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seeing stars

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Aki's room is very quiet while she narrows her eyes at the screen in front of her. She navigates Twipo and frowns at checklists and emails that are going to be a lot more important in a few weeks when April rolls around. She restlessly kicks one leg and then the other, staring down in the direction of her pillow. She pushes one hand beneath it, fiddling with the edge of the pillowcase when she hears her bedroom door open.

She cranes her neck around to look back over her shoulder. She half-expects her dad, but Kai's much more slender frame creates a gap in the center of the doorway. The faintly crinkled texture of his untucked shirt is the first thing that catches her eye. Her gaze snaps up from the feather that dangles from the carrying case hanging by his leg to his face.

He comes closer and she tries tugging her arm out from beneath the pillow. She catches her PhoneDroid before it slides back and falls, just barely, and for a moment she's so preoccupied that it startles her a little when he speaks.

“You should be sleeping,” he comments. There's no hint of judgment in his voice – after all, he's awake, too. His voice is low, quiet, kind – like he thinks she's already sleeping and that he might wake her if he talks too loud. The glowing screen that shines into her eyes reads 01:48 in the corner. Seeing that does nothing to calm the quickened thumping in her chest.

Her eyes come back up from the momentary panic that she was going to shatter her pad again to see his hand moving. The trajectory makes it look like he's aiming for her back, specifically right between her shoulder blades. His index and middle fingers straighten from being casually curled at his sides. Aki stares and takes a sharp breath before they hesitate, bend slightly, fall back down.

She holds her breath then lets it go, squirming to get up.

Nothing is in focus for a moment as she leaps up onto her knees, shins drawing beneath her and arms pushing to find some kind of upright position. When she has finished scrambling, her fingertips come to rest delicately on the hem of the shorts she likes to sleep in. The soft, narrow rise of fabric worries her sense of touch, and she barely touches her clothes as they seem to generate static electricity. Her hands keep half-lifting up but not quite losing contact with the tops of her thighs.

"Um," Kai says, the way he does when he doesn't understand what she's doing. She doesn't understand either, so she decides she has to do something.

After another sharp exhale, she wheels herself around so her bare feet touch the floor. First one foot and then the other, she feels too aware of her joints, like they're made of metal and wires and hope, instead of anything like flesh, bone, and muscle that seem likely to hold her up. There's a sharp pang of sympathy for being the person in the pilot's seat – high up and touching the sky, too far from the body you're trying to move.

Facing Kai, her eyes fall to his chest. Specifically, the glances at the breast pocket that falls somewhere over his heart. She thinks about that day all the time. Who wouldn't?

It hasn't even been a month, but she doesn't think it will ever get any easier to think about holding something the size of her palm, knowing that there was every chance that pressing a button might kill him. Her hand is halfway up before she realizes. She freezes with her palm parallel with the space just over his heart. She knows it's there, but part of her wants to feel, to know that it isn't going to slow down, strain, stop.

A confused sound comes from somewhere around his throat. When she looks up, Aki realizes she hasn't said anything. That, more than anything, makes her even more determined that she has to do something. Abruptly she has both her hands on his chest, fingertips curling in around to one side, just beneath his arm in a way that makes him jump. She pushes and steers, backing him toward the door.

“Aki?” Kai asks, his posture tense and a little resistant at first before slowly giving in.

“You have to knock,” Aki says. She's almost startled by the sound of her own voice. For a minute, she thinks she said the wrong thing – something other than what she meant – but they end up in the doorway and stop, his feet just over the threshold.

She glances down and notices his toes moving up and down slightly while he rocks back and forth over the change of height between the hallway and her bedroom floor. She notices that they're bigger than she thought – only a little, but it throws her perception of how 'big' both of them have gotten into sharp relief. 'Big' the way Misa might say it, fond and a little condescending – like they don't quite fit in these bodies they inhabit – only they do, but big sisters aren't supposed to know that. If Misa felt like saying much of anything – which is a thought for another time, another moment, somewhere when she's alone or with her sister.

The white socks that stretch out over his stupid, big toes catch her attention and draw her back. They're white and pretty clean after a day's wear, but there are visible traces of worn spots. Fuzz, little patches of tired, laundered gray.

