Did the Tempest crew consider Ritika deaf? Because their murmurs were unsubtle. She heard them—around corners or behind her—but the moment she entered a room or turned around, they stopped. Well, all save for maybe a few jabs from Liam or Vetra. Sometimes, Peebee.
‘It’s not like I can deny anything,’ the Pathfinder thought, groaning. ‘Jaal practically cheers every time he sees me. He claims I’ll get used to such affections, but I have no clue how Angara can act like that without being embarrassed. And Jaal just—’
Riti’s face heated up as she recalled her alien lover after the humans laid claim to Meridian…
“My Darling One!” Jaal grinned, voice clear and arms open—a perfect representation of himself.
“Jaal,” Ritika said weakly. She glanced around the crowd inside the Hyperion. “Your affections can be so…loud.”
But did that subtle hint humble Jaal? Nope. Instead, he had turned the whole conversation around on Riti—to the point where she could no longer think of using the word ‘loud’ without associating it to their time on Aya. And forget explaining her flustered state to the alien outright; his voice, eyes, and hands had a way of making her forget that ‘Darling One’ is one of the cheesiest pet-names in either the Milky Way or Andromeda.
“I’m stuck between a damn rock and a hard place,” the young woman told herself.
Head shaking, she exited the Tempest’s bathroom. Only, from the wrong door. She met Liam’s amusement inside the Crew Quarters—that damn, knowing smirk.
“How are you today, dearest Pathfinder?” he asked.
Riti grimaced. “What? Not man enough to make comments like that when Jaal’s here.”
“Ouch.” The Brit waved a tool then returned to his project. “But true. Frankly, I don’t want to be punched in the face. Or worse.”
“What’s worse than being punched?”
“I think you know.”
Riti pursed her lips and said nothing as she approached the Crew Info Board to check its activities. “You lot can be worse than high school students, you know that?” she asked, combing through several threads.
“Are you stereotyping us now?” Liam laughed. “I call dibs on the handsome exchange student, then.”
The Pathfinder snorted, but, still, the thought struck her. “Would that make Drack the surly gym teacher?”
“As perfectly as Suvi, Kallo, and Gill would rock the science club.”
“I can so see that.”
“And Lexi? Total school nurse material.”
“Cora is on the honor role. Valedictorian. What about Vetra?”
“Tough call. I’d say the classic ‘bad girl with good intentions.'”
“Then who am I?”
“You can be, uh”—the Brit twisted to spare a grin—“cheerleader?”
Riti made a face. “Why can’t Peebee be the cheerleader?”
“Because the only thing she cheers on is Remnant research.”
“What’s wrong with cheerleaders?”
“They’re obnoxious, that’s what. All forced pep and lame rhymes and, my gosh, those horrible outfits. Talk about embarrassing.”
“You think that’s embarrassing?” Liam’s smirk returned; all the more reason to submerse herself in the most recent thread.
Regarding Ritika and I:
In Angaran culture, it is normal to give one’s sexual partner intimate names. It is not shameful, as it means we are comfortable and even happy to be with this person. I would like to add that I see no reason to tease Ritika about this matter. She is my Darling One. Please keep this in mind. [Jaal]
Riti stared at the thread, unable to close her jaw. “Liam, have you…?”
The man hummed. “Something on your mind, Darling?”
A quick gloss over the thread comments cemented Riti’s fear.
> Not touching this one. [Liam]
>> Ever think we tease her because it makes her look cute? [Peebee]
>>> The information that my sister is your sexual partner is not a good way to win me over. However, I will now up my game in regards to the teasing. Watch your back, Angaran. Ta-ta. [Mira]
Rock and a hard place, meet black hole: where all hope of abating future teases had finally been sucked from the realm of possibility…