for him to sleep until it was lunch time. It took some convincing but the man eventually left, leaving a kiss on Maka's forehead and promising he would wake up on time and thanking her for taking his shift, since he was so tired. Maka nodded and didn't tell him that the real reason she decided to work in the morning was that she knew, as soon as she laid her head on her pillow and ran out of things to do, her thoughts would wander back to him.

And when she opened the register and saw the bill with his handwriting, she cursed under her breath because even though he didn't remember it, he had kept his promise. She just hoped next time he came back, his mind wasn't a blank slate again.

Chapter Text

It was late afternoon when she woke up, fully rested. It bugged her that her sleep schedule was messed up (more messed up than usual, at least), but she didn't regret her decision. She had had a dreamless sleep and she was happy about it. The last thing she needed was to dream about him.

She easily slipped out of the bed, taking a quick shower to wake her up and putting on fresh clothes. Less than half an hour later, she was climbing down the stairs, ready to switch with her dad who, she acknowledged, had been working hard. She entered the diner, not as full as it had been the day before, before she started searching for him. She quickly spotted him, his red hair hard to miss, and waited for him by the counter.

"Papa." She greeted him, smiling softly.

"Maka." He smiled back, half-heartedly. She raised her eyebrows, her dad was usually radiant to see her.

"Something happen?" She asked, glancing around anxiously, expecting to see something out of place. When that didn't happen, she eyed her dad, making sure that he wasn't hurt.

"You tell me." He replied, bitter. "Is there something you want to tell me?" She was staring at him, wide-eyed, wondering just exactly what her dad was hinting at. "Something about a boy?"

Her heart dropped and she couldn't find her voice. How did he know? What was she going to say? Her dad had never encouraged her to flirt with any of the customers and was, in fact, extremely protective. And she didn't want her dad to forbid Soul from frequenting the diner. "What do you mean?" She tried, her voice husky, before she cleared her throat and tried again, her voice louder this time.

"A boy. He's been sitting in the same damn table for hours. I'm taking he wanted to talk to you." Her dad answered, searching her face.

She had to try her best to suppress the smile that threatened to break out on her face. "Oh? Where is he now?" She asked, feigning indifference. "If he's waited for so long, I should at least come and say hi."

Her dad threw her a bitter look before pointing to the far corner of the diner, where she could make out a wisp of white hair. She smiled at her dad as sweetly as she could manage before wandering off to where he had pointed. She could feel his gaze on her back but couldn't care less, her heart trying to break out of her chest. Don't get your hopes up, she scolded herself.

"What will it be today?" She asked, business-like, notepad in hand. But when he looked up, eyes gleaming and a smile, a genuine smile planted on his lips, her resolution dissolved.

"Maka." He said, quietly. "I'm sorry, about yesterday. I didn't make myself clear." He mumbled, hanging his head in shame.

"You don't have to be sorry for telling the truth." She replied, taming her voice so to show the least emotion she could.

"But I wasn't telling the truth." Soul offered and Maka's expression instantly hardened. He noticed. "I wasn't lying either! I just thought it'd be easier to say I didn't remember than telling you the whole thing." He explained, afraid that he was further deepening his grave with each word he said.

Maka was still weary, but curiosity took over and she sat down in front of him, setting down the notepad and crossing her arms, her gaze unwavering as it settled on his eyes. And his eyes were burning so bright and so furiously that she feared the burn, but kept the gaze nonetheless. "I'm giving you a chance to tell me the whole truth now."

He stared at her, open-mouthed, for a few seconds, before he shook his head and guffawed. "I can tell you that I imagined this conversation to go many ways, but never like this."

His laugh did something funny to her. Soul wasn't one to show much emotion, but his laugh had seemed so genuine that she couldn't help but smile too. "Papa told me you waited for hours."

"I did." He confirmed. "I barely slept with the fear that I had ruined everything." It seemed like it was hard for him to confess such a thing, his face was stricken and he seemed uncomfortable, so she changed the subject.

"But I'm giving you a chance to explain." She said, kindly, hoping to put him more at ease.

"I dream of you."

She couldn't help but choke out: "What?"

