Just One Yesterday
The next day at work, Maka walked into a hell storm. Spartoi members were running around, talking to different secretaries and handing over files. The yelling and swishing of paper all formed together to create an environment of discord and alarm. It was a mad house. Maka wasn't sure where to keep her focus as her co-workers flew past her carrying stacks of files, and instead of trying to make sense of the situation, she walked toward her desk.
Plopping down on her chair, she placed her bag on the floor beside her and turned on her computer. The first thing that always came up on the screen was a list of the reports she had to sort through that were left over from the night before. Usually there were only a couple of files for her to sort, but that morning there were about twenty on her list. Scrolling through each of them, she noted that they were all reports from Spartoi, specifically the teams that were assigned to the ruins.
"Jackie!" Maka called out when she glanced up to see the dark haired girl jog in front of her desk. The other girl abruptly stopped to look over at her, giving a small nod in acknowledgement. "What's going on with Spartoi?"
Jackie let out a small sigh and walked closer to Maka's desk, switching the files that she was holding from one arm to the other. "Apparently. they were searching out those ruins you and Soul had encountered years ago and found something in the town next to it. Now they're planning on going out there to battle some kind of monster but that's only based on what I've been able to gather while skimming these files." She nudged her arm a little to indicate what she meant.
"Do you know what it might be for sure?" Maka had an inkling of what it could be as the memory of her father's conversation with Kilik months/weeks ago crossed her mind, but she wanted to be sure.
However, Jackie shook her head. "No. That part's being kept underwraps. The only ones who know for sure are the Spartoi members and Lord Death."
Maka sighed in defeat and sat back in her chair. There was no possible way any of the members or Lord Death were going to let her in on the little secret. A part of her wished she had joined the Aerodynamics division when she arrived back in Death City, but the other part reminded her that she hadn't wanted to unless Soul was with her. They were always better together, that had been proven when they were younger and again even now.
"Hey." Maka looked up to see Jackie leaning over her desk with a conspiratory look on her face. "I'm sure if you go ask Lord Death, he'll let you join them. Based on what I've heard, you were always the best student in the academy. Maybe he'll make an exception for you now."
"But what about Soul? I know him, and he'll worry his ass off if I go without him. But seeing as… well, you know what happened with his brother?"
"I've heard rumors, but nothing concrete."
"Right." Maka licked her lips and debated on whether she should confirm the rumors or not, but thought better of it. Soul wouldn't want everyone to know he was the reason for Wes's death. "I mean with him having been asked to leave Spartoi for undisclosed reasons, I don't think Lord Death will let him join me."
Jackie shrugged and smiled. "I think he might. You and Soul are together again, unless that's just a rumor too, and from what I've heard, he's changed since you arrived. You'll never know if you don't ask."
Maka nodded and thanked her co-worker as she rushed off to deliver the files she was holding. Jackie did have a point; Maka could ask Lord Death if her and Soul could join Spartoi on their mission back to the ruins. There was no harm in asking, and Maka was trying to work with Soul when it came to the darkness that had engulfed his soul. The dark haired girl was also right when she said Soul had changed since Maka came back.
Even before they were together, she saw the subtle changes in his posture and attitude. He wasn't as guarded as before, and he was making an effort to alter himself, whether it was because of her or not, she wasn't sure. Soul had become a stronger person than he was when she first saw him, and she had a feeling going to the ruins would prove that even more, both to her and to Soul.
Scooting away from her desk, Maka ignored the files that were waiting for her on the computer and marched her way down the halls toward Lord Death's office. She was confident, and she didn't want to lose that confidence by procrastinating the task at hand. Even if Lord Death didn't want to allow them to go for whatever reason, the thought of using her father's death came to mind. Not only would allowing her to fight along side the other's at the ruins help Soul, but it would help Maka with exacting her revenge on the unknown creature that had murdered Spirit.
She arrived at the large mahogany doors and softly knocked. There were sounds of drawers closing and a chair's legs scruffing against the floor before Maka heard the muffled 'come in'. When she entered the office, she noted that Lord Death looked slightly guilty of something, and she felt like he had known she was on her way. She wasn't sure if it was the fact that he had forgotten to exit out of her profile in his computer or Spirit's file sprawled out on his desk.
Whichever it was, the head of Shibusen was anticipating her arrival.
"Ah, Maka. It's good to see. Come, sit down." Lord Death gestured with a gloved hand to the chair in front of him. She did as she was told before he spoke again. "What brings you here today?"
"I'm aware of Spartoi heading out to the ruins tomorrow, and I want to know why." There was no use beating around the bush; she wanted answers, and she wanted them now.
