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Clockwork Resonance

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"Soul, Soul . You're not gonna believe this—"

Soul groaned at the bickering of his best friend, who was clutching his star-shaped soul-clock in his hand. Hell, he never really cared about that, but he rose a brow anyway. "What’s got you all worked up with that ?"

“Well, look ! It stopped ticking.” Blackstar had this wide grin plastered across his face, bringing it close enough for Soul to call it a shove. If Soul didn't move back, he would've swallowed it.

"…And ?" Soul muttered under his breath, eyeing the star-shaped clock. It was just the right size for Blackstar’s grip, and it would’ve looked like any normal clock if not for the faint glow of the entire thing.

“Tch,” Blackstar clicked his tongue, pulling away and crossing his arms in annoyance. “ And ? What kind of a lame ass response is that ? I’m too great for such a careless remark—I don’t deserve it.”

“Well you did shove it to my face, you blue porcupine. I’d be a lot more open about it if you didn’t.” Soul grumbled and rolled his eyes, shoving his hands in his pockets. “But spill. What’s up ?”

“It means I found my soulmate, Soul.” Blackstar looked down at the item, his grin shrinking into a rare smile… It’s one that made him look so… soft .

Soul found it weird and amusing at the same time.

“It's her. It had always been her." His best friend mumbled, turning back to his best bud. Soul rose a brow, as if trying to connect the dots… It didn’t take him a while, though.

"…You mean Tsubaki ?"

"Yes !"

Blackstar beamed with joy, returning to his hyperactive self once again. "See, she's with me all the time and I was too busy wondering who it was… It was a good thing I found out when I did ! I still had a year, but she was down to four months. She would've died soon if I didn’t realize."

"Sheesh." Soul merely sighed, turning away. Blackstar rose a brow at him. "…What, you have a problem ?"

"You sound like a kid finding an easter egg."

Why did soulmates even matter, anyway ? Soul didn’t believe in that junk. Besides, he only had eyes on one person, and fate was cruel enough not to match them together.

Blackstar seemed to notice his silence because he huffed, shoving the clock in his pocket. Then, he crossed his arms. "You’re just salty because you aren’t soulmates with your mei—”

Soul quickly jumped and grabbed him, covering his mouth. “We’re in the hallway, you asshole—shut up !”

From his hold, Blackstar rolled his eyes and started mocking him despite being muffled. It only took a glare from him before Blackstar finally stopped, and Soul let him go.

“I’m still right, you know.”

“Ugh, back off. Who cares ?”

“Oh I don’t know, everyone ?” Blackstar snickered at his own clapback. “We’re not blind, Soul. You literally look at her like she’s a goddess or something.”

Soul stared at him for a few seconds, before furrowing his eyebrows in sheer confusion. “I do…?”

“Well I don’t know—I never pay attention to that kinda stuff. Tsubaki just told me.” Blackstar shrugged. “But I do notice how you always run around screaming “I’ll protect you with my life, Maka !!” and you always follow her around like a dog.”

“I do not follow her around like a dog.”

Blackstar scoffed. “Yeah, right.”

Soul grumbled to himself once again, before sighing. “Well, teasing aside—it’s nice to know you’ve found your soulmate. Congrats to you both.”

“Now that’s a response I deserve ! The Great Blackstar forgives you.” Blackstar gave him a toothy grin, playfully punching his shoulder. “And because I forgive you, I’ll help you look for yours !”

Even joke punches hurt when they come from Blackstar, and Soul had the right to complain.

“Ow, hey—geez, I said I don’t care about all that fuss—”

“C’mon, Soul. You gotta ! Besides, Maka’s probably worried about your dusty ass—you only have less than half a year.”

Soul blinked, finally paying attention. He turned to him with a raised eyebrow. “Hold up—what did you say ?"

"Uh… You gotta ?” Blackstar looked confused.

"No, no. Before that."

"…Alright, uhm… You barely have half a year ?" Blackstar shrugged, scratching his head. "Went over to your place last week. I saw your soul-clock from your room when I borrowed that comic book. You have less than four months."

For some reason, Soul felt his entire body go stiff. Blackstar, however, didn’t seem to notice—he had taken his star clock out of his pocket once again and got busy playing with it.

“Dude, are you sure you don't really care about it ? I mean, maybe you don't by now but sooner or later, you would.” He then looked back at Soul, shrugging. “I first thought it was bullshit, too. I know I won’t die just because of a clock. I only paid attention when I realized I'm growing too fond of Tsu and I got scared it wasn't her." Blackstar crossed his arms. "I’m glad it’s her, though."

Soul searched for words in his head, staring down at his best friend’s clock. He secretly envied the way he stared at it…

"But… Finding that soulmate won't do anything to save them, right ?" He narrowed his eyes. "They'd still die."

"Nope. Once you find each other, the clock stops. It doesn't dictate how long you both would live, or when you both would die. It then depends on what you two do."

"So what you’re saying is, if I let it pass… I might let someone die ?" Soul mumbled, and his pocket grew heavier. His own soul-clock resting in his pocket pretty much held their soulmate's soul, and not finding them…

"I guess. When people are born, a large piece of their soul goes to someone else's clock. Then, the clock you have says how much you can survive without it. Failing to give them their soul piece or failing to find yours would result to death.“

Soul stared at him for a good while, both dumbfounded and confused. "I—okay, it's disturbing how you know all of that. You're mostly “I don't know, ask Tsubaki” all the time…"

He muttered, taking his clock from his pocket. It was a normal digital clock in the shape of a small set of piano keys—with ticking time displayed right in the middle. He hated it ever since he found out he and Maka didn’t match, but he brought the damn thing everywhere with him because he didn’t want her to see his time.

He had told her he still had three years despite not knowing the truth.

However, holding it in his hands…

 

[00:03:13:09:54:10]

 

Three months, thirteen days, nine hours, and 54 minutes..

He wasn’t precise, but Blackstar was right.

“I may be really strong but I do have a functioning brain too, you know ?” Blackstar muttered, grumbling to himself. "And Tsubaki told me all of it. I didn’t even know it had heavy consequences before.”

She’d kick his ass. She’d be so worried. Soul despised making her worry…

"Hey, Blackstar…” Soul mumbled, looking back up to his best friend. The said boy stared back at him in confusion. “What ?”

“You gotta promise me something.”

"Ah, sure thing ! I’m the great Blackstar, promises are easy for me." He grinned, shoving his own clock in his pocket.

“What is it ?

Soul did the same with his.

"Do not tell Maka.”

 

[00:02:15:03:27:48]

 

Two months. Fifteen days.

Soul was getting uneasy. Him and Blackstar had been searching, but there’s only so much two people can do. They’ve used up an entire month and they haven’t even finished with the city yet…

That soulmate can be anywhere around the world.

It pissed him off.

Maka is hard to deceive, too. She’s great with soul wavelengths and their resonance is perfect—she can always tell whenever something was up with him. Soul had passed it off as being tired or as him having a bad day, and even though Maka made the act of believing him, he can still see the way she cautiously stared at him.

The said meister, however, was reading a book with her head laid on his lap. They were on the couch, having just finished eating dinner.

Soul’s phone was on the center table, but he didn’t move to take it. He didn’t want to disturb her when she seemed so relaxed—humming to herself as she flipped the page…

Despite the bitter feeling in his mouth, it made Soul wonder—how is she doing with her own soulmate ?

"Hey Maka, how much time do you have left from your soul-clock ?" He mumbled, letting himself play with her hair. She never let anyone do the gesture unless she trusted them with her life, and Soul is proud to be a part of that list.

"Me ? Oh." She looked up from the book to meet his eyes, shrugging. "Three years. I'll probably meet him somewhere when I'm done with school, so I'm not rushing."

"…Huh." Soul blinked, before sighing. “Cool.” He muttered as he leant back against their couch, closing his eyes. Maka noticed the heavy change from his expression caused by her response, his red eyes stormed with anxiety and… sadness.

Whenever they looked at each other, Maka had always noticed how Soul always held longing somewhere in the back of his gaze… And Maka always wished she had the power to completely erase it.

But this type of sadness was different—It felt as if he was saying goodbye.

That was it. The last straw. She’s had enough of this ongoing charade.

Closing her book, Maka got up from his lap. The sudden movement made Soul open an eye to look at her, brow raised. “You okay ?”

I should be asking you that.” Maka crossed her legs in an indian sit. “You’ve been acting very strange for weeks now. Are you okay ?” Maka stared at him, and Soul suddenly sat straight due to the confrontation. He rose a brow at her, acting confused.

“What are you talking about ? Of course I’m fine.”

“You’re lying.” She glared, and Soul can feel pin pricks at the back of his neck. “You’ve been lying everyday . What’s so bad that you can’t tell me what it is ?”

Soul turned away, grumbling in annoyance. “Stop making a huge fuss, Maka. Nothing is wrong and I’m fine.”

“Alright. If you’re not gonna tell me, I’ll ask be asking questions the hard way. You’re not a good liar, after all.” Maka swivelled and set her feet on the floor, standing up. Soul refused to watch her, and she looked down at him with jaded eyes.

“Your expression changed right after I answered this, so it’s my turn to ask—how much time do you have left ?”

Soul suddenly looked up and met her eyes, but he didn't respond. Well, he tried—but he hesitated so much and his jaw remained dropped.

Jackpot .

Maka narrowed her eyes, turning around and marching to his room. Of course, this sent sparks of panic in Soul—he left the damn clock on his nightstand and not locked in his drawer. He stood as well, chasing after her.

“Maka, wait—”

Upon getting to his room, all that was left for him to see was his meister staring at his soul-clock in disbelief. She was stuck halfway across his room and even though her back was turned to him, he was sure she was shocked.

This was exactly why he never wanted her to know.

"Two—two months… Two months and a half , Soul, I—” Maka slowly turned to him, teary-eyed and betrayed.

Oh no, not this kind of shock.

Soul stood still from his own door frame, unable to respond. The sight of her single-handedly sent his heart spiraling down to his stomach, crashing and breaking into tiny little pieces.

"And you… You lied  to me ? You told me you still had three years ! This is—"

"I-I know ! It’s dumb. Stupid. I’m an idiot—I know , okay—I just—” Soul did his best to stop blabbering by taking a deep breath. Maka stared at him in wait, aggravated.

“…I didn't want you to worry."

He swore he saw her almost go ballistic, but he was lucky she only managed a frustrated yell. “That’s really fucking stupid, Soul !”

“Okay, look,” Soul mumbled darker than he actually meant to, walking past her to take the clock. "I can find whoever this is in no time, Maka. You don’t need to get so worked up about it."

" Excuse me ?” Maka exclaimed, furiously trying to grab the clock from him. "I’m your partner. We are partners. I'm not letting you die, I’m helping you find whoever this is !”

“I don’t need help, Maka, it’s—”

“NO !” Maka yelled, shutting down whatever Soul had to say. He was stunned at how angry and betrayed she sounded, and he forgot any plans of talking.

“This is also my business, you asshole—stop trying to leave me out of this !" She took the chance of him being too startled by her voice, grabbing the clock and marching out of the room. "I'm keeping this with me for a few days, and I’ll be sorting a schedule for this search. I’ll tell our friends as well.”

"Maka—" Soul grumbled, following after her. "That's bullshit, Maka. Give it back—"

But she wasn’t listening. Upon opening her door, she walked in and slammed the it shut behind her.

Soul could only sigh to himself.

Great.

 

[00:01:06:07:45:12]

 

A month and six days.

He hated this countdown.

Maka was helping him with everything she had. Everyday, they'd leave school and skip hanging out with their friends to spend the remaining hours searching. They looked for anyone who had the slightest chance of being compatible with Soul.

Blackstar did the best he can to help, too. Well, everyone did—but the only ones who had succeeded in their group was the Star Team, and they were a reliable source of information because of their experience.  Kid didn't have a clock of his own, because having one would mean he'd send multiple parts of his soul everywhere (having a long lifespan and all, he'd outlive his current soulmate and find another), deeming it pointless. The sisters had their own but their time stretched to five more years… Soul was the only one in the pinacle of death at the moment and if someone were to look at it from another angle, it was silly.

But it wasn't for Maka.

It was a tuesday and classes have ended right after the bell rang. Everyone had gotten up and were filing out of the room as she started organizing her things. Taking notes in a discussion created a huge mess on her desk…

Soul watched her in total silence. Lately, all he did was catch himself watching her every move. It was always like he’s stuck in a trance made by himself—spending his remaining days being with her, even if it’s focused on adventures and so much walking.

He hated being sappy, but it’s clear to him that he wouldn’t even last for her 19th birthday. He wasn’t dumb, he can feel his energy slowly fading day by day. He felt regret for the littlest things he did, and for the things he didn’t do.

One of them would be buying her a book for a change, or taking her to a library himself just so he could watch her get excited over her favorite novels. He had always given her money as a birthday gift because he feared that she wouldn’t like what he’d get for her on his own. He didn’t fail to notice how she always used them on books, too.

What a nerd.

His nerd.

"C'mon, Soul." Maka picked up her bag and turned to him with a smile, only for Soul to find himself staring.

He can see how much her smiles have changed. They look a lot more like a responsibility instead of a genuine one, and Soul knew it was because of his state.

It gave him a reason to hate himself even more.

He snapped out of his thoughts when Maka decided to pinch his ear, and Soul started a series of ‘ow’s.

“Hey, stop slacking off.” Maka grumbled, letting him go after a few seconds. ”Blackstar and Tsubaki offered to join us this time, we can't make them wait."

Soul hissed a little under his breath, pouting as he scratched his head. Then, he forced himself to stand. He felt so much heavier today—he had been trying to keep up the act of having the same energy as always, but he was sure Maka had already noticed how he slept in all of their classes since last week. Hell, he almost slept through lunch, too...  

He was about to grab his own bag when Maka’s hands swooped in and took it from his chair, and Soul watched her slide it on her back.

“…I’ll be carrying this.” She mumbled, starting to walk to the door.

Yep. She knows.

He didn’t really have a choice, but he was glad he wouldn’t need to exert more effort by carrying his own bag.

Damn it, he was utterly useless…

“Soul ?”

Maka was already at the door, staring back at him in wait. He had to admit, the glow of the setting sun on her skin made her look like she was glowing— and at this point he wasn’t sure if he was hallucinating from exhaustion or she just looked… divine.

"I'm coming, yeah, just…" Soul exited their row, walking down the stairs. "…I think I did too much video game last night…"

Maka patiently waited for him, swinging back and forth on her feet. "Well, I did tell you to sleep properly. You didn't listen." She shrugged.

In all honesty, he didn’t even play video games that night. He slept right after dinner.

But he wasn’t going to tell her that.

By habit, they held hands as they walked along the corridor. It was quiet except for the clunking sound of Maka’s boots and his very own footsteps, with her hand feeling warmer than usual.

They were the only students left in the entire corridor, too. They did finish later than other classes…

However, this silence is a great chance, so Soul decided to speak.

"Hey, Maka…” Soul mumbled, and right next to him, Maka perked up from her gaze on the floor. “Yeah ?”

“I know you’re all doing your best, but… Don't you think all of this is pointless…?"