"It's like, I didn't actually remember being here, in this diner, but I dream about it." He tried to explain, clearly shy. "I dream about your face, and green eyes, and coffee and chocolate cake and then yesterday I saw you and I needed to know your name." She was taken aback, both by his almost adoring tone and his blunt confession. Her mind was blank as she desperately searched for words, looking at him with eyes wide and heart thumping. When he looked at her, his eyes widened too. "Shit. I said that aloud, didn't I? This is so uncool." He ducked his head, avoiding her gaze, but she could still see the way his cheeks were tinted red.

It took her some time to find her voice again. "You're my favorite customer." She blurted out, unable to stop herself. "It's like I'm always waiting for you to burst through that door."

He looked up at that, managing to look both smug and shy as he smiled. "Really?"

"Yeah." She admitted, blushing fiercely. "But don't get the wrong idea, I just… you seem interesting."

"Do I seem different?" He asked, and he was much too smug for Maka's liking.

She cocked her head to the side, not understanding why he was acting like that. "Yes, I guess."

"So the part where you told me you liked different really happened?" He continued, obviously enjoying himself.

She squeaked when she remembered the incident, getting up from the chair, as she looked away. "I'm going to leave now." She announced, with a voice too sweet to seem seriously angry.

She heard him getting up too, between laughter, before she felt a hand on her arm, scorching her skin. "I'm sorry, I was just messing with you." She snorted, an easy smile showing up on her face nonetheless. "I'll be back tomorrow." He continued, and she could hear the smile in his voice.

"As you are now, or as your sleep-deprived version?" She asked, still avoiding his gaze.

He laughed loudly, and she became very aware of how close they were when she felt his breath on her shoulder. "I will never get back to my sleep-deprived self. You're good for me." She looked at him at that, throwing him a questioning glance, to which he responded by caressing her face gently, before moving away. "I'm trusting you'll be here."

And he walked out the door, as Maka was left to deal with her raging insides and the feeling that came with the absence of his touch. She could still feel his fingers on her cheek and she thought she may be going mad, although going mad over him didn't sound like such a bad idea.

Chapter Text

She was trying to avoid her dad, but was unavoidable, they had to talk. She had to stop him from trying to control who she talked to, but she didn't want to spoil the happiness that Soul's visit had proportioned her. She never in a million years had expected him to come back, to open up to her, to actually remember her. She had tried to be bitter over his lie because she had felt terrible the day before, but how could she stay mad at someone that told her she was a literal dream?

Her happiness was short-lived, however, because as soon as her dad cornered her and she saw the subtle glint of possessiveness in his eyes, she knew it wouldn't end well. "Papa, let me pass."

"Who is he, Maka?" He asked, still blocking her path. "And what does he want with you?"

"Papa, you have to stop this. I'm older now, I can make the choice to talk to whoever I want."

"He's going to take you away from me, he's going to take my little girl." He continued, frantic, like he hadn't heard her. "I can't let that happen."

Maka glared at him. It wasn't the first time that her dad had drove boys away from her. Every time she started to get close to someone, he would find out and the boy in question would never set foot on the diner again. "You can't! You can't drive everyone away from me!"

He smiled, but his eyes gave away his intention of keeping his plan. "Once someone's worthy, I will give them the chance."

She was tired, she was tired of always fighting with him, always the same matter, always the same incredibly stubborn behavior on his part. "You don't even get to know the boys I talk to! You don't even get to see if they are worthy or not! Why, Papa?"

"Because men are cheating bastards." It was out of his mouth before he could think it trough.

"Believe me Papa, I'm aware of that." She said, bitterly, eyes locked on his. "But not all men are like you."

He smiled, hiding away what he was really feeling. "Maka, dear-"

"Please Papa, don't." She interrupted him, arms crossed, looking away. "I put up with your ways, I say nothing when I see you leave every night. I have no business telling you what to do with your life, and all I'm asking in return is that you stop trying to control mine."

His smile had fell and he reached out to place a hand on her arm, staring at her helplessly when she moved away. "I'm just trying to protect you."

