Title: What it Means to Lose Control
Characters: Stein, Medusa, Marie (with minor appearances by others, including Lord Death and Spirit)
Summary: When Stein has to give up control in order to fight, some are more than willing to step in and claim it from him. Predominantly MedusaxStein, but focuses on Stein and his interactions with others in general. "Psychological" would be a better genre label.
Misc. Notes/Warnings: Rated M for violence/gore, sex including dub- and non-con, sadomasochism, bondage, mind games, and the occasional naughty word. So, in short, just about what you'd expect from a MedusaxStein fic.
Disclaimer: Soul Eater (c) Atsushi Ohkubo.
Edit, 5/4/2011: Hello, my friends who have read this before! Considerable revisions have been made to all chapters—to refine things or clear them up or deal with headcanon adjustments. I can't post all the revisions right now—still working with the later chapters—but I'll make a note at the top of each chapter as the revised version goes up. Enjoy!

It did not take Marie long to realize that she had made two serious misjudgments.

The first: that Stein's anxiety, obvious as they'd made their way towards the witch's lab, stemmed from unease or fear or anything negative. Marie had realized that mistake the second he'd first locked eyes with Medusa; his mouth had twisted into a cruel, scornful smile, and it had dawned on Marie that he liked Medusa, enjoyed her company, enjoyed the act of trying to kill her despite the risk of being hurt in return. The two bantered wickedly back and forth, and they might as well have been flirting.

The second misjudgment was one they had shared: that this fight would be, if not easy, manageable. It had started badly—they had intended to launch some kind of surprise attack, but instead Medusa had been the one to attack from the shadows, long before they'd even gotten to her lab—and it hadn't improved since. Even using Izuna, they weren't doing any serious damage, and it was clear that Medusa was toying with them. Her smile kept growing wider and wider, while Stein's grew more and more uneasy.

Suddenly, though, Stein stopped. His grip tightened, and flowing through their resonance link Marie could feel fear and resignation. He stood unnaturally still. Marie sent an extra push of electricity through his nerves, silently begging him to move. She could feel his thoughts and what he wanted to ask of her, and she did not want to be asked.

"Marie…" he muttered.

"No, Stein, please."

"I can't beat her like this."

Marie glanced over at Medusa. The witch was at ease, sitting in mid-air by use of her tail and wearing a wicked smile. "Look at her. She's waiting for you to do this. She has to be planning something—"

"Unlikely. She simply likes it when I'm insane." His grip shifted, fidgeted. He wouldn't look at her. "Marie, we need to do this. Your mind won't be in any danger. I just need you to hold onto me and give me a way to come back."

"I will not."

"Yes, you will," Stein said, "because you can't force me to stop, and if I let the madness take me, you'll make sure it doesn't take all of me. It's how you are."

He was horribly right. "Stein, please…"

"Are you ready?" His voice was impassive. He wasn't giving her a choice.

So she sighed and very quietly said, "Yes."

At first, all that happened was that his focus intensified and his heart began to race. But then Marie realized that he was no longer thinking in discrete thoughts; they were all run together with an urge, a lust to hurt and pick apart and destroy. She felt the flow of her electricity change. He had been tense before, holding something back, and now it was unfettered and trying to rip away and escape everything, escape her.

Stein panted for a moment, and then his face spread in a slow grin as he became accustomed to the feeling. He gave a high-pitched giggle. There was terror in it, and it was that terror that clung to her as the rest of his mind stretched as far as possible in the opposite direction. He was enjoying this.

It started.

Even Marie was startled at how fast Stein moved. She felt herself strike the back of Medusa's head before the witch had even realized that they were behind her; then Stein was in front of her again, swinging his palm into her gut. But before he could use his Soul Menace, she had propelled herself backwards with a Vector Plate, then forwards again with a second one. Stein dodged her charge easily and laughed.

"Can't keep up?"

"Hmph." Medusa narrowed her eyes, her smile not fading. She was motionless for a moment, thinking, and then all at once: "Vector Arrows!"

The arrows rushed at Stein, but he did not move until the last possible second; then he dashed forward, unnaturally, ridiculously fast, and caught her just under the ribcage.

