Darkness Comes at Midnight

In the weeks that followed their excursion to the docks and their first kiss, Soul found himself wanting more of her. He was slowly falling madly in love with the woman he had known when he was younger, and he felt the madness that came along with it crawling its way to the forefront of his mind. It was comforting and welcoming, so unlike the sensation that came with the darkness. This madness was the type that he found highly addicting and intriguing. He felt loved and cared for rather than resented and despised; he didn't have to worry about his sanity because she was worth it.

Maka was worth going mad over.

There had been other girls in his life, but none of them matched up to the woman holding his hand now. None of them caused his heart to flutter and his stomach to churn; none of them had ever been half as interesting as Maka. She was sunshine breaking through the clouds on a rainy day, the first taste of summer after a long winter. She was the type of person whose only purpose in life was to spread love and happiness to others, and it was those same things she filled his life with now. Maka was everything he wanted and everything he needed after a rough six years. In no time, she had helped him forget about Wes' death and his issues with the darkness - things that had plagued him for years on end - and he was forever grateful for that.

Everything about the woman was enticing, from the color of her eyes to the taste of her lips to the feel of her hand in his, and he loved it all. The small ash blonde pilot made him feel like a prepubescent boy, even in their adult years. His heart fluttered at the sound of her voice calling his name and warmth spread from his chest to the rest of his body. Small butterflies flew around in his stomach when she sat close to him, placing her warm hand in his and giving it a gentle squeeze.

For the first time in his life, Soul was content. It had been years since the last time he smiled so often or laughed so much; the muscles in his face were growing sore as he spent more time beside her. However, he would never change any of it, even if the world was on fire around them.

It was nice having her with him again; he never imagined in the days and years that had passed since she was assigned to the Scythes that they would meet again, let alone be together as a couple. Now that his wildest dreams had come true, he didn't want his old life back nor did he miss it.

He was in love with the sensation that overwhelmed his body when she wrapped her arms around his neck to pull him down for a kiss. His heart stopped for a millisecond, his world slowed down, and it was only the two of them in that moment. She calmed him down; his body fell into a peaceful state when she was around or at the faintest of touches. Even with the cackling voice in the back of his mind that liked to remind him how fleeting their time together was, it all felt right.

No matter how long he was with her, he wanted to ensure that each moment counted.

Being with Soul was everything her twenty-three year old and seventeen year old self had dreamed it would be. During their time at the academy, she had a glimpse of what it would be like; holding his hand when they were out, sitting close to each other, and feeling the light emotions that came with a relationship.

However, those small gestures didn't compare to the real thing. She felt like a silly little girl who was finally dating her crush after years of pining over him. Laughter bubbled up in her stomach and the smile never left her face when they were together. Soul made her happier than any other person she knew. Slowly, she was falling more in love with him, and she had yet to decide if it was good or bad. After years of guarding her heart, she felt herself start to open up to a man who had shown he was trustworthy.

She had loved Soul for the longest time, but she always believed it was as a friend than anything more. She had spent years waiting and wanting to be back in Death City with the ones she loved, but the person she had most wanted to be with was always Soul. Now that she was with him, it felt right to have his arms wrapped around her waist, his lips moving against hers. It supplied her younger self with the knowledge that it hadn't been idiotic to pine over a boy she never believed she had a chance with. It helped her feel that she was worth more than just friendship when it came to the man; that her seeing him in his moment of weakness wasn't a fluke or a mistake.

Before him, she had only been with one other boy, one of her fellow pilots in the Scythes Aerodynamics division. There had been a small spark between them - one that she now believed had to do with the fact that his personality was similar to Soul's. However, it was never as strong or as vibrant as her connection with Soul. She felt his touch throughout her body - whether it was his lips on hers or his hand resting on her hip. From her toes curling to the fiery heat that flowed in her lower abdomen, his touch was known everywhere within her.

It was addicting and she craved more of it as time went on.

Everything he did drove her crazy, and it took all of her self control in preventing her animalistic urges from taking over and ripping off his clothes every time they kissed. However, it proved to be a difficult task with each occurrence. The heat that the built up in her core when he bit her lip was invigorating, his sharp teeth lightly digging themselves into it causing her to moan against him. When he pressed her closer to him, his hands on the small of her back and molding their chests together, her heart beat wildly as it mimicked his own. The way he whispered her name against her neck left goose bumps on her heated flesh and her breath caught in her throat.

Never in her life had she felt like this, but she was wholly enjoying every second.

Each of his embraces and touches filled her with love and she wanted to return that love someway, somehow. Soul had changed her life for the better and she wanted him know it in ways she had never imagined she would. She found herself wanting to give him her all - her everything - because he was worth it, because that was how he made her feel. He was the first man in her life that she trusted completely, and she wanted him to know that.