Lord Death sighed. "I had a feeling you would be coming to see me about that, however, I can't release that information-"
"No," she cut in. "I don't want to hear that! Whatever Spartoi is going to fight tomorrow, it killed my father! Yes, I was able to figure it out on my own. I'm not an idiot, you and I both know that, so stop keeping secrets from me." Maka sighed, realizing she was angrier about the situation than she had thought, but she had good reason to be. "Please. My papa died because of that thing out there; the least you can let me do is be part of the team that takes it down."
He bowed his head, and Maka heard what sounded like a resigned sigh. "I suppose you're right, and I did promise Spirit I would tell you the truth if anything happened to him."
Lord Death paused for a while, but then a few seconds ended up being a few minutes until Maka was sure he had fallen asleep. She slowly leaned forward to poke him in the arm when a door in the back of the office opened. Jumping up, she saw a tall man with jet black hair and three rings going around his head where the hair was white. She had never seen him before, but somehow he looked familiar.
"I'm the real Lord Death, Maka."
To say she was shocked didn't even begin to explain how she felt about the reveal. After years of her believing Lord Death was a cyborg draped in a black cloak with a skull mask and gloves too large for a normal person, never in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine he would turn out to be a human, that there would actually be someone behind the curtain playing with the controls.
"So you're really a human?" The answer was blatant, but she still asked the question.
"Yes." He walked over toward the cyborg, interlocking his hands behind his back, and stood behind his desk. "It's always a shock in the beginning, but I'm sure you'll get used to it."
Maka nodded, but she still didn't understand completely. "But why would you need a robot?"
"Because I've always felt it was easier to seem approachable when people believe I'm a robot rather than a grown man. I have a slight tendency to come off as harsh and mean so this," he patted the cyborg, "was always for show. The only ones who knew the truth were your father and those of higher ranking in Spartoi. Now, about your request, Ms. Albarn." He paused and sighed before continuing. "I'm going to approve it, under one condition. Also, please sit down. I'd rather this be a more casual exchange."
Maka glanced down, remembering that she was still standing, and sat back down as she was prompted to. "I'm sorry. I just wasn't expecting you to appear like that."
"I understand," he nodded. "First, before I continue, I need to make sure Soul has informed you about what happened in the incident with Wes. I've heard the rumors that you and him were back together," he quickly added upon seeing her confused face.
"He told me, yes."
"Good. Which leads me to my condition; I need you to make sure he doesn't turn like that again. If I send Soul back out to the ruins, I can't afford to protect him if he does murder someone, you understand this?"
"I do, but I don't think it'll be necessary. With all due respect, Soul isn't the same person he was back then. He's been trying to fight against whatever it was that caused him to do that to Wes, and in my opinion, he's been doing great. It won't come down to that, sir."
Lord Death's smile was small and not reassuring in the slightest. "Let's hope it doesn't."
"Now, let me brief you on what you're going into." He carefully grabbed the open file on top of his desk and handed it over to Maka. "This is your father's file. It talks about the shadows his team found out near the ruins. We aren't sure what they are, exactly, but we do know they've been infecting the people in the town nearby."
Maka flipped through the pages, skimming over the words on each of them and only capturing certain key words as they popped into her mind. The shadows described in the report were the same ones she had overheard Kilik telling her father about felt like months ago, and from what she gathered, it had become worse as time went on. Apparently, the people in the town were each being affected by the shadows (described as black smoke surrounding their bodies) and had started to attack those who weren't infected.
"So why now? Why is Spartoi gearing up to go fight these things now?" Maka asked when she finished looking through the report.
"We actually have a small team out there trying to handle most of the situation and evacuating civilians who are still normal before tomorrow, but we need more reinforcements. In the beginning, it wasn't as dangerous; our teams were only encountering maybe one or two people who were infected, but as time went on, more were showing up. Our mission is to commander the situation, and do whatever's necessary to bring peace back to the community without harming more civilians and members than need be."
Comprehension dawned on Maka as she slowly digested his words. "You mean murder those who have been infected."
Lord Death nodded solemnly before walking around his desk so that he was standing directly in front of her. "Do you think that's something you can do?"
Maka gulped. It was a lot to take in, but she felt confident her and Soul would be able to conquer anything as long as they were together. It would be hard to kill innocent people, but in reality they weren't so innocent. According the report she had skimmed, they were incapable of being brought back to the basis of their humanity. They weren't like Soul; he was able to overcome the darkness and return to normal.
She nodded. "Yes, I think Soul and I will be able to do that."
"Good." The older man moved around her chair and placed his hand on her shoulder, giving it a small squeeze. She looked up to see him giving her a small smile. "I'm sorry I couldn't comfort you when I told you about Spirit's death. It must have been hard on you. Spirit was very proud of you, I want you to know that. He always spoke very highly of you. He was glad to be able to call himself your father because of everything you've accomplished in life. I don't want you to think any differently."
