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It’s warm in Hawaii when Chisato lives again.

“I think that’s all,” Mika grunts as he finishes hauling the last crate of coffee beans into their truck, his back definitely not what it used to be. With one last check, he nods satisfied, and closes the truck for the night. “Good work today girls.”

“We’re really getting the hang of this food truck business, huh?” Chisato smiles, hands on her hips as she looks proudly at the vehicle that gave her a new status quo. It’s been barely a month, but she really grew fond of that metal hunk that’s big enough to house her entire family.

“And the people here are very patient.” Takina agrees, then side-eyes Mizuki. “Despite language barriers.”

“I don’t speak English.” The rehearsed line leaves Mizuki’s lips.

“One day they’ll figure out this is all pretend and expose you on the internet.” Kurumi mutters, looking at the day’s checks and balances on her phone. “I can see the news. ‘Japanese woman fakes inability to speak English and customers are obsessed’. Then you’ll be all over TikTok.”

“I hate every word that just came out of you mouth.” Mizuki yawns, exhaustion taking over her. “Anyway, goodnight, children. Be good, call me if you see a hot foreigner walking past your cabin.”

“Night!”

“Goodnight.”

Chisato and Takina say at the same time, bidding the rest of Café LycoReco goodbye. With the truck parked near the resort and the full moon hanging in the sky, the two girls make their way to their private cabin, all the way across the gorgeous grass field and past the pool. A small treat, Mika’s own words, for their hard work in this next step of their lives.

Takina knows that staying at the resort for two weeks is a birthday present of sorts for Chisato’s new life. She feels giddy every time she’s reminded of this, reminded that Chisato is here, and alive, and so happy. With a subtle glance, Takina basks in the presence of the girl by her side, the blonde hopping as she hums a made-up song.

It’s warm in Hawaii and the night pretty humid, so Chisato’s hair is up in a tiny ponytail. Her white crop and red shorts contrast with Takina’s blue dress, and it also makes her smile, for some reason. Being next to Chisato always makes her smile lately.

In these quiet moments, everything feels right in the world.

“Oh, hot guy spotted.” Chisato turns her head as she stares, grabbing the cabin key from her pocket. “Code 327. Alert the authorities.”

With a rehearsed movement, Takina takes the cellphone from her purse and dials Mizuki, not even waiting for the woman to say anything on the other side before going, “Tall, ginger, freckles on his face. Cabin five. Heading for the pool. Over.”

Takina hangs up and Chisato laughs, opening the cabin’s door. “Nice.”

Once inside, it feels like another universe entirely.

The cabin is average-looking – wooden floor and walls, one double bed, a mirror in front of the door and a wardrobe that barely fits all the sandals that Chisato bought on the trip. Across the room there is a tiny bathroom with a sink, toilet and shower. It’s a normal room as far as Takina is concerned.

But here, it’s their room. A private world that she has longed for and didn’t even notice, and the fact that returning here after a long day makes Takina’s heart swell with something freaked her out at first. She still doesn’t know why this little cabin means so much to her, but she’s not in a rush to find out. They still have a week of this.

The air-conditioner is on, cooling their skin, and Chisato throws the keys somewhere, falling backwards on the mattress.

“Ah, what a day!” Chisato stretches, feet dangling back and forth. Her eyes shine with the satisfaction of a job-well done. “Say, say, you think we can come up with that blue recipe tomorrow?”

“No one wants blue food.” Takina says, matter-of-factly, but smiling a little. She puts her purse away, then sits on the bed to remove her shoes. “You need to let this idea go.”

“I can’t leave this country without coming up with a blue dessert, Takina.” Chisato, as always, refutes. “I’ll get there, eventually. It would be so much faster if you helped me, though.”

“We all know what happened the last time I came up with a dessert.”

“Yeah, it was our most popular item for weeks!”

“Because it looked like— you know what, I don’t want to remember that.” Takina sighs, then gets up. She starts pulling the dress over her body to cool faster, readying herself for a bath.

“Woah, the window is open!” With a jump, Chisato boosts herself to the other side of the room to pull down the curtains; turning back to Takina, her cheeks are red. “Be careful!”

“Hm?” Takina frees herself from the garment, looking back at her partner. “There’s no one around.”

“You don’t know that! Perverts are everywhere.” Chisato insists.

“It’s the last cabin of the row, in the middle of a resort, at night.” Takina deadpans.

“Your body is a temple and needs to be protected!” Chisato retorts.

This takes a smile out of Takina. She throws her dress on the bed, and just stands in the middle of the room in her undergarments. “And who’s protecting me from you, then?”

Chisato blinks, then hastily looks away, suddenly finding the details in the wooden wall fascinating. “I’m not staring. I would never.”

This routine is normal now, the back and forth, the jokes and teasing. This past month Chisato has been so incredibly fun to be around, and Takina wonders if it’s because she finally allowed herself to indulge in everything life has to offer without worrying about how the people left behind would feel.

“I don’t mind, either way.” Takina concludes, walking past Chisato to get to the bathroom. She doesn’t close the door – protective instincts are hard to subdue –, so Chisato has a full view of her back when she does.

