Dedicated to bite-out-of-the-silver-sandwich.
The alarm went off with gusto – the same way it always did – as Soul shuddered at the indecent time. He yawned, sliding out of the covers with something close to agony. His mornings just seemed to keep getting worse, but that did not stop him from continuing his routine. Showering, brushing his razor teeth until they glinted in the sun, getting dressed; everything on autopilot. By the time that he was ready to eat breakfast his brain had started to wake up. He walked into the kitchen, expecting to see Maka already there cooking, as she normally was. But the kitchen was empty. He hadn't seen Maka all morning, which was unusual. They normally fought over who would get to use to shower first, but she hadn't been there to stake her claim this morning.
"Maka? Where are you?" His voice seemed to echo in the empty rooms of the apartment. Now he was actually worried. Where had she gone? Was she playing a trick on him?
"I'm right here Soul, don't worry so much." Her voice came from behind him, as if she had snuck in when his back was turned. He spun, shocked at first by her closeness to him then relieved that nothing had happened to her.
"I'm not worrying too much…it's part of my job Maka. I take care of you and I didn't know where you were. What have you been doing all morning where I couldn't see you?" He took a tentative step towards her, hoping to gain distance between them, but she automatically mirrored his move. The distance stayed the same, much like a canyon that couldn't be bridged.
"I've been around. You just hadn't looked for me yet…you know how zoned out you are in the mornings. You just didn't notice me." She looked down with a hint of modesty in her statue. "I'm always here Soul, don't worry yourself with me."
Soul reached out to her again, but dropped his hand when he saw her flinch at his gesture. He longed to comfort her somehow. Maka had displayed an aversion to him for days now, and he didn't understand why. Every time that he tried to get close to her left them in a dance of awkward and gave him a lonely feeling in his chest. He only wanted his meister back to how she was before that day.
His mind flashed to the weeks he spent in the hospital, both of them bedridden for what seemed like an endless amount of days. Their friends circled around his bed with anxious looks in their eyes, tears streaming down some faces. They were rarely there all at the same time; a rotation seemed to have gone into place so others could sleep. Soul couldn't make sense of it all, for he was always in and out of a drugged consciousness riddled with extreme pain. He stayed longer than Maka; her bed across the room was empty within a few days, while he stayed and waited out the long recovery the doctors required of him. Soul had waited and hoped that she would come see him with everyone else, but she would only visit him when he was alone. And then he had come home to this.
"Maka I-" The eyes that gazed at him through her bangs were devoid of emotion, unfeeling green like a vast flowerless meadow that was waiting for the spring to bloom. Maka never met his eyes, but seemed to always be looking around him, as if he didn't exist. All Soul wanted was to bridge the canyon-wide gap that had split between them. An immense pressure hovered above them, one that had been demanding much of Soul's attention for days. "I-I'm gonna go to school…Are you coming today?"
His voice expressed more vulnerability than he anticipated it would, as his question escaped his mouth he could gauge the tension in the room. Maka appeared to float around him in a lazy circle, leaving gossamer touches on the table she passed. The two danced their dance again; Soul's body pleading to rush at her, but having the restraint to know that she didn't want him near.
"I'm not ready yet Soul…but you go and let me know what we talk about today." She was no longer in the room, disappearing down the cold hallway that portrayed the vastness that had grown between them. Soul almost followed her again, but thought better of it. He knew that Maka was still dealing with her emotions and being hard on herself amounted to a large portion of her time. With a sigh he slinked out of the apartment that had started to feel more like death than home, leaving an eerie quiet in his wake.
Soul climbed up the steps to Shibusen, catching the glances of everyone as he went. All students knew who he was now, not only because he was a Death-scythe but now because of his missing meister. Maka hadn't attended school in the week since Soul had gotten out of the hospital, and others noticed the lack of her by his side. Always whispering and wondering about Maka, about him; the voices never ceased and never quieted. It had come to a point where he didn't try to make eye contact anymore. Their worried glances only made him uneasy and left him feeling dirty and abused. He couldn't handle their concern anymore, or their curiosity.
