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Miles To Go Before I Sleep

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“So how this is going to work exactly?” Emma asked from her cot. She was sitting up against the wall with her legs tucked under her.

Scott had a duffel bag open on the cot and was frowning as he looked over her clothes before tossing them into the bag. Peebee was sprawled out on Jaal’s cot right beside her and was nodding and shaking her head to various articles of Emma’s clothing.

“It’s three days. I’ll be busy on Havarl, but I don’t need you or Jaal. And you need to meet his family,” Scott answered while throwing a tank top into her duffel.

“Meet his family, yes, but three days? I don’t even know if they’re going to like me.”

“Jaal is convinced. And the mothers thought you were hysterical when you pitched me over the railing while I screamed like a baby,” Scott rebutted.

“You’re trying to punish me aren’t you.” Emma narrowed her eyes at him.

Scott rolled his eyes. “No Emma. I think you need to meet his family and really get to know them. It’s important to Jaal, and it’s important to your relationship. And Sahuna e-mailed me.”

“She e-mailed you?” Emma leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees.

“She was adamant that I give you and Jaal free time to stay at the compound. Apparently, the mothers spilled the tea on the nature of your relationship.” Scott wagged his eyebrows at her.

“Gee, I wonder how they got that idea.” Sarcasm dripped from her words.

“They knew I was joking. You’re the one who confirmed it for them. That, and apparently when the two of you touch, your bioelectricity goes wonky.”

“Just mine?” Emma asked.

“Yup. Jaal says its because you have no idea how to control it. Which sums up your life actually.” Scott folded another shirt and shoved it into the bag.

Emma grabbed one of the pillows behind her and smacked him in the back of the head with it. His laugh was swallowed up by another smack with the pillow. He was enjoying this way too much.

“It won’t be so bad,” Peebee piped up. “We’ll be there on the last day.”

Scott nodded. “That’s right. You won’t be alone on the third day. Sahuna wants to meet all of us to make sure Jaal is treated well by the crew. I’m looking forward to it actually.”

“I’m looking forward to partying with Jaal’s siblings,” Peebee insinuated. She narrowed her eyes and held up her hand as Scott was putting something else in the bag. “What are those?”

“Pajamas.” Scott held up her usual shorts and tank top.

“Isn’t there anything cuter in there?” She leaned forward to rifle through the bag.

“Why does that matter?” Emma asked, baffled.

“You’ll be sleeping with Jaal, you should have something cute,” Peebee answered like it was obvious.

“I sleep with him now. My pajamas are fine.” She was trying so hard to act oblivious to what Peebee was starting to imply.

Peebee raised an eyebrow and leaned really close to Emma. Close enough to make Emma lean back against the wall. “Right, but you’ll be in a room, with an actual bed” --Peebee crawled forward until she was practically in Emma’s lap— “with privacy. You may want to…you know.” Peebee’s face was inches from hers. “Don’t tell me you haven’t even thought of it.”

“No,” Emma answered hastily, her chest and neck turning pink.

Liar.

“Your face says yes,” Peebee retorted. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. And you don’t have to if you really don’t want to.” Peebee pulled back and sat back down, her knees touching Emma’s.

“I don’t even know if it's possible,” Emma murmured, not even sure why she was saying it out loud.

“Oh, it’s possible,” Peebee chuckled.

Emma just looked at Peebee. “How? I mean…” –she pitched her voice low— “I saw him getting out of the shower, but I didn’t see anything.”

“You haven’t read any of Lexi’s reports on Angaran biology, have you?” Scott asked.

Emma shook her head.

“It’s internal,” Peebee answered.

Emma raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Really?”

Scott frowned at her. “Maybe you should talk to Lexi before you go.”

Emma shook her head. “I don’t need to.” The look on Scott’s face made her elaborate. “I’m curious, but I’m so not ready for that. I don’t need the talk.”

“Fine. But you will have to talk to Lexi at some point. You can’t avoid it forever,” Scott warned.

The three of them fell silent as the door to the tech lab opened. Emma wasn’t sure if she was more scared that it would be Jaal or that it would be Lexi. It was neither of them. Cora walked into the room with a small bundle in her arms. It looked like more clothing. What on earth did she need all of the clothes for? Sure, her wardrobe wasn’t varied, but it did the job. Cora dumped the pile on her bed. Before Emma could take a good look, Scott plucked something out of the pile and shoved into the duffel before she could see it. That wasn’t suspicious at all.

