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Seven Works of Love

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     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?"

     "0447."

     "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."

     "Ah. Thanks."

     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."

     "Mating season?"

     "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."

     "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.

     "How so?"

     "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?"

     "Yes."

     "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."

     "Thanks, SAM."

     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."

     "Where?"

     "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."

     "Huh?"

     "Because I feel the same way, Dearest."

 

Chapter Text

I get the signal that we are soon arriving on Havarl. Sahuna invited Jaal and I to try out the pie she made. She also asked for pointers for other Earth recipes. I love her, she is so sweet. Most of the family is out of the house for the day but a few stayed behind, including Teviint, Baranjj, and Lathoul. I have a few outfits planned this time, though I want Jaal's input. The one I want to wear is a long, flowing dress, with a cute neck trim. It's a cobalt blue color that ombres into a black near the end of the dress. It is my favorite.

"Darling, I got your message and I- Stars..." Jaal walks into my cabin and the door shuts behind him as he stops to look at me.

I chuckle and blush. "Do you like?"

He takes a moment looking at me before responding, "Love is a better word."

I shy away with a huge grin across my face. "Is it appropriate?"

I hear him chuckle and approach, lightly putting his hands on my shoulders. "A bit formal for the occasion. But, it is appropriate."

"It's my favorite. I never really got to wear it."

"Oh? Why not?"

I shrug. "I was never really invited anywhere. Never went to Prom. Or any school dance for that matter."

"Prom?" He tilts his head.

"Ah, a formal dance for high schoolers. Ages like, 16-18 usually go. Doesn't happen again. Only for high school."

"And you didn't go?"

"Nope. Thought it was stupid being completely honest. Maybe that was just me being really bitter about people and I didn't like the popular music at the time. Or the hormones." I shrug again. "I guess, I was more afraid of going. That my money would be wasted. I mean I could stay at home, dancing to my favorite music without judgement, invite some friends over. I don't know."

"Do you regret not going?"

"Eh. Kinda? Not really? Still on the fence for that one."

"On the fence?"

"Idiom for 'haven't made up my mind yet' essentially." I reach up to play with my necklace.

Jaal takes notice, "What is that?"

"It's a locket. In the shape of a heart."

He scoffs playfully, "Is that what a heart looks like to humans?"

I chortle. "No. We don't know really how the shape came to be. My favorite theory is that it's two hearts sewn together and this is the outline of that shape."

"I like that. I also adore the colors on it. A green and blue stone."

"Kinda like an opal, yeah. It's not exactly a stone. That's just the colors the ashes made when turned into a stone."

"Ashes?"

I feel a lump in my throat. Echo died about a year before cryo. "Yeah. I had a pet cat named Echo. She was my emotional support kitty, I raised her, saved her from an abuser. She was a best friend, part of the family, my baby girl. She died not too long before my journey here."

I see Jaal's expression turn sympathetic. "My heart goes to you. Can you tell me more about her?"

I smile. "She followed me everywhere. Was skittish of most people, always purred when she was laying on me. Slept in my bed all the time, once she slept with her whole body holding my hand. I felt every little twitch as she dreamed."

"That sounds adorable. Even though I do not know what a cat looks like."

"It's what the locket is for." I open the stone to reveal the two pictures inside. On one side, a kitten, the other a full grown cat. Echo is a white long hair cat with silver/grey stripes. I believe she was also a runt. She also had blue/green eyes. "This is a version of a cat. They have many fur colors and lengths. I only ever take this off to bathe."

"I've never seen an animal such as this. She is beautiful."

"Thanks." I let Jaal hold the locket. "On this side, is her paw print. Sized down a bit to fit on the stone. I like this side to be the front of the locket." He closes it to see the embedded print.

"It's so... small. These are pads, yes?" I nod. "Similar to our feet."

"You have pads on your feet?"

"You haven't noticed?"

"No. I don't look at the bottom of your feet."

"We sleep together."

"I don't feel the bottom of your feet. You have peets."

"I have what?"

"Peets. Paw-feet. Peet."

He smirks. "They're not paws."

"I am still calling them peets."

"Alright. What're these markings here?" He turns the locket over to the back.

"Hand carved calligraphy. It's English. Spells, Echo Ryder."

"That is your last name in your language?"

"Yeah."

"That is... good to know."

I cross my arms. "Are you planning something?"

"Maybe." He steps back. "Anyways, we will be landing soon."

"Are you excited?"

"Sure. Or maybe I like to look at you in full."

Damn, that causes me to blush again. "I take it this looks good on me?"

"You make it look good." Jaal smirks as he leans up against the wall. "I should warn you, blue can be an arousing color."

That caught my attention. "Uh, what?"

"Blue can also be a color to induce rage or anger. It is also the color of love. It catches the eye's gaze."

"We have a color like that, except it's red."

"I think it is because you bleed red. We bleed blue."

"That... makes sense actually. Should I not wear this then?"

"Oh no, you can. Definitely. But blue does catch our eyes. I should rephrase that I find blue to be a seductive color on you."

"What would your mom think?"

"If you like the pie or not." He relaxes and stand up straight. "Wear what you want, Darling. We will not judge you. My mother knows that you come from a different place."

I shift around, playing with my necklace. "Well, I am entering your house. I want to learn more about your culture and customs anyways. What would be more appropriate?"

"Whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. I notice you wear your hoodie often. It is grey, black, has a bit of blue, and is homey. Perfect for the occasion."

"Oh, okay. What occasion would I need to dress up for?" I go to grab the hoodie and sweats. Though I start to contemplate because Havarl is humid.

"Marriage ceremonies. Parties. A formal meeting." He turns away from me. I think Liam told him about the whole 'don't watch a girl change clothes' thing, though we are together and I won't be stripping completely. I appreciate the thought and gesture.

"What makes a meeting formal?" I start taking off my shoes and slip on my sweats under the dress.

"When talking about important matters. A meeting between politicians. Things as that."

"Jaal. You can turn around. I am comfortable around you." I start taking off the dress. Leaving the bra on before the tank top.

"Ah. I wasn't sure if you wanted me to."

I slipped on the hoodie and turned back around to meet him. "Well, it's only you. Being honest again, I still get nervous changing for a doctor. And I always got really embarrassed if my mom walked in on me changing."

"Do you know why?"

"Probably the stigma humans place around the female body getting into my head. I am also really timid and afraid of judgement from others, and you can't please everyone. I just don't want to be put down for my own body. Yeah, yeah, I know. I need to get over it."

"Learn to live with it." He corrects. "You don't get over anything. How you view yourself is the most important. Though I do understand being timid and being insecure."

"How I view myself isn't much better."

Jaal approaches me, putting hair behind my ear. "How do you view yourself? And is it through your eyes, or other's?"

"What do you mean?" His touch always calms me, sends lovely little feelings down my spine to be distributed evenly throughout my body.

"For instance; if you did not like your hair color, would it be because other people prefer otherwise, or because you prefer something different?"