She scoffed, taking advantage of his vulnerable state to push him away, almost breaking when she saw how heartbroken he looked. But if she didn't do this now, she would never break away from his obsessive jealousy, and so, although it pained her to do so, she replied, voice cold. "I'm an adult now, I can protect myself. Besides, you were the one who drove Mama away, so the only man I need to be protected from is you." She breathed deeply, tears threatening to spill from her eyes. "Soul didn't do anything wrong." And she walked away, feeling like the worst person in the world, wondering if she'd been too tough, remembering the heartbreak in her dad's eyes.

But she continued walking.

Spirit stared at Maka's retreating back, feeling broken and desperate, as the tears fell freely down his cheeks. He didn't want his customers to see him cry, he didn't want his little girl to see him cry, he didn't want her to feel guilty because he knew it was his fault. Lying always made things worse but he didn't know what else he could've said to his daughter, his way too young and way too precious daughter, except that her mother had left. And as she grew up, Maka had picked up on little things and decided that he was the reason she had left because he cheated on her. It was painful, Spirit had loved her so much that he was almost tempted to tell Maka the truth. But how could he, after so long?

So he climbed up the stairs, entering the house that she had once also called home, where they had promised to be together forever, to have a family, a lot of kids, maybe a pet. The place that had lost her smell long ago, but sometimes, Spirit swore, the light shined in a way that made it look like she was still there.

He walked towards their bedroom, that was now only his, defeated and feeling worse than he had felt in years. He resisted the urge to throw himself onto the bed and try to bury his face in her pillow, that hadn't been hers for years but that he still held close to him when the nights were too hard to get by. He instead walked towards his closet, rummaging the drawers until he found what he wanted, a picture of her. It was of the day he asked her to marry him, the day that Spirit thought was the best of his life. She was so beautiful, her hair tousled by the wind, her eyes closed as she laughed whole heartedly. He had long forgotten the sound of her laughter, but sometimes Maka laughed just like her and he felt his heart sink a little more in his chest because they were so similar that it pained him. That's why he felt the need to protect her, why he never wanted her to leave his side. Because he hadn't been able to protect her.

"I miss you. I miss you so much." He whispered, holding the picture like one would hold a talisman. He just wished he could see her again. "You should see Maka, she's all grown up. And she is just like you, down to the terrible temper and everything." He croaked a laugh, imagining how the two of them would actually clash a lot, from being so similar, so strong willed, so stubborn. "And now she has been speaking to this boy, I don't know how long this has been going on, but I think it's for real. She smiles so wide when he's talking to her." He sighs, looking at the picture, eyes gleaming with tears. "I'd give anything to have you back."

But he knows she will never be back.

Chapter Text

Maka was sitting on the bridge, her feet dangling towards the small river. She had volunteered to go to the market, not because she liked it, although she did, but to get as far away from her dad as possible. Things between them had been on edge since their argument the night before, and while Maka pretended not to see her father's red eyes, from crying, her father pretended not to see the ways her eyes hardened whenever they spotted him. So instead of rushing through the market, and then rushing home, she decided to just sit down and think, to clear her head.

As she stared at the horizon, she realized she couldn't really recall the last time she had been outside. She was always working, taking care of the diner, and when she wasn't, she usually stayed in her room, reading and daydreaming about the life she could never have. It was pitiful, the way she longed for nature and adventure so much, and yet let herself be a prisoner in her own life. She closed her eyes, inhaling the cool morning air, hoping it would help her feel better.

"Maka?" She heard someone, tentatively, call out.

She turned her head to the side, grudgingly opening her eyes for them to be met with red. A smile took over her face without her even noticing. "Soul." She murmured, before noticing a head of blue hair just beside Soul's white one. "Star." She continued, more bitterly.

"Maka!" He shouted, causing the people around to stare and Maka to hang her head with embarrassment. "Time you got out of that god forsaken house! What did your Papa do this time?"

Soul stared both at Maka and Black Star, looking rather lost, as Maka blushed and hid herself, refusing to answer, especially, with Soul around. Black Star knew about her father's behavior, about their fights and about how rough their relationship was. But Maka had always been one to keep her problems secret, and she rarely confided in anyone. In fact, Blake had a tendency to make her forget she wasn't supposed to talk about those things with anyone and was one of the few she knew she could trust. When they were younger there had been countless nights sitting on the roof (the boy climbed like a monkey and managed to always, always convince her to climb up with him), looking at the stars and talking about the things they had no one else to talk about. Maka was a single child and so was Black Star. So he had taken her under his wing and vowed to protect her if anyone ever made fun of her, and Maka had decided she'd help him feel more integrated. And grace him with a few delicacies from the diner. They were like brother and sister, and even if they drifted away throughout the years, like it almost always happens when people grow up, they were still great friends.

