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Family Matters

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They were in-flight from Aya to Voeld and Jaal was just getting settled into the Tech Lab aboard the strange alien craft. The lab was more spacious than the crew quarters and Jaal wasn’t quite comfortable being too close to all these strange aliens just yet.

Jaal was originally surprised how many different aliens this Initiative was comprised of. Humans, Asari, Turian, Salarian and Krogan. The fact that they all came from the same galaxy and, for the most part, seemed to get along peacefully, amazed him. After all these decades fighting against the only other alien species the Angaran had ever encountered, his view of aliens as all being hostile invaders was almost ingrained in his genetic code.

Yet, there had been something about this Pathfinder, Scott Ryder, that made Jaal want to trust him. He hoped that it wasn’t some natural pheromone his species emitted in order to gain compliance but he decided to trust his instincts and give Ryder the benefit of the doubt.

It would take a couple of days travel to reach Voeld, so once he was settled in, Jaal became restless and decided to take a tour of the ship. He didn’t want to disturb the crew on the bridge, so instead he headed towards the back of the ship and soon found himself in the engine room, staring at the drive core.

“Pretty impressive, isn’t it?” a human said, appearing next to him.

“Indeed,” Jaal agreed.

“My name’s Gil Brodie, Chief Engineer.”

“Jaal Ama Darav, of the Angaran Resistance.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Gil said, holding out his hand. Ryder had made a similar gesture and so Jaal allowed Gil to take his hand and shake it. Gil’s hand felt pleasantly cool, just as Ryder’s had. Perhaps humans ran cooler than Angara?

“I heard you moved into the Tech Lab,” Gil said. “So, I take it you’re a bit of a tech head like myself?”

“I have always enjoyed taking things apart to understand how they worked,” Jaal acknowledged.

“It’s nice to meet someone else who has an interest in technology,” Gil smiled at him.

Over the next few hours, Jaal found himself drawn into a discussion with Gil about Milky Way technology and especially their Prothean origins.

“So, your technology was largely based on an ancient, technologically advanced species as well?” Jaal mused out lout. “How remarkable.”

“Yeah, interesting coincidence,” Gil agreed.

Jaal noted the time. “I apologize for having monopolized all your time. I should let you return to your duties.”

“You’re probably right. Feel free to come by any time,” Gil invited. “It was nice meeting you.”

“Likewise,” Jaal replied. “Also feel free to visit me in the Tech Lab if you wish. I would be happy to teach you more about Angaran technology.”

“I’d love that,” Gil said with a wink. “It’s a date!”

Jaal chuckled, not quite understanding the reference, but amused by Gil’s enthusiastic tone.

***

The mission to rescue the Moshae was successful, but Jaal came back greatly disturbed over what he had learned. To know that the Kett he had spent a lifetime killing were once Angaran, broke Jaal’s heart. Perhaps his own father had been one of them. It was almost too painful to contemplate.

Jaal retreated into the Tech Lab as soon as he was dismissed from the Moshae’s side. He needed time to think. Now, more than ever, he missed being surrounded by his family. Sometime after they were on their way back to Aya, Jaal heard a soft knock before the doors of the Lab opened, Gil framed by the door way before he slowly came in.

“Hey, I heard about everything,” Gil said as he approached him. “I just wanted to check and see how you were doing? I can’t even imagine what you’re going through right now.”

“Thank you for checking, but I’m alright,” Jaal managed to say despite the waver in his voice.

“I wouldn’t be,” Gil said.

“I have to be,” Jaal insisted.

“Look, I get it,” Gil replied. “But it’s good to get it out. If you need someone to talk to, I’m here for you. I mean that.”

“Thank you, Gil,” Jaal replied. “You’re…kind. I really miss my family at times like these. Are you close to your family?”

Gil hesitated for a moment before sitting down next to Jaal. “No. I grew up on the streets. I’m not entirely sure who my family were. I don’t know if I was abandoned or just orphaned. It was all so long ago.”

“That’s…very sad,” Jaal said. “I cannot imagine not having my family.”

“You do like to talk about family a lot,” Gil noted.

“Really? I guess that’s just part of our culture,” Jaal shrugged. “Our families are large, and we share our parents with the community.”

“Sounds nice,” Gil admitted. “I wouldn’t wish my childhood on anyone. Although I guess I still turned out alright in the end.”

“So, do you wish you had a family?” Jaal asked.

“Yeah,” Gil admitted. “Maybe someday, if I ever settle down with the right guy, we can adopt a whole passel of kids or something.”

“Guy?” Jaal asked. “Are you attracted to males?”

Gil nodded. “Yeah. Even though my best friend Jill is a woman, I’m only attracted to men. What about you?”

“I have never really given it much thought,” Jaal admitted. “I have only been in love once, with a girl. Her name was Allia.”

“What happened to her?” Gil asked.

“My older brother came and she fell for his charms. They returned together to Havarl and she joined our family and became one of the mothers,” Jaal explained.

“Ouch, sorry to hear that,” Gil sympathized. “So, do you see her when you visit your family?”