However, instead of acting on her urges too soon, she tried to show him her love in different ways. Whether it was by lightly stroking his cheek after a particularly heated make out session or weaving her hands through his hair to bring him closer to her, she made sure he felt it. She loved him with all her heart to the point that she was worried it was going to burst, and she wanted him to feel the same way for her. She wanted to make him melt under her touch, to experience the same burning desire that was building up within her. She wanted him to know that he was loved.

Maka was falling more in love with him every second and a part of herself felt like he was falling in love with her

It was everything she wanted and then some.

Nothing was going to tear them apart, not ever.

Soul was out on a date with Maka when the reality of his situation slapped him clear across the face.

They were out walking the streets of Death City when they stumbled upon what appeared to be a small abandoned building. The aspect that had drawn them – more Maka than Soul – was the purple cat-like neon sign flashing their way that read 'psychic', and he was reluctantly dragged into the building under her insistence.

The inside appeared to be nicer compared to the outside; the walls were painted a deep purple and it smelled of lilac mingled with burnt wood rather than urine like the alley outside. Glancing around the small entry way, he noted the small vases of flowers on either side of the front desk and different symbols on the wall, including one that reminded him vaguely of a cat.

"Welcome," said a smooth, purr-like voice.

Turning to where the sound came from, Soul and Maka saw a voluptuous woman emerge from behind a curtained archway. The most striking feature on her was the color of her hair, a vibrant purple that was anything but normal, along with her attire. Rather than wearing the same clothing that the other women of Death City wore, she had on a raunchy top that showed off the curve of her chest and skirt that was shorter than any of Maka's skirts. As Soul eyed the woman up and down, he felt a small warmth trickle out of his nose - reminding him how inexperienced he really was.

Glancing over at Maka, who was glaring at him and the nosebleed, he gave her what he hoped was an apologetic smile and wiped the blood away. Cool guys were not supposed to be turned on by vixens who weren't their girlfriends; that certainly wasn't how he was raised.

"I'm Miss Blair," the woman said as she walked toward them. "And what brings you two kittens into my shop today?"

"We saw the sign and were curious about what was inside," Maka offered. She grabbed Soul's arm when Miss Blair stood in front of them and took on an immediate liking to him as she carefully cocked her head to the side, staring at him with a small gleam in her eye. "But we're not interested so we'll just be going."

She tugged him away, but they were stopped in their tracks when the other woman reached out to grab his arm. She pressed her large breasts on him and he balked at the action. "Not so fast," she mewled out. "This is a very interesting man you have here. His aura is radiating different colors and I see something very strong growing within him."

Soul flinched and cringed away slightly when her fingers tickled the small stubble on his chin. He wasn't sure what was going on, but he didn't much like it. He had an inkling that he was being violated in some way and that the woman's actions fell under the jurisdiction of sexual harassment.

"What is he to you? Your brother? Family member? Or just a friend?"

"He's my boyfriend!" Maka growled out.

"Maka!" he chided.

Soul had never seen her act so hostile to another human being, someone she barely knew nonetheless. He was aware she had a temper, but he always assumed it was reserved for those close to her, not complete strangers.

"And I'd appreciate it if you weren't so hands-y with him!" she yelled, ignoring his own rebuke.

The woman blinked her yellow cat like eyes and released him. "Ah I see it now. You're highly defensive of him because you harbor very strong feelings for this man. That's definitely something I can respect."

He snuck a quick glance to his girlfriend and noticed a pink tinge coating her cheeks. Catching his gaze, she whipped her head away, crossing her arms in the process, and pouted. "Shut up."

"Aw, don't worry, kitten. He feels the same way about you," Blair said.


"It's in your aura too, and I see it in your heart. You two were meant to be together, but there is something preventing you two from growing closer to the other…" She stepped a little closer to him, and Soul took a step back, not wanting her to see what she was talking about. "I'm not sure what it is, but I can definitely sense it."

Soul's heart jolted at her words.

He felt the darkness start to slowly claw its way into his mind again, the scraping sensation tickling the back of his mind and the faint whisper of a small demon. There was no possible way she had meant that aspect of himself; only a handful of people were aware of it which included himself and someone who was no longer living. How was a mere stranger who had just met him able to pick up on a thing like that? Not even Maka was aware of it yet.

His crimson eyes scanned the woman up and down, expecting to see a wire hooked to an ear piece of something, but came up short.

That ruled out someone feeding information to her.

