Day 1: Embrace

His favorite part of coming home isn't the softness of their bed, or the inviting sofa cushions, or the hot food. Proper baths are nice, as is sleeping in long past sunrise the following morning. Casual clothes and the freedom to go without shoes on plush carpet are luxuries former versions of himself could only dream about. But none of those things are his absolute favorite.

Their house sits on the edge of town. Somewhat isolated but close enough to civilization to be convenient. On his more indulgent days he wonders if there'll ever be little voices to greet him whenever he makes his way up the path toward the front door. Will they shriek in excitement and hang off his arms with an eagerness for hugs and stories? He suspects Erza has a checklist of milestones in her head – even though they've skipped over more than a few already to make up for lost time. They aren't trying to have any babies... but they aren't exactly trying not to either.

He leaves his boots and cloak in the front hall and inhales the scent of home. The aroma wafting from the kitchen smells new. Erza's culinary efforts are a work in progress. Jellal opts to bathe before seeking her out. He's spent enough time presenting himself to her in a more or less disheveled state and now prefers to please her gaze. She knows he's returned and will wait.

Jellal never feels older than the moment he steps from the bath. Once he is up and out of the water, and gravity takes hold again, his joints drive the point home mercilessly. Thirty is a cruel age.

Clothed in clean, softer things he makes his way to the kitchen. He finds Erza leaning against the countertop with a recipe book in her hand. Light from the setting sun spills through the window and turns her hair an even more brilliant scarlet than normal. The thin material of her nightgown clings to her hips and he wonders what in the world he's done to possibly deserve such perfection.

His hands slide over her shoulders and she sets the recipe book aside. Her smile is brighter than anything he has ever seen. She stretches up to place a kiss on his jaw and wraps her arms around him in a tight embrace.

"Welcome home," she whispers. This is his favorite.