Peebee reached for something else in the pile. She pulled out a small, pink nightdress. “Yes!” She tossed it in the bag. Emma just rolled her eyes but didn’t try to protest. With Peebee, there wasn’t a point. Emma leaned forward and reached into the bag to see exactly what they had shoved in there. Scott smacked her hand away.

“Why can’t I see my own clothes?” she asked.

“Because Jaal wanted to surprise you and if you look in there, you’ll ruin it.” He closed the duffel bag and zippered it shut.

Cora picked up the last thing she had brought in and held it up. It was a dress. The bodice was a deep blue lace with a lining inside to keep it from being see-through. The skirt was a creamy white with tiny blue flowers. It was pretty. She liked it.

Scott gestured to her. “The shuttle leaves in 20 minutes, you should change.”

Oh. She was supposed to wear it.

“Why?” She gestured to the jean shorts and t-shirt she was wearing. They were clean and nice looking.

Scott sighed. “Because you’re meeting his family and first impressions are important.”

“I don’t see why that’s necessary but okay.” Emma stood and pulled off her t-shirt. Cora handed over the dress, and Emma pulled it on over her shorts. Once the dress was on she undid her shorts and kicked them off. She was probably going to regret that. Havarl was humid and she was bound to get some serious thigh chafing. The bodice ended right underneath her chest and the skirt brushed the tops of her knees. It really was pretty. Peebee patted the spot on the bed right in front of her and Emma sat down. Her hair was pulled free from its ponytail. Peebee pulled back the top half of her hair and clipped it together. Emma couldn’t see the clip, but knowing the three of them, it matched the dress.

Emma looked up at Scott. “Well?”

“You look great.” He smiled. “Now get your shoes on.”

“Yes mom.” She rolled her eyes and took the sandals that were handed to her by Cora. “I hope I don’t have to wear these the entire time.”

“Your boots and sneakers are in the bag. I thought of everything.” He grabbed the duffel and slung it over his shoulder. “Jaal’s waiting at the shuttle.”

Peebee and Cora trailed behind them as they walked through the ship to the cargo bay doors. They were going to stay behind while Scott accompanied her to the shuttle dock.

Peebee leaned against doors and waved. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”

“That’s a really short list of things I can’t do,” Emma retorted.

Their laughter followed her and Scott down the path to the station. It wasn’t even dusk and yet the wilds of Havarl were still dark enough for the mushrooms to glow. Emma was tempted to touch the sap. Yes, she knew she wasn’t supposed to, but it just looked so fun to touch.

“Don’t be nervous,” Scott reminded her as the station loomed in front of them.

How could she not be? She was going to be stuck for three days hoping his family liked her. Jaal may be sure, but she still had reservations. They were bound to have questions. Questions she doesn’t have answers to. And then there was Sahuna. If his true mother didn’t like her, then she was fucked. Emma paused on the steps leading up the shuttle. Jaal was there and he would just smile at her and look at her like everything was okay even if she didn’t feel like it was. She took a deep breath. If there was ever a moment to have faith in him, it was now. He knew his family. If he believed it then she could too. Scott waited patiently beside her for the two minutes it took her to decide to walk up the steps.

Avka was there again, talking to Jaal and the shuttle pilot. His bag must already be on the shuttle. Scott handed hers over and she gripped it tightly in her hands. Last chance for her to run. But she wasn’t going to. She could do this. This was important.

Jaal turned to her, his eyes lighting up the moment he looked her. How could she run after that? Emma felt herself smiling in response. Three days with him. Not on the ship. No Liam or Scott the poke fun at her. No worrying about people busting into the tech lab. Shit. Maybe she should’ve talked to Lexi. Jaal reached for her and she slid her hand into his. His thumb pressed into her palm.

“You look beautiful.” He leaned forward to press a kiss to her temple.

“Thank you.”

Scott wrapped one arm around her shoulders to give her a partial hug. “Have fun. I’ll see you in two days.”

“Don’t get into too much trouble,” she said.

“I promise nothing.” He smirked and raised his hand in a wave to Jaal, “Later.”