It feels like the moment has stretched out into forever – which is supposed to be Kai's thing, but – she keeps expecting him to say something again, and she isn't sure how long it's been. She's about halfway through looking up from his toes to his face when she hears his voice actually chime in.

“Okay,” Kai says, voice catching as if he's a little afraid to answer with anything else. It doesn't stop him, though. “Since when?” he asks, the same nearly flat, mildly curious intonation.

In looking up, she realizes that ducking her head down had also ducked it forward. She's closer than she realized. Her chin is higher than it usually is when she meets his eyes.

“Since—” she says softly. 'Since always,' her tongue nearly lies without thinking about it. But she can almost hear the conversation that would follow. Self-satisfied amusement in Kai's voice as he says: 'Nu-uh.' or 'You know that's not true.' Only she doesn't know if he'd actually say that or if she can just imagine him saying it because he'd be right.

She remembers, faintly, a time when she'd asked him to knock. She doesn't remember why it started or why it stopped. Only, thinking about it, she thinks she might remember the last time she told him to.

After that, his entry into her room had started seeming normal or at least so necessary that she hadn't minded. A repeating, soft-spoken litany of 'What do we do?' in the privacy of her bedroom had often been the only time they would be alone for days at a time once the Club had started growing. The reasons kept getting bigger, scarier, but the question stayed the same.

Kai's eyebrows lift upward. His hand is lingering somewhere behind the door frame. Aki follows the line of his forearm until her line of sight ends. She sighs with some disgust, giving up a hard fight to give him the answer she meant to.

"I just thought..." Kai interjects when she can't say it. His eyes get a little wider and she can tell it's because of something he sees when he's looking at her face.

Her lower lip presses between her teeth for an anxious second and she tilts her head, making a quiet sound that definitely isn't a reply.

Kai draws a deep breath and slowly lets it out, knocking three times on the wall just outside her door.

The relief that spreads from her chest doesn't make sense. She knows it doesn't make sense, but she wants to hug him just for understanding. She doesn't. Glancing back over her shoulder, she takes a step backward to allow him into her room. Almost.

Then she remembers how late it is. She's watching him start to shift his weight to come forward, and she knows how easy it would be to lean up and touch her lips to his. She knows that now, and she doesn't even have to try for the thought.

“It's just I thought you might try something,” Aki blurts out, but then she knows it came out all wrong.

Kai's shoulders drop just slightly and his hand swings up to rub at the side of his neck. He can't stop fidgeting his fingers against it, kneading until the light tan of his skin starts to redden beneath them. He glances off to the side – back the way he came, like he's really thinking about leaving.

“I could—” he starts to say, but then he roughly clears his throat and speaks a little louder. “It's late, and I'm tired anyway, so maybe this was—”

Wait,” Aki interrupts. She reaches out and grabs hold of his wrist just as she starts to feel some sway in his body as he thinks about going home. She knows when he's just trying to sound okay about something, cool about something, and it occurs to her: “Are you okay?”

His eyes snap back into focus and his brow tenses a little.

“Yeah, I just... I can go if—”

It's just so late, Kai. What are you doing here? Who let you in?” Aki asks, her brow mirroring his in its tight, concerned frown. She hasn't let go of his wrist yet. His pulse is a steady, faint thrumming somewhere beneath her fingertips.

“Your dad,” Kai says. “Well, he didn't let me in. He knew I was coming, though.”

“Kai, it's almost 2:00,” Aki points out.

Yeah, I talked to him earlier. See? I'm not...” 'Trying anything,' she can almost hear him say, but he sighs instead.

Aki relents too and tugs Kai by the wrist to guide him further into her room. She releases him only when they're standing closer to the middle, between her chair and bed.

“It's okay,” she assures him after a few steps and a deep breath clear her head. He's not even bringing it up, but there's no reason it should make a difference.

It doesn't make a difference that she knows how warm lips are, what his mouth tastes like. The time of day and where they are doesn't change who they are. She still reaches up and gently bites at a thumbnail for a second.

