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And Then Things Went Horribly Wrong

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It was all wrong.

She was supposed to surpass her mother. The greatest meister, and she definitely wasn't being bias here, who had ever lived.

She was supposed to find herself a scythe, just like her Papa, to raise and groom into being the most incredible Death Scythe that had ever existed to replace him.

She was supposed to do a lot of things.

Instead, she…

"This isn't fair!"

…was throwing a tantrum.

"Maka, please." Her mother, her idol, was doing her best to calm her down and failing miserably. "It isn't like it's the end of the world. There was always a chance this could happen."

She glared at where her right arm was supposed to be.

Instead, all she saw was her own miserable, teary-eyed reflection in the scythe blade that had taken its place.

"Come on, sweetheart!" Said the last voice she wanted to hear. "You can be just like Papa now!"

She started to cry again.


Maka Albarn was not the kind of girl to just roll over and die just because of some bad news. Sure, she wouldn't ever be the meister she had dreamed of. Sure, her dad hadn't stopped offering special 'Father-Daughter Training' bonding experiences since he'd gotten the news. Sure, her whole life was ruined and it was wrongwrongwrong-!

Deep breath.

There was nothing she could do about it now.

Just because she couldn't be a meister, didn't mean she had to give up on her goal of being the best and brightest student in all of Shibusen! Besides, if she found a good enough meister, then she could replace her dad! It was her duty as the daughter of the Death Scythe to bring some prestige back to that title! This was totally, one-hundred percent what she wanted to do with her life! COMPLETELY.

It being Orientation Day, finally, meant that she would be able to see about getting herself a meister. Someone good. A competent, hard-worker like her. A girl, preferably, as the last thing she wanted was some jerk that talked about her figure all the time or went chasing after every skirt he saw. It also meant she had a chance to scope out her competition.

With her head held high and a 'Weapon' sticker on her breast, Maka Albarn entered the room ready for anything.

Except.

It was just a bunch of people her age, each wearing their own stickers identifying them as either a Demon Weapon or Meister, mingling and having a nice time. It was not the formal school event she had been hoping for. It was more like… a singles mixer. Like the kind her mama sometimes had to drag her papa out of.

That had been a particularly awkward wedding anniversary for them…

Her face scrunched up like she'd just bitten into a lemon. She had been hoping for something a lot more formal and organized not… fraternizing! Still, she wasn't going to lose to these other weapons. She was going to put her best foot forward!

Attempt #1:

"Hi! I'm Maka! If you're looking for a weapon, you won't find a harder worker than me."

The girl turned, nervous, and offered up a shy smile in return. "It's nice to meet you! I'm Ginne! I-I'm really not used to this kind of thing…"

Yes! This was going well! "Me either." She smiled. "If you'd like, we could see if we can resonate?" Just a bit more…!

"O-oh… already? I'm… O-okay!" The nervous girl reached out… then paused. "…wait… You're not a boy? I'm sorry, I was k-kind of hoping my partner would-" Her cheeks darkened. "Well, good luck! With a lot of things!"

Before Maka could even form words to respond, her potential partner speedwalked away… "I'm wearing a skirt! …and what do you mean with a lot of things!?"

Attempt #5:

"Hi, I saw you over here, and was wondering if-" She winced as she watched the girl she was speaking to literally buried her head into the desserts table. It wasn't an ideal partner, but she was sure she could whip her into shape! "-i…if you would like to try partnering up?"

Her future-maybe meister pulled her face out of what had been a cake and eyed her from top to bottom.

"...too boney." She declared in a deep baritone.

Maka could almost feel the words stabbing her. "B-bone-!" At least people could tell she had bones!

Attempt #11:

Cautiously, very cautiously, Maka approached a boy… She hadn't seen him leering at any of the girls. He hadn't said anything particularly dumb when she had listened (not eavesdropped!) in on a few of his conversations. "H…hello. I'm Maka Albarn… are you still looking for a partner?"

She watched as he turned her way and…

"No thanks." He smiled apologetically, rejecting her in the most delicate way he could.

Somehow, it stung way worse than the others.

The end result was her standing to the side, watching other people talk and laugh and think about they were going to be great meisters and weapons while she was left in the trash. She refused to let her feelings show on her face, gritting her teeth and bawling her fists tight enough that she could feel her nails digging into her palms.

"This whole thing ." An unfamiliar voice managed to pull her from her thoughts.

She perked up, glancing over to see an albino leaning against the wall a little further over. Her eyes immediately darted down to his chest, and she deflated when she saw 'Weapon' written sloppily across the sticker. "…it's not like this is the only chance we have. If we can't find someone now, we will eventually." She refused to let her spirits be crushed!

"Heh."

…well, he wasn't laughing at her. He seemed nice enough. Shuffling, she tried not to think about how rare it was that she actually spoke to a boy her own age. "What sort of weapon are you?" Just make conversation, Maka! Make a friend!

Wordlessly, he held his hand out and in a flash of momentarily blinding light, his arm was…

No. Nononono.

"Scythe." She couldn't keep herself from verbalizing it, despite the swirling emotions inside her. "You're a scythe."

"Apparently." He replied, sounding as excited about that as someone might a dentist appointment.

Why? Why did the one boy she'd gotten to speak to her even a little have to be her dream weapon? Was the universe just making fun of her? Had it not done enough? She gripped the front of her skirt, trying to keep from screaming. Or crying.

"I shouldn't have too much trouble finding a partner, or at least that's what they told me. Scythes are supposed to be pretty rare. I think half the people here are swords." The albino went on, snorting a little.

Her heart felt like it was about to burst. "You… were supposed to be mine…" It came out under her breath.

"Huh?" The scythe-boy turned. "You say something?"

"You were supposed to be mine!" All her frustrations had bubbled up and burst out of her, loud enough that a hush fell over the entire room.

She stood still for a few moments, face turning increasingly red from shame… and then booked it out of the room, cursing her temper, cursing her luck, and, more than anything, cursing the unfair, miserable world she lived in.


"Maka, it's been a week."

That was an accurate measurement of the time she'd spent in her room.

"I don't think anyone will remember one little outburst…"

Really? She didn't think that she wouldn't be the laughing stock of the entire school? 'You were supposed to be mine'? She might as well be in prison for how well she'd murdered her reputation.

"Besides, if you don't snap out of this, you'll never find a meister!"

Maka's response was to hold her pillow over her face and scream for a solid minute. She hated it when her mother had a point. Which she always did.


After a badly needed shower, her hair brushed and put into her trademark pigtails, and a balanced breakfast, Maka Albarn was ready to take on the world!

Or, at least, that's what she told herself. Lately, it had felt like she was in a boxing game(?) with the fattest(?) belt(?) winner? She wasn't all that clear on the sport except that it involved being punched in the face a lot. That was her life right now. Being punched directly in her face.

Sigh.

She'd always thought her first day of school would be something to look forward to. She'd been downright giddy when she'd received her NOT uniform and everything had felt so real. Instead, she just wanted to put a paper bag over her head and wait until everyone who had seen her little outburst died from old age.

Even her usual trek up the steps of Shibusen and the view from the top wasn't enough to make her feel better. Well, at least not completely.

She still felt proud of herself seeing as how many of the other new students were struggling to make it to the top and the ones that did appeared winded. Ha. Weapon or not, she was still better than the others in her year, wasn't she?

"You're lookin' awfully smug this morning, Maka. Getting a little big for your britches, aren't you?"

And just like that, whatever joy she'd been feeling curled up inside her and died. On the list of people she didn't want to hear from, this one was second only to her Papa. "Black*Star." She greeted, trying her best to be polite to her childhood frenemy.

Short, loud, and insufferable were all accurate ways to describe the ninja who refused to quit pursuing his ridiculous ambition of surpassing God.

"Oh?" Hands on his hips, raising his head up as high as he could, the brat in front of her seemed to be trying to look down at her… which wasn't going to happen, even standing on the tips of his toes. "You've got a look on your face like you want to say something."

"Did you need something?" She wasn't going to back down. "Or, are you bugging me just because you're looking for a partner?" She would not settle for him. She could only imagine the kind of expectations he'd have of his partner.

"Partner?" Black*Star's head cocked to the side and, with the breeze, people could almost hear the wind whistling as it passed through his ears and his empty skull for how clueless he looked. It wasn't until he spotted the now somewhat wrinkled 'Weapon' sticker that his eyes lit up. "Maka…" He trailed off. "I know that you've always had a thing for me, but just becoming a weapon doesn't mean we're going to be partners."

Not a single part of that sentence didn't piss her off!

"Besides, I already have one." Black*Star was practically glowing as he said so.

The shock actually managed to make her forget about her angry. "You-...what?" Black Star? Had a partner? And she didn't?!

"Tsubaki!" Calling her name was unnecessary, as the girl was standing quite literally right behind him.

"H-hello. Tsubaki Nakatsukasa." The dark haired Asian girl waved nervously as she introduced herself.

It wasn't hard to tell why so many people's eyes were drawn to her. She was gorgeous. It wasn't like she cared about that kind of thing, because she totally didn't, but it was obvious this girl was gifted in a way she wasn't. That she was wearing the same outfit as her just made it even more apparent given the difference in how it… fit.

"It's… It's nice to meet you. Maka Albarn." She managed to get out, even as she wondered the how of this situation. "…he's not threatening you, is he?" Her hand went to her book once more. She was prepared to save this girl if need be!

Black*Star, to his credit, just burst out laughing like it was a great joke.

"N-no! Not at all. I just think he's…" Tsubaki glanced over at the boisterous ninja. "…got a lot of potential, that's all." She smiled as she spoke.

The ninja's laughing stopped and he started rubbing the underside of his nose with the back of his index finger. The faint dusting of pink on his cheeks gave his embarrassment away though.

Maka almost fell flat on her face. What was with this wholesome relationship?! This supportive partner?! It was all… backwards! "H…how nice."

Somehow, she had less appeal to people than Black*Star?

"Well, we'll see you later, Maka." The ninja who clearly hadn't ever read the job description turned away from her. "Try not to screw things up being socially retarded, okay?"

"Black*Star, that isn't very nice…" Tsubaki looked between her two juniors with disapproval for her partner showing. "I'll talk you later, okay, Maka-chan?"

The two were gone moments later, leaving her standing there alone. Because unlike the loud, crude, obnoxious, selfish, narcissistic Black*Star… she didn't have a partner.

What did that make her then?

She could feel her nails digging into her palms again, but she willed her eyes to remain dry even as she stared at the ground. It was still just the first day of the school year. It wouldn't be long before she had a partner, someone truly great, and was bragging about them to her mother. All she had to do was grit her teeth and bear it for now.

Just a little bit longer, she told herself even as others laughed.

Just a little bit longer.


 

Chapter Text

As hard as things had been, something about entering class for the first time made her heart skip a beat. She stood there, took a deep inhale, and smelled the knowledge.

"What is that weirdo doing?"

Her hand twitched and she once more reigned in the urge to crack some heads. She settled for sending a look the boy's way with enough murder in her eyes to make him shut up. "So, let's see…" Everyone's seat had their names written on the table in front of them. "Maka… maka…" She muttered to herself as she was forced to climb the stairs and check each row for her place.

"Ah!" There she was! She sank into the seat and fought the urge to wiggle. It was finally happening, her very own desk here at Shibusen. She was smack-dab in the middle of the row as well so she had a perfect view of the blackboard too. There was a girl to her right who was caught up chatting with her partner, but the seat to her left was still empty. She glanced over at the name and snorted. "Soul Eater? Cute."

"Uh. Thanks."

Oh this was not happening. There was such a thing as a limit to how much bad luck a person could have, right? She glanced over, wishing with all her heart for it not to be the person who she knew it was, and fought the urge to die of shame when she met those all-too-red eyes again. A small part of her hoped he'd move on or even just ask to sit somewhere else…

Instead, he sank into the seat beside her and avoided looking at her.

Great. Awesome. Thanks. This was exactly what she wanted. To be sat beside the boy she'd made an idiot out of herself to and… with how many people were snickering in her direction, having her entire class laugh at her expense.

"Must have pretty boring lives, still thinking about something that happened forever ago." The albino was glaring a little, not backing down despite all the attention coming his way.

Their classmates scowled or rolled their eyes or looked embarrassed, but all that really mattered was that they weren't staring at her anymore.

Maka glanced over at the boy that had made her first day infinitely more tolerable and… felt like there was a knot in her stomach for some stupid, stupid reason. She just needed not to make an idiot out of herself when she opened her mouth this time.

"Yo!"

…it was actually the best she could do and she was still ashamed of herself.

"…'Yo'." The albino glanced over at her. "…You're not gonna confess again, are you?"

The knot in her stomach was pulled even tighter. "I-I'm not gonna-! I didn't!" A small voice in her head was chanting to knock some sense into him, but it wasn't like it wasn't what it had sounded like. Before she could shove her foot into her mouth again, she took a deep breath to calm down.

"I did not confess." She said, trying not to glare at him and failing. "I meant something different." She managed to get out, not able to keep her bitterness from seeping into her voice.

"Huh. It wasn't then?" Her classmate, Soul, had an unreadable look on his face.

Did he not believe her? Or, was he disappointed? Why would he be disappointed?! Why did she feel a little mad at the idea he wouldn't be!?

"Please stop talking to my partner." A new voice, one that Maka immediately disliked, piped up from Soul's otherside. A girl with dark, red hair tied into ringlet pigtails. She had a cute face with big eyes, but something about the way she looked at her made her feel sick to the stomach. "He's spoken for. Besides, aren't you a weapon?"

Maka grit her teeth, forcing a smile and looked past the weapon that should have been hers at the undeserving meister. "Yes. I am." Which she was totally fine with. "Maka Albarn. It's nice to meet you."

It wasn't.

"Hmph. Don't bother." The girl, who was probably smaller than even Black Star, turned her nose up at her. "I'm not interested."

Maka was pretty sure she heard one of her teeth crack as her jaw clenched. "Alright then." This girl and Soul were none of her business. She didn't want anything to do with either of them. She just needed to find her own partner and show everyone.

"Alright, alright, everyone quiet down." Their teacher, a familiar face to her, waved to get their attention. "It's nice that everyone's so excited, but I need everyone to pay attention." Several of the boys sighed, sounding struck with a bad case of puppy love already.

Maka rolled her eyes. Nygus was pretty, but could they keep from drooling over her long enough to get through the first day?

"I'm Mira Nygus, I'll be acting as your instructor for several of the classes that you'll be taking here at Shibusen." The woman adjusted her glasses as she spoke, all smiles. The fawning intensified. "Right now, all of you are qualified for the NOT or Normally Overcome Target. Depending on your performance, and what you sign up for, some of you will make it into EAT or Especially Advanced Talent." A very, very small number, Maka knew.

"Now, let's start with some introductions…"

What followed was an entirely typical, entirely uninteresting series of introductions from the colorful members of the class. Black*Star was noticeably absent, causing his new partner no small amount of concern.

Maka was pretty confident that he was with the EAT students, challenging them to a fight to earn a spot in the class. As much as she hated to admit it, he'd probably make it in without any trouble… A very, very small amount of that ego of his was deserved.

"Well, it's wonderful to meet everyone. I'd like everyone who has a partner-" Maka's eye twitched hearing that. "-to come down here." She watched as the boy beside her stood, or rather, was dragged by his meister to the front of the class.

Still, seeing how many of her meister classmates still didn't have weapons of their own was comforting. There was still hope! "Remember those faces! I want all of you to talk after class."

Maka felt like a fire had lit inside her, bawling her hands into fists beside her face. She wouldn't lose here. She would find a partner a hundred times better than that snooty girl and rub it in her face.

This was it! This was when everything turned around!

This was her moment!


"…h-how come no one wants to talk to me…"

It was totally not her moment.

Having collapsed to her hands and knees, wishing very much to sink into the floor and never come out of it, Maka Albarn was wondering if she had something in her teeth. Or if she smelled. Or if someone had written 'LOSER' on her forehead when she hadn't been looking. Not much else explained why everyone she talked to either blew her off, laughed, or seemed to hate her.

"Uhm."

She looked up, wondering if the universe had decided to take pity on her and had sent someone to put her out of her misery. Instead, she found herself looking up at... well, she couldn't see her face past those. "Tsubaki?"

The girl squatted down, offering... food?

"Would you like to eat lunch together, Maka-chan?"

It didn't matter that she wasn't a meister at that moment. She had someone willing to talk to her. It was progress. It was...

...what she badly needed to keep from crying again.


"A few weeks ago, huh? That's surprising... You must be a late bloomer, Maka-chan!" Tsubaki's words, innocent as they were, caused her to sink into her seat. "...a-as a weapon! A weapon! Not that there are any other places where you aren't, uhm, blooming!" There was real panic in the Japanese girl's words.

"I get what you mean." Maka said, stuffing another bite of food into her mouth to chew on while sulking. "...I just... why did it have to be me...? I know that Papa's a demon weapon, but shouldn't they have known if I was going to be one?" Her parents wouldn't have kept it a secret. They'd seemed just as surprised as her. "And now, I can never be a meister. I'm just a-" She caught herself before she finished. "...sorry."

"It's alright." Tsubaki's smile never wavered. "I can see how badly you wanted to be a meister. I think anyone would be disappointed."

Maka reached out and grabbed the other girl's hands. "Thank you!" After hearing everyone tell her how she was overreacting and that she was being too negative about it, having just one person agree with her was like a weight off her soul. She sat back down a moment later, blushing. "S-sorry."

Her new friend(hopefully!) giggled in response. "You're kind of weird, aren't you?"

"T-tsuuubaakki-cchaann..." She set her face down on the table, whining.

"It's okay! I think... I'm kind of weird too!"

Maka Albarn decided right then that Tsubaki Nakatsukasa was too good for this world.


"Welcome to the Dance Studio. I'm Sid Barrett. Getting straight to the point, that's the kind of man I am."

Maka fought a giggle.

"And, for future notice, don't think picking a fight with an EAT student means a guaranteed entry into the class." The large man jabbed a thumb over his shoulder where his adopted son hung on the wall, a kunai stabbed through his collar to keep him hanging there. It looked like Black*Star had been run over by a particularly aggressive bus.

Tsubaki's horrified gasp pretty much summed up how most of the class felt.

"I won't have greenhorns like you trying to skip the basics. Keeping kids in line, that's the kind of man I am." Sid tapped his clipboard against his hand, looking more than a little peeved.

For one meister-hopeful turned demon-weapon, it was basically what she'd expected.

"Now, for the weapons in the class..."

She perked up... though it wasn't without a little internal grumbling.

"...we're going to practice our transformations. If you already have a meister, they need to be ready to catch you. If you don't have a partner, find someone willing to volunteer. If someone isn't volunteering..." Their teacher raised his own hand. "...I'll take care of it. We're not leaving anyone out."

And so, the pairing up commenced. Tsubaki couldn't exactly work with her meister given his state, but she had no shortage of eager boys offering to work with her.

Meanwhile, she...

She gripped her skirt, shuffling towards her teacher. "...S...sid-sensei, can we..."

"No problem, Maka. I don't know if we'll be able to resonate, but I'm not about to turn down working with a student I have high expectations of."

There was a reason she'd always liked Sid.

The transforming began and, well... Some people managed to transform, but they'd still be sporting arms or legs. It kind of made using a sword hard when there was a foot where the tip was supposed to be. Then, there was Tsubaki who stole the show with the girl she was working with by changing into two entirely different weapons with ease. She apparently had even more than that.

Jeez.

"Next, Soul Eater and-"

Maka's head swung in that boy's direction. A part of her hoped he failed just so she wouldn't have to see him in that other girl's hands.

Soul grumbled a bit but in a flash of light, he was spinning in the air above his partner like a baton made of light. All she had to do was reach out and catch him. In an instant, he'd completely and flawlessly transformed for his meister. That he'd done it with style just made it that much more impressive.

While the rest of the girls oooh'd and aaah'd over his performance, all Maka could do was take in his appearance as a scythe. Compared to her papa's, he was... a lot funkier. Colorful and eccentric, especially with that eyeball on the weapon's staff. It stood out from all the otherwise plain looking weapons there. Even Tsubaki's, as amazing as it was that she had more than one form, didn't stand out the way he did.

That girl holding him looked so proud. She twirled him with ease, wielding him with the ease and grace that only a resonance could allow.

All Maka could do while watching them was to wish that was her.

She kept staring, lost in her own thoughts, until something came down on her head hard enough to make her eyes spin.

"Maka Albarn, it's your turn." Sid readied another chop with his clipboard.

"Y-Yes sir! Yes. I'm ready." Maka nodded, determined. She hadn't really ever tried to do a complete transformation before. She'd never wanted to. Still, this was do-or-die time. Even if he wouldn't be her weapon, she could still be a better one than he was. She took a deep breath and called on the power she'd done everything to ignore since that one awful day.

Transforming was an... odd sensation. Her body breaking down and changing into something new didn't hurt. It didn't even feel like she had changed. It felt, depressingly enough, natural.

The moment she finished, she tried wiggling any part of her body. Nothing. When she opened her eyes, she was seeing double. She could still see her teacher, her classmates, and the Dance Studio. At the same time though, she could see the vast whiteness of her own soul and herself, as naked as the day she was born.

Super.

"Great work, Maka. You were flawless."

Her heart swelled, hearing her sensei's praise. His soul was exactly like she'd expected. Hard-working, kind, and as patient as only a master assassin could be, Sid was the most reliable man in Shibusen. She giggled, twirling about and enjoying the sensation of 'floating' that came with her new form. It wasn't all bad, was it?

"...sensei, I thought she was supposed to be a scythe?"

Oh. Her voice.

"I think that counts as a sickle at best."

What?

She couldn't see herself, but she could 'feel' how large she was. Sid was a big man, so she hadn't thought anything of him holding her with one hand. Now that she thought about it, she felt short.

"Right?" The girl whose name she hadn't bothered to learn pointed to the side of the room, a wall of mirrors meant so that the new weapons could get a look at their new selves.

Sure enough, there she was...

A handle just barely over a foot long and with a blade that was just half that, she did not count as a scythe. Even a sickle was being generous given how short her blade was. In fact, the closest thing was the very thing her name was an anagram for - kama. A dull, wooden handle and a plain stainless steel blade made her appear like a tool someone might have found in the bargain bin at their local gardening store.

She'd been afraid she'd look too much like her papa. Now, she wouldn't have minded it if she looked exactly the same.

There were a few snickers. It wasn't like she had done the worst, but she'd already been singled out... and when one person started it, there were always more ready to pile on.

"Oh man, even her blade doesn't have a curve to it!" She didn't know who had said it. She didn't think it really mattered.

The snickers turned to laughter.

All she could do then was sink as deep as she could into her own soul and pretend the rest of the world didn't exist.


The rest of the day... She couldn't even remember it. She'd been far too miserable to really listen to anything after that point. Tsubaki had tried to talk to her, but at that point she'd just wanted to go home and cry.

Except.

She winced at the sound of a dish shattering against the wall.

"I-it was just a little lipstick! It was probably yours! Probably!"

"I don't wear that shade!"

"W-well... You know, maybe it's mine?"

"You are an idiot! I must be an idiot too! How many times am I going to forgive you!?"

Home wasn't happy either. She trudged up the stairs, shut the door to her room, and pulled her pillow over her head. It wasn't like this was the first time, but they'd been happening more and more often lately.

She'd missed her parents fighting being what upset her the most.

As their voices grew louder- Papa pleading, Mama saying words like 'separate' and 'divorce' - she pulled the pillow closer.

As hard as today was, tomorrow had to be better.

After all, how could things get worse than this?

Chapter Text

A month. An entire month.

It had to be unheard of that someone could be at Shibusen for that long and still not found a partner. It wasn't helped at all by the fact her classmates seemed to have singled her out. At this point she'd, almost, gotten used to it. There was still a lot of teasing, but she didn't need all her classmates to like her. She had Tsubaki.

"Alright, next up is… Maka." Nygus read out her name and she took up her place at the starting line. "Readddy…go!"

She took off, pushing herself as fast as she could go and willing her legs longer just so she could cross the finish line just a few fractions of a second sooner. She almost fell when she did, stumbling to a stop and turned back to her teacher, panting.

"Great going, Maka! You're first of the girls again it looks like!"

Gym class was very, very quickly becoming her favorite. She spared a look back at her classmates and, even as she tried to catch her breath, fought a grin seeing their faces.

"Good going, Maka-chan." Tsubaki's praise, complete with light applause, was just the cherry on top.

"I-i…i-it was n-nothing!" Alright, it would probably be more convincing if she wasn't so winded. "I'm just surprised. Shouldn't the meisters be able to beat me at least?" She said as they walked past a certain individual. She didn't even need to look to tell the girl was glaring at her, she could feel it.

"Picking fights isn't a good thing, Maka-chan…" There was a bit of disapproval there, Maka could tell. It was deserved though! Didn't she see how smug that other girl was? Someone had to knock her down a peg or two! Still…

"…r-right." She played with one of her pigtails as they found themselves a seat on the bleachers. "Where did you finish, Tsubaki-chan?" She pulled at her hair as she asked.

"I managed to place fourth again. It was pretty close." She envied how satisfied Tsubaki looked with her time. If it was her, she'd have been furious not to at least place in the top three… really, she'd probably have been miserable if she had gotten anything but first.

"That's great!" She grabbed the other girl's hands. "I guess all that training paid off, didn't it?"

"It seems so!"


"So, still no luck, Maka?"

Her good mood soured hearing his voice. "Papa." She had just gotten done in the showers… had he been waiting out here the whole time? That was just creepy! "Hmph. I don't need a third-rate meister as my partner. I want her to be at least half as good as Mama was."

She made a point of not looking at her parent, though she could hear him shuffling.

"I get that you want someone as amazing as Mama, but…" The more her Papa spoke, the angrier she felt.

"What's wrong with that?! If I have to be a weapon, then what's wrong with wanting the best meister I can get!" She turned to face him, already sucking in a breath to keep shouting. She wasn't going to be talked out of this by her Papa of all people. Except, all her righteous anger dissolved when she saw the state of him. He looked like he hadn't shaved in a while and his usually neatly pressed suit looked like he'd slept in it.

"…You're right, Maka. Papa will support you, no matter what! Remember, he's your number one fan!" His words should have been a comfort, but instead all it did was make her feel worse.

"This doesn't…" She knew she shouldn't say it, but- "-this doesn't make up for all the things you've done!" She just couldn't stop it. She couldn't bring herself to even look at him when she did, staring intently at her Papa's feet for the longest time but he didn't say anything.

The silence was too much for her. She forced herself to raise her head and bit down hard on the inside of her cheek until she tasted blood. She'd seen her Mama chop her Papa plenty of times. She'd seen him stub his toe a thousand times and he'd burned himself badly once when he'd tried to cook dinner. Remembering all those times, she couldn't say after any of them that she'd seen him look so…hurt before.

"Sorry, sweetie."

And then he walked away.

She'd done that to him plenty of times but being on the other side of it left her feeling sick. She shook her head and glared after him.

"Can't you at least defend yourself, Papa…"


She probably opened her locker a little more aggressively than was deserved of it, but she wasn't going to apologize to it. It should have known better than to get in the way of her and her school books.

Stupid locker.

"Pardon me-"

Oh, great, someone else to be mad at. She took out her text book and slammed her locker to make sure that they knew she was in no mood for another smart comment. "What?" She already had her book ready if she needed it.

"Uh." The blonde boy she was staring at seemed nervous. Good. "Maka Albarn, right?"

"Yes." She sounded more irritable than she'd really intended to, tapping the spine of her book against the open palm of her free hand. Whatever he needed; it couldn't be important enough to bother her. If he was mad her locker door had hit his, he could stuff it. "You still need a meister, right?"

"H-uh?" The book slipped out of her hand and fell right on her foot. She hissed, hopping on her one good leg while clutching her now probably misshapen foot. "Y-Yes, I am! I mean, I do!" Smooth, Maka.

Like gravel.

"Are you, uh, okay?" The blonde was asking a stupid question, but it was at least a nice one.

"I-I'm fine." She, slowly, set her foot back down and crouched down to pick her book back up from the floor and hugged it to her chest. "Why are you asking?"

"Because, you just dropped a book on your foot." It was a herculean effort to suppress the eye twitch she wanted to have.

"No, why are you asking if I have a meister?" If he was just doing this to mess with her, she was going to make his face match her foot.

"Because, I was wondering if you'd like to partner up?" The blonde seemed nervous. Genuine, and nervous.

Maka was glad she had a firm grip of her book this time or else she might have dropped it. "…r-really? You want to team up with me?" She hugged the tome a little tighter. "If you're pranking me, I won't let you off lightly."

The unfamiliar face shook his head and offered a smile that was as close to genuine as he could get it, given he seemed just as nervous that she would either reject him or suffer her foot's fate. "No. I don't want to be another boring sword user or something. I want something more unique."

Unique? Her? That was a heck of a way to describe a gardening tool… maybe he was an idiot? Or, did he just want to stand out? It was probably the nicest thing anyone other than Tsubaki had said about her weapon form. "T-then." She started, hating how nervous she sounded. "Let's see how well we can work together."

It was progress. Sure, he seemed a little flakey, but he was the first to ask to work with her. She had to have hope, right?

"So, you know my name… what's yours?"

The blonde grinned. "Hero."


Her meister was terrible.

Like, the absolute worst.

He could hardly make it half way around the track field before collapsing out of breath.

Really, it was a wonder how he'd made it into the school as a meister. Still, she couldn't really complain. Even with his lack of ability, he more than made up for it in his willingness to train.

"A-another hour and then we're done, right, Maka?" Hero had sweat pouring down his face after another brutal training session of walking up and down the steps of the school.

She sighed and snapped her book shut, looking over at her meister. She didn't want to work him so hard that he gave up on her. "We can stop for now." If they kept it up, he might fall over the edge.

"T-thanks!" And, sure enough, he collapsed. Thankfully, it was onto the stairs and not falling to his death. That was something she didn't want to have to go explaining to her Papa and Shinigami-sama.

"…You're getting better." Maka wasn't so good with praise, but it was the truth. She smiled and offered a bottle of water to her meister. He gladly took it and began chugging away, while she turned her head to look out towards the city to take in the view.

"Thanks, Maka…" Hero sounded better now, a little less like he was about to curl up and die. "Did you want to try resonating again?"

"Yes!" Okay, so, maybe she shouldn't be so excited about it, but… "One more time." She closed her eyes and, in an instant, she was seeing double once more. To his credit, Hero caught her with ease.

Resonating, as she'd found out before, was… incredible. The feeling of another's soul connecting with hers made her feel strong. Warm. Connected. There was so much about her partner she was able to learn from even their surface level connection. He wanted to be popular. He wanted to be successful. He had big ambitions, just like her. He was willing to work hard too.

"…there's not any pain, is there?" She could hear her meister ask.

"No. None. Uhm, I'm not… h-heavy, am I?" Ugh, that question felt embarrassing to ask.

"Not at all." Hero began to twirl her… it was a weird sensation. For someone so lacking in their training, he sure used her well enough. If she remembered right, resonating allowed meister's to use their weapons as an extension of their body even without training. Even with a weak connection like theirs, he was still handling her like a pro!

"Ah-!"

And then she slipped out of his hand… over the edge of the stairs.

"ACK!" In an instant, she was herself again and grabbing at the air. No! She didn't want to die! Not when things were finally starting to work out for her-!

Her partner's hand snatched hold of hers at the last second. "M-maka, are you okay!?"

She almost cried. Instead, she got angry. "You! Pull me back up so I can hit you! Butterfingers!"


"I hear that you've gotten yourself a partner, Maka." Her mother set a plate in front of her, tucking some hair behind her ear. "A boy."

Thoughts of a nice dinner with her Mama went out the window. "Yes ma'am?" She hadn't meant for it to be a question. "I mean, Hero's… He's a boy. I'm pretty sure." It wasn't like she'd checked. Oh. Great. This was not the time to remember that biology book she'd read way, way too early.

"Congratulations. Just be careful. Boys at your age… well, they're still young, but…" Her mama sighed, taking her seat. "Eventually, they're a lot of trouble. Just promise me that you won't rush into anything."

Her cheeks felt hot. "Mama, I just met him…! Besides, I have no interest in boys!" Not Hero! Not Soul either!

…though she couldn't quite say why she'd thought of the albino.

"That's good." Her mama sounded so relieved. "I know that you've been really worried about getting a partner, but, it's worked out, hasn't it?"

Maka could only smile. "Yes!" She nodded, digging in. She spared a look over at the other side of the table and… "Mama…?"

"Yes?" Her mother's plate had a lot less than hers on it even though she'd only just sat down to eat. It was their favorite too.

"Is Papa joining us?" She tried not to look too much at her mama as she asked. For some reason, she felt scared of the answer.

"…he's working late tonight, sweetie." It was an answer she'd heard before.

Maka couldn't quite bring herself to believe it this time though.


It was with much reluctance that, the very next day, she headed towards the office of Death himself. It was more than a little intimidating despite the fact she'd been brought here more than a few times on 'Bring Your Daughter To Work Day'. She couldn't help, but giggle a bit remembering playing Hide-and-Seek with her father here.

He'd totally made it all up, just so he could spend time with her…

"Papa?" She called, shuffling nervously forward. She didn't know why she was so worried. It was just as she remembered from when she was younger. Guillotines overhead, little puffy white clouds despite it being indoors, and grave markers everywhere… it wasn't anything out of the ordinary.

"Oho~ Maka-chan! It's been too long!"

Ack! "S-shinigami-sama!" She bowed immediately, as low as she could go.

"Now now, there's no need for so much formality! Though, it does feel nice to be treated with respect~" Lord Death himself loomed over the small girl… with the handle a small tea-cup pinched between his enormous thumb and index finger. He even had his pinkie sticking out. "Are you here to join us?~" He gestured over to where it appeared several girls even younger than her were having a tea party.

"Uhm." How was she supposed to respond to that? Also, had someone superglued a bow to his mask? That was cute! "No. I was looking for-"

"What a shame! You used to love having tea parties with me~! I remember back then, Maka-chan bawled her eyes out when-" Alright, the last thing she needed was for her headmaster bringing up a bunch of embarrassing old memories!

"S-shinigami-sama!" Her voice cracked a little. She coughed into her hand. "I'm a student here now." She didn't want to lecture him, but… She wasn't a baby anymore!

"Hmmm? Well, I always saw you as a student, Maka-chan! Also such a hard worker, and so eager to learn!" What a difficult person to deal with. She didn't envy her papa… even if it felt nice to be complimented.

"Do you know where my Papa is?" If she stayed here, who knows what she'd get dragged into…!

"Ooh… let me check." The Shinigami went quiet for a moment. "Ah. He's on the roof. Smoking, I believe."

Maka nodded, grateful. "Uhm… t-thank you for your time, sir!"

"Feel free to ask for help whenever you need it, Maka-chan!" The Shinigami then proceeded to tip the tea cup against his mask as though he was drinking from it. He even made a slurping sound as he did so. "It's excellent, ladies!" The Lord of Death called to the children. He then turned and moved back over to join them at the table.


"Papa?" She found him right where Shinigami-sama had said, staring off at nothing and smoking. She hadn't even known he still did.

"Maka?" Almost without thinking, he was stomping it out though and waving his hand to disperse the smoke. "Stay back!" He thrust a finger at her, making her pause mid-step. She'd never seen him so serious.

Almost a minute later, he nodded. "Alright. The smoke's gone now. I won't have my daughter picking up a bad habit like this."

She tried not to, but she laughed. "Papa." She smiled as she moved to stand beside him. "I wouldn't. Mama would kill me."

Her father didn't say much after that, simply staring off into the distance. She peered over at him and wondered what would cause her silly Papa to wear such a serious face. It didn't suit him. She didn't like it. Even if he was annoying, she preferred him that way.

She reached up and tugged at her pigtail. "Did you hear? I have a partner now."

"You do?!" Her father's mood seemed to do a complete one-eighty. "That's wonderful! What's her name!"

Maka immediately regretted having told him. "…H…Hero…"

"Hero, huh? That's a really cute name! I mean, I'm sure she's-…she's…" As he trailed off, Maka could feel the sweat forming on her brow.

"Papa?" Please, please, be normal about this…

"I'll have a nice conversation with the boy about what I expect from him." Of course, normal didn't ever come into the picture with her Papa when the topic of her and boys came up.

"Please! I've finally got a partner! If you mess this up for me-!" Maka would not have him scaring off the one meister she'd gotten to even talk to her. "-I'll never talk to Papa again!" It was the kind of thing she'd said to him a hundred times.

This time though… w-why did her Papa look so scared?

"…r-right, sweetheart…" He sounded so… small. Where was the panic? The tears?

Why was her Papa acting so reasonable? That wasn't right!

"…I-I didn't mean it, stupid Papa…" She turned her head away, feeling a little guilty now as her bottom lip disobeyed her and poked out further and further.

Next thing she knew, she was being hugged. Tight. Her father's head on her shoulder. "…P-papa?"

He didn't say anything… which wasn't helping to make her worries go away. When he pulled back, he was smiling the same as he always did. "Maka. I have faith that anyone you pick as a partner will be wonderful. And if they're not, Papa will set them straight." He stuck out his pinkie. "Papa won't ever go back on his word!"

She almost snorted. Almost. He'd made this kind of promise before and broken it. Still, she wrapped her pinkie around his, still refusing to look at him. "You better."

"Am I interrupting?" Hearing a familiar voice, Maka yanked her hand back from her Papa's. "Hero! What are you doing here?" Really, what are you doing here. Did this boy not realize how much more complicated he was making this day being here?!

Her partner was such a pain in the neck.

"I heard that you were headed up here and figured that… I'd…uh." Hero was sweating… which wasn't a surprise given the look he was getting from her Papa.

She stomped, hard, on the redhead's foot. "Papa~!" She was all smiles as she looked up at him. "This is the partner I was telling you about!"

She could see the intense debate going on in his head as he looked between them before offering a pained smile to her meister and offering his hand to the boy. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"An honor to meet you too, sir! I'm a real fan of your work!" Hero took her father's hand… and winced.

Her father was crushing her meister's hand in some primal display of masculinity. She sighed and reached for her book.

"Maaaakkkkaaa…!"

"CHOP."

Her Papa tried his best. A real shame it was never good enough.

Chapter Text

She'd been looking forward to this day.

Why? Because-!

"I hope that everyone's studied. You'll all have an hour to complete the test. Any incomplete answers will get zero points, so if you get stuck on a hard one it's better to move on to the next." Her hands practically shook as she accepted the sheet of paper that their teacher was handing out.

"Good luck, Maka." Hero, now sat to her right, was nice to say that.

"Thanks. You too." She didn't want to admit that she was more worried about his performance than hers. While they'd had a couple of study sessions, it was clear some of the more technical things went over his head. He would try his hardest though, that much Maka was certain of. That was the most she could ask from her right now. Sparing a look to her other side, she saw the albino eying the test with contempt. Given his attitude, she really doubted he'd studied. Still, he was her classmate. "Good luck, Soul."

"Heh?...Yeah, sure. You too." The albino fiddled with his headband. "I don't really need luck though."

Something about that bothered her, but. Well, she'd already spent enough time talking to him and she could feel Soul's meister glaring holes into the side of her head.

"Is everyone ready?" Nygus called from the front. "Alright…" She had a stopwatch in her hand. "Begin!"

The room filled with the sounds of pencil scratching as everyone took down their names. The scribbling noticeably died down just after though, as people slowed to read the questions and decipher the answer.

She didn't need to though. She'd learned all this stuff ages ago and spent the last week brushing up on it to make certain she hadn't forgotten anything.

That was right! She'd been prepping for Shibusen since before any of her classmates! It wasn't a stretch to say she'd been preparing for this moment her whole life.

"Teacher."

She, like many others, glanced the way of the student who had raised his hand and broken the silence. "I've finished."

What.

"That's excellent, Ox. Just lay it on my desk and wait outside until everyone else finishes." Nygus waved him along, seemingly not surprised by this.

Maka, meanwhile, was trying not to stare holes into the back of that bald head and failing. How could he have answered all of it so fast?! Well, it wasn't like it was impossible, but that left him no room to check over his answers! Even if he'd studied more than her, he couldn't be certain he hadn't made a single mistake!

Hmph.

Well, it wasn't anything for her to worry about.

She wasn't going to lose to some overconfident… baldie!


"Maka Albarn, right?"

She squeezed the book in her arms closer to her chest. "Yes." She fought hard to keep from glaring at the bald boy who had been waiting outside the classroom for everyone to finish. Even going as fast as she could, it had taken her until the last second to triple check over all her answers.

"Your mother…" He adjusted his glasses as he spoke. "…would you get me her autograph?"

She almost fell flat on her face. "I-I'm sorry?" That- What? He wanted- "Why do you want that?!"

"She's…the entire reason I became a meister!" The cool atmosphere around this boy seemed to give way to what she could only describe as 'hot-blooded guerilla-ness'. "Please, I would be eternally grateful!"

T-this guy… maybe he wasn't so bad… a little creepy, but anyone that could see that her mother was the best meister in Shibusen couldn't be all bad. "I'll, uhm, bring it up to her-"

"Ox Ford! Or, just Ox, and she can sign it however she likes!" Something told her that unless she got this autograph from him, she'd find herself being stalked around the school until she did.

"O-okay." She glanced around, wishing Hero was around to at least provide some kind of buffer between her and…whatever this was.

"Thank you!" The bowing he was doing now was just embarrassing. "It's my goal to surpass her!"

And, just like that, he'd gone from 'creep' to 'competition'. "…sorry, but." She bawled her hands into fists as she looked him square in his goofy glasses. "The one to surpass my mama will be me."

All his excitement and goofiness seemed to melt away with that and he was standing tall again, more than a full head higher than her. She fought the urge to stand on the tips of her toes. "Pardon me, but, that isn't really possible, is it?"

Oh. He'd gone there. He'd really gone there, hadn't he?

"It is." She ground out, wondering how much trouble she would get in if she just decked him right there.

"Hmph." He adjusted his glasses once again. Did he think that made him seem smart? It didn't. "I guess we'll see."

"Yeah! We will!" Maka knew how childish that sounded but did not care and was going to prove it and shove it right into this baldie's stupid face.


"Can you believe he said that!? 'That isn't really possible, is it'? Isn't that… discrimination!?" She could report this kind of thing, couldn't she?

"Maka-chan, that's going a bit far." Tsubaki was always there to calm her down. Bless her.

"Just because I'm a stupid weapon, he thinks he's sooo great-!" She stomped down the hall. "And he finishes his test that fast and thinks he has a good grade? I bet he didn't even check his spelling!" She turned at the end and stomped back. "I'll crush him!" She clenched her fist. "He'll be begging for my signature when I'm done with him!"

Tsubaki placed her hands on her shoulders. "Come on. What you need right now is a nice meal." The taller girl pushed her along, but she couldn't let it go. Not when all she could think about was how badly she wanted to knock his teeth out.

"At least let me put gum on his shoes!"

"Maka-chan, there are times when you have to be the bigger person."

"Being the bigger person stinks!"

"Yes."


If there was one bad part about test-taking, Maka realized the following morning, it was the wait to be graded. She'd hardly been able to sleep at all.

And she still had almost a whole week left before scores were posted.

"Maka. Are you doing okay." It was a question even if it wasn't phrased like one. Her eyes darted over to look at the blonde boy she had come to call her meister. Something about her stare seemed to unnerve him.

"I'm fine. How are you?" His concern was flattering, but unnecessary.

"Well, actually…" Oh. He was talking. He was talking a lot. Something, something about his new hair product and fashion. It was a little… well. She didn't dislike having a partner who was more 'hip' to the things she wasn't, but the way he went on and on about it… it wasn't very manly, was it?

"…r-right, sorry, Maka." Eh? Why was he apologizing? …she hadn't said that out loud, had she?!

"N-no, I'm sorry, Hero." She mentally kicked herself. Repeatedly. "I think your sense of style is…" Uhm, what could she say about it? Think! "It's very trendy!" That was something people said, wasn't it?

Her meister sat there, staring at her for a full minute, before… "Of course!" Sweeping his hair off his face, sparkling as though he'd suddenly been dipped in glitter. "The important thing though isn't to follow the trends though, Maka! It's to set them yourself! If you come with me after school, we could do something about…"

Her hand reflexively reached for the nearest text book.

"W-what I mean is-" Oh, had he noticed? Fast learner, her partner. "-we just need to get you some clothes that show off your good qualities. You're pretty cute, Maka!"

There she went, fumbling her book and dropped it onto the head of the student sitting below her. If things like this kept happening, everyone would think she was clumsy!

Had a boy ever called her 'cute' before? Did he mean it? Was he just trying to keep her from doing what he'd seen happen to her Papa? Probably. Knowing that wasn't enough to diminish the nice feeling in her chest or cool her warm cheeks.

"Cute? You know, that's some real avant-garde taste you have there, Hero." That drawl could belong to just one person.

It was almost amazing how quickly her joy turned to irritation as she whipped around to glare at him and his stupid face. "Soul." Her hand inched for another book. "Explain to me how I'm 'avant-garde'."

He snorted. "…should ask that 'trendy' meister of yours, bookworm." Then, he yawned at her. At any other time, she would have focused on his razor-sharp looking teeth.