"I... I don't know. Something is telling me that I shouldn't be happy with how I look. I don't know if I am happy with it or not. I know I am always border-lining healthy and underweight due to this damn biotics and high metabolism thing. I see my bones in the mirror and I've always been told that seeing bones is always unhealthy. But I know that I am very healthy, and you can barely see my ribs. I eat a lot, I sleep, I get a lot of damn exercise. But then I am upset of my own thigh gap." I bring up my wrist. "You see the bones here. My collarbone is defined for a human. And so are my hip bones. I can't help it. It's just who I am, how my body is."

He holds my hand and looks at my wrist. I get a bit nervous of what he's thinking, but then he brings it up and kisses it. "If you are healthy, isn't that what matters most? Give the ignorant another thought, because they don't know you. If they don't care to listen or to understand, then they do not deserve your time. I care most that you are healthy and happy. I find your smile to be beautiful. The way it lights up your eyes is contagious. Your laugh makes my heart dance. This is healthy for you, right?" I nod. He puts his hand on my cheek and I lean in. "My heart tells me that you are beautiful. Gorgeous. Stunning. I fell for you. If this is who you are, if this makes you smile and laugh more, I am in love with it."

"And if I am not happy?"

"Then I will work with you to make sure you become happy. I find you an attractive woman, Sara. Through your heart. You reflect what you are on the inside, outside. Your kind eyes show. The charitable laughter from your lips. Your honesty and loyalty draw me to you. I can't help but find everything about you, physical and else, attractive."

My mind goes blank and I can't help but smile. I'm pretty sure my heart stopped for a minute. "That's so sweet. I... wow. I don't know what to say." I feel happy tears form.

"Your expression tells me everything I need to hear." He smiles gently. He looks longingly into my eyes for a moment before moving his hand to the back of my head and gently brings himself and I into a kiss. The sound of SAM telling us we have arrived makes us break the kiss.

"I just want to tell you, Jaal. You influence most of my happiness. You make me laugh a lot more, and your smile is just as contagious."

"I am humbled, Darling. Now, my mother is awaiting us." He takes my hand and we walk out of the ship together. 

The shuttle is close nearby. The walk to it is short, and as expected, other than the pilot, we are the only ones aboard. The ride to his family's house is decently short. I look out the window and watch as we take off, above the bio-luminescent trees. Below, I can see some animals coming and going from beneath the foliage. It is calming as we hear the mantas fly above us, singing their songs. I snuggle up against Jaal and he holds me. I feel myself grow tired and close my eyes, being enveloped in a small, peaceful nap.

"Darling, we are here." Are the words I hear before opening my eyes.

I lightly stretch. "Man, time flies by."

He chuckles. "Well, you were asleep."

"Sorry."

"Don't be! There's nothing to apologize for. I found it relaxing, and you to be peaceful."

"It was. Mm. Guess I have to get up."

He holds out his hand as I stand up, offering to take my hand. I accept. We walk out of the shuttle and head for the door. Jaal uses an identifier to unlock the door and leads me in. Sahuna is already there and smiling.

"Hold still, you two." She says as she holds up the angara's version of an omni-tool/scanner. A quick flash of light tells me that she took a picture. I couldn't help but giggle a little bit.

"Mother, I wasn't ready." Jaal retorts.

"Then tell me when you are."

Jaal then picks me up in a 'princess' carry. "Wha-hey!" I laugh, wrapping my arms around his neck. Sahuna takes another picture.

"Ah. That's much better!"

Jaal sets me down and Sahuna comes to hug us both.

"It's good to see you again, Sahuna."

"It's a delight having you here. You both here." Sahuna motions us to follow. "Come! Come! The pie has been ready for a while."

We follow her to an open room with a table and some neatly designed chairs. A lot of chairs. Teviint and Baranjj are helping to clean up some plates off the table and taking them to the next room. They wave at us as we enter.

"Ah. We missed dinner I see." Jaal waves back.

Lathoul comes from behind us passing by. "Gives us a chance to actually grab some food!"

"They get to try out something new though." Sahuna goes into the next room, presumably the kitchen.

Jaal and I sit next to each other at the table. We took two of the clean spots.

"Is this what I've been smelling all day?" I hear a conversation in the kitchen.

"Yes. And Sara is getting the first bite. It's an Earth recipe and I want to make sure I got it right."

"Using our fruits, though? Is that safe?"

"I've talked with her ship's doctor and yes it is."

"I thought you didn't like it, though, Mother."

"It's not about me. It's about our guest! Jaal's partner and friend! She is to be made feeling at home as best as we can offer."

I can tell that Jaal is watching me blush and grin like an idiot because he starts to chuckle, wrapping his arm around me.

"Guest?"

"Well, she's not officially part of the family."

"No, no, you're right." Sahuna peaks around the archway. "Call me 'Mother' if you wish." She quickly goes back into the kitchen.

I start to giggle. "I love her."

"I think she loves you, too." Jaal nuzzles me.

Sahuna comes back out with a pie in hands. She is followed by Teviint, Baranjj, and Lathoul. "This one I using an Earth fruit. A purple or blue berry, I cannot remember."

"Smells like blueberry. Oh man, I used to make these all the time. They're my favorite!"

Sahuna's face lights up immensely. "Then I've chosen well!"

"Wait, I overheard the conversation in the kitchen about using your fruits?"

"Oh, yes. I was hoping you would help prepare that one. I was thinking that using our fruits instead might yield a better result for us. Maybe even you? I would love some pointers from you. I am used to a live teaching rather than a recipe book. Those I use usually for reference."

"I would love to help, Mother." I smile.

I hear Jaal's breath hitch and Sahuna almost looks like she is about to jump up and down. She pushes the pie to me. "Here, try it. Try it!" She also places what seems to be a spoon next to me.

The room is silent and waiting. I am a bit uncomfortable by all the stares I am getting but I push through. I pick up the spoon and dip it into the pie. I grin as my mouth waters. The pie doesn't have a top crust, but that's always how I've made it. She probably used the same recipe as I did. I've been eating canned, dried, and freeze dried food for so long that I've forgotten how much I miss what this pie even looks like. The spoon has a nice mix of crust and warm, gooey, blueberries. I take the bite and practically melt in my chair. It might be because it's been so long, but I swear this is the best pie I've ever eaten. I let out a satisfied moan and nod profusely. "This is damn good."

Sahuna starts clapping. "Oh this is wonderful! Please enjoy it for a bit while I set up the kitchen. Lathoul, please help."

Teviint and Baranjj look at each other and shrug as Lathoul and Sahuna walk into the kitchen.

"Are you two planning something?" Jaal leans on the table. I am too busy enjoying my pie to really notice. I try to savor each bite but it's like my body is screaming at me so I would just eat it already. Real food.

"Nope. Just glad we are done cleaning." Baranjj answers.

"So, is she going to be a regular here?" Teviint crosses her arms. I can tell she is still a bit skeptical. Understandable.

"That is up to her. But I hope so." Jaal leans back.

I feel a bit uncomfortable and slow my eating down. "Is it okay if I finish this later?"

"Of course! It's considered a compliment if you take a dish back with you. Means not only that you enjoyed it, but it was able to satisfy your hunger. A well-made meal." He holds my hand. I notice he holds my hand on top of the table. On the Tempest it was under. Maybe he knows I

"Do I ask for a different container? Come back and return this one?"