Maka's heart swelled and she had to bite back tears. She wasn't expecting to hear that about her father; she had felt like she was a terrible daughter to him throughout the years, so it was nice hearing how her father truly felt about her.
"Thank you." Her voice was strained when she spoke and it came out smaller than she had intended, but she sensed Lord Death understood how grateful she was.
Soul laid in bed, allowing Maka's words to travel through his mind as he replayed them over and over. It was ridiculous, really it was, but maybe for one night he felt like allowing his worries to takeover because going back to the ruins was dangerous. Neither one of them knew for sure what would happen once he stepped foot in the desert again, what would happen when he passed by the ruins. What if he blacked out again and the monster within resurfaced? He didn't know if he would be able to live with himself if anything were to happen to Maka.
He rolled over onto his side facing the girl in question and silently watched as her chest slowly rose and fell indicating she was deep in sleep. Not daring to disturb her, Soul tentatively reached a hand out to push back a few strands of hair from her bangs that were plastered on her forehead. Sleeping beside Maka was peaceful and serene; the nightmares weren't as vicious as they were before and he spent more nights sleeping than he did awake since she moved in with him. She was definitely someone he didn't want to lose.
If anyone were to die on the battlefield the next day, he wanted to make sure it was him rather than Maka. She was the one the world needed, not him; he was only a useless waste of space and nothing more. No one other than the woman laying beside him would miss the Soul that used to walk the earth. She would be the only one who remembered him, the only who mourned his death, and the only one who would care, but she would move on. Like most things in his life, she would be the one between them who would have the strength to continue on in life.
He would just succumb to the darkness and his life the moment he lost her.
Maka's face scrunched up as if something had disturbed her, and Soul quickly removed his hand. He held his breath as he waited to see what she would do next, hoping he didn't draw her out of her slumber, but his suspicions were confirmed as her eyes fluttered open. She blinked a few times as the city lights from outside shone through the windows and graced her face like a spotlight, and she stretched her arms out before turning to look at him.
"Is it time already?" Her voice was still harsh and groggy from just waking up and it made his heart pound.
Her voice would be one of the things he missed the most.
"Nah. It's just barely one in the morning." Soul swallowed before continuing. "You should go back to sleep. We have a big day tomorrow."
Maka rolled over and slightly shook her head. "Not if you're still awake."
She slowly reached out her hand to gently rub him and small tingles of warmth along with electricity shot up his arm. It was definitely going to be a difficult night with him knowing exactly was going to happen the next day. Even the fortune teller they had gone to see weeks ago confirmed it; one of them was going to be forever changed if they stepped foot in the ruins once again, and he had a feeling it was going to be him.
Realization flashed in her eyes and Soul's heart stopped for a millisecond before she spoke. "You had another nightmare, didn't you?"
He let out a small sigh of relief; he had thought she noticed the fear that was undoubtedly in his eyes. "No. I just can't seem to fall asleep tonight. You should rest, though."
However, his words still didn't convince her as she scooted closer to him and wrapped an arm around his chest to soothingly rub his back. "Soul, what's wrong? You know you can tell me anything, right?"
He debated whether he should tell her or not before answering. There really wasn't any harm in admitting to his fears and doubts when it came to their mission tomorrow, but he also didn't want his emotions to reflect in his girlfriend. She had been excited when she showed him the keys to their old solar ship Grigori and was enthused when she relayed the events of the day. So much had happened in such little time that even he found it hard to keep up with her. He was able to gather the basics of what had occurred; there were some shadow figures infecting the people who lived near the ruins, Lord Death had granted them permission to join Spartoi the next day, and the form he had thought was a cyborg for a majority of his life turned out to be an actual human being.
However, a part of him knew it would be better if he were honest about his feelings when it came to what was to come. Didn't he promise to be honest with her from now on?
Soul sighed and braced himself against the argument that was sure to come. "I'm nervous about tomorrow."
"What do you have to be nervous about? We've been trained in combat, and you and I both work well together…" Maka's face softened as a thought crossed her mind. "Is it because of the ruins and what happened to Wes?"
He slowly nodded and glanced down at the bedsheet beneath them. Neither one spoke for a while as they allowed the silence to swallow them; the only sound in the loft came from the city street below as a car horn blared or the voices flowed up to them. However, Soul tried to ignore the noises that once helped him sleep and instead focused his attention on the woman beside him. He listened to her soft breathing as she contemplated what to say next, the small beating of her heart that thrummed through his chest as she pressed herself closer to him, and the light tapping of her fingertips on his spine.
