Author's Note: It doesn't feel like it's been two months since I've written anything on here. But recently I've gotten hooked on Soul Eater, and there really isn't that much written to my tastes on this site. (Is Maka/Kid really a popular pairing? It surprises me how much I keep seeing that.) Anyway, this is a little one-shot that's been in the back of my mind since Maka faced the pierrot. May be slightly out of character, as I don't have a very good grasp on these characters yet (I've finished the anime, but am only at chapter 58 of the manga), so I apologize in advance. Criticism is always welcome, but don't be a tool. If you don't like the pairing, I don't understand why you'd waste the time to click on a story featuring them. Go find a better hobby.
I was completely at a loss for a title for this piece, so I borrowed it from the Thriving Ivory song that inspired one of the dream sequences. Credit where credit is due.
Her body struggled to wake, remembering the dream, but it could do nothing to pull her mind away before it could become a nightmare. Already, her field of vision had shrunk down to that of a child, eradicating fear and worry and the knowledge that the possibility of death was always much too close. Once again, Maka Albarn was the invincible little girl who sat upon her father's shoulders like a queen upon her throne, who stared up at him with wonder and admiration instead of distrust and hate. She was standing on his feet, dancing like they had whenever her Papa had heard a song he liked. They were laughing, and music played quietly in the background – a song so familiar, but that she could never remember properly upon waking up – and a small voice screamed at her to open her eyes, but the sun was too bright, and the glare hurt when she tried.
The dream changed.
The music faltered, and her father stumbled and let go of her hands. She cried out as she fell, wincing as her bum cushioned her landing.
"Ow," she whimpered, rubbing her hip. She looked up, beginning to scowl, but she didn't see her father there. She stood up, crying, "Papa? Papa?" But there wasn't an answer. The music began playing again, sometimes skipping on the same note two or three times before moving on with the song.
"It's too late," a voice said. She cringed at the sound of it, like grinding gears and unoiled hinges. "There's no one to hear you."
"What," the young Maka asked, sniffling as she tried to stop her frightened tears. A shadow of a creature loomed in her peripheral, just out of sight. It was the thing no one ever wanted to see: the movement in the corner of your eye, the darkness in your soul.
"They're dead," it said, and it laughed at her cry. "They're all dead. Your Papa, everyone."
And suddenly she could see him, laying down at her feet. She couldn't see his face, covered by a mess of blood-red hair. A scream swelled in her throat, and the thing laughed again.
"Papa. Papa, wake up!"
"You're Papa's dead," he said.
"Stop it," she choked. "Stop."
"He's dead," he repeated. "Everyone's going to die because you're weak. You're frail. You're pathetic. And because of you, they're all going to die.
Maka looked away from her Papa's body, and for the first time the other bodies around her weren't just faceless shapes on the pavement. They were friends, comrades. She felt like she was going to throw up. Chrona, Kid, Black Star, Tsubaki, Liz and Patty. Soul.
"Stop." Her entire body shook and her knees gave out beneath her. She gave out a little cry as she hit the pavement, kneeling beside her father. "Make it stop. Help me. Papa!"
The music played louder, drowning out her sobs and the thing's harsh laughter. The harder she sobbed, the louder the music became, until she clamped her hands over her ears and screamed a shrill scream that tore at her throat and made her lungs ache. "Stop it! Stop it! Stop!"
Wake up, the little voice said again, the part of her that knew it was a dream. But terror gripped her, froze her body, and she couldn't pull herself out. Wake up! Maka felt a new panic well up inside her. This was the part of the dream where it always ended, where she always woke up drenched with sweat but safe in the comfort of her own bed. But instead, the dream changed again, and it began to make Maka wonder if it was really a dream at all.
Maybe she was already awake, and the nightmare was real.
The sun had gone out. She was surrounded by shadows, and she shivered despite not being cold. The walls were close, a hallway with no doors whose end she couldn't see. A light overhead flickered, disorienting her, making difficult for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. And the music was pressing against her on all sides, lonely and sinister and still so familiar, frightening her, choking her, trapping her screams in her throat.
A familiar voice, like the music. But she cringed away from it, the image of so many dead surrounding her still fresh in her dream's memory. It was a ghost, an echo of familiarity that she couldn't touch. She ducked her head.
"Stop. Shut up. Just stop," she whimpered, covering her head with her arms. Tears splashed onto her exposed knees. She was no longer in the body of her five year old self, but she still felt too young, too helpless, too weak.
"Maka. Maka, look at me."
She didn't, convinced it was the thing from the corner of her eye again.
"Maka, damn it, you stubborn –" Frustrated, the voice broke off and took a deep breath. She could hear it – him, definitely a him – suck air in and let it out. "I know you can feel me, Maka. Look up. Have courage, Maka. This isn't cool."