Emma watched him walk away, leaving her alone with Jaal. His hand squeezed hers and gently and she turned back to him. He was looking at her with a tenderness that still took her breath away. Three days. She could do this.

~

Emma didn’t expect the traditional brick and mortar houses she had seen on Earth. Nor had she expected the austere homes on the Citadel. But she hadn’t expected Jaal’s home to be so big. It sprawled in front of her, fitting cozily into the lush jungle around it.

“Wow,” she whispered, just looking at the enormity of it.

Jaal chuckled. “It is home.” With their hands linked, they walked off of the shuttle dock. A house having its own dock was pretty impressive. “We will be staying in my room in the main house.”

“There’s more than one house?” she asked, not quite believing it. This wasn’t really a house then, it was a compound. Jaal had said his family was large. But just how large was large?

“Are you okay? You tensed up.” He stopped short of the front door to give her a moment.

“Yeah, it’s just… sinking in.” Emma shook her head. Confidence was waning.

“They will like you Emma,” he reassured her. “You are an incredible person. They will feel that.”

Emma looked up at the confident and loving look on his gaze. He raised their hands and pressed a kiss to the back of hers. “If you’re scared, we can do this some other time.”

She shook her head. “I do want to meet them. And I want to learn more about you. I can do this.”

With renewed vigor, she followed him through the front door. The entrance way was a long hallway filled with windows and bioluminescent plants. The outside foliage pressed up against the glass of the windows. It was gorgeous.

“Jaal!”

Jaal dropped his bag and Emma’s hand, to embrace the woman running towards him. It had to be Sahuna. From the way Jaal had talked about her, Emma has expected someone larger than life. Sahuna was smaller and shorter than Jaal, but Emma could tell she still had presence. Large eyes, so similar to Jaal’s in size and color, appraised Emma quickly. Emma didn’t know what to do with her hand that wasn’t holding her bag while under such scrutiny. Should she just let it hang there or rest it on her hip…no that would seem too defensive. It was such a ridiculous thing to worry about. God, she was so fucking nervous. Jaal reached back for her and grasped her hand. Sahuna watched the movement with little expression as he pulled Emma closer.

“Emma this is my true mother, Sahuna Ama Darav.” His fingers entwined with hers. “Mother, this is Emma.” He sounded so proud as he said her name.

Emma felt her heart bloom in her chest. She was so afraid that his family, and his mother, wouldn’t like her. Jaal was clearly not worried. He was showing her off. But Sahuna’s expression didn’t change and Emma’s heart sank as fast as it had risen.

“Jaal Ama Darav! You are in a lot of trouble!” Sahuna chastised him.

Jaal’s mouth dropped open and it took him a moment to regain himself. “But mother I—”

This was it. They were going to throw her ass out and she was going to have back to the Tempest dejected. Emma knew this had to be too good to be true.

“How could you not tell me you had resonated with such a beautiful young woman?” Sahuna gestured to Emma with her hands and didn’t wait for Jaal to respond. “I was worried that they weren’t treating you well, but I had to learn from the other mothers that wasn’t true. How long were you planning to keep her from me Jaal?”

That was not what she had expected. And the look on Jaal’s face—he was just flabbergasted at her reaction. Emma felt a small laugh escape before she could stop it. Sahuna smiled at her.

“It is nice to meet you, Emma. The mothers told me Jaal is very fond of you.”

Emma’s cheeks turned pink. “Y-yes. I’m fond of him too.”

“He’s my favorite. Smart. Loyal. Kind. A great shot. Writes poetry…sews.” Sahuna listed off his qualities.

Now Jaal’s face was turning purple. Emma had to stifle her laughter.

“Mother…” he muttered, his eyes begging her to stop.

Sahuna sighed and patted them both on the shoulder. “I’m late for a resistance meeting. Please make yourself at home Emma. Stay clear!”

She walked in between them to leave. Everything felt so much lighter when she walked out the door. Emma was a little less tense. Sahuna was just so much. There was no denying how much she loved her son. Emma liked her. And so far, it seemed that Sahuna liked her as well.

“Your mothers in the resistance?” Emma asked.

“Yes. And every child is her favorite,” Jaal said.

Emma laughed out loud then. Maybe so. But Sahuna thought very highly of Jaal. And so did Emma.