Maka was certain he was teasing her.

"Maaaaaakkaaa….!"


She took more satisfaction than she would have liked to admit in how in his last few moments, her fellow scythe's usual cool expression showed only fear and regret.

Five days left.

Gym class again.

"He's a gorilla. A really small, angry, stupid gorilla." Maka's assessment of Black*Star, while harsh, was fair in her eyes.

As long as the rules were simple and he was kept from cheating, the ninja who claimed he would surpass God remained comfortably at the top of all of their evaluations. The only one who came even close to him was a quiet boy in glasses by the name of Kilik, but even then it was always a narrow victory for the louder of the two.

"Well, I'm not going to say I know him well enough to say he's not that…" Tsubaki laughed nervously, though it was always apparent how proud she was of her meister. With her as his constant support, he'd even managed to earn the envy of practically every boy in their class. "But. He works really work though. Harder than anyone, I think."

They'd started doing pull-ups almost half an hour ago and he was still doing them. At this point, it wasn't even about the evaluation and was going for a school record some other gorilla had set several years back.

"ONE HUNDRED." His cry was almost deafening and, with some reluctance, a few people even clapped as he dropped from the bar. It was impressive. Had it been Nygus doing the assessment, he might have even been praised for it. Unfortunately, it was…

"Congratulations. It's too bad that on that last one you didn't go all the way down so it didn't count." Sid must have been tough to have as a parent.

"What?! I totally did!" And she had no idea how hard it must've been to have Black*Star for a child.

"If you'd like to try again, we'll have to start over from one since you let go without me telling you to." Were they really going to have to watch Black Star do that again?

"Ugh! This is a waste of time, old-man! What's up your ASS-" She winced as the boy was downed with one hard chop from their teacher's clipboard.

"Because, I said at the start that if you did twenty then you were finished so everyone else had a turn. If you're going to waste their time, I'm going to waste your time. No special treatment, that's the kind of man I am."

Harsh.

It was almost cute how much the ninja-boy was sulking as he clomped over to his weapon. "He's stupid. And dumb. He just doesn't want me to break his stupid record, but just wait. Next time, I'll do two hundred." Alright, that actually was pretty cute…

A second later, she bit the inside of her cheek to keep from screaming that she'd somehow associated 'cute' with Black*Star.

"Maka!" Hero was there to pull her from her thoughts before she had a complete mental breakdown.

"Hero? Done already?" Sid did seem to be rushing people along now that they had half the time they should have thanks to his son's stunt.

With a proud smile, her meister gave her a thumbs-up. "I did one!"

…'one'. Forcing a smile in return was one of the hardest things she'd ever done and she applauded quietly.

"Hurraaaaaay."


The weekend passed uneventfully.

It wasn't anything unusual. She had better things to do with her time than go out with friends.

Yeah.

She did try to go see a movie based on her favorite book, but apparently it required parental supervision.

She was pretty sure after what she'd done, she wasn't allowed back at that movie theater anymore.

Just two days left now.

"Maka? Can you stay for a bit?" She'd almost been out the door when Nygus had called for her. Ignoring the peanut gallery's 'Ooooh's', she hung back and watched the pretty woman shuffle some papers around her desk.

"How are you liking it here? At Shibusen?" Nygus's question was simple enough.

Unfortunately, answering was… "…it's fun." She did mean that. "Coming to class. Training. Getting to see my friend…s." Hero counted as a friend too, didn't he? "Sometimes, though…" A lot of the time, actually.

"Sometimes, you wish you weren't a weapon." Her thought was finished for her and her head snapped up. "A lot of people feel that way." She shuffled uncomfortably at her teacher's words. "It's not really clear what dictates whether the weapon gene will be active or not." With who her Papa was, she'd always known she'd had it. "Families like Tsubaki-chan's… well, some say that the blood runs stronger in theirs than most. They're almost guaranteed to have a child that turns out to be a weapon."

As uncomfortable as the topic was, she couldn't say she wasn't interested. "So… I just had some bad luck?" She didn't know how else to put it.

"Bad luck…no. What I'm trying to say is, there have been plenty of students like you that awoke to that power who weren't prepared for it." It was different though, wasn't it? She had wanted to be a Meister. Wanted to be a part of this as something else. "They might have had their whole lives planned out. Some of them might have wanted to be musicians. Or artists. Or hadn't even known what they were going to be, but wanted to figure it out. Then, one day, they start sprouting big hunks of metal where their limbs used to be."

Maka pulled at her pigtail, looking anywhere but at her teacher as she spoke.

"…what I'm trying to say is, there are other people who feel the same as you do. Felt the same way you do." Her teacher's hand coming to rest on her shoulder made her whole body lock up. "And, even if it doesn't seem like it's something you want now, give it some time."

A little reluctantly, she peered up at her teacher. "It just feels so unfair." She managed to get out.

"I know, Maka. I know."


"Maka!"

Gah! She'd almost made it out the school's doors too! Did her Papa have a tracking device on her or something?!

She was going to check her things later.

"Yes, Papa?" She'd made it through the final, agonizing day of class and all she wanted to do was go home and go to bed. The wait for grades to be posted was almost over. "If you don't have something important to say, I'm going home."

"Now, now. At least give him a chance to say the wrong thing before you get mad." Her eyes widened and she spun around to see-

"Mama! Papa! You're… together?" What was going on? She didn't dislike this situation, but something about it put her on edge.

The two only laughed at her in response. "Our daughter's so paranoid." "She gets that from you." "I wonder why I would be the suspicious type." "Erp." Their back and forth had her head snapping from one to the other.

It was almost, almost, like things were back to normal.

"What are you two up to?" And, because of that, she only became more suspicious.

Her parents exchanged a look.

"Maka, it isn't good to think so little of your mother." The disappointment in her mother's voice was enough to cause her actual physical pain.

"Yeah! Don't think little of her!" Her dad made a better cheerleader than Tsubaki.

"I'd understand if it was just your father, but…" Her mama shook her head, feigning despair. She saw right through it, but it being her mother made her desperate to stop it anyway.

"Yeah!...wait a minute." And her Papa… sigh.

She couldn't stop herself from giggling though.

"Maka, Mama and I were thinking… there's a movie playing based on that book you like so much, isn't there?" They must have seen the advertisements for it.

Shuffling her feet, her hand found one of her pigtails and she gave it a little tug. "I tried to go see it." Tried. "They wouldn't let me in." It was a struggle to keep from pouting.

"Mnn… if it's something Maka shouldn't be seeing then-" Her Papa was silenced as his foot was crushed under her Mama's heel. "R-right! If Maka is able to read it, she should be able to watch it! That's common sense!"

She was glad one of her parents had common sense.

"Well, did you want to go?" She didn't even need to think about her mother's question.

"Yes!...will, uhm… bo-both of you be coming?" Her Mama took hold of her right hand and her Papa her left.

"Of course!" "There's nowhere Papa would rather be!" Her parents were really making a show of this, weren't they?

"C-come on, let's go! Everyone's staring! They're gonna think I'm a little kid…" As much as she complained, she couldn't bring herself to let go though.


It was here. After all this time, it was finally here!

"I want everyone to take a good look at where they placed. Think about what got you that score and how you can improve on it or keep it where it is."

She swallowed and started from the very bottom. The first name she saw was something of a surprise.

"HEY!" She glanced over to see her fellow scythe on his feet. "Why am I deadlast?!" He had seemed awfully sure of himself.

"Because. Cheating is an automatic failure." Their beautiful teacher tilted her head to the side and smiled sweetly as she said as much.

Ouch. She'd caught him and not even told him to stop? Sid was harsh enough as is, but Nygus was a whole other level. She must have been right to because the boy beside her slumped into his chair, defeated, while his partner looked understandably pissed.

Tsubaki was in the upper half of the class and she sent a smile her friend's way. It wasn't near the top, but she looked pleased with where she'd pleased.

She could feel her heartbeat pick up as she scanned higher and higher for her name. When she finally reached the final three. This was it.

She wasn't third. Good.

He wasn't second though.

It couldn't be-

1 st : Maka Albarn & Ox Ford

She stared at it for what felt like an eternity.

When she looked towards the bespectacled boy, he was already staring her way. Even through the lenses of his glasses, she could tell there was fire in those eyes. The same one blazing in her own.

After class, she and he met again outside. They both took each other's hands and gave each other a firm shake.

Words weren't needed at this point.

They were rivals now.

Until the day they died.

…or, well, at least until they graduated.


The results weren't quite what she'd been hoping for, but she'd still placed first in her first ever real test. Tried as she might to contain her excitement, she found herself skipping down the steps of Shibusen that afternoon.

It was true that things had been hard, and that she'd have to study a lot more now to keep from falling behind, but she'd taken Nygus's words to heart. If she gave it some time, she might come to like being a weapon. If she did well enough, maybe she could even be a teacher like her?

When one door closes, another one opens, right?

"Mama!" She probably didn't need to be that loud as she came through the front door. "I got my test results!" If Papa had already told her and taken that chance, she was going to clobber him herself.

She waited and waited, but got no reply.

"Mama?"

Chapter Text

She remembered how she'd felt when she figured out Santa Claus wasn't real before all the other kids. First, she'd felt smart. Knowing something that others didn't, that others didn't want her to know, had made her feel like she was ahead of the curb. It was something she still liked feeling. After that though, there had been a little confusion. The why of the lie about some magical man coming down their chimney in the middle of the night and eating the cookies she and Mama had spent the previous day making. Then, most of all, there'd been hurt…and regret. Learning something like that had soured her on all the excitement she had used to feel now that she knew it was just a man in a costume and that it was just her parentsputting her presents there.

Black*Star still believed. She couldn't imagine how angry he should be if he found out that the person leaving all that coal he got each year was actually Sid. Even now though, he wrote out entire scrolls demanding everything imaginable and had them delivered to what he thought was the North Pole. It hadn't taken her long to figure out that the kids who didn't know the truth, who weren't aware of what was really going on, were happier than she was.

Ignorance is bliss.

When she'd found out that Mama had left, she hadn't really understood. She'd just gone out with her and Papa. She'd seemed so happy. The more she thought about it, the more she realized what was going on though. Making her favorite for dinner. The movie. All of it was to try to soften this blow. Her mother had been planning this for a while. It might have even been before they'd found out she was a weapon.

The letter she'd left hadn't made her feel any better. All of her apologizing didn't make up for the fact their home was broken. All of her explanations didn't make what she'd done any more excusable.

The worst part of it all is that it felt so wrong of her to be upset at her mama. She was the one who had been cheated on.

She couldn't even describe how she felt towards her Papa. It was his fault Mama was gone. It was his fault she was a weapon. Because of what he'd done, her whole life was ruined.

She'd almost, almost skipped school the following day.

It was all she had left though.

She must not have been doing a good job of hiding her feelings, not that she was really trying, given the looks she was getting. That or the news of her parents' divorce had traveled through the school already.

Her partner wasn't exactly helping.

"It might just be a temporary thing, Maka." Hero was wrong. She could tell from the letter that this wasn't some kind of 'we need to be apart from a little while' thing. Her mother had made that very clear. "Your dad doesn't seem like that bad of a guy." He was. "It'll all work out. Trust me."

Idiot.

She didn't bother responding, only gripping her desk until her knuckles had turned white. Eventually, he seemed to get the picture and turned away.

"…parents are the worst, huh?" She heard from her other side. She spared a glance at the boy who should have been her partner saying the things that the one who was should've.

"Yeah." She managed to get out, forcing her voice not to crack.


Maka was pretty sure that the Dojo wasn't supposed to be open to NOT students, at least not this early, but sure enough that's where their gym class was being spent that day.

"Alright, pair-up! We're doing some sparring today! We'll be going until someone is either unable to continue or the other party surrenders!" Nygus called out, the woman's eyes briefly moving to meet hers.

Was this some kind of special treatment? Let her pick someone and beat the crap out of them so she felt better?

…well, it wasn't like she didn't want to punch someone in the face right now.

The problem was finding someone willing. She would have loved to knock Soul's snooty partner off her high horse… and also probably a few of her teeth out. Unfortunately, that girl seemed fine picking out one of their weaker classmates. Coward.

"Maka-chan?" Tsubaki's voice made it sound like she was disarming a bomb.

She knew what the sweet girl was going to ask. Whenever there was something to partner up for, she always offered. She didn't really want to hurt her one real friend here at the school though. As usual though, there weren't a whole lot of other options for her. The boys didn't want anything to do with her and the other girls knew she was better.

"…thanks." Where would she be without the kunoichi's constant support?

The match itself was going about as she'd expected. All of the training that her now absentee mother had put her through was paying off, her practice only helping to make her moves that much more polished. It made her feel sort of bad fighting Tsubaki. She was good, real good, however she kept making the same clumsy mistakes. She'd step in a little too much and leave herself open or be too timid with her offense leaving her spending most of the match defending herself.

It was a hell of a way to blow off steam though. Each blow that she did land was, though a bit shameful to admit, satisfying. All the feelings that had been bubbling just under the surface felt like they were going to come out. She could hear her mother's voice reading her letter. Hear her father sobbing in his bedroom rather than coming to comfort her.

Her fist connected a little harder than she'd meant.

She stared down at her classmate, at her friend, who was sat on the ground now clutching her cheek. That would be more than just a little bruise. Anger changed to panic and fear so quickly she wouldn't have been surprised if she had some kind of emotional whiplash. "T-tsubaki-chan-!" Nononono-!

"It's alright, Maka-chan." Tsubaki's voice was calm, almost serene, smiling up at her like nothing was wrong. It was kind of unnerving how unbothered she looked.

If she hadn't been so freaked out, she probably would have heard the heavy steps clomping towards her. Instead, she only realized that someone was coming towards her when a pair of strong hands grabbed the front of her gi and she was being hoisted off the ground.

"What the HELL are you doing to my partner!" Black*Star's voice was always loud, but never this angry.

Maka had never seen him like this before. All of his usual tantrums were easy enough to brush off, but this was like a rabid dog. "I-i-it-!" She tried to get out, but he looked ready to snap her in two.

"It was an accident!" Tsubaki was on her feet, reaching for her partner.

"Have to pick on a real weapon because you're weak?" Ow. She hadn't ever thought that Black*Star even had the brain power to craft such a good insult. "If you're going to keep getting in everyone's way, why don't you-" He continued right on.

"Black*Star-!" Tsubaki looked like she was trying to stop him, but it wasn't enough.

"-just quit!" He finished, dropping her on her feet.

She stood there, aware of how quiet everything had gotten and all the eyes on her.

"Black*Star!" Their teacher came running over to reprimand him, but that wouldn't undo what she'd done or what he'd said.

She made herself as small as she could for the rest of class. She wanted to be forgotten by her classmates so she wouldn't have to have their eyes on her. Their usual sneers had been replaced by something far worse, by something she didn't want to put a name to.

She waited just outside the girl's locker room, hoping to catch her one and only real friend as she stepped out. She had to explain to her that she hadn't meant to hit her like that. Tsubaki would understand, wouldn't she? She always understood.

Patient, kind, and honest Tsubaki! This would all be water under the bridge!

After a few minutes, her anxiety started to get the better of her and she peeked her head in. "Hello?" She searched every stall and found the whole place empty. If she wasn't in the bathroom, then… She headed back to the dojo and moved to open the door but managed to stop herself in time when she heard voices within.

"It hurt?"

"A-a little…"

"Tch. You're way too delicate! You need to be tougher, like me!"

Peeking in, she saw the ninja weapon and her meister seated together with Black*Star of all people applying first aid. He didn't seem to be doing a great job of it.

"You shouldn't keep doing this." Black*Star still sounded pretty angry.

"D-doing what?" Tsubaki didn't seem to be hurting. She sounded more… sad? Worried?

"Losing on purpose is one thing, but if you're gonna start letting her beat you up too…" …? What was Black*Star talking about? Losing on purpose?

"I-idon't-" Tsubaki sounded even more scared now.

"Hmph! Don't think that you can fool the great Black*Star!" Uh, yeah. It wasn't that hard. "You were holding back in your match, weren't you?"

Wait. What?

"N-no, I was-" Tsubaki started, only for her meister to roughly jab her bruised cheek with his index finger causing her to yelp.

Black*Star's expression was uncommonly serious now. "You're gonna start lying to me now?" His words were oddly subdued, and his partner seemed to deflate.

There was a nauseous feeling building up in Maka's stomach now.

"She's just been going through a lot." Tsubaki managed after a while. "She's… a nice person, and if I… if she got to feel a little bit better than maybe-" She whined as her partner pinched her bruised cheek. "O-owww! I-I'm sorry! I just-! Maka-chan-!"

"If she can't make the cut, then she can't make the cut. She doesn't need someone taking pity on her." Black*Star hadn't ever been the type to beat around the bush.

It made sense, now that Maka thought about it. Tsubaki was trained as a kunoichi and was the heir to a famous line of weapons. Wasn't it sort of strange that she never seemed to do well in gym class? The clues were all there. The fact she always placed in nearly the same position and never seemed bothered about how well or poorly she did.

All this time, she'd just been thinking that her training to be a meister had placed her in a league of her own. In truth, the one person she'd thought was her friend was just…

Her stomach did a flip and she ran away before she could hear any more, back to the bathroom so she didn't make a mess.

When she… finished, she spent several minutes washing her mouth out. Her friend had lied to her. Lied. Pretended to be something she wasn't. For her sake. Did that make it better? The more she thought about it, the more her stomach hurt and the harder she found herself gripping the sink.

Was Tsubaki even really her friend? Or, was she just taking pity on the girl that no one else liked? She was nice enough to do that. Were all those times they spent together just some… charity?

'Oh, look at this girl. She's such a terrible weapon. I should do what I can to boost her fragile little ego.' She could hear the words in the older girl's voice.

It was wrong and that wasn't like Tsubaki at all and- still, it was just another lie thrown on top of all the others-

Hero.

It occurred to her rather suddenly, like her brain was throwing out a life saver so she wouldn't drown in her own feelings. That was right. She had her meister. She didn't need anyone else, did she? She was a weapon which meant…

She just needed to find Hero and talk things out with him and she'd feel better, wouldn't she?

She moved fast, her quick steps being just enough to keep all the bad thoughts that were hot on her heels out of reach. Where would her meister even be right now? Where did he go when he wasn't at class or gym or at one of their agreed upon meetings?

Had she ever asked what he spent his time doing?

Before she could think about that thought too much, she rounded a corner to see him chatting it up with a few boys in their class beside his locker. "Hero-!" She started, moving towards him.

"She's a real nag, you know?"

His words made her feet heavy and the most she was able to do was drag herself behind the corner of the lockers to listen in.

"I bet. I don't know how you can put up with her. She's always throwing some kind of fit or acting like she's hot stuff." She didn't recognize who was talking, but he was getting punched later.

Hero chuckled. "Well, it's not like she's all bad." She gripped her skirt, his words calming the thumping of her heart a little. "I mean, her father's the Death Scythe. Even if she's a second-rate weapon, as long as I stick with her, I'll eventually get some cushy position here at Shibusen, won't I?"

The other boys made various 'oooohs' as though they were making some great realization. "Damn. You're pretty smart, aren't you?" Another boy whose face and name she hadn't bothered to learn piped up.

"Well, I don't like to brag." Hero sounded particularly smug. "With a little hard work, anyone can live the good life. You just have to be willing to put up with people like her."

She leaned back against the lockers and sank down until she was almost curled into a ball. She had always thought that she was a pretty good partner. She'd always given it her all and demanded the same from her partner, hadn't she? So, why was he saying things like that? Had it always been about who her Papa was?


She didn't bother going to class the next day, the day after that, or the day after that. Occasionally, she heard someone knock at her door but she just buried herself further into the cocoon of blankets and pillows she had made for herself.

All her life, she had wanted to be a meister of Shibusen. To be a member of the same place that her Mama had. Even after she'd found out she was a weapon, she'd still thought that she'd still find her place there. A partner as brilliant as her Mama. Friends.

Instead, everything had just… come apart. Like one of her old toys. The seams had been worn down more and more until, finally, her life had burst into a pile of miserable fluff and tattered dreams.

She had a meister, but she was just a means to an end for him. She had friends, but they pitied her. She had a parent, but she had left taking everything that really mattered to her.

And she hadn't been one of those things.

She curled in on herself, wondering if she did so tightly enough if she'd manage to shut the outside world and everything about it out completely if she did. She wanted to stop herself from thinking. To stop feeling. It would be better if it all just stopped.

"Maka? I'm coming in." There was her Papa again and he didn't seem willing to accept 'NO' as answer this time.

So much for that. She heard her door opening and shut, the quiet, nervous steps towards the bed, and finally the nervous shuffling of a spineless man.

"…how are you doing?" How did it look like she was doing? "…right, stupid question." Well, at least he could tell that much. "I heard that you're doing well in all your classes." Of course! "Especially Gym." What a talent her father had for saying the exact thing to make her feel worse. "And Hero? I'm sure that he's been missing you. Tsubaki too."

Shutupshutupshutup…

"If your Mama was here-"

"SHUT UP!" It was a line he shouldn't have crossed and he should have known that. She threw off the covers to glare at her father. Stubbled, jacketless, bags under his eyes… "It's your fault that Mama's not here!" She beat her fists against her blanket as she shouted, almost screamed, the words at him. "You only ever thought about yourself! And now… and now she's gone!" She beat her fists down again. "I can't even be a meister! And it's all your fault!" Her chest felt tight.

"I wish you weren't my Papa!"

The words seemed to linger in the room, longer after she said them. She tensed as her father reached out towards her, gripping fistfuls of her blanket. She couldn't flee without making an idiot of herself, but she didn't know how he'd respond to hearing that. She half-expected him to break down like he had every night since her Mama had left.

Instead, he laid his hand atop her head and, in a soft and unusually composed voice, "I love you, Maka."

He reached out and put his arms around her, pulling her into a tight embrace. Her immediate response was to try to jerk away but found his grip far too strong. "L-let me go! Let-!" She beat her fists against him, using every ounce of the strength she had. For once, her father did not budge. "Let me go d-dammit!" Cursing felt strange, especially at her father. She was desperate though. He wouldn't listen to her. He never listened. Instead, he just pulled her closer and he found her face buried in his increasingly wet shirt.

He didn't though. No matter how much she beat on him or shouted or sobbed. Her Papa always tried to look his nicest, for the ladies, and here she was getting snot all over it.

Chapter Text

"I won't."

"Maka-"

"I won't!" She wondered why her Papa couldn't just drop it. He'd been trying to get her to go back to class for more than a week now and her answer hadn't changed. She didn't want to see any of her classmates. Not her partner who hadn't come by once. Not Tsubaki who kept checking in on her out of pity.

"…alright." Her father, as usual, caved to her demands… though he still insisted on bringing her classwork home for her. The stack of paperwork on her desk got higher day by day and it was taking every ounce of her self-restraint not to tear into it. She didn't want to get sucked back into going to school, into people pretending to like her, into everything she was trying to hide away from.

She'd never thought of herself as a coward before, but, the only person left on her side was, of all people, her Papa. It was enough to make her want to laugh. The very person she blamed for her situation was the one going out of their way to take care of her and she couldn't even bring herself to thank him for any of it.

If he was a terrible Papa, then she was a terrible daughter, wasn't she?

Something had to be wrong with her, looking forward to when her Papa came home from work. He'd never been much of a cook, so the take-out boxes were everywhere. At this rate, she was going to get fat, wasn't she? It wasn't like she needed to be fit or anything, since she was just a weapon.

Groaning, she threw the book she'd been reading across the room. No matter what she did, how much she tried to distract herself, it always came back to that. She'd gone out of her way, reading every book she could on the topic to see if there was anything that she could do to change that.

Most books on curing her condition were written by nut-bags that seemed to think that people like her were some kind of affront to nature. Prayer wasn't going to fix her. The few others she found didn't really get into the subject of changing it, but more its origin and even that was vague because of Shibusen making the information forbidden to research. The last thing they needed were regular people figuring out how to turn themselves into demon weapons.

Unless she wanted to steal her Papa's ID and checked out a bunch of books on classified information, she wasn't going to get any closer to the answers she wanted. If it even existed. As tempting as that was, she very much doubted she'd be able to do that without being caught by someone or questioned.

To put it simply: She was screwed.

"Maka?" She looked towards the door, her father peeking in looking only a little more concerned than he always did nowadays. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Papa. You should ask the stupid book, not me." She pulled a pillow from behind her to hug tightly, crushing the life out of it in her arms.

"R-right." His eyes were darting back and forth. "Maka-" She knew where this was going…

"You already told me to go back to school today Papa." Not a chance.

"No, not school." Her Papa shook his head and pushed the door open more so he could lean on the door frame, smiling. "Why don't you go out tomorrow? Staying cooped up all day isn't going to help."

Go out? "…why? All my books are here." She knew she was being difficult. That didn't mean she was going to stop though. She was perfectly happy here in her room! She had absolutely everything she could need!

Her father walked in, picking up her abused book, and stroked it. "Look at this poor thing! You've thrown it so much its spine is bent! I can almost hear it crying out!" He sniffed dramatically.

"Tch." She looked away. It was the book's own fault.

"I'm not going to force you." Her Papa set the book down and stepped over to her desk, leaving… t-that was a lot of money! "You might be able to get a few new ones this way. If nothing else, you're not gonna learn anything new just reading the same old books again, are you?"

Who had given her Papa permission to have a point!? And one she couldn't argue with?! This was against the rules! She fought the urge to kick her feet or throw something at him. Instead, she just turned her head away with her using all her willpower to keep her bottom lip from poking out. "Fine. I'll go out."

She didn't have high hopes for how it would go.


Maka was not dumb. At least, she liked to think that she wasn't. If she went out with her usual look, she ran the risk of being recognized by the exact people she'd been trying her hardest to avoid. So, she'd borrowed one of her Papa's old hoodies, traded in the skirt for a pair of shorts, and forgone her usual pigtails and instead tucked her hair into a baseball cap. She was completely, totally unrecognizable. The one downside to this was-

"Pardon me little boy!"

Another stranger brushed past her, completely getting the wrong idea. It was nice that she wasn't recognizable, but somehow wasn't this disguise too effective?! "Tch-" She was about to correct them, but spotted a few familiar faces behind coming out of a nearby store and caught herself in time. "-it's…fine." She ground out, keeping her voice as boyish as she could manage. Her bad mood probably helped with that.

She rushed into her favorite bookstore, moving to tug up her hat to greet the nice woman who owned the place as she always did-

"Tsubaki! This place doesn't have a single comic book!"

-and just like that, her holy land had been invaded by the very worst.

He and his partner were standing among the cluttered book cases, her book cases, and looking for something. Black*Star had summed up better than she could have out of place he was in an establishment like this so she could only wonder what their reason for being there was. Tsubaki wasn't dumb but these books didn't seem her type. As was becoming an increasingly bad habit of hers, she moved to the next row over so she could listen in as she pretended to browse through the books.

"This isn't for us, Black*Star. We're trying to find a book to pick up Maka-chan's spirits."

She tensed and then moved closer to the bookshelf, almost pressing herself into it so she could listen closer to what the two were saying to each other.

"Why do we need to get her something? She's the one that's thrown in the towel!" Black*Star's words, while not wrong, didn't exactly do much to make her feel better.

"Because. Maka-chan's our friend, isn't she?" Tsubaki's tone didn't leave much room to argue with her. "You've known her longer than I have. I don't want the two of you fighting."

Black*Star snorted. "Just because I've known her since she was a baby doesn't mean I want to go around changing her diaper!"

Maka debated pushing over the bookshelf but decided against it if only because it would crush Tsubaki as well.

"Still. You were too hard on her. She might be having a hard time of it… and I know now I wasn't helping, but…!" Tsubaki's voice was probably a little louder than what was acceptable given their location. "She can be a splendid weapon! You know that as well as I do!"

As much as she tried to be angry at the girl, Maka found her eyes welling up hearing Tsubaki's sincere belief in her.

"…Y-Yeah." Black*Star sounded almost… regretful? "My heart's big too. I have room to forgive people, as long as they know what they did was wrong. I'll make sure that my pronouncements aren't too harsh for the commonfolk in the future too."

Maka fought a giggle. That was probably as close as Black*Star would come to apologizing for all he said. It didn't make the memory sting any less, but it certainly made the idea of going back to school sound more bearable. She probably should have stepped out and said something, but… i-if she did, they'd know she'd eavesdropped… The idea of Black*Star finding out she'd been listening in on his conversation was enough to make her stomach churn.

'Oh?! You were so desperate to hear from the great Black*Star that you were skulking around in the shadows?!'

That he was an actual ninja and that was what he trained to be able to do would probably go totally over his head if she pointed it out.

Yeah. No thanks.

"Good! Now, let's find a book for Maka-chan and head over there." Tsubaki could be pretty firm with her partner when she needed to, didn't she? It was kind of amazing to hear Black*Star grumble and shuffle about according to someone else's whim. Strangely, she got the distinct impression that the boy wasn't exactly unhappy with how she was acting…

She'd ask her Papa about that later. He understood people better than she or Mama ever had. It's probably what made him such a lady-killer.


She'd been wandering the streets for awhile now. Her encounter with Shibusen's loudest and somehow stealthiest duo had given her a lot to think about.

'A splendid weapon', huh? Wasn't that what she'd been working to be all this time? Trying her hardest to be?

"Are they saying I just have to keep at it…?" Tough it out and, eventually, she would be able to get past everyone's perception of her? "Or, is there something I'm not doing right…?" The more she thought about it, the more she couldn't see what she wasn't doing. There was a limit to how much she as just a weapon could really do on her own.

Her feet carried her through the winding streets of Death City. The further she got from her home, from Shibusen, the more at ease she felt. In the back of her mind, she wondered if this was what running away from home was. When she finally stopped, she was further from her home than she'd ever been before. The sun had long been replaced by the moon and, just going from its position, it was probably almost midnight. She was definitely going to be in trouble if she went home now.

The real question was if she even wanted to.

Sighing, she kept on walking. The road she was on seemed to be taking her towards some sort of abandoned building. If she was lucky, she might have been able to stay in there for the night… at least until her Papa inevitably found her and locked her in her room until she was forty. Upon closer inspection though, the building wasn't abandoned. Just a bit… well, there wasn't a better way to describe it than 'stitched together'. The uninviting structure looked like someone had sliced it to pieces and then taken a needle and thread to it. It was probably the Death City native in her, but she didn't find it all that unusual.

"'Cuze me."

The voice, being both unexpected and far closer than she would have liked, had her jumping and whipping her head in its direction. "W-what do you want?!" She would have liked it if her voice had sounded a bit more confident. She did feel a little more confident when she saw it belonged to someone a lot closer to her size than it had sounded like. Their attires were even similar. Dark attire, hood up, definitely trying not to be recognized and carrying a large box of-… toilet paper?

"Yer kind of in the way."

She looked around. There was plenty of space on either side of her. He could easily step around her if he wanted. Was he just being weird? She stepped to the side anyway, not really sure what this boy was about.

"Thanks."

He stepped past her, dropped his box down in front of the funny looking building, reached in to take one of the rolls, and then hurled it through the air so it unfurled over its ceiling.

Maka squawked. At least, that's what it sounded like to her. She clapped a hand over her mouth and immediately moved over to grab at the boy's arm mid-throw to stop him though she failed to do much more than get jerked forward as her own strength failed to match his. "What-! Why are you doing this!?" She caught herself, whispering angrily out of fear that whomever was in the building would wake up and find her out here with this weirdo.

"Huh? You aren't here to do something like this too?" He sounded genuinely confused and was not bothering to be quiet at all.

Alright, so, he was an idiot. "Why on earth would you think I'm here to…vandalize! Vandalize someone's house?! And keep your voice down-!" She wanted very much to hit him. He responded by gesturing at her clothes and she fought to keep from groaning. She did look like she was with him, didn't she? "That's- I just like these!"

He responded by angling his head down as though he was looking at her chest. She couldn't see his eyes, not with his hood-up, but it was not a familiar feeling and she immediately crossed her arms over it. "W-what are you looking at?"

The weirdo just shrugged and went back to his teepee-ing of what she was now sure was someone's home.

"Stop it! They'll… You'll get in trouble if they wake up!" Maka hated how childish the words sounded coming out of her.

"It's cool, he's out right now. I waited." He sounded awfully sure of himself. Still, that didn't make what he was doing okay. "So, what'cha doing out here? Isn't it past your bedtime?"

Was he really making conversation while he was committing a crime? Was he really insulting her while he did?

"Maaaakkkkaaa…!"

"CHOP."

She took a lot more pleasure in seeing him drop face-first onto the ground than she would ever admit. "You can't be much older than me!" She countered, given how short he was. "Also, that's none of your business!" How rude could someone be?!

"Gah, fuckin-" Her eyes widened. "-what the hell's your problem!?"

Maka shrunk back. She'd read plenty of books she wasn't supposed to at her age. Read plenty of words she couldn't ever think of saying out loud. This guy though… w-was saying them all so casually! He wasn't just some weirdo, but a full-on delinquent! "W-what's my pro-" Her voice shook more than she would have liked. "What's YOUR problem!" She forced it out, louder than she needed to, glaring at him. "I'm pretty sure you're breaking the law! You should… should… stop it!"

She was very persuasive.

She tensed as he grabbed a fistful of her top, hauling her up off her feet. "Hey! I am the law!"

This was a crazy person. She had picked a fight with a crazy person far from home and she was going to end up being murdered. She squeezed her eyes shut, apologizing to her Papa and to her Mama and to Tsubaki and to everyone else-!

Death never came though. She cracked open an eye, and she saw that the delinquent was back to hurling toilet paper at the strange building once more. Well, he wasn't a violent crazy person at least. She folded her hands behind her back and glared off at nothing in particular. "…so, why are you doing this?" She didn't really know why she was asking rather than running home away from this psycho.

She watched him stop, pausing to look back at her for several moments. He was probably considering whether or not to tell her. "The guy who lives here is a criminal. I'm exacting justice."

'Exacting justice'? Did he think he was some kind of superhero? "So? What did he do?"

Why did she feel the need to keep asking?

"He's a real bastard! He dissects endangered species! Like, who even does that?" She could kind of, almost, sort-of see where he was coming from. That was a lot more serious than a little vandalism. Still, wasn't this the worst way to go about it? "No one in the city has the guts to take on this guy, so it's my job to make things right!"

"With toilet paper?" She hoped asking would make him realize how stupid it was.

"With toilet paper." Nope, he somehow seemed more certain that what he was doing was right as he lobbed two rolls into the air. "You wanna help?" He offered her a roll and she stared down at it once it was in her hands.

"…this-" Her heart was pounding. "-t-this is against the rules…" Her protest sounded lame even to her. She could feel the blush spreading across her cheeks.

He shrugged, picked up another roll, and went back to what he was doing. He was ignoring her now.

Maka stared down at the roll of toilet paper in her hands. She definitely shouldn't. Her Mama would have been so disappointed in her. Her Papa would have been heartbroken.

Harder than she'd thrown the book this morning, harder than she'd thrown anything before in her life, she threw that roll of toilet paper at the building.

The rush was enough to make her almost scream.

"Wow, nice arc on that one. You're pretty good." The delinquent was smiling at her from under his hood now, offering her a second roll that she accepted much quicker than the last. "This was a great idea, boss. I never would have thought of doing this on my own." She nodded in agreement. Then, she really stopped to consider his words.

Boss? Her idea?

"What are you-"

Behind her, she heard this awful cranking sound. Like someone twisting a wind-up toy well past the point it should've gone until it was right at the point it was about to break. Very, very slowly she turned.

She should have felt ashamed at being caught red-handed like this. She should have been pissed that the delinquent was trying to pin all of this on her. Instead, all she could think about was the fact that man had a screw through his head and he was turning it.

Chapter Text

Maka was running.

She really didn't understand what she was running from, but she didn't doubt that she had to if she ever wanted to see her Mama or Papa ever again.

Besides, it was that or be dragged by the delinquent that had an iron-grip on her hand that was starting to hurt. "W-who is-!" She tried to get out, stumbling as she tried to keep up with the troublemaker. She received no reply as she was pulled into an alley, the pair having made their way from the edge of the city into Death City proper.

"S-saffeee!" The crazy child let go of her hand and flopped forward onto his face. "I was so sure I was gonna die there…! I've probably lost a whole year off my life…" He rolled over onto his back, panting and clutching his chest like his heart might burst out of it.

It seemed kind of overdramatic. "Who was that?" She tried again, sinking down to her knees.

"…Franken Stein. He's a legendary meister. Probably the best who's ever lived."

"He is not." Okay, so, maybe she shouldn't argue with him. Even if he was totally wrong about that. He was obviously a bit of an idiot.

"You-!" The delinquent started, obviously annoyed. She glared over at him as he sat up, mentally preparing a long list of her Mama's achievements if he planned to tell her she was wrong. Instead, what little she could see of his face went white.

She followed his line of sight and- oh.

Leaning against the wall beside her, smoking, was the very man they'd gone running from. He glanced over at her and all Maka could see was her own reflection in his glasses. Somehow, seeing how frightened she was only made it that much worse. "A-..a…" She tried to form words but found her tongue heavy and mouth dry. She needed to move, but her feet wouldn't let her. His lips curled upwards, but the smile he was giving her only made that bad feeling worse. She saw his hand reaching towards her and she- she-

There was a rush of movement, too fast for her to really follow, and the man with the screw with his head was casually blocking a punch from the delinquent. That was enough to break her out of her trance and she shuffled backwards, putting as much distance as she felt she could between the two as the troublemaker threw everything in his small body at the man he'd dubbed 'the best meister'.

In the back of her mind, she recognized his movements as being the same martial art taught to every student of Shibusen. It was hard to say that mattered much when all his attacks were being brushed aside.

"Hm, I see." The voice of the mad doctor was eerily calm. "Going by the level of your movements…" He effortlessly repelled another kick with his forearm. "…a NOT student?"

The delinquent stumbled backwards, but quickly regained his footing and stomped like he was about to throw a tantrum. "I'm in EAT."

Especially Advanced Target.

These were the elite of Shibusen's students and one of her many goals. It was a little hard thinking someone so small was one of them though. Not that she'd really gotten to see any students from EAT aside from in passing.

Watching him move again, she could see the difference when she compared it to her classmates. There was a sharpness that her classmates, aside from Black*Star, lacked. She winced as his latest punch was caught and a foot connected with his stomach. She swore she heard something crack. It was enough to make her knees shake.

As much as she wanted to runaway though, she couldn't.

"That's all Shibusen's best has?" She had to give him credit. He wasn't discouraged despite the obvious gap in their abilities. "I hit your mom harder last night. In bedSexually."

...

She kind of was on the evil scientist's side now.

Stein seemed fairly indifferent about the cheap attempt to get a rise out of him. He just took another long drag of his cigarette and cocked his head to the side. "I think." He started. "Yes. How about I sew your mouth shut for you?" The eerie smile made it clear he was absolutely serious.

Maka shuddered.

The delinquent just charged forward. "No thanks!"

Stein's widening smile told her something bad was coming as he finally made a move to do something other than defend. He drew his arm back, palm facing outwards with the ends of his fingers curled in. He thrust his arm forwards and, for a few moment, she swore she saw electricity crackling around it-

The idiot jerked his whole upper body backwards at the last moment, narrowly dodging like he was playing a game of limbo, and went stumbling out of the way of the palm-strike. The force of Stein's hit had been enough to blow the boy's hood off at least.

It was dark, but she could make out enough that she'd be able to report him once all this was over. Short, cream-colored hair with two particularly big pointy clumps on either side of his head resembling cat ears. A face that was arguably too round considering how rail-thin he actually was. She'd almost thought he was sick if it wasn't for all the color in his cheeks. He couldn't have been much older than her, she was certain of that now. It made his claim to be in EAT that much more dubious.

"Oh? You managed to dodge." It probably wasn't a good thing that the doctor sounded pleased by that. He reached up and… t-turned… the screw in his head once more. Each time she was forced to listen to that terrible sound again.

The delinquent turned heel and ran at her. "Eh?" She felt him grab her hand for the second time that night and was almost dragged off her feet as they fled once again. "You're running again?! Seriously!?" If she was being honest she was happy to be out of there but some part of her couldn't help but be disappointed.

"Shut up!" She flinched from the harshness of his words. "I thought I could at least land a few good hits in as long as we were both without weapons but-" He shook his head as he spoke. "-that guy's some kind of monster! If that thing had hit me, I'd be done for! Then, guess what happens to you, stupid?!"

That was a good point. It was too bad all she could focus on was the 'stupid' part. "Who are you calling stupid!? You're the one throwing toilet paper at that guy's house! Do you pick fights you can't win all the time?!"

…she wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry when he actually seemed to have to think about it. "…I wasn't thinking about fighting him!" He finally spoke, voice cracking. "If I'm being honest, I didn't really think past the whole revenge for the animals part!"

She'd kind of figured that part out! It was somehow even worse that he was aware of how poorly he'd planned all this out though. "Just let me go!" She tried to yank her hand free. "I want to go home!" Back to her room where all of this insanity wasn't.

"You really are stupid!"

Alright, that was the last straw. She whipped her book out and cracked him in the skull as hard as she could, not even bothering to declare the name of the attack as she sent him face-first into the ground. She glared down at the boy, shook her head, and took off in the direction of her house. She only had to make it there, where her Papa was, and she'd be safe. He was a Death Scythe. He was the Death Scythe.


Almost there...  Almost there...!

She chanted it in her head as the streets became more and more familiar. It was all that kept her going when her lungs felt like they were on fire. She almost collapsed when she rounder the corner and spotted her destination there at the end of the cul-de-sac. The lights were still on which meant that her Papa was waiting up for her.

She slowed and tried to catch her breath as she walked up to the door… All she had to do was knock and this terrible night, this terrible day, would be over. Except she couldn't.

She knew that somewhere out in the city there was a crazy man out for blood hunting for an idiot who had done everything to deserve his ire. She shook her head and raised her hand to the door, preparing to knock, and-… and-! She was shaking now, but this time she knew it wasn't out of fear. She was mad.

Her arm dropped back down to her side and she backed away from the door. "I'll be back, Papa…" She said, quietly, and then started running again. She'd been doing that a lot today. Weirdly enough, it felt a lot easier running back then it had been running away.

She really was weird, wasn't she?


"This is quite a lot easier with anesthetic." The mad doctor hovered near his 'patient', the one responsible for his home's current state, with a scalpel in hand.

"Feh, I bet you just like having an excuse when the lady doesn't feel nothing!" The crass boy was tied to a park bench with his pale torso exposed after having his top pulled up.

"Hm." Stein started to inch closer.

"Ah! Wait a minute!" The boy wiggled a bit, flexing his hands as best he could.

The doctor apparently decided to humor him. "What is it?"

"Or man." The delinquent added, nodding. "I said just 'lady' before, but that's making assumptions about you. Sorry about that. You're free to love and disappoint whoever." He gave a thumbs-up and a remarkably earnest smile despite the situation.

Stein twisted the screw a few more times. "You're a weird one." He was so distracted that he almost, almost didn't hear the sound of metal cutting through the air in time to jerk out of the way. A weapon, a short and rather unimpressive sickle, cutting through one of the boy's wrist bindings even after missing its original target.

Maka was rather proud of herself for that one. "Quick!" She shouted. As much as she liked seeing the stunned look on her damsel-in-distress's face, they didn't have time for that.

"Right!" He grabbed hold of her and in a moment, he was back on his feet, facing down the doctor with her as his weapon.

It would have felt like a much bigger accomplishment if Stein didn't look vaguely amused about it all. "You came back for him? How sweet." His teasing tone was enough to make her grind her teeth. If there was one good thing about being a weapon, it was that she could stew as much as she wanted without having to worry about how shameful it looked.

Without taking another moment to even think about, the delinquent wielding her was flinging himself at Stein.

It was so… different than with Hero. She always felt weightless when being handled by her meister. Always being twirled or juggled or, more times than she could count, slipping from his grasp. In the hands of this idiot, she felt violent. His swings would probably have her cut clean through muscle or even bone and the confidence he did it with made it seem like he was familiar with doing so. It was a little nauseating to imagine and she'd be lying if she said she was comfortable with the idea of... killing another person, but...

She winced as the doctor's palm struck the jaw of her temporary meister, his head being flung back and his brain no doubt being rattled from the blow. "A-are you okay?!"

He didn't answer, simply shook his head, slapping his palm against his forehead a few times before charging into certain death once more. She was, reluctantly, impressed he hadn't dropped her after being hit like that... and her thoughts drifted back to one of the earliest lessons from class.

'The sign of a good meister is his grip.' She could hear Nygus saying. 'A meister who would drop their weapon in the middle of a battle might as well already be dead. It puts your weapon in danger as well.'

She could see Stein rearing his hand back again and, this time, she knew the small boy wouldn't have time to dodge this time. He'd committed too much to his last swing. The strike made contact with the delinquent's solar plexus and she swore she could hear something inside him crack… and that was before his body convulsed as something foreign forced itself into him.

That had to have hurt.

Her wielder went sliding backwards, somehow able to keep from just tipping over backwards, and instead collapsed to his knees, emptying the contents of his stomach. Maka could see a little bit of red mixed in with what she assumed was his dinner.

