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Relaxing

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Krista's halfway down the hall, wrapped in the world's warmest bathrobe when Astrid pops her head out of her door.

"I wouldn't." She frowns and Krista groans.

"I thought Dev said he took care of the hot water yesterday. He said someone came by and-"

"Ice cold." Astrid cuts her off. "I'd rather bathe in a snowbank."

"Great." Krista rolls her eyes and turns around, grabbing the phone off the table in the hall. "Loreen is Dev in? I need to talk to him. The hot water's out again."

"I did." Dev replies after Krista repeats what she had told Astrid. "Chip, nice man, said everything looked fine. Said he wouldn't charge you for the service call since he knows Mel."

"Chip." Krista searches for the name and then groans. "Thanks Dev. Go make that supply run. I've got this figured out."

Astrid is behind her looking confused when Krista turns. "He called the heating guy not the hot water guy. I should have left him the number. I should have known he wouldn't know the difference."

The call to Joe's Plumbing goes quickly enough and ends with Krista slamming the phone back into the cradle. "It's my one full day off this month and they can't come out and fix it until Monday unless the heater's leaking and flooding my house. Bastards."

Astrid's still frowning, but the look is more contemplative now. She holds up a hand and shakes her head when Krista tries to continue. "I'll fix this. Fifteen minutes. Go relax."

Relaxing, at least Astrid's version of the word, wasn't on Krista's agenda for the day but she makes due, settling back into bed with an old copy of an aeronautical journal Bobby had picked up someplace and left laying around the office.

"Ready." Astrid appears looking so pleased it's almost enough to make Krista smile. Astrid wasn't like Dev, overly cheery, optimistic and chipper, but she had a more lighthearted sense of humor than Krista did and she seemed to have a knack at worming her way inside Krista's head to soothe life’s bumps and bruises.

Krista stops short outside the bathroom, only taking the final step inside when Astrid prods her lightly. It's warm in here- not warm like the rest of the house- warm like summer, and humid too, steam rising off the bath Astrid had drawn. "How?" She swallows and raises an eyebrow when Astrid slips into the space beside her to close the door behind them.

"Space heaters and your stove."

It's not the answer Krista's looking for but Astrid knows that. Krista shakes her head and tries not to smile. She doesn't want Astrid getting ideas. She likes getting dirty; she likes her crazy hours as long as they could be. She’s not a girly girl and she doesn't do relaxing, not this kind of relaxing.

Astrid wraps her fingers in the collar of Krista’s bathrobe and Krista lets her pull it off, shrugging her shoulders as it slips down over her arms.

"Music." Astrid announces suddenly as if it had been an oversight, but Krista knows it's more than that. It's the two minutes she needs to strip herself of the rest of her clothes and sink into the hot bath unobserved. They've seen each other change, wrapped in towels, slipping in and out of the shower to grab the shampoo they'd forgotten under the sink, but there's something different here, something more personal, something Krista doesn't want to touch with a six foot pole, not when everything else has gotten so complicated. She skirts the edges though, of this awkward whatever it is, because Astrid asked her to, because Astrid doesn’t seem to think twice and Krista respects that.

She slips into the tub with a hiss, and a moan at the heat and is settling back when Astrid reappears with her laptop. It's playing the stuff they usually pipe through the stereo system in the living room when they're all home: an odd compromise between their musical tastes. Astrid takes up a perch on the closed toilet seat and something more familiar comes on.

"I didn't know you listened to them."

Astrid looks shy for a moment, as shy as she ever does. "I-" she pauses to find the word Krista had used earlier in the week, "raided your collection when you made that run out to Margate Island on Tuesday."

Krista's not sure what to say to that. It's not wholly unexpected, she had told Astrid to help herself, but the shyness. Krista nods with a smile.

"You looked pained."

"This is lovely." Krista's quick to correct because it is, because it's thoughtful and sweet and if nothing else she appreciates that.

"Of course it is." Astrid leaves the laptop on the corner of the counter beside the sink and pulls a towel from the shelf beside the door. "Slide down."

It takes Krista a moment to find the spot at the end of the bath to plant her feet so that her legs splay slightly, allowing her knees to lie below the layer of floating bubbles. By the time she settles in, water pushed up over her shoulders, Astrid has a towel folded under her neck, her hair pulled safely over the side of the tub.

"Better," Astrid announces and Krista sighs. She's gotten used to the heat of the water and it no longer burns when she moves. It shifts around her as she breathes, rocking lightly against the edge of the tub. Her exposed flesh tingles as the humidity draws blood to the surface of her skin leaving her slightly flushed.

Astrid retreats to her seat and pulls up something on her laptop, something from work, another flight manual, based on the frown that settles over her features.

Krista's initially surprised that she stays, it's not that she minds, she's come to appreciate Astrid's quiet company, but it seems a bit odd. It doesn't take her long, however, to figure out why Astrid hadn't left. "What am I supposed to do now?"

Astrid looks up, brow smoothing and shrugs.

"I can't just sit here."

"There is music. You always say you would like more time for music."

"Yeah well." Krista huffs out a breath, rolling her eyes when Astrid laughs. "What's so funny?"

"Have you never taken a bath?"

"Of course I have." The answer comes out too quickly and Krista amends more hesitantly. "When I was younger."

Something sad flickers through Astrid's eyes that Krista doesn't want to see. There's too much of a possibility that it's there in her own eyes too.

"You can get back to that," Krista gestures but Astrid has already set the computer aside and is rummaging through the cabinet below the sink.

