Just like that, they had not been; and now just like that, they once again were.
Caulifla and Kale sat on the steps of Champa's palace, overlooking the stars that had so recently been brought back from oblivion.
"Guess whoever won was all right," Caulifla mused.
"Do...you think it was…"
"Yeah." She nodded. "You felt those attacks too, right? There was a guy nobody could stop."
Kale cracked a smile. "Even we couldn't, in the end."
"I know! It's so frustrating! But hey...we got so much stronger lately. I don't plan on stopping."
"Right! As long as I'm with you…"
"I really mean a lot to you...huh." Slowly, their gazes turned inwards, from the stars to each other. Caulifla took a deep breath. "I already know, but...say it."
The words caught in Kale's throat. How could she possibly...after all this time watching...after all, wasn't she just…
She steadied herself. She'd made her feelings plenty clear, the last few days. And, more than anything…
I could never refuse anything you asked.
Her lips parted. She could feel her voice about to crack, and it did, but the words made it out there:
"I've always loved you."
Caulifla cupped her chin in one hand to stop Kale's reflex to duck away and hide herself. "Hey. Thank you for letting me in. I never realised 'till today how hard that is for you, and I'm sorry."
Caulifla sighed. "I always figured you'd properly confess eventually. I just...things come easy to me, so I assume it's the same for everyone. I didn't understand you, and I left you to bottle it all up. I'm sorry."
The beginnings of tears welled up in Kale's eyes, her hands trembling in her lap. "I-I don't blame you! Okay?"
"Well don't blame yourself, either. And I really am sorry," Caulifla said. "It's because I thought you'd open up I never really thought about what I felt. But I'm sure you felt it today."
Still holding Kale's face she pulled it into hers, kissing full-on with no attempt at a slow buildup. Conscious mind completely overloaded, Kale instinctively responded, leaning her whole body in and gripping around behind Caulifla's shoulders, pressing against her lips like they were all that was keeping her alive.
About a minute and a half later, they slowly parted, gasping and still holding tight to each other with both hands.
"Love you too." Caulifla grinned. "I shoulda told you. I shoulda realised. I lo—are you crying?"
She was; freely, loudly, joyfully. "All I've...all I've ever wanted is for you to hold me and say that."
So Caulifla kept holding her, and kept saying it.