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There are only a few sure-fire ways for Astrid to relax these days. Now that she knows about the Pattern-- about the terrifying, unreal things that happen unexpectedly, about the catastrophes she's hip deep in cleaning up these days-- well, that's enough to leave a less stable woman losing her mind. Luckily, Astrid is a very stable personality, and a very flexible one. She learns, and adapts, and does not break.

She does, however, get very, very tired sometimes, tired and stressed out, and on the days when she comes home feeling like she can't possibly rest with the weight of what she knows bearing down heavy on her shoulders, she draws herself a bath and makes the conscious decision to let go of all the worries and just stop thinking for an hour or two.

Astrid never took this many baths before she started working in the Fringe division-- now she takes two a week, at least, often more. She fills the tub with bubbles, sets candles on the floor and the top of the toilet and the ledge of the tub, and submerges herself into a warm, sweetly-scented, gently flickering world of calm. Even though she's scrupulously clean when working in the lab, it helps to think of soaking away the ichor and mess of whatever investigation she's been up to her elbows in that day. She does nothing more complicated than simply relaxing in the water for at least a half an hour.

The thing is, she can touch herself for hours and it'll do nothing but get her worked up if she's stressed out. Orgasms are a great way to relax, but if she's wound up, she just can't come, no matter how hard she tries-- and she's tried, has she ever tried, it simply doesn't work unless she's already pretty relaxed. Baths are just a very effective means to an end, an end that lets her sleep through the night without being plagued by nightmares, and if she's started reacting in a Pavlovian way when she starts to fill the tub, well, there are worse things than having your nipples get hard at the sound of a rushing faucet.

Getting off in the bath is efficient, too. She's always been a big fan of efficiency, and comfort, and it is comfortable to let her fingers follow slick wet skin from between her breasts down her flat stomach and into the curls between her legs, comfortable and familiar to trace a fingertip over the nub of her clit and down between the lips of her cunt. She touches herself lazily, in no hurry to get where she's going, teasing herself open and just barely pressing fingertips into her slit. Sometimes she hooks one leg over the edge of the tub, letting water drip off her toes while she takes advantage of the way she splays open in that position, covering her pussy with one hand, pressing the heel of her palm against her clit as she slides her middle finger into a heat and wetness that is entirely nothing to do with the bathwater.

Her hips rock a little, enough to set the surface of the water into gentle waves, as she works another finger in, curling them both until she shivers with pleasure. Her free hand wanders: some nights it's enough to just stroke the insides of her thighs, sometimes she needs to pinch at tightened nipples, handling herself just this side of roughly; once in a while she'll wind that free hand into her own curly hair and pull, gasping as her head tilts back.

One thing Astrid never does is think about another person while she's tending to her own needs. Bringing anyone else into the equation just adds stress, no matter how innocuous or unlikely the person is. The problem is that you start off thinking about movie stars and inevitably you end up imagining the people you work with, and Astrid can't afford the distraction of wondering, say, what Peter's steady pianist's hands might feel like on her skin, or how gentle Olivia's touch might be, or how Walter might mangle her name even while he shows nothing but care for her body.

No. That way lies only madness, and Astrid has enough madness to deal with already, thank you.

So she keeps her mind carefully clear, and thumbs her clit until she feels the swell of climax threatening, and drives her fingers a little deeper, and after she reaches a shivery, sighing orgasm, she leans her head back against the tub and just breathes for a few minutes, giving herself over to complete relaxation, until the water starts to cool. She drains the tub and towels off, pulls on pajamas and brushes her teeth, and when she finally slips into bed maybe fifteen minutes later, she still feels languid and at ease, enough to fall asleep without the pills she resorts to on other nights.

She could let her job get to her so much more than she actually allows it. If she didn't have some way to keep her mind clear at night, she would probably have nightmares or insomnia. Her methods aren't foolproof-- sometimes what she sees while working with the Fringe division is just too terrible-- but she's certain that her little relaxation rituals help her stay sane.