Author's Notes- As I told everyone on Tumblr, my internet connection and my immune system crashed at the same time. Not only have I spent the last several days slowly dying in a pile of tissues and cough drop wrappers, for several hours I couldn't even access Google Docs to work on the epilogue. (And then of course once the internet came back on the only thing I wanted to do was watch Sailor Moon for some reason... I guess I felt nostalgic, and of course then a SoMa Sailor Moon AU was born and I'm angry because it's not like I don't have ENOUGH random SoMa AUs floating around in my head as it is...)

❅ Epilogue

Soul would have happily gone on kissing Maka indefinitely, because although they were both a little clumsy and new at this, the feel of her breath feathering across his cheek and the warmth of her body tucked close against his own and the soft sounds she made as he ran his tongue experimentally along the seam of her lips more than made up for it. However, a loud bang from down the valley interrupted them and Maka pulled away from him to look curiously downslope. Another short series of explosions, preceded by bright flares of multicolored light, cleared up the mystery.

"Fireworks!" Maka exclaimed. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes shone in the reflected light of the pyrotechnics over Aspen, and Soul decided that staring at her indefinitely was also a viable option. She looked back at him, pouting. "It must be midnight- we missed the countdown."

He considered it a rather remarkable feat that he didn't lean down to nibble on that adorable pout of hers. "Screw the countdown, I think our celebration was better," he said, his fingers playing absentmindedly with the ends of her loose hair.

She beamed up at him, eyes soft and expressive and fuck this was better than winning the lottery and the Superbowl combined. Soul was pretty sure that the only way to describe his current emotional state was "giddy" and goddamn he did not care if he looked ridiculous with the big stupid grin he was wearing. He got the girl. Or more like the girl got him, but frankly Soul didn't care much about the details because Maka loved him.

"You might be right about that," she said, "But I suggest we move the celebration somewhere else, because you've been out here with no shoes and no coat for I don't know how long, and I'm pretty sure it's below zero right now."

She had a good point, it really was pretty cold, and a decade in Death Valley had pretty much destroyed his native New Englander sensibilities about weather. Still, everybody else was inside and if they went in and rejoined them that meant no more kisses, which was not a favorable turn of events at all, in Soul's opinion. He had by no means gotten his fill of this new pastime. Unless maybe he could convince her that moving inside didn't necessarily have to mean going back to their friends.

No such luck. When they got inside he tried to subtly guide her in the opposite direction of the room where everyone was gathered, but his meister, apparently, knew him too well. She gave him a wry look, one eyebrow raised.

"Soul, everyone else is that way," she said, nodding her head in the direction of the common room.

"Can I help it if I want you to myself for a little while?" he said.

Maka blinked. "Are you... are you actually pouting?"


"You are."

She grinned and tugged lightly on his hand, pulling him closer. Soul had no problem with that, so he let her reel him in.

"You're sweet," she told him, kissing him lightly on the cheek (Soul was absolutely not blushing, nonoNO). "We've got plenty of time later for just you and me, but for now we're here with our friends so let's take advantage of that while we're here, okay?"

"I hate when you're right," Soul muttered, but he was smiling. He wasn't totally sure he was ever going to stop smiling.

And so he let her lead him by the hand back to the living room. When he thought about it, it was actually probably a good thing he wasn't going to be alone right now. He was too high on the words she'd said, and he'd probably end up spilling his guts, telling her how amazing she was, how much she'd changed his life for the better, how with her he felt like maybe- just maybe- he was actually worth something, how she brightened up his day just by being Maka, all that sappy stuff. Not, of course, that there was anything wrong with letting the girl you loved know she was appreciated, especially not between two people who were as close as they were, but he wasn't good at the Big Emotional Speeches thing so he'd probably fuck it up. Besides, in his current emotional state, Soul was pretty sure he'd end up doing something really embarrassing, like start crying or something. And that, he reflected, would not be cool at all. Yeah, definitely better if they were around other people for a bit until the novelty of this wore off.