Reaching the classroom with his head bowed to avoid all the glances he received, Soul found his friends sitting in the back. He took his usual seat behind all of them, avoiding their gazes as well. Their scrutiny was lost on him as he fell into an abysmal void of thoughts about Maka. Even his friends were more silent than usual, their voices caught in their throats at the sight of him. Silence had become prevalent during the times they were together now, the absence of Maka dominating any conversation that started. And the teaching went on, with no one paying attention to Stein rambling on in the distance. Preoccupied minds and the thought of trying to learn anything shifted into a lullaby that Soul couldn't resist for long.
It was pitch black, he reached through the darkness hoping to find something to grab onto, but nothing was there. It felt as if he was suspended in a liquid, but he could still breathe properly.
"Soul, where are you?" Maka's voice cut through the dark, illuminating his very existence. Everything changed quickly around him, the darkness turned to a murky view of a thunderstorm and his feet found what felt like ground. Maka was in front of him, hands stretched out to him. Calling his name over and over, waiting for him to appear. The look of fright in her eyes killed him, tugging at his soul and propelling him closer to her. Soul's hand reached hers, but when they touched he phased through her, as if he wasn't real.
Then he understood. He'd been here before, or technically hadn't been here before. Looking around he found where he was, lying on the ground in a pool of blood past Maka's sight. A screech came from above and a scream from his meister left him sick to his stomach.
"Soul. Wake up."
Soul jumped out of his seat, lithe and cat-like in the defense he had sprung from the surprise. Wildly looking around he saw the empty classroom and Professor Stein propped on his chair, questions of concern in his eyes.
"Haven't been sleeping well? Perhaps you should stay home a few more days. All this with Maka must be extremely stressful on you." Stein's glasses glinted in the sunlight as his eyes stayed steady upon Soul's.
"I don't need to stay there, Professor. I'm fine. Maka would be upset if I skipped school, and I don't need that right now. It's enough to deal with all the stares from everyone." The last thing Soul wanted was Stein's pity. It was the lowest of lows when the mental Professor started to pity someone.
"I understand. But, if you need them, Shinigami-sama will understand. It's a lot to take in." Soul took this as his chance to leave, before the Professor tried to dig into his personal life some more.
The freedom Soul longed for was not found in the hallways, where other weapons and meisters were free to judge him. He could just imagine what they were thinking. Not strong enough to protect his meister. Maka must be so upset with him. They were supposed to be the best, and look what happened. Their conclusions of his and Maka's life would forever be lacking, but he did feel incompetence. How was he supposed to be Maka's partner when he couldn't even go into a battle without getting hurt and leaving her to defend for herself? Shattered, broken, decrepit – all were synonymous with his relationship with her right now. And he had no idea how to fix it. Soul's thoughts were so ingrained into his head that he didn't see Tsubaki when he turned the corner. Running into her hadn't been in his plans, but now he felt was a good time to ask what she thought.
"Tsubaki, wait! I need your help!" She turned; surprised that he had so blatantly called to her. The whispers grew around them, but she swiftly came to his side.
"Let's not do this here Soul, there are too many…watchers. We'll find a quieter place." She walked away from him without checking to see if he followed. Thankful for a getaway, he graciously accompanied her to a less crowded spot in a deserted hallway. Amazed that no one had followed them, Soul now felt the pressure of what he needed to ask her. Tsubaki's eyes had a loneliness within them that Soul could easily understand.
"I don't know if I can help you Soul, but I will be willing to try if you want me to. What's on your mind?" Her voice was low, and he felt the weight that she placed in them.
"I just…need some help. I don't know how to deal with it anymore. She's so distant from me, and I don't know what to do to fix it. I try to get closer and she just moves away. I don't understand. Have you talked to her at all?" His worries flooded out; with the confidence he constantly tried to show, this was very different from how he acted around people that weren't Maka. But the look on Tsubaki's face was not one of helpfulness. It portrayed more shock and hurt than he could ever have expected.