"What? You know you can talk to me about anything!" The blue haired boy continued, looking at her as if she had offended him. But all it took was one look at his side and he started scratching his neck. "Yeaaaah this is Soul. Soul, this is Maka." He introduced them, apologizing to her silently.

She got up, cleaning the dust off of her skirt before she looked up. "We've met, he goes to the diner sometimes."

Black Star looked at Soul questioningly and got a nod, before he turned back to Maka. "Well, what are you doing here?"

"I have to go to the market." She couldn't help but sigh. She really needed to go to the market and buy groceries while they were still fresh, but she knew that as soon as she was done, she would have no excuse to not go home.

"What are you waiting for, you dork? Follow your God, I'll take you there!" Black Star screamed, but neither Maka nor Soul moved. But Star had learned how to get his way. In a swift movement he grabbed both Soul's and Maka's wrist and yanked them forward, dragging them behind him as he moved towards the market, screaming of his greatness and how his followers wouldn't get anywhere without him.

 

She felt Soul tap her shoulder lightly and turned towards him. "Is everything okay?" He asked, his voice low and his eyes dark, filled with worry.

She looked around, at the people surrounding them, busy with their lives and at Black Star, currently arguing with a seller. She sighed. "Everything's fine." And made a motion to move towards the fruit stand again before he gently tugged at her sleeve.

"You don't look fine, though. You can trust me."

"Can I?" She asked, detaching herself from him. "We've never even talked outside of the diner." She pointed, smiling bitterly.

"We're talking now." He pressed. "And we can talk later. I just…" She felt him stiffen a bit behind her and heard his breathing become shallower.

She turned towards him, her eyes glinting. "You just?"

He looked away, face red with embarrassment. "I'm afraid to screw up."

She smiled, this time truthfully, placing a finger on his cheek and turning him towards her, so they were looking into each other's eyes. "You won't."

He seemed to be at a loss of words, lost in her eyes while she got lost in his. She felt so good when she was with him, felt so safe, like she could trust him, like she didn't have to worry if he would stay because she knew he would, while he felt like he belonged somewhere and she was the one he had hoped would fill the void in his chest.

"Hey, stop being mushy-mushy, we have other places to be!" Black Star yelled, standing between them and shaking his head. "The great me will not be a third wheel." And the spell was broken, as they were left to deal with emotions that both thought they would never feel

Later, on their way to the diner, while Blake walked ahead, telling one of his tales, she reached for Soul's hand shyly, and they walked hand in hand, fingers interlocked. He leaned closer, whispering so as not to call the other boy's attention. "My offer stands."

"I'll meet you outside at 9 pm." She whispered back, a soft smile on her lips.

"I thought you worked the night shift?"

"We hired a new maid." She shrugged noncommittally. "Told Papa I was tired of the night shift."

"Why?" He asked, confused. She had always seemed to rather enjoy working during the night.

"My favorite customer stopped going." She grinned, looking sideways at him.

The smile on Soul's face didn't fade, even when they parted ways and he started to miss the warmth of her fingers on his.

Chapter Text

Soul rubbed his hands together, willing them to warm up, even if just a bit, because it was cold, and he didn't have gloves, and he had gotten to the diner 10 minutes earlier, just in case. He had pondered going in, but he clearly remembered Maka telling him that they would meet outside the diner, so he stayed put, regretting his poor life choices and the fact that he had ignored his brother's advice to dress for the cold.

He was close to finally giving up and let the diner's heat claim him, when the door opened, and out she came. He noticed how she was dressed in something much more weather appropriate than him, even if she kept the short skirt that she seemed to like to wear so much. He smiled at her, warmly. "Good evening, miss."

She giggled, a faint pink dusting her cheeks as she held her hand out for him. "Good evening sir."

