It all started after that fateful battle with Crona in Italy.
The trauma was enough to give her nightmares for weeks. She would relive that same moment over and over again. Only the outcome would be different. Instead of Professor Stein and her father coming to their rescue, Maka found herself sitting there with Soul’s lifeless body in her lap. Her hand would be placed over his bleeding chest as she’s forced to feel his pulse fade under it.
It’s enough to wake her in the middle of the night, screaming until her throat was raw and her lungs burned. During those first few days, no one was there to comfort her. Blair often came home well into the night from working at Chupra Cabra to find the young girl sobbing hysterically on her bedroom floor.
“Soul’s gone!” she would cry into the magical cat’s chest, “He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone!”
“Shhh.” Blair would soothe, running her manicured fingers through her ash blonde locks, “He’s fine, Maka. Soul’s fine. He’s in the infirmary at the school, remember?”
It took a long time, but she would remember. And experiencing his death was only a dream.
Despite the reality that her partner was well and alive, the reminder that his heart could stop one day gave her so much panic. There were days this realization would give her an anxiety attack and she’ll begin hyperventilating.
She couldn’t let his heart stop. He was her weapon—her best friend! She had to protect him! Protect his heart!
So she vowed to be stronger for him. Soul rolled his eyes at her and told her she was doing everything backwards—why would you protect the thing that was meant to protect you—but she knew he didn’t understand. He just didn’t get it. But that was okay. Maka would admit she felt somewhat embarrassed with her reasoning why she was so determined to get stronger as a meister.
Her fascination with his beating heart sometimes led to awkward situations. Well, awkward for Soul at least.
There was the moment after Maka declared her resolve to get stronger where she placed her hand on his chest. She would reveal to him later on that she was vowing to face his scar, but truthfully she also wanted to feel his thrumming pulse under her hand.
Then there were those occasional moments, during the quiet of the evening, when Maka and Soul would be sitting on the couch and somehow Maka’s head found its way onto Soul’s shoulder. It was a sweet, tender kind of moment that Maka relished in, especially when she realized she could hear Soul’s heart if she tilted her head just right…
And then there were those times with the nightmares. It didn’t matter who they happened to, once the night terror was over, either Soul or Maka would find themselves in their counterpart’s bed. It wasn’t very “cool” as Soul put it, but neither cared because in their moments of vulnerability, they needed the reassurance that their partner was still alive. Maka especially, as she could hear her scythe’s heart loud and clear in the silence of the night.
She couldn’t exactly explain it, but the steady rhythm comforted her in a way nothing else could. It made her sigh in contentment because he was there. Alive and well…with her.
Eventually Soul caught onto what exactly it was about his chest that she was fascinated with, and learned to roll with it when the urge to be close to him took her over. She was thankful he never teased her in these moments. He understood her perfectly.
And he never complained either. Especially not after particularly rough battles.
They were gathering their 72nd soul for the second time around (damn Blair…). It wasn’t a particularly difficult kishin egg—pretty much your typical serial killer type. What Maka and Soul didn’t know, however, was that this evil being had a special talent with pyrotechnics…specifically bombs.
In a last ditch effort to thwart the meister-weapon duo, the pre-kishin threw off his trench coat to reveal an abundance of explosives strapped to his chest. If he was going down he was going to take the DWMA students with him!
Maka yelped as she struggled to scramble away. She managed to get some distance between herself and the evil soul but the amount of bombs he let off would produce such a large explosion there was no way she’d get off scot-free.
Soul knew this, so against Maka’s wishes he transformed into his human form and draped himself over his meister—willing a blade to form from his back in hopes that the metal would shield them from the brunt of the explosion.
Maka screeched as the bombs went off, feeling the ground scrape into her body as the force knocked her back many feet. She’s not sure, but she thought she had blacked out at some point. When she felt the ringing in her ears subside, she groaned and eased her eyes open. After gaining her bearings, she managed to lift herself up.