"Does it have to do with what the fortune teller told us?" she asked in a small voice. All he had to do was blink and she knew her answer. "Soul, I told you not to worry about that. The woman was a hoax; nothing she said has come true yet and you know that. She said you and I wouldn't be together for long, but here we are. Granted, we did break up for a while, but that's not the point."
She cupped her hands around his cheeks and forced him to look at her. "The point is we'll get through tomorrow… together. It doesn't matter what some random woman said; you and I are stronger when we're one rather than separated, and I have faith in us - in you."
His heart felt heavier as a lump formed in his throat, and he had to fight back the tears that were stinging the back of his eyes. She had faith in him; the woman he loved and pined for trusted that he wasn't going to hurt her or fall into the darkness like he had done with Wes. It was that same faith he needed to have in himself, but he didn't. He didn't trust that he would be able to control himself if the demon that resided in his mind tried to come back; he didn't trust that he would be able to stop himself from harming Maka.
But she did and that's what mattered.
Soul forcibly planted his lips on Maka's, causing a small squeak to sound from the back of her throat, and he imagined her being stunned from his sudden actions. However, she didn't remain stationary for long; he felt her relax against him and her lips slowly started to move as they took his bottom lip between them. Her hands found themselves wound around his neck as she pulled him closer to her, and his own found the small bones of her hips as he moved on top of her.
There were two emotions at play from what he could gather; there was her love for him as her fingers lightly traced the back of his neck, and then there was his desperation as he gripped her hips. He was afraid she would float off or flee from him if he were to let go; he needed her to stay put and show him that he wasn't the monster he believed he was. His body started to shake slightly as he silently released the tears he had been holding back. They hotly slid down his face until they mingled in with their kiss, the saltiness filling his taste buds as he flicked his tongue out to enter her mouth.
If Maka was aware of him crying, she didn't do or say anything as her hands found their way down the front his chest to the hem of his shirt. Little flames shot through him as they followed the path her hands made, and Soul swore his heart was on the brink of bursting. He didn't want their final night to happen like this, but it was and neither one was fighting it. He broke apart from her as she pulled his shirt off his body and her hands automatically flew across his chest. However, when he went back down to kiss her again, she firmly pressed her hand against his chest to hold him back.
"I know what you're doing," she breathed out. Soul's brows knitted together as he looked down at her and Maka licked her lips before speaking again. "You think one of us is going to die tomorrow so you're rushing this. I don't want that. If this is our last night together - which it isn't - I want us to take our time, okay?"
She reached up to rub her thumbs along the bottom of his eyes as she removed the left over tears that were there. "Do you really want our last time together to be rushed and sloppy?"
She had a point. His previous actions were far more desperate than he originally wanted them to be. If they were indeed spending their final night together, he wanted it to be one that they both remembered.
"We'll slow down."
Maka draped her arms around his neck and Soul gently laid down to rest on top of her, placing his forearms on either side of her head. He raised one hand to push back a few strands of ash blonde hair, and Maka closed her eyes as she hummed her appreciation. If she wanted to go slow, then he would grant her that wish. He didn't want her last memory of them together to be a rushed out sexual experience; he wanted her to remember him for who he was, for the person she had grown to love.
Soul swallowed the lump that formed in his throat before bending his head down to kiss the side of her neck. She shivered underneath his touch and he heard a small sigh escape her lips. He continued kissing her heated flesh as her hands moved along his back leaving trails of warmth in their wake and goosebumps pricked his skin as she went. His lips touched a sensitive spot on her and she moaned as her hips lightly, instinctively lifted from the bed to grind against him.
He had to stop for a while and collect his bearings as the heat rose in his lower abdomen and he felt his blood flow toward his erection. Thoughts of being with her swarmed his mind and he wanted nothing more than to take her then and there, but he would abide by her simple wish. He would allow their final night together to be slow and smooth, to be a moment that she would remember for years to come. It was going to be difficult, but he knew she would move on without him; she would find someone else to fill the void he left behind and he would become a memory.
It broke his heart, but it was the right thing for the both of them: for him to die in her place and to allow her to keep living her life. That was his final wish.
Soul's hands moved to the hem of Maka's sleep shirt and in a matter of seconds it was gone, tossed to the side where his own was before he left small kisses along her newly exposed flesh. He felt her softly toss and buck beneath him as his tongue rolled over a pert nipple, salivating the skin around it. He sucked and kneaded her breasts, being sure to pay special attention to each one in turn while Maka expressed her appreciation through mewls and moans.
Her objection was known when he left her chest to leave a wet trail of kisses from her diaphragm down to her navel until he reached the elastic of her underwear. Her legs were warm against his touch as he slid the undergarment off, and he relished in the way she shivered as he kissed up her flesh. His eyes never left hers as he kissed the inside of her thighs near her opening, and remained focused on her as his face drew closer to the heat emitting from there.