"You're a phony, aren't you?" Maka asked with venom seething in her voice. He turned to stare down at her; for some odd reason, she wasn't taking a liking to Blair and he was curious to know why.

Blair's voice remained sweet as she spoke, Maka's tone having no effect on her. "Why would you say that?"

"Because we walk in and you immediately start flirting with my boyfriend. Then the minute we decide to leave, you pull on your fake fortune teller routine to keep us here." She pouted and mumbled the last bit under her breath. "Plus you remind me of the women my father used to hang around."

That was the reason.

"Maka." Soul gently grasped her arm and turned her to face him. He didn't much like this Blair character, but he knew she was definitely not a fake. At least, he had a gut feeling that she wasn't. "You don't have to be so vicious to her, she's only doing her job—"

"So you think she's the real deal?"

He opened and closed his mouth like a fish trying to speak underwater. The words that were on the tip of his tongue refused to come out because it was the wrong thing to say. Maka was a stubborn person whose opinion about someone else was hard to change, especially when she was determined to hate them beforehand. It was the whole reason there was still unresolved conflict between her and Spirit. The only good that came from disagreeing with her was her hating him for weeks and refusing to speak to him.

Finally, he said, "no, that's not it. All I'm saying is you should at least give her a chance. She's trying to be nice to you, and you're over here blowing up in her face. That isn't like you, Maka."

"I don't trust her, though. I mean did you see how she reacted when she saw you? She practically threw herself all over you like a complete slu—"

"Maka!" he cut in. He leaned in closer to her and whispered the next bit so that only she was able to hear. "You and I both know you're only acting this way because she reminds you of the women Spirit slept with when he cheated on your mother."

She opened her mouth to say something, but released a heavy sigh as she turned to the side. Biting down on her lip, she chewed the pink flesh. The girl knew he was right. "Fine."

"Perfect," Blair purred out. She bounced over to the two, grasped both of their hands in hers, and dragged them into the room she had emerged from earlier. "Now that that's settled, how about I offer you two a free palm reading? It's the least I can do for flirting with your boyfriend." She turned to wink at Maka, and Soul heard the blonde lowly growl in response.

Maka opened her mouth to protest, but Soul spoke first. "We would love to," he said while throwing his girlfriend a look that told her to keep her mouth shut and go along with it.

The room Blair led them to was darker in comparison to the one they had come from. A few candles that were spread around the room acted as the only light source, incense burned in one corner on a small end table, and a circular wooden table with three chairs set around it - one on the opposite side of the doorway and two facing it - sat in the middle of the room. The fortune teller pushed them into the chairs and walked around to sit down in her own personal chair. She removed a crystal ball and some cards from the table top, placing them on the floor, and stretched out her hands across the table to them.

"Who would like to go first?"

"I will," Maka said as she leaned closer to the table and rested her elbows on top of the table.

"Wonderful. Give me your right hand."

Maka did as she was told and Blair wasted no time in inspecting it. She grew steadily closer to Maka's palm, swiping a delicate finger over the lines that she saw and muttered incoherent words to herself.

Soul caught Maka's gaze as she quirked an eyebrow at him in question, asking if the woman was for real, but his only response was a small shrug. He felt like she was the real deal and their first encounter with her had been a fluke on her part. How else did he explain her knowledge in the darkness that swarmed his heart, mind, and soul?

After a few minutes, Blair finally picked her head up and smiled at the small blonde.

"This line here," she gently moved her finger along one of the lines on Maka's palm, "represents your love life. It tells me that you are very content with it, however, it touches your life line which means you have a very delicate heart. You put up a strong front, but you guard your heart with your life to the point that it's hard for you to trust people. I feel like you've been hurt one too many times in your lifetime which has lead you to behaving that way. Is this true?"

He saw Maka shake her head, but Blair was right. She had spent years guarding her heart from other men because she didn't want any of them to turn out like her father. When it came to his promiscuous behaviors, Spirit had not only hurt his wife, but he had also hurt his daughter in the process.

Soul had only seen her heartbroken once - it was when they had fought for the first time in their partnership and a few choice words had been said in the heat of the moment, words he didn't wholeheartedly mean. They were the same words that had opened old wounds and reminded her how fleeting their partnership really was; it was easy for him to find someone else at the academy, someone who was better than she was. He didn't mean it at the time - honestly Maka was the only partner for him - but it had hurt her nonetheless.

She was a strong woman on the outside, but on the inside she was still a person who had feelings.

"Mmm, I see," Blair hummed before turning her attention back to Maka's palm. "Now this line here is your head line. You have a deep, long line which is good; it means your behavior is clear and focused on the task at hand, although it can get distracted sometimes."