"…hm. You leaped back at the last second and managed to reduce the amount of damage you would have taken." The doctor sounded less like he was speaking to them and more dictating notes. "You must have reacted unconsciously thanks to previous near-death experiences. You really are EAT, aren't you?" He reached up and twisted the screw in his head a few more times. "Unfortunately, that doesn't make up for the difference in strength, skill, or experience." He wasn't bragging. "…not to mention… if you don't let go of her soon, you might not be able to use that hand anymore."

Huh?

Now that she thought about it, his hand was- was that smoke? It was burning?! This was-!

"An honest, hard-working soul suffering from a serious case of self-esteem issues and a soul without any restraint and zero respect for the rules…" The doctor adjusted his glasses. "You two are a bad match."

"S-soul perception?!" Maka wasn't surprised after everything she'd seen, but… being able to tell their personalities too… As much as she didn't want to think it, maybe this idiot hadn't been wrong when he'd said this guy was an incredible meister? Even if he wasn't as good as her Mama, this was still way too high-level for them. "Hey, idiot! You need to let me go! It's… it's like he said, okay?! We're not able to resonate!"

"SHUTTUP!"

She winced at the volume and she swore that Stein's glasses cracked.

"…haaa, jeez, it's a real hassle being lectured on two fronts…giving me a fucking headache!" He tossed her up into the air and pulled the sleeve of his hoodie down to cover his hand before catching her. "There! It's the same as taking something hot out of the microwave!"

Maka was faced with the real possibility that he might be even more stubborn than her Mama. Or, worse, dumber than Black*Star.

"I know better than anybody that I've got no chance of beating this guy." The delinquent wiped his chin with the back of his hand. "Even if I was the biggest idiot in Death City, it'd be impossible not to realize that." Somewhere, Maka was certain Black*Star was sneezing. "…but. Just because I can't win, doesn't mean I'm going to lose."

The mad-man they were facing off with twisted the screw in his head. "You realize that doesn't make any sense, right?"

"Yeup!" The all-too-sincere smile on the delinquent's face had Maka questioning his sanity. She questioned her own when she started to giggle. He was probably a real headache for whoever he was partnered with, wasn't he? "You're a terrible meister."

"Hey! Better than some green-as-grass weapon that doesn't realize she's been melting my hand!" His words carried no real malice behind them, and his now pouty expression was almost cute. Even as their grim reaper waited, rather patiently, for them to attack, the tension from the space seemed to have been completely drained away. "Hey, girl. What's your name?"

"Maka." She answered, almost without thinking. "Maka Albarn. You?"

"Law N. Order."

Okay. Even Stein was snickering with her. All his bluster and it turns out he's one of those kids that did everything to be the opposite of what they were named for?

"Shut up. You're both assholes!" The meister's face was a lovely shade of red now that didn't suit his crude language at all.

"If you two are done chatting, can we finish this? I've got a long night ahead of me cleaning up your mess." Stein piped up, tossing his cigarette aside.

To be honest, he was being rather considerate about this even if his goal was murdering them. "Uhm… 'Law'." She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from giggling again when he glared at her. "How exactly are going to 'not lose'?" He had to have some sort of plan.

"That's easy. When running away fails, there's one final tactic." The delinquent sounded so sure of himself… and then began drawing in a deep, deep breath.

Maka braced herself and she saw Stein widen his stance a little, no doubt preparing to end this with a decisive blow. The atmosphere was wound tighter than whatever was in the doctor's skull as many times as he had turned that screw. There was no telling what ace that the delinquent had been saving, but his confidence made her feel at ease…

And then he started screaming.

"HELP! SOMEONE! I DON'T WANNA DIE HERE! I HAVEN'T EVEN KISSED A GIRL BEFORE! HEEEELP! WEAPON MAKA ALBARN AND MEISTER LAW REQUESTING BACK-UP! PSYCHO IN DEATH CITY!"

Maka immediately regretted ever thinking anything positive about this boy.

Even worse, it seemed to have worked as the city came alive with the sounds of people shouting in the distance, faint sirens, and…

Oh. Oh no.

It was faint, but in the distance she swore she heard her name being screamed. And it was getting closer.

"How can you be so lame?!" She screeched, unable to keep her volume under control.

To his credit, Stein didn't appear thrown off balance. If anything, he seemed disappointed. Like a child that had been told recess was over. "Well." He reached into his pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes. "I was wrong about one thing." He said, mostly to himself, as he lit himself a fresh cigarette and watched the pair argue. "Their compatibility isn't so bad after all."

It would take Maka many, many hours after the disappearance of Stein, her father's arrival with snot and tears running down his face as he demanded to know where she'd been, what had happened, and who this boy with her was, and the delinquent's attempt at fleeing ending with him being dragged off by a very tired, very used-to-this looking Sid for her to realize something.

During those last few moments during their battle, if it could even be called that, she had stopped burning that idiot's hand to a crisp.

A fluke, probably.

A momentary connection because of a brief, shared goal that he ruined when he opened his big mouth.

She was done moping in her room and she would be back with Hero tomorrow, she decided. She would probably never see that idiot again and never have to deal with that much chaos ever again.

The last thing she remembered before sleep claimed her was just how disappointed thinking that made her.

Chapter Text

"I'm glad that you're back!"

It took every ounce of willpower she had to keep from bashing his skull in. "Yeah! Me too!" She forced a smile as she sank into her usual seat beside her meister. She still hadn't forgiven him for what she'd overheard. Still, it wasn't like she had a long line of people willing to partner up with her.

Her nose scrunched as she remembered the previous night.

"Is something wrong, Maka?" Hero was at least good at sounding and looking concerned, even if he really wasn't.

She was quick to put on a happy face though. "I-it's nothing! I just had, uhm, a bad dream last night." A very bad dream. Full of insane, murderous doctors and… just The Worst. "I'm sorry it's been so long, I just…"

"It's alright." Hero cut her off, shaking his head. "I understand that you needed some time after everything. I'm just glad to have my weapon back."

She made a note to check out a book on anger management because it was entirely *too hard* keeping herself under control. All Hero's presence did was remind her of all that hurt and betrayal and- and-… is this how Mama felt?

It was way too early in the morning for all this. She needed a distraction, both from her partner and from her thoughts, and she didn't care what.

"MAKA." Except Black*Star. Anything, but Black*Star. He was, as usual, hard to ignore though because he was standing on her desk.

"What do you want, Black*Star?" She could already tell he was annoyed by something. He was staring at her with those crazy eyes of his and his bottom lip was doing that thing where it wanted to poke out, but he was doing everything in his power to keep it from happening.

Black*Star tapped his foot. "Last night…"

Oh no.

"Who was that guy?!" He looked almost offended. "Screaming at the top of his lungs like that… is he competing for who's loudest in Death City?! He's awfully cocky!"

She could not let those two ever meet. She was pretty sure Death City, or at the very least her sanity, would not survive. "U-uhm." She'd known other people had to have heard some of what happened last night – she was pretty sure people on the other side of the country could have heard The Worst's shouting – but she hadn't even brought that up to her own meister yet. "I, uh…" She really didn't want to get into it. "I-I don't know what you're talking about."

It was then, much to her horror, Maka realized she'd inherited her father's crappy excuses.

"Maka-…" Black*Star cracked his knuckles, apparently realizing he'd have to get rough with her to get the answers he wanted. There was nothing that could stop him now.

"Black*Star!" Well, except the sound of the usually sweet Tsubaki's voice taking on a surprisingly firm, incredibly disapproving tone. "That's not what we're here for." She was standing, thankfully not on the desk like her partner, off to the side holding something under her arm. A book, Maka guessed. The girl stepped forward and, with a smile that was far too kind to ever hold anything against her, offered it to the pigtailed girl. "We've missed you, Maka-chan. And… we're sorry about what happened before."

Black*Star shuffled a bit. "…a big guy like me can admit when he's too harsh on commoners like you." It was as close to an actual apology as the ninja would get.

Maka felt her chest get tight and the smile she'd been forcing since she'd come to class become genuine as she accepted the gift. "Thank you. It's okay. I'm sure if Tsubaki-chan had been serious, I wouldn't have been able to get in a hit.". A mixture of emotions flashed across the older girl's face starting with confusion, then surprise, followed by guilt, and then… the only way to describe the smile Tsubaki was wearing was 'radiant'. She didn't even have to look to tell all the boys were staring at the other girl. She reached for her pigtail, tugging on it as she felt a little twist in her stomach. "Besides, I'm sure Black*Star wouldn't have bothered apologizing if you didn't have him wrapped around your finger already."

Tsubaki giggled and Black*Star… "Idiot! No one has the great Black*Star wrapped around their anything! Hahahaaa!" He was doing that thing where he stuck his nose so high in the air that he was staring up at the ceiling.

It would have been way more believable if his face was a little less red.


It had been awhile since she and Hero had practiced so she'd insisted that they have a chance to during the break between classes. He'd agreed to it pretty easily which had saved her the trouble of having to drag him out to the track field. "Alright!" She placed her hands on her hips, head held high. "Are you ready, Hero?!"

"Yeah!" Her meister sounded almost as spirited as she did.

Maka doubted she'd ever find the words to describe changing into her weapon form. The seeing double was always a bit jarring, but she was getting more and more used to it. She could feel her meister catch her, the small plain-little sickle that she was, and reached out with her soul. She winced a little when they made first contact and on the outside, Hero hissed. "S-sorry." She said, her voice sounding distressingly metallic as usual.

She was trying, but-

Even if she's a second-rate.

You just have to be willing to put up with people like her.

She's a real nag .

"Ow!" Hero almost dropped her. "Maka-?"

She couldn't think about that. If she did, there was no way they were going to be able to resonate. She took a deep breath and reined herself in, reaching out one more time… keeping their contact to a minimum.

If she had to describe it, she was keeping him at arm's length. A nice, professional distance. Not every meister and weapon combination had to be some deep, personal connection after all, right? Her Mama and Papa's had been and that hadn't gone well.

"…there. Sorry, I guess I was just a bit out of practice." It was easier to lie when she didn't have to think about him seeing her face.

As much as she wanted to tell him off, she couldn't. If she was too much trouble, she didn't doubt that he'd leave her and she'd be without a meister again. Maybe for good.

"It's alright. It's been awhile." Hero was there trying to comfort her with his soul drawing closer. She retreated, maintaining their distance.

"Let's start."

Training together had always been a bit awkward. A bit stiff. Hero wasn't too skilled at wielding her. Yet, she'd always told herself. The longer it went on though, the more irritated she felt herself becoming.

His movements were sloppy.

His attacks lacked any kind of follow through.

When his sweaty palms almost made him drop her, she couldn't stop herself at first. "Can't you be more like-!" It took biting her tongue to stop herself.

"…be more like what?" Hero asked, panting a little.

Maka sank into the depths of her soul and buried her head in the nonexistent sand. "Nothing."


This was normal.

She was not being creepy at all.

She had no issues.

This was normal.

It probably wasn't a good sign that she couldn't convince even herself. She was standing just outside of Class Crescent Moon's homeroom. A place exclusively for EAT students that she probably wouldn't see until much, much later on in her time here at Shibusen. Especially with her current meister.

That last thought, as unkind as it was, was the whole reason why she was there. She was probably the worst partner in the whole school. Groaning, she fought the urge to bang her head against the wall. She didn't want to see him. She just-… she just…

She had no idea what she was doing.

The bell caught her by surprise. Her head whipped back and forth, panicked, and she dove behind a trash bin to hide. She curled into a tight ball, pressing as close to her cover as possible. She could hear people shuffling out and, thankfully, most were headed in the distraction of the cafeteria which was in the opposite direction. She, very slowly, moved to peer around the bin's edge. EAT's meisters and weapons gave off an entirely different atmosphere than what she was used to. Heads held high, radiating confidence, and undeniably cool.

One day, that would be her.

"What are you doing?"

…today though…today, she would feel great embarrassment and shame. She, very slowly, turned her head to see the last person she'd want to catch her in this awful act. "…S…Soul." She greeted, very slowly, wondering what he was doing here. He didn't have his meister with him which saved her the trouble of having to murder her if she said anything. "Uh." She had to have an answer that wouldn't make her seem like a creep. "I-I'm…" The more he stared at her though, the hotter her face felt. Why did it have to be him?

The albino-looking scythe cocked his head to the side and was staring at her. "Are you some kind of love sick groupie now?" Was he… disappointed? Why was he disappointed?

"No!" She snapped, gripping the trash-can hard enough she wasn't cracking it. "I'm… d-doing research! On EAT students." Which was the truth.

"Research, huh…?" The look he was giving her just pissed her off. "From behind a trash can?"

"Yes." She replied, mentally waving her goodbyes to the last shred of her pride. His snickering was enough to make her want to curl up and die.

"Detention?! What the hell's up with that? I was doing a public service, dammit!"

That crude language was enough to snap her out of her depression and, head whipping back and forth, she lunged and grabbed hold of her fellow scythe and dragged him behind her cover. She slapped a hand over the white haired boy's mouth to keep him quiet and peeked past the rubbish bin to see… Yeup. There he was. That ridiculous hair of his was on par with Ox and his 'pillars'. Even just looking at him was enough to irritate her. EAT students had permission to wear what they pleased, so why did he insist on wearing a wrinkled, Shibusen-brand gakuran that he'd put every single button of in the wrong hole?! He had to have done that on purpose. That or he had some kind of... condition.

Meanwhile, she was ignorant of her fellow weapon's flailing as he desperately tried to pry off the hand cutting him off from any oxygen.

"Vandalizing someone's home isn't a public service." There was a girl with him too. Cute, with dark hair, and a very prim and proper demeanor. "It just makes you look like a fool. You even had to beg to be rescued." She was really laying into him. "Not just a fool, but an uncool fool."

Maka decided she liked this girl.

"Gah, don't call me a fool!" And now he had her by her collar. Maka's hand inched for her book, ready to come to her rescue-! "Yaow!" That delinquent jumped back a second later, blowing on his hands.

"You don't have permission to touch me when I'm not in weapon form." The girl sniffed, her blouse… smoking?

It was clear enough now to Maka that this girl was a weapon and, from her words, not just some acquaintance but the delinquent's real partner.

Why did that bother her so much?

Well, because it meant that…

"Who'd even wanna touch a girl that's such a stick in the mud?! You're ten years too early for me to be interested in you!" There the delinquent went.

"And even in a thousand years, I still wouldn't want you touching me." The young lady fired right back.

Despite their arguing, Maka could tell the two weren't really mad at each other. It seemed like they were having a lot of fun even. The pair she was watching went right on bickering with one another as they headed down the hall, never noticing or maybe just not acknowledging her. She sank back, sitting on her heels, and glanced over at Soul who- "GAH!?" He was BLUE. "D-don't die, Soul!"


Soul wasn't dead. Though, she couldn't quite bring herself to add the 'thankfully' part given…

"Be careful with those gorilla hands of yours."

She took a deep breath to keep from caving in his skull. "Here." She thrust a canned drink she'd purchased at him which, with a nasty expression, he took and opened. "I'm sorry." She managed to get out, though she still kind of wanted to hit him.

"Yeah, yeah." Soul chugged the carbonated beverage while staring upwards. They'd gone from the winding innards of Shibusen to the roof, the sun chortling overhead.

Maka sat as far as she could from him on one end of the bench they were sharing, fidgeting with her skirt. "So-" She jumped when he spoke up again. "-that guy's the one that you were running around with last night?" Oh. Right. Of course he'd heard about that because all the people she didn't want to know about it did. She managed a weak nod.

"Doesn't seem like your type."

"T-type?!" Alright, calm down, calm down… "I-it's-"

"As a meister." He added, giving her a toothy grin.

It was monumentally hard to keep from hitting him. "O-of course. As a meister." She sniffed.

"What about Hero?"

Hearing her fellow scythe mention him was enough to make her forget the dozen different kinds of knots she had going on in her stomach right now. She gripped her skirt and glared down at her hands. "…he's fine."

"Bullcrap." Soul didn't beat around the bush, did he? "You and him hardly spend any time together outside of practice. You come back after being gone like a week and rather than catch up, you're stalking some new guy and then sulking when you see he's got some other girl with him." The shark-toothed boy spared a look over at her. "You don't seem like the type to just be unfaithful." Just hearing the word was enough to make her shoulders shake. "So, spill."

And she did.

She didn't know why she hadn't just stormed off or yelled at him or hit him or the millions of things she wanted to do. Instead, she was telling the last person she wanted to about her partner's harsh words and the experience of resonating with that idiot.

"Huh." Was all he said at first. Maka waited. Nothing else came.

She was swinging before she knew it, slamming her book into the top of his head. "What do you mean, 'huh'!? I just opened up to you and that's all you have to say?!"

The other scythe was slow to get up, rubbing the top of his head, grumbling various things that she was sure that if she could tell what he was saying would have earned him a second chop. "Well, what do you want me to say? Your partner's a dick and this other guy is way better, but there's no chance in a million years that the two of you are ever going to hook up because he's already in EAT, with a partner, and we're newbies who can hardly tie our shoes compared to them."

She slumped more and more as he spoke before finally batting at him with her fists, much of her usual strength gone. "Can't you say something more positive! Tell me that I misheard Hero or that…or that somehow I'll get an amazing meister that'll treat me properly!"

"O-ow, hey, come on, jeez, do you really think that wasn't what he said? That some perfect meister is gonna fall in your lap?" Soul was doing his best to fend off her 'assault'.

Her weak punches slowed and she felt herself sink even lower where she sat, if that was possible. "…no…"

"Exactly. You have to be realistic here." Soul turned away from her, glaring out at the horizon. "Sometimes, things just… suck."

She'd been dealing with that for a while now.

"You should try talking it out with Hero. We haven't been here all that long, have we? You could find somebody else." Soul's advice was reasonable. It was just that the idea of being the 'weapon without a meister' again was terrifying. What if she didn't find another real partner? What if she did and they were even worse? What if… what if…

She shook her head. "…thanks, Soul." He was right. Something had to be done. She looked at him again and- at some point during her tantrum, she'd gotten a lot closer. Her cheeks grew hot and she scooted back a bit, turning away from him. "F-for the advice."

"Sure." He stood up… he was going to go, wasn't he?

"U-uhm! You get me a drink next time!" She just sort of blurted it out. What the hell was she saying? What was wrong with her? He turned, giving her a funny look, before shrugging.

"…fine, whatever." He said before disappearing into the school.

It was the best thing she'd heard in weeks.

Chapter Text

"Papa."

"Yes, sweetheart?"

As they did most evenings now, they sat in the living room eating their take-out. The dinner table was just a bit too big for two. At first, she hadn't really cared, but… "…should I try cooking dinner tomorrow?" She asked.

Of course, her father, not one for overreacting, decided to choke on his food and then look at her like a lovesick puppy that made her skin crawl. "My baby girl is going to cook her daddy a meal with lots of love?!" This was the exact reason she hadn't brought it up sooner.

"No. No love. Not even a little." She glared at him.

He shriveled up like a raisin. Good.

"We're eating a lot of takeout… and that's not healthy. Papa has to think about his heart at his age. His weight too." She couldn't deny that a small, or maybe it was very large, part of her enjoyed the way he panicked and began pinching at his stomach. "So, if Papa buys the things I put on a list, then I'll make us dinner."

Her Papa nodded and began playing with his food. His eyebrows had knit together, and he stared at his food with more intensity he did most things. "Your Mama taught you how to cook?"

He sounded almost guilty for not knowing.

Which he should have.

"Yes." She pushed herself to sound as calm as possible.

"I see. That's good. That's very good, Maka. My girl's so self-sufficient!" His tone picked up as he spoke until it reached that unbearable level it always did when he fawned over her.

It's an act. A poor one, one she's pretty sure even he knows she can see through. Still, for both their sakes, she just snaps at him like usual and pretends like the hole in their lives isn't there.


It felt awkward, once again standing in the dance studio. The last time she'd been in here, she'd been humiliated because of her weapon form. She glared over at the one responsible, but her gaze eventually drifted to the lazy boy standing beside her mortal enemy. Ugh. She whipped her head back towards their teacher. She couldn't let things distract her.

"You've all done well lately." Nygus stood at the front, clipboard in hand. "No one has any trouble transforming still, I hope? Meisters, I know all of you have been working very hard to improve too."

The class braced themselves.

"However."

At this point, they'd all gotten used to their beautiful teacher's method of building them up before tearing them down. Maka almost giggled. Almost. It was hard to really appreciate any compliment she gave them when she followed it up with an earful of constructive criticism. She kind of wondered if that's how she was with Sid…

"If you're serious about making it into the EAT Class, then it's going to require something more than just knowing how to fight." Their teacher's brows knit together. "A lot of you still treat your weapon partners like toys. That might be fine now, but it could cost your lives later." She wasn't holding back at all and her tone wasn't one that any of them would or even could argue with. "For that reason, I've brought a pair from EAT to help you understand what we expect from those of you with your sights set high."

She tensed when Nygus looked right at her as she said that… but nodded back, determined. She wasn't going to let her teacher down. She wasn't going to let herself down.

"So…" Nygus sighed. "Come on in."

The door slid open and every head in the room turned to see- "Alright! Are my adorable underclassmen ready to learn?!"

Maka wasn't even surprised by the universe's beef with her anymore. She sent a look Soul's way and their eyes met. He apparently was thinking the same thing she was.

The pair moved to stand beside Nygus. The delinquent with his wrinkled uniform and a big smile and his prim and proper partner with a tight frown. "Let me introduce Meister Law N. Order-" The snickers commenced and, almost immediately, the boy was giving them all a nasty look like he was about to start cracking heads. "-and Demon Lamp Jacqueline O'Lantern Dupre." A few of the boys and girls 'oooh'd' at the girl who, to her credit, only bowed her head with all the attention being sent her way.

"Her name's a real pain in the ass, so just call her Jackie." Law yipped. That was the best way she could think of to describe his voice. He was like one of those yappy, annoying pet dogs that thought they were the biggest and toughest thing in the world. Until, of course, they met something that they couldn't handle.

She was having a really hard time not laughing imagining him being chased by a vacuum cleaner covered in stitches.

Almost immediately, Nygus was bringing her clipboard down on his head. "Language."

"Ow! Dammit…" The boy rubbed the top of his head.

"Miss Dupre is one of our finest weapons. She actually skipped my class entirely and went straight to EAT so this will be my first chance to see her in action myself." Nygus's words seemed to make the girl stand up a little bit straighter, the frown being replaced with a small smile. "And this one-" She pinched hold of the small boy's ear and yanked it hard enough that Maka was sure everyone was wincing with her. "-might not look it, but he is a competent meister."

Well, at least Nygus knew what she was getting them into.

"I want everyone to watch close now." Their teacher made a gesture and the pair exchanged a look. In a moment, the dark-haired girl was a swirl of dark particles that reformed into a heavy looking lantern for her meister to catch. "An easy enough method to resonate is just to pick someone similar to you, which most of you have, but the downside to this is that your similarities keep you from generating a particularly powerful wavelength."

Maka watched as the meister in front of her breathed in and out, his eyes closed… and even though she couldn't see his soul, she could feel the pair's connection. She'd noticed it before when working around others in the class. In the same way she could hear or see people arguing, she could 'feel' with her soul when the weapons and meisters around her were in conflict. She assumed it was part of being a weapon herself.

"When two people who aren't at all alike resonate-" Nygus went on. "-it requires finding common ground. A quality about the other person that you can admire. Certain individuals can tune their wavelengths to match their meisters if they're particularly difficult." She gave a pointed look in Tsubaki's direction, who was literally having to chain the boy up with her transformed pony-tail to keep him from picking a fight with the EAT student.

Poor thing.

"The end result is…"

Maka didn't have to listen to Nygus go on. She could tell how solid the connection was between the two. Compared to how the others in the room had felt resonating, it was like there was an almost insurmountable gap between them and this duo.

She watched the delinquent wrap the end of lantern's chain around his hand and, before anyone could stop him, he was spinning her so fast to kick up a breeze in the room. He swung the lantern around him, the fear of hitting himself or any of his audience apparently totally absent, and finished bringing the lantern smashing into the floor hard enough to leave an impression deep enough that anyone watching it would be certain that he could've smashed a man's skull with it.

She'd never thought she could envy a lantern, but here she was.

"For the last time, I'm a lantern, not a ball and chain…"

"What are you talking about? You're totally my ball and chain."

There was a few faint snickers from the audience and a heavy sigh from the transformed girl. It probably wasn't the first time he'd made that joke.

"There are a lot of different ways to use the same weapon." The delinquent started, winding the chain around his arm and instead taking hold of its collapsible handle. He swung it a few times, now treating the lantern as though it was some kind of club. "Though, it helps if you've got one as versatile as Jackie here." The bottom flap of lantern opened revealing a face and a second later the lantern was belching flame that got a little too close for comfort.

Maka's eyebrow twitched. That was a little more than just being versatile. She was a flame thrower. How was she-anyone- supposed to compete with that on their own?

"A meister has to learn all the in's and out's of their weapon and then figure out what comes easiest to them. I'm not really careful enough to be using Jackie's flames."

"Clearly." Nygus said, fire extinguisher in hand as she had to smother a few lingering flames.

"So, I just use her to beat the shit out of people with most of the time." Law was glowing as he said so, looking far too happy after he'd just admitted to being too clumsy to use his own weapon properly. There was a point to be said about understanding your own weak points, but this bordered on priding oneself on them.

She wanted nothing more than to go over there and hit him. Hard. Repeatedly, even. It was odd just how intense the urge was and even she couldn't pinpoint what about him, beyond their little shared insanity, irritated her so much.

"Alright, I want everyone to go ahead and practice resonating with their meister like we have been. I'll be having our EAT guests come around and offer some advice. Keep in mind, this is a rare opportunity to learn from an upperclassman! Regardless of what some might act like, they're much more experienced at this then you are." Nygus really wasn't one to mince words, was she?

So, she transformed and found herself lounging in the infinite expanse of white within herself as she watched the pair go around talking with her classmates. From the looks of things, the idiot was getting on people's nerves… everyone he talked to ended up with a face like they'd stepped into something after he moved on.

She lounged further back into her soul and closed her eyes, not that she had eyes as a dinkie little sickle, and pushed the chatter of the room further and further away. The more she did though, the easier it became to tune in to the souls around her. It was like eavesdropping in a way, picking up on the conversations going on between her classmates' souls. She couldn't discern who was who, she doubted that was even possible, but she could tell that some of them were closer to arguments than they were friendly talks.

It was strangely comforting to lose herself in though…

"Maka?"

Of course, it was a fragile sort of peace that her meister was easily able to break.

"It's, uh, our turn."

Oh. Had it been that long already? She opened her eyes and immediately frowned when she saw the stupid one's face. His partner's gaze made her feel oddly self-conscious, the girl examining her more closely than many bothered to.

"A bit small, but a good blade. Don't you think so?" It was a little insulting to have her size brought up, but the girl's words seemed sincere. Her partner though… She was glad that her weapon form hid her fidgeting.

"She'd be handy in a pinch."

She didn't know how she was supposed to feel. He obviously recognized her – he wasn't that stupid – however his compliment was so blasé that it kind of ticked her off. He'd be dead or being experimented on or something without her. Maybe, anyway.

"The meister…" The pair said in sync one another as they tilted their head at Hero. They seemed to be thinking a lot and exchanged a look. The girl, Jacqueline, opened her mouth to say something and then stopped. She looked over at her partner with a face like she knew what was coming, but was really hoping he wouldn't.

"You kind of suck, don't you?"

Maka choked. She could feel her partner's confusion flowing in through their connection though it quickly transformed to anger.

"W-what do you mean, 'I kind of suck'?!" Hero was glaring at him now. From the looks he was getting from the rest of her class, it seemed that sort of tactless comment was kind of a thing from Law.

"Take a stance." The delinquent made a motion and she felt her partner drop into a fighting position. "Oh. Cool. You look ready to take on a hedge."

She tried. She really tried. Except, she couldn't. An awful, snorting giggle escaped her before she slapped a hand over her mouth and hoped her partner hadn't heard. It did nothing however, her amusement like a knife being twisted for her poor meister… which was probably why his wavelength bit back at her. "Ow!" It wasn't uncalled for, but- "Watch it!" That didn't mean it didn't piss her off.

There was a hard thump as the lantern girl stomped on her partner's foot. "Can you at least try to give some constructive criticism?"

"Yaow! Dammit, I'm being constructive! I mean, he should know he's fucking up so he doesn't get himself or his partner killed!" Law's words, as much as they came out as a whine, were true and his partner huffed and seemed to agree from her concerned glance at them.

Did they really look that pathetic?

"Listen- lemme have her for a second."

Her ears perked up and she fought hard to put as much distance between her soul and Hero's. She squashed the excitement inside her as deep down as she could.

"What-? No! She's my weapon!" Hero sounded like a brat and his glaring was only getting worse. Whatever courage he had seemed to vanish the second the delinquent, shorter than he was, grabbed him by his collar and hoisted him up off his feet.

"You wanna die?" The edge to Law's words seemed to get through as Hero hastily shook his head. "…cool. Then, let me help." He dropped him down to his feet and offered his hand, all smiles.

Maka wasn't sure what concerned her the most. Hero's cowardice, whatever that expression Jacqueline was making at her partner meant, or how little she was bothered by the delinquent's forcefulness.

She practically leapt to connect her soul with his and immediately regretted it. "Law-" She could hear his partner say and she didn't need anyone else to comment to tell their wavelengths were rejecting one another. "It's fine! It doesn't burn that much. You're way hotter." His awful jokes didn't make up for the fact she could hear his skin hissing. "Now, watch me- if you're gonna fight with a bladed weapon, here's a few things to keep in mind…"

There was no way he could keep holding her at this rate. He'd drop her without showing Hero anything, without them learning anything, without her getting a chance to feel like she was a weapon again.

So, in spite of everything she knew to be true, she threw herself into their resonance and pushed deeper. It hurt. It hurt a lot. It was like jumping into a hot bath rather than easing her way in. All the things she disliked about him were coming through and, in the back of her mind, she realized this was the first time she'd tried resonating this strongly with… anyone. Something had to be wrong with her.

Crass, irreverent, and disorganized. Impatient and impossible to control. How did his partner handle this?

She pushed, pushed, and pushed – and there was a feeling like something giving way against her and a rush of so much more. A thousand things she could name, but were out of place given who it was coming from. It made no sense, but at the same time felt so right and the heat was gone and she could tell his hand had stopped burning. She couldn't tell whether he was wielding her or if she was wielding him anymore and there was a rightness she couldn't explain as she pushed to further this connection and-

Fear, fear, fear fear, fe-

She clattered against the floor.

"E-eh?" She was alone with herself once again and- it felt awful. That brief, shared existence had been so good and- her stomach sank when she saw the way the delinquent was looking at her. His eyes were wide and scared and angry in a way that was different from his usual bluster.

She was changing back as fast as she could but the boy was turning and storming out of the room.

"Law!" Jacqueline reached after him before she spun on her, glaring. "What did you do?"

"I-i-!" What had she done? "I-I don't know!"

Jacqueline glared at her for a few more moments before chasing after her partner.

"…Maka? Are you okay?" Hero was there though, reaching out to touch her arm.

"…I-I'm fine. I just think we didn't match up very well."

"…well, I could have told you that." He laughed it off a little, sounding nervous. "There's no way that the two of you could have resonated in the first place. Besides, he seemed awfully full of himself. We'll be way better than him when we're in EAT, won't we?" He smiled at her.

She forced herself to give one in return.


"I-I messed up."

"I'll say." Soul snorted.

"I was just trying to resonate with him, but-"

"Yeah, we could smell it."

"After that part!" She beat her fists against her legs. "That happened before, when we tried the first time! But, it stopped! I thought I could get it to again and-" She wasn't going to cry, no matter how much she wanted to right now.

"Drink." Soul thrust a can of soda against her face and she squashed the immediate urge to hit him, taking it and taking a long sip. It didn't taste all that great, but it calmed her nerves some. "So, you were trying to resonate and… what?"

"There's-…he's-… underneath all of that he's-" She fumbled with her words. "He's scared, Soul."

He raised an eyebrow at her. "Of what?"

"Of everything. Of his partner, of the school, of himself." The last one stood out to her the most. "He's terrified."

"Why?" The albino sank down onto the bench beside her. "He crazy or something?"

She didn't answer. She stared at her lap, at the drink in her hands, and shook her head. "I don't know...but-"

"Stop." Soul cut her off, holding his hand out. "Before you do what I think you're doing… he's not your partner, remember?" He was frowning at her. "It's not your place to be sticking your nose into his, into their, business."

He had a point.

At the same time though, he was wrong.

He hadn't resonated with the other boy. He didn't know. "I-I just… does she know?" She had to, didn't she?

"Does it really matter if she knows?" Soul sounded very, very tired.

"It does!" She wouldn't be convinced otherwise. "It does…"

"What about Hero?" She could hear Soul's disapproval. "Shouldn't he be the one you're trying to resonate with this much?" She shuddered. The thought of sharing that kind of connection with him after hearing what he'd said made her feel a little nauseous. "Are you gonna call it quits as his partner then?"

…that's…

The thought of breaking up with her meister had occurred to her more than once. The issue was that if she did, there was no telling she'd find anyone else.

"You can't keep putting these tough conversations with him on a shelf while you pine after some other weapon's meister." She was not pining! "Cheating isn't cool at all, Maka."

It hurt.

It hurt a lot.

"I-it's not cheating…" She couldn't even make it sound like she believed it. She squeezed her eyes shut and willed herself not to cry.

She was her father's daughter, wasn't she?

Chapter Text

Concerned Parent

"Papa, why did you cheat?"

Spirit choked. On soup. He wasn't sure if that was possible, but it sure enough felt like it. He was a man who had earned the right to be called Death Scythe, to be partner to a God(capital G and everything!), and still he was shaking in his seat. "P-papa would never-!" It was reflex by now to say so, but the way his daughter narrowed her eyes at him like she was staring down a particularly stubborn stain, so very much like her mother, made it clear that wasn't flying. He stared down at his reflection in his soup, quite certain that the sweat falling from his face was what was behind the ripples in its surface.

If there was any silver-lining to the separation, it was that he had actually become closer to his daughter. Or, well, he liked to think so. Her asking a question like that all of a sudden had him scrambling. Saying the wrong thing here was bound to do damage to their fragile relationship. The irony that he would know how to speak to every woman in his life except the ones he loved was not lost on him. "M-maka." He started, enough to keep his voice from trembling. "Papa… Papa is an idiot." He had spent a lot of time ruminating over his recently failed marriage and, after a lot of alcohol and crying, had found that to be the only real answer to his life's problems.

"…so, someone has to be an idiot to cheat…?"

He had gotten far too used to seeing his daughter curl in on herself like she was doing now. Ever since she'd found out she was a weapon, she'd… struggled. "Does it have to do with Hero?"

"Yes…"

A thousand angry, petty little plans hatched at once in his mind for how to teach the boy a lesson for ever even thinking about stepping out on his sweet, darling little girl-!

"And no…"

Eh? Confusion replaced paternal anger and he stared at his daughter. She looked… ashamed?

Oh.

Oh.

In his mind, he could hear his old, old partner's voice chuckling in the back of his mind. When he'd had a daughter, he'd pleaded with every power that be that she be nothing like him. Smart, strong-willed, and courageous like their mother would be far easier for him to handle. It seemed no one was listening then. "Maka…" He swallowed, his tongue feeling heavy in his mouth. "…tell me, what's going on with you? How are things between your and Hero?"


"Do I seem like some kind of assassin?"

"Yes! Literally!"

"I'm not going to kill your daughter's meister just because you don't like him. That's not the kind of man I am."

Spirit groaned and tossed back what was his… number… drink. He couldn't be expected to keep track of these things. It had been hard enough dragging Sid out to Chupa Cabra's, as much of a stick in the mud the man was. "Listen! She's trying her hardest!"

His dark-skinned junior grunted and stared at his juice.

"He's… he's manipulating her and she feels miserable and doesn't even know if she wants to be his partner anymore and…" Sid was supposed to be on his side!

"Spirit, listen."

He perked up some hearing the knife-meister speak his name.

"The problem here isn't just Hero. I've spoken with Nygus about this and Maka still doesn't seem to grasp what it means to be a weapon."

Spirit took in this information. Considered the things he'd seen and heard from his daughter, spoken about with his wife and his current partner with at length, and contemplated at length on his own. In his current state, there was only one reasonable reply.

"That's bullcrap! You're bullcrap! This whooooole city is bullcrap!"

Sometime later, after he'd been left behind by his supposed friend, he was stumbling towards the last place in the state, in the country, in the entire world he would have thought of going sober. Thankfully, he was drunk.

Really drunk.

It was the only thing that could have made him think this was in any way an option, but he was a desperate man acting out of love. Also, as previously mentioned, really, really drunk.

He stumbled up to the door and banged on it, doing his best to keep from leaning against it as he'd probably fall forwards when it was answered. A few moments later, the door opened and he came face to face with a person he wouldn't have dared face had he been even slightly more sober.

"Spirit."

"S-stein. I n…ned…need…" He fumbled over his words, unable to focus on any of the details of his old meister, all grown up. "I need you." He managed to get out, grabbing hold of his shoulders. Had he been able to see straight, he might have noticed how the other man's eyebrows flew up. "I need…" Spirit swallowed, his mouth feeling uncomfortably moist at that moment. "I need you to beat the shit out of a kid for me."

Then he threw up on him.


Back To Where I Belong

"Stein! It's certainly been a long time, hasn't it?" The cartoonish figure cocked its head to the side at him. "You rarely do in person visits anymore. I was starting to think that you'd never step foot on school ground again!"

"Hm." Well. It wasn't as if he was without reason for doing so.

"What's the reason for your visit today?"

"Well." He spared a look past him at his old partner, the man currently throwing his arms up in an X-formation and shaking his head wildly. "Spirit wanted me to 'beat the shit' out of a student here."

There was a long silence… and then the God whipped around, enormous hand delivering divine punishment to the head of one Spirit Albarn and leaving him in a puddle of his own blood on the floor. Stein would be lying if he wasn't deeply amused by this, even if he didn't let it show.

"I assume that's not actually why you're here." Shinigami-sama's tone was still cordial, but…

"No." Stein answered, quickly. He didn't doubt that he would receive similar treatment if he didn't make himself clear. "It does relate to that recent… incident."

"Oh?" The god lowered his hand. "You mean the one with Maka and Lawrence?"

Stein raised a single, gray eyebrow.

"…ah! That's right! He prefers 'Law' now, doesn't he? Kids these days, can be so picky with what they respond to. Why, just the other day my son-"

"Yes, those two." Stein cut the god off. If allowed to, Shinigami-sama would ramble for hours. "I'm guessing that the boy is being watched closely in case he shows any signs of losing control?" The mood in the room shifted almost immediately… Shinigami-sama was a hard read, but his partner not so much. He had never needed to use soul perception to tell exactly what the other man was feeling. The shame that flashed across the redhead's face before he averted his eyes… "It's fine. I was no different back then, wasn't I?"

"Stein…" Shinigami-sama sighed… "Boy, you really don't beat around the bush, do you?" He wagged one of his oversized fingers as he spoke. "Yes, we've noticed the boy's struggles."

'Struggles'… It was a kind word for what it was. Even with his soul perception, he hadn't seen it at first. He projected all that energy and rebelliousness to the point it was a shell over what was beneath. Scratch hard enough and it was bound to start seeping out though. Fear. And beneath that…

"So, I take it that you're interested in the boy?"

"No. Not in the slightest." He answered honestly. "His condition however…" He could hear the chorus of static rising in the back of his mind and gave his screw a few quick turns to quiet it.

"Now, now, I won't have you experimenting on one of my students!" Shinigami-sama waved his hand around threateningly.

Stein spared a look at Spirit and couldn't keep the corners of his mouth from curling up a bit. His old partner meanwhile just stared at the god of death like he'd told a particularly unfunny joke. "Still, that wasn't the only matter here I'm curious about." He reached into his coat. "Spirit." He popped a cigarette in his mouth and searched for his lighter. "You're certain that Maka is your daughter?"

He found himself hoisted up off his feet before he could find it. "What the hell did you just say?!" Both eyebrows rose this time at that tone. Well. He'd never heard Spirit sound like that before. Then again, he'd never questioned his parenthood or his wife's faithfulness before. "Relax." His voice, as much as he tried, trembled just a little. It wasn't out of fear, but regret. He'd found the one topic he couldn't tease the man on. "The hair aside, she resembles you too much."

Spirit dropped him down and returned to the god of death's side, still glaring.

"The Albarns are famous for producing some of Shinigami-sama's partners throughout the ages." He lit and took a long drag from his cigarette. "So, why then, is her weapon form so…" He exhaled. "…lackluster?" He was being delicate now, though he could feel his old partner's glare intensify. "Is she just a late bloomer? Not unheard of. But, to this degree?" He questioned. "Shinigami-sama, after seeing her yourself…" He trailed off.

The god of death bowed his head.

"Yes." He spoke, though not to either of them. "…I've suspected something, but…"

"What?! And you didn't tell me!?" There was real hurt in Spirit's voice.

"S-sorry, Spirit…I didn't want to add on to your plate, what with everything else…" It was definitely strange to see Death in such a state. Poking his giant index fingers together, hiding away as if he was a little ashamed of himself.

"…well then, with your permission, I would like to look into these two."

Shinigami-sama gave a small nod, still shrinking back from the look his Death Scythe was giving him.

Stein could feel the madness rising again, clawing and scratching and chittering away. "Good. I'll get started immediately." He gave the screw a few more cranks for good measure.


Can't Let Anyone Know

"It isn't like you to get so mad about something…"

"What are you talking about? I'm always mad about something. I'm moody. I'm moody right now even." He kept his hands in his pockets as he spoke, scowling at his partner.

Jackie didn't look so convinced.

He clenched his burnt hand, hoping the pain of it would distract him from the awful feeling building deep inside him.

"That girl… she resonated with you?" She sounded unhappy.

"Well, I mean, tried. Didn't turn out so well for me." He pulled his heavily bandaged hand out of his pocket. "Right?" It was a conscious effort to keep his arm from shaking. "Just goes to show how compatible we are! You've never burned me and that's actually, like, your thing."

Jackie stared at him for what felt like an eternity. The smile, however small, her stiff expression finally broke into filled him with relief. "Here." She handed him a small tube of what he assumed was burn ointment. She was the sort to always be prepared, wasn't she? "I have some books I need to return. Did you…"

He gave her a pained look.

She seemed to think it was a joke, smirking a little and nodded. "I see. Later then." She was gone, leaving him finally, mercifully alone in one of the winding halls of Shibusen.

He unwound the bandages covering his injured hand… He stared at his blistered palm for several seconds before curling it into a fist. The pain quieted the deafening roar in his mind, just a little. He crumbled to the floor and pulled himself into a ball.

He just had to wait it out and it would pass, like always.

Deep, deep down in his soul, he questioned how much longer always would remain always.


Don't You Want Me?

"Let's practice again today, Maka!"

"Okay."

She could at least pretend like she wanted to. At some point, Maka's enthusiasm had dipped… he'd written it off as her recovering from her parents' separation, but-

Catching the girl as she transformed, he reached out with his soul. No matter how hard he pushed, their connection felt like they might as well have been miles apart. She'd been like this for weeks now and a part of him was beginning to wonder if it would ever change. He'd already heard all the latest gossip. Maka spent more time with Soul than she did him. Upsetting, but not something he could do much about when she was clearly crushing on the near-albino. Worse though, Maka had her eyes set on some EAT student in hopes of moving up early…

To be honest, he hadn't taken it seriously. There were a lot of negative rumors surrounding the daughter of the Death Scythe. She hadn't done much to endear herself to anyone. Still, when she'd practically leaped out of his hand to be wielded by that guy… it had stung. Despite all his issues, he hadn't thought he was bad enough that she'd wanted to just up and leave him like that. He was studying almost every night, even if he didn't understand it all, and running laps in the morning to build up his stamina. He was even asking advice from the teachers on anything he can do to improve.

Couldn't she see that?

He pushed their connection further- "Maka, let's do our best today-!"

And was rewarded with the feeling of needles prickling his skin. "O-ow!"

"Sorry, Hero! I'll, uhm, try my hardest to keep that from happening again."

For once, he was glad for the ever-growing distance between them. It let him keep all the hurt to himself.

"O-okay."

All he could do was keep trying.


Even When We Aren't Together

She had to be the worst, most selfish, piece-of-shit mother on the planet.

If she'd seen Spirit break down in person, she had doubted she would have been strong enough to go. She'd have stayed just to keep her now ex-husband together and accepted living as the great Death Scythe's wife, with everything that entailed. In the moment, she'd thought she'd been saving everyone a lot of heartache and lies by leaving, but on reflection she'd just been a coward.

Now, here she was on the other side of the world, stationed about as far from all her problems as Shinigami-sama had agreed to send her short of sending her to the moon, trying to figure out how to apologize to the one she'd hurt the most. The phone in her new, very temporary, office would reach her home if she only had the courage to dial the number. She, unlike her husband, must have changed a lot since their days as students as she found herself lacking the very thing she'd prided in herself most now.

