A/N- Very short, probably not very interesting, but a sweet and sentimental farewell to (the official) SoMa Week (because every week is SoMa week on my FF page).

Day 7: First "I love you"
Summary: Soul always loved her. He just didn't always know

There were many ways Maka told Soul she loved him without saying it in so many words. It showed every day in the things she did for him. It showed in how she made breakfast for him each morning, because he was useless before noon or several cups of tea. It showed in the way she fussed over him when he was sick or injured. It showed when he woke up screaming from a nightmare and she was at his side in an instant to hold tight to his hand and offer any comfort he would let her give. It showed when she would make his favorite meals the whole week of his birthday, and in the times she would set aside her novels for him because he was bored and wanted someone to talk to, and in how she could always tell when he'd had a bad day, even on the rare occasions she hadn't been there for most of it, and let him pick the movie that night.

At first, he didn't recognize the sentiment her actions conveyed, which perhaps wasn't so surprising. Soul was loved as a child, but even as a young boy he could tell it was always conditional, dependent on his behavior, his intelligence, his talent, how impressive he was. To be a child of the Evans family was to be a tool for garnering social status, meant to be put on display like a work of art, and while his elder brother was clearly a masterpiece, Soul … well, he knew where he fell in the pecking order.

When he first discovered his weapon blood and learned what it meant, he never anticipated feeling or receiving much affection from his meister. He supposed he and his partner would probably be friends, although for a time after he met Maka Albarn he even doubted that, because their early days were… tumultuous. But at the most, he had never expected anything besides casual friendship. It was a professional partnership, after all. He didn't figure he'd have any deeper relationship with his meister than his grandmother had with the CFO of her corporation.

But Maka didn't play by any set of rules Soul had ever heard of. Daddy issues aside, she seemed determined to get emotionally close to him.

It would be an outright lie- not to mention an insult to the journey they went on and all the hardships they faced together that brought them close- to say that he loved her from the start. Time and trials and hours spent blurring the borderlines between their souls taught him to love her, and the same could be said for her. As months and years passed, she slammed right in through every single wall he'd ever put up like they weren't even there, and by the time he realized it was happening, he was already hers and he didn't even care.

Even so, it took him a long while to realize that the affection was mutual. Call him obtuse, but it took her actually saying the words for him to understand that she loved him.

The first time she said it, it wasn't some kind of romantic confession. It was just a simple statement of fact after he had gone and gotten himself banged up protecting her. They were fifteen, and she sat beside him in the hospital, nervous fingers brushing against the cast on his wrist and eyes skittering over the gashes that littered his upper arms.

"You've got to stop doing this," she told him, voice soft and urgent and pleading. Before he could protest, could assure her that protecting her was a duty and an honor (okay, maybe he wouldn't have put it quite like that, but it was what he meant), she stunned him into silence as she said, "I don't want this, Soul. You're my best friend and I love you and I can't stand it when you get hurt."

Looking back many years later, Soul recognized that that insistent, platonic admission of love must have been the moment he started to lose his heart to her.

The thing was, he loved her then. He had for a long time, in the same way she loved him- as a best friend, a partner, a confidante. But when he heard her actually say as much out loud, it changed something, flipped a switch in his mind. Perhaps it was the certain knowledge that he was loved, unconditionally, for the first time in his life by someone towards whom he held no resentment. Perhaps it was just coincidence, an accident of timing and hormones. Either way, it was at just that time that he inevitably began to give her more and more of himself, whether she knew it or not.

There was no sudden realization that made him look at her any differently. He was protective of her, but he always had been. He was attracted to her, but he had always thought she was pretty. He found he preferred her company to that of his male friends… but then, that had been true for a long time. Sometimes there was flirting, but when he looked back, they'd always done that. There was no bolt from the blue. Sometimes his gaze lingered on her a little longer, but it was no tangible difference. It was simply a slow, easy shift in the flavor of his love for her.

It was a funny thing to look at her one day and just know that things were different. He wasn't even really surprised. He had always loved her as a friend, and he still loved her as a friend- his very best friend, in fact. But he also loved her in other ways. He wanted to be her partner in every sense, wanted to marry her and stand by her side for the rest of their lives, wanted to wake up next to her each morning and make love to her every night. Nothing had really changed, and yet everything had changed.

And so, many months after it occurred to him that the character of his affection for her had changed, with his fingers twitching nervously at his side and his eyes glued to hers as he awaited her reaction, it became his turn to say aloud what they'd both known all along.

"Maka, I love you."

Her answering smile and the kiss she gave him made Soul question if he hadn't loved her this way all along.