The campfire crackled, sparks leaping upward until they cooled and disappeared from sight. The small fire warded off the chill of the night, and Marie was content to sit next to it. She had been sitting closer before, and had enjoyed the heat the flames gave off enough to idly suggest marrying the fire. Expectedly, one particular spark landed on her leg, singeing her dress and causing her to lurch to her feet, ready to smash the ungrateful array of logs. A few pointed words from Stein had calmed her enough that she had left the wood intact, but instead slid back a few feet from the dancing flames.
The woman turned her amber gaze to the man opposite her on the other side of the fire. Stein was sitting with his legs crossed, an empty bowl on the ground by his knee. Truthfully, If Marie had been surprised when the meister had taken the proffered meal, she nearly fell over when he ate most of it. It had been a struggle to get him to eat three square meals back in his lab, and as hard as she tried there were days where she considered one meal a triumph. In response to her incredulous stare, he had bluntly informed her that he couldn't remember eating anything while in Medusa's company, and Marie nodded and dropped her gaze to her lap.
They had spent much of their time together in silence, broken only by Marie's sporadic humming of whatever tune she had in her head. More than once she had ventured a smile in Stein's direction, but his face was impassive, eyes staring into the depths of the fire. Every once and a while he turned the large screw in his head, clicking furiously as he sorted through the chaos that was no doubt brewing in his mind. Marie bit her lip, drawing little pictures in the dirt at her feet. She knew what he was thinking about, could see the brief glimpses of irritation and mental agony on his face. "You're making me want to dissect you!" That was what he had said to her, laughing maniacally, bound tightly by the constraints of his insanity and the influence of Medusa. Marie had broken the spell, silenced the noise and the voices inside his head, but still…
She sighed softly, playing with the hem of her skirt. He hadn't come back to her, it seemed. He was just as distant as he was before, and that worried her immensely. She hadn't been expecting him to suddenly open up, share his emotions, and become more like a human being than the caged animal he had been for so long. Her amber eyes closed. Then what exactly had she wanted? She wasn't sure anymore… She wasn't sure she had saved him.
Stein's voice made her jump, startled her out of her thoughts. Marie was quick to cover her sadness with a smile, automatically acting cheerful and happy in the vain hope it would rub off on him somehow. He probably saw through the mask, but that didn't mean she was going to stop. She had to be positive, for the both of them.
"Why… Why did you come to find me?"
This threw her for a second, but Marie quickly gathered her thoughts and formulated a response. "I wanted to help you, of course! Did you honestly think I was going to let you starve to death with Medusa?"
It was a lame attempt at a joke, and she knew it. He knew it too, but didn't say anything. It was impossible to see his eyes, as the light from the fire reflected off his glasses. Even so… she could see he wanted more for an answer. The deathscythe fidgeted under his steady gaze.
"Well… When you left, I didn't want to believe you had gone to her. That was the only explanation of course, but all the same, I didn't want to think of that. It wasn't until the second day when I went to Shinigami-sama and told him of my plan."
She looked up, smiling sadly at the professor. "Stein, you're important to me." She stressed that word, trying to convey all of her emotions. "I wanted to find you; I wanted to help you… And then I found you!" Happiness shone in her voice for a moment, but soon faded. "You were so far gone…" Marie drew her knees to her chest, dropping her head into her hands. "I wasn't sure if I would be able to bring you back that time." Her voice faltered, and she buried her head in her arms to hide the tears she could feel coming. "I did, I tried to save you from the insanity…" she whispered, talking more to herself than Stein. "But I'm not sure if I succeeded."
He was still distant and cold. He still lived for information, dissections… anything that interested him. The insanity had drained his energy, she knew that. But she wasn't sure if it would ever return, along with the brief flashes of emotion she had experienced early on. The blanket around her shoulders when she fell asleep marking homework, the offhand invitations to watch his experiments… she missed it. Marie muttered to herself, angrily wiping away the salty tears with the back of her hand. Stein didn't need to see her like this… he didn't—
Warm arms wrapped themselves around her, holding her close. The blonde couldn't say anything, couldn't look up. She couldn't do anything except cry, shoulders heaving, allowing Stein to rub her shoulders gently until she calmed down enough to hear him speaking quietly to her. "I'm sorry Marie, I'm sorry for everything." She didn't want his apologies; it wasn't his fault.
"Things are going to be alright now."
"N-No, no they're not…"
Suddenly, he was sitting right in front of her, gently lifting her chin with one hand so to force her to look at his face. Marie was surprised to see him so close, and on top of it… he was smiling. Not the insane grin she had grown accustomed to seeing. It was a smile of genuine happiness, and as small as it was, hope blossomed in her chest. Skilled fingers on his other hand played with her hair, and for one fleeting moment, his lips softly brushed her own.
"It's over. We've won."
This time, she believed him.
AN:: This is my first fanfiction ever. I absolutely love the Stein/Marie pairing, and I've been mulling over this story ever since episode 45 came out.
I have to say, however, that it sounded a lot better in my head.
At any rate, please review!~