"You weren't able to save him."
With a start, Maka woke in a cold sweat, tears running down her face. Her breath came out in short gasps. Pulling the pillow over her head, she clenched her eyes shut. Pulse gradually slowing, she took slow, deep breaths. What was it about that dream that had panicked so much? She murmured the only words she could remember: "You weren't able to save him."
Her mind automatically flitted to Soul and she was tempted to use their link to check on him. Internally giving herself a shake, she told herself to be more rational. Soul was fine, more than fine, considering all that food he had stuffed down with Black*Star during Spartoi's weekly hang out. And besides, she had read that dreams were a way the brain processed stress and she certainly had her fair share of stress.
Briefly, Maka considered going back to sleep but her mind kept running those words through her head. Irritated, she pushed the pillow from her face, sitting up. Looking at the time, she let out a groan. 1:47 am. She and Soul had to be at Shibusen early to report for an overnight mission.
She flopped back onto the bed for a moment but the words kept creeping inside her head and a flash of Soul's scar swept through her mind. Sitting up again, she buried her face in her hands. After letting out a muffled groan, she raised her head, scanning her room for a distraction. Her eyes fell on her book collection, arranged neatly on two bookshelves in a corner. A book would be the perfect distraction.
Perusing through her bookshelves, she would pick a book and then put it down for some reason or another. Five minutes later, she came to her last three books. "Read that one a million times, that one's too boring and that one gives me nightmares," she sighed.
Maybe she should just give in and go talk to Soul…
Giving herself a vigorous shake, she nixed the idea. He had a lot more stress to deal with, being a Deathscythe and having to deal with the Black Blood. He sure didn't need his neurotic partner's dreams to be another problem.
Biting her lip, she noticed that her throat was parched. A drink of water would calm down her nerves. Stepping quietly into the narrow and darkened hallway, she quickly made her way to the kitchen. The water soothed her throat but had no effect on her nerves. Sighing, she resigned herself to the fact that she was not getting any more sleep tonight.
Walking back to her room, she paused outside Soul's door. The light was off but she was surprised to hear jazz music softly playing. Curiosity peaked, she opened the door.
There was Soul, snoring with his mouth wide open, sheets tangled around his body. On the other side of the room was his radio, which was playing the music, and his his antique record player, which he used whenever he felt like listening to his records. Smiling to herself, she shook her head.
Maka crossed the room and switched off the radio. Looking at Soul, his expression didn't change but his snoring grew louder. She was about to leave the room when she supposed that, while she was here, it didn't hurt to check on him through their link. His peaceful face could belie something in his dream that was much more malicious. It was her duty as his partner.
Reaching out, she touched her soul with his. Closing her eyes at his familiar wavelength, she felt, for the first time since she woke up, at peace. While his wavelength could be an erratic melody at times, right now it was a tranquil lullaby. Maka felt her eyelids droop and shook herself awake. Soul was fine.
Somehow disappointed that she didn't have an excuse to stay, she withdrew from their link and turned to leave when she heard her name.
"Maka? What are you doing here?" Soul half-sat up, his white hair a jumbled mess.
Feeling her face redden, Maka stammered, "I-I heard music in here and I thought I would check on you. You're fine so I'll leave now!" She turned again to beat a hasty retreat but Soul stopped her again.
"You slept through the horror movie marathon Black*Star, Kid and I had last week so I find it hard to believe that my music woke you up. You're a bad liar." Soul sat up fully now, yawning.
Maka felt her temper flare and she stalked towards him. "If you think I'm lying then a Maka chop can help you back to sleep!"
Hurriedly raising his hands in surrender, Soul shrank back from her. "No need to bust out a book from nowhere. You just seemed really anxious."
Temper dropping as quickly as it came, Maka looked down. "Well, I did have a really bad dream but I can't remember it. I just wanted to check on you." Soul opened his mouth to speak but she cut him off, speaking rapidly. "It's fine-I didn't mean to wake you. I'm going back to bed now."
She turned to leave but she felt Soul grab her hand. "Stay here for the rest of the night, if it makes you feel better."
Looking at him, torn, between not wanting to bother him and getting a full night's rest, she gave in when he scooted over and patted the space by him.
Melting in the covers, she turned so her back was to him. Instantly, she felt sleep call for her. "Thanks, Soul," she whispered.
Right before she drifted off, she felt his arms enclose around her.
The sun hit her face at the wrong angle, piercing her dream. Maka groaned and rolled over onto a rather lumpy part of her bed. She pulled the sheets over her head- she always needed another minute to properly wake up and face the day.
The lumpy part of the bed was moving though. "Oi, get off of me, fat ankles!"
With a start, she opened her eyes into a shock of white hair. "Gah!"
She pushed herself so hard off of Soul that she ricocheted to the edge of the bed and fell off. Face flaming and thoroughly annoyed at her rude awakening, she took her temper out on Soul. "Why did you wake me up like that, you numbskull?"
For some reason, there was a faint blush on Soul's face but he narrowed his eyes and retorted, "What do you mean me? I woke up with your flat chest in my fa-"
As Soul nursed the book-sized indent in his head, Maka tried to compose herself-no need to look too flustered for waking up on her partner.