"No. We use biodegradable food containers when guests arrive. In case they do want to take something home. This pie is in one of those containers."

"Oh, okay. That's neat. Thank you."

Teviint scoffs. "She doesn't even know the basics of our customs."

Baranjj lightly taps her in the shoulder. "Get Akksul out of your head. We can teach her. She deserves that much."

She lowers her head. "Skutt. Baranjj, Jaal, Sara. I apologize. I am still getting used to all of this, and getting those toxic thoughts out. Sara, I hope you can forgive me."

"Of course, Teviint." I offer a smile.

She returns it. "Thank you. Come, Baranjj, I think Finn wants to show us something out back." They wave at us before leaving.

"Stay strong and clear, Jaal and Sara." They both say as they go out of view.

"Stay strong and clear." We both respond.

I take a deep breath. The food is settling in and registering 'FULL' to my brain. She made a big pie, and I ate half of it, and it still looks so damn good.

"May I try a bite?"

I nod. "Sure." I hand him my spoon and he takes a small bite. "Any good to you?"

"I can tell it is juicy, but sadly, it is a bit disappointing to my tastes. A bit bland. Though, I am glad you like it. It was nice seeing you enter a stage of bliss."

"I cannot express it enough that blueberry pie is my utmost favorite. I used to make them all the time, and then eat all of them. Ah. I was home alone a lot."

Jaal looked like he was about to respond when Sahuna calls us into the kitchen. We stand up and go in.

"So, elmohk, paripo, or quilloa seeds?" Sahuna stands by three bowls.

"Which do you have the most of?"

"Quilloa seeds. They are quite large."

"Can I try one?"

"Sure! Here is a little piece."

I bite into it. It is like a fruity nut. If I could describe it in Earth tastes it would be a mix berry taste with unsalted cashew. It's not exactly a crunch, but it isn't soft either. It tastes really good to me. "Mm. This could go great in a pie. Bit dry though, so we should probably put in something a bit more juicy."

"Elmohk has a lot of juices." Lathoul lights up. "Goes good with a side of quilloa."

"Sounds good. May I try a piece?'

"Please! I am eager to see if you love it as much as I do." He takes the fruit and cuts it in half. Juices pour out, a greenish purple color. Thick liquid. It's about the size of a small melon. The inside reminds me of an orange, if an orange was slightly green with thick purple juices. He continues to cut it down to size, giving me a small piece.

"Do I eat the outside of the fruit?"

"Yes! It is a bit hard, though."

I bite into it not expecting a small squirt of liquid. Definitely like an orange. Though it doesn't go very far, most of it drips down the sides of my mouth. I tilt my head back to keep the juices from falling. Jaal starts laughing and comes back with a small towel in hand. The outside was definitely a crunch, but a very sweet taste, almost a bit too sweet for me. The juices are a bit tangy with a distinctive fruit flavor I cannot compare. Reiteration; juicy as all hell. Though it's like a creamy juice. A bit weird, really. Got a mouthful of pretty much everything here. I finish it and pat off the juices with the small towel Jaal gave me. "That was definitely interesting."

"Juicy enough?" Jaal smirks.

I turn to playfully glare at him, blinking a lot. "Yeah, just a bit."

He lets out a guttural laugh. Lathoul takes my attention. "Did you like it?"

"It might be an acquired taste. But I can say I am willing to keep eating it."

Sahuna brings down more ingredients. "So, let's begin!"

Chapter Text

Jaal and I had always been on missions together ever since he joined. I'd always find a strategic reason and a professional reason to have him on my squad. Now, I have much more personal reasons. I know he likes to come down and fight with me to make sure that I am safe. He is always watching my back and I watch his back. We have little games, like who can kill the most enemies or who can steal the most kills. All in all it's fun, minus the worry we both share while in battle about each other's health. Even between highly trained professionals, well, now I consider myself highly trained, accidents can happen. And communication is a must, especially in a dangerous situation. But sometimes things happen too fast to control. We all know that. Especially Drack, he tells us stories about being hit with friendly fire all the time, that this is the longest he hasn't been hit in many decades. He always tells us in training to never get too cocky, don't start celebrating until after the battle. Though, he does go against his own words a lot of the time. He is quite fun to fight with and he knows Elaaden well. So, I always take him and Jaal down to this hot, arid, desert planet.

We are driving over sandy dunes trying to find the location of this secret underground water source Annea gets. Everyone in the Nomad cheers over every jump we do over a dune. Of course, I am the one driving, I've always been the one driving. I see a shuttle fly overhead, probably has a few scavengers in it. SAM detects about four ready to jump, probably thinking we are a force to be messed with.

"Wanna take 'em down, Kid? Or just run 'em over?" Drack sees them as they fall from the shuttle.

"I'm not that mean. Besides, running them over doesn't guarantee death. They could come back for revenge." I slow down the Nomad.

"If I was drivin', they wouldn't be alive."

"Oh, I mean, if you really want to miss out the fight. Be my guest. Which is more satisfying, your hammer? Or possibly running them over with this tissue paper?"

Then the comm clicks on, "The Nomad is not a tissue paper. I make sure of that myself." Gil.

"Whoops."

"Eh, you're right, Kid. Hammer'll do 'em in."

"See? There ya go, Old Man." The scavengers take notice as their shuttle flies away. Only four and in open view. I stop the Nomad. "Ready?"

Jaal cocks his gun. "Ready."

Drack smashes his fists together. "Ready."

"Alright. Let's go!"

We all hop out of the vehicle and Drack rages out a roar running straight into the fire. Jaal takes cover behind the Nomad focusing on one of the scavengers and taking down his shields. Drack has three on him. There is a little crashed escape pod where the main battle it, just enough cover. "Going in!" I tell over comms. I activate my cloak from my omni-tool, step out of cover and aim for the left-most person. I charge up a heavy biotic and feel myself fly through the air as I smash my body into the scavenger. I notice Jaal took down his target. Drack is all over the place mostly having fun with the scavengers. The scavenger I hit is knocked back a bit. Drack finishes one guy off by smashing his head in with the hammer. I expect Jaal to try to steal my kill. He wouldn't dare from Drack. I take out my kett vakarsh sword and slash the scavenger across the chest. The vakarsh burns the victim and was enough to drop the enemy. 

"Striking!" I hear Jaal over comms as the scavenger was falling. I was finishing my strike, and Jaal was going in to finish him off with his rivaan. But when Jaal strikes, he strikes hard. His body is so used to the fluid motion, that his arm just has to finish it. As I turn invisible, we notice each other. The look on his face turns to that of fear, he tries to stop the motion from finishing, putting his foot in front to steady him. But, it wasn't enough to stop it all. This all realistically happens a split second before the blow. I feel a slash of pain over my chest, he struck through a weak point in my armor, where the neck meets the shoulders but right in front. It all happened so damn fast. Reflex tells me to yell out in pain and cover the wound with my hand as I drop to the floor. 

Drack takes notice and quickly finishes off the last scavenger. Jaal is quick to sheath his rivaan back in the butt of his rifle and drop to his knees trying to catch me, holding my shoulders. "Skutt! Drack, get the backup medigel from the Nomad!" He opens up his omni-tool. "Tempest, we need an emergency extraction. Lexi on standby, please."