Jaal shook his head. “No. They were both taken by the Kett. But their children survived.”

“Man, that’s rough,” Gil sighed as he reached out and gave Jaal’s knee a little squeeze in sympathy. “I take it back. I think I’ll take my days on the streets over having to put up with what your people do every day.”

“But we put up with it surrounded by family,” Jaal said. “I couldn’t imagine having been alone during my childhood.” Jaal hesitantly reached out and squeezed Gil’s knee in an effort to replicate his gesture of comfort.

“Oh, I wasn’t alone,” Gil said. “I ran with a pack of other kids like myself. They were kind of like my family.”

“That is good to hear,” Jaal said.

“I guess, in a way, this group of oddballs we got onboard the Tempest, kind of reminds me of them,” Gil chuckled. “So, until you get back to your family, you could think of us as your surrogate family.”

“Hmm,” Jaal mused. “I would like that.”

Gil let out a yawn. “I should go get some shut-eye. Let me know if you need to talk more. I’m happy to lend an ear.”

***

The next few weeks went by in a blur as they traveled back to Aya, then on to Havarl and Eos before finally taking a respite at the Nexus. Being the only Pathfinder, Ryder seemed to take it upon himself to solve everyone’s problems. Every mission seemed to go on longer than expected as everyone looked to Ryder for help.

Ryder seemed to be accomplishing the impossible. He had dealt numerous decisive blows against the Kett, activated the vaults on three worlds, making them habitable again, and had helped the Angaran people immeasurably in the process.

Before disembarking the Tempest to stretch his legs and get a tour of the Nexus, Lexi had asked him to come in for a routine scan before he began mixing with the general population.

Jaal gladly complied. While he sat on the diagnostic bed, allowing Lexi to make her scans, he thought to ask something. “I was wondering if you could clarify some questions I have about human physiology?”

“Sure, what do you want to know?” Lexi replied as she continued her work.

“Can both males and females carry young?” Jaal asked.

Lexi stopped and stared at him for a moment. “No, the male impregnates the female and she carries the child.”

“So how do two males procreate?” Jaal continued.

“They can’t,” Lexi replied. “Not with each other anyway. They can find a surrogate female to carry a child for them or they can adopt. That’s the only way.”

“I see,” Jaal said. “So then why do two males of their species mate? How is it even possible?”

“If you mean having sex?” Lexi asked for clarification and Jaal nodded. “Some humans are born with a sexual attraction to the same sex. Others are born with a sexual attraction to both sexes. There are even some humans who are born with no sexual attraction to anyone.”

“How very interesting,” Jaal said. “Can you explain to be the mechanics of two human males engaging in sexual intercourse?”

“Why? Is there a human male you’re interested in?” Lexi asked suspiciously.

“There is,” Jaal admitted. “Our Chief Engineer is charming and I find him quite attractive. Knowing my anatomy, is it possible?”

Lexi nodded. “Your sexual physiology is similar enough to humans that you should have no problem in that department.”

Lexi then proceeded to explain to Jaal the mechanics of homosexual sex, emphasizing the need for lubrication.

“Thank you for your very thorough explanation,” Jaal acknowledged. “I appreciate it.”

“Here,” Lexi handed Jaal a small bottle. “Just in case you need it.”

“Ah this is the…lubrication…you were emphasizing?” Jaal clarified. “I don’t even know if Gil feels the same yet. He and I have…much to discuss first.”

“Just take it. It can also come in handy in other ways,” Lexi said with a wink. “I’m done with your scans, you’re free to go, just tell Drack to get his ancient ass in here before I come looking for him.”

Jaal chuckled. “I will convey the message. Thank you.”

***

From the moment Gil first saw Jaal in the meeting room on board the Tempest, he’d been fascinated by the alien. The Angara were certainly a very interesting looking people.

The first time he ran into Jaal in Engineering, he was drawn in by his eyes and kind smile. After the discovery of what the Kett were doing to the Angara on Voeld, Gil’s first instinct was to check on Jaal as soon as the mission debriefing was over. Hearing the depths of sadness in Jaal’s voice almost broke Gil’s heart.

Gil felt very drawn to Jaal and he still wasn’t sure if Jaal would ever be interested in more than mere friendship, but he couldn’t help his heart skipping a beat when he saw the tall alien enter the Vortex. Jaal seemed to look around for a moment, nodding at Liam when they made eye contact. However instead of approaching Liam, Jaal kept looking until his eyes fell upon Gil.

Gil’s heart actually sped up a bit when he saw Jaal’s face light up as he made his way over towards Gil. “I was hoping I’d find you here,” Jaal said with that beautiful sonorous voice of his.

“Ryder has been keeping the team busy for weeks,” Gil gestured for Jaal to join him. “I needed to get off the ship for a bit.”

“I heard from Ryder that you beat him rather soundly at…poker?” Jaal said as he sat opposite of Gil. “Why were you poking him?”

Gil laughed. “I wasn’t actually poking him. It’s a game.” Gil passed the deck of cards for Jaal to inspect.

“Oh, I see,” Jaal nodded. “Could you teach me?”