Maka's cheeks puffed out a bit, and Soul had to bite down on his lip to stop the small chuckle that had bubbled up in his throat from escaping. Maka Albarn was definitely not a person whose thoughts were clear and focused; more like mismatched and focused on the easy way out of a situation or not abiding by the rules to get her way. There were many times when she had made an idiotic mistake during their academy years, and he allowed it because she had to learn on her own.

"Now your life line is long and deep," the fortune teller continued, "but it does go straight down and ends closer to the edge of your palm. That means your life is filled with liveliness, and that's something you definitely strive to keep up with, but when it comes to relationships, you're very cautious. That is a very interesting combination."

"My favorite line on you is your fate line, though, because while you develop your aspirations early on, fate is what truly holds your destiny in her hands rather than you yourself." Blair looked up once again. "Have you noticed that things don't usually go as you plan them to?"

Slowly, Maka nodded her head.

"Just as I expected." The woman dropped Maka's hand and reached out for Soul's. "Your turn, handsome, but it's your left hand."

He mimicked the same action that Maka had performed earlier but with his opposite hand, and watched as Blair performed the same scrutinizing gestures that she had done with Maka's hand before she spoke again.

"I usually start out in the same order that I did with your girlfriend, but there's something very intriguing about your fate and life line. Your fate line curves down to join the life line in the middle, which signifies that your own interests have had to change because of others, but it also breaks in the middle which is never good."

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"I mean your fate seems to change from external forces that control you rather than your own actions. It isn't like destiny who controls your girlfriend's fate, but rather other beings, other creatures." She paused and raised her yellow cat eyes up to him, a small gleam of fear pricking behind them. "I'm also picking up something dark and sinister that surrounds you. I saw it when you first walked in. It wants to destroy… one of you."

Soul tore his hand away and stared wide eyed at the woman. "What are you talking about?"

"You know exactly what I'm talking about." The woman's eyes grew sorrowful and her smug grin fell from her lips. "I see it now in your eyes. There's a darkness swarming around your heart, and it's fighting to take control." Blair leaned in closer to him. "You need to be careful and control that demon inside of you, unless you want a repeat of what happened to your brother."

His heart stopped beating and his breath caught in his throat at the mention of Wes. She was definitely not a fake; she was the real deal. There was no other way for her to know about his brother the events that surrounded his death.

Fear bubbled up in his throat as her words registered in his mind. If he wasn't careful, Maka was going to meet her demise the same way that Wes had. If he allowed the demon to control him again, she was going to end up six feet under, living in a confined space for all of eternity. That was something he wasn't able to handle – didn't want live with was more like it. A world without Maka in it was dark and cold, whether she was standing beside him or against him.

He knocked his chair over as he roughly stood up and left the small building, ignoring Maka's cry for him to come back – ignoring everything around him as he stepped outside. From the busy street out in Death City to the small bell of the door, he ignored it all.

None of it was fair.

Destiny wasn't controlling his fate and neither was he; it was that stupid little demon residing in his head, the same one he had tried so hard to get rid of. There had to be an escape from the darkness and everything that came with it, but the only question was how? How was he going to make himself sane again in order to protect Maka? How was he going to protect her from himself?

Did you miss me? came a hauntingly familiar voice that stilled Soul's steps as he stood staring out into the rest of the world that continued to move.

It's been some time, hasn't it? You've been keeping me locked up for far too long, and now I'm ready to play. How about we start with that little girlfriend of yours? See what her blood tastes like? What her insides look like? What her blood looks like smeared all over our hands? How about it, Soul-boy?

"No," he whispered out loud.

The demon had awoken and it only meant more trouble for him.

Maka rushed out of the fortune teller's business – spewing her apologies to the woman as she went – and stopped when she reached the alleyway outside. She found Soul clutching his head near the busy sidewalk, staring blindly out at the people passing by. None of them paid him any mind as they continued with their daily business, but she had a feeling it didn't matter.

It wasn't them he needed.

There was something odd about the way he was standing there, his body posture was off; it reminded her of a frail bird who had fallen from its nest and wasn't sure what to do. From staring at his back, she saw that he was wounded in some invisible way that his heart was aching over something he kept hidden from her which caused her own heart to ache. She wanted to comfort and love him; she wanted to tell him that everything was going to be okay, that whatever hidden message he saw behind the fortune teller's words was wrong.

Very cautiously, she walked toward him and gently placed her hand on the small of his back. Like a chain reaction, his arms immediately dropped to his side at her touch and the confusion in his dark eyes was replaced with affection as he glanced down at her. However, there was a certain kind of sadness behind them that she wasn't able to place her finger on. It bothered her to no end, but she chose not to comment on it.