The thought of Spirit answering and blubbering at her, begging her to come home, was enough to make her hands shake. More than that, the thought of her daughter doing the same... her resolve, however strong, would crumble. She'd rush home and beg them both for forgiveness, on her hands and knees if she had to do, just to make sure that her daughter never cried. It had been hard enough comforting her when it had been her husband who'd done something wrong, but if it was her?

So, she'd found what she thought was a decent alternative. She stared down at the post card, pen hovering above the still blank lines.

She was an idiot, wasn't she?

'I'm very sorry about abandoning you, but I hope you understand that I just couldn't stand living like that anymore! Try to keep it together, I know things have been hard!'

She rubbed her eyes.

There was no 'right' way to talk about this with her because what she'd done to them both hadn't been right.

In that case, perhaps it was better to pretend like everything was normal. Like she'd just gone on a trip and would be back any day. If she did, then...

It was just another way of running away from things. She'd never thought she was any good at that, preferring to dig her heels in and fight regardless of her chances of winning, but it seems she could surprise even herself. At this point though, could she really do anymore harm than she already had?

She willed her hand to stop its shaking and started writing.

'Hey there! Cairo is great, I've already had a chance to climb the pyramids (Yes, the same one in the picture!) ! It's been a lot of fun translating these old tablets for Shinigami-sama and, from what he's telling me, they're going to publish my work! I know ancient history isn't your favorite topic, but I'm sure you could learn a lot from it! I'm off to Africa next, hears hoping I don't get eaten by a lion! Always thinking of you. Love, Mama.'

Chapter Text

"And so, the two of you are going to be taking remedial classes."

She felt like she was going to crumble away…

"Which the punishment for skipping will be expulsion! So, do your best!"

"Gah! Fuck!"

"Language!"

Maka didn't feel any sympathy as the one EAT student she'd been purposefully avoiding had his skull nearly split open by their headmaster. It was his fault she was in this mess. When the intercom had called her to the Death Room, she'd been confused. Also, annoyed by her snickering classmates. She should have known she'd eventually be punished for her part in vandalizing Stein's lab. Speaking of which…

"Why is he teaching it though!? He nearly killed us!" She wanted to cry.

To the side, the mad doctor smiled.

"Now, now. Stein's one of our very finest, Maka. He even used to be your father's original meister."

Wait, what?! Her mama and papa hadn't always been- why hadn't they told her that?!

"Besides, it was his house you vandalized so honoring his request was the least I could do~!"

There wasn't really any way she could argue with him. Even if he didn't have a good point, he was still their headmaster. Beyond that, he was Shinigami-sama. That was a brick wall even her mama wouldn't dare try to beat her head against.

"Don't worry, I'm completely uninterested in doing any serious harm to you." The doctor's voice lacked much inflection, but that he felt it necessary to specify 'serious harm' instead of just 'harm'…

This sucked.

Shinigami-sama was shooing them out of his office now. "Don't be too harsh on them now, Stein! Maka! Lawrence! Good luck!"

Who the heck was Lawre-

"It's Law !"

Oooooh. She fought a snicker of her own as the trio were made to leave, the doctor following a bit too closely behind them. She spared a look to her side, the short EAT student looking very much like he was pouting as he folded his arms and took heavy, clomping steps. She could kind of tell why he'd picked his stage name. As laughable as it might have been, it was still cooler than the alternative.

"What exactly will we be doing in these-" She mentally wailed. "-remedial classes, sir?"

The doctor reached up to twist the screw in his head, which Maka was now ninety-percent certain just there to creep people out, before speaking. "You're the top of your class, aren't you, Maka?" She tried not to feel too smug as she nodded. "And, Law, you place right at the bottom of yours, don't you?" …and she didn't try pretending to be surprised about that either. "However, in terms of practical experience and success… Your situations are the complete opposite. Maka, from what I hear, you've been struggling to maintain a resonance with your meister."

She glared at a particularly interesting spot on the floor.

"And Law, you've been through a dozen weapons here at Shibusen."

…she tried not to look too interested with that.

"Hey, don't compare me to one of those meisters that run around and resonance with people willy-nilly. I just explored my options before I met and settled down with Jackie. I'm a happy resonated man!"

Did he have to make it sound like marriage!? Soul's words, the ones she'd desperately been trying and failing to forget, repeated once again in the back of her mind. She made a mental note to hit him for that later.

"Resonating with so many different types of partners is a rare talent." Stein didn't sound the least bit impressed saying as much. He seemed more like he was just recounting a fact he'd found in a book somewhere. "I want the two of you to work on helping each other improve in these areas. I don't want to see you every day, so come to my home at the end of each week after class and I'll check on what improvements you've made and give you an assignment for the following week."

Maka was surprised. It wasn't nearly as bad as she imagined. If anything, it was exactly what she wanted. Lessons from one of Shibusen's finest? Partnering with Law? Had she not known better, she'd almost have said her Papa was behind all this.

"…do I have to work with her? Her meister isn't exactly a fan of me." Law's words drug her out of her thoughts. "Besides, I-…" She watched his face a little more closely than she probably should have. He did a pretty good job of hiding his feelings. At least, compared to her and her Papa. She'd probably not have even noticed if she hadn't resonated with him, that flicker of fear in his eyes.

Was he scared of her?

"I-is there something wrong with me!?" She didn't mean to sound so- defensive? Desperate?

He looked over at her face and then down. At her chest. "...for sure." He nodded.


"You must have been born under some kind of miracle star. Seriously, I bet you could win the lottery and be struck by lightning on the same day." Soul had not stopped laughing since he'd told her about what happened.

"It's not funny! Hero is going to be so upset…" She knew how much her partner didn't care for Law… Which, really, was petty. If he didn't want to be outshined by an EAT student, then he just had to work a bit harder.

"Are you kidding me? I bet soap operas have less drama then your life!" Soul was still chortling away, slapping the arm of the bench they usually shared on the roof. "What's next, gonna lose your memory? A long lost twin sister gonna show up?!"

Maka had heard enough. She reached for her book and-…oh. That's right. She'd broken her last one on Law's head. Whether that was a sign of how hard his was or how much force she'd put into his swing, she wasn't certain. What she was sure of was that he wasn't going to be commenting on her figure any time soon.

"Seriously." Her fellow scythe scrubbed at his eyes. "So, what are you gonna do? Wait until the two of you are alone together and confess that there's no one you'd really be wielded by?"

She glared… but she couldn't put any of her fire into it. She slumped in her seat. "I don't know." She sounded a lot quieter than she would have liked.

Soul reached over to pat her head. "There, there. I'm sure one day, Maka Albarn will find her one, true meister."

She reached over and dumped her soda on his head.

"Ack! Fff-! It's in my hair, dammit!"

It was a good thing he was busy drowning or else he'd see just how red her cheeks were.


"And that's the deal. I have to attend these remedial classes with him because of what happened." She finished, staring down at her book. It was mostly because she didn't want to look at whatever expression he was making. She tried, and succeeded, in not jumping when he slammed his hands on the table.

"That's stupid!"

She winced at his volume. "We're in the library, Hero…"

"You're one of the best students in our class! You shouldn't have to take any remedial lessons just because some delinquent dragged you into something!"

Well, it was nice that he thought as much, but… A part of her, a big one, had enjoyed what had happened that night. There was definitely something wrong with her. "Hero, it's what Shinigami-sama has decided. We can't really argue with him."

"Aren't you giving up too quickly?" Hero's words made her stare even more intensely at the page she'd been trying, and failing, to read for about ten minutes now. "Or, are you just happy to get what you wanted finally?"

Her head snapped up, trying to keep her expression neutral but certain that her eyes betrayed her. "This isn't what I wanted. I can't control any of this."

"Are you sure? Your dad's the Death Scythe, so if you really wanted, couldn't you get out of it?" He leaned forward, his hands gripping the other side of the table's edge hard enough his knuckles had turned white.

"Sorry, but just because I'm his daughter doesn't mean me or my meister get a free ride." She tried, though not terribly hard, not to sound bitter when she said it.

"…f-fine. Fine." Hero pushed off the table and turned away from her. "…let's just make sure we practice twice as much."

She groaned internally and was glad he wasn't looking at her or else he'd have seen what a terrible job she did of hiding how 'thrilled' she was about that.


"Maka."

"Papa."

It was always going to come down to this.

Her against him.

Him against her.

"I was there when you were born. It only makes sense I'm here at the end."

She scoffed. "You can't stop me."

"I can try." His voice shook, not entirely confident that he could stop the monster his daughter had become.

"Choose your fighter." The television blared.


"So, Pigtails-"

"It's Maka." She had to remember to get a new book for hitting people with. Something with a stronger spine this time.

"-what exactly are they teaching you guys?" The reality never quite matched up to the scenario she'd dreamed up in her head, the slovenly boy digging a pinkie in his ear as he spoke.

Law had been nice enough to at least show up to practice, though he seemed like he'd stayed up half the night and was sporting a heavily bandaged hand. Part of her wanted to ask, but it was probably better off for both of them if she didn't. Still, he seemed about as happy to be on the track field after class as he would stubbing his toe. Did he really hate working with her that much?!

"We've learned plenty." It was one thing to make fun of her or criticize Hero, but she wasn't going to have him picking on his underclassmen... or on the lessons that Nygus drilled into their heads.

"I meant practical stuff." He flicked a bit of gunk off his finger and she felt her temper flaring again. "You can resonate. Obviously." He looked at her finally, a flash of something in those big, lavender eyes of his before he glared off at nothing in particular. "As far as being a weapon goes, you're pretty sloppy."

Sloppy. He had just called her sloppy. "I don't want to hear that from someone who can't even button their jacket right!" It was inside-out now too! It was like he was trying to put it on wrong just to irritate her.

"What exactly do you think a weapon does in a fight?" He ignored her - bastard - and looked at her again. "You think you can just sit there and let your meister do all the work?"

"That's-" Maka opened her mouth, ready to snap, and then felt her shoulders slump a little. "...what exactly else am I supposed to do?" She did her best to retain their resonance, but-

"Moron."

OW! She clutched the top of her now head sporting a significant lump, tears prickling at her eyes. He just hit her!

"You think being a weapon is supposed to be easier than being a meister? You just lounge around while they risk their lives?" His tone was different, angrier. "Transform."

A part of her wanted to refuse and also probably take a swing at him, but she obeyed. One moment she was there, the next she was twirling in the air as a sickle and being caught by her EAT schoolmate. She reached out with her soul and felt, very, very carefully, his own accepting it. There was still the rush of someone else's feelings flooding into her and the confusion of where she ended and her meister began. It was nice...

"You're limp."

Eh? "Eh?" Enjoying their resonance was cut short. "Limp?"

"It's like I'm holding a wet noodle!"

Noodle!? "What do you expect me to-"

"You think it's me doing all that fancy spinning when I'm using Jackie?" He sounded very much like he thought she was stupid. The problem with resonating is that she knew he didn't just sound like it, he genuinely thought she was. "She guides herself so even if I fuck up, I don't smack myself in the face like an idiot. She throws her weight into a swing to help hit harder." ...was she really? "If a meister's good, they can make any weapon dangerous. But, it's the same the other way around. A good weapon can make any meister seem like they know what they're doing." It all sounded like it made sense, but- "If just anyone could become a Death Scythe with a good meister, then we'd have tons of them running around. Both sides have to pull their weight. From everything I've seen, you aren't."

It stung even more so feeling his disappointment in her... or was that her disappointment in herself.

"Well- I-...w-what do you expect me to do? I'm not-"

Her current meister hooked her blade around his other hand's wrist. "Okay. I'm going to cut my hand off now."

Wait, what!?

"I'm gonna miss you. Jerking off is going to be a lot harder with just the one."

He pulled and she could feel it - he was absolutely serious!

"No-!" She squeezed her eyes shut, apologizing to Hero a thousand times as she waited for this psycho to use her to prove some insane point. A full minute passed before she dared to crack open an eye...

"There, see?" He flexed his hand to show her it was thankfully still attached.

She'd... bent? Or, was 'flexed' a more accurate description? It felt similar to arching her back, her handle bending in a way that would have snapped it had she been a regular weapon. She waited for him to drop his hand to try flexing in the other direction and she felt herself curling in on herself. It wasn't like she could twist or turn anyway she wanted, but she felt every bit as flexible as she did when she had arms and legs.

"Your shape might have changed a little, but it's still your body. You're not just an object now."

Huh.

It kind of made sense why there seemed to be such a huge gap between them and the EAT students now. Still...

"Are you crazy? What if I'd- I could've-!"

"I guess it's a good thing I'm a lefty then."


Maka lifted the spoon to her mouth, sipping it carefully so as to not spill it. "It's almost done, Papa."

"My beautiful girl is cooking me dinner..." She tried, very much, not to shudder with how love struck he looked. "She looks so cute in her little apron too!"

"If you want to eat, then quit it!" If he kept that up, he can give up ever having her make anything for him ever again.

"Y-Yes ma'am..." She could hear him dragging his feet as he moved to take a seat at the table. "I hear that you and Law had your first, uh...uhm..." Words, Papa. Words. "T-thing! Your first thing today." She was so proud. "How did that go?"

She thought about it. All the harsh words he'd had for her abilities as a weapon, his complete lack of common decency, and his utterly insane way of teaching her something he could have just explained.

"It..." There wasn't any harm in being honest, was there? "-it was a lot of fun!"

Chapter Text

She hated admitting it, but she was scared. Even with Law with her. The last time they'd been here, their night had turned into a parody of a slasher fic. She almost admired how cool and collected he managed to look. "What do you think this is going to-" She paused, seeing her temp-meister was crouched down digging in the backpack he'd brought with him. "Forget something?"

"Nope." He didn't look up at her.

Before she could ask what he was looking for, the door to the patchwork lab swung open and there stood the man she'd been equal parts dreading and looking forward to seeing. "Professor Stein." She bowed her head a little… of course, the idiot beside her didn't even give a greeting.

"Aha!" And then he was hopping up and reeling his arm back and- oh dammit, he better not be-

She watched, horrified, as the boy with the stupid hair beside her launched a roll of tissue paper at the doctor's home. Her head whipped back and forth between the all-too proud of himself moron and their teacher who was lighting a cigarette. "Interesting." The doctor said, though his tone made it sound like he thought it was anything but to him.

"Hey, Pigtails." She'd just been about to give the idiot an earful when he offered her something. Her very own roll of toilet paper. How considerate. "What's that look for?" He asked. "S'not like they can punish us for the same thing twice."

Her brain hurt.

How was it possible to be this stupid? Did he have an allergy to thinking his actions through?

"No? Okay." With a shrug, he launched the other roll… though this one he'd aimed not at the house, but their teacher leaving him with a strip of tissue paper that went right down the middle. A small hole was burned in part of it from the man's lit cigarette.

He was going to be the death of her, wasn't he?

After a whole lot of apologizing and chopping, they stood within what she assumed was the man's office. The lights flickered, there were as many unwashed test tubes as there were ones in use, and there was a computer with an image on the screen she couldn't identify beyond that there was a lot of red that she assumed was blood. Why, just why, did the moron she was with have to antagonize a man that would probably gladly perform a vivisection on them?

"Maka, go ahead and transform." Stein didn't sound mad, but it wasn't as though the man was an easy read.

"Y-Yes sir." She cursed her stutter and shifted. She always worried that she was just going to drop to the floor when she did. Well, if she being most honest, she was concerned her meister either couldn't or wouldn't catch her as she twirled in the air. That she'd just cracked her current partner's head open a little while ago made those concerns just a bit more valid.

Law didn't let that happen though, twirling her around his hand for a few moments before snapping hold of her like he was prepared to go reaping souls with his little scythe in hand.

It made up for earlier. A little.

"Hm." She could feel Stein's gaze on her and sank deeper into her soul, not exactly thrilled to be stared at so intently by him once again. "Your resonance seems more stable than before. Shallow, but stable." Shallow? As much as that word irked her to hear, she hadn't pushed it the same way she had that day in the dance studio. There was a little twist in her stomach every time her soul and Law's hooked into each other as she could feel how unsure he was about her and how little he trusted her not to take things too far again.

"Yeah, no oven-mitt required." Law made a good show of not being all that enthused about it, but there was a trickle of joy that came through their connection that said otherwise. He was pretty roundabout with his feelings, wasn't he? Cute.

Stein stepped over and held his hand out. "Let me hold her for a moment."

Uhm, what? He wanted to- No. Nope. Not happening. She hurled herself into her connection with Law, hoping he'd see just how great her desire not to resonate with the creepy doctor was-

"Sure, here you go."

Law sucked.

The second those cold fingers replaced her partner's warm ones, she was fighting the urge to shiver. She felt his wavelength pour into her and her first reaction was to jerk away, not wanting to find out just what was in the man's soul or to experience the painful rejection of their souls not being suited for each other. The idea that they could actually resonate was somehow even worse. Still, there wasn't really all that far for her to run as a weapon and contact was made between them, with much reluctance on her part.

What she found was anticlimactic. This meister, supposedly her father's first, had a wavelength she could most easily compare to being offered a glass of water. It didn't taste bad, but it wasn't one she found herself ever thinking she'd prefer over something, or in this case someone, else. It did its part, meshing with her soul and establishing a remarkably solid, if boring, connection. Though, there was something odd about it. With Hero, and to a lesser degree Law, she could pick up on her meisters emotions. Even guess at their thoughts. With Stein though, there was just… silence. She couldn't stop herself from shivering this time when she guessed at what that meant.

Stein must not have had feelings.

"You're much lighter than your father." His words, carrying no inflection of any kind, seemed to prove that. "Hm." She watched him turn his attention to the small boy standing in front of them, hands on his hips, trying to look much tougher than he actually did with those ridiculous faux-ears and stupidly baby-face. Then, Stein tried to decapitate Law with her.

"No-!" She pushed back, hard, and found that fighting against the grown man's soul to be impossible. There just wasn't anything to fight against. It was like her anger was just dissolving into him. Still, she knew enough to bend herself away from the strike, doing all she could to force her weapon form to stay away from the delinquent's neck.

Thankfully, the madman stopped before he murdered one of his students.

"Using you like a proper scythe is impossible. Your handle's short so guarding with you has to be done entirely with the blade. The curve means that thrusting attacks will require some creativity to pull off and wide-swings leaves your meister open as well." The doctor's voice did carry some feeling in it now… but it was just annoyance. "You're totally ill-suited for combat." He flipped her around to offer her back to Law.

Meanwhile, she was sitting on the 'floor' of her soul wondering whether or not Stein had dethroned Soul's partner as her least favorite person in the whole of Death City.

"Dick." Law snatched her away as quickly as he could. "Just because you can't think of a good way to use her doesn't mean there isn't one. Jackie was the same way when she was starting off."

Having someone stand up for her was kind of a new experience. Not a bad one, she decided. Not a bad one at all.

"The Demon Lantern. Your actual partner." The way Stein phrased that ruined whatever nice feeling she was having though.

"Yeah. Plenty of people thought she was clumsy starting off. A detachable, collapsible handle, too weak to really do much with her own flames, and a flat chest." Law listed off. "No one wanted to have any part in that. There are plenty of straightforward weapons for the people who want to have it easy. Now though, she's one of the most sought after weapons in the whole school." She didn't need to hear him say anything, she could feel how proud he was of his partner through their connection. "Never really improved as far as her chest though…" She made a mental note to hit him on the behalf of the other girl once she was back to normal. "So, don't go writing off Maka either. Besides, she might have a growth spurt any day now!"

Did weapons even work like that?

"That's not how it works." Stein answered her question and dashed her hopes all at once.

"Can you prove that can't happen?" Law was stubborn.

"Yes. With mountains of evidence gathered over the course of several hundred years." The doctor really knew how to drive a point home.

"Which means it just hasn't happened yet."

Law was such an idiot. An idiot who made her smile, but an idiot none the less.

Apparently, she wasn't the only one pleased with his words as the doctor smiled as well. He almost seemed like a regular human being for a second there. "I look forward to being proven wrong." It might have even been nice if he didn't look like someone had just offered to buy him a new toy to play with. "Your assignment for this week though will be to figure out a method of fighting that makes the most of Maka. Prove to me she could be in EAT one day."

She could feel Law's grip on her loosening, a sign he wanted her to change back, and she complied. "You don't need to worry, Professor." She touched down beside her partner as her feet reformed. "We'll succeed, won't we?" She spared a look to her side…

Jeez, what was with that look?! He seemed like he had zero confidence in her! After saying all those nice things too! "Won't we…?!" She pressed, glaring a little at her fellow student who gave a reluctant nod.

"Good. Now, if you wouldn't mind." The doctor slipped his hands into his coat's pockets. "Go away."

Maka got the distinct impression that he hadn't had many friends as a child. "Wait-" She stepped forward. "I had a question to ask- Law, do you mind staying-" The last thing she wanted was to be alone with this guy. When she turned to look back at the delinquent, all she saw was the door clicking shut behind him as he left her behind.

"Your meister is very brave." Stein was trying to get a rise out of her. Well, she wouldn't let him.

"He's not my meister." And that didn't bother her at all! Not one bit! Nope!

"I know."

Her eye twitched and she fought the urge to try to hit one of her teachers, even as the man looked at her with that smug expression. "I just wanted to know about you and Papa." She could feel her nails digging into her palms as she spoke. "He never mentioned you. I thought he and Mama were together from the very beginning." She tried very much not to glare at him as she spoke, but she couldn't hide how much his existence bothered her.

"Well, I'm not surprised. Your mother was the one who split us up." The doctor sank into a rolling chair as he spoke.

Something about that made her feel like she'd been punched in the gut. "Split…?" Her Mama had broken up another meister and weapon pair just to get with her Papa? That was…

"A shame to. Your father made for an excellent test subject." Stein continued right on. "Quick recovery time and very weak to anesthesia. Half the dose of most people and he wouldn't wake no matter what I did." He sighed, looking up at the ceiling as though he was thinking back to happier days.

Maka wondered if something was wrong with her that she felt more relieved than frightened hearing the circumstances around his and her father's split. "Mama was doing the right thing then. You two just weren't a good fit."

Stein raised a single, gray eyebrow at her.

"...how long were you two partners?" It couldn't have been that long, considering her Mama and her Papa had never mentioned him.

"Six years."

She almost fell flat on her face. What the hell Mama and Papa. This guy had been a meister to Papa for over a half a decade and they hadn't mentioned it?! She'd always thought her Mama had done it all on her own, made the world's greatest Death Scythe without any kind of help... A thought suddenly occurred to her, one that made her feel nauseous. "I...if it's okay, Professor Stein... how many souls did you collect with Papa?"

The doctor didn't answer immediately. He cocked his head to the side, for once looking as though he was considering what he should say. "...ninety human souls."

Maka was a smart girl. She did the math pretty quickly. "...I'm sorry, Professor Stein... I haven't been fair to you." She raised her head up, the doctor looking a lot blurrier than he had just a moment ago. "It turns out the meister I should have been trying to surpass was you all along, wasn't it?"

The doctor hadn't said anything. He hadn't even tried to stop her when she'd run out. It felt like everything she'd thought about her parents was wrong.

The Mama that she'd thought had existed, the peerless meister who had created her generation's Death Scythe, was a phony. She hadn't surpassed everyone's expectations of her, she'd just taken the baton from someone else after they'd run most of the track and then claimed the trophy all for herself. She'd known her Mama wasn't everything she'd imagined her to be already, but this was just-... it felt worse than finding out she was a weapon. The whole reason she'd even cared about being a meister was because of her!

And Papa, the one her Mama had no problem taking the blame for everything, had been the one who stayed at her side. Had encouraged her when everyone had made fun of her and been against her. Had listened to her when she'd had problems. Had actually stayed with her when even getting out of bed was so hard.

Who was she supposed to look up to? Who was she supposed to be trying to be better then? What exactly was she even trying to do at Shibusen anymore?

The last thing she wanted when she came home was to see her mother had sent her something.

postcard.

She'd sent a postcard.

It would have been funny if it wasn't such a joke. Still, she'd swallowed her feelings and read it anyway. She hoped for a good apology but would have settled for a bad explanation. She got neither. What she did was a bunch of meaningless fluff that acted as though everything was fine and no one had abandoned their child. By the end of it, she just laughed. Laughed and laughed. She'd headed into her room and dug through her desk until she'd found what she was looking for.

Scissors in hand, she snipped the post card into a thousand little bits of trash instead of just one big one. "No wonder Papa cheated on you..." She didn't even recognize the sound of her own voice, but agreed with it regardless. She looked at the angry, bitter little girl in the mirror. All any of her parents' friends talked about when they saw her was how much she looked like her mother at that age. Reaching up, she undid the clips she'd received as a gift years ago and hurled them as hard as she could at the wall. Her classmates had always teased her that her ash-blonde hair, whether up in pig-tails or spilling down past her shoulders as it was now, was the only thing that let anyone recognize her as a girl.

She looked at the scissors still in her hand.

"...fuck it."

Chapter Text

"Hey, that seat belongs to someone."

She wasn't sure whether she was thrilled or heartbroken that one of her best friends couldn't recognize her. Admittedly, that was the point of her makeover, but that didn't mean she wanted Soul looking at her like she was a stranger. That was having her cake and eating it though, so she swallowed those feelings and spared a look his way. "Soul…" She sounded a lot less confident than she wanted. "Good morning." He recognized her voice at least from the flash of recognition across his face. He didn't say anything, but she could feel him taking in her new look.

She'd hacked away at her hair like a mad woman. Her pigtails were probably the most noticeable absence, but the anger, and some tears, had left her with sloppy, uneven clumps of hair in what was only just barely recognizable as a pixie cut. When she'd finally calmed down, she'd spent the better part of the night panicking and debating what the hell she'd done and if she could fix it. In the end, she'd decided the hell with it and thrown herself into the deep end. She'd traded in her, at least in her view, cute uniform for shorts and a short-sleeved dress shirt.

There probably wasn't a single person who wouldn't mistake her for a boy now.

Still, the thought had been kind of freeing. She couldn't be upset at others for thinking that and no one could use it against her if she'd done so on purpose. Sure, she was still plain, but if she'd wanted to stand out, she'd have worn a silly hat or done something stupid like sculpt her hair into cat ears like some people. Her father's reaction hadn't been anything like she'd expected. She'd thought he'd burst into tears or start screaming about how his 'little girl' was all wrong now. Instead, he'd vanished into his room and returned with one of his usual cross-shaped ties for her to wear.

Reaching up, she straightened it for what was probably the hundredth time that morning and felt the uneasiness she was feeling subside a little even as the silence between her and her fellow scythe stretched on.

What did it mean, that Soul was the person she'd been worried most about seeing her?

"Heh." His face broke into that nasty smirk of his that she'd long since realized was as close as he came to a genuine smile of his. "Cool."

She couldn't have kept herself from smiling even if she wanted to.

"Hmmm?" Peering around her partner, it was her. "You've given up even pretending to be a girl?" Little Miss Perfect was sticking her nose as far up as it could go.

Maka's vision didn't turn red. She didn't even feel her heart thumping away in her chest anymore. It was almost weird how calm she felt despite an insult that, a day ago, would have had her snapping her pencil. She could think of how she really wanted to respond now. Her mind drifted to her part-time, foul-mouthed meister.

"Shut the hell up."

The voice didn't sound like hers at all to her, but she liked that.

She didn't miss how hushed the voices became around her, or how Soul's eyebrows rose at what he probably saw as very 'un-Maka' language, and, best of all, how Little Miss Perfect's face began as red as her hair. Didn't look like Hero was coming in today either, given his empty seat beside her.

She opened her book back up to the page she'd stopped on, cheeks hurting from all her smiling.


She'd been on her way towards the cafeteria for lunch when she'd heard a voice that never failed to be grating.

"I guess I can't be calling you 'Pigtails' anymore, huh?"

"Well, I wouldn't mind it if you called me by my name -" Maka caught herself, turning to see a grinning face flanked by his perpetually sour, at least towards her, partner. "L-law? You recognized me?" Even Soul hadn't!

"Mnn, well, the unimportant stuff might be a bit different, but-" She watched her upperclassman look squarely at her chest with nonexistent shame. "-…nope, totally, absolutely, without-a-doubt, that's you."

And just when she'd thought she couldn't be pissed off about someone commenting on her looks anymore!

She probably resembled some terrible demon as she brought her book down on his skull with enough force that onlookers would swear that his face hit the floor hard enough to crack it. "And being an absolute pig is totally, absolutely, without-a-doubt you!" She shouted back.

"Maka."

She turned his attention to his partner, her anger evaporating, and failed to keep herself from straightening her tie as the Demon Lantern looked at her.

"Feel free to do that whenever he says or does something stupid like that. One of these days, it's going to get him killed." Jacqueline's, ironically, cool voice made it hard to tell whether she was joking. She spared a look at her floored meister and shook her head. "Oh, stop that already. We both know that head of yours is too hard to be broken by anything short of a meteor…"

Law was back on his feet in moments, hands on his hips even as his skull spouted blood from the top of his head like a fountain. "So, what's with the change in get-up? You were pretty cute before."

Maka took a deep breath. "I was tired of looking like someone else." She wasn't going to be her mother's doppelganger anymore. "And, if I dress like this, no one can make fun of me for looking like a-" Her brain suddenly tripped as she realized what Law had said. Tripped and fell down a set of stairs as tall as the ones she climbed every morning. "H-HUH!?"

The idiot EAT student was just digging a pinkie in his ear, looking clueless as ever. Beside him, Jacqueline's eyebrow twitched. "Though, I'd probably just dig my heels in and pick a fight with them!" His laugh was totally carefree.

Maka shared a look with the Demon Weapon and sighed with her.

There was no reason to take anything he said seriously, was there?

"Well, we're off to lunch." The pipsqueak started walking but cast a look back at her. "Don't eat too much if you don't wanna puke!"

"P-puke?" What was he talking about now?

"You weren't told? We're doing cross-class sparring today." It was Jacqueline that answered, the girl stepping past her as she did. "Law and I's EAT class against your NOT class."

Maka couldn't help, but think her wording was purposefully. Another not-so-subtle reminder of who that idiot's real partner was. She could feel her nails digging into her palms and listened to the older girl's steps as she walked after her meister. "Who knows!" She said, loud enough that she was sure the other girl heard her. "There might be someone in NOT better than EAT!"

She heard the other girl's steps come to an abrupt stop. Maka didn't dare turn around and she got the impression that the Demon Lantern wasn't going to either.

After what felt like an eternity, Jacqueline walked off without another word.

Maka bonked her head against the nearest wall, willing her legs not to give out underneath. "Why not just say, 'I'm gonna steal him away', why don't you…"


"HahaHAHAAAA! Does this mean I get promoted to EAT now!?"

As it turns out, she'd been right. Just, not in the way she'd wanted to be. In fact, she was pretty sure that every person in the room was the opposite of happy about this result.

When it had begun, a whole crowd of students had been led into the room by Sid. The meisters and weapons had all been split up and then paired up with someone of the other class. She wasn't sure whether she felt lucky or disappointed that she hadn't been put up against Jacqueline. Instead, she found herself paired up against a rather demure girl that reminded her a little of Tsubaki.

Of course, before anyone had gotten to do anything, someone had to go and steal the show.

Black*Star stood over an unfamiliar EAT student, the poor kid's face almost caved in, pumping his arms. "The great Black*Star advances! The YOUNGEST EVER!" He declared, apparently ignorant of the fact there'd already been plenty younger than him, while throwing his head back to cackle some more… right up until his adoptive father's fist cracked his skull.

"You idiot! You're supposed to wait until we start the match!" Sid's frustration was shared by all present, but there was no denying that the ninja had pulled off quite the feat. A one-hit KO of an experienced EAT student from a NOT student was probably unheard of.

"Pffahahaha! You knocked the shit out of him!"

She felt her eye twitch a little hearing a certain EAT student laughing his ass off.

"See?! My audience adores me!" Black*Star whined, pointing in Law's direction. A terrible thought occurred to Maka that she was sure she'd probably thought at some point before. These two hadn't ever really met one another.

And, if it was within her power, she would make sure that they never did.

"The last person that you want to get praise from is him! I didn't raise a delinquent, that's not the kind of man I am!" Sid's words seemed to hit a nerve with Law, the boy sulking visibly.

Black*Star just scoffed and beat a fist against his chest. "I'll beat whoever I'm put up against!" If nothing else, he had confidence.

"Your partner is the floor now." Sid's deadpanned. "Do push-ups until it's defeated."

Yeesh. She almost felt bad for Black*Star.

Just almost though.

Her own match had went… decent. Ish. The EAT girl was timid, but her experience in a fight showed with how she brushed off attacks that Maka knew had floored some of her classmates. In the end, it had been the other girl requesting a tie, claiming exhaustion, that had let her save face. Once again, she was reminded of Tsubaki. A much, much less subtle Tsubaki.

"Thanks for the match." She bowed, swallowing some bitter feelings as she did. She could feel someone just staring at her and she spared a quick glance up in time to see a certain Demon Lamp's head jerk away just a little too late.

Tch.

Sitting back, she glanced over to see how the others were doing and felt a little better about herself seeing the one-sided slaughter that was EAT versus NOT. Still, there was just one EAT student she was all that interested in watching and… Law was paired with Ox. Huh. As she moved closer, she couldn't help but notice again just how small the, supposed, fifteen-year-old was compared to Ox. He was more than a head shorter and still so slim that it looked like he might break if the larger boy came at him.

"If I might…" Ox raised a hand. "…could I not have a different partner? I'm not sure we're even in the same weight class." He was trying to be nice about it.

"It's cool, man. I don't mind that you're fat." While Law was being Law.

Ox didn't take the bait. "I'd like a fair assessment of my strengths and weaknesses, that's all." He was looking to Sid, almost pleading.

"No switching." Sid raised his hand up, a sign that he was about to start the match, and the bespectacled boy and his adversary settled into almost matching stances for their school's martial art. "Begin!"

"KEEYAH!" Ox's battle-cry, while proving he had an impressive set of lungs, was just a little cringeworthy with how his voice cracked. There was no denying that his form was perfect, at least in the sense that it looked exactly like Maka had seen in every book she'd read about their school's famed Death-Fu.

Law dropped out of his stance entirely, ducked to the side, and stuck his foot out, tripping Ox so he fell flat on his face.

Sid facepalmed hard.

Ox was back on his feet a moment later, sporting a bruised nose, and, if Maka had to guess, a bruised ego. "You're… quick. Yes. I should have expected as much." His cheeks were a bit red now too. He returned to his stance before hurling himself as the boy once again. He was more cautious now, throwing punches and using his reach to his advantage.

It was only the second time she'd ever seen Law fight anyone, but the difference from the two situations was night and day. Against Stein, he'd been punches and kicks from every angle. None of them had been weak moves, at least not to her admittedly novice eyes, and he'd been brushed off like a joke. Now, against Ox, the situation was reversed. He was the one swaying, ducking, and dodging anything thrown at him. Was the gap between them and EAT really so large? What did that make the gap between them and the mad doctor?

She and the others watched as Law caught his attacker's arm and hurled him over his shoulder into the dojo floor with a wince-worthy sound being made as Ox landed.

"Victor, Law." Sid didn't sound surprised in the least. Though, after how badly the EAT class had trounced all of them, why would he? "Your form is good Ox, but I'd suggest working on your improvisation. Book learning will only take you so far in an actual fight."

"…Yes sir." Ox was helped to his feet by his partner.

She made to congratulate Law for his win, not that it was necessary, but her feet turned to lead when she saw Jacqueline appear beside him. She couldn't hear what the two were talking about over the chatter in the room. Law was saying something and smiling, and she was rolling her eyes and wearing the warmest smile she'd ever seen on the other girl's face.

"-your ass too?"

She blinked, not registering who was talking at first, before turning her head to see it was Soul. "Uhm. What?"

The albino rolled his eyes at her before repeating himself, "You get knocked on your ass too?"

"Oh." Well, not on her ass, but… "Yeah, I got pummeled pretty bad." She sighed. "EAT students are in a whole other league, aren't they?" She wasn't staring longingly at them, wishing she was one of them. Not at all.

"We'll get there one day, Maka." The hard slap to her back accompanying his words was enough to drag her out of her depression.

Maka laid a hand over her chest, the dull aches from her match forgotten as her chest grew warm. She glanced over at the boy, her friend, and…

"I DEFEATED THE FLOOR!"

Felt that warm, fuzzy feeling fizzle and die as Black*Star hopped into the air.

"Black*Star…" Sid sounded so very tired. "-you can't-" He stopped when he saw that the floor had indeed been cracked like it had been struck very, very hard by someone. "…beat the floor." He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Fine. You beat the floor. That still doesn't count as having a proper match with someone."

The whine that followed would have probably tested a saint's patience.

Maka shook her head. "He'll never learn, will he?" She smiled over at Soul who shrugged, grinning. At the very least, this very painful day was coming to an end.

"Oi, oi. I'll take him on."

Or not.

Her head whipped around so fast she wouldn't have been surprised if her neck snapped. "L-l-" "Law!" She was drowned out by his actual partner who seemed rather annoyed. It wasn't all that surprising given Black*Star's reputation. Sure, he was in NOT, but the boy had been trained from almost birth by a Three Star meister. That he'd eventually be one of EAT's 'stars', no pun intended, was more a matter of when then if.

No, she wasn't bitter about everyone thinking Black*Star had loads of potential. Not. One. BIT.

"Hooo? You're challenging the great Black*Star?" The ninja-boy was grinning ear to ear.

Law stuck his tongue out and pulled down one of his eyelids at his fellow troublemaker.

This very mature response was enough to make Black*Star nearly froth, lunging at the other boy and was only stopped by Sid grabbing him by the back of his neck. "If you two are going to have a match, then it goes by my rules." He released his adoptive son and moved to stand between them. "You two will fight until the other verbally submits, is incapable of going on, or I end the match. You will not start-" He looked at Black*Star who made a face. "-until I say so."

NOT's number one against a student from EAT in an actual match… Maka could tell the crowd was getting into it. Which, of course, meant Black*Star looked positively ecstatic. Meanwhile, she was feeling what she was pretty sure was the start of a migraine. Why, just why, did that idiot have to go challenge the other idiot? Were they drawn to each other like opposing ends of a magnet? There was a, in her opinion, very small part of her that was worried about Law. He was good enough to take Ox easily, but Black*Star was at the very least the best of NOT and at the very most already at the same level of an EAT student.

"Begin!"

The two went at each other, a flurry of punches and kicks that her eyes struggled to even fully follow. If Ox was textbook, Black*Star was the total opposite. There were bits she recognized from Death-Fu, but there were also movements she'd seen Sid drilling him on before and even things he was probably just improvising. There was probably a lot she could learn just by watching him, as much as it irritated her to admit.

"Watch close!" Sid barked, apparently reading her mind. He wasn't speaking to just her though or even just the NOT students.

The longer the fight went on, the more she realized something. Law was… bad. In the weirdest of ways. His movements were obviously of someone familiar with fighting. And despite his appearance, he could move with surprising strength and speed. His hand-to-hand was just… sloppy. Awkward. He used bits of Death-Fu that had been drilled into her and her fellow NOT students' heads like it was unfamiliar. As easily as he'd handled Ox, it was clear that was more to do with the difference in their experience than any real skill on his part.

When she thought about it felt when he was using her – deliberate, violent, strong – it made it seem like he was two people.

Their latest exchange ended with Law's face getting a whole lot of fist, the small boy stumbling back and just barely keeping from falling flat on his rear.

"Haa… You ready to quit?" Black*Star was grinning. "I'm totally EAT-worthy, aren't I?" He looked away, towards Sid, and Maka have expected Law to capitalize on it by punching him in the face. It's what she'd probably have done.

"You aren't kiddin'." Law laughed, despite the blood trickling from his nose now. "You've got me beat in pure strength and speed. You're way better at this hand-to-hand stuff too." He threw his hands up.

"See?! He quits!" Black*Star laughed, pointing at his opponent.

Her eye twitched and she debated smacking Law once herself. She wanted to shout at him and was having to bite her lip to keep from doing as much. Didn't he care, being the only one losing to an EAT student?

"Your name was Black*Star, right?" Law stepped forward, holding his hand out to shake the other boy's. "I've heard of you. You're gonna surpass God, right?" He smiled.

Maka shivered.

"Yeah! See, even he's acknowledged me!" Black*Star clasped hold of the other boy's hand and- his expression changed? She watched him try to jerk his hand back but failed.

Law's smile twisted into something… well, not what she'd call a smile. "Black*Star!" She heard Tsubaki call out, but it was too late. The delinquent's other hand lashed out and snapped hold of Black*Star's skull. She watched the blue-haired menace keep trying to tear himself out of the other boy's grasp and fail. He even started punching the other boy's arm to no avail.

Sid sighed. "That's your loss, Black*Star." He sounded disappointed, but not completely surprised.

"That's bullshit! I'm finnnAGH!"

Maka blinked. What the hell was even happening.

"I guess that was a pretty underhanded move, but Sid did say 'verbally surrender'…" Law released the hand of Black*Star's he was holding, his opponent using both now to try to pry the remaining one off him and failing. "I'm pretty crap in a fist-fight, see? So, if I go dropping my partner, I'd probably get my teeth kicked in." There was a grunt from Black*Star as he spoke. "Once I grab hold of something, I'm not the kind of person to let go."

Maka thought about all the times she'd felt herself in those same hands, even as far back as the first time against Stein. She'd always taken it as normal for an EAT student, but maybe it was something unique to him?

"Like I said, it's over." Sid stepped over.

With a shrug, Law let go and- was immediately clocked in the jaw by Black*Star and sent to the floor.

"That was cheating!"

There was something ironic hearing that from a ninja.

"You lost, Black*Star." Sid thumped him on the head, hard. "You would have won if you'd paid more attention to the rules rather than let your opponent take advantage of them… though, Law…" He spared a look at where the boy was sitting on the floor, holding his face. "I thought we agreed that you wouldn't go grabbing any of your underclassman like that?"

Law turned his head away.

"I see. I guess it'll be a week of detention for both of you."

Maka kind of felt bad for Sid dealing with these two knuckleheads… though, at the same time, she considered what she'd learned. Black*Star was strong enough to be in EAT which meant he and Tsubaki would be moving on sooner rather than later. Law, meanwhile, had monster grip strength if he was able to overpower Black*Star of all people. The former didn't surprise her, but what was up with her part-time meister? She just added it to her long list of 'Things To Ask Law' just below the reason for his fear and just above whether his hair was naturally like that or if he did it on purpose.

She couldn't keep from scowling when Jacqueline appeared at her meister's side, offering him her hand.

"You promised not to." She sounded disappointed.

"I know, I know… not as bad as losing though." Law took her hand. "You'd be disappointed in me if I did."

Maka wasn't sure how she felt watching the other girl help him to his feet and the smile they exchanged.

"You're right. I would be."

That was a lie though.

"I'd never hear the end of it!"

This feeling, as much as she hated to admit it, was jealousy, pure and simple.


It wasn't long before she found herself alone with Law once again. He'd dragged her far into the forest near the school, a typical spot for training though it was her first time being there for that specific purpose and had demanded she change with all his usual grace. For the last hour, he'd gone through different motions with her. Stein had demanded he figure out a way to use her, but it was obviously not something that would come easy. It wasn't something she even knew where to start with. Even when she'd asked Tsubaki for advice, her having her Chain Scythe mode, that was heavily dependent on having both a secondary blade and a huge chain so much of it was just her apologizing.

She loved the girl, she really did, but she couldn't really relate to someone in her position. Sighing, Maka sank down into her soul and- whywaseverythingspinningstop-! She felt herself smack into a tree, her blade sinking deep into it. She took a deep breath and then changed back to her human form. "Law." A moment later, she was cracking his skull open. "Don't Throw Someone Without Asking!"

"Jeez, I'm trying my best here! You try to figure out how to use a gardening tool as a deadly weapon!"

"I am NOT a gardening tool!" She felt her eyes burning but willed herself not to cry.

Law seemed to deflate, those big, stupid looking ears he sculpted his hair into actually drooping and rubbed the back of his neck. "…sorry."

She felt her raging emotions, just as quickly as they came, begin to dissipate. It was the first time she'd heard him apologize to anyone about anything he'd ever said. "…well." She sniffed, looking away. "I guess I might have overreacted a little with hitting you." She sank down, sitting on the forest floor and looking up at the sky. "I'm a pretty terrible weapon, aren't I?"

Law plopped down beside her. "Yeah."

She punched him in the arm, hard. Why was it even after he'd said something like that, she found it hard not to smile? "You're weird. If a girl says something like that, isn't it natural to comfort her if you're her friend?" She asked. She waited… and waited… and he didn't say anything. She glanced over and found her part-time meister fidgeting.

"I'm-..uh… I-I'm not… really good at being nice to people." The words sort of tumbled out of his mouth. "Or, well, not saying what I'm thinking at that exact moment, so-… I don't think you're bad, but your weapon form sort of sucks, and-" He kept fumbling, holding his hands together and fidgeting like crazy. He stopped talking after that but went through a whole assortment of expressions like he was mentally tossing back what he should or shouldn't say. "I don't think having a bad weapon form makes you a bad Weapon." He finally got out. "I don't think any Weapon is bad. It's a Meister's job to figure out how best to use them, the stuff that's good about them and the stuff that's… not good?"