Soul sat up gingerly. "Where do you even hide the book?"
"That's for me to know and you to never find out. Now get ready for school." Maka turned from him and left for the shower.
Despite waking up later than planned, they made it to the Death Room with a few minutes to spare. Standing in front of Lord Death's mirror, Maka examined herself and Soul in the mirror.
Both of them had grown much taller over the past year and had slightly haunted looks from the things they had been through since the Kishin had revived. But some things never changed. Maka's hair was still neatly arranged in pigtails, her green eyes shining with determination. Soul still slouched with a devil-may-care look in his scarlet eyes, hair messily spiked. Maka gave a small smile. They were doing okay.
As they waited for Lord Death to arrive, Soul glanced over at Maka. "So, did you sleep any better, little angel?"
Maka ignored the teasing nickname but pink dusted her face. "As a matter of fact, I did." She gave him a sideways look. "Thanks, Soul."
Looking slightly flustered, Soul put his hands behind his head. "Any time. It's what cool partners do."
At that moment, Lord Death made his entrance, bouncing his way in the Death Room as a certain red-haired Deathscythe followed him. Maka resisted rolling her eyes and addressed Lord Death. "Hello, Lord Death. Soul and I are ready for our next mission."
Lord Death clapped his hands together. "Straight to business today, aren't we? Well I'm afraid your target is going to be no easy task. Her name is Thera. She's a witch gone mad with the Kishin's wavelength floating around-even the other witches are scared to deal with her. Right now, she's wreaking havoc in a small town in Maine. I need you to destroy her before things get worse."
Both Maka and Soul gave a determined nod. Maka spoke up. "Don't worry, Lord Death, we'll take care of th-what the?"
Spirit latched onto his daughter's foot. Burying his face into her ankle, he wailed, "MAAAAAKA! Papa loves you more than anything and wants you to promise not to do anything too dangerous!"
Disgusted, Maka tried to pry her foot from her father's grasp but he held on harder. "I'm not going to promise anything! I'm a meister and it's my job to get rid of evil, no matter the cost. Soul! Would you help me, please!"
"REAPER CHOP!" Lord Death dusted his hands off as Spirit saw stars from his well-placed chop, releasing Maka's ankle.
Maka backpedaled quickly into Soul, pulling him under the guillotine-decorated pathway from a still-dazed Spirit. She waved her hand at Lord Death. "Thanks Lord Death! We'll be back before you know it!"
Striding down the pathway, Soul shuffled casually after her. "What an uncool way for a Deathscythe to behave."
Night had already fallen when Soul and Maka landed in exhaustion in a field, houses distant in the background. Snow was gently falling around them, creating a fine layer of white on the ground.
Blinking back sleepiness, Maka examined a map. "That's it. The city of Coldgrove."
Soul transformed from his scythe form, stretching. "That was a long journey to get all the way to Smallville. Next time, we should take a plane."
She tossed him an impatient glance. "You know as well as I do that the closest airport to this town is hours away. It was much quicker to fly here."
He waved his hand at her words. "Yeah, yeah. Since it's the middle of the night, why don't we find someplace to sleep and then face this witch in the daylight?"
Hesitating, Maka debated. "Lord Death did say she was a threat that needed to be taken care of immediately. But in the exhausted state we're in now, we wouldn't be much of a threat."
Sighing, she made her decision. "Fine. We can go find somewhere to sleep. But at daybreak, we're out hunting for her." They trudged to the outskirts of town, a dirt road leading to a small motel on its side, the vacancy sign still flashing. They tramped tiredly to the lobby, where a middle-aged woman checked them in. "We haven't had much visitors lately."
Maka perked up. "Because of the witch?"
A frightened look came across the woman's face. "Y-yes. Most people have fled the town but this is my livelihood and I can't leave."
Soul made a tsk-ing sound. "You can't make a living without a life." Maka punched his arm. "Ow!"
Ignoring him, she spoke to the clerk. "Don't worry, ma'am! We're from the DWMA and we're going to take care of that witch."
Looking slightly relieved yet still apprehensive, the lady nodded. "Be careful, though. That witch seems crazier than most."
Soul slouched over the counter. "Information we already knew. Can we get our key?"
Quickly bashing his head with a travel guide on the counter, Maka smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, he gets cranky when he's tired. May we have our key please?"
Nodding, the lady handed them a key. "Only cabins available in my motel. That okay?"
Nodding tiredly, she thanked the clerk and accepted the key. Eagerly, she and Soul found their way to their cabin. With a click, the door swung open. One bed stood in the center of the room. Collapsing on one side of it, Maka pulled the pillow closer to her. "I don't even care. Good night." Soul didn't say a word but fell down, half-asleep on the other side.
When dawn broke, they woke up facing each other, one arm over the other's body. But other than an awkward moment, neither made comment. Today was serious.
Silently, they made their way into town. A wide street lined with small shops on either side led to a large square with a fountain. Every building was boarded up and abandoned, as if everyone had left all at once. The eerie quiet set Maka on edge. She started to speak but Soul had read her mind and had already begun to transform. Comforted by his weight in her hands, Maka walked further down the main street. "Everyone is gone. The witch drove them out."