Now wasn't the time for that.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm… perfectly fine."

She caught the hesitation in his voice and lightly shook her head. "No, you aren't. Do you wanna talk about it?"

He opened his mouth, but then closed it. Looking away, his eyes grew darker and he balled his hands into fists at his side. "No. This is something I have to handle on my own."

Removing her hand from his back, she placed it on his hip and pulled herself closer to him as she smoothed a hand down the side of his face. She felt the small stubble that rested on his face and the warmth of his skin beneath her fingers. He flinched at her touch, like an animal who was expecting to be abused rather than loved, and it broke Maka's heart even more.

"If it has something to do with what that fortune teller told you, ignore her. She's wrong, okay? She doesn't know the first thing about you and me. Plus she was a fake, anyways. They all are, you should know that. You're not gonna hurt me because I know you and-"

"Maka! Shut up! You don't know a fucking thing, okay?!"

Her hand dropped from his waist and she took a step back. Throughout the years she had known him, he had never yelled at her like that. The pupils of his eyes were dilated as he stared down at her, making Maka feel smaller than she actually was, and his lips were pressed so hard together that the color was drained from them. Fear boiled up in her stomach as she cautiously watched him, waiting to see what his next move was going to be. He reminded her of a crazed animal ready to attack, and she was the idiot remaining in front of it, placing her own life at risk.

However, nothing happened.

Soul schooled his facial features to becoming stoic once again, and he bashfully glanced down at the ground. "I'm sorry. I-I didn't mean to yell at you."

Maka slowly nodded her head. "But that doesn't make it right, you know that."

"I know." Soul sighed and ran a hand through his hair as he closed his eyes. "I just need to be alone for a while, okay?"

She nodded, but stopped him by grabbing his arm as he walked by. "Be careful, okay? Don't do anything stupid." Her grip slackened on his arm as she hesitantly stepped up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. She smoothed a hand through his hair before giving him one last kiss and then falling back down. "Let me know when you feel better."

"Yeah," he weakly let out.

Her hand dropped from his arm, and Soul disappeared in the crowd behind them. Slowly, her heart started to break; she hated seeing Soul so upset and angry over something stupid like the words of a phony fortune teller. It wasn't dangerous for them to be together, why didn't he see that? They had chosen to remain by the others side through much worse than a threat on her life, and they had conquered so many obstacles when they were younger. The trick was that they had to do it together. Separately they were strong, but together they made an unstoppable team.

Sighing, she left the alley and made her way over to Black Star and Tsubaki's apartment.

If there was someone in this godforsaken town that knew what was torturing the man, it had to be one of them.

A few weeks had passed since Tsubaki and Black Star had crashed her diner date with Soul, and she had spent that time sending them texts rather than seeing them in person. She also had yet to inform either of them about her new relationship with Soul which had largely to do with the tension that she saw buzzing between Soul and Star at the time. The way the blue haired ninja had looked and acted around her boyfriend hadn't gone unnoticed by her.

It was different compared to when they were younger; Star's movements were cautious and wary when he was sitting by Soul. Every little thing that the white haired man did, Star reacted to it automatically. It was similar to a lioness stalking her prey. He was waiting for him to do something, but she didn't know what exactly. She had known Star since they were children - their parents worked together at Shibusen as pilots - and it wasn't in his nature to be that observant when it came to his friends. He usually reserved his ninja reflexes and behaviors for enemies and those who betrayed his own friends.

Something had happened between the time she had left Death City and the time she had returned, and she was determined to find out what.

She had never been to their apartment before, but Star had sent her the address of the place and it didn't take her long to find it.

"Hey, Maka!" Star greeted, allowing the door to bang on the wall as he thrust it open.

The apartment was different compared to Soul's and much more resembled Maka's own. There were individual rooms separated by a concrete wall and painted an eggshell color. A few photos were scattered along the wall, featuring Tsu and Star standing in front of their solar ship from one of their missions. There was also a brass and copper cog sculpture resting in the middle of the photographs. Star led her toward their living room where there were two couches and gestured to one of them for her to sit down.

"So, how'd you like it up there in snoresville? Bet it was boring without me, huh?" he boasted.

"I found the lack of idiots jumping off buildings very disappointing," Maka smiled.

"That's because there's no one as great as me!"

He crossed his hands behind his head and leaned back on the couch, softly humming to himself. Maka stared at the man lovingly as she embedded the memory of him into her mind; he had changed throughout the years as far as looks went, but he was still the same person underneath. His god complex was still going strong, and he was still full of himself but he also cared very deeply for his friends. Black Star was definitely one of the people she had missed during her time with the Scythes.

