Shuffling. Twisting and turning. Grunts and a final movement wakes me up. I open my eyes to a dimly lit room. Jaal is sitting up and panting, back turned to me. I notice the spot he was laying down in was slightly damp. Fever? Is he sick? I reach out to touch him and he flinches. He is warm, and sweaty. "Jaal? Are you okay?"
"Hmm? Uh, yes. This is... normal." He leans over and puts his elbows on his legs, head in hands. I could hear a hard swallow when he spoke, and now he is making pained grunts.
I sit up a little. "Did you have a nightmare?"
"No. Not a nightmare. Ugh... I just... need some air." He stands up and heads quickly towards my door.
"Please, if you need anything, I am here."
"I know, Darling One. I appreciate it. I will be fine." He leaves the room and lets the door whoosh shut behind him.
"SAM? Is he sick? Should I alert Lexi?" I sit up all the way, rubbing my head.
"I detected an increase in body temperature, but no illness. I also detected an increase in hormones, rapid breathing and heart rate, sweating, and agitation." SAM chimes in over our private channel.
"What does this mean?"
"I do not know for certain. This is the first instance of this that I have encountered."
"What time is it?"
"Thank you. I guess I should officially get up." SAM slowly increases the brightness of the room to help my eyes adjust. "It is a bit weird not waking up next to him like normal. Any theories?"
"His body seems to simulate going through a biological or primitive need to reproduce found in some sentient species. Even Milky Way."
"Like a mating season?"
"Precisely. Though I do not have enough data to say that is what it is."
"Oh." I stand up and change into my sweatpants, tank and grey and black hoodie, and shoes. "I will talk to Sahuna after breakfast. Or at least send an email. Especially if this continues." I am not sure how to process this. Of course, if it is a mating season, it's obviously not under his control. We haven't had sex yet, both together and before. I am not sure if I am ready for this. Maybe that's why he needs some space? Does he not trust himself around me? I don't want him to feel guilty. I head over to my desk to get a brush and my hair tie. Some shiny brown hairs that were loose, fall to my shoulders, more than normal. Stress. I should really talk to Lexi about this. I put my hair up in a medium ponytail, keeping it loose around my scalp and a swoop over my right eye. I recently cut my hair back up to just above my shoulders, keeping the part to the left, and feathering the sides. I remember coming out of the bathroom and walking by Jaal who took notice immediately. It surprised me, it was about a two inch trim, and usually no one notices. Maybe it's because it was down? In any case, he spent the first half hour playing with it before bed. Using his bioelectricity to make strands stand up, and attempting to braid but getting slightly frustrated because his fingers were a bit big and the low static he was emitting didn't help his cause. The memory made me giggle.
It is close to 0500. Breakfast is in about fifteen minutes. Jaal hasn't come back, yet. I start biting at my lip, tearing off the dead skin with my teeth, an old nervous/anxious habit I have yet to break. Afterwards, putting on lip butter/balm to at least try to help. I couldn't help myself. I go to my terminal and sit down, I open a new email draft and start typing to Sahuna.
Can I talk to you? A private vid-call? It's about Jaal, and I might be overreacting but when he woke up, he was acting strange. We are about to have breakfast, so could it be afterwards?
I hit send. I wait about five minutes eagerly waiting for a reply. Maybe she is busy, or asleep. I don't know what time it is on Havarl right now. I hear a ping on my omni-tool. I get excited but to my disappointment, it's just the crew board and Drack telling us that breakfast is ready. I take a deep breath and head out towards the mess hall.
"Hmph. You're early, Kid." Drack glances over at me. "Jaal ain't with you this time?"
I walk into the empty room and sit in my usual spot on the booth. "Nope. I guess he had a rough night and needed some air."
"With everything he's been through and seen, doesn't surprise me." He finishes up making a bowl of... something.
"Yeah... maybe. He said it wasn't a nightmare."
"Doesn't have to be a nightmare for something to bother you in the night, Kid."
"Don't worry, I know. What're you making?"
"Oatmeal. Using what's left of Milky Way dried fruits. Special bowl for Vetra, and then Jaal's paste on that plate."