"Soul Menace!"

The witch was blasted backwards, but Stein was already at the far end of her trajectory, and Marie struck her in the small of the back—not that Marie was aware of anything other than the sense of collision until half a second later. This was too much. They were moving too fast. He was dragging her along with him no matter how hard she pulled back and she felt like she couldn't breathe, like he was draining blood from her veins. If he kept this up she would damage his nerves, and he had to know this, but he was taking from her uncaringly. She had no hope of controlling him.

But at the same time—Medusa was unable to land a blow, barely able to dodge Stein's. Maybe, if Marie could stand this for just a minute more, if she trusted Stein for just a minute more, this suicidal insanity might give them a chance of winning.

Finally there was a lull in their attacks. Both Stein and Medusa stood in place, several yards away from each other, breathing heavily.

"Stein—" Marie said nervously, but his attention was elsewhere.

"What's wrong, Medusa?" he taunted. "This isn't like you. You're not mocking me, are you?"

Something glittered in Medusa's eyes, hatred and delight with the challenge of battle. For a moment, her gaze fell on Marie, and a chill went through the weapon.

"Don't think you've won yet, children."

She rushed towards Stein. This time, he didn't bother to dodge, only raised Marie to block the charge. But that was exactly what Medusa had wanted; Marie felt the witch's strong fingers wrap around her and hold her tight. Medusa flashed a triumphant smile at Stein.

"Vector Plate!"

Two of the black arrows appeared, one under Medusa's feet and one under Stein's, pointing in opposite directions. Marie felt herself ripped from his arm. In an instant, she transformed back into her human form, bursting out of Medusa's grasp as she did so, and swung at the witch's face with her fist in a hammer. Medusa deflected the blow with a lattice of arrows and then twisted them so that they rushed at Marie. She barely managed to duck.

Medusa chuckled. "You can't defeat me alone, girl."

She was probably right; Marie needed to get back to Stein, and quickly. She shot a glance at her partner—and what she saw made her stomach drop. His right arm was hanging at his side, bloodied from having Marie ripped away, but even more alarmingly, he was curled in on himself, shaking, panting. With their resonance link broken, he was vulnerable to his own madness, that feeling of icy fingers sinking into the crevices of his brain—


He looked up at her cry, his eyes wild and begging for help.

Marie ran towards him, but before she'd taken three steps, she found herself blasted in the other direction by a Vector Plate. She gasped in pain as she skidded across the ground near Medusa's feet. The witch looked down at her and smiled.

"Oh, no," she said, her eyes dancing with mad excitement. "I think not."

Marie tried to scramble to her feet, but Medusa was faster, shooting vectors out of the ground before Marie could find her balance and forcing her to roll away from Stein to avoid them.

"You are a nuisance," Medusa said, producing a new set of arrows to emphasize the word, "to both of us. Never forget that. Just because you stifle the part of him that finds you to be a hindrance, don't think it's completely gone. In the right state of mind, Stein would jump at the chance to get rid of you."

"M-Marie…" Stein choked. Marie couldn't tell from his tone of voice whether he meant don't listen to her or I'm sorry or help me help me HELP ME. What did it matter what he meant? She needed to get to him, save him from himself and from this witch who wanted to own him only to destroy him. She leapt to her feet and at Medusa, catching her off guard and managing to land a punch that sent her rocketing backwards. This was the last chance she'd get; she darted towards Stein—she was almost there—

"No!" Medusa snarled, and Marie found herself suddenly stopped by a thick black arrow protruding through her torso. She looked at it in confusion, and then choked as the pain hit, a slicing fire just under her ribs. When the arrow withdrew, she wasn't even aware of falling to the ground, only that her line of sight had suddenly changed. She tried to look towards Stein, but her vision went blurry.

Soft footsteps approached. Medusa knelt to look Marie in the eye, wiped away her tears so that they could see each other properly.

"He's mine now," Medusa said, her face nearly split in two by a sadistic grin.

No, Marie thought feebly, and tried to stand or sit up or do anything, but she couldn't move, and the attempt made nausea crowd out her vision. Medusa laughed. It was the last thing Marie knew before blacking out completely.