He didn’t miss how her expression darkened, and how she was unable to respond right away. Soul stopped walking, and he watched her do the same a few steps in front of him. Their hands remained connected.

“We’ve had this talk, Soul. We’re not giving up.” Maka muttered coldly, refusing to look at him.

It left Soul staring at her back, with her hand holding his in a tight grip. And with the way her head was lowered, Soul knew she’d been thinking of the same thing.

But unlike him, Maka remained brave.

She always did.

You’re not giving up. Not on my watch.”

The sun was looming over them, as if desperately watching them talk despite having to set. Soul took a deep breath, and his sigh echoed throughout the corridor.

"…Look, it's my fault it got this bad, okay ? You’ve been overworking yourself—don’t think I didn’t notice.”

He was watching her every move again; it wasn’t hard for him to notice the shudder she had. Soul had hit a bunch of nerves by admitting it’s his fault, but she had to know. After all, she always blamed herself for things she absolutely had no control over.

“…I’d rather pull countless all-nighters than lose you.” Maka’s reply was harsh, but her voice had a subtle wobble. His heart skipped a beat at her words; was she really afraid to lose him ?

He couldn’t help but mentally laugh at himself. Of course she didn’t mean it that way.

“I appreciate it, but we aren’t making progress… It’s a waste of time.” He mumbled, biting his lip as he willed himself to stop talking. But he noticed her turn her head a little—just enough for him to see a bit of green from her eyes—as if anticipating what he had to say next.

Don’t say it.

Don’t say it.

“…At this point, I'm just as good as dead and you know that. You should find another partner while it’s still early."

You dumbass.

Maka's eyes narrowed. Hearing that from him… It felt like goodbye. Hey, she knew what they were doing was freaking hopeless—searching for a random piece of his soul all over the world ? Hell, she already tried using her soul perception, but it was impossible. Soul fragments inside soul-clocks are off-limits. If it wasn't, finding your soulmate would be as easy as kicking a rock.

She knew Soul would say these things somewhere in the middle of all this fuss; She always saw how he looked at her in silent farewell, even if she pretended not to notice.

But she had to try.

She wasn’t going to lose him. Not like this.

Soul felt her grip tighten around his hand, and Maka continued walking ahead. "We'll get there. I know it."

She sounded like it required every bit of her courage to say that out loud. Soul didn’t say anything in response.

They continued to walk, hand-in-hand in silence. However, they haven’t gone too far in the hallways when he started to feel even more heavier. Each step felt like he was moving in water, and his breath seemed to run away from his grasp. Soul shook his head and rubbed his eyes in an attempt to erase the feeling—why was everything so blurry ?

Maka was a few steps ahead, but they kept their hands linked. The huge doors leading to the school’s entrance were a few more steps away… But the more they walked, the more his grip on her hand loosened.

That’s not normal , Maka thought to herself. If anything, Soul walks way faster than she does. He’s taller and he has long legs—him being faster wasn’t a surprise.

“You okay there ?” Maka turned around, eyebrows furrowed—

…She wasn't able to finish. She froze in place as she watch his eyes roll back to his head, falling forward and collapsing. The world around her seemed to fade and her heart raced, dropping everything she was holding to catch him. “Soul !"

She wasn't able to support both of their weight, so Maka fell on her butt with him. She hissed at the slight pain from the impact, struggling as she pulled him onto her lap.

Her hands trembled badly, doing her best to move his white hair away from his eyes. They were halfway closed and fluttering, doing his best with prying them open.

The world was a huge lump of orange shades and dirty blonde in just a few seconds. Soul can barely feel his entire body, but he managed to raise his hand in an attempt to find her. He was struggling to keep his eyes open and all he can see was a pair of green eyes zooming in and out of focus.

Maka caught his hand right before it fell, quickly checking for his pulse. It was too faint for her to feel from his wrist, so she placed her ear on his chest instead. The rhythm of his heart was steady but slow, too slow for him to be okay, and she can hear him muttering her name. Upon raising her head to look at him, she decided to let out a small laugh for his comfort.

She didn’t mean to sob instead.

“H-hey, hey—it’s okay… I-i’m right here—” She whispered, panic rushing through her body when she noticed how pale his skin was. Cold sweat started breaking from his skin and she felt like he was dying then and there.

She can’t get up. She refused to leave him on the ground, and even if she did, she was stuck. Maka turned to the school's entrance a few steps away, petrified as her own breathing pattern changing into panicked huffs—

Tsubaki's silhouette was out there, along with Blackstar’s.

All she remembered next was her own voice screaming for help.

 

[00:00:28:18:59:34]

 

Soul opened his eyes and was met with a white ceiling, with light that was so blinding he had to squint. Hell, this didn't make sense—his room was blue and he always kept his lights off…

"How are you feeling ?"

Stein was next to him, seated on his wheeled office chair. Soul wondered why he was in the infirmary…

And then it hit him.

He attempted to sit up, but it took so much effort to even move his arms—so he decided to stop when he realized how it only made him dizzy. Then, he turned to the doctor and answered with a shrug.

"…Really tired, and I can’t move much... How long was I asleep ?”

Stein took note of his answer, his glasses gleaming. “You were off for two days.”

“…Oh.”

Silence overtook the room. Stein was scribbling more stuff, and Soul took a look around…

All he remembered was walking with Maka in the hallway. He collapsed somewhere in the middle of that.

He faintly remembered Maka’s whispers, too. He didn’t understand what she said, but she sounded so… sad. Terrified, even.

Soul turned to the doctor once again.

“Where's Maka ?"

"School. I had to send her off or she'd go nuts." He finally finished whatever he was writing, setting his clipboard down on his desk. Then, he took something from the nightstand drawer.

"Your soul is collapsing.” Stein started right away, setting the clock he took on top of the nightstand. He seemed to make sure he can see how much time he had left.

Twenty-eight days.

“Soulmates are a serious case, Soul. You don’t have a lot of time left and you haven't found whoever has your fragment… You need to find that part to stay alive." Stein patted the clock, and Soul’s thoughts grew once again.

“You’ll have to leave that to your friends, though.”

Soul narrowed his eyes. “What ?”

“I told you, your soul is collapsing. In order to keep you alive, it’ll start saving and storing energy—in short, it’ll be harder for you to move. The more you exert energy, the more it takes from your soul.”

He thought he was done, but Stein’s expression darkened.

“You can die next week if you use up too much of it, so don’t.”

Soul found the news hard to swallow, and he looked down on his ticking lifespan in defeat.

“…Does Maka know ?”

“Yes."

Great. The crucial thing keeping him going was being with her all the time, and now he won’t be able to do that, too.

"…How do you even find someone you don't even know a single thing about…?" Soul mumbled, staring at the everchanging numbers. "We've been searching everywhere… Everyone's giving everything they have, but nothing's happening. If it weren’t for Maka, I would’ve given up already.”

"Maka is very brave, Soul. I’m sure she’d do everything she can if it meant saving you. You’ve done the same thing for her as well.” Stein gave him a small smile, adjusting his glasses. "To be honest, I was in the same situation as you three years ago. I thought I'd end up dead because I was looking for whoever held that piece of my soul on my own, and it turns out I was trying way too hard. I was missing out on things, but I found her eventually." He leant back.

“…Really ? Who is she ?”

"She's your junior teacher."

"Miss Marie ?"

“Yes.” Stein gave a small nod. “You and your partner actually remind me a lot of how we were back then.”

Soul turned away, playing with his hands. Who knew Stein had a soft side like this ? If anything, he was sure the madman only thought of cutting up people and examining things… But the smile on his face was genuine, and it made him think twice about his opinions on him.

"That aside, I don't think you'd get better without finding your soulmate. And with the time you have left, I’d be anxious.” Stein stood up from his chair, and Soul watched him at the corner of his eye. “Lord Death has allowed you to stay home for the time being. He also allowed Maka to take extra absences, but she still needs to be present at least twice a week.”

“…Thanks.”

“Also,” Stein continued as he took his clipboard from the nightstand. “…Look around you. Blackstar found Tsubaki and maybe that's sending a message."

That felt bittersweet. Soul can’t help but to snort, avoiding the professor’s gaze.

“If you’re implying it’s Maka, it’s… not.” He mumbled, and he swore he saw a hint of surprise from the doctor. “Really ?”

“Yeah. We tried it a few years ago. It took six months from the both of us.”

Soul awaited for a surprised response, but Stein gave none. Instead, he gave a nonchalant one. “One more out of the endless list, I guess.”

Thanks. Soul thought to himself in sarcasm, deciding to turn to the window at the right side of the room. Stein had no idea how much he wished it was him instead of someone else…

“You know you’re just using her to run away from your problems.”

Soul stared down at the young, colorless Maka sitting in front of him. She would’ve looked so cute in her poofy dress and the ribbons that held her hair together, if not for the compelling smile she gave him.

“You’re not worthy of her.”

He really wasn't worthy of her.

After all, he had nothing to be proud of. Blackstar and Kid are strong even on their own while he’s stuck depending on her all the time. He’s utterly useless without her help—heck, maybe he only loved her because she changed his life so much.

She doesn’t deserve that kind of love.

Soul was watching students walk around the campus, which was crowded because it was lunch time for the students… It made him wonder what she was doing.

Did she even eat yet ?

He blinked, before mentally kicking his own ass. Of course she did already. Maka is always on time—she hated being late and if he couldn’t catch up to her routine, she would practically drag his ass.

The thought of her nagging him to cheer up made him a little less gloomy.

"…Professor Stein," He mumbled, keeping his gaze locked on the scene outside. "I was just wondering… Can me and my soulmate's time be different ? Like, I can die soon but—"

"Yes. It differs." Stein answered calmly, interrupting him mid-speech.  "You may only have a month, but there’s a possibility that she still has a year or two. Maybe she's dead. The clocks only say how long you can survive without your piece… It doesn’t mean they’re immune to any other threats. When you die, you take their piece with you. They’ll only live up to the time their clocks show because they'll never find you. It's why some people die alone."

"But… Isn’t that unfair ?” Soul turned to meet the professor’s eyes. “What if you looked so hard, only to find out that they're dead ?"

The reflection of his glasses hid whatever kind of stare he gave him.

"You’d have to deal with it. It's just the way things are."

Soul narrowed his eyes, his head lowering at his answer.

"…I'm just giving Maka false hope, aren't I ?"

He didn't hear him respond. Instead, he heard him walk towards the door, closing it behind him.

 


 

The sun was setting. Soul watched it from the window, having nothing else to do… He just woke up from another nap, and he didn’t want to sleep again.

He heard knocking on the door. Soul turned to it, and the knob twisted—revealing Maka on the other side.

“Ah, great. You’re awake.” She didn’t open the door fully, and she just stuck her head through a little space. “Can I come in ?”

“Sure.” He replied nonchalantly, undermining the way he felt seeing her after a long while. He had been thinking of her every second he spent awake—which is why he took a lot of naps. Thinking of her made him hurt, considering the fact that she’d never be his.

Her boots clunked against the tiles of the infirmary as she entered, gently closing the door behind her. She then approached the bed, sitting down next to his legs and giving him a light smile. “How are you feeling ?”

He hated the sunset, because its light on her made her look too gorgeous.

“Quite okay.” He managed to grin in return. “Stein told me I can’t move for a long while… I guess you’d have to cook for me everyday.”

“Bed rest, huh ?” Maka scoffed. “As if you don’t stay in bed all the time.”

Soul rolled his eyes. “I’m offended. I do join you in school and in missions, you know. And I play basketball with the group unlike someone .”

Maka let out a giggle, and he couldn’t help but chuckle as well. Her laugh is contagious, after all.

“Geez, calm down. I was just kidding.”

“I know. It’s all cool.”

Maka turned to the window, watching the sunset. She had a faint smile and her eyes reflected the same tint of orange. “At least your view here is nice.”

Soul watched her the entire time. He loved the way her eyes sparkled, and how peaceful she seemed at the moment. Lord Death, why did she look so divine ? He didn’t understand how he found her and everything she did amazing. Hell, she had dark circles under her eyes and she seemed a little thin, but she still looked so… Good.

Too good for him.

“…Yeah. I have the best one here.” Soul mumbled in reply, keep his eyes on her. He didn’t give a single care about the sunset—he actually despised it and the light it gave her because it made him realize just how far she was from his reach. His view was her, and it’s the best he can ever have.

“Oh, I just remembered.” Maka turned to him, clueless about his thoughts. “Stein said you can go home soon. He’s still observing you for the meantime, but you won’t have to stay here for months.”

“Good to hear. I hate the white in this place.”

“I know. You told me that when you had to recover from Crona’s attack.” Maka made a small smile from the memory… At least until she remembered why he got the attack.

“…Hey, we’ve had this talk. I’m okay now and it wasn’t your fault.” Soul was quick to reassure her, and Maka looked confused.

“How did you know I was thinking of that ?”

“Huh.” Soul closed his eyes, smirking. “Partner intuition.”

Maka snorted. “Yeah right. That doesn’t exist.”

“Yes it does. I have it, meaning it exists.” Soul insisted, and it earned him a laugh.

“Alright, fine. According to partner intuition , I can tell that we’ll find your soulmate.”

The sudden shift of the topic made his insides turn sour. Soul opened his eyes to stare at her, and Maka had a sad smile plastered on her face… At least until it faded.

“…Why are you looking at me like that ?” She questioned, frowning a little. “You look like I told you I’m insane.”

Soul refused to respond, but not because he had nothing to say. It’s because he had too much, and he didn’t want her to know how much she wished it was her instead.

“…Soul ?”

His heart raced when she felt her held his hand. Soul quickly pried his eyes away from her, avoiding her gaze. “I… It’s nothing.”

He saw her expression sink in the corner of his eye, and his heart fell along with it. However, Maka only held his hand tighter, and he felt like she just strangled his chest because his feelings started suffocating him, too.

“…I won’t let you die, okay ?” Maka said in reassurance, but her brittle voice betrayed the brave remark.

“I’m not letting you die, I promise. We will find her.”

Truth be told, he’d pick death over being tied to anyone except her.

 

[00:00:25:02:47:31]

 

Soul laid still on his bed, wide awake. Stein had sent him to rest home yesterday—it was 3 AM and yet he was drowning in his thoughts again.

It’s one of the remaining things that properly functioned in his body, and it led him wondering when his own organs would fail him, too. After all, he was just waiting for his end.

“Only your soulmate can open your clock,” Stein told him as he was packing his things for him. “But it’s not that easy; soul-clocks are not a joke. They have will of their own, and it requires your soulmate to resonate with them. If it matches, the clock will give them a chance to prove themselves worthy of being its owner’s soulmate. And if they fail…”

Soul was watching him as he talked, and Stein had a dark look on his face.

“It takes a piece of their soul, hence cutting their remaining time short. One can only have three to five tries before dying from soul failure.”

What a joke. This entire universe was a big joke .

He’d never make her resonate with his soul-clock; not again. Hell, he’s already on his deathbed—he had no plans of inviting Maka to join him sooner.

But the entire thing from years ago had happened so suddenly. It was out of their curiosity—they tried to resonate with each other’s clocks and it cut six months from their life spans… He’d never forget how the younger version of his meister talked him down in that resonance.