Before they could reach the end of the hall, however, Soul pulled her to a halt.

"What is-?"

Soul's hands had cupped her cheeks before she could finish her question, and he brought her lips to his in one last kiss before they were back in public. It was just a short little thing, affectionate and tender, and when it was over Soul pressed his forehead to hers lightly, reveling in the knowledge that he could do this now. The glow of her cheeks and the silly grin on her lips was worth everything.

"You really love me?" he asked softly.

"I really love you," she said, equally softly.

"That's... really good," Soul said, struggling for words, because he'd never been great at expressing his feelings but this was so important and he needed to try. "I never, um, thought you'd feel the same way."

"I know the feeling," Maka said

He brushed a lock of her hair behind her ear. "Love you," he said quietly, and god it felt good to say. She didn't say a word in reply, but she didn't need to. Soul could see her heart in her eyes.

Oh god, he was cheesy when he was in love, wasn't he? He couldn't really bring himself to care, though. Not tonight, anyway.

Finally they made it back into the living room. Soul was ridiculously pleased to find that when he sat down next to Wes, Maka sat on his other side and snuggled right up next to him.

The room was dark, lit only by the fire in the fireplace and the TV, which was muted, displaying live coverage of the New Year's celebrations... somewhere. Argentina, maybe. Soul didn't really care. He looked around the room at all the people gathered there. Black*Star was dozing on the other chaise lounge, Tsubaki with curled up next to him, admiring the glint of her ring in the firelight and failing spectacularly at being subtle about it. Liz was seated on the other couch, with Kid and Kilik on either side of her; the two meisters were engaged in what Soul considered a rather pointless conversation about skateboard brands. Kim and Jackie were leaning up against the couch. Soul took note that Kim had drifted off on Jackie's shoulder, and the usually serious weapon couldn't have looked more pleased. On the floor, Patti, Ox, Harvar, and the twins were playing another of Patti's board games. Ox and Patti appeared to be having a rather heated debate about the rules.

Lastly, Soul glanced at Wes, whom he hadn't seen in so many years. Wes seemed to sense his gaze and looked over to catch his eye. He saw Wes take note of Maka cuddled up by his side, and his brother raised an eyebrow questioningly. Soul just grinned, and it seemed that despite all the time that had passed Wes still hadn't lost his uncanny talent for reading a situation, because he grinned right back and there was something congratulatory in his smile. They had a lot of catching up to do and a lot of air to clear, but at that moment Soul didn't have a single doubt that they would be alright.

Here were the people Soul cared about, all gathered together. His friends, his family... and Maka. He glanced down at the top of her head, his broad grin softening into something gentler. Soul was a cynic by nature, but at this particular moment he felt incredibly positive and optimistic. Maybe, he thought, this was what the holidays were all about.

"Hey! Soul and Maka are holding hands!"

At Black*Star's raucous shout, all thoughts of peace on earth and goodwill toward men and all that crap vanished from Soul's head.

"Soul likes Maka! Maka likes Soul!" the ninja cackled, as if they were all back in grade school.

Okay, never mind. He would be warm and fuzzy and optimistic after he kicked Black*Star's ass.

Author's Note- And that's a wrap, folks. Just a short slice-of-life fic with a bit of holiday spice to it.

When I first conceived this, I intended it to be much longer, much more detailed, and incredibly smutty. Tsubaki and Black*Star were gonna get it on like six times, Liz and Kilik were going to do more than just make out a lot, Kim and Jackie were going to actually get together and get busy, and the fic was going to end with Soul and Maka doing it like three times in a row. But it takes me forever to write smut and I procrastinated hardcore on actually writing this damn thing, so I had to not only make it much shorter and cut out several scenes (or reduce them to brief summaries at the start of other scenes) but all the smut went bye-bye. Ah well, maybe in my next fic.

I hope you all have enjoyed this, silly as it may have been, and I wish you a (slightly belated) very happy New Year!