“Sit down,” she offers, trying to just act like things are normal as she turns toward him and keeps turning until she's facing the bed. They'd shared a bed in Odaiba. There's no reason they can't both sit on hers here. It had never mattered before.

He hesitates, pockets his hands, but then pulls them out, yields, and sits.

He has a usual spot he takes to sit on the edge of her bed, but she's usually across from him in her chair. He sits on that spot, but when Aki sits just beside him, up toward the head of the bed, he slides closer to the end.

“I actually came here to see if you wanted to look at the moon with me,” Kai explains, matter-of-fact.

“What?” Aki asks, voice only slightly higher pitched and more confused than usual. She clutches her pillow and starts to tug it toward her lap, but she stops halfway. She keeps fidgeting for a moment, but settles into quiet – watching, waiting, with her arms down and fairly straight.

They're sitting there, both on her bed, and nothing changes. She swallows a little more tightly than usual, but when Kai reaches down and touches his parted knees, he looks the same. The downward slump of his shoulders, the curve of his spine as he lets down any attempt at good posture, the way it pulls his shirt tight against his back. All of that looks familiar, like Kai.

Her legs fold at the knees and she squirms until she's sitting between her calves and ankles. She braces her hands down against the duvet and slides a little closer. She doesn't mean to be coy when she tilts her head. She's just curious.

“Seriously,” she says softly. Her fingers grasp at the cool, thick fabric of the duvet. “What do you mean?”

She's ready to move again, to reach out and tug at his sleeve to insist. He finally looks at her and nods toward the sliding door that leads out onto the small balcony beyond her room.

“The moon looks bigger than usual tonight,” Kai says, jerking his wrist to adjust the angle of his watch. Then he taps it. “And best visibility is in about twenty minutes.”

“'Bigger than usual'?” Aki repeats with some funny little play in her eyebrows. “Why?”

Kai looks her in the eye and his lips slowly start to turn upward.

“It's just something that happens,” he explains. She swears he's just answering that way because it's too short, because it bugs her.

He moves his hand as if he's about to pat the carrying case that rests somewhere around his hip the way he does when he's about to challenge her. The way he used to. He opens his mouth and she opens hers. At first, she's just taking a breath, but then she glances back over her shoulder. Her hands ball up a little and she starts to push up higher onto her knees, ready to get up. She thinks they might be about to talk at the same time, but she jumps for it.

“Did you come over because you wanted to use my balcony?” she asks, directing his attention back toward the sliding door with her thumb.

He stops mid-gesture and his brow furrows just a little bit to match his smirk.

No,” he says, so curtly that at first it makes Aki blink. She thinks – again – that maybe he's changed his mind. He doesn't really help that impression when he gets to his feet abruptly. She hasn't had the chance to actually get up off her knees yet, and she sits there on her bed, just a one-eighty turn from where she'd started. “I asked if you wanted to come look at the moon with me,” he clarifies.

Aki glances at his hand, the way it reaches out just a little and the fingers bend, not quite cupping. She thinks he might be reaching for her hand, but she isn't sure and doesn't reach out to take it yet. Instead, she scrambles back to her feet on her own. When she's up, she is facing him, though.

She still isn't completely sure that was what he meant to do with his hand.

It's so late, Kai,” she emphasizes, again.

“So?” he asks. Before it can frustrate her that he brushes it off, he nods to her bedroom door, toward the rest of her house where her parents are somewhere probably sleeping. “That's why I talked to your dad about it. I wanted to... show you something,” he says, wavering between what sounds like clear honesty and mumbling. “Tomorrow's Sunday. You can sleep in for once,” he adds in a tone that she knows is teasing.

Aki studies him for a minute and sighs. She sits down right on the edge of her chair for a moment and tugs some socks on so she can wear shoes that will protect her feet from the damp, cool grass outside. She stands up so quickly that the chair rolls back and rattles out a little complaint.

“Where are we going?” she asks casually.

“Uh—” Kai interjects. She notices him looking her up and down a little and her skin feels a little more tense before she's sure whether she's embarrassed or not. She nearly asks, but he explains instead. “You might need a jacket. And uh... some pants,” he says with a small, indicative gesture toward her legs.