"Got it. ETA three minutes." Kallo responds.

Lexi takes over. "What happened?"

I wanted to say something but I couldn't muster the words as the pain shoots through me. It was more than just a stab. Jaal answers, "I... skutt... I stabbed Sara." Tears well in his eyes as he looks at me.

Before Lexi responded, I did. "It was an accident. We were communicating, it was an easy fight. Ah! But, things happen."

Drack comes back with the medigel. "We need to get her to the Nomad."

Lexi comes back on, "I am not blaming anyone. Put on the medigel and give me as much data as you can so I can be prepared."

Jaal takes the medigel and quickly starts to apply it as best as he can. Most of my armor is in the way. "You're right. We need to get back. Skutt, this is all my fault."

Drack picks us both up to our feet. "It was bad timing and luck. Saw it out of the corner of my eye. Now come on, this is what's important now." We start walking, Jaal's hand on my back. "Besides, if I think you truly wanted to kill Sara, you'd be dead by now. In a few weeks you'll both be laughing about it."

My mind is still blank, but I know that I don't blame Jaal. I trust him with my life, and he has fast reflexes. If anything, I am actually kind of proud of him. He's not panicking too much, he's trying to address the situation, his reflexes were very fast for the time he was given, and he hits well. Or maybe that's just me trying to be positive, which isn't a bad thing. I think I forgave him before the rivaan entered my skin. I hear Jaal muttering under his breath. He is walking strongly but I can hear him crying slightly. That's when my heart breaks.

"Jaal, please understand that I do not blame you. I forgave you before you even struck me. Hell, saying that you struck me sounds like a push of the truth."

We reach the Nomad and he helps me in the back, soon following. Drack looks in, "I'm going to be driving us back into the Tempest." I opened my mouth to retort but, "There's more than just a physical wound here." He closes the door and hops up front.

"Jaal, please help me take this off so I can see."

Without hesitation, he is quick to the top of my armor, helping out more on the left side of me where he stabbed. Raising my arm hurts like hell, like shooting spikes straight into my nerves. His hands are all around, helping me unbuckle and loosen the armor. We made this armor together when he first joined us, as a way to symbolize an alliance. We nicknamed it the Heleus Icon armor. It's beautiful and is a bright white iridescent. Hardly ever gets a scratch in the heat of most battles, but if hit in a weak point where there is no armor.... Finally, he lifts the weight of the armor off. There's a slash in my under armor, but we can now assess the damage.

"Skutt." He mutters along with other curse words in Shelesh. He grabs more medigel and starts to apply to the dripping wound. "Sara... I cannot... there are no words to describe how sorry I am."

I reach out and cup his face. "Jaal, I understand through your actions. I don't need words. And trust me, I will be fine. Lexi will take care of me, it might not even leave a scar because of the medigel." I see and feel his tears run down his face past my thumb, I wipe them away. "I will say it again; Jaal, I do not blame you. I have already forgiven you. I trust you, and I understand to my very soul, accidents happen. I've been belittled for almost every accident I've made in my childhood, no matter how small. Jaal, I know how it feels, this is not your fault." His crying causes the lump in my throat and the tickle up my face to my eyes, as tears start to fall from them.

He squeezes out his tears as he holds my hand cupping his face, falls to his knees completely, and breaks down. It's like witnessing a small puppy being skinned alive. Holy shit, my heart hurts. He really does feel fucking guilty, oh hell. Not that I doubted that, but holy shit. I don't know what to say. Seeing him like this, in total emotional pain, I cannot help my own feelings. It breaks my heart, numbs me. Tranquilizes me.

I still need to talk to Lexi. "Jaal, Love, I know this is hard, but I need to assess the damage to Lexi still. Please, for me."

He looks up at me, eyes hazed with unfallen tears. Blocking the shine of the stars in his eyes and adding a flood. "Of course." Is all he whimpers out before he releases my hand so I can take a look. His cries are silent, but his face is understanding.

I open my omni-tool to get a mirror at the wound. I bring up the comms to Lexi. "Alright, so. Uh. You can see the collar bone, no surprise there, but the bone has been sliced a bit. And there's a deepish cut into the muscle of my chest. I think technically the top of my breast tissue. The bleeding stopped thanks to the medigel."

"Alright. Thank you. Tempest is on it's way. ETA about one minute." The comms click out.

Jaal tries to smile. "Darling, you are calm in spite of the pain you are in."

"I take after you a bit. You walked me so strongly here, you made sure I was safe before crying. I appreciate that."

"May I be with you in the medbay?"

"I want you to be with me, Jaal." He starts to look down again, I catch him with my right, good hand. "Look at me." He listens. "Jaal Ama Darav, I love you." I lean down to press my forehead against him and whisper, "And I cannot express how much I forgive you."

"My Darling Sara, I love you too. And... thank you, but I do not think I can forgive myself just yet. I will need some time."

"Alright, if you need anything let me know. I want to help."

"I do not think asking you for help will help me forgive myself from stabbing you." He lets out a nervous chuckle.

We feel the Nomad start to move into the Tempest. "Fair enough."

"Maybe, tell me what I can do to help you?"

"Oh Jaal..." I know if I don't think of something, then that's not going to help, but I am not going to lie to him. "I will be fine. But, I would like you to walk with me to the medbay. If Lexi says I can sleep in my bed tonight, which I imagine she will allow, I want you to be by my side keeping me warm."

"That, I can do, Darling."

The Nomad stops and Drack hops out, opening the back door. Jaal does as he said and walks with me to the medbay where Lexi is waiting.

Lexi is quick to set me down. She tells Jaal to sit on the other bed to give her some room. She then starts to remove the upper half of my under armor.

"Sara, I can either cut off the bra or help lift your arms up, but that might be painful."

"Why do you need to- oh." I look down to see the bra was technically already cut. It's one of those light materials 'one size fits all' kind of bra, well if one's fit is on the small side. No wires, cause fuck wires, and I have to put it on like a shirt. "Cut it off I guess, it's already torn here." It's the only kind I have. Only some have actual padding in them. I use those for missions on Voeld. The more lacy ones I am saving for Jaal. Do angara like lace? Eh, doesn't matter, it'll be on the floor anyways.

"Fastest way to get it off." Lexi grabs her scissors and cuts it from the back and slips it off. I feel a bit embarrassed because of Lexi, but I know she doesn't care.

"I can repair it." Jaal offers. "Both tear and cut."

Lexi shrugs and hands it to him. "Thank you, Jaal." I say. Lexi starts poking me with a needle filled with anesthetic around the wound. Soon, I cannot feel a thing. She starts to clean the area with a special wipe. Then, she gets to work by filling the small slice in the bone with a harder type of medigel. She waits a minute and checks on it to see if it hardened. 

"This is not a stand-in for your bone, Sara. It just helps the healing process faster and keeps it protected." She continues by sewing up the rest of the wound with a medigel thread that disintegrates over time and helps heal faster. "Hold on, not done yet." She brings over a wrap and wraps my entire chest with it. "We need to make sure the wound is protected. This area of flesh does move around a lot. Do not put a bra over this and try not to move your left arm too much. Do not strain yourself either. You feel pain, stop. It won't take long to heal as long as you rest."

