"Like I said, no one wants to be partners with someone who has no sex appeal."
Maka couldn't take it anymore. She spun around, nearly knocking Soul over. "Fine, Soul! If that's how you feel, why don't you get somebody else to be your partner? Because I quit." Maka ran off in the opposite direction. Soul stood still, feeling rather confused. He blinked slowly, wondering. What just happened?
Maka bit and chewed at her lips and her cheeks, trying to keep herself from crying, but she was failing. She balled up all of her energy into a fist and slammed it into a tree, making it explode - whether in reality or in her mind, she didn't know anymore. She screamed loudly and watched the birds above fly away. She sat down on the ground behind a park bench and reminded herself, "'It's not the size or the shape that matters'…yeah, right".
Maka sighed to herself, trying to plan out her next move. Where was she going to go? Who was she going to be partnered with? All of her friends already had partners. She couldn't go home; she knew Soul would be waiting for her, if he didn't find her here first. She hugged her knees to her chest. Why did she let him get to her like that? Most of the time she assumed he didn't mean half of the things that he said, that he just couldn't help it because he was a stupid boy, but it still hurt her feelings.
"Maka?" Maka shoved herself under the park bench and rolled to face the other direction. She closed her eyes and tried her best to remain silent and still. She heard footsteps fall right behind her.
"Shit. Fuck. Dammit. Good job, Soul." Soul muttered other things to himself that Maka couldn't understand, and kicked the wooden blocks surrounding the tree. They, too, made a loud noise similar to an explosion. Soul sighed and muttered, as he away, "How am I going to apologize for this?"
Maka waited a couple of minutes before prying herself out from under the bench and heading for her last resort destination: Her father's.
Maka couldn't exactly blame her father for being surprised when she showed up. She did, however, appreciate that he didn't ask many questions. Spirit just set up the couch for her to sleep on and asked if she weren't sure she didn't want to take his bed and have him sleep on the couch. Maka shook her head but thanked him, and kissed him goodnight on the cheek.
Maka could tell her father was worried about her, and She started preparing excuses for her behaviour in the morning. She couldn't think of anything believable.
Maka stood in front of the bathroom mirror the next morning, staring at her reflection. She'd managed to find some of her mom's old stuff – things Spirit was supposed to have given back or thrown away after the divorce, but never did.
Maka took her time, carefully applying her mother's leftover makeup, doing her hair the way she was sure her mother would have done it, and trying to make her Spartoi uniform look more… like something Blair would wear (she felt both disgusted and relieved that Spirit had saved one of her mom's old push-up bras). Maka felt awkward looking at herself in the mirror. She couldn't decide if she looked older or younger, but she didn't feel any more mature this way.
Maka tried to walk normally up the stairs and to class, but she was finding it difficult to relax with everybody staring at her. Kilik's jaw actually dropped, Ox and Kim were throwing her concerned glances. It's just a little make up, she thought, why is everyone so freaked out? She continued to her locker, forgetting that he locker-neighbour may be a bit problematic.
"Where were you yester-" Soul began, but stopped in his sentence to stare at her, head cocked and mouth slightly ajar. Maka glared at him, trying to think of something witty to say, but nothing came to mind. "Maka," Soul asked tentatively, are you okay?"
"Never better," the words poured out of her mouth. She moved away before Soul could reach out and touch her.
Soul wondered if what he just saw was a figment of his imagination.
Maka skipped lunch. She'd managed to avoid sitting next or talking to any of her usual friends, including Soul, all day, and she didn't want to break that record now. Instead, she wandered the hallways, looking for something she couldn't quite think of.
"Hey," a boy around Maka's age was leaning on a wall, leering at her, hands in his pockets. The boy came toward her, extending his hand. Maka couldn't remember his name, only that he'd never been kind to anyone in Spartoi. "I'm Jon," he said with a grin. Something about this experience was beginning to frighten Maka, and she pushed herself flat against the wall. "I'm glad I caught you without that freak of a partner of yours around."
"Soul isn't a freak," Maka muttered into her chest.
The boy, Jon, snorted out a laugh. "Oh, you're too kind," he paused to look around. "Where is he anyway?"
Maka avoided Jon's gaze. "I'm not sure."
Jon smiled. "Well, now that he's not here…" Jon inched closer toward her, and Maka froze up. "I was wondering…would you like to be my partner?"
Maka felt her heart jump. "Partner?"
"Yeah," Jon ran a hand through his hair, no longer quite as confident. "Me and some of the other guys have been wanting to ask you for some time, but every time we even started walking toward you, your boyfriend scared us away -"
"Wait," Maka blinked, sputtering. "What?"
"And when you didn't respond to anybody's letters, we figured we were dropping them in the wrong locker or something –"
"Wait a minute, what letters?" Maka felt her face go red, wondering if anything Jon was saying could really be true.