He kissed her out stretched hand and she spluttered, caught off guard, which only made his smirk grow wider, before he took her hand and held in in his. "Where are we going tonight?" He asked, his eyes still not leaving hers because he would never get tired of them.

She shrugged, looking around. "I haven't been around. Do you know somewhere we could go?" She asked, hopeful, eyes shining.

He thought for a little while, about many places he could take her, but a restaurant didn't seem appropriate, and being outside was not an option. It's much too cold. "There's an arcade downtown." He suggested. "We could go there."

She immediately perked up, tugging on his hand and exclaiming that she enjoys games, very much, and that it's been way too long since she got to really have fun. He felt excited, because she's contagious, and they both hurried to the poorly lit arcade.

Once inside, he decided to stick to the sidelines, not really a big fan of putting himself on the spotlight while playing one of the several games, but he was delighted to see her genuinely laughing and enjoying herself.

After a while, she came to his side, panting, but glowing like she wasn't before, and while her eyes seemed doubtful, he felt warmer. "Is there something wrong?" She asked, quietly. He shook his head, but she pressed on. "You haven't been playing." She pouted, and he chuckled softly.

"I'm having fun watching you play." He shrugged, but followed her nonetheless when she returned to one of the machines.

"Creep." She threw at him, smiling and sitting on one of the two available seats. He saw that it was for a car race, and laughed before he joined her, hands gripping the steering wheel.

He didn't try his best, and she easily outran him, but he had seen how competitive she could become, and was trying not to get on her bad side. When she complained that he was making it easier for her, he told her that he had always been better at driving motorcycles. She had been shocked, but quickly moved to the bike race instead, and while Soul won the first, he lost the next two, and while she accused him of not trying hard enough, he was thinking that he had actually tried. She was just a force of nature.

Soul told her to pick a table while he went and ordered for them, and that's what Maka did, choosing one of the tables by the corner, more secluded, because in the time they had spent together, she had realized that he was not the kind of guy who liked to draw much attention to him. Watching him from afar, she reasoned that his odd looks would probably earn him a lot of stares, and she thought that was why he didn't like attention.

While she waited for him to get back, she stared out the window, thinking about how she really didn't regret going out with him. It had been fun, much more fun than anything she had done recently, and she dared to say that she had felt alive, as opposed to just living.

Soul brought something out in her, something that turned her longing for adventure and change into an actually will to change and leave everything and go. It was a feeling she enjoyed very much.

"Stop thinking Albarn." He said, jokingly, sitting across from her and placing down their tray, with two milkshakes, a burger, and a box of chicken nuggets. She was quick to reach for the nuggets, while he grabs the burger and takes a bite, once again letting her see the sharp teeth he usually hides.

"How do you know my last name?" She asked, because she didn't remember ever telling him.

"You're known around town." He said, wiggling his eyebrows at her. "The daughter of Spirit Albarn, a woman as clever as she is deadly."

She almost chocked on the nugget she was eating. "People don't know me as deadly!" She all but whined, because while she liked to think of herself as a woman who could easily stand her ground, she knew her appearance made most people think the opposite.

He chuckled. "You're right. I'll keep that detail a secret." He said, chewing on his burger while she played around with the straw of her milkshake.

"Talking about secrets." She started, but he froze so quickly that she backtracked immediately. "Never mind."

The air got thicker and she could feel he was more tense than he had been all night, although he started eating again, even if more quickly this time. Or maybe she was just overthinking the situation.

The silence was long and heavy, and she felt like she needed to break it. "I'm sorry." She said, lowly, slurping from her milkshake right after so she would have something to do.

He rolled his shoulders and looked away. "It's okay."

And he changed the subject, asking her about the last book she had read and if she'd ever like to ride his bike. She was quick to say yes, that she'd like it very much, and they're soon immersed in a conversation about books, bikes, and the best stories Maka had to tell about the customers that had dropped by the diner. Talk came easy to them, but Maka couldn't help but notice that his eyes were dimmer somehow, like he had remembered something he didn't want to. She hadn't even had to think twice, she made a vow not to mention secrets around him ever again.

Even if she was dying to know what the white haired boy could be hiding, she'd wait for him to do it when he felt like it. And she hoped he'd one day trust her enough to tell her all about the things that dwelled in his heart.