"Soul, what? I-I don't…what are you talking about?" Her eyes began to water, and it wasn't until actual tears slid down her face that Soul understood he had asked something wrong.
"Maka! But uh – don't worry about it! I can figure it out on my own! Just go back to what you were doing!" He backed up quickly, leaving the distressed Tsubaki there by herself. Pretty much running out of the building, Soul could feel eyes on him again. Countless amounts of eyes as he tried to make an inconspicuous escape back to his motorcycle, but to no avail. He couldn't force himself to care about their judgment anymore – he just wanted to fix whatever had been broken.
Soul entered the apartment, carrying flowers that he had stopped to get for Maka. The silence still prevailed the rooms, only the sound of the kitchen appliances made noise. But even in the silence, there was a turbulent whirl of emotions and unspoken words. He was ready for this; he had prepared himself for anything. Today would be the day that everything went back to normal, and he would make sure it happened. Stress had pushed both of them too far, but he was ready to fix it. Soul headed towards the hallway, hoping to find Maka in her room.
"Maka? You here?" It dissipated in the air as if a vacuum of space had swallowed it.
"I'm here Soul." She appeared at her doorway where she hadn't been moments before. Soul could feel the tug he always felt to try to touch her, but he knew that wouldn't make this conversation start off in the right direction.
"I brought you some flowers, because I know you haven't been feeling well." He motioned to the flowers in his hands, but she made no move to take them from him. When he noticed this he placed them gingerly on the counter with a sigh. "I think we need to talk Maka. There's a lot hanging around that we need to get through."
If she was surprised or felt any emotion at all, she did not show it. A little head nod was all Soul received in recognition of saying anything at all. He backed up, allowing her room to pass him as she kept the space between them that hadn't been breeched since the day they both were injured. Maka's demeanor stayed as cold as ice as she sat at the seat furthest from him on the couch. Taking this as her dismissal, he sat at the other end of the couch.
"Maka…I don't really know how to say this, but you've been acting so strange. It's not like you to be like this. You haven't gone to school, haven't left the house, and haven't spoken to anyone besides me. What's happening to you?" His question hung in the air, and he didn't think she would answer with the amount of time that she took.
"I'm fine, Soul. There's nothing wrong with me. I just need a few more days by myself. It would be best if you didn't interfere with them." Maka stood, her fragile body not touching anything. Soul was reminded of a ghost trying to keep her old life, and that scared him more than he could understand. To leave she would have to walk right past him, and Soul took this opportunity to reach his arms out to her. Before she neared him, she halted. Still the look of nothing in her eyes.
"Soul, let me pass. I want to leave."
"No Maka. Why won't you touch me anymore? Just answer and I'll let you go." Her eyes danced across his arm and his body as he stood up, stepping in between her and her escape route. "What did I do that was wrong?"
He searched her face, looking for some sort of emotion that had been lacking the past week. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The solemn moment grew and the silence swept through the apartment again, much like an unwatched fire. Soul didn't think she would ever respond. But, she raised her palm to him, openly inviting his to meet hers.
"You can touch me if you want Soul. It's not my choice, though the wrong wasn't all your fault." Maka's words seemed strange to him, but he wasn't going to let this moment pass him. Soul had waited weeks to have some form of physical contact with her, and this would not pass him so fleetingly.
Soul reached his hand to hers, slowly. He was afraid that she would take her invitation back just as easily as she had allowed it. After moments of tension, their palms finally met. Yet, Soul's unease did not falter. Where there used to be warmth and a connection, he no longer felt anything. Her palm was as empty and lifeless as her face, it felt as if she had no heartbeat and no life left in her. He was touching nothing. Or at least, that's what it felt like to him.
Their moment was broken by a pounding at the door; Soul jumped away from Maka, but she conveyed no intention of moving. The pounding became louder, followed by yells to open up. Soul looked again at Maka, a gaze of yearning left so clearly on his face as he went to answer the door. Black*Star was there, almost foaming at the mouth with anger. He pushed Soul into the apartment, much more forceful than he had ever been with Soul before.
