“Deunan, you’re on the floor again!”
Opening one eye, Deunan saw a red shoe planted firmly in front of her face.
“Hitomi, I can’t help it.” She yawned. “I must have gotten out of bed during the night.”
“I don’t understand why you keep sleeping on the floor, when the bed is so much softer.” Hitomi tilted her head as she spoke, smiling down at Deunan. “You’re not in the Badlands anymore, so you can let yourself be civilized.”
“Don’t want to get soft.” Deunan grunted, sitting up.
“Silly. Softness isn’t weak. It just feels good.” Hitomi held out her hand, and Deunan let herself be pulled upward.
“Hit the shower, soldier. I’ll make us breakfast. Or did you forget you were helping with the party today?”
“Oh, that.” Deunan grimaced. Military exercises were far preferable to party preparations, but for some reason she could never say no to Hitomi, and now she was stuck with this unpleasant task. At least it was only for the day……

“Deunan, you look positively charming in that outfit.” Athena’s smile was rare to see, and Deunan found herself suddenly blushing.
“Um, thanks. Hitomi picked it out for me.”
“Have you managed to dress yourself at all since you’ve been here?” a deep teasing voice floated over her shoulder.
“Briareos!” Deunan spun around, hands on her hips. “How could you say such a thing?”
“Because it’s true?” the cyborg replied, handing Deunan a drink.
“Madam, may I have a word?” a well-dressed dignitary bowed to Athena.
“Of course. If you two will excuse me, I have other guests. But I do want to thank you for your help, Deunan.” Athena graciously bowed her head as she left.
Deunan watched them walk off together, obviously in need of a private conversation. There were many officials at the celebration, and she didn’t know any of them, other than Athena. She wondered how many were Bioroid as opposed to human. This was a true celebration for them, to be able to reproduce, and live a more human lifestyle.
“If it wasn’t for you, this party would never have happened.” Briareos said. “Athena is truly grateful, and even more so now that she has the company of Gillian’s daughter. She had a great respect for your mother.”
“Would my mother have been proud of this?” Deunan wondered out loud.
“Come look out the window with me.” Briareos invited, walking ahead. “Then tell me what you think.”
The city looked perfect from this view, clear warm skies, traffic and people moving leisurely below.
“It’s a paradise. Thanks to you, it will stay that way.” Briareos said. “Your mother worked hard to see that Bioriods and humans would live happily together.”
“My whole life…was designed around this. Around the Bioroids.” Deunan said softly, looking out of the window. “So what does this soldier do now?”
“Become human again.” Briareos put a cold metal hand on her shoulder. Human
“Briareos, are you-”
“My human time has passed. I don’t eat or drink, get to enjoy the wind on my face, or feel the warmth of someone I love. But you can have all those things, Deunan. I want you to have those things, to be happy. You deserve it.”
“But I don’t know-”
“Think of it as a new tour of duty.”
A new tour of duty…..

“Oh there you are!” Hitomi playfully grabbed Deunan’s arm, pulling her away from Briareos. The contrast of cold metal slipping off her shoulder, and Hitomi’s warm hands wrapping around her caused her to stop.
“Deunan, what is it?” Hitomi looked up at her, dark eyes sparkling.
“Nothing. You’re just…warm.”
“Well we’re both going to be a lot warmer after we’re through cleaning up here.” Hitomi smiled.
“Hitomi. Athena has declared that you leave the area. You’ve done enough already.” Nike’s voice was one of authority, and as Chief of Staff, her orders were non-negotiable.
“Come on Hitomi. We’ve been given our marching orders.” Deunan grabbed Hitomi’s hand, relieved to be dismissed. She guided them quickly through the thinning crowd and headed out the nearest exit, glad for freedom.

“You don’t really like parties, do you?” Hitomi leaned her head on Deunan’s shoulder as they walked down the hall of the apartment building. “I think they’re fun. You get to meet all sorts of people.”
“I was trained to be a soldier, not a hostess.” Deunan shrugged. Hitomi laughed and squeezed her hand.
“You’re very funny, Deunan.”
“I am? I don’t mean to be.”
“I know- that’s what makes you even funnier. I wish I was more like you.” Hitomi’s smile was sincere, and Deunan found herself smiling back.
“No you don’t. You’re perfect just the way you are.”
Deunan stopped in front of her door, fishing for her keys. Hitomi’s apartment was one floor up, making it convenient for her frequent visits.
“You really think so?” Hitomi looked pleased, and Deunan nodded her head. She opened the door, eager to get out of her skirt and back into her tank top.
“Um, Deunan- can I… ask your advice about something?” Hitomi’s voice was hesitant.
“Sure, Hitomi. Is something wrong?” Deunan decided a change of clothes could wait and beckoned Hitomi inside. The young woman appeared to be nervous, something Deunan had never seen before in her usually bright demeanor. Hitomi lingered in the hallway, so Deunan stood in the doorway, watching her pace.
“Since you know about love….how would you…go about asking someone out on a date?”
Deunan’s eyes widened. Hitomi’s DNA restoration had obviously awakened something new, and she was looking for advice. It had to be about the mechanic, Yoshi- she’d seen the two of them together, and Yoshi’s confession of love for Hitomi fluttered through her mind. It would be a snap. Hitomi had nothing to worry about at all.
“Hitomi.” She reached out and took Hitomi’s hands, pulling her to a stop. “All you have to do is ask. I guarantee the answer will be yes.”
“Really?” Hitomi’s voice was just a whisper as she stared up at her in disbelief.
“Absolutely.” Deunan smiled. Hitomi threw herself forward, burying herself into Deunan’s chest.
“And here I was so worried that you would turn me down! Oh Deunan, I’m so happy!”