She isn't sure if it's her injuries making her this tired, or if it's the lingering effects of Sloth and Envy. She just wants to sleep, but that's not an option, not here and not now-but she's just so worn out. Soul grabs her by the waist, even as she starts to slump forward, and makes these little "tsking" noises that make her want to start giggling and never stop. He sounds like a disapproving mother hen, but she'll never say it out loud, and really she must be suffering from exhaustion or hysteria or some combination of the two.

"Come on," he mumbles, bending, his back towards her. She staggers forward, thumping into him and rests her hands gingerly on his shoulders. He dips momentarily, and grabs her thighs, hoisting her up. He's not as careful as he wants to be, but he's just as drained as she is, and he's doing his best. She makes a little noise in the back of her throat, and it does funny things to his brain until he realizes it's probably just because of all of the lacerations on her legs, and then he berates himself for being sick, sick, sick. Even so, her breath is exceedingly warm on his neck and ear, and it's easy to forget that that warm, sticky feeling is mostly her blood as it seeps into his jacket and through his shirt. To be fair, it's also partially his blood, mingling with hers and plastering his undershirt to his skin.

Now that they aren't fighting, she can feel the incessant doubt begin to creep back in. She doesn't know what she would do without him and the knowledge that she really is dependent on him stings until her pudding brain remembers his words-that he is useless without her. She will never believe that, but he has his own set of insecurities. She will never be a meister worthy of this weapon-of his loyalty, his devotion, his friendship.

She relaxes against him for a moment, eyelids fluttering shut, and concentrates on the warmth of his hands against the bare skin of her thigh. Under different circumstances, she might have squirmed, his fingers tickling her sensitive skin. But instead, she relishes in the burning heat of his palms.

She exhales, a small moan escaping her lips. It feels good to be carried like this, to know that she can trust in Soul, and he in her; his skin against hers is a balm that soothes away the doubt and uncertainty that's been plaguing her. Underneath her hands, she feels his shoulders stiffen.

"Everything ok back there?" His voice sounds strained, even to her ears.

"Mm," she murmurs. "'m fine. Just tired." He bounces her slightly, and she stifles a little yelp. "Ow. What the hell was that for?"

"Don't you fall asleep on me. Not when I have to do all the work, carrying your ass around." Truth be told, it isn't as though it's all that difficult. She weighs hardly anything, and most of that is her boots, but he's not sure that he can handle all the little noises she makes when she sleeps. It's hard enough when she falls asleep on the couch; he's pretty sure that she's not going to be able to handle it if she's starts while she's nestled up against his back, all warm and soft and girl. It's a miracle, he thinks, that no one else really took note when he changed into a girl; he'd been mortified by his thin, reedy frame and suspiciously flat chest, by the white-hot flash of anger he felt when Maka's nose had begun to bleed at the sight of buxom lady flesh.

He shifts Maka's weight again. She might be waif-like, but she is anything but delicate. He likes that about her. Might even love it, really. It physically hurts him to see her so broken, so unsure of herself, of him, of their partnership, and the memory eats at him even as he relishes in the feel of her against him.

She makes another noise that fires off warning signals to parts of his body that are completely inappropriate, and she's breathing on him, light and fluttery, which just makes everything about a zillion times worse.

"I mean it, Maka. If you fall asleep, I will drop you." She whimpers, as pathetic a noise as she can muster up, which isn't very difficult at the moment. She feels pathetic and everything hurts and her arms are lead. She just wants to sleep so she doesn't have to be conscious.

"But Soul-" He melts for a second, but with his brain running away with itself and an increasing number of extremely inappropriate scenarios, he bolsters his resolve.

"Nope. Gotta stay awake Maka." She grunts her displeasure pathetically, but he can feel the lines of her body shifting more, which brings its own series of problems. Really, this whole fucking Book has been one long ordeal. First Lust, then...he doesn't want to dwell on Envy and Sloth and Giriko's pawing hands and the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach when she says she's letting him go and she's worthless to him. He knows that they'll never speak of this again; to talk about it would have made Envy real, and if she spills what she saw, he'll have no choice but to do the same, and he doesn't know if he can deal with that yet. He's still coming to terms with the vision of his brother and his failure as an Evans, his inadequacy. But he knows one thing, and he clutches it to his heart even as he clutches her soft thighs. Being a Weapon, his Meister...Maka, could never just be a replacement for his former life. He chose them, willingly, eyes open; chose her.

You don't have to say anything. His words echo in her ears and she shifts again, clamping her thighs around his hips. She looks at her hands for a moment, still tentatively resting on his shoulders. She will not be this way anymore-she will not be tentative, will not hesitate, will not waver. Her hands curl up over Soul's shoulders-when did they get so broad-and slumps forward to rest her chin against him. She doesn't have to say anything, but she will; the words will not stay in her chest.

"I am nothing without you," she says, and the words burn his ears. He stops, and she can feel his hands tighten around her legs.

"Stop that. Just, stop." He doesn't turn his head, and his words are quiet enough that if she had been further away she might not have heard him. "The meister makes the weapon. How many times do I have to tell you?" Maka lets out a little sigh, and he steels himself against a shiver.

"At least once more," she says softly.

"The meister makes the weapon."

She digs her chin into his shoulder. "It's not just that, Soul. The weapon makes the meister too. Without you, I am nothing."

He gives a little chuckle that vibrates her chest pressed against his back. "Two united as one." He swears that he can feel her lips against his skin as she smiles.

"Two united as one." So yes, maybe he's the one carrying her now, but he's just as dependent on her as she is on him. That's what being partners is all about-the whole basis of their relationship. She will get stronger with him; together they will grow stronger.

His steps are steady and constant, despite his weariness, and she finds that despite the way her injuries are being jolted, its soothing.

"Hey Soul?"


"When we get back, can...can you play some jazz for me?" His heart pounds hard for a moment, and he thinks of hushed concert halls and the bitter taste of failure and inadequacy; then he remembers a girl, bright green eyes shining as she claps enthusiastically.

"Yeah, I think I can swing that."