Hi! I wrote this story in one day, because I really missed writing! More specifically, I missed writing Soul, haha. :) It's rushed, but it has been lovingly looked over by makapedia and guacamoletrash, and I love them forever. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy!

It's nearly dusk when they arrive home, the seven o'clock sun making halos out of their hair as they cross in front of the window in the entryway. Fully entering the house is a slow process, one that is stretched like the muscles in their tired legs. As the door shuts, backpacks descend from their aching arms, sliding to the floor in the silence of the house.

"...Movie?" Soul asks her. Two syllables is the most he can manage. If he has to form a complete sentence right now, he will be petitioning the Academy for overtime pay.

"Mm," Maka murmurs back at him, noncommittal. She is no better, he thinks, eyes half-lidded as she pushes herself off the wall with a wince. "PJs," she offers instead as she shuffles to the bedroom, using the couch as a crutch to get herself there.

Her bedroom door glides shut but doesn't quite close, hovering open so that Soul can still feel her tiredness echoing through the crack. He feels like he's prying, listening to her feelings when she's in the next room. Five years into their partnership, he's not sure either of them have gotten used to their souls being so in tune, especially in moments like this when things are… quiet.

To distract himself, he reaches backwards, his hand sliding across the wall towards the air conditioning unit. The sun may be setting later than usual, but the Nevada heat is as strong as ever, so he leans in to the on switch, letting the click and subsequent whirr of machinery pull his thoughts away from Maka and instead relaxing into the sensation of cold air shooting against his back.

They've come to an agreement when it comes to the temperature in the apartment. This time of year, she runs hot and he runs cold. It's because she clings to summer when he's all too ready for fall, though he knows that real cold weather - by Death City standards, anyway - is still a couple of months away. Even so, with the air conditioning blasting, he can shrug into a pair of sweats and a baseball tee to make himself feel like it's early September, and she can stay in her summer shorts.

It's an accord that has taken several years to perfect, and now that they have, they can find other things to argue about.

There's a knock at his door - slow but apathetic, which indicates that Tired and Hungry Maka is beginning to make an appearance. "... Chinese?" she asks through the wood.

"... Thai?" he counters, and her knuckles slide down the door in protest. He tries not to chuckle, but she hears it anyway.

"...Ginger beef... but with Thai spring rolls?" She's haggling with him, emboldened by his laughter. That, or she's suddenly getting hungry for Thai food. Because he is most definitely hungry for Chinese now.

"Ginger Beef it is," he says with a sigh, because her longing for Chinese food is soul-deep, and it pings through his stomach. "...But also," he adds, because he has some dignity: "Yeah. Spring rolls."

As they wait for the food, they sink onto the couch, too tired to care about the mud stains on their shins. He wonders if they'll both fall asleep before the food comes.

Set an alarm, Maka confirms in his mind, which gives him the permission he needs to let his eyes drift closed, and about five seconds pass before Maka's cheek drifts against his shoulder.

There's nothing shocking about that; physical touch has become natural for them. It's on the same level of subconscious as Maka making her morning to-do list, or Soul reaching for the milk when he opens the fridge at 3 a.m. It's part of who they are, as partners, and it's more of a comfort than a sense of tension these days.

They snooze for awhile before Maka murmurs, "too soft," and slides off the couch to sit on the floor - another common occurrence. Maka's bed is the firmest one in existence, and the couch is always too soft for-

An impatient hand tugs at his pant leg. Thinking too loud, she grumbles into his mind. C'mere.

Again, nothing strange here. He has long been dual-wielded as Maka's weapon and personal pillow. So he slides off the couch as well, her head repositioning itself onto his shoulder as they drift.

When the food finally comes, they eat it in silence, aside from one slightly resentful confirmation on Soul's part that the ginger beef is actually pretty good. Maka smiles at this, and it's a little smug, but a little soft, too.

After dinner, they take turns getting cleaned up, as they always do. It's a normal after dinner routine… until it isn't.