“Ugh!” Aki expresses outwardly at him, general disapproval for the advice before she considers it very fully at all. For a moment, she feels so self conscious she thinks she might start patting over every stretch of skin covered by any scrap of fabric from neck to knee. Then Kai lifts his hand and gestures toward the door.

“I'll wait downstairs,” he says, cracking her door open to the hallway. Once it's open, he speaks a little more softly for her parents' sake. “It's just kinda cool and wet out there is all,” he adds very quickly, then closes the door behind himself.

Aki just stands in place for a minute, staring at the closed door. It's almost surreal. She hears his footsteps retreating and heading for the stairs. She tugs on a pair of dull aqua short pants. She wriggles her ankle and feels the gap between her socks and where the pants end but decides that it's fine for the middle of the night. She fastens them quickly, shorts awaiting her on her bed for when she comes back. She hastily grabs her jacket too and tugs it on snugly. Reasonably confident that nothing she's wearing is hideous and that her hair probably still doesn't look like she's been asleep – since it's still up and she hasn't – she leaves her room and heads down the stairs as fast as she can.

It's only a last minute thought and save that she doesn't call out for Kai to wait on her when she remembers that her parents should be fast asleep.

She meets him at the door and he holds it for her with his back, fingers pushed just inside his pockets. They walk past his house, veering from sidewalk to quiet, empty street without any hesitation. They're almost down to the end of the road before Aki breaks the silence.

“So where are we going?” she asks again, glancing up at him.

He nods his head in the right direction and his eyes shift as if he can see it from this far off.

“The park,” he explains.

“Oh,” Aki says. She glances down at the forward motion of her feet. She isn't sure what she's supposed to say after that, if there's a certain way she should respond to the slightly nervous rhythm of her heartbeat.

“Don't want to?” Kai asks, tilting his head a little when he looks over at her.

“No! No, it's not that...” Aki assures him, but his feet scuff and she's afraid he won't continue. “I want to see,” she promises, reaching up and gently pinching the short sleeve of his shirt. She looks down at his bare arm then, realizing that she's the only one wearing a jacket. “I want to see,” she insists anyway.

“Well, you know, you don't actually have to go to the park with me to see,” Kai says. He isn't pouting, she can tell that much from his tone, but when she looks up at him he's grinning that needling grin of his. She doesn't have time to question it before he reaches for her shoulders and wheels her around, the movement prompting her up onto her toes – spinning to face away from him. Then he points past her at the silvery yellow glow above them that has been giving them as much light as any streetlamp since they stepped outside.

“Oh,” Aki says before she can say anything else. Then all at once she gets the urge and gently elbows back into his stomach. He grunts but only through a chuckle. “I still want to go!” Aki demands, forcing her way into rounding on him.

“Then we'll go. Just wanted to show you,” Kai says, gesturing for her to lead the way.

Aki continues toward the park, footfalls just a little harder than necessary for a moment while her face cools off in the night air.

It doesn't take long for them to reach the park. When they do, Kai cuts a diagonal line across the big, open grassy field and finds a spot. To Aki, it seems as random as any other except that it's mostly in the middle, but it seems like Kai knows where he's going. She wonders how many times he's been here before, just like this, in the middle of the night.

He kneels down and takes a seat, looking up at her as his legs stretch out along the ground.

“Sit here,” he says, patting the ground beside him.

Aki looks at the ground and scuffs her foot against it, trying to decide where exactly to take her place beside him. The little gap between sock at the bottom hem of her pants already feels damp and she eyes the grass nervously.

“It's just grass,” Kai says, running his fingers through it and raking up a faint particulate shower of dew that spatters her leg, almost presciently making a point.

She sighs and gives up, abruptly sitting down and hugging her knees as she gets used to the cool, damp feeling beneath her.

He laughs and lets the sound take him down to the ground, stretching on the rest of the way so he is lying on his back.

Aki glances back over her shoulder at him, glaring a little.

“Lie down,” Kai says, his tone less disarming and more refusing to acknowledge any act of aggression. Aki's stomach lightens and she decides that maybe he's right. Reluctantly, she uncoils and lies down next to him, taking it slow down from her elbows.

