The world was different, and exactly the same.
There were footprints on these beaches, after all. These waves were made of tears her mother had wept.
And yet, it didn't feel like coming home. Not yet. The world hadn't yet relearned how to live, but it would.
Maya buried her fingers beneath the surface of the sand and wiggled them around, soaking up the warmth. The world would remember.
Kendrix would, too.
Maya slid her eyes to the side. Kendrix sat beside her, staring silently towards the sea. Her hair was loose now, and she no longer wore her uniform. She was barefoot, too, her legs stretched out in front of her as she leaned back on her hands. She looked... relaxed.
Maya smiled. "I always liked coming here."
"I never thought I'd see the ocean again," Kendrix said. "Whatever I expected when we left Earth, it wasn't this. It wasn't... any of it."
Maya opened her mouth, and then closed it again slowly. Kendrix hadn't talked much—or at all—about what had happened between the time she'd died and the time she'd appeared alive on Mirinoi, and as much as she wanted to know, Maya couldn't ask. Maybe someday, but not yet.
"But—" Kendrix smiled. "I would do it again in a heartbeat."
* * *
They'd walked down to the beach instead of taking one of the canoes. They took a different path on the way back, longer and walked more slowly. Kendrix paused often to scribble down notes about the shape of the trees or to carefully collect the leaves off of the ground. She tucked them into her pack with the samples she'd taken of the water and the sand, to study as best she knew how to with what equipment had survived.
"It's beautiful here," she said, as she slid her arms through the straps and hoisted it up back onto her shoulders. "We should come back this way again."
Maya nodded and without thinking slid her hand into Kendrix's. "You've hardly seen anything," she said. "I have the whole world to show you."
* * *
It was sunset before they made it back to the village, and dark before they reached their tent. For now, at least, they camped with the rest of their team on the edge of the lake, but away from the field where the Terra Venture settlers had begun building themselves small houses the Mirinoi way. They'd had a tent for everyone at first, but Karone didn't seem to sleep so much as she disappeared into the forest at night and emerged again in the morning seeming content. She hadn't told them what she was looking for, but she seemed to have found it. Then Leo had started coming out of Kai's tent in the morning, and the rest of them had all looked at each other and smiled and said nothing, because there was nothing to say.
It wasn't long afterwards that Kendrix started coming to her. Nightmares, she said, and Maya lifted the blankets to let Kendrix curl up beside her.
* * *
She'd grown up with the Quasar Sabers right there in the village. With all the other children, she would go and wrap both hands around the hilt and pull, as hard as she could, but the sabers never budged. As she'd grown older, they had become more like a story—one she wanted more than anything to believe in, and each time she watched someone be tested she would hope, but she never truly thought she'd see them pulled from the stone until she held one in her hand. She wondered, sometimes, if she'd been chosen only in that moment, or if she'd been chosen as a child, or years before her birth, and every second of her life had been to prepare her for that moment, to make her ready.
She wondered the same thing the first time Kendrix kissed her.
And then she'd stopped wondering and kissed her back, curling her fingers into Kendrix's hair and breathing in the scent of her. She'd had kisses before. Good kisses, even, but never quite like this, with nails pressing into the back of her neck and that giddy warm feeling in her stomach and the vague thought that this should have been impossible.
It was a shorter kiss than she would've liked. When it was over she stood still pressed up against Kendrix, pleasantly tingly, and watched as Kendrix tried for words.
"I want—" She was just the smallest bit breathless. "I think—"
"Yes," Maya said quietly, and hugged her. "Me too."