He flicked his tongue out to taste her and her small gasp rang in his ears like church bells as she threw her head back. Listening to the encouraging moan she gave him, Soul continued to flick his tongue over her entrance, swirling it around to pleasure her more before slipping a finger into her heat. He moved his finger in and out while keeping his mouth focused on sucking and licking her clit. As he felt her arousal grow and her walls tightening around his fingers, he slipped another one inside and continued his fluid motions.
Maka's hips bucked up one last time and his name spilled from her lips into the silence and the darkness like a silent prayer only meant for him. Her body shook and quaked as she rode out her climax. When he was sure she was finished and recovering, Soul removed his fingers from inside her and slid up her body to wait for when she was ready for more.
Her eyes fluttered open, and dark green stared up at him from behind small blonde lashes as she smiled. "You've really gotten better at that."
"Thanks." He looked down and closed his eyes. "I guess practice really does make perfect."
She giggled as her hands moved to grab his face and bring his lips to hers. Her tongue flicked over his bottom lip as she prompted him to open his mouth slightly to grant her entrance. As she moved her tongue along his, warmth crawled down his throat and flowed throughout his body until it tingled the tips of his fingers. His heart was about ready to burst as one of her hands lightly tugged on his hair while the other smoothed over the muscles on his back. He felt the love in her touches and each time her tongue reached out to grace his; it was all there.
It didn't take Maka long to use her toes to remove his boxers, freeing him from the confining material. The covers long removed from their sweaty bodies, the cool air wrapped around his erection and Soul moved slightly only to feel himself very close to the heat of her core. They broke away from each other for air, and as his crimson eyes met her dark green ones, he read the want and desire that was etched in them. She was craving him as much as he craved her and with their nether regions so close to each other, the anticipation was growing in the pair of them.
He positioned his cock in front of her entrance, sliding the head along her slit before slowly slipping inside of her. As he moved in and out, he felt her walls clench around him, tightening every time, and his mind grew fuzzy. Their breaths mingled together while their moans and grunts filled the silence of the loft. Her release came first, the sound of his name ringing in his ears as she moaned it out, and his own release came soon after that.
She wasn't going to die; he would make sure of that. If either one of them were going to meet their demise the next day, it was going to be him. The world needed her, it didn't need him.
Soul stood back as Maka bounded down the row of solar ships looking for one in particular. He wasn't sure what had compelled him to agree with going to help the Spartoi members, and a part of him was regretting the decision. It wasn't safe for him to be around people, especially being so near the ruins. What if he lost it again? What if someone lost their life because of him? What if he murdered the one person who was the most precious to him?
He glanced down at his boots, closed his eyes, and swallowed the bile taste that had crawled up his throat. Those type of thoughts didn't belong in his mind; he had passed the point of allowing the darkness to overtake him. There wasn't going to be a repeat of what had happened to Wes because he was stronger than the boy he had been back then. He had overcome more than his share of battles throughout the years; this was only going to be another one, but he would take it head on like the countless times before. He wasn't going to give in to the dark thoughts or the demon that resided in the depths of his mind. His old friends would come out of this unscathed, she would-
The sound Maka's boots scuffing on the pavement drove him out of his thoughts, and Soul looked up to see that she was staring at him.
"Are you coming or are you going to just stand there all day?" Her smile was kind and made his heart lurch.
As long as she was there, he could get through anything.
"Just haven't been here in a while. Sorta feels weird, ya know?" Soul said before walking down the row of ships to where she stood.
Seeing Grigori again brought back both good and bad memories. The gold and gray colors mixed together to remind him of the times he had spent with Maka during their youth and the times he had spent with Wes. They each held their own significance in his heart, but they mingled together to form one singular word: love. He had spent a majority of his time with the two people who had loved him the most thanks in part to the ship, and now he was coming full circle to fly her again with his first partner.
Soul felt something warm intertwine with his fingers, and he looked down to see Maka's hand in his. When his eyes traveled up her arm to meet her own gaze, a calmness washed over his body and rid him of the nerves. Even her smile was softer than normal as she watched him.
"You okay?" she asked after a few seconds.
He swallowed before nodding his head. "Yeah. You ready to go help the others?"
Maka gave his hand a light squeeze and stepped on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. "Yep."
He missed the warmth of her hand the moment it was gone, but followed suit as she went around the ship to the side she had long ago designated as hers. Sitting in the right hand seat, crimson eyes grazed over the control panel he hadn't seen in years. He almost wanted to wipe his hand over it just to remember how it all felt, but he held himself back; it wasn't really the proper moment to feel nostalgic. However, he did allow his hand to gently rub over the smooth gold of the helmet that sat beside him.