Examining her body, she saw that her clothes were dirty and tattered. Her gloves were stained red with her blood. She moved her extremities to make sure nothing was broken before prodding her head. She winced at some tenderness, hoping she didn’t have a concussion.
Next, she viewed her surroundings. The ground of the clearing they were in was scorched black; debris of different shapes and sizes surrounding her. Off in the distance she spotted the red floating soul of the pre-kishin, ready to be eaten by Soul.
Maka frantically looked around. Didn’t he shield her? Why wasn’t he around? Where was Soul?!
Finally she spotted him a few feet to the left of her. The force of the explosion must have separated him from her. Her heart dropped into her stomach when she saw that his body was prone and it didn’t look like there was any sign of movement from him…
Was he even breathing?!
“Soul!” Maka cried, ignoring her aches and pains in favor of jumping up and sprinting to her fallen partner.
Upon reaching him, she fell to her knees—ignoring the sting from landing onto the hard ground—and turned him over onto his back. Her wide, green eyes looked his figure over.
Like her, he had multiple scrapes and cuts marring his skin, his clothes practically in shambles thanks to the fact he took the brunt of the explosion. There was a flat piece of rock lodged into his left thigh. Maka had a feeling he’ll need stitches for the wound. His face was blank though, his eyes closed and his skin looking a lot paler than Maka remembered.
Maka felt her breathing quicken, “No, no, no, no. Please be okay. Please be okay,” she pleaded as she grasped his shoulders, shaking them.
Bile rose to her throat but she bit it back. She couldn’t lose focus now, she had to help him somehow…
But he wasn’t moving, why wasn’t he moving?!
Panic clouded her brain. In hindsight, soul perception could have been used to indicate whether he was still alive or not, but the intense fear she felt overwhelmed any logic she may have had.
She couldn’t think…she couldn’t focus. All she wanted was for Soul to wake up and smile at her and tell her she was reckless and stubborn and a nerd and…and…
Unable to hold back anymore, a strangled sob tore through Maka’s throat as she fell onto her partner’s chest. She wailed—pleading, bargaining, begging for him to wake up.
“Don’t leave me! Please don’t leave me!” were her desperate cries. She didn’t know what she’d do if he actually left her. She was faced with that possibility almost a year ago, but since then they’d been fine. They had gotten stronger together. But now here they were, Maka reduced to that of a crying little girl while her best friend lay motionless underneath her.
What good was she?
Was her resolve all that time ago pointless?
She was an awful meister. A better meister wouldn’t have allowed this to happen. Soul deserved so much better than her!
She was so caught up in her despondent thoughts, she barely registered that there was a weight on the back of her head.
“’M okay…” came a hoarse voice before a ragged cough was choked out. “Not going…anywhere. J-Just listen, alright?”
Maka stiffened. She didn’t dare look up, afraid that her misery was producing a hallucination. When she registered his request for her to listen, she stopped everything, including breathing, as she strained her ears.
A fresh wave of tears welled in her eyes as she sobbed into her partner’s chest. He was alive. He was alive!
“Thank God… Thank God!”
She’s not sure how long they lay there—her crying until she couldn’t anymore while he silently stroked her head—but eventually Sid and Nygus came to retrieve them and took them to the dispensary at the DWMA. There, they shared a room, Soul insisting their beds be moved together so they could easily reach each other if need be.
She knew he only suggested that because she was too embarrassed to voice it. She was thankful though, because it was a good excuse to lie close to him and listen to his heartbeat while they both recovered.
“It’s the same for me.” He told her later, after Nygus left them for the evening.
“Huh?” she asked, on the verge of sleep.
“I like to listen to your heart too.” He confessed. “Reassures me you’re still there. That I did my job and protected you.”
Despite her eyes watering for the umpteenth time that day, she gave a small smile.
“Let’s keep protecting each other’s heartbeats, okay?”
He held her closer, his face burying into her hair.