Once she is settled beside him, only scrunching her nose a little at the feel of the grass, she glances over at him tentatively.

His gaze drags down from the night sky to meet hers the way he used to look up at her from Kill Ballad. He looks more surprised than impatient or annoyed this time. He lifts his far forearm and points vaguely toward the sky.

“Just look up,” he explains helpfully.

Aki lets a breath out through her nose, a little huff, then looks up toward the sky. She notices out of the corner of her eye that he has done the same. She can't stop her eyes flitting around, noting stars and the purple and gray wisps of clouds that touch along the bottom edge of the very big moon. It does seem bigger than normal, and another fitful glance around tells her how few lights there are right here at the center of the park at the very darkest hours of the night.

“It happens when the moon is the closest it gets to Earth in its orbit,” Kai adds softly, the answer to a question she had asked back in her bedroom.

She narrows her focus at the moon, trying to see if it's somehow different from every other time she's glanced out her window and noticed it, big and bright and almost blinding on their small, dark-at-night island. She notices the craters a little more clearly and starts to focus, seeing patterns and imagining it's made of sand. For all her efforts at seeing something in it she hadn't before, she finds that her thoughts drift to the beach and other places here on Earth.

She sees the beauty in the sky, but after a long moment of quiet observation she looks back over at Kai.

She thinks she must have expected his focus to break with hers because when it doesn't she can't pry her eyes away from the way he's still looking up at the moon. Sometimes his eyes move just a little to the right or left, taking in a star or the movement of a cloud.

“Kai?” Aki asks. She keeps her voice low and quiet so it won't startle him too much.

“Yeah?” he replies, still not looking away from the moon.

Aki takes her time breathing in and letting it out as a hum. She never takes her eyes off him, finding this focal point a lot easier than the bright, cool light of the moon hanging above them. She turns her head in his direction just a little, squirming at her shoulders a little as if to shrug something like an apology for looking away from the moon. Her hands flatten against the ground, making it behind her back so she feels the crisscross of the cool grass against them.

“You really see yourself up there, don't you?” she asks. Her lips press tight and rub against each other as the question settles over him. She watches it happen, the way he blinks a little faster and finally decides to glance over at her – calm and steady as ever.

“I always thought it was cool,” he comments like he's trying to sound bored about it. “I think every little boy in Tanegashima did.” His gaze wheels back up toward the moon, chest rising and falling with a deep breath.

“Kai,” Aki complains, his response just drawing her attention closer. She turns her head with less resistance and her body begins turn toward him. At first, the movement is tentative, then she just rolls the rest of the way and settles. “You don't have to do that.”

“Do what?” he asks, not noting any change in his response. A moment later, he glances over for her eyes.

“Pretend you don't care,” Aki says simply. She knows it's the truth. She knows he knows she can see it, but he always does it anyway.

Kai clears his throat and his eye movement becomes a little more like her own when it's focused at the sky, flitting and fast, following several things at once instead of just one through to its conclusion.

“I guess I just started thinking it was easier,” he says, just when she thinks he's not going to answer it at all.

“Why?” Aki presses. She notices that being turned toward him makes the night seem just a little warmer. She remembers his bare arms and glances down at the arm closest to her. Her brow tightens just a little. She wishes she could do something about it – the way he seems to pretend that he can't feel, even now. She thinks he's coming out of it, but then he scares her a little sometimes. “Because I know you're just pretending.”

“I didn't want to tell you to stop jumping just because I liked my feet on the ground,” Kai replies quickly, smirking. “... I just didn't want to reach higher than I'd ever get. Would've made it harder,” he says, a little more solemnly in spite of the persistent little needling at her about being a pilot.

“Harder for what?” she asks, picking at the very thin line of grass between his shoulder and the space where her collarbone is.

“For me to look after you,” Kai says without hesitation. Then his face seems to brighten a little – enough to be visible in the bright moonlight. He still doesn't shy away from the illuminating glow.