Popping one eye open, he asked, "and I'm sure it was me you wanted to see as soon as you got back, right? Couldn't wait to see your god again and marvel at my amazing physique."

Maka rolled her eyes and sighed. He was definitely the same Black Star.

When she spoke, her voice was oozing with sarcasm it would have made their old teacher Stein beam with joy. "Oh, of course. It was always you that I compared all the guys to when I was out, but none of them were even able to live up to my high expectations thanks to you. I'm so glad to be in your presence once again."

"Just as I expected," he smirked.

There was short pause as Maka fiddled with the hem of her skirt, picking at a loose string on the fabric before she looked back up at him. "Star, may I ask you something?"

The man removed his arms from behind his head and leaned onto his knees, his face turning from playful to serious in one quick swoop. She was slightly taken aback by his sudden demeanor because he rarely showed this side of himself to anyone; he was often the person who liked to crack jokes and boast about how great he was. It was rare for him to meddle in his friend's lives unless they were doing something that was foolish and went against their own moral compass.

"Sure. Go ahead."

"Can you tell me what happened between you and Soul when I was gone?"

He leaned back in his chair and squinted at her. "Is that really why you came here Maka? To talk about him? If that's the case, you can get the fuck out of here because Soul is the last person I wanna talk about."

Maybe it was rude of her to come into his home without asking him how he had been or what was new in his life, but she was on a mission that she was determined to accomplish.

Star stood up and made his way to the kitchen, but Maka grabbed his arm to stop him in his tracks. "Wait. I know it's rude of me to come in here and ask you about someone you don't give a shit about, but if you won't do it for him, then do it for me. Something's wrong with Soul and he refuses to talk to me about it. I have to know what happened when I was gone, please."

His back stiffened at the mention of Soul's name, but he didn't budge. Star remained still in front of her; his muscles pulsed under her grip and she felt his faint heartbeat as her fingers pressed into his skin. She wasn't going to release him until he said something. The man knew how stubborn she was - hell that was why they had become friends so easily - and she refused to go down without a fight.

After a few minutes, she broke the silence. "Please, Black Star. Tell me."

"You really wanna know what happened to Soul while you were away?" He yanked his arm out of her grip but kept his back toward her. "I'll tell you what that fucking bastard did. He tried to kill me, did he tell you that?"

She blinked a few times and felt her mouth drop slightly. "What?"

"He tried to kill me!" Star whirled around and his dull green eyes were blazing as he stared down at her. The hatred was evident as their eyes met, and the fear she had felt with Soul earlier started to boil in her stomach.

"Your little boyfriend had his hands around my neck two days after his brother died because he doesn't know how to take a fucking joke!"

"His brother had just died. What did you expect for him to do? Be the same joking kid you knew at the academy? He was grieving, Star-"

"You don't know anything, Maka!" he spat out. "You didn't see the crazed look in his eyes! It was like he wasn't himself! It took both Kilik and Ox to get him off of me! If he had stayed any longer then I would have died! Is that what you wanted to hear?"

"That doesn't make sense, though. Soul would never try to kill you. He doesn't have it in him-"

"Maka." His voice had calmed down a little as he said her name. "I don't care what you and Soul do or who you date because I don't have any control over that. But you are my best friend so I will tell you this; whatever you do, don't trust Soul. He can turn on you at any minute. I know you have this whole good boy image of him still ingrained in your brain, but that isn't him anymore. He's a monster, and you would do better if you stayed away from him."

She lightly shook her head. "Soul isn't a monster. Where are you people getting this from?"

"If you had been there after Wes' death, you would see it too. Soul's a monster and the sooner you realize that, the better."

"If I had been there I wouldn't have abandoned my friend when he needed me the most! Did any of you ever think about that? How it had affected him knowing that the people he trusted just left him?"

"I get the feeling Soul was never really my friend so I don't regret doing that to him." He licked his lips and breathed out heavily as he stood to his full height. "You know everyone's afraid of him, right? Even Tsu's afraid of him, and she's the one who hardly ever thinks badly of anyone. We all have a good reason for keeping our distance from him and it's time you did too."

"I refuse to do that," she said. "I'm not going to abandon Soul just because you and everyone else in this damn town thinks I should! He deserves to have someone with him, and if I'm that only person, then so be it. At least I know I actually care enough about him not to leave him moping around by himself! I will stand by Soul no matter what."

Star scowled at her as he shook his head. "And what if he tries to kill you like he did with me? Or like he did with Wes? What are you gonna do then? Will you still defend him?"

"Of course I will! Because I know that isn't Soul!" She paused to register his words completely, and cocked her head to side. "What do you mean like Wes?"

