He had thought it had hurt to be ripped out of his weapon form. The pain of smashing into the ground when a second ago you'd been a solid chunk of nearly indestructible metal was certainly high. He was pretty sure he'd dislocated his shoulder from the impact, the area already starting to swell and an intense pain shooting up his arm. He had thought that would be the worst of it as he crawled back onto his feet, took a deep breath, and roughly popped it back into place. This wasn't the first time it happened and it wouldn't be the last.

But it wasn't the worst of it. No - there was something hallow, something that failed to echo in his mind that felt so much more empty, so much more unbearable. A pain that wasn't physical but almost could be described as nothing else but an agony in his soul. The connection between meister and weapon had been torn apart as brutally as he had been forced into his human body. He clutched at his chest with his hand, almost as one would when having a heart attack, and quickly looked up to try and find Maka.

It should have been easier, but his mind felt fuzzy and weak as he searched the battle ridden area. Soul couldn't have even told someone what had happened if he tried. Everything had gone so quickly. Too many kishin eggs at once, too few meisters for back up... Even as a Death Scythe, he hadn't been prepared for how tough a battle it was going to be. He was trying to get the ringing in his ears to stop so he could focus better when he saw the small lump of a white coat and blonde pigtails laying flat on the ground a few strides east of him.

Ignoring the way his legs screamed at him with every movement, Soul forced himself to sprint to her side, collapsing onto his knees when he was close enough and pulling her painfully into his arms. Her head was bleeding, her face and neck scratched up from the fall. He could barely feel a sliver of her soul singing to him from some far off distance and he was sure if he put his hand to her nose, the breathing would be shallow and weak.

"No - no, don't fucking do this to me," he growled, going to shake her. "Maka, come on, wake up. Wake up!" Her head rolled but her eyes didn't open and she continued to lay still, cold, and white in his arms. He could feel his hands shaking, a fear and a rage simultaneously stirring through him at once. He pressed his forehead against hers, trying to pull her soul back to him, to force her into the Black Room, to get her to just stay for a few more minutes until help could come, until Stein could find them and make this right. There were tears stinging in his eyes. A desperation that started his gut and slowly flowed through the rest of him, a feeling that he'd never felt before in all their times fighting together. "Don't leave me - please don't fucking leave me. Maka, please, I..."

He clung to her, his hands tightening on her shoulders as he started to rock her carefully in his arms. He could hear the Little Ogre in his head, cackling and humming a tune of delightful victory.

"That's right, boy. Go on. Give in to your emotions. Your anger. Let it flow like a sweet, sweet song for my ears..." He had always had some air of protection for the two teenagers in some weird way, but when it came down to it, Soul's madness was his main obsession. His desire to get the boy's mind to break and crumble and make way for his own hostile take over of his sanity. He chuckled again, a finger finding its way between sharp teeth to be chewed on in excitement.

Soul tried to ignore him, tried to focus on keeping Maka with him. "Please. Please! I - I love you - I love you so much, don't leave me alone."

"You know you want to. You want to destroy them for taking her away, right? For hurting her like this? Come on, Soul. Play your song of vengeance. Let the notes rip through the ones who need to pay."

He could already feel the blood boiling in his veins, ready to harden and flow and break the bones of anyone who got in his way. His mind was slowly shattering into a million pieces, letting the demon have exactly what he'd always wanted. A broken, damaged, and maddened Soul who didn't have any fear to hold him back. Any love or devotion to stop him from being completely insane. Maka was the one thing that held the pieces together and without her, there was no more to get in the way.

"The Black Blood could save her, you know. It could be the only thing that keeps her alive..."

It was those last words that let the wave of power surge through him. A painful scream of primal rage as he held tightly to his meister and tried to keep her soul bound to his. He let it flow, let it harden both his blood and hers, anything he could to just keep her alive for a few more seconds, just until...

The last thing he was able to fully comprehend was the familiar voices of adults from the Academy - Marie, Stein, people who could save Maka, protect her now better than he could. He knew they were close, knew they would find her, and while he refused to stray far, that need to kill, to destroy the ones who had caused this all in the first place had finally won the battle. He didn't need a meister to rip apart the kishin eggs that had tried so hard to take her away.

There was a steady sound of beeping near by. His mouth felt dry and the air smelled like sanitizer and sick people. There was the distinct taste of not having brushed his teeth in days on his tongue and an itching in his back he couldn't have scratched if he tried. He could feel his bones aching, his muscles screaming, and he tried to suppress a whimper of pain as his mind finally started to really take the world in.

A hospital. Why was he in a hospital? When had he gotten here?

"Soul!"

The familiar voice made his heart stop for a moment. That light hearted air, the relief, the love. It flowed through him and made every emotion he'd tried to stifle with madness rise to the surface. He turned his head slowly, eyes opening and trying to focus on a very bruised, very sore, but very much alive Maka Albarn.

Just in time to feel a book come crashing down on his head. Not as hard as it might have normally, but certainly enough to make him wear.

"What the hell!"

A moment later her arms were around him, forcing him to stifle another cry of pain in favor of placing a hand against her back in surprise. It hurt, but having her close was exactly what he needed. After everything, he never wanted to let her go again. He breathed in the smell of her hair, waiting for her to lecture him as he was sure she was going to do.

"You idiot," she grumbled into his chest, hands clinging to his hospital robe. "What were you thinking? You almost got yourself killed because of that stupid demon. Why? What was possibly worth risking yourself like that for?"

He could have said some sarcastic remark. He could have brushed it off, told her it was just a reaction to being unable to be used by his meister. Survival. A technique to make sure they both survived. He could have lied, more or less. He didn't want to lie anymore, to risk keeping those words to himself. No matter how it changed them, no matter how scared she might get because of her stupid father issues she never seemed to get over, Soul knew that if he had lost her and never told her, it would have been worse than anything in the world. All the self doubt, all the guilt, all the times he could have...

"You," he finally muttered, his voice hoarse and his throat pained from a lack of use. "If I hadn't used the Little Ogre, I ... I would have lost you. A weapon... A weapon does anything to protect the meister he loves."

"Stop using that stupid-!" She had gone to hit him with a book again, but her hand was raised in the air, frozen as the words started to sink in. She stared down at him, green eyes widened with surprise and her mouth stuck in a scrunch somewhere between rage and confusion. She blinked a few times, clearly not sure how to respond. "The meister he...?"

"Don't make me say it again, it was embarrassing enough the first time."

She lowered the book, holding it in front of her with both hands and shifting it back and forth. It felt like torture waiting for her to say something. She was always so damn unsure of her own words. Why did she have to think everything through at the most inconvenient times? He liked her better when she was blurting out every stupid thing. At least then he knew what she was thinking.

"Well...?"

She huffed, pointing her nose up almost arrogantly. She glared down at him for a second, as though utterly offended, and he knew he should have just kept his mouth shut. Before he had a chance to mutter a half-assed apology for having emotions, he was shocked by the sudden feeling of her mouth pressed against his. He lay there awkwardly, getting kissed more than kissing, and tried to process.

She was pulling away before he really had a chance. "You're still an idiot," she grumbled, before storming her way out of the room.

Soul wrinkled his forehead, going to touch his still somewhat moist lip. He wasn't entirely sure what had just happened, but it still brought a smile to his face. Somehow that had been classically Maka. He really shouldn't have expected anything less.