Aikka and Eva had been dating for a couple of weeks now, a whole year after the Great Race of Oban ended. As the ultimate winner, Eva had a certain sway over the Earth Coalition’s government and was able to secure an interplanetary communication connection between herself and the Nourasian prince shortly after returning home.
The two slowly got to know each other over the next few months without the stress of the competition and any Crogs standing in the way, which led to a heightened affection that had already begun to bloom on Alwas.
Their long distance relationship did not come without its challenges, one of which was a lack of physical closeness. So when the Nourasian and Earth peace talks culminated in a diplomatic visit from the far off planet, Aikka and Eva were equally thrilled.
Aikka’s parents, the king and queen, would be doing most of the negotiations, so Aikka had some free time to personally visit his girlfriend. They had a grand time touring Don Wei’s racing headquarters and going to a history museum to catch Aikka up on Earth culture, all ending with a ride on a rollercoaster at the local carnival.
Eva’s normal, non-boarding-school high school was also putting on a performance of Romeo and Juliet, and Eva had invited Aikka to watch, as she was playing the leading lady. Acting had always been a hobby for Eva, especially during the long years at Stern.
When she had tried out for the play months before, she had humbly expected a small part with a few lines, not the starring role, but Don seemed happy about her involvement in an extracurricular that wasn’t the dangerous sport of racing, so she accepted the part of Juliet. She was now very excited - and a bit nervous - to perform in front of her princely boyfriend. Eva didn’t know what theatre was like on Nourasia, but she was determined to impress.
On opening night, Eva had to arrive early to get ready for the show, so she left Aikka and Don at home together - a somewhat worrying thought - and set off on her new and improved hover bike.
She got dressed, had her makeup done, and was mic’d up and ready to go in no time. The minutes before the curtain opened were nerve-wracking, but Eva had learned a thing or two about staying calm from racing, so by the time the lights dimmed, she was ready.
Everything went pretty smoothly, and although Eva couldn’t see her dad and Aikka in the audience because of the bright stage lights, she knew they were there. The feeling of having something of a family after so long buoyed her throughout the night, and it gave a bit more vigor to her performance.
Aikka was intrigued by the opportunity to see one of Earth’s longest enduring plays and happily agreed to watch his girlfriend in the leading role, albeit a bit nervous to sit with her intimidating father. He found himself enjoying the drama between the Capulets and Montagues despite how eerily similar they were to some of the noble families back home.
Whenever Eva was on stage she simply shined, delivering her lines with confidence, yet with a deep emotional nuance that he had never seen from her before. He found himself thinking not for the first time of the broad distance between the two and the kinds of things they missed out on when their only contact was through staticy holoscreens.
Aikka was thrown out of his troubled thoughts by the complete shock of the male lead kissing his girlfriend, right on the lips.
He hadn't even been able to do that yet! They had only just gotten used to holding hands at the nighttime festival Eva had brought him to.
The novelty of spun sugar on a stick and competitive tossing of rings was soured for Aikka in that moment and with an enduring scowl he sat through the remaining scenes of the play.
As soon as the final curtain closed, he bolted up and made his way down the aisle, a confused Don calling after him.
The play was over, and Eva felt relieved because she was finally able to sit down for longer than 30 seconds at a time.
She made her way towards the dressing area to get her mic removed, answering thumbs up and high fives from her fellow cast mates as she went. They had developed a certain camaraderie in the long hours of rehearsals and set building that preceded opening night. It was new and fragile, but Eva felt like she had a few potential friends among her fellow theatre nerds.
The last thing Eva expected was to run into a certain Nourasian in the still dimly lit backstage but there he was suddenly, catching her as she tripped over a loose wire in surprise.
“Aikka?” she asked, her voice toned with concern. “What are you doing back here? Is something wrong?”
Aikka, who had released her as soon as she was steady, gently placed his hands on her shoulders.
“Eva,” he said seriously. “Might I have the privilege of kissing you?”
Eva’s eyes widened. Whatever she thought he was going to say, it was certainly not that.
“Uh- sure?” she said, blindsided by an impulsiveness that she did not typically associate with him.
Aikka solemnly nodded and leaned in, eyes closed.
Eva, now amused after the initial surprise, tilted her head and met his lips in a gentle press. Despite having kissed before - again, Stern - she felt an excited flutter in her stomach. Kissing Aikka was easily ten times better than the outcome of some random game of spin the bottle.
After a moment, they parted and Aikka opened his eyes. He looked like he was fighting a grin as his hands moved to hold on to hers.
“There, now I do not have to be angry with Romeo. I’d like to meet him actually, his acting was quite good, as was yours, of course.”
Eva’s cheery smile turned to a confused frown.
“Wait, why would you be mad at Thom? What did he do?”
“He got to kiss you before I could,” Aikka said, exasperation creeping into his voice. “I would think that the boyfriend has priority in this,” he said, squeezing Eva’s hands for emphasis.
Eva just stared at him for a moment before letting out a burst of laughter.
“Oh, Aikka, that was a stage kiss - his thumb was between our mouths so they wouldn’t touch. It wasn’t real,” she explained.
She watched him slowly process and subsequently grow flustered over what she had said.
“So you mean- you never- and then we just-” he stuttered out.
Eva felt a bit embarrassed herself and nodded, her eyes flickering down to the velvet slippers she was wearing.
“Yeah well...we had to get our first one out of the way at some point right?” she joked, laughing nervously.
“Right. Of course,” he said flatly, letting their hands drop.
Eva looked up and noticed how stiff he suddenly looked. His face was turned away and obscured partially by shadows.
Oh, she thought.
Eva stepped closer and slid her hands over his cheeks, turning his face towards her.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. It was a big deal to me, too,” she said.
Aikka looked into her eyes and nodded slowly, a tentative smile growing on his face when he realized she was being genuine.
Eva’s matching smile turned mischievous. Her hands moved to link around his neck.
“Want to try again, prince? You know, make it official?” she asked, voice low.
Aikka’s smile was back full force, his cheeks tinged pink.
“It would be my honor, princess.”
Finally being together in person wouldn’t magically solve all of their problems, but it definitely had its benefits.