Looking at Maka, he saw the concern and worry etched in her green eyes, and a part of him thought it would be best if he left the cockpit. So much had happened between the last time he soul drifted with Maka and now, that he was positive his most significant memories had changed as well as her own. It was going to be like drifting for the first time all over again. The same stomach churning feeling would be happening to them as the others memories flashed for only them to know.
"Are you sure you want to do this? We don't have to go to the ruins if you don't want to, Soul. I-I know it'll probably be difficult for you, so I'm willing to-"
"Nah. I can handle this." He picked up the helmet and set it down on his head. "I've handled worse, remember?"
Maka placed her own helmet on top of her head, and the memories came surging through his mind immediately. None of them were what he had been expecting, and they were each different from what he had seen years ago. He saw the first day they had met at the diner, their first kiss, the first time they had been together, and him fast asleep. Each of Maka's memories dealt with him being with her, and warmth and happiness spread throughout his chest at the mere thought.
The memories started to dissipate and Soul breathed a small sigh as he looked over at Maka. She was beginning to come out from her own experience, and he noted that his own elation was mirrored in her face.
Smiling he asked, "how was it?"
Her eyes fluttered open and she turned to face him, returning his own smile. "It was wonderful. You?"
"Same." A part of him wanted to ask what she had seen, but another part could have filled in the blanks without her having to say anything. "Ready to get this show on the road?"
"Ready as I'll ever be."
They went through the motions that had been ingrained in their minds years ago as they readied the ship. In no time they were lifting off the ground and navigating their way out of the ship port. Soul had forgotten how exhilarating flying was as they soared through the clouds. There was something about the openness that comforted Soul and made him breathe easier. His thoughts were able to expand over the vastness of the sky and disappear into nothingness. It was a habit he had picked up during their academy years, and the freeness he felt all those years ago washed over him. The tips of his fingers tingled as he reached across to hold Maka's hand. It was exciting to be experiencing the joy of flying again with Maka by his side.
He loved flying alongside Wes, but it was an entirely different feeling when Maka was with him. It felt more intimate and personal with her; she was aware of the memories he held most dear to his heart and he knew her own. There were no more secrets between the pair of them, and he was finally able to live his life happily with her. He didn't even think about the prospect of only one of them coming out of the mission alive. The fears from the previous night were at the back of his mind because, for the moment, it was only about him and Maka. There was nothing else in the world that could ruin it.
If he was going to spend the last happier moments of his life in a cockpit with Maka, he wasn't going to allow his thoughts and fears to ruin it.
They arrived to the ruins and parked their ship near the others before exiting the cockpit. The desert sun was beating down on them, the air was dry, and Soul already felt stuffy in his long sleeve shirt. It felt like they had walked into the middle of Satan's armpit. Glancing over at Maka, Soul noted that a small bead of sweat was already gracing her forehead to make its slow descent down her face. He didn't know how she was able to handle the heat while wearing pants, boots, a corset, and a long sleeved blouse; it must have been worse for her.
They were about to enter dangerous waters, and the heat was the least of their worries. A bad feeling burned in his heart as he imagined only one of them making it out of the desert alive, and his heart came to a decision before his mind did. He made his way over toward her and pulled her gun from the holster of her pants to place in her palm. Pressing the cool metal against her hand, he looked sternly into her eyes.
"I want you to promise me something."
He saw her throat move as she swallowed, and heard the uncertainty in her voice. "Anything."
"If I lose control of myself - if I change for any reason - I want you to be the one to put a bullet through my head, okay?"
Her eyes bulged and she backed away from him slightly at his words. Fear flashed in her dark green eyes, and he pressed the metal harder into her hand.
"If you don't, Black Star will, trust me." He paused to lick his lips. "I don't want it to be that way. I want you to be the one, okay? Just promise me that, please."
It took longer than he wanted, but Maka finally nodded and wrapped her fingers around the grip. "If it comes down to that, I will. But I doubt it will, okay? We'll get out of this alive, I promise."
He highly doubted it, but agreed if only to comfort her.
They made their way to where the battle was going on, the gunshots and shouts being enough to show them the way. As they passed the opening of the ruins, Soul felt a chill travel down his spine and little goosebumps crawled up his arms. The memory of his last mission with Wes flashed in his mind, but he tried to ignore it. Now wasn't the time to dwell on the past; he had to focus on the mission in front of him and keep his focus no matter what. One wrong move and that could be the end of him or Maka.
As they made their way closer to where Black Star and the others were, Soul felt an odd sensation fill his nerves. Something wasn't right; something inside of him started to stir and terror crawled over his skin. He felt the familiar tug and clawing at the back of his mind. However, he ignored it. He had experienced the same feeling before and it disappeared on its own; it was nothing special. He continued walking a bit longer before something different happened. The sounds of the battle before him were silenced as a small roar started in his ears. It became so unbearable that he had to pause.