"How long?"

"The tissue? In about three to four days. The bone? About a month. But you can be back in action in three to four days."

"Thank you, Lexi." I stand up.

"Take care of her Jaal. Make sure she doesn't strain herself. If she refuses help, help anyways." Lexi sits down at her desk.

"Lexi, I know when I need help." I make a face in her direction.

Jaal takes my hand. "I'd be happy to help. Thank you, Lexi."

Jaal and I walk to my room and I sit down on my bed. "Ugh, I can't shower in this, can I?"

"That would be unadvised." SAM answers.

"Great. Sweaty and I can't do a thing about it. Damn Elaaden heat."

"I could get a cloth and some warm water to help rinse off the sweat." Jaal offers.

"I think I have sanitizing wipes under the bed. Those might help better."

"I'll get them." He reaches under the bed and grabs the first thing he feels. "Is this is?"

"Yeah. Thank you. You know you don't have to do this, right?"

"I want to, Dearest. Besides, Lexi said I have to help." He grins. "Does this work on hair?"

"Nope. You actually have to wash hair or not at all. Well, there is dry shampoo but I don't have any."

"Can we make some?"

"I don't think we have the ingredients." I take out my hair tie and let my hair down, relieving the pressure off my scalp. "It'll be fine for a while."

"Hm, alright." He sets the torn bra over by the couch before coming back to help take off the rest of my armor and under armor. Leaving me in a wrap and underwear. "Stand up." I oblige. He starts to take off the underwear.

My heart skips a beat and the blood rushes to my face. "Woah, hold on. Didn't Lexi say not to strain myself?"

He looks up at me. "Huh? Oh, does this area not get sweaty?"

Innocent man. "It does. Just the gesture caught me off guard."

"Don't worry, I won't be doing anything other than helping to clean. You need to rest first. Afterwards, I'll return." He smirks. I step out of the underwear. "Sit." He goes off to my drawers and brings out a clean pair of underwear, a tank, and some light sleeping shorts. He's so goddamn sweet. He sets them to the side and starts cleaning my feet, doing a light massage as he goes.

"Jaal, how are you feeling?"

"Still scared." He looks up at me. "The moment keeps flashing in my mind. I can't help but think of other ways that would've gone. I still cannot find a reason to forgive myself just yet."

"Can I be your reason?"

"What do you want me to do?"

"Forgive yourself, Taoshay, that's all I ask."

He does a light scoff and smiles then looks back up at me. "I will do my best, Taoshay. For both of our sakes. Now, let's get you cleaned."

He works his way up my body, being light around sensitive areas, massaging other areas. The wipes leave behind a sort of chilling feeling and I am slightly cold. Once he finishes up around my face, not before playing with it and making us both laugh, he helps me into the clean clothes he brought out. Then he helps me settle into bed. 

"Before I come back to cuddle with you, I must go and shower myself. Elaaden is harsh on me."

"I understand. Hey-" I pull him down to a quick kiss. "Thank-you, for everything, Jaal. You're so sweet and nice to me, I appreciate it so much."

"I reciprocate what you give me, Darling One. And I love you."

"I love you too, Jaal."

Chapter Text

"Darling, are you ready?"

I groan as my eyes open to one of the most beautiful sights in the morning. Big blue eyes that encompass a universe, and an overly excited smile. "Mm, ready for what?" I mumble into the pillow I am cuddling.

"Our idea! We have a list of what we will do to the crew." I notice he is right on top of me, no weight on me, but he is definitely excited for this idea.

"Can it wait until after breakfast at least? Or when I am awake."

He chuckles. "Of course, Darling One." He sits back on his legs, straddling mine. "I wasn't expecting you to... ah, what's that expression? Jump into the flame?"

"Fire. But close enough. Five more minutes?" I snuggle the pillow closer and bury my face into it.

"So when I wake you up again you will plead five more minutes then?" I respond with a grunt, tightening my grip on the pillow. "Darling, I might say that you are difficult to get up in the morning." He says with a laugh.

"Mornings are the bane of my existence." Please let me sleep more... please, please, please-

"They are the start of a new day! A new adventure, isn't that what you came here for?"

"Can I sleep in for once?"

He sighs. "After killing the Archon and activating Meridian I think you can sleep in all you want."

"We literally have today off."

"Because we are traveling. Do you really want to waste today sleeping?"

"Not the full day. Just the morning."

"Then won't you think the afternoon is the 'bane of your existence?'"

"No. Because my body will be ready to wake up then."

"It's not, now?"

"We humans call it; beauty sleep."

"From what I see, you definitely don't need it. I don't think it's possible for you to achieve a higher level of beauty." I look at him and smile sleepily in response. "Hmm, I stand corrected. That is definitely a divine look."

I lightly nudge him with my hand. "Oh, stop it." I hide my smile back into the pillow.

"Stop what? Translating the truth from my heart? Never." He leans forward and is careful when he relaxes on top of me, burying his face in my messy hair and wrapping his arms around me the best he can. "But, since we are nuzzling into things here. Thought I might join in the fun."

"You know I don't mind you being on top of me, right?" I raise my eyebrows, not like he would notice anyways.

"Oh, I know." He starts wiggling his arms under me. "But do you know what I like best?"

"What?" He flips us over. The bed is definitely a mess now because the sheets are still in between us. He is laughing and I am wriggling, but he just holds me tighter. I hear a pfft sound a few times before he uses one of his hands to get the hair out of his face. "Ha! Weren't expecting my hair were ya?" I give up moving.

"Small price to pay to wake you up and hear your voice and laughter, Darling."

I am on top of him, my back to his chest. I don't mind the slight uncomfortableness of his large collarbones digging into my back, it's like a weird back massage. My spine strangely fits between the bones so it's not painful. Though, laying down side by side, if he is the big spoon, he can't press his chest fully against my back. So, sometimes I am the big spoon, which usually entails me going more on top of him because I sleep on my stomach. Sometimes we just sleep facing each other and I bury myself as much as I can in him. We both have a huge habit of cuddling anything close by when we sleep, but angara don't move much if at all when they sleep, so if we start off facing each other, me buried in him. I might wake up facing away cuddling a pillow or just sprawled out. I always wake up with his arms around me, though. I swear, it's hard to believe he keeps in contact with me all night with the way I sleep. Something tells me that after I move, his hands seek me out. I don't mind that at all. I feel my hair stand on end across my body as his bioelectricity playfully kisses my skin, this wakes me up even more. I can't win. Or, maybe this is a win? I lean against his jowl. "So, what's the plan with the crew?"

"I think we planned to bug Liam by sharing arousing flirts to one another."

"Drack by being overly cute."

"Lexi by threatening dangerous stunts."

"Gil by being sweet."

"Suvi and Kallo I believe we stand there and flirt."

"Peebee by just being there. I think that was less vocals and more just being physical?"

"I believe so, yes. Cora and Vetra might be a challenge."

I start to laugh. "We could just walk into Vetra's room and if nothing works I could just scream that we had sex on her cereal and run away."

I feel myself start to bounce with his laughter. "That's not true, though."