The place was unfamiliar to Soul. It was a room with a homey feel to it, but lonely at the same time. The walls are painted light blue and there was a huge window next to a huge shelf. There was also a child’s bed and shelves filled with books, and the walls were plastered with posters of shibusen advertisements.

On the wall next to the bed, there was a picture of Maka in the middle of her dad and a woman he didn’t recognize. It was taped neatly—they were happy and it was Maka who held the camera.

On the bed in front of him sat the same Maka in the photo, probably around nine years of age. Her pigtails are tied with ribbons and she wore a cute red dress with white long sleeves, paired with black boots. Despite the cute appearance, she stared at him with an unimpressed expression.

“Are you confident with your ability to protect her from danger ?”

Soul didn’t hesitate at all. “Of course I am, I’m ready to die for her—”

“And you think that that would keep her safe when you’re gone ?” The child kept looking up at him as if he was being pathetic.

“Dying for someone is easy. Living for them is not.”

Soul squeezed his eyes shut, trying to stop the memory from replaying in his head—

“What makes you think you genuinely love her ?”

“I’m willing to do anything for her. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me—I’d tear myself apart to prove it to you !” Soul had yelled in frustration, and the child giggled in amusement.

“Geez, you like using that argument. You know you’re only saying that because she helped you run away from your problems.”

Soul stared down at the child in shock, speechless from the attack.

“You’re not worthy of her.”

He absolutely hated how he remembered every second of that event, and he still does.

They had to spend two weeks on excruciating pain and medication after that. Both of them didn’t tell each other what happened, but it was obvious how it scared her. Them. He heard her crying herself to sleep a few days after the event, so maybe she had a rough time, too.

They made a deal forbidding each other from doing it again.

But they were merely fifteen at that time—they still had years to live back then.

And now, he only had days. He couldn’t resonate with Maka’s soul-clock once more, even if he wanted to.

 

[00:00:20:12:42:01]

 

“Here you go."

Maka mumbled as she set down the glass of water he asked for. She then helped him sit up, doing her best not to let her emotions get in the way.

It hurt her to see him like this—he didn’t deserve it at all. If anything, she did—Soul pulled her out of more life-threatening situations than she could ever remember. He took so much for her, starting from that day when he made sure Stein never laid a hand on her, and that day he took the hit from Crona…

And now here he was, suffering and slowly fading in twenty days, with her having no other choice but to watch.

His life depended on a stupid countdown because the universe was so sadistic. She had never been this furious at the entire world and how it worked.

“…How much sleep have you been getting ?” Soul caught her off-guard, staring at her as he awaited a response. “You’ve got darker circles under your eyes. It’s not even exam week yet.”

Maka bit the inside of her cheek.

How dare you worry about me when you’re the one dying ?

“Not a lot, but i’m used to it.” She answered with a shrug, taking the glass and carefully handing it to him. Soul took the glass with shaking hands, and she supported him as he drank.

“You need to get more rest, then.” Soul mumbled as he let her take the now-empty glass from him, leaning back against his pillows. He then gave her a smirk, shifting into a comfortable position. “No offense, but you look more ill than I am. It’s sad to look at.”

Maka mustered a small smile. He absolutely had no idea how bad he looked—his eyes were losing the spark they used to have and his ashen skin is almost the same color as his hair… The lack of physical movement made him thin, too .

“…Yeesh, that’s obviously a grimace you got there. Do I really look that bad ?”

He caught her off-guard again. Maka was stuck blinking, surprised by his remark—which made Soul turn away as he scratched his head.

“…Sorry, I was just, uh… Trying to lighten up the mood. You obviously need it.” He mumbled under his breath. “I wasn’t joking about the first part, though. You do look like you need some rest.”

Silence blanketed the room for a few seconds. Soul looked uncomfortable, and just as he was about to take his words back, Maka finally found it in her to laugh. He then turned to her with his eyebrows furrowed.

“Wow. And now you laugh ? Rude.”

“I’m sorry—I was just, uh… surprised.” Maka struggled to get past her dying giggles. “But hey, if you’re so offended by my eyebags, I’ll get some sleep later.”

Soul let out a chuckle, closing his eyes in relaxation. “Good to hear.”

Maka watched his chest rise and fall calmly—it was easy to be fooled he was already asleep, but Maka knew better. No matter how tired or weak he was, he can never fall asleep in just a few seconds.

"…I’m off to look again, okay ?” She announced, turning to the door. “I’ll be back before dinner. Get some sleep.”

“Alright. Good luck.” Soul muttered in reply, opening his eyes halfway just to look up at her with a faint smile. Maka would’ve found the gesture overwhelmingly sweet—if not for the situation he was in.

She twisted the doorknob and opened the door, stepping outside.

“Oh, and…” Soul called out before she managed to close the door behind her. Pausing, Maka looked back at him, only to find him laying with his back turned to her.

“Yeah ?”

A long pause. Maka thought she just misheard him and was about to leave again, until he spoke with his voice partly muffled against his pillow.

“…It’s good to hear you laugh. It’s been a long while and I was getting worried I’d never see you like that again.”

She felt her heart wrench at his words. Soul wasn’t the type to say things like this out loud, and even then, he always found ways to let her know he was looking out for her through his actions.

He always looked out for her.

“Don’t push yourself too hard, okay ? I’ll be right here when you get back.”

Tears gathered in her eyes until a few rolled down her cheeks. Maka turned away, hastily wiping them and rubbing her eyes.

“…O-okay..”

Soul heard the door close behind him, and as he listened to her footsteps slowly fade, the entire apartment was silent once again. He buried his face into his pillow, mentally cursing himself to sleep.

He had made her cry again .

 

[00:00:17:09:27:16]

 

"Maka, don't you think all of this is pointless…?"

Soul was leaning against his pillows, staring at his meister as she fed him. "I mean, I'm down to less than three weeks… I’m just wasting everyone’s effor—”

Maka shoved a spoonful of food in his mouth, and that shut him up. At least enough to make him cough a bit and for her to speak.

"How rude. We’re doing our best, and you're telling me it's all pointless ? That's like saying we’re useless, you asshole.”

Soul chewed his food, watching her every move. It’s the only thing he can do at this point—he can barely lift his arms now. Besides, he wasn’t complaining—if she’d be the last thing he’d see before dying, he’d be content.

However, he couldn’t help but think—maybe he’d collect enough memories of her for afterlife, or for his reincarnation. Maybe he could memorize the way her hair gently fell on her shoulders, and the way her eyes always had courage in them no matter what problem she faced. The way she grew red at every compliment, and the way her hands feel around his own… He did his best to imprint the way his soul feels with her around.

…Maybe he can pass these memories to his reincarnation and send them to find her, just to do what he can’t by then.

Like telling her how much he loved her.

“…I’m sorry.” Soul mumbled in a hushed voice after he swallowed, and Maka turned to him.

“…For what ?”

“For putting you through this.” Soul turned away, avoiding her gaze.

“And for the insensitive remark.”

 

[00:00:11:17:25:03]

"This is really uncool…"

Soul’s room was cramped due to their friends surrounding his bed. Blackstar was leaning against his door with his arms crossed, while Tsubaki stood next to him with a timid smile. Kid was fixing his shelf (much to Soul’s disapproval) to look symmetrical, and the sisters were sitting next to Maka, who was sitting next to his right on his bed.

"I feel like I'm in my funeral already."

"Please don't talk like that." Kid turned to him for a bit. "We're just visiting, is all."

"Visiting ? You're all here thrice a week—I'm growing roots up my ass but I'm not deaf."

Blackstar managed to chuckle, impressed by his snarky retort. "Down to eleven days you're still as salty as usual."

"Yes, and he's going to have more days, Blackstar. No need to count." Maka grumbled under her breath and the entire room went quiet. Soul found it really annoying—did they really raid his room just to watch him on his bed ?

Well, he does appreciate seeing all of them together after so long. Being stuck in bed kicked him and Maka out of any sleepovers or hang-out events, but…

Even Patty looked sad. He had always found her bubbliness weird, but he’d never seen her so down and quiet..

This isn’t what he wanted at all.

 

[00:00:09:04:11:58]

 

"Maka said you wanted to talk to us."

"I do." Soul struggled to sit up, and Tsubaki quickly offered her help. He can barely move at this point—even talking made him feel so tired…“Thanks. I feel like an old dude or something…"

"Trust me, you don't look like one." Tsubaki replied as she fixed his pillows to cushion his back. Blackstar found the reply suspicious, but he decided to shrug it off.

"Now that you’re up and pretty, you can spill the beans.”

Soul rolled his eyes at his sentence. “Since when did you get smart enough for idioms ?”

“Blame Maka, she says a lot of them.” Blackstar crossed his arms in an annoyed huff. “I’m actually surprised you don’t do the same. It’s like walking with a dictionary everyday.”

Tsubaki let out a giggle at their exchange. Soul loved the current mood of the room, but he had to tell them something serious—so it didn’t take long until it was back to being solemn.

"I know you guys know what Maka's doing is pointless."

Uncomfortable silence blanketed the room, just as he expected. Tsubaki stood still, speechless from his words while Blackstar had narrowed his eyes at him. "…Are you giving up ?"

"Giving up and knowing the truth are two different things.” Soul let a heavy sigh escape. He hated looking at other people’s eyes lately—all he ever saw was sadness and pity for him.

“I just wanted to ask you guys to keep her grounded and look after her when I… You know."

The atmosphere took a turn for the worse. He felt it burden him as every second passed.

"But… Soul, there has to be another-…"

Tsubaki's words died down from the stare Soul gave. Then, she lowered her gaze, feeling Blackstar’s arm wrap around her waist in a silent attempt of comfort.

"That’s a stupid favor. Even if you didn’t say it, we’d all still do it." Blackstar snorted. “What, do you think we’d abandon her ? We grew up together, y’know.”

“Yeah—you’re the main reason she’s a reckless and stubborn woman.” Soul managed to grin at him a little. “I was just making sure.”

He knew Blackstar always found ways to lighten up the mood even with the littlest words, and he appreciated it. He had to admit it wasn’t something everyone else can do.

However, he caught him staring at his eyes, as if silently asking something. Tsubaki kept her gaze on the ground and Blackstar patted her shoulder, but he was more focused on cornering him.

He knew that look—that questioning stare. They are best friends, after all. Blackstar acted like a huge dumbass, but it didn’t mean he was actually stupid about everything.

Do you want me to tell her instead ?

He saw that question coming a mile away, he didn’t even need to hear it. Soul returned the gaze—and with the way Blackstar straightened up, he knew he got his response loud and clear.

Never.

“…We should go.” Blackstar whispered as he turned to Tsubaki, planting a kiss on her forehead. Soul found them cute—at least until he realized how he never got the chance to see them like this. The entire fuss started a few days after they found each other, and everyone was sad for him ever since.

Tsubaki bowed as an apology for being too emotional, even when both him and Blackstar told her it was okay. As the door closed behind them when they left, he couldn’t help but wonder…

Was he really that much of a burden ?

 

[00:00:06:23:11:27]

 

It was already 3 AM, but Maka was still wide awake. It was bad, she knew it was bad—but Soul only had six days left, and every inch of her body is in pure anxiety.

Contrary to what she told Soul days ago, she hadn’t slept for days. Sure, she managed to nap between classes—but she was kept awake by the moon. Thinking and thinking…

So far, she had finished every book in the souls section of the library. Kid kindly went with her to the library everyday, accessing books from higher levels with his ID for more information.

She appreciated the gesture, but they barely got anything from it.

…Well, maybe something.

She found out that the soul-clocks aren’t just black and white. The same person can try again, and there are cases where people got claimed by the clock even when they were rejected by it before.

“You still have three years, Maka. I suggest that you should try again. I have a strong feeling about it.”

That was Kid’s advice. He may not have his own time limit or his own soulmate, but he is the shinigami’s son after all—he perfectly understood how souls worked. According to him, they mature with given time—and the clocks consider this, too.

In all honesty, she felt bad about having to ask him about it. His longing to learn what it feels like to be a normal human wasn’t a secret he kept well—she had always noticed how he adored his partners in a different way.

However, Kid is right. She does have to try again. What if she was the one they’ve been looking for this whole time ?

She has to try.

 


 

 

Soul jolted awake from a loud crash outside his room. The disturbance alone gave him a massive headache, and his ceiling was slowly swirling—according to what he’s seeing, that is.

What in the world was happening ?

The crash seemed to come from Maka’s room, which sent sparks of anxiety in him. He prayed to everything holy that it wasn’t a kishin egg ambushing their apartment; He can’t even get up, so he was damn sure he can’t transform for Maka either.

If Maka is okay, so to speak—

Another crash. Soul forced himself to sit up, feeling his blood rush. It took him everything just to keep his vision still, his entire being resisting his own movements. His arms and legs were trembling but Soul willed them to work—they have to work. What if Maka was in danger ?

“In order to keep you alive, it’ll start saving and storing energy—in short, it’ll be harder for you to move. The more you exert energy, the more it takes from your soul.”

Stein’s words rang somewhere far in his head, but Soul didn’t care.

So far, the adrenaline got him up to his feet. He took a trembling step and another, black dots swimming in front of him. He managed to make a third step, but it didn’t last—

He collapsed just in front of his door, and managed to grab the door knob before he fell to the ground. He then clung to it for support, leaning against the wall.

Sloppily twisting it, the door swung open on its own. All of a sudden, there was a lot of air coming from Maka’s room; Soul had used the wall as both cover and support to keep him on his feet, but he managed to arch his neck enough for him to see the cause of commotion.

There was a lot of light coming from her room. Her door is stuck open due to the strong gusts of wind, and it didn’t take him too long to find the source of light.

Soul felt his entire body shudder. That was his clock in her hands; it was glowing bright blue and Maka’s own soul was glowing as well. Her eyes were closed and she stood still, unaware about the chaos in her surroundings…

He was about to take a step out of his hiding spot when everything came to a sudden stop. Despite the sudden silence, there was a lot of noise that followed; a crash, the sound of his clock tumbling on the ground… But above all of these, he heard a loud thud as her body hit the floor.

“You can die next week if you use up too much of your energy, so don’t .”

He didn’t care if he’d die then and there. Soul took every ounce of strength he had left, and used it to push himself forward. He used the momentum to sprint into her room, unable to keep his balance after he passed her door frame—

He let out a loud groan as he hit the floor in a painful thud. Soul can’t feel anything from his entire body—nothing apart from the excruciating headache, that is. He was stuck face-down on the floor and he can’t even move his hands…

Soul struggled to turn his face to his right, his cheek serving as a cushion against the cold floor. His entire world was spinning, and everything looked so blurry to him. All he can see in front of him is a mess in green and yellow clothes, and tangled strands of gold.

The huge lump of blurry colors seemed to jolt, and he could hear distant coughing. He struggled to lift his arm, wanting to reach out to her and make sure she was okay…

But his luck already ran out. His arm didn’t listen to him and he was stuck watching her cough out blood like years ago. The only difference was he managed to carry her to a hospital despite being on the verge of fainting himself.