She stared at him.

It was the longest she'd heard him talk, without it just being a barely creative insult or a rant about something stupid, and she could only laugh. Laugh, laugh, and laugh until the tears she'd been holding back before were falling.

"W-what's so fucking funny!?" Law's attempt at looking threatening failed completely with his growing blush.

"I just- I get it now." Maka wiped her face and beamed at her meister. "You're shy."

If his face got any redder, he might just burst into flame like he was Jacqueline. "I-i-i-!" He was on his feet now, waving his hands around. "I am- not shy! I don't have any problems around girls! Or, saying exactly what I mean! Only some kind of stupid fucking idiot would think any fucking thing fucking about me was FUCK -"

"You've just got a foul mouth because you're too awkward to know what to say!" Maka pressed, getting up as well. "It's cute!"

Law stared at her, his face ablaze and his eyes wide, and he finally just ran off behind a tree. "Goddammitshitfuckpiss-" The curses went on and on, but she could see him gripping the wood hard enough it cracked. He was hiding from her.

Maka fought a giggle as she approached. She could finally see it now, the scared person beneath all that bravado. Crude and clumsy, but genuine and considerate of others in his own, terrible way. She crouched down on the other side of the tree. "Law…Lawrence." She saw him twitch and another string of expletives that she hadn't even heard of followed. She reached out, slowly as she was afraid she might startle him and he'd run away, and let the tips of her fingers make contact with the back of his hand.

She closed her eyes and the rest of the world just seemed to fall away. There was just her soul, small and flawed and angry, and then there was his. It felt like it was a hundred miles away, but she made the journey anyway. She felt the same heat she had that time in the dance studio. The wall of delinquency he'd built around himself. This time though, she knew better. Pushing a bit harder, even if it hurt, made it crumble away. It was paper-thin confidence built over-

She winced.

"Stop-" He was pulling his hand back, but she caught hold of it before their connection was broken.

The fear was so suffocating that it felt like she would drown and there were too many for her to catch all of them. He feared Jacqueline leaving him because there was something wrong with him. He feared his teachers thinking he was losing himself to madness and turning on him. He feared that Shinigami-sama didn't trust in him and all his kind words were lies. There were some fears so big, so terrible, that she couldn't even get close to them or something horrible would happen.

In her mind, she saw herself wandering a labyrinth filled with traps he'd built not just to keep others out, but to keep himself inside. She was diving over spike-filled pits, narrowly avoiding friends turned lynch mob, and all the while something truly terrifying was hot on her heels. It was probably through sheer tenacity that she found herself at its center.

"That-" She felt like she'd run a marathon."-was a lot of work! You know, I'm still new to this Weapon thing! You could've made it a bit easier." She put her hands on her hips as she stood over the familiar face curled tight on the floor. "…hello? Helllloooo? Law?" She poked him but got no response. "Lawrence?" He twitched, but that was all. "I see." She took out a book and cracked his skull.

"OW! What the HELL was that for!?" He was on his feet, glaring at her. "I didn't do anything! I was just sitting here minding my own business and-" Law caught himself. "…uh. Huh. You made it." He seemed taken aback.

"Like I was saying, you could've made it a bit easier. This place is a death-trap. Your soul is a deathtrap. I don't even know where to start with what that means. " Maka sighed, tucking her book away.

"You shouldn't be here." Law's voice was quiet now. Frail, even. "Other people can't be here… it's hard enough to keep myself okay. The last person who was here-!" He stopped and hung his head. "I'm not…" He sat down on the floor, hugging his knees. "I'm not a good person. Not even close. I'm wrong."

"Why are you a meister then?" Maka tapped her foot.

"Because! If I'm not, then-! I could end up like… like one of those things! Eating other people's souls! Or who knows what else!" Law threw his arms out. "If I stay a meister, then, there's people around to watch me! To keep me under control!"

Maka thumped her with her book again. "I don't buy it." Nope. Not one bit. "If you're so worried about turning into a bad guy, then why would you be out here training with me? Why are you working so hard with Jacqueline? Why would you bother being a meister when you could just be locked up in a cell somewhere?" He was quiet now. "If it's a Meister's job to figure out how best to use a Weapon… then it's the Weapon's job to figure out how best to use their meister, isn't it?"

She offered her hand to him.

"Then, trust me."

She waited.

And waited.

And waited and waited.

Until, finally, he took her hand.

"I'm-…a pretty bad meister, ya'know…" He would look at everywhere, but her now.

"Yeah, you pretty much suck." Maka retorted. "That's fine though. I suck too, don't I?"

The world around them fell away, and reality was there to greet them. He was still there on his side of the tree and she was there on hers. It had felt like an eternity, but it didn't seem any time had passed at all. She doubted she'd have been able to care if it had been. All she could think of, all she could hear, all she could feel was the steady, synchronized hum of their souls. She wasn't having to sort a jumbled mess of her own feelings and his. There were just their thoughts, their feelings. One and the same.

I want to be part of Shibusen.

I want to be better.

I want to be your partner.

What startled her most wasn't that she'd finally admitted that, but that the thought wasn't just her own. It felt wrong. She'd dreamed up this perfect scenario in her head of finding a partner, a Weapon, that she'd have from start to finish line. Even, in her girlier moments, marry like her Mama and her Papa. The more reality had thrown a wrench into that dream, the more she'd tried to force it to be. She just had to accept it, accept what she felt, and move forward.

She was a Weapon who wanted to be partnered with Law because he made her like being a Weapon.

When he pulled his hand away, it was almost a struggle just to exist as a solo once again. "Law?" She got to her feet as he stood and came around the tree looking… well, embarrassed. She swore he looked like he'd been crying. The big softie. "…u-uhm. We, ah, didn't figure out anything for me today, but it looks like we made some progress on resonating." To say the least.

"…Yeah. I'll think some more on it." He scratched the back of his head, avoiding looking at her. Jeez, now that she'd pointed out, he couldn't stop being awkward. When he finally met her gaze, it was without much of his usual fire. "I'll see you later, Maka."

She clasped her hands behind her back, pretty sure her face was going to get stuck in a smile at this rate. "Yeah. Later." She gave a little nod before they turned and headed their separate ways.


The whole walk home, she felt almost like she might float away with each bouncing step. Even coming through the door, she almost sang when she called out, "I'm home!"

Not a minute later, her father's head poked around the corner wearing a wide smile of his own. "There's my girl! You sound happy. Did something good happen at school?" She fought a giggle in response.

"Mhm! Did you go ahead and get dinner?" She walked up and gave him a hug, for no real reason other than she felt like it. She didn't even notice how her father seized up and instead peaked around him to see the Chinese containers spread out over the coffee table. "You did! Thanks, Papa!" She hurried over, starving after her long day, and snatched one up. She didn't even care what it was. Her recklessness paid off as whatever she was eating was delicious.

"…U-uhm… M-maka…sweetie." Her Papa inched over to take a seat on the couch beside her. "Are you… feeling okay?"

"Yeah! Great!" Why was he asking?

"So, ah, what's the good thing that happened?" Her Papa was asking a whole lot of question today… ah, what was the harm in answering?

"Well, it was more after school." She poked at her food. "When I was with Law." She giggled, feeling like she might just float off the couch. "He was so cute, Papa!" She glanced over to see her father choking. "Oh, remember to chew- now, well, see, it was actually kind of my idea I guess. It started off bad and he was kind of rough, but I realized he was just shy, you know? Once I took the lead, we…" She giggled. "And I…" She giggled more. "And he-!"

Her eyes widened when her father collapsed to the floor, frothing at the mouth.

"P-papa?!"

Chapter Text

"Show me."

She responded to Stein's request with a quick nod before changing into her weapon form, not questioning whether the boy beside her would catch her. Her soul reached out for his and his for hers, the connection between them strong. "Law?" She asked, peering at his face through her blade. "Are you ready?" He huffed at her, looking moodier than usual. It was hard to be mad about it when she could feel his bashfulness through their connection. Wasn't there a name for someone that put up a tough face to hide their true feelings? Unimportant thoughts like that were forgotten as their two souls grew near.

"Soul Resonance!"

Their souls sang, growing louder and louder together, until it seemed like there was nothing that wouldn't be drowned out by them.

And then one of them, she didn't want to point fingers but only because she didn't have any in weapon form, had their voice crack and the whole thing went to shit. Going from a 'they' back to a 'her' and 'him' so suddenly wasn't a pleasant experience. "Law! What the hell!"

"Gah, don't blame me! You're way too… enthusiastic! You have to give someone some time before they're emotionally ready for something like this!"

What did that even mean!

She changed back, hands forming before any other part of her so she could grab him by his collar and hoisted him off the ground and began shaking him hard enough that his stupid head might just pop off. "Can you not be weird long enough for us to show all the progress we've made! Soul wouldn't have trouble pulling this off!"

"Uuuggh! Leave your little boyfriend out of this!" He grabbed her head and- ow!

"You're g-gonna crush my skullll!" She tried to force his hand off, to no avail. It would have been unpleasant enough with the squeezing, but his palms were so calloused that she felt like he was taking a cheese grater to her forehead. Was this what he did to Black*Star?! It felt like her brain might start leaking out of her ears! Were his parents gorillas or something!?

"Besides, aren't the two of you too young for that kind of thing!?"

"I turned twelve just last month!" She was old enough to date! "And he's not my boyfriend!" Not that any of this mattered! It had nothing to do with the fact he'd screwed up their Soul Resonance and-

"…are the two of you done?"

Oh. Right. Stein.

Both she and her partner snapped to attention, though she was for sure going to crack his skull open the second they were out of the doctor's lab. "E-ehehe… well, it went well for a little while?" She scratched at her cheek, hoping that at least counted for something.

"Very impressive." He didn't sound impressed. "What progress have you made in the actual assignment I gave you?"

Maka twiddled her thumbs. Her meister dug his pinkie in his ear.

The doctor twisted his screw a few times before taking up a clipboard and making a few notations.

Maka didn't know what they were, but she could guess it wasn't good. "B-but! We achieved Soul Resonance! Isn't that a huge achievement?" Well, for her at least.

"Being able to achieve such a high resonance rate for a temporary-" Guh, there was that word again. "-partnership is impressive. However, it's unstable thanks to a certain meister's reluctance." She glared over at Law who, very maturely, was mouthing along as Stein spoke. "…and resonating won't make much of a difference if you're dead."

Uuugh… She couldn't even argue.

"Still, compared to what it was before…" The doctor peered over his notepad at them. "…it's an incredible improvement." He sounded more curious than anything else now, looking between the two of them. "Did something happen?"

Maka didn't say anything. It felt kind of inappropriate. When she looked over at Law and saw how red in the face he'd gotten, it was all she could do to contain her giggles.

"I see." Stein didn't pry, which was nice of him, and instead began digging through his desk. "I'll give the both of you an extension on the previous assignment, but on one condition."

"Condition?" She tilted her head while the grumpy EAT student beside her folded his arms.

When their teacher whipped around, he was brandishing two equally large needles in both hands. "Just a little blood!"

little?!

"U-uhm, Law, I think we should-!" She whipped her head towards her meister and- he was gone. She spun around just in time to see the door leading out of the mad doctor's office click shut. That pansy-ass, no-good, perverted, pig-headed-!

"Wow. He can really move when he's scared, can't he?"

Her own thoughts ground to a halt when she heard Stein's words from right behind her. She peeked over her shoulder to see the man looming over her, grinning ear to ear as the light struck his glasses in just the right way that his eyes were obscured.

She was going to kick that moron's ass the next time she saw him.


"And, then, he runs offAgain! The asshole!" She kicked the nearest thing, which probably wasn't a very smart idea as the trash can was a lot harder than she'd expected. A whole lot of words she'd picked up from the person she was ranting about came tumbling out of her mouth under her breath as she clutched her foot. The snickering of her audience did little to lessen the pain.

"It's like this all the time. Complaining that he's doing this or that wrong… I swear, it's like they're an old married couple." Soul being the one to say that just meant it pissed her off even more than it should have.

"We are not!" It was natural to complain about having a cowardly meister, wasn't it?! The one thing that kept her from cracking heads was the hand of the always kind Tsubaki coming to rest on her shoulder.

"There, there. I'm sure that if he thought that you were actually in danger, he would have stayed." The sweet, sweet girl spoke with the kind of confidence only someone who didn't know Law well could have.

Maka sighed. She didn't want to spend their whole day out complaining about that jackass. "If you say so…" It was rare that she and her classmates did anything as a big group like this. Well, to her it seemed that way. It might have just been the first time that they'd ever bothered inviting her.

That depressing line of thought aside, she was just as eager as the rest of them to visit the famous Deathbucks Café. The only times she'd been there, aside from her Papa flirting with the waitresses because of their unnecessarily short skirts, they'd had the most amazing mint tea. It would probably be a bit crowded with everyone in their group though. Their number was eight in total, counting herself, Soul, Tsubaki and her meister, Kilik with his two adorable partners, and, of course, her.

"I don't get how someone like that would even make it into EAT." As if reading her mind, Soul's partner opened her mouth.

Tsubaki must have noticed her face as the girl tightened her grip on her shoulder as if to silently tell her punching the other girl was a bad idea.

"Soul, what do you think?" Little Miss Perfect slid her arm around the albino's as she asked.

It was all she could do to keep herself from ringing-…wait, what was her name? Maka blinked, suddenly staring intently at the doll-like girl's face trying to put one to it. Had she really never bothered to learn it? Then again, she didn't even know the spectacled boy's name either, but this was the first time they'd ever really interacted.

The moment what's-her-face noticed she was staring at her, the girl with the ringlet-pigtails turned her nose up and moved even closer to Soul.

Yeah, forget learning her name. She'd just ask Law to teach her all the bad names he knew and cycle through them.

"I think-" Maka had to keep herself from grinning too much as the albino pulled his arm away so he could fold his hands behind his head. "-that we should think more about whether we're gonna pass then worry about anyone else."

Eh? "Pass?" She couldn't keep herself from asking which earned her a scornful look from the scythe meister that was standing entirely too close to her dear, dear friend she had entirely platonic feelings for.

"You should try to pay more attention in class." Was she competing with Black*Star for how condescending she could be? And she did pay attention in class, she just had a lot on her plate right now, thank you very much! "Next month is the first EAT exam."

Already!? "Has it been that long…?" Between her discovering she was a weapon, her parents' divorce, meeting Law, and everything else… Wow, it really had been over a half a year, hadn't it?

"Maka, they've got a booth for us now." It was a good thing Tsubaki was there to steer her into the café or else she'd probably have kept standing there reminiscing like an idiot.

The place was busier than ever, students of Shibusen and townsfolk packing the place and making even getting to their seats something of a trial.

Even with Kilik's twins getting booster seats, which made them somehow even cuter, they were forced to squeeze in to get everyone in their booth. Being sandwiched between Tsubaki and Soul was an awkward experience. With Tsubaki, it was like being reminded of just how wide the gap was between their 'levels'.

Yet, that was still preferable to nearly being pushed into her albino boy who was a friend's lap. As pale as he was, she'd always thought he'd been kind of clammy to the touch. Their arms brushing together though and having his face near enough that if he turned his head he'd be talking almost right into her ear was-

Gah! What was she even thinking about!? Was her Papa rubbing off on her?! Worse, was Law!?

She needed a distraction! Any kind of distraction!

"Good afternoon!" A singsong voice, or, well, someone trying to do one managed to do just that. "I'll be serving you today, Masters!"

Her nose scrunched up, unable to hide her own disgust, as she watched all the boys' faces light up as the waitress struck what she probably thought was a cute pose. She wasn't sure what was worse, how obviously fake it all was or the fact that they'd all fallen for it.

"HEY! The great Black*Star is giving you the honor of taking his order!" She, along with the others, winced as the boy slapped their table hard enough that it almost cracked.

"Oh wow! THE Black*Star? We don't have celebrities like you in here, like, ever. You'll probably have a big order, am I right?"

Maka exchanged looks with Tsubaki as her meister began ordering basically everything on the menu in the background. This waitress was a professional, wasn't she? She would play all these idiots like a fiddle if they let her. That she was so small and cute just made her that much more dangerous. If they remained a united front then there was no way she was going to fleece them too-

"And, what about you two? I promise, I'll always listen to my big sis's when they're talking!"

"B-…big…sis?"

Oh no.

Maka glanced over to see the starry-eyed Tsubaki quaking in her seat.

"T-that's seriously something you like, Tsubaki…?" She asked under her breath as her best friend was sweet talked into ordering probably the most expensive dessert off the menu.

When the girl's lavender eyes landed on her, she tensed. She felt like she was being stared down by a big cat about to be gobbled up. Her hand reflexively went to her wallet to make sure it was still there. "W-what?"

"Your order, big sis!" The fake giggle thrown in just put her that much more on edge.

"I…I'll be having the bahka-cha." That was all she'd come for and that was all she was getting, no matter what. She braced herself, and her wallet, for whatever honeyed words were on their way.

"Tch. You just don't have the cash probably."

Except, what she got was the exact opposite. "W-what!?" Her temper flared. "I do have the money!" Did this girl think she was poor or something!?

"Mhm…"

Her waitress was brushing her off. Was that even allowed?!

"I do!" Maka fought the urge to hit the girl with whatever was nearest, which as she'd been trying not to think about was Soul and pounded her own fist on the table. "Just because I don't want to spend it-"

"I'll be back." Her waitress turned her back to her.

Maka felt a blood vessel threatening to pop. "You wait right there!" She was practically breathing fire now. "I'll have an entire damn cake! I don't even care which!" That would show her!

"…if that's what you want, big sis~!" Their waitress sang as she skipped off.

It took her just a few moments to realize what had happened. She sank down into her seat, feeling the life drain out of her. "S…s-she got me too… just like that…"

She might have stayed there, shell-shocked, if she didn't hear the hissing coming from the other side of Soul. His meister looked prepared to stab someone with the fork she was gripping. "That trollop didn't even ask me for my order!"

Maka blinked. Huh. Well, that waitress couldn't be all bad then.

The small girl returned shortly, attracting no small amount of attention from others in the café with the ease she carried two trays larger than she was stacked high with food. "Here!" Twirling, the girl moved faster than Maka could even follow and every item from her trays had been transferred to their table. She'd even arranged it according to whose orders were who's without a single mistake.

Jeez, this girl was frighteningly good at her job.

The people who had been watching were applauding the waitress who was giving little bows and even curtsying, probably doing everything in her power to wring as much money out of the onlookers as she could.

"Excuse me." Just one person was, understandably, not so pleased with the girl. "You forgot to take my order, miss." Little Miss Perfect's smile looked like it almost hurt for her to wear. She must have known that picking a fight with the waitress would just make a scene where she was the villain.

"Forgot? Nah. I just didn't take it, brat." The waitress turned back around and began digging her pinkie in her ear. "You can just starve."

Maka regretted sipping her tea just then as sit suddenly went down the wrong pipe and she found herself choking.

"E-e-EXCUSE YOU!?" The scythe meister looked more stunned than angry.

"Phhhbbbttt." The waitress's response was to blow a raspberry.

Maka, and the rest of the table, just sat there staring at the scene unfold. Soul's meister's face grew redder and redder and the waitress's words more and more disrespectful for seemingly no reason.

It only stopped when a tall, frightening man with dark hair appeared. It said a lot about Death City that many of the teachers at Shibusen weren't as frightening as the Master of some café. "That's enough, Lala. Whatever she did, forgive her."

"I did nothi-" Soul's meister went silent when the café owner looked her way.

Without another word, the tall man returned to his place behind the bar. His gaze lingering as his waitress stood there, arms folded and bottom lip sticking out.

While all of this was playing out, Maka's brain was working overtime trying to figure out why this waitress seemed intent on treating Soul's burden like she was her sworn enemy. Did she like Soul? He was irritatingly popular. Though, she'd paid no more attention to him than she had anyone else. She'd done more to win Black*Star's favor than she had Soul's.

Had something happened when they'd been waiting outside? The only thing they'd done was talk about school… and Law. It was then that everything clicked. And Maka, really, really, really wished they hadn't.

The waitress was short. Her voice kept cracking like she was straining to make it sound right. Carting around all that food and moving so fast. Knowing how best to play Black*Star and her. The lavender eyes alone should have been clue enough.

"La-…l-la…!" Maka was shaking. "Law!?" She lowered her voice as much as she could, but that was only to keep from screaming it so everyone in the restaurant could hear. The rest of the table wasn't saved from this terrible epiphany of hers.

Soul and Kilik both started to choke on their food. Tsubaki gasped. Little Miss Perfect went from bright red to incredibly pale in the span of a few moments. Black*Star…had died. He had just died. He had gone limp in his seat and his soul seemed to be escaping his mouth.

"Sssshh!" The waitress brought a finger to his lips. "You guys tryin' to expose me?! Have a little consideration for your upperclassmen here, dipshits…!"

Maka wanted to cry, but the tears weren't coming. "Why." She managed. "Just… why." She hoped, prayed, for a good reason for this.

"You know how much more they pay in tips if people think you're a cute girl? Bat your eyelashes, flash your panties, call some creeps big bro…" Law straightened the little skull-shaped headpiece he was wearing that, on closer inspection, was helping him pin-down his trademark 'cat ear' hair style. "You'll be rolling in cash." He reached into his top and pulled out an entirely too thick roll of bills. "Some of us aren't living with their Papa and have rent to pay."

Maka buried her face in her hands. "Shibusen gives a stipend to pay for that."

"Pff, I blew through that already this month." Their waitress, her shitty meister, grinned entirely too carefree for her liking.

The daughter of one Spirit Albarn gripped the edge of the table and felt her eye twitching in a way she associated exclusively with a certain EAT student. "On what." She ground out, sure that her gums were about to bleed from how hard she was clenching her teeth.

Looking entirely too proud of himself, Law reached into his blouse once again and pulled out- "Look! A seven-leaf clover!" He twirled its stem between his thumb and index finger as he held it out to her before quickly drawing it back, as if afraid she'd take it. "A guy on the street was just selling it… can you believe that?! Something like this has to be like, one in a million… maybe even one in ten million. All he wanted in exchange was what I had on me at the time so, we both know who made out better in that deal. From here on out though, it'll be smooth sailing for me! I'll have so much good luck; I'll even have some to spare for you!"

Maka closed her eyes.

"…Maka? Heeey, Maka? Jeez, I knew you'd be jealous, but come on. I might even let you borrow it for that EAT exam coming up."

Soul shifted beside her. "Hey, uh, Law. You should probably run like hell."

"Heh?" It took him a minute, but it seemed even an idiot of his level could tell when he was in trouble.

"LlllllllLLLLLAWW!" She was flying over the table at him, intent on making good on what she'd promised herself earlier that day.

Chapter Text

It was bad luck, running into her.

“Jaqueline.” Maka tried her hardest, her very hardest, to not look nervous. All she’d wanted to do was pick up a few new books from the library, not find herself sharing the same space as her meister’s other partner.

The other girl narrowed her eyes, staring at her like… ugh, like she was her Papa. Where was that stupid idiot when she needed him?

“Maka Albarn.”

Maka cringed at hearing her full name. That was not how someone greeted a person they liked. It was almost accusatory. “H-here for a book?” Yes. She probably was, genius. That’s why someone went to the library. She was spending too much time around Law.

The other girl didn’t answer. She would have almost preferred if she’d said something snotty, but instead she just… glared. Maka swallowed. “…I imagine the material is a lot more complicated in EAT compared to what we’re covering. But, we’re all working hard to prepare for the exam, so, who knows, we might be classmates soon-“

“And?” The other girl cut her off. “What are you going to do, once you are part of EAT?”

Maka took a step back. “…I…I don’t understand.” She was lying. Because she feared where this conversation was going.

“You know what I mean.” Jacqueline took a step forward. “He’s my meister.”

Right.

Law.

“He’s…” Maka tried finding the words, but ironically despite being surrounded by them, she came up emptyhanded as the other girl moved closer.

I should be the one he’s training with. Instead, he runs off every other day to help you.” The words sounded like an accusation, one that the sickle found herself unable to deny. “What do you think is going to happen? That’s he’s going to be both of our meisters? That he’ll take turns?”

No. She didn’t. Because, if she was being honest, she didn’t want to share him.

“Do you know how long we’ve been partners?”

She’d never asked.

“How many souls we’ve collected?”

She didn’t want to know.

“Do you know how hard it was to even get him to accept being my meister…!” The other girl’s voice cracked and Maka wanted nothing more than to run away. “You don’t know the first thing about us!”

What did Jacqueline want her to say? That if she made it to EAT, that she’d be done with Law? That she’d never ask for him to be her partner again? Because, she couldn’t. Even just to keep the other girl from breaking down. “I…I…” She gripped her tie, wondering if someone would step in to stop things before they got worse. Of the two people who came to mind, one would probably only make matters worse. The other one she thought might come to her rescue, the one she’d gotten the cross-shaped piece of cloth she was currently crushing in her hand, was just flat out embarrassing.

“…what about your meister?”

She stiffened.

“Where is he?”

Maka lifted her head, but her deer-in-headlights expression answered for her even if she didn’t want to.

“You don’t even know.”

When was the last time she’d spoken to Hero? Where was he? Why hadn’t he been coming to class? Why hadn’t she wondered sooner?

The last question was the only one she could answer, and it was for the same reason that her upperclassman was confronting her. Maka was sure there were other people in the library, she’d heard them, but it was so quiet now. Whether that was because they’d left, because they were listening in, or her heart was just pounding too loud for her to hear them, she couldn’t say.

“…go find out where he is and leave us alone.” Jacqueline spoke finally. “You can talk with Law… be friends with him… but… give up on him being your meister.” It should have sounded like an order, but the girl’s voice made it seem more like she was pleading.

“No.” Maka answered before she could even think. “I…I-I can’t do that.”

Pain.

The whole right side of her face hurt.

Oh. She’d been slapped.

Jacqueline stormed out without saying anything else because, really, what else was there?

Would she go confront Law next? Had she already? It was easy enough to imagine similar arguments to what her parents had, as silly as it was to compare being meister and weapon to marriage. Had she ever asked Law to stop seeing her, like her Mama had her Papa? Had he ignored her and done it anyway?

She’d never really thought about these things before. Probably, she guessed, because she hadn’t wanted to. She was like that with a lot of things, she’d come to realize.

The scariest question of all though was… if it came down to picking between them, which would Law go with?

His true partner?

Or…

“Maka!” Tsubaki? She turned to see the girl running towards her. “Are you okay? I heard that there was a fight going on and-… Your face…”

“I-it’s okay.” She managed to get out. “It’s nothing I don’t deserve.”

Despite it all, despite how much of a terrible person it probably made her, she found herself holding her head high.

“And nothing I wouldn’t do again.”

Law really was rubbing off on her, wasn’t he?


 

“Pfahahahaha!”

Why did he get such a kick out of her suffering?! “You’re the worst! Look my face!”

“I am! Jeez, look at you!”

Walking around with a handprint on her face like she was… ugh. “I’m becoming my Papa.” She buried her face in her hands only to wince when she touched her cheek. “O-oww… dammit…” She poked it a little, wincing.

Soul snorted. “You know, when I met you, I didn’t really think that you were the kind of girl to get in this much trouble.” She grumbled, but he went on. “I was like, ‘This is some nerd whose idea of a fun time is reading’.”

“Reading is fun!” Maka wanted to hit him and was wondering why she hadn’t already.

“But, here you are, trying to steal some other lady’s man-“

Meister!”

“-and getting into cat fights!”

“It was not a cat fight! She slapped me! Ugh!” Maka threw her hands up. “Why do I even bother…” If Jacqueline didn’t kill her, the rumors would. “Everyone thinks I’m some hussy…” She wanted to cry.

“I mean, take it as a compliment. I wouldn’t have ever pegged you for the type that even could steal someone’s man.”

“Oh. Thanks.” Maka nodded… and then, with veins bulging all over her face, realized what he was implying. She did hit him that time, cracking the albino over the head. She harrumphed and laid it back down beside her, staring up at the sky. He was supposed to be making her feel better.

“Guhhhh…” Soul walked off, stumbling, to wherever and she didn’t really care.

Though, she really did and was a bit worried over how long it was taking him to get back. Had she hit him too hard? Was he disappointed in her? Wait, what if he really did think that she and Law were-!! “Ah!” She jumped when something cold touched her cheek.

“Jeez, spacing out there much?” Soul was there, offering her a drink. “That thing has to hurt. This should help.”

Oh. Right.

Maka felt her stomach begin its usual gymnastics as she accepted the can and pressed it into the mark the other girl had left. “Thank you.” She spared a few glances over at him and tried not to giggle when he did his usual ‘cool guy’ routine by slouching as much as possible and tossing his drink back like it was something a lot stronger than it was. He was such a dork. “You know.” She looked away. “L-law and I… aren’t… t-that way.” She fumbled a bit. “T-the rumors have just gotten a little out of hand lately and I didn’t want you-“ She mentally hit the brakes. “-or anyone-“ That was better. “-thinking that we’re a couple.”

That wasn’t it at all.

“Nah.” Soul waved it off. “I mean, I get it. It’s like me and Alice.”

Alice?

Who the hell was Alice?!

“…You know, my meister.” Soul added, looking her almost like he couldn’t believe she didn’t know his partner’s name.

 “O-of course I know that’s her name.” Maka lied. She willed herself not to sweat when he narrowed his eyes at her. “You were saying!” She motioned for him to go on. At least now, she had a name to go with the face and snooty voice and bitchy attitude and-

Anyway.” Soul sighed. “It’s like me and Alice. It’s not like we can just resonate with just anybody. We’re not Tsubaki.” He shrugged. It was another of the girl’s many, many, many talents. “Even then, that’s not all it is to be someone’s partner. Finding someone that you feel like you could trust with your life…” He looked away from her. “…that’s a pretty high bar for a bunch of kids and this shitty school basically acts like it should come naturally.” He shook his head. “Sure, for some of us it’ll be easy, but no one should hold it against you if getting there is messy.”

…he was a lot more mature than she gave him credit for, wasn’t he?

“Still, he gets you, right?” Soul looked back at her. “In a way other people don’t.”

Maka nodded.

“…what about Hero?”

She took a deep breath. “…we get along, but…”

“It’s not the same?”

She shook her head.

“Yeah, thought so.” Soul sighed. “You should tell him.”

She would. She had to. “I figured that you’d be mad at me.” She opened her drink, mostly to keep herself from looking at him. “ ‘Cheating isn’t cool’, is what you said…” She took a sip and no amount of sugar it had in it kept it from tasting bitter right then.

“Yeah, it isn’t.”

It wasn’t helping, hearing that from him of all people.

“But…”

She spared a look over at him.

“Sticking to it, even when everyone else is against you…” Soul grinned at her. “That’s at least a little cool of you.”

Her cheeks stung for a second time that day, but for a whole new reason.


 

“Papa?” Maka called, quietly, knowing that this is where her father was supposed to be, but at the same time not wanting to be overheard by the person he shared this particular office with.

“Maka!”

Of course, any attempt at not drawing attention was lost when her father threw his arm around their Headmaster and began pointing at her. “Do you see how cute she is!? She’s even wearing my tie! When she asked me, I thought I would die.”

“Ooh, I remember when my son asked to wear one of my old masks…” Wait, Shinigami-sama had a son!? “Kids… they grow up so fast…” The God was sniffling.

Maka, as usual, questioned her life choices. “P-papa.” She tried, very hard, to keep herself calm. “I was just… hoping to talk with you.” She poked her fingers together.

“Ah! Of course!” Her parent practically sprinted over. “Whatever you need, darling!”

Deep breaths, she told herself. “Well…” She started… and then stopped. She glanced over at the person who had moved to stand at her father’s side. “Uhm. Shinigami-sama?”

“Yes, Maka?~”

She shuffled. “I, uhm, kind of wanted to talk to my Papa… alone?” Was that okay to ask? Was she going to get in trouble? Oh no, was he going to give her detention!? Wait, he could expel her to! No one on the outside could tell how much she was screaming internally. Hopefully.

“O-oh.” She almost felt bad when Death seemed to slump. “I see… it’s not something that I can help with…” He wobbled over to a corner of the room and sat there, dejected.

Alright, she felt really bad now.

“Maka.” Her father was surprisingly serious when he spoke. “You have to be more delicate with him. He hasn’t gotten to do much with the students lately so he’s feeling pretty useless.” He said, quietly.

Wow. What was her life that her Papa of all people was lecturing her?

“R-right. Well, I kind of wanted to talk about Law-“

She watched her father’s good mood shrivel up and die. Yeah. He really didn’t like the boy since that little… misunderstanding.

“He didn’t touch you, did he.”

No!” Hell no. “I’d kill him.”

“Good! Yes! Kill him!”  

“We’re getting off track!” She snapped. She took a breath to calm herself and then glanced down. “I… was wondering how you’d go about talking about him with Hero.”

Her father’s eyebrows raised, seemingly understanding without her having to explain that this was not going to be an easy conversation. “…sorry.” Huh? “I’m not the best person to ask that, Maka… tough conversations have always been my weak point.”

Right.

“When me and Stein split, it wasn’t pretty. Your Mama really did most of the talking.”

Maka huffed. That was no help. It wasn’t like her Mama had shown herself to be the best at handling conflict face-to-face.

“But.” She looked up when her father laid his hand on her shoulder.

“You’re smarter than me. Brave… no, even braver than your Mama. There’s nothing I could tell you to do, or say, that wouldn’t be worse than what you’d come up with yourself.”

She probably stared at her Papa for a full minute before hugging him. “Okay.”


 

It was the first time she’d ever gone to Hero’s apartment. She hadn’t ever asked him where he lived. She wouldn’t have even known where to go if she hadn’t asked Nygus. Her teacher seemed to know something was going on as the woman told her to ‘be kind’.

She’d been standing outside his door for a half hour wondering what that meant in a situation like this. Another, admittedly bigger than she would have liked, part of her was telling her to go home. What she wanted and what she got were rarely the same. If she went through with this, there was no telling that she and Law would become partners.

If she were Hero though… the thought that she’d been settled for would crush her. She took a deep breath and made to knock- except, the door was opening and there he was. “A-ah. Hero.”

Her classmate scowled at her. “Maka.”

 “You’ve… been missing.” She started. “It’s been…awhile.” She felt terrible that she didn’t know exactly how long.

“Skipping a few days isn’t going to get me expelled.” Hero folded his arms. “Well then? What is it?...and what’s with that get-up?”

Maka was trying, very hard, not to get mad. It wasn’t going to help anything. He had, after all, been one of the few to recognize her. “I just… wanted to try something different?” She reached up, brushing a hand through what was left of her hair.

“Different, huh?” He rolled his eyes.

Why was he making this so hard?!

“I’m-… I’m here to talk, okay?” She tried.

“Save it.” Hero slammed his door shut and pushed past her. “I already know all about it. You’ve moved up in the world.”

Maka grabbed his hand before he could get away. “Would you just listen to me? It’s not like that!” Why did he have to be an asshole about it!?

Hero ripped himself away from her, glaring at her. “If you want some amazing EAT meister instead of me, just say it!” He turned his nose up at her. “I’ve already started looking for a different weapon anyway.”

Even though she had no right to be, she still felt hurt hearing that. “It’s got nothing to do with him being in EAT!”

The blonde just scoffed. “Then, what? Do you like him?” Every drop of condescension in his words was making her blood boil. “You think your reputation is bad, you should hear what they say about him. There’s a reason he’s been through more than a dozen weapons! I wouldn’t be surprised if you get buyer’s remorse after partnering up with that little freak-“

Maka was swinging. She was a weapon, sure, but she’d trained hard to be a meister. Even if she couldn’t beat Tsubaki in a spar, she still knew more than enough to knock Hero flat on his ass. She was shaking, angrier than she could ever remember being.

“Don’t you dare say that about my meister!”

Hero was clutching his nose, blood pouring from between his fingers, and she was still certain the hurt in his eyes had nothing to do with her hitting him.

There was no coming back from this for them.

“You can say whatever you want to about me, but…” Maka willed herself not to cry. “…goodbye, Hero.” She turned and walked away.

It was all she could do to get home before she broke down.


 

She skipped school the next day. The last thing she wanted to deal with after everything was hearing her classmates gossiping, or Jacqueline confronting her again, or, worst of all, seeing Hero. Her Papa was understanding at least. Said something about making sure she still got counted for attendance because she was ‘at school, in his heart’ and she’d thrown a book at him. She’d made sure it missed though.

She’d kept herself busy with one of her new books, but several hours of reading her had gotten as far as page two.  She probably would have kept right on with that if not for something smacking her window. Curious, she opened it…

Get the hell out of the waaaaay!

Soul was flying right at her.

“Wh-WHA-!”

Too late, he crashed right into her and she went tumbling back onto the floor with him on top of her. She was very glad her father wasn’t here because she could just imagine him murdering the albino and also what the hell was going on and oh god, this wasn’t one of those dreams was it?!

“G-get me outta theseee!” Soul was squirming on top of her.

She shoved him off, staring intently at her ceiling. She took a deep breath and then looked over at him. “What the hell are you doing!” She hit him with her book twice. It was the only way she could calm her heart down enough that it wouldn’t burst out of her chest.

“G-gguhh… dammit, at least look before you swing…” Soul’s head smoked, a perfectly symmetrical x-shaped indentation left from her two chops. More interesting than that, he was tied up in ropes from the neck down…

“Why are you all tied up!?” Maka really, really hoped this wasn’t because she’d read some of those books her parents had told her she wasn’t too old to read yet.

“Because, that asshole kidnapped us!” He snapped back at her.

“…’asshole’?” Oh no. “ ‘Us’?!” She peered out her window and looked down at the street below and-

“Yo!” Sure enough, there was just one person who could look so proud over such a terrible thing. “How’s it shakin’, Maka?”

Maka gripped her windowsill hard enough she was sure she cracked it. “What. Are you. DOING!”

It was bad enough he was throwing perfectly good albinos through her window, but on the ground beside him, he had Black*Star too! And Alice! And-… actually, Tsubaki was just standing there smiling nervously.

“I heard that you were playing hooky, so I brought your friends to come see you!” Law put his hands on his hips. “Damn, not a word of thanks… see what I mean? She’s ungrateful.” He looked down at Black*Star who wriggled violently. He seemed to have a lot to say, but someone had gagged him.

“I am not her friend.” Unfortunately, at least as far as Maka was concerned, he had not gagged the redhead too.

“Psh, what are you talking about? Two peas in a pod, the two of you.” Law waved her off. “Two flat-chested birds of a feather, A-cup together!”

Maka was going to kill him. She was going to go down there, commit a murder, and then go to jail. With a smile.

“Better back up, Maka! The rest of us are coming up!” Law was picking up Soul’s meister now…

“There’s a door!” She screeched.

“Where the hell’s the fun of that!?”


 

“This place is as boring as ever.” Black*Star noted, looking around the room.

“You’ve been in Maka’s room before…?” Tsubaki sounded almost concerned.

“That’s shameful.” Maka willed herself not to hit Alice.

“We’ve known each other since we were young. He came over once or twice. I always ended up having to throw him out.” She explained, setting out tea for everyone. Even Law, who was sporting more than a few bumps and bruises once they’d all gotten through with him. “So. Will someone explain why they decided to tie up my friends-“ -and Alice- “-and throw them in my room like a crazy person.”

Law took a sip of his drink. “I’d actually like some more sugar for my-“

Maka reached for her book.

“So! I heard that you were sulking in your room from your old man.”

…her Papa?

“And, well, since I’m no good at…” He fidgeted a bit with his cup of tea. “Well, anyway. I thought it’d be easier if I brought people you liked with me.”

Idiot, she wanted to say. He talked like he wasn’t one of them.

“Also, Alice.” He added, grinning.

She did a poor job of passing her laugh as a cough and from the glare the redhead was giving her, she didn’t buy it.

“But, see, I was like, ‘What if they have something else going on today?’ and then, well, I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll just kidnap them.’ and…” He said as though that was a perfectly natural step to take.

“Wait.” Soul raised a hand. “You thought, rather than ask us if we were busy, that you’d just kidnap us.”

“Yes.” Law nodded.

Maka shook her head at Soul and looked at him with an expression most probably associated with war veterans. “After a while, you get used to it.”

Soul patted her shoulder and it took more strength than she would’ve liked not to weep.

Anyway. It was easy getting the jump on these two. Gotta work on that situational awareness.” Law wagged his finger at the scythe and his prissy meister. “Black*Star and Tsubaki, well, that was different. Two ninjas? I’m not that stealthy.” He shook his head.

“Really?” Maka asked, taking a sip of her drink. “You? Not stealthy?”

“Shut up.” Law stuck his tongue out. “So, instead, I just asked them if I could.”

…seriously? She looked over at the pair and raised an eyebrow at Black*Star’s pouting. Seeing as how he wasn’t talking, for once, she looked to Tsubaki who was more than willing to fill her in.

“He challenged Black*Star that he couldn’t escape if he tied him up…” The kunoichi glanced over at her meister. “And…well…”

Maka didn’t need her to say more. Black*Star had accepted a challenge he had thought there was no way he could lose and lost. Again. “Did he try to tie you up too?” The thought of him laying a hand on the sweet girl made her want to reach for her book again.

“No.” Tsubaki answered, truthfully. “When he explained why he was doing it, I just agreed to come along.”

“You could’ve untied me!” Her star-haired meister whined, looking very mature as he kicked his feet against the floor.

“You wouldn’t learn anything that way.” Tsubaki’s smile, however sweet, didn’t make her words any less unforgiving. Maka almost pitied Black*Star for what his weapon had in store for him for being unable to escape from a goof like Law of all people.

As much as she wanted to stay mad at Law, he made it difficult. He’d heard she was upset so he’d gotten her friends together to come cheer her up. Admittedly, he’d done it in the most ass-backwards way possible and made a scene out of it, but that was his normal. She couldn’t think of many people who’d go that far just for her.

If nothing else, it made her feel more confident in recent choices she’d made.

“So. Tell us what happened.” Law made a motion with his hand. “We saw Hero’s face. What’d he do, make a pass at you?”

“That’s impossible.” Soul’s words cut her to the very bone.

“Is he gay?” And Black*Star was signing his death warrant.

“I mean, I get that Maka doesn’t have much sex appeal just yet, but she’s got a feisty attitude so maybe he’s into that.”  And she didn’t even know how to deal with Law.

One idiot-clubbing session later, she felt much better. “No. He did not make a pass at me.” She answered, tapping her book’s spine against her hand for anyone that had any smart comments. That included Alice as well. Wisely, no one said anything.

“Then, what’s the deal? You just decided that it was time to break it off and thought ‘man, decking him is a lot easier than talking it out’?” Law rubbed his chin. “I mean, I’ve had some messy break ups with weapons in the past…” He scratched at his chest. “But, seriously, punching him?”

Maka huffed. “It’s not like that. I didn’t just walk up to him and say, ‘Go to hell’, and sock him in the face.” Though, it would’ve probably made things easier had she done that sooner. “He…” She stared down at her cup, hands shaking even now when she remembered her former meister’s words. She lifted her head back up and willed herself calm. “…he insulted you.”

Law was giving her a funny look. “…and?”

“That was it. He insulted you.”

She watched, confused, as the boy she hoped would be her meister’s face grew redder and redder. “Y…You…” He scrambled to his feet and almost fell as he started retreating backwards. “-t-that’s stupid! That’s such a stupid reason!” He whipped around and ran out the nearest door, slamming it behind him.

Maka cocked her head to the side. “…was it?” She asked, looking to the others.

The group stared at her in silence for a few moments before the snickering started. It wasn’t long before every one of them were laughing, or, in Soul and Black*Star’s case, howling.

“What?!” Maka puffed her cheeks out, not sure what exactly was so funny about standing up for her friend. “…ugh, whatever.” She stood up and walked to the door. “Lawrence, that’s a closet, you’re gonna have to come out eventually!”

Lawrence?!” Black*Star and Soul’s laughter only grew louder.

“Goddammitshit,don’tcallmethat! Especially in front of other people!” She heard from the other side of the door. “I’ll stay in here forever if I want! You can’t make me come out!”

“Lawrence…” She sighed, shaking her head.

“Lawreeennnceeee~!” A pair of idiots behind her sang and she debated clubbing both if it would help her get the delinquent out of her closet.

“He’s surprisingly cute when he’s embarrassed, isn’t he?” Tsubaki was at her side, giggling.

Maka couldn’t keep herself from laughing just a little at his expense. “Yeah. Under all that attitude, he’s just a big softie. Or, well, a little softie.”

LITTLE SOFTIE!” The hyenas were cackling again.

 Sighing, she hefted up her book to deal with them. She’d been having such a quiet day before they’d all shown up. And, as she’d learned ever since meeting her closet’s current occupant, if there was one thing she hated…

It was quiet days.

Chapter Text

“You two always train out in the middle of nowhere?” Soul asked, hands on his hips as he looked over their surroundings.