"Hey," she warns him as they slide back into their spot on the floor, her back propped against a pillow. "Don't make fun of me for what I'm about to ask."

"A tall order," he warns her right back, stifling an on-purpose yawn. The glare she sends him calms his sass, if only marginally, because he groans and relents. "Okaaay, all right. What is it?"

She pauses, but not for long enough to talk herself out of it. "Could you… put on some jazz?" she asks, looking to the right to avoid his gaze.

He cocks his head to the side, trying his very best not to smile. "You want to listen to-"

"Yes, I do," she says, puffing herself up as she pokes her finger into his chest. "I thought it would be nice, okay? Cause we're tired."

There's something else, too, another explanation hovering behind their link, but she's got her walls up now, so it's too murky for him to access it. When he lets it go, she can feel it, and they both visibly relax, Maka's shoulders sagging as Soul turns toward the record player.

"What… kind?" he asks, though the triumphant return of Maka's glare answers his question before he can fully get the words out. He stands to better escape her wrath. "Yeah, alright. How about… something to fall asleep to?" He wrings his hands, hoping she'll help him out a little.

Maka's hand is already against the couch, eyes closed due to tiredness and frustration. "Yeah," she agrees. "Something that feels like... 'it's good to be home,' or something."

He picks through his selection, thumbing each record as he evaluates it and pushes it aside. Ultimately he settles on Ella Fitzgerald's Greatest Hits, and he slides back down the front of the couch and onto the floor as Ella's voice starts to croon around them.

"Oh," Maka murmurs when they get to the first chorus. "I know this one." Though he can't see it, he can feel the smile that spreads across her face.

"Yeah," he says, leaning his head sideways to press against hers. "It's like, a lullaby or whatever."

"Mmm." She's pressing her cheek into his shoulder again as she drifts towards sleep. "S'nice."

It is nice, he decides. Not just the music, but all of it; sitting with her, being tired as hell - but together.

They sit like this for a while, on the verge of sleep, Maka's head on his shoulder and her fingers twisting in the fabric of his pants at his knee as she dozes.

Just as he's about to fall asleep as well, Maka stirs, lets out a contented sigh and, with all of her walls down, all vulnerability exposed, something echoes through her mind that he happens to hear:

I love-

Soul's eyes lift open immediately, and he tamps down on the warmth spreading across his face, not daring to believe what he's just heard. Before he can get carried away, he begins a full on negotiation with himself. You don't know that she said that, and she didn't even say your name, don't get carried-

So she says it again, out loud, as if she's afraid that he'll miss it.

"I... love-"

And this time, she doesn't have to say the rest out loud, because he can feel it from within. It's not an articulation; it's more like a feeling that she sends into his mind, ricocheting around in his chest, demanding his attention. She doesn't have to say his name for him to hear it.

He can't believe that they're sitting on the floor, and that she says this like it's nothing. Like it's natural, after five years of buildup and sideways glances and fingers feather-light on each others' palms.

Well, now he's awake. He should wake her too, probably, but the feeling in his chest is warm and he thinks it might be okay if they sat like this forever.

After all, it's nothing extraordinary, is it? He's always known, somewhere, deep down. But he can't tell her anything now, not when she doesn't know the whole story yet.

"All right," he says, carefully reconstructing his walls as she stirs. "Let's go to bed."

She protests a little, but he pulls her to her feet, his fingers finding the spaces between hers for a moment before she pulls through, wrapping her palms around his waist.

"'Kay," she says sleepily, cheek pressed against his ear. "'Night, Soul."

He wraps his arms around her as well, squeezing just a little. "Night, Maka."

When Soul falls asleep that night, there's a smooth jazz song playing in his soul, along with a simple statement that he's been telling her for years without words, one that makes Maka's eyes go wide in the night, two rooms away:

Hey. Love you too.

When Soul drifts off, he smiles into his pillow, and it's a little smug. But it's a little soft, too.