“M-maka…” He mumbled, tears starting to well in his eyes. He was afraid of losing her— horrified at the thought of having to live without her by his side. The blurred-down figure kept jolting, and he was on his wits end as he tried to move again—

He only started to feel relief when she seemed to move and sit up. She was still coughing, but soon enough he felt her hands move his hair away from his eyes. It didn’t do much since everything was blurry to begin with, but he felt better knowing she didn’t pass out from the pain like years ago.

“—are you here… How did—here—sorry…”

He didn’t understand what she was saying at all; his head was hammering and his heart was beating way too loud for his preference, but he’d recognize that voice any day.

He just wished it didn’t sound so petrified when he heard it.

He felt himself being lifted and being set down on a bed, but she didn’t lay him down. Instead, she placed him against what felt like her bed’s headboard, her hands gripping his shoulders tight to make sure he wouldn’t fall sideways. He can barely make out her face right in front of him, but it’s an improvement compared to earlier.

“Can you—……—me ? Hey—”

Soul can only curse on the inside. Did it really take this much from him just to get to her ? It irked him so much—he used to walk alongside her all the time, and now he can’t even make sure she was safe…

The blur was slowly starting to fade, and Soul can finally see how close her face was. They were only a few inches apart, and her anxieties were written all over her face.

“H-heyya…” He mumbled, managing to force a grin—although it felt more of a grimace.

Soul felt her grip on his shoulders tighten. Then, he was pulled forward—and the next thing he felt were her arms keeping him in an embrace. He rested his face on her shoulder, sighing in relief.

At least he was sure she was okay. He paid the price—he’s still paying, actually—but at least she was here right where he can see her.

It took a long while for him to regain the strength to speak more than just one word, and it seemed like Maka understood. She was shaking quite badly—but even then, he felt her gently patting his back.  

“…Are you okay…?”

Soul’s voice only came out as a hushed whisper, and he immediately regretted asking. He couldn’t see her at the moment, but he felt her break down on his shoulder and burst into sobs. However, he can only imagine the tears running down from her eyes.

It wasn’t hard at all; Maka had always been a messy crier. Soul can tell because they’ve watched a lot of dramatic movies that made her bawl like a baby, and even though he teased her a lot about it, he found it adorable.

But right now was different. She was breaking into pieces right in front of him—hell, she may have been holding back for so long, and it made his heart wrench. Each sob felt like a stab through his chest, and Soul was barely able to stop himself from shedding his tears as well.

He had caused this. He made her cry again.

“Y-you idiot—you’re not supposed to move— you needed to conserve your strength ! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING ?!” Maka scolded in anger, furious but not intimidating at all. She was breaking into hiccups and sobs for at least twice each minute, shoulders shaking as she tried to breathe.

Soul can finally feel his body again, and his surroundings became clearer. However, he paid no attention to it—Maka’s embrace was more comfortable than anything else, and he’d rather not move.

If he could move, however, he’d hug her back. Drawing circles on her back always seemed to work when she had a hard time calming down from crying.

But he can’t. And it was torture.

It didn’t take too long until Maka’s pride regained control. Soon enough, she held her breath in, trying to stop her tears… Soul wished she didn’t find it necessary to be so brave all the time.

“…I thought we had a deal about soul-clocks…”

Maka couldn’t hide how her entire body stiffened into place. Soul couldn’t hide how betrayed he felt, either.

“How much did you lose this time…?”

Silence. Maka still sniffled momentarily, but it took her a while to respond.

“I…It’s not important.”

Hell no. He wasn’t buying that.

“Please…?”

Soul regretted choosing that word—he sounded like a kid asking for candy. However, Maka took a deep breath, starting to sob again.

“I… I lost a year and a half…”

He felt his heart sink.

Dammit .

This was his fault. If he took that damn clock seriously in the first place, this whole mess wouldn’t even exist. But now he’s down to his last six days, and Maka was burning herself in an attempt to save him.

He was glad she couldn’t see him, because he only started letting more tears go. He didn’t sob—unlike her, he can control how much he did—but his breathing patterns had changed into short huffs, and he was sure she noticed.

You deserve so much more.

“…Y-you… You have to promise me you won’t try again..” Soul whispered to her ear, and Maka went still underneath him. “I’ll only be here for six more days… I won’t forgive you if you die before I do..”

Maka drew a heavy breath, and Soul only felt his heart sink lower.

“…Okay.”

Both of them were never good liars to begin with.

 

[00:00:00:23:14:00]

 

"Maka, calm down—"

"No, Blackstar,  shut up. My partner's dying in his room and you’re telling me to calm down ?!"

"He's right, Maka. Being hot-headed would get us nowhere." Kid's voice rang throughout their apartment. Soul was stuck in his room but with it being so quiet at the moment, he can hear his friends from the apartment living room… His ears were ringing and breathing felt like a chore.

He was down to twenty-three hours, stuck in his bed—but he can sense all the tension from the other room as if they were arguing right in front of him.

Speaking of the other room…

"You're real lucky you get to skip all this countdown bullshit, Kid." Maka spat bitterly, and Soul was sure she was two seconds away from punching everyone in the room.

"Maka, please. I know you aren’t thinking straight at the moment, bu—”

"I know i’m not thinking straight, Tsubaki—as if anyone can think straight at a time like this ! Don’t any of you understand ?! He’s DYING ! “

"Maka !" Blackstar yelled, and by the tone of his voice, he was dead serious. He grabbed her shoulders and was gripping her tightly, as if trying to shake her back to reality.

“Let me go, you blue gremlin—”

"He’ll be okay ! We’ll think of something—”

"You DON’T understand ! We’ve ran out of options !” Maka started pushing him away but Blackstar kept his tight grip, so she decided to keep punching his chest as hard as she could. Blackstar grunted and recoiled from the brute force.

“You’re just saying that because you’re already safe ! HE’S NOT ! You don’t know how it feels like !”

Soon enough, Blackstar had to let her go. His chest hurt—he had to admit she packed a painful punch, and Maka took a step back as she visibly trembled in outrage.

"Guys…" Patty mumbled, frowning at the sight of what Soul's time limit brought upon the group. Liz stood right next to her in total silence, unable to think of a logical action except not contributing to the noise. Everyone was on the verge of breaking down—and Maka is on the very edge of her sanity.

"How are we gonna think of something if you don’t stop throwing a tantrum ?! You’re being too loud—"

"Oh, now I’m too loud ? You yell EVERYDAY ! I feel bad for Tsubaki because she’d have to take care of your immature ass—”

"YOU’RE the one being immature right now !”

Both of them were up for each other’s neck. Maka was glaring up at him, fists balled and clenched tight. She was smaller compared to Blackstar and the gesture made her look so brave—if not for her body visibly shaking.

Blackstar, however, returned the gaze unfazed. He was fiercely looking down at her with his arms crossed. The tension was getting too overwhelming, and Liz had held Patty close because she started sobbing sometime in the middle of their yelling.

Tsubaki turned to stare at Kid, and he already got the message.

"Maka, Blackstar—now is definitely not the time for a fist-fight.”

Kid forced himself between the both of them, pushing them away from each other. Everything was spiraling out of control and it was his duty to keep everyone's sanity tied to the ground… Or at least he felt like it.

"I was trying to knock some sense into her head, Kid—she’s the one who started throwing fists.” Blackstar growled in spite, cracking his knuckles as he crouched into a fighting stance. “Maybe a few punches from me would help—”

“Blackstar, NO.” Tsubaki threatened from behind him, and he seemed to have held back a little. However, he kept his threatening glare, and Maka didn’t even flinch at his remark.

"You can’t blame me, all you know is to throw hands, you stupid fuck. Maybe you can send me to the afterlife, too—”

“We are NOT going to kill each other on my watch.” Kid declared loud and clear, the authority in his voice demanding silence from the room. Maka was breathing heavily from all her pent-up emotion, and Blackstar was silently watching her every move.

“Tell that to her. She’s the one acting like a freak.”

Asshole—

“You both need to get back to your senses. I think it’s about time I remind you that Soul is just in his room, and he can clearly hear us right now.”

Maka went stiff, devastated from the realization. Kid was right—Soul wouldn’t want her this frustrated… If he was here, he’d hold her back.

And so her head hung low in defeat, standing up straight and recollecting her composure. She searched for her courage in silence but she felt like it left her behind—just when she needed it the most.

“Looks like Soul’s your anger restraint, huh ?” Blackstar mumbled, finally straightening up and leaving his fighting stance. “You turn feral when he’s not around. Guess that means we really need to save his dusty ass.”

“Thank father .” Kid sighed in relief, and no one spoke after that. The silence was peaceful after the entire yelling session, but the atmosphere was still tense.

“…So what do we do now ?” Blackstar asked, keeping his gaze focused on Maka but on a calmer note this time. She always had a plan. There had to be something…

But there wasn’t. With the way her shoulders slumped, he knew she had nothing, too.

It wasn’t hard for him to notice how lonely she seemed. What’s harder for him was to endure seeing her look so discouraged and miserable; he had spent all those years growing up with her, and not once did he ever see her so helpless. She always found the courage to keep going forward and she never gave up on anything. Not even once.

Not until today.

But to everyone’s surprise, Patty went over and gave her a tight hug, which served as the last straw. As much as Maka wanted to keep her emotions safe inside her, there’s only so much a person can handle.

Soul can hear her sobbing from his room, and all he could do was stare at the ceiling with his own tears. He never feared the thought of death and he’d never hesitate with putting his life on the line in exchange of her safety, but he didn’t want to die like this . Hearing his friends and her breaking into a million pieces because of him…

He hated himself even more. For someone who felt pain when she’s troubled and upset, all he ever did was to make her cry.

“It’s over… I-I didn’t find anything at all—nothing can save him from this and I hate it—”

Contrary to earlier, the group is now huddled together in a tight circle. Patty was the person Maka was clinging to and the blonde didn’t mind—despite crying herself, she was the one to pull her into a hug because Patty knew she badly needed one.

She wasn’t wrong.

The others can only watch. Tsubaki was doing her best not to cry, too, and Liz was patting Maka’s back in an attempt to ease her.

“What about resonating with his clock ? Did you try it yet ?” Kid carefully suggested, patiently waiting for her response.

“…I—” Maka coughed, and she desperately rubbed her eyes. “…I lost a year and—and a half a few—days ago… Soul made me—,” She was interrupted by her hiccup again, “…He made promise I won’t—do it again…”

“Maka, if it’s okay…” Tsubaki mumbled in hesitation, before continuing. “What did his clock ask from you ?”

Maka sat still, staring at the floor underneath her. Everyone sat in anticipation. She remembered those questions loud and clear—

Resonating with Soul’s clock brought her to a place similar to the black room—black and red themed. The only difference is that it didn’t have anything in it—no piano, no furnitures… Maka was all alone.

She was dressed in her black blood outfit, too.

“You’re trying again.”

A voice spoke from behind her, and Maka turned around.

It was someone who looked a lot like Soul, but his teeth weren’t sharp and he looked a few years older. He was leaning against the wall, arms crossed.

She remembered seeing him before, from some of Soul’s old photos. This man is his brother, Wes Evans.

Just like last time.

“Didn’t I make you leave years ago ?”

Maka was afraid, but she stood her ground. She stared back at Wes, unfazed. “Am I really not his soulmate ?”

“I’m taking a year and a half from you this time, so think carefully about what you’re about to say.”

Maka stilled in her spot. He ignored her question by deciding to engage right away and she found it rude—but it only meant she might save him faster, so she went along with it.

“Do you love him ?”

“Y—”

“Even if he’s pretty much everything you’re afraid of ?”

Being interrupted made her stop, and Maka stared at him in disbelief. “What are you saying ? I am not afraid of Soul.”

“Aren’t you, now ?” Wes stood up straight, taking a small step toward her direction. “Alright. Let me give you examples, then…”

He then stared down on the floor, as if trying to fish for the best ones… Then, he looked back and stared right into her eyes.

“You’re scared of him because he knows you too well. You’re also scared of completely falling in love with him because of your parents’ divorce—you think that if the two of you got married, you’d end up in the same path.”

Maka furrowed her eyebrows, starting to grow nervous as each second passed. She was doing her best to will her courage to take over, but the thought of his words actually happening was setting her heart on fire.

Fear was winning.

“You’re afraid he’d wake up one day and leave you while you slept. You’re so scared of being abandoned by him, you decided to keep your emotions away from him in order to feel safe.” He continued advancing slowly, but Maka was stuck to her spot.

“That’s not true ! I locked them away because I—”

“Was afraid that he never really saw you as anything more than a friend, and that your wavelengths would unmatch if it got awkward. You covered it up as something to protect your partnership, but it’s not.”

The man was right in front of her now, and their height difference forced Maka to look up. He was looking down at her with a coy smile.

“You know you like how he’s bedridden, because that means he doesn’t have a choice but to stay somewhere you know you can find him.”

Maka was stunned. The man’s smile turned into a grin.

“That’s kinda selfish, isn’t it ?”

“I don’t… Wanna talk about it.”

Tsubaki understood right away, and didn’t press on. Maka bit her lip, her hands balling up into fists.

After that moment, she remembered being dragged out of that world and waking up on the floor. Her chest ached and she tasted blood when she struggled to breathe; a year and a half’s worth of her soul is fatal—she does have to admit she’s still in pain up to this day.

She didn’t tell him about having to drink medicine because of it, too.

She wouldn’t have the energy to get up by then, but she saw Soul next to her. He looked terrible—his eyes were badly glazed over and she swore she saw tears from them. She’ll never forget how his entire body felt limp that night—it’s as if he scraped down the barrel of his soul, and he couldn’t even focus on anything for a long while.

All that fuss to run and check on her.

“Maka,” It was Liz this time, with her hand casually placed over her shoulder. Maka blinked back to reality and turned to her, with Liz motioning to the direction of Soul’s room.

“…Maybe third time's the charm.”

Maka stared at her for a long time, and Liz only gave her a smile. She was sure they knew about the worst-case consequence, but they knew it won’t stop her. It is the best option they have left, after all.

Her friends seemed to agree with her, too. And now they were just waiting for her to do it herself.

Soul would hate her if she tried it again, but she’d rather have that than spend her whole life regretting how she didn’t do everything to save him.

Her courage is back. She had made up her mind.

“I’ll…” Maka mumbled, pulling away from Patty and standing up. “…You guys can just stay here. I’ll go see him.”

The group watched in silence as Maka stood up, walking to the door. However, before entering—

“Pigtails,”

Maka paused, turning to the group—specifically Blackstar—in confusion. He stared at her with a grin, but she can tell how much he was faking it.

“You better come back in one piece.”

For the first time in a few weeks, Maka didn’t fake the smile she gave.

“I will.”

Wes won’t scare her this time. She wasn’t going to fail.

Maka entered the room, closing the door behind her. Upon sight of her, Soul’s face lit up for a few seconds—managing a toothy grin despite his ashen appearance. “Heyya.”

She gave him a soft smile, deciding to sit next to him on his bed. His clock sat on his nightstand, blinking innocently as if it wasn’t such a vile thing.

“They’re all singing kumbaya out there ? You all went quiet after mister death boy yelled.” He mumbled, turning to look at his door. Maka mustered a light giggle, although it may have sounded like a sob instead… Unlike her, Soul wasn’t easy to read—but he always showed how he felt through his eyes.

Considering he lets you see them, that is.