“Hey!” Aki protests with mock-indignation. “I didn't need you to... do that... for me.” She lifts a finger to point at him, slowly aiming it for his cheek and moving it in since he isn't looking at her. She wants to make sure she has his attention.

“I wanted to, Aki,” Kai says, stopping Aki just shy of poking his cheek. She's sure he's had time to detect the would-be assault, but he doesn't move to stop it or turn his head away. Instead he just smirks with a little more mischief. “And yeah, you did,” he adds after a pause.

Aki exhales on a soft grumble but otherwise lets it go.

“But then you did it,” Kai continues, talking more when he'd normally make her drag it out. “You didn't it and you didn't let anybody stop you. And I didn't let anybody hurt you... when it counted. So I guess now, maybe...”

When he trails off, Aki sees it for sure – the seriousness with which he wants this. It might not be as urgent as the way she wanted to finish GunBuild I before they left school, but she sees it burning more quietly. She doesn't really know why it's so important to him, except maybe that it's beautiful and she catches him looking at butterflies sometimes without scaring them away.

She'll have time to figure it out. Even she knows that going to space from a launch site that hasn't been in operation for years will take time. She doesn't now exactly how long, but she's certain that Subaru does. She can ask him, but for now she just knows that she has time but that it doesn't stop her heart beating a little faster. She knows she has time, but she sees it for sure now – that this is what he wants. As much as she has always been willing to trust him absolutely, way up in GunBuild I's cockpit, she recognizes some little knot of excited fear in her stomach.

She looks down at the red of his shoes and following back up to the red shirt behind the white one he wears as part of his uniform. Just beyond that, there's his throat and despite her heart racing, Aki feels some creeping sense of slowness. She can't help wondering if this is what it must feel like for him when the entire world seems to slow down around him.

Only she knows it can't be. For him, that means pain.

Very quickly past the angle of his jaw, Aki looks for his eyes again.

“You thought that now that I've seen my dream come true,” she says, not mentioning or even mentioning or considering the 'what's-next' thoughts that come to mind sometimes, “that maybe you could think about yours.” Air presses in her chest, tightly pushing down on her shoulders as if she's about to cry. It aches a little, but instead of bursting into tears and hiding her face against him, she asks for him. “Kai?”

“Ye—” he starts to answer, neck slowly turning enough to look at her. Aki answers with her lips catching the corner of his. She'd only meant for sure to catch his cheek, but when it happens she doesn't feel embarrassed. Her face burns hot with nervousness, not shame.

“Aki?” he asks. She draws back enough to allow a full, steady breath, noticing how wide his eyes are.

Embarrassment tugs and threatens her a little as her eyes open to match his a little more closely. She swallows hard against the feeling.

“Before,” she asserts very firmly, clearly, trying to explain herself, “... Before you went up in GunBuild I, you said—”

“I like you,” Kai interjects very clearly. She wonders if maybe it's meant to be a mercy to her, before she panics, which just makes that weight in her chest anchor her a little more while she watches him. “I love you, Aki,” he says just as easily.

She can't manage confusion against something she's already been told, but she almost wishes she could. She looks down, grass still a gap between their legs.

“Yeah,” she says when he lets silence follow. “Yeah, I know and I...”

“You don't have to. You... gave me what I needed, when I asked you,” Kai says quickly. His eyes fix on her, wide open and without agenda.

Aki rubs the very tip of her tongue between her teeth, wishing he wouldn't interrupt her. Then her eyes prick and burn, just enough to make them a little more pink than she'd have liked as she shakes her head.

“But Kai, I need to...” Aki trails off, knowing that she should find a better way to ask. He stares back at her with no hint of wanting to look away, perhaps at the faint suggestion of tears. Trying to let him know she's okay, she reaches down to touch his arm, fingers pressing around his wrist. His skin there is cool to the touch and it makes her grip a little tighter. She braces herself and turns over, back now completely turned to the big moon peering down at them just a little more closely than it usually does.

She leans in more closely, presses her lips squarely to his. Just the feeling of the soft warmth makes her forget the burning tug at her eyes. She blinks once – very quickly – and lets them fall shut again, leaving her in darkness that keeps her from shying away. She turns and tilts, going after just the faintest taste of his mouth.