"Pfft. We can make it true."

"It'd be a waste of resources. Doesn't she sell those?"

"Okay, we can threaten it."

"What good is an empty threat?"

I sigh. "Fine, we don't have sex on her cereal."

"We can improvise with Cora."

"We might have to."

There is a slight moment of silence. "Time for the morning routine in the mirror, Darling."

"Why can't I just stay here? You know, on top of you?"

He sits up, bringing me with him. "Because this is important to your mentality and confidence."

I groan, "It feels stupid."

"Your irrationality is fighting you. Making you believe that it is stupid. Fight back. It wasn't stupid when you convinced yourself that you were a mistake through constant self depreciating jokes."

"It wasn't stupid?"

"No, that's not what I meant. It is irrational to call yourself a mistake. Look what happened to your confidence."

"It wasn't just me, though."

"And now you believe it. It became the air you breathed and through your heart, it pumped into your veins, to be distributed throughout your body and into your brain. Being engraved into your subconscious."

I sit up off of him. "Okay. It's just hard to do."

"It's because you've listened to that irrational voice for so long, joke or not. Fight it, feel it lose, and conquer over it."

We both stand up off the bed. "When does the joke blur into a belief?"

"When it becomes part of your speech and telling yourself that you are otherwise is hard. Come on, I'll be right beside you." I take his hand.

"I know you will."

"Good. Then afterwards, we can mess with the crew."

"Helping me get comfortable with PDA. As nervous as I am, I am glad we are doing this."

"I'm glad as well. And ecstatic you haven't given up."

We walk out of the room and into the bathroom on the right. No one was inside, except for us. The mirror over the one sink is our destination. When I went to see Sahuna for pie a few days ago, I talked to her about my early years of childhood. How I was brought up, and we got into the discussion of how I was treated by my teachers. I used jokes to help cope with the things they told me, the emotional abuse bestowed upon me, but as a young child not shielded from experience, I soaked up everything that was said. It was never a joke now that I think about it. Whenever I called myself worthless, a mistake, useless, or trash, was I really joking or trying to cope? I don't even find myself beautiful, and I was told if I ever called myself that, that I was being vain and egotistical. So, I beat myself down constantly. The little irrational voice in my head is trying to convince me to keep hating myself because it's what I am used to. Sahuna told me that every morning and night, I should say things to myself in the mirror. She told Jaal to make sure that I did that, and that every time I were to call myself trash or a mistake, even as a 'joke,' that I were to say otherwise twice, with or without the mirror. Jaal is supposed to make sure I do that as well. I never realized how far I had fallen into this until I found out how hard it was to say positive things to and about myself. I am to look in the mirror, into my eyes, and say positive things. Every morning and night so far, Jaal would stand behind me and say the words I was supposed to say, hugging me from behind and showing support. And every time I would put up a slight fight. Why do I fight it? I know it's not stupid or pointless, I know it's not just words, but that little voice in my head keeps telling me so. Why? Why is hating myself so ingrained into my mind? I feel his hands wrap gently around my stomach, his chin touching the top of my head.

"Let's begin. You are priceless and worthwhile."

I always start off well. "I am... priceless and worthwhile." I keep a straight face and look into my own eyes. No confidence in my voice, more monotone, quickly saying it.

"Say it slower. If my translator cannot pick it up, then it's too fast."

I take a deep breath. "I said it, though, didn't I?"

"Means nothing if you don't give it thought and meaning. You can do this, Sara. You know the words."

"I am... well, isn't this considered vain and egotistical?"

"No. You're not putting others down to try and prove your own worth. You aren't saying that you're better than everyone else. No. You're building confidence. This isn't vain or egotistical. This is self love."

"It doesn't feel like it." I'm not even thinking through what I am saying, it's all spewing out on it's own.

"Fight it, Sara. Please. If it feels like it is pointless or easy, then just say it."

I shift and look away. I feel my heart race. There's an internal battle going on here. Come on, all I have to do is say it. I look back at myself. "I am priceless and worthwhile."

"You are a success in your own life." I don't realize my eyes trailed away.

"I am a success-"

"Look into your eyes, Darling."

I sigh, and after I look into my eyes I close them. "I am-"

"Look into your eyes."

I give in, feeling a lump in my throat. "I am a success in my own life."

"Yes, yes you are." He kisses the top of my head. "You are you and there will only ever be one of you."

"I am me, and there will only ever be one of me."

"Finally, you are beautiful and you love yourself."

"Okay, that's vain."

"No, it's not. You're not becoming obsessed with yourself. Again, it is self love. Fight the hate, Sara. See what the universe sees in you. Accept your own love. Accept yourself."

I lean on the sink, looking down into it. "Jaal... I can't."

"What makes you say that?"

"I still... ugh this is so childish and petty. I just... I don't feel like I deserve it."

"Why?"

"I've just... made so many mistakes and let people down."

"When? Ever since you arrived in Heleus, you've restored worlds. Saved more people by helping us. Uncovered many mysteries. I don't see anyone who's let down or a mistake."

"That's because we are the only ones in here." Goddamn, I am a childish brat.

"Sara..."

"It's just not true."

"Because you believe it. You can make it true. Look at all the good things you've done."

"How about how many people I've killed."

"Self-defense. You've never fired first."

"I shot the Cardinal in the back as she was walking away, surrendered and unarmed."

"Heart-felt choice. She was a kett."

I feel hot tears flood out my eyes. "Then my heart is ugly." Why am I acting like this? I am being such a damn pain. This is pitiful. He tightens his grip around me, pulling me back up. I see his face turn stern, almost disappointed. And fuck that hurts.

"Your heart is beautiful. Are you saying what I fell in love with is not?" His voice is calm, almost monotone in it of itself. He almost looks hurt.

"Are you hurt?"

"Hearing you say that so easily and confidently... I don't know what to feel. Just reminds me how important what we are doing is. You don't deserve to tell yourself that."

I sigh and shake my head. One last shaky breath. I can do this. It's not stupid. I am beautiful and I love myself. I keep telling myself that on repeat. I look back up into my eyes, heart pounding. "I am..." Try again. "I am beau-" I sit up straight. As confidently as I can I blurt out, "I am beautiful and I love myself."

It takes a moment, but I see Jaal's face light up with excitement. He turns me around to face him. "You did it." The light in his eyes makes me smile. I know it's not over yet, but he picks me up and spins me around, enticing laughter from the both of us. As he sets me down, he holds me and whispers, "That confidence... you did so well, Darling One. I love hearing that in your voice. And I can't wait to hear it again later." He kisses my forehead. "For now, let's get on with the next thing on the list."

"Yes. Thank you, Jaal. I really appreciate this, I do feel a bit better."

"It's not over yet. The irrational belief is like a bacteria that needs to die off using antibacterial medicine. If you stop taking it too fast, the bacteria will develop an immunity and grow."

"I thought you weren't into biology." I smirk.

"It's... a metaphor from my mother."

"I like it."

"To the crew?"

"To the crew."

