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The Space Between

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It seemed to Khany that her life revolved not around the twin suns of Vinea but around Yoko.

There were no days on Vinea. It orbited its suns in 2587 Earth days, but time went by as a succession of artificial day/night cycles controlled by Command. Most of Khany's shifts were during 'night' cycles.

Yoko brought light.

In the literal sense, as Khany's shift were moved to day cycles, and in the figurative sense. Colours were brighter, smells sharper when Yoko was in the room. Vynka told Khany this is what love feels like.

She believed him. He should know, given that he had been happily what-the-Earthers-call-married for years. Or perhaps they do not call it married as his partner is also male. Or perhaps they do.

Earthers were complicated.

"When is Yoko coming home?" Poky asked, often.

"I don't know," Khany said, always. Soon, she hoped.

The cycles went by repeatedly. Negotiations faded into negotiations, experiments into experiments, half-day into half-night and boredom into ennui.

The people of Ixo would not talk to those of Shyra. The Shyra still did not trust the Archangels. The Kifa exiles were opposed to the Archangels on principle. The people of Ultima were still bitter about being left to their own devices for such a long time. Most of them would only talk to Yoko -- or failing her, to Khany. They had lost contact with the Titans again. It was all a giant mess and having a digital copy of her father operating part of the central system of Vinea was not helping.

Khany was in charge, because of course she was. They wouldn't talk to anyone but her or Yoko. She just wished that the ones who called Yoko 'her human' would stop.

She was not.

She was no more Khany's human than Khany was her Vinean.

"You should ask her," Vynka said. They had been trying to re-establish contact with the Titans for days by then. This was the seventeenth time Vynka had rewired the emitter-receptor.

"What if I do and she hates me?" Khany disliked how childish she sounded. They time, they were getting a faint signal. Excellent work.

Vynka boggled. "Khany, I don't think Yoko can even hate people, least of all you. Just talk to her."

The transmitter blew up. Dammit. Back to the drawing board. Khany sketched out replacement schematics on the 3D board. Vynka soon joined her, their hands dancing diagrams into the light.

It turned out the Titans have taken the transmitter blowing up as an insult. They were now sending a small delegation to Vinea. By 'delegation', read 'assassin squad' and by 'small' read 'large'.

Khany hated diplomacy. She was good at it, though.

They managed to stop the Titans by convincing them that it was an accident. They believed it to be an 'accident', but the delegation was no longer on its way, so Khany didn't care.

Yoko returned on the night of the Parallel.

Khany's heart was fit to burst in her chest. It was the joy of the Parallel, the exhilaration of seeing Yoko again and the worry of it. Khany had told Vynka she would talk to Yoko; he had made her swear and an oath was an oath. But she didn't have to talk now. For now, she could simply enjoy sharing the festival of the Parallel with Yoko.

For once when she visited Vinea Yoko was not accompanied by a crisis and no crisis followed her. The closest thing was when Rosée du Matin almost refused to leave, until Poky and Myna convince her to go see the butterfly ballet with them.

So Khany took Yoko through the stalls of the festival. The stalls were a tradition that predates the exile -- diaspora, they were calling it these days -- to Earth and even the widespread use of 3D printing machines. In those times, they had sold arts and crafts, but there had been little use for beauty on Vinea lately.

These days they mostly sold food. It was an odd mix of old Vinean standards and Earth diaspora recipes. Khany's favourites were the ones that mixed the two and transformed into more than the sum of their parts.

Yoko had no way of knowing what was traditional and what was new, of course. Khany had never been good at talking about food, but she was a diplomat and knew how to talk about culture.

She paused for breath. Yoko was looking at her with an odd look in her eyes, somewhere between enraptured and fond. Khany tried a smile. Yoko looked away. Khany decided the best thing to do to defuse the awkwardness was to keep going with her lecture. The look returned to Yoko's face, but only when she thought Khany wasn't looking.

Khany guided Yoko to one of the balconies overlooking the crowd as she talked. Yoko leaned onto the railing next to Khany and they both looked out over the crowd below. Rosée and Poky are a bright bubble of exuberance next to the butterfly ballet. This vantage point was not the ideal angle to watch the ballet from, but it was still beautiful.

"It's gorgeous," Yoko said.

Khany nodded in quiet agreement. Yoko turned to face Khany so Khany turned to look at her.

"But not as gorgeous as you," Yoko added.

"Thank you." Khany's voice sounded stiff, even to her own ears.

Yoko's face fell. She looked away, back at the ballet.

Khany's heart plummeted to the bottom of her boots. She reached out a hand, laying fingers on the back of Yoko's hand. Her blue skin contrasted horribly with the green Yoko was wearing.

"Thank you," Khany repeated. She put as much feeling as she could in her voice and twined her fingers with Yoko's. "Thank you for everything."

Yoko faced Khany and they both leaned forward to lean their forehead against each other.
"No," Yoko said. "Thank you."

Then both of them leaned further in for a kiss.

Khany had been wanting to kiss Yoko for a very long time. It was worth every second of the wait.