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gonna give all my secrets away

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“Tell me a secret.” The words bounce into the air, off of the ceiling, and back into Joann’s ears from the woman next to her. “Do you have any secrets, Jo?”

Secrets is such a wide-ranging word, Joann thinks. There are the little secrets, the quirks given with time and patience. Perhaps there are even bigger secrets, divulged only with bonds beyond one’s wildest dreams.

But then there are the secrets Joann has long resolved she will take to the grave. Secrets that she would not tell even under duress, Klingon interrogation tactics or not. One of which involves the person next to her.

“I’m an open book,” she says instead. “What do you want to know, Keyla?”

Keyla hums. “What’s your deepest, darkest, secret, Joann Owosekun? What’s the one thing you’ve never told another soul?” The deep cuts, then. Deep as Keyla’s eyes were bright.

“And what are you going to give me in return?”

“Why, my unwavering loyalty and friendship, of course.” Joann rolls her eyes and gently shoves Keyla’s shoulder. “Fine. For every secret you tell me, I’ll tell you one, too.”

So now it was an exchange. “Okay, Keyla Detmer.” Joann rolls her shoulders. “You start, then.”

“Wh — that wasn’t —“ Joann raises her eyebrows, and Keyla sighs. “Fine. I tell everyone  my first joyride was when I was eight, but it was actually at six.” When that does nothing but raise an incredulous expression, Keyla holds her her hands in defense. “It’s true! My mom left the keys to the shuttle out and I just…picked them up and went around the block.”

“You’re a regular Grand Theft Shuttle, Key.”

Keyla winks. “And don’t you know it. Your turn.”

“Let’s see…I…oh, I know. Once, I walked around with potatoes up my nose for weeks because I didn’t want to sneeze all over my textbooks. So I sneezed potato up my sinus cavity.”

“Ew,” Keyla groans, but she’s laughing. “First time I went out, I accidentally hit on Tazzy’s cousin that was visiting in town.”

“No!” Joann exclaims, eyes wide.

“It was terrible!” Keyla groans. “I went to Tazzy’s the next day and she was there. It was sooooo embarrassing.”

“Sounds better than the time I wrote a love letter to one of my teachers under the guise of very high admiration. I even put a mood ring around it.” Her teacher had been kind enough to write a returning letter to her thanking her for the ring, but even now, Joann can’t even think about the incident without wincing.

“A mood ring,” Keyla nods sagely. “Impressive.”

“Not my finest moment.”

“You don’t say.” A moment of silence settles between them; if she focuses hard enough, Joann can feel the pinpricks of where Keyla’s fingers occasionally nudge hers in the bed. “Jo?”

“Yeah, Key?”

Keyla’s quiet for a moment as she stares at the ceiling. “For all the love we give — the people we accidentally hit on, the people we write letters to — you ever think we’re gonna get that in return?”

“What do you mean?”

“Someone to match us,” Keyla explains, and there’s a hollowness in her voice Joann didn’t hear before. “Who writes back to the letters we send, or hits on us back.”

Joann frowns. Keyla’s been hit on plenty of times before — she’s seen that evidence with her own two eyes. She says as much. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Someone I wake up to, look at, and think ‘Oh. God, you’re the reason I wake up in the mornings.’ Or when I do something for them, it has my whole heart. Or someone I could never stop telling ‘I love you’ to.” Keyla bites her lip, turning to face Joann. “I guess I’m trying to say that my next secret is that there’s someone that’s made me feel that for the first time.”

That’s my secret, too, Joann wants to blurt out. They don’t have to be our secrets anymore. But she’s well known Keyla’s boxes render this confession far more monumental than any of Joann’s confessions ever could. She has to tread carefully. (She doesn’t even know if Keyla’s talking about her.)

“That’s big,” she murmurs, because what else do you do? “How does that make you feel?”

“Terrified,” Keyla admits. “I don’t know how people do it all the time, because these feelings just feel so…” She makes a vague gesture in the air; Joann cannot tear her eyes away. If she does, she fears she may lose what is so close to tenderly forming in front of them. “It makes me feel like my bones are rattling in zero-g.”

It is the same feeling that presents itself in Joann’s chest whenever Keyla looks over at her with a smile wider than the Milky Way, when their fingers brush in the night lying in bed together; the strands of red that take up residence on her cheek every morning as a byproduct of Keyla’s limbs draped over hers despite her having said goodnight from the opposite side of the room the night before.

Fragile, such a feeling. One good shake and the foundation could crumble to dust. “Someone does that for me, too,” Joann admits on barely more than a wind’s whisper. “It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever encountered in my life.”

Keyla quirks an eyebrow. “You?” she asks. “You, Joann Owosekun, scared of a girl?”

“I’d watch who you’re calling out, Detmer,” Joann responds in kind, though the words feel solid, weighed in molasses. “You’re one to talk.”

“Yeah, well.” Keyla chuckles, bites her lip. “She means a lot to me. I couldn’t mess that up.” Her eyes catch Joann’s then, and for the first time, Joann sees : sees pools of cerulean trembling with uncertainty and almost unable to still directly with hers. Rattling in zero-g. “I would hate to be wrong.” 

Joann exhales slowly; the bones rattling in her chest only pick up speed. They are so close, now, a centimeter between dreams and reality. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think you would be.”


Keyla blinks. 

Joann blinks in return. 

“I hope you’re right” is all Keyla murmurs before her lips cover Joann’s. They’re soft, slightly chapped without the coat of chapstick Keyla puts on every morning, moving against Joann’s with curiosity and a restrained ferocity. 

The bones rattle for a final time in Joann’s chest before dissolving completely as she loses herself in the kiss, hand sliding into Keyla’s hair (the left side, she makes sure) and letting Keyla’s body roll on top of her, her skin setting every inch of hers on fire —

It is every single ounce of love Joann could have ever hoped to receive in return to what she’s given; it is love letters and mood rings and the spitting image of someone she could wake up to in utter content. 

Keyla pulls back, both of their sharp breaths filling the room for but a second before they evolve into sharp, relieved laughter. “Your biggest secret was me,” Joann says delicately, hands framed around Keyla’s hips even as the pilot sits up. “Your secret was that you had feelings for me.” 

Your secret was that you had feelings for me,” Keyla echoes just as teasingly, but the fragility behind her words suggests otherwise. “Was that… was that your secret?” 

“Well, actually, it’s that I’ve been fooling Tilly all along with my synthenol tolerance; I’m actually good until fifteen shots,” Joann deadpans. Keyla only has time to gape in outrage before she’s pulled back down for another sound kiss. “Cause my feelings for you aren’t a secret anymore.”