“I told you she would like you.” He sounded smug.

Emma rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. I should have never doubted you. You’re always—”

Jaal cut her off with a small kiss.

“So smug,” she finished when he pulled back.

“Let’s meet everyone else.” His face was still close to hers.

Emma nodded. “Ready when you are.”

Jaal grabbed his bag and they walked through the next set of doors. Once again, she was taken back by the sheer size of the place, but she understood why. They walked into a common room. Angara milled about on couches and in front of screens. There were angara of multiple ages hanging around as if they had been waiting. They probably had been. Emma spotted a few familiar faces in the crowd. Teviint still looked at her as if she wasn’t sure what to make of her, but Baranjj and Lathoul both raised their hand in a greeting. So many eyes were on her and the room was so quiet.

“Everyone! This is Emma.” Jaal let go of her hand to encircle his arm around her waist.

“Hello.” Damn, she sounded so lame.

It wasn’t quiet anymore.

“Look who the kaerkyn dragged in!”

“Welcome back!”

“Did you bring someone special to meet us?”

“She is so pretty!”

“Where are you from Emma?”

It was so much at once. Too much. None of them had really moved, but it felt like they were crowding around her. And the questions. The questions never stopped. They just kept coming and she couldn’t answer them. Jaal’s arm tightened around her waist and he navigated her through them. Instead of her answering, he fielded the majority of the questions and told them they would have plenty of time to get to know her. Emma didn’t let out a breath until they stepped out of the main room.

“I’m sorry. They can be…a lot.” Jaal pressed his forehead to the side of her head while they stood in a hallway for a few minutes.

“That’s an understatement,” she chuckled.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

Emma nodded. Now that they were out of there she was fine. Maybe it would be better once the newness of her arrival wore off. Or she could meet them in smaller groups.

Jaal squeezed her side and then they were moving again. They walked past what Emma assumed was the kitchen and the dining room. Possibly another common room, and then what looked to be bedrooms.

“How many people live here?” she asked.

“I’m not sure. Most of the families live in the main house. The children and the mothers are kept close. There are smaller homes on the grounds that belong to those who don’t want to live in the main house, and some of the newly married couples,” Jaal answered as they passed by room after room.

“Why the newly married couples?”

Jaal coughed, purple darkening his face again. “Most of them require privacy.”

Why would they…oh. Emma just nodded. “Right. Got it.”

Jaal stopped in front of a door. “This is my room. My tiny sanctuary.” The door opened.

There were a few crates on the floor and one on the bed. The bed was just big enough to fit both of them. Good thing since there was only one. There was a workbench littered with pieces of tech and various parts that looked like they didn’t really fit with anything. Emma smiled. Not much has changed then. He looked at her expectantly.

She set her bag down on the floor. “It’s you.”

“Do you like it?” Jaal sat on the bed and deposited his own bag by his feet.

Emma walked over and sat on the bed beside him. “You’re in it, so yes.” She leaned her head on his shoulder.

Jaal looked down at her and cleared his throat nervously. That made Emma straighten up.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“We never spoke about what we are” –he flexed his fingers like he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be doing with them— “and I want to be with you. I want us to be together. Do you?”

Emma reached up to cradle his face in her hands. “Yes, Jaal.”

He sighed in relief before chuckling. “Scott said I was worried for nothing.”

“Don’t tell him I said this, but he was right.” She smiled up at him.

Jaal turned his head to kiss her palm. “Oh!” He stood up from the bed and held out his hands for her. She grabbed them, and he pulled her up. “There is something I wanted to show you. Lie down.”

Emma raised an eyebrow but did as he said. The floor was cool underneath her. She just hoped her bare legs wouldn’t stick. Her hair clip stabbed into the back of her head and she removed it with a wince. It was cute, but not practical for whatever Jaal was planning. Jaal walked over to a small black box and fiddled with it. The room exploded with light. Not just random lights, but swirls of purple and blue and tiny pinpricks of light. They were stars. None that she recognized, but it was beautiful. Jaal crossed the room towards her and laid down beside her.

“Did you make this?” Her voice was tinged with awe.

“Yes. It isn’t accurate. It was more like a dream.” His hand searched out hers.