She looked up, slowly. At first, she saw nothing but the flickering light. Then, slowly, a dark shape separated itself from the shadows and began to take form. She squinted, confused by the coming and going of the only light source in the hall. "…Soul?"
"Who else would it be?"
"But you're dead."
He tilted his head slightly to one side, confused. "Not last time I checked."
"But I saw you."
"No you didn't, Maka."
Tears brimmed her eyes again, but this time they were tears of frustration. She knew what she saw! "I did too! You… and Papa…"
His eyes cut through the darkness, red and piercing, as he stared at her with an expression that was impossible to read. She thought it might be understanding. She thought it might be pity too. She couldn't stand the thought of Soul pitying her. She didn't need him to pity her. She needed him to admit that she had seen him dead.
"Then how am I here, Maka? Talking to you."
"I…I don't know," she stammered uncertainly. "A ghost, maybe."
He snorted derisively. "A ghost? That's so uncool."
"I… well…" Her cheeks flushed red, and she wiped her face on her sleeve. "So is dying, dummy."
"Yeah." He stuck his hands in his pockets, regarding her. "Come on. Let's get out of here."
"There's no way out," Maka argued meekly. "No doors. The hall goes on forever."
"Have you tested that theory yet?"
"Well…no," she admitted reluctantly. "But there aren't any doors."
"Not here, maybe. But sitting in the dark isn't going to get you out of here either."
Maka stared at Soul for a long time, and he stared back with a cool, confidant gaze that told her he knew he had won. She swallowed hard and slowly got to her feet. When she looked down, though, she couldn't see them. The light still flickered, on and off and on again, but it didn't help her. She cried out with fear, stepping back as her foot hit something that she could have sworn hadn't been there a moment before.
"What's wrong," Soul asked, eyes narrowing in concern.
"I can't see. Soul, I can't see where I'm going," she said, her voice rising an octave with fear.
"It's alright," he assured her. "Look at me. Listen to me."
It was then that she realized the music had stopped.
"It's okay, Maka. Just walk towards me."
"But I can't—"
"I know. Courage, Maka." Soul took a hand out of his pocket and held it out to her, fingers outstretched. "Come to me, Maka. I won't let you go."
She swallowed past the lump in her throat, for the screams and the tears threatened to return with a vengeance, and nodded. She took a tentative step forward, another step, and another, dragging her feet along the floor and knocking things aside. Whenever she stumbled, she looked up to see Soul holding his hand out encouragingly, giving her a goal, something to reach for, the courage to continue when the darkness was about to overwhelm her.
The last time she stumbled, she was close enough for her fingers to graze his, and Soul reached forward to grab hold of her and pull her towards him. She threw her arms around him, burying her face in his shoulder as she tried to hold back the tears of relief that were stinging behind her lids. Soul squeezed her tight, then whispered in her ear, "Now it's time to wake up, Maka."
Maka bolted upright on the couch, so quickly that Soul actually jumped back from her. She gripped the book in her lap that she had been studying from before she had fallen asleep, her anchor to reality. Her breathing was quick and heavy, but she didn't feel scared anymore. Just surprised. Surprised, and relieved that it really had been just a dream.
"Hey," Soul said, watching her warily with his hands in his pockets. "Did I wake you?"
"Yes. No. I mean…" Maka frowned and ran a hand through her hair. One of her pigtails had come undone while she was sleeping. She pulled the other one out and slipped the band around her wrist.
"Sorry. I was shooting hoops with Black Star and then I remembered it was my turn to shop for dinner…" His voice drifted off when he realized Maka was crying. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," she said, wiping her eyes on the back of her hand. "Just…you're not dead."
"Last I checked. That'd be really uncool," Soul said. He smiled, but he looked worried.
She sniffed. "Yeah. It would be. So don't do it, okay?"
"Do what? Die?"
"Didn't plan on it," he promised her.
"Ramen and poached eggs for dinner cool with you?" He held up the bag of groceries as though awaiting her seal of approval.
"Good. S'all I had money for." He dropped the bag onto the table and began unloading its contents before glancing back at Maka, still sitting on the couch with her fingers clutching her book and a far-away look on her face. "Maka…"
"I'm okay," she said, smiling at him. "I promise."
"Must've been some dream," he observed. She shrugged evasively. "You know, if you wanna talk…"
"I really just want to eat," Maka said, and he rolled his eyes.
"I'm on it, I'm on it," he said, feigning exasperation as he dug through the cabinets for pots and pans. Behind his back, Maka smiled. Because she remembered now, why the music felt so familiar. It was the song that he said displayed who he really was. The song that was always with her, that lent her strength.