His eyes used to be such a vibrant crimson, but it had lost its color and all she had left to stare at was a dull red.

“…Yeah.”

She knew he was trying to lighten up the mood for her; Soul had always tried to cheer her up whenever she looked down in the dumps. Anyone can tell he had a hard time talking due to his cracking voice, and yet he kept talking to her as casually as he can.

“You’re afraid of him because he knows you too well.”

Maka was reminded by her mission. And so, she turned to the wall next to his bed, avoiding his gaze.

“Since you probably didn’t hear it from outside… I’m here to tell you I’m going to try resonating with the clock again.” She stated, and the grin on his face faded.

“…What ?”

“I said i’m going to try again.” Maka said as she abruptly turned to him, which was a huge mistake; Soul might be too weak to even lift his finger, but his shock and horror was still evident.

“Are you kidding me ?! That’s suicide !” He yelled, coughing right after—the abrupt reaction seemed to put him in pain, and Maka swore she almost took her words back. He glared down on his body and it was obvious that he was willing it to move, but nothing happened.

Disappointed, he returned to her gaze and met her eyes.

“You’ve already lost half of your lifespan, Maka. I will not condone this.”

Maka, however, managed to snort. “You do realize you can’t talk me out of this, right ?”

“No, I—” Soul turned away and let out a frustrated groan. “Maka, please. Listen to me just this once. You’ve already tried twice and you’ve lost too much from last… time..”

She didn’t say anything, she knew she didn’t have to. Soul’s words died down on their own as soon as he looked back at her, staring at each other’s eyes in silence.

She had never seen him cry—but she swore she saw tears starting to gather in his.

“Please don’t do this… I’m begging you.”

He was terrified. Soul rarely got terrified, and she can’t help but wonder—why was he so afraid of sending her to save him when he does the opposite on his own accord ? She had also noticed the way his eyes lingered, and how he always talked as if there’s always something he wanted to say…

She had a feeling, but she was afraid of expecting too much.

“You'd do the same for me.” Maka stated, and Soul seemed to have finally lost it. The way his expression darkened and glared at her indicated his loss of control over his words or whatever he felt at the moment—his walls came crashing all around him and Maka was a first-hand witness.

“Look, just… Just find someone else. I’m not the only scythe to ever exist—just leave me behind.”

His own words hurt him, but Soul spat them out anyway. Maka stared at him in confusion, and it frustrated him because she acted like she didn’t know.

I don’t deserve you.

“Why would I do that ? You’re my partner !”

Soul scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Yeah. Partners. We’re just partners, right ? So why don’t you just drop my useless ass and go ?”

I’m not worthy of you.

Maka did her best to remain calm, but her heart was racing. His breathing was ragged and he was doing his best to chase after it, while Maka sat in anticipation for his next words. Soul wanted to stop; he begged his entire being to shut up , because he knew she can’t see this side of him.

Everything will change. She’ll be out of his reach for good.

“You’re not useless, Soul.” Maka replied, a slight frown forming on her lips. Those damn lips—

“You mean a lot to me. I’m saving you because you matter to me. I won’t leave you for anyone else.”

You’re too good for someone like me.

Soul scoffed once again, faking a chuckle and turning away. His eyes burned as his tears gathered in them, betraying him as they escaped despite his will. “Of course you’d say that…”

Maka was stunned. She had never seen him cry before, and she didn’t know how to react. Soul was stuck paralyzed on his bed with his tears overflowing on their own, and Maka fought the urge to hold him and wipe them away.

Say it.

He looked like he was suffering in intense pain, but not from his condition. His sobs shook his entire body and Maka felt cold as she watched.

“…You have to tell me what’s happening…” Maka scooted closer to him, and it only seemed to make him sob worse. Soul kept avoiding her gaze.

Say it to me.

“I-I can’t… Things will change—I’m already enough burden as it is…”

I’m too weak to catch up to you.

“You are not a burden to me, Soul. You never were.” Maka declared, cautiously placing her hands on his cheeks. His skin felt cold but his tears were scalding; she gently turned his face and made him meet her eyes. Soul looked hesitant, his dull, red ones filled with insecurities and fear…

You’re stronger than this.

“I won’t leave you, no matter what. So please, tell me.”

Her hands were warm. Soul was stuck staring at her, searching for any proof that she was lying and he found none. Her eyes showed courage and bravery, and his heart ached so bad.

Just give up on me.

Always so out of his reach. Out of his league. He was a huge coward but Maka was always brave.

Maka remained patient. She didn’t search his eyes for anything at all—and even if her own heart was beating too fast because of his words, she remained calm. She believed in him. She already knew where this was headed, but she believed he can say it on his own.

He’d trust her.

I’ll never give up on you, so say it.

“…You have to stop doing this to me.” He muttered, breaking into soft sobs in her hands. “I don’t… I don’t deserve you.”

Maka was stunned by his words, speechless as he looked down. He couldn’t stand to look her in the eye… Not anymore. Not after what he’s done and currently doing.

Say you want to call me yours.

I can never call you mine.

“I’ve… I’ve always loved you… I’ve been in love with you for as long as I can remember—but we…” Soul bit his lip, his sharp teeth drawing blood right away. His tears grew worse and Lord Death , he wanted to stop sobbing like a huge mess.

“…We aren’t meant to be.. Fate didn’t tie us together, Maka—and… And It hurts so bad… I wake up everyday knowing fate said I don’t deserve someone like you..”

Maka got the urge to do something impulsive in order to calm him and his fears down, and she didn’t hesitate. After all, she did feel the same. Soul mattered to her just as much as she did to him.

Her hands forced him to meet her gaze. Soul watched as she narrowed the distance between them, warm hands holding his cold skin…

She pressed her lips against his.

Soul was too surprised to move at first, face flushed from the sudden contact. He didn’t see it coming—she was sitting there as if she was weighing and comparing heavy decisions a few seconds ago, and then suddenly she was kissing him with so much passion. Her lips felt soft and it burned against his own, sending tingling feelings from his neck down to his spine—

It took him a long while to respond. Hell, he was sure he’d be stuck frozen even if he had the energy to move.

However, it didn’t take too long until he allowed himself to melt in the kiss. After all, he can’t deny how much he wanted this; His eyes had closed as he returned it with just as much passion as hers—if not more. He wanted to hold her closer , feel her face with his own hands, but he couldn’t even lift a finger. His entire existence had felt cold, dead and disposable—at least until this very moment.

She re-ignited his will to live with just a kiss.

Maka was the first one to pull away for air, but she stayed close enough for him to feel her breath on his skin. It was electrifying —Soul had never felt his heart beat so fast, and he had never felt so alive. He felt more alive than he did even without the burden of his fading soul. His fears were fading away bit by bit.

“I love you too,” Maka mumbled under her breath as she pressed her forehead on his, noses lightly brushing each other’s. Soul had fireworks in his chest, leaning into her hold. He was ecstatic. He couldn’t believe this was really happening. He felt warm and everything felt more uplifting…

“I love you too, Soul.”

Until he remembered.

He only had today left to live. Life was cruel—it held the only thing he ever asked for out of his reach for his entire life, and now that he finally has it in his hands—has her in his grasp… They take it away from him again.

His heart slowly falling and shattering in his stomach was a suffocating feeling, and his tears fought to escape again despite him rejecting them passage. His throat tasted bitter as he cursed the entire world and how it worked.

Maka let a breathy chuckle of relief escape her as she opened her eyes, the feeling of his lips lingering on hers. There was a faint taste of blood from the contact, mainly because he did bite his lip earlier…

However, it faded as soon as she took notice of his returning tears. Soul refused to look her the eye again, barely a few inches apart from each other’s faces.

“What’s wrong ?” She asked in worry, and Soul can only look away. “…Was it the kiss ? Was I too straightforward ? I’m so sorry, I—”

“N-no ! No, it’s not that… The kiss was perfect, I swear...” Soul insisted, feeling anxious as he searched for words. Maka’s hands felt so stiff against his skin, too, and Soul knew she was preparing for the worst.

“…Then why ?”

Her voice didn’t hide how discouraged she was. Soul took a deep breath, and his tears threatened to fall once again.

“…Why just… Now…?” He whispered back, voice brittle as he squeezed his eyes shut in order to escape her gaze. The action let his tears go, and Maka was devastated.

“…What do you mean why just now …?”

Soul did the mistake of deciding to look at her, his tears flowing non-stop once again. It pissed him off so bad. He probably looked dumb as he trembled from all his pent-up emotions, but Maka kept her eyes on his despite their closeness.

Those eyes. It’s those eyes. Those damn green eyes catch him off-guard every time— even when they’re full of sadness—and only now did he truly regret not admitting to his feelings earlier.

“…I’m dying , Maka… It’s too late.”

Real smart, Soul .

He cursed to himself when Maka slowly pulled away, breathing heavily as her own tears started to gather. She forgot about the problem they had to face, and now she can’t stop her tears from rolling down her cheeks. Soft sobs started to rise from her, and Soul would give anything to hold her for her comfort.

He had made her cry again, and now it felt like hurting people he loved is the only thing he was ever good at.

But Maka regained her composure after a small while. She was determined once again, aggressively wiping her own tears and meeting his eyes.

“…You won’t die today.” Maka stated, her courage overpowering the brittleness of her voice. “I’ll save you.”

Soul burned on the inside, his anxiety starting to grow worse. However, he glared at her in an attempt to hide his fear.

“No.” He threatened, ignoring how he sounded like he was about to cry again. Maka stood up, and Soul was left following her with his gaze.

“You can’t talk me out of this. Not now.”

“Maka, please—”

“Don’t you want to live for me ?”

Soul stopped in his tracks, stunned by her words. It felt like he was splashed with ice-cold water and he was unable to respond. Meanwhile, Maka was looking down at him with an evident frown spread across her lips. The look alone made his heart sink.

Soul found himself swimming in his own tears again, his own thoughts triggering all of him undone. The littlest sense of self he still had earlier went down the drain; his sobs became untamable and his shoulders trembled from his soft cries.

He can’t say no to her venturing alone in that damn clock again, because now he actually wanted to live. She was right. He wanted to hide it—tell her he was okay with fading from existence just to keep her safe, but the younger Maka’s voice from her soul-clock replayed in his head.

“Dying for someone is easy. Living for them is not.”

When he finally gathered enough courage to look her back in the eye, he can only feel his heart wrench at the sad smile she gave him.

“I’m sorry, I picked the worst timing… It probably sounds like goodbye, but it’s not.” Maka’s sentence ended with a faint giggle, and his surroundings became blurry as his tears increased. He had never been a messy crier; he didn’t even cry this much before, but he was having a hard time breathing due to his sobbing.

Maka sat back down once again, holding him and wiping his tears.

“…Y-you… You have to come back—” Soul mumbled, quickly ending his sentence in an attempt to stop another sob from escaping him.

“Promise me you’ll come back…”

Soul watched her as she let go of his cheeks, her smooth hands gently taking his. Then, she brought it up to her lips, planting a soft kiss on his ring finger. He couldn’t move his hand at the moment, but the gesture sent tingling sensations from where her lips left contact.

“I’ll come back to you… I promise.

He was terrified, but now she trusted her more than his fears. What reassured him the most was the way she set his hand down on his lap, and the light peck she left on his forehead. Soul watched her get back up on her feet, giving him the smile he’d grown to love.

“You’ll wait for me, right ?”

Despite his tears, Soul couldn’t help but smile back, watching her pick up his soul-clock from his nightstand. She was such a sunshine in his life—he never understood how she made everything feel so… Easy. There are times when even smiling was hard for him and she’d come crashing with something unusual, and he’d find it in him to laugh again.

“…I will. I promise.”

It’s safe to say he can face her soul-clock again. He’s sure of what he’s feeling for her now; he never loved her because she helped him escape from his problems… He learned to love her because she inspired him to be better. He expected her to hate his flaws as much as he did but she did the exact opposite. She was the one who believed in him when he gave up on himself.

But now, seeing her happy was enough. He was willing to keep her happy. He’d stay in this cursed world if it meant being with her.

Maka gave him a satisfied smile, turning to stare down at the clock. She used her wavelength and engaging a resonance link to it, her soul glowed bright blue. The clock responded in no time, glowing the same bright blue a well…

The room was still the same as it was days ago. Maka stood still in the middle of endless black and red tiles, turning to look around for Wes. He usually appeared through a door frame that sprung out of nowhere, specifically right behind her.

He didn’t. Instead, a black door appeared right in front of her, opening on its own. It had a staircase leading downwards, and Maka didn’t hesitate to enter. Her heels clicked against the tiles and the sound echoed throughout the empty area, following her as she calmly walked downstairs…

Another door. Maka was confused, but she decided to open it herself this time.

It only lead to more stairs.

The cycle lasted for minutes, and the more doors she entered, the faster she ran down them. She would’ve preferred her boots for this, but this wasn’t the real world anyway. Her feet surely won’t hurt there as much as it does right now.

Halfway down to what felt like the fiftieth staircase, Maka paused to catch her breath. The dress was clinging to her skin in a way that annoyed her, and sweat ran down from her brow. Grumbling, she raised her foot behind her to undo the ties in her heels, taking the cursed thing off and throwing it aside. She did the same for the other and the ground felt so cold underneath her feet, but she didn’t mind.

She continued running.

Soul stared at her the entire time. The resonance created strong winds again, and it made him struggle to keep his eyes open. His hair is basically being thrown around and he couldn’t move to keep it out of the way.

Come back to me.

“Soul !”

Turning to his door, Soul saw Kid and Blackstar enter the room. They looked alarmed and alert—at least until they saw what was happening.

“What’s up with all the—oh…”

Blackstar blinked, staring at Maka. “She’s doing it…”

“I, uh… Hey guys ? I could use some help here—”

Soul struggled to get his message through the noise, and he was thankful Kid heard him. Grumbling, the shinigami nudged Blackstar and motioned to his direction, sending him rushing to his side.

“Sorry. Here,” Blackstar grunted as he picked him up from his bed—much to Soul’s embarrassment—carrying him on his back. “It’s very windy in here, isn’t it ? Maybe some distance would help since you’re as thin as a twig.”

“Yeah yeah, shut up.” Soul grumbled, rolling his eyes. All the air had dried his tears for him, and now he can hide the fact that he was being such a baby earlier from his friends.

Kid watched Blackstar bring him to his door, before turning to Maka once again. Her eyes were closed and both her soul and the clock glowed blue—with Maka being unbelievably still despite being the source of the strong wind.

All they had to do now was wait.

The doors had an ongoing theme—white, red, black, and all of them had the same golden doorknob. She actually felt like she was going in circles, but had ventured too deep for her to go back up. Upon what finally felt like the one hundredth staircase, Maka stopped in her tracks.

The door was blue now, and there was a faint rhythm of dark-sounding piano past the door. Maka couldn’t help but grin upon recognizing it—she’d never forget that song.

It was the song Soul played for her when they first met. She didn’t really understand it, but she loved the rhythm so much. There was a time when she told him she wanted to slow dance to it, and Soul brushed her off with a chuckle.

Maka twisted the knob open, entering the room with cautious steps. She was thankful they weren’t stairs now, but an actual room instead. It was circular and the entire thing had a theme of white and blue.