Emma could imagine. A small Jaal dreaming about the stars. They were out of reach, but he could bring them to him. It wasn’t unlike Emma, standing on the Normandy. Her fingers searching on the galaxy map. Always a place to explore, but also a place to belong. Emma squeezed his hand. There was all of Heleus to explore. And they could do it together. She belonged here. The lights blurred resembling watercolor paints as she teared up.

Jaal rolled onto his side and wiped tears from her cheeks. He pressed small, butterfly kisses to her eyebrow, her cheek, her mouth. “600 years and we found each other. I am lucky,” he murmured against her lips before capturing them in another kiss. His hand moved to cradle the back of her head. Fingers pressed into her scalp.

Emma was always so aware of him like this. The sub vocals in his chest almost purring. His bioelectricity crackled her against her skin making the hairs on her arm stand on end. He was keeping himself up with one arm, so he didn’t press his full weight against her. Not that she wouldn’t have been able to handle it. One of his legs covered her own. She wasn’t even sure he was aware that it was slowly wedging her legs apart at the knees. Regardless of intent, it made heat coil in her belly.

Emma made a small noise in her throat and it spurred him on. The tip of his tongue ran across her bottom lip. It was new, but not unwelcome. She wasn’t sure if all Angara kissed like this, or if he had been doing research. Either way, she was grateful. Emma opened her mouth to him.

His hand left the back of her head and trailed down her neck and side. Emma couldn’t help the small moan when it trailed down her outer thigh before hooking under her knee. Her dress fell back to her hip. His knee slid up and pressed against her inner thigh. Emma no longer had doubts. He knew what he was doing. The heat in her belly began to spread. Her skin flushed everywhere he was pressed against her. She was on fire, but a shiver ran down her spine. I should’ve talked to Lexi.

The door opened. “Jaal? Oh—”

They pulled apart to see a shocked Lathoul looking down at them for the doorway. He just pointed behind him. “Dinner.” It was the only word he managed to get out before he took off.

Emma knew her face was bright red. She clapped her hands over her face. Jaal pulled away from her and her body protested. Part of her wanted to say fuck dinner and well…

“I think your brother just saw my underwear,” she murmured into her hands. This was so embarrassing. She had been making out earnestly, in Jaal’s childhood room, in his family’s home. What were they going to think of her now?

“No one is going to be surprised,” he reassured. “But he is going to tell everyone.”

“That is not reassuring Jaal.” She tried to sound more forceful in her protest, but she was still a little breathless.

He sat up, his shoulders shaking from laughter. Well at least someone found it funny. This was stuff you were supposed to do when you were a teenager, not almost 25. At least, that’s what she always believed. But she was wrong about so many things. She wouldn’t be surprised if she was wrong about that too. Jaal held out his hand for her to grab, and he pulled her up. The first thing she did was pull her dress back down, just in case, anyone else decided to barge in. Jaal grabbed her hair clip from the floor. With deft fingers, he pulled her hair back and clipped it the same way Peebee had.

“We should go before they send someone else,” he said, amusement still in his voice.

We should go before I kiss you again.

~

Emma expected dinner to be an awkward affair. There were some glances and smiles, and even chuckles. Lathoul was the worst. He was constantly looking between the two of them and smirking. But otherwise, no one said anything to them about it. Emma was sitting in between Sahuna and Jaal. Sahuna looked extremely pleased throughout the entire dinner. Almost like she was happy her son had been making out with an alien. There were more questions during dinner, but Sahuna directed most of them to keep Emma from being barraged a second time. And none of the questions were too invasive. Which was shocking considering the Angara were usually curious and had no filter. Jaal must have said something, and Sahuna had acted.

By the time they were done, they knew Emma only had a small family and she was adopted into it. No, she didn’t know where she was born. Yes, she was an exile. It was a personal choice because she doesn’t trust Tann. No, she wasn’t part of the outcasts or the collective—she freelanced. In truth, she hated Kadara. Aya was cool, but Havarl is her favorite so far. No, she wasn’t just saying that. There were no questions about her childhood, her powers, or anything about her past that might upset her. She had a feeling Jaal had a hand in that. Dinner ended with Baranjj telling an exaggerated version of how she disarmed Akksul, with Teviint correcting him and rolling her eyes.

“I can’t believe I missed it,” Lathoul whined.

