The first time Jaal heard the message, he had to sit down.
There was no way, Jaal thought, that Liam could have known. This was something that angarans seldom shared with outsiders, precisely because it could leave one in positions like the one he occupied. Something simple yet, if done correctly, could heal and destroy.
Nor could Liam have possibly estimated the effect his voice would have on Jaal, the way it held onto his very heart. His voice, rolling, rich in timbre, was something Jaal had felt beneath his skin more than once. Especially when they were alone. That message made lightning from his veins, thunder of his heartbeat.
And those words. Those words.
So he played it again, groaning softly from the sound of it. Again he had to sit still. The bright line of pure joy, near-blinding in his mind’s eye, was made brilliant precisely because Liam had not known it to be there. Jaal let out a sigh of longing as he raced across.
Too beautiful, Jaal thought as he slid his legs forward, to relax in full as he let Liam’s message play out. The recording captured everything: the pauses, the slight breath before Liam spoke; the faint sound of him licking his lips, probably chapped, because he’d (just as probably) forgotten to bring balm. And his voice, the sweetest part of it, was thick. Layered, sap-like, with sleep. Jaal had been the first thing on his mind when he’d woken up.
Given that his first impulse most mornings was to reach for Liam, Jaal would have smiled at the thought. But the speech...the speech. The speech. For as long as he was listening to Liam’s message, thoughts wrapping around the rhythm of it, he was not entirely tethered to himself.
He spent the next day floating on clouds. No task too great, no challenge too insurmountable, and the hours were behind him in the blink of an eye. Jaal was, admittedly, in part set free by relief: that which he’d nurtured for so long, through time spent and hands held in silence and words shared in darkness, had taken root with Liam. Taken root and borne fruit that Jaal, with this confirmation, wished desperately to taste on Liam’s tongue.
For Liam loved - he loved, he loved, he loved. He loved Jaal. Words meant as much as the feeling that brought them off the tongue and love, when Jaal first heard it, could have made his heart burst.
The next morning, his heart was at the exact same risk. An abrupt beep, sharp rescuer that it was, reached through his thoughts and saved him from it.
“Hey, Jaal. We’re back,” Ryder cut in, bubbly and blindingly bright in tone. They must have been incredibly successful. “Debriefing in four hours? Got some things to do first, but we’ve gotta talk about this.”
“Of...” He swallowed, to buy time as he recollected himself. “Of course, Ryder. I anticipated your return.”
“Sure you did.”
But her chuckle barely reached Jaal’s ears as he stood up. The words he’d held in - he had to be sure, he’d told himself - rose ever upward, made more urgent by his shame. For he WAS ashamed: he clenched his teeth at the idea of Liam spending an entire day wondering if Jaal felt the same way, afraid that he would get cold silence in return.
And the thought of simply reaching out for Liam upon waking and finding him there - of his hand brushing against a broad shoulder, across skin that had no right to be that smooth - placed him square in a storm of Current. He let it draw him towards Liam, not even bothering to put on his rofjinn. Later on, he would reflect on the gravity of that non-action. But as he hastened towards Liam’s quarters? All he could think of was their reunion, made sweeter by their holding the same cup.
Jaal had allowed a day to slip past him, but had four more hours to show Liam precisely how much his message had meant.
He would waste not a minute more.
It had only been fifteen minutes since Liam had dropped off his gear when Jaal appeared before him, faster than a mirage on a desert.
“Hey-” Liam opened his mouth and found Jaal’s lips on his before he could speak. Jaal’s hands eased the words back down and away as they slid across his back. This, he thought as he squeezed back, was something he’d missed: Jaal’s lack of fear in showing his emotions, the affection they’d carefully crafted, the sheer feeling of their being together. The shock of Jaal’s sudden affections, was replaced by Current, comforting him, making short work of his worries.
They paused, but barely parted. “You know not what you’ve done. What you’ve done to me,” Jaal rumbled, cupping Liam’s face with his hands. A brush of gentle static swept across Liam’s chest, taking his breath with it.
“Your message.” Could’ve melted from the warmth of it, and nearly did as Jaal dropped one hand from Liam’s face. It settled above his heart instead; Jaal’s fingers rapped gently on Liam’s shirt, matching his heartbeat. “The one that you sent yesterday morning.”
Ice formed in Liam’s gut, then melted once he took it all in. That message. The one he’d just...blurted out, because he’d been holding it in for way too long. For his own sake: Jaal appreciated his gushing, but for a moment, Liam questioned himself. Questioned whether he was the only one who was falling like that. Whether he was daft to say anything at all. And then he just up and said it, said that word, despite his intention to wait until they were together.
And then Jaal hadn’t replied. The hours passed slowly, too heavy with silence no matter how much he’d tried to fill it with noise. Liam thought and re-thought about reaching out, then thought better of it. He soothed his nerves with the prospects of Jaal simply not receiving it; perhaps the distance was too great, perhaps it’d simply been swallowed up by space. By the time he fessed up to Ryder and Vetra about why he’d seemed so on-edge, his nerves had been drawn out like wire.
Vetra was kind enough to hand him a drink on their return trip back to the Tempest, offering a “just wait til you get back, kid” that said far more than those seven words. And she was right: he had to clear his head. He had to wait, and see how things would play out. Liam believed in fate. If it was meant to work out, it’d work out. Couldn’t run or bloody power-walk ahead of destiny.
As he and Jaal made their way towards bed, completely bare at last to each other, with Jaal murmuring something in angaran against his neck, Liam decided that waiting was a damn good idea.
Before Liam made his way to Jaal’s quarters for the evening, he decided to listen to a copy of the message he’d left. Jaal certainly did his best to explain why he’d immediately swept him into his arms: it was more than declaring love, unknowingly reciprocated. But all his talk about the Sacred Rhythms and bioelectric response were hard to internalize when his hands, buzzing with affection, were sweeping down below Liam’s waist, when his kisses left storms on skin. Really, it was hard to focus on anything at all; by the time he could, as they slid into one of the showers, they were both too tired to speak.
So Liam decided to give it a listen, and at least try to figure it out for himself.
You know when you look down at me? Sometimes it's like the stars are in your eyes, all bright. I lose myself in them - in you - easy. And then your touch just grounds me, keeps me still.
And Jaal? Sometimes my heart, it skips a beat then skips meters when we talk; and even when we sit in silence, something 'bout it just...seems full, you know? Complex, layered. Not a damn thing is simple when it comes to you but that? I love. My God, Jaal, that...I love.
And this damned trip (sigh) would've been better with you here. So many times, I wished that I'd stayed home.
Cos home is where you are; Andromeda ain't nothing without you, your touch, your love. Would that you were here, my heart.
I...love you, Jaal. Let's make up for lost time.
Your Dearest One.