Outside of the bulky space-suit, she looked tiny. Victor was no giant, but the bristly black top of Feroza’s head only came up to his collar. Thick, dark brows nearly met over her severe eyes, the upper lip of her neat little mouth dotted with hair. Victor stared at her, the entirety of his mental processing power dedicated to the task of stopping himself from saying, “you’re beautiful.”
He was already reaching up to snap off the catches. Victor could feel himself blushing, then blushing more as he realized she could now see that reaction. See how he was staring at her. How his mouth was hanging open. He hadn’t shaved in days and he probably stank like a goat.
Victor took a breath to apologize. And her smell hit him.
It should have been disgusting. Neither of them had bathed in days and despite everything the still had done to clean the air, their little habitat stank like an oil spill. If Feroza had sat down next to him on a bus in Lima, Victor would have stood up and left.
But this was the first person he’d smelled since his disastrous trip into the jungle. This was Feroza, who’d saved his life.
She rubbed a hand across her forehead as if to push back a lock of hair, and blinked when her fingers grazed her astronaut’s buzz-cut. Victor’s own hands went up to his throat, trying to straighten a tie that wasn’t there.
Because he wasn’t on a blind date with some daughter of some auntie’s friend. He wasn’t in some candle-lit bistro. He was on Titan, at the top of a metal mountain, in a hangar, in a tiny bubble of light and heat and oxygen.
“About that bath…” Victor said.
“Ah, yes. The sponge in your hand.” Watching her smile was like smiling, himself. “You know I’ve been fantasizing about this all day?”
So had Victor. He breathed. Held out the sponge. “Ladies first?”
She took it. “With pleasure.”
She flicked back the catches on her wrists, slid her gloves off her smooth hands, and Victor realized what he was staring at. He spun around, slipping in the low gravity. “Oh. Uh. I’ll…do something.”
“You can help me with my spacesuit,” she said. “And I shall help you with yours.”
Victor blinked around at her. “Oh,” was all he could think of to say.
The clasps around her waist clacked open under his fingers.