A ping interrupts us. I check my omni-tool. It's a reply from Sahuna;
Yes. Please talk to me after breakfast. Tell me everything.
I breathe a slight sigh of relief. Drack starts decorating the table with food where people would normally sit. He places a bowl in front of me and the plate of paste to my left. He finally takes a seat on the other end of the corner booth with his food. Roots from Elaaden, I believe. He starts to chew on them as he cleans his gun. People start walking in and either taking food and going back somewhere or taking a seat. Gil, Kallo, Suvi, Lexi, and Cora decide to eat elsewhere. Vetra sits next to Drack, Liam on the right side of me, Peebee is across in a chair, and finally Jaal shows up. He looks a bit better but still a little off. He quickly takes the place next to me.
Conversations are going across the room, but I sound them out. "Jaal, are you doing better?" I look up at him. He usually holds my hand while we eat, this time he is just making a fist under the table.
"I was fine before. This is normal, Sara." His tone of voice is a bit agitated.
"Are you mad at me? Did I do something?" I feel a slight lump in my throat.
"No. Not mad. I'll be fine. This will go away."
"Okay, promise me if it's something, that you will see Lexi?"
"I always do."
I go back to eating when I feel his hand go for mine. I give him my hand and I notice he is holding it a bit tighter than normal. I rub my thumb across the back of his hand, still unsure what is going on. I finish up and sit back.
"Hey, Sara." I look at Peebee. "What's next?"
"We are going to Elaaden to check in with the krogan colony."
"Oh sweet! Will we get to see inside that crashed remnant ship?"
"Maybe." I shrug. That's when Jaal lets go of my hand and goes to my thigh. A slightly tight grip. This catches my attention. The move was almost possessive. I look up at him with concern and realized he has finished his food quickly. When he notices me, he lets go of my thigh and shies away, almost a guilty or embarrassed look on his face. I can tell other people in the room notice something is going on, but they continue with their conversations. Jaal silently gets up and places his plate in the sink then walks out. I soon follow, eyes in the room follow me until the door closes.
I lose track of him when I leave the mess hall. I sigh. I go into my room and open up comms with Sahuna on my terminal.
"Sahuna? Can you hear me?"
"Yes. What's going on, Sara?"
"Jaal is acting strange. He claims he isn't sick, but has a fever. He woke up sweating and panting. He seems to be distant of me, both physically and verbally. He is speaking quicker and harsher. When we were eating breakfast, he held my hand tighter than normal and suddenly went to my thigh, tight grip. When he saw that I noticed, he quickly looked away and let go. He also ate a lot faster and is really quiet. Did I do something wrong? Is he mad at me?"
"Hmm. No, I do not believe that he is. Lathoul!" Sahuna turns from the camera. "When was Jaal's last-" A word in Shelesh that I don't understand.
I hear Lathoul respond in the background. "Uh, a couple years ago I believe."
Sahuna turns back to the camera to face me. A grin across her face. "Let me email Jaal real quick to make sure this is it."
"What is happening?" I ask.
"This happens to every angara. And every angara is different and on a different schedule. Like a mating season. Jaal is still young and this is probably just as intense as it was his first time."
"Oh, I am still a little confused."
"Do humans have a mating season?"
"Eh, no, not really. The closest we have is that most females can get easily turned on during or around their menstrual cycle. But it's not exactly a hard instinct."
"How often is this cycle?"
"Once a month. Usually ties in with the moon's cycle. Well, Earth's moon. Three to seven days. And it is not fun."
"Hmm, I want to know more. But first, Jaal is just in his season. Once every one to four years for about two to fourteen days that year, an angara will have a physical desire to reproduce."
"Yes. Jaal gets his every two years for about four days. It's an intense desire. It will wear out the more he goes through it. Usually the shorter the season, the more frequent it happens."
"So, why is he avoiding me?"
"Have you two had sex yet?"
I open my eyes a bit wider. That question came a bit as a shock. "Uh, no."
Sahuna chuckles, "Dear, I am not embarrassed. Ah! He messaged back." Sahuna takes a minute to read. "Yes. He is in his season. I know why he is avoiding you, too. He wants it to be sober."