Maka folded her arms over her chest. “Well, it’s not like there’s room in town… and doing at the school means dealing with nosey people.” She was trying very hard not to look grouchy, but it felt wrong to have others along with her and Law for one of their practice sessions. Not just because they still hadn’t worked out the best way of using her in a fight, but it was the only time that her meister seemed to let his guard down with her. The chances of that happening now were-

“You gonna show us something cool, little softie?” Soul said with that nasty little grin that usually brightened her day. Instead, she was considering thumping him.

“Hmph. I expect to see something impressive from an EAT student.” His meister wasn’t winning any awards with her charm either.

Law took a deep breath. He was doing his best to not lose his temper with them it seemed. How uncharacteristically mature.

“Heeey, Tsubaki! There’s some really tasty berries over here!”

Law took off his shoe and threw it at the ninja. “Stop that, dumbass!”

Well, that lasted about as long as she’d expected. She fought a giggle as her meister stomped over to his footwear to retrieve it, hopping on one foot back towards her as he put it back on.

“I brought the two of you along because Maka here needs some help.” She straightened up a bit when he pointed at her. “See, we’ve been trying for ages to figure out a good way to use her in a fight, but hacking at trees and arguing isn’t getting us anywhere.” She did her best not to look too disappointed in herself. All they’d really managed to do was argue and trim up some bushes with her which wasn’t going to be winning any fights.

“Ooh, I see…” Black*Star was looking particularly smug as he rubbed his chin. “You figure, spar with the great Black*Star and you’ll learn a thing or two.”

“I mean, sounds like a good way to figure out what not to do.”  She turned her head and covered her mouth trying to keep from laughing at the delinquent’s deadpan response. “You’re not bad in a fight though. And, Soul’s a scythe-type like Maka.” Law pointed from one to the other as he spoke. “I figure, if I beat the shit out of my adorable underclassmen, me and Maka might finally find the answer we’re looking for.”

Wow. She stared over at him, wondering he realized just how condescending he sounded there. From that shitty grin he was wearing, she was pretty sure he did.

“Haaaa?!?” Both of the other males present were sneering at him.

“You think we’re just gonna take that lying down…?” Soul, please, don’t take his bait.

“I’ll teach you not to underestimate someone as big as I am.” Black*Star, well… He had it coming.

Maka watched her fellow scythe transform and felt no small amount of envy with the ease he seemed to shift from human to weapon form and the grace his meister caught him, twirling him around and around like he was an extension of her. She honestly couldn’t tell which of them she was more jealous of or for what reason. Looking at the pair was always tough.

Black*Star was already holding Tsubaki’s own scythe-like form… or, rather, ‘kusarigama’ as she’d heard the other girl refer to it. Even though it was the one she resembled the most, it still felt like they were worlds apart. The other girl’s blade was wider, longer, and there were two of them all linked together by a chain. As usual, her friend was just in a league of her own.

Before she could sink too far into depression, someone decided to poke her face. “E-eh?!”

“I said, ‘transform’… seriously.” Law sighed. “You see how much of an airhead she is? She just goes off into her own little world.”

“O-oh. Right.” She switched, her little sickle form twirling in the air in defiance of gravity for a few moments. With anyone else, she might have been afraid of dropping once physics kicked in, but her meister never failed to catch her. There was a rush of emotions that weren’t her own into her and a feeling of plurality that nothing could compare to.

It was embarrassing how much more at ease she felt once he was holding her. She made sure to keep some feelings to herself, the same way she knew he did. It would have made resonating just plain awkward. Though, if their connection got any stronger, she was pretty sure that keeping secrets would be impossible.

“So, let’s do this.” He twirled her around and around as he spoke.

“You want to take us both on at once?” Alice sounded understandably insulted, readying Soul.

“Well, duh. If I fought you one at a time, I’d beat you before I learned anything.” She would have lectured him on being cocky if she wasn’t in his head. He wasn’t nearly as confident as he sounded. She’d never have been able to tell if they weren’t resonating though.

“Don’t act so big!” Black*Star was throwing himself at them and immediately, she panicked. This was the first time she’d fought anyone with Law since their professor and that had gone horribly.

Law caught the downward swing of one of Tsubaki’s scythes with her own blade and- oh, this was weird. She could feel the other girl through her edge. It was a lot shallower compared to resonating with a meister, but even still she could feel the Nakatsukasa’s determination as their blades clashed. “Maka… Black*Star isn’t the sort of person who would lose to the same opponent more than once.”  She flinched back, trying to pull herself away from the other girl but it was impossible given their current states. Tsubaki was a lot more serious about this than she’d expected.

“Don’t forget us!” She heard Soul calling out and her attention darted to the girl leaping towards them, swinging at Law like she was seriously aiming to cut him down.

“L-law!” This was just supposed to be a training session! Why was everyone going so far?!

Her eyes widened when Law caught Soul’s blade and brought Alice’s swing to an abrupt stop. “Black*Star-!” She heard Tsubaki calling, but it was a little too late as her small meister swung his head into the ninja’s hard enough to make the blue haired dufus stumble back. Cocking back the hand he was holding her with, she totally didn’t enjoy it when he socked the prissy girl in the face as he let go of her weapon.

She finally realized just why her friends looked so serious.

Her meister was strong, wasn’t he? The only time they’d fought together, he’d been flailing around like a dufus with her or at least that’s how it had seemed. From her perspective, she’d just figured Law was average… but compared to some legendary meister, wouldn’t anyone seem that way?

“Tch, it’s just like everyone says. Let that guy get hold of you, and it’s over.” She could hear Soul’s voice, albeit a lot more metallic than she was used to.

“Feh.” Black*Star didn’t seem impressed. “What, is he gonna pinch us to death?”

Law’s response was to make pinching motions with his free hand. “I’m going right for your nipples.”

Maka covered her face with her hands. She hated that he’d said that. She hated that she could tell how proud he was of himself for saying that.

Alice had retreated behind Black*Star and she could understand why.

Law was the one attacking now, slashing and swinging like a maniac at the pair who were doing everything in their power to protect themselves. She didn’t like admitting it, but Alice wasn’t doing a bad job of evading her meister. Black*Star was faster, but she was… graceful. Ugh.  

“Maka! Focus!”

She jumped hearing her partner’s voice. Right. The more swings Law took, the sloppier she realized they were compared to the other two. Alice handled Soul with ease and Black*Star looked like he was born to hold Tsubaki. What Law had over the two was experience and, admittedly, a lot more strength than his little body would lead someone to believe. Both were doing everything they could to stay out of his free hand’s reach, jerking back whenever he snapped at them. He was much more comfortable fighting with a weapon in his hand compared to when he’d taken on Black*Star barehanded.

“Black*Star! Stand aside!” Whoa, really? She was going to take on Law herself? The girl swung down at them and her meister was moving to catch her fellow scythe a second time, but Alice stopped short and spun into a horizontal swipe. “That’s not going to work twice!” She was aiming for his right side which meant he’d be forced to block with her.

She braced herself mentally as her and Soul’s blades locked at an awkward angle. Her meister could only do so much when both her blade and her handle were as short as they were. She forced her insecurities down and focused on the weapon she was contending with. “Soul…we’re not gonna lose to you!”

“Heh, the same to you, Maka!” She could hear the grin in his voice.

“Gah, stop flirti-“ Law was cut short as a knee came crashing into his face and he went tumbling backwards.

“Haha! Too easy!” Black*Star cheered, looking almost too happy over hitting someone in the face. He really did have a grudge against the EAT student, didn’t he?

Well, great. She should have expected something like that from him, but she’d been a bit preoccupied. “We weren’t flirting…” She muttered but received no response. “…Law? Are you okay?” Concern replaced her annoyance and she gave a gentle nudge with her soul.

“I’m awake.” Law sat up and smacked his hand against his head. “Damn, that hurt.” He didn’t seem upset though. “What about you, Maka? You okay?”

She blinked a few times. “I’m fine…?” Had Black*Star knocked something loose?

Her meister crossed his legs, laying her in his lap, and folded his arms across his chest. He seemed to be thinking. “Hm… hm… I see, I see…”

Uh.

“Law, are you… thinking?” Was that safe for him? Was he allowed to do that?

“Maka.” He looked down at her. “You suck as a weapon.”

She was going to hit him for that later. “You’ve said so. Many, many times.” He could be nicer to her! Like, say something that Soul did. You know, every once in awhile when the albino wasn’t trying to be so ‘cool’.

“No, like, really.” How could someone be such an ass and still look so sincere about it?

“I get it! Are we done!?” She snapped, sinking deeper into her soul until she was sitting on its ‘floor’. “I get it…” Compared to Soul, to Tsubaki, to Jacqueline, she might as well have been a toy!

“I like that about you.”

If her head, with all its depressing, conflicted, and angry thoughts was a busy highway, then those five little words were a bullet train going down the wrong side of the road. “E-eh?” What? Like? Her?

Law picked her up and hopped to his feet. “Alright, alright. Time for round two, hatchlings!” He was twirling her around and around. “I’ve got a good feeling this time.”

“…do you two always act so embarrassing together…?” Alice was blushing, holding Soul’s staff in front of her like she was trying to hide from seeing something shameful in front of her.

“I gotta admit, I don’t get what he sees in her at all.” Black*Star was scratching at the back of his head, looking more lost then if he’d just been asked to do calculus.

“If you wanna find out, why don’t you come on.” Law motioned for the two to come at him.

The two NOT meisters exchanged looks… and, with surprising coordination, threw themselves at her own meister once again. While she was still flustered, trying to figure out what exactly her weirdo of a partner meant by his words, she didn’t feel worried. She could feel his confidence through their connection. Not in himself. In her.

If he was going to believe in her this much, the least she could do was believe in him in return.

“I’m the kind of man that always likes seconds!” Black*Star roared, swinging Tsubaki’s scythe blade with all the care of an orangutan.

Law was swinging too, but Maka could tell something was off about his attack. When her blade caught the other girl’s, sparks went flying through the clearing. She really, really hoped they didn’t start a fire. “Not gonna…work!” Her meister grunted. She felt herself pushing against Tsubaki’s blade before finally forcing it off course, the ninja stumbling off to the side for a moment before regaining his balance.

“Let’s go!” It was his turn to attack, Law closing in on Alice and swinging down at her. She defended the heavily telegraphed attack with ease though, catching her with Soul’s staff.  

“That’s not going to-“ Soul’s meister didn’t finish, her eyes widening as the sickle’s small blade that Law had hooked around her weapon was suddenly being used to pull her scythe down leaving her wide-upon from the chest up.

Maka almost, almost felt bad for her as her meister punched her rival, of sorts, in the face for the second time that day and knocked her flat on her rear. She swore that he was almost doing it on purpose. He wasn’t still mad about her bad mouthing him at the café, was he? She didn’t have time to ask because- “Law! Behind!”

The delinquent spun around to catch a swipe from the ninja doing what his kind did best and failing like he did best when it came to stealth.  All it seemed Law could do though was push the attack away again. That wasn’t about to stop Black*Star though who just attack again, and again, and again…

And, being the smart girl that she was, she quickly figured out what was going on when all her meister seemed to do was throw everything he had into using her to catch the oncoming attacks and pull them off track. “Law…”

“Gah, that’s annoying!” Black*Star was losing his temper. This kind of battle of attrition was the worst for him, wasn’t it? “Can’t use her for anything but protecting yourself?!” He only looked angrier when his next attack was flung off course again. “Tsubaki!”

Damn, that was right! She hadn’t told Law that the other girl had multiple weapon forms! Even if he’d heard about it, that didn’t mean he knew what to expect-

“Smoke Bomb Mode!”

It was too late.

She couldn’t see, or feel, anything other than her meister now. “I’m sorry-“ It was a bad time to apologize, but it was her own fault for not warning him.

“It’s alright.” She sensed him flip her upside down, so her blade was towards the ground. “…he’s sick of fighting up close, so next it’ll be…” It was strange. She didn’t feel any surprise from him. Rather, why was he so…?

“The Great Black*Star has a gift for you!” And, there he was giving away his position. Could he be a worse ninja!?

Law leaped, narrowly avoiding the huge shuriken that a certain someone had thrown with little care of how much he could possibly hurt her upperclassman. The second he touched back down, her meister was sprinting out of the cloud of smoke towards the still laughing Black*Star and swung.

“Law-!” For a moment, she panicked.

However, he stopped himself. Stopped her, rather. Her blade was at her obnoxious childhood friend’s throat. As much as she didn’t like the blue-haired idiot, she’d rather he keep his big head on his shoulders. Cutting it off might have made it float away with all the hot air that was in it…  She let out a sigh of relief. “…still…” She looked at her meister’s face.

There was something scary about how serious Law looked… almost as though he was mad at Black*Star for something. She’d felt it through their connection for a moment too. Disappointment. She’d thought it had been at her or himself, but it was obvious to her now it was at the shadow weapon meister.

Law’s face broke into its usual grin a second later though and he flipped the weapon around to whack the very still Black*Star on the forehead with her handle. “A surprise attack doesn’t have much meaning if you give your position away.”

He almost, almost sounded like a responsible upperclassman giving advice.

Of course, the veins bulging all over Black*Star’s face didn’t look like someone who had learned a valuable lesson. He looked ready to do what Law hadn’t and tear the other boy’s head off. “Talking so big even though you’re so small…!” There was a flicker of something around the blunette’s hand. Electricity, Maka thought. Though, that made no sense. Still, it seemed like things were about to go from a lively spar to a full-on brawl…!

“Well done, Law. Maka.”

That was a voice she didn’t expect to hear.

“Professor Stein?!”

What was the doctor doing here?

The appearance of an unfamiliar face seemed to be enough to distract Black*Star as his weapon hurried to his side… and, quickly, the ninja pointed out the least obvious. “He’s got a freaking screw in his head!” He even pointed at it.

“Hm. Yes. I was wondering about that myself.” Stein replied, taking a long drag of his cigarette.

Maka had never been so relieved to see the mad doctor before, quickly returning to human form and dragging Law over to him. It had the bonus of getting him away from Black*Star before the two could kill each other. “Why are you here?”

“Mn, Shinigami-sama informed me that my-“ The man paused, seemingly to think. “…test subjects were fighting some of their classmates.”

“Test subjects?!” Soul’s reaction was completely justified.

“Is there anything normal about those two…? Ugh, whatever, keep that brute away from me… who punches a lady in the face like that…” Maka did not want to imagine what rumors that girl was going to help spread about her after this.

“It was just a friendly spar. I’m not about to lose to a couple of newbies who haven’t even popped their soul-cherry yet.” Law folded his hands behind his head, being as eloquent as ever.

“C-cherry…?!” Tsubaki was too pure to hear things like this, she looked ready to pass out.

“A friendly sparring match where you almost decapitate your classmate.” Stein raised an eyebrow.

“…he’s super tough. I’m sure he could survive it.” Law looked to the side.

“You’re damn right I am! And I’ll prove it! Come here, Soul-!” “Hey, what the hell- Are you crazy?!”

Maka ignored the idiots in the background, as much as she may have liked one of them. As a friend. “Law thought that some real fight experience would help us… and, I think he did figure something out.” She glanced over at her partner. “Right?”

“I saw.” Stein spoke first. “Using her blade to catch your enemies’ attacks and divert them. Prying open their guard so you can land a hit with your free hand. Getting them to lower their guard by focusing solely on defense so you can land a single decisive strike…” He reached up and twisted the screw in his head and Maka could tell without even having to turn around that her classmates were staring at her and Law’s teacher the same way they had the first time they’d seen it. “You’ve decided to use her as a shield rather than a sword.”

A shield? That… didn’t actually sound so bad. Though, she had the feeling that her teacher might have been giving too much credit to her meister. She glanced over, hoping to see some sign that Stein’s words had hit at least somewhat close to the mark. Instead, her eye twitched when she saw the stupid smile on his face as he dug in his ear with his pinkie like he was trying to find the brain he didn’t have.

“I dunno about all that.”  He flicked whatever was on his finger away as he spoke. “It’s not really good for attacking right now, not unless the other guy’s an idiot who drops his guard completely.” Jeez. Black*Star was still right there, Law. “…but… I gotta admit, when I’ve got Maka with me I feel way more at ease. Like, when I’m usually resonating with somebody, it’s sort of ‘We’ve gotta crush this guy’. With her, it’s more… ‘I’ll keep you safe’! I mean, one might be better in a fight, but-“ His whole face looked like it might split from that stupid smile he was wearing.

“-I prefer Maka being the way she is!”

…she looked down at her feet. She was glad she hadn’t hacked off her bangs with her pigtails, they were the only thing that she could rely on to hide what a pathetic face she was probably making.

There was no way, not in a million years, that she would ever give up trying to make him her meister. Even if that made her a bad person.

“How very sweet.” Stein’s response, dryer than the desert that surrounded their home, was what she needed right now. A giggle managed to get past her lips and she quickly wiped her cheek with the back of her hand, lifting her head.

“Isn’t he?” She clasped her hands behind her back, beaming.

“I wouldn’t mind it if she had bigger tits though.”

“…uh.” Soul spoke up. “Dude.”

“Eh? What is it? Oh, this is Franken Stein. He was a huuuuge deal back in the day, but now he just murders defenseless endangered animals. Wanna help me TP his house later?”

“…no. Also, that’s not… that’s not it…” Soul was trying his hardest to warn the other boy, but some people were too dense. “You should probably leave the city. Maybe change your name.”

“Huh? Why?” He turned to look at her, but it was too late.

She hadn’t stopped beaming, even as she’d taken a book out with each hand. “Law…Lawrence...” She cocked her head to the side, looming over him as he shrank down even smaller than he usually was.


 

“So.” In the school’s infirmary for no particular reason, Maka shifted nervously in front of the doctor. “Did we… pass?” She asked, nervous beyond belief.

Stein looked over the boy whose head he was currently bandaging at her. “Hm.”

…was that good? Was it bad? Oh god, what if she was going to get expelled? She really would have no idea what she would do with her life. Shibusen was the only school in the city. She’d have to move. Would her Papa go with her? Would he send her to a private school?! Would it be all-girl’s? She wouldn’t mind that, but-

“You zone out a lot, don’t you?”

She snapped back to reality to see the doctor staring at her, amused. “O-oh. Uhm. Sometimes, sir.” She shuffled a bit more.

“Then, I won’t repeat what I just said.” Ack! The doctor grinned and pushed off the bed her meister was laying in to go flying out the door.

She winced when she heard a nasty crash from down the hall that she could only assume was rolling chair related. “…why does that guy have to be our teacher?”

“Mnnn… something terrible we did in a past life?” Her attention snapped to Law, now sitting up and rubbing his bandaged head. She glared. “Jeez, still mad? It’s just a preference!”

It had nothing to do with that! He’d said something that made her so happy and had to go and ruin it! Why was he so… him? She sat down beside his bed, refusing to look at her idiot.

“Well. You’re young. One day, you might have big boobs.”

And, as usual, he totally didn’t know the right thing to say. Why did her dream meister have to be completely inept at social interactions? She sighed heavily.

“…s…sorry.”

She didn’t look at him. She couldn’t let him off that easily.

“I’m-… You already know I suck that this! I just say things! Because I’m dumb! You’re-… I don’t-… it’s not like I don’t-…”

There was no way she couldn’t giggle when he was being so awkward. “You know, I prefer it when you talk like that.”

“…l-like what?” He sounded almost mad. He probably was.

“You’re always cursing, shouting, or being crude… You’re not any good at it anyway. I bet it’d be easier for you to make friends if you were more yourself.” Sure, it was clumsy. It was also extremely cute. Like a puppy that knew it had made a mess trying to clean it up and only making it worse. He was quiet after that… she glanced over at him and… oh. He looked sad. Too sad. “…sorry. I guess I said something insensitive too, didn’t I?” There was a reason he was the way he was.

 “He said we passed.”

“…eh?” She blinked.

“Stein. He said we passed.”

Oh. Weird. She thought she’d be relieved to hear that. Ecstatic even.

What were they supposed to work on together now? Or, was it…  “…did Stein say anything else about what we’re supposed to work on?” She didn’t want to sound so desperate, but she was.

“No.”

She could feel her heart plunge into a pit that seemingly had no bottom to it. “So, our remedial lesson is over.” She didn’t know why she’d thought it would go on forever. Stupid of her. She always ignored the things she didn’t want to think about.

“Yeah.” His answers didn’t sound like he was too broken up about it. He sounded like he always did. After all the things they’d said, all the things they’d done together… well, that was normal for him, wasn’t it? He’d had plenty of weapons. Partnering up with two at once was just kind of novelty, but nothing worth getting worked up over. He’d go back to Jacqueline and she’d…

…she’d…

“…it was a lot of fun.” She admitted.

“Ah, it was.” Law nodded. “Except for all the parts that you hit me.”

Despite how she felt, she laughed. “Well, I had fun except for all the parts where you made me want to hit you.” Teaching her about what it meant to be a weapon. Catching him doing something crazy and trying to stop it or, at the very least, survive it. Dealing with Stein who seemed more interesting in dissecting them than teaching. Calming down her Papa when he got the wrong idea about them.

Most of her favorite memories since starting at Shibusen involved a boy named Law.

“What was your favorite?” Law asked, seemingly out of the blue.

The answer was obvious. Resonating for the first time. Learning about him. Earning his trust. It made her feel… special. She’d never asked if it was the same with Jacqueline. Something told her, though maybe it was just her hoping, that he’d only opened up to her that way.

“I think… throwing Soul through my window.” She lied. “I’ve never seen him so panicked. He always tries to be so cool, you know? He tried to make up for it when we, uhm, talked later. He’d probably die if we told anyone in class that it happened.” She laughed, half-genuinely. “I was so upset about Hero and… seeing everybody made me feel better.”

“Even Alice?”

“Except her.” She answered, scowling… and then laughed. He did too. “You didn’t have to hit her face so many times.”

“No, I didn’t.” There was his stupid looking ‘I’m really proud of myself for doing what I shouldn’t have’ grin.

“So, what about you? What was your favorite part?” She wanted to know too! …and, he was probably more likely to be honest than she was.

“You remember that part when Stein had me strapped to the bench?”  How could she ever forget? It was both the day they’d met and the first time she’d nearly been audience to a vivisection. “Why that? I mean, all we did that day was argue.”

“You saved me.” Law looked over at her. “I was pretty sure I was done for, but… You came and rescued me.”

Well, sure, but it wasn’t like they’d been particularly close then. She’d hated his guts. “Seriously?” She grinned. “I’m sure you could’ve gotten out of there. Besides, now that we know Stein’s-” ‘Good guy’ felt like a bit much. “-not a bad guy…” Okay, even that felt stretching it. “You would’ve been safe.”

“You didn’t know that.” He’d turned his head away from her again. “You couldn’t know that. And, even though I was an ass like I always am, you came back for me.”

“I didn’t want you to get hurt… even if you were an ass. I’m sure a lot of people would have-“

“No. A lot of people wouldn’t.” He cut her off. “Sticking your neck out for someone you don’t know, who hasn’t said a single kind word to you… I don’t think just anyone would do that. I’d never do it.”

That wasn’t true. Maka had resonated with him so she knew, deep down, that he wasn’t the person he made himself out to be. He’d just convinced everyone else. Even himself, seemed like. The real question was why, but…  “Thank you, Maka.”

Dammit… Dammit… Why did he have to thank her, like it was all over? She’d been doing such a good job of keeping herself composed too.

She stood up, brushed herself off, and put on her best smile. “Any time.”  She stepped towards the door. “I’m sure we’ll see each other in EAT.” It was the only reason I was studying. She nodded. “Tell Jacqueline that I look forward to competing with her!” Even though I already lost. She opened the door out of the clinic and had almost gotten it shut behind her when she heard him speak.

“Jackie and me… we split up.”

Chapter Text

“Alright, pencil’s down!”

Groans from many of her classmates, some of them hanging their heads in defeat. It wasn’t surprising. The material the test covered was way, way more advanced than anything then most of what they’d covered in class.

“I guess another year in NOT isn’t so bad…”

She giggled hearing the boy beside her. “Come on, how bad could you’ve done?” She smiled over at him… and then turned her head away, cheeks burning. Right. “You didn’t have to try to cheat you know…”

Sid had stripped him down to his shorts… Had she ever seen so much of a boy before? Well, other than Black*St- “I-I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.” She mumbled, holding a hand to her face as she forced her lunch back down.

“Maka.”

Ugh, Ox’s bald head was the last thing she needed to see when she was feeling so nauseous… “Do you need something?” She squinted her eyes at him, gathering her books.

“Hm…HMhm… HmhmHMMMmmmm!” What was with that stupidly smug look on his face? Did he want to get punched? It wasn’t like her reputation could get much worse. “I hope that you’re ready to lose.”

Lose? “…uh.” She glanced around, hoping she hadn’t forgotten something important. “What’s going on?” Did her Papa invite him to their game night? Because, if so, she was going to show him why she was the undisputed champion. Except, there was no way her Papa would invite a boy close to her age to their house. He’d been furious when he’d heard about Soul and the others coming over.

Ox stared at her. “…the test! The one we just did!” His voice cracked a little. “I did better than you!”

…? “…so?” She raised an eyebrow.

She swore the classroom had never been so quiet. All the color seemed to have been drained out of Ox, his jaw was slack, and he seemed like he’d be blown away by even a gentle breeze. She glanced over and Soul was looking at her like she’d just sprouted a second head. Even his meister looked disturbed.

“What?” It came out moodier than she’d wanted. If they had something smart to say, she’d give them all a nice chop.

“It’s just surprising to hear that kind of thing out of Maka.” That was a voice belonging to one of the only people she’d never raise a hand to. She turned towards where Tsubaki sat wearing that same nervous little smile, the girl fanning her partner who looked like a shriveled-up corpse in his seat.  That idiot was lucky that there was a physical portion to their examinations or else he’d be doomed. “You’re pretty competitive, especially when it comes to class…”

That wasn’t untrue, but, today was different. She hopped up out of her seat and hugged her books to her chest. “As long as I make it into EAT, nothing else matters.” She wasn’t sure if she was saying it to them or to herself.

Her temper flared as her so-called friends all shared a heavy sigh.

“Maka…” Why did Soul have to look at her like she was a lost cause!?

“There’s a fine line between interest and obsession, Albarn.” She was going to cave Alice’s face in one of these days.

“I think it’s sweet… “ Wait, why was Tsubaki smiling like that?! She didn’t think-?! It was bad enough with her Papa!

“Maka?” Oh, thank goodness. There was their teacher. “Professor Nygus!” She spun around. “Uhm…” She hadn’t made a scene again, had she?

“Relax.” The woman laughed, adjusting her glasses. “Shinigami-sama has requested to see you in his office.”

…how was she was supposed to relax after hearing that!? She could hardly hear her classmates’ obnoxious ‘Oooooh’s over the pounding of her heart. “S-shinigami-sama?” Oh no, what had she done? What had he done? “I-I don’t know anything!” It was the truth!

“Regardless, he’s asked to see you.” Nygus shooed her along. “Now, for the rest of you…” Her teacher’s gaze lost much of its warmth as she looked at the rest of her class. “We’re only half-finished.”

Maka kind of felt glad to be out of there…


 

“Ah! Maka! It’s so nice to see you!”

She knew she should’ve felt comforted seeing the goofy figure, but circumstances left her fidgeting as she came to stand in front of him. “Shinigami-sama!” She bowed her head. “I-I was told that you wanted to see me?”

“Yes, yes.” The tall, limbless mass of black bent at what would’ve been the waist for a person at her several times. If he was just trying to nod at her, he was overdoing it. “We need to speak about a certain meister.”

Ack! It was just like she’d thought! “I-I don’t know anything about whatever he did! I swear! He doesn’t tell me any of his stupid plans!” If he did, she’d try to stop him! That or warn whatever unfortunate souls were about to be hit by a meteor of stupid…

“…pardon?” She watched the eyeholes of her headmaster’s mask squint a little as he cocked his ‘head’ to the side. “Oh! I’m sorry, I must’ve confused you! I’m not here to talk about something he’s done. Though, there was an incident reported by the local fire station…” He trailed off.

Maka screamed internally. She was going to crack that boy’s head in two.

“Anyway!” She jumped as the god slapped his two, huge hands together not that far from her face. “I’m sure that you’ve heard about the unfortunate split between him and his partner, Miss Dupre?”

Yes. Unfortunate.

“It was rather sudden. Took us all by surprise.”

That much she did agree on. When she’d heard him say those words, she’d thought she was dreaming. Even now, she still wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t heard half the school whispering about it.

“Those two seemed like such a nice fit together…” W-why did Shinigami-sama have to look so heartbroken? Were those tears at the corner of his mask’s eyes?! “Do you happen to know why?”

“I don’t know.” It wasn’t a lie either. “When he told me…”


 

S…split?” She’d spun around so fast she’d nearly slammed her face into the clinic’s door trying to get back inside. “Why?! What-…what happened?” Was it their fight in the library? Had the two been fighting and not said anything to anyone? Her Mama and Papa had been like that too, but-! But-!

As many questions as she had, more than anything hearing that made her so… happy.

However, it didn’t last.

How could it, when Law was making a face like that? “…Law…” She didn’t even need to resonate with him to tell how much just saying those words hurt for him. That he’d been able to hide it from her even when their souls had been so near to each other spoke volumes over how talented he was at hiding his true feelings. It kind of ticked her off. “…did you…?”

“She said, ‘I’m not a good match for you’.”

“Oh. So, she was the one who…” It wasn’t right of her to be mad at Jacqueline for that. Yet, she was. Even more wrong was that she felt a little peeved that it hadn’t been her meister who had ended it.

What, she heard a particularly nasty part of herself thinking, did you think he’d really give her up for you?

This wasn’t the time to get stuck in her own head though. She had done that enough lately. She moved to the edge of the bed and inched her hand towards the boy’s. “…Lawrence?” She tried.

She couldn’t think of a name for the feeling she had when he pulled his arm away before she could touch him. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a pleasant one. “Sorry.” He didn’t sound like it. “I’m sooo tired after all that fighting!” He threw himself back so he was laying in the clinic bed, looking up at her with that same stupid smile as always. “We can talk more about it later, right? I need lots of beauty sleep!”

“…r-right.” She stepped back. “Later.”

Much, much more reluctantly than she had done the first time, she left the clinic.


 

“So, it was Jacqueline…” Shinigami-sama seemed just as surprised as she was.

“…she said something to me the last time we… talked.” There was just a little shouting and only one slap. “She said that she’d been the one to approach Law to be his partner.”

“Mnn… Yes, it was rather surprising…” Shinigami-sama hummed. “It’s rare that anyone makes it into EAT without first having to go through NOT. Jacqueline’s potential as a weapon was very high and her scores were phenomenal however.”

Yeesh. Even Shinigami-sama sang her praises.

“Initially, I just believed it was because she saw a kindred soul, forgive the pun, in Lawrence.” The god of death swayed side to side as he spoke.

“Kindred…?” What could those two have in common? If anything, they were even more different than she and Law were…

“Hmm, he never said? That boy, you’d really think he’d boast about that kind of thing!” Shinigami-sama motioned for her to follow and she, because she wasn’t stupid, obeyed. When she saw just where she was being led, she fought the urge to groan. One of these days, the god of death had to get rid of this kiddie table and children’s tea set.  

She willed herself to smile as she took the seat opposite to him, the plastic seat more than a little uncomfortable. “What do you mean, ‘he’d boast about that kind of thing’, sir?” He didn’t answer, not immediately, instead… oh! There was actual tea in there?! She watched her headmaster pour her an almost too-full cup from the skull-covered kettle and slide it towards her. She was quick to lift it up and take a deep inhale. “It smells good…” She took a small sip, being careful not to burn her lips.

“Just like Jacqueline, Lawrence was admitted directly into EAT.”

She fumbled with her cup, but, by some miracle, did not end up spilling hot tea on herself as she placed it back down on its saucer. “He was?!” Jeez, don’t let Black*Star hear that.

“It’s not that surprising! We have a few cases like that every now and then. Your father and Stein were both exceptional from a young age as well.”

Maka tried not to focus on the fact he hadn’t mentioned her mother. She failed.

“Though, I admit, Lawrence’s case is a bit special!” How? How was it special? Give answers! It was all she could do to keep from yelling that at her headmaster. “Still, it was a challenge for him to find a partner. Most struggled to deal with his quirks.”

“You mean, being an idiot.” …oops. She had only meant to think that.

“Ohohoho! Yes, he is an idiot, isn’t he?” Shinigami-sama’s laughter kind of made her feel bad for said idiot. Not enough to keep from giggling at his expense though. “That’s why I was so surprised when the girl asked to be made his partner. As complicated as mastering her may have been, she still had a long line of people willing to learn how to use her.”

Tch.

“Yet, she chose Lawrence…” The god of death’s voice grew quiet. “It was the happiest I had seen the boy in a long time.”

…she looked down at her cup. “…i-is it… my fault?” She didn’t want to get emotional. Not in front of her headmaster.

“Probably!”

His answer was just the worst. “C-couldn’t you at least lie to make me feel better?! Don’t you understand girls at all!” She beat her hands against the table, trying not to throw a complete tantrum and failing.

“O-oh… I’m sorry, Maka. I’m not very delicate, am I…?” And now, Shinigami-sama was sulking.

There was a resemblance, wasn’t there? Between the God who ruled over Death and the boy they were discussing. “U-uh… S-shinigami-sama, it’s… okay. I mean, it’s not, but… You at least know that what you said was wrong, don’t you?”

He nodded… “…but! That doesn’t change that it’s most likely your fault that pair decided to split, wasn’t it?”

How was he even worse than Law!? “I-it’s not like-… w-well, I can’t say it wasn’t intentional… but…” She felt bad enough without him pouring salt in the wound!

“How do you intend to take responsibility?”

She fought hard to suppress a shiver. Without his usual goofiness, Shinigami-sama was terrifying. The glow behind his mask’s eyeholes were as close as he came to having eyes and right now it felt like they were staring into her soul. Considering who she was dealing with, they probably were. “I-i…”

There was just one way, wasn’t there?

She brought her cup back up and downed its contents. She exhaled as she sat it back down, carefully, and looked her headmaster square in his ‘eyes’, refusing to let herself give into the fear she was feeling.

“I’ll be his partner.”

What followed was probably the longest minute of her life.

“...excellent! That’s what I was hoping to hear!” Shinigami-sama seemed to return to his usual self, pouring her some tea. “Though, just saying that doesn’t mean that you will be his weapon. You have to get him to accept.”

Yeah, there was still that. “I will! I can be pretty stubborn sometimes!” The understatement of the century and even she knew that.

“I see, I see… in that case, then, I’ll tell you the same as what I have told all of Law’s partners.” Shinigami-sama chuckled. “There’s just one rule.” He raised one of those ridiculous hands of his, sticking out his index finger. “One that, if broken, will mean your immediate expulsion, do you understand?”

…w-what the hell!? What was with that?! “A-a rule? For being Law’s partner?!” How could there be one that he hadn’t broken already? How had Jacqueline kept him from breaking it?!

“It’s very simple!” He leaned towards her. “To be Law’s partner, you must never, not even once, let him…”


 

“Papa?”

“Maka!”

She side-stepped just in time to avoid his diving hug. Even if she was more tolerant of him than she used to be, there was no way she wanted that much affection from him. “Have you seen Law?” What was her Papa even doing hanging around the running track…? She received her answer when one particularly bouncy student went jogging past.

“Ah!? That boy again… You know, I don’t approve of you two’s relationship in the slightest! Not one bit! He’s way too old for you! On top of being a shrimp! And he’s a bad influence!”

She looked her Papa squarely in the eye. “If anyone’s a bad influence on me, it’s you, Papa.” From his expression, that had done more damage than even her hardest chops. “If you don’t know…” She turned away.

“W-wait!” She started walking. “M-maka! We need to talk!” She stopped… sighing, she turned back towards him and thrust her hands into her pockets.

“It might be better if we went somewhere we had some privacy.” Her Papa was fidgeting with his tie.

“Let’s go to the roof. That’s where Soul and I always have our talks.”

“T-ta-TALKS?!”

That would teach him not to be a pervert. Though, she’d probably just opened a world of hurt for her fellow scythe.


 

“So, what is it that you wanted to talk about?” She sat down on a familiar bench, trying not to feel to disappointed that the person she was sharing it wasn’t an overly image obsessed albino.

“…You really, seriously, want to be Law’s partner?” Her father looked worried… Jeez, he really didn’t approve of him, did he? What was his problem? He should have known by now how much she wanted to be his weapon!

“Of course!” She slapped her hands onto her knees, squeezing hold of them so she wouldn’t grab a book or sock her Papa in the face if he said anything too derogatory about her, hopefully anyway, meister.

Her Papa’s lips were wiggling in that way they did when he had something that he wanted to say but was nervous how she might respond. She’d seen it more than a few times when he’d had talks with her Mama. “…when I was partnered with Stein, I was always worried.” Stein? What did he have to do with this? “About what he might do. About having to keep him in line.”

Her Papa, keeping someone else from doing anything stupid? …she couldn’t really see it, but she didn’t interrupt.

“Being a partner for a…troubled meister, isn’t something for everyone. It puts a lot of stress on you. You want everything to work out, you want to be the one they can always rely on, you want…” …her Papa seemed kind of sad now. “…You want to be the one on their side, when no one else is.”

She still got angry thinking about what Hero said… and, she doubted he would be the last.

“At the same time, the one who worries most about him will be you. Because, if things don’t work out, if they make a mistake, it feels like it’s because you weren’t there for them.”

That unspeakable something that she brushed against every time her and Law’s souls touched came to mind. The thing that made him so afraid of others and, most of all, himself.

“…and, if it doesn’t work out, you’ll never forgive yourself.”

Her Papa didn’t look like himself wearing such a pained expression. She scooted over, just enough that their knees were touching.

“When I think about you going through something like that, I can’t help, as your parent, not want you working with him.” He sighed. “…but… I know no matter what I say, you’ll do it anyway.” He smiled over at her and she returned it.

“Obviously.” It wasn’t like she thought that everything in her life would be perfect once Law was her meister. She was still a crappy little sickle. Him and Mama weren’t going to magically get back together. And, Soul, well…

“Jeez! See, this is what I’m talking about! My cute little Maka getting such a rebellious streak! What father would approve of someone that encouraged that!?” There was no real fire behind his words and, for once, his overprotective father routine got a giggle out of her.

“It’s a little late for that, Papa! I’m well on my way to becoming a delinquent! I’ve gone out past curfew, skipped school, and even vandalized someone’s home!” She stuck her tongue out. “All because of a boy!”

“Noooooooooo!!!” Her father wailed, dropping to the ground to beat his fist against it.

“…but…” She brought her hands together, fiddling her thumbs together. “It’s not like I’m not worried about things…” There were a million ways things could go wrong. “When I think about Papa and Stein though… I feel like everything will work out in the end though.”

Her Papa stopped his crying, looking up at her from his place on the floor. “Papa and Stein? Us?” He seemed confused. “Maka, did you get hit on the head?” He was on his feet, examining her head now…

One skull-cracking chop later, she explained. “From what I’ve heard from both of you, it didn’t end on the best terms… but, the two of you don’t talk like you hate one another.” As many times as her Papa had warned him to be careful around Stein, he’d never really sounded like he was really that worried. And Stein seemed to enjoy bringing up how strange it was that such a powerful weapon had produced such a lackluster one. As much as that might have annoyed her, he’d never once said an unkind word about the weapon that had apparently had his new meister do most of the breaking up for him. “You two still think of each other as partners, I think.”

Her Papa sniffed. “Him? My partner? A pain in the ass like that?” He harrumphed. “Not a chance. The only one for me is your Mama.”

She giggled.

“W-what’s so funny? Maka, don’t laugh at your father’s expense!”

“I was just thinking… Law’s a pain in the ass for me too!” She grinned. “I guess we have similar tastes in meisters!”

Her father gave her a look, sighed, and then patted her head. “I guess if it’s something we have in common, I don’t mind it so much. Although…” His expression suddenly became stern. “Cursing in front of your Papa! There will be no dessert for the rest of the week!”

“What!? ‘Ass’ isn’t even that bad! Law uses way worse all the time! Like, the other day he taught me ‘Cu-‘ “

“EEYAGH! No! Absolutely not! Your mother will kill us both!”


 

She still couldn’t find that delinquent of hers.

“How can someone like that just disappear?” She snapped at nothing, causing people passing by her on the street to look at her like she was the crazy one. The nerve.  “Rrrgh…” What sort of classless moron was she trying to partner up with that he dropped a bomb like that on he and then just ghosted?! Didn’t he understand what that did to a girl? “Mrrggrrr…”

As upset as she was, she couldn’t really hold it against him… He’d just broken up with his weapon. She couldn’t imagine how awkward that was given that, like most EAT students, the two lived together.  There was always a chance the two might patch things up at the last minute too.

“…euugggh!” She kicked a trash can.

It was a bad idea, just like all the other times she’d done so. “D-dammit…” She sniffled, the pain enough to bring tears to her eyes. At this point, all she could really do was go home and wait for him to show his face. Then, hit him for making her wait.

Limping home, she found herself wondering just how she would go about asking to be his weapon. It wasn’t like she could just say, ‘Hey, now that you’re free, we can be a permanent thing, right?’ and that was it. This was something she’d wanted for months and it had to be perfect. Writing a letter was an option, but…

Ugh, that felt way too much like a confession! She could just imagine him sneering over it at her and saying he was only into girls with big tits.  Great, now she was pissed off at him and he hadn’t even done anything…

She could ask her Papa to just register him as her meister. Tell him that she’d done it the next time they saw each other. He’d probably be fine with that, wouldn’t he? He was way too much of a pansy to be forward so she had to be the one to take the first step. Gah, this would be so much easier if he was Soul.

She shut her front door a little harder than necessary and went clomping up the steps to her room. “He could at least tell me he’s okay…” Was he going to be this flakey as an actual meister? It was scarily easy to imagine having to go to a cabaret, like her Papa, to drag him out of it because he was ‘having fun’.

How could someone she hadn’t seen all day make her so angry!?

She took a deep breath, willing herself calm, and opened the door to her room- Law was in her bed.

Law was asleep in her bed.

“Wh-wh-wha-!”

All day. She’d spent all day looking for him and he was fast asleep in her bed, looking like he didn’t have a care in the world.

She didn’t even know where she’d gotten the book in her hand, but there sure as hell was one. She stood over the dipshit that was drooling all over her pillow and raised it high.

“Worry me sick… break into my house… sleep in my bed!”

She almost preferred it when he was missing!

…almost.


 

Chapter Text

The bell rang, signifying the end of another school day and increasing her anxiety by another notch as the reveal of the EAT exam’s results grew nearer. She sighed and spared a glance to her side to see Soul and Alice arguing over him leaving the toilet seat up. Again. Jeez, if Little Miss Perfect was really that upset about it, she should have hammered the lesson into his thick skull. Didn’t she understand that’s how men worked? Maka headed for the door, but there was a traffic jam of human bodies blocking the way out.

“Move-“

“Come on, lemme see-“

“What’s he doing?”

She blinked and stepped a little closer. “What is it?” She was too short to see over her classmates. The crowd’s heads all swung around to look at her and she tensed. There was the usual contempt and, ever since that scene she and Jacqueline had made, judgement in their stares, but, today, there was something else too. Disbelief.  Without her having to ask, or, well, threaten, any of them, they parted to give her a way out.

This was getting extra weird.

Nervously, she shuffled out and-

Law.

The delinquent was leaning against a wall just outside, hands in his pockets. Even when they’d been taking remedial lessons, he hadn’t ever come to pick her up from class before.

“Yo.” He spoke when he spotted her, pushing off the wall and stepping over to stand in front of her. “You have some time?”

She crushed her book against her chest, like that would calm her down. “Y-Yes.” She had no idea how to handle him when he was so serious.

“Cool.” He turned and started walking. She stared, probably looking as much like a deer in headlights as she felt, before realizing she was supposed to follow.

“L-law! Slow down!” She ran to catch up to him but found herself slowing so rather than walking alongside her upperclassman she was instead following behind him with her eyes on his back.

It was easy to forget that he was older than her. He was so immature most of the time and, well, then there was his appearance… He was a shrimp. A pipsqueak. Fun-sized.

Ugh, what was she doing thinking that now of all times? She was glad to be behind him, scowling. It was his fault. He was filling her head with weird thoughts because he was being weird.

Eventually, after a silence she was pretty sure shaved a few years off her life, she found them standing in a familiar place. The very same training grounds they’d wasted dozens of hours trying, failing, trying again, and failing again at.

“Okay.” She jumped hearing him speak and she gave him the nastiest glare she could muster.

“What?!” When he turned around to look at her, raising an eyebrow, she realized that what she was doing made no sense. She jerked her head to the side, cursing herself. Cursing him. Cursing the trees that were mocking her by watching her act so stupid.

“Scared?” She didn’t have to look, she could hear the smug grin in his voice.

“What do I have to be scared of!? Why’d you call me out here anyway!?” Dammit, couldn’t she at least try not to make a fool of herself? That was his job. He was the one who couldn’t handle being called by his name.

She heard him sigh, like she was the one being difficult, and fought the urge to hit him. A lot.

That urge, like so much else running through her mind, was forgotten when he stepped closer. She swore she could hear her teeth chattering. She was her father’s daughter, wasn’t she? She felt like throwing up. She was gonna throw up. Oh Death, she really was, wasn’t she?!