He opened his mouth to respond, but right at that moment the front door opened to reveal Tsubaki with a bag of groceries. "Black Star, I'm home! Oh, hi, Maka."

The blonde smiled at the taller girl before laying her eyes back on Star. She noted the desire to say more as it sparkled in his eyes, the words burning on his tongue as they begged to be released, but he didn't say anything more on the matter. Instead he leaned down and whispered, "just be careful. I don't want you to get hurt," in her ear.

She nodded - that was all she was able to do - and stored his worries and their conversation into the back of her mind for later. The only thing she regretted was that she didn't find out what she had really wanted.

What exactly happened to Wes?

Soul slammed the door to his loft and leaned against it as he clutched a hand to his chest. It rose and fell as he stood there, his pulse beating rapidly beneath his fingertips.

He was having another panic attack; it vibrated through his body and his bones ached as his chest grew heavier than normal and his mind went berserk. Words refused to come from his mouth, his breathing became ragged, and all his coherent thoughts had escaped him. There was only him and the world as it rocked beneath him. Glancing up at the ceiling, he saw the small shapes that were painted there and tried to focus on them; usually they helped him calm down, but tonight it wasn't working.

Taking the hand that wasn't on top of his chest, he ran it through his hair and sighed.

"Fuck, get some control over yourself. You cannot be acting like this, at least not here, not now. You can't be going back… you just can't," he sobbed out.

His insides started to break as the panic rose and the clawing at the back of his head became more vigorous and insistent. The darkness was slowly creeping its way back into his life, clouding his vision as his eyes scoured the empty home for any sign of an escape. A quiet corner. A secluded place to lay down. Anything.

Then his eyes fell upon the piano sitting by the window. Its ivory keys were beckoning him forward as he stared at it, the moonlight from the window shining down bright on it like a spotlight. He felt his legs push themselves up off the floor and his muscles moved as he made his way blindly toward it like a siren calling him from the wide open sea. His fingers delicately traced over the keys, pressing down as he played a single note.

It had been a long time since he last played her. When he had a show to do at the local jazz bar, he always used the one that was supplied for him. This one hadn't been touched since Maka came over and before that, the last time he really played it was when Wes was still alive. Closing his eyes, he tried not to think further on the matter because it had been his brother who had gifted him the piano.

Soul thinks it's pretty silly that his brother wants to blindfold him and lead him out to where his seventeenth birthday present is hiding. However, it is his brother and he doesn't really expect anything less from him. Wes always did like to make a big deal out of holidays and birthdays. Even when they were little, it was always his big brother who jumped on his bed at exactly midnight to tell his little brother 'happy birthday' or something.

"How much farther is it?" Soul cries out as his brother pushes him up yet another flight of stairs.

"Considering we live on the top floor, we still have another three flights of stairs."

The younger Evans brother groans about but continues to take it one step at a time, hoping he doesn't trip on one and fall on his ass. If that were to happen, Wes would never let him forget it; he had a streak for remembering every single one of Soul's mishaps, claiming it was because that's what older brother did. He himself called bullshit on that. Older brothers were supposed to look out for their younger brother, not tease them nonstop because they caught them making out with their pillow.

"Ah, we made it," Wes says as he leads Soul onto the landing.

"Thank god," Soul mumbles.

His brother wraps his hand around his wrist and practically drags him down the hall to where their shared apartment is. The apartment itself is on the shady side of town and Wes only rented it because it was the cheapest he was able to find a few months ago. Neither one of them wanted to use their parent's money; they both prefer to struggle to make ends meet on their own without mommy and daddy's help.

Hearing the click of the door, Soul waits for his brother to lead him inside and to what feels like the middle of the loft. A few seconds pass by before Wes finally removes the blindfold, and Soul blinks a few times to adjust his eyes to the lighting of the room until he sees his present. Standing in front of the wall to wall windows beneath the stained glass one that Wes had designed, sits a single piano. It's the same design, shape, and color of the one he had been eyeing since he was eleven.

"You bought me a piano?"

"You don't like it?"

Shaking his head, he says, "no, I love it. It's just… I haven't played in years. Why would you do that?"

Music had never been his passion, and his brother knows that. However, he also knows how the piano had been a large part of his life and that sometimes he did like to unwind by playing a small tune.

"I know music has never really been your heart's calling, but I also know that you like to have an outlet for your emotions too." Wes nudges his brother lightly with his elbow. "Don't think I never heard you playing at one in the morning when you thought everyone was asleep. I get it, we both needed a way to vent our feelings when it came to the parents."

Soul smiles at his brother. "Heh, thanks. At least someone likes my music."

