Erica stopped outside the door to Tegan’s quarters and mentally prepared herself.
Since coming aboard the Orion, the chief security officer had tended to spend many of her off-duty hours alone, having no friends to speak of. Erica had worried about her, and even requested time off specifically so that she could keep Tegan company, usually over dinner. Before meeting Tegan, Erica had spent much of her downtime reading, hadn’t known what she was missing.
Erica enjoyed the time they spent together and had never laughed with anyone as much as she did when she was with Tegan. As much as she tried to control her feelings and keep things platonic, she felt wonderful when she was in the same room. She was undeniably attracted to her friend, but their dinners together hadn’t resulted in anything more than friendship, because she was afraid that her feelings wouldn’t be returned.
Tegan was difficult to read.
Not that Erica was any kind of expert at reading people, but she had noticed that when Tegan let her guard down, she was flirty and sometimes suggestive. But when Erica read it as a signal and responded, Tegan seemed to withdraw back behind her wall.
It felt little weird to be breaking into Tegan’s quarters, but technically Erica was rescuing her from freezing and suffocating, so that thought spurred her on.
Tegan was asleep in bed, and it took some yelling and poking to rouse her.
“All right, Erica, all right. What’s the big emergency?” Tegan asked, rubbing her eyes and squinting in the light of Erica’s lamp.
“The power’s out in this section. Lights, life support, everything. Got to move everyone out of here. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
“It’s freezing!” Tegan said as she slid out of bed. She padded over to the wardrobe, her eyes still trying to accustom themselves to the light. “So, where can I get under a working fresher then?” she asked.
“Uh… you’ll just have to use one in someone else’s quarters where there’s power. Sorry,” Erica said, averting her gaze for the second time that day. “Just throw on some clothes and I’ll show you the quickest way out of here.”
Tegan pulled a fresh uniform from the wardrobe and changed swiftly. “I’m not that hideous, surely,” she remarked to Erica.
“No no, I just think I’ve reached my quota of naked people for one day,” Erica said.
“Well, not naked now.” Tegan smiled at Erica as she straightened out the uniform jacket. She thought that the chief engineer was cute, turning her head away to avoid staring.
“Your hair is still a little…” Erica started, pointing with a finger, then she shrugged.
Tegan’s hair didn’t really respond to being brushed down. It laughed in the face of hair spray. It rebelled against all attempts to style it into something other than sticking up proudly. So to avoid having it look like an ever-growing brush, she kept it fairly short.
In response to Erica’s half-suggestion, Tegan casually ran a hand over her head, resulting in a sort of uniform direction to her hair, but that was the limit of its co-operation today.
“Looking good,” Erica said, grinning. “Come on, let’s go before we catch cold.”
They left Tegan’s quarters and hurried back. By now, the evacuation was fully underway and people were lined up to exit using the access ladders.
“So who else was sleeping naked then?” Tegan asked curiously as they waited their turn.
“I can’t tell you. They asked me not to talk about it.” Actually, that wasn’t strictly true, but if Erica said any more, Tegan would be able to put two and two together, if she hadn’t done so already.
“Fine. I’ll just pick someone at random and use my imagination.”
“You do that. I’m trying hard not to.”
“Well it’s got to be someone older then. Older but still looking good.”
“I’m not telling you.”
“I’m warm, aren’t I? Ha!” Tegan rubbed her hands, which were most decidedly cold.
“Let’s just say, you wouldn’t guess in a hundred tries, and leave it at that,” Erica suggested.
“Okay. Well, here I go,” Tegan said, climbing down the ladder.
Erica checked with the other engineers. They had made considerably better time than she had, so everyone in this section was accounted for.
Just to be safe, they re-checked the tally before joining the evacuees and closing the hatches.