Astrid moves to kneel beside the tub, lining up her loot at the edge of Krista's field of vision: body wash, lotion, a rounded piece of pumice, and an oddly abrasive looking washcloth. Astrid dunks the washcloth in the tub, then lathers it.

"Hand." She requests and Krista draws her arm out of the water, pressing her palm against Astrid's. The washcloth isn't as rough as she had expected, it's exfoliating without being scratchy. It leaves her skin tingling lightly.

"There." Astrid smiles, fingers curling slightly into Krista's wrist. Krista looks up from where her eyes were fixed on Astrid's hand, shimmering lightly with a coating of soap, and Astrid frowns. Don't do that the look clearly says. "Don't do what?" Krista's about to ask when she feels herself flinch as Astrid runs her hand along the side of her elbow.

Krista rolls her head against the back of the tub, eyes fixed on the ceiling, before she slips them shut. Astrid scrubs lightly at the patch of dry skin below her elbow that Krista had been itching at all week. She had scrubbed at it in the shower, making sure to slather it with whatever moisturizer she could find but Astrid's more aggressive, scrubbing until Krista knows her skin's turned from pink to a pale red.

"Better." Astrid declares the spot, slipping the washcloth tenderly over Krista's shoulders, which are still sore from the cargo she had spent most of the previous day unloading. The washcloth tickles lightly over her submerged collarbone and then settles more firmly against her upper chest. It's a bit uncomfortable, her skin's not used to such harsh treatment, but it's not enough of a reason to ask Astrid to stop, not when Astrid's free hand comes up to brush against her cheek. Her fingers are warm even against Krista's flushed skin. Krista leans cautiously into the gesture and, without looking, knows that Astrid's smiling.

It's stupid, how much she loves that particular smile, soft and even, the one that says Astrid is happy, proud. It's hauntingly familiar in a way that makes Krista long to see it more, and yet- she always turns away from it, closes her eyes, shies away. There have been times when faced with that smile she had yelled at Astrid to stop condescending her, her words sharp enough to leave them both aching and confused.

Astrid's hand slips lower under the water, down to Krista's stomach and Krista sighs a bit in relief. She's given Astrid a lot of liberty, perhaps too much, and she's relieved to see she's not taking advantage. There's a certain amount of trust that comes with flying with someone; there's a codependence that comes with piloting a plane, something Astrid assumed carried over into everything else all too often. Perhaps for her it did, but for Krista things were different; she wasn't fond of assumptions and she wasn't fond of being pushed.

"You're not relaxing." It's a statement of fact, not one of the unhelpful suggestions Astrid favored. "You need to relax." Her fingers dance lightly over Krista's forehead. "Stop frowning."

Turning her head, Krista opens her eyes and the frown deepens. Astrid merely stares back, blue eyes fixed softly on Krista’s, her fingers still brushing against Krista's forehead. She's tempted to say something, snap, make a joke about hovering, anything to put some space back between her and Astrid, but it's Astrid and once again she doesn't have it in her to destroy that small bit of contentment. The woman was too easily pleased if anyone bothered to ask her, but she supposed she would be less tightly wound if she had more time off, less paperwork, and less to worry about.

"Would you like me to go?"

Krista presses her eyes shut wishing she had shut them just a moment sooner. Uncertainty wasn't a look she liked, in the mirror it was annoying, on other people it was despicable. Fear she could deal with. Mistrust, distrust, cluelessness she could tolerate, but uncertainty-

Astrid's fingers trail down her check, across her chin. They make a study of her nose and then her lips. "It's not like you to be this quiet." Krista scoffs quietly in response but Astrid persists. "You're worried you may offend me."

It's clear Astrid finds this confusing; this isn’t one of Krista's normal considerations. Mel says far more insulting things than Krista ever would and Astrid has yet to take issue with anything he had said. There have been times when Astrid had bitched at Loreen about something Mel had said or done, but even Krista was not immune to that.

"No," slips out of Krista's mouth because she has to say something, if only to make Astrid stop talking before she makes Krista say something she would regret. The last thing she needed was Astrid playing love sick puppy around the office.

They sit silently for a moment, Krista unwilling and Astrid unsure how to continue. Krista's almost forgotten about Astrid's hand resting against her stomach until Astrid’s fingers brush against her navel and Krista's eyes fly open.

"Ticklish?" Astrid teases.

"No," but when Astrid repeats the movement Krista shoves the heel of her foot against the end of the tub with an aggravated growl.

Astrid's touch grows more firm and Krista relaxes again with a final irritated grumble. Astrid moves on to Krista's knees, calves, she pulls first one foot than the other from the tub scouring the bottom of each with rough pumice, pushing gently against sore tendons and straining muscles until Krista melts into the tub with a sigh.

"Better," Astrid murmurs, starting back in on Krista's collarbone. It's a repeat of earlier, the same gentle scrubbing, until Astrid lays her free hand on Krista's shoulder. For a moment, Krista can feel her toes flex, curl against the tub, as she fights the urge to tense up. Astrid's done well to win her over and eventually Krista relaxes, shifting slightly so she can sink farther down into the tub, her chin skimming the top of the water.

“You’re not letting me out.”

“The water is warm.” Astrid tries to sound persuasive but there’s a hint of teasing laughter there.

“And music,” Krista mimics Astrid’s earlier comment.

“I could read you,” Astrid glances toward her computer for a moment “the ‘DC-3 Operations Manual Covering Flight Controls and Trim.’”

Krista raises an eyebrow and then laughs. “How about I quiz you: the relief valve incorporated into the flap system does what?”

Astrid groans in resignation. “Keeps your butt in the bath and...”