"I am not sure how humans view sex, but angara, as you know, are quite emotional. Sex is extremely intimate, not the most intimate. There's levels to one's self. Sexual, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self. The desire Jaal is feeling now is only on two levels, sexual and physical. He wants to feel it on all levels."
"So being sober is just, normal self?"
"Yes. He's never had sex before. But that doesn't matter as much as the first time that you two share. The first time is usually extremely emotional, slow, and vulnerable on both sides. It is sharing a moment between you both and the stars. Of course not all sex is like this, but the first time should not be based on a primitive desire."
"I am surprised you're not saying a primitive need."
"Because sex isn't exactly a need. Love and affection is. Intimacy can be a need. Sex is not. One can survive without having sex, and there's many other intimate acts one can do in place. Love doesn't have to be intimate, it can be platonic or familial. Love is the need."
"Is there anything I can do for Jaal?"
"I will send Lexi a common medicine to help with the fever and panting, maybe she already has it. Paripo juice helps with fevers as well."
"We don't have that."
"Oh, well, cold water can do just fine. He also likes dried, toasted quilloa seeds. I used to give him this when he was younger to help out."
"Okay, and it lasts for four days?"
"Can be cut in half with constant sex. But as I've said before, he'd rather be sober right now. Hmm, the fact his subconscious knows that he has a partner might make his desires more intense."
"Oh... I do want him to feel better, Sahuna. I don't want him to feel like he has to restrict himself from me."
"He was probably worried about how you would have seen him. Usually, since the seasons don't match up with the other partner, after the season is over, that person usually takes care of the other not in season. It can be tiresome and sore. And if at any moment, there is a change in emotion or if one feels like they can't continue, the one in season is expected to stop immediately. There is usually a lot of aftercare for putting up with the seasonal nonsense. Just saying for later purposes."
"Alright, got it. I appreciate it, Sahuna. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Jaal is flattered you came to me."
"You told him I was talking to you?"
"Of course! He deserves to know that you are a caring person!"
I smile at that and giggle. "Aw. Thanks. So, toasted quilloa seeds, cold water, medicine?"
"Yes. You got it!"
"I will get right on that, thank you again!"
"Oh wait, Sara! May I learn more about this cycle you humans have?"
"Well, sure. But, mine is a bit different." I feel a bit nervous. I don't know how she is going to take this.
"Well, humans aren't naturally biotics. I had element zero exposure while I was in the womb, and that caused... complications."
"Oh no. What happened?"
"The eezo kind of halted any growth of eggs. I was kind of born infertile."
Sahuna gives a look of pure shock. "Oh Stars. You have my deepest sympathies."
"Thanks, but I am at peace with it. I always knew adoption was an option and I had a friend that was orphaned growing up. The day she got adopted and had to switch schools, I saw the happiest face. There are millions of orphans across the different species back in the Milky Way. And I knew if I ever had a family, that I would adopt to give a child hope and love, like they deserve. This was before I found out I was infertile. Before my first cycle."
"You would be a wonderful mother if you do decide to adopt. How did you find out that you were infertile?"
"My first cycle. And thanks. That was, not fun. I have this thing they like to call 'Ghost Eggs' where my body and brain haven't registered that I don't have eggs. So, my body tries to push something out that isn't there. I have to take medicine for it because it is extremely painful. Sometimes it feels like an organ ruptured."
"Oh Stars, you poor thing."
"It only lasts two to three days though. Low blood flow, very low, since it's only the uteral lining shedding."
"Blood flow? There's blood?"
"I forgot other species don't exactly have the same type of cycle has humans do, whoops." I chuckle. "Yes, there is blood. It can be constant."
"How long does this last? A full lifetime?"
"Starts usually from ages nine to sixteen, ends around seventy. Which is a recent change. Evolution is catching up with our longer lifespan and more females are being born with more eggs."
"That's a relief. At least it goes away."
"What about mating seasons?"
"It lasts a lifetime."
"Oh woah. Really?"
"Well, speaking of which. I will check with Lexi and get the stuff for Jaal. Thank you again for talking to me."