“Maka.”

She felt his hand take hold of hers and, wow, his really were covered in callouses, weren’t they? She hadn’t really paid attention to it before because of just how hard he insisted on holding her which, if she was being honest, almost got uncomfortable sometimes, but now that he was treating her like something fragile- She made a fist with her free hand and punched herself in the face.

“…are you okay there?” He was, understandably, looking at her like she was crazy.

She sniffed a little, having successfully managed to give herself a nosebleed. “I’m fine…” She looked at his hand, still wrapped around hers. “…uh-uhm… d-do you need something?” Her cheeks felt warm. Even if it was this idiot, she didn’t let boys hold her hands like this.

He sighed, again, and she had to fight herself to keep from pulling her hand away.

What were they doing, just standing out here holding hands like… If her Papa found out about this, he was dead. He probably knew that already. He wouldn’t let that stop him from doing something he wanted. He was a delinquent after all. A bad influence.

Before her thoughts went completely out of control and she punched herself a second time, she felt something brush against her soul. When it happened the second time, she realized what it was and closed her eyes to better focus on it.

There was just one person she knew with such a problematic soul. Full of anxieties, full of fears, full of things she couldn’t even understand. Even if he’d gotten to the point where he’d resonate with her, willingly, she’d always had to take the first step to close the gap between them. This was the first time he’d taken the lead.

He took his hand back a moment later, scratching the back of his head and looking anywhere but at her.

She’d spent days agonizing on when to ask him, how to ask him. Maka knew him well she liked to think and had been sure that he’d never be the one to ask. Words weren’t his strong suit.

It never occurred to her that he’d just skip asking entirely.

Beaming, she decided that was fine.

He was her meister after all.


 

It was a natural thing, for meisters and their weapons to move in together.

She’d known that she and Law would, she just hadn’t expected him to agree to it as easily as he had. ‘Great!’ She’d said. She’d been so foolish. So naïve. The second she got the street address from him, any and all her excitement had curled up and died. Because she knew that street. She knew it better than she ever wanted to.

For her, it was too late. Tsubaki and the others had already volunteered to help with the move. If she told them not to, they’d inevitably be curious why. So, she had steeled herself and packed her things, preparing for…

“What the hell!? He lives here?” Nope. She wasn’t ready. Also, Soul’s nose was bleeding.

“W-whooooaaa… this is pretty impressive… He’s not all that bad, your meister.” Black*Star chose the worst things to praise.

“This is- T-this can’t be allowed! This is indecent!” Hell must have been freezing over because she found herself agreeing with Alice.

“Maka, are you… sure about this address?” Tsubaki, oh, sweet, sweet Tsubaki… She was so sorry for having dragged her to a place like this.

Maka closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and… “…GAH! I can’t do it!” She tossed down the box she was carrying and stomped her feet, not caring how childish she looked throwing a tantrum in the middle of a street. “What kind of pervert lives next to a place like this?!”

Chupa Cabra’s. At this point, she’d almost be alright with him living next to a cabaret as long as it wasn’t that one!

“Oh! Maka!” One of those women poked her head out from that establishment. “Your Papa just left!”

“RRrRrragagghhHHGHGHHH!”


 

 “Yo!” Law answered the door, smiling.

“Yo!?” She threw a book at his head. “What do you think you’re doing living in a place like this?!”

The others snickered.

She almost had to be dragged into the apartment and even then, she refused to open her eyes. She didn’t want to live there anymore. She wanted to gather all her things and go find a room at the girl’s dorms- oh, that was right, Jacqueline lived there now, didn’t she? Well, back to her Papa and Mama’s then…

“It’s very you!” Her determination wavered some hearing Tsubaki’s words.

“…somehow, I’m disappointed.” Soul’s too.

Ugh, didn’t they know how much she’d fantasized about this!? Her notoriously difficult to open up meister, finally letting her into his home…!

“Oh! Is that a picture from when you joined Shibusen, Law?” What?!

“Pfaahahaha! Look at how small he was, Tsubaki! He’s like an amoeba compared to me!” Black*Star, shut up! She didn’t care if her meister had been somehow even tinier when he’d been her age and how cute he must have-…

“RrrRAGH! Fine! Let me see!” Maka stomped her foot, opening her eyes and- oh.

His place was very… well, him. There was an immediate, and cramped, hallway upon entering with the right side leading to three doors which guessed were two bedrooms and a bath and the other side opening into the living room and kitchen. The actual walls were all exposed brick, which probably made it hard to keep warm in the winter, and it looked like at one point the kitchen had been blocked off from the rest of the house until someone had smashed through leaving a crude opening to it.

The living room itself was almost spartan, a small television tucked into one corner opposite a ratty looking black couch with bits of stuffing sticking out here or there. The newest thing in the room were the two very soft looking pillows left on the singular piece of furniture made to resemble Shinigami-sama’s masks.

“It’s very… empty.” She was stating the obvious but there was little else to say about it. It didn’t feel like a place anyone lived. Looking at the floor, she could see dozens of scuff marks on the wood. Furniture that had once been there, gone. Signs of what remained having been moved countless times. She frowned.

“Maka, come here!” Tsubaki dragged her figuratively out of her thoughts and literally over to where she and the others had gathered by the far wall. There was a single picture frame hanging on the wall by what appeared to be a chain that was hooked onto a nail someone had driven into a brick with all the grace she associated with her meister. Sure enough, it was an image of her meister. Younger, and smaller, than she’d ever seen him.

His hair was still shaped into those two, ridiculous cat-ears. He was beaming, looking the happiest she could remember ever seeing him and giving a peace-sign to the camera alongside Shinigami-sama who was doing the same.

“…I wonder how long ago it was?” It was hard to say. He looked almost half the size he was now. Had he really been part of Shibusen for that long?

“You guys need me to show you where to put all of Maka’s shit, right?”

She whipped around, glaring. “It’s not sh-“ She caught herself. Her meister was wearing an apron. A frilly one, the same color as his eyes. It had his name written on it.

What? That wasn’t allowed! She was trying to be mad at him!

“…dude, what are you wearing.” Yes. Soul. Ask the good questions. That’s why she liked him. Well, part of the reason. One of the reasons.

“I’m cooking. Everyone knows that your dishes are a hundred times tastier if they’re made by someone wearing an apron.” He sounded so proud of himself. The idiot. It was then that the microwave chimed.

“Cooking, are you.” She wanted to hit him. At the same time, he might not wear that cute get-up again if she did… decisions, decisions.

It was Law’s turn to give her a nasty look. “If you don’t like what I make, then all of you can go hungry.” He stomped back towards the kitchen hole and she could hear the sound of him opening the microwave’s door, some cursing, the door shutting again, and him turning it back on to continue ‘cooking’ whatever it was. “Maka’s room is the first one on the left.”

Her room. She led the parade to it and found… well, more than she’d expected. It didn’t have much in the way of furniture, much like the living room, although this was at least understandable. There was a bed, stripped of its sheets, and nothing else. She at least had her old things to help make it feel more like home. There were two extra doors in it though. Opening the first, she found her closet. Opening the second, she found…

“…t-this is…” What every girl dreamed of… She was sure her eyes were shining. She spun around, looking at the two other females, if Alice counted, present. Tsubaki placed her hand on her shoulder, smiling… though it looked a bit strained. The now only pigtailed member of their group scowled openly at her. “I’ve got my own bathroom!”

“…is that really a big deal?” Soul, he just didn’t understand.

“Yeah, me and Tsubaki share one! She can tell you about the BIG things I do there! Haha!”

…she’d never felt sorrier for the older girl who had slumped into a corner of the room, overcome by the trauma that no doubt was living with Black*Star.

She couldn’t feel too bad right now though. She had her own bath! Her own sink! Her own mirror!

“Didn’t your old place have more than one?” Soul questioned.

She could feel her face twist into one of pure disgust. “…sure, but…”

“Maka, Papa needs to borrow some toilet paper!”

“Maka, are you okay in there!? You shouldn’t soak too long! Did you drown?! Papa will rescue you!”

“Maka, it’s totally understandable if you wanna scrub Papa’s back! In return, he’ll brush your hair!”

“I-I get it. I get it.” Soul held his hands up as she took another breath to explain to him why, for one reason or another, she probably needed therapy. “…Your dad’s…something.”

Her only response was to grunt.

She shut the door and looked over her room again. A bit smaller than her old one. She’d have to figure out how to arrange her books or else she wouldn’t have room for anything else. These walls, unlike the ones outside, did have drywall that, from the smell, had been only recently painted their current white. If she had to guess, Law had done it in preparation for her arrival.

Which meant, while she’d been throwing books at him for where he’d lived, he’d been in the middle of making her dinner. After painting her bedroom. Which, given the size of the apartment, was probably the only one with its own bathroom.

She hung her head and, dragging her feet every step of the way, joined the Nakatsukasa girl in the corner. “…I think I might be a lousy friend…”

“…i-if I have to use the plunger again, I’d rather die.” …poor Tsubaki.


 

“Dinner is served!”

…they were all having flashbacks to the incident at the café at the sight of Law carrying a plate for each of them, wearing a sickeningly sweet smile.

“I’m starved!” Black*Star pretty much summed up how each of them felt after all their work setting up her room. It was by no means finished, but it at least looked less barren then the living room they were in. Speaking of which, there weren’t enough chairs for everyone, so the boys had been forced onto the floor.

“I hope everyone enjoys the meal! I worked hard!” Law seemed proud of himself.

“…eeeehhh…” She and her fellow NOT students stared at the plates of mac and cheese he’d served.

“Isn’t this more of a…side?” Soul’s nose was all scrunched up as he prodded at his dinner with a fork. “And, doesn’t mac and cheese just require boiling water? Why were you using a microwave?”

Law folded his arms across his chest. “…I’ve decided. I don’t like you. Not one bit.”

Maka rolled her eyes at the two as they had their little glaring contest and decided to take a bite. She could only hope that it at least tasted like- “…w-what is this…?! This eruption of flavor!? It’s like a volcano! A flavor volcano!”

Soul was looking at her like she’d grown a second head.

“…WOW! This is great!” Black*Star was scarfing down his plate with no care for how much of a mess he made, noodles flying left and right. “He’s as good as you, Tsubaki!”

“I don’t believe it.” Alice said after chewing, swallowing, and daintily wiping her mouth with a handerkerchief. “Did you really prepare this?...is it poisoned?” She must not have been that concerned as she went right along eating.

When she looked at her meister, he seemed… even smugger than usual. “Heh. I’ll have you know, my mac and cheese is second to none.” Was he sparkling?

“…it’s not bad.” Soul was trying to keep his cool, but it was obvious from how he was chowing down he couldn’t deny it either. “You two really lucked out.” He looked from her to Black*Star. “I’m only half-decent and Alice’s idea of cooking is probably what most consider torture.”

Ha!

“Soul! How dare you! M-my cooking is just… too refined for your palate!”

“Uh. I promise, it really isn’t. ‘Charred’ isn’t really avant garde. It just means you suck.”

Maka watched the two fight, her meal even more delicious now. “I really can’t believe it… You can cook…” She looked over at her meister. “I can’t see what else you can make!”

Law twitched. “O-of course! All the other dishes I can make!” He looked nervous. Too nervous. “L-like… l-like…” His eyes were darting everywhere.

She stared. “…You…can cook things other than mac and cheese, right?”

…he said nothing.

“You never fail to impress and then disappoint in the weirdest ways.” Maka nodded.

“It’s sort of like watching a roller coaster.” Soul chipped in.

“I feel like you’re gonna die in a really interesting way someday.” Black*Star held up his empty plate. “Seconds?”


 

After dinner, everyone had gotten busy talking about some… sport thing. It wasn’t anything she could contribute to, so she’d returned to her room to unpack a few of her things while there was still some time left in the day. She wasn’t sulking. She did not feel left out.

“Hey. You like books.”

Maka looked towards the door upon hearing her fellow scythe. “Uh.” She glanced around. Her room was littered with them now and she still had more boxes to unpack. “…Y-Yes?” She frowned, hugging one to her chest. It hadn’t sounded like an insult, but she was already feeling self-conscious about her preferred hobby.

Soul stepped in and started rubbing the back of his neck. He seemed… bothered. Not in the usual way he did about everything, but she could tell. “There’s a movie coming out. Sequel to a book you mentioned. The Darker Side of the Moon.”

She tried not to groan. “I know.” She’d seen the first with her parents before… things. It wasn’t like she’d even enjoyed it. They’d turned Lord Donsany’s work into… into… to borrow a phrase from her meister, shit. There was not supposed to be any singing! Whose idea had it been to add a romance subplot?! There was no reason for so many explosions!

“Yeah, the first one was… pretty bad.” Soul snorted.”…but, I dunno, I remembered the way you describing it making it not sound like complete crap.”

How the director wasn’t on Shinigami-sama’s list, she had no idea. No idea whatsoever. The man was a villain.

“Anyway, I didn’t know if you wanted to go see it. To make fun of.”

…hueh?

Wait.

Had Soul just-?

She was sure her whole face was on fire but that didn’t stop her from responding. “Yes.” It wasn’t even a question.

“Cool. We’ll figure out times and stuff later. I gotta get home with Alice, she’s apparently determined to make something at least edible so if you don’t hear from me again, assume I died being her guinea pig.”

“Okay.”

He shut the door.

She stepped over to her bed and collapsed face-first on to it. It was soft. Very noise-absorbent too, she discovered as she smothered what would have otherwise been a deafening squeal.


 

“You know, I can handle this by myself.”

“You cooked! This is the least I can do.” It was so quiet now in their home. Just them, some dirty dishes, and a kitchen that was probably the least empty room in the whole place. The ceiling felt a little weirdly low, probably being short enough that she could reach up and touch it. The weird, circular pattern of the lime-green tiles on the floor was enough to make her dizzy looking at too. “…we really need to get some more furniture if we’re gonna have people over in the future.”

“Mn.” Law handed her another plate to dry.

“ ‘Mn’, he says. Being all quiet now. Not going to complain I’m already asking to change things?” She teased. “…so. I saw the picture. You’ve really been at Shibusen a long time, huh? I’m surprised we didn’t bump into each other sooner.” Though, it wasn’t like she’d known all there was to about the school. She hadn’t even known Stein existed until that night. “And… You went straight to EAT, is what Shinigami-sama said.” She stared at the plate in her hands.

“…ah. Told you about that. Jeez, that chattermouth God! Shouldn’t he be doing more important stuff than gossiping about me?” Law grumbled as he scrubbed a particularly stubborn stain. “It’s really not that big of a deal.”

How could he be so proud of his stupid cooking specialty and not that? “You practically brag about being in EAT all the time to us. We’re the ‘cute underclassmen’ or ‘hatchlings’ or… whatever stupid thing you think of.”

“That’s different! I earned my place in EAT, just...“ Law frowned over at her.

“…just what?” She fidgeted, continuing to dry a plate that had long since been dried. “…does it have something to do with the rule Shinigami-sama told me?”

The running faucet was the only sound in the kitchen now. He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t breathing. He wasn’t… anything. She felt like she couldn’t either, so she just stood there, still as a statue, waiting for the world to resume and for the awful feeling building inside her to go away.

A full minute of that hell later, Law returned to doing the dishes.

She didn’t need to resonate with him to tell this wasn’t a topic he wanted to talk about now. “…sorry.” She set another plate on the rack. “About… well, a lot today. I actually really like it here. I hope-… I mean, I’m…” She looked down. “I didn’t handle some things well.”

“If this is how you handle yourself on your date with Soul, then expect it to go terribly.”

Her face caught fire. Again. “D-d-d-d…! You were listening?!” She almost screeched it. “That’s-… an invasion of my privacy! What kind of roommate does that?! What kind of meister does that?!”

“Don’t give it up too quick either. You’re still kids.” Law would not shut up though.

And, for once, she felt far too flustered to react the way she wanted to. “G-give it-! It’s not even a date! …I-I don’t… I mean, I don’t think he meant it… w-what if he did…” Her head was overheating.

Thankfully, her meister was there with the sink’s sprayer to blast her full in the face with water.

Chapter Text

There was more fanfare surrounding the announcement of the new EAT students than she'd expected. She was very certain it had something to do with a certain someone abusing his authority. Why else would they be using the school's ballroom to celebrate just a handful of students graduating from NOT? All the streamers, the band, the… the everything felt so excessive and she wanted to go give the person responsible a hard chop.

"Congratulations!"

Of course, that would have to wait because she was trying hard, very hard, not to cry.

"YaaaahOOOOO! The great Black*Star has taken another step on his path to the top!"

Even that idiot couldn't ruin this moment, all his cheering being drowned out by the sounds of party poppers and applause from their audience.

"Hmph. This was the obvious outcome, wasn't?"

It took her a minute to realize that was directed towards her and she glanced over at Alice. As much as she loathed to admit it, the other girl looked cute in her ruffled neck blouse and ankle-length black skirt. She looked like she was playing dress-up as a particularly mean headmistress. It was so easy to picture her, ruler in hand, terrorizing her students…

Maka snorted.

"What's so funny." The girl, a full head shorter than her she now realized, glared up at her.

She sniffed. "Nothing." She grinned, her amusement only growing with the moody 'Hmph!' she received in response. "I guess it would be obvious for you. Soul is your weapon." Which she wasn't the least bit jealous about.

After all, it wasn't like she'd gotten to go out on a date with him.

"No, stupid."

Her face scrunched up as she glared over at the redhead. "I am not stupid." She didn't care if they were on stage, she'd still kick her ass.

"I meant us making it into EAT."

She kept on glaring, a little confused now, until it clicked. Alice was including her. "…uh…" Her mortal enemy- or, well, one of them- was giving her a compliment. "…I don't know if It was ever 'obvious' for me…" She mumbled, staring down at her feet.

"Idiot."

Okay, she was seriously going to snap this little girl in half and no one was going to stop her -

"You're one of my rivals. If you weren't capable of this much, I wouldn't think of you as one."

Whatever fire she'd had coursing through her veins died down. "…right." She nodded, smiling. "The same to you. If you couldn't get into EAT, I'd be stuck just with Ox." The older boy was standing so stiffly it looked like if you touched him, he might crack.

"Well, well!" Shinigami-sama finally stepped onto the stage. "I'd like to congratulate all of our new students moving on to EAT! Though, I don't quite see why we have to have a party just for that…" He spared a look over at- ugh, there was her Papa who had snot and tears pouring down his face and still hadn't stopped clapping. "…but! Anyway! Everyone likes a party, right? Have fun!"

…jeez. Their Headmaster was terrible at speeches, wasn't he?

Still, she was glad to get off stage.

Someone else had beaten her to that though and held their hand out to help her down.

"Your dad's got to make everything a pain in the ass, doesn't he?"

She failed at keeping her face from turning red as she took the other scythe's hand so she could step down. It was a good thing he was there, for a lot of reasons, but mostly because seeing him in a suit was enough to make her brain sort of go all… Law-y.

"S-sorry." She managed, stepping down and glancing over at the albino who looked thoroughly done with everything already. "…congratulations. I knew you could do it." She didn't let go of his hand.

"Right." Soul sighed. "…hey. Uh." He looked over at her, those red eyes meeting hers and making her feel all… floaty for a second. "You look…okay."

Ow. Had a truck just hit her? It felt like a truck had hit her. She glanced down at herself and… sure, she wasn't like Tsubaki over there in a dress that was doing her already unfair body way too many favors, but she-… she-…. Ugh. The gap was just too big, wasn't it? She'd even traded her usual boyish attire for a, in her opinion anyway, very cute, sleeveless, wine-colored turtleneck dress that reached down to her knees because any higher and her father would have probably burned it. Her platform sandals gave her the little boost in height she needed to be taller than him too.

"Is that seriously what you're gonna say to me?" She pulled her hand back and cursed her current lack of a book for teaching him a lesson. "You suck…"

She heard him grunt beside her… "…jeez. You're being a real pain in the ass. Do you wanna dance or not?"

"Of course I do!" She snapped and… "…w-wait, dance?" Oh shit. How was she supposed to tell him that she had no clue how to? Why did he know how to!?

Her fellow scythe snatched hold of her hand and dragged her to the floor where other couples- couples! Was that what she and Soul were? The one date had been nice, but it's not like he'd said he'd liked her, but now he was trying to dance with her so did that make him her-!

She was going to pass out if this day kept going so well…!

"ABSOLUTELY NOT."

Oh, there was her Papa. To save her.

"The first one to dance with Maka is me! …and the second! And the third!" Her hand was snatched away by her Papa and she found herself pulled against him.

"…tch. Whatever." Soul shrugged and walked off…

"Papa." She took a deep breath.

"Yes? I'm so proud of you for making it into EAT, sweetie!" He was smiling so much he was practically shining.

She grabbed a tray from a passing waiter and leaped up to swing it down on his head. "You idiot!"


As much as she wanted him to come back and ask her again, Soul seemed happy enough to chat with the other boys about moving on to EAT. So, she was by the dessert table not at all stuffing her face to forget her feelings and hormones and how stupid boys were. She refused to be such a cliché.

"Maka?" There was a voice that always brightened her day.

"Tsubaki!" She spun towards the girl, one hand still holding a plate with what was probably her third slice of cake. "Congratulations."

"To you too, Maka." The older girl bowed her head. "It feels so soon…" She clasped her hands behind her back and swayed side-to-side. "I hope that Black*Star and I are ready…"

Maka stabbed her cake, snorting. "If anyone's ready, it's you two… I'm the one who feels like they aren't ready."

"Hmm…" Tsubaki hummed beside her. "Where is he?"

Yeah, she'd been wondering that too. "You know Law. If he isn't making an entrance, he'll pop up where you least want him." She huffed.

The older girl giggled. "Yes, that does sound like him! He's a real troublemaker."

Maka grinned over at her. "You wanna trade? Black*Star would probably be easier to handle… and wouldn't give me as many headaches!"

There was a flash of actual panic in Tsubaki's eyes until she realized it was a joke and the kunoichi giggled. "I think I have my hands full enough already. I think you're the only one that can handle a meister like that."

She giggled in reply, taking a bite of cake. Yeup, even Tsubaki wouldn't be able to deal with the ball of trouble that was one Lawrence N. Order. She turned back around, having left her cup of punch on the dessert table, and- "L-law?!"

There stood her meister on the other side of the table. His arms crossed, eyes narrowed, and expression like he'd just caught her with her hand in the cookie jar. "I see. When I'm not around, the two of you bad-talk me, do you?"

Ack! No! "T-that's-!" She looked to Tsubaki for help, but- "Tsubaki?!" She was gone!? She'd abandoned her!

"If you want to be Black*Star's weapon instead, that's fine." He was trying to sound stern, but his bottom lip was poking out in a very childish pout.

"No!" Maka set down her plate and waved her hands. "I don't want anyone other than you!"

…he stuck his nose up, which did nothing to hide the color in his cheeks from her especially with the little boost in height her shoes gave, and harrumphed. "Fine. I forgive you." It didn't really sound like he had. Mostly because he didn't seem like he'd ever really been mad at her.

"Jeez…" She sighed. "…and what are you doing here dressed in that?" She pointed at his attire… which was totally the same as usual! That stupid gakuran! She'd been looking forward to seeing him actually dressed up for once, but he looked the same as usual! "Even Black*Star put on a suit!"

"Psh. Rebels don't wear stuffy clothes like that." He said as he rounded the table to stand at her side.

"…that delinquent get-up is just so… not you though." Maka didn't want to hurt his feelings, but… "I don't think it suits you. You're not gonna keep wearing it after I come to EAT, are you?" It wasn't the first time they'd had a conversation about his 'dressing up'… Though, she'd prefer he keep his delinquent cosplay if it meant she never had to meet 'Lala' again. If only because she was somehow inexplicably popular.

Losing to her very male meister as a woman was soul-crushing, dammit!

Law picked up her plate of cake and started eating it, the bastard. "I'll think about it." He said, barely understandable with his mouth so full. The little thief.

For a few minutes, they just stood there. She spent her time watching the other partygoers, spotting her Papa flirting with one of her classmate's moms… and her classmate at the same time from the looks of things. Soul was talking with Alice about something that had him smiling. Tsubaki was giving the plate of cake she'd gotten to Black*Star, who didn't seem to think anything of the gesture the clueless jerk.

"Congrats, by the way." Law said, having apparently finished eating the stolen goods.

She glanced over at her meister and gave a little smile. "Thanks. There was no chance of me failing though, was there?"

"Hueh?" He looked at her like she was dumb. "A crappy weapon like you who only has book-learning? This is a miracle."

Her eye twitched. Her immediate urge was to smash the entire dessert table on his head, but, this was Law, so she restrained herself. "Oh really. You had that little faith in me?" The others must have noticed that she was about to have a moment with her meister as she could see them approaching out of the corner of her eye.

"I mean, like, I believed in you, but at the same time." Law waved his fork at her. "Like, come on. This could have totally gone the other way."

She could hear the collective sigh of her classmates.

"He has zero tact." Alice tutted, stating a fact they, especially her, should have all been well-aware of by now.

"Pfahaha!" Black*Star was going to be hit second by the table.

Maka ground her teeth, not wanting to ruin the nice evening by murdering her meister. "And what exactly would you have done if I not made it into EAT?"

Law turned back around and- okay, he was definitely not supposed to just tear a chunk out of the cake with his bare hand and start eating it that way. Did he not understand manners? Did his parents not raise him right? Was he just trying to piss her off?! "I already talked with the boss-man." He jabbed a thumb in the direction of where Shinigami-sama was standing over her father, having apparently chopped him for flirting with one of his students. "If you hadn't made it into EAT, I asked to be transferred to NOT so I could be with you."

She stared at her meister. It took her some time for her to even remember to blink, but even then, she was still struggling with what he'd just told her. She'd spent so many nights studying, hoping that she could have made it into EAT based on academic ability alone. To say she'd been scared she wouldn't make it, that she'd come up short, was an understatement. It had only gotten worse after her and Law's partnership had become official. If she hadn't made it into EAT, would they have broken up before they'd ever accomplished anything?

As it turned out, she'd been worried about nothing.

"...bu-but! EAT's… I mean, that's… the elite…" She didn't even get why she was protesting something that he'd already done. Something that made her so happy she felt like she'd rounded all the way around into feeling sad.

"Eh. Not much a point in being in a class if my partner isn't there." Law shrugged, taking a very ungraceful bite of the glob of cake in his hand.

She moved, more on instinct than anything else, throwing her arms around her meister and squeezed hold of him.

"Daaaaamnnn… I feel bad for you, Soul." Black*Star sounded like he really did.

"What the hell's that supposed to mean!? Anyone would say that about their partner!" She'd have to ask Soul all about that later because it really did sound like he was jealous.

"Hmm… maybe I should trade with Maka…" Tsubaki!?

"What!? TSUBAKI NO!" Black*Star's panic was almost cute.

Though, cuter than that was-

"G-gah! D-don't go-! Fucking touching me! Shit! Goddammit! I'm- ee-eating! Woman! Let me g-go!" Her meister's voice, cracking pitifully as he waved his arms around her, incapable of returning the hug she was giving him.


"We really need to get more furniture." Maka had immediately stretched out on the couch after getting home. Her meister, rather than sit with her despite their being room for him, was instead plopped down on the floor in front of their small television set manually changing the channel despite their working remote. Weirdo.

"We've got the couch." Yes, Law. The one couch. And no kitchen table, chairs, or shelves for her to put any of her things.

Sitting up, she sucked in a breath to start in on him – that or at least get him to settle on something to watch as he'd been at it for almost half an hour now – but never got a chance to finish when she heard their phone ring. The one she'd had to have put in because apparently her meister hadn't seen the point in having one before she'd moved in.

Law hopped up and headed over to the cute, in her opinion, skull shaped phone currently sat on the floor and answered it. "You reached the Order-Albarn residence, Law speaking."

She was only half paying attention, her focus mostly on the cooking show that the television had been left on.

"Hueh? You're Maka's-? I don't think we ever met, lady."

She glanced back. "Who is it?" For some reason, her chest suddenly felt very tight.

Law put his hand over the phone as he twisted around where he was sitting on the floor to look back at her. "Says she's your mom."

Maka almost fell flat on her face as she scrambled over to him, grabbing at the phone. "Give that here…!"

Law swatted her hands away with ease. "Give me a second." He took his hand off and… "Yeah, she's here. She's pretty determined to get the phone, but… I have a question." The boy's expression and tone were equally serious. "…what kind of curves can I look forward with her? You're not flat as a board, are you? You've at least got an ass, right?"

Maka didn't feel angry. Well, at first she did, but she also knew just who Law had just said that to and-… all she felt was sympathy as the color drained from her stupid meister's face. His eyes widened and he began to sweat so furiously that she swore he'd developed a puddle beneath him of it… or, was that maybe something else? You didn't just say that to someone like her Mama…!

Law, with a trembling hand, offered up the phone to her. "H-here, Maka…" The second she took it, he crawled over to a corner of the room and pulled a blanket over his head and she swore she heard him sniffling.

She couldn't feel too bad for him. She stared at the phone in her hand, taking a deep breath, and brought it to her ear. "…hel-…hello?" It had been so long. What would she say? Was she going to apologize?

"Maka! It's so good to hear your voice. I'm sorry, I meant to call earlier, but work has been crazy!" The sound of her mother's voice was so comforting… and, at the same time, she felt something twist inside her.

"I-I bet." She forced herself to smile. "You've been all over is what your postcard said, right?" Except here.

"Shinigami-sama always has something new for me to do!" Her mother replied. "So, I heard you made it into EAT…that's fantastic! I knew that you could!"

"Oh… I'm sure that you and Papa always believed in me." Maka fidgeted with the cord to the phone. What was she supposed to say? What was she not supposed to say? She'd always felt like she and her mother had been on the same wavelength before, but now-

"Of course." Her mother went quiet for a few moments after that. "…still, I thought that you were partnered with that Hero boy?"

"Oh." Maka started. "Hero and I-… well, we…" She glanced over to Law who had stopped his sulking and had returned to his channel surfing. "It wasn't a good match."

"I'm sorry, honey. These things happen, but… at least, you found out early on."

Right. As opposed to after getting married and having a child. "Mhmm… but, I'm happier now anyway. I've got Law-…uhm, Lawrence, as my partner now. Lawrence N. Order. His Mama and Papa must have had a pretty weird sense of humor, huh?"

There was another long pause on the other side of the phone. "I'm familiar with him, actually."

Familiar how? She found herself glaring at nothing now and was glad that her mother couldn't see her face. "Oh? I guess he has been at the school pretty long…"

"No, it's-…" Her mother trailed off. "Well, I'm glad that you're working with someone, but, what I heard, he's sort of like your Papa's old partner. He had some…"

"You mean Stein?" Maka cut her off, willing herself to smile if only so her Mama would hear it in her voice. "He was actually my teacher for a little while! He was always very helpful. A bit scary, but, deep down, nice!"

"Oh. That's good." Her Mama didn't sound like she really thought that. "Just… be careful, please."

"Be careful?" Maka repeated. "What do I have to be careful of, Mama?" It had meant to sound like a question, but she couldn't keep her anger from seeping in.

"Well, he's- The boy has-" Was her mother fumbling with her words? That was a first. "He has his difficulties-"

"Difficulties!?" Maka could hear the plastic creaking in her hand as she squeezed it. "He's fine! Just the way he is! You'd know if you were here to talk to him!"

…it was very quiet after that. She'd never taken that tone with her mother before. Then again, she'd never had anything her mother didn't approve of in her life before. "…I-I'm sorry, Mama." She hated herself for breaking the silence first.

"N….n-no, it's okay. I understand." Her mother sounded out of breath. "I'm sorry. He's your meister. I'm sure that you know him best."

Maka stared at their scuffed floor. A rug. That was what they needed. Something with a really ridiculous design so that whenever she had moments where she wanted to scream or cry, she could just stare at it and forget whatever else she was thinking about.

"I'm so, so proud of you, do you know that?"

She nodded, but, realizing a second later she couldn't be seen and feeling rather dumb as she did so, answered, "Y-Yes. I do, Mama."

"Good." Her mother said, and she could hear something like her leaning back in the chair she was sitting. "If nothing else, just always know that, Maka."

…everything after that was a bit awkward. When she finally hung up, she immediately moved to sit on the couch, grabbed one of the pillows, buried her face into it, and screamed.

"How'd that go?" Her meister slumped onto their singular piece of furniture beside her.

"It went great." Maka hurled the pillow at him which he was quick to toss right back at her. "What are we watching?"

"Monster trucks." He answered just as a small sedan was crushed out of existence by a wheel almost as big as it was.

"Ugh." It always had to be something that appealed to the lowest denominator with him, didn't it? She hugged the stuffed mask-pillow to her chest and continued watching. "…hey. Law." She didn't look over at him as she watched a minivan get driven over to turn into it into a metal pancake. "You ever fight with your parents?"

"Mn. Sometimes. Me and my pops don't really see eye to eye with each other's existence." A part of her wanted her to ask what that even meant, but she stayed quiet. "We're always butting heads over something. Mom's gotta play peacekeeper. I think it's easier for all of us that I'm here at Shibusen rather than back home. She'd probably work herself sick trying to keep us from killing each other." She really must've looked pitiful if he was willing to talk so much about himself. That, or he was being nice.

It was probably the first one.

"Your Mama-…uhm… I guess, Papa… did they ever do something that you thought that you could never forgive them for?" She hugged her pillow tight against her chest, a little afraid the stuffing might come bursting out.

"I was pretty upset when my dad left me here at Shibusen." Law answered, almost drowned out by the sound of the cheers and revving engines from the television. "I hated it here. I hated everyone. I just wanted to go home." It was a little funny to hear, considering how much he seemed to embody the chaos that was Death City. "I kept wanting to know why he'd done it, but…well. Eventually, this place became my home. I don't even really wanna go back." He glanced over at her. "I can't say I ever really forgave him for it though… just found other reasons to be mad at him so I don't really focus on that." Her meister scratched the back of his head. "I guess that doesn't really help, does it?"

She giggled. "No, not really." From the sound of it, his parents were still together. It was weird in general to imagine him even having parents now that she thought about it. If he'd told her that he'd just popped into existence one day, she'd probably have believed him.

"Sounds like she doesn't approve of me though." Law raised an eyebrow. "Imagine if you told her about Soul."

Maka groaned. "God, the second she saw his teeth and eyes… and he's not like you! He can't use being an idiot as an excuse for his behavior!" Her mother would probably pick him to pieces… "You're all bark and no bite, but a popular guy like him… uggghhh… 'Be careful, he could be just like your Papa'…" She could hear it so clearly in her mother's voice she could have convinced herself that she was still on the phone with her Mama. "I guess that's one upside for having you for a meister. She'll be so caught up with that, maybe she won't bother any boys I actually like!"

Her meister didn't respond.

She, very quickly, realized she'd just shoved her entire leg down her throat with that one. "E-er. N-not that I don't- Uhm."

"I'm not sure what Soul sees in you. Maybe he's gay. Probably gay. Definitely gay."


She'd made this climb what felt like a thousand times, though it was probably even more than that despite her short life, and still this time felt the longest. When she finally hit that final step, she was out of breath.

"Putting on some weight there, Maka?"

And that asshole was totally doing his best to ruin this big moment for her. Ignoring her meister, she turned back and gazed out at the city and its wide assortment of buildings. The mishmash of cultures from all over the globe with the same, grim twist that made it uniquely theirs. She could, as always, just barely make out the roof of where she had grown up. Where her parents had lived together.

Her new place was much smaller by comparison and the buildings that crowded it making it impossible to spot. Their sparse living room, their weird cramped kitchen, the bedroom that she was slowly turning into a 'mass grave for books' according to her friends…

Home.

"…alright." She nodded. "I'm ready…!" She spun around and-

Her meister was looking at her with his nose scrunched, jaw slack, and head cocked to the side.

"What the hell's that face for!?" Maka snapped, cracking him over the head.

Law was, as usual, quick to recover and hop to his feet while now sporting a huge lump on the top of his head. "Why are you being all dramatic? We're just going to school."

She huffed. He didn't get it at all. But, she supposed, that wasn't a bad thing. "It's my first day in EAT." She said, not able to force herself to sound as angry as she wanted. "You could at least let me soak it in."

"That's why I gave you the bedroom with a bath." She couldn't tell if he was being 'clever' or if he meant that.

"…haaaaaaaaa…. This is going to be tough, isn't it?" Maka sighed. "…well." She raised her head up, hands on her hips. "That's fine with me!" She declared. "I'm going to become a better Death Scythe than that no-good Papa of mine! That's a promise, Lawrence N. Order!"

…hm? No stupid remark? She glanced around and-… "Law?" Where was-

"Maka! Come on! You're gonna be late! I here we have a new professor today too!" She heard the idiot calling from just inside the school.

…had he really gone on ahead while she'd made her vow!?

"…grrggh…!" She was going to kill him- except, the bell was ringing and now she was the one sprinting after. After all, there was no telling what kind of person their new teacher would be.

The closer she got to class though, the more she swore she heard the familiar sound of a rolling chair's wheels squeaking just behind her.

Chapter Text

 

Unrequited Fire

"Why him?"

She wanted to scream.

How many times was she going to be asked that? It had gotten old after the first hundred times. Unfortunately, she didn't have the luxury of not answering this time. The one asking was her headmaster after all.

"Because, he…" Fidgeting with the, admittedly delicious, cup of tea she'd been served, she faced the same problem that question always presented. She didn't know.

Her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother had all been demon weapons. It had been expected, demanded even, that she be the same and, when the day came her weapon blood awoke, she'd already spent years preparing to join Shibusen. She had earned a place in the exclusive EAT Class with ease and had her pick of talented meisters. And, out of all of them, she'd pursued that infamous boy…

Abandoning his weapons when he got bored of them, causing trouble for everyone and running at the fight sight of danger, putting on airs of being a delinquent just to look cool... Though few did it to his face, he'd gotten himself a rather meanspirited nickname from his classmates.

Black Cat.

Teaming up with him was bound to bring misfortune. The rumors surrounding his previous partners didn't paint a particularly nice image of him either. 'He made his last one take the fall for one of his pranks and got them expelled!', 'She left Shibusen after he did something unforgiveable to her!', 'He abandoned them to a witch to save his own skin!'… She'd heard them all.

…that's probably why she'd sought him out. Self-sabotage.

But, in true Law fashion, he'd made it difficult. Avoiding her like the plague. Insulting her constantly. Rejecting her so many times she'd entertained a few other meisters just to make sure that the problem wasn't her. In the end though, she had gotten him to agree to it. And, even more surprising, is that when she finally had, she'd realized that her reason for pursuing him had changed to something else entirely.

"…I couldn't help myself." She didn't even try to hide her shame. He could probably read her soul like an open-book anyway.

"Oho! Young love!"

The tea in her glass had begun to boil. For a God, Shinigami-sama seemed way too amused about all this.

"Well, I can't blame you for wanting to partner with a boy you like!" And, really, he had no tact whatsoever, did he?! "Still, that just makes me more curious! Why would you split up if that's how you feel?"

Nosey. That was what Shinigami-sama was. A part of her wanted to storm out, but she wasn't some immature child who couldn't handle her own emotions unlike certain weapons. "…because." She squashed her feelings down, down, down into her soul and took a sip of her tea. The burn was a nice distraction from the miserable feeling she'd endured for months now.

"…he seems really happy with her, doesn't he?"

…when that large hand came reaching across towards her, she reflexively braced herself. She had seen that crack her meister- ex-meister's skull open enough to know what it was capable of. Squeezing her eyes shut, she waited. Rather than a devastating chop, a gentle pat came instead.

"Being considerate of others' feelings is nice… but don't sacrifice your own in the process."

It was good advice. Still…

"…then, why did you choose to partner them together in the first place?" She squinted her eyes at him, waiting for an answer.

She hadn't known that someone could sweat through a mask before.

"U-uhm! W-well, I'm sure that you'll find a new meister in no time! Right! No time at all!"


It's In Her Genes

He really must have been getting soft in his old age.

The results on his screen should have thrilled him for all the questions it raised. How? When? Who? "Sitting in the dark again?" A recently divorced someone flipped the lights on and he turned away from his desk to look at the disheveled Death Scythe.

"Spirit." He injected as much annoyance as he could into that single word as he believed was possible. "Is there something that you need?" The older man was the last one he wanted around right now.

HurtRegretUneaseLonelinessDetermination.

It was as easy as ever to read the redheaded man's soul, much to his own detriment as he couldn't ignore the effect his own words had on his former weapon. He had always been sensitive, but with his split from that woman, Spirit was like one big raw nerve.

"I, uh, picked up a pack of your favorite smokes. I was just in the area, so…"

Stein considered telling the Death Scythe that he had several cartons in his desk. The longer he looked at the grown man, shuffling and staring at his feet, in front of him, the less that seemed like an option. "…thank you." That was the appropriate thing to say, wasn't it?

He didn't have to wait for the other man to speak to get his answer, his upperclassman's soul lighting up in a way that he was sure others might describe as endearing. On the other hand, when he considered why his former weapon was so desperate for affirmation, he was forced to give his screw a few particularly rough cranks to avoid thinking more on the topic.

"So! What are you working on?"

Damn.

Stein turned back to his monitor. "…there's a student in Shibusen with some abnormalities in their blood." Keeping it vague was better than lying.

"…a-abnormalities?! We're not talking about some weird disease, are we? I've gotta to protect my Maka!"

Ha.

"No, nothing like that." Hitting a few keys, the sample on screen lit up in red. "What do you see?"

"…blood?" You would have thought after all these years that Spirit wouldn't sound so queasy seeing such a small amount of blood.

"Good. You're not colorblind." He tapped his keyboard once more and blues and greens joined the mix. "Weapon genes become active around puberty."

Squinting, the somehow significant figure of a school on this very topic looked at him cluelessly.

"…however, we do know that not every weapon produces a child that has an active weapon gene." It was tiring enough teaching this to his students. Had this man ever paid attention in class?

"Right. We weren't sure which way it was going to go for Maka." Mn. "It can skip a generation or two sometimes. Students whose parents were weapons, but they're meisters. Students who didn't know they were carrying the gene because their parents and grandparents stayed dormant."

At least he knew that much. "All weapons alive today can trace their ancestry back to the weapons that Arachne created."

"Right." Spirit was trying very, very hard to sound like this was something he'd known.

"What can you tell from looking at the sample?" The pained look on Spirit's face as he strained to spot the obvious was enough to make him light another cigarette. If there was one thing to be grateful to that woman for, it was that Maka hadn't inherited her father's intelligence.

…though, given her choice in partner… perhaps it just expressed itself in different ways.

"…it's… there's a lot more blue then green?"

While not wrong, Spirit had phrased it like an idiot. Sigh. "…the green are active weapon genes. The blue is the dormant. In the case of an average weapon, we'd usually expect to see the opposite. The weapon in this case is just barely past the threshold that would even allow them to transform."

"Huh." The Death Scythe's eyes has glassed over.

"In cases where someone's weapon gene remains dormant, we wouldn't see any active at all. So, this particular student can be considered deficient." An aberration to be sure. "…the problem is when comparing their active and dormant genes, they're entirely different."

Spirit cocked his head to the side.

"One can be traced back to the same roots as all the others. That's the dormant one. The other one…" Shinigami-sama was not going to be pleased. "…well, it appears someone put it there."

"…'put it'…?"

"This student-" unfortunately for her "- possesses a weapon gene totally unique to her." "Her…?!" "The weak presentation of her abilities makes sense then, whomever made her-" "M-made-!" "-may have done so improperly. Though, we have too little information on the first generation to say whether this is actually normal and she'll develop more over time or-"

"STEIN!"

…in his excitement, he might have said a bit too much. Spinning around in his seat, he didn't even need to read the man's soul. The emotions he was feeling were written plainly on his face.

"…what student are we talking about?"

Was there really any reason in telling him? Spirit had clearly already guessed. Was he just desperate to hear any other name than the one they both knew it to be? He chose to say nothing and let that be his answer.


Hoard

The wind carried the loose piece of paper right to the boy's feet. "Eh?" The child's expression went from surprise to blinding rage in an instant, snatching up the litter and glaring at it with so much intensity it wouldn't have been surprising if it burst into flames. "HEY!"

From his place on the bench, he could hear the boy stomping towards him and he lowered his book just enough to peer over the pages at him.

"Did you seriously just litter?! What the hell's the matter with you?"

The page was crumpled up and hurled at him. He didn't flinch even as it bounced off his head. He did raise an eyebrow as the boy picked it back up, sprinted over to the nearest recycling bin to place it in, and then sprinted back to thrust an accusing finger towards his face.

"People like you are the absolute worst! Consider how all the trees that died to make that paper would feel!"

He half-expected the child to take a swing at him, but instead he just sucked in a deep breath and stormed off spouting obscenities. Snapping his book closed, he headed over to the bin to retrieve the crumbled page. "No reaction at all…" It was disappointing. One plus one should have equaled two.

Adjusting his hat, he looked off in the direction the boy had fled and the ostentatious school that was undoubtedly his destination.

"Are you worth collecting or not, 'Law'?"