Her feet enjoyed the smoothness of the tiles compared to the concrete stairs. The sound came from the far side of the room, blasting through a… disc player thing. The one with a needle,

…She didn’t know what it’s called, but Soul probably did.

Out of curiosity, Maka decided to approach the source of music. Apart from the drawer it sat on, it was the only thing inside the room other than her.

“Congratulations.”

Alarmed, Maka stilled in her spot, turning around to see Wes leaning against the door she just entered through.

“You’re a very stubborn woman, aren’t you ?”

“…You guys coached her into doing this, didn’t you ?” Soul grumbled, and Blackstar went still underneath him. Cornered, the blue-haired wonder turned to Kid, who simply pretended he didn’t hear anything.

Blackstar sent him a subtle glare, betrayed.

“We, uh… Didn’t. Of course we didn’t. That’s all her.” He shrugged, walking out of Soul’s room.

“She was very persistent.” Kid added as he followed suit. Soul only rolled his eyes, snorting.

“You guys are so bad at lying.”

The two culprits looked at each other, and Blackstar let out a groan. “Ugh, I don’t deserve to be framed like this. I didn’t do anything at all ! Blame Kid, he’s the mastermind.”

Offended, Kid turned to glare at Blackstar. Soul was leaning on Blackstar’s right shoulder so his face was stuck in the middle of them, and he was secretly having fun watching them pass the blame around.

“How dare you ? I did no such thing !” Kid exclaimed, and Blackstar snorted.

“You liar. You’re the one who told her she had three years left and she should do it—she told me !”

“Oof. Really ?” Soul turned to Kid, a brow raised. “ You’re the one who told her that ?”

Kid was obviously getting uncomfortable. His golden eyes stared back at Soul’s suspicious ones, and soon enough, he sighed in defeat.

“She looked so helpless… I felt bad. It was the best option around despite it being dangerous, so I offered the choice.” The shinigami frowned, and Soul was stuck speechless. “I apologize.”

“See ? I’m off the hook.” Blackstar snickered, fuming in pride. However, Soul gave the shinigami a weak grin.

“She would’ve found out by herself anyway. It’s not your fault at all, she’s just a natural with being reckless.”

Kid blinked in surprise, his eyebrows raised. “…So, uh… You forgive me ?”

“Yeah, sure.” Soul gave a light nod, and Kid’s face lightened up. It was like someone told him he won a prize he really wanted.

“I’ll make it up to you ! I’ll give you and Maka a mini vacation after this !”

Soul was bewildered, eyes wide at his remark. “Woah, what ? There’s no need—”

“No, no. I insist !” Kid’s eyes were basically sparkling, and at this point Soul knew he had made up his mind.

“…Well… Okay then.”

“Nice. Now all we need is for Maka to come back.” Blackstar said in contentment, and Soul couldn’t help but frown in worry. He wondered what was happening to her inside that resonance…

Kid noticed him drift off in his thoughts, and he decided to pat his back. Soul snapped back to reality, turning to the shinigami.

“She’ll come back, Soul. You just have to trust her.”

Blackstar turned to him as well, grinning wide. “Yep. Stop being a worrywart—she’s tough. She definitely looks innocent but she can kick ass.”

“Indeed.”

Soul couldn’t help but smile at their words. He was sure they were worried for her as well, but they were right.

He just had to trust her and her courage.

His voice was hoarse and husky, but his words were honeyed. His body language whenever he moved sends Maka’s guard up to the ceiling, leading her to watch his every move. She didn’t trust him at all .

However, she kept her composure. With a strong gaze, she crossed her arms with a huff.

“I’m here to save him.”

“Really ?” Wes gave her the same coy smile, amused. “So you’re not afraid of him anymore ?”

“I never was.”

Maka didn’t even hesitate, and it seemed like that intrigued him. Wes took a step closer, and she stood her ground. Something about her had changed… Despite her underlying fear, she radiated confidence within her words, and her eyes only showed courage.

“Soul is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I was never afraid of him… What I’ve been afraid of all along was the future.”

Maka watched his expression shift, turning into something more than amusement. It was as if he was watching a movie, and this was the most interesting part.

“Isn’t that the same thing ? What if he left you behind after a few years ?” He questioned, closing the distance between the two of them.

Maka remained unfazed.

“Soul would never do that.”

“Speaking of kicking ass…” Soul mumbled as he remembered something, and the other two paused in anticipation.

“I heard you all yelling earlier and someone threatened to punch Maka.”

Blackstar froze in his spot, and Kid abruptly held back a chortle. Soul pinned his gaze on the starboy, grinning in a jokingly threatening way.

“It was you.”

“Alright, listen—she was being unreasonable !” Blackstar exclaimed in defense, and Kid started laughing. “Besides, she’s the one who threw fists first. She packed one hell of a punch, I’ll tell you that.”

“Hmm… Yeah. Fair point. But it’s still not cool to hit a girl, you dumbass.”

“Okay okay, geez.” Blackstar huffed. “No need to get all gentle-pants around me.”

“Oh, Soul !” As soon as they got to the living room, Tsubaki stood up from her spot on the couch. She rushed over to help Blackstar set him down.

Upon contact with the couch, Soul sighed in relief, letting himself relax into the cushion. “It’s good to finally have an excuse to leave that damned bed…”

“Maka never took you outside or something ?” Liz joked from her seat on the floor, with Patty reading one of Maka’s old picture books right next to her. “You could use some sun. You’re so pale.”

“She wanted to, but she can’t really carry me. I’m taller than her, y’know ?” He closed his eyes, and he felt everyone else’s watching him.

“I’m tired from all this fuss. I’m taking a nap.”

“What makes you so sure ?” He started circling her, his shoes clicking and echoing throughout the entire room… It made her anxious, but Maka stood still.

She wasn’t going to let her fear take over her again.

“Absolutely nothing. I just know that he won’t leave.”

“You’re full of yourself if you think Soul wouldn’t find someone better than you .” Wes whispered from behind her, and Maka spun around in surprise. She then stepped away from him, glaring. He let out a light chuckle at her response.

“Your parents are soulmates, and they still got divorced. There’s always a huge chance he’d leave you sometime in the future.”

It was scary to watch Soul sleep. Blackstar thought he was already dead twice , and Kid always said otherwise.

“He’s still breathing and his soul is still intact. Stop panicking.”

Tsubaki was the one who went back into his room just to get some pillows and blankets, despite all the ruckus happening in there. She had tried to wake him up, but Soul remained asleep, which Blackstar definitely noticed. Even when she adjusted his position so he laid down as comfortable as possible, his slumber wasn’t disturbed.

“That’s not normal, Kid.” Blackstar mumbled, and Kid had narrowed his eyes.

“He’s still alive… Just not strong enough to stay awake. He can’t be dead, he should still have a few more hours.”

There was silence. No one spoke for a while, until Liz broke the ice.

“Kid,” she said in such a serious tone, immediately earning his attention. “Didn’t Maka say he forced himself to move when she got rejected by the clock days ago ?”

The atmosphere sank into a cold, tension-filled one. Kid was stuck standing in the horror of realization, and it only worsened when Soul started coughing badly. It was dreadful and Tsubaki rushed to his aid, only to whimper at the sight.

Blood trailed down from the corner of his lips, and more came as he continued.

He had less time than any of them were anticipating.

Usually, she’d believe his words. There wasn’t any reason not to, he was saying the truth after all…

But she didn’t. She was at peace with herself; she only needed to close her eyes for a moment to remember how he returned that kiss. His lips still lingered on hers even now, and her doubts had faded ever since he showed her his feelings for the first time. He and his emotions were a total trainwreck with his walls down, but it was enough for her.

“Well, you’re right. There is a huge possibility for that to happen.” Maka mumbled, smiling to herself. “But I know him just as much as he knows me. He doesn’t always tell me his problems and he probably still has a lot secrets… He’ll come around, though. He’s not the type to tell his feelings verbally—he’s more fluent with showing it through his actions. And according to everything he’s done for my sake… I don’t think he’d leave.”

He was silent for a while, studying her and her words.

“And besides, if he did plan to leave—he would’ve been gone years ago. We’ve been partners since we were twelve, and Soul isn’t really patient when it comes to dealing with things he wants nothing to do with.”

Wes stood still, remaining silent. It stretched for so long—she was starting to fear he’d suddenly throw her out again, until he gave her a proud grin.

He resembled Soul so much—except for the normal teeth.

“About time you abandon your trust issues.” He said as he fished for something in his pockets. Maka stood still and watched, puzzled.

Not long after, he pulled something out from it. He then tossed it to her, and Maka frantically caught the small, golden item.

Upon opening her hands, she was surprised to find a key. It was unique because of the base, which is shaped into a soul itself.

“Use it on the box inside the drawer. When you open it, you’d be back out there in one piece. Congratulations.”

“Shit,” Kid muttered to himself as he rushed to his friend’s side. Everyone else did, and Tsubaki used a clean towel to wipe the blood off from his lip.

It was bad—it was the worst. The expression on Soul’s face screamed pain, cold sweat starting to run from his forehead. His entire body was trembling and his skin felt cold, too cold.

“That’s impossible—Maka’s already resonating with his clock ! He shouldn’t be dying !” Blackstar exclaimed, obvious panic straining his voice. Kid had turned away.

“That’s her soul fragment she went after. Not his.”

“We’ll go look for Professor Stein.” Liz was already on her feet, and so was Patty. “Maybe he can do something to stabilize him.”

Kid sent them off without another word, and Blackstar seemed pissed. He sat down beside Soul and started poking his shoulder.

“You asshole. You are not dying on us, you hear me ?! Don’t you even dare. You’re gonna wake up. Stop being lazy already !”

Kid sat still next to him, massaging the bridge of his nose as he did his best to think… He’s a shinigami—maybe he had a power that kept souls intact ? Something, anything to buy him time ?

…Even his father didn’t have such power. He was being delusional.

However, he sensed something from Maka’s room. It wasn’t too strong of a response, but it grabbed his attention enough. It felt like a resonance link…

Kid scrambled to his feet, running to the room. He then twisted the knob and the door clicked open. Maka’s clock has the shape of a grigori soul, and it was glowing. The time limit in the middle continued ticking, and the clock illuminated light all over the unlit room.

It’s engaging a resonance link on its own, Kid thought as he ran in, grabbing the clock. It was reaching out to someone, and he already knew whom.

As soon as he got to the living room, Kid placed the clock on Soul’s chest. He had stopped coughing but he didn’t respond at all—Kid feared he’s gotten too weak to even breathe, but the clock continued its glow.

Everyone in the room was tense—Blackstar had questions but this wasn’t the time. Tsubaki was standing still next to them, frozen and tearful…

It took a while , but Soul’s soul started to glow in response. Unlike Maka’s resonance, its light was weak and his soul almost looked translucent, but it was still something. Kid sighed in relief.

It’s up to him now.

Maka stared at the key for a long time, her tears rising from relief.

“You have been his soulmate all along—I only kicked you out because you always doubted his loyalty. You weren’t as worthy of him as you are now.”

To her surprise, the song from the disc changed. It turned into something slow and soft, earning Maka’s attention as she turned to it.

“This is the music he hears when you resonate with him. Compared to the actual sound of his own soul, he’s more at peace when you’re around… This resonance is exactly why he stopped running away and started facing his problems. For once, his only reason to stay overpowered his reasons to leave. He had a place to call home, and it was anywhere as long as it was with you.”

Maka pried her gaze away from the disc, turning to stare at him. “…Why are you telling me these things ?”

“Because he won’t. I know it because I’m only a manifestation of his soul—I’m not the real Wes. However, it’s him who he subconsciously envied a lot.” He gave her a nonchalant shrug. “The perfect form to guard his soul from the wrong people. He never knew how much he looked out for him.”

Maybe that was why Soul refused to talk about his past… She made a note about it somewhere in the back of her mind.

“You should get going. He needs you.”

 


 

Soul stood in front of the child once again, both of them stuck in the same child’s room. He was confused, because all he remembered was taking a nap…

“…Is this a dream ?” He mumbled, staring down at the younger version of Maka. The child, however, shook her head.

“It’s not.” She informed, keeping her hands behind her back. Soul kept staring at her, watching her every move.

“Why am I here, then ? I didn’t resonate with the clock.”

The child scooted aside, patting the empty space next to her. “Sit.”

The offer seemed suspicious, but Soul reluctantly obliged.

The bed was soft and comfortable, but it was too small for him. For nine-year-old Maka, however, it was just enough. Her feet dangled high above the floor and she watched as she started swinging them back and forth.

“I started the resonance link. Your shinigami friend noticed and brought me to you, and now you’re here.”

Soul watched her, finding the gesture adorable. Unlike years ago, this child didn’t seem so… hostile. Towards him. It was relieving, but he still had questions.

“Well, that’s cool. But it still doesn’t answer why I’m here.” Soul declared, and the girl looked up at him with a slight frown.

”You’re dying.” She announced despite the cute and childlike voice, dead serious. Soul was stunned by her words, turning away and scoffing in disbelief.

“…But I still twenty-something hours… I’m just asleep—"

“You’ve used up the energy saved for those remaining hours. After all, you did run to her when you shouldn’t have.”

“What ?”

“Six days ago.”

Upon realization, Soul froze in his spot. His hands felt clammy and he was anxious, but he looked back at the child straight in her eyes.

“…How much time do I have left, then ?”

“Five minutes.”

Maka was back in his room. The clock in her hands kept illuminating blue, but there wasn’t any indication of time or any number in the display.

She did it. It’s over.

She set the clock down on the nightstand, turning to Soul’s bed only to find it empty. It wasn’t surprising at all; the last time she resonated with the clock, it created quite a chaos… Maybe her friends took him out of the room.

Grinning, Maka ran out of the room. Her footsteps were loud and she ran straight to the living room—

“I did it ! I—…”

Her friends—except the sisters—were huddled around the couch where Soul was laid asleep. All of them looked anxious—Blackstar was poking Soul’s shoulder non-stop, both pissed and worried at the same time. Kid was in high levels of stress with Soul’s wrist in his hand, and Tsubaki was in tears.

…This wasn’t what she was expecting to come back to.

Five minutes is short. It was too short. Soul stared at the floor in horror, clasping his hands together.

He didn’t want to die.

What would she say ?

His chest suffocated him when he thought of how broken she’d be, returning from triumph only to find him dead… He wanted more time with her—he didn’t want things to end like this.

He had always found himself disposable until she proved to him he wasn’t.

It was cruel. The opposite from what he wanted always happened, and it frustrated him so bad. His mind loved to tease him as well because he kept thinking of her lips; the way she wiped his tears and had faith in his feelings, and her promise to be back.

He promised to wait for her.

“…It’s okay, Soul.” The child spoke, breaking the ice. Soul turned his head to look, surprised to hear his name from her.

“I called you here to give you this.”

In the hand she held out was a key. The base held the same shape as Maka’s soul—one with grigori wings.

“You always wished you didn’t exist because you thought you’re nothing but burden. You throw your life away to protect her because you think it’s the least you can do for her, but now you’d do anything to be with her. That includes staying no matter how bad it gets.”

Soul looked down at the key, stunned.