“It wasn’t that epic,” Emma chuckled, embarrassed by all of the attention.

“She chastised him like he was a child,” Baranjj added. “I thought she was channeling our mothers for a moment.”

“It was impressive.” Jaal nodded.

“Do you plan on having children Emma?” Sahuna asked.

Emma just gaped at her a moment. This question felt like a minefield. Emma could tell the truth, which she wasn’t sure she wanted to. Or she could omit the absolute truth and just state that she hadn’t thought about it all. Which was kind of a lie. It had just been some time since she thought of having a family of her own. There was also the point that her relationship with Jaal was so new, and the question was unexpected. They weren’t biologically compatible. Would that ruin everything? Was having children an absolute must for the Angara? One wrong step and this could blow up in her face. And it did not help that they could possibly tell when she was lying.

“Mother!” Jaal’s voice was sharp.

“Oh! I’m sorry. Do humans find that question offensive?” Sahuna asked her.

“Some.” Emma nodded. “It can be a hurtful topic for those you want children but can’t have them.”

“I understand. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable Emma.” Sahuna patted her hand.

“It’s okay. I was just…surprised…that’s all,” Emma said. It wasn’t quite the truth, but it would do.

Jaal stood up from the table. “Emma and I are going for a walk,” he declared.

Emma took his outstretched hand and stood up from the chair. She thanked Sahuna for the meal before following him out of the dining room. They walked past the rooms again, going further into the house. He was upset. It pricked against her skin, almost shocking her. There was a door at the end of the hall. Jaal made a beeline for it. It opened and light from the hall spilled out into a courtyard. Beyond the courtyard was the jungle, but there were small paths cut through the foliage. Those must lead to the other houses. There were a few lanterns in the courtyard, but nothing that obstructed the light of the plants or of the stars. They twinkled overhead. Jaal sat on a bench near the door and she followed. The door closed, leaving them in near darkness.

“I’m sorry. She is just curious about humans and about you,” he apologized.

Emma sat down beside her him, her thigh pressing against his. “She didn’t mean anything by it. I know that.”

“But it still upset you.”

Emma let out a breath. “It caught me off guard. I didn’t think I’d get the hard-hitting questions so early,” she chuckled, trying to make the situation lighter. It didn’t work.

His arm wrapped around her waist to pull her into his side. “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay Jaal. I just—this is so new to me—is it going to be a problem that we wouldn’t be able…” she trailed off.

“No.” The force of his answer surprised her. “Nothing is required of you, Emma. I care about you. That is all I need.”

“Can I tell you something?” she asked.

“Of course.”

“And you can’t tell anyone else,” she pressed.

“I wouldn’t.”

Emma took in a deep breath. “I haven’t told anyone…ever. Alec was the only other person who knew because he was there. I blamed him for a long time. He didn’t stop it, but now I realize there wasn’t really a choice.” She was rambling, but Jaal was quiet like he knew she just needed to build up the confidence to say it. “I can’t…have children. At all. The council decided I shouldn’t be allowed to.”

Jaal was eerily quiet for a minute before he spoke. “They decided?”

“They voted to have me medically sterilized. Someone like me shouldn’t be allowed to procreate,” she spat, remembering the cold way they had delivered that line to her and Alec. She was only 13. Children weren’t even a thought to her, but the council throttled any choice she would have had in her future. They were good at that.

“Alec did not stop them?” Fury simmered in his words.

“He tried, but when it came to the council’s directives, he had to follow them, or they would put me back in the box so to speak.” An old fear spiked at the thought.

“Such a council shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions,” he hissed.

“Tell me about it.” She leaned into his side and rested her head on his shoulder.

Jaal tightened his grip on her waist. Not enough to hurt, but enough to remind her that he was there, and she was safe. “No one will do that here. Your life is your own Emma.”

It was him saying it, and she believed him. “Thank you Jaal.”

 

Eventually, they had gone back inside to join everyone else. Those that hadn’t turned in for the night were lounging around in the main room. It wasn’t as crowded as when they first arrived. Emma was more relaxed, and that was important to Jaal. She next to him on the couch, one leg resting underneath her while the other was stretched out over his lap. She was tucked comfortably into his side. What she had told him earlier had angered him. But it had also lifted a weight from her. Another secret she didn’t have to carry alone. He would caution his family against asking certain questions. Emma would tell people what she wanted them to know. And that would have to be good enough. It was for him. He didn’t expect to be privy to all of her secrets, but he hoped she would continue opening up to him. Watching her bloom like a flower was a privilege for him.