Chapter Text

They ran. Faster, faster, and faster… tripping over their own feet trying to escape the hunter hot on their trail. Fortunately, they knew these streets better than anyone else. Making a hard turn into an alley, they slipped out of sight and into London's labyrinth of backstreets. Even then, they didn't dare stop until they were certain they'd escaped.

Collapsing against a wall, they sucked as much air into their burning lungs as they could manage. Sweating and shaking, they raised their head to look up at the particularly eerie expression the moon wore that night.

And whatever hope they'd had to see the sun again died.

Seated on the edge of a rooftop, kicking their feet and grinning in much the same way as the celestial body behind him, was their pursuer.

"Serial Killer 'Jack the Ripper'… we're here for your soul."


"Lawrence." She called to him, his name quieting the erratic hum of his soul. "Don't forget what you promised me."

Her meister twirled her in response, her short and unimpressive blade managing a menacing gleam when it caught the light. "A-huh." He leaned forward to fall towards their prey, swinging her down to split the criminal in half.

Jack was quick though, scrambling out of reach and raising his arms defensively. The man had mutilated himself, replacing his hands with monstrous mechanical claws that were each longer and thicker than her own stubby blade.

"Jeez, that must make wiping your ass a real pain." And there went her idiot, focusing on the wrong thing.

"I don't wipe!" The killer answered. Ew. He dove towards her meister, slashing and swiping wildly.

Twisting, ducking, and leaping between the flurry of blows, Law was grinning as he spun her between his fingers. "I'll have to give Maka a bath after this!"

"Ugh, don't go saying weird things!" Her Papa would kill him! At this point though, the more he spoke the easier it was for her to focus on their connection. His eagerness was tempered by her determination, her doubts were quieted by his confidence. Together, their fears made their resonance strong.

Jack began to shriek, his frustration obviously growing as Law used her to simply deflect all the killer's strikes.

"Maka!" Law gave her one final twirl before snapping hold of her with that impossibly solid grip of his.

"Right!" Her meister swung and she threw herself into it, her blade flashing one final time that night as her small wielder slipped between their opponent's crazed swings to deal the killing blow as she split the killer in two at the waist.

She was already changing back before Jack finished unraveling, hand forming around the soul of their latest target first and the rest of her body following shortly after. "That makes ten." She smiled to herself, clutching the small, precious orb to her chest.

"Double digits!" Law pumped his fists, beaming.

She smiled over at him… and then brought her book down on his head. "Stop acting like this is some huge accomplishment! It's been almost a year and all we've managed is ten?! We're the worst in our whole class!"

"That's not true! Black Star's the worst!"

…tch, she couldn't argue with him there. Ten was better than zero. Still, all she could think about was a certain smug scythe meister's and her stupid, stupid, occasionally sweet scythe. "How can they be at ninety-nine already…" What was she supposed to do if Soul replaced her Papa?! Would she have to call him 'sir'?! Would he wear a suit and tie? …her cheeks felt hot all of a sudden. "G-guh, stop it, we don't want that…" She tried and failed to convince herself and her stupid hormones.

"Stop being thirsty for Soul for a second, we need to contact the boss-man." Her meister called from the end of the alley as loudly as possible.


"Forty-two, forty-two, five-hundred and sixty-four, whenever you want to knock on Death's door…"

The store window filled with light and Maka braced herself…

"Maka! Congratulations on ten souls!" Her father's cheering was accompanied by both him and her headmaster setting off a pair of party poppers. "Papa will take you out somewhere nice to celebrate!"

"You see?" Her meister frowned over at her, hands on his hips. "You have to celebrate the little victories and relax some. Putting that much stress on yourself can't be good for your body either. You'll never hit puberty."

She clubbed him for the second time that night. "I don't want to hear that from you of all people!" Sixteen years old and he hadn't grown a single centimeter since the day they'd met! "You tell him, Maka! Papa knows that one day very soon that you'll blossom!" And the last person she wanted to hear that from was her own parent! Sighing, she tucked her book under her arm and focused her attention on the masked god. She gave a small, apologetic smile before speaking, "Demon Sickle Maka Albarn and Scythe-Technician Law N. Order reporting in."

"Yo!" The casual greeting from Shinigami-sama was something she'd gotten used to. "I'm glad to see that the two of you were successful! And, from the looks of things, totally unharmed!"

She tried not to get a fat head over all his praise. Just not very hard though. "Thank you! We've been trying our very hardest!"

"Though, I'm surprised! You usually make much faster progress with your partners, Law!"

Tch. There went her good mood. She glared over at her meister who was making a face at their headmaster. He could be as mad as he wanted at Shinigami-sama, it didn't change he had been half-assing things!

"Yeah, thanks for that. I can't wait to hear about this the whole way home." Law grumbled.

Oh, and she would be giving him an earful, he could count on that. "U-uhm." Reaching up, her hand tugged at her shoulder-length locks. "Alice… she had to go after a witch, didn't she? Is she doing alright?" She didn't want to ask about the one she was actually concerned about with her Papa right there.

"Not at all! It's looking grim!"

She tried not to fall flat on her face. "H-heh?! They're in danger?! Law- come on, we have to go-!" She was running… and getting nowhere, unable to move a single inch as her meister had grabbed her by the back of her sweater vest and, despite his size, he was more than strong enough to keep her from moving even an inch.

"Now, now. This was their assignment, Maka." Shinigami-sama's image waved a blocky, white finger at her. "They knew the risks." His uncharacteristically strict tone made her feet heavy and she hung her head, mostly to keep from glaring at him.

"Well, that's all we've got for now, boss-man." Law didn't even seem to care. "We'll be home soon." And then, he smashed the store window to end the call.

She didn't have the energy to lecture him about doing that, again. Right then, all her thoughts were of a pale, snarky boy who shared her goal. Was he really in danger? Was Shinigami-sama not doing anything to help? Sure, she knew there were risks to being a meister and a weapon, but- This was different! This was-

"'Ey, Maka, you want any of this?"

This was her meister having reached into the broken window to steal some of the baked goods that had been on display. She didn't even know it had been a bakery. Wait, was that why he picked it!? Had he robbed all those places he'd told her to call Shinigami-sama from!?

"No?" He asked, face smeared with frosting already. "You know I can't read your mind, right?"

Her eyes were spinning in their sockets. There was her meister with cheeks packed like a squirrel's, cakes, cupcakes, and Soul being murdered because no one seemed to care-

Something hard struck her forehead, knocking her onto her butt, and ow, that stung! "W-what-" She whipped her head back and forth before looking up to see her meister standing over her, frowning. The position of his hand… he'd flicked her forehead?! "Why did you do that!"

"He's fucking with you." Law sighed, crouching down to her level. It was probably the only situation where someone would ever have to look up at him.

Wait. What? "He's fu-…do you mean Shinigami-sama?" She asked, rubbing her forehead.

"It's way too early for those two to think about making a Death Scythe. He probably sent them on a wild goose chase." A wild goose chase…? "There won't be a witch. Or, there will be a 'witch'-" He did air quotes as he spoke. "-and they'll lose and have their souls confiscated. Whatever it is, it's probably some kind of impossible assignment."

"…really?" That seemed so… underhanded for their usually playful and upstanding Shinigami-sama.

"Yes. That's the kind of shit he always does." Oh, was Law… mad? He was glaring off into space. It seemed like he was remembering something.

"…he's done that to you too, huh?" Maka asked, more curious than anything.

Law picked up a rock and threw it through another store's window. "SHIT!"

That was one way to answer. "I forget sometimes how long you've been a student… You've probably seen all kinds of things, huh?" She got back to her feet and brushed herself off. "Still, Soul's going to be really depressed if he fails this…" If the souls he and Alice had worked so hard to collect were all taken… that would mean she didn't have to worry about him leaving her behind though, wouldn't it? "Oh well! I guess I'll cook him something nice!" She clasped her hands together behind her back, smiling.

"What are you, his mother?" Law opened wide, tossing a stolen pastry into the air and swallowed it whole. "You want one?" He offered one to her as well.

"Sure, sure." Sighing, she took it and brought the heavily frosted baked good to her mouth and took a small bite and- "Gah! This is ancient! How long's it been since they made it!?" It had probably been on display at least a month. Her meister didn't seem to care, crunching away on something that probably shouldn't have crunched at all. "You're going to get a stomachache…" Why was her meister such a weirdo?

"HEY!"

A bell rung as the door to the bakery that her meister had robbed swung open and a very angry man in chef's attire emerged holding a rolling pin. "You little thieves! You think that you can smash up my store and leave without paying for it?!"

"G-gah!" She jerked back. "Law, we should probably-" She looked where her meister had been seconds ago and found empty space. "Eh?" She looked down the street and far, far away and getting further still was the retreating back of one Law N. Order.

"I trust you to handle this, boss!"

She was getting flashbacks to that night at Stein's. "You-!" She started… and then remembered the angry baker and barely ducked in time to avoid having her head cracked open. "You shitty cat burglar!" She shrieked as she took off after her meister, both for safety and to kick his ass.


"My, it seems like I have to patch you up more because of Maka then I do from any missions you take."

Maka winced. That wasn't true, was it? Sure, they ended up in the infirmary a little more often than others because of things like this, but- Fidgeting, she wondered if maybe, maybe, she was a little too rough with her meister.

"It's fine, it's fine! Having a pretty nurse treat them is every boy's dream, right?" Uuugh… the more she looked at that stupid grin on Law's face, the more she wanted to sock him again.

Medusa was prettythough. She'd started only a short while ago, taking on Nygus's responsibilities in the infirmary because she and Sid were off on assignment. Or, taking time off. Or…well, there were a lot of rumors about where the two were right now and Maka wasn't sure which she wanted to believe.

"You're too kind!" The blonde woman seemed to have no issue playing along for her patient's sake. How she put up with the harassment of a bunch of hormonal teenage boys, which were the worst and probably all deserved a spot on Shinigami-sama's List, and her Papa, Maka couldn't even fathom.

"I mean, even if you're kind of small for a woman your age." Her meister grabbed at the air in front of his chest.

Thankfully, this time she didn't have to punish him herself as the still smiling nurse jabbed an alcohol-soaked cloth into a cut she hadn't realized Jack had left on her meister's arm.

"YyyaAOW! A-a little more warning next time-!" The pitiful sickle meister looked on the verge of tears.

Good.

"You should know better than to say things about girls, Law. You'll need to keep that in mind when you get older." Medusa's voice had gotten an extra notch sweeter. It seemed painfully forced.

"Hey, I'm sixteen! I'm legal in this city!" Her meister declared.

Medusa nodded then looked towards her, smiling. "Maka, would you mind?"

She shook her head and smiled in return. "Not at all."

A second later, her meister was lying unconscious in an infirmary bed with a heavily bandaged skull.

"I'm sorry about him." Sighing heavily, she bowed her head at the nurse. "He's an idiot who doesn't know how to talk to people." She was still working on his cursing… He'd filled up their swear jar enough times to pay for all their new furniture.

"It's alright, Maka." The older blonde waved off her concerns. "I was warned about him and your Papa in advance before taking this job."

She felt like someone had stabbed her. Why did the two men she interacted with the most have to be so terrible that women were warned about them?! "I'm so, so sorry…" She felt so ill now that she kind of wanted to crawl into one of the empty infirmary beds and die.

"That was a joke." Medusa giggled. "I knew what was in store for me when I came here to Shibusen, Maka." She couldn't keep from smiling as she spoke. "It's nothing I can't handle. Besides, I get to help brave weapons and meisters defend our world, don't I?"

"Well, I don't know about me and Law…" She laughed nervously. "We're kind of a mess." A terrible, wonderful mess that she'd fought for, but a mess none the less. Her laughter was cut short as she was bopped lightly on the head with a clipboard.

"None of that." Medusa was frowning at her. "You're every bit as much of a hero to me as any other student I take care of."

H-hero…? Her? She could feel her cheeks growing warm. "T-thank you!" No one, excluding her Papa and Mama, had ever said something that nice to her before. Not even Law. Especially Law. Getting kind words out of him was probably a sign of the end times.

"Now, roll up your sleeve."

"Oh? Uhm, sure, but-" Maka did as she was asked, mind elsewhere. Was she a hero? She knew their work at Shibusen was very important and they'd saved more innocent women from being killed in London so…

"Good, now, show me that heroic spirit!"

It was then she noticed the large syringe in Medusa's hand. All those warm, fuzzy feelings vanished. "M-miss Medusa?"

"Professor Stein asked me to get a sample for him-!"

Dammit, Medusa had pulled a fast one on her!


Class seemed like it was going to be interesting that day, what with their friends all having equally fantastic stories of their last assignments…

"You had every soul confiscated?" Hell must have been freezing over because she felt sympathy for Alice.

"It wouldn't have happened if someone-" Her scythe- her fellow scythe scowled over at his redheaded meister who was bug-eyed and looked ready to kill. "-had been able to tell the difference between a witch and a cat."

Alice giggled. "Yes. Yes, that's right, Soul." Her lips twitched upwards into a smile.

Maka scooted her seat a little further away from the other girl and towards her own meister. "Well, I'm sorry to hear that." She wasn't. "It shouldn't be too hard for you guys. You collected ninety-nine once already, a second time shouldn't be too hard." That didn't mean she wanted them to be depressed however.

"You could take actually hard assignments this time." And there was Law 'helping'. "A Death Scythe made from ninety-nine small-fry would be pretty shitty."

Sigh.

"Excuse you?! We weren't-…" Alice looked like she was about to leap across their desks to throttle the boy and Maka honestly couldn't blame her. "How long have you even been here?! How close did you get to get any of your partners to being a Death Scythe?!"

"I prefer picking my assignments carefully."

'Bullshit.' Maka wanted to say. She practically had to twist his arm to do anything. Getting him to accept the Jack the Ripper assignment had taken some pretty creative convincing on her part.

"Hmph. You're just lazy." Alice spat. "Jacqueline. How many souls did you and he collect when you were partners?"

How nice of her to bring that topic up and make everything awkward. The dark-haired girl looked away from her current, pink-haired meister to frown towards Alice. It was no secret that was a sore subject, even with Kim now in the picture. "More than you and Soul have now."

That was a harsher burn than Jackie could've managed with her flames.

"Jackie and I weren't about that whole making a Death Scythe life anyway. We spent our time doing other things together." Law said in that casual way of his…

The whole room went up at least five degrees from the very flustered looking demon-lamp who was playing with her hair and… w-what was with that smile?!

The unpleasant emotion she associated with her meister's former weapon reared its ugly head once more. Maka wouldn't have minded if that, pun intended, 'old flame' of Law's found herself at the bottom of the ocean sometimes… "What about you, Tsubaki?" She asked, a little louder than she probably needed to, as she looked at the girl sat with her meister the next row of desks down from hers.

"Well-" She started, but, to absolutely no one's surprise-

"I proved I was the biggest!" Black*Star answered for her. "I faced a guy with a strong soul- but he was just a lot of talk! Me and Tsubaki handled him, no problem! Didn't even break a sweat!"

The look on Tsubaki's face told a whole other story.

"Strong soul?" Law got his feet off his desk, finally, and sat proper as he leaned forward. "For real?"

"HHMMMmhmhmhHM!" Black Star was a bit too preoccupied laughing to give a proper answer, rubbing the underside of his nose with the back of one of his fingers.

"He was a very powerful swordsman… His name was Mifune."

There was a soft crunch from beside her. Maka glanced over to see Law gripping the edge of his desk… to the point it cracked.

"…You guys fought the Sword Saint? I'm amazed that you're not dead." Law's voice was tight and just loud enough to be heard over the chatter of the rest of their classmates.

Out of the corner of her eye, Maka could tell Jackie was looking their way again. Or, well, his way. She wasn't surprised, the other girl had been his partner so she knew too, didn't she? Reaching over, she set her hand on her meister's wrist…

Law grunted and sat back in his seat a second later, pulling his arm away from her so he could fold them across his chest. "Well, I'm glad that you're not dead, Tsubaki."

The buxom girl offered up an awkward smile. "T-thank you…?"

"HEY! What about me!?" Tsubaki's meister was understandably cross about being left out.

Her own meister, acting as mature as he looked, blew a raspberry. "Eh. You're not a girl. You just sound like one."

Ugh, why did Law feel the need to pick at Black*Star every chance he got?! It was like he relished in bullying the other boy… the problem was-

"BASTARD!"

She winced as her small meister was sent flying out of his chair from a kick from the assassin. It was almost embarrassing how easily her idiot was ragdolled by Tsubaki's.

Before things could get even more out of hand, a voice she dreaded came on over the PA. "Black Star, Tsubaki, and Alice… report to Shinigami-sama's office. Bring that little punk with you too." Her Papa was the last person who should have had this responsibility. Especially if she was going to single out her close friend and absolutely nothing more. "Oh, and Maka…"

Oh no…

"Papa Loves You!"

Her classmates were snickering. Her meister being no exception.

Traitor.


Class without their friends went quickly.

"I can't believe he took all of them… That's too harsh." Maka shook her head, and upon receiving no response from her meister threw a nasty look over his way. "Are you listening, Law?"

"You don't have to pretend that you're upset." Her meister finally replied and kept right on walking, hands in his pockets. "Losing to Soul… or losing Soul as a 'classmate', you'd probably cry until you died."

She stumbled over her feet, her face growing hot. "I-I'm not a rabbit!" What was he doing, talking like he saw right through her?!

"He's probably vulnerable and looking for some comfort. This is a big chance for you." What was he even talking about now!? "Oh Soul-" Alright, if he was trying to imitate her voice he was making it way too high and way too annoying. Knowing him, he was doing it on purpose. "-let's not compete anymore. Let's become Death Scythes together."

As if she'd ever say that! That was too embarrassing! And, she wanted the sour albino as a rival! And… and… that wouldn't work would it? Ever since that one trip to the movies a whole year ago, their relationship hadn't changed in the slightest. Which was fine. She'd sooner die than follow the advice of an idiot like Law anyways. Just because he seemed more worldly about some things. The way he talked about Jackie sometimes made it sound like… ugh! She was in a bad enough mood but remembering the face his ex-weapon had been making back in class was enough to make her blood boil.

Before she could dwell on why that was for too long, she bumped into her small meister's back. "Oof- Hey, what are you-"

A small, calloused hand clapped over her face as she was dragged behind a trashcan. She could have told him that this was a bad hiding place… "Maka, look." He pointed towards an unfamiliar trio heading through the halls in front of them.

At the front of the group was a boy dressed immaculately in a black suit flanked by two girls in… bold attire. "…I don't recognize them… but that one at the front has a real presence, doesn't he?" She asked quietly. It reminded her of someone…

"Who? Oh. Right, there's a guy with them. Well, ignore that, look at her." Law waved his finger in the general direction of the tallest of the three. An undeniably beautiful blonde who carried herself like she was fully aware of it. "Low-rider jeans."

Oh Death dammit. "…did you seriously drag me behind a trash can so you could point out a girl dressed like some kind of floozy." It was not a question because she knew the answer. That being that Law was a complete moron who only thought with his-

"…floozy?"

Blood rushed out rather than into her face for the first time that day and, slowly, she turned to look at the girl she'd just insulted standing over them. "A-ahh…a-ahaha…"

Shit.

"Maka, it's okay." Law was there, squeezing her hand as she helped her up to her feet. He even stood in front of her, becoming a wall between her and the understandably angry stranger.

"L-law…" She really should have been easier on him. For all his quirks, he did care about her as a partner and- Wait, what she was doing, he was obviously about to say something terrible. She knew how this song and dance went now.

Without fail, her undersized idiot gave a thumbs-up and a smile that deserved to be on a billboard to the provocatively dressed blonde. "After all, I really dig the floozy look!"

Maka whined, taking her book out to, very lightly, bonk him on the head with it. She didn't even have the energy to properly chop him when he was this stupid.

"PATTY!" The girl snarled and, with a giggle, the other blonde turned into a mass of pink light that reformed in the completely understandably outraged stranger's hand as a gun to press against Law's forehead. "You brats are fuckin' dead."

It felt like she pent more time running than she did reading nowadays.

"She's shooting at us!" She felt it was important to say, if the sound of gunfire and the bullets whizzing past their heads as they ran wasn't enough of a clue.

"I know, right? Women!" Her sexist, moronic, short-legged meister huffed as he sprinted alongside her.

"This is serious!" Maka crushed down the urge to cave his face in as one of the ornate lamps lining the halls was blown to bits.

"Naw, we're fine. See? She can't aim for shit." Law folded his arms, nodding to himself as he ran. He looked back over his shoulder at the shooter. "We have classes here for that! You might need to take a few!" He finished by blowing a raspberry at her.

"RrrrRRAGH! I'm gonna snap your neck!"

Maka yelped as a bullet whizzed through her hair. "Can you stop provoking her?!" She swung at him, more out of habit and panic than anger at this point, only for a small hand with iron grip to catch her fist.

"In here!" Law dragged her through a pair of familiar, heavy double doors and into the library. He dove, taking her along with him, behind one of the many bookshelves.

Having a moment to breathe, she nabbed the thickest book from one of the shelves to crack his skull open with. "Idiot! Why do you have to make everything worse?!"

"Uh, that's our brand, Maka." Even as blood spurted from his skull, Law was looking at her as if she was the stupid one.

"…haaaa…" She slumped to her knees. "You're right." Shaking her head, she smiled up at him. "So, how are we getting out of this?"

"Well, if it's a gun, she's not really firing bullets. More like concentrated bolts of wavelength. Unless she's really, actually trying to kill us, the worst it'll do is hurt. A lot." Huh. He was awfully knowledgeable. Had he partnered with a gun-type weapon in the past? This was also Law so it was just as likely that…

"Has someone shot you with one before?" She kind of felt like she knew the answer.

"Maka, come on. It's me."

"I'll take that as a 'Yes'." Peeking around the corner with him, it was just in time to see the doors get kicked open and that angry blonde to come marching in waving her gun like she was robbing a bank.

"Come out! If you take your punishment like a man, I'll only crush one of your balls!" And she was still pissed.

Talking their way out of this was impossible, wasn't it? She looked up at her meister's grinning face and, with a shake of her head, her body was breaking down and shrinking into a mass of light for him to catch.

"Let's show her not to take us lightly." Law's words were matched by his wavelength. Confident and excited, like he was about to play a game he was one of the best at. She'd usually have pushed back or tried to reel him in some, but…

"I'm counting on you to end it quick! You have to keep the books safe!" Indulging him every once in awhile wasn't a bad thing.

Leaping out into the open, her meister threw himself into the leggy blonde's crosshairs. "Don't miss, floozy!"

Pink! So much pink! Compressed bolts of wavelength numbering in the dozens were flying at her idiot. "I thought it was a hand gun, not an uzi?!" That had to be cheating!

"Did you think she had to reload?!" Law, at least, didn't take his eyes off the girl shooting at him even as he narrowly avoided being pumped full of lead. Or, well, wavelength. Him being such a small target had to help, but he was doing an impressive job avoiding the hail of bullets.

She bit down on the inside of her cheek to keep from saying anything else, not wanting to distract him. She had her own job, as his weapon. Breathing deep, even if air wasn't exactly a necessity in her current form, she had a million jobs just as important as her partner's. If she kept telling herself that, she might even believe it one day.

Their resonance was stable. Stronger than usual even. He must have been in a good mood. Unlike their moonlit battle with Jack, there was no sign of that becoming an issue. Good. Their goal wasn't to kill their opponent either. Just teach her not to take them lightly.

On the outside, Law was pushing in closer, but her short reach was, as usual, forcing him to have to put himself in danger. Even if he was avoiding a direct hit, the bolts of wavelength had scorched his clothes and burnt his skin just from the grazes.

The twinge of guilt she felt over her own weakness must have reached him through their connection because- "OW!" The sudden jolt of negative emotions she received from him in response felt like she'd just stuck a fork in an outlet. She could feel her eyes tearing up. There were nicer ways to go about telling her she was wrong to think like that!

"You're dead!" The blonde squeezed one of her eyes shut as she aimed, popping off one more shot-

And Law's head snapped back so forcefully she was, very briefly, afraid it would pop right off his shoulders. He kept on his feet though, even as blood trickled from the nasty, circular burn mark left on the dead center of his forehead where he'd been hit.

"…that fucking hurt…" The shift in his tone was probably something only something she could detect.

It felt like the ground beneath her feet was shifting and it was all she could do to keep from being thrown flat on her rear. "Lawre-" Too late, she could feel her grip on her meister's wavelength slipping despite her efforts to rein him in. Painful for her even as the sensation she was experiencing wasn't that far from rope burn.

"You were seriously trying to kill me?!" Law's smile looked like it was about to split his face in two, lunging at the girl.

To her credit, the flashy girl apparently could keep a cool head as rather than panic that there was a hatchet wielding psycho coming at her, she popped off a few more shots to put him down.

Law, now in a complete mood, wasn't going to be stopped by that. His free hand found the corner of an unoccupied table, stacked high with books that were thicker than he was, and his fingers sank into the wood with an audible crunch. With hardly a grunt of exertion, he threw it at the blonde.

"Idiot! Stop it!" She was trying to keep herself calm, not wanting her panic to excite her partner's soul any more than it already was.

The table was made of remarkably solid stuff, but it was clear that the girl and her partner had been pulling their punches as with their next few shots she was blowing chunks out of it. It was scary to think that might have been her meister if they'd really wanted it to be. With their final shot, it exploded into a thousand little shards of formerly hand-carved perfection. The problem was, Law hadn't ever meant for it to actually hit them- the completely out of hand meister had been hidden behind it and charging in behind it had gotten him close enough to land a single, decisive blow.

Did she change back to stop him from hurting the girl?

The only thing keeping him in check though at this point was her – if she severed their resonance right now, then-!

In the split seconds before she become accomplice to her meister's violent counterattack, she identified what it was she was feeling.

Fear.

"Lawrence!"

Please!

…she couldn't say if it had been her words, her meister having more control of himself than she'd thought, or, most likely, the sudden appearance of a well-dressed young man that stopped this little incident from becoming more than a schoolyard brawl.

He was handsome. It was the first thought that popped into her head when she laid eyes on the boy standing between Law and the blonde gunslinger. Embarrassing? Definitely. However, examining him a bit more closely… that wasn't right, was it? The longer she stared at him, the more she realized it was more that she couldn't find a single thing wrong with it like one of those pictures of a model that had been touched up. It was kind of unnerving if she was being honest.

"Liz. Patty." His voice was gentler than she'd expected. A bit familiar too, oddly enough. "…we'll have to apologize to my father. Look at this mess."

Maka followed his gaze and almost burst into tears. Her-uh- the school's library was a complete disaster. A few shelves had been knocked over, a table had been exploded, stray bullets had turned a few books into confetti….

"Father? …ah, so I guess all those rumors going around are true. You're the boss-man's kid, huh?" Law sounded like himself again. "I expected you to be taller!"

…oh no. No, no, no…!

"That's right. This is the Shinigami-sama's only son! And you picked a fight with his personal weapons!" That leggy blonde and her gun, returned to her annoyingly bouncy human form, grinned from behind the regal boy.

In an instant, she had changed back and was bowing her head as low as she could. "I'm so, so sorry! I didn't mean- That's to say-" The two girls were snickering now, and she was trying her hardest to keep her own anger in check even as her face burned.

"I hope that the two of you like getting expelled~~~!" The two sang.

Her whole future was crumbling away! For the second time!

"That's enough." The heir to Death's throne sighed. "…hm." And then, he was staring at her making her feel all kinds of self-conscious

Her hair had grown out into a cute bob in the almost full year since her joining EAT, framing her face and making it easier for people to realize she was in fact a girl, but the rest of her… She inwardly groaned. She'd gotten taller at least. Meanwhile, she'd overheard Tsubaki speaking with the other girls about having to be fitted for new bras again just the other day.

"…lovely." Wa-huh?

And then, the boy smiled at her in a way she'd never been smiled at before.

Her heart pounded and she felt blood rushing into her cheeks. "W-what?!" She didn't mean for it to come out so aggressive, but-

"Your symmetry." Death's son elaborated… just not in any way that she understood. He was looking at her like most of the boys looked at Tsubaki. "You're Death Scythe's daughter, aren't you?"

"O-oh. Uhm." She forced herself to straighten up. "Yes. I'm Maka Albarn." She offered a hand and he accepted. She'd expected him to be cold, maybe even a little clammy, but instead his touch was warm and rather delicate. As though he was handling something of great value.

'Soul', a tiny voice reminded her. 'Souuuuuul!', it repeated the longer their handshake went on and the warmer her face got. That was probably her conscious. Or her hormones. Right then, she wasn't keen on listening to either. She could get used to being treated like this…

"Death the Kidd."

…what was with these boys and their names though…?

Releasing her hand, Kid turned back to his partners and she could tell just from their expressions that he had to be frowning at them. "Let's go. Father's waiting for us." He strolled away and out the doors of the library, hands in his pockets and his head held high.

A minute later, he came rushing back in with his arms and legs swinging robotically and his face almost green. "...b-but first, we have to clean this mess!"

Both girls groaned but didn't argue.

"…we should go to." Maka glanced over at her uncharacteristically quiet partner. He gave her a stiff nod and she grabbed his wrist, tugging him along behind her out the doors and through the winding halls of their school away from the scene of their latest crime scene. When she felt him pull his hand away, she sighed. "Law-" They needed to talk about his little slip. She turned her head back and almost tripped over her feet when she found her meister on his knees. "L-law?!" She hurried to his side. "What's-"

"…fffuuucck…" He whined, pushing backwards to go from his knees to his rear. "That zebra prick really got me…"

She blinked. "Z-zebra?" Had getting shot in the head done more damage than she'd first thought? She'd been so sure there weren't any brains there to get scrambled.

"Jeez, were you not paying attention?" Law's hand went to his side, yanking up his shirt to reveal a nasty fist-shaped impression someone had left in his side. "…I think he got a rib or two…"

It took her a few seconds to process. "Shinigami-sama's son did-?" When? Sure, she'd seen him pop up out of nowhere, but had he really landed a hit like that on her meister? "…come on, I'll patch you up this time. I'm pretty sure Miss Medusa would give us an earful if she had to do it twice in one day." She offered her injured meister a hand with a smile that even she knew looked forced.

"I'm telling Soul about all that flirting."

Gah! "You useless, shitty, catty-"

"I am not a cat, you thirsty bookworm!"


There were a lot of place's in Death City that were important to her. Some for good reasons, some for bad. This one never failed to brighten her mood. "Alright, go ahead and get undressed. Chop, chop." She clapped as she said so, turning her head away and admiring their training grounds. It had only become more theirs since that one day. Most of the trees in the immediate area sported nasty scars from their practice. Just for convenience's sake, they'd hauled a few large trunks out with supplies to save them a half hour walk from the nearest place with food, medical supplies, and, most importantly, books.

She fetched what was probably their tenth first aid kit by this point and turned. "Are you finished-?" She tried, and failed, not to wince when she saw her meister seated on the ground topless. "…just sit still, okay? I'll take care of the burns first."

It was nice to get him out of that ratty gakuran that he'd better not forgotten his promise about but at the same time, seeing him always made her feel strangely guilty. She, better than anyone, knew how small he was. Without his somewhat baggy clothes, it was impossible to ignore. He looked almost like skin and bones. Odd for someone who stuffed their face daily and probably did more running and fighting than most EAT students. It wasn't like Black*Star either who, as short as he may have been, had a frighteningly defined physique.

Lawrence just seemed like all it would take is a stiff breeze to kill him.

It wasn't like he was ill or anything, she'd even asked Stein about it before. Her meister just seemed to refuse to grow.

Huffing, she tried not to get mad at the boy she was giving medical treatment to. What kind of idiot couldn't even figure out how to at least put some muscle on? Didn't he know how scary it was for a weapon, to be partnered with someone who looked so frail?

"Sorry."

His sudden apology managed to drag her out of her head and she stayed still, the cotton ball she'd been using to spread antiseptic over one of his burns lingering probably long enough to become uncomfortable until she realized it. "U-uhm." She set her supplies to the side and folded her hands in her lap. "For what?"

Law spun around on the ground to face her and set his hands on his knees. He wouldn't look her in the eye, that lavender gaze of his going everywhere other than her. "I got out of hand."

That was one way of putting 'I almost hacked some poor girl to bits.'…

At times like this, words weren't really going to make either of them feel better. So, instead, she reached out and laid her hand on top of his and…

She was sinking. Deeper, deeper, and deeper still…

When she opened her eyes, she was there again. Hallways windier than even Shibusen's, death around every corner, and…

"You should stop coming in here already. I've told you that it's not a good place." There was Law, scowling at her as he grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the way in time so she wouldn't be split in half by a blade swinging down from the ceiling.

Law's soul was every bit as unwelcoming as ever.

"Yeah, but you're here." She squeezed hold of his hand, smiling and feeling a little defiant. "You expect me to wait outside?"

He grumbled in response, leading her down a familiar path the large, centermost chamber… When she'd first come here, she hadn't paid it much mind. She'd been a bit preoccupied trying to reach her walking disaster of a meister. On closer inspection though, she'd realized…this place wasn't some crypt. It was a jail. One made to keep intruders out and, as its name implied, keep something locked in. There was a massive, iron door on one side of the room that was covered with a comical amount of locks, chains, straps, and, hilariously, duct-tape.

The room itself resembled an interrogation chamber. The only furniture present were two chairs on either side of the table with Law never failing to sit at the one that left his back to the door. "…there are easier ways to talk."

Maka grabbed her chair and dragged it around to the other side, sitting beside her meister and just stared at him. "Lawrence, your soul's world is literally an entire, unsubtle metaphor."

He had the decency to blush.

"You won't even let me call me by your name outside if other people can hear…" She purposefully pouted at him, leaning in closer as she did.

Lawrence's response was to turn even redder and begin to twiddle his thumbs. "…i-it's embarrassing… no one's gonna take me seriously if you do that!" His voice cracked as he spoke, waving his little fists up and down as he did. "Can't you-…just, you can do it when we're alone now! Isn't that enough?!"

"…oh, I see. When we're alone." She turned her head away. "My meister is ashamed." The sputtering that followed was too much for her. She covered her mouth, failing to contain her giggles even as she did. She'd brave the dangers of his ridiculous soul as many times as she had to in order to be with this side of him. "…I shouldn't have egged you on before. It's partly my fault that things went as far as they did."

"Mrggghh." She assumed that meant he disagreed.

"…come on. Enough sulking and being introspective. Using your brain doesn't suit you." She gave him a little nudge. "We've got something to practice, don't we?"

With a long, exaggerated sigh that suited a moody teen like him, Law gave a little nod.

She blinked away the grim scenery and just like that she was back in the real world. Standing up, she had the decency to turn away as her meister dressed himself. "This'll be attempt number sixty-nine-" "Nice." "-shut up. Let's make this a big success."

From girl to sickle, her meister caught her and took hold of her with both hands. He took a deep breath and she, still knowing it was unnecessary, did the same.

"Soul Resonance."

His wavelength rushed into her, quiet and nervous and much gentler than usual, and she gladly accepted it. "…bigger…we need to be bigger…" She wasn't sure which of them was speaking. It may have even been both and she couldn't tell the difference. Their power grew, the air figuratively and literally electric and she could feel the heat gathering in her stubby blade. Just a little more…! Her blade was expanding, shining. They were both so, so close. The ultimate technique for any scythe and their meister.

Pain.

"Nngh!" She tried to keep quiet, but she didn't even have to look to tell he'd heard. His concern was so near to her heart she almost couldn't tell it wasn't her own. She could feel their connection wavering, feel him trying to pull away. "D-do it! Law!"

He obeyed, stepping forward and rearing back before swinging with everything he had behind it-!

…?

"…oooh my head…" She blinked up at the sky, a pretty blend of oranges and blues as the sun had begun to set, and... "…wait…huh!?" She jerked upright, the ratty school jacket someone had laid on top of her falling into her lap.

"It's about time." Seated beside her, Law's legs and arms were both crossed as he narrowed his eyes at her. "As usual, someone forced us to go too far, too soon and fainted… uuuugh, why can't my shitty weapon learn to take things slow?"

She would've hit him for how that sounded if she didn't feel like throwing up. "I passed out?" It sounded better than faint. More 'the strain was too much' and less 'I'm a dainty little girl, please catch me'.

"Mn." He glared at her for another solid minute before jerking his head away. "…don't do that again. You're heavy and I'm not carrying you."

...one sun was setting and another tsun was rising. "I guess this makes it our sixty-ninth-" "Nice." "-shutup- failure, doesn't it?"

Law snorted. "…if this is a failure, I dunno what a success would be like." Jerking his thumb over his shoulder, she leaned to the side to see what he was pointing at- oh.

That tree was split right down the middle all the way to its stump. The only thing that was keeping the two halves upright at this point were the roots.

"Congratulations. You're now Extreme gardening equipment."


After how hectic things had been for all of them the past few days, it was nice to have some downtime. Life just wouldn't be worth living without these nice, quiet moments she got to spend with all her friends.

"What the hell are you doing, bastard! That was the last of Tsubaki's egg rolls!"

Not.

Black*Star was already standing on Soul and Alice's table, pointing accusingly at the one who'd so offended him.

"Just eat one of Alice's." Law could at least try not to chew with his mouth open…

"We both know those aren't edible! Come on, are you trying to kill me!?" Black*Star was absolutely right for once.

The delicate looking girl hung her head, shoulders trembling. "…I did my best…"

Maka would have felt bad for her, but… the wretched things she'd served them were so obscene that if this was on television, she was pretty sure they would have been censored. How could something look raw and burnt to a crisp all at once? She stole a glance Soul's way and their eyes met. Her whole face caught fire and she immediately reached for her glass of water, downing it. Why was he looking at her? She didn't have anything stuck in her teeth, did she? Or…

"Seems like we're all the laughing stocks of class now, aren't we?" Alice's words, thoroughly depressed, actually served as a nice distraction from the butterflies in her stomach.

"Pff. No one laughs at me." Black*Star hopped down into his chair beside Tsubaki, sticking his nose as high as he could.

"I do." Law chirped, smiling.

"I-I don't think anyone's laughing!" Tsubaki was there to keep the peace, all nervous smiles. "Even if our soul collecting isn't going…great, we're still getting stronger every day!"

No one could really argue with her. Not even Law, who instead of saying something stupid just shoved half a loaf of bread into his mouth. There was a reason she didn't go out to eat with him often. After the boy swallowed, he- "So, are you seeing anybody Tsubaki?"

She'd chosen a poor time to take a sip as she sprayed water across the table in the direction of the albino that sat opposite her. "L-Law-!" He wasn't- That was too much even for him, right?! Their hosts reactions were pretty much the same, Soul choking on the pasta he'd been eating and Alice dropping her fork. Tsubaki's entire body had turned tomato red and her mouth was flapping like she was trying to speak, but no sound was coming. Worst of all, Black*Star was quiet.

"…figured not. If the most popular girl in class started dating, we'd probably all hear about it." Law, seemingly oblivious, went on. "What about you, Alice? There's a few fancy, pretty boy types… Akane's kind of princely, isn't it?"

Oh. He wasn't trying to ask Tsubaki out. He was just poking into other people's love lives like a weirdo.

"T-that is none of your business, you…slipshod man!" Alice beat her fists on the table. "What kind of person pokes into a lady's business like that?! Didn't your parents raise you better than that?"

"No, not even a little." If what he'd told her about his dad was true, Maka was certain he'd have turned out worse if they had taught him anything. "I guess it's pointless to ask Black*Star." "HEY!" "So, what about you, Soul?"

And suddenly, this conversation was very interesting to her.

"Tch, like I have time." Soul shoveled more pasta in his mouth. "Besides, half of the girls in our class are flat." It pissed her off to hear most people say things like that, but when it was Soul it just stung. Were curves really that important?

"Not gonna argue there. I can't say there's any girl in class with a half-decent body…" Law said, with Tsubaki literally right there across from him. "…still, there's no one that you like?" He made it all sound so natural.

And Soul didn't say anything back. The longer the silence went on, the more nervous she felt. It felt like there were eyes on her, but she couldn't lift her head up to see if it was him. Compared to the fear she'd felt over Law, this was a thousand times worse… what if he did like her? What if he didn't? Gathering every ounce of will power she had, she forced herself to raise her head and-

Boobs.

Soul was being smothered by the largest pair of boobs she'd ever seen.

"Mnnnyaah! I can't believe that you'd leave Bu-tan out of a party like this!"

A strange woman was completely naked and forcing her crush to motorboat her.

"Blair! I thought I told you to never take that form ever again!" Alice was shouting and pulling the molester off the albino whose response to being freed from those two huge mounds of flesh was to have his nose spray enough blood that he probably needed a transfusion.

Maka pinched her arm. Nope, still here. She gave it a twist. Painful, but she hadn't woken up. "…this is a nightmare. A really, really bad nightmare." She told herself.

"Hey-hey-hey! What's wrong with wanting to play with your friends?" The woman, who was sporting actual cat-ears and not just a ridiculous hair style unlike the boy beside her, was pouting, folding one arm beneath her chest to force her… them up and make them appear even larger than they already did. "Don't they want to pla-" Something caught her eye and she just stopped. Not speaking, not moving, not… anything. Just staring. "...Lawrence?"

Maka smiled. She turned her head, a sound like metal rubbing against metal coming from her as she did, to look at her dearsweet meister. "Oh? So, someone else calls you that?"

Law seemed rather at ease, finishing the last of the tea he'd been given and nodding to himself as he savored the taste. "It's been nice." He stood up, grabbing the back of his chair, and hurled it through the nearest window. He dove out before anyone could stop him.

That was fine. She knew where he lived.


In the end, rather than getting any closer to a certain someone she, like usual, had to spend her time cleaning up the mess her meister had left behind. She'd wanted to interrogate that woman, but… tch, she'd made herself scarce after Law had run off. Why did he always have to keep secrets from her? Didn't he understand what he was doing, always keeping things from her…?

Sighing, she dumped the last of the glass she'd swept into her hosts' trash.

"She's a cat, ya know."

She perked up hearing that voice, turning. "Soul?"

Her fellow scythe leaned against the counter, sighing. "Blair. She's a cat." He rubbed his head, avoiding her gaze. "Just has some… big-titty girl magic or whatever. She won't go home either so I guess we're stuck with her."

If she was the hopeful type, and against all odds she still was, she could convince herself that he was telling her this so she wouldn't get the wrong idea. "Oh. That's… uhm, that sounds… complicated." Could animals have magic? It was a topic to read more on later.

"Seems like Law's got some history with her."

Ugh. She tossed down the dustpan she was holding and fought the urge to kick the bin. It hadn't done anything wrong. Besides, she'd learned by now to stop picking fights with trashcans. "Be nice if he explained how like a normal human being, but instead-" "Runs off, leaving a bunch of unexplained questions, something-something drama?" "-that. Yes." She scowled… though it was a lot more forced than it otherwise would have been with him grinning at her like that.

"I'm not sure which of us has the shittier pet now."

She tried and failed not to giggle. "H-he's not my pet… I mean, sure, I take care of him, make sure he doesn't get into too much trouble, and he's a little exciteable-" She paused. "…Death, he is my pet isn't he…" Her shoulders slumped and she sighed. "This is not what I wanted when I told Papa I wanted a puppy…" Imagine the good she could do if she got her meister to wear a shock collar.

"Hey, uh. I guess our nice assignment has us heading out of the states." Soul moved from his previous spot, stepping a little closer and making her heart pound faster the shorter the distance between them became. It would have been rude of her to die of a heart attack in his home, especially after what her idiot had done.

"I-is that so? London was kind of fun…" As fun as hunting for a serial killer in bondage gear could be. "You shouldn't be gone too long, right? I can take some notes for you."

"…Yeah. I was gonna ask that." Soul was within arm's reach… if he wanted, he could just grab her and-

Oh Death. She couldn't even meet his eyes anymore. The most she could do was stare at his feet and wonder, and hope, and panic.

"I appreciate it, Maka. When I get back, can we, uh, study? All that crap we've going over has gone way over my head." That was understandable. Having run out of interesting things to dissect, for now at least, their creepy professor had started covering materials relevant to their studies.

Lifting her head back up, she nodded. "No problem! Group study sessions are always fun." She couldn't have sounded lamer than, could she? "I'll make sure that Law behaves himself." It was a promise she knew she couldn't keep.

"…actually, I, uh…meant…the two of us?"

"Yes." It came out faster than she could even think to say it. Her face felt warm and her stomach had a million butterflies flapping around inside of it, but she felt so at ease now. Had she rounded all the way from panic to serenity?

Soul stared at her for a full minute and she didn't once look away. He was so pale; it was easy to spot the additional color in his cheeks. His expression wasn't what she'd call nervous. Vulnerable seemed like a better word.

"Can you not stare? That's pretty freaky." He jerked his head away and her brain, along with all the unpleasant feelings that came with self-awareness, slapped her in the face.

Time to turn around and fight the urge to punch herself in the face like a complete weirdo. "So!" The louder she was, the more she could distract herself and hopefully him from how embarrassing she was acting. "Where are you going anyway?" She peeked over her shoulder at him and he was grinning.

"…heh. You're going to be jealous."

"I don't like guessing games, Soul."

"Feh, stick in the mud. I was going to get you home some pasta too."

"Can you just tell me already?!"