Gil smiled. “I’m not sure you’d be very good at it. Sure, I could teach you the basic rules, but you Angara wear your emotions so openly…that would be a distinct disadvantage in a game like this.”

“Hmm,” Jaal mused. “I think I would still like a practical demonstration.”

Gil shrugged with a smirk. “Alright, but it’ll be your loss.”

After teaching Jaal the basics they played several hands, Jaal losing every one.

“How do you always know?” Jaal marveled.

“As I said earlier, you wear your emotions so openly,” Gil explained. “It gives away what sort of hand you have, and that determines how I play.”

“Yes, I think I understand,” Jaal replied. “While we’re playing, I am completely unable to read your emotions. You are very good at…controlling your face.”

“I learned how to very young,” Gil said. “Showing too much emotion while living on the streets is a sign of weakness. It’s best to keep a neutral expression all the time if you want to stay out of trouble.”

“This Nexus is quite impressive,” Jaal changed the topic. “It is quite an engineering feat. I don’t think my people ever quite managed to take the Remnant technology to quite this level, even before the Scourge.”

“Would you like a tour?” Gil offered. “I wouldn’t mind stretching my legs for a bit.”

“Yes, I would like that,” Jaal agreed. “I very much enjoy spending time with you and I would love to see more of this station.”

Gil blushed a bit at the compliment and led Jaal out of the Vortex. They started the tour with Hydroponics and ended it in Operations. Jaal had many questions and Gil was more than happy to answer everything he could.

As they sat next to each other in the Tram heading back to the docking bay an awkward silence seemed to fall between them. Jaal shifted a bit nervously, as if he wanted to say something and wasn’t sure how. Without thinking Gil reached out and took Jaal’s hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

“Is there something you want to say?” Gil asked.

“There is actually,” Jaal laughed nervously. “You really can read me very well. I was trying to find a way to ask if you would like to have dinner with me…in private?”

“In private?” Gil asked, feeling his face flush. “Where? Like in the Tech Lab? There aren’t a lot of private spaces on the Tempest.”

“Yes, I have come to think of the Tech Lab as my quarters,” Jaal acknowledged. “Would you dine with me?”

Was Jaal asking him on a date? Gil wasn’t sure but he was really enjoying Jaal’s company. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

When they returned to the Tempest, Gil excused himself and decided to freshen up a bit before dinner. He had no idea what to expect, other than sharing a meal with someone who was quickly growing into a close friend…and perhaps something more.

One he was dressed again he made his way to the Tech Lab. He decided to knock before he entered as it only seemed polite. When the doors opened he found a pleasant surprise. Jaal had managed to find a small table and two chairs. On the table were laid out Human and Angaran rations and bottles of water. Nothing romantic and yet why did it still make his heart race?

Most of the crew were still on the Nexus so the Tempest was quiet. “So, was there something you wanted to talk about?” Gil broke the ice as he sat down.

“Yes, as a matter of fact,” Jaal admitted.

“So, what’s up?” Gil asked as he took a swig of water.

“At first, I was intrigued by your admission to preferring only male partners,” Jaal admitted. “It is not a common thing among the Angara. I’ve told you before, how much family means to us, and two males cannot procreate together.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” Gil agreed. “Although there’s always artificial insemination if a same-sex pair really wants a family.”

“Our people haven’t spent much time developing such things,” Jaal admitted. “We’re too focused on our very survival.”

Gil nodded. “I can understand that. That’s kind of what my childhood was like. Never knowing if I’d survive past the present moment.”

“Yet, here you are now, chief engineer on a vessel in a distant galaxy,” Jaal praised. “You’re a survivor. I like that about you.”

Gil felt a blush creep over his face and his heart sped up as he blurted out his next question. “Is that…all you like about me?”

Jaal stared at him for a moment with those amazing eyes before giving him a small smile and chuckle. “Gil, I find you very…attractive. Your mind, your being, your heart. I wish to continue spending time with you…getting to you know…on an even deeper level.”

Gil couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His heart rate continued to ratchet up as he tentatively reached out and took Jaal’s very warm hand in his own. “Do you mean that? I would really like that too.”

“Good,” Jaal said with a smile, squeezing his hand. “You and I have much in common. I feel myself drawn to you in a way I’ve never felt before. Not even with Allia.”

“Yeah, I get it,” Gil nodded. “What I like best about you is how open and honest you are about…everything. I need that. With so much else uncertain right now, knowing there is at least one person I can truly rely on to be honest and have my back. If we…take this further…I want to do it right.”

“As do I,” Jaal agreed. “I’ve had my heart broken once. I do not wish for that to happen again.”

“Yeah,” Gil smiled. “So, we take it slow, see where this goes, enjoy each other’s company along the way.”

“That sounds like a fine idea,” Jaal lifted Gil’s hand to his lips and gave them a quick kiss, sending a thrill along Gil’s spine. Jaal then let his hand go and took a sip of water before changing the subject. “So, how are those engine modifications going? Has Kallo discovered them yet?”

Gil couldn’t help but laugh before filling Jaal in on the latest upgrades he had planned.