Clutching his hands over his ears and screwing his eyes shut, he tried to ride out the sensations, but to no avail. They continued to go on no matter how hard he tried to stop them. Soul opened his eyes and blinked a few times to see that his vision was beginning to blur, and soon the blur turned to darkness. He tried to open his mouth to yell at Maka for help, but no sound came out, only a strangled squeak that was too silent for her to hear. He was losing it, he knew he was, but there was nothing he could do about it.
In no time, Soul's world turned to darkness and the dry desert air that was wrapped around his body was no more.
Soul was gone, and in his place there was a monster that had been begging to come out for years.
"Soul, you take care of the left side and I'll keep with the right. We'll meet in the middle and take care of the rest, okay?" Her question was met with an uncomfortable silence. It was dry and bitter like the sandy air around them. "Soul?"
She paused. Something didn't feel right; there was an unsettling feeling in the pit of her stomach as fear washed over her body. Goosebumps crawled up her spine, alerting her to danger somewhere in the open desert, but it didn't have anything to do with the shadow figures in front of her. This new feeling dealt with something behind her, something that was coming from Soul.
A part of her didn't want to turn around; she wanted to ignore the threat in hopes it would disappear, but she couldn't do that. Her heart and mind were yelling at her to check on the man to make sure he was okay. She had a bad feeling that he wasn't, though, that if she turned around she would come face to face with a monster.
Maka's heart started racing and her palms felt sweaty as she gripped her gun tighter. She had made the promise already, but would she be able to go through with it? Could she really kill the man she loved in order to save her life? Did she really have it in her? There was only one way to find out.
Slowly and cautiously, she turned around with her eyes tightly closed. "Soul?" She had to give him one last chance to answer her; it was only fair, at least that's what she told herself. In reality, she knew it was because she wasn't ready to face the truth.
Releasing a shaky breath, Maka opened her eyes and automatically sucked the breath back in. Her worst fears couldn't have prepared her for what she saw. Instead of the familiar crimson staring back at her, Soul's eyes were pitch black; the flesh surrounding his eye sockets were dark and sunken in, causing a chill to run down her spine. His face was twisted up demonically, his sharp teeth on full display for her to see as he grinned. Her stomach flipped, and Maka felt like she was going to be sick; the scene before her was grotesque and the product of her worst nightmares.
Every muscle in her body was screaming at her to run the other way, but she reluctantly took a step forward and regretted it immediately. Her voice and movement were like a trigger as his head snapped in her direction and a snarl released from his mouth. Black wisps flew out from Soul's scar underneath his shirt as he threw out one of his arms, and it wrapped around his arm, completely shrouding the limb. Maka watched in a trance as the smoke continuously moved around until it disappeared to reveal a red and black scythe blade attached to his arm.
However, she didn't have enough time to react as Soul lunged forward, swinging the scythe blade out to swipe at her. She dodged him just in time as the blade barely nipped the top of her head, and Maka stumbled onto the ground. She didn't waste any time as she stood up and ran away from him. Unlike the other humans who were infected with the black wisp, Soul appeared to only be after her as he followed her movement; he didn't try to attack Black Star who had swooped Maka up into his arms to move her away from him.
"What are you doing?" she yelled at him.
"What does it look like? Saving your life, getting you away from that monster!"
Black Star shielded Maka away from Soul with her body, but she was still able to see him if she moved to the side. She noticed that whatever Star had done, it caused Soul to stop his chase. He stood still in the middle of the desert, snapping his teeth at air.
"What happened?" Star asked after a few seconds.
"I don't know," she whispered.
She honestly didn't; one minute he had been fine and the next he changed. Her eyes wandered over the desert, searching for something, anything that would have caused him to change so suddenly. However, there was nothing but sand. It wasn't until she noticed the ruins that she caught what might have been the cause. There was a good deal of distance between her and the dark opening, but she still saw it. The sun glinted off of something metal, and for the quickest of moments she caught the underside of magenta, and she knew what it was.
"The ruins," she breathed out.
Star turned to look at her like she was crazy, one eyebrow lifted. "What are you going on about?"
"The ruins." Maka pointed toward the place in question. "There's something that lives there, and it's the reason Soul's acting strange. A cyborg attacked him when we were in the academy, and ever since he hasn't been the same. That's probably why he's changed now."
"Spartoi has searched that place all over and we've never been able to find any cyborg."
"No, look! It's right there!"
Star's eyes followed in the direction she was pointing, but he shook his head. "Maka, I don't see anything." He placed his hand over her forehead. "Are you feel alright? Are you seeing things? Maybe you should go home. I'll take care of Soul."
This caught her attention as she pushed away from his chest, her green eyes wild. "No! You can't kill him!"