Chapter Text

They decide to take it slow afterwards.

On the way back to the diner, both shivering from the cold, he’d held her hand and offered her his jacket, but she’d refused the jacket, sheepishly linking her hand with his. They weren’t quiet, but their conversation was hushed, not because they didn’t want others to hear, but rather because it felt more intimate, it drove them closer: to be able to speak so quietly.

It had been a surprise when he’d asked for time, for space, for them to take things slowly, mostly because Maka felt the same, felt like she needed the time to get to know him and trust him, before they moved forward.

And so they kept meeting, every other night, when Maka didn’t have to work because the diner’s new maid would take over her shifts, and when Soul didn’t have something he needed to do. He had always been secretive about where he went and what he did, but since he didn’t push her, she didn’t push back. It was like an unvoiced agreement, to let the other confess, when they were ready to.

It was a Friday night, and winter had hit the town with its full force, snow heavy and fast, covering the streets, and everything, in blinding white. Soul had dropped by earlier, telling her he had to go away for a week, like he usually did, but this was the first time it had happened after they had started going out. She’d tried to tell herself that she wouldn’t miss him, that it’d be just another week like all others, but the prospect of spending a week without seeing him did funny things to her heart. Despite the heaviness in her heart, and in an effort to distract herself, she had called her friend Liz and asked her if she was up for a girls’ night out. Maka wished she could say she had called Liz first innocently, but in reality, she knew the taller blonde rarely refused to go out and have some drinks. So when she had suggested a girls’ night in instead, Maka had almost choked.

“What?” She had managed to cough out, taken aback.

“You can’t be that surprised!” Liz had whined from the other side of the line. “It’s so cold, who would want to go out in this weather?”

Soul would, Maka thought, remembering how the boy had claimed that winter was his favorite season, how it made him feel happier. To Liz she hummed, “Alright, do you girls want to come here?”

The voice on the other side immediately brushed off the idea. “Your old man creeps me out sometimes, how about you come to our house?”

Maka bit her lip, uncertain. It had been a long time since she had visited The Gallows, the last time she’d been there had been Kid’s 8th birthday party. The boy had refused to have any other birthday party since then, and they hadn’t seen each other since high school had ended. “Kid doesn’t mind?” She had asked, cautious.

“Kid isn’t even in town, Maka.” The girl had sighed, and Maka could almost imagine her pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration.

“Okay then.” Maka agreed, a weight lifting off her chest. “See you later?”

“Absolutely.” Liz said, voice pleasant. But before Maka could end the call, she’d heard the blonde’s voice calling out to her.

“What?”

“You know you can’t keep dancing around each other Maka.” Liz admonished, tone serious. “It’s been three years. I know you never really broke it off, but you’ve both moved on by now. You should try to get back to being friends.”

Maka had sighed, silently agreeing with her. Kid had been Maka’s oldest friend, right until they decided to date, in senior year, and everything between them had fallen apart. Maka had blamed it on her trust issues, and he had blamed it on his almost compelling need for everything to be flawless, but the truth was that their friendship had been ruined.

“Promise you’ll talk to him soon?” The girl on the other side of the phone speaker asked, hopeful.

Maka started to nod, before she remembered that she couldn’t see her, and said she’d do it instead. Liz had beamed, Maka had chuckled, and the call had been ended, with plans formed to meet for dinner at the mansion.

So now Maka was standing on the doorway of the enormous house, waiting for either of the two sisters to open the door for her, but her mind was miles away, no longer focused on Soul, but rather on her lost friendship. She was so distracted that when the door opened, she barely looked inside, sure that one of the sisters was there, and instead threw her arms around the person that had opened the door for her. When the person stiffened, and the smell of cologne reached her nostrils, she immediately shrank back, staring at a wide-eyed Kid. Damn you Liz, she thought, taking several steps backwards, sure that her face was red red red.

“Hi.” She said quietly, sheepish. She wasn’t ready, Maka hated to be unprepared, and she had never thought that her first interaction with her ex-(boy)friend would be a hug. Even if they had started talking normally, it was bound to be awkward, but after her mistake, the tension was so thick that the urge to run away without looking back almost overwhelmed her.

“Hi.” He answered, seemingly still in shock. She didn’t blame him.