She sees the scar there, on Takina’s left shoulder. A big line, burned, as if something really hot had crossed her skin, ripping it apart. Mika had told Chisato what exactly had happened back then, before she passed out hanging from a thread, thousands of feet off the ground – one girl held Chisato’s life with her bare hands, literally, refusing to give up on her when Chisato had given up on herself. The whole story had shaken her to the core.

It’s not the first time she’s seen the mark on Takina’s shoulder. The first time, the pain in her chest was so grand that she was afraid her new heart was malfunctioning. It took her three days to realize it was guilt, and not rust. It took five more days to come to terms with the fact that Takina was permanently scarred for her sake.

Still, Chisato never acknowledged it out loud. It felt like an invasion of privacy somehow, something she didn’t have the right to comment on, seeing as Takina would sacrifice the whole world for her. Back then, Chisato thought it was pointless. Now, she wasn’t so sure.

She’s been thinking a lot more about mortality now than when her time was actually running out. Life was easier when she knew she was going to die young. All she had to do was live to the fullest before it happened. But now, with years and years ahead of her, Chisato found herself thinking long and hard about her choices; about who she talked to, who she didn’t talk to, who she wanted to talk to.

Everything was more carefully calculated, and Chisato didn’t really hate it. She caught herself cherishing these moments a lot more now. And she could finally admit that the reason for this was a black-haired girl who took it upon herself to be Chisato’s undoing.

Takina had looked at the destiny that Chisato had so easily accepted years ago and said, no.

And now, Chisato was so lost. How do people live the rest of their lives without a plan?

It’s times like these that Takina’s words ring inside her mind.

“Why don’t you start with something you had given up on?”

What had she given up on?

And maybe it’s the way the soft yellow light makes Takina’s skin glow, but looking at the girl in front of her, Chisato knows this answer, too.

Without thinking much, Chisato takes a step forward, pressing one hand to Takina’s scar. Then, she leans in, forehead against shoulder.

“Hm?” Takina mutters. She doesn’t flinch. Chisato is the only person who can get this close to her without making the alarms go off inside her head.

It’s quiet for a moment. The two girls simply breathe in sync, existing, pondering the meaning of things. The day had been so fun, but now, at night, with nothing but the two of them inside a closed space, thoughts spiraled like galaxies.

“It must’ve hurt.” Chisato’s voice is soft against her. It’s the first time she talks about this.

Takina doesn’t answer. And then, “It was nothing—”

“Don’t say that.” Chisato cuts her off, then sighs, closing her eyes.

“…compared to how much it would’ve hurt if I hadn’t done that.” Takina finishes. She feels the girl behind her taking a deep breath, and places one hand close to her shoulder, fingertips gently touching Chisato’s. “I don’t regret it, you know. I wish you didn’t, either.”

Chisato chuckles, sadly. “I lived my whole life thinking I didn’t have any regrets. Now it feels like I have too many, suddenly.”

“Like what?” Takina asks. When no answer comes, she turns around to face her fully. “Chisato?”

And there, in a tiny bathroom in a cabin in the middle of Hawaii, Chisato looks at this girl and thinks ‘God, how much time did I waste?’.

One hand touches Takina’s shoulder again, then slides down her clavicle, moving back up to the side of her neck, then into her hair. Takina stands frozen, waiting for her next move, always waiting. She was never going to leave, Chisato realizes. This girl was going to chase her to the end of the world.

Chisato was done running, she thinks.

“I’m sorry.” Is all she says.

“Why don’t you start with something you had given up on?”

“I want to start with us.”

And Chisato kisses her. She immediately feels it again, the pain in her chest that could either be love or a mechanical malfunction. This time, though, she knows the difference.

When Takina kisses her back, oh, she knows the difference.

Their lips melt against each other in a dance. Takina’s hitched breathing warm against her face, Chisato’s hand memorizing her scalp, her neck again, her other hand touching everywhere it can, feeling everything she had wanted to feel but couldn’t. She had been holding herself back, Chisato realizes, because allowing herself to love Takina would finally make death the scariest thing in the whole world.

Never again.

Chisato is shaking, suddenly. It’s Takina who puts both hands on her waist to still her, and they kiss, and kiss, and Chisato wants to say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’.

When they pull apart – just for a second – Takina opens her eyes slightly. There are untold feelings there, repressed touches, and an aching longing for the treasure she tried to protect. She’s wanted this too. For so long.

Takina opens her mouth to say—

“I love you.” Chisato beats her to it.

Takina curses beneath her breath and feels tears on her face. Chisato laughs a little, presses her nose against Takina’s before wiping the wetness with her thumbs.

And Takina says, “Don’t apologize.”

It’s warm in Hawaii when Chisato and Takina take a shower together, speaking through the silence, quiet when needed, kissing when requested. When Takina washes blonde hair with care and touches silky skin like it’s made of glass. When Chisato makes bubbles with her nose and a girlish laughter echoes among the tiles. It’s warm when they put on their pajamas and lie on their shared bed, wrapped around each other like young love. When whispers turn into secrets, turn in to kisses, turn into sleep.

It’s warm in Hawaii when Chisato loves again.