"I'm not gonna kill him. I'm just gonna put him out of his misery."
"By killing him!"
"Then what do you expect us to do, Maka? Leave him to you to take care of? As if. He was trying to kill you with that scythe blade of his."
His words fell on deaf ears as a thought occurred to her. Soul wasn't completely lost, not yet at least. He wasn't acting like the other humans who had the same black smoke surrounding them, which led her to guess that he was still holding onto his humanity. There was still a part of him that she could reach. She only had to try.
Maka untangled herself from Star's arms and crawled away from him to stand up. He quickly followed suit and grabbed her arm just as Soul turned his attention back on her.
"What are you doing?" Black Star asked.
"I'm going to save him so he doesn't have to die," Maka said like it was obvious.
She refused to allow anyone to kill Soul, especially when she knew there was a chance of helping him. She wasn't ready to lose him because of another one of her mistakes; if she hadn't insisted that Lord Death allow them to fly out to help Spartoi, Soul wouldn't be in this mess again. He wouldn't have to lose himself to the darkness. She had seen what it did to him with Wes, and it was a side of Soul she didn't want him to have to experience again.
"He'll kill you before you can do anything," Star warned.
Maka stared at him with determination in her eyes. "I'm not going to let that happen, and neither will Soul."
"Are we seeing the same person? He's insane, Maka! He isn't in the right state of mind! It's dangerous and you will-"
"I can get through to him! Soul is still human underneath, and he's still in control. I know he is. I'm not going to give up on him just because everyone else has." She yanked her arm out of Star's grip and glared at him. "I'm going to save him; Soul won't have to die."
Black Star didn't rebut her small speech, so Maka took that as a sign that he wasn't going to fight her on it. Turning to face the man in question, she stared at him for a while to see what he would do next, but Soul remained in one spot. He was still gnashing his teeth at her, but he didn't move forward when she walked toward him; his scythe blade remained still with each step she took. Hope boiled in the pit of her stomach as she slowly inched toward him and he still didn't lunge for her. She was able to get half way before he had any reaction.
The scythe scratched the side of her arm, cutting the material of her sleeve, and blood slowly ooze to the opening to seep down her arm. It stung, but she continued to walk toward him. She tried to dodge every one of his attacks, receiving only a few cuts on her arm and face, but it wasn't enough to create any real damage. After all of her struggling and dodging, Maka finally made it to him. She pressed herself against his chest, firmly holding the arm with the blade away from her, and cupped her other hand around his cheek.
"Soul. I know you're still in there." Her words went unheard as he tried to take a snap at her arm, but she quickly moved it away from him and placed it on his chest instead. "Please, listen to me. This isn't you. You have to come back to me or Star is going to kill you. I can't-I can't lose you, Soul. Not like this. I don't-"
She had to dig her boots into the sand as Soul fought against her, his teeth coming dangerously close to her throat. Maka took a while to catch her bearings before speaking again, this time with more determination in her voice.
"I'm not giving up on you. I meant what I said the night you told me the truth about Wes. I will never stop believing in you, and I know you can fight through this. You're stronger than the darkness ever will be."
There was still no change in Soul's demeanor and Maka slowly started to fear the worst. If she wasn't able to get through to him, he was going to die - she would probably die before him. She had made the promise to Soul that it would be her who ended his life if he lost control, but now she didn't think she would be able to. She loved the man before her too much to end his life just because he wasn't responding to a word she said; it didn't feel right to kill him when he wasn't in the right state of mind.
Soul fought against her once again, and Maka braced herself as her grip loosened on his arm. The scythe blade only scraped against her leather corset, but it was too close a call for comfort, so she made sure to place a vice grip on his arm. Without turning around, she felt Star's eyes watching them as he battled the shadowy figures behind her. She knew it would only take one slice of her from the blade before Star shot a bullet through his head; he wouldn't even hesitate or second guess himself.
However, she continued her battle of getting through to him.
"I know you're still in there! I know you can hear me, so please come back to me!"
She blinked as the tears stung the back of her eyes. Her mind was swarming with every single what if possibility, and the fear continued to boil up in the pit of her stomach. She felt it travel through her bloodstream as horror filled her. If she didn't fight harder, she was going to lose Soul. Her heart clenched at the thought of him dead in her arms because she had insisted they come out to help. She was going to lose him and it was all her fault, again, but this time it was going to be a permanent lost.
She wasn't ready for that.
Maka leaned up and gently kissed his lower jaw before resting her head on his chest. "Please, I can't lose you. I just can't. If you die, I die, and I don't want that. I want us to be happy together, but that won't happen unless you fight against the darkness. Please come back to me. I don't want to live without you. I love you too much to lose you. You have to come back back to me, you just have-Soul!"