They reached the square, water bubbling from the fountain breaking the silence. Boarded-up buildings surrounded the square. Soul's eye in his scythe form narrowed. "What's-her-name, Thera, doesn't seem to have done too much damage to the place. Maybe she's not as strong as Lord Death said she was."
The skies darkened suddenly. A cackle came high from the buildings surrounding the square.
Choking back a yell, Maka twisted her head around, trying to locate the witch by sight.
"Not over there, dearie!" Ugly cackling filled the air again, rumbling the air like thunder.
Swearing under her breath, Maka kept craning her head. "I can't see her and my Soul Perception is no use!"
"Oh you want to see me, dearie? Why didn't you say so?" In an explosion of smoke, the witch appeared across the square, in front of her.
Eyes rolling madly, raven black hair unkempt, Thera looked like a witch unhinged. A jagged scar on the side of her face resembled a lightning bolt. Robes torn, she wore the strangest smile. "Your little boyfriend said I wasn't strong? I'll show you strong."
Finding her voice, Maka tightened her grip on Soul. "Witch Thera! For running amok and wreaking fear and havoc in this town, I'm here to take your soul!"
Moving at a furious pace, Maka raised Soul and cut straight through Thera. With a poof, Thera disappeared.
"Ahahaha, do you really think I'd be that stupid to go down there myself?" With a start, Maka looked up to find the real Thera on the roof. Maka's eyes narrowed.
"You're nothing but a coward! Come down and fight me like a real witch would!" Maka's words incited a look of pure rage in Thera. Raising her hand, she summoned what looked like a lightning bolt and threw it at Maka.
The bolt came faster than Maka expected. Narrowly diving out of the way, she felt the bolt land right next to her. The eye on her scythe widened in shock. "Maka! You need to be more careful than that!"
She dismissed his words. "If she doesn't want to come down here, then we'll go to her!" Connecting with Soul, wings appeared on the scythe. Flying expertly in the sky, Maka shot herself forward to Thera.
Thera gave a half laugh-half scream. "Oh I see we have a brave one here! Don't fly too close to the sun, dear, or you might get burned!" She raised her hands, her fingers glowing.
Tiny lightning bolts flew from her fingers. They flew much faster than the other lightning bolt. In dodging one, Maka couldn't help Soul accidently grazing another. He let out a pain-filled groan.
"Soul! Are you okay?" Maka circled Thera as she anxiously looked at her partner.
"I'm fine. Just a small pinch, that's all. Focus on the fight!"
Maka nodded. "Right!" Still circling Thera, she looked for a weak spot but Thera followed her with her eyes, a crazy glint in her eyes. Another round of lightning bolts drove Maka to fly almost out of sight of Thera.
"I can't find a weak spot of hers! And if I get any closer, she's going to zap us with her bolts! We're too easy a target!"
There was a pause as Soul thought for a moment. "Then why don't we up the number of targets she has?"
Nervous dread slid into Maka's throat. "What exactly do you mean by that?"
"Dive at her but have yourself angled so that you'll land on the roof. When you're close enough, jump off of me and I'll transform and stab her through the heart with my scythe arm."
The words from her nightmare echoed. "You weren't able to save him."
Panicking, Maka blurted out, "No! No, that's too dangerous-you'll get killed for sure! There has to be some way to goad from her spot."
An edge slipped into Soul's voice. "You are too smart to really believe that. This is the best plan we got."
Furious, Maka gritted her teeth as she tried to think of another plan to argue, another way they could go about this. But she couldn't find one. Thera was crazy but she was smart. There was no way she was going to leave the spot she had an advantage on.
Blowing out a frustrated sigh, Maka was forced to agree. "Okay." She added, "But if you die, I'm going to kill you!"
She could almost see Soul's eyes roll. "You're the stupidest bookworm alive."
Giving a humorless grin, she replied, "But I'm your bookworm."
There was a pause. "That you are."
They didn't say anything else as Maka climbed higher, finding the perfect angle to launch herself at Thera.
Bracing herself, she counted to three and dove. Just before Soul hit Thera, she launched herself off of Soul. She landed hard on the opposite side of Thera on the roof. The impact of her landing forced her eyes shut so she felt the flash of lightning rather than saw it. Then a terrible scream.
Heart pounding, she opened her eyes. Thera's witch soul was all that was left of her. And Soul was on the ground, not moving.
A sob in her throat, she stumbled to him, holding him in her lap. There was a burn mark from the bolt she felt on his abdomen. A desperate look on her face, she looked at Soul's face, his closed eyes, a trickle of blood running down his face. "Soul, Soul! Wake up, please!"
He was still and didn't answer. Burying her face in his chest, she reached with her soul and felt nothing. Reached out again and felt nothing. Unshed tears overfilled and she sobbed.
At the edge of her soul, she felt something nudge her. "What are you crying for, idiot?"
Lifting her head, Maka saw Soul's eyes flutter open a bit. "You're the idiot! I've told you not to scare me like that!"
Soul gave a small chuckle. "But I'm your idiot."
Maka smiled through her tears. "That you are. Let's go home."