As confident as I feel, I am still on edge a bit. A slight shaky feeling hides in my bones. We travel up to the bridge where Suvi and Kallo are, and technically Peebee in the escape pod. Though I am not sure how this is all going to work or happen, being honest. All I know is that I will follow Jaal's lead. We talked about this a while ago. I am shy and timid as all hell and absolutely hate attention, but Jaal wants to show his feelings for me in public and I do want to be more open about things. Jaal already keeps a lot to himself with me while others are around because he knows how I feel about it all, but of course he is making a change for me. I want to make a change for him. I am hoping it'll help me better myself anyways, add to my confidence. Win-win situation on both sides. We decided the best place to really get into it was on the ship with our close friends. We already hug, hold hands, kiss, and cuddle with others watching. Well, to an extent. Quick kisses, hidden hands, and more of leaning on each other than a full cuddle. I want to do more, to show more. Jaal is probably the most comfortable person I've ever been with. First person I've kissed, had sex with, openly wanted to undress in front of. I've never had feelings like this with another person before in my life. Got made fun of because of it. People started asking if there was something wrong with me because I've never been with anyone. It's because I didn't feel that certain connection or spark with the other person so I just kept saying no. Hell, some of my less-than-friends friends said I was being too picky and selfish. I had to know the person, I had to feel them on a deeper level first while at the same time having chemistry. Jaal is that person. I find him attractive on every level. I am in love with him and I want to tell the world, the universe, but I always shy away. Not anymore.

"You know, I always see you two floating around together." Peebee passes us from her room.

"We are together." I respond.

"Don't forget your own personal space."

He can invade my personal space anytime... say it... say it... "I'm not going to forget, Peebee. I know how to balance out my life." Damnit.

"I make sure she has her alone time." Jaal says proudly.

"Oh-ho-ho, alone time, huh? Do you like to watch her or something?"

I notice Suvi and Kallo are looking over at each other. I can't tell if they're trying not to laugh or thinking awkwardly. I'm flushed red though.

"No. I trust her."

Peebee looks at me. "How do you flirt with this man?"

I look at Jaal and go for it. "Hey, do you want to watch me pleasure myself to you?" My face starts to burn. I notice he is turning a darker shade of blue.

I hear Suvi start chuckling and I believe I heard Kallo facepalm. Peebee is dumbfounded. "Well, that's one way to do it."

Jaal whispers to me, "Was that question that she asked... sexual?"

I start to laugh. "Yes, Jaal. She meant it that way."

Peebee walks by us. "If you two want to try something new in bed, let me know. I have many ideas and tips."

That was... oddly nice. I also hear Kallo and Suvi make noises. They're obviously uncomfortable. Score three of nine crew members. Lexi, Gil, Liam, Drack, Cora, and Vetra remaining. "Wait, does that count?" I ask as we walk away.

"Does what count?"

"We didn't really bug Peebee."

He lightly scoffs. "The purpose of this is to open up more. Despite what other people say. We might not be able to make some of the crew uncomfortable. The point is to make you more comfortable. You do still want to do this, right?"

"Well, yeah. So, I didn't have to go that far with Peebee?"

"I was pleasantly surprised."

"Well, of course you were." I nudge him. He stops and grabs my arm to make me face him. Vetra and Cora are out in the research room. We are in sight. "What're -" He interrupts me by pulling me into a kiss. Cliche, but I love it. A moment of tenseness and then his lips brought me a release that melted my bones. Damn, I love him. His hand reaches up to gently cup my face before pulling back. I can't stop smiling like a damn idiot, and I let out a small giggle.

"I adore that laugh."

I hear Cora clear her throat. "You guys do know there are people watching, right?" We turn to face her.

"Oh let them have their fun, Cora." Vetra puts down her datapad. "It's not everyday they can relax for a bit. Besides, they're mostly out running and gunning. Facing death at every turn."

"Well, Sara actually died... twice"

That brought a grim look to Jaal. I turn back to him, "Hey, are you okay?"

Vetra hisses out Cora's name in response to what she had said.

"It is... not a moment I ever wish to experience again. I knew you had died once before, but... that was through a story. Experiencing it, even with SAM and only allowing your heart to stop, I was terrified. And he couldn't resuscitate you the first time he tried and... it seemed as though my own heart had stopped."

I was about to say something before Cora said, "Hey, Jaal. Drack and I train her. And everyone here looks out for each other. We all prevent what we can."

"Thank you, Cora. But accidents can happen. Have happened."

I cup his face. "And guess what, Jaal? They are accidents. None of us are perfect. You want perfect? Look at a kett. Because that's all they care about. See how fucked up they and their society are? Perfection is just an illusion that the kett think they have. That's their weakness. Jaal... I won't go down without a fight. I have many reasons to live." I give him a gentle smile.

"Yes, you do. To see your people thrive. Our people. Adventure and exploration. Your friends and family." He smiles back.

I stand on my toes and stretch out to lightly kiss him on the cheek, and then whisper, "And you, my dear." I come back down with a grin and see the light in his eyes again.

He almost seems flustered. "I... Darling, you're one of my many reasons, too."

"See? Aren't they just perfect for each other, Cora?"

"Yeah, yeah." She hides back a smile while Jaal and I laugh.

Five of nine. Jaal takes my hand and we walk into the cargo bay together. "Hey, Jaal."

"Hmm?"

"We can talk more later, if you want. I feel like there are some things you've been wanting to talk about or express to me."

"There are many, Dearest. And I would love to. Thank you."

"Hope you have a list."

"That would make for an awkward conversation, don't you think?"

"No. After one topic is done, pull up the next. It was also sarcasm." I nudge him again.

"Oh! Right. Of course."

Drack, Gil, and Liam are in the cargo bay. Gil and Drack are talking to each other on the balcony and Liam is down on the main level laying on some crates listening to some type of music. Sounds older, like a century ago old. One could tell because of the quality. I knew he listened to older music and I've heard a few songs that were pretty good. Scott likes some of the older music as well. I actually don't listen to music that much anymore. Usually it's just soundtracks to fall asleep to. I also find it easier to dance to musical pieces than lyrical for some reason. But, there are some nice ones out there.

The perfect thing about this is that Gil and Drack like to avoid the sweet stuff, and they're right next to each other. I don't know if I want to say something more sexual again, don't think I was ready for that with Peebee. I am still a but flushed from that. I don't know if embarrassed is the right word, but it could be.

We walk up by Drack and Gil. "Hey, what's up?" I inquire.

"Just talking a bit about poker."

"That's all he ever talks about." Drack grunts.

"He's just mad because he's never beaten me."

"Some day your ego is going to crush you." I cross my arms.

"Not before I do."

"Hey, I was giving you advice, Old Man. If you want, I could let you play in the dark?"

"Wouldn't that make it harder for you both to play?" Jaal joins the discussion.

I chortle in response and drop my arms. "Idiom."

He takes a deep breath. "Shit." 

That just makes everyone laugh. 

"What brings you two love birds down here?" Gil continues.

"Stuff. Checking in on the crew I guess. Did Peebee come down here?"

"She went to the mess hall to eat." Drack responds.

"She's a bit late."

"Hey, it might be cold food but it ain't gonna be wasted."

Jaal wraps his hand around my waist, pulling me closer to him. A light smile forms across my lips and my body feels relaxed. I lean my head up against him. "Why did she skip breakfast?"