“Maka started being cautious of men at this age. She saw her father with other women a lot and her parents separated because of it. Since then, she forbid herself from trusting anyone with her heart—her parents have been soulmates but they still left each other. She thought everyone would leave her behind, too.”

“Maka…” Blackstar saw her in the tiny hallway, and the three of them turned to her. Despite her return, Blackstar was the only one to get up. He looked like a deer caught in headlights when he saw her but he was quick to hide it with a grin. “Welcome back.”

But she wasn’t dumb. She can see just how much he faked it.

Maka disregarded the gesture, staring past him and gazing at Soul instead. Soul slept on pillows and he had a blanket over him, but he didn’t look comfortable at all. Her clock rested on his chest and his soul glowed in response to it, creating a resonance link.

Kid looked up at her, and she didn’t miss the look of fear in his eyes.

“…What’s happening…”

“He had less time than we were expecting, and he started coughing blood a while ago… Your clock called out to him at the same time so I brought it to him.” Kid turned away.

“His… His pulse stopped two minutes before you came.”

Her entire world crumbled down in front of here and Maka didn’t even remember rushing to his side. Soul looked worse compared to when she left, and his soul was too translucent. Almost like a bubble waiting to pop.

Not fair. This wasn’t fair at all.

The child hopped off from the bed and stood in front of him, giving him the warmest smile. Soul felt his heart skip a beat because of how much she resembled Maka—after all, this child is the younger version of her.

“Maka never left anyone behind because she knew how painful it is to be abandoned. All she ever wanted was for someone to stay in her life, and now you’re willing to live just to be with her. You have been her soulmate all along, but now you’re more than worthy. Congratulations.”

Kid stood up and let her take his place. She held his hand right away, and she was startled at how cold it felt in her hold. It felt like ice and he was stiff, too stiff for her liking, and tears started overflowing from her eyes.

“H-hey… Not cool, Soul, you… You promised—… ” She whimpered, the suffocating feeling in her chest making it hard to talk. Her voice wobbled and he didn’t respond at all—it only made her sobs so much worse.

Blackstar was sitting next to her, but he couldn’t watch. His best friend was dead and his childhood friend is breaking in grief. He can’t believe Soul died just like… that. Not in a fight protecting Maka or satisfying death by old age—they just… Failed. It was bullshit , and he refused to accept it was true.

He stood and stormed out of the apartment with a dark look in his eyes, kicking the door open on his way out. The loud noise made Tsubaki turn in worry, watching him leave it open as he left. He was his best friend, after all. He hated seeing his friends suffer and he’s done everything to protect them, but this was out of his control. He despised it.

Tsubaki was at crossroads. She wanted to be there for her Maka, but Blackstar is dangerous when left alone with overwhelming emotions. After all, Soul did tell them to look after her when this… happens. But Blackstar must've forgotten, or he just expected him to live.

Kid took notice of her dilemma, and gave her a sad smile.

“I’ll stay. Go after him.”

Tsubaki stared apologetically, but she was relieved. Taking his word for it, she gave a hasty nod.

“We’ll… We’ll be back.” She mumbled as an announcement, catching a glance at the sad state of her friends. Maka didn’t even acknowledge her words—she was too devastated and grief-stricken to even hear her. Giving the shinigami one last apologetic look, she politely left the apartment and ran.

Soul carefully took the key, his heart racing. The child stood on the tip of her toes to pat his head.

“Use that to get out of this room.” She said before turning to the door, twisting the knob…

“Wait,” Soul abruptly stood up, and the child looked up at him.

“…After this, will I be okay ?”

“Yep. You’d still be a little tired but you’d be okay nonetheless.” The child gave a soft smile.

“Go now, Soul. She needs you.”

Kid was left alone with Maka, who couldn’t stop crying with his hand held tight between hers. She was shaking horribly as she struggled to mutter incoherent words to his ear, urging him to wake up over and over.

He decided to sit down next to her, keeping a fair distance while gently rubbing her back. If anything, it only made her sob worse—Kid can only look down.

Death was a normal thing in his family lineage. He’d seen a lot of people pass away and his father had always told him he severed ties to the world because of this kind of grief. Kid refused to follow this path—but now he understood his father a lot more. Emotions are a huge hindrance to their responsibility as shinigami, after all.

But Maka didn’t have that responsibility, and definitely did not deserve this curse. A person can only handle so much before they break, and this was the lowest he’d ever seen her sink. He had never seen her cry as if her life depended on it—but then again, right now, it did . He’s a witness to everything she’s done to save Soul, and for it to still fail…

“Y-you’re stronger than this—I know you’re stronger than this… You promised me you’d wait for me ! This isn’t fair at all—you… You can’t leave me too…” Maka whispered between her sobs, holding his hand in hers. She had planted soft kisses on his ring finger for almost a hundred times, and Kid can only watch in vain.

Being human must feel so fleeting and not at the same time.

However, he noticed something unusual. When humans die, their soul floats out of their bodies. The body is then buried and the soul is given to his father.

Soul’s soul was still intact, and was still stuck in resonance.

The sudden realization gave him hope. He was about to inform his friend when all of the sudden, Soul jolted awake and opened his eyes, gasping for air. Maka quickly looked up, startled from the sudden movement—

He sprung into a sitting position and the clock on his chest fell to the ground, completely forgotten. His lungs burned, and his entire body felt like it was on fire… He tried to catch his breath as the “fire” started to cool down, eyes hazed and unfocused.

Kid couldn’t help but smile, relieved to find him alive. There was no need for him to stay now, so he stood up from his spot. “I’ll give you guys some privacy. I’ll tell the others as well.”

Despite being stuck in a breathing fit, Soul watched him exit the apartment and close the door behind him. His strength was starting to come back bit by bit, and he could focus a little more than earlier.

After, the child disappeared through the door, Soul opened it with the key and the next thing he knew was being thrown back to the real world. He felt as if he had run a thousand miles, having to catch his breath.

His left hand felt warm. It was the only thing that felt too warm, and so he looked down to it. Maka was clinging to his hand and was holding it tight, her cheeks stained with tears. She was staring at him as if he was unreal , her green eyes stuck wide and bewildered…

He gave her a sheepish grin despite having the strongest urge to pull her into a kiss.

“…Hey.”

He watched her expression lighten up bit by bit, her tears springing back to life. All of a sudden, he was ambushed by a tight embrace—he can hear her sobbing from both joy and relief and her entire body quaked over him.

“You asshole—you scared me ! Don’t… Don’t do that again—I’ll punch you—”

Soul didn’t hesitate at all. He hugged her back just as tight, letting her bury her face in the crook of his neck. His shirt felt wet underneath her and he drew a heavy sigh, gently patting and rubbing her back.

“I’m so sorry…” He whispered, his voice cracking as tears gathered in his eyes. His words burned against her ears and Maka was still clinging to him as tight as she could, afraid to lose him again. Her sobs only worsened at his touch; She really thought it was the end, and him being here didn’t fully sink in her head yet…

They stayed like that for a while, and it was comforting despite her cries. Soul had laid back down on the couch but she kept her on top of him. It’s not like he could pry her away even if he tried, and he didn’t want to as well. The overwhelming exhaustion was still there, but he wasn’t fading away. Not anymore.

He had managed to stop himself from crying, biting his lip as he gently drew circles on her back. It usually calmed her down faster, but he knew she wasn’t gonna stop anytime soon. She’d been hiding her fears and feelings for so long, and it must’ve been so tiring to keep her walls up all the time. Hell, he knows because he’s done the same. Plus, she almost lost him today—it got too close to too late, and she never liked it when things were out of her control.

When the circles finally soothed her, Soul decided to move her hair away from her eyes. He looked down on her and it made his heart race—her nose was red from crying too much and her eyes were a little puffy. Even though he knew how much she hated it, it was the cutest thing he had ever seen.

“Better ?” He mumbled in a hush, gently smiling at the way she looked up at him. Maka let out a short, muffled laugh, nodding as she closed her eyes.

“Yeah… Thanks.”

Soul hummed in satisfaction, deciding to ruffle her hair. It felt silky and it made a mess of tangles from her bangs, the gesture earning him a happier giggle.

“All this fuss and it was us all along… It’s kinda funny and annoying.” Soul remarked with a huff, and Maka pulled away just to move to the same level as his face. They were barely a few inches apart and she didn’t seem to notice.

“Well, I like it. At least now we’re sure we are soulmates.” Maka rose a brow in suspicion, her lips upturned into a pout. “Do you ?”

Soul blinked, taken aback from the sudden closeness. It got weirder because she was on top of him, and he was down on his back on the damn couch. His blood rushed and he felt his cheeks grow hot, mentally cursing when Maka caught him in such a state.

“What a feat… Are you flustered ? ” A small, teasing grin spread across her lips, eyebrows raised in amusement. “Soul Eater Evans, the coolest scythe boy in shibusen, is blushing ?”

“I am not —” Soul exclaimed in defense, stuttering. The teasing only made it worse, and his cheeks felt hotter. “I am not flustered.”

“Aww. You look like a tomato.” She giggled, obviously having fun. Soul groaned in frustration and decided to sit up, keeping his arm around her. The movement took Maka by surprise and it earned him a startled squeak from her, which made him smirk in triumph. He used his other arm and placed it behind him to keep them propped up.

“Rude.” Maka looked back and mumbled bitterly, making Soul chuckle.

“You squeaked . You sound like a mouse.”

“You’re just embarrassed because I caught you blushing.” She rolled her eyes, and Soul gave a small nod in agreement.

“I guess so. But in my defense, who wouldn’t ?” Soul shrugged, watching her sit still on his lap. Why did she look so cute ? It was frustrating him on the inside, but he kept his composure.

“What do you mean who wouldn’t ?” Maka mimicked, eyebrows furrowed. Soul gave a shrug before smirking again.

“You’re the one who brought your pretty face close to me out of the sudden—I think any guy would be flustered. But you—Maka Albarn, straight-A two star meister from shibusen, who apparently dislike s men—really wanted to kiss me that much ?”

It was her turn to glow red. Maka sat frozen in her spot, and Soul let out a loud chuckle at the flustered whimpers she made.

“W-well, I… I was just trying to see your face clearly ! It’s your fault because you put me on top of you !”

“You were bawling like a baby, and you didn’t really want to let go.”

“Well, I was afraid you weren’t real and you’d fade if I let go !” Maka exclaimed, her voice wobbling as her tears threatened to fall again. The atmosphere sank a little and Soul was stuck speechless, his smirk fading as she turned away with a frown.

“I… I’m sorry—it’s just that… You really gave me a heart attack. I thought I’ve lost you forever.”

Soul couldn’t help but frown, too. He must’ve scared her so bad… He can tell by the way her hands trembled weakly. If they switched places and he got to the point where he’d lose her, he’d probably be on his wits end, too.

“…What happened when you got back ?”

Maka didn’t seem to like the question, and Soul mentally cursed himself for the choice. She was stuck unmoving in her spot and Soul was about to take it back, but she closed her eyes and she drew a heavy sigh.

“…They were… Huddled. Around you. Kid said you started coughing out blood a while ago and your pulse stopped two minutes before I got back…” Maka mumbled, and the way her voice was brittle and cracking didn’t go unnoticed to him.

“You weren’t moving at all. You were ice cold and your skin was paperwhite; your soul looked terribly translucent, too. Everyone thought you were dead… Even Blackstar stormed off.”

Soul took a deep breath, looking down at his hands. His skin was still ashen, but there was a bit more color in them than before. He despised how he worried her and their friends, but it’s not like it was his fault either.

He couldn’t hate himself for something he had no control of.

“…I’m sorry.” He mumbled as he looked back up at her, evidently frowning. “…I thought it was too late, too. But then I was suddenly worthy enough to be your actual soulmate at the last minute.”

Maka finally returned his gaze, her green eyes filled with surprise. Then, she made a small smile, taking one of his hands and playing with his fingers. Soul didn’t refuse—he loved how soft her hands were and having them hold his hand was something he was happy with. Having her hold him is good enough.

“That reminds me—your clock guardian took the form of Wes. Thought I’d let you know.”

Soul was stunned by her words, eyes wide in surprise. “…Really ?”

“Yeah. He said you envied him the most, but your brother actually looked out for you a lot. It made me realize how I never really knew much about your past.” Maka stated without looking up from his hand. Soul used his free one to scratch his head, turning away.

“Well, I did run away from home…”

“It’s okay. Just tell me more about them when you’re ready. You’ve known my entire life because I spent most of it with Blackstar—and he’s a huge blabbermouth. It’s only fair I get to know you a lot more, too.” Maka shrugged, finally letting go of his hand and deciding to let herself fall back on his chest. His beating heart was a calming rhythm, and it didn’t take long until she felt his arm wrap around her.

“You already know me enough, though. You can always tell when I’m lying or hiding something.” Soul mumbled in reply, laying back down and playing with her left pigtailed hair. It was silky and they always smelled like strawberries or something… It was a little weird, but he liked it.

“You just suck at lying. You freeze up and it takes you a long while to speak. You can’t look me in the eye when you do, too.” Maka replied, voice muffled against his chest. Soul let out a snort—her face was hidden from his sight but he can imagine the subtle eyeroll she made out of habit.

“I guess so.” He shrugged. Maka seemed to be silent on him, until she decided to look up.

“What did you see in my clock ?”

“Oh.” Soul mumbled nonchalantly, the calmness of the surroundings making him comfortable. “Not much… Your guardian is just your younger self—you look really cute as a kid.”

“You act as if you didn’t accept Blackstar’s bribe of my childhood pictures.” She grumbled, eyebrows furrowed in annoyance. “I don’t even know how he got those.… Probably stole it from my dad.”

Soul let out a chortle. “It’s cuter in personal. You’re cuter in personal.”

Maka grew red, and buried her face back into his chest to hide. “You’re just mocking me.”

“No i’m not—” Soul decided to to put his hands under her arms, pulling her a up just so her face was above his. Maka was beet red at this point as she stared at him with wide eyes. “I’m serious.”

She said something in retort, but Soul was too distracted by her lips. They were addicting; they had only kissed once and yet it was enough to convince him he needed to live. When he was stuck paralyzed because of his time limit, he longed to hold her close—hug her or plant kisses wherever and whenever he wanted to… He used to think having her like this would only happen in his dreams.

But now he had her on top of him, on a springy old couch but comfortable nonetheless. They both made it and are tangled with each other’s arms, with his earlier fears forgotten. He was longer than the couch so his legs dangled on the edge, while Maka fit the length just fine.

Maka, however, noticed his sudden silence. He was staring down at her, deep in thought. His eyebrows were a little knitted together as if he was weighing decisions…

“What’s wrong ?”

She propped herself up with her elbow, a brow raised. Her voice snapped him out from his little trance, blinking and meeting her eyes. Up close, her green eyes weren’t just green—they had a hint of blue, which probably came from her father.

Her hair fell and collected somewhere on his chest, and the curious look in her eyes gave him an overwhelming urge to kiss her.

“…Uh… Nothing.” He mumbled, avoiding her gaze. Maka furrowed her eyebrows in suspicion.

“I just told you how much you suck at lying, and you’re doing it again.” She pressed on, using her right hand and poking his cheek. “What. Is. It.”