"Hey." Wes' smile is warm and comforting as he places a hand on his brother's shoulder and gives it a gently squeeze. "I'm proud of you, and no matter what, I'm not giving up on you."

He opened his eyes to find himself sitting on the small bench. Staring out at the buildings before him, he silently laughed but it wasn't an amused laugh; it sounded pained and forced as it left his lips and Soul's heart pained. Not only had he lost a brother, but soon he was going to lose Maka too. Life refused to let him have anything good around him and he hated it. He hated that he had to live in misery all because of a stupid mistake from when he was younger.

If he had learned to control himself, then the demon within him wouldn't have come alive. He'd still be living his brother, his life would have been happier, and he'd be able to be with Maka without worrying about her safety.

But that wasn't how his life had ended up.

"Heh, you still proud of me Wes? You're gone because of me and now Maka might die the same way you did. I bet you've given up on me by now." He bowed his head and swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. "I know I already have."

Pounding his elbows on the keys causing a distorted loud noise to ricochet off the loft walls, he rested his head in his hands. He hated his life, his loft, and everything around him. They all reminded him of simpler times when Wes was still alive and was living with him. Of the times they spent lazing around their home before his untimely death. Their jokes and teasing lines still hung in the air like the smell of stale meat, haunting him until his last dying days. He missed the time when his hands weren't stained with the blood of his brother. Shaking his head, he wished it was possible for him to go back to that year and cherish the final moments he had with his brother before his life turned to shit.

Standing up from the bench, Soul staggered toward the bathroom. His body felt heavier with each step he took and the tips of his fingers started to grow numb. He wasn't sure what had happened throughout the day to make him feel like this - to cause the clawing at the back of his mind to become louder - but he knew it only meant trouble. Not only for Maka, but for him as well. If he stepped out of line again, no one at Shibusen would protect him. There would be no one else to turn to when things grew dark and unpleasant.

He would truly be alone once again.

Somehow he made it to the bathroom, hands knocking everything off the sink counter as he tried to steady himself. The world was spinning around his feet, his breathing was shallow and raspy, and his vision started to blur with each passing second. This wasn't good. His body didn't feel fine; he felt like hacking up the food from earlier that day or falling to the ground to weep. He felt embarrassingly weak, and all he wanted was to have somebody there to comfort him.

He shut his eyes as the tears started to sting his eyes. The small drops splattered delicately on the marble below him as his body shook and he released every single emotion he had held in the weeks that passed. It was futile; he and Maka were a lost cause. They were two people who were never meant to be together, and deep down he knew it. It hurt him to admit it, but it was the truth.

If he truly loved Maka, he would end things with her. He would allow her to live her life with someone else if it meant she would stay alive. If she stayed with him, it would only lead to her death.

But that was the thing about Soul; he was a selfish being who wanted to cherish every single lasting moment he had with the woman. It was dangerous - he was dangerous - but he didn't know what else to do. He loved Maka and it would pain him to know that she was with someone else.

Even though it did mean she would be safe and happy.

It was an ongoing battle in his head, and he didn't know which part to listen to. The demon started to show his face behind Soul's closed eyes and the voice in his mind wickedly mocked his helplessness. Removing his hands from the countertop, he cradled his head between his palms and begged the demon to leave him alone. He was fully aware of the consequences, he didn't need the reminder.

One life to keep his sanity; that was the price to pay.

"What am I supposed to do though?" he sobbed out, his voice cracking on the last syllable.

He dropped his hands, opened his eyes, and for the first time in a couple weeks, he looked at himself in the mirror. The face that stared back at him didn't appear to be his own; it was more ghostly and tired than he remembered. Bags hugged the bottom of his eyes, and his cheeks weren't as chubby like before. He vaguely wondered why no one - Maka in particular - had asked him about his mental state because he looked exactly like he felt: hell.

However, it told him what he needed to know about his situation. It was steadily going to get worse; the nights when he didn't sleep were going to grow longer and the moments where he weren't himself were going to become more frequent. He was either going to have to stay with Maka and watch her blood stain his hands or end things with her and watch as she lived her life with someone else - someone who wasn't him. His heart pained at the thought of her with someone else and jealous roared up in his blood. Neither of the options were favorable to him.

"Wes." The name was small as it left him, but it felt like a silent prayer as he uttered it out into the silence. A prayer for someone to help him; someone who was long gone and couldn't. "I wish you were here so you could tell me what to do… I can't do this alone." His tongue flicked out to wet his lips. "I just can't."

He bowed his head in defeat as a new wave of tears fell from his eyes. "I'm sorry, Wes. I'm sorry I couldn't control the monster inside of me. I wish it was me who had died instead."

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