She spoke with ease and her warm laughter filled the room. Jaal was glad he had brought her. They both needed this. It had been ages since he had seen his family all together. And Emma needed to be around a family. His mother would often glance at the two of them, her lips curving into a smile. Jaal had known his mother would adore her and he was thankful to be right. It was a shame that Emma was hardly given the chance amongst her own people. But Jaal could give her a chance with his own family. He wanted nothing more than the share her with them, and them with her. He wanted her to know she always had a place to go. When Scott asked him to care for her if something ever happened to him, Jaal took him seriously.

Others began to leave and turn in for the night. It was time for them to sleep as well. He wanted Emma to actually sleep well tonight. She had been getting more and more sleep during the night after the cave in, but she could do with more. Sensing his intent, Emma sat up and swung both her legs to the floor. The moment she moved away, his body craved her warmth again. He just had to wait. A little bit of wait would be nothing compared to sleeping with her right next to him in the same bed, not just two cots shoved together. He stood from the couch and helped her up. Sahuna bid them both goodnight, and Jaal could feel her eyes on them all the way down the hall.

He just couldn’t stop looking at Emma. She looked so content and peaceful. It was a moment he wished he could capture. There was something about it. She was radiant when she was happy.

When she entered his bedroom, she made a beeline for her duffel bag and began searching through it. Jaal did the same. He didn’t often change his nightwear on the Tempest. Not because he didn’t want to, but because he always wanted to be ready to go if need be. At home, he didn’t have to be so prepared. Jaal began unbuckling his suit. He felt a penetrating gaze on him the moment he peeled the fabric from his chest. Emma was staring at him, the tips of her ears turning red and her cheeks soon to follow. Acute arousal sparked in his stomach. It wasn’t just his, but hers. Just a few hours ago they had been stretched out on his floor, pressed against each other like they were trying to become one. He’d like to do it again. But it was too soon. Not that it had stopped him earlier. Sometimes it was hard to think clearly around her. Especially, when they were so attuned to each other.

“Sorry,” she murmured, tearing her gaze away. “I won’t look.”

He huffed with laughter. “You can look if you like. Nudity is normal for Angara.”

Emma shook her head. “That’s okay.” Her voice was higher than normal.

True to her word. Emma kept her back to him. It didn’t take long for Jaal to change into looser pants, something Emma would call sweatpants, and a “tank top.” For a brief moment, he thought about removing his gloves but decided against it. While he wanted nothing more than to touch her with his bare hands, it would be too much for the both of them.

Jaal turned the covers down on the bed while she changed in the corner. Her back was still to him. He was fine relishing the sight of her back muscles rippling as she pulled the dress over her head. There were a few spots on her backs, similar to the ones he had, but they were brown. She had called them freckles before. Jaal wanted to trace them. He wondered if she had freckles everywhere. She pulled a tank top on, with smaller straps than his.

Jaal climbed into his side of the bed while averting his gaze so she could finish changing. Minutes later she was sliding in between the cool sheets to lay beside him. She settled down into the pillows and turned on her side. Jaal reached behind him to turn off the lights. The darkness settled over them. She was quiet. More so than usual. He could just hear her breathing beside him. The sheets shifted, and he felt her leg press against his. Her skin was so warm. Jaal turned on his side to face her. Their faces were inches apart. Her breath washed over him, he could smell the fruit from dinner.

“Thank you for bringing me here,” she whispered.

“I’m glad you came.” He reached up to brush his thumb across her cheek.

There was a moment of silence before she quietly laughed. “I know we’re supposed to sleep, but I can’t yet.”

“Do you want to watch some more of that Asari vid?” he asked.

He felt her head press against his shoulder. “Sure.”

Jaal raised his arm to bring it up on his omnitool. Once again, the monotone narrator began discussing more of the Asari’s vast history in the Milky Way. It worked like a charm. Emma was asleep in less than 20 minutes. Jaal pressed a gentle kiss to her head and shut the video off. One day down, two to go.