"Thank you for your concern and talking with me! Stay strong and clear, Sara."
The link goes dead. I lay back in my chair and let out a long sigh. I finally decide to stand up and go to the mess hall, which is now cleared of people. The dried quilloa seeds are up in the cabinet and there's cold water in the fridge. I cut up the seeds to bite sizes and start to toast them. I go into the medbay while things are going to talk to Lexi, which she had a substitute for the recommended medicine, she gave it to me and I went back. Put the seeds on a plate, got out a cold water, and a pill ready.
"SAM, where's Jaal?"
"He is in the tech lab."
I carefully travel up the ladder and head to the room, knocking on the door. "Jaal? I brought you something."
There's a moment of silence before the door opens. A hopeful grin across his face as he looks at what I brought.
"Your mom said it would help."
"Thank you, Darling." His hands reach out carefully towards the food and water. "This smells wonderful." The smile across his face lights up the room.
"Anything for you, Jaal. I hope you like it."
He takes a bite of the seed. "A bit hard, but I do like it. I do not think I can come up with the words to tell you how appreciative I am of this."
"I appreciate you, and your decision. I really do, and I respect it. I was worried when I heard it was a mating season, well, I don't know if worried is the right word, but I knew I wasn't ready for it. I trust you, though. And damn, I was so worried about you. Hey, tell me next time something like this happens okay? I am not going to judge you."
"I promise I will, Sara. My Darling One. Thank you for understanding."
I wake up. Curled inward. A severe pain takes a hold in my lower abdomen. I grunt out, pant and moan. The Initiative never gave me the procreation blockers because of my medical file. They knew I was infertile. So, my cycle continues. I have run out of the medication, too, damn it.
Jaal rolls over. "Dearest? Are you alright?"
I grit my teeth. "Pain... No more meds... so much... pain."
Jaal shoots up, telling SAM to brighten the lights so he can see. He pulls the covers back to find me in a ball. He moves the hair from my face and rubs my arms. "Sara, what's wrong? Should I take you to Lexi?"
"No... This is, ah, normal for me." I tighten my ball. "It's a really bad cramp is all."
"Lower belly... why?"
"Can I try something?"
"Yes, please... ah! Anything!"
"Alright, I will need you to straighten out a bit and give me access."
I do as he says, it is hard not to return. I feel sweat beads form around my face, breathing is a bit hard. He lifts my shirt a little bit and places his hands on my lower abdomen. They are warm. Then I feel tiny nips of electricity, and they slowly get more intense, but not painful. In fact, the pain is going away. It's like he's relaxing the muscle and tricking the nerves. I focus on breathing now that it's not as painful. I relax a bit more.
"Is it working?"
"Yes, Jaal. Yes! Yes it is!" I almost feel like laughing out of relief. "Oh, thank you so fucking much, you have no idea how much that helps."
"Now I do know, and I will do it again if the pain returns. What happened, do you know?"
I lay out flat as he sits up straight. There's a slight numbness and tingle to my belly now that he's stopped but it's so much better. "Menstrual cycle, but ghost egg version. Well, it doesn't have to be ghost eggs to be this painful but, yeah. The cycle is once a month and lasts two to three days for me."
"Oh. Is there anything I can do to help more?"
"Heating pads do wonders, I have one under the bed I think." I go to reach for it but Jaal stops me.
"Let me." He gets up and grabs it. "Is this it?"
"Yes, it can help with any lingering pain and the pain in general. Thank you."
"Anything for you, Darling."
"When we get back to the Nexus, Lexi will be able to pick up more medicine for me. That usually helps, doesn't get rid of the pain entirely, but helps."
"And now we know my bioelectricity works with it."
"Does more than just work, Jaal. It numbs the pain. I might be able to actually sleep for once."
"Good." He kisses my forehead. "If it happens again, let me know. I am more than willing to help."
He settles next to me, his hand laying over my stomach. "Just in case." He whispers.
"You are so sweet, Jaal. I am so lucky to be here."
"Hmm, it's like talking to a mirror."
"Because I feel the same way, Dearest."