"Well... she always does. She's there usually for lunch and dinner, though." Gil leans over the railing.

"Maybe if Drack made more hot breakfast type items she'd have to be there for it."

"That'd be a bit more work, Kid."

"Jaal and I could help."

"Of course you'd say that." Gil mutters.

"Kid... what does Jaal know about making Milky Way food?"

"That it needs more flavor." He responds.

"You sayin' my cookin' is bad?"

"No. I said Milky Way food needs more flavor."

"What'd be the point in you helpin' then?"

"I know that Sara loves certain food from the Milky Way and I want to make it for her some day."

"Don't be making out over my food. I don't care who makes it, but I care how it's made. Ugh, I gotta go check on the engines." Gil almost rushes away.

Drack shakes his head. "It's a good reason. Fine. But if I lose the next game of poker you owe me credits."

I straighten up. "What? Why?"

"Because he was giving me hints."

"You really think he would give you good hints and tips so you can usurp his title?"

"He ain't Reyes. Gil's honest."

"Hey, Reyes is alright."

"Fine. But you also need to understand, that he's a slippery bastard." He trumps off to the other side of the balcony.

Jaal wraps both hands around me and is flush up against me, rocking up both a bit. "He did leave you drunk at Sloane's party. You could barely walk back onto the ship. And then he gave you more to drink. SAM warned Lexi that you were close to alcohol poisoning. Everyone was worried."

"Yeah... Kadara isn't the best place to be in that situation."

"It's never a good place."

"Never said it was. But it can be."

"By blowing it up?"

"By fixing it. Adding law and order. I hate politicians but they do come in handy sometimes. Most of Kadara is anarchy."

"Please keep me out of it."

"I thought you didn't want to miss anything?"

"The only thing I'm missing when it comes to politics is that people continuously argue and bicker back and forth nonstop until they are popularized."

"Can you say anything nice or positive about Kadara? Even if it's just one thing?"

"The sunsets are pleasant to witness. And when it's dark I don't have to clearly look at anything. But there's a higher possibility that I'll be stabbed. Each sunset sets it closer to the planet's end."

"Jaal..."

"I like the sunsets."

"Maybe when I'm done with it, you'll like it even more. And for more than just its sunsets."

"That would be a miracle."

"You have little faith in me."

"No, I do. I have little faith in any restoration of Kadara."

I get an idea. "How much do you adore my body?"

"There are no words, Darling One." He leans down and nuzzles into my neck.

"Okay... imagine me. Completely naked." I feel a few electrical tingles. "A bit wet because of a spring. Enticing you. We are completely safe and alone. Do you want to know where?"

"Aya?"

"Kadara."

The electrical tingles stop and he straightens up a little. "Oh."

"Would you still be with me that night? Despite how, horrid Kadara is to you?" I lean back up against him.

"I... in the fantasy world, yes. Because we'd be completely safe. Kadara can't ruin my image of you."

"It stopped you from practically purring a minute ago."

"I was taken aback. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting."

"Neither was my alien body. You still wished to, oh what was it? Devour me in the best way?"

"I always want to." He growls.

"Mm... you can devour me anytime."

"EEHHH-" Liam makes an unnatural coughing noise. I realize the music had stopped and Liam had accidentally listened in.

Jaal and I both buckle over laughing.

"That's uh... nice to know, you two. Remind me not to go by or listen to you both in closed quarters... alone. Not interested in that image."

"Are the walls soundproof?" Jaal tries to straighten up by gripping onto the railing.

SAM responds. "They are not, Mr. Ama Darav."

"Then I don't think the ship would have much of a choice." That just made me laugh a bit more. Truthfully, we are both quite loud in bed. Him being quite expressive, me being quite sensitive and new to everything. And him wanting to hear everything.

"Alright. I'm out." Liam brings out his earbuds and continues to listen to his music.

"You want to mess with Lexi real quick and then go back to my room to have some fun?"

He straightens up with a light across his face. "Yes, of course! I've been wanting to join you in some of your hobbies."

I start to chuckle. "Alright. Whatever you wish."

He tilts his head. "What?"

I caress his jowl. "After we do that, we could have fun in more intimate ways. Body to body, skin on skin."

A grin sweeps across his face. "Of course, Temptress."

"To Lexi's?"

"Yes." 

We walk onto the lift and I press the button to go down. "So, how will we do this quickly?" He asks.

"Walk in and ask if it's safe to have sex in an erioch nest? In a tree?"

"I can tell this has been on your mind lately."

"Hey, I'm comfortable around you. And my brain was wired with a high libido. Not entirely my fault, but I can always respect your decision if you don't want to. Any reason."

"I appreciate that, Darling. And of course I will always respect your decision."

We walk off the lift and start heading down towards the medbay. "You know, before you, well technically for like the first seventeen years of my life. I was a very confused teen."

"Why?"

"High libido and being a demisexual. For the longest time I was confused because I matched every description of demisexual but of course I have a high drive. At first, I was thinking pansexual, and I didn't know there was sex positive demisexuals and aces. People called me strict and selfish because I was never with anyone. Not saying that they can't be with a lot of people or experience one night stands, because they can. Like I knew I needed that emotional connection but I was so damn confused because demisexual is on the asexual spectrum, and they see more secondary attraction instead of primary. And I know I can experience both but secondary is always experienced first for me." I noticed I was rambling and speaking a bit fast so I slowed down a bit. "And I got even more confused because I pleasured myself often. I was ignorant and confused. So I just said fuck it. I don't need a label, I'll fall in love with the person that matches me the best way. I know my restraints and conditions, etc. And then, I found people like me that identified as a demisexual." I chuckle a bit. "Even though I said fuck it a long time ago, I was so happy that I could just go I'm this instead of rambling and going on a rant every time." I let out a long sigh. "Sorry."

"For what? It was an interesting story. I enjoy it when you share your life with me, Darling. Even if it was a ramble."

"You know, I do feel a bit closer to you after each session of rambles and rants."

"I do, too."

We reach the medbay and find Lexi at her desk. She hears us enter. "Yes?"

I almost couldn't hold back my laughter. "Lexi, Jaal and I want to be more experimental and wanted to ask you a quick question."

"Go ahead."

"Sex in an erioch nest or in a tree?"

She whips her head around. "Are you serious? Goddess, no. To both. It'd be safer to have sex in Kadara's hot springs."

I nudge Jaal, again. "See? It wasn't a bad idea."

"I still advise against it. But if you want to have some ideas. I'm sure either of you could figure up a place reasonable. It's not just places either. Change tempo, roughness, positions, duration, play or roleplay, use toys, etc. But I have a feeling you weren't being serious in your original question. If you're truly curious I can give you some ideas."

"Maybe later, Lexi. But thank you for your time. And how'd you know I wasn't being serious?"

"I could hear you snickering and I know you're not that stupid, Ryder."

"Oh. Heh, thanks for your confidence in me."

"We have some good conversations."

"Yes we do." I turn to Jaal and smile while placing my hands on him. "I have some more paints if you want to create something with me?"

Jaal's face lights up once again. "Of course, Darling One. I'd love to."

I let out a little squeal and a wiggle and lead him back to my room.