Roland Ruiz isn't very good at taking time for himself. When he loses a big intergalactic trafficking case at his legal firm, his boss tells him to take the Vacation Station travel liner and visit the vacation moons of Jupiter. What should be fun ends up feeling more like exile, especially as Roland is left unimpressed by the first moon he visits and is snubbed by the locals. Everything changes when a beautiful scientist working on Io shows him the dynamic chemicals that go into synthetic snow, which keeps the vacation ski lodge up and running in the most drastic of space climates.
Martha Carpenter has been working hard her entire life and with very little credit. It's only when her ex wins a prestigious grant, however, that she begins to feel resentment creep into her daily life of making weather conditions for some of the Jupiter’s vacation moons. In an effort to stay positive, she turns to her old routine of self-care, and soon meets trans man and disgraced lawyer Roland, who could benefit from her many lessons.
As Roland and Martha grow closer, she must decide if being invisible in the workplace is worth the cost to her self-esteem, while Roland must reconcile his failure with his hopeful future. Together they both realize it is far better to be recognized by one person than to be rewarded by many, and that recovery is just as thrilling as discovery.
Roland gave her a genuine smile. He rose from the chair once again and kneeled down to kiss her. She turned so their mouths would meet this time. It was only fair, she figured. They'd been pretty negative and this embrace was to make up for lost time. He leaned into the kiss, opening his mouth just enough to scrape teeth, and then he backed away.
"That's a good game," he said once he was settled. "Makes me want to break all the rules."
Martha bit her lip. She couldn't agree more. "Actually," she said. "I think there's a way we can do that before the legalese is looked into."
"There's a gala for this research reveal. I was thinking of skipping it before now, but that would be negative."
"I see. So you want to keep playing this game outside the lodge?"
She shrugged. "Sort of nice, honestly. I like it. Sort of feels like that thing that got really popular on Earth a long time ago. You know ...?"
"No!" She laughed. "Was it called careful time? Something like that. No—self-care. That was it. When I was in grad school, people were really into adult colouring books and face masks and all things that brought someone joy while alone. They called it self-care rather than self-indulgence, or even self-pity. I kind of liked that, even though most of my friends wasted their time watching TV and called it good for mental health, when they probably should have watched one less episode and also studied."
"I remember that," Roland said distantly. "There were a lot of people in the therapy circle I had to go to, for you know, the gender stuff, who also did that."
His sentence was complicated and took a moment to sort out, but Martha understood. Right. Gender therapy was a thing. They didn't let the person who felt the gender change to their heart's content. So they were stuck in a circle, a hospital, or with someone else who was supposed to screen them in order to make sure everything was A-okay.
"Wow," she said. "Science was so strange back then. Or at least, medicine was."
"Tell me about it. Really dark times."
"We should kiss on that negative note." This time, Martha rose from the chair and hovered above Roland's cheek, allowing him to turn and meet her. Their kisses were growing in speed and ferocity. They would soon have to change the rules of the game, add in more boundaries about where and what to kiss next, but she was so determined to keep playing.
"When are you heading back on the Vacation Station?" She bit her lip to keep from humming the catchy tune on all the commercials.
"Friday," Roland said slowly. “I can extend it, though? If what you're planning is going to take --”
"Not too long, don't worry. You can get back to your Earth legalese soon enough." Martha paused for a moment, just enough to register the slight sadness in Roland's expression. "I want you to come to the gala, though. That's on Friday night. Can you take the last Vacation Station out afterwards?"
"Sure. If you want --"
"I do. But do you want to go with me?"
After a moment's hesitation, he nodded.