The first time, he had tasted like melon. This time it's a little less distinct, the sugar a little more formless and faint. There's something a little like metal, too, like the smell of dampened grass or rain. She doesn't know if that comes from him or the way they're lying on the ground.

His shoulders tense and rise toward her while she leans over, then they settle back down, easy and unresistant. Four fingertips just barely brush the side of her waist. She only barely feels them through the shielding of her jacket, but she knows he's there. She breathes in as deeply as she can, getting that much closer to his hand. He leans up, lips parted and open to hers, starting to reciprocate some of how her mouth slips and moves against his.

When he tries, their teeth touch. Everything goes still for a second, but Aki tilts her head a little more to one side and won't let herself pull away. The heat in her skin doesn't feel bad at all, and his cheeks and the side of his nose and his arms are too cool to the touch.

Her hand presses down to the ground somewhere beyond his ear, keeping her held steady. The grass is cool, cooler than his skin, and her fingers curl a little against it. Something he does with his lips – the soft catch and pull of a dry, chapped line running along his lower one touching the soft, wet skin just inside hers – makes her grip tighten so she knows a few blades of grass will come away on her palm. Her arms move back as if she's trying to make her shoulder blades touch and she pulls back with a soft gasp.

She feels his heightened breathing, chest close enough to rise and fall with hers, both a little heavy and quick. His eyes are half-lidded when she meets them.

“This is okay now?” he asks, voice rattling just around the edge of breaking. It sounds like shaky relief.

“This is okay,” Aki repeats with a quick nod and an easy smile that makes her sure she's telling the truth.

The fingertips at her waist move up, pressing down a little more confidently as they move. By the time he gets there, he squeezes around the back of her shoulder for a quiet moment. He lets go, then his hand touches the back of her neck, but he doesn't pull her closer to him.

Instead, he waits and keeps his hand against her skin – thumb brushing along the fine strands of hair at the nape of her neck – as she leans in again. She doesn't hesitate this time, tasting and touching the warmth of Kai's mouth and Kai's lips as slowly, as gently, as thoroughly as she wants. The warmth that touches her mouth spreads to warmth that flows from the center of her body. She knows that he can't be cold anymore when she feels this flood of heat making her body tense and calm with a rhythm like breathing.

Before she wants to, she pulls away and feels the rush of cool air lick the dampened skin around her lips. Warm touching cold makes her shiver, so she nuzzles the side of her nose to his, chasing after the warmth of his deep and steady breath. She doesn't want to take too much now. They have time before she leaves Tanegashima for Tokyo, before they have to go home, before he leaves Earth for space. They have time. She doesn't need to tell him goodbye again, just in case. She wants to come home to him from Tokyo, she wants to just feel him breathe and his heartbeat, and she wants him to return from the moon and the stars safe for her. She wants to feel like they have time.

She pushes herself up to an arm's length and turns so she is almost on her back again. Her legs cross and tangle a little, but she settles back so the back of her head rests against his shoulder. She is quiet for a moment, looking up with bleary focus at the moon.

Squirming toward him, she turns so her face presses to his shirt. Before she can decide not to, she's brushing her lips against the soft, familiar white fabric that smells like him, dabbing away the wet feeling that lingers. Kai cranes his neck to glance down at her. A sound catches in his throat, stopping short before letting go and turning into a chuckle. When she looks up at him with narrowed eyes, he lifts his free hand and rubs the back of it across his lips. His mouth visible again, he fixes her with a daring smirk.

Rather than finding the will to reach up, to tug his hair, to push at his side, all Aki finds is her heartbeat calming down in her chest. It starts to feel normal again and she nods after a second, satisfied. Her cheek rests against his chest and she stares off past his shoulder toward dark shadows that move, deep, dark ocean waves catching the light of the moon somewhere far off. Then she turns back to comfortably face the sky.

“Okay,” she says, giving him a moment to tune his ears to listen to her. She laces her fingers together and pushes them up with her palms to the sky. She hears a few of them pop a little and she lets her arms back down, trying to find a comfortable place for them without any sense of immediate urgency. “I'll look at the moon.”