"What the fuck are you doing Black*Star? What the hell is wrong with you?!"
"No Soul, what the fuck are YOU doing?! Making Tsubaki cry like that! And now she's worried about you, and not thinking about herself AGAIN. Why would you do that to her Soul, why?!" He had backed Soul into the living room, fury on his face.
"I-I didn't know I was doing anything wrong! I just wanted to know what she thought!" Soul had rarely seen him act like this, in an amount of times he could count on his fingers, and never once was it toward him or their friends.
"You asked her about Maka! When would you ever think that was okay? It's only been weeks! And she said you were acting fine about it. As if it never happened and she was still here! What is wrong with you?!"
"But...she is here. Didn't you see her right over the-" He turned and pointed to where Maka had been sitting when Black*Star had burst into the room. She was gone, nowhere to be seen.
"Soul what the hell is going on with you? We haven't heard you speak in weeks, and now you're spewing crazy shit about Maka. She's gone Soul. And as much as that pains me to say, you have to understand it and deal with it."
"What do you mean gone? I was talking to her before you barged in here! She can't have left that quickly!" Soul wildly looked around, hoping to spot of glimpse of her, knowing that she couldn't have snuck out between them.
"Soul. Shit…she's actually gone. Gone as in…dead." His words struck fear into Soul. That wasn't possible. Black*Star was just playing a morbid trick on him. It wasn't true. "She died in the hospital. I know you were drugged up pretty bad, but you knew. You watched as they took away her body. It was right in front of you."
"No. No. No. That's not true. She's been here all week! She just isn't ready to come back to school yet! It's no big deal! She didn't die. And you don't have to make up this bullshit and lies just to scare me like this! She's here, she really is!" His words turned to pleading, hoping that Black*Star would take back this sick, sick joke he was playing. But Soul knew that, at least right now, Black*Star was being serious. He wouldn't lie about something like this.
Soul had somehow ended up on the floor, a state of shock dwelling over his mind. He didn't believe it. He couldn't believe it. There was no way it was possible. No way at all. Maka couldn't be gone forever. There was some way around it, there had to be. How had she been there this whole time if she was dead? Black*Star just had his facts confused; he must've overlooked something. Maka was alive.
"Come on Soul, you need to get out of here. I have something to show you." Soul didn't want to leave. He wanted Black*Star to leave and let him find Maka again. All he wanted was peace and quiet and for his life to go back to how it was.
"I said come on. You have to leave now, it's not good for you to be here by yourself." Black*Star grabbed Soul by the collar and started pulling him out the door. Around the corner and down a block, Soul was still fighting against being lead from Maka, but his demeanor was breaking. Tears fought to swell over and fall from his eyes. His heart beat faster; panic surging through his body as he thought of a life without Maka. He couldn't imagine it. He was nothing without her in his life.
Soul didn't realize where they were headed until it was too late. His eyes grazed across headstone after headstone as his alarm grew. There was no way, no possible way that it was true, but Black*Star kept leading him forward. The pulling started to cease when they arrived at a little hill; a gravestone perched atop all by itself. Fear struck through Soul – a fear he told himself he'd never have to feel. Soul stumbled up the hill, dreading and yearning to see the words on the stone at the same time.
Disbelief slapped him in the face as he read.
She left this world too early
But she was loved by many
Her absence will be greatly missed
As we live our lives without her
His mind chanted a chorus of horror. Soul succumbed to the pain that had been following him like a lost puppy since they left the apartment. Fresh tears sprung to his eyes, and he no longer cared about keeping control of himself. His hands ran across the headstones, wiping the newly chiseled words with longing. The words didn't convey the real emotions that Soul was feeling, and he felt anger for who had placed them there. She was more than a daughter and a meister. She was his everything. What was life without Maka Albarn shooting him gazes from beneath her bangs? What was life without the threat of her whacking him with one of her books? How did he live before he met her? He couldn't even remember.