Jon gave her a genuine look of surprise, so that Maka would know he wasn't lying. "You mean you didn't know? Wow. I was figuring you were just being cold, and that maybe I could defrost you a bit," He smiled. "Doesn't mean I still can't defrost you… Now that you look like that and all…" He ran his lips over her cheek as he spoke. Maka felt sick.
"Jon. Please. Move away."
"Why?" he asked seductively; then, innocently, "Scythe-boy doesn't do this to you?"
"Jon, thank you for the offer, but –"
"But what? We all heard you screaming at him the other day. You need a new partner, and we would be unstoppable together."
"Please, Jon," Maka was now whispering. If somebody didn't find them soon...he clothes didn't allow room for any of the heavy books she usually carried and she'd left her heavy boots at home in favour of high-heels. "Back off."
"Oh, come on," Maka's head was turned to the so she wouldn't have to look at Jon, but she could hear the frustration in his voice, and felt it as his hand closed around her forearm, growling into her ear, "Lighten up."
"I believe the lady has politely asked you to move away" Jon and Maka both turned their heads to see Death the Kid pointing both Liz and Patty, in gun formation, at Jon's forehead. "You will move away from her or I will shoot you."
Jon sneered first at Kid and then at Maka, as if his sudden appearance was her fault. "Great. Shinigami's son always gets what he wants, doesn't he?" Jon leered at Maka once more. "See ya later, toots. We ain't done with this." Jon stalked off down the hallway.
"Toots? Seriously?" Liz scoffed. "This isn't some 1930's gangster movie. Who does he think he is?" Liz glared off at Jon as he walked away. Patty, entirely oblivious to the situation, just sat on the floor and giggled.
"Are you okay, Maka?" Kid used his thumb and forefinger to gently pull Maka's chin up, so she was facing him..
"Yeah, I'm fine," she responded. "Just embarrassed."
"Don't be," Kid said, helping her up. Maka looked around, not remembering having ever fallen to the floor. Kid brushed imaginary dirt off of her shoulders, probably to avoid contact. "But what I meant, though, was about the other day. What happened between you and Soul?"
Maka wanted to explain, but couldn't control herself. She spent the next five or so minutes in Kid's arms, crying, while Liz brushed her hair and Patty started making her a giraffe out of lint.
Soul hadn't seen her since that morning, but he knew Maka usually came by the basketball court on her way home. Although that wasn't something he knew, more something he'd assumed because that was the way he always got home, without her. Soul kicked a rock from one end of the court to the other, thinking about how excruciatingly painful the next couple of hours were going to be, and tried to plan out the inevitable talk out in his head.
"Look, Maka," he said to the tree, "I'm sorry about everything." Soul paused, tilting his head. "No, no, that's too generic. How about, I'm sorry that I said you didn't have sex appeal, some guys like girls who look like you - God, no, that's too condescending. What's wrong with me?" Soul tugged at his hair and said to himself, "Shit. I'm screwed."
"You're a dick," someone yelled from across the court. A basketball made hard contact with the back of Soul's head. He turned around slowly to see Black Star staring at him, both hands on his hips.
"What the Hell, Black Star?" Black Star looked ready to start a fight as he brought his hands down from his hips, curling them into tight balls, his face pulled into the kind of permanent scowl usually reserved for his spats with Kid. Soul stuck his hands in his pockets and leaned back a bit to show that whatever it was, he didn't want to fight with his best friend over it. "You're a real douche, you know that?"
"No," Soul said nonchalantly. "What did I do?"
"Oh, please," Black Star snorted. He walked over to Soul, standing close enough that Soul could barely look into Black Star's eyes without his own going crossed. "Just be glad it's me, and not Tsubaki. She's about ready to tear your throat out. How could you say such a thing to Maka?"
Soul rolled his eyes. "You're a real perv. One day she wears make up and suddenly you're in love with her? Besides, we all say things like that to her, same way you make fun of Kid for being Prissy and Liz for being a flirt."
"In love with her? No, thanks. She's not my type, and I've already got a girlfriend." Black Star's hands unclenched a little, but he didn't back away from Soul. "And it's different if I say that to her. We've known each other since we were kids, so for us that's like a sibling rivalry. But you're her partner, and she has to know she can trust you. With everything." Soul felt his stomach drop. "People call me stupid. Sure, I'm not good at school like Ox or Maka. I don't have deep insight like Kid or Kilik. I can't take care of people like Kim. You could, if you actually tried, be good at any one of those things, you know –"
"Get to the point, Black Star" The longer Soul was held up, the more anxious he felt about Maka's condition.
"My point is that, even you have called me stupid; but I'm not the one who turned into a flat-chested, snobby, know-it-all girl in a Spartoi uniform in the Book of Eibon's Lust Chapter, and then preceded to tell the same damn girl that she didn't have sex appeal." Soul blushed and wondered if that really what he looked like. "You can either apologize to her, or get the Hell out of the group."