“Sorry about that.” She managed, voice still barely above a whisper.

“It’s okay.” He answered, looking around as if to avoid her eyes. “You came to see Liz and Patti?”

“Yes.” She almost screamed, desperate to get away. “Liz told me you wouldn’t be here and-“

He held up a hand, as if to stop her from saying anything more. “You don’t have to explain, Maka, you’re welcome here anytime.” He said it so stiffly that for a second Maka doubted the veracity of his words, but when their eyes briefly met, she saw nothing but raw honesty in his gold ones.

“Thank you.” She mumbled, hoping that her voice didn’t show how much she missed being his friend. “I’ll be heading up then.” Taking the chance to extract her from the uncomfortable situation, she started walking towards the staircase.

She heard him move. “Maka, wait.” She looked back at him to find his hand hovering above her arm, as if he wasn’t sure he could touch her and stop her from turning her back on him. He looked disoriented, like he wasn’t sure he was doing the right thing. She could relate to him perfectly.

“Yes?” She asked, trying to make her voice sound as gentle as she could.

He let his hand drop to the side of his body, ducking his head so he was staring at the ground. He He seemed to be struggling, like he couldn’t work out the words that would voice his thoughts. “I miss you.” He said, so quietly that she wouldn’t have heard, hadn’t she been leaning towards him already. Her heart started beating faster, and a chill ran through her body. Please don’t let Kid have feelings for me. “I miss being your friend.” He continued, as if it was a lot easier now that he’d started. “I don’t think I regret our shot at the whole dating thing, but I definitely regret losing your friendship.”

She sighed in relief. “I feel the same.” Maka needed to assure him that she felt the same. “You were my friend, and we should’ve stayed just that.” She continued, only thinking about her words after she’d said them. She had sounded so mean, so heartless, that she quickly tried to apologize, but before the word could leave her mouth, a smile spread through Kid’s face and she paused, confused.

“I was so scared you’d take it the wrong way if I said that.” He confessed, obviously relieved.

“I wasn’t thinking.” She muttered, mad at herself for letting her words run loose.

“You were always the impulsive one.” Kid shrugged, grinning, and although it still lacked the companionship they had shared before, his gaze was sweet and caring. “Remember that time when I told you not to climb the tree, and you…”

“Kid!” She bellowed, hitting him in the arm. The boy knew too many stories about her, and if he ever was to open his mouth, she’d never get her dignity back. But when she threatened him, that if he ever told anyone about her misfortunes, she’d give him hell, he only snickered, sending her away and telling her that the sisters were probably worried about her already.

Worry was the last thing on both the blonde girls’ mind, Liz throwing her arms around Maka enthusiastically, claiming to be a genius while the shorter girl cussed at her, whining about forcing people to do things they wanted to, but weren’t ready to, and Patti being her usually bubbly self, jumping up and down on the bed and celebrating the fact that they were friends again, and Kid could stop being broody about everything.

Maka couldn’t say she was mad at the girls, their plan had worked wonderfully, so she eventually gave in, letting Patti drag her off to her pillow fort, while Liz promised she’d paint her toe nails as a reward for making things right again.

It was so easy to lose herself to the familiarity of her old friends, and when Kid joined them, although shyly at first, Maka really couldn’t help but remember the old times. She had missed them, she realized, halfway through the third movie that evening, as Patti dozed off, leaning on her shoulder, Kid stared at the television, although his eyes were glazed, and Liz pretended she wasn’t texting, surreptitiously glancing at her phone, the dumbest smile on her face. Maka made a mental note to ask the older blonde about her love life whenever she had the chance, and let her own eyes close, heavy with sleep.

And although she hadn’t thought about him all evening, Soul’s face popped up in her mind, and she thanked him, because if it hadn’t been for him and his absence, it would’ve taken her a lot more time to finally settle things with Kid, and to hang out with any of her would friends. Once again she felt terrible for neglecting them, as she had all evening, whenever she saw how much they had actually changed, and how much she didn’t know, just because she hadn’t been around. Maka wasn’t always the most caring person, and she had a hard time showing other people just how much they meant to her.

With a will to change that, and actually try to reconnect and spend more time with her old friends, she fell asleep.