And then it all hit him. The flashes of her in the bed across from him in the hospital, slowly dying while he was stuck so far from her. Distance from her, and no way around it. The blips of her heart monitor slowly fading as he watched in panic. No one was around. No one came to help quick enough. And he watched. A nurse rushing towards her, blocking Maka from his view. One last glance of her pale face as the beeps went silent. Then the cart that came and rolled her out, adding even more distance to what had already grown between them. And still, no one was around. None of their friends came, and Maka was gone, and there was Soul. All alone in a room with two beds.
The days out of the hospital, everyone watching him with pity and questions in their eyes. Where was Maka? Shouldn't he have protected her better? Isn't he a weapon? Shouldn't he have died first? The truth shoved out of his mind, a figment pushed deep into his brain to never be touched willingly. His friends giving him glances, but not demanding that he speak to them. Silence. But when he got home he could envision Maka, and she would be there. Cold and distant, yes, but still there nonetheless. He didn't see the difference between her and the real Maka. The distance only symbolized the space that he couldn't bridge anymore. Couldn't touch her, couldn't be close to her, couldn't love her the way he wanted. His whole vision of the future gone in one measly moment when he couldn't protect her.
"Maka dammit! I was supposed to protect you! How did I fail you this much?! How could I let you down? What am I going to do without you?" The tears ran freely down his cheeks now, wetting the grass beneath him. He was raining on Maka. "I was supposed to be the one to die first! Look at my failure! All I've ever done in life has come to disappointment, and then I met you and I thought I could change that. But I couldn't, no matter how hard I tried. No matter how much I wish I could fix this, I can't. And I can't live without you anymore. I depend on you for everything, and I never once said thank you."
The realization struck Soul as sobs convulsed his body. He hadn't done one single thing to tell her how much she meant to him. Regret had never been a part of his life, but now it surged as the very being of his existence. Regret for not telling her.
"Maka – I love you. I've always loved you. Thank you for choosing me that day all those years ago. Thank you for accepting me for who I am. Thank you for always being there for me and for making me feel like I was worth something. Even if it was something small and insignificant, I meant something to you. I had never had that feeling before I met you, and I don't expect to find it again with anyone else. You were the match to my soul, and I don't know what my life is going to be like without you. But, I'll try to live for you, because I know there was so much you wanted to do that you never will get to now. I'll do it all for you."
Soul looked up, expecting to see the infuriating inscription again. But there, sitting on the headstone, was his imagined Maka. She finally had a smile on her face and the warm feeling of love radiated from her. Happier than he had imagined her in weeks; he now realized that it was him that picked her actions. Soul's own memories and guilt cluttering up the way he portrayed her to himself. But now she was closer, and he could see her happiness with the truth he had spewed. Or – his own happiness? He couldn't tell the difference anymore. There she was, emitting a joy that he hadn't thought of feeling in weeks.
"Thank you Soul. I'll always be here for you, but I have to go now. It's not my place to be here." She placed her hand gently upon his cheek and left a tingling kiss on his lips, so light it felt like the warmth of the sun had left it there for him to savor. Soul's eyes closed as she leaned in, and when he opened them she had gone. He noticed a single flower blooming from her grave, wondering if it had been there the whole time.
"Goodbye, Maka. I'll be back. You can count on it."
Soul stood and dusted off his pants and headed back to the patiently waiting Black*Star at the foot of the hill. An emptiness still resided in his soul, but he knew it would never be filled. Maka had taken that with her when she had moved on. The hole would stay, and he would learn to live with it. Tough situations lied ahead of him, but he would get through. Waiting for the day when he could meet her again, and then they would stay together. No matter what.
So…Soul was either suffering from hallucinations caused by PTSD or Maka's soul really was upset with how he was living his life and wanted to intervene. I can't even decide, and I wrote it. Reviews always make me feel REALLY WARM AND FUZZY ON THE INSIDE.