“What, hey—” Soul grumbled, arching his neck to move away from the probing finger, only for it to follow suit. “That’s getting annoying—for the love of Lord Death , Maka, stop—”

“Tell me what it is first.” She insisted, poking faster and faster. Soul groaned in pure annoyance, his sharp teeth showing as he gritted them together. How did she go from cute to annoying at the same time ? She liked nagging him so much.

“Oh my—Okay, okay !” He gave in, earning a satisfied smile from her. My goodness, why was she such a tease ?

“Spill.” She demanded, and Soul rolled his eyes.

“You wanna know what i’m thinking of so bad ?” He said in a taunting voice, but Maka remained unfazed.

“Yeah ! You looked really troubled by it. I want to know what’s wrong.” She persisted, and Soul drew a heavy breath.

“Well first of all, it’s your fault.” He answered in a huff, and Maka was offended.

What ? How is it my fault ? I’m not doing anything at all—”

Her words ended when a pair of rough hands grabbed her cheeks, pulling her down to a kiss. The action earned him a muffled hmph from her, but Soul had no thoughts of stopping. Her lips were so soft , and even if it was such a surprise, she allowed herself to melt in his hold. It made her feel soft tingling sensations from the contact, with his thumbs rubbing soft circles on her cheeks. Maka didn’t even notice her hands reach and rake through his hair, but it sent good kind of chills down Soul’s spine nonetheless.

When Maka pulled away to breathe, Soul placed her forehead on his. His eyes were closed and he was at peace, letting out a breathy chuckle. “You gotta stop being such a tease or I’ll kiss you everyday .”

Maka took the time to watch him in his peace. He rarely looked this calm; usually he was just reserved and it was only because he held everything back. It also felt like he was hiding a storm somewhere in the back of his mind, thoughts flooding and him drowning in them despite his will… It was nice to finally see him comfortable with his own emotions.

Soul opened his eyes only to find her staring. Maka probably looked dumb or something, but she couldn’t help it when her heart fluttered at the red of his eyes. They were back to the shade she personally loved; vibrant crimson, deep and full of life. Only now did it hit her how much she missed seeing it on him.

“…You went quiet.” Soul said with a questioning hum, and Maka shrugged.

“I was… Thinking of your offer. But yeah, I don’t mind. It actually sounds like a good idea.” Maka replied in a sweet, hushed whisper, chuckling as well. “But don’t bite my lip—you have sharp sharp teeth. Have mercy on them.”

“You know you like my sharp teeth. It’s one of my cool boy features.” Soul smirked, making her roll her eyes. “And besides, you get busted lips all the time because you refuse to block, woman. They’re almost busted thrice a week.”

“Rude."

“At least you didn’t deny it.” He seemed amused, poking her nose. Maka scrunched up the said part, pulling away but not too far from his face.

It was nice. Having her with him like this felt great . He can finally call her his and he had the right to shower her with the love he’s been hiding all these years. His heart felt light and everything felt uplifting… Although this time, he wasn’t dying anymore.

Soul made a satisfied hum as she played with his hair. It wasn’t in its best condition seeing as he was stuck in bed for a month, but Maka didn’t seem to mind. In fact, it felt like she was trying to untangle the strands on her own.

A random thought passed his head, and Soul furrowed his eyebrows.

“I wonder what your old man would say.”

Maka’s face soured at his sentence, rolling her eyes. “Eh, let him be. He probably saw it coming himself before we realized it.”

“…Hmm. Fair point.”

The silence that came after was comfortable. Soul had closed his eyes, basking in the peace and the comfort of her hands… It was quiet—at least until Maka poked his cheek again.

“Hey, Soul.”

Soul grumbled in annoyance. “ Stop poking my cheek.”

“Look at me.”

Sighing, Soul opened his eyes halfway, staring at her. Maka looked seriously determined, and it confused him a lot. Why did it feel like she had something so important to say ?

“…Uh… What ?”

To his surprise, her expression softened. Soul rose a brow in confusion until Maka gave the softest smile, sending his heart skipping two beats at once.

“I love you.”

It sent him burning under her. Maka made a loud laugh of triumph and sat up on his lap, holding her stomach tightly. She kept laughing as he laid wide-eyed, frozen in place from fluster.

“Lord Death, who knew you were so easy to fluster—”

Soul a frustrated growl, grabbing her shirt and pulling her down. It only took two seconds for him to switch their places, with him propped up inches above her. Maka kept the smug grin, lost strands of her hair resting across her face.

Strawberry face."

“You vile woman—”

Soul grumbled in embarrassment, keen on keeping himself annoyed. It lasted for a good while until she reached out, placing her hands on his collar.

“Come on, you know you love me.” She teased, pulling him down. Soul barely stopped himself from crashing right onto her lips again, the sudden tug causing their distance to fall from inches to centimeters. His cheeks grew hotter and her laughter increased, finding the entire situation hilarious.

“I never thought of you as someone who can blush for three minutes straight.”

“It’s not my fault you’re being a huge tease—” Soul muttered under his breath, defensive and embarrassed. “You’re mocking me.”

“You’re just so laid-back and reserved all the time ! It’s kinda fun to see you lose your cool for a bit.” Maka made a small shrug, humming to herself in content. “I do love you, though.” She cooed in a whisper, and he can’t deny the tingles it sent down his spine.

Defeated, Soul drew a heavy sigh. “I hate you so much.”

“You’re smiling, though.”

Maka stifled a laugh, and Soul rolled his eyes. Now he was sure he was grinning stupidly at this point, but he didn’t find it in himself to care. “Alright, fine. You got me. I love you, too.”

Maka seemed to have plans on pulling him down to kiss him again, but it was interrupted. The door was kicked in and it flew across the apartment, startling the both of them as they followed it with their gaze. The poor thing crashed right into the wall, breaking in half.

It was Blackstar who kicked down the door. Typical.

“Soul ! Kid told us you’re ok—”

He almost choked on air when he saw the state of them on the couch. Maka’s hands were still gripping Soul’s collar—who was on top of her, and the both of them were staring at him with wide eyes.

“Oh sh—"

Blackstar was cut off by his own screech of glee, his cheeks dusting red as his eyes sparkled. Tsubaki was the next one to peek, confused as to why her boyfriend was screaming in delight.

“I-it’s not what it looks like—”

“It’s happening—oh Lord Death, TSUBAKI !! This is not a drill—”

The blue-haired wonder kept screaming and started hopping in place, and Soul swore he almost fell off the couch. Tsubaki grew a little red, flustered from seeing them in such a position. She grabbed her boyfriend’s arm and repeatedly tapped it in an attempt to calm him down, but she was still stuck staring at them. After all, it was no secret that everyone in the group rooted for them —and their biggest fan and wingmen were these two.

Out of panic, Maka pushed Soul aside and he fell to the floor in a painful crash. She quickly sat up, her entire face beet red. “I-it’s nothing ! We weren’t doing anything !”

“O-ow…” Soul whimpered from the floor, and Maka looked down with a gasp. She scrambled to her feet and sat next to him, helping him up.

“I think you forgot I just got half my soul back…” He mumbled, sitting up and scratching his head. Maka laughed nervously, holding his face and moving his hair in search for injuries.

“I’m so sorry, I got startled…” She timidly whispered when she found none, and Soul forced a little chuckle. “It’s cool.”

“What happened ?! Why is he screaming—good father , my poor eardrums —” Kid had entered the apartment with his hands on his ears, the sisters tagging along behind him.

“Where did your door go ?” Liz asked, making Patty start giggling.

“Blackstar probably kicked it down~!”

“I’m really sorry for disturbing you guys,” Tsubaki said timidly, finally holding Blackstar down from jumping around. “I tried to tell him to stop—”

“You all don’t understand—Soul was on top of her ! They were—”

He was interrupted with a flying book that landed on his head, knocking him out cold. Tsubaki only sighed at his demise; she had to admit, her boyfriend absolutely had no idea how boundaries and privacy worked…

Everyone turned to where the book came from, and Maka stood with a dark grin. “I’ll beat him up when he wakes.”

“You know what,” Soul stood up, standing next to her and shoving his hands in his pockets with a huff. “I’ll help you with that.”

Okay, okay, I know he’s an idiot but we just saved Soul from dying. I don’t think it’s a great time for a brawl.” Kid intervened, earning a chuckle from Liz.

“He’s right. This calls for a mini welcome back party right now ! Good to see you up and alive, shark boy.” Liz gave a wink, and Soul snickered.

“Oh, I agree ! Welcome back, Soul. I’ll prepare the food for the party.” Tsubaki offered in delight, having set Blackstar on the couch.

“Oh, oh—Sis !” Patty said in alarm, poking her sister’s shoulder. “The thing !”

“Ah, right.” Liz hastily took something from her pocket, and Soul watched in confusion.

Whatever it was, she tossed it to Soul—who caught it with one hand. Maka peeked out of curiosity, finding a tiny container with a lot of white and red pills.

“We found Stein but Kid got to us with the good news just before we left. He told me to tell you that it’s medicine for you to recover faster, and that you can’t perform Witch Hunter until you’re all healed.”

“Oh… Thanks.” Soul shoved the container in his pocket. Liz gave a light smile, winking.

“He also said congratulations.”

Soul couldn’t help but grin at the sentence. He knew the professor suspected them as each other’s soulmate… And he wasn’t wrong.

Did everyone really root for them to be soulmates ?

It was weird, but he liked it.

However, Maka sighed in defeat. “How are we gonna kick Blackstar's ass now ?”

“You can’t.” The said boy was up and awake on the couch, grinning smugly. Maka’s expression changed, and Soul managed to hold her back before she jumped on him.

“You blue gremlin—

Blackstar scrambled and hid behind Tsubaki, who looked nervous at the ongoing banter. “Lord Death, she looks like a feral bunny—”

Maka snarled at the remark, and Blackstar whimpered. “Hey Soul, make her stop !”

“Hey, hey ! Calm down !” Soul yelled, pulling her back as she started stomping on the floor. He then turned to her target, glaring a little as he struggled to keep his meister in place. “You’re damn lucky I don’t want you dead today.”

Kid watched the chaos unfold, his jaw dropped at the exchange. “He was right, Soul is Maka’s anger management council…”

Maka abruptly turned to the shinigami, eyes gleaming and fuming. It made him quickly shut his mouth.

“I said you guys look so great together.”

Kid deadpanned, and Patty bursted out in laughter on the floor. Maka turned back to Blackstar and Liz patted his head. “Real smooth, shinigami.”

“I do have my ways.”

Soon enough, Maka settled down but kept throwing Blackstar dirty looks. Soul sighed in relief, shoving his hands back in his pockets. His friends were a small pile of weird, chaotic idiots—but hey, they were his friends. He cared for each and every one of them, even if he never really showed it.

“Well, what are we waiting for ? Let’s crash our place !” Liz declared with a grin, marching out of the door. Patty followed suit, and Kid made no haste of catching up to their speed.

“…Well, I don’t wanna go to a party in my pajamas.” Soul shrugged, leaning in and leaving a light kiss on Maka’s cheek. “I’ll be back.”

“Okay.” Maka smiled and watched him leave, staying in the living room to wait. When she turned around, however, Blackstar was staring at her with a huge grin.

“How sweet.

Maka grew a little red, glaring at him. “Back off.”

“Sure.” He snorted, turning back to Tsubaki who was waiting in silence.

“Are you gonna cook again ?” He asked as he took Tsubaki’s hand, intertwining them together with his. “Make extra for me.”

“Okay.” Tsubaki found his request adorable, giggling. However on their way out, she remembered the door he kicked down earlier.

“…I’m so sorry about the door—I promise we’ll replace it.” Tsubaki turned to Maka from behind them, smiling apologetically. Blackstar did the same, but he had a smug grin instead.

“Yeah. You guys look hella cute together, though.”

Maka rolled her eyes, huffing at him and only acknowledging Tsubaki’s words. “Thank you. I still hate Blackstar here, but I really appreciate it.”

“Aww, why ? Did I disturb y—”

Tsubaki had smacked his head, and Blackstar made a light ‘ow’. “That’s enough teasing for one day, lad.”

“Geez, fine. I’m sorry.” He grumbled in defeat, and Maka only chuckled from their banter.

Maka watched the two of them exit the apartment, with Blackstar blabbering more stuff and Tsubaki listening in contentment. It felt weird how hours ago, all of them were on their wits end because Soul was dying… And now they’re celebrating his return.

She was happy.

“Ready to go ?” Soul called out as he slipped his orange sweatshirt on, the word PIANO MAN plastered across his chest. He had his hair pulled back in his usual headband, and she can tell he at least tried to comb it. He was also wearing sweatpants and some casual sneakers.

“Wow. You’re inviting yourself in Kid’s glorious mansion in that ? ” Maka rose a brow in surprise, and Soul looked offended.

“Hey, I look cool. Besides, you’re wearing a black shirt and white shorts. You stick to his entire theme but you’re not so formal yourself.”

“At least I don’t look like I’m going out for a jog .” She rolled her eyes, slipping on her boots. Soul scoffed at the sight of the footwear.

“Ugh, leave my clothing decisions alone. You like big, clunky boots and I never complained.” He grumbled in retort, slinging an arm over her shoulder when she was done. Maka stifled a chuckle as they started walking ahead.

“Okay, mister cool guy in sweatpants .”

“You are so lucky I’m in love with you.”

“I’m pretty lucky indeed. I’ve got a cool guy as my partner and as a boyfriend.”

They both kept walking, but Soul stared at her with a brow raised.

“Is that sarcasm ?”

Maka bursted out in laughter, and Soul couldn’t help but chuckle. He had to admit, the teasings worked but her laughter was still contagious.

“Maybe so. But you know I love you.” She grinned at him, making Soul roll his eyes and turn sideways.

“I’m offended. It’s not working.”

“Aww. Don’t you love me too ?”

Maka’s voice was adorable. Too adorable. It held innocence and by Death, he knew she was doing it on purpose. However, his cheeks grew red from the question, and Soul sighed in defeat.

“Ugh. You are too irresistible. You win.”

“Hey, lovebirds ! When are you two gonna catch up ?!”

The two of them paused, staring at the small figure of Blackstar and Tsubaki up ahead.

“Hm… Let’s do some exercise, since you’ve skipped out on it for a month.” Maka cracked her knuckles, stretching her legs as Soul watched in discomfort.

“First to get to Blackstar gets to skip cooking for tomorrow.”

“What ?!”

“You heard me.” Maka grinned, and Soul grimaced. “No. I am not doing this. I’m still exhausted and this is a set-up against m—”

“On the count of three.” She had lowered herself to a crouch, preparing to sprint. Soul crouched as well out of panic, but kept looking at her as if she was insane.

“I just healed ! You gotta cut me some slack, you weren’t sick at all—”

“Three,”

“Maka, hey—”

“Two,”

“Lord Death, I hate you so much .” Soul grumbled, and Maka turned to pat his head.

“I love you too.” She had the audacity to ruffle his hair into a huge mess of tangles despite knowing he did his best to make it look decent. Soul scoffed and was about to complain—

“One !”

Maka sprinted ahead, and Soul chased after her as fast as he possibly can.