Black Star turned around to head the opposite direction, but stopped for a moment, turned back to Soul, and said, "I beat the shit out of Mifune and half of the members of Arachnophobia when Maka became paralyzed. I beat the shit out of Crona when we found him again for betraying Maka. Don't think that, because you're my best friend, I won't beat the shit out of you for breaking her heart." Black Star punched the brick wall to emphasize his point, and stalked off.
Upon reaching his and Maka’s apartment, Soul was greeted with a slap to the back of the head by an unseen assailant. "Would people please quit hitting me!" he begged, arms draped over his head for protection.
"NO!" The voice replied. At first, Soul thought it was Maka. Hoped, even, that it was Maka, that they could get this conversation over with and return to some semblence of normalcy. "Blair is very upset with you! How could you treat Maka like that?" Blair hit him on the back of the head again. "Baka! Stupid boy!"
"Look," Soul shouted. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to say it, it just kind of…came out."
Blair glared at Soul, a look of obvious disbelief on her face. "Well, no food for Soul until he apologizes!" Soul grumbled, but made no real protest.
The members of Spartoi gathered around Sid and Nygus as they relayed the instructions of their mission out loud. It was just a practice drill for fighting in extreme weather, but it was still pretty dangerous. Everybody split up into their own partnerships and went in their separate directions. Maka, who was still dressed to the nines, refused to look at Soul. Soul grimaced; he'd been trivially hoping they'd be past it by now. "Maka, please. Talk to me."
"Why should I?" Maka snapped over her shoulder.
"Because I'm your partner," Soul reasoned dumbly.
"That didn't stop you from telling Medusa information that you withheld from me," Soul could hear the sneer in her words, and the hurt.
"I didn't tell you because I didn't want you worrying about me. And that happened like a year ago! How long are you going to stay mad at me for that?"
Maka didn't answer. The two walked in silence until they hit the end of their section – a wet, stalactite- and stalagmite-filled cave. They both could feel something underground vibrating, about to shoot up. They weren't given any information on the kind of being they'd be battling, but 'practice' did not mean that Shibusen was going to slack off on amount of danger it would put its students in.
Alright, Soul thought. Maybe once we get into this battle, she'll forget that she's mad at me. Soul reached his hand out to take her. "Come on. We need to be prepared for when it gets here." Maka shook her head at him in response, but still wouldn't look at him. "What, you're not even gonna use me to fight? How are you going to fight this thing?"
"I'm not going to," she said finally, looking at Soul with an odd look he couldn't read.
"What?" Soul shouted. "Have you gone crazy? You're going to be killed!"
"Why do you care?" Maka attempted a deadpan, but failed. Soul could feel her anger seeping through with his soul's wavelength. Thank Shinigami, he thought. We're not completely broken yet. "I'm not sexy enough, remember?" Maka's harsh tone broke his thoughts up. "Or cool enough." Soul became increasingly uncomfortable as he realized Maka was about to start crying. "You'd rather be working with Ox or Kilik or Blair or that creepy girl who stalks you everywhere!" Or, that she'd already started.
"What?" Soul spluttered. Maka looked at him expectantly, but he couldn't think of anything to put in the place of all the things Maka had just said. It was why he usually kept his mouth shut and did whatever she told him to do. "No I wouldn't. Who told you that?"
"You did!" she shouted. "Every time that you mocked me because I'm not pretty! Because I'm not cool! Because I'm not sexy and I don't have big boobs and I'm not strong! Why did you bother sticking with me for so long if you couldn't stand me so much?" Maka lost all sense composure. Combined with the shaking of the cave and her anger, she fell to her knees, sobbing. Soul felt both guilty and confused. "I can't understand you," she continued. "I read all the books in the library about music and I still don't get it. I try to be cool and I look like an idiot. I try to be sexy and people just act creepy around me. I don't know what to do anymore."
Soul crouched down to her level. "You really are an idiot." Before Maka could protest, Soul grabbed her shoulders and kissed her forcefully to shut her up. "I tell you you've got no sex appeal because I don't know how to talk to you, or how to respond to some of the ridiculous things you say, and so other weapons don't try to steal my meister from me." Maka was blushing heavily, lightly smiling, and avoiding Soul's eyes by examining his cheekbones. "I've been scaring guys off since the exam results last year. And for the record, I never said you weren't strong. I just didn't understand your sudden urge to protect me. It's my job to protect you. That's what weapons do. And all that other stuff is just unimportant. But I'm a guy. I don't mean half the things I say." Soul shifted uncomfortably under Maka's gaze. She still didn't look convinced. "Listen," Soul started again, looking around. "I'll…I dunno…bite you or something if you tell anyone I told you this first, but I love you."
Maka hiccupped. "You don't love me, you don't even like me."
He slammed her shoulders against the cave wall and kissed her again. "Don't be ridiculous, and don't make me repeat myself again: I love you. Now get the Hell up. We can't let Black Star outdo us on this assignment." Soul stood up and offered Maka his hand. She smiled and took it.